Student unions are such a common part of our university careers that we tend to take them for granted. Student government often exists at all levels of the institution, ranging from the department, to the college or school, all the way to the collective student union. The student union levies fees on students and provides certain services in return. The representatives of the union are often directly elected by students (with usually abysmal voter turnout).
Unfortunately, student unions commonly engage in overtly political activity. Students should actively monitor their unions and speak out when they are engaging in questionable activity. For example, Ontario’s radical student federation, the Canadian Federation of Students (Ontario) (CFS-O), was actively involved in planning the Quebec-Ontario Student Solidarity Tour. The phone number provided for the event linked directly to a CFS-O executive. The event was endorsed by a number of student unions, including those at Guelph, Queen’s, Windsor, and Ottawa. But it certainly was not by the people! At Guelph, students received no word of this decision until after the fact, and no attempt was made to consult the student body at large. The event involved student protest leaders with questionable politics. Guelph student union executives made a plea for students to join the strike movement, and even to donate money to student leaders fighting a legal challenge in Quebec.