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Underground movement SOS Concordia takes shape

by Archives October 16, 2007

A grassroots group of anonymous members has instigated a movement they hope will shake up the way this school is governed. Calling itself a “secret society” of individuals concerned about the state of democracy at Concordia, SOSConcordia is using email, Facebook and a blog to spread its message and is encouraging members to paste hard copies of its manifesto on Concordia’s buildings.
Their aim is to get students engaged with the way their school is being governed by participating in creative, albeit “renegade,” activities to take back control over student space.
The group claims it is apolitical and not comprised solely of activists. “We don’t think it should be an activist thing to have control over your student space,” said an SOS Concordia spokesperson, speaking on condition his name was not used. The group says it wants to remain anonymous so the movement can pick up its momentum from students themselves rather than the personality of its leaders.
Last Wednesday’s CSU council meeting was somewhat of a catalyst for the group. Members took issue with the way CSU Chair Sarah Rodier “unilaterally moved the date of the General Assembly (GA) from Thursday to a Monday. It will have a huge effect on the size of the meeting, and therefore the legitimacy of the GA,” said the spokesperson.
They also had a problem with the way councillors Jason Gondziola, Fady Abdallah and Emily Tetrault were ejected from council because they had not registered for classes in the fall term. No one informed the councillors of the decision ahead of the meeting and Gondziola’s attempt to challenge the Chair failed. They also objected to the way security was called to kick out several students, including Ethan Cox and Chadi Marouf, “students with legitimate concerns,” said the spokesperson. “It galvanized us into action.”
But if what transpired Wednesday kicked everything off, others say Concordia’s changing political climate over the past few years means it was only a matter of time.
A graduate student who has been at Concordia since 1999 agreed to talk about why she joined SOS. She said she has seen changes in Concordia’s Student Union that led her to believe it has become “disconnected” with the larger part of the student body.
“The CSU used to serve as a centralizing governing body that provided people with resources for student-made projects. The CSU has become, in some ways, a tool for the administration. They maintain the status quo, they actually challenge very little, they have disenfranchised student groups. It’s quite a different political environment now,” she said.
“Ultimately, the university has a huge vested interest in having a very moderate, unmilitant, unpolitical CSU. . . It just seems really clear to a lot of people that there is some kind of relationship and support between the last few CSUs and the admin. And not only is that completely unethical, but its antithetical to the purpose of a union,” said the graduate student.
She said in the past few years, the slates that won the elections and represented the CSU at its executive level were groups that hadn’t fought hard enough for the interests of students at Concordia.
“SOS is simply a group of people who want a community, who want politics to be restored at Concordia,” she said.
In response, VP Communications Noah Stewart defended the CSU’s connection with student groups. “It is ridiculous to say that the CSU has disenfranchised student groups. I would like to hear about which groups have a problem with the CSU, because I have yet to hear of any.”
Stewart said the largest groups in the school, including the faculty associations and the International Students Association, were all “incredibly supportive.”
Stewart also said the claim that the CSU was a “tool for the administration” was unfounded and pointed to examples of how the union has “stood up to the administration. . . Two great examples are forcing the university to back down on charging students for wireless internet – a plan that would now be in effect – and pushing the planned increase in tuition for international students completely off the agenda of the Board of Governors.” He said their claims were “simple hyperbole from a group of students who want to get themselves elected.”
The union is not the group’s only target. The manifesto also claims the administration is “out of touch” and “has become distant and disillusioned with the students it is there to serve.”
The spokesperson for SOS Concordia said it shouldn’t be up to the administration to determine what kind of school Concordia should be.
“The university administrators are here to serve the interests of fee-paying students. They are on their payroll,” he said.

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