CSU demands concrete plan for Winter 2022 semester

Open letter suggests students are prepared to walk out if hybrid or online options aren’t offered

Open letter from CSU calls for concrete return to campus plan, suggests student walk out could occur otherwise. Photo Courtesy Brian Lapuz

The Concordia Student Union sent an open letter to the university demanding a detailed plan for the entirety of the winter 2022 semester.

In it, the CSU urges Concordia to “offer a fully online or at the very least fully hybrid semester [...] ensuring that students do not have to choose between dropping out of all their courses and risking their lives.” 

“While the current public health situation is constantly developing, leading to much uncertainty for all, the indecisive and uninformed leadership of the Concordia University administration has only exacerbated the anxieties felt by students enduring the effects of this pandemic,” said the CSU. 

The letter follows a Jan. 13 announcement stating that the university's new return to campus date is now extended to Feb. 3. Previously, in-person learning was slated to resume on Jan. 20, after a two week delay due to surging COVID cases throughout the province. 

In the announcement, the university said that it would provide a week's notice should the Feb. 3 date extend further. This aligns with a Jan. 10 letter in which President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr stated that given “likely” changes, the administration would “aim to give faculty, staff and students a week’s notice of the upcoming change.”

Despite the uncertain context, the university maintains that it is committed to a return to campus. “While the digital world offers numerous options for communicating, learning and working, the opportunity to learn in person and participate in campus life is a big part of the university experience,” said Carr. 

“We deserve much more than a one week notice which cannot ‘ensure that appropriate conditions are in place to enable a smooth, sustainable transition from remote to in-person’ that the university said they would provide,” the CSU said in response. 

The letter sent by the CSU contains a list of 13 demands for the university pertaining to their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the winter 2022 semester. Should some or all of the demands not be met, the union has expressed that students may resort to a strike or a walk-out in protest. 

“It’s a very real possibility that collective action is taken in one form or another by the student body in the coming weeks,” said General Coordinator of the CSU Eduardo Malorni, referring to the dozens of messages of concern he said Concordia students have sent the CSU recently. 

“Their judgment of when we’re coming back and why that date seems to be left in the air seems to be an issue of politics rather than safety,” said Malorni. 

The CSU demands include several accommodations that it says will increase the safety of students on campus. These include the replacement of the procedural masks currently offered by the university with N95 or KN95 masks and improvement of ventilation systems.

The CSU goes on to demand the implementation of mandatory weekly testing for all members of the Concordia community accessing campus “with possible exemptions for those that show proof of being fully vaccinated.” In Quebec, vaccination is not required in any essential settings, including higher education.

Beyond health and safety measures, the CSU is seeking an extension to the Did Not Enter deadline—the maximum date that students can drop a class without financial or academic consequences—until a decision for the entirety of the semester is made. It is also requesting a return of the Pass/DISC grading option for students (commonly known as Pass/Fail). 

The CSU said that safety concerns have been echoed by the Teaching and Research Assistants Union at Concordia and the Concordia University Faculty Association in recent statements.

“Should Concordia wish to reinstate any faith or respect from its community, the Concordia administration must do more to serve its students and the whole community and it must work with students and all the members that are part of the Concordia community,” said the CSU.