Originally published in The McMaster Silhouette on 18 March 2010

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The CASA question gets withdrawn

VP (education) changes horses in mid-stream on membership issue

The questions surrounding the resignation of Arati Sharma as national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) are swirling and McMaster’s at the centre of the whirlwind. Of particular note is that two of the key players in this drama are former McMaster students.

Arati Sharma was Vice-President (Education) of the McMaster Students Union last year two years ago* and was able to propel herself to the top of CASA in large part by bringing the MSU back into the national student lobbying organization. Chris Martin is the current Vice-President (Education) and has been a cheerleader for CASA throughout his term.

Suddenly, though, Martin is highly critical of CASA and has started exploring the removal of McMaster from the organization. (19-March-2010)

At Sunday’s SRA meeting, Martin told the assembly that he was extremely concerned about problems within CASA and that he felt it was necessary for the MSU to evaluate its membership was an eye to potentially leaving the organization. In the same speech, Martin announced that Sharma was resigning from the organization. This left a clear impression that Sharma’s resignation was directly connected to the problems that the Martin now sees the MSU having with CASA.

Considering that tens of thousands of dollars have already been spent on CASA, Martin must clarify exactly what is occurring with student money. After flying across Canada and enjoying CASA conferences on the student dime, Martin owes students a clear communication of exactly what CASA is all about.
In politics, appearances are often worse than reality. Right now, it appears that the MSU’s membership in CASA may be driven more by the ambitions of full-time MSU politicians than by the merits of being part of a national student organization.

The fact that Martin announced Sharma’s resignation to the SRA – prior to the CASA membership being informed – at the same time as he was stating that the organization is severely flawed raises legitimate questions.

The simplest of these questions is, “What’s going on?”

Instead of answering questions, Martin has decided to hide behind the statement that this is a human resources issue in an e-mail response to The Silhouette.

By not addressing the whirlwind that has engulfed the MSU Vice-Presidency (Education), Martin is allowing questions about the use of student money to fester and concerns to grow.

The appearance of recent events may be worse than the reality, but nobody knows for sure except for Sharma and Martin.

It’s time for both of them to communicate with the student body and explain what’s happening with CASA and the tens of thousands of dollars sunk into it.

**Correction: *The original article stated Ms. Sharma was MSU VP education in 2008-2009. This is incorrect, she was VP in 2007-2008.