To Concordia’s Governors: Drop the Increase

Free Education Montreal Gathers 2,000 Name Petition for Board of Governors

  • Photo Justin Giovannetti

As Concordia’s Board of Governors sits down to meet on Sept. 30, a petition with more than 2,000 names protesting the unannounced increase to international tuition fees two summers ago will be presented to the 37 governors.

“This is our last try,” said Nadia Hausfather, an organizer for Free Education Montreal, an organization advocating that education is a societal right and not a privilege. “We currently have about 2,000 signatures, so it’s going to be a rush to the finish.”

At its meeting in May 2009, Concordia’s Board of Governors voted to increase the tuition for international students in programs recently deregulated by the Charest government.
John Molson School of Business graduate students saw their bill increase by 50 per cent without warning, while undergraduate students in the same program saw an increase of 28 per cent. Engineering and computer science students saw similar increases.

In the two years since the increase, the Board of Governors voted to increase tuition for the same students again during the summer of 2010 and changed the payment structure for graduate students so that they pay larger lump sums.

According to Hausfather, the lives of some students have been ruined by the unexpected financial burden.

“We know someone who can’t afford his winter tuition, his education has been affected by needing to work more cover his tuition and he has been in and out of depression,” said Hausfather. “Two years later, he’s still afraid to talk to the press.”

Because students like Hausfather feel that they have not been heard, a group of students will be demonstrating in Norman Bethune Square as the governors meet on Sept. 30 at 8:00 a.m. in the MB building.
“We’re going to make a point and bring attention to this issue. The Board cast their votes almost unanimously in favour [of the increase],” said Robert Sonin, a Graduate Students’ Association councillor. “I think they just like the money.”

To help with the changing tuition and fee structure, Concordia has given graduate students until August 31, 2011 to pay their tuition without penalty. However, according to Sonin and the GSA, the university has done a poor job of informing students of the change.

“The university hasn’t been communicating the new policy well to students or their staff,” said Sonin. “Depending on who you speak to at the university there are different interpretations of the late fees and interest.”
Despite working with Free Education Montreal with the $1 Campaign, the Concordia Student Union hasn’t officially supported the petition. According to VP External and Projects Adrien Severyns, this was a matter of timing, not an ideological difference.

“The CSU signed the petition and supported it, but we were not a part of that petition,” said Severyns. “The work of the petition was started before we got into office. It was hard to take a position at the time, but we are behind it.”

The same situation is present at the GSA. Despite having the support of individuals within the graduate association, no official support has been given to the petition.

“It is an official GSA position to be against any tuition increase and the petition was created and is being presented by GSA people,” said Sonin. “It’s a project done by GSA people. The petition will be presented to the Board by [GSA President] Adnan [Abueid], so it has the support of the president.”

A meeting will be held at 4:00 p.m. on Sept. 29 at 2030 Mackay St. to organize the protests during the Board of Governors meeting.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 07, published September 28, 2010.

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