University Bylaw Contradicts Provincial Law

Conflicting Laws May Affect Charged Student-Protesters

Student-protesters who have received a letter of reprimand for their actions during last year’s strikes may not be able to serve on important university institutions. File Photo Nikolas Litzenberger

Some of Concordia’s most politically active students may not be able to serve on the university’s two highest decision-making bodies next year.

In recent months, student-protesters have faced tribunals under Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities for disrupting classes during last spring’s strikes against austerity measures. As many as 22 students have received letters of reprimand from independent tribunal panels.

According to the university’s bylaws, this consequence means these students will not be able to serve on its board of governors and senate. But, according to Quebec law, the Concordia Student Union alone has the power to make this appointment.

This is stated in article 32 within the Quebec law detailing how an accredited student association—like the CSU—can operate. In the university bylaws, it says that anyone who has been sanctioned under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities within the past three years is not eligible to serve on Senate or the Board of Governors.

The BoG is the “senior governing body of the University and is responsible for establishing the legal and administrative framework for the University.” Senate is the “senior academic body” that establishes procedures and is subject to the board’s authority.

Concordia’s administration could not comment by press time, but university spokesperson Chris Mota says the individuals who oversee these regulations should release a statement within the next few days.

“It’s problematic that politicians [may be] prevented to serve because they were acting on a mandate voted on by students,” said Aloyse Muller, an undergraduate senator who has received two letters of reprimand. During last spring’s protests, many student associations voted to strike through general assemblies of their membership.

Muller and others argue this justified their participation in disrupting classes—they were fulfilling a democratically-voted mandate. Three professors from the Political Science department originally filed the charges against student-protesters, and then the university became co-complainants during the summer break.

Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, another undergraduate senator who received a letter of reprimand—the lowest form of consequence—says the university bylaw lacks nuance. According to the bylaw, a letter has the same ramifications as a suspension for committing physical assault.

Many are asking whether student leaders and politicians are being targeted. Some of the best-suited candidates for senate are the students who were charged, she adds, because of their political passion and initiative, like choosing to strike in opposition to budget cuts.

“Ideally you would want the kind of students who take political initiative on campus,” Marshall-Kiparissis said. As it seems now, she and Muller cannot serve again as senators next term.

Out of the hundreds of students that went on strike and protested, Marshall-Kiparissis says a disproportionate number of the individuals charged are student-leaders and politicians. CSU general coordinator Terry Wilkings echoes this statement, saying it’s clear that the most politically engaged students were targeted.

Brandon Johnston, the former editor-in-chief at The Link, originally received a letter from one of the professors, but it was dropped after he explained he wasn’t present during the class disruption, as a reporter or in any capacity.

The CSU is currently researching similar incidents at universities around Quebec to find precedent and see how to proceed, according to Wilkings. He says given the fact that Concordia administration became co-complainants against student-protesters, he doesn’t envision any exceptions being made.