Concordia University students officially commenced their strike against the provincial tuition fee increase today. Although picketers provided information and asked for support, they did not prevent students, staff, or faculty from entering campus, and many students continued attending classes.
The motion to strike was passed by a wide margin at the Concordia Student Union (CSU)’s general assembly on March 7, and will end on March 22. According to Lex Gill, CSU President, students may submit a petition to call a second general assembly (GA) and vote to extend the strike.
Some students had began collecting signatures for a petition to call a second GA days after the March 7 assembly, but withdrew it in order to respect the autonomy of departmental student associations holding separate GAs throughout the week.
According to Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, a second year Political Science and School of Community and Public Affairs student and member of the CSU’s Strike Committee, another petition to extend the strike is already circulating, and has collected between 250 and 350 signatures. Garoufalis-Auger stood in a picket line outside the Hall Building, one of Concordia’s major facilities.
“I think the strike is an effective way of making demands of the government,” said Garoufalis-Auger, who acknowledged that many students had continued attending classes. “If we’d get support of those leaving their classes, maybe they can help disrupt other classes.”
Standing nearby was a fourth year Industrial Engineering student named Joe, who asked that his last name not be printed. Joe said he supports the strike and is against the tuition increase, but that he would still attend classes and write his exams in order to graduate this year.
“I really like that some people are doing this to fight for something that is right.” He added that he has had no problem making it to his classes. “It is very easy to get around. People are smiling.”
Although the CSU, which represents all of Concordia’s approximately 45,000 students, is officially on strike, not all of Concordia’s departments have voted to strike. The Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASA) voted overwhelmingly against the strike last night. “CASA voted not to strike, and students are respecting that,” Gill said in an interview with the Daily.
Tanya, a third year Dance student, said that she and others had tried to attend their classes, but were obstructed by a picket line on the seventh floor in the John Molson School of Business, where dance and music studios are located. “We think it’s crazy because we’re trying to finish up. We have a big show, and now we’re just paying for losing our class. We’re with the strikers, but we want to go to class.”
On the seventh floor, other Dance students were picketing, surrounded by tables full of snacks and bulletin boards covered in both pro- and anti-strike messages. “Our idea is if people want to pass, they can pass. It’s a choice you make, and we want people to be conscious of it,” said Ariane Dubé-Lavigne, a Dance student in her first year.
Marches, workshops, and teach-ins took place around campus throughout the day. In the basement of the School of Community and Public Affairs, a group of about 15 students choreographed dances and composed versions of recent pop songs with lyrics relevant to the strike. They planned to broadcast their work on CKUT Radio later in the day.
Concordia’s administration released a statement on March 12 announcing their intention to provide services as normal for the duration of the strike, and some administrators have warned of possible disciplinary or academic consequences. But another statement concerning the strike on the administration webpage reads, “Professors are encouraged not to penalize students who do not attend classes, sit exams, or submit papers on March 16.”