press clippings about CFS

Here is some stuff that ended up in my inbox, to do with Canadian Federation of Students as a trotskyite host organism and its viral activities on campuses and air waves all across Canada. It is useful background to my page on CKLN radio. It mentions Toby Whitfield several times.

Directly below is something from Concord University.

Go to Electoral Dysfunction: a National Phenomenon, for a nationwide perspective

and a bloggish account of the crap at Ryerson

CFS controls campus media

By Jacob Serebrin

Published: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 in "The Concordian"

In response to concerns over media restrictions at the Canadian Federation of Students Annual General Meeting, both The Concordian and The McGill Daily sent reporters to the meeting as members of their respective student union delegations.

The CFS granted media credentials to only one reporter, Emma Godmere, editor-in-chief of The Fulcrum at the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa bureau chief for the Canadian University Press.

No credentials were granted to members of the Francophone media. CFS staffers said that they were not credentialed because no French media applied in time.

Godmere signed an agreement that allowed granted her access to the opening and closing plenary sessions as well as guest speakers. She was also prohibited from talking to any delegates until the meeting was over and from publishing any stories until the four-day conference was over. She was also accompanied by a CFS staff member if she left the conference room for any reason.

...The CFS is funded through student fees and the vast majority of delegates to the meeting were executives or staff members of student unions and associations.

At a services committee meeting on Thursday Ryerson Student Union VP Finance Toby Whitfield introduced a motion to restrict blogging and the use of social networking site Twitter by this reporter, who was taking notes on a pad of paper at the time.

The motion passed decisively. University of Manitoba GSA VP Internal, Trish Kelly, objected that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms forbids discrimination on the basis of employment. The Charter also protects freedom of the press.

Later in the conference the committee banned the use of Twitter by any delegates during their meetings.

At the closing plenary session, despite the presence of several bloggers and extensive use of Twitter by delegates, with around 100 Twitter posts an hour, Whitfield called for The Concordian reporter and McGill Daily coordinating news editor Erin Hale, not to act as reporters during the session, saying it would violation of the federation's bylaws.

The word media does not appear in the bylaws.

Both reporters were approached by CFS media coordinator Ben Lewis and asked to stop reporting from the meeting. While Lewis said they were violating the organization's media policy, he did not present the policy, offering only to show the agreement signed by Godmere.

Lewis also referenced a standing resolution of the federation as governing media at the meeting. However, the resolution only states that the national executive is allowed to invite media representatives to the opening and closing plenary and speakers.

However, when Godmere was told that continued Twitter posts by the two reporters could result in all media credentials being refused in the future, both reporters began posting to the site under their own names, instead of through their newspaper's accounts. The Concordian strives to inform students, who paid for this meeting, without undue constraints, and that is why the reporter continued to post to Twitter.

At a presentation by candidates for executive positions, University of Ottawa student federation delegate, Bruno Gelinas-Faucher, who represents civil law students, asked Shelley Melanson about CFS's perceived litigious nature with the student media.

Melanson, who was elected to the position of national deputy chair, said CFS executives had an obligation to "clarify falsehoods" in the media and to attempt to place editorials about the Federation's work.

I'm not sure were this came from, it was e-mailed to me, but it is very useful information about the state of student politics. tr

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Electoral Dysfunction: a National Phenomenon

During the recent UVic Student Society election, former chairperson candidate Curtis Smith followed the action with a blog called "Electoral Dysfunction." As we showed in a previous post, scandals, corruption and unfair election rulings are nothing new in the UVSS. But other student unions are also having similar or worse problems. The worst election scandals seem to happen in locals of the Canadian Federation of Students, a national lobby group with a history of interference in its autonomous member student unions. But electoral fraud has also surfaced in the University of BC's Alma Mater Society, currently independent of any larger student organization. Some of these scandals have either parallels or implications for the UVSS. Following are some of the low points of democracy in student union elections this year.

UBC Alma Mater Society

The AMS election was heavily influenced by the United Nations complaint debacle from last year. To briefly recap, AMS president Blake Frederick and Vice-President External Tim Chu launched a complaint on behalf of their student union with the UN High Commission on Human Rights...claiming tuition fees are a human rights violation! AMS Council was not consulted, and when they found out, Council was quick to discipline the two execs. Angry students added a referendum question to the election ballot demanding Frederick's impeachment, even though he didn't end up running again. Another referendum question created by Chu, who did run again, proposed the AMS change its issues policy on tuition to support reducing tuition fees. Various other referendum questions on different issues doubtless confused many voters.

On election night Chu and all candidates associated with him or Frederick lost heavily. The Vancouver Sun reported that Frederick's impeachment was the only referendum question to pass. The next day, the Ubyssey announced that wasn't actually what happened­in fact, the referendum on impeaching Frederick had failed and Chu's question on tuition policy had passed. "Reorganization of the output of the ballot referendum questions led to misappropriation of tabulated results," explained Chief Electoral Officer Isabel Ferreras. In other words, AMS elections are held entirely online, and there had been a computer error.

"I'm pleased to report that UBC student politics are still as screwed up as ever," wrote UBC student Justin MacElroy in Maclean's on Campus. "Due to incompetence of those hired to run the elections, students thought that Blake Frederick had been fired as AMS President, only to have results reversed 16 hours later."

But the worst was yet to come. On March 2 the UBC Insiders blog reported on suspected electoral fraud which could have affected all the results. According to a March 3 report by Ferreras, 731 fake votes were cast, and while none of the executive positions were reversed the one referendum question which succeeded, Chu's on tuition, now seems to have failed. According to a technical analysis of the computer program used for online voting by Andrew Carne of UBC Insiders:

The crux of the matter is that student numbers were not validated during the final submission phase, which allowed for a trivial exploit of the system...Specifically, validation of the voter is done before displaying the ballot, and not when submitting the vote to the database. This means that all someone had to do was save the ballot page to disk, and they could submit it as many times as they liked! Yes, folks. It was that simple.

From a technical standpoint this problem would be relatively easy to solve. There are multiple ways this could be achieved without compromising the privacy of voters. Upon logging in, the system could verify that you are A) eligible, and B) haven't voted yet. It would then assign a one-time session key which is stored in a list of active sessions. When your ballot is submitted it would then check to see if the associated session key is still valid, and if so, invalidate it.

In the final electoral reports there is still uncertainty over whether the tuition referendum passed, since the margin by which it seems to have failed is smaller than the margin of error. However 134 fake "yes" votes were cast while there weren't any fake "no" votes. Compounding the complication is the AMS' use of a multiple-choice voting system for their exec positions, unlike the UVSS' which is first past the post. The investigation has cost the AMS over $40,000.

The AMS scandal has implications at UVic because a switch from paper ballots to online voting is being considered here. During the UVSS election, members of the Renew slate promised to hold elections online to save money and paper. Other student unions have found voter turnout increases when they switch to online elections, since students can vote at home or on their laptops. UVic student Shawn Slavin also demonstrated that the paper ballot system the UVSS currently uses is insecure and could allow students to vote multiple times. In addition online voting would prevent problems such as ballots running out, which happened in the 2005 UVSS election, and engineering and science students being disadvantaged by the limited hours of polling stations at their buildings.

However, the massive fraud at UBC could considerably dampen enthusiasm for online voting at UVic. Some have suggested that if the university administered UVSS election through the Webvote system, currently used for Senate and Board of Governors elections, fraud would be close to impossible. Since Webvote uses students' individual Usource accounts, fake accounts would have to be created to forge votes, which seems unlikely. But UVic declined to hold UVSS elections in 2008, saying they didn't have the resources. On December 7, 2009 UVSS chair Veronica Harrison said she'd spoken with the University Secretary who said it was too late to set up online elections for this year.

Student Federation of the University of Ottawa

More online election fraud surfaced in the February SFUO election.

Two hundred and sixteen erroneous votes were initially discovered by Everyone Counts, the company that supplied the e-voting system for the elections, and were reportedly cast from an off-campus Internet hotspot, according to SFUO President and elections committee member Seamus Wolfe. The irregularities only affected the election results for the social science and engineering BOA races.

"The elections committee was immediately contacted and started an investigation," Wolfe told Board of Administration directors at a February 28 meeting.

But Everyone Counts disagrees with some of Wolfe's hypotheses on how the fraud took place, and felt the student union board hadn't dealt with the issue properly:

Chief Elections Officer Paul DeGregorio explained that although the irregular votes were initially discovered by the company, the investigation conducted by the SFUO did not involve Everyone Counts.

"We take democracy and transparency very seriously at Everyone Counts, as any election we are involved with we want conducted to [the] highest standards," DeGregorio said in an email to the Fulcrum. "We are appalled by what has transpired with this election, Š especially the fact that the student organization was not transparent or complete in its investigation of what went wrong. In spite of repeated attempts, we were never contacted during the investigation of this election."

By-elections are being held for the two races affected by the fraud, but thy won't be done online. Furthermore, Everyone Counts is now refusing to work with the SFUO ever again! "Because it has become very clear to us that the SFUO and BOA and its leadership do not take elections seriously, we will no longer offer to provide our services to the SFUO," according to DeGregorio.

Carleton University Student Association

This year CUSA elections were a joke, with even acclaimed candidates for the faculty-based positions being disqualified according to our sources at Carleton. The pro-CFS slate called itself "United Carleton," a similar name to the pro-CFS Students United slate at UVic. In February 29 out of 64 candidates found themselves disqualified for submitting expense receipts that "weren't real," according to Chief Electoral Officer Sagal Osman. The disqualified candidates were mostly from the non CFS-aligned faction. On March 10, appeals for reinstatement to the electoral board were dismissed for 23 of the candidates.

Even worse was the experience of CUSA vice-presidential candidate Adey Almohsen. According to his Facebook group:

On Monday at about 11:50 am I emailed the Elections Office the following statement:

"Hey there, I am just wondering if my expenses would still be refundable if I withdraw from the race...sent at Feb 8 11:52 am."

You don't have to be an English major student to deduce that the following sentence is a conditional one, in which I was only asking what would happen to the expenses incurred IN CASE I withdraw from the race. Later that day at about 3 pm I was shocked to find that my name was removed from the ballot, because CUSA believed that I had a motive to withdraw. They said it doesn't matter whether you have officially withdrawn or NOT, apparently because they already sent the order to the printing shop and they cannot do anything about it. After over 40 minutes of arguing they told me that the only thing I could do would be to bring the issue up with the electoral board. Frustrated with their incompetency, I suggested the following: "Let's assume I do forward the matter to the electoral board's attention, and assuming they agree to have my name back on, what would you do in regards to printing the ballots." They ignorantly answered we'd have to figure out then, so I suggested that whatever they would do then could be done now instead so to avoid this hassle. They then said that they cannot do that.

I brought up the issue with the electoral board next day and they ruled, by majority, against me and said that the decision to remove me shall stand...CUSA's electoral code states the following:

18.2 Candidates may voluntarily withdraw from the ballot until three (3) days before balloting begins.

So if you do the math, for one to withdraw they should make an official statement by Saturday midnight, since polling starts this Wednesday.

York Federation of Students

Things are hardly better at York University where the pro-CFS slate called itself "Unity." According to a Facebook post by a member of the opposing slate, New York:

Today the scrutineering team for the NEW YORK slate walked out at the beginning of ballot counting because our team refused to validate an undemocratic process. We took the decision to walk out of the counting room before the ballot boxes were opened, because regardless of the results that will emerge, the accumulated compromises to the election's integrity makes it impossible to recognize any outcome.

The four major concerns that motivated the NEW YORK team to not validate the process are:

€ The ballot boxes were not sealed properly. The ballot boxes were not sealed with a secure type of tape, as promised before the election. NEW YORK filed a formal concern about this with YFS election officials and we did not receive a response in advance of the beginning of ballot counting.

€ Ballot boxes from Glendon had their integrity further compromised when YFS election officials did not make a sufficient effort to include NEW YORK scrutineers in the car bringing these boxes from Glendon to Keele.

€ Dozens of discrepancies reported at polling stations to date include computer glitches, voters receiving too many ballots, voters not receiving enough ballots, and voters receiving the incorrect ballots for their faculty or college.

€ The YFS elections officials are counting the councilor ballots before the appeal of disqualifications has been heard. If the election results are known before the appeal hearing, the elections committee, who were appointed by the incumbents, will be choosing the outcome of the election.

NEW YORK will not stop working to deliver to students the accountable government that they deserve.

The situation is serious enough that the administration of York University is looking into it:

The university administration has received a significant number of complaints from York students regarding the conduct of the recent YFS elections. These complaints centre on the fact that a significant number of the 21 candidates from the New York slate of candidates were disqualified for various infractions, including distributing copies of the Excalibur newspaper without prior approval of the Chief Returning Officer. Complaints were also raised regarding allegations of conflict of interest, the appointment and independence of the Chief Returning Officer, alleged breaches of security, deviations from defined election protocol, irregularities at polling stations, and the process for the assignment of demerit points by the CRO.

University of Toronto Student Union

UTSU seems to have problems with people coming from off campus to campaign in their elections. The pro-CFS slate is called Stronger Together, another variation on "Students United." According to an article in The Varsity, some of their campaign workers were flown in from pro-CFS student union boards at other universities:

Toby Whitfield, VP Finance and Services and President-elect of the Ryerson Student Union, has been spotted campaigning for the Stronger Together slate at Sidney Smith. In a video uploaded to YouTube, he is accused of ripping down event posters put up by EFUT, the U of T French Club...How can a slate that claims to be on the side of U of T justify this kind of outside interference? How can a slate that claims to care about the campus experience stand behind a campaigner who tears down posters advertising a clubs event?

Not only should U of T students be up-in-arms about the interference by students from other universities in our elections, but Ryerson students should be outraged that Whitfield is spending his entire workday campaigning for Adam Awad and the status quo slate at U of T, while collecting a salary of $27,000 from the Ryerson Student Union. Who does Whitfield really work for?

Another Varsity article adds that "Darshika Selvasivam, VP campaigns and advocacy at the York Federation of Students, has also been spotted campaigning for Stronger Together."

Like two of our own UVSS execs, UTSU execs were found campaigning on the student dime: "It has been confirmed by The Varsity that at least four out of the six executive members of UTSU are on paid vacation to campaign. ..The burning question remains: who is taking care of our executive's duties while they're managing Stronger Together's campaign?"

Ryerson Student Union

Meanwhile at Ryerson University, where yet another pro-CFS slate ran called Students United, the EyeOpener reported that some students' votes were not kept secret. "Voters were supposed to place their ballots in an unmarked envelope and then in another with their name and student number on. This process was meant to keep voters' identities anonymous, but [student groups director Idil] Omar says this wasn't the case. 'That's not how they did it on the day. We had to put our names on the first envelope and our student number. They specifically told us to do that,' she says."

Simon Fraser Student Society

Anna Belkine, running for treasurer in the SFSS election earlier this week, has been disqualified. The summary of complaints against her, and her responses, can be read here. The issues seem to be with the flawed election rules created by the SFSS board, not with the Independent Electoral Commission. The SFSS' 17-page electoral policy is in fact frighteningly similar to that of the UVSS, which was described by legal expert Sandra McCallum as "a minefield for differing interpretations."

St Mary's University Student Association

The SMUSA board decided to ban slates for their February election. This isn't especially noteworthy­slates, or political parties, are disallowed at UBC and several other student unions. But according to presidential candidate Jeff Mitchell the decision should have come from the independent appeals body, when it came from the elected board instead:

Mitchell says the student union formed the appeals board in an improper way. The SMUSA's elections policy states that the appeals board must be made up of students, board of directors members, and faculty. But the board of directors took over the task of hearing appeals for the Friday meeting, saying it could not find enough students or staff willing to take on the job. Mitchell says the board shouldn't get to choose when it follows its policy and when it doesn't.

"The board stated that it's above its own laws...that just speaks to how corrupted the whole situation has become," he said.

This came from
Its not a link. Copy and paste.

It is all about good old Ryerson, Toby Whitfield, etc.

Breaking the ... loudness

November 8, 2010 by takebackyourschool

Nora Loreto wrote a chuckle-inducing column a few weeks back called "Breaking the Silence". It is about the plight of the poor, overworked, under-appreciated student union "leaders" and the harassment they supposedly face. Yes, I'm serious.

I would have done a post on this steaming pile of journalistic feces earlier, but I was waiting until a text version appeared on their website so that I could copy & paste the parts that I wanted to rip to shreds. While I would never advise any of my readers to venture into the dark abyss that is the Ryerson Free Press, the text version never came, so this article still only appears on issuu. So, if you want to read it, click here. Bottom of page 7, continued on page 9. [But its not there anymore. All links go dead. tr]

The overarching point of the article is that student union "leaders" face undeserved harassment in their line of work, and that there is some mystical code of silence among them ­ a silence that this article aims toŠ break, or something. The very premise is suspicious, considering that these union "leaders" are hardly the silent types. In fact, bitching and moaning about the make-believe army of sexist, racist, neo-conservative, anti-student militants that are out to get them seems to be their favourite hobby.

She spends a good chunk of the article defending Toby Whitfield (Ryerson Student Union (RSU) president), claiming that he faced "his share of harassment", but that his "tenure at the RSU has been delivered through strong mandates from year to year". Let's examine those "strong mandates", shall we?

In early 2009, Whitfield was elected as VP Finance & Services with 680 votes. No, I didn't miss a zero. That is six hundred and eighty votes. In a school of over 31,000.

In early 2010, Whitfield won his term as president, with "just under 50 per cent" of the 3,100 votes cast. So, with a 10% voter turnout (wow!!!) not even a majority of them voted for Whitfield ­ he got about 5% of the student body to vote for him.

Wow. What a mandate.

And yes, before you ask, Ryerson is one of the locals that adamantly insists that schools that want to defederate from the CFS get 20% of their students' signatures before they're even allowed to have a referendum.

Because 10% wasn't good enough.

But when it comes to her friends, 5% is a "strong mandate".


Anyway, I digressŠ she goes on to publish a letter that was leaked to the RFP from a student. She publishes, without permission: his email, his phone number, and his full name. (She then wonders why we here at TBYS aren't jumping at the opportunity to email her our information. Gee, I wonder, Nora.) Despite the fact that the letter makes several observations that would be notable to any newspaper that has even a shred of objectivity or journalistic integrity, she launches a full-scale attack against the man behind the letter, claiming that he is a crazy stalker who is obsessed with Whitfield. In doing so, she ignores the point made in the letter ­ that Whitfield has interfered in multiple UTSU elections ­ as if to suggest that it is false.

Trouble is, Whitfield really was found to be interfering in UTSU elections. He was even caught on tape ripping down opposition slate's posters! Loreto dismisses this as Whitfield simply "support[ing] his friends". No doubt Loreto herself was just "supporting her friends" when she was caught on tape by Joey Coleman working for a slate at York, while collecting a paycheque from Ryerson students: As I was taking pictures, I was informed that there was no recording of the proceeding allowed including photographs. Someone from York Undivided went up to the CRO and she announced that this was the case and that people were required to delete any recordings already taken unless they were members of the media.

I went back to sitting down and noticed a conversation occurring between Nora and YorkUndivided with lots of looking (and one person pointing) my way. At this point, realizing that last year the YFS CRO (another die hard CFSer) called security on student journalistŠ

Quite the effort to delete evidence of you innocently "supporting your friends", Nora!

She continues her nonsensical rant by mentioning the now infamous exchange between Anderson Cooper and Michigan Attorney General Andrew Shirvell. I won't summarize the whole thing (click the link to see the video), but Shirvell is clearly a homophobic nutjob who is obsessed with Chris Armstrong, gay student body president at the University of Michigan. Shirvell is a representative of the state who has spent his time making a website that displays swastikas on top of a gay student leader, for christ's sake. He insists that Armstrong resign, just for being gay!

The not-so-subtle suggestion that critics of Canadian student "leaders" have anything in common with Shirvell is completely, over-the-top ridiculous. Steadfast in her ignorance, she continues: It remains true that speaking out about racism, women's rights, queer liberation, students' rights and so on can still attract severe harassment from a fringe, strange set of people.

In reality, the vast, vast, majority of Canadian students have no problem at all with women's rights, or anything else Loreto claims to fight for. Whether or not a student union leader is gay is neither here nor there. Who gives a crap?

What their critics are fed up with, are the lies coming form the CFS. The lawsuits, the illegal campaigning, the suppression of the democratic will of students, the consistent "losing" of petitions, the shutting down of free speech, the selective memory of CFS activists, the insistence that the only way any of their goals can be reached is with the gratuitous use of student money, etc etc etc etc etc etc.

But since Loreto can't come up with an answer to any of those very real, very serious issues, she just paints all her critics with the same brush. Problem with CFS fees? Well you're just one of those white supremacists who threatened my life. Don't like the U-Pass? Why, you must be a homophobe of Shirvellian proportions.

She is a "progressive", dammit, and anyone who questions her is "anti-progressive"!

This echoes the #cfsfcee hashtag on Twitter. No matter how many good points BH or anyone else brings up, the CFS hacks simply cast them aside as a "trolls" or "spambots" (they might want to look up the correct definition of those terms) to avoid having to answer any direct questions.

Just like Loreto shouldn't respect the privacy of Mongeau since he is a crazy stalker, why should any CFS hacks answer simple questions from "trolls" or "spambots"?

So long as they have a label to slap on anyone who disagrees with them, they will completely avoid ever having to answer any simple, direct questions! It's just that easy!

Thanks to this tactic, you will never hear Loreto explaining why 5% is a "strong mandate" for Whitfield, but 10% isn't nearly enough for a defederation campaign. Likewise, you will never hear Mike Fancie explain why 14% is a "supermajority" for the U-Pass, but 74% for defederation at Guelph is illegitimate. Anyone who points out these gaping holes in their logic is just a spambot! A troll! Anti-student! Anti-progressive! Yadda yadda yadda.

Joel Duff, a chief spokesperson for the CFS, even chimed in to declare that Sam Reynolds, David Foster, and anyone else who dared question the CFS doctrine was simply a basement-dwelling troll. In the short term, it is easy to understand their employment of this strategy ­ they can do whatever they want, and never have to answer for it. But long-term, it becomes far more perplexing. When schools are voting to leave the CFS left and right, shouldn't they be cluing in that something isn't working in their favourŠ?

After all, despite what Loreto might believe in her head, schools are not leaving because they don't like her stance on women's rights. They are leaving for all the reasons mentioned above, and more. The attitude that Loreto, Duff, Fancie and others present on Twitter and in the school paper ­ that the CFS knows best, and everyone else should just shut their damn mouths ­ is the very reason that schools everywhere are voting to leave. Deep down, she knows this, Joel Duff knows this, even Mike Fancie might, on a good day, sort of maybe understand this.

As it stands now, the only people they are fooling are themselves. How long will it take for them to catch on? How many schools will have to vote to leave, how many more restrictive motions will they need to pass, before it finally sinks in ­ "the problem isn't them, it's us."