As students are still deciding on what should be done about rising tuition fees, infighting amongst student groups is splintering the movement on campus.
At the General Meeting last week, students announced a new group calling itself the Action Committee for Accessible Education. The group is seeking to replace the CSU as the official voice of student protest at Concordia.
Although both groups vow to campaign against the rise of tuition, the Action Committee, which includes a number of CSU councillors, believes the student union is not doing enough to mobilize students for large-scale protests.
CSU councillor Andrew Fernandez spoke to The Concordian on behalf of the Action Committee: “Absolutely nothing was getting done by the CSU . . . It became clear to us very quickly that this Executive was not going to be the way [to address the problem].”
The group plans to put up posters on campus and pass out pamphlets informing students of a day of action taking place Nov. 15 that is being organized by the Association pour une Solidarite Syndicale Etudiante (ASSE), a more militant lobby group that mainly represents students from French universities and CEGEPS.
Students wanting to participate will have more than one opportunity to take part in a large demonstration as the Action Committee favors the day of action organized by ASSE, while the CSU attempts to mobilize students for the day of action on Nov. 22, organized by the Federation Etudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FEUQ).
CSU VP Communications Noah Stewart explained that it was in the CSU’s interest to abide by the agreements made at a congress held a week ago by the FEUQ.
Though Fernandez believes Concordia students could benefit from participating in both days of action, he stressed the importance of supporting the French universities under ASSE.
“We can easily mobilize several hundred students for a sufficiently important demonstration [on Nov. 15],” Fernandez said.
Fernandez claimed that the Action Committee has roughly three dozen activists who consistently take part in the planning process, and can rely on around 60 volunteers to facilitate and organize major events. Two other CSU councillors, Elona Ritchie and James Doyle, play an active role.
The Action Committee will be staging a dramatization on campus next week where they will enact a funeral to mourn the “death of accessible education.”
Despite not having any official sources of funding, Fernandez believes the Action Committee will sustain itself through donations of its participants and the work of its volunteers.
Meanwhile, the CSU’s official campaign coordinator, Chris Schwartz, will again attempt to bring the issue home to students this week by setting up a table on the second-floor Mezzanine, where individuals can call their MNA to put in their two cents.
According to Schwartz, the offices of several MNAs were inundated with hundreds of calls so far.
Student Nestor Sanajko left one such message. “I said that these tuition fee increases were unjust. They didn’t consult the students on the increases. The underprivileged are going to be attending post-secondary schools if they’re going to be able to afford it,” said Sanajko.
The majority of the calls ended up as recorded messages however as they were answered by secretaries, who promised to forward the messages to the MNAs.
At the meeting for the CSU planning committee on Thursday night, Schwartz, VP External Erica Jabouin and several other participants discussed the next few weeks leading up to the day of action on Nov. 22. They plan on postering heavily by using “every inch of poster space available” on both campuses, training more volunteers and addressing students in classrooms.
“I’m very excited, I think it’s going to be a huge event,” said Schwartz of the day of action. “I think students should really come out to it because I think the government should hear that students are really upset [about the tuition fee increase].”
Schwartz refused to comment on a number of points, including competition from the Action Committee and whether he feels the CSU should participate in both days of action.
“I’m an employee of the CSU. I won’t comment on the internal politics,” he said.
The Action Committee meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Quebec Public Interest Research Group building. The CSU’s planning committee meeting is at 6 p.m. on the seventh floor of the Hall Building.