Some of the details around the University of Regina Students’ Union involvement in the recent referendum on whether or not to stay members of the Canadian Federation of Students hinge on a Oct. 13 meeting of their Board of Directors. To this date, the details are only confirmed by accounts from those who attended, as the minutes haven’t been released.
URSU’s constitution states that “all minutes must be published on the URSU website and in hard copy within fourteen days of the meeting.” Initially, VP Operations and Finance Matt Steen wouldn’t allow the minutes out, as they hadn’t been approved by the board. Today, in a series of e-mails, he told me that, while no approved version could be released until after the Nov. 3 board meeting they have scheduled, he’s been sending out an “unapproved” version.
When I pointed out that he had refused to give me any version, I got no response. When I asked him if it would “be in the interest of informing the students to allow them to see what happened at the meeting”, he responded with, “Check our website, all approved meeting minutes are posted.”
In general, URSU could’ve gone about some of the details of this referendum in a more transparent manner.
Continue reading after the jump.
The Oct. 13 meeting is important, because that’s when the URSU Board of Directors decided to officially declare themselves on the No side for the current referendum on whether URSU should continue being members of the CFS. No agenda was sent out in advance of the meeting, since their regular chairperson wasn’t available, said URSU President Kyle Addison when I talked with him on Oct. 15.
At the meeting, U of R alumni Jeff Maystruck gave a presentation on why URSU should leave the CFS. Previously, Jess Sinclair had filled the role of campaigning for the No side this past winter when a similar referendum was attempted but ultimately wasn’t sanctioned by CFS. Maystruck was brought into this position, and the Board of Directors committed to spending up to $3,000 on the No campaign.
The logic behind this, according to Addison, is that CFS would be bringing in their own people and using their own budget.
“This time, there’s definitely members of the CFS that are involved in the ‘Vote Yes’ side, therefore we didn’t want to spend further student money providing another person on that side when there is already adequate representation,” he said.
At the meeting itself, standing order was removed so that one of the board members could speak on behalf of the CFS. This was without any notice or preparation, however.
This all didn’t go down without conflict. Several members, including FNUC Director Jarret Crowe, raised issues with the motion, first stemming from the lack of notice.
“Ultimately, I felt the board wasn’t given enough notice to take a stand as the motion sat. The Board of Directors weren’t given enough notice to actually take back to our constituencies, and, therefore, we had to decide at that moment,” says Crowe.
An attempt at tabling the motion was defeated, and, pressed to vote, the Board of Directors officially supported the No side.
From there, Addison said that balance was important in the coming weeks. “What I’m trying to facilitate is a healthy debate. I’m trying to facilitate the fact that every student should make an educated vote, and by doing so, they must do research on both sides, rather than hearing a biased slant whether it be from the No side or it be from the Yes side.”
At the same time, he felt that URSU had right to express an opinion on the matter.
“I don’t think it’s out of context for us to take a stance on a referendum,” he said. “It’s a very important issue for all the students at the University of Regina. To put it into context, the Government of Canada took a stance on the referendum with Quebec continued membership, to being a part of Canada. We’re elected here to do what we think is best and to make decisions on what we think will best serve students.”
Maystruck was brought in to coordinate the No side, Addison said, because “we don’t feel that it’s right for the executive or somebody in these exec offices to go out there and assume that role, because there is business as usual to be done at the University of Regina Students’ Union.”
That said, members of the executive have been wearing No shirts for as long as they’ve been allowed, and many of them have been circling the campus for hours on end over the past few days, campaigning for the No side.
At the time of the board meeting, URSU taking a side was a problem for Crowe. “If they really strive to work in the students’ best interest, why are they advocating without the students actually saying what it is?”
After all, this is a referendum being put to the students. In the end, it’s up to the students to decide. How much faith in URSU can the students have if the executive asks them a question and then tells them the answer, through their website, banners for voting no on all URSU TVs around campus, and in person?
Their constitution demands that they remain “politically non-partisan”. How is this remaining neutral?
If the results come back and the students support CFS, Addison believed that they’ll be able to work together.
“URSU is in this position – we fill these roles to represent the students, right? So if the students decide they’d still like to remain members of the Canadian Federation of Students, it’s my job and it’s the other executives job to say, ‘OK, well, we’re going to support that. The students have spoken, and if that’s what they want to do, then we’ll do our best to support them, and attend these CFS meetings and be respectful to the Canadian Federation of Students and to contribute to the organization.’”
Let’s see what happens.
Voting continues around campus until 9 p.m. tonight.