Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions exposed

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greener greener's picture
Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions exposed

Quote:

By Rebecca Granovsky-Larsen, Editor-in-Chief and Nora Loreto, News Editor

Audio recordings, photographs and documents that were leaked from a recent Conservative Party student workshop at the University of Waterloo expose a partisan attempt to take over student unions and undermine Ontario Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRGs) on campuses across Ontario.

At a session held in early February by the Ontario Progressive Campus Conservative Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and a Member of Parliament discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for-and win-positions within student unions.

The leaked materials were posted on WikiLeaks.org over the weekend and add to the growing body of evidence that the Conservative Party has a strategy for interfering in campus student unions. In early 2002, the campus press first learned of a secret Millennium Leadership Fund that the party's campus wing used to fund candidates in student union elections. Now it appears that strategy has evolved into a campaign to falsely obtain student union funding and destabilize student clubs with a social justice mandate.

Among those present at the workshop were Member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo, Peter Braid and his campaign manager, Aaron Lee-Wudrick. Lee-Wudrick is heard on the recordings providing advice on how to siphon money from students' unions through "front organizations" that would work to further the goals of the Conservative Party.
Braid took the riding of Kitchener-Waterloo from Liberal incumbent Andrew Telegdi in the last federal election. Telegdi had held the riding since 1993. Braid won by 17 votes, a margin that Lee-Wudrick identifies as being the reason why getting students involved in federal politics is so important.

In the presentation caught on the recording, Lee-Wudrick and Ryan O'Connor, a former Vice-President of the Waterloo Federation of Students, spoke about how they were able to manipulate the student union board to run a referendum to refund the fees of the Waterloo OPIRG (WPIRG) chapter in the early 2000s. They disclose that when O'Connor was a Vice-President, he worked with Lee-Wudrick, then President of the campus Conservative club, to push forward their partisan agenda, often by using the resources of the students' union.

In the presentation, Lee-Wudrick said, "If it's possible if, in one fell swoop, to take over the Board of Directors [of OPIRG], I think that it would be pretty impressive, and you'd be a hero to the Conservative movement if you can pull that off."

OPIRGs are campus organizations that are usually funded through a dedicated student levy to coordinate campus campaigns on human rights and social justice.
"We've always had people who wanted to destroy OPIRG. The interesting thing is the explicit participation of Conservative party members in these events put on by the OPCCA where they are discussing how to do these takeovers and end the role of OPIRGs on campus," said Terrence Luscome who sits on the board of directors of the York University OPIRG.

"Of course when there are actual Conservative MPs involved, you have to question where this group is getting its funding and [people need to follow] the money trail, and to which interests within the government [it will lead]," he added.

While Lee-Wudrick and O'Connor's plan to cancel WPIRG's funding failed in 2002, they boasted that it paved the way for another attempt in 2005, and expressed hope of success in the future.

They also identified student unions, campus radio stations and the Canadian Federation of Students as potential targets of a campaign to eliminate each organization's funding. "Part of the objective here is to bring people into the Party. That's a good thing," said O'Connor. "Young liberals will help you out...and they're some of the strongest allies on student issues," he added.
During the workshop, student Conservatives were also coached on how to set up "shell groups" as a way to advance a partisan agenda on campus.
"Yeah we had a front group like that: the Campus Coalition for Liberty. It was really just a front for the Conservatives, but it gave us like two voices." said Lee-Wudrick.

He added: "Don't think that the Party doesn't like that, because they do. They're things that will help the Party, but it looks like it's an organically-grown organization and it just stimulated from the grassroots spontaneously. They love that stuff... Remember all of the Rallies for Democracy ... that's just an example of how big those things can get."

Listed as having been present at the Waterloo or other Ontario workshops were Richard Ciano, Founder of the Conservative Campaign University, a political training school for conservative activists, Nick Bergamini, student councillor and vice-president student issues-elect for the Carleton University Students' Association and Kevin Wiener, a student senator at Queen's University, candidate for the National Council of the Conservative Party of Canada and secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Progressive Campus Youth Association.

Also listed was Chris McCluskey, Program Coordinator for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in Ottawa and a former Vice-President of the Dalhousie Students' Union. He has conducted a workshop, called "Strategies that work: Running for student government" at several other sessions including one in London and Ottawa.

Shelley Melanson, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario was surprised when told of the leaked strategy. "Campus students' unions are there to represent students and should be free from the partisan interference of federal and provincial parties," she said. "The contribution of students' unions and OPIRGs to the broader social justice movement in Ontario is important and it's disturbing to think that Canada's governing party would use its resources to undermine democratic student organizations in this way."

While recordings are available from only the Waterloo workshop, the OPCCA and the Manning Foundation have held similar Conservative training sessions on campuses in Ottawa, Toronto, London, Halifax and Winnipeg.
Braid was not the only sitting Conservative politician to attend such a workshop. Monte Solberg and MP Chris Warkentin attended similar seminars in Ottawa on Nov. 20, 2008, while Nova Scotia Environment Minister Mark Parent, Deputy Chief of Staff Stephen Greene, and Former New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord all participated in the Halifax workshop held from October 26 to 28, 2007.
In 2002, a secret Millennium Leadership Fund of the youth wing of the Progressive Conservative Party was exposed by the Western Gazette in an article called "Tories plot to infiltrate student government."

The article referred to an email leaked in March of 2002 in which then OPCCA President Adam Daifallah boasted to fellow party members about Millennium Leadership Fund recipients who were successfully elected that year at Queen's University, the University of Waterloo and the University of Windsor. According to the Gazette, the Millennium Fund was largely paid for by senior Progressive Conservative members and supporters.
Influencing the results of campus student elections and referenda continue to be on the priority list of the OPCCA.

Eric Merkley, president of the OPCCA and deputy campaign manager of Braid's successful election campaign was also present at the workshop. In his election platform for president of the OPCCA, Merkley promised that, "Team Merkley will continue with progress made in providing across-province training sessions for recruitment and campus activism for student election and referendum campaigns."

http://ryersonfreepress.ca/site/archives/745 

 

Star Spangled C...

Got a link?

Unionist

I won't re-post the whole article (which greener seems to have done), but here was the link:

http://ryersonfreepress.ca/site/archives/745

 

greener greener's picture

Thanks, Unionist..I can't figure out what I was doing wrong....

Unionist

greener wrote:
Thanks, Unionist..I can't figure out what I was doing wrong....

You did nothing wrong. The software here has a flaw that doesn't like hyperlinks in the first line of an OP.

Here's a couple paras of the article (which is quite fascinating - thanks for posting it):

Quote:

At a session held in early February by the Ontario Progressive Campus Conservative Association (OPCCA) and the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, campus Conservatives, party campaigners, and a Member of Parliament discussed strategies to gain funding from student unions for the Conservative Party and ways to run for—and win—positions within student unions.

The leaked materials were posted on WikiLeaks.org over the weekend and add to the growing body of evidence that the Conservative Party has a strategy for interfering in campus student unions. In early 2002, the campus press first learned of a secret Millennium Leadership Fund that the party’s campus wing used to fund candidates in student union elections. Now it appears that strategy has evolved into a campaign to falsely obtain student union funding and destabilize student clubs with a social justice mandate.

 

Caissa

They were doing this when I was in student politics in the late 80s early 90s.

Maysie Maysie's picture

I fixed the OP.

genstrike

I wouldn't be surprised if they were doing it here too.  The right seems to be getting more and more organized over the past couple years, and they've already pretty much taken over the campus paper.

Unionist

In my day, we could take over anything we wanted. We were accused of that, and we proudly pleaded guilty. The students were behind us.

Today, it is interesting that the Conservative Party understands the need to work within mass movements and mobilize at the base. Their methods may be shady, but that merely reflects their politics.

Parties to the left, however, only understand electoral politics. They have figured out that you need power if you want to accomplish anything. Along the way to achieving power, however, they forgot what it was they wanted to accomplish.

sock puppet

Being organized and effective isn't something the right can be faulted for. Receiving outside funding and co-ordination is highly questionable though, and siphoning funding away from legitimate student groups for their own political purposes very likely crosses the line from morally reprehensible into actually illegal.

genstrike

sock puppet wrote:
Being organized and effective isn't something the right can be faulted for. Receiving outside funding and co-ordination is highly questionable though, and siphoning funding away from legitimate student groups for their own political purposes very likely crosses the line from morally reprehensible into actually illegal.

Just ask our Minister of State for Democratic Reform...

It's Me D

Amazingly topical!

This is happening right now at Dalhousie University in Halifax! On April 1st the Dalhousie student union AGM will be voting on whether to put NSPIRG's funding to a referendum to make the funding "opt in". I don't know a lot about it but the guy championing taking NSPIRG's funding and office space in the Student Union building is also running for Student Union president in a concurrent election right now (and he's endorsed by the campus Conservatives).

I'm not personally involved though I am steamed... any advice for my friends who are involved with NSPIRG? 

remind remind's picture

Consult a lawyer with the information given here, and get the information provided here, out across the campus.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

This is an old strategy for the Conservatives. I was involved in the founding of the PIRG on the campus of UVic in the early 80's, and, at the time, those who wanted to destroy the PIRG did so by carrying out a mass distribution of 'funny money" worth "one case of beer" allegedly distributed by the UVic PIRG. Of course it was bogus but the plan was to find a way to noisily publicize the refundable fee for the PIRG and get all the right wing morons to choose beer over advocacy. The local Conservatives very nearly destroyed the PIRG in the year following its founding. So they've been doing this evil shit for a long time.

 

At the time I was pretty young and inexperienced. The UVic PIRG campaign took place (successfully) at the same time that an unsuccessful campaign took place for CFS. We emphasized, in our propaganda, that the PIRG "was better" because the fee was refundable. Of course the PIRG was backed by Liberals, who are happy to work with Conservatives to destroy social justice and left wing causes in general (at least ones that they do not completely control themselves). In hindsight, I should have been involved with CFS instead. But I was getting my feet wet, politically, and didn't  know any better. 

 

 

It's Me D

remind wrote:
Consult a lawyer with the information given here, and get the information provided here, out across the campus.

I already sent a link to the article off to some folks affiliated with NSPIRG when I first saw it here, they'd probably already seen it but if not they have now! As an outside observer they seem to have their work cut out for them... its only been a few years since I graduated, I wish I could be more involved. I wasn't involved with NSPIRG as a student but I had some great experiences working with OPIRG in Ottawa years ago. As for the lawyer they are on their own; I don't have that kind of money.

500_Apples

In general I'm not a big fan of these kinds of strategies, I think they're counterproductive. In my last year at McGill, 2006-07, the student union was taken over by some far-left ideologues and they ended up turning a lot of people off. People don't like that. An American student, who was a business major IIRC, ended up being elected the following year. No surprise.

It would be best if student governments were to focus on student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food.

Unionist

500_Apples wrote:
It would be best if student governments were to focus on student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food.

Yeah, leave political and social concerns to the grown-ups.

 

Snert Snert's picture

How about a compromise, wherein student councils ensure that class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food is taken care of, then they can stay up all night hammering out the details of their Foreign Policy.

Interesting to note that the OP is pulled from a campus paper sponsored by CESAR, the Continuing Education Students Association at Ryerson.  Used to be they were straightforward advocates for continuing ed (read: night school) students, and provided resources such as drop-in computers, textbook swaps, the usual counselling and referral services, a place to heat food and so on (as well as a fairly popular student course survey, with results published and available each year to prospective students).

Now their focus is global injustice.  Which sounds good, but it looks like their original mandate lost its way.  The paper itself makes Counterpunch.org look like the journal of the Young Republicans.  It stops just short of calling for Revolution of the People.

500_Apples

Unionist wrote:

500_Apples wrote:
It would be best if student governments were to focus on student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food.

Yeah, leave political and social concerns to the grown-ups.

 

Leave political and social concerns to political and social organizations. Student organizations should be primarily about students.

Nice job, btw, trivializing student concerns such as class and exam scheduling and neighbourhood safety.

500_Apples

Unionist, I don't think you'd be too thrilled if labour unions spent more time focusing on Sudan than they do on workplace safety, job security and representation. All that would do is turn people off Sudan and turn people off unions.

And that is pretty much what a lot of student unions have done.

Unionist

Sorry, 500_Apples, I'd have to enrol you in a several-year study program to even begin to deal with what you just said.

Let me try to sum it up, though:

1. When people (students, workers, lesbians, cat-fanciers, whatever) exercise their freedom of association to group together, they will participate in whatever aspects of the society they want to, based on majority decisions - whether you think it's their "proper" role or not.

2. Any ruling clique that doesn't serve the needs and wishes of its electorate should and will be dumped - even if it restricts itself to the "proper" issues.

3. Labour unions and student unions have accomplished far more positive political and social change in this world than most of the organizations that you have in mind.

As for Sudan, why not read what the Supreme Court of Canada had to say about some creep who didn't want to pay union dues because he didn't like the political part:

[url=Lavigne">http://csc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1991/1991rcs2-211/1991rcs2-211.html][co... v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, [1991] 2 S.C.R. 211[/url]

Get back to me with any questions.

 

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

"student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food."

 

I can't help but notice that the person who elaborated this list ignored the student concerns of ever-rising fees, access issues, class size, deteriorating quality of education, gigantic debt that students are faced with, corporatisation of academic life and the pollution of the university by private interests, and all the litany of serious issues that CFS publicizes, etc., etc. Funny how he missed those concerns. Maybe 500_apples was confused with HIGH SCHOOl politics. Or maybe he's just a Conservative. 

genstrike

500_Apples wrote:
In general I'm not a big fan of these kinds of strategies, I think they're counterproductive. In my last year at McGill, 2006-07, the student union was taken over by some far-left ideologues and they ended up turning a lot of people off.

Yeah, screw those far left ideologues!  This is babble, not some lefty forum!  And while we're at it, lets purge the labour unions of Communists, thus severely handicapping their militancy and organizational capacity!

 

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way...

A good student union realizes that student issues don't pop up in a vacuum.  They are often part of wider social and political issues like neoliberalism and the problems with capitalism.  And a good student union realizes the importance of solidarity, and works with all sorts of groups trying to solve these social and political issues which affect them and everyone else.  A good student union should also be concerned with international solidarity.  Yes, a good student union is concerned with isues on campus and providing services, but generally, the leadership of student unions are fairly talented people capable of multi-tasking.  Really, it is only the campus conservatives who want to reduce student unions to service-providing bodies and prevent them from taking a stand on any political issues (read: defending students rights)

The problem with these young Conservatives is that instead of advocating for student issues, all they want to do is carry water for conservative governments to enact anti-student policies and prevent students from organizing against those policies.

That said, I've noticed a problem in the past of some of the leadership of certain student unions being generally affiliated or sympathetic to the NDP, and thus wanting to carry water for their anti-student policies and prevent students from organizing effectively.  So, I think part of it is simply a matter of loyalties:  when someone in the student union is more loyal to any political party than they are to students and the working class, we have issues.

Unionist

You're right, N.Beltov. In fact, I think his list of issues better describes the university administration than the students' union.

 

Fidel

genstrike wrote:

That said, I've noticed a problem in the past of some of the leadership of certain student unions being generally affiliated or sympathetic to the NDP, and thus wanting to carry water for their anti-student policies and prevent students from organizing effectively. 

Quote:
In analysing the main federal parties, the Canadian Federation of Students relied on policy developed by its member university and college student unions. The Federation is strictly non-partisan.

All parties are treated as objectively as possible. Each party's platform (and record in government) is assessed based on how it measures up to the democratically determined priorities of the Canadian Federation of Students.

For example, as recently as May 2008, Federation member associations re-affirmed their support for an increased federal role in post-secondary education, namely in the form of national legislation that respects provincial jurisdiction while developing a national vision for affordable, high-quality universities and colleges. For a variety of reasons, some political parties choose to reject this role for the federal government and in this report card they are graded accordingly.

[url=[/url]">http://www.voteeducation.ca/fd/english/parties.php][IMG]http://img.photo...

If the two old line parties and Greens didnt suck so bad on tuition policies, maybe they wouldnt have earned "F" grades from the students. tsk-tsk

Unionist

Geez, genstrike, you had to ruin a perfectly good thread by mentioning the NDP.

 

Fidel

Ya, I should apologize for pointing out their oppressive policies for two-tier pricing and access to higher Ed in a thread about higher Ed, so to speak. What was I thinking? Perhaps these thread titles need tightening up some to keep out the riff-raff, like former and current students whove actually had to deal with the liberal-fascist bureaucracy.

500_Apples

N.Beltov wrote:

"student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food."

 

I can't help but notice that the person who elaborated this list ignored the student concerns of ever-rising fees, access issues, class size, deteriorating quality of education, gigantic debt that students are faced with, corporatisation of academic life and the pollution of the university by private interests, and all the litany of serious issues that CFS publicizes, etc., etc. Funny how he missed those concerns. Maybe 500_apples was confused with HIGH SCHOOl politics. Or maybe he's just a Conservative. 

Absolutely false.

Student union leaders may have abrogated their responsibilities on issues such as scheduling - which no surprise here the non-student think is irrelevant - but they are still taking a stand on tuition issues.

You're spoiling for a fight - ok. Try and pick a legitimate point.

500_Apples

genstrike wrote:

500_Apples wrote:
In general I'm not a big fan of these kinds of strategies, I think they're counterproductive. In my last year at McGill, 2006-07, the student union was taken over by some far-left ideologues and they ended up turning a lot of people off.

Yeah, screw those far left ideologues!  This is babble, not some lefty forum!  And while we're at it, lets purge the labour unions of Communists, thus severely handicapping their militancy and organizational capacity!

 

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way...

A good student union realizes that student issues don't pop up in a vacuum.  They are often part of wider social and political issues like neoliberalism and the problems with capitalism.  And a good student union realizes the importance of solidarity, and works with all sorts of groups trying to solve these social and political issues which affect them and everyone else.  A good student union should also be concerned with international solidarity.  Yes, a good student union is concerned with isues on campus and providing services, but generally, the leadership of student unions are fairly talented people capable of multi-tasking.  Really, it is only the campus conservatives who want to reduce student unions to service-providing bodies and prevent them from taking a stand on any political issues (read: defending students rights)

The problem with these young Conservatives is that instead of advocating for student issues, all they want to do is carry water for conservative governments to enact anti-student policies and prevent students from organizing against those policies.

That said, I've noticed a problem in the past of some of the leadership of certain student unions being generally affiliated or sympathetic to the NDP, and thus wanting to carry water for their anti-student policies and prevent students from organizing effectively.  So, I think part of it is simply a matter of loyalties:  when someone in the student union is more loyal to any political party than they are to students and the working class, we have issues.

I was there, I know what I saw.

No doubt there's a lot of power to be gained by having ideologues hijack student movements for their specific philosophies, and gain they have. But there is also a lot to be lost, and there was a backlash.

The net effect is to turn people off from the NDP and from those policies.

Fidel

I think student unions in Quebec have actually demanded higher tuition fees. Or was that the Liberal Party youth wing? I find it harder to harder to keep up with the Bay St influence percolating through both politics and liberal-fascist bureaucracy across our increasingly Puerto Ricanized Northern colony.

500_Apples

Unionist wrote:
Sorry, 500_Apples, I'd have to enrol you in a several-year study program to even begin to deal with what you just said.

Let me try to sum it up, though:

1. When people (students, workers, lesbians, cat-fanciers, whatever) exercise their freedom of association to group together, they will participate in whatever aspects of the society they want to, based on majority decisions - whether you think it's their "proper" role or not.

2. Any ruling clique that doesn't serve the needs and wishes of its electorate should and will be dumped - even if it restricts itself to the "proper" issues.

3. Labour unions and student unions have accomplished far more positive political and social change in this world than most of the organizations that you have in mind.

As for Sudan, why not read what the Supreme Court of Canada had to say about some creep who didn't want to pay union dues because he didn't like the political part:

[url=Lavigne">http://csc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/1991/1991rcs2-211/1991rcs2-211.html][co... v. Ontario Public Service Employees Union, [1991] 2 S.C.R. 211[/url]

Get back to me with any questions.

 

You really shoouldn't condescend in that manner when you're speaking to someone who knows more the relevant issue than you. You can dream up multi-year programs all you want, in your case I'll just say this, you would benefit from spending a single year on a university campus, and following how student politics plays out. I'm not going to pretend (as you have, condescendingly), that I'm speaking with ultra-esoteric wisdom that only years of dedication can acquire.

I saw 4 different student unions at McGill, and closely following student politics (writing for the newspaper, having friends in various positions), I played close attention. Usual turnout was around 20%, and the politicians (what they were) focused on those issues they cared about. There was never in my four years there a scintilla of focus on the critical issue that is exam scheduling. If you were a student for one year you would understand why that is an important issue instead of pretending that you are the wisest of the wisest and that it is an irrelevant concern. There was some minor focus on cafteria food, and neighbourhood safety issues.

In the last year, there were a lot of general assemblies. You want to know the interesting thing, they held the assemblies during class time. I emailed them and asked why not hold it at 6pm rather than 2pm, or why not hold multiple assemblies. The answer was clear, students who are more likely to skip class are more likely to vote in the manner they want.

Here's another anecdote. In my last year I was raising some money for a math undergraduate research conference and appealed to the student union for partial support. Their first reply was that's not the sort of thing they're interested in supporting. There was money for subsidized vegan food and countless cultural issues, but the student union balked at supporting a fundamentally student interest - undergraduate research.

You're correct that people will remove their representatives in a democratic system - there was a huge backlash next year and people voted for more right-wing candidates. Tons of undergraduates were turned off by the anti-democratic nature of what they saw and in general the NDP (yes, people made the link) looked bad. A few years later I find a lot of peers have become liberals and conservatives due to the acid taste they got in their mouth.

Overall, the principle of usurping an organization and abandoning the core priorities to focus on other "adult" priorities (as you advocate), had few positive results but many negative results.

Unionist

500_Apples, you clearly haven't read the Supreme Court decision yet. You're avoiding your homework. Why?

 

500_Apples

Unionist wrote:

500_Apples, you clearly haven't read the Supreme Court decision yet. You're avoiding your homework. Why?

 

Why should I respond to such a blatant strawman?

The analogy is not to labour unions focusing on Sudan, but rather to labour unions focusing on Sudan and at the same time giving zero focus to work place safety and job protection.

Even if that were legal, that would not make it optimal. Lots of things are legal and undesirable. I'm not a big fan of the notion we should delegate all our moral-decision making to legal elites - I find that anti-democratic and regressive.

Unionist

You are confusing student government with particular groups that come to power in student unions. If such a group neglects some issues of immediate importance to students, they will fail and be removed. But here is what you wrote:

Quote:
It would be best if student governments were to focus on student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food.

You didn't say "in addition to other issues", or even "first and foremost". So you may wish to modify or retract that comment. If not, stand by it courageously and take the heat.

 

500_Apples

Two themes over the sum of my post (and I won't edit previous posts unless there's a grammar error, which happens all the time):

1) The first priority should be student-specific issues; tuition, cafteria food, scheduling, freshmen orientation;

2) If there's time over, they should not imo focus on the other issues with too much vigour because it can lead to resentment and a backlash, especially if they do so at the expense of their priorities.

genstrike

500_Apples wrote:
I was there, I know what I saw.

No doubt there's a lot of power to be gained by having ideologues hijack student movements for their specific philosophies, and gain they have. But there is also a lot to be lost, and there was a backlash.

The net effect is to turn people off from the NDP and from those policies.

If you refer to anyone who realizes that student issues are connected to and a part of larger issues an ideologue, then yes, I believe we need ideologues in there.

As for turning people students off of the NDP, where I live the NDP is a lot better at doing that than the student unions are.  Maybe if they didn't betray students whenever they get elected...

You know what?  Fuck the NDP.  If they think that they are automatically entitled to students votes no matter what they do, and that student organizing is bad because it can cause a "backlash" against them, they don't deserve our support.

I find it ironic that you decry "ideologues" who care about student issues and understand that they are part of larger issues in student leadership and accuse them of putting non-student issues first, then whine that student organizers and leadership are turning people off the NDP.  I guess instead of "ideologues", student unions should just be another NDP youth wing, albeit one which runs a couple services on campus?

And, that is part of the issue with this topic.  What these young cons are doing is bad for two reasons.

1. They are pushing anti-student agendas

2. They are subordinating student issues to party politics, thus deterring actual student organizing.  And they are not loyal or accountable to students.  This can be a problem no matter which party they belong to - since I live in Manitoba, I've seen a couple people care more about the government we are organizing against than the students we are organizing for and with, and you just can't trust those people.  I'm sure you would have the same issue with young Liberals in Ontario.

 

 

Fidel wrote:

Ya, I should apologize for pointing out their oppressive policies for two-tier pricing and access to higher Ed in a thread about higher Ed, so to speak. What was I thinking? Perhaps these thread titles need tightening up some to keep out the riff-raff, like former and current students whove actually had to deal with the liberal-fascist bureaucracy.

Yeah, I've been pointing out and organizing against oppressive policies and two tier prices and for improved access to higher education for the majority of my academic career.  Glad we agree.  Peace?

But what do I know about student issues.  After all, I'm only a student who works on these issues.  That just makes me riff-raff

Fidel

genstrike wrote:
But what do I know about student issues.  After all, I'm only a student who works on these issues.  That just makes me riff-raff
  

But the student associations have all agreed that an increased federal role in PSE is needed. The NDP is the only party to agree to this need for strong central government role and national vision for PSE. '

You, personally, seem to be at odds with this plan, which works in several European and Nordic countries where PSE AND overall cost of living is more affordable than here in Canada. And these two ideas for affordability and reasonable cost of living go hand-in-hand when comparing PSE costs here and in other countries. Because it's not just low tuition fees that need to be examines when striving to make PSE equally accessible to all with the academic merit and not simply the ability to pay.

genstrike wrote:
Yeah, I've been pointing out and organizing against oppressive policies and two tier prices and for improved access to higher education for the majority of my academic career.  Glad we agree.  Peace?

I think neoliberal ideologues have a different vision for PSE in Canada than the NDP and CFS. Their way is to continue defunding PSE and paving the way for private money in Canada's universities and colleges. Private money and big business agendas have no place in public education or higher learning. No justice no peace!

 

500_Apples

genstrike,

I was an undergraduate student recently, and I don't think you'd be feeling the same way if one of your representative organizations was coopted for some larger agenda of which you like some pieces and other pieces not so much - especially if you were told to shut up when you asked your leaders to please take care for a few minutes of some of the basic issues.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

500,

 

Representative organizations speak for their consituency why do you keep insisting on making it about you or individuals?  If they don't represent the constituency well they get voted out.  Sometime basic issues are very divergent.

500_Apples

RevolutionPlease wrote:

500,

 

Representative organizations speak for their consituency why do you keep insisting on making it about you or individuals?  If they don't represent the constituency well they get voted out.  Sometime basic issues are very divergent.

And indeed they got voted.

Why criticize any government? All bad governments get voted out.

That's what your point sounds like to me. You may be thinking something else but it's not transmitting.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Just popping in to make a comment from a perspective not yet covered in this thread.

I was recently hired as an instructor at a community college in Toronto, at the same time my significant sweetie began graduate school at a university in Toronto. We both found, through different routes, this truth:

Students are the lowest priority within the university. It's sad, it's aggravating, it's obnoxious given the levels of tuition paid/loans succummed to, but it's true. (second lowest priority is non-tenured instructors, btw) 

I only worked part time, and the bits and pieces I noticed were very very bad. Keep in mind I've never before worked for such a large institution (The Academy). Holy shitfuck. One example was the restructuring of a department in which a 6-figure administrative position was added to two other 6-figure positions, all high-level administrators. There was one supervisor in the department. I joked with her that she was a lot of work, needing all those high-paid administrators to watch over her. Ha ha. Not funny.

My sweetie's perspective, as a student in a one-year-old graduate department, was that they were dollar signs only. He's in a technical media program that has had an undergrad department for a while. No additional equipment was purchased, and the computers the students have access to they aren't allowed to use because they aren't certified to use them, and there's nobody on staff who's "qualified" to teach them. When he told me this I think my head fell off.

From the administration perspective students are seen as dollar signs, since the more students are registered, the more money the institution gets. Full stop. Actually providing adequately staffed and organized classes with reasonable class sizes, never mind all those "frills" (I'm being sarcastic) you mentioned, 500, is a struggle, because it's not a priority. 

From this I will throw my support with N. Beltov, genstrike and the rest. Individuals can't affect change the way groups can.  The administration will only shift if it's forced to via (student) unions, bad PR or bad optics made public. The moral high ground, which I agree with (the university *should* provide those things you mentioned, 500. Student unions *shouldn't* have to agitate for these basics) isn't going to get anything changed.

Michelle

I hear you, Maysie.  I'd add another group in universities that are tied with students and non-tenured professors for lowest priority: low-level staff (e.g. food service through non-supervisory admin staff).  The lower the job class, the lower the priority.

Maysie Maysie's picture

I don't want to drift the thread, but I feel very strongly that students are the lowest priority in post-secondary institutions.

I agree with you Michelle re. low-paid jobs within the university, but I think we can also argue that's not so much unique in the university environment and more about how badly those jobs are paid/respected everywhere else in our world, which the university simply reiterates.

Michelle

Yup, you're right.  And I agree with you about students, although I've been shielded from seeing that somewhat because I work for a department that actually prioritizes student experience - it's the reason for the department's existence.  Anyhow, just to be clear, I wasn't trying to say staff are worse off than students.  Heck, at least staff get paid to be there. :)

Maysie Maysie's picture

Michelle wrote:
 because I work for a department that actually prioritizes student experience

Yeah but you work for a buncha left-wing ideologues. Laughing

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

As someone who went to McGill during the time Apples is talking about and who also worked in administration at the same time, I'd just like to point out that these 'far-left ideologues' were all voted in by the student body, despite a slate of Conservative and more centrist candidates being run as well. There was no nefarious or surreptitious help by major political parties, they were elected because the majority of students thought they were the best candidates. Moreover, the 'American business student' who would be voted president the following year was also part of this administration. He was not a business student, he was a poli sci student. He was a conservative, but he was principled enough that he followed the will of the students. He also narrowly defeated one of the 'ideologues' from the previous year. The rest of his student government was made up of more (elected) leftist ideologues who supported terrible things like queer-friendly washrooms. So I'm not sure there's any evidence that 'people were turned off'. Possibly the people with whom Apples associates were put in a spot of bother, but I won't comment on that contingency.

The context was also in the midst of unprecedented  cuts to student funding in Quebec (as some of us might recall) as well as a sinister move by the McGill Board of Governors to reduce student representation in the board, the highest governing body of the institution. These 'far-left ideologues' fought both tooth and nail despite heavy resistance on both counts by a corporate-friendly principal and administration. While I certainly understand that ancillary things like exam times get lost in the mix and are a source of frustrations for many students, the majority of the student body was mobilized against these attacks on them from the government of Quebec and the administration of their own school, and their elected government responded in kind.

Unionist

Over to you, 500.

 

It's Me D

Does it have to be? The thread would be a lot more interesting otherwise...

Unionist

500_Apples wrote:
You really shoouldn't condescend in that manner when you're speaking to someone who knows more the relevant issue than you.

My right to condescend any time I want is protected by the Charter.

Quote:
There was never in my four years there a scintilla of focus on the critical issue that is exam scheduling.

My niece, who is graduating this year in biology, had three exams last month scheduled over a 24-hour period. I'm not kidding. Should she have filed a grievance with the student union? I guess I'm not following you.

Quote:
In the last year, there were a lot of general assemblies. You want to know the interesting thing, they held the assemblies during class time.

I admit I'm old, but in my day I spent 15 hours per week in class. You're a mathematician, no? That amounts to 1/3 of an 8-5 Mon-Fri week. Assuming randomness, that means 2/3 of undergrads (and a higher proportion of grad students) would be able to attend any given 2:00 pm assembly - not to mention the others who may want to skip class (heaven forbid) when a vital issue is on the agenda. I clearly understand why your 6:00 pm proposal was rejected.

Quote:
In my last year I was raising some money for a math undergraduate research conference and appealed to the student union for partial support. Their first reply was that's not the sort of thing they're interested in supporting.

I fully agree. You seem to think students should assume the burden of governing (scheduling exams, funding academic conference) without having the formal authority to govern. I know employers who would love the union to co-manage the workforce, look after the lunchrooms and vending machines, etc., while ceding final formal power to the boss. I wouldn't accept that role in the plant, and I am gratified to see that your fellow students see matters similarly.

Quote:
A few years later I find a lot of peers have become liberals and conservatives due to the acid taste they got in their mouth.

In my experience, that political metamorphosis tends to reflect more the career, status, class, and income journey that university graduates follow, than your thesis that their mothers were scared by bolsheviks during pregnancy (or whatever your variation on that theme is).

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Hmm. Here was Apples' original statement that got him into so much trouble:

Quote:
It would be best if student governments were to focus on student issues, such as class and exam scheduling, neighbourhood safety, freshmen orientation, and quality of the cafteria food

First of all, I don't know the specifics about Apples' concerns about exam scheduling, but so far, the student body has stood up against weekend and evening exams at McGill, which is a pretty nice thing imo. Since the university itself has to do its own scheduling, I'm not sure what else a student government could do.

As for neighbourhood safety, these 'left-wing idelogues' and their legacy have been fighting for years (with only a very recent victory) for a sexual abuse call centre space that was withdrawn by the administration, and have been mobilizing for better security for latenight students for as long as I can remember.

Of course, freshman orientation is one of the priorities of any student government (for better or worse).

And the remark about food quality is interesting, considering Apples also said this:

Quote:
There was money for subsidized vegan food and countless cultural issues, but the student union balked at supporting a fundamentally student interest - undergraduate research.

Since the administration has been moving to create a cafteria monopoly from a single company across campus, things like 'vegan food co-ops' like the Architechture Cafe and the MIdnight Kitchen were made illegal. These left-wing ideologues seem to care nothing for the food quality a Subway or a (I can't even remember the name of the horrible hamburger joint in Shatner) and prefer student-led initiatives by students who care how food tastes and if it is at all good for you.

As for funding (which, incidentally, doesn't enter into the opening statement I quoted) I agree that can be a problem. I was editor of a faculty publication during my time at McGill and securing funding was always tricky. I was never given any money from the student union government. But i was able to make up for it through the Arts student union, the faculty funding project for student groups, departmental student union, departmental funding and alumni groups. So, there does seem to be a matrix in place to help fund student projects. Certainly, denial from the main student gov't didn't stop my project from going through.

Mojoroad1

This is not new news at all..., In the early 90's I was at Wilfrid Laurier, where the "head" of the student union was actually ADVOCATING FOR TUITION HIKES! "Best education for top dollar" logic. This was when the Canadian federation of students were rallying massive protests. I like to think the Conservative group that is doing this are a bunch of Conservative MBA students who like to look at their own "clever" powerpoint presentations.Laughing

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