Concordia Students are Fighting Against Tuition Hikes

ALL PHOTOS FROM MARCH 13 PROEST. Credit to photographer Youssef Baati (@baatiyouss)

The CAQ government’s decision to hike tuition fees for out-of-province students has sent shockwaves through our educational institutions, but let us be clear: this is not about preserving the French language; it’s about squeezing every last penny from already strained budgets. Professors and faculty members, the backbone of our universities, are feeling the pinch acutely. With the need to slash budgets looming large, university administrations are left with little choice but to make deep cuts. However, with a staggering 90% of the budget allocated to salaries, there is minimal flexibility.

Consequently, courses are being slashed, class sizes ballooning, and mandatory classes pushed to a biennial schedule. Departmental mergers loom ominously, threatening the diversity and richness of our academic offerings. Every facet of campus life is feeling the strain. From clubs to free meal programs, campus cafes to health and housing services, the squeeze is on.

At Concordia University, drastic measures such as cutting the thermostat to a maximum of 21 degrees exemplify the lengths to which institutions are forced to go in order to make ends meet. Engineering programs, vital to our province’s economic future, are particularly hard-hit. Applications have plummeted by a staggering 50%, sounding alarm bells for the future of innovation and technological advancement in Quebec.

We have responded with historically large student strike this semester building power to demand accessible education for all. January 31st – February 2nd over 10,000 students from went on strike and March 11th – 15th over 27,000 students were on strike, including the whole Engineering and Computer Science Association and the whole Fine Arts Student Assocation, as well as many Arts and Science departments. 

Concordia and McGill have filed lawsuits against the hikes, but we know that lawsuits are inherently limited in scope and need to teeth of a social movement in order to win real change. This lawsuit does not place What we dream of is more than what admin will fight for in courts. This legal challenge is in the interests of the university; our struggle in the interests of students, everywhere, of all backgrounds. We are building a movement against austerity, for the democratization and politicization of our universities, and for a world where education is held as a social good, that is free and accessible to us all — not a commodity to be bought and sold, dragging some students into lifelong debt and excluding others all together.

Our dedication and hard work have not gone unnoticed. It’s clear that our actions have pressured the administration. The universities’ decision to resort to a lawsuit is a direct result of our powerful strike efforts. We must remain united and resilient!

Our influence is growing beyond Concordia, in a recent show of force, La CRUES, a student federation representing 27,000 students across 9 predominantly Francophone CEGEP and university member associations in Quebec, passed a solidarity motion in their congress to support action against tuition hikes.

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As we marched among our Montreal community for Pride this past weekend and celebrated queer joy, we want to take the time to acknowledge and once again reaffirm the importance of fighting for the LGBTQIA2+ community. At the CSU, it is our mandate to always do our best to support and uplift marginalized communities. But we need to acknowledge that, too often, we have let you down. We have allowed for a hostile and unsafe environment to be created and have not done enough for the LGBTQIA2+ students that needed our support. Particularly in regards to transphobia, we have allowed harm to be inflicted upon trans and non-binary students.