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Political, legal posturing on horizon

by Archives January 17, 2001 0 comment
Concordia University’s senate may have to change the way it does business now that the CSU is accredited. Some of the senate’s requirements for student representation are in opposition to Quebec accreditation act, Bill 32.

Senate by-laws require that student representatives be registered in an undergraduate or graduate program and that they be of “good standing.” The rules explicitly exclude independent students.

The accreditation act says that accredited student bodies are the only groups that can appoint student representatives to governing boards. It also states Bill 32 superceeds any by-laws of educational institutions.

“It’s about who decides. Now we decide, and they can’t tell us what to do,” said CSU president Rob Green. “[Senate] appointments should be up to the CSU. What I don’t like is them [administration] telling us what to do.”

Any undergraduate student can be appointed, and the school cannot refuse, said Guy Major, a Ministry of Education accreditation agent. “From the outset, the law excludes no one. The only distinctions between students are made between undergraduates and graduates.”

During last semester’s accreditation drive, the CSU’s right to make appointments was one of the key issues for its yes platform. This topic was brought up when Major was in senate to explain the implications of the CSU’s accreditation. Major said that the university’s policy would become illegal after accreditation.

Bram Freedman, Concordia’s assistant secretary general and general counsel, said he wasn’t prepared to comment about the difference in policies, explaining that he needs more time to do more legal research and interpretation.

Freedman also said it wasn’t a pressing issue for him since the senatorial seats are filled for this academic year.

The by-laws were up for review anyway, not having been amended since 1982, Freedman added. The university has no intention of going against the law, he said, but Freedman also didn’t seem to fully accept Green and Major’s interpretation of what will happen.

“He’s [Major] certainly entitled to his opinion as to what the law says, but there are different kinds of requirements to be considered,” said Freedman.

What could be questioned by the univeristy are its right to have eligibility requirements and the definition of “appoint” in Bill 32.

Major said the only way to resolve problems would be through the courts, and it would not be the first time.

After the student union at the University of Quebec became accredited, the university wanted to continue appointing student members to its governing boards. It challenged the ministry in court, but eventually realized it could not win and withdrew the case, he said.

Both Freedman and university rector Dr. Frederick Lowy think the senate’s requirements make sense. “On the face of it, it sounds pretty logical,” said Lowy, who added that he still considers independant students as real students.

“The senate wants to ensure student [senators] have a long-term, tangible connection with the university,” said Freedman.

But Green doesn’t agree. “I really don’t see how a full-time student is better than a part-time [student] as in being involved in student activity.”

This matter of controlling senate appointments became a contentious issue a year ago when Green, an independant student and CFS executive Phil Ilijevski were removed from senate for not being enrolled in classes during the 1999 Fall semester.

Green, who is not looking to rejoin the senate this year, found the senate’s use of the eligibility by-law bogus last year. “They waited until I said something within that meeting that they didn’t want to hear.”

Freedman said that in his 10 years of sitting on senate, he had not seen a student senator removed because of eligibility issues until Green and Ilijevski’s case.

Additional reporting by Ricky Leong

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