what is the admin waiting for?

To the editor:

Tim McSorley’s front page article “Students vote for
racism inquiry” (March 12, 2003) highlights the
overwhelming support for an inquiry into racism on
campus shown by students at the March 5 CSU General
Assembly. Students have now put the ball squarely in the
court of the Concordia administration that has
consistently refused to hold such an inquiry.

Unfortunately, the response of University
Communications Director Dennis Murphy shows that the
administration is still hiding its head in the sand. Murphy
said that the administration knew about the General
Assembly vote (how could anybody not know about it with
all of the posters, leaflets and class visits?) but had not
yet been approached by the CSU with the goal of putting
together such an inquiry. Therefore, until the
administration receives direction from the student union,
there will be no action.

What are Mr. Murphy and his colleagues in the
administration waiting for? Another computer centre riot
like the one in 1969?

The fact of the matter is that there have been repeated
calls for an inquiry into racism on campus for years. The
administration has been repeatedly and directly
challenged to act on those calls and has consistently
refused to do so. The University’s own “Office of Rights
and Responsibilities Report for 1999-2001” (published in
Concordia’s Thursday Report
x.shtml) acknowledged that such calls were being made
three years ago, “on the grounds that existing structures
to deal with complaints were ineffective or that students
had lost faith in them.”

More recently, a January 15 meeting of Concordia’s
Board of Governors saw a presentation by Rector Lowy
about the University’s “Action Plan” to deal with ethnic
tensions on campus (that plan does not mention the
word “racism” even once). CSU President and BoG
member Sabine Freisinger took the opportunity to
challenge the Rector to hold an independent and public
inquiry into racism and discrimination to get at the roots
of the problems his “Action Plan” was supposed to deal

The Rector responded that “Concordia does not have a
racism problem.” He went on to explain that such an
inquiry would be undesirable because of the negative
impact it would have on the University’s public image.
That is why the University is spending hundreds of
thousands of dollars on a new PR firm, Columbia

A week before the General Assembly, the CSU gave the
university administration another chance to respond to
students’ concerns. On February 26 the CSU sent a letter
to Quebec’s Minister of Education explaining the situation
at Concordia, outlining the call for an inquiry to be made
at the General Assembly, and asking for a ministry
representative to act as a mediator between the CSU and
the administration. Such a mediator was thought to be
necessary because of administrative intransigence in the
face of increasing student pressure.

Unfortunately, it seems that very little has changed. The
administration has received and will continue to receive
communications from the CSU about the “racism
problem” whose existence has been denied by Rector
Lowy. But little should be expected by way of response.

After the General Assembly, the tactic of the
administration has simply changed from denial to
stalling. The administration’s response to VP
Communications Yves Engler’s March 7 e-mail invitation
to participate in an inquiry was we “will be in touch”. In
other words, the administration hopes that a less
“confrontational” CSU executive will win the upcoming
elections and take the pressure off administrators to do
something about racism on campus.

But as the history of Concordia has shown, if the
administration does not act on the problem of racism,
students will.


David Bernans, CSU Researcher/Archivist


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