President Antoine Genest-Grégoire of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) announced his resignation on Friday, Oct. 4, following the exodus of three student unions from the largest student organization of the province in the last month.
Genest-Grégoire wrote a public letter in French to his colleagues and student members of the association making a vague reference to mistakes since the beginning of his mandate that he was responsible for as part of his reason for leaving.
“Various errors have been made since the first of May,” wrote Genest-Grégoire. “Some due to bad luck, others from a lack of vision. I’ve signed off on all the decisions taken by the FEUQ since the beginning of my mandate.”
Genest-Grégoire explained that the organization is undergoing a transition due to “tumultuous events” over the last few years that former President Martine Desjardins led the FEUQ through.
He refers to the 2012 student protests that lasted months against a tuition increase of 75 per cent over five years by the former provincial government led by Jean Charest. The immediate backlash from post-secondary students fuelled the call for an election on Sept. 4, 2012 that the Charest Liberals subsequently lost, after nearly a decade in power, to the Parti Québécois. Premier Pauline Marois cancelled the increase immediately but chose to index the tuition by $70 per year at the highly-anticipated Higher Education Summit in February 2013.
Genest-Grégoire wrote that these events resulted in heavy critiques — “some wrong or some with reason” — that put into question the fundamental principles of the FEUQ that guide the organization and how to serve its student population.
The FEUQ is at a crossroads with its member associations in universities across the province since three associations located in regional areas in Quebec recently voted to leave.
On Friday, the Association générale des étudiants du Campus à Rimouski (AGECAR) at the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQÀR) ended its three-week referendum period where a majority of students voted to leave the FEUQ. In September, UQÀR’s other student union, the Association générale des étudiants du campus à Lévis (AGECALE) and the Mouvement des Associations Générales Étudiante (MAGE) at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQÀC) also voted to leave the organization. These departures bring the FEUQ down to 11 member associations as long as the latest referenda are accepted.