As she prepares to step up as chairperson of the Canadian Federation Students-Ontario, Shelley Melanson is dealing with infighting and accusations of misconduct at her own students union. Melanson, president of the Carleton University Students’ Union, will take over CFS-O’s top job this June. Political tensions at CUSA have run high during her tenure.
Carleton’s paper the Charlatan reported on a disput between Melanson and Helen Choi, a CUSA council member, in a Jan. 31 article. Choi, whose motion for new training for councilors, alleged that Melanson and members of the CUSA executive unilaterally decided whether to discuss motions. Melanson dismissed these claims, saying that Choi’s actions are politically motivated and that Choi is seeking the CUSA presidency. Furthermore, Melanson recounts how Choi had commented to her that she “didn’t want to promote student conflict but went to The Charlatan.”
Devon Monkhouse, a CUSA member and a candidate for VP internal, also criticized Melanson, saying she was more interested in working with special interest groups than engaging with students. “A large voting block on council that votes for executive, with their super majority, push CFS initiatives through council,” he said, adding that only those who toe the party line can advance in CUSA.
Monkhouse said that CFS has a vested interest in Carleton, the only CFS-affiliated campus in Ottawa, aiming to train and coordinate students to use them as Parliament Hill lobbyists.
The CUSA kerfuffle, according to Maclean’s education blogger Joey Coleman, is common at Ontario campuses. “Student leaders are obsessed with their own power and egos,” he said.
Coleman said that student unions such as CUSA receive significant amounts of funding, giving them a “perceived status of power.” He said Melanson’s new job was a chance to leave the drama behind: “Shelly has an opportunity to re-invent herself.”