Who is CFS? (Who, who, who, who.)
An online exclusive
At some point, groups that relate to students decided that they would all be known strictly by acronyms. URSU, CUP, ROC, OWL – okay, that last one isn't real.
It might make it easier to drop the organization’s name in common conversation, but it also can make those who don’t follow student government feel like they’re swimming in alphabet soup when a referendum comes around.
Consider this a reference guide for those who need catching up. A sort of CFS For Dummies.
Let’s start at the very beginning. As surprising as it is, this is not a vote supporting either URSU or the CFS. The referendum is based on whether students want to remain a part of CFS or not.
CFS stands for the Canadian Federation of Students. They are the largest student organization across the country. Its goal is to bring student issues to the attention of provincial and federal governments.
According to their website, www.cfs-fcee.ca, “It is vital that students collectively organize at the provincial and national levels to ensure that students’ rights and concerns are fully represented.”
During previous tuition freezes, like those experienced from the beginning of 2004 to the end of 2008, the CFS was a major force behind the change. The CFS is continuing this tradition this year. Students have probably noticed their “Education is a right” campaign happening in the university hallways. Typically, areas with a strong CFS presence have consistently lower tuition costs in general.
CFS is also concerned with giving typically underrepresented groups the attention they deserve. The CFS’s National Aboriginal Caucus has worked closely with FNUniv. During the recent controversy with the establishment, the CFS was one of their biggest supporters. Now repaying the kindness, FNUniv has thrown their support behind the Federation in this vote.
URSU has come out strongly against continuing membership in the CFS. They say the CFS no longer has Saskatchewan’s best interests at heart. This position has merit.
While the CFS has done a lot to freeze tuition in the past, today’s students have no doubt realized that is no longer true. In the past four years alone, there have been two tuition increases. This hasn’t helped the group’s reputation as more idealistic than productive.
It doesn’t help the Federation’s unproductive reputation that many of the services they offer are already covered by the University of Regina. Two of its biggest draws, health and dental coverage, are covered by the group that opposes the CFS loudest – URSU.
And then there’s the middle ground. CFS has lost referendums before. Mostly, those that decided to leave the Federation found that the group’s commitments to larger social issues to be time consuming. This would leave time and resources tied up, directed away from the universities under their belts. However, CFS argues that these issues have larger impacts on the world. For instance, if CFS improves the poverty rate, then the provincial and national budget improves, leaving more money to spend on education.
This isn’t the first time CFS and URSU have met in the boxing ring. Every so often a referendum is called and the mud is slung. Up until now, the CFS has lived to fight another day. But something is always there until it isn’t. This could be the Federation’s last referendum at the University of Regina. Whether that’s a good thing remains to be seen.