Divided we stand
STUDENTS AT THE University of Ottawa will finish off this academic year facing an interesting situation.
In short, it is entirely unclear how we are ending this semester. This year, there was no banner campaign that brought students together. There was no sweeping event that summarized 2009–10. There were no inspiring circumstances that have encapsulated the last 12 months.
At this point, the only memory students may take with them into the summer is of the March 23 Ann Coulter shutdown/showdown, the non-event and national embarrassment that left the politically passionate bickering with one another and the rest of us fighting for our collective reputation.
We didn’t need a Canadian Federation of Students membership referendum to highlight the divisions within our student population. Last year, some pointed fingers at the Fulcrum for too often highlighting the divisive nature of the University of Ottawa campus during the November 2008 referendum to join the national student lobbying organization. This year, we might go so far as to say that maybe, just maybe, this division isn’t such a bad thing.
If you think about it, “division” and “diversity” aren’t all that different. The dictionary lists “unlike” and “different” as synonyms for diverse; “separated” and “disunited” for divided. Diversity sounds more pleasant and positive than division, but neither should have to tear a student population apart. Rather, both can bring us together, as they force us to realize that we’re all different—and therefore alike in that way. We are such a varied group of 36,000 students; we represent every spot on the political spectrum, here in our nation’s capital.
But this is our strongest virtue. We have to realize that no matter what issues present themselves or what problems surface, we will remain divided—and this can work in our favour.
When individuals with different perspectives and beliefs come together—united, at the very least, under the idea of cooperation—more work can be accomplished, more problems can be solved, and more inclusivity can be achieved. It’s time for the student population—and especially the student unions—to realize that we can’t throw ourselves behind any one common cause, idea, theory, or perspective. There will always be criticism and concern, which should be considered healthy; we are forced to question any “solidarity” we believe we hold with anything or anyone else.
By fooling ourselves into thinking we can present a completely united front and are, in ourselves, a united student movement, we come frighteningly close to exemplifying the same homogeneity so many young people attempt to fight against.
Perhaps most importantly, by embracing diversity and differences, we can motivate more students to become involved on this campus and believe they can own a part of their university experience. Perhaps this is the key to solving the perennial apathy problems plaguing many in the 17–27 set.
To better solve future problems and enjoy further successes, we must reach a new level of understanding. We’re too many people embodying too many different ideas to pretend to be one homogeneous, united student movement. But if we embrace our polarity, or at the very least accept its existence, we can move forward and cater to these individualities as we eventually enter a new school year.
Our differences are our strongest assets. Our future success lies in realizing how powerful our diversity and individualism can be.