The General Assembly (GA) of Concordia’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) held on Dec. 1 at Loyola campus failed to reach the 1 per cent quorum. Only 25 to 30 students showed up including only three Loyola students. This would have been the first GA held in Loyola in the history of GSA. As the councilor who moved for a GA in Loyola, I feel that I should speak out to emphasize that this should not discourage from engaging Loyola students but rather motivate doing so; should echo a message of reform and a call for leaders.
Trying to hold the first Loyola GA is a big responsibility for this council since failure discourages people from taking the risk again and doom Loyola students to yet a longer era of neglect. Many explanations to this failure are voiced, like mobilization failure, bad timing or that Loyola is bad due to “math”. Ergo, we should never hold a GA in Loyola again! While there are some truths to these arguments, they only scratch the surface reaching a wrong conclusion. I think the problem is deeper.
GSA adopts “direct democracy” (the idea of having everyone in a room to collectively vote on decisions). I am not a fan of direct democracy as it can be impractical and people prefer that others do the work. However, in the educational context of a university, it is invaluable. It teaches students how to work with one another; how to listen to those with passionately different opinions than their own; how to debate, negotiate, compromise and get things done together; how to develop empathy and be socially responsible. It transforms students to active members of society, ready to tackle the most challenging issues of our time. Also, it can mobilize thousands of students for a cause. But, be weary of drawbacks. When an overwhelming majority has an overwhelming voting power, minorities get oppressed.
Engagement is cumulative; it takes a lot to build and so little to destroy. The GSA house is downtown, all council and committee meetings are downtown, practically all GSA events are downtown, never in the history of GSA has a GA been held in Loyola! The result? Only 3 Loyola students showed up to a GA in Loyola! This is how marginalized and alienated Loyola students have become after a history of neglect. This is a call for council to not give up on Loyola; to engage Loyola students; to do more in Loyola.
There is another systematic problem. It was raised that the last GA, held downtown, never met quorum either. Last GA, after elections, the majority of students left, ignoring the rest of the GA business. The students remaining were not more than those 30 students showing up in Loyola. The truth is, without elections, we never meet quorum. The fact that the two GAs that were held at two different times, in two different places and organized by two different VP mobilization, never, in effect, met quorum, points to a systematic problem having little to do with time, place or mobilizers. Council failed to meet quorum two months in a row this summer! For the bigger part of this year, GSA has been functioning with half an executive team whose president is acclaimed and half a council with mostly appointed members who had no competition (including myself). It organized almost no events in the fall, beyond orientation. It does not have an approved budget yet. It censured its president, its Board of Governors representative and tried to sanction a GSA member. This is how disconnected GSA has grown to be!
GSA matters! With government imposed cuts on education, it matters now more than ever. And just like in 2012, we CAN do better! Direct democracy or not, decisions are made by those who show up; those who show up to lead! This is a call for YOU to intervene to reform the GSA.
I wish to offer a different point of view that leads to taking the harder path of engaging Loyola students and reforming the GSA as opposed to hanging failure on time and place requiring no action on our part.
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