By Neal Ozano
It’s official: all University of Calgary graduate students will soon be members of the Canadian Federation of Students.
The referendum, held from March 19-30, was to decide GSA membership in the National Graduate Council of the CFS. Three hundred and eighty four of approximately 2,500 eligible voters cast votes, with 74.2 per cent voting in favour of the CFS membership and 22.7 per cent voting against.
"From the very beginning, we sent this referendum out to the students to decide, and they’ve obviously decided they’re in favour of joining the CFS," said GSA President Viola Cassis. "I’m pleased that students voted on the issue. We brought this issue to students and we gave them the opportunity to decide."
Graduate student Ray Novak, who presented the "No" side in the membership debates held March 15, was less enthusiastic about the referendum results.
"We’ve had a referendum where 15 per cent of graduate students are being allowed to vote money out of the pockets of the remaining 85 per cent of students," said Novak. "This is outrageous, unacceptable and embarrassingly undemocratic. To accept these results as final would be immoral, and a slap in the face to the 85 per cent of graduate students who did not vote to join the CFS."
Michael Conlon, chair of the National Graduate Caucus of the CFS, was pleased with the referendum results and described initiatives specific to the U of C the CFS hopes to pursue.
"Some of our initiatives around lobbying the federal government and doing research on the changing environment for intellectual property is a very important issue for grad students," he explained. "That’s one of the issues that we’re really excited about consulting with the U of C grad students on. U of C is a major research-intensive university and that will add clout to our reference to influence policy around intellectual property rights."
As a perk of membership, Cassis said the CFS would also provide support on a number of issues specific to U of C grad students, including lobbies for tax exemptions for grad student scholarships and funding from the national granting councils.
Conlon spoke to Novak’s concerns about the U of C GSA membership in the CFS.
"Our organization is grad students from the U of C getting together with other grad students, pooling resources and ideas to put campaigns together," stated Conlon. "[Novak] will realize that a lot of the rhetoric that he was committed to during the referendum is just not matched by the reality of how the organization works and what we do on behalf of graduate students. Our organization is not just based on political principles, it’s based on the other principle of offering services to students that save money. At the end of the day I think [U of C] grad students saw [a CFS membership] as good value and I hope against hope that [Novak] will too."
The GSA membership in the CFS becomes effective in September 2001.