Last week, the Facebook profile photos of the Concordia Student Union executives and their supporters blazed hot pink with signs of enthusiasm for the student centre fee-levy increase referendum. The polls closed, the votes were slowly tallied and the results came out: seven out of 10 of voters, a slim margin of the undergraduate student body as whole, decided another increase to their student fees was not what they wanted.
But that was last week, and now the same people’s profiles blare more sombre, earthy tones of yellow, orange and blue. This time, the message is for you to hop on a bus and join them at a mass student protest against tuition hikes on Dec. 6 in Quebec City. The protest is scheduled to coincide with a meeting between the provincial government, heads of the universities and different lobby groups. The date, says president Heather Lucas, was a gesture of ill will on behalf of the organizers, picked at a time when students are wrapping up classes and buckling down to study for finals.
In the blink of an eye, the student establishment has gone from hands outstretched to fellow students, to fists clenched up and raised in protest against the man.
Of course, the two campaigns at hand are different in a sense: one was asking for a higher payout for a student centre. The other is a rallying cry against tuition hikes that will negatively impact students.
But the bottom line is this: both eventual outcomes would affect students’ pockets by further emptying them. And whether you’re struggling to buy groceries, make loan payments, or your parents’ wallets are hurting, you’re watching every cent.
The CSU misjudged this campaign; it’s clear the yes campaign put up a good fight for something they believed in. That K’nex dome in the Hall building is a good indication of what lengths they would go to to get their message across.
But, as it turns out, Concordia students are no fools; we’re not misled by a hazy mirage floating in the not-so-distant future. The student centre plans had too many sketchy details. Perhaps it was just too ambitious a project. Or perhaps we just did not want to pay more for something that won’t materialize until after our diplomas have long been gathering dust on our walls.
The appearance of vigorous but supposedly illegal opposition campaigns, and the resulting weekend petition chiding the CSU, proved that there are students who do care about the work the CSU does beyond planning cultural nights and producing discounted coffee mugs.
While perhaps not an organized opposition, it’s doing a decent job so far at keeping the CSU in check. Lucas has acknowledged the petition. It’s a call to regroup, and this new campaign to transport protesters to a province-wide march smacks of good sense.
If anything, this year’s edition of student government has shown itself to be adaptable and receptive to criticism. After the public snafu that was the request to film council, the peacemaking motion with CUTV suggested that the executives and their council know how to take a beating, and then kiss and make up.
We’ve evaluated the CSU’s stated goals and how far they’ve come with them. The marks are in, and from the mid-term report, it’s clear they’ve accomplished one solid goal: town hall meetings. Another goal, the snacks at exam time, are likely to go off without a hitch. These are manageable and achievable goals. The remaining are weightier: Loyola luncheon renovations (do-able), CFS (ongoing mess), preventing tuition increases (longshot, but you try), the greening of MacKay (no chance).
Perhaps getting the government to rescind on its tuition hikes is as fanciful an idea as establishing a new student centre downtown. But it’s something we’re sure students can get behind. By getting back to something tangible for students, we’re getting to the heart, or the meat, of the matter of why we elected them in the first place.