2011: A Concordia Odyssey
Classes are over for the semester, which means 2011 is drawing to a close at Concordia University. Thank God.
This has been one of the screwiest calendar years in the university’s history, literally from start to finish. Students have been told at pretty much every level of governance that their opinions don’t matter—in one case, even by their own student leaders.
We’ve had one president leave, and another come in, and both of them got a whole bunch of non-salary perks for their troubles.
We’ve had mind-blowing levels of mobilization, on two separate occasions.
We’ve been told that our school is suffering from a “culture of contempt,” seen our administration deny it, and then seen it rear its ugly head over and over.
We’ve had attacks on the free press, on the democratic process, and on just plain old good taste.
Beloved tyrant and former The Link Editor-in-Chief Justin Giovannetti was the subject of a protest outside our offices. The reason? Beats us, the protesters didn’t seem to know either.
Consider this an early effort to place 2011 in the context of Concordia history. ‘Cause one thing is certain: while the year was at times fun, sad, scary, frustrating, inspiring, infuriating, compelling and even entertaining, there was one thing it never was: boring.
2011 started with students returning to class, but one member of the Concordia community was left behind.
While students had scurried off to wherever it is they escape to over the winter break, Concordia’s mysterious Board of Governors had made the decision to fire former President Judy Woodsworth, after a lengthy, storied reign—of 27 months.
Former President Judith Woodsworth in better days. Her firing/resignation/whatever the hell that was set off a firestorm of questions about how the school is governed.
Many reasons were thrown about in the days that followed, but her firing of two auditors without cause and an inability to get along with other members of the senior administration were the most often cited.
Whatever it was, it began a saga that still has not ended, one that threw a spotlight on the BoG and its activities, and raised concerns over who really runs this school, and how.
Concordia’s Interim President Frederick Lowy, refusing to look at his predecessor Judith Woodsworth, even in a photo spread.
Of course, Judy’s departure opened the door for the return of a familiar face. Frederick Lowy, who had already served at the top from 1995 to 2005, was named Concordia’s interim president.
While Woodsworth’s mysterious dismissal has us searching for a new president, it has also led to what appeared to be a serious attempt at reform. The Board commissioned former McGill principal Bernard Shapiro to conduct a report into the governance issues facing the school.
The document he turned in over the summer accused the school of harbouring a “culture of contempt” throughout the administration—towards students, staff and faculty. It also proposed several reforms, all of which the Board voted to adopt, including shrinking the size of the Board itself.
While the reforms were lauded throughout the school, one particular became a sticking point. As the Board would shrink from 40 voting members to 25, students would see a cut from five voting members to two (with one non-voting “alternate” undergrad—whatever that means).
At subsequent BoG meetings, clashes between the student reps and other governors, especially Chair Peter Kruyt, grew more and more heated, culminating in one meeting being cut short when Kruyt informed students simply, “We’re done.” The student reps walked out.
At another meeting, students were told that the reason other governors don’t vote in favour of their motions is because they were “ticking people off.” (The fact that the words “fucking pissing people off” weren’t used could be interpreted as an improvement in that culture of contempt.)
Issues with governance were not limited to just the BoG, unfortunately. March’s Concordia Student Union election became one of the most controversial in history. Accusations of dirty tactics, pre-campaigning, libelous posters and just general nastiness flew between the Your Concordia and Action slates.
A member of the Action slate tries to convince a voter to take just two friggin’ minutes to come and vote. Last year’s general election saw massive voter turnout, and massive amounts of alleged dirty tricks by both sides.
Though Your Concordia would prove victorious, both slates were later disqualified by then-Chief Electoral Officer Oliver Cohen, citing improperly filed financial documents, before being reinstated by the Judicial Board and a vote at Council, respectively.
The drama behind that election even included a protest outside this newspaper’s office. We’ll admit it—we felt special.
Oh, and several TVs operated by campus station CUTV were intentionally vandalized. It was that kind of election.
Ever wonder what happens if you run a magnet on a TV? Concordia’s television station, CUTV, found out when a vandal damaged two of its sets in the Hall building during last year’s general election
The Cohen saga did not end there. Revelations that he gave himself and his deputies very generous bonuses for attending short meetings and JB hearings prompted questions as to his competency. The fact that one of those deputies, Bram Goldstein, was hired as his replacement only complicated matters.
Former (and possibly future?!?) Chief Electoral Officer Bram Goldstein was relieved of his duties at a Council meeting in early November—less than a month before the original date of byelections.
Council, citing errors in the hiring process by last year’s politicians, later dismissed Goldstein.
While his replacement, Ismail Holoubi, ran the recent byelections, Goldstein’s case is still floating around, as his “representative,” former CSU councillor Tomer Shavit, is accusing members of the JB of colluding with the CEO in Goldstein’s firing.
Confused yet? There’s more!
Student politics weren’t exactly untroubled preceding the March election either, culminating in a mid-month Council meeting where former CSU exec Hassan Abdullahi repeatedly yelled at students, eventually calling on security to remove them when they would not leave for closed session to discuss the resignation of VP Sustainability and Promotions Morgan Pudwell.
Pudwell would go on to run on the Your Concordia slate and continues her nefarious reign of terror on this year’s edition of the exec as VP Outreach.
The CSU wasn’t the only student organization that had problems. The Arts and Science Federation of Associations held an election, and nobody ran.
Well, not nobody, but following the abolition of the slate system, nobody bothered to run against Alex Gordon for the position of president, and the office of VP Communications was left hollow and empty.
Arts and Science Federation of Associations President Alex Gordon won his position pretty much unanymously. That’s because nobody ran against him, after reforms to ASFA’s bylaws resulted in the abolition of the electoral slate system.
In the new bylaws that passed during the most recent byelections, the CSU adopted a similar method of electing councillors and executives; whether that’ll affect the spring’s CSU elections in a similar manner remains to
Of course, not everything was a disaster. Students attended the Wintery Hot Academic Love-In for Accessible Education, demanding the school reverse its policies on tuition increases and increased transparency.
Months later, thousands flooded the street against the Charest government’s tuition increase plans during the Nov. 10 Day of Action, joining other universities and CEGEPs in the fight.
30,000 students from across the province of Quebec concerged on Montreal’s downtown for a march to Premier Jean Charest’s office on Nov. 10, to protest tuition hikes. Apparently, something happened later on at the McGill campus. Oh right. It was a pepper-spray-filled shit show.
And oh yeah, after years of talking about a student centre, the CSU finally voted to put a kibosh on plans to use the Faubourg building.
The Faubourg, ain’t she beautiful? This glorious piece of architecture, designed in the style of ‘Post Modern Shit-Pile,’ almost became our $54 million student centre, until CSU Council voted against a plan that would have had students going kinda halfsies with the administration.