Jump the CFS ship

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 13, 2008 Ed Cartoon

A ‘referendum war-plan’ document was recently leaked from the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia branch. It revealed how CFS-BC intended to keep several BC schools within the CFS fold.

Students at several schools will soon be voting on whether or not to remain CFS members. The leaked CFS-BC documents detail how CFS-BC plans to spend money and manpower to sway the vote in its direction.

Between keeping these plans secret and an alleged plan to manipulate polling stations with CFS loyalists, it creates an image of shady dealings by CFS.

It is safe to assume school’s membership fees were meant to fund the war-plan initiative. Should student money be used to unfairly coerce member schools?

It is arguably part of CFS’ mandate to maintain its strength; to do this it must represent as many students as possible. The CFS mantra has long been solidarity " a united voice within its constituency is supposed to keep its message relevant.

However, why did CFS-BC hide its intentions? If it is not acting suspiciously, there is no need to keep plans secret.

Student activism involves calls for transparency. CFS seems out of touch when it needs to launch a secret campaign to win student support. If the CFS is doing a good job representing students it should only need to tell students what the CFS does for them rather than launch a covert campaign.

Does the CFS feel it needs to trick students into supporting it?

It is dangerous ground for an organization dedicated to listening to student voices to enforce unity.

Instead of planning initiatives like this ‘war-plan,’ CFS should do a better job lobbying for students so it could win support through results rather than political tricks.

The CFS is providing one more reason why there is the perception of a divide in student lobbying. CFS is considered radical, while the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (Western is a member of the Ontario branch) gets a seat at negotiating tables.

The debate over whether a moderate or a radical approach is most effective gets slanted when these documents reveal the action CFS was planning to take.

On the plus side for CASA and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, the more radical CFS appears, the better CASA and OUSA look. Governments and universities might be more willing to negotiate with CASA when the alternative is to deal with CFS.

In the past, virtually all Canadian universities " including Western " were represented by CFS. Since CASA and OUSA were formed over a decade ago, several schools have left the organization.

Having a secret plan to maintain its membership is one reason why CFS is no longer the only organization representing Canadian university student voices.

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