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Philosophy students strike against austerity

by Gregory Todaro October 28, 2014

Concerns over education quality to lead to one-day boycott

The Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA) will go on strike Oct. 31 to protest imposed budget cuts and austerity measures put in place this year by the provincial Liberal government.

The one-day protest is in response to the effects of the $15.7 million that will be cut from Concordia University as part of the $172-million cut across Quebec in higher education.

SoPhiA, the undergraduate philosophy organization in ASFA, voted on Oct. 24 to participate in the one-day strike alongside other students across the province at the “Austerity: A Horror Story” protest taking place on Halloween.

As per the motion that passed, SoPhiA is requesting all philosophy classes on Oct. 31 be cancelled and resumed regularly after the day of the austerity protest. It was also resolved that “in voting in favour of the one-day strike, Philosophy Students support the Manifestation Contre l’Austerité, organized by the association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ),” read the motion.

A press release from the association stated that “As a result of these cuts, Concordia University will suffer 180 faculty and staff position losses; including custodial, health services and sustainability positions.”

In reality, the 180 positions expected to be cut through the Voluntary Departure Program will not affect any faculty positions at Concordia and is aimed at administrative titles.

The student organization went on to express concern that T.A. positions in the philosophy department are in danger, and that “As a result of these cuts to our curriculum, evaluation methods and overall quality of education will suffer enormously.”

SoPhiA VP Academic Katie Nelson and VP Internal Michael Giesbrecht stated their concern for budget cuts in their department, saying: “a trend has been obvious over the past few years, especially in terms of seminars and special topics.”

On the subject of new austerity cuts, Nelson and Giesbrecht fear that the philosophy department will face further, major cuts to their budget.

These claims have not been confirmed with the philosophy department.The university could not be reached for comment before the time of publication. However, Concordia’s President Alan Shepard told the Concordian Oct. 10 that the university was doing everything possible to avoid cutting into the academic side of university operations.

“We’re doing our best to protect the academic mission, so the courses for students [and] services,” he said. “It’s not realistic to say, ‘Oh it won’t have any impact,’ because you can’t take four per cent out of the operating budget away and have no impact.”

While the student strike will only last a day SoPhiA executives felt as though taking part is important for both their members and Quebec’s greater student population.

“A one-day strike is not only right for philosophy students, it’s the right move for all students,” they said.

The Concordia contingent of the “Austerity: a Horror Story” protest leaves from the Hall Building at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 31.

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