Campus news for the unnewsed

By Daniel Pagan

No taxation without representation

The Canadian Feder-ation of Students is reeling from defeat as three student unions succeeded in their bids to leave the country’s largest student lobbying group. The Cape Breton University Students’ Union in Nova Scotia, the Simon Fraser Students’ Society and University of Victoria Graduate Students’ Society all voted overwhelmingly in favour of cancelling their CFS memberships.

The unions cited complaints against the federation, such as its preoccupations with control of local student government, poor financial oversight and lawsuits against press, as reasons for leaving the federation. The CFS plan to challenge the SFSS referendum was leaked in an e-mail to students before the start of the referendum. CFS is now attempting to get the SFSs referendum result declared void on the grounds of questionable campaign practices.

CFS also refused to accept the results in the Cape Breton University Students’ Union’s referendum, citing it as an opinion poll, not a real referendum.

Standoff between UBC students and RCMP turns ugly

Twenty University of British Columbia students were arrested Fri., Apr. 4, when Knoll Aid 2.0, a student-organized demonstration, got too hot, literally. The demonstration against the destruction of green campus space and new construction projects on UBC campus resulted in students lighting a bonfire on the sidewalk. RCMP and firefighters arrived to put the fire out. Students then tried to prevent the firefighters from their task, prompting the RCMP to break up the demonstration, which led to student protestors encircling a police cruiser to prevent officers from detaining more students. The standoff ended after RCMP and Vancouver Police reinforcements arrived. Student leaders have criticized the RCMP for its excessive use of force in breaking up the demonstration and detaining many students.

Struggle between McGill University and its TAs

Following a breakdown of negotiations, McGill University’s 2,000 teaching assistants went on strike Tue., Apr. 8. Negotiations had been ongoing since the previous agreement between McGill and the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill expired last Oct. AGSEM has been arguing for an increase that would make their wages on par with the anglophone G-13 universities in Quebec, while the McGill administration offered a two per cent per year raise.

The administration claimed the offer would make the TAs the highest paid in Quebec, but AGSEM accused them of not taking the negotiations seriously. The administration is keeping the university open despite the strike. TAs are prohibited from working during the strike, leaving McGill students in the dark about what to do for the final weeks of classes.

Aboriginal educational institution caught in the crossfire between Ottawa and Ontario

The First Nations Technical Institute–the oldest Aboriginal educational institution of its kind–was teetering on the edge of financial ruin and has been saved thanks to the Government of Ontario’s quick actions. The provincial government injected a one-time investment of $1.5 million into the school Tue., Apr. 1 to keep it open.

The institute was caught in a fight between Ontario and the federal government over jurisdiction. The province of Ontario argued the federal government should fund FNTI because it is an Aboriginal institution, while the federal government pointed out the province’s responsibilities for funding post-secondary education. The debate began when the federal government decreased its funding to FNTI from $2.7 million in 2004 to $531,687 in 2008. FNTI administration stated the federal government’s funding was not enough to keep the institute afloat. Current funding is temporary, leaving many FNTI students unsure if they will graduate before their school shuts down for good.

Genocide Awareness Project causes controversy across the country

The University of Calgary is not the only campus engaged in debate over its pro-life group, as the University of Toronto can testify. U of T Students for Life broke off negotiations with their administration and set up their Genocide Awareness Project posters on the corner of a street outside U of T campus Thu., Apr. 3.

The protestors set up at the corner because it was not under the jurisdiction of the administration. The anti-abortion protestors found themselves outnumbered quickly by a coalition of pro-choice campus groups protesting the graphic nature of GAP, including the U of T Students’ Union, Steelworkers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The GAP project has come under fire from Jewish groups, such as Hillel, for comparing abortion to the Holocaust at other campuses across Canada.