A Guide to Concordia Politics

Here’s the Lowdown on the Last Few Years of Concordia’s Politics

What’s up with Concordia politics. Graphic Breea Kobernick.

Understanding student politics atConcordia means getting down with over 100 clubs and an intricate government system, and that can be… complicated to say the least?

Waltzing up to a club space can seem like walking into the great unknown, so let me help you come prepared.

Undergraduate students pay a fee-levy of $3.95 per credit each semester to the Concordia Student Union. The CSU has a projected budget of $2.8 million this year. Now your reaction may have been: Who trusts students with $3 million? Let me try to explain.

Approved Concordia associations are supported by you. Among them are Queer Concordia, student media like The Link, The Concordian, CJLO, and CUTV, as well as other organizations like the Concordia Greenhouse, Le Frigo Vert, and the People’s Potato. You pay for these through the fee- levies incorporated into your tuition.

These levies are organized by the CSU—an elected body of Concordia students representing undergraduates. The CSU is made up of students from all faculties; an executive team of seven students, 12 arts and science councillors, six from the John Molson school of business, eight engineering and computer science representatives, two from fine arts, and two independent councillors.

CSU representatives hold seats on the Concordia Senate and Board of Governors, giving students a say in important administrative decisions, overseen by the Senate and the university President. The CSU plays a significant role in student life as it has the most resources to dedicate to organizeing student activities.

So, what does the CSU spend your money on?

The CSU is set to launch its campaign for environmental sustainability at the orientation fair this month: a plan to support sustainable organizations and raise awareness around climate change.

The CSU plans to make “over the hood” changes by rebranding with new colours and a new logo. In addition, the executive team is working “under the hood” to complete policies across the board to ensure organization in allocation of funds and rules for clubs.

CSU General Coordinator Chris Kalafatidis said, “Putting all these things that have been unwritten for so long on paper will make it better for future teams […] We want everything to be clear, instead of left to interpretation.”

An election committee is being created to help elections run more smoothly. Cut the Crap, whose members hold all executive positions but one, also campaigned to clean the bathrooms, and that’s all I could ask for. While the CSU represents all undergraduate students, each faculty has an association or group which advocates and organizes events for them.

Over 20,000 students in the arts and science faculty pay $1.22 per credit to ASFA, generating $500,000 in revenue. The fee-levy has stayed at $1.22 despite four years of referendums to increase the amount paid. ASFA hosts events all year round, including Frosh events which take place at the end of August.

Last year marked a year of controversial elections for the CSU, the closure of t he Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec, and continuing pressure on the administration to act against sexual violence on campus. In June, former Concordia president Alan Shepard took up a position at Western University, leaving Graham Carr as interim President.

And, now, international students will be forced by deregulation to pay higher tuition costs.

In November 2018, a decidedly disorganized midterm CSU election was cancelled last minute as ballot boxes were left unattended, and ballots not properly labelled; outcry and calls for resignation ensued, and the demand for online elections came to a climax. A month and a half later, the CSU IT director had expressed concerns about building the infrastructure needed in such a short timeline, but the polls opened and closed without a hiccup.

In April, however, shit hit the fan when the whole winning slate was disqualified amid accusations of election fraud by Chief Electoral Officer Florian Prual.

The following, which I’ll refer to as The Great Panic, lasted for two weeks. The impression was that the runner-ups had won the election, Facebook had gone wild; the local meme page, Spotted: Concordia, was awry. The Judicial Board reviewed the decision and decided to reinstate all but one member of Cut The Crap, excluding their candidate for Finance Coordinator, Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin.

She stood accused of encouraging voters online to vote for Cut the Crap while the polls remained open. It should be noted that the Judicial Board had requested additional information—and many screenshots of other Cut the Crap members campaigning after the alloted period were provided—but chose to disregard it.

Drama like this is (hopefully) what you’re in for this year on this season of Campus Survivor!

AVEQ, of which the CSU was a member, closed in January as a result of mismanagement and a drop in membership. Between 2015-2019, AVEQ served at a provincial level; grouping together student associations province-wide, and later from Concordia and Université du Québec à Rimouski. In summer 2018, AVEQ took a turn for the worst, membership was down record numbers, and they projected a deficit of approximately $70,000 by the end of the year. To no one’s surprise, the plug was pulled.

After the closure, accusations came out that the association’s credit cards were being used on personal expenses by executives. AVEQ collected a $3.55 per credit fee levy and had a budget of $347,000.

Now, buckle up.

In early 2018, allegations of longstanding and widespread sexual misconduct in the Concordia English department surfaced online. These stories were amplified by Heather O’Neill, author and a former student of Concordia’s English department, who told her story to the CBC of an inappropriate relationship with a professor in the 1990s.

At the same time, the Quebec government passed Bill 151: an act to prevent and fight sexual violence in higher education institutions. Shepard vowed to take decisive action, only to have Ibi Kaslik, another high profile author, come out with a similar story of a professor she had filed a complaint against—who still taught until that day.

The university created a sexual violence standing committee and taskforce to implement changes to its sexual violence policies, and suspended two professors, pending investigations.

A year down the line, Kaslik found out from a journalist that the school had exonerated one of the accused professors. This sent the school into a frenzy; the Concordia Association for Students in English called the system of reporting sexual misconduct broken, while Concordia defended its handling of the case.

In March, an independent report commissioned by the university found that the climate in the English department was “unhealthy,” and recommended that professors should no longer hold classes in bars or consume alcohol or drugs with students. The mess was amplified by calls for action from protesting students which endured until this past April.

Which leads us to this September, as the Sexual Assault Resource Centre launches its “It Takes All of Us” campaign. “It Takes All of Us” is a sexual violence training focusing on consent, bystander intervention, supporting survivors, and the effects of sexual violence. All students and faculty staff must take the training before Oct. 4.

Negotiations with the provincial government have led to the university increasing tuition costs for all students. Those hit the hardest are its international students. In March, the provincial government announced a plan to deregulate international student tuition. As a result, the university will lose out on grant money, but gain the power to set their own tuition rates for international student and keep 100 per cent of the tuition paid by these students.

This mass deregulation comes as the number of international students grow much larger in population. Since 2011, international student population at Concordia has increased from 12.2 per cent to 20 per cent, and hell if the university won’t take advantage of that and be greedy. Despite protests that occurred between March and June, the university’s response to deregulation was to proceed to implement tuition hikes.

Despite all that has happened over the last few years, and what will continue to happen, do not be discouraged. Concordia is a unique community. Participating, making friends, and belonging is a way many people feel valued. The politics may be complicated, but they wouldn’t be if people didn’t care.