10

Affirmative action for CFS delegates

UTM student struck from the delegate list reportedly because she is white


 

Beginning Thursday, the Ontario arm of the Canadian Federation of Students will be holding its semi-annual general meeting. And, already, controversy has begun to stir, as a previously approved delegate for the University of Toronto-Mississauga Students’ Union has been struck from the list. After the VP external Henry Ssali  had approved student Stefanie Marotta as a delegate, the union’s executive committee overruled his decision. Two reasons were given for the reversal: one reasonable, one unreasonable.

The original explanation, the reasonable one, given for denying Marotta delegate status is because she is assistant news editor for the Mississauga campus paper, the Medium. The other explanation, the more unreasonable one, apparently has to do with the fact that because Marotta does not belong to a minority constituency group, it is more expensive to send her, but more on that below.

With respect to her employment with the Medium, Marotta claims she had no intentions of covering the CFS meeting for the paper, and that she wanted to attend as a regular student. She also failed to inform her superiors at the paper that she was planning to go as a delegate to the AGM. Despite this failure to disclose, the Medium’s editor-in-chief is backing her, publicly anyway, stating in an editorial that the incident:

“[D]oesn’t just affect us here at The Medium—it affects all UTM students who may wish to write for this newspaper. Would you still write for us if you knew it would hurt your chances of participating in UTMSU and CFS-organized activities?”

While Marotta says she was simply interested in becoming more involved with the student union, and seems miffed that she is being denied this opportunity, she would potentially be in a conflict of interest, whether real, or perceived. As assistant news editor she has covered the UTMSU and presumably supervises others who cover them. The fact that the UTMSU raised her status as a campus journalist when deregistering her is entirely fitting. I just don’t understand why it would be controversial for the UTMSU to tell Marotta that, because of her other obligations, it would be inappropriate for her to become intimately entwined with the union leadership as an official delegate to a CFS conference. Of course, if Marotta had applied to attend as a student journalist, and was subsequently denied, that would be a different story.

As for the Medium, the students that run it should be livid that one of their editors failed to disclose her intentions to become more active with the union, which she is responsible for covering. To understate things, if I was running the paper I would be quite annoyed. I don’t mean any of this to suggest that student papers and student unions must necessarily be adversarial but being closely involved with one should preclude becoming closely involved in the other. It is just unprofessional for it to be otherwise.

If the union executive had left it at that, as a question of potentially conflicting loyalties, they might have avoided some controversy. Instead, when pressed on the question, they raised the spectre of affirmative action. As reported by the Medium:

[M]embers executive committee [sic] argued that it would cost extra money to send Marotta to the event. Marotta, a white female, does not belong to a “constituency group,” a category created by the CFS that includes Aboriginal students, students of colour, francophone students, students with disabilities, international students, mature or part-time students and students who identify themselves as members of the LGBTQ community. The UTMSU pays $325 for students who identify as members of the constituency group, but the cost goes up to $400 for students who don’t fall into this category—students such as Marotta.

The paper further reports that “This year, all of the delegates sent by UTMSU to the CFS semi-AGM identify in one or more constituency groups.”

Whatever the progressive intentions of providing a discount for supposedly underrepresented groups, does it fulfill its purpose if all the delegates from a particular school are from at least one of these constituency groups? If students’ interests can only be represented by other students just like them (a point on which I disagree, but nevermind that for now) then denying representation from majority students would seem to skew representation, and create divisions of its own.  That seems counterproductive and appears to promote diversity simply because it is cheaper.


 

Affirmative action for CFS delegates

  1. Hmmmm, increase diversity by eliminating one racial group….aren’t there white students in the CFS and UTMSU that should be represented? If the roles were reversed and a “minority group” member was not allowed to go, there’d be a national inquiry.

    Did we somehow forget that by attempting to eliminate racism by acting…RACIST…towards another group is ultimately self defeating. Who approved this nonsense? I think all representative minority groups who truly want to end racism should speak out against this obviously racist decision. If the problem was just her connection to the newspaper (which I think is an affront to freedom of the press, not to mention basic shareholder student rights afforded to this student by joining the UTMSU) why did they have to go the extra step and say that her “whiteness” is the problem? WHERE’S THE HRC ON THIS?

  2. As a student who works for the campus paper voluntarily I don’t think you’re any less a member of the student union or the CFS. Until student writers are excused from paying fees to these two groups they are as much members as the other students and have just as much of a right to participate, attend, observe and question the doings of these groups and it’s about time light is shed on these issues but the question is what will the CFS do now? Give the numerous articles written about them it doesn’t seem that bad press is ever a concern for them.

  3. I think that this happens more often than one might think. I wish that more student papers would investigate these issues. It’s a shame. We live in 2010 we should all be equal.

  4. They should have sent Stefanie she’s attractive it bodes well for UTM

  5. This issue has nothing to do with the CFS and everything to do with the choice by a single member union. Definitely a boneheaded choice, but one made by an individual local. The CFS cannot step in and demand that she be sent as a delegate. People, particularly Macleans readers and bloggers, would lose their minds if the CFS started demanding that specific people at locals be sent as delegates. If you believe in members autonomy then you have to believe in letting them make autonomously moronic decisions.

    Aside from the obvious, there are two stupid things about trying to make decisions based on alleged financial/ethnicity reasons:

    1) $75 is a pretty small sum given the operating budgets of most student unions and fairness and democracy should trump costs.

    2) Unless something has changed recently each member union gets to send one free delegate to national meetings. Just use that slot to send her, no cost difference.

  6. Since the discount only applies to the student unions because they have to pay to send a delegate it looks like it’s really only a discount for student unions to send people who are within a minority group.

    If it was actually the minority students paying it would make sense but since it is the student union, like Chris said with huge operating budgets why offer a discount?

    If she made it clear she wanted to attend as a student and the paper did not want to cover the meeting I don’t see why she was turned away due to an sort of affiliation.

    Students are students whether they are involved or not, they should create their university experience not the dumb policies of the CFS.

  7. which by the way only exists because of students such as Marotta who pay into the CFS

  8. The discount exists to encourage exactly this sort of decision. If you have 6 people nominated as delegates, and you have decided to only send 5, whitey is out. $75 seems like chump change from the inside, but student unions are generally penny-wise and pound-foolish. They will argue for hours over relatively small sums. If you could trim $75 off of every line item in the budget, you might save enough in a year to fund a new scholarship.

    And if you think the CFS doesn’t pick and choose representatives, you haven’t heard the other recent CFS news.

  9. I don’t understand these baseless attacks on the CFS. The CFS cannot control who a students’ union sends as a delegate.

    In terms of the arguments about the role of media, the limitations applied in this case seem fair. If the members of the media want to hold a right to freedom of the press, they must also take a responsibility to hold themselves to a high standard of impartiality (including real and perceived). Student reporters can’t have it both ways!

  10. CFS certainly works directly with student unions particularly the UTSU and the UTMSU. It’s a good thing Ssali raised his concerns as a VP External who has to deal with their corrupt ways on the regular.
    CFS likes to keep it in the family, if you’re good they might hire you after graduation 7 or 8 years after you first started your university career.

    good luck

Sign in to comment.