WHALE brings out students, brings down apathy

Photo by David Vilder

“I don’t want to have to strip my way through school,” said anthropology and environmental geography student Adrianna Deciccio.

Although some might consider these words a bit extreme, Deccicio clearly expressed the frustration that the other 896 students felt when they congregated on the Reggie’s terrace under rain and snow yesterday afternoon for the CSU’s special general meeting. Apart from voting on motions and denouncing Concordia’s Board of Governors for lack of transparency, the students were marking a special day of action against the Quebec government’s imminent tuition hikes. The event was titled WHALE: Wintry Hot Accessible Love-in for Education.

“The day was phenomenal, more students showed up than any of us had expected,” said graduate student Matthew Brett, and the event’s communications coordinator. “We were facing bad weather, major underfunding, a short time-frame to draw in students; basically, everything was working against us, but we still managed to pull it off.”

Close to 900 students gathered on Reggie’s terrace for the CSU’s SGM and to denounce tuition hikes. Photo by David Vilder

Under the watchful eye of Montreal police and campus security, close to 400 students participated in a march through the street surrounding the SGW campus, chanting “Hell no, we won’t pay, for someone else’s severance pay.” They then proceeded into the EV building and marched through the campus’ underground tunnels, making their way up to the Hall building’s seventh floor.

Once back on the terrace, students could sign a Valentine’s Day card to the BoG, as well as a petition asking all members of the Board to resign. About 50 people from various student groups and programs facilitated the day’s activities.

For biology student Irmak Bahar, who had originally proposed the SGM idea at the CSU’s informational general meeting on Jan. 27, the day of action was nothing short of a success.

“I think that when you tell students about the issues and when you let them know there is hope, the possibilities are endless, and we’ve seen that today,” she said. “A special general meeting is the most democratic process we have at Concordia. You’re speaking for yourself and get to vote.”

It is a possibility that more SGMs will be held in the future, now that the quorum required for such an event has been lowered from 2.5 per cent of the CSU’s membership to 1.5 per cent.

“I think the greatest things about lowering quorum are that it is not such a daunting task to facilitate an SGM anymore, we can now work towards a more direct-democracy scenario at the CSU, and of course, we could actually host a meeting inside on campus now,” said the CSU’s VP sustainability and promotions Morgan Pudwell, another of the event’s key organizers.

This is good news for People’s Campus Coalition member Alex Matak, who felt that student apathy at Concordia had been dealt a serious blow yesterday by WHALE.

Photo by David Vilder

“Today restored my faith in students to stand up for their rights,” she said. “To be honest, I thought we would get 500 peole, but we had people who waited in the rain and who lined up in the Hall building and on the street. If that doesn’t say students are not apathetic, I don’t know what will.”

Students plan to hold a second day of action this Thursday during the Board of Governors’ monthly meeting.

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