Last week, in The McMaster Silhouette, I called on McMaster Student Union vice-president education Chris Martin to clear the air about the resignation of Arati Sharma as national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
This week Chris Martin very professionally responded to the request with an elegant opinion piece submitted to The Silhouette. What follows is his response as submitted.

Let me set the stage a bit:

For those of you that don’t know, the MSU represents you federally through the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). This is a national lobbying organization headed by an elected staff member called the National Director. The current National Director is Arati Sharma, former MSU Vice-President (Education). Recently, Ms. Sharma resigned from her post. At the last SRA meeting, I made a number of critical remarks about the organization.

In last week’s Silhouette, post-secondary education reporter Joey Coleman wrote an opinions piece saying that the MSU has been supportive of CASA until this point, and that now we have changed positions. He raised concerns that this change might be linked to Ms. Sharma’s resignation, and that the MSU is simply supporting her career aspirations. He called on me to shed some light on the situation.

So here’s the truth: The MSU is reviewing its membership currently, but this process has nothing to do with the resignation of our national director. They are separate issues.

I have always been critical of CASA. I have communicated these concerns to the SRA on multiple occasions, as well as written articles on the President’s Page in the Silhouette. I believe in the importance of federal lobbying and a national student voice, and if possible I would like the MSU to contribute to that voice. However, I have always been open with my criticisms of CASA. I have never been, as Mr. Coleman put it, a cheerleader.

After a year of being McMaster’s voice at CASA, I remain unconvinced that pursuing full membership is a good idea. I also firmly believe that retaining our current level of membership (associate membership) for much longer is a bad idea. We get no vote, but still pay fees (albeit these fees are half of what they would be if we became full members).

In case you were wondering, our issues with CASA are: an unfair fee structure, an unstable governance model, as well as general attitudes of the membership.  I will elaborate on these further for any MSU member that is curious to know more.

We will be discussing these issues over the course of the next year with students, the SRA and the CASA Home Office staff. I will be leaving the next VP Education and SRA with a report of my impressions as well as recommendations, but I will not be making the membership decision myself.

This is all to say that the concern that the MSU would leave CASA due to the resignation of Arati Sharma is understandable, but unfounded. If the MSU drops its associate membership, it will be because the SRA determines that CASA does not suit our needs. We’ll make this determination after an open and transparent review.

It has been the honour of my life this year to be your Vice-President (Education). I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would never make such a large decision on a whim, or to further anyone’s political career. For what it’s worth, you have my word on that.