Making an investment in legal recognition

The Engineering and Computer Science Association is officially heading into its second week of campaigning in hopes of being officially recognized as a legally accredited student association in the province of Quebec — at an expense of more than $13,000.

The campaign period lasts from Jan. 14 to Jan. 28, with executives from the faculty association visiting around 20 classrooms a day to garner support for the vote. The polling itself will span from Jan. 28 to Feb. 14 where students can choose to endorse the move for accreditation or vote against it.

The entire procedure for the ECA in its effort to achieve official autonomy from Concordia and legal certification from the provincial government cost the student association over $13,000. VP finance Chuck Wilson explained that while accreditation is expensive, it is necessary to spend the money.

“The risk of failure is greatly decreased with an increase in money spent,” said Wilson. “If we have more polling days, we have more turnout and paying our elections staff is pretty much necessary.”

Melanie Hotchkiss, who is co-ordinating the campaign, explained that the university and the student organization have a “good relationship” since it is provided with office space and the fee-levy it collects, something that the administration is not obligated to provide.

“More than anything else, accreditation would be more like an insurance policy,” said Hotchkiss.

The issue is to attract as many students as possible since the provincial government requires 25 per cent of the ECA’s membership to support the motion. Therefore, the faculty association requires a minimum of approximately 900 students to vote ‘yes.’

The ECA is reaching out to students through flyers and information booths located in the mezzanine in the Hall building and on the eighth floor.

In order to ensure that the vote is as accessible as possible to undergraduate students, the ECA invested in having roaming polls with clerks visiting classrooms so individuals can vote before and after courses.

With four clerks, the roaming polls alone are costing the ECA close to $5,600 and the stationary polls amount to more than $3,000.

“We have to hedge our bets and make sure our students get out and vote,” said Wilson.

Overall, the ECA is allotting more than $10,000 to the polling to guarantee a two-week vote provides students with enough time to cast their ballots.


What to watch out for this January and February

Following the volatile year that was 2012, the new year is bound to bring some interesting issues to the table in terms of higher education in Quebec and at Concordia as well. Here are some events and associations which students should remember to keep an eye on.

The education summit in February
The education summit promised by the Parti Québécois is fast approaching, but no official date has yet been set for when the government will meet with universities and student organizations to discuss issues concerning higher education. It has been loosely set for mid-February, but no official date has been given in the four months since the PQ first took office. In pre-summit talks held last month at McGill, student leaders with the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec and university officials disagreed over which subjects were important to discuss at the summit or what solutions were viable. The Concordia Student Union’s findings from their own consultation are due to be submitted to the FEUQ in order for them to be presented at the summit.

ECA accreditation drive
A campaign seeking accreditation for Concordia University’s Engineering and Computer Science Association will begin Jan. 14, with voting carrying on between Jan. 28 and Feb. 15. The ECA must achieve at least a 25 per cent turn-out for the votes to earn them accreditation, meaning that approximately 900 students must come out and vote ‘yes’ in order for the association to earn accreditation. Not having accreditation places the ECA in a difficult position, as they have limited powers to represent their student body, and the university is not required to grant them funding stemming from fee levies if they so choose.

An open conversation on the budget
A series of sessions that will be held this month at Concordia welcomes the community to be apart of conversations regarding the significant cut to the university’s operating grant for this fiscal year from the provincial government. Lisa Ostiguy, interim provost, and Patrick Kelley, chief financial officer, will host a community session this Monday, Jan. 14. Following an issue from the government on Dec. 11, the university’s operating grant was slashed by $13.2 million for the last four months of this fiscal year. The sessions will be small but the university does want to encourage people to register and attend these sessions. Senate will also have an opportunity to discuss the issue in their meeting Jan. 18. Registration opens Jan. 9 and more details will come from Concordia this week in the NOW e-newsletter.

The Concordia Student Union’s new council
The Concordia Student Union will have a fuller council this semester however will lack representatives from the Fine Arts faculty. The the CSU held byelections at the end of last semester to fill spaces due to the amount of resignations and empty seats. Caroline Bourbonnière, Patrick Lefebvre, Benjamin Prunty, Hardial Rosner, James Vaccaro and Ashley Walling all were elected to represent Arts and Science on council. Anja Rajaonarivelo, Pierre Tardivo Martin and Eugene Gusman were elected to the vacant JMSB seats since there were four open spots during the byelections. There are more than 30,000 students in the undergraduate student body and only 465 Concordia undergraduate students cast their votes. Although the byelections did allow the council to grow, the seats for Fine Arts on council remained empty.


On the road to accreditation

Concordia University’s Engineering and Computer Science Association will be sending students to the polls as it seeks official accreditation as a student association this January.

The faculty student association will be holding a vote from January 28 to February 14 to obtain accreditation under Quebec civil law. In order to be eligible for formal recognition, the ECA must obtain the support of 25 per cent of their undergraduate student body in engineering and computer science.

Therefore a minimum of 900 students must vote yes in the polling for the accreditation process to move forward. This is a factor that has stopped previous executives from pursuing accreditation due to fear of failure to meet the requirement, according to ECA VP finance Chuck Wilson.

Lacking accreditation can be problematic because it limits student associations in terms of funding and accessibility. For example, the university is not technically nor legally obligated to provide the ECA with funding stemming from a fee-levy although it does anyway.

According to ECA President Ali Talhouni, what the ECA doesn’t have access to is the membership list of its students from the Dean of Students Office.

“We’re treated as an accredited association,” said Talhouni. “It’s the only thing we don’t get and the dean of students doesn’t give it to us.”

The student organization lost its company status following the transition from a paper registry to an online database for the Registraire des entreprises du Québec. The ECA’s status was revoked because the ECA failed to file their annual declaration as a company for several years.

Under law, student associations are unable to achieve accreditation if they are not a legally recognized company.

Lawyer Patrice Blais was present at an ECA council meeting to explain the procedure for applying for accreditation with the provincial government.

“What the ministry wants [is] to ensure there is a process and everyone can vote,” said Blais. “The ECA will be officially recognized as an association and accreditation gives you protection.”

To oversee the vote, the ECA officially appointed Judicial Board Chairperson Nick Cuillerier as their accreditation president. Melanie Hotchkiss, a student senator, will co-ordinate the campaign.

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