Concordia Student Group Votes to Support Free Education

Students from the SCPA voted last week for their member association to join the ASSÉ. Photo Michael Wrobel

The School of Community and Public Affairs Students’ Association voted in favour of joining the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante last week.

The SCPASA’s membership in the student lobby and activist group still needs to be approved at ASSÉ’s next regular congress to be held April 6 in Quebec City.

If the congress chooses to welcome the SCPASA into the organization, the undergraduate departmental students’ association will become the first at Concordia to be part of ASSÉ in nine years—when the Concordia Student Union severed ties with the association.

Affiliation with ASSÉ was supported by 71 per cent of students. The vote was held as part of the SCPASA’s general election, held March 25 to March 27, where voter turnout was 38 per cent.

“I think that [the SCPASA] has a lot that [it] can do to participate in ASSÉ,” SCPASA executive secretary Anthony Garoufalis-Auger told The Link.

He said there are “a lot of opportunities for students at the School of Community and Public Affairs to use the policy research that they do for class” to participate and contribute to policy debates at ASSÉ.

The Art History and Communication Studies Graduate Students Association at McGill University became the first anglophone member of ASSÉ when they joined the lobby and activist group Feb. 12.

Allegations have been made in recent months that a climate of cliquism and discrimination at ASSÉ makes it difficult for “racialized” and non-francophone students to speak up and voice their opinions. Garoufalis-Auger said that is something the SCPASA can help to change.

“There’s not much anglophone representatives at ASSÉ,” he said, noting that the program offered by the School of Community and Public Affairs is bilingual.

“As anglophone students, we will hopefully be able to help ASSÉ to do more outreach to anglophone student associations and anglophone universities.”

Joining ASSÉ will mean that the SCPASA will be able to send student representatives to ASSÉ congresses and committees.

SCPASA representatives at ASSÉ could help translate documents into English to make the organization more accessible to English-speaking students, Garoufalis-Auger said.

The CSU disaffiliated from ASSÉ and stopped paying membership fees to the organization after a byelection in November 2004.

They are currently affiliated with the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the largest student lobby group in the province.

Garoufalis-Auger said there wasn’t a conflict in SCPASA joining ASSÉ while the CSU, which represents all undergraduate students at Concordia including those in the School of Community and Public Affairs, continues to be a member of FEUQ.

“It will be up to the SCPA members […] whether they go to ASSÉ and work through ASSÉ [to achieve free education] or whether it’s going to be through CSU structures and lobbying CSU councillors to get them to adopt the position and get them to bring it to the FEUQ.”

Any membership fees that the SCPASA will have to pay to ASSÉ will be included in the student associations’ budget, which is allocated by the Arts and Science Federation of Associations—of which SCPASA is a member association—and totalled $3,975 for the 2012-2013 academic year, according to ASFA budget documents.

“It’s going to be up to ASFA to decide whether or not to approve the money that we allocate to ASSÉ,” Garoufalis-Auger said, noting that ASFA’s finance committee probably wouldn’t oppose what students in the SCPASA had voted for.

A second referendum question in the SCPASA election asked voters if they wanted their student association to advocate for free, public education and “against all forms of globalization which reinforce the dominance of profits over people.”

A majority of students—27 out of the 35 students who cast ballots—voted yes to that question.

In total, 92 students were eligible to vote, according to the member registry maintained by ASFA.