Concordia Student Union News

CSU online fee levy opt-outs reached referendum

Fee-levy groups may lose significant funds after the upcoming referendum. “That would mean [serving fewer] people. People that sometimes really need it,” said Ian Herrera, member of the board of directors of People’s Potato.

Concordia students will go to the polls from Nov. 12 to 15 to vote on six referendum questions the Concordia Student Union (CSU) is putting to the ballot with online fee levy opt-outs, raising many concerns across the university.

Fee levy groups are student-run groups, semi-independent from the CSU and are elected through referendum. They include The Concordian, The Link, the Frigo Vert, Cinema Politica, and many more. They are not part of the union’s student clubs. Instead, they are funded directly by students who have voted in previous CSU referenda to fund them. They give access to multiple services on campus for all students, like food services, student media and environmental advocacy centres.

The motion was proposed by CSU President Chris Kalafatidis. However, he explained he is not binding the CSU to his decision since he proposed the question as a neutral student at large.

While students have always had the option to retract their shares from fee levy groups, Kalafatidis wants to facilitate the process.

“It’s always been a part of the deal that ‘we’re all going to pay for this collectively, but we do have the right to opt-out,’” Kalafatidis said. “All we’re doing is embracing technology to make the process easier for everyone.”

The controversial question faced a lot of opposition from CSU councillors and fee levy groups themselves. In fact, none of the 23 groups have expressed support, rather the opposite.

“The way the process works now in person is a positive thing where people can be informed face to face to understand what services we provide,” said Emily Carson-Apstein, a Concordia student employed at Sustainable Concordia. “From there, it’s their decision to opt-out and we’re not critical about that. Moving the system online makes it impartial. It makes people make hasty decisions that they don’t understand the consequences of and it shuts down the conversation before it even starts.”

McGill University switched to online opt-outs in 2007. Students’ Society of McGill University’s President, Bryan Buraga, said that this caused many fee levy groups to struggle with financing.

“This led to a decrease in the quality of services provided by these groups until the opt-out rate stabilized, after several years, to approximately 10 per cent rate of what it is today,” Buraga wrote in an email to The Concordian.

Full-time Concordia students with a four-class course load pay $58.44 per semester for fee levy groups at the moment.

Carson-Apstein explained that students can easily see a return on these fees by occasionally attending offered services, like movie or documentary screenings and eating at the People’s Potato – even just once every two weeks.

The People’s Potato serves free vegan food for students. On average, it serves around 400 to 500 people a day.

“[Online opt-out] would drastically reduce the income that we get and by consequence the number of people that we serve every day,” said Ian Herrera, member of the board of directors of the People’s Potato. “We would have to reduce the serving time. That would mean [serving fewer] people. People that sometimes really need it.”

But Kalafatidis said that if the question were to pass, the CSU would still have to sit down with all the fee levy groups to discuss the new opt-out process. Kalafatidis has yet to consult any of them. An option, Kalafatidis proposed, would be a checkbox system. Students will be required to read a description of the group prior to checking the opt-out option.

The question on fee levy opt-outs was brought up last year by the CSU slate Cut the Crap, which Kalafatidis was part of. On top of opt-outs, the slate also proposed election reform and cleaner bathrooms.

“[Fee levies] are the backbone of Concordia’s culture,” Herrera said. “Concordia’s culture isn’t dirty toilets, it’s this.”

The CSU will also be asking if students:

  1. agree with the Concordia Student Union endorsing a Fall Reading Week proposal and pursuing its implementation at Concordia University;
  2. agree with the Concordia Student Union endorsing a university-wide food waste reduction proposal and pursuing its implementation at Concordia University;
  3. support giving all faculties equal representation on the Council of Representatives by changing the structure to three Arts seats, three Science seats, three Gina Cody seats, three JMSB seats, three Fine Arts seats and one Independent Student seat. At the moment, 14 seats are allocated to arts and science, six to Gina Cody, four to JMSB and three to fine arts;
  4. agree to a non-opt-out fee increase of $2.08 that would result in a 50 per cent reduction of le Gym and PERFORM centre fees and free Stingers game;
  5. approve the Sports Shooting Club to be officially recognized as a CSU club.


Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Internal politics: what happened with CUT THE CRAP?

When Cut the Crap, a political party on campus, ran for the 2019-20 Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) general elections, their goal was to disintegrate misleading information. The team wanted students to be able to understand what was going on at the CSU. This message resonated with the students and they were victorious during last winter’s elections.

Yet, shortly after elected, they were disqualified. Team member Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin communicated online with a potential voter, asking if they had voted. Vandolder-Beaudin then sent the student names of her fellow teammates, encouraging the student to vote for them. The action was ruled as a violation of polling regulations.
Cut the Crap later decided to appeal the decision to the judicial board.

“The initial reaction was, of course, disappointment and shock,” said Eduardo Malorni, CSU student life coordinator. “But it was motivating after the shock had worn off.”

The party was successful in its appeal. All members, apart from Vandolder-Beaudin, were reinstated.
After the initial commotion of the disqualification, reinstatement, and the beginning of a new school year, things have been quieter. Yet, a lot of things remain to be done. Their campaign had put the focus on the sanitation and improvement of the bathrooms, an online opt-out system for unwanted fees and extending the nomination period for elections.
“We are talking to people, contacting deans and writing clear policies,” said Malorni. “We are still going through it. The improvement to the bathrooms specifically, must go through administration. We are working with the administration to pass it through the council. There is a multitude of meetings going on.”

The CSU is an essential part of Concordia, a union that advocates for undergraduate students and provides important services. The CSU provides students with access to vital resources, i.e. health insurance, a job and housing board and daycare, among other things. The CSU works alongside the faculty associations to represent the students on campus. The four faculty associations are responsible for each faculty they represent.

“A lot of people are intimidated by these big organizations, but we work together in a variety of ways,” said Malorni. “The CSU is more overarching. The faculty associations are more specific in their mandates than we are. For example, ASFA – Arts and Science Federation of Associations – is responsible for a lot of events on campus.”

Though they are not partners, both strive for positive goals for undergraduate students. They help each other as best they can to continue to provide the student body with essential resources and experiences.
Campus politics can appear intimidating, Malorni believes. Though, it is fundamental students become involved with their campus politics. Executives are present in the office during office hours, allowing students to voice opinions or concerns to the CSU. Malorni stressed that students should, “come to the office and talk to us about issues, we are here to help.”
This semester’s first CSU council meeting will be taking place on Sept.19. At that point, Cut the Crap will be presenting the work they have done thus far to the council.


Feature photo by Mia Anhoury


Cut the Crap disqualified for ‘serious’ violation

One member of the slate incited students to vote for the team during the polling period

Shortly after the release of the results of the Concordia Student Union (CSU) elections, it was announced that Cut the Crap, the elected slate, was disqualified for violating standing regulations.

Florian Prual, chief electoral officer (CEO) of the elections, said a slate member incited students to vote for the entire slate during the polling period, which is in violation of the union’s standing regulations. “It’s probably one of the worst things she could have done,” said Prual.

Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin, the finance coordinator candidate, messaged students asking if they had voted, and introducing them to her slate. “You down to vote for us?” wrote Vandolder-Beaudin in one of the messages obtained by The Concordian. Vandolder-Beaudin proceeded to tell students how to vote online and listed the names of the Cut the Crap candidates.

Prual said this falls under “abuse of electronic balloting,” which includes pressuring voters to vote in the presence of a candidate, and bringing the means of electronic voting to a voter.

“That’s an issue and it’s pretty unfair to the other candidates. You cannot incite someone to vote for them during the polling period,” said Prual.

The standing regulation article in question was in fact brought forward to council by CSU Councillor Patrick Quinn, also the academic and advocacy coordinator candidate for Cut the Crap.

According to the standing regulations, it is up to the CSU CEO to declare who is elected 24 hours after the counting of the ballots.

CSU General Coordinator, Sophie Hough-Martin said “this is profoundly disappointing.” Hough- Martin said there is still some confusion as to what the next step is. She added, “I would like to assure the student body that we’ll do our best to rectify this […] to protect the interests of students and democracy in the university.”

Vandolder-Beaudin is banned from running in any CSU election in the next year.

Members of Cut the Crap refused to comment on their disqualification.

Photo by Mia Anhoury.

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