A Long Time Coming

ConU Students Face Formal Complaints For Strike Action

Student protesters block the hall building on the morning of April 12 Photo Brian Lapuz

For about three months now, Trevor Smith has been waiting.

“I’ve been referring to this time as ‘The Brown Envelope Day,’” said Smith, the former Geography Undergraduate Student Society VP Finance.

“Throughout the strike I was just wondering when I’d receive the brown envelope, and yeah, it finally happened.”

Smith, along with several other undergraduate and graduate students, recently received a letter from Concordia University informing him that a formal complaint had been filed against him for actions taken during the strike, namely blocking access to classrooms and buildings.

“I honestly wasn’t that shocked,” said Lucia Gallardo, the new Concordia Student Union VP Advocacy. Gallardo cited multiple emails sent by the university suggesting that action would eventually be taken.

“I kind of predicted that something would happen,” said Gallardo. “I didn’t think [Concordia] was going to let it go.”

Gallardo, along with the representatives from the CSU Advocacy Center, met today with some of the charged students to discuss the best way to address the issue. But Gallardo says there isn’t much she or Advocacy can do until they know the details of each case.

Students charged will face a hearing with the University’s Office of Student Tribunals. Those charged could face consequences ranging from a verbal warning to explusion.

Timing is Everything

Students were officially notified of their complaints late in the afternoon of June 1, a Friday, something that Smith felt was “a bit pre-meditated.”

“Doing it at that particular time is pretty insulting. It’s almost belligerent,” he said. “It’s these kind of communication tactics that don’t help relations with students and administration.”

Besides the usual end of week rush, the timing was particularly tumultuous for both the CSU and the Graduate Student Association as it was the first official day for their new executives.

At least a few students felt this was intentional.

“I think it absolutely had to do with the administration waiting for the student governments to be in transition, just so that it would create a lot of pressure,” said Smith. Several other students made similar claims on a Facebook group discussing the charges.

University spokesperson Chris Mota, however, said the timing is “just a coincidence.”

Instead, Mota explained, letters were delivered in June, almost three months after some complaints were made, because the university was waiting for the end of exam period, so as not to distract students from their studies.

“There’s never going to be a good time,” Mota said.

“There’s never going to be a good time,” – Chris Mota, University Spokesperson

Sending a Message

“I think the message was clear from the beginning,” said Mota. “You want a protest, no problem. Don’t overstep what is considered at Concordia to be acceptable behavior. I don’t think that’s a bad message to send. And it’s not a tough message to send.

“This is a clear message saying that the views of the individual are irrelevant–it has nothing to do with that. You can’t put the community in a position where they feel uncomfortable, threatened, where they feel their rights have been in any way shape or form violated,” said Mota, referencing the blocking of buildings and elevators during the strike.

However, not everyone agrees with this idea. Smith worries that it may be damaging for the university to be taking such strong action against such a vast group of students, many of whom represent “the more active and engaged part of Concordia’s community.”

“It sends the message that possibly the administration isn’t interested in having these kinds of students around,” said Smith.

For Gallardo, at least, the implications of this could be much greater.

“We are the first anglophone university to go on strike, I don’t think it would be ideal for us to turn people away from that,” said Gallardo. “It’s a little bit discouraging.”

A Foggy Future

Both Gallardo and Smith agree that it’s difficult to know where to go from here. After all, a lot of things remain unclear.

It’s still unknown how many students have been charged, or what the severity of some of the charges may be.

Gallardo says for now she’s just doing her best to get students into her office.

“Some students don’t think they have to come in because they’re graduating, but they need to realize that graduation can be delayed by this if the proper procedure isn’t followed,” she said, adding that the CSU plans to “go full out on social media” to get the attention of charged students.

But until she gets more information, there’s not a lot Gallardo can do.

“We’ll have to wait and see what the evidence looks like, it’s tricky,” she said.

UPDATE: the number of students charged was revealed in response to an Access to Information request, click here for more.