Attention all members of the Concordia Community,
There are currently 165,000 students on strike across the entire province, representing the largest student strike ever to occur in Quebec. This tactic is not new and it has not be used frivolously. Following two years of lobbying, letter writing, attempts at negotiating with government and university administration, and an array of powerful symbolic actions, the strike is undoubtedly a last resort.
The level of accessible education and diversity currently found in Quebec post secondary institutions is intrinsically connected to a rich history of grassroots student organizing. The disruption of classes, while new to Concordia, is a tactic deeply rooted in the historical context of this movement. At this point, there has been eight consecutive weeks of disruption to the administration’s attempts to maintain “business as usual” on the Concordia campus. The administration has failed to address the very real concerns stemming from strike-related disruptions, and this refusal to acknowledge the reality and severity of this situation will no longer be acceptable.
Below a list of demands outlines the appropriate steps Concordia should take to remedy this situation.
Until the time that these demands are met, it should be expected that “business as usual” will continually be disrupted.
1) That Concordia make immediate accommodations for those students now forced to write final exams despite having missed a significant portion of classwork this semester. The administration and Senate must play an active role in ensuring that options such as DEF notations, supplementary exams and re-weighting of course work are made easily available to students in this position, and that faculty are given sufficient guidance and support in this process.
After having spent thousands of dollars on tuition fees and course materials, students are being led to believe that remedial powerpoint slides on moodle and chapters from a text book are sufficient for the advancement of their education. It must be acknowledged that supplementary materials such as these are in no way an adequate substitution for the learning experience afforded by the classroom, and that Concordia’s current tactic of avoiding accommodations is a direct contradiction of CREPUQ’s position that the quality of education can in no way be sacrificed over the course of the strike.
Regardless of political affiliations, everyone at Concordia has been affected over the course of the strike and thus accommodations should be made available to all students. This must be backed by full institutional support, without continuing to place the burden directly onto faculty themselves.
2) That Concordia’s full and part-time faculty associations (CUFA and CUPFA) consider calling on their members to cooperate with those students requesting incomplete grades due to their participation in the strike.
The administration’s decision to wave the fee for processing incomplete grades is a clear acknowledgement that their refusal to extend the semester has resulted in a situation where students are now facing serious academic penalties for having participated in the strike. However, some faculty members remain misinformed about their ability to issue these grades, or unsure of what support they will have in accommodating strikers. CUFA and CUPFA have the resources to guide faculty members through this process, and should consider actively doing so in order to protect the academic integrity of the student body.
3) That Concordia use its position within CREPUQ to denounce the structural and ideological reforms of the “fair and balanced university funding plan”, and pressure the government to retract it immediately.
As an academic institution within the province of Quebec, comparatively “low” tuition allows for increased diversity in those able to study and research at Concordia. This in turn benefits the scope of knowledge cultivated within Concordia’s walls. This accessibility and critical engagement at Concordia is a direct product of decades of social struggle in Quebec, and Concordia administration must recognize it’s responsibility to maintain the integrity of a society built on these intellectual and physical labours.
4) That Bram Freedman (VP institutional relations and secretary-general) and David Graham (Provost and VP Academic Affairs) immediately resign from their positions at Concordia university, for having created an environment of harassment, insecurity and mistrust at Concordia over the course of the strike.
Internal communications from administration regarding the strike, manufactured and signed by Freedman and Graham, have created an environment in which it is appropriate to target, infantilize, and threaten students on the basis of political affiliations. Far from resolving the concerns of the Concordia community, their only response has been to escalate tensions through increased security measures, pressuring faculty and department chairs, and threatening students with academic penalties. Unlicensed security guards and riot police physically assaulting people on campus has traumatized students, deepened divisions between political factions in Concordia’s community, and marred the university’s reputation as an institution that respects free speech. The results of this escalation are setting a shameful precedent. The discourse created by Freedman and Graham around the strike has directly resulted in Concordia becoming both physically and psychologically unsafe for it’s members. For this they must be held accountable.
5) That revision to Concordia’s Board of Governors (BOG) be made, in order to produce a membership that is both representative of, and accountable to the true needs and values of the Concordia community. Specifically student and “community at large” membership must change, both in proportion and in form.
As the highest decision making body at Concordia, the Board of Governors has enormous influence over the direction the university takes, both ideologically and structurally. The current plan to restructure the BOG will bring major cuts to student representation, effectively transforming it to mere tokenism. Simultaneously, this restructuring will do nothing to address the problematic nature of devoting “community at large” membership primarily to representatives of major corporations, development companies and banks – all of whom are profiteers of the corporatization and privatization of education entrenched in the “fair and balanced” education budget. Representation on the board must be proportionate to and reflective of the Concordia community itself, wherein “community at large” members are chosen by the community, and in which students have the capacity to address their concerns and demands as the majority membership of Concordia University.
Business as usual will no longer be an option at Concordia. It is time for the administration to act.