A referendum question was passed for the points in the position book to expire after four years
A referendum question was put on the ballot at the Concordia Student Union (CSU) meeting on Jan. 27 to remove the recent expiry date on positions in the CSU’s Positions Book.
Back in February 2020, a different referendum question passed, giving all positions in the book a four-year expiry date. This referendum question caused a lot of controversy, including a campaign against it, called Vote NO to ‘Democratise’ Positions Book.
A positions book is a common practice in student unions: it is an outline of the unions’ position on political, social, and student-life issues. The CSU’s positions book varies from points such as the CSU being against unpaid internships to the CSU being against racism in all forms.
Referendums are held throughout the year, and students can add questions to the ballot as long as they gain more than 500 signatures from other Concordia students and present the question to the CSU. Then, it is voted on during the student election, and if it passes, the CSU is mandated to implement it. The next referendum is from March 16 to 18.
The four-year expiry date was brought to referendum by former councilor Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin, who tried to have a similar motion passed in 2019. According to an article in The Link, it would have revoked over 50 positions in the book, such as freedom of expression and Indigenous solidarity.
“This document represents our political beliefs, and this represents our student body. In 10 years, maybe that won’t be a general statement. We can’t assume things like that,” said Vandolder-Beaudin in the 2020 meeting.
Other counselors did not agree with the referendum question, such as former councilor Hannah Jamet-Lange, who said she did not believe that issues such as feminism and Indigenous solidarity should be regularly voted on.
During the recent CSU meeting, there was a similar divide in reference to the new referendum question that would stop the four-year expiry date.
Many councilors saw the four-year expiry date as a way to keep the position book updated and focused. While others, such as Harrison Kirshner and S Shivaane who presented the motion, saw this as a way to undermine minority groups in Concordia.
In the general election this past fall, students voted on 19 referendum questions, several being for the positions book: Indigenous rights, Anti-racism/Diversity and inclusion, and Antisemitism/Holocaust denial positions. All position questions passed with an overwhelming majority vote.
“We have heard this is a problem from many, many students,” said Kirshner at the CSU meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, explaining that many students were surprised the CSU didn’t already support these positions.
“It’s not a good look to say we’re fighting for Indigenous issues every four years,” said Academic and Advocacy Coordinator Sarah Mazhero, agreeing with Kirshner that constantly voting on positions can imply the CSU is questioning their legitimacy.
Councillor James Hanna believes that he has a way to please both sides when it comes to the four-year expiry date.
“I’d much rather prefer the position book to be transformed into something that is binding so the CSU can actually accomplish it,” said Hanna.
He explained that his current idea is to have open-ended headers, such as Indigenous solidarity and climate change. These headers would be permanent, creating an outline of how the CSU should take action.
Under these headers would be things such as actions that should be taken by the university, and organizations to support. These positions would expire after four years, as they change in relevance to the overarching issue.
While the policy committee will work on potentially implementing Hanna’s idea, students will vote on the positions book question during the spring election in March.
Logo courtesy of the Concordia Student Union.