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Letters to the Editor

by The Concordian March 18, 2014
Letters to the Editor

Concordia is a remarkable school, beyond the classrooms, because we have such a strong sense of community. The vibrancy of campus life here is apparent in ways I have not seen at any other school. A central component of the unique nature of Concordia, is our relationship to fee levy groups. These groups bind us together, support us, and enrich our education and experience at university. However, they are under threat by the per-faculty fee levy referendum question.

By treating fee levies as a faculty issue, we ignore the fact that people benefit from these groups regardless of their faculty. Currently, we vote yearly as a school on whether we will support fee levy increases. If people want to opt out of these fees, they are free to do so. However, if a faculty were to opt out, they would switch the orientation to an opt-in system, where people must be individually solicited for their donations. These fee levy groups would no longer be just student funded service, interest, and advocacy groups. They would be charities.

Further, one could ask, would these organizations stop providing services to faculties that opt out? Would Gender Advocacy stop providing support for assault victims of those student bodies? Would People’s Potato or the Greenhouse start demanding transcripts proving what department we belong to? Would CUTV, The Link, CJLO, or The Concordian refuse news and entertainment to those students? No, because that isn’t how these groups work. However, they would be pushed to divert funds and resources away from providing services that make Concordia such a fantastic place, to ensure their now precarious survival.

Andrew Weizman

Per-Faculty Fee Levy No Campaign

Undergrad at School of Community and Public Affairs

 

Vote ‘No’ to Per-Faculty Fee Levy Referendums in Upcoming Election

In the upcoming CSU elections, students will be asked to vote on a proposal for per-faculty fee levy referendums. As a Concordia student who has gained so much from fee levy groups over the years, I am very concerned by the devastating effect this proposal will have on the vibrancy of our university. Fee levy groups like the People’s Potato, QPIRG Concordia, Le Frigo Vert, and many more, play an essential role in creating an environment where students can become engaged in their campus and in the greater Montreal community. These groups are run by and for students. They provide a host of services, events, and campaigns that directly benefit students of all faculties, who both access the groups’ services and participate in their events, while gaining invaluable learning experiences as volunteers, board members, and employees at these organizations.

Of course, not every student will access the services of every fee levy group while at Concordia – some people will get involved with the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program, but may never access the peer support service offered by the Center for Gender Advocacy. They may want to get their hands dirty at the Concordia Greenhouse or listen to CJLO radio, but they might never take in a free documentary on Monday night at Cinema Politica or participate in QPIRG’s community-university research exchange project. It is this diversity of interest, however, that makes Concordia an exciting place to study – and the support we give to this diversity is what makes our community strong.

The proposed per-faculty fee levy referendums will put the strength of our community and the stability of fee levy groups at stake. By allowing per-faculty referendums instead of united student referendums, fee levy group funding will be compromised and students will be falsely divided and prevented from accessing these amazing organizations. I urge Concordia students to support a united and vibrant campus community and to vote ‘NO’ to the per-faculty fee levy referendums on March 25, 26, and 27.

Fiona Ainsworth studies chemistry at Concordia and is a collective member at Le Frigo Vert.

 

For the past four years I have had the pleasure of getting to know Chuck Wilson as a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. Since the day we met, I have had the utmost respect for his knowledge, work ethic and passion. I wholeheartedly believe there could not be a better candidate for CSU President.

The one thing that unites all Concordia students is our desire for a great education. Chuck was a Senator for two years, has been a department student representative and has sat on a variety of academic committees. He takes it upon himself to listen to students, identify their concerns then find the most effective way to make a positive impact on our programs, spaces, and resources. Chuck knows how to improve our academic curriculum, rights and experience because he’s been doing it for years.

I worked alongside Chuck as an Engineering and Computer Science Association (ECA) executive last year. In his role as VP Finance, Chuck was determined to make sure every single penny was accounted for. His work was the foundation for a complete overhaul in the ECA’s financial structure. Once his mandate was over he stuck around to oversee the changes the whole way through. Because of his work, the ECA’s finances will be easier to manage and thus spent more effectively for years to come.

Chuck cares about the things that matter. Our executive team decided that it was critical for the ECA to become legally accredited in an effort to secure its future. Chuck was key in creating and executing the ‘VOTE YES’ campaign. This campaign saw 1,675 of our approximately 3,400 student members voting in favour of the referendum. There was a 50 per cent voter turnout and 96 per cent of those ballots were in favour. The results speak for themselves.

Sometimes it seems like Chuck knows everything. You need a robot? Chuck will build one. You have a technical issue? Chuck will fix it. You need a balanced budget? Call on Chuck. You need a drummer? Chuck can rock out. An updated policy, a website, help understanding circuit systems? Chuck’s your man. But, the really awesome thing about Chuck is when he doesn’t know something he tackles the challenge head on and doesn’t quit until an acceptable solution is reached. All the while, keeping a beard-framed smile.

It’s easy to make promises, but it’s a lot harder to fulfill them. Chuck doesn’t talk about doing things. #chuckdoesthings

– Allison Hipgrave

 

Dear Editor:

As a fellow student I would like to reach out to all Concordia students, but particularly students in Fine Arts.

In the upcoming CSU elections there will be a question that asks whether or not you agree with per-faculty fee levy referendums. It’s important for people to know the full impact of this question, and why voting ‘NO’ is so important.

For those that don’t know, the Art Matters Festival is a fee levy group. We couldn’t do what we do without the stability and funding provided by a stable fee levy. With it, Art Matters has become a renowned and unique arts festival in North America.

Fine Arts students should know that the exact same people who were pushing for the current per-faculty fee levy referendum also tried to push for an immediate 20 per cent cut to Art Matters funding (as well as five other fee levy groups) by asking for John Molson School of Business students to opt-out en masse. This was done without any consultation or discussion with the people directly concerned.

Per-faculty fee levy referendums have the potential to destroy the sense of community at Concordia that fee levy groups and related projects cultivate. Art Matters is not exclusive to the Fine Arts, it is for the Concordia community at large, just like the Sustainable Business Conference is something Fine Arts students and all students can attend and learn from. After all, Art Matters is called “Art Matters” because it is not solely for other artists, but for everyone.

I feel Fine Arts students in particular should be coming out in large numbers in the upcoming CSU elections, to defend Art Matters, to defend fee levy groups, and to defend the values of a Concordia community. Please visit www.ConcordiaCommunity.org for more information.

Thank you,

Coey Kerr

Faculty of Fine Arts, BFA

 

A Better Loyola

In the past two years my frustration with the limited food options on the Loyola campus has been increasing exponentially. If I wasn’t able to bring a lunch to school, I was forced with the daunting decision of purchasing a salty, frozen soup, a heavily processed and pre-packaged sugar laden muffin form Chartwells, or possibly a flavourless, vegetable-less helping of lentils or pasta from the free lunch. Having daydreamed of fresh, home-cooked, sustainable food options in a welcoming, comfortable space I decided I needed to find an answer to my dilemma. I heard of the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC) conference and Transitions, and decided to venture to the downtown campus with the hope of meeting like-minded people, people who cared about healthy, sustainable food. That day changed the rest of my student life at Concordia. That was the day I met Gabriel Velasco (as well as many other wonderful new friends). I immediately became involved with the CFC, and along with Gabriel, decided to start meeting at the Loyola campus to assemble a crew that would try to change the current food system situation.

Gabriel is a passionate, level-headed, easygoing guy, who truly wants to make a substantial (and sustainable) difference in our Concordia community. Learning how much headway had already been made with the Hive Café, I was impressed to say the least. Loyola is a barren food wasteland, and he and the rest of the Community Matters team intend to change that. In the short time I’ve come to know some of the members of this team, my faith in sustainable food options at a university has been renewed. The Hive café project this team will make happen is just a small piece of the puzzle they intend to construct over the next year. With plans for a greenhouse and another café in the hall building, they have their work cut out for them. I have complete faith that these changes will be made and that the progress this team will incur will bring Concordia back to the community it has strayed from in the past couple of years. Gabriel, and the rest of the team, has a deep understanding of how important community and solidarity are to making these projects realities. I implore you to go out and vote for Gabriel for VP Loyola (and the rest of the Community matters team) his focus and drive will not wane, changes will be made, and Concordia will be one giant step closer to a healthier, richer student body.

– Paige Hilderman

 

I started an undergrad in accountancy this January, and I already love being a John Molson School of Business (JMSB) student. I’m also voting ‘NO’ to per-faculty fee levy referendums in the upcoming CSU elections (March 25-27).

When I learned that the referendum was happening, and that some students in my faculty pushed for it at the last minute, I was quite shocked. Never did any of the proponents of this issue make the case properly to JMSB students about why this was so urgent.

I would like to state for the record that JMSB students are not united on this issue. Many of us are glad that fee levy groups exist and we access their services regularly, whether that be the Concordia Volunteers Abroad Program or the People’s Potato. These groups are part of what makes Concordia so great and I’m proud to support them. Plus, groups like Le Frigo Vert, CJLO and the Sustainability Action Fund have a positive impact on the Montreal community at large, and build the reputation of our university as vibrant and dynamic. Fee levy groups offer all students volunteer, internship and job opportunities, as well as the experience of running a not-for-profit corporation. The years of work that have gone into building these resources will be undermined with per-faculty fee levy referendums. We all could lose so much.

Community means supporting things even if you don’t always directly benefit from it. We do so because we know that building community support systems build better societies. Per-faculty fee levy referendums destroy this idea in favour of a cold ideological vision that says, “If I don’t directly benefit, I don’t care.” The existence of projects like CASA Cares and the Sustainable Business Group’s, Business Beyond Tomorrow Conference, which are fundamentally premised on the idea of social responsibility, prove that JMSB embraces an ideology in support of community.

I’m glad that within JMSB there’s a sense that we are part of a larger community and contribute to it. CASA Cares, JMSB cares, and I feel the overwhelming majority of Concordia students care as well. We should stay united as students in defense of services that mutually benefit us all, and make Concordia an interesting place to learn. I encourage my fellow JMSB students, and all students at Concordia, to vote ‘NO’ to per-faculty fee levy referendums and to visit ConcordiaCommunity.org for more information on this important issue.

Laura Macdonald, Accountancy, John Molson School of Business (JMSB)

 

I’m writing to my fellow students in all faculties to strongly urge all Concordia undergrads to vote ‘NO’ to per-faculty fee levy referendums during the CSU elections on March 25-27. I don’t usually get involved with elections so directly, or even write letters like this, but the specific ballot question about fee levy groups is an unfair attack on the integrity of some incredible organizations that I know well like the Center for Gender Advocacy and QPIRG Concordia that, along with other fee levy groups, are very accountable to students while doing great campus and community organizing work.

I even joined the “Vote No” committee last week, and it’s been great to work with students from all faculties. Our committee includes the active participation of students from Arts & Science, Fine Arts, the John Molson School of Business and Engineering and Computer Science. In other words, our committee represents student unity, not the divisions that happen with per-faculty referendums. I feel our committee represents the potential of what students from all faculties can accomplish when we work together.

Students should check out ConcordiaCommunity.org, the website of the “Vote No” campaign for more details. Maintaining student unity when it comes to fee levy groups is an important way to maintain the strength of Concordia’s student community as a whole.

Thien Viet Quan

Fine Arts

 

All students benefit from Fee-Levy groups: Vote ‘No’ for the Per-Faculty Fee Levy Referendum Question

After reading last week’s issue of The Link about the upcoming vote on having per-faculty fee levy referendums (Vol. 34, Issue 23: “Stronger Together” and “No Remuneration Without Representation”), it only confirms my thoughts.

The articles were written by a John Molson School of Business (JMSB) and Arts & Science student, showing that these fee levy groups are available for everyone, no matter one’s degree or faculty. In the article in favour of fee levy groups, I thought the following quote was pertinent: “Fee levy groups also provide benefits to all students outside of the diverse services, events and campaigns they already offer in the way of volunteer, internship, job and mentorship opportunities. Participation in a fee levy group means hands-on experience in running a not-for-profit corporation, which is an immensely valuable experience for any student to have.” This is especially true for me being an international student at Concordia in the Geography, Planning & Environment department for the past three years and now working as the CURE Coordinator for the Winter 2014 term. I’ve had many opportunities to volunteer with several on-campus organizations, whether it’s helping do bake sales for Sustainable Concordia or getting signatures for the Concordia Food Coalition’s (CFC) fee levy question, and now have the chance to actually be paid by Concordia University under the Work-Study Program grant.

Its article shows that students from all faculties do actually work together – for example, JMSB students have been board members or staffers at Art Matters, the Centre for Gender Advocacy, CUTV, the Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore, Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program, The Concordian, QPIRG Concordia, the Sustainability Action Fund and Sustainable Concordia.

Supporting fee levy groups is agreeing with the idea that we, students of Concordia University, are part of a larger community. In any community, individuals might not use all of the services that are offered; not everyone watches CUTV or a Cinema Politica film on Mondays, listens to CJLO, volunteers abroad with CVAP, or uses the Centre for Gender Advocacy, however, that doesn’t mean these are not important resources to have. We should still support all the 17 different fee levy groups and the various services they provide since these last improve the lives of not only students but also the lives of other members of the community.

Hopefully you will all agree with me on this point. Students should get informed before signing or voting for things, and make sure they realise the consequences these decisions engender – remember, vote ‘NO’ at the upcoming per-faculty fee levy referendum between the 25-27 of March.

William Butcher

The Community-University Research Exchange (CURE) Coordinator (as of Winter 2014)

Letter of Endorsement for Benjamin Prunty for The Link and The Concordian

I fully support Benjamin Prunty and his team, Community Matters, for CSU executive next year. Having worked with him recently as a main organizer for the Concordia Transitions conference, I know that he is the best candidate for the job. Last October, Benjamin proposed an idea for a student conference that would build momentum towards change in the food system at Concordia. With Benjamin as our leader, we were an incredibly effective team. Concordia Transitions – building a food system from farm to plate – was a huge success because of Benjamin’s leadership, hard work, and dedication.

Student government should not only initiate change, but finish what they start. It’s not an easy task but Benjamin has proven that he is very much capable of doing so. This is really why my vote is going to Community Matters. Above all, I want a student government that follows through with projects, ideas and represents what students want and need. I believe Benjamin Prunty and his team are organized, well intentioned, incredibly smart and innovative. A qualified team with a leader you can count on.

– Alix Tabet

It is with pleasure that I write to express my political support of the Community Matters team running in the CSU Elections. My experience with three specific representatives exemplifies why this team has the skills to deliver their promises:

Benjamin Prunty was a spectacular asset to ASFA in 2012-2013. His commitment to transparency and ability to ask challenging questions made him a strong voice for all students. As a member of CSU Sustainability Committee, I see Benjamin as an inspiring leader, presenting interesting projects through passionate communication. He democratically utilizes the committee by allowing us to express opinions and concerns. Having attended many events where Benjamin has publicly spoken on important issues, I can attest that he is a talented orator and informed on many scales. I believe Benjamin’s valuable experience paired with humble presidential qualities resonate with what the Concordia student body deserves for the upcoming year.

Charles Bourassa demonstrates exceptional initiative on ASFA Council, being enthusiastic and motivated even when facing majority opposition. He has exemplified fortitude in thinking outside the box and persevering important topics – even forming and chairing ad-hoc committees to deal with contentious issues. Charles also sits on the CSU Sustainability Committee. Through this I learned of his strong values in education as academics and student engagement experiences. Charles possesses the unique quality of seeing the big picture and recognizing smaller flaws within the overall structure – this type of intuition is integral as a leader.

Jessica Cabana is a kind, well-rounded student. Representing LCSA on ASFA Council, she takes it upon herself to pursue individual projects performing research, later presenting her findings to council – this type of drive has the capacity to make major contributions in student-government. Outside of politics, Jessica is a Coordinator at Sustainable Concordia where I am actively involved as an intern. She maintains excellent relationships with peers and supervisors due to her outstanding level of professionalism which has gained her respect and admiration. Jessica has a wealth of knowledge and large sustainable networking base.

I admire all team members’ sustainable profiles and accomplished reputations: the aptitudes of these students shine brightly individually, and I can only anxiously anticipate their intellectual capacities as a team. Concordia is a community that needs capable leaders to ensure all needs are heard, therefore, I formally endorse Community Matters as I wholly believe this team has the strength to unwaveringly serve our student body.

Meghan Lamb

ASFA Chairperson

 

Why Community Matters

Community Matters. Let’s stop and think about these words for a minute. These are some pretty important buzzworthy words that are being tossed around by almost every platform. So, you have to ask yourself, which team actually has the ability to represent a community you want Concordia to look like? For me, the answer is glaring. We should be represented by a team that understands what it takes to implement, and has had experience in leading, community movements and making concrete steps in bettering the lives of students on campus.

Through their tireless efforts, the members of Community Matters have made everlasting contributions to the structure of student life on both campuses already. In my view, it only makes sense to see them continue this amazing work to make our university a space that represents who we are. They have all, in one way or another, contributed (and, in many cases, founded) very important work at People’s Potato, Divest Concordia, Concordia Food Coalition, Sustainable Concordia, The Hive Café, as well as a number of other amazing groups that fill the pages of this teams impressive CV. We are hearing a lot about what other candidates plan to do for our community once elected, but the Community Matters team has already planted the seeds of their platform and it will be exciting to see these initiatives grow and mature.

As you may have heard, there is also a referendum question put to ballot during these elections. A question asking whether you would like to see the decisions surrounding fee levy group funding be changed from its current state to a per-faculty vote was presented to the union for consideration. If passed, this decision will have profoundly negative effects on the way these student organizations operate, and in some cases, they may cease to exist entirely. Community Matters envisions a strong student community that is collaborative and gives each student the autonomy to engage in whichever way they wish. This includes having the opportunity to join any group or activity no matter what faculty you are in. So, instead of playing into these divisive politics they are even more motivated to work with fee levy groups in order to make sure every student on campus has the same enjoyable experience. This is the definition of leading. This is the result of experience, and this is why the decision is simple. Vote Community Matters!

Mark Underwood

 

Upcoming referendum on per-faculty fee levies: A call to vote “NO”

I am sympathetic to students who may have found themselves discovering a host of fees for initiatives that they have not had the fortune of learning about beforehand. However, this does not mean that the work that these groups are doing is not worth supporting. It is ironic that one complaint about fee levy groups is the lack of outreach, yet if this question passes, groups will have to consider limiting access to and/or flat out exclude certain students from partaking in their services and activities. The upcoming referendum question on per-faculty fee levies is not the way to address concerns about fee levies, because the work that these groups do is invaluable to the Concordia experience for many students. Many people come to this university because of the wide range of opportunities and experiences that fee levies provide, and I urge students to recognize how this contributes to the strength and vibrancy of Concordia’s campus.

The opportunity to volunteer and work at the Concordia Greenhouse is the reason I chose to remain at Concordia when I transferred from Studio Arts to Environmental Science. Since my arrival at the university in 2007, my student experience has been tremendously enriched with experiential learning, in such fields as horticulture and urban agriculture, collective management, and popular education. I have also been able to host hundreds of volunteers from all faculties, provide internship opportunities, and learn to host workshops to share what I had learned. This is all thanks to the Greenhouse. But last year, due to lack of funding, the Greenhouse was on the verge of closing down. Thankfully, we were fortunate enough to obtain funding through a fee levy, making it possible for us to not only continue offering amazing and unique opportunities to Concordia students, but to consistently plan and develop towards an even more exciting future. This would not be possible without the security that fee levy funding provides.

It is this consideration for the future that is absent from the vision of those who would divide fee levies per faculty. Consequently, I would urge students to vote down this referendum question so that we may have the opportunity to thoughtfully work together in addressing the concerns that you may have about fee levy groups. This is the vision that we propose: working together to forge a thriving student community full of diverse and thrilling growing opportunities.

– Stefanie Dimitrovas

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