With just days left before more than 150 unions and other organizations march at Place du Canada against tuition hikes and privatization, the Concordia Student Union is being criticized for failing to mobilize its members in the lead-up to Saturday’s event.
Although CSU VP external and projects Adrien Severyns described mobilizing the students as “paramount” in an email last week, People’s Campus Coalition member Alex Matak said that the CSU is being far from helpful in pushing this Saturday’s march.
“Unfortunately, it’s no surprise,” said Matak, one of the organizers of WHALE last Feb. 14, which saw close to 1,000 Concordia students denounce tuition increases and the university administration’s lack of transparency. “Most student organizers who were working with CSU executives in planning WHALE found out that, except for [former VP sustainability and promotions] Morgan Pudwell who was a major exception to this, the executive has no real knowledge or passion for the student movement.”
Pudwell, who resigned from her position late last Thursday night, was also the only member of the executive whose name was includedÂ among the creators of Concordia’s Facebook group for the March 12 protest, which had 265 people listed as attending on Monday night.
“Now that Pudwell has resigned, and that student organizers are both burnt out and sick of doing all the CSU’s work for them while receiving no credit, we are seeing a huge hole appear in mobilization,”said Matak.
Biology student Irmak Bahar, who originally proposed the idea for WHALE at the CSU’s Jan. 27 informational general meeting, voiced her displeasure with the student union, saying she doesn’t feel the fight against tuition increases is a priority for most of the union’s executives and councillors.
“WHALE was a success because of the serious commitment of the 40 odd students-at-large and it seems that the CSU is expecting the same students to take on the leadership roles and responsibilities again with the March 12 demonstration,” she said.
Bahar expressed her frustation over the CSU not booking tables on the Hall building’s mezzanine to promote the event, a task eventually completed by Free Education Montreal. But it’s still not too late for the CSU to do more in terms of mobilization, said Bahar.
“There is much that could be done throughout this week and I certainly would love to see a difference,” she said. “A real, sincere commitment to fight against tuition fee increases is needed from the CSU.”
According to Severyns, that commitment is already there.
“Just last week the CSU posted over 200 posters around campus and we have printed and started distributing 3,000 flyers up to date,” he said. “We are also extremely present on the social media front and have had very positive feedback from our members throughout the weekend.”
He added that those who denounce the CSU’s role in the fight against tuition hikes should remember that both he and and other executives often pressured the administration last year to consider students’ demands regarding the underfunding of universities. He also pointed out the CSU’s role in getting as many as students as possible to the Dec. 6 protest against tuition increases in Quebec City; a campaign entirely financed by the CSU.
“Nevertheless, the fight against tuition hikes is one that can only be won with a united student body,” he said. “One where the collective effort carries more value than personal political ambition.”
This Saturday’s march comes just days before the Quebec government tables its budget on Mar. 17, which will likely include a $1,500 increase in tuition fees over a three year period beginning in 2012.