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Presidential remarks

by Marilla Steuter-Martin November 13, 2012
Presidential remarks

Photo by writer.

Thursday Nov. 8, The Concordian sat down with Concordia President Alan Shepard to discuss the recent developments with the part-time faculty association, the tuition repeal and complaints concerning international student recruitment.

Faced with a 95 per cent strike vote from Concordia University’s Part-Time Faculty Association, Shepard says he is hopeful that negotiations will come to a positive conclusion.

“It’s a complex dance on both sides and I’m optimistic that both sides want to find a settlement and that we will,” he said.

He went on to say that the university is “actively discussing” with CUPFA and that “it’s really important that both sides work together to find a new collective agreement.”

Shepard emphasized that part-time faculty play a key role at Concordia and that “in strikes, I think everybody would say that nobody wins.”

As far as the tuition repeal goes, it was reported last week that while Concordia refunded each student the cost of the tuition hike — about $8.75 per credit — McGill University did not. McGill issued a press release Nov. 4 stating that for the time being the university would only be refunding students who pay Quebec resident rates.

Shepard explained that Concordia’s reading of the official directives received from the provincial government was that “for now, all students would be refunded.”

He went on to say that the government “left open the possibility that in the future they may adjust the [fees] for international students and students who are not from Quebec but are Canadian residents.”

University spokesperson Chris Mota confirmed Monday that the exact wording of the letter indicated that all students be refunded.

“At this point we are just following the letter of the law,” said Shepard. Carole Graveline, director of media relations at McGill, was unable to give comment by press time.

On the subject of issues coming to light regarding Concordia’s Chinese international students, Shepard told the The Concordian that “to have even a single student having trouble, that’s one too many.”

The concerns raised about the Concordia China Student Recruitment Partnership Program have become widespread since The Link first reported on the issue in September.

Students have begun to come forward with reports of being poorly treated in homestay programs, which are technically independent from the university, and having negative experiences with Peter Low, the director of the CCSRPP.

“We have had a relationship with this particular recruiter for a while, it had never come to our attention that there were any serious problems,” said Shepard.

The university has taken a number of actions regarding this issue including having pertinent documents translated into Mandarin and assembling a ‘working group’ composed of student and administrative representatives to address the topic further.

“I feel satisfied that we’ve gotten a very clear picture of what’s going on and if I didn’t think that, I’d be asking more questions.”

Concordia Student Union President Schubert Laforest says that the student-led ‘task force’ working parallel to the ‘working group’ has been “meeting around the clock” regarding the international students’ concerns.

Laforest says he feels that the university may be “under certain assumptions” and “what needs to be cleared up is that this is beyond miscommunication and [that] students were misled.”

While Shepard says that Concordia “[does] not have a system-wide problem,” and that he hasn’t heard anything alarming, Laforest disagrees.

He told The Concordian Monday that he had seen documents in which Low had misrepresented the homestay program to a student. Laforest confirmed that “in one case homestay was presented as the only option” by Low, when in reality it is completely optional.

Laforest said that he knew of about 10 – 15 students so far, predominantly Chinese, who had come forward to various groups with similar stories. Laforest says he is currently focused on the task force, whose goal is to come up with solutions and hopefully see them “directly implemented” by the university in the future.

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