Student politics is rarely the easy read. It can seem downright inconsequential next to genocide in Darfur, protestors being killed in Burma and George Bush.
Sometimes it appears to be an endless debate bent on self-destruction, where the rhetoric begins to impede progress within our campus political system.
Be that as it may, the CSU is still a model of a political system, and the questions, debates and controversies within a functioning democracy are right here before your eyes. As such, the same rule applies where good participation by the public would result in a healthy democracy.
In student politics this week, there are three issues which require your attention. The first is a referendum on whether students should go on a general strike over the issue of tuition fees in Quebec. The second will be what to expect in the next CSU council meeting happening this Wednesday, Oct 10. The third is an analysis of a dispute over the legitimacy of two councilors currently serving on the CSU council (please see page 7).
General strike seeking for free education
A general assembly is set to happen Oct. 25 or sooner, to put to vote the question of whether students are willing to go on a general strike over tuition fees in Quebec. According to Ethan Cox, an activist advocating the general strike, the campaign seeks to eliminate tuition fees altogether or make education “free and accessible.”
Cox told The Concordian that, ideally, the strike would happen immediately after Oct 25, as part of the second wave of strikes amidst three waves of strikes being organized amongst Quebec universities. It has not been confirmed before the printing of this issue how many schools will be participating in such a campaign.
Cox organized the petition to call the general assembly and collected 270 signatures from students, whereas only 100 signatures were required to trigger the assembly.
The petition was submitted to the CSU last Tuesday, requesting that it take place Thursday, Oct. 25, at 12:30 p.m. in the H-110 auditorium.
If the strike is approved, the CSU will be given the mandate to promote and facilitate a week-long action when students will boycott their classes in protest of rising tuition fees.
According to Noah Stewart, VP Communications for the CSU executive, the CSU prefers not to strike at this time. Rather than be “given” the mandate, he said the executive would be “forced” to push for this strike if that is what the voters want.
It is not known at this time whether professors or school administrators will make allowances for such a strike in terms of missed classes, assignments and examinations.
According to Stewart, it is still up to the chairperson of the CSU council, Sarah Rodier, to decide on the exact date and time of the assembly. However, he predicted that it would most likely take place either before or on the date requested by the petition, rather than after.
The quorum (minimum amount of voters) required for the vote is 700 students. In order for a strike to be approved, it requires the support of 50 per cent of voters plus one vote.
The strike will be re-evaluated after one week in another general assembly, where striking students will get to decide whether they will continue boycotting classes.
Preview on October CSU council meeting
An important issue to watch for this Wednesday is motion 7.5: a motion that would see the Student Union Building Fund levy, as well as all other income from all fee levys, come under the CSU’s direct management. If it passes, the CSU executive proposes to negotiate an agreement with the university in an attempt to regain control over all fee levys and funds set aside for the student centre. According to the motion, the university has held in reserve all funds collected for fee levies and the student centre since 2004.
The fund for the new student union building, slated for construction anywhere from two to five years from now – or whenever enough money will have been collected – has been growing at the rate of $2.00 per credit per undergraduate student.
CSU President Angelica Novoa estimated the trust fund for the building was up to at least $7 million when last she looked into it, and that was before fall semester fees were taken in. The fee levy of $1.00 per credit came into effect during the winter semester 2005-2006, and an increase of $1.00 came into effect a year later.
The motion concludes that the CSU should be “authorized to do all other things necessary, desirable or advisable for the due carrying out of the foregoing in any manner which it may deem to be in the best interest of the CSU and of its members”.
That apparently includes amending an existing article of the CSU patent letter so the union can hold or own immovable properties up to a value of $50 million, in order to have control over the building fund money. The article, in its present form, limits the CSU to a $2 million limit on holding or owning immovable properties.
Cox versus Rosenshein, Kogut and the CSU Exec
A candidate for last year’s CSU council elections, Ethan Cox told The Concordian he will be filing a case with the Quebec Superior Court this week, suing CSU independent councillors Steven Rosenshein and David Kogut in a bid to de-seat them from the CSU council. Cox will also include the CSU executive in his case for having allegedly violated election by-laws.
The case leveled against Rosenshein, Kogut and the CSU executive is based on three alleged by-law violations committed last April and May. Cox believes Rosenshein and Kogut were illegally elected as independent councillors, and retain their seats despite a Judicial Board ruling last summer that they should not have been elected to their positions.
Current independent councillor Rosenshein denied every allegation leveled against him by Cox in an interview with The Concordian, countering that Cox is simply carrying out a vendetta for losing against him. Cox and Rosenshein ran for the same position on council last spring.
Rosenshein maintains he was an independent student at the time of the election (not studying under any particular faculty), which made him eligible to run for CSU independent councillor.
When asked to comment about the Dean of Students Office having confirmed that he wasn’t an independent student last year, but rather studying under the faculty of Arts and Science, Rosenshein responded that the Dean of Students Office should have kept itself separate of student elections. He believes that it risked being entangled in partisan politics.
Rosenshein denied Cox’s allegation that his and Kogut’s names were submitted for the ballot the night before the election.
According to him, his nomination was submitted to Chief Electoral Officer Jason Druker two weeks before the election and was in accordance with CSU by-laws that all names on the ballot must be made public 10 days before the election.
Druker has admitted to The Link last spring that, as the CEO, he had violated CSU by-laws by not releasing Rosenshein and Kogut’s names to students as required by the by-laws.
Crucial to Cox’s case are three former CSU council members whom Cox claimed will be signing affidavits supporting one of his allegations. One of these students, Tony Alphonso Jr., confirmed that he will be signing an affidavit this coming Wednesday.
Alphonso Jr. claimed he was never properly notified of the special meeting where councillors voted to overrule the Judicial Board and keep Rosenshein and Kogut in place for the 2007-2008 academic year.
Councillors present at the meeting, numbering roughly 10 to 12 of the original 30, according to Rosenshein, voted to dismiss the Judicial Board’s ruling that Rosenshein and Kogut be removed from council on the grounds that it was “manifestly unreasonable.”
Overruling the Judicial Board required a 4/5 majority of councilors voting in favour. The quorum required (minimum number of voters) was “five or six” voters, according to Rosenshein.
In his defense, Rosenshein maintained that all councillors were properly notified through the council’s listserv of this special meeting and was unaware that three of them will be contesting this issue. As former chairperson of the council, the responsibility fell on Rosenshein to notify council members.
The Concordian was unable to obtain a copy of the minutes for the special meeting because according to both CSU President Angelica Novoa and VP Communications Noah Stewart, they have gone “missing.”
They said the reception desk at the CSU office was the last place they knew it to be, but then it was “taken,” according to Novoa. Moreover, Novoa said the secretary who compiled the minutes in the first place has “disappeared” and could not be reached.
As chairperson of council, Rosenshein also had the responsibility for the minutes of council meetings.
Stay tuned for next week’s news and analysis.