The Aquinian

Small-school politicians work the big league

St. Thomas is the smallest of 22 universities in the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations, but St. Thomas Students’ Union executives Sam Titus and Santiago Chavez are climbing the ranks of the national organization. They’re bringing east coast issues to center stage.

Sam Titus, the vice-president of education on STUSU, is the chair of the federal policy committee in CASA – one of only four chair positions in the national association.

“It’s really fun. I really like doing it,” said Titus. “The people who do policy are really committed people and it’s my job to make sure everyone stays on task.”

The federal policy committee meets with Members of Parliament to ensure the policies they created are implemented. Titus is the one who directs the committee and ensures parliament listens to student voices. Titus said since there are so many schools representing approximately 280,000 students in the country, it’s important for small East Coast schools are part of the conversation.

“The East Coast has a very big presence in CASA, which is nice because there are a lot of very big schools in CASA, like the University of Alberta,” said Titus.

The two St. Thomas students in positions of authority in CASA want to make sure small schools don’t get left behind.

“It allows us to punch above our weight. St. Thomas has a lot of influence on the committee and on CASA as a whole.”

Chavez is one of four board directors at large in CASA. He’s a member of several groups including Titus’ federal policy committee. While he doesn’t vote in the organization, Chavez is there to represent STUSU, connect the several committees and empower the organization as a whole. For the federal policy committee, Titus is the one behind the steering wheel, but Chavez offers him direction.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure the degree to which I would have relevance and purpose (in CASA) if I didn’t step up a little bit more,” said Chavez. “There’s a lot to say of what gets done between votes. That’s actually most of the work.”

Chavez was elected into his position on the board. Titus, however, became chair without having a vote cast in his name. He was selected as a member of his committee, then moved to vice-chair and finally took over the position as chair when its former occupant stepped down.

“(CASA) provides a really, really great opportunity to represent your students and your reality, which is very different from most of what we see at CASA… in terms of big schools out West,” said Chavez. “To represent it with intention and the opportunity to put forth a position that has an impact is interesting.”

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