Wednesday, September 24, 2008

RSU President Announces Withdrawal of Anti-War Stance at RSU

Last night, RFP reporters donated 7 hours of their lives to witness the September board meeting of the Ryerson Students' Union. While there will be extensive coverage of the meeting in the October issue, out next week, this letter made its way to us today. We thought it fit to publish. It was sent to all members of the Canadian Peace Alliance.

OPEN LETTER to the members of the Canadian Peace Alliance:

Dear members of the Canadian Peace Alliance,

It is with great regret that I must inform you that the Board of Directors of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) resolved last night to not continue its membership in the Canadian Peace Alliance. While I affirm that a significant minority of our Board and I are very supportive of the Canadian Peace Alliance and are staunchly opposed to war, I can no longer say that this is the position of the RSU.

The RSU has had a long and proud tradition of supporting anti-war initiatives. From the position taken at our 2002 Annual General Meeting against the American-led occupation of Iraq to strong student contingents at rallies calling for Canadian troops out of Afghanistan, the RSU has, in the past, been a proud and vocal supporter of peace.

Unfortunately, our Board of Directors has shifted dramatically to the political right and, at last night’s meeting several motions were served that illustrated this shift. This includes the narrow defeat of a motion to continue our membership in the CPA and proposed budget amendments that would see our funding of campaigns for peace, accessible education and student rights all reduced to zero. Further budget cuts to our progressive campaigns work are still outstanding and will be considered at our next meeting.

I would, however, like to assure you and your members that there are still a dozen directors and thousands of Ryerson students who are committed to the peace and anti-war movement at Ryerson. The Students Against War coalition will continue to be anchored by the Continuing Education Students’ Association of Ryerson (CESAR). I also commit to you all that, as President, I will work hard to ensure that the first-ever national anti-war conference scheduled for February will be a success, and not derailed by these circumstances.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.

In peace and solidarity,

Muhammad Ali Jabbar

Ryerson Students' Union

Local 24, Canadian Federation of Students

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ATTN Ryerson Students and Community Members: Pro-Choice Event TOMORROW

The Ryerson Students' Union sent this notice out about a photo-exhibit on tomorrow:

The struggle to keep Canada pro-choice persists as the Conservatives supported Bill C-484 which would have given personhood to the fetus and been an attack on abortion rights.

Minister of Health Tony Clement has refused to intervene to allow clinic abortions to be funded in New Brunswick.

Don't let the Harper Conservatives send women's rights back to the 1950's! Come out to these events to show your support and rally for the cause.

Wednesday September 24
Credit Lounge 11 am- 5 pm
Photo display of pro-choice women defending our rights.
Photography from the 60s, 80s and today!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The CASA Misses Chance to Lobby Federal Candidates on Students' Main Priorities

With the Federal election in full swing, advocacy organizations of all types are trying to influence political parties to get the best promises possible. Just as these groups kick into high gear, so too do the media outlets.

Media groups voraciously seek out angles, interviews, cute stories, scandals and anything else they can get their hands on to keep an audience tuned in. This is a prime opportunity for interest groups to get their messages out to the public and politicians.

One interest group, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) has recently launched web-campaign which they sell as “All you Need to Know to Make an Educated Vote.” Notable components to the site include some information on voting, and press releases, a blog, and a short video.

On second glance it is clear that missing among the CASA’s campaign is any attention to the issue that is arguably most important to students—tuition fees. This is first apparent in their poll asking what is the most important change needed for post-secondary education in Canada. Strangely, of the four questions, none give an option for reducing, freezing or, heaven forbid eliminating tuition fees. There isn't even an “other” option.

Unfortunately, it appears that the price of tuition fees isn’t on their radar at all for this election. At best, this is an embarrassing misreading of the students’ priorities that they purport to represent. What's more, the CASA’s “solutions” ignores calls from federal candidates themselves for dedicated federal funding to be used to help offset tuition fees.

For example, the CASA does not link to the NDP’s “Education & training your family can afford” among their links to that party’s education platform. Instead they characterized the “NDP Party Platform” as only relating to the promise to medical students, which was announced in their plan for healthcare. Contrary to the all-encompassing website it purports to be, the rest of the “Party Platforms” section is out of date, with the exception of a section on the Green Party.

This organization appears to simply steer clear of tuition fees altogether. A closer reading of the CASA’s website and their press releases reveals a disconnect between their own tuition fee policy and the consistent absence of this issue from their lobby priorities. The CASA has come on board with other organisations who do call for a national strategy on post-secondary education, including dedicated transfer payments. Such a method of payments could be used to help offset the cost that students pay, making this an important federal issue. The average student must be disappointed, however, that the CASA is missing the boat on integrating into the discussion calls for lower tuition fees. Instead their sights are aimed lower, calling for a Pan-Canadian Dataset.

Students deserve better than this. When an organization’s lobby efforts do not represent their paying membership, students ultimately lose.

Student ‘representatives’ who call unqualified praise for party platforms 'lobbying' would better create the change they seek by taking jobs from the Liberals or the Greens and working from within these parties. If this is the CASA’s idea of making the post-secondary education system better, they should leave lobbying for real change to students.