Solidarity For Their Own Good: A history of the Canadian Federation of Students

This past week, the Graduate Student’s Association at the University of Calgary overwhelmingly voted to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). The CFS has faced much opposition from students on a number of campuses on which the organization represents and many universities are moving to decertify themselves from the organization.

An extensive document dropped in my inbox this afternoon detailing troubles with the CFS and goes into great depth on the topic. I’ll quote from the executive summary:

Although the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has been the subject of a great deal of criticism in recent years, few have sought to gain a detailed understanding of the organization and understand how it functions in practice. At present, many students are attempting to leave the organization, but most of these attempts have been blocked through various legal maneuverings. This paper is partly an organizational analysis of the CFS, partly a political argument, and partly an exposé.

Drawing largely on a large number of primary and secondary source documents, this paper argues that the CFS is governed, de facto, as an oligarchy consisting of a relatively small group of staff and directors. Due to a number of structural factors, the proper relationships of accountability between staff and directors, and between the CFS and its member students’ unions, are partially inverted, turning the organization into a top-down structure whose corporate culture is essentially bureaucratically-oriented, rather than membership-oriented. As a result of this bureaucratic orientation, the CFS’s interest in maintaining and increasing its membership (and source of funds) eclipses its commitment to respecting democratic decision-making, local autonomy, and freedom of the speech and of the press.

The paper was written by Titus Gregory and I’m only starting to go through it in any detail. I’ve reproduced it below. Please feel free to use the comments section below to discuss/debate the ideas presented.