Put students on the agenda

Graphic Carl Bindman

Concordia often prides itself on being a student-centred university, where a focus on students’ experiences plays a key role in the shaping of the institution. But how can that statement be taken seriously when student voices are constantly dismissed in the decision-making processes of the university? 

Every student who gets involved in university structures to work towards better student representation will sooner or later find themselves discouraged and frustrated at constantly having their concerns ignored. Students only hold a minority of seats on decision-making bodies. On the University Senate or the Board of Governors, students only make up respectively 30% or 8% of the voting members in those rooms—despite students accounting for 87% of the Concordia population. 

Our voices are being dismissed, our struggles cast aside, and our ideas discredited, leaving us to suffer under austerity-driven decisions that display a lack of respect for student voices and student rights. The fact is, student voices are rarely invited into the decision-making process, and when they are, they are simply spoken over and not listened to.

A clear example of this is the administration’s decision to remove the Pass/Fail option for the current academic year. The last year has proven one of the most difficult years to be a Concordia student, with our mental and physical health deteriorating as a result of the pandemic. The Concordia Student Union (CSU) fought relentlessly for accommodations and supports, which the administration could easily have provided to ease the burden on students. After months, the university reluctantly implemented some temporary accommodations for students. 

To the shock of many students (but not the student representatives who spent countless hours lobbying administrators), these accommodations and supports were pulled from under our feet with the return to campus. This was done without consultation and without a chance for student representatives to argue for their continuation, even though we are still living through a pandemic, a time of great stress, a fourth Covid wave, financial difficulty, and exacerbated mental health issues. 

As your student representatives, we have called on the university administration numerous times to actually take student voices seriously and to reconsider this decision. We have been attempting to reintroduce the Pass/Fail grading option—as well as other accommodations—for the duration of the pandemic, but have been met with staunch resistance from Concordia University. We sent a motion to the Senate to vote on reinstating Pass/Fail for this year. Unfortunately, our motion to debate its merits and benefits was not even considered. A group of administrators and faculty on the Steering Committee unilaterally decided to disallow the mere discussion of reintroducing Pass/Fail at Senate, against the wishes of its only student representatives. This vile act of disregarding our concerns truly shows how little the university actually cares for students. It shows that the university does not want to listen to student voices and in fact would rather actively suppress students that are trying to express their struggles.

It is important to note that the reintroduction of Pass/Fail would be simply a band-aid solution to a far greater problem. The mental health of students has been on the decline for years prior to the pandemic—not only at Concordia, but across the country. While other universities have taken proactive steps to address the issues which have been causing students distress, we cannot say the same for Concordia which has been slow to even acknowledge the suffering students face. Student representatives have been suggesting a variety of accommodations and additional services which the university could implement to support students for years, but have always been met with a defining “No,” or a vague statement about looking into it that is not followed by any tangible action. 

While Pass/Fail is only one of the numerous student requests that have been rejected by Concordia, it is an excellent example that demonstrates the university’s sheer disregard of student voices. There is a difference between tokenization and representation, and true inclusion in the decision-making processes. While we have student representation on many university committees and legislative bodies, students’ concerns are seldom actually listened to and students are never worked with as true partners who need to have a say within the institution. It begs the question: Who is the university actually making decisions for, if it disregards anything brought forward by students?

Signed by

Hannah Jamet-Lange, Eduardo Malorni, Lovina Brown, Shaina Willison, Deeva Wazir, Nicolka Gorel, Cassandra Wa, Jasmine Ramcharitar-Brown, Marina Ghali, Boutaïna Chafi, Queenie Chen, and Demetre Christopoulos

If you want to get involved in our efforts to fight for student rights and student voices, contact Hannah Jamet-Lange and Eduardo Malorni via email at academic@csu.qc.ca and coordinator@csu.qc.ca