Calls bullshit on CSU

The First Nations Liaison position in the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) stands vacant once again. After being re-elected for a second term in the Fall, Bachelor of Tourism student Linda Epp has resigned from her position, stating that “there was just a lot of bullshit that I didn’t agree with.”

On October 16, Epp asked for a leave of absence until the end of term so she could concentrate on her studies, but the executives adamantly denied the request, stating the position needed to be filled. They offered her a choice: In or out. She resigned, effective October 16.

A letter from Epp stated her reasons for leaving as academic pressure, the opportunity to work for Aboriginal Tourism BC for the Olympics, and finally, that she felt uncomfortable with certain staff members and did not feel she could “continue in a positive, productive manner.”

The staff members of the CSU differ from the elected representatives in that they hold contractual positions and are bound by a collective agreement through the Canadian Federation of Students. While the executives come and go according to typical student migration patterns, the CSU staff are not generally students and occupy semi-permanent positions, acting as a source of institutional memory and guidance.

“The executives have to understand that the staff works for us. That’s not known and it’s not apparent and it doesn’t really work . . . The students . . . have to learn Robert’s Rules of Order, planning tools, blah blah blah.” She said the red tape of the union and the staff members in particular impair the ability of the executives to get work done. “It’s sad” said Epp.

Some of the roadblocks she encountered included learning Robert’s Rules and, in particular, getting paper to the printer in the First Nations’ lounge. She mentioned that when students from the lounge went to obtain paper refills they were turned away because only she was authorized to refill the printer. “That’s the point where it became too much.”

She also claimed that the $50 weekly food allowance for First Nations’ lounge became a problem, due to the fact that she would have to be in charge of receiving the cheque for it.

“What difference does it really make who you cut a cheque out to? . . . It’s too much for the $400 stipend that I get.”

Trevor Page, Chair of the CSU, said the executive had no fundamental problems with Epp’s resignation. “She informed us that she had academic obligations . . . the CSU understands that the primary purpose of students is academics.”

In regards to Epp’s issue with the governance model of the CSU, Page agreed that the system is not perfect, but said: “There are bureaucratic steps that ensure we are accountable and transparent; that allows the executive to be democratic . . . [the rules] are there for a reason, but are always up for change or revision . . . how difficult is it to complain about the process and how hard is it to change it?”

Linda’s main contribution to the students at Capilano in her position as First Nations Liaison was in organizing last year’s Aboriginal Awareness Month. She says a few highlights of her position included “Working in solidarity, getting the aboriginal students involved and active, being proud of who they are . . . being part of the National Aboriginal Caucus.”

She estimates that she represented about 200 students overall. “I feel like I’m letting them down,” she says, but adds that she will still help out with Aboriginal issues, campaigns and personal problems. “I’m around. I’ll get ‘er done.”

A by-election will be held for a replacement First Nations Liaison and at last report, there were two interested parties.

//Kevin Murray

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