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Student union in review

by The Concordian April 5, 2011

It has been a tumultuous year for the Concordia Student Union.

The CSU found itself in the spotlight on a weekly basis this year, but frequently for all the wrong reasons. Executive resignations, accusations of mismanagement and criticisms about a lack of action on student interests plagued the CSU this year and meetings became battlegrounds for a very polarized group of councillors. But president Heather Lucas isn’t apologizing; rather, the head of the union maintains that this year has been a successful one, one that saw more accomplishments than failures.

“Given the special circumstances that this year has brought, […] whether it was resignations at the university level, or at our level in the CSU, I think we’ve done an amazing job,” Lucas said. “I’m incredibly proud of this executive. I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished this year given the bumps in the road.”

Of the eight campaign promises that Lucas’ Fusion slate was elected on in the spring of 2010, she and her remaining executive feel as though six were fulfilled, at least to the extent that was possible.

The promise to offer free coffee and snacks during exams and the monthly town hall meetings were completed in full, though the latter was characterized by poor student attendance and marketing.

While the CFS has still refused to recognize CSU referendum results in which students voted to leave the organization, the executive maintains that they’ve done everything in their power to keep their pledge of leaving the CFS.

This year the CSU began taking legal action in order to leave the organization. Vice-president external and projects Adrien Severyns said they did not want to resort to this recourse, but that the CFS left them no choice.

“This is quite an unfortunate turn of events but this is something that we were led to do and we think it will turn out well,” he said.

Other promises that the executive feel they have fulfilled include the expansion of the Loyola luncheon as well as a bottled water free campus.

While water bottles can still be found at Concordia, during last week’s elections a majority of students voted to ban bottled water on campus, something Lucas said is indicative of the success of the CSU and other student groups like TAPthirst in educating students and getting the word out this year.

“Hopefully with the PepsiCo contract we can get bottled water out of vending machines,” Lucas said, noting that she will be presenting the referendum results to the Board of Governors at the next meeting this month. “It’s a step forward and it’s definitely a tangible change that hopefully we’ll get to see before our mandate is officially up.”

A final promise the CSU executive feels they upheld is that of fighting tuition increases. “The CSU did fight it,” Severyns said of tuition increases. “We’ve highly contributed, and we’ve built closer and closer relationships with student organizations across Quebec.”

The Quebec government announced their proposed tuition increases last month despite multiple vocal student protests in the last few months. Ultimately, while Severyns said positive steps had been taken to mobilize students, he said that this fight is an ongoing one that will have to be taken up by the next executive.

While many students on campus might debate the successes of those campaign promises, two failed promises that the CSU will not even debate are those of the greening of Mackay and the student centre.

The student centre campaign was a glaring failure for the CSU this year, bringing them heavy criticism and accusations of ignoring students’ interests. Despite the loftiness of this promise, Severyns maintains that the CSU really felt they could have brought the centre to fruition this year.

“What we expected from [the student centre was] to bring a home to the student body,” he said. “This is something that this executive actually believed in, and we still do believe in this sort of vision.”

While this process appeared rushed, Severyns justified it, saying that, “The issue of student space is something that is reoccurring and is not getting any better. And next year will not be any better. So unless you address this issue with quick and pragmatic means, just like providing a student centre in the shortest amount of time, that is something that we believed in and that is something that we strived to achieve.”

While this year’s CSU was facing with a difficult climate within the university, president-elect Lex Gill said that some of the goals set by the Fusion slate were unrealistic from the beginning, the greening of Mackay in particular. This is why she said her newly-elected Your Concordia team took a different approach.

“We made realistic promises that we believe we can keep. They’re difficult things to do but they’re not big legacy projects,” Gill said. “We tried to make promises that would have long term benefits for students but aren’t glamorous.”

On the student centre for example, she said that Your Concordia is confident they will able to renegotiate the highly criticized student centre contract, but that they wouldn’t promise to bring students their centre next year. Instead, they will be dealing with issues of student space step by step, in the short run with measures like cleaning up CSU storage space to potentially use as club offices.

As for continuing the tuition fight, Gill said that this issue will remain at the forefront of her plans.

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