What does your job entail?
I’m the counterpart to the Provost of the University and handle anything that will affect students of an academic nature. I deal with Senate, any form of academic administration, administer the bursaries, oversee the advocacy centre, look into all the communication coming out of the CSU (with Justin Levy).
Where is the promised legal centre at?
We renovated the advocacy centre in December. We can now have 3-4 advocates in the office at a time instead of just 1-2 for privacy reasons. We have hired three new advocates and are about to hire another one. We introduced the commissioners of oaths program.
With the expansion of the office, we can now have legal service on site, [it will] be in place as of September 2007. We have the space secured and financing set up, the funding will come out of the advocacy fee levy budget that was approved in the CSU election last year. I just have to sign a 3-month contract with the director of the legal centre at McGill, she will build our Centre. We pretty much have it planned to a T.
Any changes with the advocacy centre?
There’s a research project that the advocacy centre with the psychology department is working on right now. They will study how Chinese and Arab students might be more vulnerable to plagiarism for a lack of cultural understanding . . . [and] the issues they might have with schooling. It’s pretty amazing to have original research sponsored by the CSU.
You said in the last council meeting, “Senate has become an apathetic, rubber-stamping body,” can you explain that?
Senate used to be extremely lively, with some great argumentation in the past. But now, by the time a document gets before senate, it’s been through so many groups and individuals, that . . . for reasons of efficiency and lack of time, Senate relies on the previous stages that a document has gone through and no one challenges the process.
Also, the Senate composition [is a] given monopoly . . . senior admininistration does what they think is best to govern the university. But they also employ most of the faculty that sit on Senate. Finding allies for some of our issues, getting people to stand up against some university members when it’s necessary, is difficult. Khaleed and I are often only the ones contradicting the will of senior administration, and you really can’t get past it. It’s the dichotomy of the students and the administration, and as much as our interests should be co-aligned, they aren’t. An ad hoc committee was struck examine the way it runs and compare it with the other universities.
And you’re working on re-writing the academic code. What’s wrong with it?
My problem with the academic code is that they wait till students have been accused of academic misconduct before they’re actually getting access to help or resources, possibly jeopardizing their academic career. They should be looking at better ways to educate these students. If we did it proactively, we could get students aware of what plagiarism is.
The academic code isn’t really clear and needs to be made more student-friendly, allowing students the time and necessary assistance to become better students. There have been instances in the past that students were discharged after three charges [but] it’s specified in the code to discharge a student after two charges, or based on the discretion of the Provost. We need to make everyone aware that there have been exceptions made and to make it standard across the board.
In trying to push for revisions, I have been told that there was student representation on the committee that set it up. So I’m pretty much told to shut up because a student was there [who] agreed. That really irks me because the representation [on the ccommittee] was really minimal, maybe 10 per cent, and at no point in time could students have swayed a vote without extreme amounts of politicking.
How would you characterize the CSU’s relationship with the administration?
Is there a word for something that changes rapidly? Variable. The relationship is completely different depending on the context in which we find ourselves working with them. It’s a precarious relationship . . . it’s difficult to be one step ahead. A lot of time the administration relies on students being slow, irresponsible, unprofessional, so they can use their professionalism to carry out business as usual.
They love to play bureaucracy. We want to make a board game, instead of Monopoly, it would be called ‘Bureacracy’. It just takes persistence. On many occasions, we have to represent the students and oppose the administration on whatever they’re proposing [but] we’re not radical individuals who will oppose the system for the sake of opposing the system.
It’s a lot of back and forth, there’s a lot of delays, which is only helped by the CSU’s turnover, which kills the student movement all the time. I’m starting to understand their tactics.
What could have been done better regarding the fee levy consultation issue that caused such controversy last month?
We underestimated the nature of the document we were creating [when] we realized we were creating a legally-binding document. We had to go back to our lawyer, [who] broke down nearly every article that we presented. The timeline got derailed – our hope was also to take it to referendum in March, but once we got to February, we realized it would take a lot longer. Now we’re through that, and the Custodial comittee will be ready to go back to council with the proposals, and likely it will go to ballot in November.
What changes do you see need to happen for Concordia students to get the most out of their academic studies?
The lack of freedom to be able to choose interdisciplinary studies. Right now, it’s about 5 per cent interdisciplinary studies, that needs to happen more often, it needs to be widespread. I came to Concordia because it was the only school that allowed me the freedom to pursue whatever it was I felt I needed to pursue. I’ve been lucky… I’ve never been taught by a TA, I have 13-14 students in my class. I wouldn’t have been able to get this kind of education anywhere else, it just needs to be available to everyone. Artists need business and communication skills to be able to have a career.
How can that quality be implemented without raising tuition?
The issue is not that the university doesn’t need more money, [but] that it needs to come from the right place. If everyone stands in the street, everyone who benefits from education, including part-time faculty and teachers, students, administrators and employers, and yells at the governement “We need more money,” then the governement will listen.
Do you think it is democratic to fire and hire a CEO a week before the elections are announced?
I really had nothing to do with that, since [the Executive] can’t even vote in council it wasn’t something I paid much attention to. But if I had seen something democratically wrong going on, I definitely would have stepped in.
What do you wish you could have focussed on more?
It’s hard to have the versatility that you need to represent yourself well with the students at the same time as the university. I feel strongly about my relations with the university because you have to be professional, but on the other hand I was voted in by the students, I have to be happy and approachable. It’s a hard balance, it’s hard to have all the versatility you need to represent the students and appear professional at the same time.
What do you feel you’ve accomplished in office?
I think that as a slate, Experience introduced a new type of student government. We tried to find a balance between the socialist demands of being a student association in Quebec, as well as the need to offer students a social outlet. We’ve tried to make the CSU as accessible as possible, tried to be grounded and down-to earth, we had a lot of public scrutiny, but we’ve had a great time doing this. I’ve had one of the greatest ‘experiences’ of my life working for the CSU.