Alliance spends $30,000 of un-budgeted money
Ella Henry has a few questions for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). Henry, the vice president of education at St. Thomas’ student union attended CASA’s annual general meeting last week and brought forth a motion that demands CASA explain some of its spending habits.
The alliance is a network of student unions designed for more effective federal lobbying for post-secondary issues. The STUSU is one of 23 member organizations. The union pays $5,000 annually to maintain its member status.
Earlier this fall, CASA commissioned a study of Canadian post-secondary students, for which it paid $30,000.
But Henry says the STUSU decided not to participate in the study, for two reasons: CASA had not allocated any money for the survey, and the university’s research ethics board did not approve the survey. She said the ethics board was critical of some of the survey’s phrasing, and that some of the questions were “fairly misleading.”
At last week’s meeting, the STUSU motioned for a “a written explanation of where the $30,000 for the Canadian Student Survey is coming from and how the decision to fund it was made.”
The Canadian Student Survey was complied by the Toronto-based Canadian Education Project, which consists of “ associates with unrivaled knowledge and extensive expertise in Canadian education policy and research,” according to the group’s website.
The survey cost roughly $60,000 and was funded by CASA and other student organizations. Only 19 institutions in 5 provinces participated in the survey.
Henry says that the purpose of the survey was never made clear.
“We didn’t sit down and say, ‘this is the information we want to know, this is how it’s going to help us lobby, what’s the reason we’re doing this?’ We didn’t have a really clearly defined purpose,” she said.
“We didn’t go into it with a clearly defined research goal, at all.”
Henry said there was a general sense among members at the meeting that CASA’s executives needed to produce an updated version of the budget. She pointed to other expenditures on which CASA is overspending, just six months into the fiscal year.
“They’re over on several budget lines,” Henry said.
CASA budgeted $4,000 for cell phones for staff, and already has spent $3,327.68. Similarly, they’ve spent $21,262.82 from a travel fund containing just $22,000 for the fiscal year. One staff retreat was budgeted at $7,500, but ended up costing $11,934.
Henry says she’s asked CASA executives “several times” for an explanation.
“I had no answer, because that money is not in the budget,” she said.
The motion passed at last week’s meeting, and Henry says she expects a response within “a month or two”.