#refund2020: a student-led battle against Concordia’s tuition fees

 Over 100 students have signed the #refund2020 petition, aiming for economic and academic justice at the university

A new student campaign called #refund2020 was launched on March 21, demanding a full refund of summer and fall 2020 tuition fees to all Concordia students.

The movement is based on students who are feeling dissatisfied with paying full tuition fees for an allegedly inferior quality of remote education, as well as limited access to on-campus activities and services.  

Ace Baldwin is the founder of Economic Justice Concordia, a student group seeking to “break down financial and economic barriers to wellness for Concordia students.” Besides tuition-related demands, which also include a detailed report of Concordia’s expenditures in 2020, Baldwin’s campaign advocates for prioritizing student health on campus.

Nathalie Heller, co-organizer of #refund2020, says that it can take up to several months to schedule a mental health appointment at the university, even if a student only wishes to have a brief conversation with a specialist.

As an international student currently living in Colombia, Heller also believes that non-Canadian citizens are at a disadvantage when it comes to health coverage at Concordia.

“My health care plan would be over $1,000 this semester, yet Quebec’s Blue Cross insurance can’t [always] be extended to other countries. I can’t even negotiate my coverage abroad, so it feels unfair since I had already paid for this service in the past,” she explained.

The campaign also wants to provide the Pass/Fail and DISC options to every student, this time for an unlimited number of courses taken in the summer and fall of 2020. As of now, Concordia students are allowed to apply the Pass notation to just one course in the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters.

The platform also aims to eliminate all proctored exams at the university and to bring back course evaluations, which would allow students to provide honest feedback for their professors.

While #refund2020 has collected over 130 signatures on its official website, the campaign is determined to take further action.

On April 10, Economic Justice Concordia will host an on-campus rally in collaboration with students from McGill University, according to Baldwin. Further details should be announced closer to the date of the protest.

“We are serious about this. It’s a joint effort to show our administration and the Quebec government that this is a pressing issue,” said Baldwin.

#refund2020 also organized a tuition action night, which is set to take place on March 30 at 7 p.m. over Zoom. The event will be hosted by Nora Loreto, a writer and activist specializing in social movement organization, especially for labour unions, women, and students.

“We will discuss how collective action works — and also how it looks — because there’s often a disconnect between the two concepts … Despite living through a difficult period right now, the pandemic is actually a very fertile moment for political action,” Loreto explained.

The activist wants to inform Concordia students on how to organize general assemblies and have a detailed action plan, since movements such as the 2012 Quebec student protests have proven to be effective.

As of now, #refund2020 has not received an official response from Concordia’s administration.

However, Baldwin remains hopeful that their campaign will soon reach an agreement with the university, with both parties approaching this situation as allies rather than opponents.


Logo courtesy of #refund2020


Economic Justice Concordia changed the date of their on campus rally to April 10. A previous version of the article said the rally was on April 3.

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