There’s an interesting discussion going on in response to Robyn Urback’s deconstruction of a recent article in the student press that supported the Canadian Federation of Students. Urback looked at an article in the Ryerson Free Press that argued, among many other things, that “students should unite to tackle ‘more pressing issues’ that affect everyone.” I think this issue is worth dissecting itself.
As I mentioned in response to Urback’s post, this line of argument seems to come up in every defence of the CFS I’ve heard in recent years. And it is frightening in its condescension. “Oh quit your whining little students; we know better!”
Many of the issues that have gotten the CFS in trouble with its members – lawsuits, Orwellian tactics, being anti-democratic – seem to contradict the ideals to which the organization claims to subscribe. The only way the CFS could justify their actions to themselves is if they believed that the end is more important than the means. They must truly believe that the cause they are fighting for – lowering or even eliminating tuition as its cornerstone – is so noble that it justifies all the “little bad things” they have to do to achieve it.
This logic doesn’t work unless they believe there is a homogeneous set of objectives all students surely would benefit from and that all students would agree on the solutions to get us these objectives (if only students weren’t so ignorant, of course). But I don’t think this homogeneous student body exists. As a commenter noted, there are people of all political backgrounds involved in the opposition at UVic. That suggests that there are a wide spectrum of students with different ideas about what university is all about who are not feeling represented by the CFS. Surely it’s simplistic to maintain that all students are NDP-voters married to the public system.
I also think it’s relevant to mention that there is no agreement on the tuition issue. I think it’s fair to say that the CFS’ central campaign is to lower or eliminate tuition (which is what I’m assuming is one of the “more pressing issues” the RFP refers to). But not all students agree that lowering tuition is the answer to improving university access. There has been loads of research that suggests that PSE access is only improved by targeted aid funding, not lowering tuition.
So what I want to know is: where do you fit into this idea of a homogeneous student body? Do you feel that your beliefs contradict with the student stereotype? What ideals would be held by an organization that truly represented you?