Student associations vote in favour of strikes against tuition hikes

 After two weeks of General Assemblies, Concordia students are ready for another round of strikes

This week, 22 member associations within the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) at Concordia University are on strike to oppose the Legault government’s planned tuition hikes. 

The announcement that the hikes would increase out-of-province student tuition by about 33 per cent and international student tuition by $20,000 has already started to affect the English universities in Quebec. The enrollment rates for Concordia and Mcgill have reportedly gone down by 30 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively. 

With tuition fees being the main source of revenue for universities, a lack of student applications would be a major hit to funding. Concordia has already begun planning to cut department budgets by 7.8 per cent. 

In response to this, student unions have started striking. This week marks the third round of strikes. Each round of strikes has been longer than the previous one, while also seeing more and more member associations mobilized. An estimated total of 22,242 Concordia students alone are on strike this week.

Elle Alahmar is a first-year English major at Concordia University. She is a Quebec student, but she is in support of the student strikes.

“It’s very important for students to organize [strikes], and I think collective action on this scale is very impressive,” Alahmar said. She is a part of the Concordia Association for Students in English (CASE), which has decided to hard picket on March 15. 

Each member association, along with deciding if and when they want to strike, also voted on whether there will be a hard picket or soft picket. 

A hard picket involves students physically blocking classes from being entered. In doing so, the class is forcibly cancelled. If a class is moved to a different location or switched to an online space, attending the class is still considered crossing the picket line. 

A soft picket line will instead have students by the door of the classroom urging students to not enter the class through means such as pamphlets. In the case of a soft picket, students and professors will still be able to enter and conduct the class.

In either case, protesters urge students to not cross the picket line, as doing so weakens the movement and could result in the striking students being penalized. 

Despite most departments being mobilized, there is still contention among students regarding the strikes, especially in the case of hard pickets. Students pay to be at the university and go to classes, and being physically blocked from attending has some students upset with the decision of their departments. 

Taylor Adams is a first-year computer science major from Ontario. Their department has voted to hard picket from March 13 to15, with labs and co-ops being exempt. 

Although they are in support of the strikes, Adams has heard a lot of students voice their displeasure with the decision, especially on the Concordia Reddit page.  

“As an average student who isn’t particularly involved, I’d say there needs to be more awareness on how picketing classes does anything at a provincial level,” they said. “I feel like I see a lot of frustration from students writing that protests feel irrelevant to the cause, and that the provincial government won’t respond to us not showing up to the classes we already paid for.”

Despite the mixed feelings, a number of the associations voted on striking during their respective General Assemblies. 

These student associations are organizing several activities during the strikes. Below is a list of all the member associations that have decided to strike. The Instagram accounts for the student groups have more information on how to get involved, details on the picket type and what days they will be striking. 

Concordia Student Associations on strike:

  • Fine Arts Student Alliance 
  • Liberal Arts Society 
  • School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association
  • Sociology and Anthropology Student Association
  • Geography Undergraduate Student Society
  • Journalism Student Association
  • Urban Planning Association
  • Concordia Undergraduate Psychology Association
  • Concordia Religion Student Association
  • Biology Student Association
  • Sustainability and Diversity Student Association
  • Science College Student Association
  • Women’s and Sexualities Student Association
  • Undergraduate Student Association in Translation
  • Communication Studies Student Association Guild
  • Engineering and Computer Science Association
  • Concordia Association for Students in English
  • Linguistics Student Association
  • Applied Human Sciences Student Association
  • Philosophy Graduate Student Association
  • Political Science Graduate Student Association
  • Graduate History Student Association

How would less international students affect Concordia’s student associations?

With international students under attack by tuition increases, international student associations have mixed reactions.

International students have long been an integral part of the academic appeal of Concordia, contributing not only to the university’s global outlook but also to the local economy. 

International student associations, such as the African Student Association of Concordia (ASAC) and the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), are key organizations representing the interests of students from around the world. Through outreach initiatives, support networks, and collaborative efforts with university administrations, the associations seek to empower their members and amplify their voices. 

Iman Kande, the communications executive for ASAC, said: “We try with the resources that we have […] to make people’s voices heard.” Kande said that since ASAC is not an official group, it is difficult for them to help students in every capacity. However, if someone comes to them with a problem, they will be able to point them in the right direction.

According to Kande, ASAC sees a lot of African students approaching the association and encourages others to come to their events even if they are not African themselves. 

“It’s our way to spread our culture, […] we were taught that a stranger becomes family and that’s kind of our goal,” Kande said. 

With approximately 11,000 students coming from outside of Canada, Concordia has a lot of international students, many of which contribute to their respective international student groups. Now with the implementation of the tuition increases for international students, many are wondering how international student groups will survive?

“In terms of social media, in September we had 1,900 followers and today we have 2,400, in the span of like 6-7 months,” Kande said.”For example, when we host events, there’s more people than there were last year and every year, it just grows and grows.” 

She attributes the growth of the association to the exposure that international students are receiving due to the tuition increases. 

There still is a large negative aspect to the tuition increases for international students. Mathieu Gonzales, president of LASO, said: “It’s scary to know that maybe LASO was going to cease to exist further down the line, or it’s not going to be as important as it is now.” 

“I do know certain people that are still debating whether or not it’s the right decision for them,” he added. Gonzales mentioned that members of LASO know that loved ones back home are looking more into options like the U.S. for their education “now that the tuition is going to increase” in Canada.  

Gonzales said that it is difficult for people to afford to come to Canada to study since the cost of living is so high. Adding higher tuition on top of that would be a huge barrier for a lot of students coming from Latin America. 

But with Concordia’s other student associations striking and picketing classrooms against tuition increases, some international students have felt ostracized from their in-province peers who pay a lot less per class. 

International student associations like ASAC and LASO want to see more international student groups included in the discussions surrounding striking. 

“It would have been nice to be included in that because it affects international students especially. So obviously, if they wanted to have a better result with the strike, it would have been smart for them to contact us,” Gonzales said. 

Gonzales stressed that if students were part of the strikes, the associations cannot help them if they got into any trouble: “LASO cannot be responsible or can’t protect anyone, even if it’s the good cause.”

Kande from ASAC also wished the strike organizers had reached out to international student groups such as theirs.  “If our voices were more heard, I think more impacts would or could have been made,” Kande continued.  

Kande said that individually, ASAC supports the movement against the tuition fee increases, but ASAC has not adopted the stance officially. With more strikes set to happen in March, and Concordia taking the Quebec government to the Superior Court, international students will be paying attention. The next strike dates are March 11 to the 15.


Concordia is on strike, but what do international students think?

International students speak up on the tuition hike, current strike, and their concern for what’s to come.

Nearly 11 thousand of Concordia’s students went on strike last week to protest the government’s increase of tuition costs for out-of-province and international students, but the decision to picket classrooms left some international students feeling left out of the discussion.

Last October, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) announced that it would be raising tuition for out-of-province and international students. After back and forth between the universities and the tabling of a petition with over 33,000 signatures, the CAQ lowered the proposed tuition increase for out-of-province students from $17,000 to $12,000. Yet, the decision to maintain the doubling of tuition for international students remains firm. Further, 80 per cent of students from outside Quebec must achieve Level 5 French by the time they graduate. 

Thirteen student associations from Concordia picketed the entrance to classes from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.. The three-day strike polarized the student body, with some students  remaining unaware that their Member Associations (MA) even had a General Assembly (GA) to decide on striking and picketing terms. 

Stikes get voted on by the MAs for specific programs during their GAs. At these GAs, there is a minimum threshold of members, called a quorum, that is required to be present in order to pass motions. For example, the Political Science Student Association’s Constitution states: “Quorum is twenty-five (25) or 1.5 per cent of members, whichever is higher.” 

“As much as I agree with what the strike stands for, I can’t give myself the luxury to not go to class,” said Catalina Abello, a third-year international student from Colombia. “For me, one lecture costs almost $300.” 

For full-time international students such as Abello, , this winter semester amounted to $11,000, and for international students in JMSB, up to $14,000. This means that while, at the moment, average yearly tuition is between $20,000 to $30,000, it is estimated to rise up to roughly $60,000 under the new policy. 

According to several announcements by Concordia, the tuition hikes will not affect current students, but it will affect any student applying for fall 2024 or any student who switches majors or minors, “I´ve fallen in love with Montreal, I’m almost fluent in my French, and I was really looking forward to doing a graduate degree [in Montreal], but now I’m not sure what I’m gonna do,” said Abello. 

Another international student, who wishes to remain anonymous, emphasized the importance of solidarity and dialogue in addressing the underlying issues driving the strike.

“I just find it ironic,” they said. “I completely agree that the rise in tuition is devastating and students have the right to speak up, but no one is putting into consideration my opinion as an international student.” 

They suggested that for something this concerning, protesting outside of the university would’ve gotten more attention from the government. “Striking wouldn’t be my choice of action because I’m losing all that money that I’m fighting for at the end of the day,” they said. 

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia’s official spokesperson, gave the The Concordian the following statement when asked about the strike: 

“While we respect the freedom of students to peacefully protest and to express their views, we made clear before and during the strike that students who wanted to attend class should be able to do so.”

Maestracci showed her concerns about how this will affect the university. “We were saddened that the strike took place in our buildings, affecting the university, which has not made the decisions regarding tuition fees that were being protested but, instead, has clearly stated throughout the fall its disapproval of the tuition measures and has worked, and continues to work, hard to reverse them,” she said.

Despite the efforts, on Feb.2, the government announced that the tuition hike is still going forward. As the situation develops, the international student community in Concordia will be closely watching the impact of the strike and the ongoing discussions surrounding the laws proposed by Premier François Legault. The outcome will not only affect these students’ immediate academic futures, but it may also impact future immigrants arriving in Montreal in hopes of receiving better education. 

The next strike being planned by ASFA against the tuition hikes will be a five-day strike taking place from March 11 to 15.


Dreams Struck Down By Strikes?

Concordia film production students talk WGA/SAG strikes

In case you’re unaware, the WGA (Writers Guild Association) and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) are simultaneously on strike for the first time in 60 years. Both writers and actors are demanding fair compensation and better working conditions, standing toe-to-toe with Hollywood’s powerhouse studios. 

These strikes are now exposing some of the working conditions in Hollywood, and just how awful they are. On top of this, they’ve exposed how studios are cutting costs by not paying any residuals for content on streaming services. 

Does this sound like the kind of work environment you’d aspire to have? Well for some of Concordia’s film production students, it is. So how have they been reacting to these strikes?

Talking with Alvaro Gomez, a second year film production student, he explained the need for these strikes saying, “Action needs to be taken right now.” 

So, if you were to ask me these strikes have been a long time coming. Netflix began its streaming service in 2007. Since then, writers and actors have not received any residuals for their work in content shown on streaming platforms. For any of you non-math majors that’s 16 years of not being fairly paid for your work. 

I believe we can all agree that that’s outrageous and unacceptable, no?

Yet, there’s still talk online of strikers’ demands being greedy— to which Ellie Charette, a second-year film production student, says: “If they’re willing to pump $200 million into weekly blockbusters, I think they can afford to pay their actors and writers fairly.” This just showing how studios are more than capable of paying fair wages, they’re just choosing not to. 

“I don’t see how that is even remotely selfish… I’m not even asking for 1% of the revenue” said Gomez. Now, in a post pandemic world nobody would take issue if say, nurses were asking to be fairly compensated, but as Gomez pointed out ‘Everyone knows the industry is completely rotten with the most horrible people.’” 

On top of this, studios like Disney have been completely unwilling to budge. Instead of agreeing to the terms and taking a less-than-one-per-cent pay cut, studios are now pushing release dates for highly anticipated films, hoping to wait out the strikes so actors will return to do press.

However, through all this there’s been a shining light at the end of the tunnel. Strikers today are fighting not only for themselves, but the aspiring filmmakers, writers, directors and actors of tomorrow. Mingus Ferreira, a second year film production student, actually visited the picket line outside of Netflix offices in New York.

Ferreira spoke to the camaraderie and witnessed heartwarming solidarity. “It was raining, it wasn’t a very nice day but people were still out there,” he recalled. 

Gomez spoke to the same thing as he pointed out how, despite studios cutting down trees in LA to get rid of any shade in the sun, strikers still showed up. “You could hear them from far away,” Ferreira added.

So how come these awful working conditions haven’t deterred our film production students from the industry? It comes down to one thing— the love of film.

In speaking with these three film production students, one thing was made glaringly clear. The fact is that these strikes need to be happening now, because these young passionate and talented filmmakers deserve to be treated with respect.

Pay your actors and writers, that’s all. 

Concordia Student Union News

eConcordia a ‘vending machine’ for credits: CSU president

Concordia’s online courses have been criticized in the past for their high cost to students and questionable quality, but Provost David Graham says he has high hopes for the future of eConcordia.
Graham stated in a Senate presentation on Feb. 17 that as online courses become more popular, Concordia is continuing to develop the services it has to offer.
“The flexibility of online learning is very important for some students to be able to finish their degrees,” he said during the presentation.
Graham emphasized, however, that “the quality of the engagement and commitment has to be at least equivalent as our classroom expectations.”
Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill, who also sits on Senate, was not so positive about eConcordia’s management.
“It seems to me that there is a positive way to do online learning and an easy way,” she said. “Concordia’s business model is low quality and cheap.”
Gill said the average online class size is 500 to 600 people, which creates a “factory model for giving students credits.”
eConcordia exists for the sole purpose of owning KnowledgeOne, a for-profit entity that operates eConcordia courses. The Senate presentation centered around Concordia’s ability to generate profit through KnowledgeOne by marketing similar services to other educational institutions.
Graham explained in an interview with The Concordian that the relationship between eConcordia and KnowledgeOne has “not always been ideal,” but said that he felt positive about the arrival of KnowledgeOne’s interim president, Tony Meti.
“I think that any change in management provides an opportunity for a new relationship,” said Graham.
In an interview, Gill stated that the organization of eConcordia is comparable to a “vending machine for credits.” She also criticized Meti for referring to students as “clients” during his Senate presentation.
Gill also expressed concern over where the fees for the 57 courses offered under the eConcordia brand are going.
Graham explained that any funds gained from online course fees go to the “general operations of the university” such as student services, and normal academic and administrative operations.
Despite concerns raised at Senate about the effectiveness of KnowledgeOne, Graham remained confident that KnowledgeOne will prove to be a good investment for Concordia in the long run.
“We have not been as successful at generating funds in the past as we will in the future,” he said.

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