Mud-slinging makes student politicians April’s fools

There’s nothing like a public argument via press release to point out how silly student politicians can be


Amy Cox, deputy chairperson-elect of the National Graduate Caucus (CFS) and president of the Post-Graduate Student Society of McGill University, is the listed contact on a news release entitled “Graduate students not laughing *with* CASA” that went out Tuesday. The release, which accused CFS’ rival federal student group Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) of making light of graduate student activism, only showed how childish student politics can be.

Earlier that morning, CASA had sent out a news release welcoming two new member students’ unions, including the University of Waterloo Graduate Student Association, the first graduate students’ union to join the organization. In what may have been an attempt to slight the CFS or only a careless slip, CASA’s release included this phrase, “With the joining of CASA’s first graduate student association, the GSA, CASA is working to fill the current void that exists in graduate student representation at the federal level.”

CASA has been representing graduate students at UBC and prior to that, represented graduate students at the University of Manitoba. So, to say their is a void is to say they were not properly representing those members.

But Cox decided this was an attack against the CFS and she needed to respond.

In her public mud-slinging, Cox said the CASA release “was presumably an attempt at an April Fools joke” and that it denied the existence of “three decades of work undertaken by graduate students at the federal level.”

“We appreciate the CASA’s attempt at humour, but it isn’t appropriate to make light of the hard work of graduate students that has been ongoing for decades,” said Cox.

I’m not defending either side here. It is silly battles like this that make it hard to take student politicians seriously.


Mud-slinging makes student politicians April’s fools

  1. I’m pretty sure the “void” the CASA release referred to was the end of the Graduate Student Alliance of Canada (GSAC), which was the only independent graduate student lobby group in the country. Most of the members of GSAC are now working through CASA to advocate on graduate student issues.

    CASA has always represented graduate students at many of their member institutions, including UBC and Dalhousie, but the GSA at Waterloo is the first grad-only member.

    The GSA is the fourth new member of CASA so far this year, and the University of Alberta is in the process of joining right now. It’s a pretty exciting time for the organization.

  2. While most people would find it dishonest from CASA to ignore the largest graduate student national lobby group, it is somewhat expected. It makes sense for both CASA and CFS to refer to themselves as “the” student movement, but most attentive observers will be aware by now that at least two groups exist (nonwithstanding the specific institutions of Quebec’s francophone student community, and the many independent student unions in the country).

    From reading Amy Cox’s press release, the fact that she is the only press contact, that the release is issued from the McGill PGSS, and that she is deputy chairperson-elect (and not currently a spokesperson) of the NGC, all lead to believe that it was an initiative by a single person, or maybe a single student association at most.

  3. It is first and foremost, important to recognize that the purpose of the press release was to welcome two new members to CASA and to outline a new policy focus for the organization. The comments in our press release regarding graduate student representation within CASA and at the Federal level were not an attempt to “mud-sling”, slight any other student organization, or a careless slip; they were simply honest comments about where our priorities have been, where they are going, and what we’ve been hearing from representatives of the Tri-Councils regarding student involvement in graduate policy and funding issues.

    Although CASA represents the interest of graduate students from many of our member campuses across the country, specific graduate student issues (i.e. tri-council funding, support for international graduate students, funding for research, etc.) have not been a policy or advocacy focus for our members, until recently. Furthermore, with the dissolution of the Graduate Students’ Association of Canada (GSAC), we’ve heard from various officials from the Tri-Councils that they’ve been searching for a student group to turn to for input on graduate student issues (this is not a judgment that CASA has made, it is merely what the representatives from the councils have expressed to our members).

    The inclusion of the Graduate Student Association of the University of Waterloo represents our first autonomous graduate group. CASA has allocated significant resources to develop comprehensive policies on graduate student issues, and moving forward, graduate issues will be an advocacy priority for our staff and our members. It is unfortunate that Ms. Cox misunderstood the spirit of our latest press release and chose to use the tone that she did, but if her offer to support the further development of graduate student policies in CASA is sincere, we gladly and optimistically accept.


    Zach Churchill
    National Director, CASA

  4. The Tri-Councils yearn for another lap-dog like the GSAC.

    As long as there is principled lobbying being undertaken by the National Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students, I suspect that CASA reps will hear more government officials complain that they want a CASA-esque ass kiss from grad students.

    While we are on the topic, what “significant resources” has CASA set aside for such pursuits?

  5. “the fact that she is the only press contact, that the release is issued from the McGill PGSS, and that she is deputy chairperson-elect (and not currently a spokesperson) of the NGC, all lead to believe that it was an initiative by a single person”

    Yes, much like the CFS. Except the CFS is an initiative of more like 2 or 3 people in Ottawa.

  6. And thus, Federico, you prove Joey’s point on the pettiness of student politics. Congratulations – you’re part of the problem.

  7. Newfoundlander: Please name these 2 or 3 so powerful people who are getting attention from all the media all by themselves, I’m looking forward to meeting them :)

    Jokes aside, I think that we have to keep in mind, that the most controversial topics are the more mediatized, that conflicts, as petty as they can be, will be disproportionately covered by the media just because it’s a good “show”.

    One example: most of the votes in Parliament or in any committee are unanimous (yes, it’s true, just ask your local MP). How boring is that to cover an unanimous vote? How boring is it to cover the points on which CFS and CASA agree? That doesn’t mean there are not many of them.

    At this point it’s worth stopping the hostilities for a moment and realize that the fact that there are two main student lobby groups, by itself, does not mean that student lobbying will fail (just look at the Quebec student strike in 2005). However that probably starts by acknowledging that both groups exists.

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