All Posts Tagged With: "student union"
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.
It’s imperfect, but successfully fights oppression and tuition
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is the best! By that I mean the CFS is the best thing students have on a national level. The CFS is the largest student association in Canada, representing more than 500,000 students in more than 80 colleges and universities.
The CFS isn’t perfect, but it more than deserves the membership fees our Carleton University Students’ Association currently provides. As students, it would be unwise to leave this nationwide organization, as could happen after a referendum that has been proposed. Here’s why I think we should remain united with the CFS.
In the early 1990s, the average undergraduate tuition in Canada was $1,464. In 2012, the average was $5,138. What’s my source? It’s an easy-to-read and informative publication from the CFS. Such accessible research and publications are one of the benefits of a dedicated national group.
It’s ineffective, undemocratic and wastes money
During a recent Carleton University Student Association meeting, it was announced that a petition for a referendum on continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) will circulate. The potential savings for Carleton students are huge: just under $500,000 in student fees that are sent off campus annually to CFS National and CFS-Ontario.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the CFS, it’s an organization that collects millions in membership fees from Canadian university and college student each year in exchange for supposedly providing services and lobbying the provincial and federal governments. Its main goal is the elimination of tuition fees. In my opinion, Carleton should leave the CFS because the organization is ineffective, undemocratic and doesn’t appear to be careful with student money. Let me explain.
Why I hope this venture goes ahead
When the Alma Mater Society here at the University of British Columbia revealed last year that the planned new Student Union Building (SUB) will house a brewery, students were overjoyed at the prospect of cheap, local craft beer.
Not only would a SUB brewery add some flavour to UBC’s decidedly drab cuisine, it would also significantly up the ante of our campus culture. Right now, our coolness factor is suffering. Our version of the Harlem Shake has only 156,000 views on YouTube. The University of Toronto’s has more than 2.2 million views, even beating out that legendary Lip Dub we made last year (remember that?) with its mere two million views.
What students are talking about today (February 13th)
1. The Queen’s Journal at Queen’s University is the latest to report on a very cool competition that promises to reward two Canadians with a ticket on a commercial flight that will blast more than 100 km into space. The Canadian competitors with the most votes on the Axe Apollo Space Academy website will join winners from around the world on a Space Expedition Corporation expedition sometime after 2014. If the flight doesn’t happen by the2017, winners will get $85,000 instead. Queen’s student Steven Humphries, currently 21st, got support by way of a Tweet from Queen’s president Daniel Woolf.
2. It’s not often that more than 1,000 people show up at a student union meeting but that’s what happened at the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s gathering on Tuesday. They were there to settle the debate over online voting, which has been pushed by reformers. The motion was narrowly approved by a vote of 575 to 567, reports The Varsity. UTSU president Shaun Shepherd and his colleagues are opposed to web voting while several of the college and faculty leaders who backed the motion are frequent critics of the executive. “I’m just so fed up with this school,” Shepherd said. Still, after an emergency meeting of the Elections & Referenda Committee, Shepherd added that “irrespective of whether or not we agree with them, we have to honour them—that’s democracy.”
Former student union president pleads guilty
A former student union president pleaded guilty and apologized yesterday for bringing negative attention to Mount Royal University, her former school. Meghan Darcy Melnyk, 28, told reporters outside a Calgary courtroom that she is “so regretful” that her actions put the university in the spotlight. “I am very remorseful,” she said. “I’m willing to take accountability for my actions,” she added. Melnyk robbed a Servus Credit Union on Feb. 29 and was caught because a staff member had written down her PT Cruiser’s license plate number. For more, see the Calgary Herald.
Student doesn’t want his money funding political causes
A University of Ottawa student is suing his students’ union over the mandatory $92.60 fee it collects from all undergraduates. Edward Inch, 22, is taking the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa to small claims court to ask for his winter semester fees returned plus $210 in legal costs. His reasons are the political activities SFUO takes part in, like supporting Quebec protesters and striking postal workers. “They claim to represent all students, yet they take political positions I don’t agree with,” the 22-year-old chemistry major told the Ottawa Citizen. “If I wanted to save the whales and save the postal workers, I’d do that in my spare time,” he added. SFUO rejects his claims.
Voter turnout (%) in campus elections from 2009 to 2012
Student union elections sweep universities across Canada
Walking through the halls at your university will become immeasurably more difficult in the coming weeks. What was once a five-minute stroll between classes will now be furiously drawn out as you attempt to dodge the hands of literature-waving student union hopefuls and their well-wishing accomplices. What was once a library is now debate headquarters. What was once a student lounge is now an easy target for just “a few minutes of your time.” And what was once your Twitter stream is now a forum of political squabble. Yes, it’s OK to cry.
Most of the student body ignores these elections, which explains the consistently low voter turnout. But some, perhaps the inherently masochistic, actually pay attention and try play an active role in deciding their student government. Kudos to you, brave souls; may you never tire of Robert’s Rules. For the rest, who can’t bear to sit through an assembly where participants collectively and repeatedly renounce their united privilege, I have a few cheats to help you make an active decision while still maintaining some form of sanity.
Beware the Brash
The promises of “three-day weekends” and “no homework over holidays” don’t end in high school. But in university, these promises sound more like “seven weeks of Frosh,” “total elimination of meanness on campus” and “down with all fees.” It didn’t happen then, and it won’t happen now.
Rah! Rah! Rah!
There are always candidates who believe ostentatious demonstrations and boorish sit-ins, also called “occupations,” are clever and dignified forms of protest. Unless you have a particular affinity for rhyming couplets, avoid.
Don’t be Seduced by Swag
Remember, you pay union dues. So while free waffles during exams might sound deliciously enticing, it often amounts to just bribery with your own money. That said, at least you’re getting some back.
Do a Background Check
Sure, previous experience on a student union is great! Just check to see if previous experience includes being named on a lawsuit or formal sanction from the university for unacceptable behaviour. I’ll let you do the Googling.
Beyond how well they manage their Facebook page, consider candidates’ attitudes towards posting official budgets online and making information easily accessible to the entire student body. On another note, I tend to avoid candidates whose online profile pictures include photos of themselves screaming into megaphones–it’s a personal choice.
Two universities vote to leave CFS; Ontario Superior Court rules that Guelph students can vote on CFS membership
Students of Concordia University voted Friday to end their membership in the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), Canada’s largest student lobby group. However, disputes over referendum scheduling and unpaid membership dues may mean the CFS won’t accept the outcome of the referendum.
According to the McGill Daily, 2312 members of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) voted to cease membership in the CFS, while 855 students voted against defederation. The CFS stands to lose approximately $300,000 in annual membership fees if it recognizes the vote.
Whether the referendum is binding is not yet clear. Although the CSU filed a petition requesting a membership referendum in the fall, as per CFS bylaws, continued disputes over ratifying signatures and outstanding membership dues stalled referendum planning. After the CFS refused to approve the referendum dates, president Amine Dabchy pushed the vote forward despite the CFS’s position. “We’ll see what happens and we will make use of all of our legal options and rights,” he told Maclean’s at the beginning of March.
The CFS and CSU will likely face off in court over the referendum results.
For more see “The case of the missing million dollars“
Meanwhile, the Ontario Superior Court ruled last week that students at Guelph University may vote on continued membership in the CFS, putting an end—for now—to a legal conflict between the CFS and the Central Student Association at Guelph (CSA).
The legal dispute arose when both the national and provincial arms of the CFS refused to schedule a referendum. The CSA claims a referendum petition was delivered to the provincial chapter of the CFS on September 29. CFS-Ontario denied receiving the petition.
The national body of the CFS refused to schedule a referendum at Guelph because of a dispute over verifying signatures.
CFS treasurer Dave Molenhuis told Maclean’s earlier this month that the national executive faced a lack of support from Guelph’s student association in verifying student signatures on the submitted petitions. When the CFS contacted the Guelph student executive concerning the validation of the signatures, the CSA was unwilling to cooperate, Molenhuis said.
“There’s some obstructionism going on there,” he said. “I requested assistance of the students’ union in validating the signatures and reviewing them and they . . . refused to engage in any dialogue.”
However, the CSA told Maclean’s that they produced a letter from the university registrar verifying signatures from 10 per cent of Guelph students.
Not only did the Ontario Superior Court grant the CSA the right to go ahead with the referendum, but also to set its own rules for the vote.
Last fall, referendum petitions circulated on 12 campuses across Canada. Disputes between the CFS and students’ unions over scheduling and organization of referenda have stalled the majority of the campaigns to cease membership in the national organization. Originally only two universities were approved by the CFS to hold votes. As many as nine student unions may go forward with their referenda in the next year with or without a blessing from the CFS, meaning many of the results will likely end up in court.
The first of the referenda occurred last week when graduate students at the University of Calgary voted overwhelmingly to end their membership in the CFS.
-with files from Jennifer Pagliaro
Tell me what’s good about the CFS, not what’s bad about its opponents
Can you feel it, boys and girls?
I do detect growing angst of prominent campus voices, and it’s getting chilly. Someone must have printed another article.
This time, it was the Ryerson Free Press with Manufacturing Crisis: Divide-and-conquer politics against the Canadian Federation of Students. The article, written by James Clark, breaks down the September McGill Daily story about 13 campus petitions circulating to defederate from the CFS.
Now, before I go on, I should admit that I’m not a die-hard follower of the CFS debate. I haven’t sorted through hours of meeting minutes and I can’t name the last three CFS lawsuits off the top of my head. So why am I blogging about it? Because I’m a student, and therefore, (willingly or not) connected to the CFS. As any member of a democratic society knows, citizens have the right to question the actions and behaviours of their higher-ups; I can be critical of the CFS.
The Ryerson Free Press article deconstructs the McGill Daily article, pointing out its alleged flaws. I think it’s only fair to deconstruct the deconstruction. Here are my (sometimes sarcastic) Cliff Notes, deconstructed, of the Ryerson Free Press article:
1. Clark says the McGill Daily article makes vague claims, attributing discontent with the CFS to “many students” or “other organizers.”
- Fair enough; I hate when vague claims are made.
2. Erin Hale, the McGill Daily story author, doesn’t do her research. She lets one person speak for many. (James Murphy at Trent University.)
- How dare she? In an article about people petitioning to leave the CFS, why would she interview the guy circulating the petition? Makes no sense to me.
3. Hale uses an anonymous source. Thus, no one can “challenge his claims, investigate his political affiliations, or hold him accountable for his comments.”
- Ss-ssecret police…? Is that you? I’m scared.
4. Hale misspells a source’s name.
- I’ll give you that one. It really does undermine credibility.
5. Campus defederation movements might be the product of orders from up top: the Progressive Conservative Party.
- I’m glad you made the earlier point about the misleading nature of unsupported claims.
6. Those individuals pushing for defederation on campuses do poorly in campus elections.
- Because lack of support in elections must mean lack of support for this specific cause.
7. They are mostly “conservative dissidents.”
- Yeah. And all they do is slander the CFS. Don’t you hate smear campaigns that only try to stifle debate?
8. The anti-CFS campaigners are hypocritical. They argue that students from outside CFS campuses should not participate in local campus debates. But former editor-in-chief of The Concordian, Andrew Haig, “was recently photographed at Carleton while petitioning students to leave the CFS.”
- He…he…was photographed? They are watching, aren’t they? Still scared.
9. The movement to leave the CFS is a “generally unpopular cause.”
- I hate when vague claims are made.
10. Students should unite to tackle “more pressing issues” that affect everyone.
- Do all students agree on all CFS campaigns?
I apologize if I missed something important. Those were the main points that I took from the article, anyway. But beyond that, here’s what I think is principally wrong with this latest CFS defense: it’s hardly a defense at all.
To deal with students like myself, who genuinely would like some answers (who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind?) I think the best pro-CFS response is a constructive one. I’d like to see an article that addresses the reasons behind the 13 petitions, including the alleged “frivolous” spending, lack of transparency, intimidation tactics, lawsuits etc.
Yes, I’m no better in “deconstructing the deconstruction.” My attempt was to illustrate just how silly the whole thing is. If my intent escaped you, I’m sorry.
So attack me personally, if you’d like. Call me one-sided, closed-minded, ill-informed or petty. But a more effective strategy would be to tell me why I’m wrong in being wary of an organization that’s obviously roused some discontent. (Sorry, is “some” too vague of a term?) Tell me what’s right with the CFS, not what’s wrong with the dissenters. After all, a constructive voice is always better received.
- photo by Steveleenow
How much does your student union president make?
Two weeks ago, my OnCampus colleague Dean Tester did some sleuthing on the salaries earned by student union executives in Ontario. Seeing as how it got the interweb comment board buzzing, I thought I would follow it up with a look at what our student leaders make west of the Canadian Shield (Western Canada, for those not geographically inclined).
Most of these numbers comes from a report done by the UBC student union (better known as the AMS), which had a committee review the salaries of their own executives. So these numbers come from either available budgets/minutes, or correspondence between the AMS committee and executives at other universities. So without further adieu:
University of Calgary: $35,160
Simon Fraser University: $30,000
University of Victoria: $25,077 (This number is very approximate—they’re expected to work 37.5 a week at $12.86 an hour)
University of Manitoba: $25,000 (This is a number from 2005—it’s been raised by CPI every year since then)
University of British Columbia: $25,000
University of Alberta: $24,000
University of Saskatchewan: $22,494
University of Regina: $20,656.56
University of Lethbridge: $19,200
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.
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.