ASFA to Deliver Official Position on Education Summit

SCPASA Motion Passes Unanimously

Students vote during a CSU General Assembly last spring. Photo Erin Sparks

Like it or not, students will have their voices heard at the upcoming education summit.

Nearly 30 arts and science student organizations at Concordia must deliver the position of their members on the summit. This follows the passing of a motion at the Arts and Science Federation of Associations council meeting last week.

Proposed by the School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association, the motion was voted in unanimously by ASFA council members.

Created in anticipation of the upcoming summit on education proposed by the Parti Québécois, it requires all other member associations to reach consensus amongst their membership either through general assembly or referendum.

A date has not been announced for the summit, but it is expected to be held this November.

“General assemblies are the highest decision-making body [of MAs], so we felt that to make the proper decision for the summit, [the SCPASA] had to consult with our students,” said Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, executive secretary of the SPCASA.

“We felt it would be in the best interest of the university of Concordia, and ASFA students, if other MAs did the same thing,” he added.

SCPASA gave no notice to ASFA or other member associations prior to presenting the motion to the council at Thursday’s meeting. ASFA, which according to the SCPASA mandate must help facilitate the general assemblies and referenda, is now preparing a committee to coordinate with the member associations.

It will prepare questions and concerns shared by the associations and present them to the Concordia Student Union. The student union will then represent ASFA and its members as a part of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec at the proposed education summit.

“We have a bit of an action plan, but we haven’t appointed committee members and we haven’t created the committee yet,” said Caroline Bourbonnière, president of ASFA. The committee will be announced at the next general assembly, which Bourbonnière said will take place by the end of next week.

According to Garoufalis-Auger, the approximate two-month window before the education summit will be enough time to allow for a consensus to be formed amongst students.

“[Two months] is enough time for people to call general assemblies, or even two GAs if they need more time to think about it. I think it’s plenty of time to have a proper discussion about it,” he said.

ASFA VP Internal Veryan Goodship agreed, but maintained that the onus is on the MAs to round up their members to vote.

“ASFA can’t force MAs to hold general assemblies, we can only politely nudge and ask them to,” said Goodship, who acts as a liaison between ASFA and its MAs.

“I feel it is something that has to be more grassroots—where MAs take their own initiatives by holding general assemblies,” he explained.

ASFA will coordinate support for the assemblies, he continued, but will not provide direct financial compensation—which was proposed in the original motion put forward by SCPASA.

Member associations, which receive funding every year from ASFA, have money already available to them to finance the general assemblies. There is little cost to putting on a general assembly,” said Goodship.

“We’ve put on GAs without spending much money at all,” Garoufalis-Auger admitted. “I don’t think it’ll make much difference in terms of mobilizing for a GA.”

But assemblies need to be conducted seriously, he continued. “A GA is not something you do in a rush. You really have to engage the students, make classroom announcements, you have to plan in advance, you really have to make contact with students and explain to them the significance.”

Bourbonnière echoed the sentiment. “I am hoping students make the best of this opportunity to voice their opinion on the matter and address their questions,” she said.

As for the provincial government, she trusts they will uphold their invitation to student leaders.

“I really hope the government actually provides us with this opportunity to express ourselves, and I hope that’s not just an empty promise, because a lot of people are very excited about this.”