Where student gov't dare tread
By Laura Katsirdakis
Should student governments take a stand on international conflicts
or should they focus on local issues that affect students directly?
At York University, an election held last week for the York
Federation of Students played out this debate. A group calling
themselves Progress Not Politics was formed with the stated
purpose of returning student government to local issues and
ran a slate of candidates during the election.
Election results, revealed last Thursday, showed that York
students had voted in 26 of the 31 PNP candidates, confirmed
Paul Cooper, president-elect of the YFS and president of PNP.
“The frustration York students felt with the Federation
dealing with international politics [prompted the formation
of the group]”, Cooper explained, adding the YFS had
been known for taking stances on international issues such
as the war in Iraq and for taking a decisively pro-Arab stance. “They
were grossly anti-Israel.”
Cooper claimed that the YFS was alienating over 4,000 Jewish
students on campus. “They were not representing students — we
all pay student fees.”
The election was largely perceived as a contest between pro-Arab
groups and pro-Israeli groups, but this was not true, Cooper
said. “I am the president of the Young Zionist Partnership,
this may have led to this perception.
“The people in our group are not all pro-Israel — we
have a diverse slate of people,” he said. “The
main slate [of candidates] we were running against were [Solidarity
for Palestinian Human Rights] members.”
The controversy is not over. “There have been complaints
filed [with the elections committee] with respect to overspending,” he
said, noting the committee is in place to entertain such concerns. “We’ve
definitely been targeted.”
“York students voted very clearly and very loudly,” Cooper
The election committee and the opposing slate of candidates
could not be reached for comment.
Matt Huether, VP-student affairs for Western’s University
Students’ Council, commented that nothing like this has
occurred in Western’s student government in recent memory.
The USC does not take a stance on international issues; this
is left to the clubs, he explained, noting the USC tries to
ensure the opportunity for all types of expression of views
Huether said he had heard rumours that PNP was also planning
to leave the Canadian Federation of Students and join the Canadian
Alliance of Student Associations.
“CFS hasn’t heard anything about this — I don’t
think it’s appropriate to comment on this at this time,” said
Ashkon Hashemi, internal co-ordinator at CFS.
“I would like to see less hostility and I would like
to see a position taken [by student government] with regard
to such issues — the verbal barrage between groups on
campus is just as bad,” said Doretta Klaric, a second-year
social science student at Western, when asked whether she thought
student governments should be neutral on political issues.
“I don’t think it’s their position to take
a stance [on such issues] — to be honest, what does it
matter what the student government thinks?” asked Kevin
Carter, a fourth-year honours biology student at Western.