Students Vote for Weeklong Strikes

Mobilization Against Austerity Reigniting at Concordia

  • From Nov. 2 to 8, classes within the Liberal Arts College and the School of Community and Public Affairs will be picketed and disrupted. Aloyse Muller is the President of the Liberal Arts Society. Photo Brandon Johnston

Undeterred by the consequences of their actions last semester, two student associations recently voted to have weeklong strikes to protest austerity measures, while two more may soon join.

From Nov. 2 to 8, classes within the Liberal Arts College and the School of Community and Public Affairs will be picketed and disrupted. Philosophy and fine art students are expected to hold general assemblies discussing strike motions within the coming weeks.

Following last semester’s strikes, Concordia University became co-complainants alongside three professors who filed formal charges against approximately 30 students for disrupting classes.

“[The upcoming strike] demonstrates the importance of not withdrawing in the face of political repression,” said Madelaine Sommers, the SCPA Student Association Community Outreach Secretary.

Tension can rise from no communication, and there is an intention this time to have a dialogue with faculty about striking, according to Aloyse Muller, President of the Liberal Arts Society.

“It’s pretty much a lesson from last year,” he said.

Muller added that an executive from the LAS already held a discussion with the program’s principal, Eric Buzzetti. Buzzetti couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.

Students from SCPASA have also reached out to Dr. Chedly Belkhodja,their program’s director, to open a dialogue, Sommers said. The program director considers the collective decisions made during the association’s general assemblies legitimate, she added. Belkhodja also could not be reached for comment by press time.

Last semester, the university cancelled classes for programs with striking students on two separate days. Interdepartmental courses—classes that share two programs—weren’t cancelled, however. This saw some of the strikes’ most heated moments, as student protesters still chose to disrupt the shared classes.

The SCPASA won’t have to deal with this scenario this time around because they voted not to disrupt interdepartmental classes, according to Sommers. She added that their program shares some courses with history and political science.

“Those courses aren’t composed entirely of SCPA students,” Sommers said. “They wouldn’t have had access to the [voting] process.”

In the LAS general assembly on Oct. 15, the strike motion passed with 17 votes for, 11 against and three abstentions. Quorum for a general assembly is 20, according to Muller. He also said there wasn’t necessarily opposition to striking, but that some students were uncomfortable with the strike’s length.

In an interview, Concordia University president Alan Shepard acknowledged students’ right to strike, but reiterated that the safety of those on campus is a priority.

“The [Code of Rights and Responsibilities] isn’t suspended because some people think it should be,” he said. Discussions to cancel classes and to hold days of dialogue and reflection like they did last semester haven’t happened yet, Shepard added.

Muller said that Liberal arts students didn’t discuss any potential reaction from the university.

Mobilization against provincial austerity measures throughout Quebec is supposed to take place the week of Nov. 2. The Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante is organizing a Manifestation Nationale on Nov. 5. The LAS and SCPASA are both part of ASSÉ.

Both student associations are planning to organize skill-shares, workshops and teach-ins to educate about the harmful effects of austerity on the public sector.

Philosophy students will hold a general assembly with the sole agenda point to vote on a motion to strike on Wednesday, while the Fine Arts Students Alliance—which represents the whole fine arts faculty—scheduled a general assembly on Nov. 2 with reference to possible strike action.

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