Stricter voting regulations

University student associations wanting to petition to create or terminate their membership with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) will have to meet tougher regulations once a newly passed amendment is approved.

“The Canadian Federation of Students is the only student organization in the country that has a referendum-based membership,” said Dave Molenhuis, treasurer and chairperson-elect for CFS, in regards to the structure of the national lobbying group that represents over 80 post-secondary student associations.

“The mechanism that students use to initiate a referendum on any membership is by petition.”

The motion in question – Motion 6 – looked to increase the number of students petitioning to host a referendum from 10 per cent of the student population at an institution to 20 per cent.

It also aims to limit the number of petitions submitted to host a referendum to every 60 months for universities and every 36 months for colleges.

Kimalee Phillip, president of the Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association, local 78, which presented the motion said that they have “been getting a lot of backlash from the moment we served this motion to be discussed at plenary.”

Those opposed to the motion are concerned with the extent of limitations it will now have on member schools.

“With the restrictions put in place by passing this motion, the 20 per cent required signatures, the two referendums in a three-month period and the referendum question being put out there on membership once every five years severely limits what the individual members of the association are able to actually do,” said Matt Musson, director of campaigns for local 21, the graduate students’ association of the University of Calgary.

Phillip, however, remained supportive of the motion in its passing stating, “We were just really happy that it passed, and I think it showed that CFS is stronger than most people assume, and that we are here for the students.”

As the motion aimed to change the bylaws of the federation, a two-thirds majority was required for it to pass according to the organization’s constitution.

“Under Robert’s Rules of Order abstentions do not count,” noted Molenhuis, thus qualifying the 44:19 vote in favour of the motion, despite the number of schools that abstained.

Despite criticisms, Molenhuis emphasized the democratic nature of the CFS as all bylaws are constructed by the member organizations.

“The students own the bylaws of the organization, they determine what the bylaws and the structure of the organization look like,” said Molenhuis.

Although passed, the amendment has yet to take effect as the Federation must seek further approval by their board of directors since the change affects the constitution and bylaws of the organization.

With 13 schools allegedly having submitted petitions to host referendums, concerns have been raised on what the outcome will be for them.

“My understanding is that [Motion 6] won’t effect any petitions that have been received by the national executive at this point,” said Molenhuis.

This news, which should be well-received among the petitioning schools, does not appear to have been clearly reiterated to them.

“We’re actually uncertain as to what’s going to happen and uncertain as to the outcome of this,” said Musson.

–With files from Emma Godmere, CUP Ottawa Bureau Chief