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by Archives March 17, 2009

It’s Concordia Student Union (CSU) election time, and you’re probably wondering why as a student it should matter to you. Well it doesn’t.
Ask yourself how many times a year the CSU has actually affected your campus life, let alone helped you with any of the resources it claims to provide. Know what a CSU 101 is? Ever get an online textbook from the student union? What about those noisy protests last year about tuition fees? Did anything come of it?
None of this is worth your attention or the money you blindly give this organization.
Let’s start with this so-called campaign to fight tuition increases. Looking at how students at other schools have been unable to reach consensus or rally together, it’s obvious Concordia’s efforts are bound to fail.
The CSU contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars in student money into two separate lobbying groups in Quebec – the Canadian Federation of Students Quebec (CFS-Q) and la Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ). This while we compete against l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (ASSÉ), which is comprised of French colleges and universities.
We pay roughly $300,000 into the CFS’ national component every year, a percentage of which is made available for provincial lobbying. But the CFS-Q was a complete fiasco last year, with members locking each other out of the offices because of election disputes, which eventually ended up in court (and cost students thousands in legal fees).
We pay over $100,000 to FEUQ each year, which is nothing more than a research group that provides resources and help in coordinating events. As for ASSÉ, it actually staged a counter-protest last year during the rally in which Concordia participated. None of this effort or money produced any tangible results.
Let’s not forget the CSU’s internal problems – roughly $500,000 have gone missing over the past several years because of a mysterious financial controller (read: professional accountant) whose dereliction of duties led to unfilled taxes, overspending and the disappearance of funds. Though this is not the fault of the last executives, it’s a catastrophic breach of trust. How can successive executives, or even the candidates currently in the running, justify future expenditures when money may go missing while taking several years for these irregularities to surface?
Not only is it highly likely that student money is not being handled properly, but it is absolutely unacceptable that students are never given enough information to make an informed choice when it comes to increasing CSU funding.
Every year it seems the CSU asks for more funding from students and offers little in justification. Last year they didn’t tell the whole story to students during the by-election when the CSU managed to pass a referendum to collect an extra $250,000 from students for CSU 101s, the Loyola Luncheon, and for a student centre that’s contract is still under negotiation (again, something the CSU has made little attempt to inform students about). The only information provided to students regarding this referendum question was a blurb on the CSU website. At a university Board of Governor’s meeting last year, a school administrator wondered aloud why a student union who makes such strong vows on fighting student fees keeps increasing its own fees for members.
The $2.9 million health plan is the one thing in the CSU portfolio that is actually important to students. But instead of being an argument in favour of the CSU’s relevance, the health plan is actually a great cause for alarm. CSU president Keyana Kashfi and VP finance Andre Leroy decided not to renew our existing contract with our health insurance broker ASEQ.
Will the costs stay the same? Will the premiums be any different? Are we going to get the same coverage? As union members, we have a right to know what’s going on when it comes to our money. Ideas such as transparency get thrown around a lot in Concordia’s political-speak, but these “politicians” have absolutely no clue what that means. This executive has made absolutely no effort to inform students on what’s happening with the health plan and hasn’t consulted anyone before they made a decision to stop dealing with ASEQ and let the contract expire (“Accusations Fly Over Concordia’s $2.9 million health plan; March 3, 2009).
We are sick of seeing more empty rhetoric at election time from candidates who try so hard to stand out, who say they will do so much. We’d be perfectly happy if a slate told us the CSU will start doing less from now. Clearly, money is not the solution because they have lots to throw around and still they have trouble getting students to care. But apathy is not the only issue – we run a big risk of entrusting millions of dollars to an executive composed of a new collection of students every year.
Our hopes for a good student union would be realized if there was orientation week, clubs and working escalators.

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