The Case for CASA

This is a guest post by Jeremy McElroy, AMS President and former AMS VP External. You can read the other half of this point-counterpoint here.

On Wednesday night, AMS council will be voting on our continued membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). There are 3 possible outcomes of this discussion, though in my opinion there should only be 2 – move to full membership, or leave. The third option is to remain Associate Members of the organization, thereby only paying half of the membership fees, and not receiving a vote at the table, all the while enjoying all the benefits of CASA membership. The AMS has been an Associate Member of CASA for 3 years now, and I am advocating that we either shit, or get off the pot.

The AMS first moved to Associate status when Stefanie Ratjen was VP External, and the AMS had issues with the voting structure, Code of Conduct and conduct of members, and the lack of childcare and international student issue policies. Our reasons for dropping down to Associate were to prove to CASA that we were serious about these issues, and if they were not addressed, we would leave.

The next year Timothy Chu and Blake Frederick took up the anti-CASA torch, went to the Policy and Strategy Conference in Calgary, and did nothing by complain about the organization. But this time there was a brand new National Director, a brand new membership, and brand new energy around the table, but Tim and Blake had their own personal biases, and didn’t give the organization a chance. This led them to make a presentation to AMS Council on how terrible CASA was, and move to leave entirely. I admit I was taken in by this presentation, and subsequently voted in favour of leaving. But on Nov. 27, 2009, they held a press conference and filed a human rights complaint with the United Nations. Needless to say, we second-guessed most of what they had told us.

And so I took up the CASA torch, attending the March 2010 Lobby Conference in Ottawa, and saw firsthand how the organization operated, who the people were, what the issues were, and how the membership was working to fix them. In fact, I found out that Tim and Blake had boycotted the November AGM in Halifax where the membership had spent a great deal of time discussing the AMS and our concerns, voted to adopt the voting structure we had proposed, introduced the Code of Conduct and its Officers, similar to our Equity Program, and brought childcare, graduate and international student issues to the forefront – they bent over backwards to accommodate us, and Tim and Blake didn’t bother to tell us.

And so I presented to Council and asked them to extend our Associate Membership by one more year, so I could audit the organization and ensure that they took our requests seriously.

Now, at the end of one year, the question is once again back on the table, and I now have more confidence than ever in this organization. Just last week, at the AGM here in Vancouver, the General Assembly voted to adopt a new constitution and bylaws, enshrining the AMS’s voting structure forever. They have also continued their advocacy on issues the AMS believes in firmly, and have continuously supported AMS involvement in policy development. I don’t like saying “they” because we are part of CASA, and CASA is just a meeting place of schools, just like us, who all pay fees, work hard, and try to make the organization better. I firmly believe that our concerns have been more than adequately addressed, the organization has changed for the better, and it is time the AMS got our shit together and moved back to full membership.

Many schools have paid full fees, the same as UBC, for all these years that we have been bitching and complaining. They have all worked to accommodate our concerns, even when we question their efficacy and effectiveness. They have bent over backwards for us when we’ve publically asked ,“what does our $50,000 get us?” and I’m tired of slacking off. I’m tired of the AMS not being a team player. And I think it’s time we start being part of the student movement again.

Read the other half of this point-counterpoint here.


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