Online opt-out discussions began without consulting fee-levy groups, documents reveal

Disclosure: The Concordian is a fee-levy group

The CSU had maintained that it would consult with fee-levy groups to implement an online opt-out system

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Concordia administration began development of the online opt-out system before consulting with fee-levy groups, newly-surfaced emails reveal. 

Conversations between CSU General Coordinator Chris Kalafatidis and Dean of Students Andrew Woodall date as far back as December 2019, despite the CSU’s promise to develop the opt-out system in consultation with fee-levy groups. The groups were not consulted until months later.

Students voted in favour of the online opt-out system in a referendum last November. The new opt-out system would no longer require students to contact each individual fee-levy organization in order to retract their shares.

One of several requests made through Kalafatidis’s emails was the addition of  a “check-box” feature, which would enable students to click on the groups they do not wish to support. Other requests included a limited selection period and a record of opt-outs that could be accessed by fee-levy groups.

Fee-levy organizations such as The Concordian, The Link, CJLO, Sustainable Concordia, and People’s Potato receive most, if not all, of their funding from student fees. Most groups charge less than 0.40ȼ per credit. 

“Moving the system online makes it impartial,” said a Sustainable Concordia employee in an interview last November. “It makes people make hasty decisions that they don’t understand the consequences of, and it shuts down the conversation before it even starts.”

Many groups perceive online opt-outs as a threat to their survival and, in turn, the well-being of students.

“Online opt-out … has destroyed organizations that students have spent years building,” said the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) in a statement. “With that, fee levies have been working to help all our students, particularly those in financially precarious positions.”

News of the correspondence between the CSU and the administration surfaced through a Facebook post made by CSU Councillor Margot Berner. The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

According to Berner, Kalafatidis failed to obtain approval from the council before contacting the administration.

“The council is the decision making body of the Union,” wrote Berner. “Executives are supposed to execute those decisions. Not take it upon themselves to pitch their own ideas to the admin.”

Kalafatidis told The Link yesterday that he was mandated to speak to the administration as soon as the referendum passed. He said that only non-negotiable aspects were discussed.

“I was firm that these were only ‘immediate asks’ and not the final recommendation,” he said.

Woodall had asked Kalafatidis to confirm that no formal demands had yet been made in an email sent December 20.

“Clearly, the way that you conduct the consultation will be important and, without stepping into territory that isn’t my business, I urge you to spend some good effort on this,” he wrote.

Online opt-outs are to be implemented in September 2020.

Update: The emails between Chris Kalafatidis and the Concordia administration were discussed in a CSU council meeting last week. A motion to keep the original September timeline for the launch of the online opt-out system was tabled indefinitely. 




Archive graphic by Le Lin.


Fee levy members kicked out from council meeting due to fire hazards

A coalition of 40 people representing fee levy groups were forced to wait in JMSB hallways after the CSU booked 34-person room 

More than 40 people from various fee levy groups were kicked out of the CSU council meeting by Concordia security as the student union’s executive team only booked a 34-person capacity meeting room. 

The fee levy group members were gathered in solidarity as they demanded the CSU properly consult fee levy groups about the implementation of online opt-outs. Fee levy group members allege that the CSU have started working on the project without conducting proper consultations. The CSU set in place an ad hoc committee to start working on the online opt-out procedures earlier this year. An email from to book consultation sessions with the CSU was sent to fee levy groups on Feb. 5.

Switching to online opt outs could mean a massive reduction in funding for fee levy groups.

CSU meetings usually hold around 40 individuals–30 councillors, eight executive members, one chairperson, one minute keeper and the student media. This already breaches the 34-person maximum set by Concordia security for this room.

Members were allowed to peek through the doors as the motion was discussed.

“It’s bullshit,” said Paul Baloukas, an intern at Concordia’s radio station, CJLO 1690AM. “It’s ridiculous making us wait outside when they’re discussing something about us.”

A Concordia security officer yelled for people to exit as the exceeding number of people was a “fire hazard.” There were roughly 70 people in the room at the time.

“We got kicked out because of a fire hazard, which makes total sense,” said Danny Gold, a DJ at CJLO. “But 34 people seems small for that room.”

For the majority of fee levy group members gathered at the meeting, their groups offer opportunities to put in practice what students learn in class. Philippe l’Espérance, a CJLO radio host,  said online opt-outs could put at harm those opportunities.

“For some people, it’s a way to get experience journalistically outside of class,” L’Espérance said. “For others, it’s also a medium to live their passion.”

Those asked to leave the meeting were asked to stay around the JMSB’s 14th floor near the room where the council meeting was held.

Editor’s note: The Concordian is a fee levy group, but did not participate in the solidarity gathering present at this meeting.


Photo by Jad Abukasm

Concordia Student Union News

CSU by-election results are in

After the three-day polling period from Tuesday to Thursday, here are the CSU referendum by-election results.

A total of 5167 students voted, representing 16.6 per cent of Concordia undergraduate students.


JMSB (first five are elected)
Mitchell Shecter 303 (19.6%)
Mathew Levitsky-Kaminski 256 (16.6%)
Howard Issley 254 (16.5%)
Lauren Perozek 194 (12.6%)
Jeremya Deneault 193 (12.5%)
Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin 185 (12.0%)
Samuel Century 90 (5.8%)
Alice IV. 67 (4.3%)
Gina Cody (all are elected)
Selena Mezher 443 (40.5%)
Sean Howard 387 (35.3%)
Tzvi Hersh Filler 265 (24.2%)
Fine Arts (elected by default)
Peter Zhuang 319 (100.0%)
Independent Students (first two are elected)
Hershey Blackman 50 (55.6%)
Menachem Israily 21 (23.3%)
Rawan Abbas 19 (21.1%)


Do you agree with the Concordia Student Union endorsing a Fall Reading Week proposal and pursuing its implementation at Concordia University?

The question passed at 86.6 per cent. The CSU and the University will look into two options to implement a Fall reading week. The university would either start the Fall semester a week in advance in August, or change the semester from 13 to 12 weeks.

Do you agree with the Concordia Student Union endorsing a university-wide food waste reduction proposal and pursuing its implementation at Concordia University?

The question passed at 97.1 per cent. The CSU will look into a program destined to reduce food waste by “[donating] either to the student body or to charitable organizations e.g. homeless shelters.”

Do you support Concordia University bringing the opt out process online for student fee levy organizations?

The question passed at 61.1 per cent. From now on, students will have the option to opt out of fee levy groups online. Before the referendum, students could opt out of those groups by signing a form. Fee levy groups, like the People’s Potato and Sustainable Concordia, are afraid that making the option easier will drastically reduce  their funding.

Do you agree to recommend to the Concordia Council on Student life (CCSL) to increase the Concordia Recreation & Athletics Department’s fee-levy to $5.00 per credit (an increase of $2.08 per credit from $2.92 per credit) annually adjusted to the Consumer Price Index of Canada to be implemented with registration for the September 2020 (2020/2) term, in accordance with the University’s tuition, refund and withdrawal policy? Agreeing to this question means you consent to increasing a mandatory institutional fee beyond the normally allowed rate as set out in the Règles Budgétaires of the Quebec Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

The question failed to pass with 55.3 per cent of students voting “no.” The $2.08 fee increase would have resulted in a decrease in membership fees for Le Gym all year long and the PERFORM center during Fall and Winter semesters. Stingers games would be free.

The Sports Shooting Association has requested to become a CSU club. Do you approve of the club being officially recognized as a CSU club.

The question failed to pass with 55.6 per cent of students voting “no.”

Do you 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?

The question passed at 70.1 per cent. Before the referendum, 13 seats were allocated for Arts and Science students, seven for JMSB students, five Engineering and Computer Science students, three for Fine Arts students and two for independent students. The representation will be three councillors for every faculty plus one for independent students. Arts and Sciences will be divided into two separate faculties. However, the previous distribution of seats was proportional to the number of students in each faculty. Arts and Science had a bigger representation as they form almost 50 per cent of Concordia’s student body.

The last question was not disclosed online. The CSU was asking students if they agree to a $0.08 increase towards club funding.

The question passed at 54 per cent. During council meeting on Nov. 6, councillors explained that such increase would benefit the CSU by better funding clubs and reducing deficits. Furthermore, they would hold clubs accountable of their expenses by setting rules and regulations on spendings.


Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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

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