Ryerson report raises questions about the value of federation membership
Have you heard of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)? It’s a union for student federations in Canada, and our own Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) is a member.
As it stands, the SFUO site says that the CFS provides assistance with “tuition fee levels, student financial assistance programs, and funding for research.”
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) is also a member, and it recently released its report on whether or not the union should break ties with the CFS. Last year, the Carleton University Students’ Association produced a report to examine its affiliation as well.
In light of the red flags that appeared in these reports, it’s time for the SFUO to make a CFS report of its own.
The Ryerson report found that the RSU paid $475,000 per year to the CFS. As it stands, no mention of fees paid to the CFS is made on the SFUO’s website or in their bylaws. Given the SFUO’s current austerity measures, a report is necessary to clearly outline how much students are paying the CFS, and what exactly the student executive is getting in return for that money.
For example, the RSU report stated that one ostensible benefit of the CFS is that they fight for tuition decreases. However, the report also found no evidence that this work had yielded any results since the two unions joined forces in 1982.
Any report done by the SFUO needs to really examine what benefits are provided by the CFS. It can’t stop at superficial terms like “lobbying”—it must dive into the data to see if CFS services are working.
The RSU report also cited “concerns with the CFS not taking meeting minutes during official meetings and not making them available to the general public.” This lack of transparency can only be seen as a bad influence on our own student union.
This is especially true given that SFUO transparency was called into question at the Aug. 16 Board of Administration meeting.
An SFUO report must also include details concerning the relationship of the SFUO and the CFS. This includes current and recently departed members who have moved between the organizations, or work within both.
This is not to say there is anything inherently wrong with being associated with either the SFUO or the CFS. If the SFUO is going to consider cutting ties, the student body needs to have all the information about both organizations. This is a serious issue, and we need this information to be disseminated throughout the student body as quickly as possible.
After all, there are enough warning signs present that a publicly released report on the subject is an absolute necessity.