November 8, 2019

ASFA on Online Opt-out and Faculty "Equality"

In the upcoming CSU by-elections, happening online on November 12, 13, and 14, among the six referendum questions will be one question on online fee levy opt-outs and one on so-called “faculty equality”. ASFA urges Arts and Science students to vote NO for both.

ASFA is concerned about the potential impacts of these referenda on Arts and Science students. ASFA encourages all students to vote and wants to ensure that all students are able to make an informed decision when voting in this by-election.

Online opt-out, when implemented by Doug Ford in Ontario universities, has destroyed organizations that students have spent years building. Simply, online opt-out would give Concordia undergraduate students the capacity to opt out of certain fee levies online, as opposed to having to go to the organization in person, or emailing them directly under the current system,

Students pay a total $4.87 per credit to the 23 fee levy organizations who would be subject to online opt-out. With that, fee levies have been working to help all our students, particularly those in financially precarious positions. These organizations provide students with affordable - even free - food, textbooks, study space, funding, internships, jobs, bikes, equipment, community, and more. These fee levies have also been at the forefront of pushing for sustainable practices within the university.

ASFA is concerned that in every institution where online opt-out has been implemented, these fee levies have lost large amounts of funding, amounts which vary from year to year, making it impossible to make long term budgetary decisions, and taking away from the time these fee levies spend on helping students. You may save (less than) 5 dollars per credit, but you lose hundreds of hours that fee levies will have to relocate to begging for a budget every year. You lose free meals, time spent on Accessibility Mapping at Concordia, cheap textbooks, and the Student Press.

Enabling online opt-out will allow students to opt out of fee levies without taking the time to get informed about which organizations they and their friends may benefit from and may not want to defund.

If this referendum passes, it will cut the budgets for organizations like Queer Concordia, Sustainable Concordia, and The People’s Potato, organizations that members have mandated ASFA council to support.

We want to stress that this is not an abstract concern; we have seen this exact thing happen across Canada. When Doug Ford implemented centralized fee-levy opt-outs for universities in Ontario, it had a devastating effect on student services and resources. This referendum, if it passes, would have the same effect at Concordia.

The next question we would like to talk about is “Faculty Equality”.

The name is very misleading. So-called “Faculty Equality” is a motion to reduce the number of CSU councilors and distribute three seats each to the four faculties (ASFA, JMSB, Gina Cody, and Fine Arts).

Currently, the seats on Council are split proportionately according to the relative size of each faculty. There are thirty (30) Councillors: twelve (12) for Arts and Science (representing about 47% of undergraduate students according to the most recent CSU annual undergrad survey), eight (8) for Engineering and Computer Science, six (6) for John Molson,  two (2) for Fine Arts, and two (2) for Independent students (2,794 students).

The proposal is to reduce the number of seats from 30 to 16, and allocate 3 seats each to Arts, Science, Gina Cody, JMSB, and Fine Arts, plus 1 Independent councillor. This would mean that the CSU would no longer be representative of Concordia’s community.

ASFA is concerned that this would unfairly misrepresent Arts and Science students: although they make up the largest demographic of students, each individual would have less democratic influence than individuals in other faculties. Each individual in Fine Arts would, proportionally, have four times the democratic power of an Arts and Science major.

Arts and Science makes up over 17,000 students out of the over 37,000 undergraduates represented by the CSU. This is over 45% of the CSU student body. Restructuring the CSU Council in this way would make it no longer representative of the Concordia student body.

Further, the splitting of “Arts” and “Science” into separate CSU delegations is separating students in the same faculty into separate camps and assuming they have necessarily different interests.
We as individuals should all have equal democratic rights. Having a proportional representation system is vital to ensuring those rights.

ASFA calls on all students to ensure that they are making informed decisions when they vote in the by-election.