On Campus

UBC to decide on CASA membership tonight

But will the motion pass? This time, for a variety of reasons, the result isn't certain

If one thing has been made clear over the past few weeks on this website, it’s that’s the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is definite water-cooler talk. That is, if the Internet had some sort of equivalent of a water cooler. But regardless, through a combination of its size and its penchant for creating controversy, the CFS can definitely be considered sexy within the realm of Canadian post-secondary student government/lobbying. Which isn’t saying much. But still.

However, the CFS’ counterpart, the smaller and federally-focused Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, keeps trundling along, working exclusively on issues of federal jurisdiction. Its largest member, UBC, may be fully pulling out of the group tonight. A motion has been put forward to the student council that would see the Alma Mater Society (AMS) fully remove itself from CASA. One of the things CASA trumpets as a selling point is that members can easily join and leave whenever they see fit without a full-scale referendum—and UBC students may just take full advantage of that.

Curiously, the end of the motion reads: (click for the entire motion)

“Be it further resolved that the AMS remain unaffiliated to any federal lobbying organization, for no less than two years; and
Be it further resolved that if the AMS considers affiliation with an external lobbying organization, it negotiate with CASA first.”

It’s a clear compromise on those who drafted the motion to find common ground with councillors who are neutral on the relative merits of CASA, but are strongly against joining the CFS. On the other hand, if federal fixed-election laws have taught us anything, it’s that these sorts of “we pwomise” motions/laws can easily be circumvented. A new executive and council could come in and override all of this.

So will the motion pass? Last year at this time, the AMS voted to step down to associate member status within CASA (the motion passed unanimously). This time however, the vote is not so certain. Much of the conflict has come due to the clumsy way the AMS executive has tried to distance itself from the organization. Most memorably, an email to students sent by VP External Tim Chu, the AMS claimed that “CASA is an organization that has quite a bit of problems. These problems include… Spending more money on cell phones than member relations.” Which would be ridiculous. If it were true.

However, in a meeting with UBC, National Director Arati Sharma said that CASA talked more about the cell phone budget than the member relations budget at their last AGM. Oops. Furthermore, the external office of the AMS, which is in charge of carrying out lobbying, hasn’t exactly been controversy-free in the last few months. It’ll be up to councillors to determine if Canada’s largest student union can competently handle external lobbying without any outside help or affiliation. I’ll have a report up on the decision once it breaks tonight (or, for those out on the east coast, more likely tomorrow morning).

UPDATE: Earlier today, Arati Sharma sent a letter to AMS Councillors and campus media which contained this interesting tidbit:

“In the current contract between the Alma Mater Society of the University of British Columbia – Vancouver, and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (point 7 on page 3 of the attached Full Member Agreement), the AMS agreed to the exit provisions of Article 4 of the constitution (page 2 of attached Constitution 2007), which states in 4.10:

“A Full member reverting to Associate Membership or an Associate Member withdrawing from the organization must notify the Board of Directors in writing no less than thirty (30) calendar days in advance of employing the necessary legislative steps in the Member’s constitution or Bylaws.”

Two CASA representatives met with AMS representatives on October 8, 2009 but no notice of tonight’s motion was given. CASA was informed by the UBC Insiders (a campus blog) Twitter feed instead.