No vote at general meeting, no strike

A sense of urgency is growing at Concordia for students to do something – anything – about the rise in tuition fees across Quebec. But rather than coming from the official leaders of the student union, it’s being pushed by student activists at large. A General Meeting was held in the Hall Building Monday at the H-110 auditorium where students were invited to vote on whether they should go on a general strike demanding free education.

A sense of urgency is growing at Concordia for students to do something – anything – about the rise in tuition fees across Quebec. But rather than coming from the official leaders of the student union, it’s being pushed by student activists at large.
A General Meeting was held in the Hall Building Monday at the H-110 auditorium where students were invited to vote on whether they should go on a general strike demanding free education. Because it not meet quorum however, a minimum of 850 voters, there was no vote.
Concordia students Chadi Marouf and Ethan Cox, along with other like-minded students, originally initiated the circulation the petition which triggered the meeting.
“We’re not trying to take down the CSU (Concordia’s Student Union), we’re trying to get something done,” said Cox, who said that he sees himself simply as a student and not as the unofficial opposition to the student union.
He went on to blame the CSU for the shortage of voters at the meeting.
“They are hampering us every step of the way. It seems that we can’t do anything without the CSU trying to oppose and actively block things which are clearly the will of the students like this general [meeting],” he said. Cox and Marouf accuse the CSU of sabotaging the general meeting by not doing enough to advertise it on campus – a mandate which the CSU must fulfill when given the petition which triggered the meeting.
Noah Stewart, VP Communications of the CSU, defended himself in an earlier interview with The Concordian saying that he personally “plastered” the two campuses with hundreds of posters advertising the event.
For the campaign, the CSU says students should be patient and that progress is being made behind the scenes, such as when they met with federal MPs in Ottawa last week and student leaders from universities across Quebec last weekend.
Angelica Novoa, CSU President, said the general meeting also gave the CSU a chance to dispel any misconceptions on what the student union has done (or has not done) so far this year for the campaign to combat the tuition fee increase.
“The information [session] within the general meething that I called was to address [these misconceptions] and to create a forum for students to address their concerns of their campaign.”
Stewart says that the strategy is to concentrate on building momentum in the fall semester by building relations between the CSU and Montreal media, meeting with politicians and educating students about the issues behind the tuition fee increase. According to him, this was the same strategy adopted by the CSU in 2004-2005 which resulted to a general strike which was “hailed as a success.”
“They knew what we were talking about, they knew why they had to mobilize.you build the momentum in the [fall semester] and in the second semester, you turn it into action,” said Stewart.
Cox may agree with the strategy, but has doubts about the execution.
“I am certainly not confident that they will achieve that…the fact of the matter is, where is that mobilization? What concrete steps have they done? What have they done to mobilize?” he said.
Stewart, who predicted the meeting wouldn’t reach quorum (850 voters), said “our feeling and our position has always been that [students] haven’t been educated enough at this point to make this kind of decision [to strike].”
Instead, Stewart believes the two student activists are “furthering their own agendas” by putting themselves in the limelight before CSU elections in March because they showed a lack of willingness to cooperate with the CSU on the tuition hike issue.
“For starters, it wasn’t even my idea [to start the petition],” laughed Cox. “I don’t think he is capable alot of the times of comprehending that we are genuinely and honestly trying to represent students. [The CSU executive] gets paid…to represent students. The general assembly proved that students are pissed off that they are not being represented,” he said.
When asked whether the CSU’s image is suffering because the General Meeting was not their initiative, Stewart said he thought Marouf’s and Cox’s interest “is to try to make the CSU look bad…I think it’s failing. The students we were talking to are seeing this as being a total farce,” said Stewart.
However, he did not rule out the idea that the two sides can work together.
“If Chady Marouf and Ethan Cox came and showed their desire to work to create a system of accessible education in Quebec, 110 per cent. I would work with any student,” said Stewart.
During the information session given later by Stewart, the CSU announced that it will be mobilizing for a day of action on Nov. 22 where it hopes to mobilize “thousands of students” from Concordia.
According to Stewart, this plan was discussed and agreed upon by a number of universities at the recent FEUQ congres in Alma, Quebec.

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