A retired Concordia University professor drew criticism for sending an email to his former students Thursday morning encouraging them to vote in the upcoming provincial election and emphasizing his personal inclination towards the Coalition Avenir Québec party.
In a message sent around 10:30 a.m. from his Concordia University email address, Dr. Jack Ornstein stressed his concerns about students voting on September 4. Furthermore, Ornstein wrote that he was “seriously thinking about voting for the CAQ” for several reasons.
“I have always held my nose and voted for the Liberals in Quebec provincial elections, as I am sure many other anglophones have done,” wrote Ornstein in the email. “But no longer.”
Ornstein listed his aversion to a sovereign Quebec and the current tuition freeze, his desire for “a strong and prosperous but socially responsible economy,” and his disdain for corruption as his reasons for potentially voting for the CAQ.
Ornstein maintained that he was not trying to sway students into voting for the CAQ specifically but merely to vote at all.
“I am not trying to influence any of you to vote for the CAQ, honestly,” Ornstein wrote. “But I am hoping you will all at least vote.”
Concordia undergraduate student Cleo Donnelly was one of several students who received the email from Ornstein. Donnelly had Ornstein as a professor for Biomedical Ethics last semester, an online philosophy elective taught by Ornstein offered through eConcordia.
“I thought that it was good that he encouraged students to vote for whomever, as long as they voted,” said Donnelly. “But at the same time he did sound a bit as if he was trying to sway us towards the CAQ.”
Although Donnelly was surprised by the email, she stated that she believes political discussions between students and professors are best done in person. She also took issue with Ornstein singling out the CAQ as his preferred political party.
“While I would love to discuss politics with teachers, there needs to be an opportunity for a rebuttal,” explained Donnelly. “Because now a bunch of people know nothing about politics save that one party.”
Kayla Butz, an accounting student at Concordia who also took Ornstein’s class, considered replying to the email.
“He claimed not to be influencing our votes but he was making his choice pretty clear,” said Butz.
Butz explained that she thought Ornstein was trying to persuade students to vote and explore other parties, rather than boycotting voting all together.
Concordia Student Union President Schubert Laforest said that he felt Ornstein’s message was sent through an inappropriate channel.
“The fact he’s encouraging students to vote is great because it’s time to put our ballots where our mouths are,” said Laforest. “However I do not think it’s necessarily appropriate to use this forum to propagate your personal, political views.”
“These are personal student emails,” continued Laforest. “I really question the ethics of doing it that way. It’s unethical, it’s bad practice.”
Jack Ornstein declined to be interviewed by The Concordian.