March 16, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 86  

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Pathetic turnout for Waterloo’s CASA vote

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

For once, the fact that most university students do not know about student lobby groups may have actually benefitted one said groups.

On Mar. 10 and 11, the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students held a referendum asking students if they wanted the Federation to remain a member of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Although more than 50 per cent voted to leave CASA, the vote failed to meet quorum, and therefore is not binding.

According to Brandon Sweet, the Federation’s chief returning officer, 329 of the 20,817 total eligible voters voted to remain members of CASA, and 385 voted to leave. This means 1.58 per cent of eligible voters opted to stay, while 1.84 per cent wanted to leave CASA.

“[Those wishing to leave CASA] did win; however, Federation quorum states that the majority has to have at least seven per cent of the eligible voters for the referendum to be binding,” Sweet explained.

“It was our hope that students would [take an interest in this issue],” said Liam McHugh-Russell, the federation’s VP-education, explaining a campaign was conducted over seven days to inform students.

“[CASA] national director [James Kusie] and regional director, Dave Ford, came on campus to assist with the campaign at various points,” Sweet said, adding the campaign included posters, public meetings, classroom speeches and information posted on the web.

“There was a motion at [Sunday’s] council meeting to reconsider — there might still be a vote [within council] to leave CASA in April,” McHugh-Russell said, adding that just because the referendum did not reach quorum does not mean the issue is not worth considering.

“Referendums tend to be tied to presidential elections, but this one wasn’t,” Ford said. “There simply wasn’t enough organizing [to generate student interest].”

“I am disappointed that the turnout was so low — general knowledge of what CASA is is pretty low,” Kusie said.

“We are happy that [Waterloo] decided to remain committed to CASA — [in the council meeting following the referendum] they didn’t vote to leave, and they decided to attend the March [CASA] conference and recommend a course of action after that,” he said.

“We will be debating and adopting a strategic plan [at CASA’s March conference] which will address many of [the] members’ concerns,” Kusie explained, adding this debate will give member schools a chance to voice concerns about the future of the organization.



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