A ‘Strike’ Is What You Make It
We’ve learned the hard way this week that democracy is no guarantee, even when everybody wants it.
We could dwell on a General Assembly marred with logistical failures and short attention spans, but to do so would be counter-productive at this point. It’s done; and we are in the middle of something big.
As for the apparent “anti-strike” vote, those at the forefront are learning that apathy is a real pain in the ass when you’re trying to get work done.
But while overnight politicos may be wrestling with this for the first time, the Concordia Student Union has known it all too well for years. Even for something as immediate as a strike vote, less than five per cent of students chose to have their voices heard.
Whether for or against, though, this strike is about more than picket lines, and to dwell on that element is a death sentence for this movement—in any direction and alienating the moderates is the last thing the far-red should do.
The issue of striking, of how to strike—of even using the term ‘strike’—has overshadowed the realities of tuition hikes, and falsely dichotomized students in this university.
So what now?
To be the most effective in the fight to keep tuition low—if that truly is a common goal at Concordia—we need to find ways to close this “strike/anti-strike” divide.
Here are some of our ideas.
Power in Your Program
General Assemblies, when properly facilitated and run by competent chairs who play by the Robert’s Rules, can be an amazing forum to work out these divides.
Creating a venue for discussion among your colleagues can be a good step to ensure that your academic needs and requirements are met under a mandate of student mobilization, and is a good way to get informed about the issues.
Use your professors. Not only do they have a wealth of knowledge about the Rights and Responsibilities of students at this school, they are the ones who decide if you can succeed in the course as well as exercise your right to demonstrate. It’s essential to keep up communication with professors—they can prove to be amazing allies.
“Strike” Up a Conversation
A “strike,” especially with the diversity of academic pursuits at Concordia, could look dramatically different depending on the department.
The truth of the matter is that there are a myriad ways to mobilize.
If this is your first dip into Quebec politics and you’re not ready to rush the streets, you’re not alone. There are students on campus right now who are trying to find not-so-far-red ways to get out there.
Some more vanilla options include writing a letter to the university, your Member of the National Assembly or the Ministry of Education, for example.
Or, hey—if you hear people talking about the strike, approach them. Share ideas. Talk about your differences. There are many attitudes people can take on this strike, and a spectrum of passions and politics exist on campus right now.
Some picket lines are hard, and others are soft. Find what makes you comfortable.
Collaboration Beyond Concordia
It’s understandable that many students on campus right now are afraid of the unknown. A “strike” has never been a part of Concordia’s history, and is a unique challenge to build towards without a blueprint.
Since we don’t have all the answers as the only anglo university in town with this mandate, it might benefit us to talk to some people who have been around this block before.
The French universities—particularly UQAM—have been doing this for years and could probably teach our union a thing or two about how to do this right.
While we have to resolve internal issues if we are going to do anything effectively against the government, we can’t get completely caught up in our own issues.
This fight, in many ways, is bigger than us.
Step Up Your Game, CSU
A lot of the above really depends on the CSU right now, and rightly so—they helped create this monster, and they need to take responsibility for it.
This starts with information. Get it out there. This needs to be an informed conversation, not just a Facebook flame-war. A lot of people are jabbering, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.
The GA was a colossal mess because the CSU failed to educate people about how this venue of “democracy” works, as well as the bylaws that govern our union.
Students showed up and expected to put a ballot in the box. It obviously didn’t work out that way—and couldn’t, under the regulations for a referendum—and a lot of the frustration and tension would have dissipated if more people knew the rules going in.
Now is the time for the CSU to make up for it. They need to do whatever possible to get good, reliable, non-partisan information out there.
Remember: It’ll (Probably) Be Okay
Look, no one knows what’s going to happen this week.
It could be horrible; it could be beautiful. A lot of this is up to us, now.
Even if you didn’t feel represented in the GA, it would be a shame if the only thing that came of it ends up being a feeling of division between students.
We need to remember that the beef isn’t, and shouldn’t be, student vs. student. This is about students sticking it to the provincial government for hikes that will be ineffective and shortsighted.
There are more people getting politicized on this campus than there have been in a long time. But for this to really go down in history—whichever way that may be—we need to quit freaking out.
So, Concordia, let’s keep the peace and move forward. Stay optimistic and open-minded. A strike is what you make it.
–Laura Beeston & Colin Harris