TWUSA and Monarchic Tendencies
We all follow TWUSA’s Instagram. We love it when we see members of TWUSA refer to each other as the “fam.” But, perhaps it triggers some deep monarchic instinct inside of our loyal Canadian souls. While it might be an exaggeration to say that TWUSA is Trinity’s royal family, TWUSA’s cohesion and popularity gives us something to aspire to, and a profound sense of stability. We want to believe that those who are the external face of our community and who make decisions on behalf of our community, get along behind the scenes. Unfortunately, the Trinity community’s reverence for TWUSA and student leaders in general, neglects the fact that TWUSA members have highly limited power. Members of TWUSA are responsible for advocacy, but not necessarily operationalization. In other words, TWUSA members pass on the concerns of the students to external bodies such as the administration, Intercultural Programs, the Learning Commons and Sodexo, but have limited control over how these concerns are addressed. However, despite their limited control, TWUSA, in the interest of maintaining their relationship with these external bodies, often becomes the face of popular change and the un-popular status quo.
This explains why the platforms of the candidates who have previously been on TWUSA are far less tantalizing. Frankly, it is because they are uniquely aware of what is realistic, and what is truly part of the purview of TWUSA.
This perceived inaction on TWUSA’s part, even if action is not always their mandate, is the reason many members of our community are disillusioned by student government. TWUSA elections have often been called a popularity contest. Essentially, this is a crass, but accurate description of democracy. We talk about the popularity issue as though it is inherently evil—without taki
ng the initiative to evaluate it. The reality is most of us vote for the face we can recognize. The voter supports those whose hearts, minds and intentions they know can support.
There are two critical issues with friendly voting and hiring practices. Firstly, and this may seem obvious; we may not actually end up electing, nor hiring, qualified people. Therefore, this causes the team to rely on, and occasionally abuse, creatives and skilled members of our community. Second, we tend towards an overrepresentation of extroverts who are strong communicators, with expansive support systems. This is a detriment to our community because we lose the perspectives and wisdom provided by other personality types.
Finally, we turn to the impact that campaign season can have on the individual voter. This community, because of so many factors—our common faith, and our community covenant—uniquely values integrity, passion, involvement, and authentic advocacy. However, TWUSA elections ask us to use these characteristics in the service of a specific candidate. Several candidates elicit votes by telling voters: “You are an influencer,” and “You are a person of significance on this campus.” As a result, we feel loved, we feel heard and we feel convinced. However, we are not always compelled to vote or to endorse by an understanding of who would be the best representative for our community.
The purpose of this article is not to make you vaguely annoyed with TWUSA, or TWUSA candidates. Instead, it is to encourage you as a voter to evaluate your attitude and approach towards advocacy on campus. Do you hire someone based on how well they “fit” within the group cohort? Do you vote for your dear friend? In order to address this issue, we need to acknowledge that it is hard. Even in the privacy of your own “voting booth,” or in this case, your laptop, it is hard to reject your friends. It is hard to imagine that someone else could be better qualified to implement your friend’s vision. Do you acknowledge the role you could play in both advocacy and operationalization by partnering with organizations around campus such as Intercultural Programs, OneTWU, TWURise, Mars’ Hill or TWUSA itself, before you resort to cynicism?
Many of us enjoy a simplified, heavily filtered (both Instagram and otherwise), understanding of TWUSA. As we face a year of transition, however, with a new head of Student Life, significant staff turnover, and the impending Supreme Court decision, it is imperative that students—whether they are called to be leaders by God or Student Life—take every opportunity to advocate for each other.