Simon Fraser moves to defederate from Canadian Federation of Students
VANCOUVER (CUP) — Simon Fraser University may be one step closer to separating from the largest collective student group in Canada.
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) submitted a petition with the signatures of at least 10 per cent of its members as the first step to submit a withdrawal bid to the Canadian Federation of Students.
?Some 2,700 students at SFU signed the petition,? stated Derrick Harder, current president of the SFSS.
CFS national chairperson Amanda Aziz said that the national executive now has to sit down and work with the SFSS executive to schedule a referendum date.
?We have received notice,? she said. ?At this point it all looks in order.?
Harder feels that withdrawal will allow the student body more financial autonomy.
?Redirecting that money that we give to the CFS to the SFSS means more money for on-campus projects with more control, more money at the discretion of students on campus. [For example] we can build a student union building if we have more money, more capacity, more time on campus. And That’s something that we desperately need,? he said.
?That’s not being done by the CFS,? he added.
Aziz disagrees. ?Obviously we’re concerned why this council of people want to take this isolationist approach,? she said, noting that defederation from the CFS would result in their removal from CFS-BC, the provincial chapter, as well as CFS-Services.
?The referendum question would have to be all three,? Aziz said.
?This spring, this March, a non-binding referendum was held,? Harder said. ?The result was that 78 percent of members of the SFSS . . . the students, voted in favour of leaving the CFS.?
The unofficial referendum, meant to determine the sentiments of the student body, was not an official move towards defederation.
?There was a bit of an argument [with the CFS] about what the process was to get out. And rather than go through a debate, we decided to pursue the route outlined quite clearly in their bylaws and that is to say, submit a petition of over 10 per cent of our membership to the federation, asking for a vote on defederation,? Harder says.
According to CFS bylaws, the recently submitted petition is a notice that a referendum on membership can be held in six months, giving both sides until the spring to campaign. Quorum for the spring referendum is five per cent of the members at the defederating society.
Even after the referendum has passed, though, the SFSS must submit a formal request to defederate to the CFS national executive. The request, based on the referendum results, must then be ratified by a vote of the CFS membership at opening plenary of the next general meeting.
Harder expects that the CFS will make efforts to maintain its relationship with the SFU student body, and persuade it to stay within the federation.
?This year, we can be expecting a lot of noise from the CFS on our campus. The students will already have seen the ?I am CFS? campaigns at bus stops, on buses, on the Skytrain. That campaign is being paid for with our money, quite simply. The SFSS gives the CFS almost half a million dollars each year and they’re using that money not for the campaign that they purport to run, but to convince us to stay in the organization.?
According to CFS-BC Chairperson Shamus Reid, though, ?campaigns are driven by members of the various campuses.?
Reid, who was on the SFU campus on Sept. 6, said that the campaigns would receive the assistance of the provincial and national branches of the CFS, though.
According to Reid, when he visited the campus ?the reaction is overwhelmingly positive to the representation that they’re getting through the Canadian Federation of Students.?
For Harder, though, the issues go deeper than simple representation and services. He feels that a SFSS unhindered by the CFS will be more accountable to students.
?Over the past year the board has worked very hard to . . . democratize the student society. Part of that [stemmed] from the impeachment last year. We’ve worked very hard to make this a strong, open society that everyone at SFU can be proud of, and getting rid of the CFS is absolutely part of that.?
Seven members of the SFSS executive were impeached last year when the SFSS board of directors sent home seven senior staff members for a week of paid leave with no notice prior to the request. All staff were asked to hand over their office keys and passwords to their computers. Their computers were then removed from offices, and moved to a location off campus. The subsequent firing of the graduate issues and university relations coordinator, who had been with the SFSS for almost 30 years, raised a series of questions that the student body felt were left unanswered.
Questions of student privacy were also raised about the computer which housed information about the graduate health plan. The seven SFSS executives who supported the firing were unable to answer the questions [about] their actions to the satisfaction [of the] student body, leading to their eventual impeachment.
Following the impeachment, Harder ran for president on a platform of accountability. According to a July statement, Harder considers last spring’s non-binding referendum ?a mandate to leave the Canadian Federation of Students in accordance with their by-laws.?