The UW Chevron

online version of uwaterloo's independent press

Category: Editorial Collective

Feds GM Tomorrow

By the Editorial Collective

Tomorrow will be the Fall term Federation of Students General Meeting. This meeting is where any and all ordinary undergraduate students may vote on important goings-on within Feds, and in fact the meeting carries a higher authority than the Feds Student Council. The meeting will begin at 3:00 pm tomorrow in the Great Hall of the Student Life Centre (SLC).

In the past year, Feds GMs, which were once largely ignored by the student body, have begun to draw attention due to the unprecedented number of students in attendance and the affairs being discussed, such as the creation of a Clubs Library in the SLC and a motion to initiate a referendum that would consult the student body on the idea of a Fall Reading Break (a referendum which is slated to happen this November). This meeting seems likely to command a similar level of attention and controversy, surrounding three member-added motions.

The first is a motion to make the SLC more physically accessible (in particular, the entrance facing the PAC parking lot), added by Amy Yang (3N Environmental Engineering). This would make it easier for persons with physical disabilities to use the SLC.

The second is a motion to ban for-profit banks and other financial service companies from soliciting students to sign up for credit cards in the SLC (excluding the current CIBC branch in the SLC basement), put forward by Shifa Abbas (4A Biology). This would block these companies from using both physical space (such as tables in Vendors Alley) and advertising space for this purpose, though they could still use those spaces to advertise for other purposes. The main vendor affected would be the Bank of Montreal (BMO), which currently uses Vendors Alley to advertise these services and solicit students to use them.

The final motion was submitted by Andrew Reeves (3A Mathematical Physics) to reopen Feds Board of Directors meetings, which despite Feds President Danielle Burt’s stated commitment to transparency, remain closed to the Federation’s own members, UW undergraduates. An enigma, Reeves has not participated in any interviews with the press and has so far only made one public comment (in response to the Imprint): “It’s a bit sad this motion is necessary at all.”. The Chevron agrees with this statement. We believe that for the Feds Board of Directors to be accountable to students, its meetings will need to be open so that students can ensure that Board members are acting in their best interest.

We encourage all interested students to go to the meeting. Feds is responsible, through levy fees, for managing millions of dollars in our money and it is our responsibility to hold Feds accountable and to make sure it is being managed according to the interests and desires of students, because nobody else will hold Feds accountable.

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What is the Chevron?

The Editorial Collective

Hello, reader! What you have in your hands is the first issue for this term of the Chevron, the University of Waterloo’s independent student newspaper.

The Chevron was once the University of Waterloo’s official student newspaper and was published alongside EngiNews (now the Iron Warrior) and MathNews. In 1976, after a bitter dispute with the Federation of Students, the Chevron staff were locked out of their office. There was a backlash against Feds and multiple “underground” versions of the Chevron were published before the Chevron was restored.

In 1978, after the Chevron had continued to be critical of Feds, a referendum was organized by Feds executives to decide on the official campus newspaper: the Chevron or the new Imprint. The Imprint had been started by the UW Journalism Club and was originally funded completely from advertising, but after gaining official status, it would also receive a levy fee from students through Feds.

Until 2010, the Imprint was the only newspaper on campus aimed at a general student audience (as opposed to the faculty-specific MathNews and the Iron Warrior). In that year, the Chevron was re-launched by a group of students concerned with the Imprint’s level of journalistic integrity and with the actions of the Federation of Students, particularly its perceived indifference to the interests and desires of ordinary students.

This new Chevron, dubbed the “Chevron revival”, made a significant impact on campus by acting as a critical, independent voice on campus affairs. Unfortunately, it ceased publication after one year, with its final issue being published in February 2011.

Today, the Chevron is published by another group of students interested in reviving its traditions of critical and educated journalism, while maintaining a strong focus on what actually matters to students. If the idea of contributing to such a project interests you, we welcome submissions to our editorial email. We also welcome written responses to any or all of our articles. Because we are committed to defending the interests of students, we would also appreciate any article ideas or suggestions you might have about how we can do this.

We wish you the best of luck with your classes and a good Fall 2014 term.

General Meetings

The Editorial Collective

The Feds General Meeting on Monday was an exhilarating experience for the Chevron editors in attendance. Despite its significant length (five hours!), it was well worth the time to see students passionate about issues having a chance to debate them in their own student union, with a real opportunity to make change, even despite barriers (see the article in our previous issue, Feds Shuts Down Debate) which were put up by the Federation’s Board of Directors. What disappoints us, however, is that much of the discussion of the meeting ignores the issues entirely and seems to focus on the meeting itself, notably Alexander Wray’s (1B Planning) community editorial in the Imprint. Wray used very strong language in condemning the GM entirely, calling it a “travesty” and a “sham”.

In the opinion piece, Wray argued that verified majority votes at the GM constituted a “hijacking” of the meeting by “radicals and alternative thinkers”. Wray also made the very serious claim that proxies held by individuals voting were being “completely misrepresented”. The only claim Wray made that the Chevron editors can agree with, in fact, is that “[d]emocracy is broken at the University of Waterloo, and … the ideals of our federation are lost to the voices of a few.”

The larger implications of this statement are significant. For students, the university itself is an only vaguely democratic institution if at all, relying on a small number of student union executives and student senators to represent what students need and want. Something makes us doubt that these are the “voices of the few” which Wray referred to, since he spoke aggressively for a bylaw amendment which would give even more power to the Federation of Students Board of Directors at the expense of student members, and even more aggressively against every other motion proposed by ordinary members.

Also revealing, Wray suggested that in place of this student-driven initiative, the Clubs Library, the Federation should instead place yet another commercial enterprise in the SLC – presumably the greasy, overpriced food already sold in the SLC is not enough. As well, this is not a relevant suggestion for the room chosen to be the future Clubs Library (SLC 2139), as it is located on the second floor of the building near study tables, bookable space, and the offices of the Off-Campus Community and Campus Response Team (CRT) and the main access point from the ground floor being a narrow set of stairs near the “Vendors’ Alley”. Assuming the location was large enough to sell coffee or food at all, it would be one of the few businesses on campus located above the ground floor of a building. By mentioning this, Wray shows that he is motivated by obstructionism rather than actually trying to find genuine ways to improve the SLC.

While criticism and critical debate is an important part of healthy democracy and something which is often lacking in our union (the Federation of Students), it is important to not let criticism discourage students from participating at all. Instead, this criticism can be a sign to active, issues-conscious students who want to act in the collective interests of the students here at UW that what they do matters and far from being discouraged or ashamed from participating in their own student union, they should be emboldened. If students can start to directly manage how SLC space is used, what else can we do together?

In the end, reactions like these expose where our strongest possibilities lie for direct control of our union – in general meetings and referenda, where the students can collectively accept or reject ideas rather than relying on an individual to do it on their behalf.

Think on!

Everyone to the General Meeting

Editorial Collective

General Meetings are one of the few ways we can exercise direct control over our Federation, and as such it is not just important but absolutely necessary that as many students participate as possible.

If Feds is ever going to be a Federation of Students rather than just “the people in that funny little building”, it must be run by the students for the students themselves — an organization dedicated to promoting students’ own interests, even when (and, in fact, especially when) those conflict with the interests of others. A student union in the fullest sense.

If you want to participate in your own student union, General Meetings (GMs) are one of the few ways you can directly do so, through student-proposed initiatives which, if voted for by a majority, can be binding on the Federation, compelling it to act in a way students have democratically told it to. Because these motions can affect all students, it is important that as many students as possible have a say and a vote in the decision; a unique opportunity only available to us through GMs.

But what if you cannot come because of classes or assignments being due? Find a friend to proxy your vote for you. This is a good way to encourage other people to go to the meeting, as long as you trust them to vote how you wish. Each meeting attendee is allowed to carry one “proxy vote”, effectively giving them two votes in the meeting.

We as students need to educate ourselves about what is going on at our campus and in the community it is surrounded by and we also need to take advantage of these precious opportunities to make what we want happen. Every additional person we can muster to these meetings is a victory for direct student democracy.

Growth

The Editorial Collective

Like a mushroom, the Chevron seems to have grown overnight. Our readership has grown too, with over a thousand views on our site directly after the previous issue. This isn’’t, however, a time for us to sit back and enjoy our small successes. We still sincerely wish to expand our paper and to publish thought-provoking articles.

A letter sent to us asked why we did not simply write for the Imprint. While our response is on the reverse of the page, we think there is an important addition to make: that all that we have seen so far is proof that there is a need and a desire for the Chevron on campus. With our new, larger format, we hope to allow even more space for discussions which need to happen on campus. See you in Issue 4!

Election blues

The Editorial Collective

It’s eating contest time again here at Waterloo. As usual, this means that around 10% of students will vote in the Feds eating contests, probably for a specific candidate who will then help to run the most important student organization on campus. At no point in this process will ordinary students have decision- making power over anything that happens in their own student union – as opposed to the Fall term’s Feds General Meeting, where students had an opportunity to vote directly on what they wanted. Luckily for us, there is another meeting in March. If you as a student want to change something about this institute of higher learning and about the Federation of Students, you can vote for a candidate to do it for you. But if you want to cut out the middleman and get it done yourself, vote in the GM. Let’s beat last term’s record and show our new Feds executives that this was not a fluke. Voting for somebody is no substitute for voting for something.

The Feds GM: A Good Beginning

Author: The Editorial Collective

On Monday, October 28th, the Federation of Students had the second-largest general meeting in its history with over 580 students participating either in person or by proxy. This represents close to 2% (around 1.7% to be more exact) of the undergraduate student body. While this number might seem small, it is in fact a very respectable turnout for a student union general membership meeting. Comparatively, turn out for Feds executive elections last year were around 8% of members while student councillors are often elected with votes numbering in the mere dozens. Read the rest of this entry »

A Campus Surveilled Redux

Author: The Editorial Collective

Thomas Little’s article in this issue reminds us that while it seems to be a new thing for students to be directly and openly recruited into CSIS’s surveillance apparatus (Canadia’s spy agency), it’s not at all a new thing for students to be surveilled on campus. An article in Volume 1, Issue 4 of the previous version of the Chevron, entitled “A Campus Surveilled” and written under the appropriate pseudonym “Winston Smith”, asked the question: who is watching us? Back then in 2010, they estimated between 150 and 200 security cameras in public areas on campus. Today there are probably more.

At the end of several of our articles in this issue, we invite readers to email us with comments or suggestions. Do not take this as boilerplate or a token invitation – we read every email sent to us. One of the biggest problems with some current campus journalism is that it does not actually reflect what students are thinking about, nor does it talk about interesting things people don’t already know about – as our predecessor did. Does the topic of surveillance interest you? Other ideas we considered were additional articles on tuition or a discussion on student space for studying and socializing. If you see anything you think deserves being investigated and published here, or if you have any commentary on campus media, send us an email and we’ll respond. We want to hear from you.

This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2 of The Chevron on 4 October 2013.

Manifesto II

Author: The Editorial Collective

Three years ago, another manifesto was published by another Chevron. It argued that the Imprint “… varies between ignorant of and apathetic to the machinations of the student governments that stake a claim to a part of our tuition [and] also fails to address and provide relevant commentary on major issues facing the student body …. It is for these reasons we feel a new paper is necessary.” Three years on and these issues persist, as bad as they ever did. There is media on this campus, but there is little journalism. There is an Imprint, but there has been no Chevron on a campus once recognized nationally as a leading light of student journalism. As long as this situation persists, there will be a need for a Chevron, and as long as there is a need for a Chevron, one will appear. Today, there is a new Chevron, hopefully bigger, better, and more hard-hitting than the old one. We are not intending to always say things people will like or agree with. We are intending to give a voice to people who right now have none, to discuss student issues that go unmentioned.

This first issue of the new Chevron has a sampling of these discussions and we hope you find them interesting and enlightening. If you care about something and think other students should too, the Chevron is a way you can tell many of them about it at once. Consider writing with us; we would be glad to have you. Email us at theuwchevron@gmail.com.

This article appeared in Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Chevron on 5 September 2013.