Yeah, It's Elite...So What?


"Even if the Union is elitist, it is a good thing."

You’re on a plane, soaring through the air at 400 mph. Something is wrong; the flight attendant starts screaming “The pilots are dead! Is there anyone who can fly the plane?!” Who do you want flying the plane? Anybody on the plane could do it, hypothetically, but it just so happens that there’s a woman who went to flight school and owns her own little propeller plane back home. In contrast, there’s everybody else: a fat guy eating peanuts, a well-meaning businessman, yourself and others. The common thread between everyone else is that they didn’t go to flight school; they don’t have experience flying planes. So, who should fly the plane?

We already know the answer, and it’s nothing against me, or the businessman, or the fat guy with peanuts or anybody else for that matter. We all implicitly agree that the most qualified person should replace the dead pilots. So it seems strange that we don’t agree on that when it comes to the political sphere. Because it’s elitist to do so?

One could argue that it’s elitist to choose the woman with flight experience. She has received special training that the rest of us didn’t. To be an elitist is not simply being rich, it’s also having privileges that most people don’t. Whether that is miraculous intelligence, athletic ability or access to better education, any one of those factors makes us elite relative to everybody who doesn’t share that same privilege. That woman on the plane, she’s an elitist! We’d be just as qualified as her if we had lived her life. But we didn’t, and because we didn’t – we should put our lives in her elitist hands.

The principle of that analogy carries over to countless other situations. Who do you want to solve a problem? The most qualified person! Yet still, I read gripe in the Xaverian two weeks ago about how the Students’ Union is elitist, or trying to be.

The first charge is that the Students’ Union is raising the minimum grade average to qualify for its executive council. Rumours circulated that the minimum would become a 70% average for non-exec positions and 75% for executive positions. Current SU President Annie Sirois clarified that it would be 65% for executive positions and no change for non-exec positions. Whatever it is, it really does not matter: let’s rerun my thought experiment, but this time, it’s about who should run the Union. We have two candidates: both are excellent public speakers, friendly, have great visions and even better plans for executing those visions. They’re equal in every way, except one’s average is 60% and the other’s is 85%. Let’s also add in that the stress of the job drops your average roughly 12 percentage points. The first candidate will flunk out of school if they get the job; the second will still have a fairly decent average of 73% if they win. Knowing this, we would probably all vote for the second candidate since the office will not affect their chances of graduating. Most students don’t know the grades of their candidates though, so why not select candidates for good grades before the election even starts?

Alex Corrigan made a great counter-point by saying that we shouldn't discriminate based on grades alone because there are frequently other circumstances that influence a student's GPA. For instance, if someone experienced a great personal trauma or if they simply put less effort into their grades due to time-consuming extra-curriculars. Although this is true, it poses the question of whether the added stress of a Union Executive position would benefit these individuals, or simply do more harm.

 Why am I so worked up about the Union? It’s just a glorified student council after all. Shouldn’t anybody be able to take a go at it? Regardless of the actual importance of any position or any organization, when you can choose the best person for that position/organization – you ought to do so. The best people are always the most qualified, and the people with the best qualifications (thanks to their various privileges) are the quoted elites. To clarify, I’m also not saying they’re better than us in every way, just the way which is most relevant to the job.

The second charge is that the Union is this weird egotistical friend group, inaccessible to the public. First, seeking a highly-ranked office of any kind requires a large ego; that is not news. Secondly, they probably are all tight friends because they all have similar interests, work together, share goals and are around each other all day for months at a time. When in this situation, we either start hating each other or become very good friends. It’s best for everyone’s mental health that it’s the latter and not the former. Finally, if it’s hard to catch an executive member, you’ll probably find them at parties, or you can bring your issue to Council meetings on Sundays at council chambers on the 4th floor of the sub.

I hope this had clarified that even if the Union is elitist, it is a good thing. Just as we don’t want a random person flying a plane – we don’t want a random person running the Union.