Close to 24,000 Concordia students are under the purview of a one-day strike mandate for November 10 after a General Assembly (GA) vote on Thursday.
November 10 is set to be a provincial day of action for Quebec students to protest tuition increases announced in March by the Charest government. Multiple student organizations – representing over 100,000 students in the province – have already declared strikes for the day.
The GA was a collaboration between the Arts & Science Federation of Associations (ASFA), the Concordia Students’ Union (CSU), and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA). The strike is not legally binding, meaning students who wish to attend classes on November 10 are free to do so.
ASFA represents nearly 18,000 undergraduate students at Concordia, while GSA represents close to 6,000 graduate students. CSU itself – which represents all Concordia undergraduates – does not have a strike mandate, but is campaigning against the tuition increases.
Graduate students reached their 60-member quorum shortly after 1 p.m., and decided to vote on a strike immediately.
There were a few questions from audience members, but no debate, before the graduate students voted overwhelmingly in support of the motion.
GSA VP External Holly Nazar spoke to The Daily about the strike mandate.
“[The strike] is not legally binding in any way, so it’s more of a statement that graduate students are also fed up and against the hikes,” she said.
ASFA students met their 371-student quorum just before 2 p.m. CSU VP External Chad Walcott addressed the room, outlining to students why the government’s proposed increases are unnecessary.
“Telling us that there’s not enough money in the system is, excuse my language, kind of bullshit, because they’re not investing the money that they should where they should,” Walcott said. He was referring in part to the $295 million of government money – intended for student financial aid – that was placed instead in a consolidated fund this spring.
“It’s on us now to take a stance, it’s on us now to take to the streets on November 10,” Walcott continued. “I’m looking to Concordia, as an English school in the province of Quebec, to really show that we are knowledgeable about what’s going on, and that we care.”
After Walcott’s speech, despite offers from other student executives to provide more information on the issue, ASFA students called for a vote.
Alex Gordon, president of ASFA, read the motion aloud, which resolved that ASFA support its member organizations in accepting a one-day strike on November 10, and that it make efforts to gain academic amnesty for constituents.
The motion passed with only six students voting against the strike.
ASFA VP External & Sustainability Paul Jerajian spoke to what the motion mandates.
“A strike means that all of the arts and science students are aware of what is happening on November 10, and they’re showing their support for it, and so we’ll hopefully get as many students as possible out on the streets November 10,” he said.
Walcott described what action CSU – and its “right arm,” Mob Squad Concordia – will be taking for the next week. “It’s really just going to be like logistics on November 10, so how we’re going to be shuttling people to the location, as well as just that last push, so classroom speeches, flyering, just general one-on-one talks with students to get them to go,” Walcott said.
He added that CSU is “ecstatic” about the strike mandate of GSA.
Nazar addressed relations between students and the administration in light of the mandate. “As we communicate with the university administration, we do have a formal mandate to say that graduate students are on strike, and to request academic amnesty,” she said.
Concordia Provost David Graham previously granted academic amnesty in February for the “Wintery Hot Accessible Love-In for Education,” an event that drew 1,200 students to rally against tuition increases.
“[Graham] has, I think, already indicated that that’s his position again this year, but [the administration] also can’t force the faculty. It’s up to each individual faculty member in the end, whether they’re going to penalize students for missing classes, and, in general, the faculty have been very supportive of that,” Nazar said.