After lengthy debate about the wording of the motion but relatively little debate about its actual merits, UBC’s Alma Mater Society, the largest student union in Canada, has declared its intent to leave the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA).
Originally, the motion in front of council read, “Therefore, be it resolved that the Alma Mater Society of the University of British Columbia – Vancouver cease its affiliation to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.” However, after a letter was urgently sent from CASA to councillors reminding them that a) UBC could not legally leave CASA until April 1, and b) UBC legally needed to give 30 days of notice before taking formal steps to leave the organization, there was a debate about whether to delay the debate until the AMS had gotten a legal opinion on the matter. That vote was defeated narrowly, and the end compromise was to word the motion more vaguely, so that it simply stated the AMS’ intent to leave CASA after April 1, 2010.
As one councillor put it, “We should let the people whose job it is to write legal policy write this policy, to make sure we take the proper formal steps for this to happen legally.”
Debate on the actual motion was fairly short. The current AMS President, Blake Frederick, told council that CASA didn’t make sense for UBC. The 2008/2009 AMS President, Mike Duncan, told council essentially the same thing. And the 2007/2008 AMS VP External, Matt Naylor, told council…well, you get the picture.
While there were a decent number of vocal dissidents to the motion—once councillor said “I am ashamed to be part of a organization that is so unprofessional with the groups we deal with”—most were in favour of the motion, given that is non-binding.
So what does the motion actually mean? Well, barring a fairly big ideological change in the makeup of the AMS executive, or drastic change in how CASA conducts its business, UBC will become independent on April 1, 2010, and remain so for a while. Current and past executives are excited about the prospects of having a much larger budget for lobbying (In the past, the AMS spent $70,000 on CASA), to spend more time working on provincial issues, and being in full control of external relations.
Meanwhile, most councillors (and by proxy, the student body) don’t really care about lobbying so long as it doesn’t take up a ton of money and doesn’t cause any public embarrassments to UBC. Frankly, there’s just too much bad blood and pettiness between the two groups right now for good-faith bargaining to happen.