Philosophy Students Vote to Strike

Multiple Departmental Student Associations Take Position Against Austerity

Photo Noelle Didierjean

Philosophy students voted Friday to hold a one-day strike Oct. 31 to protest austerity at their general assembly.

The action is part of a broader strike and protest by public sector employees and other student associations across Montreal to express their discontent with the “budget compressions” announced by the provincial government.

The student association also released a “firm stance” against the budget cuts.

“The Philosophy department has taken a large portion of these cuts, resulting in larger class sizes, reduced TA positions, and loss of staff. As a result of this […] [our] overall quality of education will suffer enormously,” the position reads.

The strike will allow the students involved to participate in a protest called “Austerity: A Horror Story” to denounce the cuts in spending by the federal and provincial government. Protesters are invited to disguise themselves—with one advised precaution.

“Don’t do facepaint,” philosophy student Katie Nelson urged the students assembled, warning that face paint mixed with pepper spray would be potentially unpleasant. Nelson was active in the Maple Spring protests, and was referencing bylaw P-6, which forbids protestors from wearing face coverings, such as balaclavas or masks, which obscure protesters identities.

The Graduate Students’ Association had planned to vote on whether or not to have a one-day strike “in solidarity with our allies from other student associations and in preparation for a potential escalation of tactics in Spring 2015.”

The vote didn’t take place, however, after a group of engineering students voted to elect executives before voting on the strike, and left the meeting immediately after the elections. Quorum was lost, and the GSA was unable to hold the strike vote.

Similarly, the School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association had planned to hold a strike vote but was unable to do so, as their general assembly was three members away from meeting quorum. The members present discussed the possibility of a strike and the implications for the department.

“Although we are not officially part of it, SCPASA generally promotes anti-austerity,” Agunik Mamikonyan, Executive Secretary at the SCPA, told The Link. “You will find that many SCPASA students will be walking that day and taking a stance to recognize that there is a bigger change in need of happening.

“We work for the people, and we believe that the education we receive today will help us make better decisions for the world’s future,” Mamikonyan added. “We hope this is the first step to a bigger change to come.”

The Concordia Student Union will be asking students to take a position opposing “the budget cuts to the education sector specifically, and the public sector in general” in a referendum question this November.

Additionally, the position supports “working with other organizations […] to seek alternate sources of public revenues as facilitated through the provincial and/or federal government.”

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union will be voting on a position against the provincial and federal austerity measures and encourages students to “participate and act in solidarity with the protest taking place the 31st of October.”

The position also requests that Anthropology and Sociology department “make all class material optional for that date and not penalize absence in any way […] in order to encourage students to participate in the protest.”

According the official “Spring 2015” website, as of Oct. 24, 34,649 people will strike on Oct. 31. The number includes multiple student associations at the Université de Montreal and the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Correction: The original version of this article stated that the Philosophy department released a “firm stance” against austerity. In fact, it was the student association. Additionally, Katie Nelson is quoted saying, “don’t wear masks.” In fact, she said “don’t do facepaint.” The Link regrets the error.