All Posts Tagged With: "Student Politics"
Students rebuffed in request for details on wages, lawsuits
Students got a rare peek this week at how the Canadian Federation of Students’ national organization spends their money after blogger Brandon Clim published the organization’s 2014 budget and audited financial statements.
However, the juicy details many have wondered about—how much individual staff members earn and how much is spent on lawsuits with local student unions—still haven’t been made public.
In fact, members of CFS’s own budget committee, at last week’s Annual General Meeting in Ottawa, say they were rebuffed in attempts to learn more.
And although the financial documents are now online, outgoing treasurer Michael Olson says they won’t show up on the CFS’s own website anytime soon, because members have rejected that idea.
There’s enough to worry about right there on campus
Sean Wilson, a board member of the University of Regina Students’ Union, says that student leaders should be focused on things like tuition, residences and public transit. Recently, they’ve often been focused on the Middle East instead. Not on those killed by their own government in Syria, the sexual minorities mistreated by Iran or women subjugated by Saudi Arabia. No, they’ve been debating whether to join such international power brokers as Lenny Kravitz and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland in their commitments to not buy Israeli products or host Israeli academics.
Big deal right? I would argue yes, and not just because these student unions are taking sides.
Can we really blame hunger and depression on tuition?
What does a slight rise in antidepressant use at the University of Ottawa have in common with a jump in students using the campus food bank?
The answer is rising tuition, say student activists.
“I think financial stress is a big reason for students relying on antidepressants a little bit more over the last few years,” Ann-Marie Roy, vice-president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, told CBC last week when asked about growing antidepressant prescriptions on campus.
“We don’t think that people should have to choose between paying tuition fees and eating,” Chris Hynes, director of the SFUO food bank, told CBC a few days later when asked to explain a 10-fold increase in campus food bank customers since 2007.
Tuition is indeed rising in Ontario. Undergraduates here pay the highest average fees in Canada at $7,180 and growing five per cent annually. But do fees really explain depression and hunger?
Pettigrew: The apathy only adds to the excitement
It’s easy to get down on university student elections. They almost seem designed to encourage apathy. After all, the winners typically hold office for only a year, too short a time to make much meaningful change before the next administration takes over.
And even when student leaders are in office, they are generally powerless to effect the changes students really want—particularly lower tuitions which are firmly controlled by senior administration, boards of governors, and provincial governments.
Add to this the fact that most university voters are only going to be around for a short time—not long enough to get much benefit out of any changes that are made—and you have a perfect storm of voter apathy.
Canadian voters in general lament that voter turnout is down near 60 per cent. That number seems huge compared to most student elections like the 11 per cent that’s apparently common at The University of Manitoba.
But low turnout shouldn’t lead us to dismiss student elections altogether, because the very things that make them less than exciting for student voters make them fun for outside observers like me.
Meeting marked by pepper spray, fire alarms, chants of “racism”
Kwantlen University students who were meeting on campus Wednesday to oust their student leaders were temporarily interrupted after someone released a spray into the air—likely pepper spray— forcing coughing and teary students to flee.
Then, someone pulled the fire alarm.
After being let back into the building by fire officials approximately one hour later, students were just about to vote when someone pulled the fire alarm again, forcing them back outside.
But students were patient. Instead of losing quorum—250 voters—the crowd grew so large that organizers were able to spare 30 students to guard each fire alarm against troublemakers. Then, students voted nearly unanimously to remove the current board of directors and prevent them from running again. The vote signals a turning point on a campus where the student association has been the target of unusual scrutiny for months. At the end of the day, Kwantlen Student Association directors were escorted by security into their offices to collect their belongings.
Nothing to gain
University students in Quebec continued their fight against annual $325 tuition increases on Nov. 10, protesting in large numbers by skipping classes. Classes were even cancelled at Dawson College and students marched in the streets of Montreal.
It was well organized and peaceful. To get a sense of that, consider that marshals in fluorescent vests helped defuse the tense moments between protesters and police outside Charest’s Montreal office where things might have become violent. Although the sight of riot police on campus is always disturbing, there was only a small cadre of roughly 100 students outside the McGill Administration building when police moved in.
But as big and peaceful as the demonstration was, will it change anything?
Although the 2005 student strike ended with the government giving in to some student demands, Thursday’s much shorter “strike” takes place in a much less friendly political climate and a much more uncertain economy. Even as students were marching in Montreal, education minister Line Beauchamp stood up in the National Assembly to reiterate that students must pay “their fair share.”
It’s easy for her to have such bravado. Premier Jean Charest faces no threats on the left who might gain from angry student voters. The Parti Québécois, the only other party to have formed government in this province since the 1970s, is tearing itself apart.
At the moment, Charest’s biggest political threat comes from the right. François Legault, a former PQ cabinet minister, and his centre-right Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec (CAQ) are leading in recent polls. The Action démocratique du Québec (ADQ), a right-wing party with four seats in the National Assembly, is entering into formal negotiations with the CAQ concerning a potential merger.
Legault is on the record saying that students in programs which lead to higher paying jobs should pay more tuition. Considering that kind of thinking, it’s safe to bet that students wouldn’t find a CAQ government any more supportive of their demands.
Student council makes a reasonable decision to overturn disqualification of opposition slate
The post election kerfuffle at the Concordia Student Union, which saw almost everyone who ran be disqualified, appears to be over.
On Wednesday, in one of their last actions, outgoing student council members voted to allow everyone who was elected take office and to reimburse candidates for election expenses.
The situation began around two weeks after the vote, held in late March, when elections chief, Oliver Cohen, disqualified both of the teams that contested the election.
A couple of weeks later, that decision was modified by the judicial board, who overturned Cohen’s decision to disqualify “Your Concordia,” the team that won the student union executive, a majority on council and most of the student seats on the university’s senate and board of governors.
However, the board upheld Cohen’s decision to deny both teams reimbursement for election expenses and to disqualify the other slate, “Action,” which won several council seats and a spot on the university senate.
The judicial board’s written report, released on Monday, alleges that both slates violated election rules by campaigning after polls had opened and that the winning slate engaged in negative campaigning. Shocking, I know.
According to the Concordian, councillors who supported reinstating the candidates said they were afraid that students in Concordia’s business school would be disenfranchised, as all their representatives remained disqualified.
It’s an interesting argument, but I think the real problem with the decisions to disqualify these candidates is that neither Cohen nor the judicial board attempted to prove that the alleged violations actually affected the results of the election. Disenfranchising every student is a serious action and should only be done in the gravest circumstances.
In “real” elections, it has to be proven that the results were actually affected for the vote to be annulled. As Ontario Superior Court Justice, Alexandra Hoy wrote in a 2011 decision about a Toronto election, “people have exercised their right to vote, and their votes should not be discounted without good reason.”
And the reasons presented here, especially considering the sorts of shenanigans that have taken place in previous Concordia elections, just aren’t good enough to throw out an entire election.
Sure, candidates shouldn’t break the rules, but should wearing a blue shirt after polling starts really be grounds for disqualification?
Some of the rules in this case seem downright ridiculous. According to judicial board member Tuan Dinh, “any rhetoric that refers to an oppositional party, even if through contrast” is grounds for disqualifying an entire team. Goodness. If Dinh was working for Elections Canada, we’d never stop having federal elections.
The “offending” item in question is a “rap” video where “Your Concordia” candidates spit cutting lines like, “nothing rhymes with Concordia except for ‘Action’ we’re sincerely getting bored of ya’.”
Cunning word-play it is not, but this was an election, not an MC battle and this video certainly wasn’t defamatory, slanderous or libellous as was claimed by Cohen and Dinh.
The other big problem with these disqualifications was that they penalized entire political parties for the actions of one or two individual candidates. Imagine if Elections Canada disqualified every Conservative who ran in the last election because one of them showed up at a polling station wearing a party t-shirt. Sounds pretty unreasonable, does it not?
Second-place team remains disqualified, neither slate will have expenses reimbursed
The team that won March’s Concordia Student Union election will take office after all.
Two weeks ago, the chief electoral officer disqualified all the candidates from the two main slates, accusing them of multiple election rule violations. On Wednesday, the student union’s judicial board overturned his decision to disqualify the members of Your Concordia, which won the executive along with a majority on council, according to board chair Bella Ratner.
The Your Concordia slate had received harsh criticism from elections chief Oliver Cohen, who banned members of the group from running in CSU elections for two years.
However, the board did uphold Cohen’s decision to disqualify the Action slate, which won nine of 29 council seats and one of four student seats on the university’s senate.
The board also upheld Cohen’s decision not to reimburse the slates for election expenses, over allegations of over-spending.
A full judicial board report will be issued next week.
A small number of independent candidates also stood in the election, however all of the positions were won by members of the two slates.
Editor-in-chief recuses himself from election coverage due to candidate ties.
The Link, a student newspaper at Concordia University, is taking steps to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest due to close ties between its editor-in-chief and a presidential candidate in the upcoming student union election.
In an email to Maclean’s on Campus, Justin Giovannetti, the Link’s editor-in-chief wrote that while he would continue to edit non-election related content, which makes up the majority of the paper, he would leave the room if other editors needed “to discuss elections related issues, like supporting a candidate.”
“My role with elections material is limited largely to looking at proofs from the printers,” he wrote. “While I understand the impact that my retreat might have on quality . . . I think it’s the generally agreed upon ethical choice.”
He adds that, “the two slates, Your Concordia and Action . . . are both being covered by two journalists, with the story proposals and editing being handled by Christopher Curtis, The Link’s news editor . . . Curtis and The Link’s Managing Editor Laura Beeston, will also be dealing with non-slate related election stories as the campaign progresses.”
Giovannetti also wrote that “the newspaper’s 13 other Masthead members and the six other Board members have confirmed that they are confident in my ability to continue doing my job.”
Full disclosure: I am a former editor-in-chief at Concordia’s other student newspaper, the Concordian.
Student union executive who resigned running for re-election with opposition slate
The sudden resignation of a Concordia Student Union vice president on March 3 may have been pre-election posturing.
Morgan Pudwell announced her resignation with an email accusing the current CSU executive of, among other things, financial mismanagement. Last week, a CSU council meeting descended into chaos when councillors voted to move into closed session to discuss Pudwell’s resignation.
On Monday night, campaigning for the upcoming CSU elections began. CSU elections have a strong party system, candidates for the executive stand as teams, or slates, and candidates for council, who are elected individually, tend to affiliate themselves with an executive slate.
Pudwell is standing for vice president with Your Concordia and the slate has turned her accusations and the reaction to them into election issues. In an interview with student newspaper the Link, Pudwell claimed that she was only approached to stand with the slate after her resignation.
But considering the amount of work that goes into organizing a CSU election campaign, I find it difficult to believe that a slate would switch one of its vice presidential candidates less than two weeks before the beginning of the campaign. It also seems pretty clear that Pudwell’s opponents knew something was up, an open letter criticizing her was released on March 9, and signed by several members of the Action slate.
It’s worth noting that while Your Concordia may be an opposition slate, it’s hardly a group of CSU outsiders. Several members of the group, including presidential candidate Lex Gill, were elected to council last year as members of the slate headed up by the current executive.
It’s also going to be interesting to see how the Link handles election coverage, Gill and the paper’s editor-in-chief, Justin Giovannetti share a blog. While this certainly isn’t a secret, I wonder whether the average Link reader would be aware of it. Giovannetti has said, on Twitter, that he won’t be writing about the election. But writing isn’t the only area with the potential for conflicts of interest when a newspaper editor has close ties to a political candidate. (UPDATE: Link editor says steps taken to prevent conflict of interest)
CSU accused of financial mismanagement
Late on Thursday night, CSU vice president, sustainability and promotions, Morgan Pudwell sent a damning email to members of the union’s council and the remaining executives, announcing her resignation and calling out her former colleagues.
Pudwell alleges that she was sidelined and silenced by her colleagues on the executive. She also claims that the student union resorted to questionable accounting practices in an effort to cover up widespread overspending and that the CSU released false financial information.
“I was told that the budget that had been originally presented was entirely fabricated. After that point, and because they assumed information had been ‘leaked,’ executives were told that no one would be allowed to see their budget. I have been consistently denied access to the most basic financial information regarding the union’s operations, and even my own budget,” Pudwell wrote.
“Students demanded to be included in the process, and yet, to this day no meaningful consultation has taken place and the executive continues to try to push a failed contract and a failed building on students. As an executive I have been excluded from these discussions and was never consulted about the contract nor the building choice, despite having voiced my concerns on several occasions,” Pudwell wrote.
Pudwell also questions the actions of CSU representatives on the university’s Board of Governors and alleges that former CSU president, and member of the BoG executive committee, Amine Dabchy is acting as a “puppeteer” over the current executive.
On Friday, the five remaining executives issued a statement responding to Pudwell’s allegations.
“Of grave concern to us is the baseless accusation of financial mismanagement. We have taken great lengths to ensure financial accountability and transparency. In this regards, we have made every budget line available to the student press and student body, restricted three of our executive budget lines due to overspending and prepared a comprehensives financial report which is due to be presented in the upcoming council meeting which will then be made available online for all to see,” the statement reads.
“Concerning the complexities and confusion surrounding the student center, we have done our very best to make our position clear to all students and will continue to reiterate our stance. We have not and will not make any concessions regarding the student center project without broad public consultations,” the statement reads. “It has become evident in the last referendum that there are several issues that need to be addressed before this project can move forward. As such we have establish a committee composed of CSU executives, councilors and students at large whose mandate is to call for and oversee public consultation.”
They respond to the allegations surrounding Dabchy’s role with the executive by pointing out that he is also the president of CUSACorp, the union’s for-profit subsidiary.
The executive has, apparently, refused to comment to the student press until after a council meeting on Wednesday. Both student newspapers at Concordia publish on Tuesday.
As well, there was a small protest outside of the Link student newspaper’s office today. Editors at the paper have said that they believe the protest was connected to their ongoing coverage of the Pudwell resignation and that CSU president Heather Lucas was present.
What kind of mandate does a student union president have when only five per cent of students supported them?
Last week, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa held their annual elections. Voter turn-out was just over 10 per cent. The head of student elections told La Rotonde, U of O’s French-language student newspaper, that he was pleased with the turn-out, despite the fact that it dropped by almost 50 per cent from the year before, because he’d expected it to be even lower. He blamed the decline on a return to paper ballots and ending online voting.
The 11.5 per cent turnout is on the low side when compared to other universities but it’s not the lowest.
This was a close election; the president-elect won by less than one percentage point. And that’s what really gets me, one of the main jobs of student unions is representing students but can someone really represent a group when 95 per cent of the members didn’t vote for them?
We may or may not agree on our goals, but we do have a lot in common
A couple of recent posts here have got me very riled up. They point towards a suggestion that I find very disturbing. The idea, in a nutshell, is that being a student doesn’t mean anything.
I find this idea to be disturbing because any experience that takes years of your life and tens of thousands of your dollars and is often critically determinative of your future must be, by definition, meaningful. I consider it self-evident that this meaning extends to some shared identity with other people who have the same experience at the same time. The idea that this commonality doesn’t even exist in a tangible way – that education happens but “student” isn’t an identity – that’s just wrong.
My frustration started here. This was a post in which my fellow blogger, Robyn Urback, essentially defended her right to blog about any topic at all under the banner of campus issues. Not to put words in her mouth but the rationale seems to be that students care about stuff and therefore blogging on student issues includes blogging on anything students can conceivably care about – or in other words everything. I disagreed then and I disagree now.
More recently we have Erin Millar and Ben Coli blogging on the CFS. This is in response to a wider dialogue, but they seem to have raised the point that not all students agree with even the most basic stated goals of the CFS, such as lower tuition and universal access. This is doubtless true. They further emphasize that the student body is not homogeneous. Also doubtless true. But then they set the bar for justifying the CFS’s goals and agenda impossibly high – literally suggesting that until all students agree the CFS is wrong to advocate on a particular point or to present it as a student position. And that’s just ridiculous.
I am by no stretch of the imagination a supporter of the CFS. I disagree strenuously with their tactics and approach to advocacy. But I would never go so far as to suggest the essential idea of collective action is flawed. The standard for advocacy has never been and never could be that all members of an identity group must agree before an agenda can be put forth. Whatever my feelings about the CFS, and in particular some of their side projects, I have never doubted for an instant that their essential goals of lower tuition and universal access are widely shared and supported by students. No, there is not absolute consensus and never will be. But that also isn’t required.
I set these examples beside one another because I wish to demonstrate how these are flip sides of the same coin. Robyn suggests that being a student means everything – and therefore nothing. Erin and Ben suggest that we have no true issues in common at all. To my mind, either approach is incredibly damaging. To deny the reality of a shared student identity – and yes one that is distinct from the general population – is to undermine the hope that we will ever organize effectively to promote our concerns or even to give voice to them.
It isn’t always easy to walk the line between these two extremes. This is the very problem I tried to address when I wrote about the limits of an elected student’s mandate. Of course students have very real and shared concerns that are recognized, if not universally, then at least by the overwhelming majority of students. And we are as entitled as anyone to organize to express our shared concerns. But there is always the temptation to simply grab the ball and run with it, and to begin expressing more and more marginal positions that do not, in fact, represent students fairly as a group. Sometimes people miss that balance, even with the best of intentions. But it is there.
The surest way to disempower any group or position is to deny the existence of real, shared concerns. Yes, students are members of wider society and have a diverse array of interests, beliefs, and other aspects to their individual identities. But just as surely, students have a shared role and relationship to society that is important and meaningful. If pitbull owners and cyclists can organize to flex their political agendas, then surely students can do so legitimately and effectively.
Questions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.
Are students getting their money’s worth from student leaders?
Being a student union executive is not an easy job. It’s (more or less) a full time job that deals with serious issues, with the added pressure of being in the public eye. Balancing the demands of a diverse student population with one’s own beliefs is a difficult task, especially when coupled with fiscal and legal responsibilities.
So imagine how frustrating it must be when somebody like me is sitting across the table, criticizing every move you make and demanding better at every turn.
But when you are getting paid upwards of $30,000 a year like executives of the Carleton University Students’ Association, students have a right to demand better.
And students like myself will, because we care. I care about students, and I care about how my money is spent. That’s why last week I found myself vocally opposed to the CUSA budget, proposed by vice-president finance Meera Chander.
I thought I brought up a pretty good point. The original budget, presented to the financial review committee before the meeting, had a typo – one that meant Chander had an additional $9,000 to spend on behalf of the students. But instead of taking her time and finding the best way to spend that money, she created a $9,000 contingency fund.
I thought Chander owed it to herself and the students to take a little time and review that spending. I suggested we could pass the budget at the next meeting. She’s worked hard on that budget for three months. It hardly seemed fair to make a snap decision on $9,000.
To be honest, I don’t think a contingency fund is a bad idea. In fact, considering how much contingency cash CUSA spent last year during the Ottawa bus strike, it might be a good way to spend that money. But if it was absolutely necessary, why didn’t she budget any money for contingency to begin with?
She didn’t respond to my critique. And neither did any other member of the executive. Not even a council member.
Maybe it’s because the meeting was held late Friday night, and people just wanted to go home. Maybe councillors were genuinely more interested in what was happening on their cell phones. Or maybe they didn’t want to squabble over $9,000 in a budget of nearly $1.9 million.
But whatever the case, they simply didn’t care enough to discuss it. Maybe it would have been different if it was coming out of Chander’s pocket – heck, a $9,000 pay cut would almost bring her down to the average for a student union executive.
But it’s not coming out of her pocket. It’s coming out of mine, and every other undergraduate student who attends Carleton University.
That’s why I care.
I don’t think student executive salaries are too high. But if the average student knew how much student executives got paid, or knew they had multi-million dollar budgets, they might be a little less apathetic.
So I urge students everywhere to consider this question: are you getting your money’s worth?
I am eager to hear your responses.
And is it too much? Or not enough?
Every student union is a little different, but they all have one thing in common: they don’t work for free. Student unions often have multi-million dollar budgets, and you can bet the people in charge are getting a good chunk of your money.
But just how much? I did a little digging, and pulled the numbers from every student union in Ontario that’s a member of the Canadian Federation of Students – easily accessible list of websites, if you’re wondering why. Or at least I tried to. Only 12 CFS-O schools have online budgets (that I could find), while 25 don’t.
No matter. I pulled the numbers as best I could. Salaries for each executive were sometimes lumped together, sometimes seperated. Benefits were often unclear and tied in with other expenses. Executives wages were not always seperated from other full time employees. Some of these budgets are two or three years old. So if anybody has more recent or accurate numbers, I would love to see them. But overall, this gives us a little bit of perspective.
The average executive receives about $16,757 in remuneration ($19,705 for undergrads, $10,860 for grad students.) The average executive slate is paid about 13 per cent of the student union budget (15 per cent for undergrads, nine per cent for grad students.)
Here’s the list, in order of average executive financial remuneration (includes salary, benefits, honorariums, etc.)
1. Carleton University – $36,599
2. University of Guelph Central Student Association – $30,335
3. University of Windsor Students’ Alliance – $27,682
4. University of Toronto Students’ Union – $26,171*
5. University of Ottawa Graduate Students’ Association – $16,110
6. Trent Central Student Association – $13,075
7. Scarborough Campus Students’ Union – $12,703*
8. University of Western Ontario Society of Graduate Students – $11,419
9. Queen’s University Society of Graduate and Professional Students – $8,480
10. University of Toronto at Mississauga Students’ Union – $7,574
11. University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union – $7,432
12. Glendon College Students’ Union – $3,500
* UTSU and SCSU both include their executive salaries with those of directors, co-ordinators, and other important staff; these numbers are the average of the pay of all these positions
So what do you think – do student leaders get paid enough? Or do they get paid too much? I’d love to hear your comments, and if anybody has any information about student unions that I haven’t covered I’d love to share it with the readers.
Students’ union says school received “persistent inquiries” about controversial vote
In yet another twist of York University’s fraught politics, the school’s student union is accusing two Conservative politicians — one federal, one provincial — of meddling in the union’s electoral process.
According to the York Federation of Students, 50 pages of e-mails obtained through a Freedom of Information request prove that federal MP Peter Kent and provincial MPP Peter Shurman tried to interfere with the group’s spring 2009 general elections.
During the controversial election, amid claims of voting irregularities from the losing slate, a more left-wing, pro-Palestinian group of students politicians beat out a more conservative, pro-Israel group. On appeal, the electoral board upheld the vote.
It was this appeal that prompted Kent and Shurman to send the e-mails, which both the YFS and the CFS say were inappropriate. According to the YFS, the e-mails reveal “persistent inquires” on behalf of the politicians into the election. This is, says the group, “part of a growing body of evidence that the federal and provincial Conservative parties are attempting to undermine democratic student decision-making.”
The group also alleges that Robert Tiffin, York’s vice-president of students, warned the group not to disqualify candidates who were caught violating the elections rules because the school and members of parliament “were watching the election closely.”
“The student elections were run in a fair and democratic manner and in accordance with our bylaws,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, YFS president, in a press release issued Monday morning. “The York administration and members of the Conservative Party have no right or authority to interfere in the elections of the students’ union simply because they disagree with student criticisms of their policies.”
However, Kent and Shurman told The Star’s Louise Brown that the allegations are absolute nonsense. The two insist they were merely seeking updates on behalf of their north Toronto constituents, many of whom are Jewish students who were concerned about growing anti-Semitism at the school.
Tiffin says the university treated the politicians’ e-mails as requests for information, not as political pressure. He says the school has no intention of reopening the vote, although he is encouraging the YFS to participate in a review of the school’s election processes by an external accounting firm.
CASA delegates debate on Twitter, national audience joins in
When I started blogging in 2005, there were only a handful of people involved in campus politics who communicated publicly on the Internet.
Today, this is not the case. This weekend marks a real milestone in student politics; the first real-time open group
conversation debate related to a national student lobbying organization meeting.
(Note: People have “tweeted” at previous meetings, this is the first time a real-time large scale discussion has occurred live on Twitter.)
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is meeting in Calgary this week. Many of the student politicians are using Twitter to communicate their thoughts. One of the them, Blake Fredrick of the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society is not a fan of CASA and is making it known on his Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/Blake_Frederick
Frederick has started a discussion with his comments, a discussion which is best followed using the twitter search engine here: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=Blake_Frederick
You can follow all tweets related to the CASA meeting here: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=#casacon
Minister of State for Democratic Reform slings mud at student politicians …. once again
The Member of Parliament for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia, Stephen Fletcher, recently visited the University of Manitoba in his capacity as Minister of State for Democratic Reform.
There is nothing usual or noteworthy about the visit. Fletcher is a regular speaker at his hometown university and alma mater.
Fletcher is said to have made statements against the University of Manitoba Students’ Union and the campus newspaper The Manitoban. This is not unique nor a surprise, people involved in campus politics at the university know Mr. Fletcher holds a grudge against the two bodies.
What made this visit unique is the coverage it is receiving this weekend in the Winnipeg Free Press.
The Free Press follows up an opinion piece published in The Manitoban written by David Safruk which states:
- Minister Fletcher, on several occasions, went into rants where he referred to UMSU and the Canadian Federation of Students, my representatives, as a bunch of left-wing crazies, the “loony left,” and “loony tunes.” The minister further went into rants about the free press and independent students’ newspapers referring to the Manitoban as a socialist rag.
It’s worth noting that Fletcher makes no direct denial to the Free Press in response to the piece published in The Manitoban. Nor is this the first time Fletcher has made comments of a similar nature since being elected to Parliament in 2004.
These factors lead me to believe Safruk’s is accurately describing Fletcher’s comments.
Why would a Minister of State make such comments?
Fletcher has never let go of the petty disputes he was involved in during his tenure as president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union. Fletcher served as president for two terms starting in 1999 and ending in 2001.
Fletcher needs to move on. His days has president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union are long over. The people running the students union and the student newspaper have no connection to the people Fletcher fought with during his days as president of the students union. In short, he has no reason to continue to squabble about fights that occurred at the beginning of the decade.
This says nothing of the fact that he is an elected Member of Parliament and is expected to maintain a certain level of decorum.
My opinion of his latest behaviour remains much the same as my opinion when he engaged in similar behaviour four years ago. From the Joey Coleman archives: Good to see the Official Opposition’s Health Critic is not too busy (March 17, 2005)
(Yes, for those of you wondering, I’ve been watching too much Battlestar Galactica recently, hence the inspiration for my headline)
Tory reps promoted setting up “shell” and “front organizations” to get student union funding
I heard about this story on CBC Radio this morning:
Tactics for defeating Public Interest Research Groups. Strategies for keeping the left-leaning Canadian Federation of Students off campus.
These are some of the workshops the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association held at Wilfrid Laurier University last month.
Leaked recordings and documents from those workshops have set campus newspapers and blogs abuzz.
The Canadian Federation of Students alleges the leaked information reveals a Tory plan to interfere with student politics.
A number of audio recordings, photos and other files have been posted on wikileaks.org by an anonymous source. In one of the audio recordings Aaron Wudrick, former campaign manager for Tory MP Peter Braid, and Ryan O’Connor, a former vice-president of the Federation of Students at the University of Waterloo, discuss setting up “shell organization[s]” and “front groups” to access more student union funding and make it appear as though conservative causes have more support amongst students than they actually do.
The phrase “that’s been done before” comes to mind.
recovering former student activist turned professor of post-secondary education studies, I continue to maintain a keen interest in the student press and student politics, especially on my own campus. Only two of five executive positions are being contested in the on-going Memorial University of Newfoundland Students’ Union (MUNSU) election. One of the candidates, Cameron Campbell, has an entertaining campaign advertisement up on YouTube.
Have a look. It’s quite creative, though I’m not really clear on the platform. It’s very reliant on love: