Loose Cannon: Only happy thoughts for the CFS
Thursday, October 29, 20093 Comments
By keeping referedum questions away from External Commissioner Momina Mir, she can continue to work on campaigns that make the
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.