As you may or may not have heard, Congress 2010 descended upon Concordia last week in full force.
A flurry of preparation preceded the mammoth conference. Place Bethune was tidied up with seats, trees, and a large letter C (we presume it stands for Concordia). Fancy decals were attached to the Hall building windows proclaiming the inviolability of human rights. Fancier stickers were stuck to the floor and walls in the new Molson building. Boothes were set up for university presses to display and sell their publications. Students and academics prepared their presentations. Student staff was trained, food was prepped, AV equipment was checked. Downtown classes were temporarily relocated to Loyola or had their times changed.
A lot of work went into Congress, and for all intensive purposes, it was a smashing success. Concordia got a chance to showcase its shiny, new buildings, cutting-edge research and students’ and professors’ work to a national audience of visiting academics and administrators.
The 9,000 or so delegates that we played host to seemed on the whole impressed with Concordia’s facilities and the calibre of the presentations. We can only hope that by successfully hosting such a huge and presitigious conference, Concordia has achieved a certain degree of prominence on the Canadian university scene, after being the perpetual No. 2 Englishuniversity in Montreal.
As the professors and researchers trickle back to their home universities, they will hopefully spread the message that Concordia is a good school.
And during all of this exciting academic hoopla, students had to protest the new funding measures recently imposed on graduate students. Kudos to the protesters to speak out during a week when priority at maintaining Concordia’s public face was high. But, a shame, since you won’t find much sympathy for the cause with academics from other provinces where their students pay much higher fees than the ones we pay in Quebec.
This new fee structure, quietly advertised to students last May, places a continuation fee on students who finish in more than four semesters – essentially, students are being punished for staying longer in graduate programs. This is because the government only offers universities subsidies for four semesters of graduate studies, the amount of time it takes to thinks is appropriate for students to complete the program.
A change like this affects not only students, but their departments and faculties. When trying to attract the top minds from abroad to come study here, Concordia and other Quebec universities have an edge on other schools in that their fees are lower than elsewhere. The great lifestyle our bilingual city offers, and our touted new buildings and research are the extra lure we can use to entice students.
We need graduate students in order to support our researchers, attract research grants and continue to improve Concordia’s reputation. By punishing them for taking longer than what is thought necessary to complete graduate studies, the university is in turn hurting itself by luring away applicants and students that may turn out to be great thinkers and innovators.
Completing a graduate program can be trying for students who are raising families and juggling other workloads at the same time.
While you might have read in this same space a few months ago that The Concordian advocated for higher tuition for students, similar to what McGill has done with their MBA program this year, we hold that it is a bad idea to penalize graduate students for staying here longer, especially after all the positive attention Concordia has garnered after Congress.