In light of recent news regarding Concordia University’s involvement in the filing of internal complaints against students for peaceful strike activities, as co-complainants, representatives from the CSU, the Graduate Students' Association, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations, the Fine Arts Student Alliance, and the Students of Philosophy Association make the following public statement to be distributed widely:
Unless reversed, the Concordia administration has shown that what they presented as an openness to meaningful dialogue and discussion with students regarding our strike was in reality predatory behaviour.
The University led us, representatives from every level of student government, to believe that they would not be filing complaints against students for peaceful democratic strike activity, and there were no illusions as to what was meant by peaceful strike activity. This was done through ongoing discussions with some of us, and directly in “dialogue” meetings involving us and members of the President’s Executive Group.
Moreover, students were clear in these discussions that a peaceful strike entailed the cancellation of teaching activities, or the cessation of academic labour, for the purpose of raising awareness around and participating in actions against the government’s austerity measures -- including the budget cuts to Concordia University that have been ravaging its operations since 2012.
Despite this, and now that our members are largely away for the summer, the university has done precisely what it assured students it would not do by co-filing the better part of two dozen complaints against students for peacefully participating in strike activity against the government's public sector budget cuts. We do not have confirmation on the total number of complaints, but we know that they are numerous. In an apparent attempt to remove their own responsibility, the President’s Executive Group has since been packaging these co-complaints in the rhetoric of support for professors, but the professors themselves have shown astonishingly greater leadership. CUFA, Concordia University Faculty Association, stated that “in the spirit of democratic and peaceful activism, the CUFA Executive fully supports the students in their protest and respects their right to strike” and CUPFA, the Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association, similarly declared that “students are exercising their democratic rights” and that they “will respect [our] rights.” And, we are grateful for their support.
The impact that this mercurial behaviour of the President’s Executive Group will have on student leadership and student democracy is unquantifiably large and unacceptable.
Unless reversed, or otherwise corrected, this transgression is grievous enough to destroy the relationship that has been developing through various partnerships between students and the administration, by instilling an inherent and deep distrust into our otherwise collaborative efforts.
As students, our 3-4 year turnover makes it difficult enough for us to work with the administration in the sort of meaningful and long term sense that will help bring about an improved and inclusive Concordia, let alone when our discussions are tainted by apparent general atmosphere of distrust.
As students embark on the first of many proposed projects of improvement for Concordia, the multi-million dollar renovations for the Hive and Reggie’s spaces, we are deeply disappointed to discover that we cannot expect the university to hold true to its commitments as we have shown ourselves to do.
In the event that the university claims that they had not made these assurances to us, we rebut that they must have made great use of the acrobatics of language and logic to fool the student representatives from all levels of student government, including a departmental association executive, two faculty association executives, an interim VP at the GSA, and two CSU presidents.
Whether this is an honest mistake (which we hope it is) or an intentional attack against students, the university must reverse its position immediately.
The student right to strike has been recognized by all the affected parties, including CUFA, CUPFA, TRAC and the students themselves.
The university is at a testing point, and must make a decision towards collegiality and a reversal of this culture of contempt. It is deeply saddening that we find ourselves in this position as a result of the lack of corrective action of the President’s Executive Group and hope for a return to what appeared to be a new direction for Concordia.
Students are not simply placeholders. We must be treated as equal actors in the university, and the exercise of our peaceful democratic rights must not render those of our members who take on leadership positions to be subjected to academic consequences. Unless reversed, this is a direct affront to student democracy and we expected greater leadership from the President’s Executive Group than willful deceit and judicial violence.
Signatories, and student representatives present at the security/dialogue meetings with members of the President’s Executive Group:
Matthew Palynchuk, Students of Philosophy Association (SoPhiA), Chair and Executive Coordinator
Iman Hassanein, Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), VP Academic
Terry Wilkings, Concordia Student Union (CSU), VP Academic & Advocacy, Incoming President
Benjamin Prunty, Concordia Student Union (CSU), President
Marion Miller, Concordia Student Union (CSU), incoming VP Academic & Advocacy
Trevor J. Smith, Graduate Student Association (GSA), interim VP Academic & Advocacy Affairs
Ché Baines, Women's Studies Undergraduate Student Association (WSSA), Mobilization Committee Member
Natasha Melbrew, Women's Studies Undergraduate Student Association (WSSA), VP External & Councillor
Jeremy Blinkhorn, Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA), General Coordinator