Simone de Beauvoir Institute’s position statement regarding higher administration’s most recent approach to the student strike

Dear colleagues:

There has been much discontent with the higher administration’s most recent approach to the students’ “strike.” See the following web site:
http://www.concordia.ca/now/campus-beat/concordia-community/20120323/notice-obstruction-of-campus-facilities-and-classrooms.php

The Simone de Beauvoir Institute (SdBI) profs and students involved in Winter 2012 courses have discussed this issue and agreed on a response, in the form of a joint statement. See the following web site:
http://wsdb.concordia.ca/about-us/official-position-on-issues/documents/SdBIJointStatementonMarch23rdNotice2012.pdf

As is stated in our collective piece, we do hope Concordia University’s higher administration will consider reversing its current approach and instead commit to engaging in dialogue with students and faculty so that “strike” concerns can be addressed.

Best regards,

GENEVIÈVE RAIL, Ph.D.
Directrice, Institut Simone-De Beauvoir |
Principal, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
Université Concordia | Concordia University

Dreams of a Common Language

Media & Feminist Theory: Strategy: Dreams of a Common Language

Krista Geneviève Lynes

“We plead to each other,
we all come from the same rock
we all come from the same rock
ignoring the fact that we bend at different temperatures
that each of us is malleable
up to a point.

Yes, fusion is possible
but only if things get hot enough—
all else is temporary adhesion,
patching up” —Cherrie Moraga, “The Welder” [1]

Art Walk/Silent March organized by Katja Philipp, PhD Student, Communication Studies. Photo taken on Montréal's rue Sainte-Catherine, Monday, March 26, 2012 by Krista Lynes.

In 1978, Adrienne Rich published The Dream of a Common Language, a collection of poems in which she reflected on the relation between love, power and consciousness. The collectivity she referenced here was fictive, hypothetical and utopian—quite literally a dream of a common language. The dream, of complex and emancipatory feminism(s), echoes Gayatri Spivak’s call in Death of a Discipline for a collectivity to come as a result of one’s work, the join of feminist praxis with broad movements for social justice.[2] Both Rich and Spivak sought to stress the work involved in community-building, in spaces of social struggle, but at large also.

In this respect, the MA Media Studies Students in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University have been working creatively and passionately over the last several weeks to build a complex and emancipatory unity within the student movement. Their statements testify to their nuanced reflections on the differential access to education within the programme, the use of the term ‘strike’ and the historical resonances of the term within labour movements and other forms of collective action, and the need to engage actively with the community at large, faculty and staff. They have also—in their protest, media activism, public statements and organising—sought to give voice to the importance of creativity and diversity in university programmes across Québec and further afield.[3]

My Media & Feminist Theory course this week was meant to cover several readings articulating contemporary visions of the ‘dream of a common language.’ Coincident with this week’s readings, Concordia University…

…. Continue reading the essay at Alt-UniEs: an alternative university, an appeal to unity, a commitment to access ….

Students Will Not Be Intimidated: A Statement from the Concordia Student Union and Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia

Concordia University threatens to systematically charge students who participate in peaceful protest against the tuition fee increase

Yesterday, over 200,000 students, parents, faculty members and citizens marched peacefully in the streets of Montreal against the Charest government’s unjust and unjustifiable tuition fee increase. After students successfully orchestrated the largest demonstration in the province’s history, it appears that some university administrators have resorted to extreme and heavy-handed intimidation tactics in an attempt to quell student unrest.

2012 © Pamela Lamb

Today, Concordia University has taken a dangerous and irresponsible step by stating that it will begin to systematically charge students who actively participate in the student strike at Concordia under the University’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities. Consequences for students charged under the Code include fines, suspension, and the possibility of permanent expulsion.

The statement sent out by the University today intentionally mischaracterizes the nature of student action at the University by painting picketing students as aggressive or dangerous. In reality, protest on campus has been consistently characterized by its lighthearted, peaceful, and creative nature, with very few incidents in these politically turbulent times.

The University’s statement is deliberately calculated to intimidate students through vague references to “impeding,” “blocking,” or “obstruction” of university spaces. Students have been informed repeatedly that crossing a picket line is a moral decision, and discouraged from doing so, but it is an extremely small minority of students who have been actually physically blocked from classrooms. The GSA and CSU anticipate that hundreds of innocent students could be charged within a week under this policy.

The position taken by Concordia University on this issue is dangerous to students. The Office of Rights and Responsibilities deals with a variety of extremely serious complaints regarding behaviour on campus, including harassment, sexual assault, abuse and other potentially criminal activity. A flood of complaints about peaceful student demonstrations will invariably mean that legitimate and serious complaints by victims are delayed or pushed aside.

Gabrielle Bouchard, Executive External of the Women’s Studies Association of Concordia, said, “Picketing students who have been subject to verbal abuse or even violence by students not abiding by strike votes have predominantly been women. Many feel reluctant to report this to the University because of their perceived, and now explicit bias. This statement will worsen that problem and will embolden students who have behaved inappropriately to students who choose to protest peacefully. Moreover, the procedures around the Code of Rights and Responsibilities are called upon to deal with serious issues such as harassment, sexual harassment and assault and the process is already slow. Now these students will face even longer delays because the administration has chosen to use the Code in a politically motivated way.”

As always, the CSU and GSA will do our utmost to defend any student charged under the Code, and if necessary we will hire additional staff to deal with any backlog in our respective Advocacy Centres.

2012 © Pamela Lamb

These intimidation tactics and heavy-handed crackdowns from the University mean the strike is increasingly effective. Students and their associations will not back down from their legitimate position in favour of accessible education and their collective right to strike. However, both the CSU and GSA will hold the administration responsible for escalating what has so far been a relatively calm, democratic and orderly situation. After wasting tens of millions of dollars of public and student money on golden parachutes and incompetent management, Concordia’s administration has no moral authority to claim that the democratic will of student assemblies is illegitimate.

“As a faculty member, I feel that this approach by the administration is counterproductive,” said Eric Shragge, Associate Professor and Principal of the Concordia School of Community and Public Affairs. “If they wish to resolve the situation they should be using their influence with the provincial government to encourage them to negotiate with student groups.” A recent poll by Crop shows that 78% of Quebec citizens want the government to begin to negotiate with students on the tuition fee increase.

Tunnel Thunder

Could the sheer volume of the combined sounds emanating from the crowd produce a sonic intensity so affecting as to stimulate a change in discourse?

(Video of Mass Student Demonstration—Montreal, Quebec, March 22nd)

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