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CSU votes down minimum agreement

by The Concordian February 14, 2012

A resolution proposing accepted terms between student associations to improve common action against tuition hikes triggered a heated debate during the Concordia Student Union council meeting last Wednesday.
After CSU VP external Chad Walcott and councillor Irmak Bahar went off on a lengthy exchange of arguments about the pros and cons of what is known as the “minimum agreement,” the motion to support it failed to pass, with 11 councilors voting against, three in favour and one abstention.
The minimum agreement was a proposition brought up during a national conference in May 2011 and consists of three clauses: solidarity, non-recommendation and non-denunciation.
The minimum agreement would have required, among other things, that the union not negotiate with the government unless all umbrella student groups were present, and that it not criticize the actions of other student associations in the fight against tuition hikes.
At the beginning of last week’s council meeting, Walcott read a recommendation to the council pointing out the inability to reach consensus over the three clauses and the outdated aspect of the resolution.
“Since the Nov. 10 protest, national student movements have developed parallel campaigns, and collaboration on a single campaign is no longer needed,” said Walcott. “There is a conflict in the goals of national associations and the minimum agreement is no longer an issue in the student movement.”
On the other hand, Bahar insisted the resolution would help student associations coordinate their efforts on a national level without necessarily hindering each association’s goals.
“I think we have different perceptions of the level of autonomy stated in the minimum agreement,” said Bahar about Walcott’s point of view. “The resolution is an act of good faith to show solidarity, to stand united in the movement and avoid denouncing each other’s actions in the media.”
The Association pour une Solidarité Sociale Étudiante is in line with Bahar’s point of view, saying the three clauses would help students all go in the same direction.
“The question of autonomy has never been an issue for us, as we understand each association’s autonomy in the strike,” said ASSÉ press officer Mathilde Létourneau. “It was a resolution created to establish a sense of harmony in the movement.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Walcott used the example of a group of students who, two weeks ago, used a UQÀM student association’s name and logo to jokingly promote kidnapping and infrastructural damage. Walcott explained that the CSU and other student associations should be able, in a similar situation, to have the ability to speak out against such practices, something the minimum agreement would prevent them from doing in his opinion.
“It’s not meant to censor anyone,” replied Bahar. “It’s not a binding contract to stay quiet about other student associations’ actions but its purpose is to show we’re on the same page.”
At last May’s national meeting, the three clauses received a majority support by the associations present. Three out of the four associations that represent Quebec students on a national level still support the minimum agreement. Concordia is affiliated to the fourth one, the Fédération etudiante universitaire du Québec.
The FEUQ, a group representing 15 student associations, declined to comment or to take position on the minimum agreement resolution. They said they wanted to respect each student organization’s sovereignty as the decision came within the competence of local associations.
“We will take position whenever we get the final word of each association,” said FEUQ press officer Mathieu Le Blanc.

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