Beyond strikes: next steps for anti-tuition hike mobilization

In lieu of picketing, Concordia students organize demonstrations and events to mobilize students.

From March 11 through 15, Concordia saw 30,000 students across departments on strike. No strikes have continued past that week and no further strikes are being organized by Member Associations (MAs) at Concordia. However, mobilization in support of paid internships, anti-austerity actions and the ongoing strike of the teaching assistants at the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM) is still going strong.

Though the strikes are over, support for accessible and affordable education remains important to many students. Despite the lack of further strike action, those who have helped with the mobilization against tuition hikes are maintaining their support for common financial issues facing students.

The Coalition de Résistance pour l’Unité Étudiante Syndicale [Resistance Coalition for the United Student Union] (CRUES) is one key group organizing mobilization in support of students. CRUES aims to unite students across educational institutions to tackle issues faced by students.

At 12:00 p.m. on Friday, March 29, the student body at CÉGEP de Rimouski organized a demonstration against unpaid internships at the Émilie Gamlin Park. CRUES and the Social Sciences Student Association at Laval University have also expressed support for their own students’ access to paid internships. 

The momentum behind such rebuttals against internship conditions has been carried over from past student strikes in Montreal, like the 2019 and 2022 strikes at UQAM demanding internship remunerations. 

Jasper Cobb, an upper-year geography student at Concordia who helped organize picketing during the recent strike week, spoke to the importance of solidarity.

“It all boils down to austerity measures and capitalism, whether that’s making students pay insane amounts of money for tuition or doing unpaid labour,” they said. 

This sentiment was echoed by Mowat Tokonitz, a first-year urban planning student, who pointed out that increased tuition rates are “going to affect everyone’s university experience.”

While the complete extent of service cuts at Concordia is unclear, the university is already anticipating cuts on certain services such as Adobe. Last November, Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said in an interview that the university “was looking into what the total effects of the tuition increase will be on smaller programs like creative arts,” since the majority of its students come from outside the province.

Despite the dedication of those involved in mobilization, there are no further strikes planned at Concordia. “When the strike ended, we had a long talk and came to the conclusion that we don’t really have the capacity to extend the strike or have another strike this semester,” said Cobb. 

In lieu of picket lines, students have organized a demonstration on April 10 with a student mixer afterward, as well as a “DJs Against Austerity” event on May 2 at Reggies bar.

Further mobilization efforts will be planned over the summer, with further emphasis on anti-strike action being ingrained into next fall’s frosh events.

There are several opportunities for those willing to get involved in collective mobilization. Cobb and Tokonitz suggested that students reach out directly to their Instagram account (@tuitionstrikes) for general information.



What you need to know about the upcoming strike, and why you should join.

Tuition hikes? Student strikes. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 2, close to 6000 Concordia students across various departments will be on strike to fight against the looming tuition hikes. This is a major step in the mobilization efforts against austerity measures that threaten the future of our education. But first of all, what exactly will the strike look like and why is it important? 

For three days, classes of participating departments will be either cancelled (with the cooperation of faculty) or picketed. This means that student volunteers will be physically blocking classrooms and preventing business-as-usual. Certain departments have already decided to join the strike—including geography, urban planning, and community and public affairs—while many more have called General Assemblies to hold a deciding vote. 

Last week, the faculty of fine arts voted, nearly unanimously, to strike—an incredible victory, as this adds over 3000 students to the effort and signifies the only faculty-wide participation. 

Students may be concerned that strikes will negatively impact their studies. It’s helpful to know that student unions are protected in the same way as workers’ unions, so you cannot be penalized for missing classes due to a strike. 

Though striking may feel personally disruptive, the goal is to disrupt the system, which is essential to create real change. As stated on the strike information webpage of the Concordia Student Union, “Student strikes represent a withholding of academic labour and a disruption to the university and the economy at large.” 

Quebec has a long history of striking, which has proven the impressive results of such methods. The most striking example (pun intended) is the Maple Spring of 2012, the longest student strikes in Quebec’s history. Over 300,000 students mobilized against a planned 75 per cent increase in tuition rates, and the tuition increase was ultimately overturned. 

Twelve years later, the current efforts have drawn heavy inspiration from the past. There is a palpable sense of excitement brewing, echoed by the awareness of history being made once again. “This is potentially the biggest mobilization at Concordia since the 2012 strikes,” said Adam Semergian, a student in Concordia’s school of community and public affairs. Semergian is part of a dedicated group of individuals in the mobilization effort and the push for free tuition. For many, this is the ultimate goal—generating momentum toward a future with free education for all.  

These issues impact all students, regardless of whether your own tuition will be immediately affected. In light of this fact, I encourage everyone to get involved in whatever way you can. If your department is on strike, come help picket—fine arts students can sign up through the link in the Instagram bio of @fasalovesyou. If your department isn’t on strike, but you would like to promote a strike mandate, try contacting—you can also reach out to them for more information regarding meetings and mobilization efforts. 

When unjust measures threaten students, it’s easy to feel powerless. But don’t forget—students are some of the fiercest organizers out there, and we have proven again and again the power we hold. 

So what are you waiting for? Strike! 

Student Life

Exploring the “Computer Riots” 50 years later

Exploring the Computer Riots 50 years later

Fifty years ago today, on Jan. 29 1969, the Sir George Williams Affair began—also known as the Concordia Computer Riots. According to CBC, about 200 students occupied the ninth floor computer centre in the Hall building and engaged in a peaceful sit-in protest for 14 days. The occupation was organized following the administration’s mishandling of racism complaints lodged by a group of six students against their biology professor, Perry Anderson, who they accused of unjust grading. Negotiations between the administration and the students fell through on Feb. 11. The peaceful protest turned violent after the administration handed the case over to the police, which resulted in 97 arrests, a mysterious fire and $2 million worth of property damage.

Blackout: the Concordia Computer Riots, organized by production company Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, is a play that explores the events that led to the student occupation and questions how race relations have changed in Quebec over the last 50 years. Blackout will essentially explore and interrogate the historical events of the Sir George Williams Affair through fictional characters.

About a year ago, Mathieu Murphy-Perron, the creative director and owner of Tableau D’Hôte Theatre, gathered a team of uniquely talented artists, poets and writers to start researching the history of the protests for Blackout. “We were trying to identify with these students who experienced injustice and, when they spoke out against it, realized the root of the problem was much bigger,” said Tamara Brown, a Concordia graduate as well as assistant director and part of the writing unit for Blackout. “We realized that the moments we read about were all too painfully familiar.”

Brown said that while they were exploring archived media coverage of the peaceful protests-turned-riots, the team also tried to look at what wasn’t covered. “When you do research on the event, you find images of the destruction and the $2 million of damage,” said Lydia Dubuisson, part of the writing unit for Blackout. “You don’t read about the events that led up to the riot.” Students were blamed for the mysterious fire that started after police got involved. However, according to the CBC, some believe police set the fire as a means to sidebar the protest.

Blackout invites viewers to question how different the events that unfolded in 1969 are in comparison to current events. “[The students] didn’t have support from the population, or from the media, or from society,” said Dubuisson. “Today, when people of colour express their same frustration, the response is the same.” The intersection of theatre, politics and education is unique to this performance in relation to its context and relevance within our current political state of polarization. “There is a terrifying racist rhetoric circulating now that makes people afraid,” said Brown. “We’re so polarized and it makes people afraid to stand up against injustice.”

In 2014, former Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) Executive Mei Ling, a pseudonym, filed a complaint against the administration after experiencing sexual and racial discrimination from two ASFA executives. Despite Mei Ling winning the case in 2015 and ASFA supposedly reforming its harassment policies to be more survivor-centric, the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) filed a sexual harassment complaint in 2018 against then ASFA president, on behalf of Harris Turpin.

“I observe how much things have changed, but also how they have not changed,” said Dubuisson. “I hope students take pride in knowing that it’s part of your job to fight your administration.” Brown, Dubuisson and Kym Dominique-Ferguson, part of the writing unit and one of the lead performers, all touched on the importance of re-examining history in order to fully understand where we are currently. “It’s time to start looking at the folks that have experienced oppression and look at the groups—white people—who benefitted from this,” said Dominique-Ferguson. “We need to look at that, acknowledge that, respect it and respect the individuals that are still affected by this.”

“I find what these students did to be so remarkable,” said Brown. “Everything we do matters, and the administration tried to tell [the students] otherwise, but they knew better.” Despite the 97 arrests and property damage, the protests led Concordia to revise its policies and procedures, which resulted in the creation of the Ombuds Office, according to CBC. According to Concordia University’s website, “the Ombuds Office’s role is to assist in the informal resolution of concerns and complaints related to the application of university policies, rules and procedures.” It is allegedly independent of all the administrative structures of the university, and impartial.

“We’re trying to frame extremely difficult events with a lens of hope, and I think that will inspire people to not be afraid,” said Brown. “They weren’t afraid, and we can learn from what they did.”

Blackout will show every evening from Jan. 30 to Feb. 10 in the DB Clarke Theatre from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.     

Feature photo courtesy of Concordia University Archives

Student Life

Sparking engagement throughout Concordia

Get to know the team of students empowering other students

Ever feel like you want to do something—get involved with a social movement or community project somehow—but aren’t sure where to start? Concordia’s extra curricular community is broad and can feel pretty nebulous, which makes it hard to find what floats your boat. “There are a lot of students who come to Concordia, go to their classes, and they graduate, not having done anything with [their time at Concordia],” said Nick Gertler, a communications and political science student, as well as an ambassador for Spark!.

Spark!, a new collaborative initiative that aims to connect students with the larger community on campus, is led by the Dean of Students Office and a team of eight student ambassadors. In fall 2017, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), with support from la Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur and Spark!, began researching the disparity between students’s intentions to engage in high-impact practices (HIPs), and their completion of any by graduation—or the student engagement gap, as the NSSE deemed their findings. Their main goal: decreasing that gap, and increasing student involvement, both on and off campus. “We’re trying to figure out how to best connect students with the opportunities that already exist [at Concordia], as opposed to creating a whole new thing, in and of itself,” said Gertler.

Between a handful of separate faculties, over a dozen organizations, initiatives and community projects around campus and more than 50,000 students at Concordia, it’s fair to say the student body is quite factioned off. When it comes to connecting students, “the constant problem [is] these little communication bubbles,” said Gertler. By building relationships with existing on-campus associations, unions, faculties and networking to new students through a fleet of student ambassadors, Gertler explained that Spark! is hoping to find ways in which those communication bubbles intersect and where they can be popped to spark engagement.

While Spark! has spent this past year researching and preparing for their launch, the student-led initiative will be introducing themselves to first-year classes over the next few weeks. “We’re really trying to keep the perspective of ‘meet students where they are,’” said Philippe Boucher, a first peoples studies student and ambassador for Spark!. “And with these class presentations, the goal is not really to present specific associations or projects, but more to ask questions like ‘Why get involved? What is involvement?,’” said Boucher.

According to George Kuh, founding director of NSSE, students should participate in at least two HIPs throughout their undergraduate degree: one during their first year and one in the context of their major. However, when students think about engaging in extracurricular activities on campus, explained Boucher, there’s a box those activities are put into. “Being involved is not just joining student associations,” said Boucher. “It’s studying abroad, being a research assistant, working in community engagement, […] encouraging students to apply for scholarships—everything.”

Part of being an ambassador, explained Boucher, is showing students the potential for diversity of engagement on campus by being engaged yourself. “It’s the first project I’ve ever really heard about that’s pushing for student engagement with students who are engaged.”

“I’ve been a student leader since like, first year,” said Jessica Lopez, a contemporary dance student and ambassador for Spark!. “I’ve worked with FASA, Art Matters, student council, etc., and my favourite part of all of those was the meetings. I learned how to talk in so many different ways, to so many different people, to have so many different results,” said Lopez. “I really enjoyed gaining that wider perspective of society, and want to bring that to other students.”

In addition to fostering engagement through communication and collaboration, Spark! hopes to empower individuals to see the applicability of skills they already possess. “What’s interesting about [Spark!] is that we have all these ‘resources,’ but we are those resources,” said Lopez. As ambassadors and students, we have such a wide perspective and range of experiences, Lopez explained, and part of going out and talking to students face-to-face is to help them realize they also have this knowledge. “It’s a fantastic system of engaging students, who are already engaged, to engage more students,” said Lopez.

Spark! also hopes to work with students who are already involved to help communicate and further the scope of their engagement, explained Gertler. “On that side of things, part of what we do is give [students] the language around what they’re already doing. You know, enabling people to communicate the fact that they are engaged, and that that presents opportunities for further engagement.”

“We’re kind of overwhelmed at times; there’s just so much information out there [about extracurriculars],” said Boucher. There’s also this expectation that, as students, we can extract the essence of a skill we have and immediately find where it would be applicable, said Boucher. “But there are so many different ways to engage, and part of what we do—part of our goal—is to help be a window for that information.”

To learn more about Spark! and how to contact an ambassador visit:

Featured press photo by Concordia University


Divest Concordia stopped from mobilizing

Security blocked entry of elevators where BOG meeting was held

Divest Concordia protested outside the Board of Governors (BOG) meeting on March 8 as a means to push the BOG to put Divest Concordia on their agenda. However, Divest members were met with Concordia security, who blocked access to the entrance of the fourth floor of the GM building.

“The president explained that the restricted access measures were in response to advice following last week’s events,” Concordia University Spokesperson Chris Mota told The Concordian, referencing the bomb threat at Concordia on March 1, which targeted the Muslim community. “High profile meetings can attract copycat attention and we wanted to ensure the meeting could be held without incident,” said Mota.

Divest Concordia decided to protest due to a lack of effort made by the BOG to give Divest time during the board’s meeting on March 8, said Kya Ringland, a member of Divest Concordia and an organizer of the mobilization.

Emails were sent to Concordia president Alan Shepard and the president of the BOG, among others. Divest Concordia sent them on Feb. 26, however, the administration did not respond until the day before the BOG meeting. The response, from assistant secretary-general Danielle Tessier, stated that Divest Concordia’s request to have their concerns added to the meeting’s agenda was being reviewed by the BOG.

Divest members intended to stand outside the BOG meeting to deliver informational postcards signed by more than 300 students, detailing concerns over the delay of Concordia’s divestment from the gas and fossil fuel industries, said Ringland. More importantly, Ringland added, the postcards urged the university to move forward with the sustainability policy, which is meant to facilitate sustainable initiatives at Concordia.

One of the goals of the sustainability policy is to divest from gas and fossil fuels and instead to invest in sustainable initiatives. The policy will also look into opportunities to fund socially and environmentally responsible projects, according to Concordia News.

The Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC), composed of members of Concordia student organizations, including Divest Concordia, and the BOG, will review these initiatives.

Ringland said board members of the JSIAC asked other members to research sustainable investment opportunities Concordia could fund with the money removed from the fossil fuel and gas industries.

“Our Divest members [have been asked] to do research in alternative investments, which is great. We’re happy to partner with people to do that,” Ringland said. “Our members have done that and brought the research to the JSIAC, and it has just kind of been disregarded and not talked about anymore.”

Ringland said the same has happened for Sustainable Concordia. “They have looked at alternative investments, and no follow-up has been made on any of them,” she said. “Many other students and faculty members have put forth research and solutions––including the CSU.”

However, Ringland said she believes efforts should be made outside of student and faculty members. “We feel all members of JSIAC should be doing research into alternatives [and] bringing alternative solutions forward,” said Ringland. “Board members and admin should be a part of this process.”

Tessier said the JSIAC will be meeting shortly to make recommendations to the Concordia University Foundation and other stakeholders with regards to Concordia’s commitment to sustainable investing.

Leonard handing postcards to BOG representative. Photo by Savanna Craig

Divest member Alex Leonard said he hopes members of the BOG will see the group’s postcards. He said it is important to have the BOG “open to hearing what the student body is saying, as opposed to creating barriers where these public meetings are now high-security.”

“I think that [the BOG is] taking steps in the right direction, and I want to believe that they have the good of Concordia’s community in mind,” Ringland said. “I think that that’s going to be happening more—they’re actually holding consultations in the next two months with Concordia students, so those will be good.”

Ringland said divestment is an issue that’s becoming more severe due to climate change. “I think most of the Concordia community knows, and so we just want to make sure that [the BOG] realize how urgent it is and use that urgency to dictate their daily decisions,” Ringland said.

Before the Divest Concordia members left, a representative from the BOG came down to ask Divest members what they wanted to say to the governors. Divest Concordia members chose to let the postcards speak for them—Leonard handed the postcards to the representative.
Divest Concordia will hold their next meeting on March 17 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m in the CSU art nook, adjacent to People’s Potato on the 7th floor of the Hall building.

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