At a special General Assembly (GA) called on Wednesday to propose a student strike to protest tuition hikes, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) voted with an overwhelming majority in favor of the strike.
The GA rapidly reached quorum, with nearly 1,800 attendees. There were three additional locations other than the main one in room H-110 of the Hall Building, one of which was The Hive at the Loyola Campus. All locations were in contact with each other for votes, and CSU VP External Chad Walcott’s opening speech in favor of the strike, which took place in the main location, was broadcasted to the three satellites.
Technical difficulties prevented the GA from running smoothly; Walcott had to repeat the first half of his speech after he was made aware that the live broadcast was not reaching the satellite locations. He asked the audience to bear with him, as it was the first time that the CSU had attempted to use these new methods to connect their satellite audiences. It was also the first time a CSU GA has had satellite locations to accommodate the large number of students attending.
“The technical difficulties revolved around having this broadcast live on four different locations,” explained Walcott afterwards. “We had internet cut out. We had mics cut out, anything you would have when technology is spread widely.”
The original motion to strike faced two amendments, both of which passed.
The first amendment was to have the strike begin on March 15.
The motion originally stated that the strike would begin March 22, but the date was changed after a student proposed an amendment, stating, “I think there is a bit of an issue with the date that the strike is to begin. As was announced yesterday, the provincial budget is being released on [March] 20, which means that we are going to be going on strike two days after the budget is released as opposed to mobilizing before that, which would be more effective.”
The second amendment added a clause that banned the blocking of teachers and students who wished to enter classrooms during a strike.
According to Walcott, “It was never our intention to block buildings. As our resolution originally stated, studio times will be respected, lab times will be respected, internships won’t be blocked. So that was always our intent.”
“We were never going to block buildings,” he continued. “In fact, it would logistically be a nightmare to block buildings at Concordia. I believe that each department and faculty association will just feel empowered now to move forward with their mandates, adopt their own mandates, as well as ensure mobilization for their students. This is something that should happen class by class, department by department, and faculty by faculty.”
After 45 minutes of discussion following the proposed amendments, the students voted on whether or not to pass the motion. The vote resulted in 1,152 students being for the strike and 557 against it.
Nicolas Martel, a third year photography student who has been striking with the Fine Arts Student Alliance since Monday, said that, “[The result of the strike] is just a complete validation of what we are doing right now.”
The strike will begin on March 15 and last for five days, or one academic week, until March 22. After this period, the CSU will assemble again to vote on whether or not to continue with the strike, according to Walcott.
March 22 is also the date set for a provincial day of action against tuition hikes, with a march in downtown Montreal planned for that afternoon.