Members of CFS schools rethinking
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
A growing number of universities in the Atlantic provinces have decided to call their membership with the Canadian Federation of Students to a vote.
Glenn Beck, president of the Council of the Students' Union at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, said the February referendum vote was set due to concerns over the isolation of Atlantic provinces from the rest of the country.
"The federation is way too bureaucratic and won't be able to address individual concerns," he said. There are a number of other problems with CFS, including the present organizational structure of the federation, disagreement over the lobbying process, catering of special interest groups and deficits of over $775,000.
Brad Lavinge, national chair of the CFS, said he was in Newfoundland last weekend to meet with Memorial University to discuss their concerns.
Because representation in Newfoundland has been growing so rapidly, Lavinge said CFS understands when something grows you have to make improvements to ensure student unions do not feel isolated.
Timothea Gibb, VP-external for Mount Saint Vincent's University Students' Council in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said the general feeling among students is Atlantic provinces are not seeing any direct positive effects from being a member of CFS.
"We hear about what CFS has done in other places such as B.C. but have yet to see any direct results in our area." Their referendum vote is set for April, Gibb said.
Dale Kirby, provincial chair for the Newfoundland Labrador Federation of Students, a component of CFS, said members of the Atlantic provinces were left feeling demoralized after a national general meeting in May with CFS. "We just want a voice and right now we don't have one."
Hoops Harrison, national director for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said several of the schools involved in referendums have approached CASA to discuss alternatives but Harrison said CASA won't entertain recruitment until the unions have become disassociated with the federation.
Western's undergraduate students are members of CASA.
Western's Society of Graduate Students is currently a member of CFS and has no plans to leave, said VP-external Kelly Barrowcliffe.