Enraged that, despite earlier promises to consult with student representatives from TAPthirst and Sustainable Concordia before meeting with PepsiCo over finalizing a new contract, the school had proceeded with private meetings, protesters made their feelings known outside Concordia last week.
To voice their contempt for the school’s use of exclusivity contracts as well as the secrecy of the way in which the signing was handled, students gathered outside of the GM building brandishing signs, banners and even a bullhorn which screamed out “bullshit,” the word that students and CSU President Heather Lucas so eloquently used to describe the whole ordeal.
“The students need to rise up and speak out against this,” said Lucas, addressing the crowd. “That administration is not being transparent or accountable to it’s students. With this deal it’s being disrespectful to it’s constituents, it’s disrespectful to all you here.”
The protest was organized to coincide with the conference on Wednesday during which members of the school administration and a few students met with the director of corporate affairs from NestlÃ© Waters Canada, John B. Challinor II, who came to address the students’ desire to place a ban on the sale of bottled water.
About half an hour after the protest’s commencement, the demonstration moved inside the building. The students, numbering about 50, marched up the stairs to the ninth floor, bringing the rally directly to the meeting. There, they were met with locked doors and were thus confined to the hallways.
Initially, the protestors were told to remain at a low and respectable volume, but when TAPthirst co-founder Laura Beach chose to leave the meeting out of frustration, the crowd became rowdy. The students who were congesting the hallways proceeded to chant, clap, yell and even pound on the walls to display their malcontent with being denied entrance to the meeting.
Soon after, the majority of the protestors moved back outside to spread awareness to those passing by on the street, while a handful of representatives staged a sit-in outside the meeting to confront those participating in the conference.
“Obviously the deal is going to pass” said David Vidler, a political science major who continued to rally outside the GM building. “I think the worst part is that they did not consult with the students first. What bugs me is this whole aspect of secrecy.”
A great deal of the students involved in the protest were not motivated by environmental concerns but rather to address concerns about a lack of transparency.
“Students should be able to trust the university that they go to and the people that run the university,” said Anum Peerzada, a women’s studies major and an international student from Pakistan. “It just makes me distrust them even more.”
After the meeting, former vice president services Michael Di Grappa, who finished his last day at Concordia this Friday, stated that the security of staff and students were more important than the issues of bottled water and cold beverage contracts. In an email, Di Grappa went on to say that faculty and staff have a “right to an environment free of harassment and intimidation.”
The day after the demonstration, students and concerned citizens were invited to a public forum at the QPIRG Concordia office which was organized as an opportunity to meet, discuss and strategize about the corporatization of the university campuses. The roomful of people participated in exercises where, separated into groups, they compiled their visions of a perfect campus, brainstormed about how students need power on such issues as bottled water and then created a list of hypothetical demands such as the creation of an ethical purchasing policy.
By the end of the meeting, select members of the group decided to form an organization in hopes of achieving the “demands” they had set out earlier. Campus Against Corporatization, a banner which some students had been operating under, consequently became an official group.