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(To place this in context, President Runte and the Board of Governors are simultaneously picking fights with the tenured professors, the contract instructors, the undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants, the lower-echelon administrative staff, and the student unions. The issues at stake include everything from an attempt to institute a presidential veto over all tenure appointments, to de facto salary reductions for T.As, to increasing classroom sizes, to the proposed invitation of a private corporation to take over the education of qualifying-year undergraduates from abroad, and the centralization of various matters of administration. Why all this? The only rational motive is to further centralize power in the offices of the President and of the Board by breaking as much opposition as possible.)

(The following is an open letter from the Presidents of the Graduate Student Union and the Carleton Undergraduate Student Association...)

Dear Carleton students,

On behalf of the Carleton University Students’ Association and the Carleton University Graduate Students’ Association, we want to inform students about the legal action that we have taken against the University Administration in order to collect our membership fees.

As is the case at most other Canadian universities, membership fees for CUSA and the GSA are collected by the University’s Business Office, and then held in trust to be remitted to each respective student association. This is, in effect, the only possible way for each organization to function as the students’ associations have no ability to collect fees from students individually.

CUSA and the GSA use these membership fees to provide services like the health and dental plan, orientation week activities, student awards and financial assistance, concerts like Pandamonium, speakers such as Dr. Angela Davis, operate nine service centres, and fund more than 170 clubs and societies. The Associations also operate student-owned businesses. CUSA runs Oliver’s Pub and Patio, Rooster’s Coffeeshop, Haven Books, and Henry’s Convenience Store, and the GSA runs Mike’s Place. These businesses employ approximately 100 students in part-time jobs.

More than a year ago, Carleton’s senior administration asked each student association to sign new fee and lease agreements. The agreements would give far-reaching powers to senior administration such as the power to refuse to collect new levies that were decided by student referendum, terminate leases for offices, service centres and businesses like Oliver’s and Mike’s Place with three months notice, and take over management of the campus pubs. The GSA and CUSA have negotiated reasonably and in good-faith and offered concessions to the University. However, the senior administration has taken long periods of time before responding to our proposals and ultimately has refused to significantly alter its position.

In an effort to force both CUSA and the GSA to sign these new agreements, Carleton’s senior administration and Board of Governors have decided to withhold membership fees. Such a measure is unprecedented in Canada. The Board of Governors, citing concerns from its auditor, has said that it needed assurances that the fees collected by CUSA and the GSA for other groups were properly allocated. Despite the students’ unions agreeing to provide such documentation the administration has refused to sign an agreement unless it contains provisions and assurances above and beyond what its auditors cited. Carleton’s demands are both inappropriate and unnecessary. Both students’ associations have strict financial controls to make sure that we are spending students’ money properly. CUSA employs a full-time Chartered Accountant as part of its financial office; both Associations have dedicated financial staff, pass budgets through their elected councils, and are audited yearly by external licensed public accountants.

One of the primary roles of a students’ association is to advocate for its members; that sometimes means publicly disagreeing with the University on important issues like tuition fee hikes, the management of Orientation Week, or the lack of student space on campus. The administration is attempting to silence the democratically elected voices of students by undermining our autonomy and our ability to advocate for our membership.

Because this decision by the senior administration violates its trust obligations and previous agreements with each students’ union, CUSA and the GSA have decided that it is in the best interests of our members to ask a judge to intervene to ensure the release of the students’ fees as soon as possible. This is not a decision that either students’ unions has taken lightly. However without them, neither CUSA nor the GSA will be able to provide the services that students have asked for and expect. Without these fees, the students’ associations may not be able to provide clubs and societies funding next semester, students employed with the students’ unions could face lay offs, and operations like Oliver’s, Mike’s Place and the service centres would ultimately have to close.

A petition to the Board of Governors is being circulated asking that the Board release the fees they have collected. If you are concerned with this decision call upon the University Administration and the Board of Governors to respect our students’ unions’ autonomy and to remit the students’ unions fees immediately.

In solidarity,

Alex Sirois & Kimalee Phillip
President, CUSA & President, GSA

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