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A unified, Canadian student voice?
To the Editor:
With the University Students' Council aligned with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Society of Graduate Students with the Canadian Federation of Students, it's difficult enough to forge a unified student politic at Western.
CASA, the conservative faction that splintered off of CFS in 1994, appears to have since thrown much of its efforts into portraying CFS as a top-down, bureaucratic, radical lobby group that misrepresents its more than 400,000 members.
In my six years of experience as a student at Western and in both university governance and student politics, I have found CFS to be among the most open, democratic, multifaceted and socially progressive large-scale organizations. Without a doubt, CFS has been the driving force behind Canada's student movement for the last 18 years. Regrettably, undergraduate students at Western have been absent from that movement ever since the USC aligned itself with CASA.
The CFS record extends far beyond the rhetoric of making "real gains." For example, in the last four years, CFS has achieved tuition freezes in four provinces and won tax rebates and subsidies for students from the federal government. Above all, CFS has raised awareness about the nation-wide debt crisis facing students today. In the meantime, CASA has been making "presentations" to officials who could not care less.
And yet, for the last few years, consecutive USC executives have suggested to council that CFS is bureaucratic and overzealous, that Western's undergraduates need not concern themselves with both social injustice and government policy and that, in short, CASA is the place to be.
More recently, during a USC council meeting on Dec. 1, the executive brought forth a motion to not endorse the latest CFS campaign, Access 2000. And instead of providing concrete arguments for such opposition, the campaign was opposed only on the grounds that it was a CFS campaign and not a CASA initiative.
Unfortunately, despite council's resistance to the executive's motion, I understand that the executive is now preparing to oppose a motion to support Access 2000, to be introduced by graduate students in the university Senate this Friday. This latest pre-emptive strategy begs the question, now who's acting in a top-down manner?
It seems the USC executive and the undergraduate Senators have a partisan agenda of their own an agenda they're willing to push even though Access 2000 benefits the students they purport to represent. In short, this implies the undergraduates in leading positions on our campus are doing all they can to thwart the efforts of a campaign calling for re-investment in post-secondary education.
Despite the political differences between CFS and CASA, the Society of Graduate Students has made every attempt to cooperate with the USC on campaigns benefiting all students. In response, I believe the USC executive has misinformed its council about CFS and refused to support a campaign which will culminate in a day of action to raise awareness across Canadian campuses on Feb. 2, 2000. It's time to call the question.
Richard S. Telfer
Society of Graduate Students
Graduate Student Senator
MA Sociology II