By Katie Hobday
The University of Lethbridge Students’ Union has withdrawn from a provincial university lobby group which includes the University of Calgary, because it does not represent students.
The Council of Alberta University Students acts as both a networking tool for student unions across the province and as a lobbying coalition. However, its effectiveness has been criticized by the U of L for not adequately representing student interests.
“Our student council felt that CAUS does not have sufficient policies in place to appropriately manage a full time staff member and adequately address concerns brought up by member schools,” said U of L SU President Paul Daniels. “We cannot justify expenditure to an organization that refuses to address our concerns, and as such our council decided that if we were to take any other course of action it would have been unfair to our students.”
U of C SU Vice President External Lauren Batiuk believes that while the U of L split will have an impact on the organization as a whole, it has no bearing on the U of C’s position within the group.
“U of C still strongly believes in the need for provincial lobbying,” said Batiuk. “Education is a provincial jurisdiction and we should have individuals lobbying these groups.”
While CAUS represents university students across the province, the liaisons from each school bring specific needs to the table.
“The issues that CAUS addresses with government affect all students in the province, and our organization works best when student representatives from all four universities provide input into presentations and campaigns,” said CAUS [Chair?] Shirley Barg. “It’s the only way CAUS can assure we’re hitting the issues that are important to all students. The active involvement of member schools is what drives the organization.”
Although Daniels insists he does not want to get into a “mud fight” with other schools or individuals involved with CAUS, he admits the dispute began in September with comments made by the CAUS Exectutive Director Melanee Thomas concerning U of L.
“The negative comments made towards U of L SU during CAUS meetings, where we were trying to have our concerns addressed, left our representatives with the impression that U of L SU was being treated as if we were nothing more than a source of revenue for CAUS,” said Daniels.
Daniels emphasizes CAUS has done good things in the past, and that the U of L will strongly consider rejoining the organization for the 2004-2005 school year. Both Batiuk and Barg believe that the temporary sojourn from CAUS should not have a drastic impact on the group as a whole. Barg hopes the U of L will rejoin the organization.
“Over the longer term, repercussions may become more evident, including the potential for missing issues that are important to U of L students,” said Barg.
The U of L currently pays a fee of $1.00 per full-time student to CAUS, totaling $6,414. Although fees are due each September, U of L SU has not paid for the 2003-2004 school year. The U of C pays $0.50 per full-time student, totalling $11,500 in fees plus an additional $5,000 for campaigns.
CAUS is currently made up of the University of Alberta, U of C and Athabasca University.