Dear Concordia students,
The current state of political affairs at Concordia is extremely messy. This article was written in order to help you understand why it has been impossible, for most of you, to legitimately express your opinion concerning the strike and to debate it with your peers, no matter what your position is.
During a strike, the associations of each department have the right to organize a general assembly, a reunion where all the students of a department may assist. Nothing obliges them to do so, but it is in the interest of all the students of the department of which they are members that their association assumes its political responsibility, rather than to foist it to the CSU or the Faculty, which serves them as umbrella. Political debates, when centralized, restrict the possibilities of expression of its participants. Except ASFA, none of the Concordia faculty associations have encouraged the associations affiliated to them to organize themselves independently as political entities, which they are.
General assemblies are the only possible outcome to the actualisation of democracy. Concordia’s political structure in place is constructed in a way that may allow small, decentralized assemblies to take place, where each of you may express your opinions, unlike what the present students has experienced at the CSU GA. Actually, the democratic system in place at Concordia, similar to that of the Greek Agora, is lacking in our society, in which our voice may only be heard through the voice of representatives. We are lucky to beneficiate from such political structure, which makes possible the experience of direct democracy.
GAs are enriching experiences meant to help you build a political opinion, to construct an argumentation relying on your capacity to listen to your peers and to inform yourselves. The transformation of your opinion is the result of your capacity to recognize incoherence in both your and your opponents’ discourse. If you are confident of your opinion, go to your GA, where your opinion may have a positive influence on others and be recognized. Have the courage to express your convictions. Take advantage of your freedom of speech. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. If you prove people that you act in their interest, people will follow you. And if your ideas are not strong enough to influence others, you will realize that you must construct a more powerful argumentation, based on facts. If the majority is against your opinion, you must follow the majority. These are the realities of democracy. And if you disagree with the structure in place, invest yourselves in politics and make the necessary efforts to bring about changes. There is no other way.
Contrarily to a popular discourse which travels across certain association presidents mouths and other sophists, everyone may not do as he wishes, ignore democratically taken decisions, go to class if he wishes while the CSU strike vote passed, because everyone has the right to have its opinion. Nothing forbids you to have your opinion, but for it to be recognized politically, you must affirm it in your General Assemblies.
And what does having your opinion mean? It is our environment, our experiences, our readings, our family values, our debates with others and so on, which shape our opinion. There is no such thing as independent being who built himself on his own. We construct our opinion by mixing with others. Think of the history of your opinion. If you understand how, when and why it was transformed, you will realize that it was not random, that exterior elements allowed these changes.
You may suggest that the CSU have acted against democracy as much as you please, but do not forget that your departmental association has not been democratic if you are not a member of one of the 30 among 85 departmental association having organized an independent GA (note that the majority of these associations have acted extremely late). The initiative of the CSU may be defended as democratic, insofar as none of its members, us students, suggested concrete actions aiming at inviting the majority to be opposed to the organization of their strike.
The March 7th GA, it is necessary to recall, was meant to reinforce the Quebec student movement by making all Concordia students part of it. Unfortunately, it has weakened it. Instead of encouraging departments to organize themselves independently and then strategically call a CSU strike to reinforce a motion already started within Concordia, the CSU has organized its own strike and spoken in the name of all students who, for most, were badly informed about the situation and never had the chance to express and debate their opinion, even if the structure in place should have allowed it. However, all of us students let the CSU organize this GA. And now we would refuse to assume it? Where is our pride? We must assume our political irresponsibility.
FASA has taken the responsibility to organize a GA for the totality of their departments, which led them to begin their strike on March 5th. In order to repair CSU’s initiative to centralize the strike, CASA, and ENSC have organized GA of their own. They called them information GA. ENSC’ secretary explained to me that there were few students in their faculty and that, therefore, departmental GA were unnecessary. I was present at the CASA GA. The CSU strike was not recognized by the executives and so they decided to organize their own referendum, when there was barely 50 people of the 7 500 students of JMSB, which does not constitute a legitimate quorum. Their action was undemocratic not only because they refused to recognize the Concordia strike, but also because what was supposed to be an information GA turned into a session of deliberation and vote. In all cases, these GA were centralized. One of the major arguments used to denounce CSU’s GA undemocratic process was that it was supposedly too big for everyone to express himself. What can we say of the different faculty associations GA, which each count thousands of students? If each departmental association had taken their responsibility, they would all have been capable to take a position proper to the opinions of their students. And then, faculty associations could have help strengthening the process by organizing their own GA.
Notice that the only departments active autonomously during this strike were ASFA departments. By speaking with Alex Gordon, president of ASFA, I realized that this was not a coincidence. After ASFA had participated to the strike that took place last semester in the name of all the students of the faculty, they came to realize that the motion of one centralized entity was not as efficient than that of divided well organized units. Having learned from this experience, Women’s studies department association was the first to act independently and few others followed, such as Geography and Philosophy department associations. They are now better organized, better informed and they have had the time to think of strategies to both reinforce their position about the strike and not to jeopardize their semester, which was only possible insofar as they acted as a collective.
The regrettable aspect of our situation, is that instead of taking advantage of the time that we have to discuss the issues of the strike and to try to understand the relevance of such motion, we are limited by the malfunctioning of our system. This dysfunction is not a matter of structure as much as a demonstration of most student associations’ irresponsibility and also of its members, you, to whom I am addressing myself.
The damages are, at this point of the strike movement, almost irreparable. You are democratically on strike, wether it fits your personal opinion or not. If you refuse to participate, it is student democracy you are rejecting, as well as your own rights, principles and ideals. The positive aspect of this disorganized strike, is that it allowed us to acknowledge the necessity of a political reform at Concordia.
 These are not exact numbers. This information is the result of my counting of the number of associations active at Concordia on http://deanofstudents.concordia.ca/student-groups/complete-list-of-student-groups/, and the list of associations on strike on http://concordiastudents.ca/whats-happening-in-my-department/.