#5 Update – April 8, 2012 – Peace: A Road Not Taken

Faculty and students are seeing the end of the semester with a student protest that is winding down for the majority of Concordia’s students. Everyone is buckling down to complete the semester and/or figure-out a number of different grading options for those students participating in ongoing protest actions.

On the political level, Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp and Finance Minister Raymond Bachand continue to ignore the central problem in their latest proposals to increase loans to students while at the same time issuing threats to cancel the school semester if students do not end the protest. The government continues to ignore what the student protest is all about.

 Members wishing to learn more information about the concerns of students and the specific issue about tuition, are invited to visit a special website developed by students opposed to tuition hikes. Available in both English and French, consult the following link “Tuition Truth”:

Students Website (English/French)

None of the diverse student federations want more loans as a means of securing an education. It is the hikes in tuition – la hausse – which has been one of the central rallying cries of student organisations and not plus de prêts! The standoff continues.

And while fewer students at Concordia are actually “striking”, militancy on the other hand has increased elsewhere. Difficult to ignore the continued protests across Montreal this past week marked with student arrests, property damage, bomb threats, personal injury, and increased violence. Regrettably violent actions are predicted to continue going forward. Quebec students are not backing down.

What does this mean for us at Concordia?

 Of concern to the Association is the increased violence likely to spillover into Concordia. Concordia is an easy target which, in the eyes of outside militants, is viewed as the only University where classes continued while secured “strike” mandates were ignored. This was one of the main reasons the Association’s members were not pleased with the March 23rd ill-timed directive for added security on campus.  

We are now in a situation where more security is inevitable with foreseeable violence likely to occur as we move into the final examination period. We are concerned for the safety of our faculty members caught with invigilating final examinations. At risk are all of us: faculty, students, staff, and the potential destruction of University property.

Up until now and throughout the student protests, the Association has done more than its fair share of mediating between various parties, discussing options with the administration, providing practical information, meeting with student associations, and preventing confrontations all the while fulfilling our obligations to teach in less than an agreeable working environment. 

What does the Association recommend if aggressive confrontations occur during the final examination period? 

The Association does not believe all and every examination room will be affected, however there is no guarantee your examination room will not become the object of a possible confrontation.

The Association has no control over any outside militant groups who may appear. We recommend therefore that any member who is scheduled to invigilate an examination immediately leave if any aggressive disruption occurs. Stay out of the line of fire. We also recommend you carry a cell phone in the evident a situation erupts or any sabotage occurs during the examination.

Who do I contact if such an aggressive situation occurs?

In light of recent events the Association now feels it is prudent to recommend that should you encounter an aggressive situation, that you consider calling Security. 

You call Security at 514-848-3717 and provide your exact location. Again, we do not believe you will encounter any problems. Remember the Association continues to safeguard your interests and those of your students with a focus on prevention. You do however need to be prepared just in case something may happen.

What about the merits of civil disobedience?

 The Association is vehemently opposed to any protest that involves violence towards the life of any living thing on this planet.  No civil disobedience can be legally or morally defended when violence is used. No remedies have historically ever been achieved by anyone who uses violence as a means of protest. Moreover, one cannot pretend to advocate civil disobedience without taking the consequences involved. The courage of civil disobedience does not lie with well-meaning acts of protest but in accepting the consequences. Militants who are frustrated and desperate now risk discrediting the efforts of so many students who have exercised their protest with respect and with civility.

What about violence which is not physical?

 Violence which is not based on direct physical destruction continues to plague our society. Poverty is violence in another form. Unfair working conditions, harm to our environment, sexism, homophobia, racism, undemocratic rule is all violent – there are many forms of “social violence”. These areas of “social violence” are however addressed in protest by peaceful means. It is the reason we have unions in the first place. It is the reason we have student associations, feminist and environmental groups etc. It is what the struggle for social justice is all about.

With the current issue about tuition, we hear the voices of our students who are economically disenfranchised by educational policies that respond to a neo-liberal  agenda. The Association will continue to support the peaceful means students use to achieve just ends. We have respected the student protest and will continue to do so. 

Is there anything I can do to help the current situation at Concordia? 

Dr. Fred Lowy, interim President and Vice Chancellor is making an effort to reach out to students. There is a Town Hall meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, April 10th at 12 noon to 1 p.m. in H-110. Encourage your students to attend. It is important that students as respected members of our community attend to express their voices in peace – the road unfortunately not taken by desperate militants.

Dr. David Douglas
Chair of Communications, CUPFA Executive