Our History

First formed in 1973 and then officially incorporated in 1978, the Central Student Association has continually pursued changes that benefit students both on campus and off, addressing student concerns to University administration, as well as to municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government.

However, as the timeline that follows shows, this history of student activism builds upon on the actions of Guelph students before the existence of the CSA — indeed even before the University of Guelph was formed by the amalgamation of the Ontario Agricultural College, Macdonald Institute, and the Ontario Veterinary College into one single body. Then, as now, students together have more power than students alone.

CSA Timeline


Frustrated by high prices for text books, students take a cart and horse to Toronto, buy text books themselves, and sell them at cost, creating the Guelph Campus Co-op.


To commemorate students who died during WWI, students pay for and build War Memorial Hall. Legend has it they cleared trees and dug foundation in the middle of the night before the Administration could object to the prominent location.


 Union Council, the first central student government, is established.


Students dig-out the basement of Massey Hall, creating the first on-campus coffee shop open after the dinner hour. The space remains a coffee shop until it is permanently closed in 1999.


Students vote in-favour of a Student Union Building fee for a student-controlled building, which eventually becomes the University Centre (UC).


Union Council incorporates, becoming the Guelph Student’s Union (GSU), an entity independent from the University.


After the GSU protests the take-over of the UC project by the Administration, the Administration refuses to collect GSU fees, effectively bankrupting the Union. The GSU collapses in 1970 as a result.


The Committee of College Presidents representing individual student college governments is established following the collapse of the GSU, but is criticized for lacking independence from the Administration.


The Administration begins building the UC without student consultation. Construction continues into 1972.


Guelph hosts the founding meeting of the Ontario Federation of Students (the predecessor organization to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) — Ontario).


Students vote to create another student union, the Central Student Association (CSA).

1974 Then-CSA President Tim Hawkins sues the University (for $1.4 million) for misappropriation of funds regarding the UC, settling out-of-court in 1978 for a student majority on the UC Board, however the University president holds veto power.

Students occupy the Presidential offices for four days in a campaign for an improved student assistance program.


The CSA incorporates.


The Bullring is leased by the CSA for $1 per year for use as a student-controlled pub. In the two decades that follow, it becomes one of the most popular spots on campus.

CSA joins the national and provincial lobby organizations of the Canadian Federation of Students as Local 54.


Students occupy the Presidential offices for almost one month to protest differential fees for international students. The Board of Governors is convinced to delay implementing a 40% increase for five months.


Students occupy the Presidential offices for almost one month to protest differential fees for international students. The Board of Governors is convinced to delay implementing a 40% increase for five months.


After the University refuses to renew their lease, the Guelph Campus Co-op sues them for the right to sell books on campus, settling out-of-court. The University Bookstore opens in the old Guelph Campus Co-op Bookstore location.

1997 Students occupy the executive offices of the University Administration for two weeks to protest tuition increases. In response, the Administration creates the Student Budget Advisory Group (SBAG) to consult students about the University budget

In response to student protests, the Administration promises never to differentiate student fees.


Students occupy the Administration offices over tuition increases.


The CSA reopens the Bullring as a licensed restaurant and coffee shop, offering an alternative to Hospitality Services, with an emphasis on healthier food options.


Students and staff force their way past multiple police lines into a Board of Governors meeting. This action was a show of opposition in the face of the proposed international student fee increases, a 4.5% cut to all departments, and a Board of Governors member accused of union busting and unethical labour practices.


Students vote to contribute $10/semester toward the Energy Retrofit project for the next twelve years.


After a long and arduous space audit, the UC Board moves to hand over two key spaces on the second floor to be designated as CSA student space and managed by the CSA. Further consultation on space allocation in the UC continues.


To demonstrate against the cutting of both the Women’s Studies and Organic Agriculture programs, students fill both a Board of Undergraduate Studies meeting and a Senate meeting. Although Organic Agriculture was saved, Women’s Studies was eliminated. The operating budget of Women’s Studies constituted a mere 0.17% of the University’s deficit.


Students vote to hold a decertification referendum from the national and provincial chapters of the CFS, after which a court order is sought to hold the referendum. Voters choose to discontinue membership with the CFS.


The CSA goes bottled water-free, including at The Bullring, where drinking water is available for free.A student space sit-in throughout the University Centre is organized by the CSA to draw attention to the lack of adequate space for student needs. The CFS is granted an appeal by the Ontario Court of Appeal, due to the 2010 judge’s failure to provide reasons for his decision in the original referendum court case, rendering the referendum no longer binding. Membership with CFS continued.


During a referendum, students vote against the continuing sale of bottled water on campus.

Students staged an all-day ‘study sit-it’ in the University Centre to draw attention to the lack of adequate study space on campus. Study tables filled all the major halls and public spaces in the UC. The University responded by opening Peter Clark Hall for studying during the exam period. The library also responded by adding many more tables and chairs.

The University discontinued the collection of CFS membership fees, against the wishes of the CSA.


The CSA continues correspondence with the University, requesting recollection of fees, but without success. The CSA Board of Directors passes a motion to file a joint application with the CFS, to put the University’s uncollected membership fees before a judge.

The Board of Governors meeting in April is protested by students and workers as the Board votes to increase tuition fees once more. The University is unwilling to commit to lobbying the government alongside students to increase public funding for education.