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Loose Cannon: Only happy thoughts for the CFS

Thursday, October 29, 2009

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  • By keeping referedum questions away from External Commissioner Momina Mir, she can continue to work on campaigns that
make the

    By keeping referedum questions away from External Commissioner Momina Mir, she can continue to work on campaigns that make the

Written by Greg Beneteau

Discussion about the Canadian Federation of Students these days is like that episode of the Twilight Zone, where a boy with magical powers forces everyone to think happy thoughts.

In this case, the one hooked on good news is CSA External Commissioner Momina Mir, who also represents the Central Student Association at the CFS.

The CSA Executive has officially adopted a neutral stance on the referendum, but that line becomes blurry when one of your executive is required to advocate for the CFS as part of her job. It becomes even blurrier when people aren’t allowed to ask questions of that executive.

Instead, Communications Commissioner Gavin Armstrong has become the spokesperson on questions about the CFS referendum. That way, Mir can continue to work on campaigns that make the CFS look good, while avoiding questions that may portray the federation in a negative light.

The issue of vanishing petitions has become the elephant in the room. In Ontario, CFS bylaws require that schools submit two separate petitions to hold a referendum on federation membership - one to the CFS-Ontario and one to the CFS-National.

A university of Guelph student, Curtis Butuszkin, and his group collected more than 1,854 signatures, which were later verified by the Office of the Registrar.

After the provincial petition was delivered on September 29, the CFS-O denied that they had received it. Batuszkin then produced a sworn affidavit from the Process Server who delivered the petition.

Confronted with the evidence, the CFS-O continued their denials. Then they did the same thing to the petitioners at Trent and Carlton.

We don’t know if the national branch received their copy of the petition because they aren’t talking about the issue. Not to the media. Not to Armstrong. Not to anyone. In the past week, “the CFS did not return calls for comment” became one of the most frequently written phrases in student papers across the country.

I know Armstrong is frustrated with the situation. It would be nice to hear even a polite rebuke from our official representative to the CFS, but since Mir isn’t required to give her opinion on missing petitions or unreturned phone calls, she carries on like nothing has happened.

After I wrote an article criticising the CSA for their neutrality, Mir posted information on thecannon’s comment board attempting to “clarify” what the CFS does for students, despite the fact she didn’t answer anyone’s questions or respond to the article itself

“CFS does not just lobby the government for students rights, they also do a lot of research, provide services and do several campaigns, especially in the areas of social justice to fight for marginalized students rights,” she wrote.

Last week, I wrote about the allegations surrounding the CFS petition process. Among other things, I reported that at a recent CSA Board meeting, Mir accused Batuszkin and his petitioners – without any evidence – of misleading students to get signatures.

In a reply, Mir cried foul because I wasn’t focusing on the positive. “This article says nothing about the days on end that CSA executives slave away for students which is unfortunate but I guess that's the beauty of the media!” she posted on the Facebook link to the article.

Mir is right. The media tends to cover conflict more than it covers success. As the old saying goes: if it bleeds, it leads.

But we don’t ignore all the good news coming out of student politics. Last Friday, Mir was invited onto the Press Conference radio show to talk how the CFS was campaigning to reduce tuition fees.

For more than 20 minutes, Mir had undivided attention from me and Daniel Bitonti, Editor-in-Chief of the Ontarion. She spoke about the government’s failure to properly fund post-secondary education; about how hard she was working ahead of the November 5th Day of Action; about how wonderful it was to have the CFS advocating on students’ behalf.

In the meantime, neither thecannon nor the Ontarion have been able to speak with staff at CFS for more than two weeks. They were invited to come onto the show, but didn’t reply.

This is why the current situation is incredibly frustrating. In spite of the many successes CFS can take credit for, the current stonewalling is disenfranchising due-paying members at the University of Guelph. No matter how many services they offer, or how many campaigns they run, it is still unacceptable.

Thanks to the intervention of the executive, Mir doesn’t have to worry about the 1,854 students who signed the petition, or the reporters on campus who are working to keep students informed. She only has to think about the good things the CFS does.

Happy thoughts. Heaven for her, hell for the rest of us.

Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: John Sakaluk on Oct 30, 2009 @ 2:16am

    While I can appreciate the frustration that many students are feeling at the apparent lack of resolution to this issue, I'm doubtful that singling Momina out is a helpful strategy. True enough, Momina is the external rep and our liaison to the CFS. However, Momina is not the one denying the petition's existence/receipt, nor is she the one who wrote the job description for external rep. Her promotion of CFS services is an incredibly large part of her job, and I'm not surprised that given the sheer amount of correspondence being generated around this issue that Gavin moved in to take on the brunt of it; he is the Communications Commissioner after all, and this has become a much larger issue than just basic communication between CFS and the CSA.

    CFS is the perpetrator of denying the petition's existence, and I would confidently wager that she has no more control over their choice of action, than she has over what I eat for supper.

    The CSA Exec and Board need to be seen as allies in this process, not as the enemy.

    As far as the beef with the petition not being acknowledged goes, that's on CFS and they deserve the resulting anger, not the CSA, nor one exec who, realistically, has no control over their course of action.

  2. Posted by: CB on Nov 7, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    I think Greg is only scratching the surface of what is going on behind the scenes during this referendum debate. Momina is both an elected student representative expected to accommodate and advocate for our concerns (e.g. petition) and is also a member of the CFS-O executive. So, instead of performing in her elected capacity, she is instead ignoring the student's concerns and cheerleading for the CFS. Why hasn't she waded into the issue of missing petitions? Surely she would know what's happening given that she is a member of the CFS-O? Why hasn't she endorsed a verified petiton and advocated for the students as is part of her elected duties? Why hasn't she offered any help to the petition organizers as is part of her mandate? Why hasn't she SERVED AS A STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE as is part of her elected duties? How do we know she didn't serve a role to discredit and "hide" the petition and as an executive member of the CFS-O?

    Something fishy is going on. It's almost as if she is following the CFS-O game plan and I think this is dangerous enough to raise a conflict of interest complaint. I don't want to step out of bounds, but she was elected by the students at the university of guelph, not the lawyers and cronies at the CFS-O, who almost surely are offering her a job to try and delay the petition process at our school. If anything, she should be raising hell on behalf of our students and is instead proposing renaming the CSA to the CSA-CFS, advertising how great the CFS is instead of advocating for the rights of her students, and bringing unverified and completely unsubstantiated complaints to the petition organizer in front of the CSA board in an attempt to discredit Batuszkin...for what end?

    Keep on the good reporting Greg, these questions need to be answered and she needs to be made aware of her role as an elected representative of the CSA.

    Her conduct is most disappointing of an elected representative, especially in the role as the External commissioner, a traditionally more activist position advocating for student rights. For Shame, Momina, for shame!

  3. Posted by: Curtis Batuszkin on Nov 19, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    I think John Sakaluk is correct. It would be pointless to blame Momina for the CFS' inability to conduct themselves in a reasonable and responsible manner. She does not make the decisions of the CFS.

    It would be nice to have all the executives on board with their students desires though. Not one of them reported this petition effort in their executive reports this year. I would of expected better representation, even if neutral, to at least mention that almost 4000 students signed in support of holding a referendum on continued membership in the CFS. That's a pretty big issue, well alongside reporting on protest efforts or bus transit to Hamilton. We're talking about almost a $quarter$ $million$ $dollar$ commitment to an organization 200,000-300,000 students strong. This will be a really big issue on campus this year. I hope the CSA continues to represent this cause to their best ability which some executives have admirably done so far, and I also hope that they will at least mention it in any further official reports.

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