As you may have read below in Blake’s unopinionated news brief, the AMS has decided to downgrade its membership in CASA, meaning that they now cannot vote, and will pay about half as much money to the organization. Well, here’s my opinionated take on it.

AMS council has allowed itself to be convinced without due diligence by a few members of the executive. In fact I’m quite shocked that council, a typically cautious group, would so willingly and unanimously change the AMS’s long-standing position in CASA due to a laundry-list of mostly minor, and partially irrelevant complaints.

Lets talk about them shall we? The AMS’s letter to CASA was full of valid, but minor issues like the tone of discussions, the language used, and the social activities offered at a recent conference. These were all reasonably addressed in the response which is linked below. More substantive issues like a difference in priorities (the AMS wants to focus on tuition, for instance) and too much staff influence on policy, are things that should be addressed within the organization at some length before threatening withdrawal.

Immediate complaints, like the fact that CASA no longer funds awareness campaigns during federal elections, the lack of capacity for provincial lobbying, and the supposed Eastern focus ofthe organization are just silly. The AMS voted to stop funding campaigns during elections through CASA last year. CASA is a federal organization and was never, ever intended for provincial lobbying. And while most CASA schools are actually in the East, last year’s AMS president, Jeff Friedrich was the CASA Chairperson – literally the guy setting the agenda. So it’s not like the AMS is being systematically ignored. The AMS’s letter to CASA correctly points out that for the ~45 grand we pay them we could hire our own federal researcher/lobbyist. But the whole point of being part of a larger association is the increased influence and resources students have collectively.

AMS VP External Stef Ratjen, as a left-wing radical who thinks that “education is a right, not a privilege” is obviously not politically aligned with CASA. Fine. That doesn’t mean that AMS councillors should ignore the AMS’s long history with the organization and immediately buy into a mostly frivolous list of grievances. If the AMS decides, in a wide-ranging discussion with members that our investment in CASA is not worth the value, then by all means, it should reconsider membership. I have yet to see a convincing example to demonstrate this. The fact that nobody from CASA was invited to speak to council about yesterday’s motion (they were only informed of it on the day) and that, according to a good source, the previous AMS executives consulted were highly selective, I question whether this discussion is particularly fair.


5 Comments so far

  1. Kyle on October 24, 2008 5:40 am

    As a student proxying at Wednesday’s council meeting, I have two comments on this issue.

    First of all, the points highlighted in the letters were expanded upon in a presentation to council by Stef Ratjen and Matt Naylor. While I believe the points brought up in the letter are serious, I can certainly understand how they might not appear as fully developed simply from reading the correspondence, as they did for those of us at council first hand.

    Following on that point, I think it is very notable that on the roll call for this vote there were absolutely no abstentions or nay votes. Council was completely unanimous, and frankly, although that fact, in and of itself does not mean the decision was correct, it does suggest the proposal is nearly as dangerous or extreme as it is being made out to be.

    Anyways, those are some of my thoughts, although because I’m somewhat new to this board and to the AMS, I may have overlooked some obvious counterpoints.

  2. maayan kreitzman on October 24, 2008 7:13 am

    first of all welcome to the wonderful world of student politics. It’s obvious that Stef and Matt’s presentations were convincing. But without hearing anything on the other side, people like you who are just starting out lack context to actually evaluate a major move like this for what it actually is. It’s a common enough issue with the constant turnover in the AMS.

  3. Mike Thicke on October 24, 2008 4:17 pm

    Stef’s politics aside, Matt Naylor certainly isn’t a “left wing radical”.

  4. maayan kreitzman on October 25, 2008 4:39 pm

    Uuuhm did anyoine claim that he is?

  5. twilightcity on October 30, 2008 9:44 am

    Hey there, Maayan,

    Just to weigh in, one of the other arguments for downgrading our status is because – as you pointed out – CASA does not lobby provincially, which is precisely what non-CFS student unions need.

    Now, let me make it clear that the thought of joining the CFS sends shivers up my spine. However, as misguided as the CFS may be, they provide a very visible presence and service to their members in terms of lobbying. Their internal politics are disgusting; their message is shrill, annoying and often unrealistic; but they get their message out. Let’s not forget that they provided a big push for the tuition freeze in 1996, as well as being part of the “no means no” anti-sexual assault campaigns.

    By comparison, I have not seen any evidence of action benefiting students from CASA.

    At least from my (old-man) experience, these are issues that have been long-standing. While I feel that the language of the letter from the AMS to CASA could have been worded much better, certainly, there were bigger issues at stake, such as the fact that we are effectively on our own in lobbying the province, which is exactly what an association like CASA should be doing.

    Furthermore, the federal lobbying that it is supposed to provide is not effective at all. From what the current and former VPX told Council, they didn’t even manage to get elections materials out to us by the election date!

    For the AMS to continue spending its money on CASA would be the foolish option. However, by downgrading to associate status, it allows CASA to take a long, hard look at itself and acknowledge that it is perhaps no longer operating as an effective tool for its largest member.

    Think of it this way: we’re giving them an opportunity to give us more bang for our buck.


    – Scary.

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