The Association is thankful to members of the University community for assisting faculty and students to conclude an arduous semester. Our faculty members met the demand to teach all our students regardless of their political position about the student protest.
The value of the last few months is ultimately the hard lessons we can draw from our diverse experiences. Briefly, the intensity of various situations involving the student protest was anything but “business as usual”. Win, lose, or draw the community has an elevated consciousness about how conflict should be managed, the significance of communications, and the importance in the process, of not losing sight of the prize.
At the beginning of the student protest we lauded the efforts of the University administration that sought not to be divisive. No one can understand why the adoption of these efforts took a turn for the worse following the March 23rd directive. From that date, the adoption of a dualistic paradigm pitting “us” versus “them” became evident. This was most unfortunate since it created more divisions rather than diffusing the situation.
One statement after another in the Student Town Hall meeting held last week fostered an environment of mistrust and an unfair assessment of those students who were involved in a justified protest. Little was done to guide and nurture those students during the protest. Little was done to guide and nurture faculty and Department Chairs who were in the trenches at ground level. Students and faculty became the collateral damage of law and order policies by an administration that was oblivious to the needs of its faculty and students dealing with the protest. The working and learning environment continues to be unhealthy.
Of particular note, the Association spent a considerable amount of time assisting students who were distressed, students on picket lines who were harassed and fearful of their decision to engage, many for the first time in a political action. Students who attended classes who were also distressed to study in such an environment, crying and unable to cope. There was also far more classes that were not declared cancelled or that were academically unsound to be considered as actually being “held”. We learned more about each other in the face of some pretty hard realities.
The Association requests that the President write the Minister of Education to seek a meeting with provincial student associations. Regardless of your support for hikes in tuition, your intervention with the Minister and the leadership of any of your colleagues in CREPUQ, ought to encourage dialogue. While the current protest appears to have abated at Concordia, we feel it would be a serious error to believe that inaction will somehow bring about a return to the status quo. We must direct our ideas and energy toward the necessary initiatives which hold the promise to truly bring about a solution for all parties. Otherwise the student protest will not go away and its residual effects will continue to divide.
The Association also requests an examination of the user fees Concordia students are obliged to pay. The escalation of these user fees is tantamount to a de-facto hike in tuition in a fragmented form. These should be reassessed and examined.
To the students involved in the protest, let me congratulate the courage you demonstrate to become integrated for the very first time as members from an Anglophone University into the fabric of student life in Quebec. This in and of itself is a remarkable achievement. The struggle you are engaged in to transform educational policies will continue to serve you well. For there is nothing more perilous or difficult in life than a commitment to the public good and public service. Lessons learned through your efforts about how power works, how decisions get made, the importance of quorum and Robert’s Rules, the use of methodologies, and the value of communications is knowledge you have acquired which is as valuable as any text book.
We regret that students continue to be largely criminalized by a media who provides a less than balanced perspective of the issues surrounding the privatization of universities and what the protest is all about. So much of the subtext remains unspoken.
To our faculty members and many Department Chairs and staff, we thank you for your understanding in dealing with the diversity of issues that surfaced day to day during the student protest; a rather thankless task and one that continues to often be as undervalued as the pedagogy we seek to impart. We too have learned a few lessons about conflict and how best to facilitate discourse rather than tear down bridges of understanding. The student protest is ultimately a true test of how much we respect diversity.
The Association invites all faculty involved with the student protest to a Faculty Town Hall meeting for a compte rendu of our mutual experience. We have very few forums in the University where collective discussions can actually take place or any needed venues for consensus to be fostered. If you are interested in attending a Faculty Town Hall as faculty who dealt with the student protests, please reserve the afternoon of Friday, April 27, 2012 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and confirm your attendance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for details and location.
As we face the summer semester, let me extend the very best for a well-deserved solace from the fray. May students go forward to seek summer employment, become involved with the Occupied Movement or continue with their studies. Whatever you elect to do, know you belong to a fine University that is made up of concerned faculty and staff who have your interests at heart.
Maria E. Peluso,