What is everyone complaining about?


I’d like to start off by saying that I know the referendum’s over.

Initially, I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to use the words Canadian Federation of Students until I saw the results of the referendum, but reading two of the Op-Ed pieces from the Oct. 28 issue (“URSU on the war path,” “URSU problems systemic”), and one from last week (“The Unfair Referendum”) made me realize they need some response.       I do not speak on behalf of URSU, or the ASA, or any other organization I am a member of. I will say that I feel insulted every time someone writes about how I’m part of an organization that’s “absolutely awful.” I did not join the URSU board to put up “smoke and mirrors” for the students. I joined because I genuinely believe the Students’ Union can be – and is – a powerful force for positive change in the university. 

The Union helps fund student projects, helps run The Owl, and helps student groups function around the university. I spent a week reading over policy to try and make better and more informed decisions, and I know the Executive member who helped write the new policy book spent months gathering old information, condensing and editing it to make it easier for students to access and understand. Running and upgrading The Owl, sitting on a dozen boards and meeting with politicians and other students’ unions takes a lot of time from student representatives, but it’s all in the name of making the university a place worth being. Our Student Food Bank collected over 700 pounds of food, thanks to a drive organized by URSU and run by two executive members.

I won’t go into specific rebuttals to the “URSU on the war path” article; the referendum is over, and any additional information won’t change any minds now. I will say that expecting the Student Union to run CFS campaigns without support in addition to all their other work is ridiculous. If other students had wanted to run them, they were welcome. If students cannot be bothered to volunteer for the CFS, the money may as well stay in their pockets. A minor point is that Jeff Maystruck was in charge of the campaign for the “No” side, not the URSU. Many board members volunteered out of personal ideals, but nobody was forced to wear the shirts.

I was not on the Students’ Union during the run last year, but saying that URSU “botched” the referendum is wrong. The minutes (which I found quite easily on the website) state that URSU was fully prepared to run a referendum, in accordance with all CFS laws. It was not possible to find the representatives for the CFS in the one week left before the union would have been out of time, but that was thanks to the CFS stonewalling a legal referendum, not due to the Students’ Union. 

The $3,000 dollars to the “Vote No” campaign is in line with what the Students’ Union has funded for past referendums and this money was not a waste. It was necessary so that students would become aware of the reasons to leave the CFS.

Our VP External was sitting on both the URSU and CFS executive, lobbying hard for a Saskatchewan organiser, among other efforts to improve the CFS in Saskatchewan. She printed off every ISIC card produced last year, because she wanted the students’ money to be well spent.

Saying that the board is “out of control” due to the vote to take a stance on the issue implies that members should be “under control” of the executive. This is a ridiculous statement – every member gets his or her own vote, free from influence or control. That’s the way that our student government should be, and is, run. 

Getting minutes from an URSU meeting is as simple as clicking a few links on the website. Of course, minutes aren’t posted immediately after the meeting they refer to. They are posted after the subsequent meeting, because the board needs to approve their accuracy. It may be a slow method, but Carillon editor-in-chief John Cameron attended the last meeting to ensure a speedy dissemination of any information that the students need to know. As for getting four different answers from four different people, I challenge you to ask any four arts professors one question, and get a single answer. Everyone has his or her own filters and ideas and information, and I for one am glad that our Executive isn’t a Borg-like single idea entity. 

The referendum process was entirely fair. It had an appointed oversight committee that worked hard to ensure that. They approved all the information that was put out, they employed the people who worked the polling station, and they hammered out the details.

As for URSU being a student organization, so is the CFS. Personally, I voted to take a stance because if not for us, there wouldn’t have been a “Vote No.”  There is no national organization using student money to try and get rid of the CFS.  Rejecting posters is not some draconian thing; there are guidelines that everyone has to follow in our policy. Nothing unfair happened, the Student Union employees simply stuck to policy. The CFS had Vote Yes posters up, I recall seeing a few, but they were in charge of their own campaign – the fact that their flights took a while to get here is not a marking of an unfair election. 

As to going against the constitution, the CFS is not a political party. The URSU board’s involvement with the “Vote No” campaign was not a political issue; it was a policy issue. We did not encourage any student to vote for any political party, just encouraged them to vote in our referendum. In addition, the CFS was using your money to accost students in the hallway as well. That’s the way we decided would be best to get the information out there – directly.

I understand that some students feel like URSU was not representing them with their stance on the CFS. But the CFS was not representing me with their position, and both sides of a debate need a voice. People who say that no referendum should be called, that having it over $11 is unnecessary must not realize that 10 per cent of U of R students signed a petition to call this referendum. It wasn’t any one person’s goal; it was a choice made by many of our students.

Bart Soroka

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