CASA's major headache
The effectiveness of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations has been called into question during a tumultuous year which has seen the withdrawal of two of its members.
Edmonton's Grant MacEwan College withdrew from CASA in November, and the University of Alberta voted in favour of withdrawal from the organization in December.
Problems ranged from the structure of the organization to the feeling CASA was run in a top-down fashion, said Anand Sharma, VP-external for the U of A Students' Union.
"[CASA] is leader driven, not student driven," Sharma said, adding very little input is solicited from the students of the member schools.
"It was always put out there the desire [for CASA] to be member driven," said Tyler McLeod, CASA interim national director. "People aren't solely dedicated to CASA; they do have other jobs when they return [to their member schools]."
It is very hard to be member driven in these circumstances, McLeod stated. "There have to be some times when the leadership steps up."
Among his criticisms, Sharma cited a lobby conference held in Ottawa in which he claimed there was poor attendance, and a lot of CASA policies were not passed.
"I'm not sure what a reasonable amount of policies [passing] is appropriate," McLeod said, adding most policies are passed at CASA's annual general meeting usually held in May or June.
"There are ideological problems [with CASA]," Sharma said, noting CASA's stance is that tuition is a provincial issue, however, students care [about lobbying the issue] at every level of government.
"Tuition is a provincial issue," McLeod said. "[However], we make the connection that there are things being done at the federal level that trickle down to the provincial level."
While U of A was sufficiently upset with CASA to pull out, Dalhousie University in Halifax will remain a member.
"We've had some concerns with the problems the organization has had this past year," said Joanne Gallarneau, president of the Dalhousie Students' Union. "I think CASA had a down year, but I think they will pick up; we will stick with them until next year," she said, adding there may be a review of Dalhousie's affiliation with CASA in the future.
Josh Morgan, University Students' Council VP-education at Western, said CASA is historically a pragmatic organization.
"I do think there are valid criticisms of CASA out there, but I have always strongly believed in working through the organization and moving forward, rather than leaving and criticizing from the outside.