With recent teachers’ strikes, rising fees and budget deficits, outgoing CSU President Angelica Novoa and VP Communications Noah Stewart consider the current state of affairs at Concordia.
The debt and deficit
It is no secret at Concordia that the university owes over $400 million in bond debts. In the face of striking teachers and protesting students, president for the interim period, Michael Di Grappa recently announced that Concordia is now facing a deficit of $10 million.
According to Stewart and Novoa, these deficits are a result of pervasive underfunding of universities by Quebec’s government, the repercussions of which are readily observable throughout Concordia. That said, the two agree that the administration has taken the wrong route in addressing the problems.
“The administration’s made a choice. Instead of joining the students and teachers, they tried to raise ancillary fees and [international fees]” Stewart said. “A lot of these things are budgetary choices.” He added, “these people are choosing to raise fees and screw the unions.”
Stewart blames the Board of Governors, the highest governing body at Concordia, for the schools financial woes. He added that announcing the deficit at this a time is simply a “scare tactic” and that Di Grappa is “trying to push an agenda.”
“I think that’s a direct response to the pressure put on by CUPFA and students,” said Stewart.
“What’s the easy way right? Is it easier to raise fees and screw your union then to get a reinvestment from the government? Absolutely,” he said.
University board structure
Novoa went on to criticize the Board, taking issue with the governing structure.
“Forty per cent of the courses are taught by the part-time faculty association at Concordia, and yet they have no representation on the board,” she said.
Stewart also pointed out that most of its members are CEOs of large corporations in Montreal.
“I think the fact that students don’t get to [be a part of] the [university] budget committee . . . shows that the BoG doesn’t represent Concordia,” said Novoa. She was particularly concerned with the Report of the Working Group on University Governance, put forward by the provincial government proposing government representation on university boards in light of the near bankruptcy of the Université de Montréal