Home News Concordia undergraduates declare strike

Concordia undergraduates declare strike

by Marilla Steuter-Martin March 7, 2012
Concordia undergraduates declare strike

The long-awaited Concordia Student Union general assembly got off to a rough start, after it began an hour late due to the slow registration and technical difficulties with the live stream.

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.

University response

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.

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16 comments

Nicole Charbonneau March 8, 2012 - 00:16

Unfortunately and because this meeting was so disorganized, I had to leave before I could vote AGAINST a strike … how can you pretend to represent all students when you need to be present to vote with a show of hands .. this is archaïc and ridiculous … can you please make sure that the vote on March 22nd is actually democratic …
Disgusted and disappointed student
NC

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calculor March 8, 2012 - 00:22

It’s nice to know that CSU can spend money on smart phones and high tech internet video steaming, yet modern technological marvels such as the ballot box are unfeasible .

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SeanJohnston March 8, 2012 - 05:08

 This is still the method employed by unions throughout the world. It allows for on the spot tallying which has its advantages (reacting to other things on an agenda perhaps, transparency certainly). Its still one vote, one person. I know it involves taking some time out of your day but there’s also a reason why we haven’t moved to voting by twitter in federal elections either.

In lieu of this, feel free to indulge yourself in as much disgust and disappointment until your heart’s content.

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Chris Kahn March 8, 2012 - 12:10

Just because it’s employed by others around the world, doesn’t make it good. It’s a horrible method of voting and it’s incredible hypocritical to conduct it in this way.

Ever heard of a secret ballot? That nice idea where you give people a fair vote without undue peer pressure or influence on something bloody important? Or do you agree that sacrificing a bit of democracy is OK because the ends justify the means. I’m sure Harper will agree with you there, too.

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Robert Majewski March 8, 2012 - 01:54

This was an awesome General Assembly, I think that it went really well, It was nice to see so many united students

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Mark Pequeno March 8, 2012 - 03:04

Disgustingly biased and undemocratic. Less than 1,200 students voting for something that will affect up to 35,000 students. The CSU clearly did everything in their power to ensure that the majority of voters would be pro-strike.

Seriously, what about the students that were in class? Or ones studying for a test/quiz for their evening classes? What about the students with full time jobs that only attend evening classes? 

How can the CSU members say they represent Concordia when all they represent is a small faction of individuals that would rather spend 3 hours in a pro-strike circle jerk assembly than actually do something constructive with their life, like studying, for instance.

Ashamed to be a Concordia student, and disgusted that a portion of my university fees every semester go towards a union that does not permit all registered undergrads to have a voice in matters that concern them.

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SeanJohnston March 8, 2012 - 05:05

It is almost as though elected representatives who ran on a clear pro-student agenda are like biased or something towards student causes! What is UP with THAT? I for one expect my elected representatives who run on a clear mandate to be completely neutral automatons.

What about the single-moms and the intramural kickball players who couldn’t vote in the 2011 Canadian elections because it didn’t fit into their schedule? Harper gets 5.8 million votes and all of sudden they have virtually unfettered power over 35+ million canadians. It’s almost as if showing up – giving a shit enough to show up – is a key aspect of democracy. Shocking, I know. Think of all those people who showed up to the GA today but didn’t get a chance to vote — oh wait.

It would seem that for the overwhelming majority of people who bothered to show up that the strike was something they wanted. But apparently these numbers are so clearly invalid because its so obvious and apparent that the NO side were probably too busy with hair appointments and pulling themselves up by the bootstraps to waste time with a bunch of crybaby hippies.

But lets just slag off these obvious loafing bums who are too concerned with the personal debt levels of students 5 or 7 years from now because us winners are too busy WERKHERD and opening blueplans and honing our future corporate titanship. All this is just for chumps who want a hand out and not a hand up!!!

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Mark Pequeno March 8, 2012 - 13:09

Of course for the overwhelming majority of people who showed up they wanted to strike. The scheduling of the strike vote and strike procedures are heavily biased towards gaining votes from people in less work-intensive programs. Of course there are exceptions, but MANY MANY people who would have voted against a strike if this were done like most other democratic votes, i.e. ballot boxes at polling stations at every faculty building, were simply not able to spare 3+ hours to vote. Not to mention if even 25% of the 35,000 undergrads…8,750 students had wanted to vote, they would not have been able to due to spacing restrictions. 

The comparison with the CPC/Harper Government is completely absurd. Yes, the voting turnout was not that high, HOWEVER, the voting locations and voting times were flexible enough to accomodate the vast majority of Canadians. If the vote was held in a barn in Calgary by show of hands and only 10,000 people were allowed inside, then I would absolutely agree with you. 

And you can claim that the CSU is pro-student because they are representing your pro-strike student position, but how about the other students that are against any strikes? How is the CSU being pro-student by essentially going about things in a manner that puts many thousands of students, whom they are supposed to also represent, that would be against the strike in a position where they would have to either take off work/skip an important class/skip a test/quiz/miss handing in assignments in order to spend hours in an assembly before being able to vote? It is absurdity at its very finest and the only people that seem to think this process is remotely acceptable are the ones that “got their way” knowing that it skews the vote towards a strike mandate. 

(note: I differentiate between being anti-strike and anti-tuition hike..there are plenty of people that of course do not want to see their bills increase, but believe striking is not the most appropriate method) 

Good Day

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Arya_Soleil March 8, 2012 - 08:28

 I really don’t see your problem..

From what I gather, all is absolutely normal with the exception of a few people missing class (which is perfectly normal, anyway).. so no need to get your knickers in a twist, so to speak.

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halbader1 March 8, 2012 - 10:21

all normal????? a few people??? really. 2000 people showed up out of 30,000+ How is this in anyway normal? if 51% of those eligible to vote showed and voted then this result would be legitamate. The CSU had no intentions of making this a Representative debate or vote. and as such ti agree with the above comment. 

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Arya_Soleil March 8, 2012 - 10:26

 I’m talking about the strike..

As far as I know other than the faculties that have voted for a strike, ALL classes, exams, labs etc will carry on as usual. It is up to the discretion of teachers whether they are willing to not penalize students for being absent.. But other than that, this vote is absolutely meaningless.. It’s not even a strike.. it’s a VOLUNTARY boycott.. So even though the CSU totally fucked up, it has no effect on anything. period.

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calculor March 8, 2012 - 10:59

I agree that this strike is meaningless, but it will give many students the idea that they have some sort of right to block classes/entrances to the building.

As always, a small group of students will take this too far, and we will all end up paying the price for their actions. The school won’t be closed, but the second that students/teachers are threatened/intimidated (or worse), the school will be forced to take action. If this happens, we’re all screwed.

Chris Kahn March 8, 2012 - 11:35

…the same students who probably complain about Harper’s majority only being supported by 30-something percent of Canadians.

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james maclean March 8, 2012 - 10:08

Go Concordia!  Make us anglos proud.

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halbader1 March 8, 2012 - 10:11

This whole strike is bias. The school has over 30,000 students and the vote was conduct in an democratic way. how do 2000 students at the assembly represent everybody. The csu is pro strike and as such is biased. They are mandated to represent all the undergraduate students yet they don’t and as such are illegitimate in my view. I want to make it clear though that i have no personal issues with any individual member as i don’t know them personally but this whole strike was poorly managed, misinformation was in high supply to entice people to vote and in many cases some pro strikers have blatantly violated our right to go to class and claim the education we have paid for. When supporters for the cause stop being hypocrites i might be more inclined to join u in fighting for the real issues that matter.   

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Lindsay McLaren March 8, 2012 - 16:14

“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.”

Most of all, I’m for the strike because no one should take the right from people to start their semesters. 

As a student just starting their undergrad, and as a student who may not be able to finish their degree if these tuition increases go ahead as planned, it’s frustrating to see people (not just the student quoted) oppose this movement wholeheartedly. 

Even though this movement passed, students will have the chance to amend what was voted on, in the next G.A., which should occur before the end of the strike, if I’m not mistaken. Unfortunately, we didn’t get as
many amendments or as much discussion as would have been ideal, but hopefully the student body will engage in constructive discussion in the next week and be able to present us with some amazing ideas and actions that we can use make the strike even stronger and effective.

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