Student urges CSA to not be selective

Thursday, February 9, 2012


An event posted in the recent Central Student Association (CSA) mass mailing recently emailed to all undergraduate students reads:

Tired of not getting your voice heard? Want a chance to speak to the top, FOR FREE? Tar Sands Action group will be paying the tab for you to call OBAMA or HARPER and say NO to the Alberta Tar Sands.

This message is overtly political, and presents one side of a very controversial issue. There are a number of problems in including such messages in your mass email.

It is critically important for the undergraduate student union to have a political voice. However, it is very worrying if a limited range of perspectives is presented on such contentious issues as the Alberta oil sands. Perhaps many students have not taken a stand on this issue. To win these students over, a coherent, logical argument should be presented on both sides, and students should be allowed to make an informed decision. Presenting one side is not, nor should it be, the mandate of the organization which purports to represent all undergraduate students.

Indeed, it is this sort of narrow-mindedness that we would chastise our elected representatives in Parliament for. It is crucial that the CSA rises above this. It is also important to keep in mind that the office is funded by all undergraduate students. Students of all beliefs and ideologies should have the right to have their opinions heard and voiced.

CSA, please truly advocate on behalf of your entire membership, and not just selective interests within it!

This opinion piece was submitted by Samuel Mosonyi.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: demetria on Feb 9, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Thank you for this article.
    It appears there is some misinformation about how mass e-mails are put together.

    We receive many e-mails from different organizations inquiring about the mass e-mail service. We ask clubs/organizations to provide us with a blurb about their event, that (unless there are typos, or a formatting issue) we do not alter. We then just copy and paste the blurb into the e-mail.

    The mass e-mails should not be seen as an endorsement from the CSA of any event or initiative being run by the undergraduate population.

    We apologize for any confusion.

    Demetria Jackson
    External Affairs Commissioner
    Central Student Association
    [email protected]

  2. Posted by: denise on Feb 9, 2012 @ 2:49pm

    Were you personally offended by this call to action? Fact is that anyone with some common sense would be strongly against the Tar Sands because they see their detrimental capacities. If you want to start a club to contradict that notion, I am sure the CSA would welcome you with open arms. I, however, think there is no space on an academic campus for such corporate ‘absurdity’ (apparently we can’t swear on the cannon so that’s the word my thesaurus recommended I use instead).

    The CSA is not the press. They do not have to offer students both side of the story, especially in cases where the other side of the story is ridiculous (i.e. child labour, sexual harassment, and the Tar Sands). The fact is that there are various student groups that oppose the Tar Sands and no student group (except for maybe the Young Conservatives) who will advocate in favour of them.

    Quit hiding behind your supposed “neutrality” and formulate an opinion. If you love the Tar Sands, say it and prepare to defend your point of view. I don’t believe the justifications provided by private companies (or Harper’s government) are enough persuade the intelligent students at the University of Guelph campus and I’m glad people are doing something to oppose the catastrophe that is the Tar Sands.

    Also, to response to your claim that the CSA must represent all undergraduate students: I don’t know what world you live in but there are racist students, sexist students, homophobic students, etc. I’m glad they don’t represent those students.

    Our student union exists to defend our rights and by extension, our right to breathe and be able to grow old in Canada; a right that is being infringed upon by the largest industrial project in human history.

    If you are a random person that stumbled upon this site, please visit Oil Sands Truth for some facts:

  3. Posted by: amanda on Feb 9, 2012 @ 5:43pm

    Kudos to Mr. Mosonyi for brining this debate to life. He brings up a valid point, that the CSA should remain neutral on a political issue. The discourse used in the statement that was circulated to the student body is politicized. For example, there is a big difference using the term "tar sands" versus "oil sands." I think it's unfair to pre-judge Mr. Mosonyi for being a "tar sand lover," when he is just insuring that the CSA that represents him and everyone else on campus is held accountable for what they filter through their list-serve.

  4. Posted by: Shamu on Feb 9, 2012 @ 7:34pm

    Demetria: Thank you for your clarification. It is clear that the posting in question is consistent with your Mass E-Mail Policy. (http://www.csaonline.ca/files/MassEmailPolicy2011.pdf), in addition to your Email Policy (Policy 8.6).

    CSA Policy "The Executive Committee will ensure that the content of all emails abides by the policies outlined in this policy."
    All emails sent out must abide with your policies, and the entire Executive is held to this responsibility. So there must be certain emails and messages which would not be allowed and filtered out.

    Looking through the email in question, most of the events were directly sponsored by the CSA (Events 1, 2, 3, 5, 10), while all of the other events had clearly identifiable sponsoring clubs (4 – Guelph Alumni, 6 – Guelph Campus Co-Op, Labour Council, 7 – Admission Services, 8 – Student Life, ARC, 11- Sustainability Office, 12 – School of Environmental Sciences, 13 – Student Life, 14 – Peer Helpers).
    Only 9, “Call Harper and Obama – Tar Sands Action Group” had no identifiable club presenting it. This should be the first step you should pursue (clearly identifying the authors sponsoring the messages) to avoid confusion.

  5. Posted by: ThomasJuxtaposition on Feb 9, 2012 @ 7:52pm

    I like my duck in oil. Wrapped in a flour tortilla with green onions and hoisin sauce.

    In all seriousness the author has a valid point. The issue with many campaigns is that there is too much of a focus on "campaign" and not enough of a focus on education. Regardless of which side is "correct," the goal should never be to tell one side of the story.

    Examples such as disease awareness, religious agenda, environmental protection, anti-piracy, and political movements are highly subject to bias. One must remember that the goal of most of these campaigns is to tell the side of the story which is most advantageous to the campaigning organization.

    For example, consider the tar sands. Yes, they kill ducks, polluted the environment, and may have hazardous health effects. However, the oil sands also support the economy of an entire province and contribute significantly to the economy of a country. Realize that the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands depends on the tar sands, and that the banning of tar sands would result in a huge increase in poverty.

    Also understand that not everything you hear is true. For example, a previous comment mentioned the website . I happened to take a look into the health section, and it is hardly believable. It states that tar sands have increased the incidence of cancer. This, as of current studies, has not been shown to be significantly true (1). It is true that tar sands have increased carcinogens, but so has just about everything else. Until statistically significant findings are presented, no conclusions can be made. Also, use reputable sources, not biased propaganda websites. Finally, take everything with a grain of salt.

    The blind are keen of hearing, and the deaf are keen of sight. However, the ignorant are hopeless. Whether the issue be tar sands, child labour, abortion, piracy, religion, or politics, unless you are educated on all sides of the issue, your arguments are considered invalid.

    1. http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/suzuki-elders/2011/04/is-there-a-cancer-threat-from-the-oil-sands-industry/

  6. Posted by: Shamu on Feb 9, 2012 @ 8:33pm


    You present an argument against the tar sands. I advocated neither for nor against this issue. The purpose of the article is to call for a broader consideration of this issue, as well as other similar contentious issues. It is great that you feel so passionately about this topic. But you neglect the purpose of the article when you address the issue of the oil sands.

    The CSA is not the press, you are correct. But it is the undergraduate student union is composed of every undergraduate student at the University of Guelph, regardless of their beliefs. The CSA should not become a politicized body dominated by a single perspective on any debatable issue. While groups can use the LISTSERV as long as their content falls within CSA policy, it may not be the most appropriate method. The CSA should also make explicit when they are, and when they are not, endorsing a position, or simply forwarding it on behalf of another group.

    We all live in the same world, Denise. There are unfortunately racists, sexists, and homophobes among us, and it is not the place for the CSA to voice the concerns of these students. In fact, to do so would contravene CSA policy (for example, Student Rights Issues, s. 4, Appendix F). The CSA should actively represent those viewpoints which do not contravene these policies.

    I hope that a random person who has stumbled on this website and wishes to learn more will look at both sides of the argument, as Thomas states, and not simply the link that you provide before making a decision on this issue.

  7. Posted by: KatMacG on Feb 10, 2012 @ 7:54pm

    I couldn't agree with the title of this post and would like to point out that the CSA was doing just that by letting this advertisement go on their listserve.

    Guelph is a campus full of students with various opinions on many topics. By urging the CSA to not allow a group to advertise an event you are censoring the student bodies freedom to express their opinion. If we were not to let this group advertise our event then we would have to extend that to every other student group on campus. Any religious group on campus would not be allowed to advertise their event for fear of insulting the atheist association and so on.

    If Samuel or any other student does not agree with the event that is being advertised they were more than welcome to come to the event and discuss the topic. Educate and be educated.

  8. Posted by: on Feb 10, 2012 @ 8:08pm

    I personally don't see the issue with the CSA advertising for a group that has chosen to raise political issues. Yes, it is one sided- but this should not limit the group's access to advertising. If people take issue with this group's message, perhaps they would be better off talking to the group at the event advertised. Not allowing students to advertise an event simply because it is a political issue is an infringement on the student's right to free opinion.

    Especially in a university setting, I like to believe that students know enough to take everything they see or hear at face value. "It is also important to keep in mind that the office is funded by all undergraduate students. Students of all beliefs and ideologies should have the right to have their opinions heard and voiced." Does this not mean that the Tar Sands group has just as much right to have their opinion heard? Whether or not every student agrees with their message is the choice of the students, one that they can make after being informed of both sides of the issue. One side simply chose to advertise in an email.

  9. Posted by: Shamu on Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:54pm

    KatMacG and RebbyJ:
    My issue was that the group's authors were not identified and it seemed like the CSA was implicitly endorsing this group. It would have been wrong for them, in my opinion, to take a stance on the issue.

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