Second Student-Protester Tribunal at Concordia Set for Feb. 9

Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis is one of the 17 charged students facing the upcoming tribunal. Photo Nikolas LItzenberger

The next tribunal for a Concordia professor and student-protesters involved in last spring’s strikes has been set for Feb. 9, while the third and final hearing may no longer happen.

The upcoming tribunal is for political science professor Michael Lipson and the 17 student-protesters he charged for disrupting his class on April 1, 2015.

Many student associations voted to strike on certain days during the winter semester last year to protest Quebec’s budget cuts in the public sector, including those made to the education system.

Three Concordia professors, including Lipson, filed formal complaints against some students for disrupting their respective classes under the university’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities.

The 17 students involved with the Feb. 9 hearing can still seek and obtain postponements, according to Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota.

This second tribunal follows the first hearing held on Dec. 2, which saw eight students receive a letter of reprimand for picketing another political science course taught by professor Graham Dodds.

In an anonymous letter submitted to The Link, a student facing a possible tribunal wrote that all parties have come to an informal agreement for one charge. This includes Concordia’s administration, which became a co-complainant alongside the three professors last summer, despite previous suggestions they wouldn’t charge students as long as strikes remained peaceful.  

“I would like to thank one of the complainants for coming to an amicable, informal agreement with me, and I presume with the other students they charged as well, through the university,” wrote one of the charged students.   

Mota confirmed that informal resolutions have been agreed to for some of the protest complaints, but due to a confidentiality agreement, she couldn’t say for which students or professor. It’s believed the agreement was reached with professor Travis Smith, since his tribunal has yet to be scheduled. He is also from the political science department.

Last semester, the university hired two separate mediators to try and settle the professors’ complaints informally. Concordia paid the first mediator, William Hartzog, $125 per hour for a total 184 hours, according to documents received through an access to information request. With taxes, this came out to $26,419.  

Tribunal on Feb. 9

Professor Lipson acted as Dodds’s advocate for the first tribunal in December.

“It seems a bit of a conflict of interest,” said Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, a student senator and one of the 17 students scheduled to appear at the upcoming hearing.

Any complaint against Lipson acting as Dodd’s representative can be brought up to the chair of the next tribunal, according to Mota.

No verdict at a tribunal is supposed to set a legal precedent for any subsequent one. Marshall-Kiparissis said she has no expectations for how her tribunal will play out, despite knowing the verdict of the last one.

“I’m not surprised at the last verdict because it’s the only reasonable sanction for something that was ultimately not violent,” she commented.

Concordia Against Tribunals

Approximately 200 people have signed a petition declaring their support for a new initiative called Concordia Against Tribunals—or CATs—in recent weeks, according to Gabriel Velasco, a member of the group and a Concordia Student Union coordinator.

On Wednesday, the council of the CSU passed a motion to formally support CATs’ cause against the university. Their demands include that the university drop all charges, give amnesty to charged students, offer a letter of apology and provide mental health support to students involved with mediation and the tribunals.

Velasco, who wasn’t charged, said it was challenging for students to juggle work and school on top of mediation and preparing for a possible tribunal.

“It really took a toll on students in a way that I don’t think the university realizes,” he said.

Marshall-Kiparissis said the whole process has been “totally exhausting,” considering it started almost nine months ago.

“[The tribunal] is based on charges for activities on April 1, 2015,” she said. “We are almost in February 2016.”

Earlier in January, ten members of CATs demonstrated in front of Concordia President Alan Shepard at a new semester meet-and-greet with students on the university’s Loyola campus. Velasco said it’s probable there will be more mobilization in the future, but it’s up to people who come to their general assemblies to decide. The next one will be held on Wednesday night.

With files from Michelle Pucci