#1 UPDATE of March 8, 2012 – Ongoing Student Protests

It will come as no surprise to CUPFA members to learn that the events of the past week have placed a significant burden on all of us, as we try to fulfill the responsibilities we have to our students, to our employer, and to our own conscience. We are all obliged to operate in a climate that is somewhat confused, and we would all like to have the best information possible. The result of this sentiment has seen a considerable volume of email traffic into the CUPFA Executive, and we have tried to keep all of you informed as best we can. Given the volume, we must beg your indulgence and respond to your many questions, with updates on the web site, directing our answers to general cases. We ask that you continue to direct your questions to the main CUPFA email (cupfa@alcor.concordia.ca), and we in turn will post updates on our website: www.cupfa.org. This is update #1.

To date, many of the inquiries have been directed towards issues relating to the question of the school year, course evaluations, the specific dates the CSU/GSA have given for their “strike” and boycott of classes. The information we have with respect to these questions is as follows:

When does the boycott actually begin?
The CSU and GSA have voted to begin a six (6) day period of action on the 15th of March. In their vote, they reiterated that they will not block professors and students from entering classes.

I have heard different stories from students I’ve met on the “picket lines” about the boycott actions.
The CSU/GSA are the only sovereign bodies of student governance at Concordia. No other student groups are sovereign regardless of what you may confront or hear. If you are wanting to verify where the CSU or the GSA stand on various issues contact these official student bodies only. Your Department Student Association is not wholly independent and must operate within the parameters determined by the concerted actions of the CSU or the GSA.

Will the school year be extended?
There are NO plans to extend the school year at this time. All faculty members were already provided with the statement issued by the Provost via your Dean or Department Chair about this issue a few weeks ago.

What about course evaluations? Too few students or no students are available to submit my course evaluations in class.
CUPFA members should not overly concern themselves with the issue of course evaluations. The University recognizes that the specific circumstances of this school semester will have to be taken into account when considering course evaluations. Use your judgement here depending on the number of students who will attend your classes. Best to distribute course evaluations rather than not.

I have heard about incidents on campus. Are these true?
We caution CUPFA members when listening to rumours, innuendo and other unofficial information. Even media reports are not always accurate. There is a lot of talk out there, and regrettably, some of it is in error and has led people to believe they are empowered to undertake actions which are not legal or allowable under the University Code of Conduct. As well, unless you have been personally involved in an “incident”, stories you hear from others may be nothing but hearsay. The “incidents”  thus far have involved wild-cat actions from a group of students who are not in conformity with the positions taken by the CSU or the GSA.

I teach evening classes is there anyone I can call if I encounter an incident?
Should you encounter a situation that requires attention in the evening when you are teaching your class, please call the Offices of the Vice President Services, Mr. Roger Cote at 514-848-2424 ext. 4815.

How are situation being handled?
CUPFA wishes to salute the University administration for the good judgement and tolerance they have demonstrated to date in the treatment of the student protest. As annoying and confused as the situation was this past week, things were relatively calm. We also wish to salute the CSU and GSA for their efforts to lead the student action and respect the rights of all within the Concordia community. For sure, the student boycott has created challenges for both the University administration and for the students yet so far, very few incidents were of a serious nature. No one’s life was in peril. We do not know if the peaceful nature of the boycott will continue to be a hallmark, but the Association continues to ask members to report incidents to us directly. As well, the University and faculty members thus far have had no major reason to call Security. All parties concerned have honoured the fundamental right of peaceful assembly. We hope this trend will continue.

What will happen a few weeks from now?
Our focus has been on prevention and the safety of our members and of our students. The Association will continue to be proactive in this regard and remain vigilant as we follow the course of events. And while it is difficult to predict what may happen weeks from now, rest assured, the Association will intervene as it already has, to immediately safeguard and protect the right of any member who has had to confront a particular situation.

Is there a solution to the provincial wide boycott of students about tuition in Quebec Universities and Colleges?
Yes. The CUPFA Executive continues to believe that the solution to the current issue about tuition lies in a joint meeting of University Presidents and the Premier of Quebec, called specifically to provide new models of funding which will respond to the question of the crushing student debt. There are other tuition models based on need that should be explored. We continue to believe that new thinking will produce solutions which address student needs, while at the same time offer educational institutions adequate and stable funding as we go forward.

Dr. David Douglas
CUPFA Executive, Chair of Communications