Geography Students Join Fall Reading Week Strike

The Geography Undergraduate Student Association Voted for the Strike by a Slim Margin

The Geography Undergraduate Student Association voted to strike during their general assembly. Photo Zachary Fortier

Just under three dozen geography students met to vote on pressing matters at their general assembly on Sept. 9, including the fall reading week strike.

Eleven students voted in favour, 10 voted against, and 11 abstained: the strike supporters won the vote by a razor-thin margin. Students in the Geography Undergraduate Student Association will be joining the strike from Oct. 3 to Oct. 7.

Packed in a crowded boardroom on the 12th floor of the Hall building, students debated strikes for over two hours. The general assembly was chaired by John Hutton, general manager of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations.

Besides the fall reading week strike, students also voted in favour of a strike on Sept. 23, the day of the global climate strike. Twenty-nine voted in favour, while only three voted against.

While there was not much debate over participating in the climate strike, tensions rose when the reading week debate began.

GUSS President Liv Aspden encouraged her fellow association members to join her in the strike vote. “A break is essential for our mental health and other needs. The fact that the university won’t do it until next year is ridiculous,” she said.

“Especially because of COVID, it’s very telling [that] Concordia isn’t prioritizing students’ mental health,” Aspden continued. “This university makes us feel isolated and individualized—I motion to strike on the 23rd so we can act collectively.”

“I agree that it is a privilege to strike, but what are we doing with this privilege? Are we waiting to go through the Concordia machine, or are we using our collective power?” — John Nathaniel Gertler

Many students were quick to dismiss Aspden’s arguments, stating that one more year would not fundamentally change much. Disagreements continued when a student called those in favour privileged for refusing to wait until the Fall 2023 semester for a proper reading week.

One student, John Nathaniel Gertler, pushed back against this notion. “I agree that it is a privilege to strike, but what are we doing with this privilege? Are we waiting to go through the Concordia machine, or are we using our collective power?”

ASFA Academic Coordinator Lily Charette joined the students via Zoom, reassuring those more skeptical that the negative effects of the strike would be minute. “If you have exams and tests, I feel that concern. However, a strike is a completely legitimate position to take as an organization,” they said. “Realistically, your professors will not penalize every single student for going on strike.”

“The ultimate ask is that people don't come to class. The ideal is that people help organize the picket lines,” Charette added. As much as the academic coordinator tried, the group was not fully convinced.

Voting was by no means an easy process. Because of miscommunications, confusion about the strike’s logistics and an overall atmosphere of hesitation, students had to vote four separate times. Hutton tried to explain the process as simply as possible, but some students needed extra time to make a decision.

By the final round, only 11 out of 32 students present voted to strike. The same amount, however, voted to abstain. Due to the abstensions, the yes vote carried, meaning GUSS will join the Urban Planning Association on strike in October.