First A&S Grad congress debates leaving Graduate Student Association
Representatives from the university’s graduate programs met on Friday, March 6, to discuss anti-austerity spring actions, the limitations and rocky recent history of the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and ways of improving how graduate students are represented.
“It’s pretty apparent the GSA is dysfunctional. This year has been a disaster,” said Geography, Planning and Environment Graduate Students Association (GEOGRADS) President Pierce Nettling. He was referring to the two latest general assemblies that have failed to meet quorum in the last few months. Before these, the last general assembly that did meet quorum ended up revolving exclusively around heated executive elections resulting in accusations of voter intimidation, undemocratic tactics, and improper behaviour.
The issue of mobilization and student inclusion has been one of the biggest hurdles for most of Concordia’s graduate societies. Other groups like those representing engineers do, however, have the ability to mobilize—meaning that when they do show up, they often carry the agenda by sheer numbers.
“We don’t have any safeguards. It’s sort of like here today, [but] we could be gone tomorrow,” said Nettling in describing the nature of some of the smaller graduate groups and the lack of participation. “In Engineering, they whip people to show up.”
He continued: “We do have to come together and form a federation … because we have to use our political power and do something. Otherwise, what are we doing? At the same time I really think we need to think beyond the GSA.”
To that end the Congress agreed future discussions should consider the creation of faculty associations that would act to address immediate issues in a more efficient and quicker manner, akin to those already present at John Molson and the in Engineering and Computer Graduate Student Society (ECSGA).
“I only hear about a concern when it becomes a crisis,” said Trevor Smith, Academic and Advocacy Affairs Manager for the GSA, in talking about the advantages of a nimbler level of governance.
He also brought up the need to begin involving students in the talks over anti-austerity actions.
“The idea is that it’s much better to lobby the government than to oppose it. That’s a very political stance that our university has taken, and it’s not necessarily a stance I think our membership would agree with,” said Smith. “By getting out membership talking about [austerity] … things can grow from that. It would also empower the people helping out on this process. It gives them a little more chutzpah to oppose this idea.”
To that effect, a motion calling on Arts and Science students to convene a meeting for the next congress independently of the GSA was passed, as well as a general move towards anti-austerity discussion at the next general assembly.