URSU on the war path


Is URSU breaching its’ own constitution?

Edward Dodd

URSU is absolutely awful.

Let me justify this statement. I could handle their inability to lobby the government for lower tuition, their lacklustre approach to everything around campus, or the “election” they held last year, but the current CFS referendum has brought several issues to the forefront that I can’t really ignore.

URSU has a clause in their constitution that states they are to “remain politically non-partisan in all activities and lobby efforts.” This could have several interpretations, but the most common is that URSU will remain neutral in political actions. This is not the case surrounding the CFS decision. URSU is clearly endorsing discontinuing membership, and people are questioning if this is a breach of the constitution. At the very least, URSU is walking a fine line.

Another issue is that URSU is not 100 per cent informed themselves. They are throwing around facts like the popular “only four mentions in a total of 544 press releases,” but if you do the math that’s only slightly less than we should expect in an organization of 85 members. If each release dealt with a different member, and there were equal releases for each organization, there would be about six press releases per institute.

But that’s ridiculous. Why is it necessary to be mentioned in the press releases of an organization you belong to? If nothing meaningful is happening is Saskatchewan, then it’s unreasonable to expect the CFS to issue a token statement to us to prove that we matter to them. We aren’t that needy.

The reason nothing of importance happens in Saskatchewan is because URSU itself blocks all CFS campaigns. If a member union of the CFS does not wish to participate in CFS rallies and events, it does not have to. You might think that since URSU is a member and students are paying for that membership, they would participate in many campaigns organized by the CFS. But URSU is willing to sit back, pay the membership fee, and reap no benefits from it. URSU dropped the ball, not the CFS.

It’s worth noting that funding for post-secondary is done at the provincial level and not the federal level. However, URSU’s assertion that CFS’s federal lobbying is useless is false. Student loans are dealt with at the federal level, and the CFS lobbies to alleviate student debt based on loans. They also aim very high by lobbying for universal post-secondary education – a goal I am not sure they will ever reach – but at least they’re setting goals. They hold rallies, create petitions, and lobby to encourage government help for students. When was the last time URSU held a rally? I’m not sure; probably a long time ago. If it was recent I never heard about it, and I try to pay attention to these kinds of things.

The other fact URSU is pushing, that it is easier to recall the governor of California than it is to get out the CFS is somewhat confusing. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Not to mention, the link they use as proof is to Wikipedia, which is not entirely trustworthy. For example, the site says “recall of any governor whose name is Arnold is absolutely impossible because ‘he will be back!’” Although it is an obvious joke, it is proof that Wikipedia can be tampered with.

Joking aside, I could make the counterpoint to their argument, “yes, but it is easier to get out of the CFS than it is for Quebec to get out of Canadian Federation.” (Quebec separatists need to have a “clear majority” voting for separation if Quebec wants to be independent. The “clear majority” is defined by parliament, so it could mean anything from 51% to 99%. Source: The Canadian Encyclopaedia. That’s how it’s done, cats and kittens). The problem with both these arguments is that they are meaningless in the context of the CFS.

There is also the card that says, “The CFS takes $89,000 from U of R students annually. WTF do they do with it?” Well, that’s a good question. As it stands, the financial statement that I saw (provided by URSU) breaks down what the CFS does with the money very clearly. (The $89,000 doesn’t even cover the cost of one congress, for example.) I also don’t appreciate the un-professionalism of the term “WTF”. If URSU wants to run an almost unconstitutional campaign, the least they could do is act professional about it.

I will admit, the CFS is not spectacular. According to papers URSU was showing off, it spends well over $300,000 a year on two congresses of students. In this extremely connected modern world, I think it would be more practical to do these meetings via Skype or something similar, or to hold only one congress a year instead of two. Even at $150,000 each, what is going on at these congresses? I can see spending several thousand on food and accommodation for 85 representatives, but $150,000 seems a little steep. It also has $300,000 in legal fees, which in and of itself is concerning.

It is also concerning that they put a Rider’s helmet on their pins with “Vote Yes,” implying that the Riders want students to vote yes – an incorrect implication in my opinion.

But overall, URSU is to blame for any lack of CFS-related action in Regina. The CFS is perceived as having not done much for students in Saskatchewan because URSU (and I would assume the U of S Students Union) refuse to participate in its strategies. To be fair to URSU, if the sole reason they don’t want to be in the CFS is because they don’t want to participate in its events then the referendum is fair. But in that case, URSU needs to explicitly state they don’t want to continue paying membership for something they refuse to participate in. They shouldn’t be lying and saying that the CFS does nothing for the university. If the CFS isn’t helping the university, it’s because URSU refuses to allow it to help.

I would like to get into the issues of URSU and campus democracy, but that is really a different story. Needless to say, from consulting URSU’s constitution, it seems more difficult to recall our URSU executive than it is to get out of the CFS. That’s a neat little fact that doesn’t quite fit into the referendum context either, but it doesn’t make it any less true.


  1. Jerry McGuire 29 October, 2010 at 15:31

    Two anti-URSU articles in a single day? Talk about “fair and balanced.” Shame on the editor for publishing such garbage.
    Dodd, if you possessed an even an ounce of critical thinking, you would realize that it is impossible to participate in CFS and adhere to URSU’s constitution. In fact, CFS is nothing more than a political lobbying group, full of people who can’t succeed in the real world. “Lower tuition fees,” “education is a right,” and “Israel Apartheid Week” are indeed partisan positions, and ones not everyone agrees with.

    Jesus tap-dancing Christ, only someone so oblivious to Orwellian Newspeak would believe that there is such thing as non-partisan lobbying efforts, especially in university politics.

    While your gaps in critical thinking are embarrassing enough, you should be more concerned about accusing the URSU executive of “lying.” If you weren’t a person of such little consequence, a damaged party could have credible grounds for a case of slander–especially when your entire diatribe is so light on actual facts.

  2. Rhiannon 1 November, 2010 at 23:59

    As these are editorials and by their very nature opinion-based, I personally don't believe our editor deserves any of your shame. Your opinions on our contributor's writing and fact checking are fair game on a newspaper website, but attacks on him as a person really aren't. I'll thank you to take a look at our comment policy before submitting next time. Thank you for reading.

  3. BW 4 November, 2010 at 12:19

    Hey Rhiannon,
    I also suggest that maybe your paper does some fact checking before publishing. Many stories about the referendum were missing facts or producing distorted facts. Journalists are suppose to provide both sides of the story, this paper seems more like TMZ then a reputable publication.

  4. John Cameron 5 November, 2010 at 17:36

    @BW: Opinion pieces are, almost by their nature, one sided; they argue a specific opinion on a given subject. Some are more strenuously researched than others. This is the nature, however, of the opinion section – it's opinions, backed up both by facts published in the newspaper and with observations, speculations, and hypotheses about the issue at hand. They are not hard news, and to look for hard news within the text of an opinion piece is at the best of times a serious misadventure; furthermore, if you look at the masthead, you'll note that opinion pieces do not, in fact, "reflect those of the Carillon Newspaper Inc."

    In other words, they express the personal opinion of the writer of the piece. That's it. Not the paper's bias, and certainly not any editorial bias.

    If you have a correction to make on any of our news pieces, I invite you to step up and comment on those pieces themselves. And if you have a differing opinion might I suggest sumbitting it to the newspaper, which will almost surely edit and publish your opinion. I rarely comment on this website, but if you are going to charge that our news pieces distort or intentionally omit facts then you ought to be prepared to point out the factual omissions or distortions in question and to do so in a direct, clear, and straightforward manner, rather than suggesting that opinion pieces are indicative of a bias toward anything political. At most, we're biased towards printing the material we receive.

    Letters should be no more than 350 words, and may be edited for space, clarity, accuracy, and vulgarity. I look forward to receiving yours.

  5. Edward Dodd 10 November, 2010 at 14:33

    Thank you for pointing out the issues in my argument. True, the examples from CFS campaigns are partisan positions. I would argue, would you rather have URSU doing nothing but administrating bulletin boards and the Owl? If so, that's fine. You have an opinion and although I disagree with it, you have every right to it. Perhaps you would consider writing an article for the Carillon, as suggested by John Cameron.

    As for URSU being non-partisan: Perhaps if they showed dedication to being non-partisan, that argument would hold more water. They came down heavily on the "vote no" side of this referendum, but they refuse to take a stance on issues of gender equality or lower tuition fees? If they don't want to be partisan, then they shouldn't take sides on anything. Again, we limit them to an elected administrative unit rather than a politically active entity, which is fine, if that is what you want.

    It seems the issue comes down to the interpretation of the non-partisan clause. If the non-partisan clause is so difficult to follow, then they can amend it so they don't have to follow it, correct? I mean, they need approval of the board, but it cannot be that difficult to attain unless there is some reason they should be non-partisan. I see how asking them to remain non-partisan and yet to participate with the CFS can be hypocritical. So perhaps then they need to look at their constitution and change it to allow them to be partisan, rather than just ignoring it. Or clarify what they mean by non-partisan.

    Have a good day.

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