During the provincial election, Julie Rempel, UMSU vice-president (external), was asked about post-secondary funding issues. The following is an excerpt of her response from a news article in the Manitoban, where she was asked about a proposal to tie tuition to the rate of inflation:
“What measure of inflation do they use? What happens if the economy contracts and there is deflation? What happens if we have a year of very high inflation? Does it apply to ancillary fees, and can we ensure there are no loopholes for the universities to sneak increases through?” Rempel asked.
In regards to the tuition freeze, Rempel explained that while UMSU would have been happy to see it reinstated, “we need to be realistic.”
“Tuition fees and government policy regarding fees is a constant struggle, and it isn’t something that we either ‘win’ or ‘lose.’ Our job as a students’ union is to mobilize our membership to make post-secondary education as affordable as we possibly can,” she said.
This is a rational and logical statement grounded in common sense. The statement itself is not out of the ordinary, but it is a decisive change from what has been heard previously from UMSU executives. In the past, we would have heard an UMSU executive talk about how the tuition freeze should be maintained no matter what, and that university should be completely free. A few attacks against politicians would have followed as well.
Instead, it was refreshing to see a common sense description of an important issue. All too often, past UMSU executives have merely recited CFS talking points that were completely disconnected from reality. This year’s UMSU executive, as exemplified by Julie Rempel’s statement on funding, is willing to think independently, and speak on behalf of those who elected them, rather than speaking for the CFS and their unaccountable elite.
It cannot be said clearly enough that this is a new occurrence. Many students don’t know about the CFS, which is unsurprising since the CFS has an agenda that is far different than that of many students. They use student money to push their own far-left political bias, and in the process they forget their job is to advocate for students, and can best do that by being politically neutral instead of pushing their own radical views on us.
In the past, UMSU executives have all too willingly spoken for the CFS, as opposed to speaking for students. Maybe last year’s near impeachment of CFS executive Alanna Makinson has caused some individuals to refocus on supporting the needs of students on their local campuses.
This is a welcome change, and the current UMSU executive deserves credit for it. U of M students are much better off when their local needs are taken care of, as opposed to being subject to political agendas far removed from their own experiences and priorities. All U of M students will benefit if Julie Rempels willingness to speak her mind is just the first step towards a more independent and responsive UMSU.
Spencer Fernando is the Comment Editor for the Manitoban.