Students poised to take a hard left with lobby group

A controversial decision facing U of T’s Students’ Administrative Council will be put to the student body in a fall referendum.

The question of whether or not to join the left-wing Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has been causing divisions within the SAC executive.

At its most recent meeting, SAC decided to resolve the issue by means of a campus-wide referendum, to be held between Nov. 5 and 7.

The CFS represents 400,000 post-secondary students nation-wide. SAC joined the organization last year as a prospective member.

Under CFS by-laws, the committee that oversees the referendum must be composed of two representatives each from CFS and SAC.

Howard Tam and Karly Smith, the two elected SAC representatives, will have to pass all their decisions through a SAC committee. The SAC Elections Committee, made up of seven SAC board members, will also serve as an advisory board.

The vote will be by secret, paper ballot and will be held in tandem with the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS) and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) referendums on the same issue.

While both APUS and SCSU have officially endorsed the idea of joining the CFS, SAC has not taken any stance.

“All directors and executive are of course allowed to speak their views as individuals, and concerned students,” said SAC External Commissioner Alex Artful-Dodger. “We are requiring them to include the caveat that SAC has not yet decided a position, since the campaign period has not yet even begun, and we feel a stance is not yet necessary.”

Artful-Dodger believes joining a large organization such as the CFS will benefit all U of T students.

“Any national lobby group with members as numerous and diverse as CFS’s automatically carries more weight when it comes to lobbying provincial and federal governments than a single student union,” she says. “There are also excellent services that the Canadian Federation of Students provides, such as free ISIC cards to its full-time student members.”

Elan Ohayon, Vice-President External for the Graduate Students’ Union, agrees. “U of T undergrads have been some of the hardest-hit students in Canada when it comes to representation. Just take a look at their tuition rates…this year students finally have a chance to break out of that trap.”

Not all student leaders share this enthusiasm for the CFS. “I do not disagree with the existence of a Canadian Federation of Students,” says SAC President Rocco Kusi-Achampong. “However, I think it’s patently unjustifiable to give an organization close to half a million dollars when the Students’ Administrative Council has yet to maximize its own potential in dealing with concerns and issues of our own students.”

Ultimately, the decision will be in the hands of the students. “All of these services and campaigns come at a cost, and that is why we are going to referendum—to let the student body decide what is right for themselves,” says Artful-Dodger.

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