Tuition hikes, administrative salaries put Concordia’s provost on the spot.
What was meant to be a short presentation by Concordia’s provost turned into a confrontation with the Concordia Student Union (CSU) at a regular council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
For more than an hour, CSU councillors questioned Graham Carr, provost and vice-president of academic affairs, on everything from tuition hikes and administrative salaries, to student representation in school governance.
Carr had been invited to give a presentation on Concordia’s nine strategic directions. His presentation highlighted some of the school’s recent achievements, including the opening of the Institute for Investigative Journalism, as well as some of the university’s goals, such as the establishment of a health institute at Concordia.
However, during a segment of the presentation on diversity in the faculty of engineering, Arts and Science Councillor, Margot Berner, asked about the administration’s recent tuition increase for international students.
“I’m wondering how promoting diversity factors into international student tuition hikes in engineering,” Berner said.
Carr said international student enrollment was significantly higher this semester than last fall despite the tuition hikes, and that this was a sign that “our fee structure is not an impediment to them coming.”
Following the presentation, Berner brought up the representation of students in Concordia’s governing bodies. “It makes it difficult to believe that there’s been any meaningful consultation with students when the highest representatives of the student body are not allowed to sit on these [governing bodies].”
In her executive report prepared for the meeting, CSU General Coordinator Sophie Hough-Martin said she had been denied a place on Concordia’s Senate and Board of Governors because of her conditional academic standing, due in large part to a major depressive episode in the fall of 2017.
Carr responded a working group had been formed to address the issue in the Senate.
Arts and Science Councillor, Patrick Quinn, alleged that the administration was violating Quebec’s Act Respecting the Accreditation and Financing of Students’ Associations. Article 32 of the act states that “The accredited students’ association or alliance may, alone, appoint students.”
Carr responded this point constituted a “difference of opinion” between the CSU and the administration.
“It is not a question of a disagreement or a difference of opinion as Mr. Carr said in the meeting,” Quinn told The Concordian. “It is what the law states.”
Arts and Science Councillor, Rowan Gaudet, questioned Carr on the administration’s commitment to divestment from fossil fuels. He said if the university was concerned about being able to make a profit, “why not [cut] things like administrative salaries, where we have a president who makes more than any other administrator in Quebec?”
Carr said Concordia has always been a “lean” university financially, and that the administration managed to weather provincial funding cuts without sacrificing its academic mission.
The CSU’s chairperson put an end to question period, at which point council resumed its regular business.
After the meeting, Quinn said, “Any good student union won’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Our job is to obviously work with the administration, but it’s also there to ensure that our concerns are being voiced.”
Photo by Ian Down.