This position statement is issued by and on behalf of the PhD in Humanities students (HUMA) within the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISSC) at Concordia University who support the student strike.
In solidarity with the Quebec-based student movement opposed to impending tuition increases, we will not be attending classes for the duration of this open-ended strike.
We will be meeting weekly at noon on Thursdays in the HUMA Student Lounge to assess the strike situation. We encourage students to creatively engage in strike activities as they see fit. We encourage both supporters and dissenters to attend their respective association meetings and voice their concerns through open dialog.
As graduate students, we are also researchers and research assistants, professors and teaching assistants. As teachers, we are probationary faculty or have limited-term teaching appointments. As graduate students in the Humanities program, we also have a unique perspective of the issues that cross disciplines and faculties. Given the broad scope of our understanding of the issues we would like to raise the following brief points:
• Issues of economic class disproportionately affect other marginalized communities that face social and economic disadvantages. Tuition hikes will further marginalize those of us with fewer resources (women, queer and transgender people, people of color, immigrants, aboriginals, people with disabilities, etc) by creating a class privileged and more homogenous student body.
• Federally, our government seems to have endless capital for massive prison expansion projects and F-35 fighter jets, but not for post-secondary education. Although we are happy to hear Quebec has refused to pay for the costs associated with the Conservative’s omnibus crime bill (C-10), we are calling for a rejection of ill-conceived and costly government programs, and for the reinvestment in post-secondary education at both the provincial and federal levels.
• We not only take issue with proposed tuition hikes, but also the shift towards the privatization of post-secondary education more broadly. Concrete indicators of this shift, like the government of Quebec’s recently released university funding plan that calls for vast increases in private investment, must be challenged if we are to preserve what’s left of our public institutions and the atmosphere of academic freedom we all value.
• We are concerned about how the over-emphasis on private funding will result in the de-emphasizing of the Arts and Humanities. Private funding from banks and corporations comes with stipulations and is often designated only for programs that will produce workers for their own corporate interests. This also has implications for spatial politics on campus where certain departments will be working with more infrastructure, physical space, and resources than others.
• As students we are not simply consumers and our education is not merely a service. The value of our research and the knowledge we produce extends beyond the usefulness of market values.
• Lastly, the gross mismanagement of university funds at Concordia (such as the handouts of severance packages to six former senior employees) must be addressed. There is nothing socially responsible about raising tuition while upper-level administrators profit from funds destined for the higher education of societies’ young people. While we agree that Concordia administrators must be held accountable for such gross mismanagement, fining the university is nonsensical; students pay the price for the ineptitude of others. In addition, in this period of austerity, upper-level administrators at Concordia, and at all other Quebec universities, should do their fair share by lowering their excessive pay scales and compensation practices.
By offering these points for reflection it is our goal to broaden the conversation about the current student strike and to offer points of departure for thinking through our society’s fiscal priorities in the current shift towards conservatism.
In solidarity with Engineering and Computer Science Graduate Students, Sociology & Anthropology student union (SASU), Urban Planning Association (UPA), Concordia Geography Graduates (GEOGRADS), Fine Arts Student Association (FASA), Geography Undergraduates Student Society (GUSS), Philosophy Students Association – Concordia (SOPHIA), School of Community and Public Affairs Students Association – Concordia (SCPASA), Communications Studies Graduate Students (CSGS), Women’s Studies Student Association – Concordia (WSSA), the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Student Association (GSA), and all other departments and universities across Quebec who have since voted in support of the student strike.