UWSA fights for student federation reform

Student councillors came back from the latest Canadian Federation of Students meeting frustrated with the national organization’s resistance to change.

UWindsor student director Sami Habib is frustrated with resistance to change at a recent Canadian Federation of Students meeting • photo Joey Acott UWindsor student director Sami Habib is frustrated with resistance to change at a recent Canadian Federation of Students meeting • photo Joey Acott

Darryl Gallinger
NEWS EDITOR

Student councillors came back from the latest Canadian Federation of Students meeting frustrated with the national organization’s resistance to change.

All three of the University of Windsor’s student associations, including the Graduate Students’ Society, the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance and the Organization of Part-time University Students are members of CFS.

CFS’s national annual general meeting was held in Ottawa from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2. The UWSA brought forward motions, some of which directed CFS to live-stream meetings and post minutes and financial statements online so that the organization would be more accessible and transparent to their membership.

UWSA representatives Mohammed Almoayad and Sami Habib, who attended the meeting, said a large minority of delegates were labelled as dissidents at the conference. Habib identified student unions from Toronto and Newfoundland as supportive of the status quo, and tensions flared between them and those who opted for changes to the organization, which included the UWSA.

Almoayad and Habib were also troubled by what they saw as a lack of transparency in the organization. “They will undermine themselves,” warned Habib, “and the organization will fall.”

CFS chairperson Adam Awad noticed the tension, especially when it moved to social media. “It’s not ideal. It’s always good for people to put their perspectives in a respectful way, and that’s why we have those meetings … for people to put forward their ideas openly and respectfully.”

Awad added that the staff create a safe space at the conference and try to foster discussion. “Not everyone will agree on everything all the time, but I think it’s important for everyone to be respectful.”

UWSA vice-president of university affairs Mohammad Akbar saw difficulties at the conference as well. “People ran as ‘issues’ candidates,” Akbar said, explaining that a couple of delegates ran without any intent or desire to win a position, but so that they would have an opportunity to elaborate on what they saw as issues with the organization. He said this was perceived as antagonistic behaviour by some of the candidates, deepening the tension.

Akbar said that despite the tension, he felt that this conference was different than previous ones he attended. “There was a lot of compromise at this meeting,” said Akbar. “There has been more collaboration and co-operation.”

Akbar pointed to the motions brought forward by the UWSA as an example. Their proposals for the organization were passed in a modified form. A summarized version of minutes will be placed online instead of the detailed minutes the UWSA wanted to see. An auditor’s summary is going online instead of the financial details the UWSA suggested. A proposal to livestream the meeting will be investigated by the CFS executive.

Over the last few years, attempts to start these practices within the organization have been shot down, and Akbar said that delegates accepting them in their modified form are an indication that they can bring changes to the organization.

Awad said that as the memberships and representatives of student organizations change, so do their opinions. “We go through issues multiple years in a row,” said Awad. “It’s important to provide a venue for people to say … you know what? This makes sense now, but it didn’t before.”

Habib was dissatisfied with the results for the motions, and worries that the executives will not allow livestreaming in the end. He is unsure what course of action to pursue, whether to facilitate change in the organization or pull the UWSA out and start something new.

Almoayad doesn’t see the organization as a lost cause, although he says many others have given up, but he believes it will need “a lot of work.”

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