As a busy and controversial academic year at Concordia University comes to a close, the newly-elected Concordia Student Union executives have their hands full with challenges, strategies and hopes for the year ahead.
The current CSU team is tackling the Charest government’s tuition increases of $325 a year between 2012 and 2017. Incoming CSU President Schubert Laforest and his executives are preparing to follow up on this issue when they take office June 1.
Laforest is working with current CSU President Lex Gill to prepare for the influx of responsibilities of leading the union. He and his fellow executives are benefitting from meeting with current executives in order to get “a better view” of the challenges Concordia faces.
“It’s hard to know what problems are going to come at you specifically,” Laforest added. “A lot lies ahead for the CSU. […] I think the main issue we’re going to be dealing with is the aftermath of the tuition battle.”
Laforest said that students can expect next year’s CSU to approach the debate in a “facilitative role” to ensure that all students at Concordia are able to express their opinions, including those who are in favour of the tuition fee increase.
“We have a core activist community and there’s more people getting involved since it affects them,” said Laforest. “We want them to have the right to be heard.”
Furthermore, vice-president external-elect Simon-Pierre Lauzon will be in contact with the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec over the summer to address upcoming projects in post-secondary education and how to involve Concordia in future initiatives.
He will also work on implementing an international mobilization plan, drafting a student-run research paper aimed at encouraging student involvement by exploring topics covered in class and by the CSU, and organizing a speakers series.
The incoming executive intends to focus on Concordia’s questionable management of public funds, which includes large severance packages, an interest-free loan issued to current Concordia president Frederick Lowy and generous salaries for presidents, said Laforest.
“The focus has been on the increase. but looking at [the management of funds], it’s unacceptable,” he said. “We’re going to be taking it on next year.”
In order to facilitate change on the Board of Governors, which will be reduced to 25 members on July 1 with only one voting undergraduate representative, and improve the frequently scrutinized relationship between students and the administration, the incoming executives want to strengthen ties between student associations and actively represent the students. Laforest said he firmly believes that coordination will help mobilize students.
“It will make us more effective on the university bodies, so we can argue our cases more effectively,” Laforest stated. “We have to beat [the administration] at their own game.
“But then we also have to engage in our field and our territory to apply pressure from inside and outside,” continued Laforest. “We have to coordinate that effectively, we have to get comprehensive change.”