Heard in the Town Hall

General Strike Options Analyzed at Impromptu Event

Concordia’s Hall Building lived up to its namesake on Wednesday, as it was host to the first town hall meeting to educate students on the fight against the impending tuition hikes.

“I thought it went really well,” said Graduate Students’ Association Senator Holly Nazar, who gave a talk about the specific issues that would face students if they engaged in a general strike.

“Hopefully next time there will be more people, because obviously it was short notice,” said Nazar, referring to the fact the event was planned on two days notice.

Despite the short notice approximately 70 students watched Nazar’s presentation, followed by a question and answer period with Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill and CSU Councillor Irmak Bahar.

Nazar said that, in the case of a strike, it would be “unlikely” for students to lose a full semester that they’ve paid for. The university, she said, would most likely just extend the semester.

Gill addressed a controversial letter sent out to students last week by Provost David Graham, which said that the administration would not acknowledge or accommodate a strike. Referring to Graham’s promise that it would be business as usual, Gill said merely, “It won’t.”

However, while Nazar offered an alternative scenario where the current semester would be extended in the event of a lengthy strike, that was an option the Concordia administration denied considering.

“Classes will continue, so I don’t know [why we would have a] need for an extension to the school year,” said university spokesperson Chris Mota. University President Frederick Lowy added, “I don’t think it’s helpful to comment on things that might happen, but also might not happen.”

The Hall meeting was well received by those who attended, though at least one student expressed a desire to see tactics beyond a general strike being considered.

“The strike is an interesting idea, as long as people don’t just stay home,” said Gabriel Velasco, a student who was in attendance.

“You have to come and actively participate in fighting against the tuition fees,” he said, adding that he was also aware of a planned sleep-in in the LB Building for Feb. 27.

However, there were some voices of dissent. Erik Shantz, another student, asked several questions about the feasibility of a tuition freeze, but said afterwards, “I liked it. I was much more informed.”

“I’m kind of torn right now. I feel like the government put us in this position by spending frivolously and cutting funding to the schools, then just said, ‘To fix the problem, we’ll raise tuition,’ with nothing to support these facts. I’m not really sure what the best course of action is. I’m not sure what to do, so I’m trying to get more informed.

“I’m in support of the strike, but I’m not sure if I’m going to strike, personally.”

Another town hall meeting is planned for Feb. 15 at in the Loyola Chapel in the FC Building. While last week’s event was a mixed program for undergrads and graduate students, this one will be divided, with the undergraduates meeting at 2:00 p.m., and the graduates at 4:00 p.m.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to comment on things that might happen, but also might not happen.”

—Frederick Lowy
Concordia Interim President