Meeting The Challenges With The Politics of Protest
CUPFA members will be pleased to know that your Executive continues to take a leading role with the membership and within the University on the student protests about the tuition issue. We have ongoing discussions with student groups, the administration, unions on campus, and with other constituencies around the province. We remain appreciative of all groups and parties who have endeavored to voice their democratic rights peacefully and with respect to others. The student action continues to exert pressure and create inconveniences for all at Concordia. We can accept the burden of pressure, but we also recognize that we must fulfill our obligations as best we can. The good news is that we are able to achieve consensus and listen to the concerns students, faculty, unions, associations, and administrators have expressed.
In this regard, please take note of the following amendment to our earlier understanding about student governance. The CSU and the GSA are also respecting the democratic results of individual Departments who have elected to participate in the student protest. While the CSU and GSA received a mandate for the protests, they are not alone. The Association supports the democratic collective will, as expressed by students in all their associations.
The second amendment to be aware of: while the CSU voted for a six (6) day protest, as of March 15th, the GSA has an un-limited strike mandate that can and possibly will continue.
We ask CUPFA members to continue to send in questions to (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will continue to respond to these questions in order to disseminate necessary information. Please read the email notices that are sent to you and consult the CUPFA website on a regular basis during the student protest. Some new questions and clarifications that have arisen:
I have heard there will be a major demonstration on Thursday, March 22, 2012 against the Quebec government’s plans to increase tuition. Is this true?
Yes, the Association has been apprised that the largest demonstration in Quebec history against the increases in tuition will be held on March 22nd. On that day, hundreds of buses and students from across Quebec will converge near the Hall and GM buildings to begin their demonstration. Students will not be alone for the planned protest march. A diverse group, many who are not students or others from across Quebec society will also be participating. Community groups, unions, faculty, and all kinds of individuals are expected to join the student cause. There has been a ground swelling of support against the proposed tuition hikes.
Will the University hold classes on March 22nd, the day of the province-wide demonstration?
No. On Monday, March 19th, the University announced that it will close the University for the entire day. While the March rally point is planned for the SGW campus, the University informs us that both SGW and Loyola will be closed. The closure will be for the entire day and night. CUPFA applauds the University administration for taking this bold decision. We agree with them. The health and safety of all members of the Concordia community must be our primary concern.
All our students have largely demonstrated a responsible approach to the protest against hikes in tuition. This includes all students: those who have boycotted classes, those who have partially boycotted classes, and those who have attended classes. In the last three weeks, Concordia students have shown that they are not hoodlums but responsible young adults.
No one however can guarantee that events will remain peaceful for the planned demonstration given the shear mass of others who will be arriving. No one can predict how outsiders will behave nor predict how the police and law enforcement agencies will respond. Like our students at Concordia, the Association is committed to the democratic freedom of peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression. The Concordia community has shown that in the midst of protest we remain unified in a shared concern about safety, the protection of University property, and non-violent forms of behavior.
Can I participate in the demonstration of March 22nd and in other demonstrations currently being planned?
Good question. The value of a democracy is the fundamental freedom of choices individuals have. Regrettably our democratic rights have largely been achieved throughout history with acts of civil disobedience. It is a myth to believe that social progress has been made by altruism alone. Therefore, demonstrators show remarkable courage. The courage is not the result of actually participating in a demonstration, but rather, the courage in accepting the consequences of one’s decisions.
Every individual equally possesses freedom of choice. For members who are prepared to take the responsibility to join the demonstrators, we encourage you to do so and, peacefully. For those members who are opposed to the demonstration, you also have the freedom of choice and can elect not to participate. The decision to participate is entirely up to you as an individual.
Students have asked me to hold class in a location other than the classroom?
No, under no circumstances are you permitted to do this. Why is this critical? Neither the University nor the faculty member can guarantee the health and safety of students should any accident or medical emergency arise off campus. You will be personally liable for any personal injury or damages that will result. There is more.
You cannot meet somewhere else on campus either. A second risk arises from the absence of any students who would normally be in your class. If you hold a class in an alternate location on campus, which they are not present for, it may give rise to a complaint against you to the administration, suggesting that you prevented the rest of your students from attending their class. As well, holding the class elsewhere on campus defeats the student boycott, something the Association cannot endorse. One cannot have their cake and eat it too.
Can I alter course requirements and course syllabus to accommodate students who are not attending class?
The good news yes, but be forewarned, a course syllabus represents a contract. This cannot be altered without the consensus of all the parties involved. You are therefore obliged to consult with all the students in the class for the approval of altering your course requirements. In the case of final exams already scheduled, please insure that you confer with your Department. This said, use your better judgment to provide some flexibility with deadlines or late submissions of required work.
Can I, as the professor, hand out course evaluation forms to students and then later collect them from students in order to complete my course evaluations?
Absolutely not! Professors cannot administer course evaluations in a manner which is inconsistent with established practice. Under normal circumstances, faculty are not permitted to be present while students fill out their evaluations. As well, PT course evaluations are administered in the same way, on the day, in class, to all your students. To alter or intervene in this process would invalidate the results. The University is aware of the problems associated this semester with collecting course evaluations. Only if you have your regular class with the majority of students present can course evaluations be distributed as you always have. If there are no students in class then there can be no other method of distributing course evaluations.
I am getting conflicting information from students who claim I can cancel my classes. Can I do this?
No, answers were already provided to this question in an earlier notice (Update # 1). You cannot cancel classes, nor have you cancelled any classes. It is the students, who have elected to boycott classes. You simply could not “hold” your class. It bears repeating again: (1) if no students show up for class, the class cannot be held. (2) if more than half the class attends, you are advised to offer the class as usual. (3) If less than the majority show up for class or a few students arrive, you are to use your discretion as to how best to continue. Ensure you follow this advice. Cancelling a class has nothing to do with academic freedom either.
As a part-time faculty member you are not free to cancel any classes. If a class was not held, who should I report this to?
Simply report that your class could not be held to your Department AND the Association (email@example.com)
What if …
The Association continues to receive “what if” questions. What if the school year is extended? What if I cannot submit my grades? What if the final examinations will be cancelled? What if the final examination schedule is changed?
What if …
The Association also shares your “what if” questions and are as frustrated as you are. However we are unable to predict outcomes. We will immediately communicate with the membership the minute decisions and actions take place. We are not soothsayers and are unable to provide you with absolute certainty what changes, if any, will occur. At this moment the Office of the Provost continues to maintain that everything will remain as it currently stands with the same practices that have existed in previous semesters. Time will tell of any consequences as events unfold with the duration of the student protests.
Are there any other initiatives on campus that I can support?
Yes. You can sign the declaration “Concordia Professors Opposed to the Privatization of Universities”. The English and French copy of this statement is available on the CUPFA website. (www.cupfa.org). To add your name to the declaration of all faculty, follow this link. The list is updated regularly.
In addition to this declaration, please consult the CUPFA website for the positions taken at Concordia by students of Women Studies and faculty teaching at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute; and the “Message to the People” taken by the School of Community and Public Affairs,
Where can I get more information about the student protest province-wide?
Find a copy of the “manifesto” issued by teachers at francophone colleges here in Quebec. You can follow the provincial wide protest via these links:
We thank members who continue to conduct their obligations during this critical period in Quebec history, those who support our students, and those members who remain actively concerned about educational policy in this province.
We all stand united about our student’s learning conditions. Something we can celebrate.
Dr. David Douglas,
Chair of Communications