The debate over membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations is heating up again.
Last week, St. Thomas University students’ union president Mark Livingstone tabled a surprise motion at the regular Thursday STUSU meeting.
After 44 minutes of debate, the motion was approved. It created an ad hoc committee which will write a report outlining the pros and cons of full membership in CASA.
A special meeting of the STUSU was held Sunday to appoint members to sit on the committee. The first meeting was Monday.
CASA represents 26 student associations that collectively lobby the federal government on post-secondary education issues. CASA is the second largest federal student lobby group.
The Canadian Federation of Students is the largest.
“In consultation with a lot of other people, there seems to be ambiguity on what would be in the best interests of students,” said Livingstone before introducing the motion.
He said members of council approached him saying they didn’t know enough about the issues to vote on moving to associate membership in CASA.
A vote on whether to move to associate membership had been expected this week.
Moving to associate member status would mean a loss of voting rights, but the STUSU would still be involved in debates at the organization.
In 2010, then-vice-president education Ella Henry said the lobbying organization was broken, citing governance and budget issues.
Since then, debates about the issue usually come up at least once each semester.
Last year’s council voted in the spring to hold a review of CASA membership this year.
Two weeks ago, vice-president education Craig Mazerolle, whose role includes external post-secondary education lobbying on behalf of the STUSU, presented a 17-page report on CASA.
The report outlines the history of CASA, what the needs of the STUSU are regarding a lobby organization, and why Mazerolle believes the STUSU should, as a first step, move to associate membership.
Mazerolle was surprised by the motion to postpone the vote last week. He said he was only told hours before the meeting about Livingstone’s plans.
“The issue was just never brought up with me before today,” Mazerolle said during the debate. Some members wanted to wait until more STUSU members were at the table before voting on the motion and then filling the committee.
The meeting last week barely met quorum and two members of the executive – vice-president student life Alex Vietinghoff and vice-president administration Mary-Dan Johnston – were absent.
STUSU spends $5,000 in membership fees and plans to spend $10,000 for CASA conferences.
A change in the full-membership fee structure will see the STUSU pay more next year, the equivalent of $3.17 for each full-time STU student.
The motion passed calls on the committee to present its final report no later than March 15.
The STUSU has until March 31 to vote on moving to associate membership, according to Livingstone.