Catechism

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Moles

Trust is a rare commodity in student politics; much more so than politics in general. Because the stakes are so small, the game is so much more vicious.

Every year during O-Week, various political factions pay their members to join other factions, to gain access to their email lists and meetings. Information is one of the currencies of power, and if you learn what the other faction is planning, then you have a significant advantage over them.

This truism is demonstrated in the much-delayed entry by Brent Houghton, former MUSU Housing and Services OB in 2002.
The mole may or may not have had a part to play in the downfall of the Sharp ticket - certainly if there was any one person to blame, it would be me. You see, as with most student representatives, I used my office in preparing for the campaign. (I had first hand experience of this earlier in the year, when the President's office was used to discuss whether Real Students would run in the by-election - when Brad Tutt decided not to contest the Education Officer position, Real Students decided not to run.) But I digress. I certainly didn't use the office resources to print out election material, nor use my Union email address in organising the campaign. However, I don't deny that campaigners were encouraged to come to my office to sign their nomination forms, or that on the fateful evening of Wednesday, 21st August, 2002, Ari, myself and two others used the office computer and the whiteboard to prepare the nomination statements for the ticket. I remember meeting up with Ari and the three others on that evening. From memory, we met at the UBar and decided that if we were going to be productive, then we needed to work on a computer, as the statements were due at noon on Friday. Given that the Union's computing centre was about to close, I stupidly suggested that we use my office.

There seemed to be nobody in the office, so Ari, I and the three others used the computer to flesh out the 100-200 word statements that needed to be completed if we were to look like a competitive ticket. I decided to leave at around 9.30pm, as from memory, I had been at uni since early that morning. I indicated that the others could use my office, but that they should lock the door on the way out.
I should mention that 2002 was a year characterised by suspicion and misinformation. Given the absolute necessity by Student Unity to maintain their control over MUSU, it is hardly surprising that not only did they infiltrate the Sharp-Ticket egroup, but then conspired to have the ticket thrown out.

In retrospect, Brent's decision to use union resources, even rooms, whiteboards and computers, was not a wise one, given that his opposition were both ruthless and in the same office-space. It is also unfair, and forbidding that use by current OBs to use their offices to run campaigns to get relected is ethically suspect, and undemocratic. In the grand scheme of things, given what happened in 2002, 2003 and 2004, Brent's crime was minor and forgivable.

The lesson that Brent and Ari learned, and something for us to all take note of, is to chose your friends and companions carefully. If you have sensitive information, that information should be in as few hands as possible, particularly if your opponents could make use of it for their own political gain. Your access and use of resources is one such example. Which is not to say that information should be hoarded by a select few, but rather that you should ensure that the information is going to people you know and trust.

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