Tag Archives: CSU

Student lobby groups need a reality check

You gotta love student politics in Quebec. We have the lowest tuition fees in Canada, the highest taxes, and Montreal has the highest number of students per capita.

Yet this province seems to be the largest battleground for student protests in North America. They protest tuition fees, which are too high because they’re above zero (some protests involve CEGEP students, whose tuition fees actually are zero). They protest government cuts to loans and bursaries. They protest the colonial capitalist imperialistic racist empire bent on … evil of some sort.

And, of course, they protest each other.

Five student associations from Concordia, McGill and Dawson are suing each other over control of the Quebec chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students. Concordia’s graduate association is planning to pull out of the organization over this dispute which has seen two competing executives appointed. (UPDATE Sept. 13: The Concordian — yeah, I know — has a detailed story on what’s going on)

“Regional” (read: not Montreal or Quebec City) groups at UQTR, UQO and UQAR are threatening to leave the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) over their concerns the group is too Montreal-centric, and create their own lobby group to represent just their interests.

Currently there are three post-secondary lobby groups in Quebec. In addition to FEUQ (considerd the grown-up group because they sit down and negotiate with the government) and CFS-Q (considered almost renegade by its parent national organization and with little weight in Quebec because it only represents the two anglophone universities and an anglophone CEGEP), there’s ASSÉ, the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, which is a newer, more militant group that accepts nothing short of free education for all.

To give an example, the Concordia Student Union has been a member of all three organizations over the past few years, paying student money to three redundant organizations. They recently dropped ASSÉ (which was the cheapest of the three but also the most ineffective), and now pay money only to two.

And yet despite this, Jean Charest was returned to power with the clear intention of raising tuition, and fees are going up. FEUQ is threatening strikes, but they’ve already lost the battle. The public voted for tuition increases, and a few hundred students choosing to waste their money by not going to class isn’t going to get anyone to change their mind.

All three groups need to take a moment to figure out why they’re losing (even many students don’t support their positions — though I don’t see too many of them lining up to donate money to the universities), and change their strategy before they become even more irrelevant than they already are. Once that happens, student unions will start pulling their funding and the Quebec student activist movement will implode.

UPDATE (Sept. 25): A judge decides to keep the offices off-limits to both groups until the issue can be reviewed further. The SSMU is happy, while the CSU is not.

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Wireless freedom!

Apparently Concordia has backtracked from its plan to begin charging students for access to its wireless network. The decision apparently came right from the top, which is a much-needed PR boost for president Claude Lajeunesse (though why he had to wait for student outrage to decide that wireless access is an “essential service” is beyond me).

So students will save a few bucks each year, which they will no doubt be giving to their student union so they can continue needlessly suing other student unions over petty student politics.

Never trust a student politician

I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for the fact that I have two more articles in the paper today, as neither is online (If you have the newsprint version, they’re on Page B2).

The first is a Justify Your Existence piece on Concordia Student Union president-elect Angelica Novoa, who has been under attack by her political opponents for being incompetent. Anyone want to take a wager on which side of this political magnet will be outraged with it first?

The other is the third in my series on Quebec bloggers-turned-authors: Mère Indigne, who unfortunately put her blog on hiatus mere days after I interviewed her. On the plus side, this means starting next week I can go back to featuring English blogs, some of which have been in my bank ready-to-write for four months now.

I should be ok for the next few weeks, but if anyone has suggestions for interesting local blogs that are updated regularly, let me know.