A Boost From Beauvoir

Women’s Studies Institute Opposes Tuition Increases

Students opposed to tuition increases will get support from at least one corner of Concordia, as the Simone de Beauvoir Institute announced this week that they will support a planned general strike.

“It’s a decision that’s the official position of the Institute,” said Viviane Namaste, a professor at the institute. “It went through our highest decision-making body, which is the coordinating committee.”

The Institute held a press conference on Feb. 6 announcing that they oppose the tuition hikes because their research had shown that they would adversely affect women.

During a presentation at the Concordia Student Union Council meeting on Feb. 8, Simone de Beauvoir Institute student Gabrielle Bouchard explained that research had shown “the impact of the increase on women’s lives will be significant.”

She cited women earning less than men for the same work, as well as the high amount of part-time and mature students at Concordia, who are often single parents—80 per cent of whom are women.

Namaste noted that the decision was unanimous, and that the coordinating committee has representatives of full-time and part-time professors, as well as students and research associates. The decision also coincides with a vote scheduled for Feb. 29, when students enrolled in the Institute will decide whether or not to go on strike.

The Concordia administration has spoken in favour of the tuition hikes, a position which has put it at odds with student organizations such as the CSU. Namaste said that while the school was made aware of their stance, they have not received any direct feedback.

“We were in communication [with media relations] as we planned the press conference,” she said. “They were aware we were going to announce our official position. I haven’t heard any feedback officially from them.

“I’m confident that the university is a place of dialogue exchange and debate, and our administration recognizes that,” she added.

“We knew they were against the tuition hike,” said university spokesperson Chris Mota. “This is academic research, and this is what they say their research has shown. It has nothing to do with the university’s position.”

Although she declined to name other specific professors or faculties that have contacted the Institute to declare their support, Namaste does not believe they are alone in their position.

“Once the document went out, a number of different departments and individual faculty members at Concordia—but also elsewhere—contacted and said, ‘This is great, I want to do something like that.’ Part of the official launch of the declaration has shown there are lots of faculty that are supporting this.”

While Namaste did confirm the Institute’s support for the anti-tuition movement, she declined to say what forms that support may take, saying it would depend on the results of the general strike vote on March 7.

“It’s a little bit early to say. Once the results of the votes are in, we’ll be in a position to deal with specifics. But I think we’ve been very clear that support can come in many forms,” including professors showing leniency to students who miss class, or just wearing one of the red squares that have become a symbol of the campaign against the hikes.”