My Student Days

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

Excuse my non-poetry side meandering.

I am sad about something today. I don’t mean SAD sad… just sad.

I am currently gathering the nominations for the 2014 VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour and as I was doing so, I remembered how great it was last year, when we inducted Greg Frankson and William Hawkins.

As I was preparing my introduction for Greg, I was going down the list of all the things he STARTED that have had a lasting impact on the poetry community – both in Ottawa and nationally. It made me realize that I had created… nothing, really. I have been involved in running Capital Slam – one of the longest standing slams in the country – for a long time… longer than anyone else. But it was still something that someone else created that I took over. I am the Spocan National Slam Master, but my first year at CFSW was 2007, its fourth year in existence. I am a VERSeOttawa board member and a member of the VERSeFest organizing committee, but in both case I joined something that other people had already set in motion.

Then I realized that I was wrong. The VERSeOttawa Hall of Honour was my addition to the community. One day it will be a long-standing institution, respecting those who have come before. (I hope one day that the Hall will be an actual PLACE you can go and learn about the important people in Ottawa’s poetry history.)

Well, I was thinking about that today and I remembered that there actually was something else I had a hand in creating, back in 1996. It wasn’t poetry related, but it was something that could have been important.

Let’s jump back and talk about my academic career. I went to Camosun College right out of high school… and floundered. I then transferred to Carleton University… and floundered. I dropped out and moved on.

Years later, after I was married, I reconsidered post-secondary. I was working retail and wasn’t really interested in staying there, so I enrolled at Camosun College again, this time as a Business student.

Things went well. Well enough that I moved on to Royal Roads University to finish my degree, but that is not what I want to talk about.

As the first year at Camosun wore on, I started to become aware of the Camosun College Student Association… mostly due to its lack of representation at Interurban Campus, where the business school was located. A friend of mine, Angus Fedoruk, decided to run as one of the Interurban reps. I ran as the other one. We were unopposed.

That was a weird time. The association was mostly populated with hardcore left-wing student rights types, led by Maura Parte. These are people I would normally be totally down with, but it felt to me like they were in the pocket of the Canadian Federation of Students – an organization that seemed mostly concerned with their own existence and not with the students themselves. This was proven to me when I looked into what it would take to decertify Camosun as a CFS school. It was nearly impossible. They had an ironclad agreement that guaranteed that they would continue taking the students fees without any obligation to actually give them anything back. (To be clear, I don’t want to claim that CFS DIDN’T do anything for the students, just that they didn’t HAVE to.)

A year passed and there was a new election. I won my seat (on the executive this time) and a lot of people on the board changed – now led by Julie Alati-it (I may have that spelling wrong). It was still a left-focused group (which I liked), but it was no longer a group of CFS flunkies.

One of the things that happened is that a group of schools, dissatisfied with the support they were getting from CFS, formed a new group, called the British Columbia and Yukon Student Association. I was one of the founders. (I was nominated for Chair, but as my college time was coming to an end and Royal Roads was NOT a member, I declined.)

I moved onto Royal Roads University (and formed the Royal Roads University Student Association, and became the first Treasurer. I also created the RRUSA award, but it seems that it no longer exists.). I left BCYSA behind, content that we had created something good.

Over the years, I forgot all about it.

Recently, a post on Facebook mentioning the Canadian Federation of Students made me think of it again. I decided to look it up.

It is gone. It only lasted a few years.

Why? Was it that unimportant?

No. It ceased to exist due to DIRECT sabotage by the BC wing of the CFS.

I found a few newspaper reports and meeting minutes that old the whole story. (Well, mostly. The reports I found didn’t list Camosun College as a member. My guess is that a new election brought CFS-friendly executives back who didn’t support the BCYSA.)

What the CFS-BC did was to send a bunch of member schools to join the BCYSA meeting (though not the actual organization) to disrupt it whenever possible, making it so they would be unable to conduct any actual business.

Then they registered the BCYSA name, so the new organization could no longer use it. The BCYSA tried to reform under a new name but the assassins at CFS had done their work. Member schools started asking for their money back, to ensure that the CFS didn’t get it.

It was dead.

All the schools were back under the yoke of the Canadian Federation of Students… who, in their own way, were every bit as a dictatorship as the hard right attitudes they claimed to abhor.

Hypocrites using every method at their disposal to stifle competition. Disgusting.

This was over 15 years ago now, but I just read about it, so it feels fresh. I’m not mad, though. I am just sad.

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