Editorial: Students deserve better

CSU by-election and town hall expose issues with Concordia’s handling of the pandemic

Graphic Carl Bindman

The results of the Concordia Student Union’s by-election referendum questions were released on Friday. The results show students are not satisfied by the university’s handling of the pandemic.

Non-binding demands for pass/fail, tuition decreases, balanced workloads, increased accessibility, and an end to invasive proctoring software each passed overwhelmingly. 

Students also spoke up at Thursday’s CSU town hall, sharing stories about poor mental health, unrealistic workloads, and how the university is failing its international students. Speakers also expressed dissatisfaction with how Concordia is generally supporting its students during remote learning. 

It’s to be expected that schools would have a difficult time finding long-term solutions to effective teaching after the provincial government ordered the closure of universities back in March. However, the university cannot be satisfied simply by succeeding in delivering courses of varying quality to tens of thousands of undergraduates at full cost while students struggle.

After the election results and town hall, it’s clear that many students are disappointed by the current level of support offered by the school.

Nearly 18 per cent of the student body turned out to vote, relatively many. In contrast, the previous election only received a 5.6 per cent turn out. Out of nearly 6,000 students that voted, 5,364 voted yes to reducing tuition. Over 90 per cent of students also voted for the reimplementation of the pass/fail grading option.

While remote learning can be advantageous for some students in particular circumstances, most will agree that the quality of teaching has gone down, and it’s difficult to argue that remote learning can match in-person classes. Furthermore, the CSU’s town hall revealed that many students are seeing increased workloads at a time when their stress is intensifying.

A student’s tuition serves more than paying teachers and other staff’s salary—it also goes towards maintenance and facilities. These compulsory fees are supposed to go towards resources like the school’s internet, computer labs, software, and furniture around campus, among many other things. However, the university isn’t completely transparent with the breakdown of these fees. 

We shouldn’t be paying the same price for something that’s clearly a step down. Instead, tuition fees have gone up by 3.1 per cent. Students are not only receiving an experience of lower quality, but many are impacted financially by the pandemic, increasing the burn of tuition fees trending in the wrong direction.

The results of the by-election and the concerns raised in the town hall all point to the obvious sign that students are burnt out, and they feel as if the university isn’t doing enough to support them. When it comes to mental health, the only thing the university could offer students was a one-week postponement of the start of the winter semester—welcome, but entirely insufficient.

With the world falling apart around students, it’s more difficult to concentrate on their studies while also taking care of their mental health. While the pandemic isn’t Concordia’s fault, it’s now their responsibility to take care of their students. The university must hear the voices of students in the by-election and the CSU’s town hall demanding more support as we try to brave the storm.