Volume 93, Issue 95

Wednesday, March 29, 2000


OPINIONS

Maybe parents should get a detention

Confusing acceptance with tolerance

CASA vs. CFS - the battle rages on

Column shows deviancy, hypocrisy

Art is a work of pure genius

Attack obscured in generalization

Sailboat much like Stonehenge

Diverse or just confused?

CASA vs. CFS - the battle rages on



Re: "It's easy to get lost in the alphabet soup" March 21

To the Editor:

I would like to take this opportunity to refute Mr. Telfer's letter comparing the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Canadian Federation of Students.

Semantics is the first point that Mr. Telfer contends. That CASA is an "alliance of student governments," while CFS is a "federation of individual students" is true. CASA does not seek to be Canada's student union, but a voice for students in the political process. Who do you elect to represent you? Those individuals on the University Students' Council. Who does the administration deal with? Those individuals on the USC.

The cost of the organizations is the subject of the second and third points. We do not charge individual students because we feel this would not be appropriate in light of what we say about the needy situation of Canadian students.

The CASA fee structure looks at each student association individually and takes into account their size and ability to pay. While CFS charges the students in the Society of Graduate Students approximately $12 each, CASA receives approximately $1.09 per student at Western.

On the subject of transparency of fees, the student association budget is transparent. Students can look at the budget of their own student association. The CASA budget is under the scrutiny of your elected USC representatives. Every dollar of the CASA fee goes into our lobby work. None of it is diverted to cover operating costs of peripheral operations. And while your elected representatives are voting on the USC budget, they are also voting on CASA and many other fees. When was the last time a student voted on a CFS fee?

In terms of the International Student Identity Card that is available for "free" to students who go to institutions that belong to CFS, this is also true. However, of all the ISIC cards distributed, sold or otherwise, I would guess approximately two-thirds of them are from non-CFS schools.

The cards cost approximately $3 to produce and the CFS makes a $13 profit from non-members on these cards. So, in essence, they are free for CFS members but ISIC fees from non-members also go to the administration of CFS and the purchase of their ISIC cards, making the ultimate cost of running CFS at least double the $12 membership cost. Clearly, CFS has a huge bureaucracy at a high cost to Canadian students.

With his fifth point of representation, yes, Mr. Telfer is correct in stating that the USC has been a member of CASA since its inception in 1995 and did decide to join through council rather than a student referendum. While CFS has been around in its current form since 1981, the students at Western held two separate referendums to join in the late 1980s and early '90s. Both failed.

One of the founding tenets of CASA is that it believes in the autonomy of each student association. It does not impose rules upon its members as to how they should conduct their business. In other words, easy in, easy out. If a referendum is the way that the student association decides to join, then so be it.

Furthermore, while it is very easy to leave CASA by simply serving notice to CASA in writing, the CFS requires a referendum to leave. In many of these cases, the CFS sues the member association and indirectly, the students at an institution, for a large monetary amount. Is this democracy?

CASA's round table model gives each member one vote, regardless of size. There is no weighted voting in CASA's procedures. CFS wildly inflates the number of students it represents. CASA has the largest, strongest and most stable student associations from across Canada and our figures indicate that both organizations represent approximately the same number of students. In fact, CASA membership has been increasing while CFS membership has continuously been in decline. This is visible proof of the decreasing regard amongst Canadian students for CFS objectives and their methods.

In conclusion, I beg the question about rhetoric. Is Mr. Telfer's letter not also rhetoric? Look at what CASA has done for students in the past year – the raising of the tax deductible limit on scholarships. That's not rhetoric. The increased transfer payments through the Canadian Health and Social Transfer. That's not rhetoric. That's real students tackling real problems and finding real solutions.

And it's nice to see a letter from Mr. Telfer, a graduate student in an undergraduate newspaper, even though he did not pay the fee of $8.61 cents that all 23,000 undergraduates did.

Mark Kissel
Ontario Regional Director
Canadian Alliance of Student Associations
VP-Education, University Students' Council



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