7 Lessons Learned Working with the University of Regina Students’ Union

1.  Just because something is right, legal, or completely logical doesn’t make it true. During the project one of our goals was to stay out of a legal battle, this meant abiding by their rules, even if we knew they were in violation of some of our basic rights.  Sometimes it is best to swallow your pride for the greater good.

2.  I believe anyone can work a ridiculous amount of hours in a week without getting burnt out, the key is to work on something* you are very passionate about. *(It is much easier to be passionate about something you believe in, not something you were told to believe in)

3.  Being a part of a large project that is actually helping people is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the World.

4.  I got more frustrated than I had ever been in my life and learned that I had more self control than I thought.  When you step out of your comfort zone you learn much about yourself.

5.  You are only as strong as your team.  The four individuals on the URSU executive are some of the brightest students at the University and will be great leaders in whatever they take on after convocation. They understand the strategic approach taken towards achieving a lofty goal and not once did they doubt their ability to lead, influence, and help affect students positively even in the face of ignorant adversity.  Thanks Tyler, Kaytlyn, Matt and Kyle.

6.  I will no longer read or support The Carillon (The University’s newspaper) or the Prairie Dog Magazine.  They were embarrassingly one-sided in the way they reported the referendum by not doing any research whatsoever into the history the CFS has had in Canada.  That is not the reason why I’m really turned off by these childish media outlets though, taking personal attacks at my friends on the Students’ Union Executive is the reason.  Several times throughout the referendum both organizations took uncalled for shots at the four Executives and would not support their opinions with facts.  Simply embarrassing.

7.  I gained an a lot of respect for the unsung heros in this referendum.  Two gentlemen who will never get the praise they deserve for the hard work they put in. My hat goes off to Mike Burton and Peter Jelinski.  The Referendum Oversight Committee was the governing body who were the final say in everything related to the referendum.  Comprised of two people from either side, Mike and Peter made up our side and they were up against two professional Referendum committee members.  Without the long hours and hard work of Mike and Peter the ‘Yes’ side would have had a landslide victory.

6 replies
  1. Stephen Whitworth
    Stephen Whitworth says:

    Hello Jeph. Just got an e-mail alerting me to your post here with its trash-talking snipe against my paper and I can’t resist leaving a comment.

    I wish you’d been more specific in what was wrong with prairie dog’s coverage so I could answer your concerns constructively. But like URSU’s campaign against the CFS, you characterize something you don’t like — our coverage in this case — as awful without providing meaningful examples.

    I’m sorry; you DID accuse me of doing no research. That is incorrect. I spent hours reading up on CFS and URSU before I wrote anything. I also spoke with CFS representatives and one member of the URSU exec to get a better handle on this situation.

    One thing I looked at was the matter of CFS’ allegedly unavailable financial information. After reading URSU’s claims that CFS was allegedly withholding its spending records, I was concerned. It appears, however that CFS withholds nothing; I’ve been told CFS provides financial documents to student representatives from member campuses annually.

    This means your friends on the executive HAVE THE INFORMATION THEY CLAIMED WAS WITHHELD.

    Did URSU deliberately misrepresent the facts to make its anti-CFS position appear more credible to referendum voters? Looks like it to me.

    In any case, it’s pretty rich for an executive that diddles around with its own URSU minutes to accuse another student organization of bureaucratic incompetence/malfeasance.

    I also didn’t care for your shallow and simplistic anti-CFS slogans. They were cheap, stupid and mean-spirited.

    As for one-sided: You seem not to understand how opinion columns work. Anything I write while wearing my pundit hat will have a perspective. I’m not going to apologize for being an opinion writer with opinions. I’ve earned them and a lot of readers think they have merit. If you don’t, that’s your prerogative. Anyone’s free to disagree in the comments field on our website. Or write us letters. We do print criticism.

    Ultimately, I think you’re taking the wrong lesson from your experience. Had URSU made a good-faith attempt to engage the CFS with their concerns, URSU wouldn’t have received the negative press it did. It might have even found support in prairie dog–there are aspects of CFS that grate (I agree that defederation is slightly more difficult than it should be, though URSU carries this criticism too far–CFS and its members have a reasonable need for some stability in the organization’s membership. And as URSU has demonstrated, it’s obviously an organization that needs to protect itself from unfair and erratic attacks by student politicians).

    To conclude, I am ALWAYS inclined to support hard-working, underpaid student politicians. But this is what it is. Your pals launched a transparently ideological, manipulative and sneaky surprise attack on a left-leaning national lobby group they don’t like or understand or value, and were apparently surprised to catch flak for it after it turned out hundreds if not thousands of students trust CFS more than they trust your friends.

    The anti-CFS campaign was rooted in loutish rhetoric and stupidity. Next time do the research and make a better case. If your cause is right, you’ll have a lot of support.

    In the meantime, don’t blame prairie dog because you couldn’t earn our trust. Or the trust of a lot of students.


    Stephen Whitworth
    prairie dog

  2. Jeph Maystruck
    Jeph Maystruck says:

    Stephen thanks for the comment.
    As for why I criticized your magazine? You wrote this: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/?p=12273 as your explanation as to why vote ‘yes’. In it you don’t state any facts about what the CFS has done for the U of R students. I still ask the question, has the CFS done anything tangible for U of R students?
    Your one big argument is how much the U of R pays and you bring up the salaries of the URSU executive? Under “Comments” on that blog you find they are the second worst paid exec in Canada. You did your research? I don’t understand how you could still be on side with the CFS if you really did research (http://jephmaystruck.com/the-canadian-federation-of-students-cfs-a-national-embarrassment/)

    However I do understand it is your opinion on the Dog blog so I shouldn’t be so harsh to criticize the magazine as a whole, my apologies.
    But just because you disagree with someone or their ideological views doesn’t mean you should take opposite sides immediately without objectively looking into the situation.
    As for the great CFS you support? They still will not release the result of the vote in the referendum because the CFS has a problem with the eligibility of some voters. The sad part is weren’t surprised the results were withheld, other schools warned us that this would happen.

  3. Stephen Whitworth
    Stephen Whitworth says:

    Thanks for the response, Jeph. I appreciate it. It’s true that one particular blog post of mine isn’t a comprehensive analysis of the benefits of CFS. There’s a little more in my other, snarkier post, here: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/?p=12243, and more still in my comments under both posts.

    Still, I recognize neither are a comprehensive essay and I can see how they could be frustrating and unsatisfying. Nor are they anything close to straight journalism. In my defence, prairie dog isn’t a student newspaper and I don’t have the time or the resources to compose the ultimate, footnoted why-CFS-is-good article (and frankly, URSU should breathe a sigh of relief over that). Right now prairie dog is busy trying to wrap its collective heads around the hole in the middle of downtown Regina, the non-renovation of the downtown library, the total calamity of finding an affordable place to live in this city, the always-marginalized and under-appreciated stuff going on culturally and the always-interesting happenings at the legislature.

    And the fart jokes in the movie listings don’t write themselves.

    So please take what I wrote as the incomplete, honestly-held, fairly peeved and hopefully mildly entertaining (they have cartoons!) opinion of a guy who’s been around for a few CFS wars.

    As to the benefits of CFS: to be honest, I’m uncomfortable justifying the organization’s existence to people who don’t seem to have any depth of understanding or appreciation of the history or value of Canada’s leading student lobby group in the middle of their assault on it.

    I’m not being cute; I mean that. At this point I don’t respect URSU’s objections to CFS at all. I’ve probably read every official word the anti-CFS side has uttered. I’m not impressed.

    I think URSU and its exec has done a profoundly poor job on this file.

    Why does URSU object to CFS? I’ll attempt to break it down. Please let me know if I misrepresent the union’s position on anything.

    1.) URSU objects to the cost of CFS membership.

    This is an inane argument. As I pointed out in my beer post, CFS costs one pint per student per year — insignificant. For that price, students have membership and a voice (though apparently not a good voice, since the people speaking for them don’t want to be in CFS) in a national lobby group fighting for their interests — and by their interests, I mean an affordable, accessible, well-funded and politically and economically independent university experience.

    As business students and graduates ought to know, involvement in industry organizations that lobby governments on behalf of members is important. CFS is the top industry organization of university and college students across Canada. It’s the most-established, most-respected and yes, best-funded organization of its kind in this country (thanks to the accumulated fiscal power of all that forgone draft beer).

    For a small university like the U of R, whose students would otherwise have no voice nationally, CFS is a great deal.

    Saving each student $5 is no reason to lead U of R students away from this organization. It’s an insult to the intelligence of students that this argument was brought forward.

    (Actually, I’m pretty fed up with this whole attitude that everyone with an axe to grind is entitled to a veto on the use of every dollar they pay in taxes/student fees/whatever. It’s a stupid, selfish and dangerous ideology. But if I get into this topic I’ll be typing straight through next Thursday so I’ll have to leave it. If you want more, read our blog regularly — tax hatred is something I’m always ranting about.)

    2,) URSU says CFS is a national organization that does nothing for Saskatchewan. Insert your joke about “Earthquake insurance in Saskatchewan” here.

    What the hell, do URSU execs think nothing that happens outside of the province affects them? What a staggeringly narrow view. Even if it were true that CFS’ activities in Saskatchewan are non-existent, as URSU implies — and it’s not, but let’s pretend for the sake of argument — as a national organization CFS can and does represent Regina students at the federal level.

    This is important: while provinces pay the bulk of the costs of university, Canada provides transfer payments to the provinces and administers national scholarships and grants. It was the slashing of these payments in the 1990s that led to the first massive increases in tuition. Federal policy is relevant. Federal lobbying is therefore essential.

    The Government of Canada also sets policy on Canada Student Loans, the disastrous mismanagement of which by the Liberals in the ’90s led to skyrocketing default rates and an awful lot of suffering by graduates.

    CFS has lobbied against policies that hurt students for the two decades I’ve paid attention to the organization. It also does research on student-related policy issues like income-contingent loans, affordable student housing, work-school balance and the accessibility of post-secondary education. If CFS did NOTHING in Saskatchewan — and again, that’s not the case but for the sake of argument — this work is worth a damn beer per year per student.

    To argue otherwise is just bad leadership.

    URSU is being either profoundly ignorant or reprehensibly manipulative in its argument that the federal government is irrelevant to the PSE experiences of Saskatchewan students.

    Neither is a flattering option, and you know, I really don’t like being put in a position where I have to conclude student politicians are either sleazy or dumb. I’d prefer to celebrate their commitment and hard work.

    3.) URSU implies CFS is some kind of moneymaking scheme to rip off students and that’s why CFS makes it insanely hard to defederate.

    After following this referendum, I can sure as hell see why CFS feels it has to protect itself from defederation attempts. Who knows when a small group of student politicians will launch an attack predicated entirely on inane slogans, curmudgeonly isolationism and bizarre, self-defeating miserliness? Beyond the organization’s right to defend itself, CFS has an obligation to the students it represents to make sure they’ll continue to be well-represented at the national level.

    If I ran CFS (I’d sooner put centipedes under my eyelids, but I’m making a point here) I’d make it hard to defederate, too.

    (I’d also hire some marketing people to make sure our work was being excessively communicated, since you obviously can’t trust all the student leaders representing you on member campuses to do a good job.


    After all this, the one thing I don’t know is why URSU decided going after CFS was a good idea.

    And don’t kid yourself — URSU blindsided CFS with this attack. My understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that at the council meeting where the executive sought support for defederation, several URSU councillors felt that the issue had been sprung on them. I’m not at all sure the exec would’ve had the support of the whole council had this been discussed more thoroughly. In fact at this point I’d bet money they wouldn’t.

    URSU’s exec, led by Kyle “hey party people!” Addison, launched an attack on CFS full of weak arguments, misleading statements and obnoxious rhetoric. For good reason, I value the work of CFS and I don’t like seeing it attacked in such a cheap, crummy way.

    That’s why I, to paraphrase the great scholar Triumph the insult comic dog, pooped on the URSU exec.

    (I do feel a little guilty about picking on URSU’s Katylyn Barber by association, since she’s been open enough to pose for a really great prairie dog cover photo and has shown herself willing to talk to us even while I go on about how she and her team are doing a terrible thing here. That’s appreciated. Still she’s helped provoke a lot of anger and division. There are consequences for that.)

    Like you, I am very curious about what’s going on with the results — that’s something I’m out of the loop on. But after the ugliness of this referendum, I’m not going to go out of my way to criticize CFS if they’re playing legal hardball, assuming that’s what’s going on (and I shouldn’t make that assumption). I hope they’re not arguing votes are ineligible, that would be shitty. But URSU’s exec started a war. They can’t act surprised when their opponent hits back.

    And you shouldn’t be angry or hurt when your friends get called out for massively ignorant and nasty political schemes.

    Thanks for the time and space on your blog, Jeph. I do appreciate it. Please feel free to praise or criticize prairie dog in the future. And best of luck in all your endeavours.

  4. Chad Blenkin
    Chad Blenkin says:

    I certainly can’t comment on the issue as a whole, as I haven’t done research into positions from each side.

    However I do want to inquire if you read the LeaderPost, StarPhoenix, watch CBC or listen to Newstalk Radio?

    If your position is to boycot a publication due to their one sided coverage of a political situation, then you need to broaden your boycot to include those listed above.

    The biggest problem with democracy today is the influence of media, most notably talk shows on TV and Radio. The personal opinions of a station or host can have a large impact on the mindset of society.

    I encourage everyone to start doing some research into the issues prior to making a judgement call on anything. Don’t just take the opinion of a show host or a journalist.

    Thanks for posting this Jeph.

  5. Jeph Maystruck
    Jeph Maystruck says:

    1) I will not take the cost being “insignificant” as an excuse. That’s a bad argument to keep the CFS around.
    2) Done anything for Saskatchewan? No, CFS has not hired anyone here since 07′ (Ask Mike Burton for more details here) and the other reason you gave is they do a lot on a National level? Why isn’t the U of S involved then? The largest body of students in our province is not a part of this wonderful lobbying organization? If we want to achieve anything for post-secondary in this province we need to work with the U of S.
    3) You state “If I ran the CFS I would make it hard to de-federate as well.” Well of course you would!!! Who wouldn’t?!? It’s the perfect revenue generating machine. No promise of services, no obligations that need to be fulfilled just a check in the mail from the U of R every year.

    I am still looking for something tangible the CFS has done for the U of R since 1989. It is also great to point out after talking with three of the past URSU presidents they all agree that it is not worth it to U of R students to be a part of the CFS.

    You haven’t convinced me at all, I think this is more of an ideological battle, one we will never agree on so I thank you for your witty remarks but agree to disagree.

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