Concordia University sends sanction letters
The Montreal Gazette, June 5, 2012
Concordia University students who blocked others from attending class or otherwise disrupted campus life during the student boycott this winter are facing sanctions that could include anything from community service to expulsion. Letters from the university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities went out last Friday to students who are facing charges under its code of conduct, although university officials wouldn’t say how many are being charged.
Students say the timing is unfair because many have dispersed for the summer and the student government is in transition. They will ask to have them dropped, says Schubert Laforest, president of the Concordia Student Union. He also said the university opted to make formal complaints when it had the option of holding more informal hearings, which he found “heavy-handed.”
“It’s not really a surprise given the political climate,” said Laforest. “But it can be seen as irresponsible to be doing this now, when many students are away for the summer and there are no strike activities.”
The university said on Monday it waited until now because it needed time to verify the complaints. “All the charges are related to the student protests,” said Cléa Desjardins, an external communications adviser for the university. “The charges are being made in response to formal complaints that were filed.” The university received 40 calls from people about student disruptions but not every contact led to a complaint, said Desjardins.
Erik Chevrier, a council member of the Graduate Student Association, said he was surprised by the move because he was quietly assured that charges wouldn’t be laid under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities. Another student, who was charged but didn’t want to be named, said he “didn’t think the university would risk doing this because it makes them look bad.” Laforest said the CSU will try to help students by having their advocacy clinic handle the cases.
The letter invited students to a hearing that will proceed even if they are absent, said Desjardins. Most of the hearings should be held this month. Sanctions could include payment for damage of property, community service at the university, written reprimands, suspension or expulsion, she said.
Striking students also made it clear on Monday they don’t want to derail Montreal’s festivals this summer. Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, suggested students could have a kiosk at the Just For Laughs comedy festival to hand out leaflets about their tuition fee protest. The student associations met with Just For Laughs founder and head Gilbert Rozon on Monday to reassure him the student groups will leave the festivals undisturbed while it continues protesting. “The FEUQ will communicate with (festival) organizers during the summer season to ensure good relations between festival-goers and protesters,” said a statement from FEUQ issued after the meeting. *
Still, last week the student association of the CÉGEP du Vieux Montréal, which belongs to Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE), invited students to disrupt the Grand Prix activities this weekend – just the kind of thing that has event organizers worried.
Both Martine and Nadeau-Dubois said they can’t account for the action of every student, nor can they control the nightly marches. “Some people may disrupt it no matter what we do,” said Nadeau-Dubois. But he said all the protests have been peaceful lately and “it’s very sad if people are afraid.”
* (Note: CLASSE declined to participate in the meeting with Rozon. Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said it is dangerous to have a businessman acting as an interlocutor in the tuition fee conflict. “We have no interest in meeting with tourism promoters in Montreal,” he told La Presse, “since the path to resolving this crisis is with the government.”–RA)
From today’s La Presse (Montreal French-language daily):
* The office of the mayor of Montreal is denying that the mayor will hold a discussion today with leaders of the student associations. La Presse says it has confirmed that the meeting will take place. It doesn’t know exactly who will be there on the student side.
* The arts student association at UQAM has called for the first of several expected demonstrations against the Grand Prix auto race that will run this weekend in Montreal. It will take place on Thursday evening and the association says it will be a march in the nude, to protest the “decadence of neoliberalism” that it says is symbolized by the auto race. A previous “nude” march some weeks ago drew considerable attention and comic sympathy to the student struggle; participants wore scant clothing, which will no doubt be the same case again.
* A popular slogan on student marches, including last night in the streets of Montreal, is “Police everywhere, justice nowhere.”
* The City of Sherbrooke held public hearings last night on the conduct of its police force towards students since the adoption of Bill 78. One of the people that testified is Marie-Pier Boisvert, the daughter of the president of the city’s Committee of Public Safety. She condemned the conduct of the police force that her father heads up, saying, “The police are not there for us, but rather against us.”