This Ain’t What Democracy Looks Like

Graphic Eric Bent

If you haven’t heard, the Concordia Student Union wants you out of the classroom and in the streets fighting against the impending tuition increases yet again.

A quick reminder for those living under a rock: the Charest government is set to pass tuition increases of $325 a year for five years—an increase of $1,625 by 2017. Student unions from across the province have joined together to will their students to battle the government.

The CSU has released a new game plan for halting the hikes, which they hope will culminate in a four-day strike from Mar. 26 to Mar. 29.

They then hope to extend the strike indefinitely until their demands are met. Concordia undergrads will vote on a strike mandate at a Special General Meeting on Mar. 7, a meeting that the CSU wants us to believe is “democratic.”

In reality, it is nothing of the sort. Just because something is part of a democratic movement that has democracy as a final goal, it doesn’t mean that it’s democracy per se.

Unlike a real election, in which most people have the opportunity to vote, there will be very few students actually making this decision for all of us.
There are over 35,000 undergraduate students at Concordia, which fall under the CSU’s purview.

At a Special General Meeting, only 450 students are required for the vote to be binding, and with only 50 per cent of those plus one extra student needed to pass the vote, as few as 226 students could decide on the fate of all undergrads. That’s 0.65 per cent.

At the last SGM, Concordia saw a real failure of democracy when students were called to vote on participation in the Nov. 10 Day of Action.

If you were one of the few students who did attend the SGM you probably saw a councillor or two handing out Timbits, trying to cajole the minimum amount of students necessary into the auditorium.

Certainly, democracy in action.

Scrambling for quorum right before a meeting and sandwiching students into an auditorium by bribing them with sugary treats is not an acceptable way of increasing student interest, even interest in their own future.

Worse, voting to send thousands of students into the streets is not something that should be done in a small auditorium in under an hour, by a few activists and their most available friends. It should be done in a way that allows the most students the opportunity to vote and make informed decisions.

The CSU must devise a more democratic system. Using the MyConcordia portal to cast a vote, or holding SGMs over several days could ensure more students have the chance to vote. Or, maybe we should have voted on this in the last election.

Whatever the case, no donuts this time, please.