Huffington Post Canada

Does the Canadian Federation of Students care about students?

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), a national organization composed of campus student unions, purports to organize students on a “democratic, co-operative basis.” When Guelph students wanted to hold a referendum to exit the CFS, they served the CFS with a petition asking for a referendum to be held to decertify. However, the CFS refused to schedule a referendum. Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA) took the CFS to court, and an Ontario lower court trial judgegranted the referendum. Then 73.5 per cent of Guelph students voted to exit the CFS.The CFS alleges the results were not reliable.

Even after Guelph students overwhelmingly expressed a desire to leave, the CFS continued to challenge the democratic vote in court. They argued that signatures were not verified for the initial referendum request. The Ontario Court of Appeal judge granted the request, and remitted the matter to another trial court judge on a technicality. The appeal was granted because the original judge did not provide written reasoning for his decision.

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Huffington Post Canada

The ongoing trend of corruption in student unions

Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) are withholding student funds from the Student Association after it failed to provide audited financial statements for the 2012-2013 school year.

Universities have, on occasion, intervened and exercised their power to withhold money from student unions acting against the wishes of their membership. Student union executives typically respond with a sad attempt to take the moral high ground, repeating variations of the following: “student unions should have autonomy over their own affairs.”

The Durham and UOIT Student Association President, Peter Chinweuba, for instance, stated:

The decision is unfair as it infringes upon the autonomy of the Student Association.

The University of Guelph in 2012 stopped collecting fees for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) after students overwhelmingly rejected the organization in a referendum. Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA) originally stood up for the result of the referendum in court, but recently decided to settle with the CFS and pay the fees. However, students were not consulted on the matter at any point, deliberations were made in secret, and a deliberate decision was taken to ignore the democratic voice of students. A few months ago, the University, concerned with the lack of consultation, conducted another survey on whether students wanted to continue paying CFS fees (again, it was overwhelmingly rejected). The CSA responded with a press release that noted the University’s position:

[…] Means that the CSA is not empowered to make a decision in our own affairs without the approval of the University administration.

This is the same flawed argument: it is not student unions who should possess this power, but it is one that should ultimately lie with the students! What a radical concept. When a student union clearly acts against the wishes of its membership, the only recourse students have is their university administration. Individual students cannot really access the courts due to issues of cost and time.

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The Cannon.ca

CSA lawsuit empties the pockets of students

Dear CSA Board:

I recently came upon a Facebook event notifying me that the CSA is planning to collaborate with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) to sue the University of Guelph using a secret motion that students have not been informed about.

[Facebook event  link here –Ed.]

The motion is as follows:

BIRT, the CSA pursue a joint application with the CFS against the University regarding the collection of CFS membership fees, BIFRT, the joint application seek court orders for the university to:
1. Remit the CFS membership fees collected in trust to the CSA,

2. Resume the collection of CFS membership fees immediately, and

3. To remit the equivalent of any uncollected CFS membership fees to the CSA

BIFRT, the CSA Board of Directors empower the Executive Committee to coordinate this application until a court decision is made with regular updates to the Board of Directors.

As board members, it is your duty to uphold the mandate provided to you by students. Overturning the results of a democratic referendum in which 73.5% of students voted to leave the CFS is wrong.
By suing the University, the money will ultimately be coming out of students’ pockets. Point 3 of the motion will sue the University for any uncollected CFS membership fees, which would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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The Ontarion

Increasing transparency and accountability for CSA student fees

The recent CSA election campaigns featured messages students hear nearly every year: more quality post-secondary education and a more financially accessible campus, “fighting the hikes,” and addressing high debt loads of graduating students.

Unfortunately, it is beyond the purview of the CSA to do anything about tuition fees. These are regulated by the government, and at the university level, tuition increases are decided by the Board of Governors. Tuition is going up next year, has gone up in the past year, and will continue to go up in the future. No matter how much students may campaign against it, it is not going to change.

In addition to tuition, students pay compulsory university fees. These include fees for athletics, the University Centre, health services fees, and student services fees, which supports things like Safewalk, The Learning Commons, CECS, CIP, etc.  These services benefit almost all students and promote a healthy, balanced campus life.

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