The Autonomy of Student Government Must be Defended

The CUPE 3903 Executive Committee is deeply concerned to see that the York University administration is attempting to interfere with the democratic processes of the York Federation of Students (YFS). The YFS is a student body governed by its own constitution and bylaws. As such, York University has no authority to dictate the internal affairs of YFS or interfere in student government.

At the YFS AGM held on November 28th, the “Motion on Fighting Imperialist Propaganda on Our Campus” was submitted, discussed, debated, and voted on by members following the procedures outlined in the YFS bylaws. Passing this motion, like any other, shows the will of the YFS membership. York has no authority to replace the choices of YFS members with its own directives. Yet, this is exactly what the administration is attempting to do, issuing ultimatums to the YFS Executive. In a move so inappropriate that it is shocking the President’s twitter account even tweeted a judgement of the contents of the motion, publicly disparaging the decisions of its own student government. It is shameful that York is using these intimidation tactics to bully the YFS into revoking a democratically decided upon motion.

We also fear this interference with the YFS indicates that the York administration will not do its due diligence in addressing the events of November 20th. The motion passed by YFS members represents part of the student response to these events. York’s intimidation of the YFS for passing this motion indicates York disagrees strongly with the YFS response and is unwilling to consider views that differ from their own. The York administration has committed to an independent external review of the events, but how open will they be to the review’s findings when they have clearly already taken a side?

We call on York to abide by its own Presidential Regulation 4, which directs student governments to guarantee its members the possibility of orderly and democratic change. The motion at issue is the expression of exactly this type of mandate; a change to YFS led and determined by its members. York cannot demand “orderly and democratic change” only in directions that suit the administration’s agenda

The administration’s meddling with the autonomy of student unions is something that should concern all members of the university community. It heralds a disturbing move to centralize more power to the administration, quashing student voices and dissent. If a student union is not allowed to pass a motion opposing war and occupation, how much freedom of expression can any of us reasonably expect to be afforded?

We stand with the YFS and call on the York University community to rally together and defend the autonomy of our undergraduate student union.