Concordia Student Union News

BREAKING: Graduate Students Association proposes referendum against Legal Information Clinic

As graduate students prepare to vote in upcoming elections, questions remain about the LIC’s accessibility.

The Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) Legal Information Clinic (LIC) was informed today of the Graduate Students Association’s (GSA) proposed referendum to eliminate the clinic’s fee levy of $2.75. 

The LIC said in an email that the announcement comes at a frustrating time, especially when the CSU recently stated that they’re reviewing their initial decision to remove the clinic. Now, the CSU is reviewing the LIC’s services “in accordance with the resolution adopted, which was to keep the LIC open, by the CSU Student Council on Feb. 14,” as said in an email. The CSU’s final decision is still pending.

The LIC was not made aware of the GSA’s proposal prior to the announcement. If the referendum passes, the current graduate students who use the LIC services for their needs will no longer be able to, affecting the future of the clinic and the graduate students who need it. 

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), is currently working with two graduate students who need representation for their respective cases. He told The Concordian that preventing graduate students’ access to legal services will affect student protection and guidance during their legal issues and processes.

“If the GSA cuts off funding to the Legal Information Clinic, that means that the clinic cannot fund for the legal representation. If they go on their own to defend against these charges, it could be a very difficult experience for them,” Niemi said.

Niemi believes that fee levies are a “major source of financial support for graduate students who need legal representation.” Since many graduate students are international, they need the LIC’s help with immigration, cases involving racism or sexual assault, and employment, among others. 

Even language barriers can cause difficulties to some graduate students as they undergo the judicial process during their case. Niemi feels that by keeping the LIC open, these graduate students will be able to access services that respect their language barriers, something that other legal services on university campuses may not provide.

“Once the graduate students access Quebec common agencies in charge of human rights—especially if your French is not good and you go there as an English speaker—you may need more than just lawyers and may need a lot of other support that the Legal Information Clinic can provide,” Niemi said. “That’s a very valuable and important support for these students.”

The LIC is urging graduate students to vote on the matter during the GSA elections on April 15 and 16.

Concordia Student Union News

A breakdown of last Wednesday’s CSU meeting

The CSU reassembles for the first Regular Council Meeting of the fall semester

On Wednesday, Sept. 21, representatives from the Concordian Student Union (CSU) gathered at the Hall building to attend the first Regular Council Meeting (RCM) of the 2022-23 school year. In total, seven representatives on the CSU’s executive team and eight CSU councillors attended to discuss initiatives for the upcoming year. Here were the major topics of discussion:

$30,000 worth of funding remains inaccessible due to lack of volunteers on CSU committees

During the committee appointment phase at the RCM, a number of CSU committees struggled to fill the vacant positions on their respective bodies, leaving many committees at risk of being unable to meet their respective quorums.

The impact of the shortage of volunteers means that the CSU will have severely limited operational capabilities for the foreseeable future. One example of the consequences of this volunteer shortage is the Student Life Committee (SLC). 

The SLC, which oversees the allocation of around $30,000 worth of funding within the special-project fund, was in need of three additional committee members at last week’s meeting before it could resume operations. 

Student life coordinator Harley Martin made sure to stress that unless these vacant positions are filled, the SLC would be unable to reconvene and the special-project fund would remain inaccessible for student use in the foreseeable future. 

“I get multiple emails every week of people wanting to apply on this funding,” said Martin. “But we need to have a committee to vote to open that funding in the first place. So we really need people to join.” 

Despite Martin’s pleas, only one CSU executive volunteered and was appointed to the SLC on Wednesday.

Amendments to the 2022-23 mural festival project

Another motion passed at the RCM — the 2022-23 mural motion — included two amendments made to a motion from last year, regarding the establishment of a mural within the G-Lounge space located at Concordia’s Loyola Campus. 

Both amendments, which were presented by the CSU’s Loyola Coordinator Sabrina Morena, involved the reallocation of the project to a different artist from the one specified in the original motion. The amendments also ensured that the CSU would prioritize Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) artists during the selection process for the project.

When questioned about the rationale behind the amendments, councillor Morena clarified that the amendments were necessary once it became apparent that the artist initially commissioned for the project was unable to complete the project within the intended time frame due to prior obligations.

Referendum on CSU General Operations Fee Levy increase to be featured on upcoming bi-election ballet. 

The CSU unanimously approved a motion to include a referendum question regarding a 25-cents-per-credit increase to the CSU General Operations Fee Levy in the upcoming CSU bi-elections.

The referendum will provide students with the opportunity to vote on whether or not they approve the proposed increase of the CSU General Operations Fee Levy from $2.46 to $2.71 per credit. If passed, the fee levy increase will be implemented as early as the beginning of the 2023 winter semester.

While presenting the motion to the RCM on Wednesday, academic and advocacy coordinator Asli Isaaq stated that the intention behind the fee levy increase is to help the CSU provide additional services to meet the surge in demand with the return to in-person instruction.

CSU opens Student Space, Accessible Education, and Legal Contingency Fund (SSAELC) to striking Members of Associations (MAs) 

The CSU also voted in favour of amending its policy to allow for the SSAELC to fund student associations on strike. CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator Julianna Smith explained the application process for funds through reimbursement. MAs should expect to receive a reimbursement around mid to late October.

The CSU’s decision comes after multiple MAs passed mandates to go on strike in the coming weeks. As of Wed, Sept. 28, 11 MAs under the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) have approved a strike from Oct. 3 to 7 in support of a fall reading week for the 2022-23 school semester.


Students to decide whether CSU purchases a student center

The decision to purchase 2045 Bishop St. will appear as a referendum question in the upcoming CSU General Election

The CSU unanimously voted to let students decide whether the union should purchase a building on Bishops street for a new student centre in the upcoming election.

The purpose of this new building is to create a student centre that would include office space for the CSU, as well as a space for other student clubs and fee-levy groups to operate out of. The CSU would also be able to use the space to host their own events.

The price per square foot for the building is $419.31, rendering the 13 thousand square foot building a $5.5 million cost to purchase. The CSU is also exploring the option of adding an additional floor. Since it is not a heritage building, the CSU will have the ability to renovate and make modifications to the building as needed.

The CSU has been exploring the possibility of creating their own student center for some time. Initially, they approached Concordia about renting a space, however, these spaces were deemed to be unaffordable. However, according to CSU President Eduardo Malorni, Concordia will offer financial support in other ways, although those were not specified at the special council meeting held on Feb. 17.

The downtown property is located directly across the street from the Hall Building at 2045 Bishops St. “In terms of location it doesn’t get more ideal than this,” said Malorni.

The prime location is one of the many reasons that Malorni believes now is the right time for the CSU to buy the building.

​”Other reasons why now is a good time is we do have a good surplus in the fund, where we could expense this and not be left completely depleted or be left in a situation where we might not be able to maintain the building for long term.”

Purchase of the building would also give the CSU more independence and control of the events and activities they want to create for students.

“This is a step in the future of the CSU being more independent from the university. Even though Concordia is acquiring buildings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those buildings are going to be used for student life,” said CSU Councilor Lauren Perozek.

“This building would be under our purview and our control. We could use it for more student life related activities and our contribution to the students.”

Primarily the project will be funded by the Student Space, Accessible Education & Legal Contingency Fund (SSAELC fund) fund. The SSAELC fund was created 20 years ago and in that time has been used for other purposes. Its initial purpose was to be used for the purchase of a property and creation of a student centre. The fund has now accumulated enough capital that this initial goal is possible. The CSU will also pursue other grants to fund the building’s purpose.

The union will have to undergo a hefty due diligence process involving many inspections of the building. Some parts of it will require renovations, but others are usable at this moment. The result of the referendum question as well as the results of the many building inspections will determine if the CSU goes through with the purchase of the building.

“There are spaces that are not in great condition, but it’s in usable condition. So we could definitely use it for a lot of purposes already. Starting from day one that we own it,” said Malorni.

According to Malorni the CSU actually does not need to send this expense to referendum at all, but he believes students should be involved in the decision.

“I personally think that if we’re going to spend such a large amount such as $5.5 million, our decision should be backed up with the students’ consent on this, which is why I want to send it to the referendum.”

Photos provided by Catherine Reynolds

Concordia Student Union News

Referendum questions ready for the ballot

CSU passes the questions that will appear on the referendum

Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that an additional student fee charge for Sustainability Concordia, The Link, and SEIZE could not be opted out of. They can be opted out — all fees collected for fee-levies organizations at Concordia can be opt-ed out of.

At the Concordia Student Union (CSU) meeting on Oct. 27, multiple questions were passed to be put on the referendum, including whether there should be a mandatory course on sustainability, and a charter of students’ rights. Here are some of the questions students will vote for in this upcoming election.

Position against transphobia

The CSU wants to add a position in support of trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming people to its positions book in lieu of the Quebec government’s proposed Bill 2.

Bill 2 will make it so that someone cannot change their sex on their government documentation without having gender-affirming surgery.

“It’s basically asking trans people to out themselves,” said Hannah Jamet-Lange, the CSU’s academic & advocacy coordinator.

Jamet-Lange explained that the CSU has a general position in their position book in solidarity with LGBTQIA2+ people, but Jamet-Lange wanted something that was specifically in support of trans, non-binary and gender-non-conforming people.

The position book is the CSU’s stance on political, social, and student-life issues. For any position to be added to the book, it must be first voted on by students in a referendum.


The CSU wants to know if students want Concordia University to implement a pass/fail grading option until the pandemic is over. For the 2020-2021 academic year, students were allowed to receive a pass/fail notation in one class per semester. It was implemented as a way to reduce stress and burnout in students.

“We’re still in the pandemic, and people are still struggling,” said Jamet-Lange, who explained that student stress has not lessened during the return to in-person classes due to the continuation of the pandemic.

Charter of Students’ Rights

This question is asking the Concordia community if the CSU should create a charter of students’ rights and responsibilities. Many universities have a charter of rights, including McGill and UQAM, but Concordia does not have one.

Jamet-Lange explained that the CSU wants to see if students are in support of the charter before the CSU puts in the time and effort of creating the document.

Sustainability Curriculum

According to the question, Concordia is four times lower than the Canadian national average on sustainability learning outcomes in the curriculum. The question asks if students want Concordia University to commit to ensuring that all students learn about sustainability and the climate crisis in the curriculum by 2030.

Fee levies

Fee levy groups are organizations elected by students in referendums who receive their funding from student fees. They provide different services for students, such as free meals from The People’s Potato.

Multiple fee levy groups are asking to increase the amount of money they collect from undergraduate students, such as the CSU Advocacy Centre, which provides students with independent representation in disciplinary proceedings. They are asking for an extra $0.14 per credit, resulting in a total increase to $0.45 of the fee-levy amount, as the negative impact of COVID-19 has caused an increase in students reaching out for help. This means the centre has had to increase its staff and hours in order to support the influx of students.

Should this pass, an additional student fee charge will also increase by $0.42, to a total of $1.35 per 3-credit course, which cannot be opted out from.

Sustainable Concordia, an initiative that aims to reform systems that contribute to the climate crisis, is asking for an increase as their organization is growing and wants to give more support to their staff. The fee-levy increase will be to $0.07 per credit, resulting in a total increase to $0.22, and will be annually adjusted to the Consumer Price Index of Canada.

This fee-levy increase will result in a change of $0.21 to an additional student fee charge, to a total of $0.66 per 3-credit course, which can be opted-out from.

The Link, another independent student media publication at Concordia University, is asking for an increase of $0.10, resulting in a total fee-levy increase to $0.29. The organization has not requested a change to their amount since 2001 according to The Link, and seeks to increase funds to support their reporting, improve multimedia opportunities for students, enhance diversity and equitability, and account for inflation.

Should this pass, an additional increase of $0.30 for every 3-credit course will be added to the student fee charge, resulting in a $0.87 fee which can be opted out from.

A new fee levy group, SEIZE, is asking to be established. It will become, “a solidarity economy incubator,” which will, “engage students through the support, development, study and promotion of democratic enterprises.” SEIZE’s fee would be $0.29 per credit.

Should this pass, an additional student fee charge of $0.87 per 3-credit course will be added, a fee which can be opted out from.

Recorded Lectures

The CSU is asking if students want them to advocate to the Concordia administration for the implementation of either live-streaming or recorded lectures. The CSU states that at the beginning of the pandemic, the university allowed for classes to be recorded. Now as classes return to in-person, recorded classes have been reduced, yet many students, such as international students, are still unable to attend them.


Photograph by Lou Neveux-Pardijon

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


The conundrum of Concordia’s Online fee-levy opt-outs are back

The controversial topic of online fee-levy opt-outs is back, as discussions are being pushed by CSU General Coordinator Chris Kalafatidis, who is aiming to get it on a referendum.

Kalafatidis explained that the CSU bylaws allow any student to bring a question to a referendum. All that is needed is to present the question at a meeting, then the student must get 500 signatures from Concordia students. Once that is achieved the question automatically goes onto a referendum.

Kalafatidis requested online fee-levy opt-outs to be put on a referendum at the CSU meeting on Oct. 25.

“As General Coordinator, you have enough influence where you could just go ‘here’s a question council, pass this’ and it goes directly to a referendum,” Kalafatidis said. “Despite being in a position where I could have probably brought this referendum through council, I want to present it myself and get the signatures of 500 students.”

Kalafatidis believes that the effect of online opt-outs will be a positive one. The only thing fee-levy groups have to fear is that students will not know about them. Those that are more exclusionary will have the incentive to spread their services and be more open to students.

Yet, Emily Carson-Apstein, External & Campaigns Coordinator at Sustainable Concordia, was at the meeting as an opponent to Kalafatdis’ presentation. According to Carson-Apstein, online opt-outs will negatively impact fee-levies and the student culture they support.

“It’s really hypocritical for the General Coordinator to take on a project that is going to harm the community,” said Carson-Apstein. “These aren’t people picking and choosing groups. These are people who are opting out of everything without understanding what’s going on.”

Carson-Apstein argued that online opt-outs will defund fee-levy groups immensely. As an argument, she referred to McGill University implementation of online opt-outs as an example of the impact this decision would have on the Concorida student community.  According to the McGill Tribune, before 2007, opt-outs were relatively low. The Student Society of McGill University (SSMU), McGill’s version of Concordia’s CSU, had a 0.83 per cent opt-out rate for the Winter semester. But when online opt-out went up, by the next semester, SSMU’s opt-out rate went up to 6.45 per cent.

“The sad thing is that the opt-out numbers across the majority of the fees are consistent,” said SSMU Vice-President and Services Sarah Olle, in an interview with The McGill Tribune back in 2010. “So, I think what this indicates is that people who are opting out are usually blanket opting out.”

Carson-Apstein believes that opt-outs would defund fee-levy services. This will decrease student awareness of fee-levy’s and their benefits, which in turn will cause more students to opt-out, creating a vicious cycle of opt-outs and defunding.

“It’s not a political decision, it’s a financial decision that is uninformed on what these services can offer them,” Carson-Apstein said. “Many fee-levy groups have been created over decades to address student poverty.”

Carson-Apstein explains that while a student would save $50–$60 when they opt-out, if they take advantage of the services fee-levy’s offer, the student will save much more.

“If you go to the People’s Potato every day for a week, you’ve made that money up already,” Carson-Apstein said.

The McGill Tribune interview with Olle said that despite the fee-levy being different, the rate of students opting-out online didn’t change. Students consistently mass-opted-out no matter what the fee-levy provided or cost.

McGill’s Midnight Kitchen, Concordia’s version of the Peoples Potato, charges $3.35 a semester. It had almost the same rate of opt-outs as CKUT, who charge $5.00 a semester.

But as Kalafatidis presented during the meeting, if online opt-outs are implemented, all fee-levies will be conciliated to work towards a system that will benefit all sides and to make sure students know what they are opting out of. He used the People’s Potato as an example; students use it, are aware of it, and those that don’t use that service understand the importance of the People’s Potato, and refrain from opting out as to not take away free food, Kalafatidis said.

“Fee-levy groups never work towards building better relationships with students,” said Kalafatdis. “Having this option to opt-out would put them in a situation where if they are going to be using student money, they are going to have to earn it.”

Yet, Carson-Apstein is worried because once the referendum is counted, the final say will be with the Concordia University Administration.

“Once we put it in the hands of the university, the students won’t have control,” Carson-Apstein said, describing how Concordia websites are infamously hard to use and full of bugs. “If you think about how well Moodle and myConcordia work, the University is not going to make this easy.”

Online opt-outs are not imminent, but the groundwork is being laid. No matter which option students pick, both demand student engagement in the Concordia community.


Photo by Laurence B. D.



Vote yes to support clubs, advocacy services

How students can improve the funding for CSU programs without paying more

From Nov. 27 to 29, Concordia undergraduate students will vote in their union’s by-election.

On the ballot, there will be a referendum question to reallocate Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) fees. Students will be asked if they agree to reduce the amount of fees they pay for a renovation fund and increase fees for student clubs, advocacy services and general operations by the same amount. As the CSU finance coordinator, I believe students should vote yes, because it will protect valuable student services without raising fees.

The CSU offers a wide range of services, campaigns for student rights and hosts fun events. It creates jobs for students and provides support for student-led projects and clubs. All of this is funded by six per-credit fees from students. Currently, for each credit, students pay $2.11 for general CSU operations, $0.24 for the advocacy services, $0.24 for the Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO), $0.17 for the Legal Information Clinic, $0.20 for clubs and $0.74 for the “Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency (SSAELC) Fund.”

All of this money is given to the CSU, however, it can only be used for its designated purpose. Money collected for HOJO, for example, can’t be used for orientation week events. This means that when the CSU council approves the budget, it’s actually approving five separate budgets.

In previous years, the CSU ran surpluses in a few departments, specifically for clubs and the advocacy services. As a non-profit organization, we’re not supposed to do that, so the executives ran referendums to reduce the fees. The advocacy services fee was reduced in 2015, and the fee for clubs was reduced in 2017. However, almost immediately after these referendums passed, demand for the services increased. More students were going to the Advocacy Centre, forming clubs and increasing club activity, but the CSU now had less money for those resources than before.

This has placed these departments in a structural deficit. Advocacy services are projected to run a deficit of roughly $30,000 this year, and clubs is $70,000 in the red. These deficits have been absorbed by CSU cash reserves from previous surpluses, but that can’t go on forever. This year, we have to choose between raising revenue or reducing student services.

Don’t panic. Despite these challenges, the CSU is in a good financial position overall. Its net value increased this year to over $13 million. However, much of that money is in the SSAELC Fund and, because fees have restricted use, the money has to stay there.

What is the SSAELC Fund? It’s a large reserve of funds that can be used to build or renovate student spaces, support student associations that vote to go on strike, and pay legal settlements if the union gets sued. The fund has roughly $10 million in it, and is invested in stock portfolios that help it grow from year to year. It was recently used to fund projects like the Woodnote Housing Cooperative and the CSU daycare—and even after those big projects, the fund is still growing strong.

The CSU has plenty of resources, but they’re not being allocated in the best way possible. To fix that, we’re proposing to reduce the fee levy for the SSAELC Fund by $0.36, while also implementing a fee increase of $0.06 for advocacy services, $0.10 for clubs and $0.20 for general operations. All the budgets will balance out, and students won’t have to pay anything more.

The SSAELC Fund will still grow by approximately $250,000 per year after this reform. By collecting a bit less for the renovations fund, which already has $10 million in it, we can increase funding for the many clubs that enrich student life and give us extracurricular experience. We will be able to maintain the advocacy services that protect student rights, and invest more in services, bursaries, programming and campaigns. All of this will be possible without students having to pay even one extra cent.

On the other hand, if this referendum fails to pass, we’ll be required to reduce funding for clubs and advocacy services. No student will benefit from that. The proposed new fee structure is a simple, responsible and effective way to manage our union’s finances. To support student clubs and the important services students depend on, without having to pay more, please vote “yes” on Nov. 27, 28 or 29.

Archive graphic by Ana Bilokin

Concordia Student Union News

CSU has four referendum questions for Concordia students

Library and bookstore funding, two-round voting and more student spaces on the ballot this week

From March 27 to 29, Concordia students will go to the polls to elect representatives and executives for the Concordia Student Union (CSU), but candidates’ names will not be the only things on the ballot. There are four issues students will be asked to vote on this week.

Library services

The Library Services Fund is due for renewal. According to Veronika Rydzewski, the CSU’s internal affairs and clubs coordinator, the fund was first established in 2009 but was only ratified for 10 years. The contract will expire in 2019. Without the fund, students would lose 24-hour access to the Vanier and Webster libraries and services, including laptop and tablet lending and access to course reserve textbooks.

This week, students will be asked if they agree to continue contributing $1 per credit to the Library Services Fund. A Quebec resident student who completes a major (90 credits) will contribute $90 to the fund during their time at Concordia. If approved, the project will be funded for another 10 years, until the fall of 2029.

Two-round voting

In January 2018, the CSU resolved to adopt a two-round voting system for electing executives to fill positions vacated before the end of the mandate. This week, a referendum question will ask students if they agree with that decision.

According to the motion, the two-round system would guarantee executives are voted in by a majority of representatives on the council. According to CSU documents, there is currently no system in place for choosing an executive to fill a vacant position, which caused delays when electing a finance coordinator to replace Soulaymane El Alaoui, who resigned for personal reasons in November 2017.

Co-op bookstore fee increase

Question three on the ballot will ask students if they agree with an increase in fees to fund the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore. If accepted, the fees alloted by the CSU to the bookstore would increase from $0.10 to $0.14 per credit for every undergraduate student. The bookstore also asks shoppers for a one-time $5 fee to become a member of the co-op.

“It’ll pay for itself,” said Eamon Toohey, a part-time employee at the co-op bookstore. According to Toohey, co-op shoppers collectively saved $3,500 through subsidized textbook purchases during the winter semester.

“The bookstore is growing in popularity as textbooks get more expensive,” he said, noting that the co-op bookstore currently has over 7,000 members.

According to Toohey, the additional funds would allow the bookstore to sustainably pay its employees a livable wage of $15 per hour, increase their inventory and expand into online book sales. The bookstore currently employs three Concordia undergraduate students, but with the funding increase, Toohey said they might be able to hire more.

More student and club spaces

The final question put to voters will be whether or not they support the CSU expanding and improving spaces for students and clubs on campus. “This is purely to mandate the future CSU executives to start investigating what is needed to improve current club spaces,” Rydzewski said. “There is no cost associated to it.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


ASFA to pose four referendum questions

Federation to consult their electorate on fee levy and bylaw alterations

During election polling on March 27, 28 and 29, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) will be posing four referendum questions to their electorate. They will include two fee levy questions and two bylaw questions.

Increasing ASFA’s fee levy

The first referendum question will ask Concordia students whether or not they support increasing ASFA’s fee levy to $1.40 per credit—an increase of $0.18. According to ASFA president Jonathan Roy, the association’s fee levy has not been increased in a few years, and while they are the association with the largest number of students, they ask for the smallest amount of money per credit.

“Inflation plays a role,” Roy said. “Things get more expensive, and we’ve also been growing.” He said ASFA has added three new Member Associations (MAs) this year, and they may be adding several more. Roy also stated that ASFA plans to increase and improve the projects and services they offer students. This includes providing support to their Task Force on Sexual and Racialized Violence and Harassment—a new initiative that is fully backed by ASFA. According to Roy, the association plans to expand their advocacy projects as well, by hosting lecture series, mental health talks and providing MAs with more funding.

“We can’t do that without money,” Roy said.

CUCCR seeks funding

The Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) will be the subject of ASFA’s second fee levy referendum question. The centre is seeking funding from students to upgrade their facilities and continue to provide free, reusable items and tools to the community.

Although the funding will not be supplied to CUCCR directly by ASFA, the association will be proposing the implementation of a $0.04 per credit fee levy on behalf of CUCCR as a referendum question.

According to Roy, ASFA is advocating for the implementation of the fee levy as it will help with CUCCR’s basic operations and allow the Concordia community to benefit from the centre’s resources.

ASFA bylaw revisions

When it comes to the current state of ASFA’s bylaws, Roy said they have a reputation for being “convoluted,” “confusing” and “a hot mess.” This is why ASFA will be asking its voters to approve a general bylaw revision that will make the administrative aspects of the association more fluid. Roy said the “stripped-down version of the bylaws” will allow ASFA to run more efficiently in the future.

Indigenous sovereignty

Finally, the ASFA executive is asking that their electorate vote “yes” to a bylaw that would require ASFA to take no action in opposition to Indigenous sovereignty. Roy said implementing this bylaw would reaffirm ASFA’s “commitment to supporting Indigenous peoples’ rights.”

According to Roy, in the past, ASFA has taken positions that support Indigenous sovereignty and rights, such as reciting a territorial acknowledgement before every meeting.

Elliott Boulanger, a First Peoples studies student and an ASFA candidate on the Fill In The Blanks slate, said their team endorses a “yes” vote to this bylaw.

“It would show that ASFA is taking a stance on Indigenous politics and sovereignty,” they said. “I think it’s long overdue. It should have been done a long time ago.”

To students who may be opposed to the addition of this bylaw, Roy said it’s not about disregarding the rights of any other particular cultural or ethnic group, but about ensuring equality and respecting the “various cultures and communities that live in the Montreal/Tiohtiá:ke region.

He said having the bylaw implemented would ensure that anyone looking to change it would have to endure a much more laborious process than simply discussing it at a council meeting.

“It makes it a lot harder for anyone to oppose this attempt at standing in solidarity with Indigenous people,” Roy said. “We hope that students see the merit of this question and will stand with us.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Students, faculty react to Kurdish referendum

Turkish Student Association Concordia fear referendum will spark violence

Kurds in northern Iraq voted overwhelmingly in favour of establishing their own independent state on Sept. 25. In the aftermath of the referendum, which has received both support and criticism from the international community, Concordia students and faculty were divided in their feelings about Iraqi Kurdistan’s fight for independence.

Turkish Student Association Concordia (TSAC) condemned the independence movement in a written statement to The Concordian. “We don’t support any separative movements that might cause violence,” the organization wrote. “Moreover, we don’t separate our members as Kurdish or Turkish. For us, we are one together.”

“I suggest you also support peace,” the statement continued. “What happened is very sad news that will potentially cause more violence in the region.”

This statement was in line with the Turkish government’s official stance on the referendum. The country fears the creation of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan could encourage an independence movement among its own Kurds, who represent 15 to 20 per cent of Turkey’s population according to the BBC. Quoted in The Independent on Sept. 30, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “They are not forming an independent state, they are opening a wound in the region to twist the knife in.”

Juman Al-Mashta, president of the Iraqi Students’ Association at Concordia, declined to comment on the referendum, saying the association is only a “cultural association” with “no official stance” on the issue. According to CNN, the Iraqi government has declared the referendum “unconstitutional” and is prepared to use violence to suppress separatism in the region.

Concordia professor Richard Foltz said he doesn’t foresee violence in the region. As an expert in Iranian civilization, his field of study has often brought him into contact with the culture, history and society of the Kurds, an Iranian people. He said he believes it is in Turkey’s best interest to maintain its trading relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan and to have a relatively stable democracy on its southern border.

He said Canada should break away from the United States’ foreign policy by officially backing Kurdish aspirations for independence. Foltz acknowledged that any referendum for independence around the world may be a “sore spot” for Canada, given Quebec’s history of referendums for sovereignty.

According to Foltz, since the time of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who successfully kept Canada out of the Iraq war, “Canada’s foreign policy has been dictated by Washington.” He said the United States is “trying to play both sides” by “supporting the Kurds militarily on the one hand, while at the same time [having] this stubborn insistence on maintaining the integrity of Iraq.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has avoided publicly taking a side on the issue. However, a week before the referendum, Canada participated in a joint meeting of foreign officials, organized by the U.S. State Department, which collectively agreed the referendum should not take place, according to the National Post.

Foltz said he does not know whether or not the Kurds will gain independence. However, “the Kurds will never, ever give up their quest for independence,” he added.

“There is nothing that anybody can do or say that will entice them to renounce that aspiration,” Foltz said. “I think that any foreign policy—be it Canada’s or America’s or Russia’s or Iran’s or Turkey’s—if it wants to be a successful foreign policy, it needs to begin with that understanding.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Sovereigntists need to stop crying over someone else’s choice

It’s a Scotland for Scotland, and not for you.

Bernard Landry, the former Parti Québécois (PQ) premier, said the message from the Scottish referendum ‘is not all that negative’ for Quebec separatists because ‘practically half’ of Scottish voters chose independence.”

This statement, published in the National Post on Sept. 19, shows a bizarre trend in how we view the separatist debate in Quebec. Both sides of the issue have been living vicariously through the Scottish independence debate. As a result, the foreign movement has been invaded by politicians from Quebec’s past, even though they have no right to be there.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who led the anti-separation forces in Quebec’s 1995 referendum, acted as advisor to United Kingdom officials on their campaign. On the other side of the debate, according to the CBC, low-profile meetings were held last year between Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois.

“Jean Chretien spoke to the UK government about separation in the days leading up to the Scottish Referendum. (Tourisme Mauricie/Flickr)”

Although from the point of view of the UK and Scottish leaders it makes sense to bring in the experience of someone who has lived through a similar situation, it still seems odd. When the Quebec referendums happened in 1980 and 1995, neither side asked officials from another country for advice. Perhaps there was no one who could advise on such a vote, but there were many countries from the former USSR who could have advised on how to self-govern.

The reason, perhaps, that no outside opinions were asked is the longstanding view that Canada and Quebec are unique. Both have a unique history, culture and relationship with one another that no other nation could speak to. It is odd, then, that although it was felt that no one could advise them, they now stand ready to give advice. The logic may be that Scotland in its current form is like Quebec.

There are many similarities between the populations in terms of their economic prosperity. According to their respective governments, Quebec currently has a population of 8 million, while Scotland is home to 5.5 million. Similarly, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Quebec in 2010 was $300 billion, while Scotland sported a GDP of $216 billion US.

But this is where the similarities end. It is perhaps easy to lose sight of the fact that Quebec is a province within Canada, while Scotland is its own country within the UK. As such, Scotland has legal, educational and public systems independent from the UK. Although these are in place in Quebec too, they are still within the larger Canadian systems. This makes Scotland an already half-formed independent nation.

Furthermore, conflating the two populations negates hundreds of years of history unique to each. Any Quebec historian would understand the deep ramifications of the quiet revolution, or the fundamental language inequality which led to the first sovereignty campaign, neither of which happened across the pond.

Indeed, Scotland has its own reasons for wanting separation from the UK. Comparing the two situations takes away from that.

Perhaps the biggest irony is that as Québecois, we pride ourselves on the shared heritage and culture that make us truly special, yet through meddling and comparing ourselves to Scotland we send the opposite message to the world.

We are special…. Just like them.

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