For over an hour, students continued to file in to the four designated areas, H-110, the 7th floor Hall lounge, the downtown library and Loyola’s The Hive, making for an estimated 1,500 students in attendance.
“This is the largest general assembly that has ever happened in Concordia history by far,” said CSU President Lex Gill.
After a moderated discussion, the final vote which took place around 6:15 p.m., was announced as1,152 in favour of the strike, and 557 against.
Gill explained that coordinating the strike will take a lot of hard work in the coming weeks. “There’s a huge challenge of communication coming and we have to make sure we do it right,” she said. “When 1,100 people tell us what to do, we listen.”
Early on in the discussion, students voted on an amendment from the floor to change the dates of the strike from March 22 to 29, to March 15 to 22, in order to present a more timely opposition to the provincial budget, which will be released March 20. The amendment passed with 821 votes for and 160 against, officially changing the dates of the strike.
The other amendment made to the motion was that students would not be permitted to blockade building and classroom entrances in protest, something that will be difficult, if not impossible, for the CSU to enforce, said VP external Chad Walcott.
“We’re adults let’s act that way, let’s have a student strike that is peaceful, constructive and creative,” he said.
The new strike period will be in direct conflict with polling for the CSU’s general election, happening March 20 to 22.
“At first I was very worried,” said Gill of the schedule conflict. “It’s worded very clearly in the motion that people won’t be bloking access to buildings. It’s reassuring on the point of the elections that people will be able to get in and vote.”
Gill told The Concordian that she was very pleased to see this vote “breaking the myth that anglophone students don’t want to be part of this movement.”
Despite the overwhelming majority vote, not all students were pleased with the outcome. Bjorne Rodal, a political science student, said that though he understands where his peers are coming from, he doesn’t support the cause.
“Students should pay for the service they’re provided,” said Rodal. “Most of all I’m against the strike because no one should take the right from people to go to class and finish their semesters.”
Walcott, who gave the initial presentation at the GA, said the strike will be a positive step.
“No matter how effective our strike is, it’s going to get a good discussion going at Concordia,” he said.
The results from the strike vote at Loyola’s The Hive was 113 in favour, 83 against and four abstentions.
The mood in the room was visibly different than what was transpiring at the downtown voting locations. There were no accusations of bias hurled at CSU VPs Morgan Pudwell and Melissa Fuller, contrary to what happened with Walcott downtown, and there was very little effort made by the members to discourage other people whose views differed from their own from speaking.
Fuller, who is the CSU’s VP Loyola and services, said she was pleased with the turnout and the result, indicating she thought it was going to be much closer. During a question and answer period prior to the vote, one student complained that not enough advertising for the strike vote had been done at Loyola, something Fuller said she worked hard on.
“As a Loyola student and as VP Loyola, I always feel I could do better. I wish we could have gotten as many students as possible involved. I held an information session with all of Loyola’s member associations, and had them send the information out to their people,” she said. Posters had also been placed on walls throughout the campus.
Although the general assembly was scheduled to start at 3 p.m., technical difficulties with the audiovisual equipment used to broadcast the discussions at the downtown locations pushed the GA’s start time closer to 4 p.m. Registration also slowed things down, with only three computers available for volunteers to check students’ ID cards at The Hive’s door. Some students left in frustration, while others headed to the downtown voting locations because they had class.
“Things are always difficult when technology is involved. I wish we could have had it run a lot smoother for students,” said Fuller.
Confusion was also prevalent during most of the meeting, as students were constantly asking what they were voting on, and if it was now time to vote in favour or against. Volunteers did their best to explain the situation. Some students were also frustrated with the voting process.
“This process is undemocratic, because most students can’t come to vote,” said cellular and molecular biology student David De Longchamp, who also said he’s against the strike. “Having two to three days where people can just vote with ballots, that would be a lot more democratic.” The CSU’s bylaws stipulate that for general assemblies, a vote by show of placards is required.
During the Q&A with VP Morgan Pudwell before the vote, students spoke about living with tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and expressed concern that if students choose to prolong the strike after March 22, their exam period could be cancelled. Pudwell responded that it’s up to the university to reschedule exams if necessary.
Another general assembly will be held on March 22 to decide whether or not to continue the strike.
On Tuesday the Graduate Student’s Association voted for an unlimited general strike beginning March 12.
In a letter forwarded to the entire student body on March 9, Provost David Graham gave the university’s official position on the upcoming strike, writing that though “the university fully respects the freedom of students to express their views on important issues […] Concordia has a responsibility to provide services that are part of its agreement with its students, even if some students choose not to attend class as a form of protest.”
Graham echoed the sentiments of his last official statement, saying that all university operations would continue as usual in spite of a student boycott. He went on to say that “the university has no intention of extending the winter 2012 term,” and that all academic expectations presented at the beginning of term would still apply to students.
With Files from Joel Ashak.