CFS could stay relevant

After a tough year full of defederation votes and court battles, new chair has a lot of work to do

If last week’s Canadian Federation of Students national general meeting is any indication of what’s to come for the organization, they will be in for some considerable progress.

Coming out of probably one of their toughest years in recent memory — several schools held membership referendums with or without CFS approval in 2009-2010, with some pitting students’ unions against the national lobby group in court — the reports from the Nov. 24-27 meeting show an organization that is more united and more focused than ever.

The agenda was more or less controversy-free, focusing more on campaigns as opposed to last year’s drastic referendum bylaw reforms, and the election of the next national chairperson elicited a standing ovation from the crowd — an apparent CFS first in some time.

With the future of post-secondary education entering a significant redefining period in Canada, it’s no wonder Roxanne Dubois is such a rallying force as she pledges to put campaign work at the forefront of her tenure.

“I suspect that in the next few months, and definitely in the next year, [campaigns] will take a bigger place just because of what may be happening in terms of education,” she told the Canadian University Press. “It is my wish that students in this country realize the importance of working together.”

Co-operation and campaigns for lower tuition fees are one thing, but there are still a number of struggles the organization faces moving forward. Several campuses are still mounting campaigns to leave the national lobby group. Others continue to be embroiled in court arguments with the CFS trying to meet the same end.

Students at these campuses are confused, being given petitions to leave the organization and counter-petitions to stay. Judges are being told that some signatures count while others are invalid, and all of it costs precious student dollars.

Dubois has an opportunity to set a standard around which the CFS can rally and effect serious change. But the troops that she needs to co-ordinate are not only those who elected her in Ottawa, but the tens of thousands spread across Canada, and who are increasingly questioning the relevance of their membership.

The importance of working together goes two ways. If she trusts students to command their own destiny, then the petitions being circulated on several campuses should be allowed to stand. There is strength in numbers, it’s true, but that strength is worth astonishingly little if its members more closely resemble a conscripted force than a volunteer army.

Dubois has been given an incredible mandate for leadership, and it’s up to her now to make it a reality. I, for one, think she can.

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