Recently, the executive of the Graduate Students' Association of the University of Calgary has campaigned to de-federate from the Canadian Federation of Students. It is worth noting that those who are heading up the campaign for de-federation are the newly self-appointed kings of Alberta's Graduate Council.
One can plainly see that the approach to education promoted by the Alberta Graduate Council is vastly different to that of the Canadian Federation of Students.
"To achieve our ultimate goal - a system of post-secondary education that is accessible to all, which is of high quality, which is nationally planned, which recognizes the legitimacy of student representation, and the validity of student rights, and whose role in society is clearly recognized and appreciated."
In contrast, the Alberta Graduate Council's mission is:
"Informing stakeholders of the value of graduate students as highly skilled workers that will drive a knowledge-based economy – providing world-class knowledge, research and education."
So, we need to ask ourselves is education a collective good or a commodity? Are students persons with human rights or marketable labourers?
If you believe that education is a human right, you must vote against de-federation as the Canadian Federation of Students is critical to a pan-national students' movement organized around education as a collective good.
I would also ask students and concerned parties to be wary of the Alberta Graduate Council which has recently increased the levy that students pay each year by 200%.
It is critical that students demand responsible student government. On January 21, 2009, Canada Student Loan debt surpassed the $13 billion mark.
“The students and families who can least afford to pay for post-secondary education are carrying a $13 billion burden,” said Katherine Giroux-Bougard, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Saddling a generation of students with billions in debt will have far reaching implications for Canada's economy and socio-economic inequality.”
As a graduate student at the University of Calgary, I am against de-federation from the Canadian Federation of Students. As a human being, citizen, and possible future parent, I am terrified by the increased commercialization of education. And, I'll be damned if I will allow some ladder-climbing, wannabes play into the hands of neoliberal policy makers when they should be upholding their responsibilities as student representatives and securing the future of education of Alberta.