Andrea Bartlett says that the RSU can get by just fine without the Canadian Federation of Students.
“We can run completely autonomous without the support of the CFS,” Bartlett said.
In their election campaign platform last year, Bartlett and her slate promised students that they would look into the RSU’s relationship with the CFS.
The possibility of defederation — the act of leaving the CFS — has been tossed around by current and former students as well as executives, but never formally addressed.
“I think it’s inaccessible,” Bartlett said about defederation. She said that’s because getting out of the CFS isn’t easy.
One of Bartlett’s platform promises was to “assess the mutually beneficial relationship between the RSU and CFS.”
With Bartlett and the current RSU executive board’s terms ending in two weeks, The Ryersonian checked in to see where the union sits on the matter now.
Another RSU executive, Cormac McGee, agrees with Bartlett that the RSU can run autonomously.
“One of the things we ran on was to bring the focus back to Ryerson students,” he said.
“Ryerson students are having their voices heard in these issues,” said McGee, adding that Ryerson students have more local representatives speaking on their behalf, as opposed to CFS representatives who lobby on a national scale.
In the 2014-15 school year the RSU paid more than $465,000 in fees to the CFS.
That comes from $16.06 taken from each student’s tuition.
What students get in return is an international student card, a complimentary day planner, access to work abroad programs and health and dental insurance.
The difficulty in leaving the CFS was illustrated almost a decade ago when a member student union tried to pull out.
In 2008, the University of Cape Breton Students’ Union petitioned to leave the CFS. The CFS did not recognize its application, which had over 90 per cent of the student body voting in favour of the move.
The federation said that the delivery of the petition did not follow the proper channels, and therefore rejected it.
The CFS then sued the students’ union for $295,000, which totalled six years of overdue fees.
The union later filed for bankruptcy.
Despite this, McGee said that it’s “not too difficult to try” to defederate. He said that other schools have successfully rescinded their membership with the CFS, such as the University of Western Ontario decades ago and, more recently, Dawson College.
“(The defederation policies) are definitely used to keep schools in,” McGee said.
“If anyone is going to lead a defederation campaign, it has to be regular students,” he said, adding that the CFS policy does not accept petitions for defederation from a campaign led by student union executives.
According to McGee, the RSU has collected information about CFS relations over the school year and will pass it on to Obaid Ullah, the incominpresident.
Ullah explained that “unlike previous RSU executives, we don’t have the same relationship with the CFS.”
He says that he would welcome improved communication with the CFS if they wished to work with them on future projects.
“If the CFS wants to work with us, sure,” said Ullah.