Well there is no doubt about it this year was probably the most memorable one in Concordia University’s history. There is always something happening at Concordia and it has definitely made a more interesting stay for students – either positively or negatively depending on your perspective. Moreover, the events of the past year outside the classroom have been an educational experience that you would not get anywhere else.
So let’s take a look at what made this year so very memorable.
The year started off with a bang in the second week of school when former Israeli primer minister Benjamin Netanyahu was stopped from speaking and the school was shut down for the day. The streets around the university were blocked off; there was police on the roof of the Library Building and the riot squad was in front of the Hall Building. Protesters assaulted people trying to hear Netanyahu speak. Concordia resembled a military siege, a scary prospect for students caught in the middle. We made international headlines.
Days after Sept. 9, the administration imposed a moratorium on the Middle East, a highly hypocritical move. The administration criticized the protesters for not allowing Netanyahu to speak and said freedom of speech was a fundamental right that has to be respected. Yet days later, they are putting skid chains on freedom of speech. Interestingly, the day after Sept. 9, information tables were set up on the Middle East and there were no “riots.”
Since the administration was violating the fundamental freedoms of Concordia students to speak about the Middle East, NDP Members of Parliament Svend Robinson and Libby Davies came to Concordia to break the moratorium by speaking about the issue. This event put the university once again in the headlines and put the administration in a bad light. After quite a bit of bad press, the administration was left with no choice, but to lift the moratorium.
Earlier in the winter semester, the administration released a report evaluating what went wrong on Sept. 9 and had some future recommendations. The report concluded that the Hall Building is almost impossible to secure unless it is totally closed down. It also put the blame of the entire event on the protesters, which is unfair.
The protesters did wreak havoc, but the administration was mostly to blame, as they did not consider the safety of the occupants of the building on a busy weekday. Furthermore, they are the gatekeepers and they left the gate wide open. They ignored their own director of security, who recommended holding the event at Loyola; they ignored the seriousness of the protesters and their determination to block Netanyahu and they did not spend an adequate amount of time reviewing the plan of action, as the rector’s cabinet was away on a retreat when the most of the planning was taking place.
Other events that happened that are not part of the fall-out of Sept. 9.
The Concordia Student Union cut the funding of Hillel – Concordia’s main Jewish club – after the club had flyers on their table promoting a program that is part of the Israeli Defence Forces. Whether this constitutes as the CSU claims “active recruiting for foreign forces” is something for the courts to decide, but this event put the spotlight on the university again. The result of this was the student union’s insistence of having all clubs sign a document respecting certain principles.
Councillor Louis-Eric Simard and the university’s Board of Governors kept asking repeatedly for a detailed CSU budget to be made available. The student union said no, prompting students to suspect that something fishy might be going on. This made students frustrated with the union and the CSU provided a very generic budget in their publication Unabridged. This does not tell students how exactly their $1 million dollars are being spent and whether it is spent responsibility. Students have a right to see more detailed documents, without having to make an appointment with a vice-president.
The last important event of the year was the winner of this year’s CSU election, Evolution, Not Revolution. It is the first time in at least four years that a non-left leaning slate or president was elected. Another memorable aspect about this election was the record voter turnout of 20 per cent and the alumni’s role in getting students out to vote.
The events of the past year make Concordia a truly dynamic, exciting and a memorable university. Whether this vigorous nature will play out next year remains to be seen, but not having these kinds of controversies would make Concordia out of character.