Now We’re Talking
President Lowy Speaks to Students After Hallway Occupation
Concordia’s Interim President Frederick Lowy opened up an impromptu dialogue with students for the first time Monday, discussing tuition hikes and the university’s hard stance on dissenting action.
Following an occupation of the corridor outside the president’s office on the 15th floor of the MB Building, Lowy replied to an email sent by fine arts student Casey Stainsby asking him to join in on the conversation.
The president, who had just returned from a trip to Hong Kong, didn’t deviate from the pro-tuition hike stance of university administration, saying, “The universities in Quebec have been pushing for those tuition hikes for a long time, and finally the government has acted,” he said.
“I personally would have no problem with zero tuition, with no tuition at all, provided that the university could get operating funds from other sources.”
The occupation began as a result of the Fine Arts Student Alliance’s Special General Meeting’s failure to meet quorum. After waiting over an hour to discuss a continuation of the alliance’s strike mandate, which has spanned almost five weeks, students decided to use their numbers to take real action.
“People were getting furiously demoralized, and the sentiment in the SGM room was pretty negative,” said studio arts student Evan Montpellier. “One student put it quite well, when she said, ‘I didn’t realize I was coming to a funeral today.’”
Banging on walls and buckets and chanting, “Whose school? Our school!,” students filled the t-shaped corridors that lead to the president’s office, until they got word that he would talk.
“I am presently on a telephone call, but, when my meeting is over, I will come out and will be pleased to speak with you,” Lowy responded in his email to Stainsby.
After hearing that Director of Concordia’s Media Relations Chris Mota would be arriving to moderate the discussion, students chose undergraduate Senate representative Andy Filipowich to moderate on behalf of protesters.
The students’ demands were relayed to the president by Montpellier, who in turn relayed to students the ‘business as usual’ attitude taken by administration.
He said that Lowy must “do whatever is necessary to publically and vocally support academic amnesty being given to all students who have participated in the strike.
“I was generally just shocked by the level of ignorance, of just absolute ignorance coming from Lowy,”
–Evan Montpellier, Studio Arts
“Secondly, […] push for the university to take a public stance in opposition to the $1,625 tuition hike budgeted by the Charest government.”
The president responded by saying that the hikes are necessary due to underfunding.
“This slogan that I think a lot of you object to, ‘Students should do their part,’ is in fact the case,” said Lowy. “If the student contribution were not to go up and there were no other funds to compensate, we would literally be falling more and more behind, year after year.”
Academic amnesty, he said, falls under the purview of each professor, emphasizing that it would be out of tradition to tell teachers how to run their classes.
“We don’t have an overall policy at this university that tells individual professors how to run their courses or how to mark the exams, or how to set the exams, or all the rest,” said Lowy.
Some students believed that this was a crucial crack in the administration’s hard stance, but Montpellier was appalled by the seeming lack of knowledge the head of the university has on the subject.
“I was generally just shocked by the level of ignorance, of just absolute ignorance coming from Lowy,” he said. “It’s not just about internal affairs at Concordia. He had the wrong facts about issues with the budget. He didn’t know how much of the money that is garnered from the tuition fees is going to be reinvested in the education system.”
The president was eager to continue discussion with students, telling them he was free to meet the next morning. The Concordia Student Union will work with Lowy’s office to determine the details, but promised dialogue within the next few days.
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