As the first step toward leaving its national body, the University of Regina Students Union is withholding up to $157,000 it collected from student fees this year.
“We’ve been collecting fees for [the Canadian Federation of Students], but we’ve been withholding sending it to them,” said Arts Director Alfred Adenuga. “Just because we don’t, we don’t want to be a part of them anymore. We don’t believe in what they stand for as an organization.”
CFS is an organization designed to unite students across Canada, provide them with services and lobby government in their students’ interests. URSU believes the services they offer don’t work for U of R students and has joined other schools across the country who have or are trying to exit the federation, such as universities in B.C. and Quebec.
“We always strive to be as involved as possible with all of our members,” A CFS spokesperson said in a statement. “We are in constant communication with all our members to ensure we are responding to their needs and adapting to the realities of their particular campus.”
Adenuga mentioned the International Students ID Card as a benefit from CFS which provides discounts to stores not in Saskatchewan. He also said CFS offered a measure of health care, which is already covered by URSU.
“As a University of Regina student, that doesn’t help me at all,” he said.
URSU is currently in the midst of a month-long petition over leaving CFS. According to the CFS constitution, URSU needs signatures from 15 per cent (3,000) of the student body before Mar. 30 to hold a referendum. The union also plans to hold a non-binding survey as part of the upcoming elections to strengthen its case.
“We’ve had … the petition campaign for only about a week and we’ve obtained close to 1,000 signatures,” said URSU President Victor Oriola. Oriola said CFS had not been on campus in a meaningful way since 2016.
“It’s about time that we use the student funds in a more responsible fashion, whether that be on campus, whether that be we don’t even collect the fee at all. But whatever we do with the CFS fee that we’re currently collecting from students is significantly better than what we’re already doing with it right now.”
URSU’s website offers up the URSU Cares Pantry and boost Project, Event and Conference Funding as avenues for better spending.
This isn’t the first time URSU has decided to leave CFS: tensions go back as far as a decade ago, with a petition and referendum on leaving CFS occurring in the 2010-11 school year.
UPDATE: It's official, URSU has declared they are against continued membership with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)
— UofR Students' Union (@urstudentsunion) October 14, 2010
A 3.2 per cent difference in referendum voters defeated URSU’s initial attempt to leave. Kyle Addison, 2010-11 URSU President, said the unsuccessful campaign raised tensions between URSU and CFS even more than before.
“There was a very uncomfortable situation for all students at the University of Regina,” said Addison. “Regardless of what side you were on, [it] unfortunately became a bit of a divisive campaign, and it ended with us remaining as members of the Canadian Federation of Students.”
Addison also said that while students pay low fees (currently $4.67 for full-time students and $2.24 for part-time students), it adds up.
“It doesn’t sound like much. I mean, it’s a beer at the Owl,” said Addison. “Everybody can afford an extra beer at the Owl. But when you extrapolate that over the number of undergrad and graduate students at the University of Regina, that becomes a sizable amount of money … [that could] really benefit students from a much more direct perspective.”
Addison said students should inform themselves before becoming overwhelmed in campaigning in the case URSU’s petition succeeds.
“It’s not about the 10-second clip that they’re going to see or the flashy postcard that they’ll see around campus during campaigns,” Addison said. “They’re gonna have to actually read and get a little bit more of an in-depth understanding of the Canadian Federation of Students.”