In the post below, Maayan expressed shock that AMS Council would change it’s position in CASA “without due diligence”. I think that Council should be praised for its prudent political decision, not accused of haphazardly voting without thinking.

The concerns expressed by the AMS in the letter sent to CASA cannot be swept aside merely as minor. They are indicative of ongoing issues that AMS has had with CASA, which have yet to be resolved. The tone of discussions, language used, social activities, and unfair treatment of delegates at conferences are not problems that are easily reformable. They are part of the culture of CASA and require a serious and concerted introspection by the organization. More serious issues such as the AMS’s alignment of CASA’s policies and strategy, as well as concerns over CASA staff setting the political agenda of the organization rather than the delegates have been raised by the AMS in the past.

One of the major concerns with CASA not expressed in the letter is their decision to not run a federal election awareness campaign. Contrary to Maayan’s suggestion, the AMS did not vote in support of this move. Rather, former AMS representative to CASA Matt Naylor voiced his concern over the poor quality of CASA’s campaigns. The solution he suggested was to make the campaigns better, not eliminate them. This year the AMS had to run its own federal election campaign costing $12,000 without help from CASA, a reality that is particularly disturbing given that they are the AMS’s federal lobbying organization.

The AMS is also evaluating the benefit of being a part of a federal lobbying organization. No one has suggested that CASA should turn its attention to provincial matters, but with limited resources, the AMS has to make a choice whether to focus more extensively on federal lobbying or provincial lobbying. Plus, it’s quite possible that the AMS can do what CASA does, but better and more reflective of the AMS’s principles.

What’s the benefit of being in CASA? The argument that more students united together means more resources and more influence doesn’t apply so well here. As mentioned above, CASA isn’t acting as a useful resource for the AMS – certainly not to the tune of $60,000 per year of student money. The influence has been lacking too. It might be asserted that CASA is more adept at getting in meetings with decision makers in the federal government. While this might be true when the Liberals are in power, the AMS is just as adept as scheduling meetings with the government. During the recent federal election, the AMS met with and lobbied nearly every federal candidate in the Vancouver area. We are the largest student union in the country and that carries a lot of weight. The most significant benefit that the AMS receives from CASA is the ability to network with other student unions across the country. This benefit should not be underestimated, but being a part of CASA is not the only way to meet with other student politicians. There are conferences every year that student unions attend (including the AMS) to network with one another.

Let’s be clear about this though – the AMS is not leaving CASA, it’s stepping down to associate member status. What does this mean? It means we pay half the fees. It also means we lose our vote, which many will argue was virtually non-existent in the first place since the Eastern Block of CASA tends to band together and shut out the AMS. Most importantly, it sends a strong message to CASA that the AMS is serious about its concerns. CASA’s response will largely dictate whether the AMS decides to stay or go – it’s really up to them. CASA’s national director, Zach Churchill, will get his chance to respond to the AMS this Wednesday.

Disclosure: Blake is employed by the AMS as Stef Ratjen’s assistant.


9 Comments so far

  1. Patrick Meehan on October 24, 2008 3:35 am

    as a high level bureaucrat, should Blake really be making normative judgments about council decision which relate to the portfolio he serves?

  2. Blake Frederick on October 24, 2008 3:52 am


    I’m not going to pretend to be a vacuous unopinionated robot. I am certainly entitled to voice my views outside of my capacity in the AMS. If you do not agree with my views, then you are free to express that, but the ad hominem criticism is unproductive.

  3. Seb on October 24, 2008 3:55 am

    No, probably not. Though I suspect this is why nobody has heard about this until now – the independent press works for the (wo)Man!

    But the more important thing is how this statement so clearly demonstrates the blinders being worn by the AMS right now.

    “The concerns expressed by the AMS in the letter sent to CASA cannot be swept aside merely as minor. They are indicative of ongoing issues that AMS has had with CASA, which have yet to be resolved. The tone of discussions, language used, social activities, and unfair treatment of delegates at conferences are not problems that are easily reformable.”

    Are you kidding me?! Even if one believes these aren’t minor issues (minor in this case probably doesn’t mean unimportant, just not important enough to take the nuclear option of downgrading membership), the letter was sent to CASA in August!

    If there has been a conference since August where they failed to implement any of these reforms, so be it. Has there been such an event?

    How can you claim these are longstanding issues when you first made them officially aware of such things two months ago?

    More importantly, how can you claim the issues in that letter are not easily solvable if you have not given the organization the chance to demonstrate that?

    Finally, while you point to Matt Naylor, Mayaan points to Jeff Friedrich who was the CASA Chairperson. As a barely involved student even I know there was no love lost between those two and is it CASA’s fault if it thought more of Jeff’s opinion of what the AMS wants? That’s not the fault of CASA but the AMS failing to be organized and united at CASA’s conferences.

    Personally I don’t know much about CASA except that it’s our federal lobby organization so I’m thinking of this in terms of UBC’s attempts to leave CIS for the NCAA – the AMS is up in arms about the lack of consultation and the biased nature of that consultation, yet here it goes and makes a move like this with barely a mention to anyone. Hypocrisy! Rank hypocrisy!

    And the worst part of all is that the reasons for this hypocrisy don’t even pass the smell test of good cause. To an outside observer, it comes off as petulance instead.

  4. Patrick Meehan on October 24, 2008 6:30 am

    Blake, look up ad hominem in the dictionary. Please.

    Once you’ve done so, stop throwing it around as a means of dismissing opinion.

    I was merely questioning your statement that council made the right decision, an individual in your position is supposed to enact the wishes of the society, not encourage it.

    Interesting how one of the complaints made against CASA (and a legitimate one in my opinion) is staff interference in decision making, and here is a staff member, interfering in decision making.

    I haven’t even stated an opinion on this issue overall, primarily because I am out of the loop and haven’t had the time to investigate some of the accusations.

    That being said, complaining that CASA doesn’t offer French translation as a reason for leaving is infantile at best.

    That doesn’t preclude the idea that leaving was the right choice, it merely points out that a lot, if not most or all, of the reasons given are pretty piss poor.

    (initial post deleted to fix a couple of minor typos, because I apparently have OCD tonight)

  5. Maria_Jogova on October 24, 2008 7:00 am

    I’d like to ask how this will impact our future relations with CASA. It seems like this decision was hastily made, without much thought for the students, and the implications that it might have for UBC. If CASA is the best way for banding with other universities in any sort of lobbying efforts, then it’s certainly not helping the student cause if we withdraw from a full post, and full obligations, in an organization that can be immensely useful.

    This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly- if the AMS wants to become a full member again, it will most likely only be resented for being difficult to work with and, dare I say, immature. I think this sort of move undermines our legitimacy as a student body- it means that we now hold even less sway, it means that we’ll probably be resented more, it means that if we decide to become full members again other student unions will be more prone to treat the AMS with some dislike.

    I feel like even if some of the complaints are legitimate, you don’t deal with it by throwing a hissy fit to throw your weight around. You deal with it as a mature student body- you address the concern, you take all steps necessary to resolve it and compromise. Leaving CASA seems to just mean that we lose some credibility as a student union- and it’s easy to do, but hard to earn back once lost. We’ve essentially gone from having Jeff chair CASA, to having no voice. I’m seriously concerned that the decision didn’t really consider the harms that come from such a move, and seriously worried about how it affects UBC students.

  6. maayan kreitzman on October 24, 2008 7:07 am

    I just want to emphasize that whatever “ongoing issues” exist, this position is a complete turnaround in attitude from a mere 9 months ago. That’s not to say that the relationship can’t be evaluated, but just that this is a very recent, and very significant change. WHile Matt Naylor (who didn’t get along with staff and other leaders in CASA) may have been conveniently consulted on this, many other former executives who were more positive about the relationship were not.

    This change is obviously completely executive-driven. Council, as representitives of the whole society, should have acted responsibly to check this hasty move. I stand by my statements below that most of the reasons were frivolous, and cannot on their own account for the sudden removal of 25000 from the CASA budget with no notice.

  7. Blake Frederick on October 24, 2008 6:43 pm

    Well I will say that it is quite interesting the level of opposition to this decision as indicated on poll to the right. It is higher than I would expect given the unanimous Council decision, however, it’s hard to know who’s voting in this poll. It would be interesting to collect some data on what students at large have to say about CASA – something that I think will be necessary as this process moves forward.

  8. stefanie on October 24, 2008 8:02 pm

    stefanie as VP External here. Normally I’d reserve this conversation for the Ubyssey, but their website is down. To offer a few points of clarification:

    While the AMS does have some positive associations with CASA, the AMS has an equal history of discontent with CASA. Over the years, concerns have been expressed both verbally and formally to the organizations staff. The council motion came out of an open discussion session with AMS councilors who thought that CASA’s organizational response in addressing the most recent AMS concerns was insufficient. Would it be better to wait and wait and wait to see if they’ll change? Many of the current AMS concerns have already been brought to CASA in previous years. These concerns wouldn’t persist if they had already been adequately addressed.

    On the issue of the “hastiness” of the motion, while CASA was not informed of the exact motion until the day of the council meeting, our own organizational autonomy must be taken into consideration. When the AMS Council voted down the new CASA constitution this summer, the maintenance of the “easy-in, easy-out” policy was cited as a key reason. If current AMS Councilors feel that the operations of CASA are not meeting their expectations, and notice of these concerns has been given, we should reserve the right to withdraw on our own terms.

    Furthermore, the unanimous decision made by Council will not take effect until April, due to the way CASA’s fiscal year and the membership process works. At this point we are still full members of CASA for another 5 months. We’re still a fee-paying member for at least another 17 months. With this Council motion, however, we have stated our concerns to CASA, and sent a very clear signal that the current operations of the organization are not necessarily the best use of AMS student resources. We have 5 months time to review our options and determine a strategy for federal and provincial representation that best meets the organizational and political needs of UBC students. CASA has 5 months to implement changes to better address AMS concerns.

    Let’s use our oh-so-critical minds to assess what is the best use of student resources for students at UBC. How much should the AMS be investing, both in terms of financial and human resources, in federal lobbying? How about provincial and municipal lobbying? What about non-Government organizations (ie: TransLink)? If we are affiliated with an organization, what do we expect from them, and to what degree? Do we want a voice in the decision-making processes of the organization? Boozy conferences? Political efficacy? Non-partisanship? Campus outreach initiatives? Networking opportunities? Consistent communication from the home office? An inclusive and respectful dialogue on student issues? Staff that abide by a “member-driven” founding principle? Hoodies and swag for conference delegates? Policy documents that provide a comprehensive approach to issues? These are questions that warrant further discussion, and I welcome your feedback.

    For those of you in Vancouver, you might want to focus on the municipal elections too. With a housing crisis in Vancouver, transit service being less than adequate, the Olympics, and ever-increasing policing presence in Vancouver, there are a lot of decisions currently being made that will have a more direct impact on your daily lives. Vote November 15th.


    stefanie ratjen

  9. Steven_K on October 31, 2008 6:23 am

    Secondary education policy is set almost entirely at the provincial level- the federal gov’t only provides earmarked funds and some high profile grants and scholarship programs. So, we should immediately question the usefulness of a student advocacy organization whose focus is exclusively federal.

    CASA has very few successes to its name. It does nothing, as far as I can tell, on many issues that matter to students: childcare, housing, and even lower tuition, and so I’m not sure why we would be at all concerned with “jeopardizing our relationship” with them.

    There are other models for student lobbying. The AMS’s current approach – schmoozing once a year with MLAs who have no interest in doing anything for us – is not lobbying and is an enormous waste of money. Now, that just happens to be all CASA ever does. We should be looking at other models for lobbying – such as pooling resources between provincial student unions on specific campaigns, like Stef did when the BC Libs announced those budget cuts.

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