A new student organization has sprung up on campus with of the goal of acting as an opposition group to the University Students' Council (USC) and other student governments at Western.
Known as the Western Student Government Opposition Group (WSGOG), the organization hopes to provide students with a forum to voice their opinions about student governance. They hope to lobby for a number of changes within the USC including, but not limited to: election reform, more student engagement and transparency.
The organization is currently comprised of three members. David Seston, second-year anthropology, Austin Zheng, second-year economics, political science and philosophy and Stephanie Li, second year political science. Zheng is a former USC councillor for social science.
This marks the second group of students this school year to rally against the USC.
Earlier this year, a group was formed to combat similar issues. The Student Organization Union (SOU) formed in January of 2017 in hopes of having clubs' voices heard more robustly.
However, according to Seston, the WSGOG is going to be a lot different than the SOU.
“The SOU doesn't do anything. I'm sorry to be blunt, but they don't,” Seston said. “What makes us different is drive.”
The SOU announced its plans in January earlier this year. However, their momentum has fizzled out ever since Team Tobi won the USC presidential election.
“They just dropped off,” said Zheng.
“We plan to actually be active throughout the year and question everything the USC does and we want reasons,” continued Zheng.
In an interview with the Gazette, Seston and Zheng outlined a number of issues they see with the USC, which they have also included in their constitution.
As mature and international students, both Seston and Zheng felt that the USC has done little to ensure that all student voices are heard.
“The USC really isn’t reaching out to any student body, especially for those groups like international and mature students or transgender students that are already marginalized,” Zheng said. “They need more support but the USC is not really giving them any.”
So far, the group plans to garner more members as well as hold a few internal meetings over the summer to plan for the following year.
On its Facebook page, the group has been questioned on the reasoning behind calling itself an "opposition" and how it stands out from campus media such as the Gazette in its role. In their answers they say "the Gazette is a resource, but they are funded by the USC and there is definitely a bias within their editors" and "Our whole goal is to attempt to initiate change within the Student Government, that is our whole point. The Gazette is mandated to report on issues."
The Gazette, in practice, has complete editorial autonomy from the USC. Its mandate is to be an unbiased watchdog of the USC and Western administration on its news pages and to facilitate student conversation on its editorial pages.
The mission statement of the group available on Facebook states, "To Provide an independent analysis of Western University’s University Student’s Council (USC), Faculty Students Council (FSC), and Affiliate Student Councils (AFC). To provide students an independent and anonymous forum to question USC/FSC/AFC, Senate, and events on campus. To bring these issues to both the media and the USC/FSC/AFC/Senate. Finally, to facilitate conversations between the Student’s Councils and the students themselves."
The group can be found on Facebook here.