With the fall semester drawing to a close, Concordia’s student union has only fulfilled one of the eight campaign promises they ran on last spring. While a second promise, the student centre, has failed, CSU president Heather Lucas is very optimistic that the remaining six will be completed during this academic year.
“I am 100 per cent confident that we will excel [at fulfilling those promises],” she said.
Thus far, the CSU has completed its promise to hold monthly town hall meetings, though attendance has been low.
“‘We do the best we can by offering free snacks to entice students to come out to tear us a new one, let us know what needs to be done or improved,” she said. “A perfect example would be the student centre, we wanted to hear what students had to say. We would have liked a more engaging experience for the students.”
Lucas also said they would soon complete another campaign promise of offering free coffee and snacks during exam period.
The five other platforms, however, represent a much larger challenge for the union. “It’s hard to predict right now when some of these other initiatives will be completed because everything is very dependent on other things,” Lucas admitted.
After the university administration signed a new contract with PepsiCo. in late October, it seemed that the promise of a water-bottle free campus would not be fulfilled. But the CSU’s VP sustainability & promotions, Morgan Pudwell, says that this project is not only alive, “it will happen,” as long as students support it.
Pudwell said the CSU is meeting with Acting VP Services Roger Cote and Pepsi next week to talk about removing bottled water from campus. They are planning an information campaign on bottled and tap water during the winter semester “to let [students] make their own decisions.”
Another option that the CSU is also seriously considering is a referendum on the issue. “What the university has said recently is that the only way they’ll consider it is if we go to referendum and ask students to make that decision,” Pudwell said, adding that the administration had never mentioned this in previous discussions.
“Other universities have done that, so that’s why what we’re going to look at doing is bringing it to the elections.”
Pudwell did not share Lucas’ optimism about the another campaign promise, the greening of Mackay.
The CSU has been trying for over a decade to turn Mackay into a car-free green space.
Lucas acknowledged that the project was probably the most difficult of the promises and that the CSU had many options to consider, but she said she believes it can be completed. “I’m optimistic because there are other groups who are still working hard on it. We’re not giving up on it.”
But for Pudwell, the project faces too many obstacles for it to be completed on this street. “There’s so much opposition to it, from the city putting up barriers, with different businesses putting up barriers,” she said. “I think that it’s a great idea and I would love to see it happen, but maybe that specific part of the street isn’t the street for it.”
Consequently, Pudwell does not believe the project could be completed this year, as a new street would mean a completely new plan, not something that could be done in a short time frame. “But I think we’re going to start looking at the possibility of other streets in this area,” she added. “Because I think there’s a lot more community feeling in other parts of this quarter of Concordia than perhaps on that street specifically.”
For Pudwell, the greening of MacKay is “forever a possibility, but a big stretch.”
A few of the remaining campaign promises have seen some progress, despite their incompletion.
The first phase of expanding the Loyola Luncheon, consisting of renovations to expand the kitchen, has been completed, Lucas said. There are still certain installations to be completed before the Hive CafÃ© can open, but these are underway.
While it’s not finished, Lucas believes the project is “looking good,” and should be completed this academic year.
The CSU’s efforts to exit the Canadian Federation of Students have hit a temporary standstill. The CFS has yet to acknowledge the CSU’s referendum where students voted to leave the federation, and still considers the CSU a member.
The CSU has taken some initial steps towards legal action, such as asking for a declaratory judgement. “‘[We] haven’t heard anything thus far,” Lucas said, “but we’re currently looking into our financial records to see what is exactly owed to the CFS and how to proceed.”
Lucas added that the CSU would be able to pursue a case against the organization as soon as they receive the financial figures reflecting how much money per student is distributed to the CFS.
The final campaign promise of fighting tuition increases is a project that will not likely see any results under this executive. The fight is a long term one, pushing into 2012, but the CSU is beginning to mobilize students, and is organizing buses for a trip to a Quebec City rally against tuition hikes on Dec. 6.
The CSU is still working with the FÃ©dÃ©ration Ã©tudiante universitaire du QuÃ©bec (FEUQ), and dealing with the provincial government to “find ways for them to give us more money,” Lucas said. This promise, though, is not something that will see completion under the current executive.
So, while the checklist is pretty bare to date, the CSU executive is maintaining their dedication to the seven campaign promises beyond the student centre. “I think we’ve done well as an executive thus far. They’re very hard working and I think we’re on our way to accomplishing a good majority of what we set out to do,” Lucas said.
“I’m really proud of how far we’ve come.”
With reporting from Jacques Gallant.