Defederation on the horizon?

The relationship between the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and the U of M Graduate Students’ Association (UMGSA) has been notably strained in recent months over what the GSA executive claims to be a lack of willingness to communicate and provide information on the status of the UMGSA’s CFS membership.

A Special General Meeting, which was called by the UMGSA executive, was held on Oct. 30 for the UMGSA members to ultimately vote on the UMGSA’s next move.

This fall’s Special General Meeting to determine the UMGSA’s position on the nature of their relationship with CFS comes after what has been a year-long process of research and meetings.

After initial research and discovery as to the questionable validity of UMGSA’s CFS membership the previous UMGSA executive voted Feb. 2, 2012, to continue employment of a research assistant dedicated to investigating the issue further.

UMGSA Researcher Elizabeth Gonsalves presented a research progress report at the Oct. 30 Special General Meeting that detailed her findings.

UMGSA president Rotimi Ojo explained, “We had the [Special General Meeting] at both the Fort Garry and the Bannatyne campus. We had posted material online and sent out emails to the students two weeks in advance information about the discussion was going to be about and had the opportunity to read the materials more.”

Included in the materials that were sent out by email in the weeks prior to the meeting was Gonsalves’ report ensuring that members had a chance to properly review the 22-page document before voting.

At the conclusion of months of research, Gonsalves’ stated in the Conclusion/Recommendation of her report, “The contradictory and incomplete nature of information at this time provides a completely non-definitive answer to the question of the UMGSA membership in the CFS/CFS-S and the CFS-MB.”

Based on the “contradictory and incomplete nature of the information” it was left to the membership to choose from a number of options for a next step as outlined in the agenda of the meeting on Oct. 30.

The options included: voting that from the information gathered by Gonsalves the UMGSA is, in fact, a member of the CFS; voting that the UMGSA is not a member of the CFS; voting to include higher authorities to determine membership; and, finally, voting to continue further internal research on the issue.

UMGSA has made no official statement on the outcome of the meeting, but Ojo said that as a result of the vote, “We are not members and that’s how we’re going to stay.”

According to the CFS website, the UMGSA is currently a member of the student federation.

Ojo mentioned he was pleased with the number of student members that were present at both the Fort Garry and Bannatyne campus meetings, indicating that this was an issue of importance to U of M graduate students and that the vote accurately represents the decision of UMGSA members.

Also at the Feb. 2 meeting, where it was decided Gonsalves would look into this issue more closely, it was decided that the approximately $44,475 collected from the UMGSA membership for the 2011-2012 year would be held in trust and not be paid to the CFS until which time the UMGSA had reached a decision regarding their relationship.

According to Ojo, the money collected for the 2012-2013 will be added to the money collected from the last academic year and will remain in trust at this time.

The UMGSA was unwilling to officially release the minutes of proceedings of the Oct. 30 meeting as they are currently in the process of drafting and approving a letter— explaining the motions carried and ultimately decisions made—to be sent to the CFS in the coming months.

This article was originally published in the Gradzette.