Demands to Concordia’s Administration from students on strike

Monday, April 9, 2012


Concordia Sacrifices Quality of Teaching, Dismisses Provincial Strike Culture

No course extensions despite significantly reduced class time and historical and cultural tradition of student strikes
7 April 2012 — On Thursday 4 April Concordia’s Dean of Arts and Science Brian Lewis sent a message to department chairs outlining this Faculty’s response to student strikes at Concordia. In a word, that response is: Denial. Denial that students in some departments collectively decided not to attend up to 38.5% of their semester, denial of the standard practices of other Quebec universities, and denial that classes are an integral part of learning. The solutions presented to professors are unacceptable, limited to changing course requirements thus omitting class material, awarding Incomplete or In Progress marks, and submitting marks at a slightly later date.

The Strike Committee of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) of Concordia, the Geography Undergraduate Student Society, the Urban Planning Association and the School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association demand that the Concordia administration recognize students’ collective decision to strike and make accommodations to make up for reduced class time for the affected departments once the strike is over, which would entail:
developing a clear plan in consultation with student delegates from affected departments to reschedule classes and postpone final examinations, assignments and deadlines for the submission of grades accordingly;
if the strike persists due to the government’s intransigence, the extension of the Winter semester beyond April and the corresponding delay of the Summer semester, alongside the respective extension of Teaching Assistant and Part-time Faculty contracts, as well as maintaining university services such as regular library hours, health services, career and placement services, and residence accommodations at a normal level for this extended Winter semester;
a commitment to exercising flexibility, so that these changes do not negatively affect students who are unable to return to classes or write exams at a later date.
Many students have missed significant amounts of class time due to the strike. By refusing to arrange to reschedule class time or extend deadlines once the strikes end at Concordia, the Dean and the senior administrators are devaluing the quality of education at this university. Real learning cannot happen in isolation, without significant engagement and guidance from an instructor. To expect work to be handed in without this instruction is to say that these elements of education are dispensable, which is a disparagement to the profession of teaching.
In addition to the tuition hikes, the student movement in Quebec stands in opposition to the privatization of universities and the increasingly shallow, standardized and impersonal approach to university teaching. Therefore, we cannot condone a situation in which the semester will be declared complete when some students have not engaged in anything close to a semester of learning. This includes cases in which classes were held in spite of strike mandates, despite the fact that less than 10% of the students were attending.
Our expectation is reasonable; it simply reflects the standard practice at other Quebec universities. In 2005, the Université de Québec à Montréal (UQAM) extended the Winter semester until 8 May, recommending measures such as longer classes or classes scheduled more frequently, “Afin d’assurer la qualité de la formation dispensée à l’UQAM.” This year UQAM will see a term extension until 3 June, the date being flexible depending on the end date of the strike. The Université de Montréal has announced that the 2012 Winter semester will be extended until 15 June for those departments affected by the strike.
It is important to note that the decision by the UQAM was taken by the Commission des études, a committee of students, professors and administrators. Decisions vital to the integrity of teaching and learning at Concordia should be taken in consultation with the academic community, and not handed down from above.
This strike has been a measure of last resort to protect the quality of education and its accessibility for future generations. Students do not enjoy missing classes; they do so because they believe education should be accessible and because the strike is the only remaining option to prevent the tuition fee hike. Post-secondary institutions have historically extended the semester to accommodate student strikes. Concordia is choosing to ignore this cultural tradition. If the university had implemented precedent from elsewhere in Quebec rather than a short-sighted “business as usual” policy, and officially cancelled classes in affected departments following the democratic decision of students’ general assemblies, faculty would now be in a situation of doing delayed work, yet not additional work. Thus the administration is responsible for causing faculty and students additional inconvenience and stress.
The legitimacy of Concordia University’s academic integrity is in the public eye and will depend on the senior administration’s response. It is with everyone’s best interests in mind that we expect President Lowy to respond to the above demands at Tuesday’s Town Hall. If not, it will be difficult to predict how students and the public will thereafter react to the university’s continued disrespect for this province’s historical and cultural tradition of student strikes, for academic integrity, and for the well-being of its students.
Graduate Students’ Association Strike Committee
Geography Undergraduate Student Society
Urban Planning Association
School of Community and Public Affairs Student Association
The GSA Strike Committee, formed through a resolution of the General Assembly of the GSA, coordinates the implementation of the strike between graduates in different departments.