Opinion, Point vs. Counterpoint

Counterpoint: Should the Waterloo Engineering Society remain a member of CFES?

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

As to whether EngSoc should remain a member of CFES, most of you will probably ask, “What is CFES?”. That, in itself, proves my point. Why are we members of an organization that the average engineering student would never hear about in the five years spent in university?

While being a member of an organization for Canadian engineering students is not much of an issue as nothing bad can come of it, what might you say if you knew that part of your EngSoc fee went to fees paid to CFES? To be a member of CFES, each undergraduate student must pay $0.40 every year in order to enjoy the perks of being a part of it. While $0.40 does not factor much in the grand scheme of financial things, the amount of money as a collection of all the engineering undergraduate students paying this amount is quite substantial. To give you an idea, of the approximate 6000 students studying engineering at uWaterloo and a low approximation of roughly 70% of those students paying EngSoc fees, the amount of money collected, if not spent on CFES membership, would add up to just under $1700 a year. Split over three terms,this comes up to an amount of $560 of spending money for one term. With that money, some of that could be used for sponsorship allocations, subsidizing the costs of conferences (besides CFES Congress) and events, and allow for healthier funding to directorships held every term. While you might argue that this number is almost insignificant considering the much greater amounts of money being handled by EngSoc every term, it would still mean that you can see what your money buys when paying this fee every term.

After establishing that such a membership requires some investment from the undergraduate student every term, let’s talk about what CFES offers the student body in exchange. According to the CFES constitution, the purpose of this governing body is to “solicit, represent, organize and exchange views, information and activities pertinent to the goals of the the members at a national level as to ensure their moral, intellectual, cultural, academic, social and economic well-being…”. Since the goal is to maintain the overall well-being of its member societies, it would seem that this organization does not do so with respect to uWaterloo since their impact on our society has not been felt by the average student. In addition, given the size of the Faculty of Engineering in Waterloo and the long-established order that the Society uses to govern itself, CFES does not serve its purpose as such since uWaterloo’s Engineering Society can maintain its ‘well-being’ on its own. While one might argue for the support that CFES gives to smaller engineering societies for other schools across the country, the fact of the matter is that CFES cannot provide any additional support to members who are well-established. As such, while it may be nice that we remain members of this governing body, in the heart of it, uWaterloo Engineering does not have much to gain especially considering the allocation of student fees going to CFES.

While CFES does have certain responsibilities that more involved engineering students may see once or twice a year, like planning the Canadian Engineering Competition, running Congress every year, and publishing Project Magazine every year, there have been instances in the past of wavering resolve to uphold their position as representatives of Canadian engineering students attending the member schools. Besides the two events just mentioned, there hasn’t been any other indication of CFES upholding its position as a representing the uWaterloo engineering society. For example, in February 2011, the engineering societies from Queen’s, McGill and the University of Toronto made a formal statement of grievances addressed to the management of the organization. Overall, the complaints aimed at the Executive being unable to exert its leadership in cases where poor decisions being made (with one of them being the location (being the Yukon) for Congress 2012 thereby unnecessarily increasing costs for delegates), the use of CFES funds for the Officers’ overseas travel, and the lack of direction that CFES has presented over the years in bettering the education and opportunities of Canadian engineering students. While CFES did respond to those grievances with corrections to the spending for overseas travel (for which CFES only funds partially), it was apparent that they could not directly refute the basis of the complaints. In much the same way that these three societies evaluated the real value that CFES provides, so too should Waterloo Engineering and debate the real value that this organization provides to the Engineering Society when serving its students.

While this seems like only the internal workings of CFES have been touched on, you have to ask yourself: how much did you know about CFES prior to reading this? For example, did you know that CFES offers courses (being CECs) to all engineering students teaching a subject relevant to engineering develepment? How about the Student Development Program that specializes in providing professional networking opportunities? In fact, how many times have you heard VP Externals over the years mention what CFES is doing (besides Congress)? The fact that their presence is, at best, rarely felt by the Waterloo’s Engineering Society lends reason to wonder why this is the case and why we, as a Society, continue to invest our money into something that shows virtually non-existent returns to the average engineering student.

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