PQ Minister drops out of Charter of Values debate at Concordia

It was the showdown that wasn’t. Concordia University’s Graduate Students’ Association organized a debate about the highly-contested Charter of Values proposed by the Parti Québécois, which included Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions Bernard Drainville. The minister backed out the morning of, citing safety concerns.

With less than three hours before the debate in Montreal on Thursday morning (Nov. 28), Drainville announced his decision to pull out due to a planned demonstration by students denouncing the charter. In a statement released by the PQ, it cites that Concordia could not guarantee security for Drainville or attendees in the wake of a protest.

“We see that a group of people are threatening to disturb the debate instead of allowing us to have a democratic discussion,” said Drainville in the statement. “I sincerely regret this situation.”

However, the debate continued and so did the protest against the charter that consisted of approximately 10–15 students.

“We need to walk out on the street without being seen as others,” said protest organizer Christina Xydous, from Quebec Public Interest Research Group.

Jaggi Singh, a well-known Montreal activist and organizer of the demonstration, denounced the charter entirely.

“I’m not saying Bernard Drainville is a bad person,” said Singh. “But he is complicit in racism.”

The debate turned into more of a discussion with Liberal MNA Kathleen Weil and Québec Solidaire’s André Frappier, who both mocked Drainville and the PQ’s absence to discuss a bill proposed by them.

Frappier called Drainville’s absence “disappointing” while Weil said that she was sure the debate would still be peaceful if Drainville was present. The discussion lasted about two hours; both Weil and Frappier explained why they could not support Bill 60. Frappier said while his party supports secularism and sovereignty, the proposed legislation isn’t appropriate.

“What does that even mean, Quebec values?” asked Frappier. “We are horrified to see a process like this that puts others aside.”

Weil echoed the statements, explaining that Bill 60 will fail in court and called it “inapplicable.”

“It’s too disruptive for Quebec society to be living this debate,” said Weil. “You don’t legislate because people are fed up — there has to be a real problem.”

Following the debate, students asked questions regarding the legislation, though some of them couldn’t be answered by Weil or Frappier since the bill was proposed by the PQ.

Drainville has visited francophone universities such as Université Laval in Quebec City to defend the PQ’s charter over the last few months. The debate at Concordia passed without incident.

The Charter of Values, known as Bill 60, aims to promote secularism in the public sector by prohibiting civil servants from wearing “ostentatious” religious symbols and limiting time off based on religious grounds. It also seeks to amend Quebec’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by outlining measures for reasonable accommodations. The PQ announced Bill 60 in early September and it has garnered a mixture of opposition and support.


Concordia Student Union News

Tensions rise between CSU vice-presidents at council meeting

The Concordia Student Union’s council meeting last Wednesday showed an apparent rift amongst the executive team following two separate motions that left vice-presidents visibly frustrated with one another.

The Community Food Coalition, a student organization concerned with the ecological and health implications of food served at Concordia, presented a petition of over 900 signatures in support of a fee-levy referendum for the CSU’s upcoming byelections. The referendum, if it is to be included on the byelection ballot, would include an increase in the fee-levy the CFC currently receives from undergraduate students.

The CFC was seeking an exception to Standing Regulation 138, which states that a fee-levy increase must be approved by the Policy Committee a month prior to the first day of the nomination period of the byelection for it to be considered by council.
“I think it would be really bad for the organization not to get this fee levy,” said VP sustainability Ben Prunty, who has worked closely with the organization. “If we get a yes vote then it will send a really strong message to the university and it will help transform the food system.”

Conversely, VP finance Scott Carr argued that granting an exception would set “a bad precedent,” while simultaneously voicing his concerns through social media saying that council would “empower” the CFC by “blatantly disregarding” the CSU’s standing regulations.

“We’re grossly neglecting our own standing regulations if we do that,” said Carr. “And that sets a bad precedent.”

Prunty then reminded council that the CFC has received more support for its petition than any executive or councillor received as votes during March’s election.However, council was wary of granting an exception to the CFC without consulting the Policy Committee.
Councillors instead voted in favour of a special council meeting, set for Wednesday, Oct. 16, following a review of the request from the Policy Committee. Council also approved Nov. 19-21 as the dates for the byelections.

Tension between Carr and Prunty became more apparent while discussing a motion to allow standing committees to administer and approve small budget lines without seeking approval from the Financial Committee.

Ultimately, the motion would change the functioning of the CSU and amend Carr’s responsibilities as VP finance, something that did not sit well with Carr and various councillors. Carr argued it was a problem on the executive level.

“This seems to be sustainability versus finance,” said Councillor Francis Boyer. “I can honestly say that Scott respects my opinions.”
When Wendy Kraus-Heitmann called the motion “sneaky” and that it took power away from Carr, President Melissa Kate Wheeler immediately defended her executive saying that her “team is not sneaky and this is not a sneaky initiative.”

VP Academic and Advocacy Gene Morrow said he was “frustrated” by the motion and that the executives should be working with one another to resolve the issue.

“There’s a level of professionalism that we expect to occur and we don’t think we should be readjusting the budget constantly,” said Carr. “As long as your budget is coherent and somewhat in line, we’re fine.”

However, both Prunty and VP External Caroline Bourbonnière explained that sometimes they need leeway with their budgets.
Ultimately, a motion was passed that will allow the standing committees to be empowered to administer spending lines under $1,000 without seeking approval from the Financial Committee. The motion also mandates that an executive attend a workshop on budget procedures and that the CSU review how other Canadian student unions use their financial committees when forming a framework for financial controls.


President steps down from Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec

FEUQ president Antoine Genest-Grégoire. Press photo

President Antoine Genest-Grégoire of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) announced his resignation on Friday, Oct. 4, following the exodus of three student unions from the largest student organization of the province in the last month.

Genest-Grégoire wrote a public letter in French to his colleagues and student members of the association making a vague reference to mistakes since the beginning of his mandate that he was responsible for as part of his reason for leaving.

“Various errors have been made since the first of May,” wrote Genest-Grégoire. “Some due to bad luck, others from a lack of vision. I’ve signed off on all the decisions taken by the FEUQ since the beginning of my mandate.”

Genest-Grégoire explained that the organization is undergoing a transition due to “tumultuous events” over the last few years that former President Martine Desjardins led the FEUQ through.

He refers to the 2012 student protests that lasted months against a tuition increase of 75 per cent over five years by the former provincial government led by Jean Charest. The immediate backlash from post-secondary students fuelled the call for an election on Sept. 4, 2012 that the Charest Liberals subsequently lost, after nearly a decade in power, to the Parti Québécois. Premier Pauline Marois cancelled the increase immediately but chose to index the tuition by $70 per year at the highly-anticipated Higher Education Summit in February 2013.

Genest-Grégoire wrote that these events resulted in heavy critiques — “some wrong or some with reason” — that put into question the fundamental principles of the FEUQ that guide the organization and how to serve its student population.

The FEUQ is at a crossroads with its member associations in universities across the province since three associations located in regional areas in Quebec recently voted to leave.

On Friday, the Association générale des étudiants du Campus à Rimouski (AGECAR) at the Université du Québec à Rimouski (UQÀR) ended its three-week referendum period where a majority of students voted to leave the FEUQ. In September, UQÀR’s other student union, the Association générale des étudiants du campus à Lévis (AGECALE) and the Mouvement des Associations Générales Étudiante (MAGE) at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQÀC) also voted to leave the organization. These departures bring the FEUQ down to 11 member associations as long as the latest referenda are accepted.


A public condemnation against municipal bylaw P-6

Photo by Keith Race

The Concordia Student Union officially denounced the municipal bylaw P-6 that requires an itinerary before protests start and the use of corralling as a tactic to swiftly end demonstrations by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal.

During a special council meeting last week, Councillor Benjamin Prunty presented a two-page motion that took an official stand against bylaw P-6 calling into question the change in strategy by the SPVM since the anti-police brutality demonstration on March 15 where more than 200 arrests took place.

The motion specifically condemns kettling, a tactic where police officers corral protesters to a limited area and control access to the location. The tactic is controversial since it boxes individuals in and only leaves them with a single exit usually determined by police. Demonstrations to rally against the provincial government’s indexation of tuition fees over the last two weeks resulted in hundreds of individuals being contained for hours — including local journalists.

It also denounces bylaw P-6 for being “passed by a municipal council under intense suspicions of widespread corruption.”

Prunty’s motion calls for an independent office to conduct a public inquiry into kettling and tactics used by the SPVM and for the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec to facilitate legal action in the form of a challenge to the Charter or class action lawsuit. Furthermore, the motion asks that the undergraduate student body at Concordia University be able to participate in peaceful demonstrations to condemn bylaw P-6 and kettling accompanied by a CSU banner supporting the motion. It

The motion was adopted by the CSU despite some issues over the wording of the letter when Councillor Jordan Lindsay emphasized that the motion could benefit a restructuring in tone in order to have the “CSU’s voice.” Conversely, Councillor Chad Walcott argued that the CSU should take a “strong stance in favour of freedom of expression.”

“I believe that as a student union it is our responsibility to take a firm stance on issues that affect our members,” said Walcott.

Walcott emphasizes that it’s the CSU’s responsibility to bring such issues to light and demand that they be examined.
“What we are seeing from the police under P-6 goes beyond what is called for in terms of limiting one’s rights,” said Walcott. “What we are seeing instead is a gradual infringement on our right to assembly, free speech and the right to peaceful protest.”

However, certain councillors and executives promised to oversee the structure of the motion the following day. The revamped motion has not been sent to the public yet.


CSYou stands together as a team

With only VP finance candidate Scott Carr running opposed, the entire CSYou slate was elected to form the executive of the Concordia Student Union for 2013-2014 academic year.

Carr beat Tardivo for the only contested position with nearly twice as many votes. The preliminary results show that Carr garnered 617 votes as opposed to Tardivo, the only independent executive candidate running, who received 334 votes.

However, a recount will be taking place this weekend due to an error in counting the ballots early Friday morning — votes for VP sustainability elect Benjamin Prunty and VP student life elect Katrina Caruso were affected in the John Molson School of Business building. An error left certain polling days with an irregular amount of votes and other dates with none. The mistake is not expected to change the outcome of the vote but there will be a recount.

While the final count or preliminary numbers have not yet been released for councillors and members of Senate, it appears that all undergraduate students running for council will have their seats for the upcoming year. This includes current VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah, VP student life Alexis Suzuki and VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi who received 41, 279, and 294 yes votes respectively in the preliminary results.

All fee levy referendum votes passed, including a motion of support for the Concordia Food Coalition. Approximately 1,142 students voted in favour of a new fee levy of $0.12 for the Concordia Greenhouse project and Sustainable Concordia will also be receiving $0.15 per credit, a ten-cent increase from the current $0.05 fee levy collected.

All final numbers will be released once the CSU’s Chief electoral officer, Andre-Marcil Baril will conduct his recount.


A year of protests in review

Photo by Sophia Loffreda

It’s been a year since over 200,000 students donning red hit the pavement on an irregularly warm day on March 22, 2012 to protest the proposed tuition fee increase of $1,625 by former Premier Jean Charest. It was the largest demonstration in Canadian history to date and marked the beginning of a tumultuous spring for Quebec. It raised questions about post-secondary education, triggered an election and gave way to unparalleled student unrest. It brought forward nightly demonstrations and forced a divide based on ideological differences in what could be argued as one of the most historic years in Quebec.

MARCH 22, 2012
Over 200,000 demonstrators pour in from all corners of the province to protest the proposed increase by the Charest Liberals of $325 per year over a five-year period for a total of $1,625. Traffic is affected for hours and protesters make international news. Not a single arrest is made.

APRIL 27, 2012
The provincial government offers a new deal to student leaders, including a revision in the tuition fee increase from a total of $1,625 over five years to a total of $1,778 over seven years. Angry with the revision, students take to the streets for the third night in the row in what becomes regular night protests for months.

MAY 4, 2012
Students arrive to protest outside the Quebec Liberal Party convention in Victoriaville, Que., a town located two hours east of Montreal. Tensions run high as the gathering quickly turns violent, pitting demonstrators against officers from the Sûreté du Québec. Over 106 arrests are made, with two officers and six demonstrators seriously injured by the end of the night.

MAY 14, 2012
Following failed negotiations with student leaders, Education Minister Line Beauchamp steps down from her position, saying that she is “no longer part of the solution” to the student crisis. Michelle Courchesne takes Beauchamp’s place.

MAY 18, 2012
The provincial government passes an emergency controversial law aimed at curbing protests in Quebec in response to large student strike demonstrations and growing civil unrest. Bill 78 imposes hefty fines for blocking access to class, suspends the winter semester for post-secondary institutions affected by the strike and requires an itinerary to be submitted in advance for demonstrations consisting of more than 50 people. A protest takes place the same night in downtown Montreal.

MAY 22, 2012
The student strike marks its 100th day by holding a large day protest in Montreal where thousands march peacefully through the streets. In commemoration, a large demonstration is held on the 22nd during the following months.

MAY 28, 2012
Approximately 700 lawyers march silently from the Montreal courthouse to condemn Bill 78. This marks the 35th consecutive night protest.

JULY 25, 2012
Léo Bureau-Blouin, former president of the the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, announces his candidacy with the Parti Québécois in the riding of Laval-des-Rapides.

AUGUST 1, 2012
Premier Jean Charest calls a provincial election set for only 34 days later on Sept. 4.

AUGUST 8, 2012
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois resigns from his position as the spokesperson of the Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante stating that the organization “needs fresh faces” in the ongoing student crisis.

The PQ wins the election with a minority government and Pauline Marois becomes the first female premier of Quebec. A shooting midway through Marois’ victory speech kills one man and injures another during the PQ’s celebrations. Charest officially leaves politics after a 28-year career.

Marois announces the abolishment of the tuition fee increase of $1,778 over a seven-year period.

NOVEMBER 20, 2012
The PQ announces its provincial budget but remains relatively quiet regarding tuition fees.

DECEMBER 6, 2012
The provincial government announces massive slashes to university budgets province-wide of $124 million by the end of the academic year. Concordia University suffers a $13-million loss.

JANUARY 23, 2013
The provincial government’s slash to Concordia’s funding runs so deep the university is forced to declare a deficit despite adjusting spending habits.

FEBRUARY 15, 2013
University rectors receive official invitations to the PQ’s planned education summit on higher learning, a two-day conference aimed to discuss unresolved issues from the student crisis.

FEBRUARY 25 and 26, 2013
The education summit leaves a bitter taste in student leaders’ mouths after the PQ announces an indexation of tuition fees by $70 per year indefinitely to match inflation. Universities face an additional $250 million in budget cuts and hundreds protest in downtown Montreal.

MARCH 5, 2013
A protest takes place to denounce the indexation of tuition fees, with over 1,000 participants in attendance. Over 53 people are arrested and more demonstrations are planned for the following weeks.

MARCH 22, 2013
Police swiftly end the one-year anniversary protest not even 30 minutes after it begins for violating municipal bylaw P-6 that requires a route to be submitted beforehand. Only a few hundred attend.


Meet your Concordia Student Union candidates

CSU Presidental candidate Melissa Kate Wheeler

Melissa Kate Wheeler – Presidential candidate

I’ve done a lot of volunteer work throughout my existence and typically very active in high school up until university where I took a break to focus on my studies for a couple of years. I was CSU secretary — taking minutes at every meeting. This year I am on as an Arts and Science councillor and sit on several committees.

Strengths and weaknesses:
I think I have two fundamental strengths: I see good things in everybody and I think it makes me more approachable. My weaknesses are I think I set a lot of personal goals and don’t always follow through. I have a hard time rolling with the punches when it’s of a personal nature.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
I’d like to really go out and integrate student feedback into our plans. Another thing is visibility and providing opportunities for students at large to get involved. Responsibility and long-term planning, things like student centre can’t be rushed. Smaller-scale projects: promoting spaces that already exist, like the seventh floor CSU lounge needs a facelift.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
There have been some successes this year but this perception that council has been vocal due to personal vendettas. Council has been vocal this year because there is a lot to be vocal about.

Do you feel your team can adequately represent the needs of all students?
Yes. I think that this sort of assumption that students coming from a faculty can accurately represent everyone from that faculty is faulty. I don’t think not having an engineering student will stop us from representing our students.

What will you do to ensure students are sitting on academic bodies?
It’s about visibility. It’s about letting them know what their role is. We’d make sure to come out really, really hard with information everywhere and encourage people to get involved.

Do you think there’s a reason why you’re unopposed?
Students are either disenchanted with the union or don’t know what it is. I think we’ve had an exceptionally bad year at the CSU. My team is strong and we’re quite qualified. It’s about turning it around and giving the students their union and their voice. We really want to encourage people to vote.

VP external and mobilization candidate Caroline Bourbonnière

Caroline Bourbonnière – VP external and mobilization candidate

Well, VP external and mobilization involves organizing campaigns, mobilizing people and official spokesperson for the CSU at the provincial level. With my experience at ASFA, I think it will help with the FEUQ while understanding the workings of a federation and what my students want. I have a wealth of experience organizing speaker events, namely ASFA Talks.

Strengths and weaknesses:
My strength is diplomacy. My weakness is when I am invested and deem an event successful, I take it personally when people tell me I haven’t been doing a good job.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
I want to develop a stronger stance with the FEUQ and build a more united voice at Concordia. I want to organize a successful divestment campaign with VP sustainability candidate Ben Prunty.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
I would organize weekly meetings with all faculty executives and CSU executives. That would have solved a lot of communication issues and lack of Fine Arts seats.

If you were approached with a similar situation to the political science petition, how would you react?
That was a particular situation. ASFA voted unanimously on that petition and mandated me to present the petition to faculty council but before you can bring it up to council you need to bring it to steering committee. I was personally caught between following the rules and doing my job properly while maintaining ties between the administration, and what seemed right as a student representative. But I feel that was a great lesson learned for next year since I might be obliged to stand up to administration and I’m definitely not afraid of putting any pressure on the university.

VP clubs and internal candidate James Vaccaro

James Vaccaro – VP clubs and internal candidate

I’ve been working for the past year and a half to bring a new club to Concordia, the Political Bouillon. I know how important it is to get back to clubs quickly and with an informed response. As internal, I’ve worked with different parts of student governance and know how organizations work with one another.

Strengths and weaknesses:
I think my strength would be the ability to entertain and idea without necessarily agreeing with it. My biggest weakness is being incredibly focused on what I am doing to the extent that all my focus on that one thing.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
I want to turn the CSU into an organization that student groups and students want to work with and get involved with instead of seeing it as an organization that fails students time and time again.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
When it comes down to it, council was full of dedicated people who wanted to make it work and we sat on committees that never met. Eight executives can do amazing things but the 30 people sitting around the table can do even more amazing things.

Was VP internal your first choice?
I really had trouble picking which portfolio I wanted to work with but it came down to the other teammates. Clubs and internal was about the space issue at Concordia, I really thought students deserved more.

How are you going to make the student centre consultation a success?
It has to be a multi-problem approach, we can’t just throw a survey online and we have to go out and get the information from students. We have to be on our feet and talking to students one on one across both campuses and all faculties.


VP Loyola candidate Crystal Harrison

Crystal Harrison – VP Loyola candidate

I’ve been on COMS Guild for two years, a councillor for ASFA, as well as two external committees. I bring a direct communication with students.

Strengths and weaknesses:
My strength is definitely my passion for this campus and my spirit and positive attitude in tense situations. My weakness is that I do take things pretty personally.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
I want people to know what is going on here, increase services and let students know that services are here. I want to help with food options. Another smaller thing is lack of printers. Advocacy, HOJO, legal services should be available here.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
It’s hard to answer this. I would change just how negative everything was. It’s just the general attitude of the students because of all of the contention between council and CSU.

What are your plans for the Hive?
I know the Hive café has been this mythical unicorn but everyone talks about making it a reality. We’ll be doing it over summer. Things are pretty much signed off for construction.

Any regrets jumping from ASFA to the CSU?
No, none at all. It was the perfect fit. My heart is in Loyola and the CSU allows me to do all that I truly care about.

VP academic and advocacy candidate Gene Morrow

Gene Morrow – VP academic and advocacy candidate

So basically I’ve been sitting on Senate for two years now and that is largely my experience. I’ve been involved with student politics as a Senator in a variety of different ways.

Strengths and weaknesses:
My main strength is probably a very pedantic spirit. For weaknesses, I would say that I overload myself. It’s about being able to manage my time better and limit my scope.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
To co-ordinate between departmental faculty, Senate, and Board of Governors. I’ll be meeting regularly with faculty representatives because that’s what’s coming to Senate. On the advocacy side, it’s something I have a lot less experience in. I’d like to engage students in a discussion about higher education and the theory of e-learning.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
I would have had the correct and most up to date version of the bylaws and standing regulations to everyone. If people are working off the wrong standing regulations, that may explain a lot of this year.

VPAA has admittedly been a contentious position this year, what will you do to change that perspective?
My basic stance is do the job. We’re being elected to work 40 hour weeks and if we do that, do the work we are mandated to do and spend the time in engaging with students and demonstrate we’re doing the work appropriately then it takes a lot of contention out of it.

Is the ineligibility of independent students sitting on Senate something you’d pursue?
Definitely. If I am elected then I will hopefully be talking with both the provost and president about the issue of independent students sitting on Senate. I think infringing upon that right is unfortunate.

VP student life candidate Katrina Caruso

Katrina Caruso – VP student life candidate

I’m currently Editor-in-Chief of CUJA, a FASA councillor, [part of the] Clubs and Services committee and I’m also an ex-officio Fine Arts officer for CSU.

Strengths and weaknesses:
I’m organized, I’m responsible and honest and real and don’t [put up with nonsense]. You can count on me to do the job done. My weakness is that I get stressed and I can be a little emotional.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
Working in communications, website, calendar works. As well as just organizing projects in what students really want and actually need. I’d like to collaborate more with students who aren’t involved like JMSB and ENCS.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
Communication is lacking and often at times I’ve been wondering what’s been happening prior to me being on the CSU. I would change accountability because I feel a lot of people aren’t being honest.

How will you act as student faculty liaison with faculty associations?
I like being involved with CASA, ENCS, FASA meetings because they are important and I will bring what they need to the CSU. I’ve never personally seen Alexis Suzuki at my FASA meetings.

Why are you running unopposed?
It’s unfortunate that we can only hear about these open positions the week before, there is a real lack of communication.

VP sustainability candidate Benjamin Prunty

Benjamin Prunty – VP sustainability candidate

I have experience in social economy and I’ve been sustainability-minded for a really long time. I’ve been on the sustainability and action fund board this year, involved with Sustainable Concordia and several conferences on sustainability. I’m involved in the Liberal Arts society, ASFA council, councillor for CSU.

Strengths and weaknesses:
I have strong analytical skills and an understanding of sustainability. I’m definitely driven. My weaknesses would be I’m not stretching myself thin which is something I’m working on.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
Basically I’m very interested in the food system at Concordia. Hive Café is something I want to get off the ground and see operating by the fall. I think it’s important to allow students to have a say in where their food comes from and I want to be a part of Concordia’s negotiation process for a new food contract.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
The website is a real problem. There’s a certain lack of transparency when the website isn’t running – I can’t find the bylaws.

How will you make the student centre sustainable?
I don’t know that the student centre exists. I think my role in that is that we do find the right people to make it sustainable. Apparently JMSB is incredibly sustainable so I’m gathering there are a few experts around.

How do you feel about running unopposed?
It’s a sad day for democracy, that’s for sure but I do think that I am qualified so I know I will commit to this project and portfolio.


VP finance candidate Scott Carr.

Scott Carr – VP finance candidate

I guess I have a very different experience from a lot of the candidates and I’ve been really involved in JMSB. I’ve been involved since I’ve walked into the door and I have a lot of experience in case competitions that has taught me a lot about analytical abilities. It’s about that extra little something that you bring.

Strengths and weaknesses:
I am extremely straightforward, I will tell you what I am thinking and to a certain extent that can play on a positive and a negative.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
There are some structural changes and the first thing I’m going to have to do is learn. I’m going to need to learn a lot and then analyze a lot. I want to assess CUSACorp, its structure, how it operates, its marketing. Then it’s about assessing the students of Concordia and I see them as a target market, and we need to know the needs of our target market.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
I don’t think the CSU has enough business knowledge on board. You can say Keny Toto fulfilled his mandate but at the end of the day it’s about going beyond the basics that are put in front of you.

Do you have a plan for Reggie’s?
I think anyone coming in here saying they have a detailed plan hasn’t done their research and any plan needs to be in pencil because things are going to change. There is a lot of potential there, it’s prime real estate with a lot of access to students and it’s not being utilized.

As you’re the only candidate running opposed, why should students vote for you?
I don’t like to focus on the negatives about the other candidate but I have a lot of experience with businesses, and bringing a diverse experience. I’ve done well. I feel that I’ve worked hard to acquire knowledge and I would like to use that knowledge in a great social meaning.

VP finance Pierre Tardivo

Pierre Tardivo – VP finance candidate

Well, I bring three years of business education from JMSB. Then what I bring is my knowledge as a councillor and now, my knowledge about the CSU is quite elaborate. Also, It won’t be a big learning curve of learning day-to-day activities of VP finance. I also sit on the Financial Committee since two weeks ago.

Strengths and weaknesses:
I think my strengths are that I’m easy to work with and that I am diplomatic. I think most of council and most of the execs get along with me and I never really anger people. I guess my weakness is experience.

With your platform, what do you want to change about the CSU?
I’ve been promoting four platform points but there are a lot of things to change. Ethical investments is one — it’s important to remember we represent an image of progress. There are procedural platform points: streamline funding and transparent reports. I would like to change the way we make decisions and would love to come up with a rule of thumb as to how we would accurately fund projects. As for transparent reports, they would be accessible to everyone.

If you could change one thing about this year’s CSU, what would it be?
Well I think not much was done this year. I think there has been a lot of mess ups, and I think that’s widely known. Less petty issues and more collaboration.

Do you have a plan for Reggie’s?
It’s always a very important point for VP finance and I want to take on the challenge. My idea is to hire extremely competent external directors and we need to hire a competent business manager. By controlling the inventory, we would be reducing costs and we would increase sales and have more events. Having food available at Reggie’s would definitely be something I’d consider.

As you’re the only candidate running opposed, why should students vote for you?
This might sound surprising, but I get along with the people running on the current team and there would be a team dynamic if I were working alongside them. In terms of dedication, I’ve been interested in this much longer. I don’t want to slander Scott either, he has a lot of strengths himself but just not the ones I mentioned.

Photos by Marilla Steuter-Martin


Council appoints a new president

The Concordia Student Union is no longer leaderless as VP sustainability Andrew Roberts was appointed to the position of president during last Wednesday’s regular council meeting.

The CSU was without a president since Feb. 12 following the official resignation of Schubert Laforest, who cited a decline in health as his reason for leaving.

The executive began by presenting four candidates as options to council: VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah, VP external Simon-Pierre Lauzon, VP Loyola Stefan Faina and the absent VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi. Atallah, despite receiving zero votes from councillors during the contentious Feb.13 council meeting, did not rescind her candidacy.

Immediately following the announcement, Faina withdrew his name prior to the discussion held by council over potential options for a new president. This left three options from the executive to be voted upon.

Lauzon stated that he was ready to take on the position despite adamantly declining the opportunity in February. He explained that as president he would have clear modes of communication with the executive and council.

In a snap decision, Roberts offered to be considered — a suggestion he refused at the earlier date of Feb. 13, stating he did not want to deal with the “politics” that come with the role of president.

“I’ll throw my name in,” said Roberts.

Upon saying that the room was too tense, Roberts put forward his candidacy and council quickly passed a motion from Councillor Gonzo Nieto for Roberts to be the fourth candidate on the list.

Some councillors expressed concern over appointing Roberts since he was initially reluctant to even be considered for the role and were uneasy about putting Roberts in such a position.

“Andrew is awesome,” said councillor Hardial Rosner. “But he really, really doesn’t want to do it.”

However, councillor Chad Walcott argued that Roberts was the best outcome for appointing a new president from the executive.

“Andrew is trying to step up and do the right thing,” said Walcott. “He’s the only one who I would vote for.”

Following tense discussion surrounding all four candidates, council went to a secret ballot to determine the next president of the CSU. Roberts will continue as president through the end of his mandate until June 1.

The CSU was at an impasse for more than a month following the Feb. 13 meeting that left both the executive and councillors unhappy with the outcome and one another.

The executive recommended that Atallah replace Laforest following his unsuspected departure but this didn’t sit well with council. It quickly divided the room, pinning the executive, who felt Atallah was best suited for the position, against councillors, who refused to appoint Atallah. Councillors demanded other options but no other executive was willing to take on the portfolio at the time.

The discussion ended as contentiously as it began, with councillors Nieto and James Vaccaro pursuing a complaint with the CSU’s Judicial Board over bylaw 7.4. The bylaw states that should there be a vacancy in the presidency, council shall appoint a president from the vice-presidents; should no vice-presidents be willing then a councillor may be appointed with two-thirds majority of votes.

However, the bylaw does not instruct what to do should the only vice-president who is willing be rejected by council but does not withdraw their candidacy.

JB ruled in favour of council but allowed the executive to first present other options than Atallah for councillors to choose from.

Now that council has appointed their new president, it seems as though it will not appoint another student to take on Roberts’ portfolio. The new president said he would continue to work in both capacities but that council must move forward together.

“This isn’t a be all, end all,” said Roberts. “It’s a group effort.”


Backlash over procedure from council

Photo by Marilla Steuter-Martin

A lack of communication and failure to follow procedure is interfering with the production of the Concordia Student Union once again.

Various changes to the organization’s bylaws are in danger of disappearing should they not be included during the general elections as a referendum question.This process not only went undone, but also went unnoticed until Judicial Board Chairperson Nick Cuillerier brought it to the attention of council last Wednesday.

The oversight could mean that revisions to bylaws ‘I’ and ‘J,’ and a modification to bylaw 10.2, fall flat before they were ever truly recognized. Bylaw ‘I’ was changed to reference bylaw ‘J’ to provide a committee to oversee the spending of the student centre fund.

The executive did not realize the implications until it was brought forth after Cuillerier saw a notice of polls poster at Concordia the same evening.

The mistake, while VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah promised it would be quickly rectified, garnered backlash from council.

“This is a huge dereliction of duties,” said Councillor Chad Walcott. “I want to know what happened to let you screw up to such a massive degree.”

The executive did not have a clear answer as to why the notice requirement was never done other than it was an error.

As the notice requirement was not fulfilled, the CSU used a notwithstanding clause under the standing regulations since the changes were not announced in the postering.

“Any ordinary motion, resolution or regulation who derogates from the code can only be adopted with a clause stating that the motion operates regardless of the code of standing regulations. The clause must state which article(s) are not to be applied towards the motion. Such motion requires a 2/3 majority vote and will cease to have effect 4 months following its approval,” standing regulation 267 reads.

This allows the revisions to the bylaws to be put to referendum and the executive was mandated through a motion to issue an email to the undergraduate student body to inform them of the question before 6 a.m. Thursday morning but has to yet to do so.

Missing report, missing meetings

A Senate report from VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi was missing from the documents presented to council last Wednesday. Councillor James Vaccaro asked for the report but El Jahidi was absent due to illness. However, since Vaccaro and Senator Chuck Wilson were both present, they quickly went over the details of the last Senate meeting.

It also came to light that El Jahidi, since taking her mandate in November, has yet to attend any Steering Committee meetings. The total number of meetings is now at five, three of which El Jahidi was part of the executive for and has missed.

Speaking to The Concordian, El Jahidi said that her absences were unfortunate but were out of hands as factors including IT problems and sickness prevented her from being present for Senate and steering committee meetings.

“For steering committee I was very unfortunate as I haven’t been able to attend. For the first meeting I was out of town but I sent my regrets, and for the second one I was sick and I couldn’t make it,” she said.

El Jahidi also said omplaints about her absences were never brought to her prior to being aired elsewhere such as at CSU meetings, and that despite difficulties attending meetings she had made an effort to keep up with Senate and steering committee events.

“I’ve been keeping in touch with what’s been happening at the steering committee,” she said. “I tried once to talk to the other person who was at steering, I think it was Chuck [Wilson], but he wasn’t that responsive.”

Conversely, Senator Chuck Wilson said that is not true.

“That is not true — no one knew,” said Wilson. “Danielle Tessier would specifically ask me, awkwardly, if I knew if Hajar was coming.”

Wilson said that he was sending updates on meetings since February.

“I’m really not sure where this is coming from,” said Wilson. “I’ve been trying to keep everyone aware of what’s happening at Steering, and I’ve never heard so much as a peep from Hajar about it.”

Part of the responsibilities of VP academic include the coordination and the chairing of meetings of the student academic caucus, as well as sitting on Concordia’s academic bodies.

A Senate report has yet to be filed.

More backlash

The same meeting produced remarkable tension throughout the room, this time aimed at Chairperson Jean-François Ouellet for not following procedure during council.

During multiple votes, Ouellet counted abstentions within the total number of votes — a process that violates Robert’s Rules of Order. An abstention, or the refusal to vote, is not technically supposed to influence the outcome of a vote.

Furthermore, council lost patience with Ouellet when he refused to acknowledge Councillor Gonzo Nieto’s challenge to the chair toward the end of the meeting.

Both Nieto and Walcott left shortly after the challenge was disregarded.


University waives public presentations

Concordia University’s Board of Governors voted in favour of temporarily waiving a policy that compels candidates for senior administration positions to conduct public presentations during a special meeting last Wednesday morning.

President Alan Shepard initially introduced the idea during a regular BoG meeting in January, stating that he was uncomfortable with applicants’ names being publicized during the provost search.

In accordance with university policy, the shortlist of candidates for provost and other senior administrative roles must be made public.

“After informing the candidates, the shortlist of candidates shall be made public within the university community no less than fifteen and no more than thirty days before the search committee is scheduled to make its recommendation to the board,” section B.10, article 34 reads.

The motion temporarily waived articles 34 to 39 of section B.10 of the rules and procedures for senior administration appointments at Concordia. With 20 governors present, the motion passed with 19 in favour and one opposed.

By waiving those articles, provost candidates will not have to attend public forums with the university or attend a joint open meeting between BoG and Senate. Furthermore, members of the university community can no longer submit written comments on the shortlist of candidates since it will remain private.

Shepard feared that individuals vying for the position of provost would withdraw their candidacy because it may compromise their current employment.

“To do this will jeopardize the candidates,” said Shepard. “I don’t want to jeopardize the search with a public presentation.”

In January, Shepard stated that he almost decided to rescind his application for presidency due to the public presentation when he was still employed by Ryerson University.

During the meeting Wednesday, Shepard said that he felt the motion helped modernize Concordia — a recommendation that stemmed from two external reviews made over the last three years. As a method of comparison, Shepard emphasized during both BoG and Senate meetings that McGill University also does not reveal its applicants for senior administrative positions.


The Concordia Student Union’s elections are coming

The Concordia Student Union elections are approaching and the majority of executive candidates are running unopposed for the 2013-14 academic year.

The nomination period for potential applicants ended Friday and it was revealed Monday that 10 undergraduate students are vying for the eight spots reserved for the executive. The positions of VP student life and VP finance are the only roles that have more than one candidate.

John Molson School of Business Councillor Anja Rajaonarivelo and Fine Arts Student Alliance councillor Katrina Caruso are both competing for the portfolio of VP student life.

JMSB Councillor Pierre Tardivo, who joined the CSU during the November byelections, is running for the position of VP finance against Scott Carr, who campaigned for president of the Commerce and Administration Students’ Association for the upcoming year but lost.

Councillor Melissa Kate Wheeler is the only student running for president of the organization — the first time since the Unity slate ran completely uncontested for all executive spots in the March 2008 election.

Executive candidates:
Melissa Kate Wheeler – President
Caroline Bourbonnière – VP external
James Vaccaro – VP internal
Gene Morrow – VP academic and advocacy
Crystal Harrison – VP Loyola
Benjamin Prunty – VP sustainability
Pierre Tardivo – VP finance
Scott Carr – VP finance
Katrina Caruso – VP student life
Anja Rajaonarivelo – VP student life

Familiar faces within the Concordia political realm will returns as councillors including current VP clubs and internal Nadine Atallah, VP academic and advocacy Hajar El Jahidi and VP student life Alexis Suzuki.

During the Feb.13 council meeting, Councillor Chad Walcott asked if Atallah had intention of running for the upcoming election as an executive again and her response was no. However, Atallah never specified that she would not try to return as a councillor.

The total number of candidates applying for council is 21, but Chief Electoral Officer Andre-Marcel Baril said that he could not provide more information, including which faculties that councillors are representing, by press time.

Councillor candidates:
Wendy Kraus-Heitmann
Nikos Pidiktakis
Justin Occhionero
Yasmeen Zahar
Chuck Wilson
Hajar El Jahidi
Francis Boyer
John Talbot
Adam Veenendaal
Nadine Atallah
Alanna Stacey
Yassine Chaabi
Reenaben Patel
Vitali Gofman
Aaishah Karim
Radia Tbeur
Aaisha Malik
Omar Badawi
Sergio Del Grosso
Bilal Nasser
Alexis Suzuki


ASFA elections: Meet the candidates

Paul Jerajian – Presidential candidate.

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations is holding a vote for positions in the 2013-14 academic year this week from March 6 to 8.

This year, there are only seven candidates vying for the seven positions available as ASFA executives — not a single candidate is running opposed. Here is The Concordian’s guide to ASFA’s candidates for the upcoming year.

Paul Jerajian – Presidential candidate

-Former VP external and sustainability of ASFA, 2011-12
-President of the mathematics and statistics students’ association
-John Molson School of Business councillor for the Concordia Student Union
-CSU events committee, Loyola committee, Sustainability Action Fund

“A lot of my presidential goals for ASFA include structural and procedural changes. A lot of ASFA’s operations are not clear and not recorded. Reports, FAQs and templates should be implemented as transition, and institutional memory have always been a big concern for associations in general at Concordia. There needs to be a focus on initiatives geared towards new demographics as the student population is very diverse and multicultural.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“My strengths include my experience, my determination and hard work. I will do whatever I can in my power to ensure the association thrives and continues to thrive for years future years. My biggest weakness is my stubbornness, though I have made it clear to myself and my future executive that ASFA is going to function as a team.”

Justin Occhionero – VP external and sustainability candidate

Justin Occhionero – VP external and sustainability candidate

-Independent councillor for ASFA, 2012-13

“I believe primarily, ASFA needs some structural changes. In regards to my position, this would mean re-working ASFA’s sustainability annex in order to improve ASFA’s commitment to organizing events that promote a culture of sustainability. Externally, ASFA should strive for open communication between itself and external student unions such as the CSU and the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec. It is important that ASFA and its members communicate with these entities and collaborate on initiatives together. The rights of Arts and Science students need to be properly represented at higher levels of student governance and this can only be achieved if ASFA, its members and the above mentioned entities communicate with each other efficiently.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“My biggest strength is probably my enthusiasm. I always tackle new challenges with the highest of hopes and I think this attitude is what has made it possible for me to achieve some of my greatest goals. As for weaknesses, I think that sometimes I can harp on one idea for too long, even if it has proven to be weak or unnecessary. Having said that, I think my year working within ASFA has taught me that this is not always the best approach.”

Sean Nolan – VP social candidate

Sean Nolan – VP social candidate

-Independent councillor for ASFA, 12-2013
-Organized, promoted and DJed for hometown events

“My ultimate goal for ASFA is to make the social experience more beneficial for our students. I plan to do so by improving our orientation week, increasing the amount of social outings hosted by the association, hosting ASFA sports tournaments to engage students in fun and stimulating activities, and establish a better connection with the rest of Concordia. I plan on having MA booths available to students on the first day [of orientation] in order to help them become better acquainted with their new school as a whole.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“In terms of my strengths, I am organized, prompt as well as extremely committed to anything I put my mind to. I also feel that I am very personable and easily approachable by anyone and therefore very easy to work with. My biggest weakness, however, would be my determination when it comes to completing projects.”

TingLi Lucia Lorigiano – VP academic and Loyola candidate

TingLi Lucia Lorigiano – VP academic and Loyola candidate

-Various initiatives at Vanier College including projects to renovate the library, tutor and organizing student study groups in math, biology and chemistry
– Active member in student governance during high school and CÉGEP

“I would like to be given the opportunity to equip Arts and Sciences students with the knowledge, skills, and tools to sculpt more defined career paths. As a student who has courses are at both campuses, I myself am a frequent shuttle bus rider and am aware of the discrepancy of student services and resources available at both campuses. I want to ensure the equalization of student services and resources, as well as working towards satisfying the student body. Lastly, as the only science student in this year’s elections, I would like to introduce more extensive science career shadowing opportunities.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“Well, I’ve always benefited from being able to help others, like tutoring, or being able help foster an environment to help motivate, or inspire, students academically. The cold hard truth is that I am an optimist: my biggest strength being my ability to fuel, to drive, to motivate, myself and others to reaching peak potential. As for my weakness, I sometimes forget to schedule time in for myself. I get so caught-up with getting things done that I forget to relax.”

Francis Boyer – VP internal candidate

Francis Boyer – VP internal candidate

– VP internal of students of history at Concordia 2012-13
– Active member of the ASFA academic committee, internal committee, departmental relations committee and ASFA talks committee.

“I intend to strengthen the bonds between Member Associations as well as the bond between said associations and ASFA. Also, as the executive responsible for all annexes and bylaws, it is my intention to accurately and efficiently inform the MAs of any questions they might have pertaining to said legal aspects. I also intend to review the annexes and bylaws to ensure that they are correct and do not require correction. It is also the responsibility of all ASFA executives to best represent my peers and I will do so regardless of my personal opinions of the topic at hand.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“As far as my strengths and weaknesses are concerned, I am a very organized and committed individual. Once I begin a task, it will receive my entire attention until it is finished and, while I have never missed a deadline, I sometimes dwell too long on the task at hand before moving onto the next to ensure that it is done properly. I also need to work on knowing my own limitations as I have taken on too many tasks at once and, while it always gets done, causes strain in my personal life.”

Anne-Sophie Grenier – VP finance candidate

Anne-Sophie Grenier – VP finance candidate

-VP finance of Communications guild, 2012-13
-Former treasurer of The Word
-Pursued commerce in CÉGEP

“My first goal in general is to bring student involvement up. There’s been a lot of crap with the CSU and everyone’s been disheartened. I want to clean up finances because some things just don’t get enough money. A lot of money is spent recklessly when it should be spent more toward individual student projects and academic initiatives and not just parties.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“My weakness is sometimes I come off a little too forceful and I work hard and get it done but sometimes I have to calm down. I think despite being forceful, I am very patient and understanding. I’ve worked in a lot of different environments like math and arts, that I know how to deal with different personalities.”

Stéphanie Gagnon – VP communications candidate

Stéphanie Gagnon – VP communications candidate

-VP communications of the mathematics and statistics students’ association, 2012-13
-VP social of the mathematics and statistics students’ association, 2011-12

“My goal for ASFA is making sure we use every resource available to reach out to students whether through newspapers, social media and more. We need to promote student events, student initiatives. We want every student in ASFA to feel there’s something for them. [I also] want to improve online services, so everything is documented, everything is organized and available online.”

Strengths and weaknesses
“I’m very organized, and I’m a person that will stay calm in any circumstances, and I may not always have the answer, but I always know where to look for it. I’m a little bit of a lunatic and sometimes I have my bubbles where I’m thinking of a million things at the same time.”
All photos, except for Paul Jerijian (photo provided), by Marilla Steuter-Martin

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