How We’re Voting in the CSU By-Election

Graphic: Morag Rahn-Campbell

From Nov. 15-17, Concordia’s undergraduate students will vote on a number of referendum questions and new councillors at the Concordia Student Union.

We at The Link believe it’s important for you, the reader—who’s probably an undergrad at Concordia—to understand the implications of each question. Here is our editorial team’s stance on each of them.

Divest Concordia: Vote “Yes”

This question asks undergraduate students if they agree with Divest Concordia’s demand that Concordia remove all its investments from fossil fuel industries and reinvest in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

But wait, there’s more—another referendum question asks something very similar: whether Concordia students mandate the CSU to actively support the fossil fuel divestment campaign until the university commits to full divestment from these industries.

We fully support both these initiatives because burning fossil fuels is a detriment to our environment. They release carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to global warming. If global temperature rises 2 C above pre-industrial times, we will be past the point of no return—cities could begin irretrievably submerging—according to former NASA scientist James Hansen.

While we acknowledge that these are important initiatives and encourage students to vote “Yes” on both, we wonder why the CSU split the issue into two very similar questions. Both ask for support for divestment initiatives from the student body. Why not just merge them into one?

QPIRG Concordia Fee Levy Increase: Vote “Yes”

The Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia wants eight extra cents per credit to offset administrative and operational expenses, which includes its high downtown rent. QPIRG has almost 30 working groups for which they can provide limited funding—ranging from a childcare service for public events to an initiative that collects and distributes books for incarcerated people.

In its last fiscal year, the research group could only distribute approximately $22,000 to all these working groups and other local organizations that applied for funding. They also recorded almost the same amount in a net loss. That’s bad news.

Often times, the university setting can feel insular, with students getting too caught up in the minutiae of their own politics and experiences. QPIRG helps address this by forming one of the main bridges between Concordia and the broader Montreal community.

With a space downtown open to anyone and a diligent staff that works to connect to local groups that serve and empower the marginalized and underrepresented, we believe supporting an increase to QPIRG Concordia’s fee levy is beneficial to all. We’ll be voting “Yes” on this question.

Amendment to Special Bylaw I: Undecided

The amendment to the CSU’s Special Bylaw I, which details the division of the CSU’s $3.80 fee-levy, would mandate the implementation of a new pool of money called the Community Action Fund. Instead of relying on the CSU’s operating and mobilization budgets, in case of emergencies, the CSU would have a sort of “rainy day” budget that it could pull from. In theory, this would further allow the student union to help student groups in need of legal aid and finance projects and groups that they say fall in line with their positions book.

The bylaw will also mandate that the fund supplement costs surrounding student associations that vote for binding strike mandates—in other words, it would set up a strike fund. It’s great that the university’s student union will defend the rights of students to collectively make decisions, but we wonder why the existing mobilization budget cannot properly fund these campaigns. The total allocation for the mobilization budget this academic year was $50,000.

There will probably be near-future circumstances where the addition of the Community Action Fund will be beneficial. We don’t doubt this. Having said that, it seems plausible that the CSU could better budget its existing funds.

The CAF will be created from the financial interest accrued from the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency fund—and will max out at $75,000 each year. This money should be spent wisely. With many space projects in the works, like the new student daycare and housing, and recent flirtations with possible lawsuits against the university itself, the CSU must balance dipping into SSAELC fund and using its own operational budget. Creating an entirely new budget, albeit without newly collected fees, may not be the best solution.

We are undecided on this question.