Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U of M students union, national body at odds

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TROUBLE is brewing between the University of Manitoba Students Union and the Canadian Federation of Students.

UMSU president Al Turnbull said Thursday his organization is conducting an ad hoc review on campus of its membership in the national student organization.

Some other schools are dropping out, but UMSU has no plans to withdraw from the CFS.

Turnbull said a dispute over a $60,000 contract signed by the outgoing executive last spring to buy 20,000 day-planners from CFS may go to court. UMSU can get them for $42,000 locally, but the federation won't let it opt out. UMSU has removed CFS promotional material from the day-planners.

Traditionally, Turnbull said, the incoming executive signed such contracts. UMSU alleges the CFS stifles debate at its annual general meeting.

There is no stifling of debate and there is no substantiation of any university student group leaving the national organization, said Bilan Arte, the CFS Manitoba representative and Turnbull's immediate predecessor as UMSU president.

It is disrespectful to remove CFS material from a student handbook, said Arte, who said the binding contract was between UMSU and CFS, not with any particular executive.

Turnbull said the conflict is not a matter of political labels, but he agreed the CFS is perceived as a left-wing group advocating national and international issues, while his executive wants to focus its time and money on what's happening on campus.

Meanwhile, accusations of sexism are being levelled against Turnbull.

Turnbull says while he's sorry for past mistakes, he believes it's coming up again now to distract from real issues the union is dealing with.

The university's student newspaper, The Manitoban, published a photo this week in its online edition of Turnbull offering tutor training.

The innocuous photo shows Turnbull standing over a young woman sitting at a desk, but also includes a comment from Turnbull saying: "Yup, that's right, I'll tutor you and check out your cleavage free of charge."

Turnbull says he made the comment on Instagram about seven months ago, before he was elected president, and has already apologized for it.

Charly Wreggitt, UMSU's women's representative on council, said she isn't buying Turnbull's defence that the comment was made months ago.

"You're not going to say something in March and suddenly be totally un-sexist in September," she said.

Turnbull suggested the republishing of the photo was a strategic and political move to discredit him during an ongoing dispute with the Canadian Federation of Students over the quality and pricing of CFS-provided student services.

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 A11

History

Updated on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 1:12 PM CDT: Corrects spelling of Turnbull

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