In an apparent unanimous decision, AMS Council voted tonight to change its membership in CASA from full member to associate member. (View the AMS’s press release here.)

The AMS is one of the five founding members of CASA, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, a student federal lobby organization that is predicated on four main principles: 1) member driven policy setting 2) exclusive focus on post-secondary issues 3) fair membership regulations 4) exclusive focus on matters under federal jurisdiction.

The issues that the AMS has with CASA were expressed in a recent letter sent to the organization’s national director. The letter as well as CASA’s response can be found here:

AMS Letter to CASA (Aug 13 08)
CASA Response Letter to AMS (Sep 22 08)

Among the issues discussed in the letter as well as in an ensuing AMS working group are: staff setting the political agenda, respect for all delegates, troublesome bias in information documents, cost of membership vs. benefits received, the prioritization of federal lobbying over provincial lobbying, the decision by CASA to not run campaigns, and the AMS’s opposition to CASA’s new constitution.

The change in membership effectively means that the AMS will pay half of the regular membership fees, not receive a vote, but still be invited as a delegate to conferences. The move was designed to send a clear message to CASA that the AMS is serious about the concerns it has voiced with the student lobby organization, which have been largely ignored thus far.

Dropping to associate member allows the AMS to proceed with dropping out of CASA entirely next year, going back to full member status, or remain at associate member status.


2 Comments so far

  1. Eoin on October 23, 2008 4:03 pm

    I am so confused by this I feel like my brain has exploded. Having read over both letters, it seems that the issues raised were either frivolous, or were of such a nature that they could be more easily addressed by discussions with CASA, rather than by political grandstanding. So, let me analyze this step by step.

    1) Document Bias. There might be something here. I don’t know without examples, but the CASA response seemed reasonable enough. If they’re passed by the General Assembly in most cases, their bias is towards that of the majority. Which tends to happen in most cases.

    2) Discussion

    Issues with how discussion is managed is an issue for all organizations. It’s a reason to decide on better rules for managing that discussion rather than a reduction in membership status

    3) Staff influencing policy

    Reprimand staff who try to inject their own opinion into debates. There’s clearly some mechanisms for disciplinary action if this occurs. Use those mechanisms, don’t just complain.

    4) Language.
    I think CASA has this covered. They’re moving towards increasing bilingual options. I also think this is an issue that doesn’t overly impact UBC. By all means support increased bilingualism in CASA, but it’s not exactly a reason for us to get on a high horse.

    Also, the whole ‘male, heterosexual normative positions’ problem is just political correctness gone too far. Sweet baby jesus

    5) Social Events
    Not having a non-alcoholic event in parallel with a brewery tour is a lame reason to become an associate member. Poor planning on one occasion does not a systemic problem make.

    6) Effectiveness of CASA lobbying and whatnot

    I think having a discussion about whether CASA is the best way to advocate for UBC students is a healthy one. The arguments given here about how member driven CASA is don’t convince me in the slightest. In short, this move seems to be political grandstanding by the AMS, pure and simple. If these issues can’t be dealt with by discussion within CASA and between its members, then there are major problems with the organization. From the information given here, there’s no indication that this is actually the case.

  2. maayan kreitzman on October 23, 2008 11:12 pm

    I agree with Eoin. Having also read the notes from the discusion meeting and the press release, alot of the issues are simply silly. will be writing a post about all this soon.

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