The Year In Student Unions

This Year’s Forecast for the CSU and AVEQ

Graphic Elise Arsenault

Undergraduate students taking five classes per semester will pay about $115 every year to the Concordia Student Union and the Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec, two of the largest student unions at Concordia.

So, what will you be paying for this year?

Last year, the CSU represented just over 37,000 undergraduate students, while AVEQ currently represents about 45,000 across the province.

Undergraduate students pay a CSU fee-levy of $3.62 per credit every semester, giving the group a projected budget of $6.5 million this year. AVEQ collects $3.55 from every undergraduate student each semester and this year has a projected budget of about $347,000.

Concordia Student Union

As part of a yearly campaign, the CSU has decided to focus on dismantling rape culture on campus.

Last January, Concordia came under fire after allegations of sexual violence emerged out of Concordia’s creative writing program. By early March, more allegations of sexual harassment surfaced surrounding an unnamed professor in Concordia’s philosophy department.

With this and demands from the provincial government that all university students receive consent training by 2019, it’s no surprise students also want a say in the discussion. The CSU is expected to take part in a committee the school has set up to tackle sexual violence on campus and organize consent training across the university.

The same committee is expected to enforce recommendations that stem from Concordia’s report on campus sexual violence, released this June. Some of those recommendations include updating how the school defines sexual violence in its policies, ensuring women feel safer on campus, and opting for more external investigations when dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.

“If you’re a student making a complaint against a professor there’s essentially no formalized way of doing so,” explained CSU External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Camille Thompson.

Thompson said the CSU wants to see all harassment complaints against professors handled through a third party, since many are sent to department deans. She explained that while deans are in a good position to make decisions on academic complaints, they shouldn’t be equipped with deciding what constitutes harassment—sexual or otherwise.

Thompson also explained that more has to be done to ensure students can file complaints to Concordia without getting intimidated by the process. She said the school’s directions for making complaints are confusing, and criticised the school’s sexual violence policies since actions you can take against a harasser vary based on whether you’re a student, a teacher, or a teaching assistant.

Thompson said that because Concordia’s sexual violence policy refers to the Code of Conduct for students and professors’ collective agreements it amounts to hundreds of pages.

“It’s definitely not accessible, it’s not stand-alone,” she said.

In the meantime, Thompson said the CSU will be creating “an easy to understand” guide for how to bring forward complaints, and also get to setting up an internal sexual violence policy that applies to anyone students elect to the CSU and their clubs.

She said they’ll also pressure the school to put more funding into their Sexual Assault Resource Centre, which offers resources to those who’ve experienced sexual violence.

The Association for the Voice of Education in Quebec

For the next year, Mobilization and Sociopolitical Affairs Coordinator Anas Bouslikhane said AVEQ will focus on ending unpaid internships, eradicating sexual violence on campus and creating more sanctuary campuses.

In recent months Bouslikhane said AVEQ and other province-wide student associations have begun consultations with the provincial government where they can make their demands heard.

When it comes to internships, AVEQ supports a living wage for all students and hopes to see interns protected under Quebec’s labour code. They plan to keep collaborating with the Comités unitaire sur le travail étudiant, a group of committees from different Quebec CEGEPs and universities focused on the fight for paid internships and the betterment of student labour. AVEQ has also helped fund CUTE’s projects in the past.

Bouslikhane said they want to make sure CEGEPs and universities are properly following upcoming legislation aimed at preventing and fighting sexual violence. They also want students to have more say in what schools will demand through the bill and have sent requests asking that the government provide clearer instructions for consent training and sexual violence policies. They hope to see the government set up an independent body to ensure schools are properly following the new laws, Bouslikhane said, and AVEQ is expected to be invited to consultations with the government about the bill in the near future.

They also want to see campuses become sanctuary campuses, where international students without legal status can study without fear of being deported. Bouslikhane said they plan to write up a proposal for legislation the government could take on to allow sanctuary campuses to exist. They also plan to draft policies schools or student unions could follow to help students avoid deportation.
AVEQ also gives funding and support to different student movements in Quebec if their goals align with the campaigns they’ve taken on.