CSU looks to education summit

The Concordia Student Union will start campaigning for student involvement in order to hold a vote related to the provincial government’s upcoming education summit scheduled for mid-February.

The CSU will launch a website within the next two weeks that will allow students to pitch their concerns with higher education and specifically the governance of Concordia. In order to reach out to as many students as possible, the CSU chose to have undergraduates participate online and vote on positions proposed by fellow students.

To submit a position, students must support their claims with academic research consisting of three articles. According to VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon, who is co-ordinating the initiative, the CSU will help individuals with research if they request it.

The website will also allow for discussion of the proposals put forth on the four themes to be discussed at the summit including quality of post-secondary education, the accessibility of higher education, the governance and financing of universities, and the contribution of research establishments to the development of Quebec. Then students will have the opportunity to vote on what they believe should be conveyed to the provincial government at the summit.

The Parti Québécois promised the education summit would address the concerns and issues that arose during the student strike movement. Lauzon hopes the CSU will compile 10 proposals per theme, allotting for a total of 40 positions to represent the opinions of the undergraduate student body at Concordia.

One concern is the participation of students. In order to meet quorum, at least 450 students must participate in the vote and it must be done by the end of the month. The CSU will encourage students to participate by campaigning in classrooms, buildings, online, with posters and purchasing advertising space.

“Everybody is going to hear about it if they are anywhere on campus,” said Lauzon. “We’re hoping two to three thousand people participate.”

Student Senator Wendy Kraus-Heitmann said she is worried about the details of the campaign proposal, stating it posed “major problems as written” and that she is concerned with time constraints. In an email to Lauzon, she suggested that the CSU hold a series of town halls and bring positions and stances by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec to students for them to vote on. The lack of time will make it less likely to hold a “meaningful” consultation according to Kraus-Heitmann.

Lauzon said that certain student faculty associations, specifically the Arts and Science Federation of Associations and the Engineering and Computer Science Association have already taken steps to contact their students to voice opinions. In September, ASFA’s executive took a strong stance in ensuring Arts and Science students would be heard in the upcoming conference.

While the CSU will not be present at the education summit itself since it is invite-only, Concordia students will be represented by the FEUQ. The results of the vote will be communicated to the university association so that Concordia-specific concerns may be voiced at the summit. Lauzon clarified that the CSU may also send a memo to the organizers of the summit if there is something they feel wasn’t addressed by FEUQ.

Some students like Mike de Sévigné, an independent student at Concordia, don’t have any concerns he wants brought to the summit.

“I’ve always been happy with what I have,” said de Sévigné. “But I do hope they [the government] listen to the concerns of other students and fulfill those needs.”

The PQ has not yet set a date for the summit.

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