Fine Arts students vote to disaffiliate from provincial student association
Concordia’s Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) voted to disaffiliate from its provincial student association last week.
In FASA’s general elections, fine arts students approved a referendum to formally cut ties with l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ). Students were given three options on the ballot: disaffiliate from ASSÉ, move for ASSÉ’s dissolution at the association’s next congress, or remain paying members.
“The disaffiliation is immediate,” said Clara Micheau, FASA’s finance coordinator. “By our members choosing disaffiliation, we are no longer part of ASSÉ.”
“The fee-levy collected twice a year for FASA’s ASSÉ membership will no longer be collected, as of fall 2019.”
The now-failing coalition was once called “Quebec’s most militant student association” by Le Devoir. Founded at the University of Sherbrooke in 2001, ASSÉ was born out of the protests of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec city. The association was at the centre of the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, a union of several student associations at the forefront of the 2012 tuition hike protests. At the time, Québec Solidaire’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois was the coalition’s spokesperson.
With the departure of FASA, ASSÉ’s members include 24 university and nine CEGEP student associations. FASA became a member of the association through referendum in 2014. Fine arts students paid $1.50 per semester into the association.
FASA published a guide leading up to the vote, explaining the referendum question to students. “The dismantlement of ASSÉ would create a hole, which will take a few years to fill, and it is an inconvenient political period for our community to have an unstable ground,” the guide reads. “That said, ASSÉ’s inactivity cannot be overlooked.”
In particular, the guide criticized the association for not doing more to join the current mobilization against unpaid internships. In September 2018, ASSÉ launched a campaign against the commercialization and privatization of education. Michaud said FASA took this as a sign that the association had lost touch with its members. “The commercialization and privatization of education is a current and extremely concerning problem. However, it’s not what associations across Quebec have informally chosen to mobilize against. In 2018-19, students in Quebec have been going to assemblies to discuss unpaid internships and vote for strikes. You can’t claim to be one of the biggest national combative unions but decide to choose a different issue than the one discussed by student groups.”
ASSÉ previously discussed dissolving at a congress in February 2018. However, the association’s members did not have the necessary mandate from their student bodies to vote to dissolve. Instead, members moved to hold a national assembly in fall 2018 to discuss restructuring the association. It is unclear whether or not the meeting took place.
“For several years, especially since spring 2015, ASSÉ has been an organization that, despite the immeasurable contributions of many militants, no longer seems fit to respond to the needs of its members,” the motion of dissolution read. In April 2015, the association’s entire executive team was impeached. This happened after the association suggested its members organize a strategic withdrawal from the austerity protests rather than continue protesting.
Currently, four of the association’s eight executive positions remain vacant. This is a decrease from the executive’s seven vacancies in 2018.
Documents from the Feb. 2018 meeting show that ASSÉ was collectively owed around $308,000 from its members. Only eight of 46 members had paid their full fees. At the same meeting, members unanimously voted to suspend three members who had not paid their fees or attended meetings since joining in 2016. These were l’Association étudiante de littérature comparée de l’Université de Montréal, l’Association étudiante du Collège d’Alma, and l’Association étudiante d’histoire de l’Université de Montréal.
The situation has worsened since then. According to FASA’s handout, only two member associations, including FASA itself, have paid their fees in full. Given ASSÉ’s precarious financial situation, the handout reads “Our decision is conclusive of ASSÉ’s future.” FASA’s financial information is not available on its website.
Michaud said that if ASSÉ does dissolve, “a committee might be established to discuss the building of a new student union. FASA is interested in the committee and has planned to examine this idea in its upcoming meetings.”
The vote comes just months after the dissolution of the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) provincial student association, Association pour la voix Étudiante au Québec.
ASSÉ did not respond to a request for comment.
Graphic by Ana Bilokin.
A previous version of this article quoted Clara Micheau as saying “By our members choosing disaffiliation, we are no longer part of ASSÉ and therefore can’t attend the next congress.” Micheau has since corrected the record, saying that FASA may in fact attend the next ASSÉ congress.
In addition, statements to the effect that FASA “disbanded” from ASSÉ have been corrected to state that FASA “disaffiliated” from ASSÉ.