Student-Protester Mediations Begin Without University Rep

  • The first day of mediation between student protesters from last semester’s strikes and the three Concordia professors who charged them took place on Thursday, without a representative from the university.  File Photo

The first day of mediation between student protesters from last semester’s strikes and the three Concordia professors who charged them took place on Thursday, without a representative from the university.

The university is not taking part in proceedings and hired an outside mediator to oversee them to ensure impartiality, according to a statement from Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota. They hope it will result in a “mutually satisfactory resolution,” she added.

After initially stating they wouldn’t get involved, Concordia became a co-complainant in support of the aggrieved professors, who saw their classes disrupted by students enforcing strike mandates from their respective department associations.

The mediator, William Hartzog, says that the first day of talks welcomed 16 of the 25 charged students, including the five presidents acting as official representation for their student associations who had strike mandates and disrupted classes. An invite was extended to all 25 students, Hartzog adds.

“There was a lot of evidence of respect,” he commented about day one. “I consider it a big success.”

The students expressed their hope and disappointment that a university representative wasn’t present during the first day, according to Hartzog.

The Link was invited to the meeting, but was asked to leave after students made it clear they would issue a statement or walk out of a presentation by the university’s Registrar. The presentation was described as a non-partisan explanation about the mediation process, but students said it was set to take place without their consent.

He confirmed that the other parties involved in mediation include Stephen Brown from the Concordia Student Union Advocacy Centre, Political Science Professor Daniel Salée who had his class disrupted but didn’t complain, another professor from the tribunal faculty pool, a student from John Molson School of Business and Louise Valiquette, his co-mediator.

Two more sessions lasting three to four hours will be held before Oct. 19, Hartzog says. All parties signed confidentiality agreements and are forbidden from speaking to media, he adds.

Mediation involves all parties presenting their cases and grievances about what happened last semester, then separating into respective groups for evaluation, Hartzog explained. It is more of a dialogue than the confrontational, “guilty or not guilty” setup of a tribunal, he says.

Players such as Brown or Salée can interchange between the groups of students and professors to provide further context and resolution, Hartzog believes.

No topics are off-limit within mediation, including how future strikes mandates will be enacted by student associations. Hartzog believes this could be the correct forum to have that discussion.

“Are the correct players there for that kind of conversation?” he said.

This model of prioritizing dialogue is only comparable in university settings to the precedent set by Dalhousie University, and how they handled a sexual harassment scandal within its dentistry school, Hartzog argues.

On Saturday, Concordia’s part-time faculty union, CUPFA, released a statement that reiterated their support for the student mobilizations and are co-organizing an ongoing anti-austerity speakers series. CUPFA is asking the university to step down as co-complainant and work with both professors and student to come up with a solution.

“As we approach the Oct.19 national elections, it is ironic to hold the view that students need to become more involved in the politics and policy of the present day and simultaneously express our displeasure when they take up that call,” the statement read.

With files from Michelle Pucci

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