Home / Op-Ed / The unfair referendum

The unfair referendum

I’m weird.

Ok, there. I said it. Among the things that make me weird is my intense need to vote. I love voting. It doesn’t matter what the vote is about, if I can vote, I vote.

A vote is a chance for change. I loathe voter apathy, especially when it results in people complaining about something they chose not to participate in. Despite my love of voting, I made a conscious choice not to vote in the recent CFS referendum.

I was aware of the CFS prior to this referendum. I knew about Travel Cuts and student lobbying, the lawsuits and the lack of representation. I know where I stand on the issue, but that’s not the point. The point is: I chose not to vote specifically because the entire referendum process was unfair.

I, like many other students, was concerned with URSU’s role. As those elected to represent all students, I am disgusted that URSU chose a side to represent and ignored the opposition. I heard that URSU actually rejected posters submitted by the Pro-CFS side, saying that they weren’t up to standards, while at the same time displaying their giant yellow posters so blatantly.

I found out about the referendum by seeing the no-to-CFS posters, with negative facts about the organization. I found myself wandering around looking for the pro-CFS posters to see what information they offered. But I couldn’t find any. I didn’t see any Pro-CFS advertisements until a day or two before voting began. This distressed me greatly.

According to the URSU constitution, section 2 part D, URSU is “to remain politically non-partisan in all activities and lobby efforts.” How is their obvious support of one side fulfilling this section of their constitution? How are they not being penalized for going against their own constitution?

Then I heard that URSU was giving $3,000 to the no-CFS side, which just made me angrier than I already was. This was my money URSU executive members were using so they could accost students in the hallways with candy and pamphlets.

But then again, part of me isn’t surprised that URSU is throwing money around like this. They spent around $50,000 renovating The Owl and thousands on top of that for their new, “more user-friendly” website.

This is the first and only time I have refused to exercise my right to vote. Our students’ union should be supporting students, not persuading students. They should be encouraging people to vote, not to vote just so URSU can see their desired outcome.

Jennifer Squires
News Writer

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5 comments

  1. If you were disgusted by what URSU was doing, wouldn't it make more sense to vote against their wishes?

  2. Jennifer,
     
    I would get your facts straight before writing. URSU did not reject the posters from the Yes side, the ROC ( Referendum Oversight Committee) or the governing body of the referendum did. Second to your argument about the constitution it refers to URSU refraining from supporting any political party in a provincial or federal election. It does not stop URSU's Board of Directors and staff from advocating what they believe is best for students (exactly what they are elected for). If you would have dug a little deeper you would have known that both the Yes and No side were able to spend 3,000 for the campaign. Both sides were spending student money and students pay both fees to CFS and to URSU, this seems fair does it not. Please do some fact checking before writing in the future.

  3. @ BW
    A referendum is for the STUDENTS (members) to decide. NOT the Exec or the BOD.
    URSU didn't take a side on the referendum for a UR Sports Arena, URSU didn't take a side on the U-Pass referendum. THE STUDENTS decided.
    It seems to me that URSU Exec is pretty invested in this referendum:
    They even tried having their own referendum (outside of CFS bylaws) last semester. After costing the URSU thousands of dollars, they dropped it, realizing that it was not gonna fly unless it followed the bylaws of the organization they wanted to leave.
    Also, alarmingly, the CFS-Sk exec was comprised of URSU Executive members from November '09 to Summer '10. Matter of fact I understand Ms. Barber is still the Treasurer for CFS-SK. 
    So how can these same people be allowed to walk around campus and ask students "What has CFS done for you? Then its a waste of your money, no?"
    I'd like to know how much $$ these URSU execs got for being the executive of the CFS-SK. How much of student money did they waste keeping the CFS away from us students on campus? And why did they not engage the student body in the campaigns and meetings of the CFS-SK?
    Who wasted what money?
    This past month seems like it is part of a bigger movement – one with no regard for students.

  4. @BW: The constitution states URSU will "remain politically non-partisan in all activities and lobby efforts." This is incredibly ambiguous. If they meant to refrain just from supporting a political party in provincial/federal elections, they should have stated that specifically. What they said was that they would "remain politically non-partisan in ALL activities and lobby efforts." Therefore, in a referendum between two parties (Yes and No), URSU would have to remain non-partisan. "Politics" don't just happen at a provincial/federal level; they happen in little league soccer, municipal by-elections and they happen in university. A referendum is a political tool, a political activity. So, for them to have supported "No" was to break their constitution. There stance was a partisan effort in a political activity.

  5. @Terrain
    The Exec and Board did not decide the referendum.  A conscious choice was made to show support for the No side of the campaign because, as a Union, it was decided that our students were not properl
    y represented.  Do keep in mind the URSU is made of Students, all who are members of the CFS.
     
    Just because the union doesn't take a stance on EVERY issue, doesn't mean they shouldn't take a stance on any issue.  The U-Pass may have had proper representation of both sides, and therefore didn't need Student Union support.  


    The referendum that was attempted last year was well within CFS bylaws.  The dates were set properly, the amount of signatures required were obtained.  The only issue was the CFS refusing to come and participate.  [http://ursu.ca/assets/Documents/minutes2010/10-03-24.pdf]
    Eventually it was decided to not hold the referendum because we wanted to make sure we followed every by law the CFS set down, I assume because the union didn't want litigation to bog down years of Executives.  
     
    CFS-SK was staffed by many URSU members.  But wouldn't they KNOW how difficult the CFS can be to deal with?  As much as I hate bringing individuals into a debate like this, Ms. Barber spent HOURS printing off EVERY Student Discount Card last year, spent weeks trying to find where the funding from the previous CFS reps had been locked away, and has mentioned our need for an organizer on a provincial level.

    If you expect the URSU Exec to do all the work they do for us on a local level [Academic committees, political lobbying, event co-ordinating, etc. etc.], keep marks at a respectable level as full time students, and run the CFS programs, you don't understand how many hours there are in a day.  Nobody deliberately tried to keep the CFS away from people on Campus.  But if nobody on campus wants to organize the CFS events, why do we bother paying money to them?

    The Student Union has nothing ahead of the betterment of the students of the University of Regina.  Insinuating otherwise is an insult.

    Well, to be fair, CFS constitution overrides any other constitution in a referendum [Check out their lawsuits with various other schools, there are precedents.]  
    But, in the bigger scheme of things, the student union did what was best for students.  There are no nation wide anti CFS organizations, so to get the information that was required out to the students, someone had to be that group locally.  Without facts from both sides, democracy falls apart.  A small University [I don't want to name the name because I don't have my papers in front of me and don't want to misquote it] had a referendum for the CFS, had the majority of students vote to leave, and thought they were done.  10 years later, the CFS asked for 10 years of back dues, because there was no evidence that the original notice for the referendum was not on "registered mail".  The University balked, and they settled by having another referendum, but with the CFS being the only group allowed to campaign.  98% of students voted to stay in; do you see how this is a problem?  There needs to be a dialogue in order for democracy to function.  Just because our language is a limited one does not mean that the constitution was broken.  Calling little league parents politicians sounds like a metaphor, not a literal meaning.  I for one am GLAD that the U of R took a stance on this POLICY issue, just like they do on other issues of policy.