Currently, students charged at tribunals cannot sit on university bodies
The Concordia Student Union is calling on the university to change bylaws that bar certain students from sitting on decision-making bodies. Currently, students sanctioned under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities in the past three years are disallowed from sitting on bodies such as Concordia’s Senate and Board of Governors. It’s a rule that the CSU claims breaks provincial laws—and one they will take to court to challenge, if necessary.
The decision was formally passed at council on March 9. The CSU claims Concordia’s bylaw, forbidding sanctioned students, conflicts with the Quebec law titled “An Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations,” also known as the Accreditation Act. Specifically, the CSU executive claims that it contradicts Article 32 of the Act, which asserts that “an accredited students’ association or alliance may, alone, appoint students who … are called upon to sit or participate as student representatives on various councils, committees or other bodies in the institution.”
By restricting the autonomy of who the student association can nominate, CSU general coordinator Terry Wilkings believes the Concordia bylaw violates the Accreditation Act, with rules “significantly more stringent than any other university in this province.”
“There is a large number of students who have been charged under the Code over the past year,” said Wilkings, referring to the charges laid against students who participated in anti-austerity protests on campus last year. “I’ve been on the executive [team] of the CSU for two years and both [executive teams] have had students charged, and sanctions have been delivered.”
With so many student leaders charged, Wilkings expects the bylaws to have an influence on future candidates for these positions. “Given that it’s an election cycle right now, the immediate impact of this will be clear as a result of how those elections go,” said Wilkings.
Alan Shepard, president of Concordia University, said the tribunal and sanction process is fair and not controlled by the administration. “It’s independent—it’s meant to be independent,” said Shepard. Complaints against students are weighed by a panel of two students and one professor, and overseen by a volunteer law firm to ensure due process.
“Students can appeal their finding, but you don’t have a world where the president or the vice-president or whoever can swoop in and arbitrarily change the findings of independent panels,” said Shepard. “It doesn’t work like that.”
But Wilkings asserts the university did have a role to play in bringing up these sanctions.
“The university is acting as a co-complainant [in these charges],” said Wilkings. “And that’s a decision. Someone made a decision for them to act in that capacity.”
On March 10, Wilkings met with Shepard to discuss addressing the bylaws. “I would say it was a productive meeting,” said Wilkings, who will be meeting with university representatives in the future to elaborate on their reading of the Act. “It’s very clear that this is a priority [for us].”
Further meetings between student representatives and the administration are planned for this week. However, if no progress is made, the CSU is willing to go beyond Concordia to address these issues.
“If the actions taken by the university are insufficient to address the issues, [then] we have approval from our board to take legal action if necessary and seek a formal judgement from the court,” said Wilkings.