Print Edition: June 4, 2014
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) foundational conference brought together representatives of student unions across Canada.
SUS sent Dylan Thiessen, Ryan Petersen, and Thomas Davies on behalf of the board of directors. Thomas Davies was appointed secretary at the conference.
This session was meant to educate the representatives on the history of CASA, its policies, and current issues that surround student bodies nationwide. Petersen said the conference allowed for “networking for information” about issues common among students, to see how different universities tackled common problems.
Guest speakers presented about a variety of topics, including student loans, aboriginal access to education, and mental health.
Statistician and guest speaker David Caletto presented financial statistics showing that paying for tuition comes from more than just students and their own money. Education costs also directly affect parents and family members, and in turn society, so having the numbers reflecting this is a more accurate representation of the strain of tuition costs. Davies remarked that approaching the government with the argument that “students want this” is not always the most effective approach, because students make up one demographic.
Aboriginal access to education was also a key point on the agenda, with a focus on band funding. For example, a band may only receive funding to partially support two or three students out of 10 potential students, and there could be conflicts if a member of that band applied for a student loan. Another barrier could be geographical, so transportation costs also need to be taken into account in order to broaden the accessibility of education to aboriginal students in rural areas.
Mental health was also discussed at the conference. Many symptoms for mental illness begin to develop between the ages 18 and 24, the average age of most post-secondary students. In its March 2014 policy, CASA is advocating for increased funding for resources as well as more accurate collection of data to ensure that the needs of students are being met.
Some of the CASA operational policies and bylaws have changed from last year, meaning SUS has to follow suit.
“This year, now we’ve got a skeleton, and we just need to flesh out some of the detail about how we have to operate,” Davies explains.
This will be added to the agenda at SUS board meetings, to ensure that their regulations and rules are current and consistent with CASA’s.
SUS is preparing their agenda for CASA’s “poly-strat,” or lobby-week conference in July, where they plan to take practical action on student issues. Though, Davies didn’t elaborate on the specific details.