CSU by-election: A rundown of referendum questions

Everything you need to know about the Nov. 17 to 19 by-election

  • Here’s your CSU by-election handbook. File Photo Ireland Compton

The Concordia Student Union by-election is fast approaching.

Between Nov. 17 and 19, students will be asked to vote on issues that have far-reaching consequences within Concordia, like the pass/fail option, proctored exams, and tuition costs. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about this year’s referendum questions.

Read more: CSU by-election: A rundown of who’s running for council

Proctoring

This question asks whether students oppose the use of online monitoring software during exams.

To continue the administration of exams during the COVID-19 pandemic, Concordia has developed a new online platform, Concordia Online Exams. Exams on the site which require students to be monitored use a browser extension called Proctorio. 

Proctorio monitors students using their webcam and records video, audio, and screen activity. Many students have complained the extension is invasive and unreliable. 

Voting in support of the referendum question would signal to the university that students are interested in exploring alternatives to proctored exams. 

Workload

This question asks students whether they want their professors to make adjustments to the curriculum next semester to compensate for the difficulties of online classes.

According to the CSU, many students feel that teachers have increased their course’s workload as classes have become digitized. 

This increases the strain already placed on students by the digital shift that COVID-19 has necessitated. International students are further burdened by the difference in times zones.

On top of a potential drop in academic performance, an increase in schoolwork during the pandemic may put students’ mental health at risk, claims the Union. If students vote in favour of lightening their workload, the CSU will push administration to do so. 

Pass/Fail

Last semester, due to the sudden strain that quarantine had placed on students, Concordia gave students the option of receiving a pass rather than a letter grade.

However, Concordia did not intend to keep pass/fail as a permanent grading option, and so students can only receive a letter grade for the current Fall semester. However, many students have asked for the university to bring back the option of a pass/fail grade.

A majority ‘yes’ vote would signal that students want pass/fail to be implemented in the future, although it is still unclear how long it would remain an option. 

Tuition

This year, the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l'Enseignement supérieur has increased tuition fees by 3.1 per cent. Canadian students now pay $87.43 per credit, while international students pay $272.88.

The CSU wants to reduce the tuition hike as well as reduce tuition further for all students to account for financial instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accessibility

Members of the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities have urged faculty at Concordia to better accommodate students with disabilities, as well as students from other countries. 

Some of these accommodations include adding subtitles to video lectures, accompanying powerpoint presentations with audio recording, and allowing the guidelines of certain assignments to be more flexible.

According to the CSU, many students do not feel the steps have been taken to ensure a more inclusive learning environment. This referendum question asks students whether they agree that more resources should be made available for disabled students.

StudentCare

StudentCare is the provider of a health and dental insurance plan offered by the CSU for undergraduate students at Concordia. 

In partnership with Dialogue, a Canadian telemedicine provider, StudentCare is offering a virtual health service, accessible via mobile app or online. The service is open to all students, and is separate from the insurance plan.

If approved, students would pay a $19.52 fee every semester, beginning in January 2021, to finance the service. As the fee is unrelated to the costs associated with StudentCare’s insurance, students who are not interested in the virtual service can also choose to opt-out.

International students are covered by a separate health and dental plan; however, they’d still have access to StudentCare’s virtual service, provided they pay the fee.

CJLO

CJLO 1690 AM, Concordia’s radio station, is asking to increase its fee levy from $0.34 per credit to $0.43 per credit, to be adjusted for inflation from now on.

With the increased fee levy, CJLO hopes to improve and expand upon its infrastructure. This includes emergency broadcasting, online streaming, and access to programming.

CJLO’s inclusion in the referendum follows an altercation with the Union that took place earlier this year, when the group sought a moratorium to the implementation of an online service that allowed students to opt-out of fee-levy groups.

Read more: CJLO Threatens Injunction Against CSU Over Online Opt-Out

Mental Health

During a CSU council meeting on Oct. 14, Student Life Coordinator Eduardo Malorni proposed that the CSU invest in the creation of a mental health service, citing an increase in student mental distress.

The type of service has yet to be determined. If approved, the project would begin with data collection and cost analysis to effectively accommodate students’ mental health needs. The cost of the service would then be sent to referendum again, to be approved by the student body.

The earliest expected launch of the service would be fall 2021.

Council Composition

Another concern put forward by Malorni was that the CSU council is not representative of the student body. This concern, he claimed, is felt by both faculty and students.

Malorni, along with a handful of other councillors, is interested in diversifying the council’s composition, starting with a more proportional distribution of seats among programs. 

This initiative would also allocate seats for minority groups, although the logistics have yet to be worked out. Most likely, the initiative would advocate for racialized groups, as well as religious minorities, disabled students, LGBT students, and others.

A majority ‘yes’ vote on the referendum question does not guarantee an immediate change to the council’s composition. Rather, the question serves as a way for students to communicate to the CSU that they think the pursuit of a diversified council is worthwhile.

Sports Shooting Association

Last year, the Concordia University Sports Shooting Association was given probationary club status by the CSU clubs and space committee, on the condition that they receive student support in a referendum. However, as the majority of students who participated in last November’s by-election voted against them, the CSU walked back its decision. 

It was later determined that the Union had put the question to referendum without abiding by their Standing Regulations and By-Laws. In response, the CSU Judicial Board decided to retable the question this year. 

A majority ‘yes’ vote would formally recognize the CUSSA as a CSU club, and would grant them access to funds under the clubs and space committee.

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