Lobby group musical chairs
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Referendum mania over membership to provincial and federal student lobby groups has hit campuses across Canada with some schools hoping to get out, some hoping to stay in and others deciding not to vote after all.
The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance is leading the latest wave of referendums with Brock University and the University of Windsor hoping to obtain official membership in the group they have belonged to for a number of years.
Three attempts have been made by Brock to acquire official status yet the vote has been voided either because it did not reach quorum or due to tampering with the ballot box, said Brock University Students' Union VP-university affairs Sonya Balaban.
Yet the main reason for the vote at the University of Windsor is related to rules of procedure. "Associate rules say we have to put a question forward to the students after a certain length of time," said Waterloo Students' Alliance President David Young.
Barry McCarten, outgoing executive director of OUSA, said although the situation at Brock is considered somewhat of a joke, he is not going to count on the vote being a sure-thing at Windsor. "We can't take anything for granted we have to earn our vote in each case."
Yet Young said the council has been very pleased with the effort put forth by OUSA and believes lobbying at a provincial level is top priority right now. "When dealing with a government bent on following dogmatic rules it is best to provide options OUSA has done this."
At a federal level, McMaster University and Mount Saint Vincent University have had referendums planned since October in order to get out of their membership with the Canadian Federation of Students for reasons including the present organizational structure of the federation, disagreement over the lobbying process and the federation's tendency to cater to special interest groups.
Memorial University was also set to put their membership with CFS to a vote but a recent resignation due to personal and medical reasons by Glenn Beck, former president of the Council of the Students' Union at Memorial University, has resulted in a postponement of their vote to October, previously set for the beginning of February.
"The referendum was driven mainly by Glenn, but after he left we just got too busy and no one picked up the ball," said President and former VP-executive of Memorial's council Keith Clarke.
But many of the same grievances still exist for the council, with too much CFS energy being put into social activism and not enough pertaining to student issues, Clarke said.
Ontario chair for CFS Wayne Poirier said one of the big problems Newfoundland schools find is that being in such a small province can make their voices hard to hear. He added a new working group with both executive and Newfoundland components is being set up to alleviate this problem.
Western is divided between the three main lobby groups with the University Students' Council belonging to OUSA at a provincial level and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations federally. The Society of Graduate Students, however, belongs to CFS.