Concordia’s administration has issued a very clear position on any potential student strike in March, saying that the university will continue to operate as usual and students will still be expected to attend class and hand in their assignments on time.
Concordia’s Provost David Graham released an open letter to students, faculty and staff outlining the university’s stance last Wednesday.
“Regardless of the outcome of the March 7th vote, Concordia intends to continue operating as usual,” it reads. “All instructional activities, including classes, tutorials, labs and studio sessions, will be held as scheduled.”
The document explains that students who choose to miss class or refuse to take their exams will be subject to the standard academic consequences. Graham goes on to list possible negative outcomes for students, such as the risk of being de-registered by not paying tuition, losing visa status or health insurance for international students and failing to meet graduation requirements.
Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill called the letter “fear mongering” and stated that “the dangers [Graham] expressed are worst case and highly unlikely.”
Gill said that the CSU felt “blind-sided” by the timing of the Provost’s letter. VP external Chad Walcott arranged a meeting with the administration which was pushed back for unrelated reasons, she explained.
Gill went on to say that the letter also failed to mention that historical precedent was on the student’s side. “Since the 1960s, there have been eight major general strikes and universities have never cancelled sessions before. They just aren’t equipped to handle it,” she said.
Following the letter’s public circulation, Gill and Graham exchanged a number of tweets. Gill called the Provost’s actions “disingenuous” and stated that she was “deeply unimpressed.”
Graham voiced complaint that he had only heard about the strike vote through the media, to which Gill replied, “nevertheless, you know my extension and it would’ve made a massive difference to talk about that email together.”
Members of the CSU are scheduled to meet with senior administrators in the next two weeks, and Gill is hopeful they will be open to talking. “I would like [the administration] to accommodate the democratic will of students, should this strike happen,” she said.
Graham explained that he chose to write the letter in order to “be pro-active and reach out to faculty and staff.”
His goal was to emphasize that should there be a strike, faculty are still expected to provide the same services. “The most important point at the moment is that we do have a duty to teach for students who choose to attend classes.”
“[The faculty] can exercise leniency if they wish to do so,” he continued. “It’s their decision.”
When asked about the possibility of giving amnesty to students participating in the strike, Graham stated that “there hasn’t been any request for amnesty that I’m aware of.”
Robert Sonin, the bargaining officer of Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC), explained that a student strike would put students employed by the university in a difficult position.
“Members of TRAC need to remember they have a role as an employee which is different from their role as student,” he said. “We support the idea of a strike as a whole, [but] we don’t have the right to go on strike.”
Members can strike as students and not attend classes if they wish, but they are expected to continue with their other duties, he explained.