Editorial: We’re Voting for Speak Up

And You Should Too

Graphic Carl Bindman

It’s election time at Concordia.

Like every year, the Concordia Student Union is changing hands. The organization which governs our student lives, spends our money, and helps direct campus life more than any student organization is up for grabs.

Three teams and one independent candidate are vying for the executive team of the CSU. And this year, even more than in previous years, there is one team which is the best option for Concordia. That team is Speak Up.

Speak Up’s platform is the most fleshed out, and presents a vision for the CSU that addresses the issues that increasingly define life at our university.

As a response to the allegations of sexual misconduct that plague our university, Speak Up will seek to help student associations and clubs implement intersectional and survivor-centred sexual violence policies based on the national Our Turn action plan. Advance CSU and ACT Concordia lack concrete plans to address the issue of sexual violence on campus.

The team also hopes to spearhead several initiatives to promote access to mental health services for students, like peer-counseling, and a task force to evaluate the needs of students battling substance addiction.

Speak Up also wants to address issues of representation by increasing visibility for racialized groups on campus, and pushing the administration to decolonize our curriculum, and an electoral reform to ensure better representation of the student body in CSU elections.

One of the more interesting aspects of their platform is the promotion of student democracy on campus. They hope to experiment with participatory budgeting to give students a say in the management of the CSU’s funds, and to hold more general assemblies. Speak Up would also attempt to extend this democracy into the classroom.

Next to Speak Up’s ambitious platform of structural change, other teams’ platforms look even worse than they would have otherwise. But even without the comparison to Speak Up, the opposing teams’ platforms are riddled with problems.

Current CSU General Coordinator Omar Riaz is seeking re-election with Advance after what can only be called a rough, rough year. Riaz got himself in a controversy early in his mandate and it followed him ever since.

Back in September, Riaz and then finance coordinator Soulaymane El Alaoui took a paid trip to a student union conference in British Columbia from the Alliance pour la Santé Étudiante au Québec, the union’s health and dental insurance provider for undergraduates. Alongside El Alaoui, Riaz was issued a formal warning from council and had to write up an apology letter for engaging in perceived conflicts of interest.

Five months later during the CSU elections, Riaz and Advance have in their campaign promises a part on transparency. They want to publish online weekly reports for students to see. According to him the initiative would be: “to explain what is going on and where the money is being spent and why it’s being spent the way that it is.”

As far as Riaz being transparent goes, we have our reservations about his desire to do so. Similar reservations apply to anybody who would consciously decide to run in a team led by a main architect of the past year’s CSU dysfunction.

For ACT the set of problems is different. Rather than coming from bad experience, it comes from a lack of experience.

Perhaps due to the fact that the team is comprised almost exclusively of people from the Concordia Model UN, rather than from the CSU, the team appears to have a poor grasp on what services are already available at Concordia. Based on their platform it’s not even clear that they know the difference between a club and a fee levy organization.

Much of the ACT platform promises things that exist already. They promise to create a CSU “tech bank,” where students could rent things like projectors. This already exists in the Webster Library’s Technology Sandbox. Another promise is to create “inter-university games,” where students would compete in sports and academic events. Again, many similar events and groups already exist and see participation from Concordia—such as the Jeux de la communication, the Stingers, and many others.

Worse, still, are some of the ACT promises that are simply not within the CSU’s capacity. One of their key promises, which has gained significant attention, is to implement a fall reading week. Of course, this is a good idea—as students, we would love to have the extra week off. However, the CSU has no power to implement a fall reading week—that decision falls on the university itself, not the student union. While it was acknowledged in a post on their Facebook page that they would need to work with Concordia Senate and the Quebec Ministry of Higher Education, the team fails to acknowledge how unrealistic this goal is.

We don’t take endorsements lightly here at The Link. We know that no matter who is elected, mistakes and bad behaviour will happen, and we will continue to be critical of whichever group ends up in charge. That’s our job, and we take it seriously. But with the options laid out in front of us, the choice is obvious.

Only Speak Up has a platform that even attempts to deal with the sexual violence crisis that has dominated our school over the past year. Only Speak Up has a team that is both competent and trustworthy.

So we’re voting Speak Up, and we would encourage you to do the same.