CSU by-election debate: Low turnout, high energy

The debate covered tuition hikes, fee levy questions and engagement with the student body

Left to right: Singh, Fortier, Downe, Caumieri, Assaker, and Plant. Photo Max Moller

On Nov. 1, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) hosted its by-election debates on the seventh floor of the Hall Building.

Only four student council candidates were present: Dave Plant, Giancarlo Caumieri, Kendra Downe, and Ryan Assaker, who are all running for seats in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. 

Student Engagement 

Prior to the debate, the CSU Chief Elections Officer Ikjot Singh noted that there were 29 registered candidates, a number he said was higher than usual. He cited “tech issues” as a possible reason why many candidates did not show, and later said that the connection between the student body and the CSU, severed by the pandemic, was still being repaired.

Caumieri was quick to mention the low turnout for CSU meetings and elections. “Many students don’t even know what the student union does,” he said. 

Caumieri suggested that the CSU should create more spaces for students and the union to interact, such as public speaking events where students could ask questions to union representatives. He also proposed heavier marketing of the CSU through the use of both electronic and physical billboards on campus.

Assaker agreed with Caumieri, saying that increased awareness of the CSU would climb with more active communication on campus. He highlighted the group Pedestrianize McKay—whose goal is to reduce car traffic on campus—as a way to make the downtown campus more active and student-oriented. 

Tuition Hikes 

The Coalition Avenir Québec’s Oct. 13 policy proposal regarding out-of-province tuition increases was also a focal point of the night, with all present candidates speaking out against the increase. Downe asserted that francophone and anglophone students alike would be hurt by the hikes. “It’s not actually about language,” they said, adding that the hikes would result in less funding for Concordia students regardless of their language. 

Plant and Assaker both pointed out the importance of the CSU working with francophone student unions. “We need to be united to push back,” Plant said. 

Fee Levy

The only referendum committee member present was The Link’s editor-in-chief Zachary Fortier. The publication is campaigning for a fee levy increase, from 19 cents a credit to 40 cents.

Fortier said that the paper had not received a fee levy increase in over 20 years. “We’re asking for a living wage,” he said, adding that several of the paper's editors quit during the paper’s 43rd volume due to insufficient pay. “It’s tough asking broke students for more money,” he said, but affirmed that “investing in The Link is investing in student life.”

Fortier also mentioned The Link’s importance as a voice for students on campus, referencing the paper’s coverage of the 1969 computer riot. “When Black students were ignored, the Georgian, which was The Link’s predecessor, listened,” he said. 

All present candidates spoke in favour of the levy. “It keeps Concordia accountable,” Assaker said. “I’d also like to point out that 19 cents is on the low side of fee-levies,” Downe added.

Campaigning for the CSU by-elections ends on Nov. 6, and voting will take place between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Nov. 7-9. The polling is done online, and undergraduate students will receive a code to vote by email. Voting will also be available in-person, with physical polling stations at both campuses.

Disclaimer: The Link editor-in-chief Zachary Fortier, who participated in the debate, was not involved in the writing, editing, and publication of this article.