The referendum on the University of Regina campus on whether or not U of R Students’ Union should remain a part of the Canadian Federation of Students has pitted the two organizations against each other. Yesterday, at a forum put on by the Carillon, it was literally so.
Jeff Maystruck, the campaign coordinator for the No Side and a U of R alumni from three years back, and URSU VP External Affairs Kaytlyn Barber faced off against CFS representative Shelley Melanson.
Check out after the jump for an account of the event.
The session started with opening statements from both sides, with Maystruck starting with his presentation called “The Abomination of the Federation”. He ran through a lot of points you can see on their promotional materials around campus and on URSU’s frontpage, including the lack of an organizer for CFS Saskatchewan since 2007, that tuition is a provincial and not federal matter, and that it’s easier to repeal the Governor of California than it is to initiate a referendum on CFS, a fact they source using Wikipedia.
The thrust of Maystruck’s argument was that CFS simply isn’t giving U of R students value for their money.
“I really wanted to know what they’ve done, what’s something tangible that U of R students can say, ‘You know what? CFS did this for me.’ That’s what I was looking for, and I couldn’t find it,” says Maystruck.
He also mentioned that the usefulness of CFS Sask. is in question since the University of Saskatchewan hasn’t committed themselves to membership.
“Our general manager had lunch with their general manager. They do not consider themselves members.”
Melanson followed this up by giving a general presentation on CFS, what it does and how its campaigns effect the average student. She listed a series of national campaigns that CFS initiated, such as calls for saving the First Nations University, for a tuition freeze, and for increased sustainability on campus.
One of the big points of her presentation was that CFS does have avenues for accountability.
“Every decision of our organization is democratically decided at two annual general congresses – one is in May, one is November – and at these meetings, any single member of our organization has the ability to submit motions on changes to policy, to campaigns, to the budget,” says Melanson.
She later says, “It’s actually the representatives of your local students’ unions that have been attending these meetings on your behalf and have been voting on the policy, the campaigns, the budget, and the services of the organization.”
One of the concrete critiques URSU is bringing against CFS is the absence of a provincial organizer. During a series of moderated questions following opening statements, Barber emphasized how much of a problem this was, and how she didn’t understand why CFS hadn’t fixed this situation.
“I personally know some of the candidates who applied and in my personal view, I think they were more than qualified.”
She also felt that, when she was first elected to an URSU executive position two years ago, CFS wasn’t doing enough on campus. Services weren’t available, and URSU couldn’t find financial documents.
“I was an elected representative of URSU on top of being a student and trying to have a personal life and the roles and responsibilities required to get CFS Sask. operational again were a large commitment of time,” she says.
From what Melanson says, the responsibility for the financial documents may have been URSU’s, as copies are handed out to all students present at each of their annual meetings. As for the financial documents being available online, Melanson says that there hasn’t been any motion asking for that in her experience.
If that were a concern to URSU, they should have brought forth a motion on the matter. URSU hasn’t brought forth any motions in the past two years.
“The first general meeting we attended was certainly a learning experience. It takes a while and it’s a lot to learn, especially if you’re not overly familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order to begin with,” says Barber.
This was countered by Melanson: “There’s actually notice that’s sent out eight weeks in advance of every general meeting, informing when the deadline for submitting motions is and encourages folks to contact the national office if they have questions about the process, how to submit and how that works.”
Maystruck took back the microphone for the closing statements. “What we’re trying to do on the No Side isn’t really trying to tell you what we’re doing, what we could do, or the services that are out there. We’re not arguing with how good CFS could be here. We’re arguing that they haven’t been good here.
“A lot of people in here with the ‘Vote Yes’ t-shirts on, I encourage you afterward to ask them what schools they’re from. Find out where these people are from, because there’s a lot of people from out of town.”
When Melanson began her closing statements, she asked, “To the folks in the Yes t-shirts, anyone here not from campus?”
Not one hand was raised in the room. URSU President Kyle Addison was visibly and audibly incensed by the question.
Melanson continued later, “This campaign on campus is being run by local students. It’s because students believe that they are stronger when they are united with students all across the country.”
A question-and-answer period with the students present then followed. Expect quotes from that to start cropping up tomorrow on the Dog Blog. Voting on the CFS referendum continues tonight until 9 p.m., then tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.