Monday, 5 October 2015

Guest Post - End the Bureaucracy: UMSU won’t solve our Problems

Note: I spoke to a concerned student at the University of Manitoba about current events involving the University of Manitoba Students Union (UMSU) and the administration. They expressed a number of concerns and I, The Analyst, asked if they would be willing to summarize the situation for interested members of the public. They agreed to submit a summary of the problems at hand geared towards University of Manitoba students. Presented below are the thoughts and arguments of the concerned student, not me. They have been edited for the blog format.

Is power at the University of Manitoba too centralized
with the administration? In today's guest post, a
U of M student argues it is.

Image Source: University of Manitoba Administration
Building, obtained from Wikipedia.
We are often told that we are facing a financial crisis at the University of Manitoba, but what is ignored is that we are facing a political crisis as well. This crisis is driven by the structure of our university’s decision making process, and the political actors such as the administration and UMSU executives.
Bureaucratic structure

The university administration has attacked students. The attack can be most clearly seen in the budget cuts and fee increases that were passed this May, 2015. Depletion in the quality of our education, cuts to programs and courses, a loss of services across campus, a drop in community morale, and, despite University VP Academic Joanne Keselman’s claim that increasing tuition makes the university more accessible, an increase in barriers to accessibility were visible results.

But the attack on students existed long before the vote on this year’s budget. The process, or system, that generates these harmful decisions is the larger problem that plagues this university as well as many others.

The process in which the budget is created is incredibly opaque, as are many other decision making processes on neoliberal campuses.

The majority of budgetary decisions are made by a tight group of senior administration and by the Budget Advisory Committee – a small group completely lacking in transparency that meets throughout the year. These meetings are closed off to the public, including the university community. No minutes are published, and any documents dispersed are not allowed to enter the public domain. What a shame it would be for the university if their proposals could be properly scrutinized by the great minds of our campus.

Students who begin to question budgetary decisions, such as the $3.6 million transfer from the operating budget to the capital budget to pay offthe Welcome Centre, or the plans for developing movie theatres on purchased golf courses, are directed by the administration to the University’s Strategic Planning Framework and Strategic Plan. But this plan was created without student consultations that could create any binding decisions. This means that the consultations with students could only end in recommendations that the admins were free to ignore.

Once the budget proposals have been created, they are passed on to the Board of Governors (BoG) for a rubber stamp of approval. Students, who comprise the vast majority of the campus community, are given 6 out of 23 seats - 3 of these seats are given to UMSU who have traditionally given one of these seats to a University of Manitoba Graduate Students' Association (UMGSA) representative. These board members are only given a single week to review the proposal before it is voted on, with no alternative offered. This decision came at a time when many student board members were preparing for exams.

The university both keeps us in the dark, and acts as if we are having our voices heard. They have created a façade of democracy where students are led to believe that they make decisions that in fact come from a small group atop the administrative hierarchy. This fake democracy conceals our lack of power on campus and creates passive tendencies in students.


University of Manitoba Students Union Vice-President
Advocacy Rebecca Kunzman.

Image Source: Rebecca Kunzman/Twitter
A question that is surely on the minds of many students is what the two UMSU representative’s positions were on the budget that was passed. The purpose of a union is to advocate for better and just conditions for its members. The last public stance made by UMSU’s executives seemed to reflect this when they claimed they were against budget cuts in a letter published by the Manitoban on December 4th, 2014.

But the phrase “action speaks louder than words” comes to mind, as UMSU VP of Advocacy Rebecca Kunzman refused to stand in opposition to the cuts and international fee increases, abstaining from voting while offering no amendments to the budget proposal. UMSU President Jeremiah Kopp voted in favour of the proposed cuts and international fee hikes, with no objection or amendments to the budget.

Our executives are failing us. On Friday, May 15th, students from the Student Action Network (SAN) met with voting student members of the BoG in an attempt to have them vote in opposition to the budget proposals. Despite our efforts, despite the outcry and activism of the international community, and the hundreds of students who participated in the rallies and marches of last year, it was evident that Kopp had already made his mind to vote in favour.

It is has been said time and time again by student bureaucrats that “process is process”. But this reinforcement of the bureaucratic structure allows the administration to avoid responsibility for the dire situation it has created. It allows them to continue with the façade of democracy, pushing the blame onto the broader community who is not at fault and is ultimately powerless.

Our UMSU executives have confused the end goals of unions with the means of attaining those goals. While good relations between our union and the administration can perhaps streamline the procedure of advocating for students, these relations must never be prioritized above the condition of students themselves. Better conditions for students must be the goal. Their confusion is manifested in their support of the budget, and their refusal to oppose administration.

University of Manitoba Students Union President
Jeremiah Kopp.

Image Source: Jeremiah Kopp/Twitter
Where do we go from here? Our first step is to recognize that budget allocations are political choices, as are tuition increases. The austere conditions facing the community today are a result of the choices made at the hands of an administration.

Until UMSU takes issue with the processes it participates in, they can do little to solve our problems. It is not enough to ask them, or the administration, to make different choices on our behalf. The bureaucrats and their choices are a problem, but the problem also lies with the bureaucratic structure.

If the administration were to become reasonable before the next round of cuts, they would still be able to make terrible decisions on our behalf in the future. Instead, we must be able to make the choices ourselves. The university is a diverse and public intellectual centre that deserves a proper democratic process. The recently revived Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA) has begun to make headway towards a participatory budget for the University of Manitoba as well as the University of Winnipeg. No doubt this is a step in the right direction, and one we must push the administration to adopt. Hope that we may progress towards a democracy – one that listens to domestic and international students, workers, and faculty – is inspiring.

But our efforts must not end there. Problems such as quotas, differential GPAs, and an increasingly privatized campus cannot all be fought for, or even discussed, within the scope of a budget. We must democratize other aspects of campus as well.

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wingnut sickos carpet bomb Winnipeg with disgusting flyers

Image Source: Wonkette
A group of Fetus Fetishists with an infamous history is at it again. The group, billing itself the "Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform", took to sending out flyers throughout Winnipeg with disgusting images of fetuses in early August.

10,000 of these flyers were sent to Winnipeg through Canada Post mail delivery. Deceptively labelled "important election information", at least one Winnipegger opened it up - expecting information on where to vote - only to be taken aback by the disgusting shock value of the flyer photos.

But mass mailings weren't the only way these sicko flyers were distributed throughout our great city.A local group strongly opposed to reproductive choice, Winnipeg Against Abortion, decided to hand deliver 6,000 flyers to homes across the Winnipeg South Centre riding. This riding was one where the Conservative candidate, Joyce Bateman, very narrowly won over her nearest competitor and the flyers were in response to Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's new party line on reproductive choice.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Quack remedies, economic blood letting & smears from Manitoba Forward director

Top: 2.6 million more Greek children entered
poverty following the recession, according
to 2014 Unicef report. 

Bottom: Dave Shorr full of suggestions
for helping Greek kids.

Image Source: (top)

Image Source: Dave Shorr (bottom)

Dave Shorr is best known for his stint as communications assistant to the Manitoba Liberals' ex-leader Jon Gerrard. In that role Shorr honorably served, taking a clearly anti-smoking line from Manitoba NDP MLA Jennifer Howard and twisting it into "seemingly endorsing smoking as a family tradition".
Here’s what Shorr wrote to me, with selected — and selective — quotes from Hansard:
 Shorr: A day after Nancy Allan sent her deputy minister to a high school in Steinbach, to close a shack for teenaged smokers,  Jennifer Howard is reminded of her comments from a house debate in 2008 seemingly endorsing smoking as a family tradition.


 Shorr again: Howard’s views are at odds with Allan’s efforts (to) reduce teen smoking in Manitoba high schools. Since the NDP have taken power, Manitoba has the highest rates in Canada for teen smoking.

 Shorr: Perhaps most shocking of all is that she seems to be remiss that young adults will never get to  experience smoking in bars.


 Mr. Shorr, do you think me such an idiot that I would print this without reading Hansard and putting this in context? [emphasis added]


Let’s see what else Howard had to say in that debate, this time after reading her entire speech. I haven’t quoted it all here, I’ve been selective too. You can read the whole thing here.
 Howard, on May 13, 2008: "I would like to talk for a moment about some of the things that we have done and how I think those things have been successful. Certainly, one of those is the ban on smoking in public places. I think it’s hard to overestimate what a tremendous change in culture that has been.
 "When I speak now to friends of mine who have kids who are turning 18 and starting to go out to bars for the first time, it strikes me that this generation will never know a smoke-filled bar; that will never be part of their experience. I think that is a tremendously positive change in the culture."
 Oh, that’s a little different, isn’t it?
"Gerrard's spin doctor blows smoke" Nick Martin, Winnipeg Free Press (January 20, 2011)

 The former Liberal staffer went on to greater things, such as executive directorship of the rightwing lobby group Manitoba Forward. As director Shorr stated Manitoba Forward would bring forth "smart policy solutions". A big part of "smart policy solutions" for the lobby group is enacting stark, hard right economic reforms. So the gentleman and scholar that is Mr. Shorr must have much to say about one of the most high stakes economic case studies in the news: the Greek Crisis.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Go Vote 2015

Note: Sorry about missing last Tuesday. I find a post out each Tuesday is a lot easier said than done. I'll try to keep the self-imposed deadline for future weeks as best as practicable.

Image Source: Twitter/Steve Ashton
At the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre on May 12, 2015 a Public Forum on Democracy was held in Winnipeg's working class North End. The forum speakers highlighted the excesses of the Harper MisGovernment and how to fight it. Central to their message was the importance of voting.

The forum was organized by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Winnipeg born and raised activist Brigette DePape, of "rebel page"  fame or infamy (depending on your circle) moderated the forum.

 The overarching message was that voting matters and that groups of people need to be mobilized to vote, particularly low voting groups such as the youth, the indigenous and those with low incomes. This is a belief I have long held, noting the low voting of indigenous peoples in Canadian elections and how social inequality affected the municipal election here. In short, when social inequality maps onto voter turnout inequality you get the underprivileged underrepresented.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Clear danger of Energy East to Winnipeg

Image Source: Environmental Defence Canada

In mid April I went to a panel talk organized by the Council of Canadians and the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition on the proposed energy East Pipeline. In a talk featuring strong indigenous perspectives and highlighting the the clear and present danger of Energy East to livelihoods and our City's water supply. A discussion of another pipeline - the Keystone XL - and its opposition in Nebraska was supplied by a rancher from the state.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Hilariously ironic Harpocrisy from 2013

Image Source: The Hamilton Spectator
Note: Late in the day, but part of a new commitment to have a new post out every Tuesday.

Amid the height of the first wave of the Senate Scandal in 2013 Stephen Harper took to the Conservative Party faithful to bash "elites". In a speech dripping with hypocrisy Stephen Harper wagged his finger at the Supreme Court of Canada and Federal Liberals for his inability to get his own Senators to clean up the joint.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Da EVUL BIKE LOBBY ... and it's nonexistent power

Image Source: Chaos Cycling Club Forum
A local public access demagogue on the Right has taken to hysterical ravings about the "bike lobby" and all their evil plans. Their main, if we can stretch the word, "evidence" for this oh-so-powerful cabal is that in 2010 a bunch of bike infrastructure projects were pushed through. These were done quickly because the Federal stimulus grants they depended on expired quickly.

These Federal grants, just so you know, came out during the Harper Government, which for all intents and purposes could give zero fucks about a small, municipally specific lobby in a mid-size prairie city.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

"Kinda pathetic" kinda totally right

Are you with us or are you with the TERRORISTS?!!

The mature reasoning like that
kind Elmwood-Transcona MP Lawrence
Toet would us.

Image Source
: Youtube
Seemed like there was quite a bit of March madness coming from the Conservative Party this year. Harper CON MP John Williamson made a comment about "brown people" and "whities" at the nexus of wingnuttery that is the Manning Centre Conference. Fellow Conservative MP Larry Miller told prospective Muslim immigrants to "stay the hell where you came from" if you want to wear niqabs at citizenship ceremonies.

Manitoba, unfortunately, was not free from this lunacy.

 With the farce that is Vic Toews gone from Federal politics other Manitoba MPs have had to step up their game. My own representative of Lawrence Toet seems a prime candidate for the next Toews.

Defending Bill C-51- a civil liberties crushing bill that would inspire mass protest across Canada (including here) - with the following push polling flyer:

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Lowlights of the 2015 Manning Centre Conference

Boy, this year has been crazy - too busy for super frequent blog posting (that and my twitter account has sorta cannibalized a lot of my would-be blog content). I'm still working on some drafts for the blog that should be interesting but as an inaugural post for 2015 I thought I'd lazily share a good mashup of some of the low lights of the 2015 Manning Centre Conference, courtesy of the fine folks from at Truth Mashup.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Comment System ... bunch of old comments dead

Update: Got old comments back - uncertain of how well it'll work. 
Lest there be another Comment-Gate I'd like to clarify that I switched the commenting system over at The Winnipeg RAG Review from blogger's default system to Livefyre. Unfortunately, it seems that I had to kill a bunch of old comments to do so. Hopefully, it works out in the end.