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Opinion

Letter to the editor

Structural changes to CSA in senior administration’s interests

This past Wednesday, students voted to create huge structural changes at the Central Student Association Annual General Meeting. As a result, the student union will have four executives instead of five, executives will not have the right to vote on the CSA board of directors, and the CSA now has a hierarchical, presidential structure instead of a non-hierarchical one.

Brenda Whiteside, the vice-president of student affairs, attended most of the meeting, including the debate about the structural changes. This was the first time I’ve seen a senior administrator at an AGM. She even talked with some members of the CSA board of directors during the meeting.

It’s in the interest of the University’s senior administration for there to be a weak CSA. Senior administration does not want to be questioned on increasing tuition fees each year. They do not want to face protest from students for affordable public education, more mental health resources on campus, and other issues in the student interest. They also do not want students and workers to work together in coalition for a university that answers to the community and not to private corporations.

Now, the CSA executives are seen as staff instead of political activists supposed to fight for student interests. They have less power to build participatory campaigns in the student interests without a vote on the CSA board. And now, a majority of votes on the CSA board of directors come from appointed seats, instead of seats directly elected by the student membership.

It’s the job of students to demand a CSA that fights for their interests, builds the student movement, and isn’t afraid to build student power instead of focus on networking with the senior administration. If this doesn’t happen, students in huge debt from soaring tuition fees, and people who face so many barriers to university they cannot even access the institution, will no longer be represented by the CSA.

-Peter Miller

31 Comments

  1. Avatar

    What the heck? Aren’t the people who are “appointed” elected by their own groups? What benefit does the executive get from being able to vote? I was at the agm too, their reasoning was quite good.

    Also, are you connecting Whiteside’s presence at the board to some conspiracy against students? That seems unnecessarily alarmist.

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      It’s not alarmist. Brenda meets with “student leaders” all the time to make students compliant. These students arn’t elected directly to the Student Union – it’s undemocratic.

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      ^^ Gemma why don’t you answer some of my Q’s below?

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    What’s going to happen to the foodbank now?

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      The foodbank use is growing – One CSA Board member even said people need to just budget better because tuition fees are increasing. A very privileged thing to say to folks who use the foodbank because of student poverty

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    I thought nobody read the Ontarion?

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    Peter, there are many different ways to make change. You can work from the outside with complete contempt and hostility towards the administration or you can work within the system to make change. In the case of the CSA i think currently the latter is more effective. What can you actually claim to have changed with the hostility? I think its good for the Administration to know what exactly the CSA ( and therefore the students) want and i think communication with admin can lead to changes that benefit both the university and the students. Not everything has to be a zero-sum game. Just because board members talk to admin does not in any way say that the CSA is somehow now weaker. In my opinion it gives them more leverage and makes them stronger. Congratulations to the current board on the structural changes!

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      Quebec students stopped tuition fee increases from going on strike. From 2004 to 2006 there was a freeze in tuition fees because students rose up against tuition fees. We can work with admin on some things, but we need to show opposition where our interests do not align.

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        Also, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that tuition fees are super high, student poverty and unemployment is high – and we have a mental health crisis in universities on campus. This is why we need unions that actually fight for students.

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      Brendan, I completely agree with you. It is important to not blindly label administration as an enemy and refuse to collaborate and work together. The current renovations of the UC Club space is thanks to in part a generous contribution by the UC administration and their assistance. Also thanks to negotiations with the UC administration, more space will be provided as student space. Peter, it is unprofessional and unsightly to accuse others of being “too close” to administration when they are voicing student concerns to them and working together for the betterment of students. This method has delivered tangible results instead of publicity stunts such as disruptive action and blind opposition to hide a lack of real action.

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        The university should not be mere ‘contributors’ rather they should be paying for the entire renovations which should be directed by students, for students. I urge you to look at the history of the University centre building. It should not be ‘owned’ by the administration or whatever – it was taken thanks to the university administration which bankrupted the students union at the time. Take a look – the pages should be in your CSA daily planner that is handed out at the beginning of each academic year. We need look at the function of universities – they serve STUDENTS. There should be a students centre – as was the mandate of the original UC building which was spearheaded by the students’ union at the time. It is important to think critically remembering for example, that most major universities in ontario have students centres which center the needs of students and provide REAL student space. Not public meeting rooms which can only be signed out for 2 hours a week.

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          I pay the upper administration salaries with my tuition dollars – we are their bosses, we pay their cheques and fund their second homes. Check out the sunshine list if you have any doubts over the administrative bloat. I’m not sure where you get your money from, but the majority of students that I know who struggle with what OSAP gives them, and with paying rent, and studying, and their mental health are not in favour of the tuition fee increases the university implements every year (by the maximum amount mandated by the province). Also please do your homework sweety before you decide what ‘change’ is. I have some doubts over what you think ‘change’ means – including the historical context of the students’ movement. No one has made change by smiling and siding with the people earning 6 figures.

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        Your talking about the same senior administration that takes home 6 figure salaries and wants to contract out custodial work and pay them poverty wages at 13 dollars an hour.

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        Agreed. The previous CSA executive accomplished virtually nothing through their antagonistic actions. Now there are different viewpoints and a different emphasis in the executive, but the ex-executives don’t seem to be able accept that, despite the current executive being democratically elected (i.e. actually representing the student body)

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      “You can’t change the system from within; the system changes you.” —Canonize Philip K. Dick, OK

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    Okay, I’m no ‘student leader,’ or anything. Unfortunately just a full time student, whose latest rent cheque bounced and who earns zero money from the university or from the CSA. I am not on the board, nor do I plan on running in the upcoming elections in the ‘new’ presidential system or apply for any jobs with the CSA, Student life or other student union jobs or university affiliated positions. So here’s a question for ‘student leaders,’ whose insight is rubber stamped by administration. Seeing as you are currently university students entrenched in academia I’m wondering with your knack for critical thinking if you could respond to the following questions with your insight? Full sentences please!

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    Q. 1 Seeing as the new presidential hierarchical system has been created by the current executive could there be possible links to a conflict of interest arising with the current executives pushing forward a presidential system? For example, the current communications commissioner might decide to run for this new presidential position, which now has more power within the organization and was also involved in the creation of this position?

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    Q. 2.2. What benefit is there to students in having higher tuition fees, and more debt? In your opinion what might the links be between the academic commissioners current role, and their commitment to tuition fees and accessibility? How does a refusal to endorse a freeze in tuition fees make education more accessible, as is the job of the Academic commissioner?

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    Q 3. What links might be tied to the CSA’s removal of all work related to labour unions on campus and the current negotiations taking place with CUPE 1334 and CUPE 3913 and administration? What might the university administration gain from no longer having formal student support through the CSA for workers on campus and current labour negotiations which put workers jobs at risk? Remember, these are maintenance and trades workers, TA’s and sessional staff. All of my professors this year are sessional instructors and are members of CUPE 3913.

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    Q4. What might the interests of the current executive be in remaining in agreement with the current upper administration of the university? How might their personal interests interfere with the broader interests as students as a whole. Remember, the richest students on campus who can afford to live in residence after their first year do not speak for all students. Take for example, former CSA executives who now have full time jobs with the university. We might consider former executives Galen Fick or Jessica Carter for example? Or former exec Gavin Armstrong – where the former president Allastair Summerlee of the university served as his adviser for his studies post-CSA. What ties might be linked to agreeing with administration at the expense of student interests for personal gain?