Very few students were in attendance as faculty and Concordia staff members filled the seats and lined the back walls of the J.A. de SÃ¨ve cinema to listen to the first talk in university president and vice-chancellor Judith Woodsworth’s “Open to Question” series.
“If you noticed there weren’t many students,” said Heather Lucas, president of the Concordia Student Union. “It would have been nice to have students being represented.”
Woodsworth started the discussion by addressing the accomplishments of the new infrastructure and the successes of the university. By focusing her speech on Concordia’s achievements and successes, particularly in building a larger campus, Lucas felt she skirted the more “meaty” issues like the increase in tuition fees.
“I feel like her answer was misleading,” Lucas said about Woodsworth’s reply to tuition increases, adding that she gave a partial answer to the question and did not fully explain the specifics. Lucas said that students need to know why tuition is going to increase and the breakdown of where their money will be going.
For her part, the CSU president asked Woodsworth about how the excess finances gained by increased tuition would be used. The university president replied, saying it would not be used to pay for the new buildings but rather be put towards helping student services and decreasing class sizes.
“The funding (for the university) hasn’t increased, but our student population has,” Woodsworth explained. This year, the university has received more applicants than ever before and many from outside of Quebec, according to Woodsworth.
“The (increase) in the diverse student population is a good thing because it brings intellectual richness to the university,” Woodsworth said. However, it also means that the university needs to increase fees so that these students are able to access the proper services when they need them, she added.
Woodsworth said the student body in the graduate programs increased by 20 per cent in the past two years and that student activity in the community has expanded. All the new programs and initiatives students and faculty members have participated in has allowed the university’s reputation to increase, a very positive achievement for the school.
While acknowledging that it is important to highlight the university’s successes, Lucas felt that the discussion never concretely addressed the controversial topics it promised to.
“People were tiptoeing around the issues,” said Lucas. “No one was taking the lead or speaking out about what’s happening in the university.”