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Letter to the editor by ASFA president Jenna Cocullo

by The Concordian November 3, 2015 0 comment

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations demands that Concordia University’s faculty members and administration drop all charges against students facing expulsion, that they allow our students to protest in the upcoming strikes without legal or academic consequences, and that article 29G of “Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities” be amended to reflect the students democratic right to strike.

In April 2015 when students of ASFA’s member associations gathered together in general assemblies to strike against austerity and its detrimental effects on their education, they were asserting the legitimacy of their political bodies. Members of faculty and the administration used this as an opportunity to silence the voices of those who were trying to defend their education by using ‘Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities’ against them. However, our member associations democratically voted to hold a hard picket line in front of every classroom in the departments that were on strike, something the faculty was made aware of. Students are now facing tribunals and the fear of expulsion, an oppressive tactic carried out to discourage future strikes.

When students are punished for carrying through a democratic mandate it is an obvious affront to their rights and political discrimination. Austerity is not an economic necessity it is a political choice. The faculty and administration are clearly making a political statement when they take legal action toward the students who are speaking out against cuts to the public sector.

Despite these injustices students are still choosing to protest against these neo-liberal attacks on our University and all academic institutions across the province. The faculty should be protesting alongside them because these cuts affect them and every other level at Concordia. Instead of support, there have been reported physical threats by faculty towards our students who have once again legitimately voted to be picketing in classrooms in the upcoming weeks.

Austerity measures have taken a toll on the entirety of the public sector, all aspects of our educational institutions included. In light of the seriousness and depth of these attacks it is worth understanding what we stand to lose and what future generations stand never to have in the first place. Students in the humanities are facing a job market that barely allows for them to use their degrees in any way. Grad schools in Quebec and the rest of Canada have fewer seats and a lower quality of education today compared to a decade ago. Due to cuts in government subsidized services, it has become nearly impossible for self-reliant students from all walks of life to fully immerse themselves in their studies only allowing for the financially stable to have the chance to show their full potential at school and be part of academic discourse. These are just a few ways students are affected by budget cuts.

Professors are forced to take on growing classes without teaching assistants and larger workloads for the same pay or less because many teachers were pressured to leave. Those coming into the job market will also find little opportunities for employment. These are just a few ways professors are affected by budget cuts. Students all over Quebec have noticed how their education is lacking in quality due to lack of funding and it’s time the school’s faculty and administrators acknowledge this as well.

It is for all these reasons above that ASFA is calling on the faculty to drop the charges and threat of expulsion that are facing our students.  ASFA stands in solidarity with its member associations and the students of FASA, one of our fellow faculty associations, as well as the students of UQAM who are also facing similar oppressive measures carried out by key players in their university. We are calling on the faculty and administration to support our member associations’ strike mandates, to act in the interest of students education and support the fight against austerity.

-ASFA president Jenna Cocullo

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