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Concordia puzzles outside world

by Archives January 31, 2001
Concordia has been criticized in the mainstream media for allowing students to defer their exams so they can protest at the summit of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) this April in Quebec City.
“The media has misinterpreted the reason why we let students postpone their exams. Clearly the media has only looked at the matter superficially,” said Frederick Lowy, Concordia’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor.
It has been interpreted by the media that Concordia University was taking a position against the FTAA summit. However, that is not the case, Lowy said.
“It would be impossible to take a political position on something like this, since there are over 20 thousand students and over 3 thousand staff and faculty.
There can be no single opinion,” he said.
Lowy insisted that Concordia has done the right thing to encourage students to take part and be involved in the social process. “It is important for students to become engaged in social concerns, since many young people are uninterested in public affairs. Besides, Concordia students may be society’s leaders of
tomorrow,” said Lowy.
“This is an issue of academic freedom. Students should be allowed to be social critics,” said CSU President Rob Green.
According to Lowy, there are risks in allowing students the flexibility to protest. Concordia could be perceived as taking a political position, but the benefits outweigh the risks.
“It is a risk worth taking since there is value for students to be engaged in the important events of the day,” said Lowy.
Last Friday, the senate passed a motion allowing students to postpone their exams only on the days that the summit is taking, April 20-24. The motion encouraged professors and departments to be as flexible as possible and that students who wish to attend the summit must write to the department chair, the professor and the registrar.
The main issue that worried senators was the abuse of this motion. To curb potential abuse, the motion stated that students must ask permission to postpone exams by no later than March 15, 2001.
A final date will be set at the senate meeting of Feb. 2.
“I believe that making students ask far ahead for permission will root out those who would use it to get more time for studying,” said Green.
Some students disagreed with Lowy and Green’s opinion.
“I am against it because I think it is stupid to demonstrate. There are other channels through which to protest, like your MP,” said James De Silva an engineering student.
“It’s not necessary to protest. I think the FTAA is a good thing for the global economy in the long run,” said Clavin Weeks, a finance student.
“Students have the right to pursue knowledge and to challenge both popular and unpopular ideas, as well as to explore different points of view and to experiment with ideas. This is what university is all about,” said Lowy.

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