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New CSU Advocacy Centre ready to go

by Archives September 25, 2002

Students now have a new go-to space if they require a helping hand: the CSU Advocacy Centre, the first advocacy centre that is completely independent of Concordia administration.
Created as a result of one of CANDO’s election promises last spring, CSU VP Academic
Ralph Lee threw open its doors for the first time at the beginning of September.

Since its opening, Lee has been helping students with problems ranging from dealing with university bureaucracy, to sexual harassment to racism and concerns about grading. “Any problem a student faces, it’s basically my job to try to help them as much as I can,” he said.
“Sometimes they don’t get the results they want, but if I try my best, that’s good enough for them.”

While there are other advocacy centres at Concordia that also offer support services, the Student Advocacy Centre is financially independent from the university. “We’re paid by students and fight for students,” Lee said.

“Most of the cases we get are extremely legitimate. There’s tons of serious problems, like where teachers wrongly accuse students of plagiarism to alleged violations of the academic code of conduct.”

“From the trivial to the complex, I can either help them myself, or refer them to someone who can give them the help they need,” he added, noting he sometimes directs students to organizations like the Concordia Women’s Centre, or to a lawyer where they can receive legal aid.

Lee noted that he’s been advocating for students ever since last winter when he was hired as VP Academic after the results of a CSU executive byelection were declared null and void, virtually leaving the CSU without an executive. He was then voted in, again as VP Academic, with the CANDO slate last March.

To some students, a centre where someone is available for assistance on a daily basis is good news: “It’s a very good idea that students have a place where they can find help,” said Nyamano Armstrong, a first-year political science student.

Others are indifferent, like Ashtar Kajn in second-year commerce. “It’s not really any use going to them; I just find out for myself, and that’s it.”

Students who prefer a more independent route might prefer the Advocacy handbook created by Lee. It contains information for students on a wide range of topics from discrimination to academic re-evaluation policy.

Funding for the centre has been minimal so far. “I’m happy to say it hasn’t cost students very much money. There’s the cost of the sign, the pamphlets – but really the service is myself,” he said, although he has just hired his first, and to date only, staff member.

“Since I’ve been providing advocacy,” he said as he opened a drawer of files, “I’ve seen over a hundred students, and I continue to see students on a daily basis.”

The Student Advocacy Centre is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. in H-644. Call 848-7461 or E-mail CSUadvo-cacy@yahoo.com.

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