On Thursday March 26, the general assembly of Concordia’s Graduate Students’ Association failed to maintain quorum to deal with any business for the third, arguably fourth, time in a row. The only motions dealt with were minutes and an incomplete amendment an Austerity motion that is on the agenda since October and then quorum was lost. The October GA, infamously known by members as the “circus GA”, also ended by the loss of quorum. In reflecting the interests of the stark majority of members present, executive elections were more important than all other points. After voting the current VP mobilization in, a rather heated exchange after the election for VP Academic and Advocacy followed due to voter intimidation and members (that were there only to vote in the election) leaving during the voting process of the other candidate. Quorum was quickly lost the second the GA got to the actual business of addressing austerity and non-election business. At the very least, GSA now had VP Mobilization.
Three unsuccessful GAs have followed since then in the new VP’s watch; three incidences where quorum either did not exist or was not maintained; Three strikes for GSA’s mobilization efforts. I often wonder how the VP mobilization could do such a wonderful job mobilizing other students to vote him in as VP Mob and then never again see another successful GA. Yet, he is running for re-election this week as part of “Grads for Change” slate (voting is on March 30 – April 1). Three current executives are running for reelection as part of this slate and I’d argue that a more fitting name is “Veterans for Change.” They have the highest number of people currently within the GSA’s governing structure, executive and council, than any other slate.
Another odd fact about this week’s election is the impressive number of candidates this year, nearly 60 in all. If all the candidates had showed up to this GA, it would have had no trouble meeting and maintaining quorum. If candidates don’t care enough to show up for their own GA, How can anyone think they care enough to fix the GSA? I am currently on academic exchange at ETH Zurich in Switzerland (until June when the terms start) but I sincerely wish I could have been there with the rest of my slate.
The other troubling practice of “Veterans for Change” is the odd motion passed by GSA council to ban all campaigning on GSA’s Facebook group. The motion was put forward by an ENCS director who happens to be a candidate running on this slate. Even more troubling, many directors running in this slate took part in adopting the motion, despite the clear conflict of interest. This essentially means that candidates in this slate took advantage of their unique position on council to change the rules of an election they were running in. The audacity of this conflict of interest and unfairness is quite striking. What was the reasoning? For the life of me, I don’t know, but, I have a theory. If one has enough friendship votes, all you need to do to win an election is to make sure the messages and ideas of others don’t easily get out. If this is not cheating, I don’t know what is. I understand that the GSA’s Facebook is not the holy grail of campaigning opportunities but very clearly this was misconduct by GSA Council. Very simply, candidates should not be able to abuse their position on council to change the rules of an election they are running in.
As a candidate for senate in this election and also a member of the Cross-Faculty Rep slate, I find this unfair and was hoping that fellow slate candidate Trevor James Smith would have had the opportunity to expose and overturn this at the last (failed) GA. Graduate students should be able recognize these abuses of power and be able to call them out. GSA has many problems to address and I was looking forward to this GA as an opportunity to address some. In addition to the austerity and anti-pipeline positions, I was looking forward to the reform in the budget committee composition that I put forward as well as the budgetary audit reform that was also on the agenda. I was also looking forward to seeing us adopt some accountability measures like roll-call voting, where directors’ votes are recorded, a practice used by most self-respecting voting bodies on the planet. There are many more issues that still need to be addressed concerning the practices of staff, execs and directors. I was looking forward for a glimmer of hope to emerge in a very frustrating year.
As I said in an earlier letter:
“GSA matters! With government imposed cuts on education, it matters now more than ever. And just like in 2012, we CAN do better! …This is a call for YOU to intervene to reform the GSA.”
Hope exists! There is just no easy way there. We must take the harder path of overcoming our apathy to make GSA an advocacy force to be reckoned with; a force for education; a force for empathy and sustainability; a force for vibrant, diverse and engaged community!
Vote cross-faculty rep
– Keroles Riad