Special Letter to Independent Students taking Geography & Environment Classes

This post means to address the special situation of Independent Students who are taking classes in departments on strike. If you are an Independent Student and have a question/concern which is not addressed by this post, please post it as a comment and we can perhaps crowd-source information in addition to doing our own inquiries.

To preface this letter, I emphasize that the intention of the strike is not to harm students, but to protect us and future students from prohibitive and poorly allocated increases in tuition fees and from the other social consequences of having increasingly privatized and inaccessible educational institutions. The strike is coordinated with mechanisms in place like weekly departmental General Assemblies to ensure that strike actions reflect the discretion of the student body in keeping with this goal.

So far, undergraduate and graduate students from numerous Concordia departments and faculties have voted democratically to state their position on the strike.

For Independent Students, however, I have not yet heard of ways in which you can have direct voting representation either for or against the strike on a departmental level or how you can initiate strike votes for departments you take classes with.  I am particularly sympathetic to this concern as I was also an Independent Student last year. I have spent the afternoon while my classes were cancelled doing some research and making phone calls, and here are some points that may be helpful.

While as far as I know Independent Students do not have voting rights at a departmental level, you DO have voting rights at the CSU Special General Assembly vote  tomorrow, Wednesday March 7th at 3pm to be held simultaneously at H-110, the 7th floor of the Hall Building, and the Hive at Loyola. The vote will be to decide whether the student union will go on strike for 5 academic days between March 22nd and March 29th, (not including students on internships) while studios and labs stay available. The anticipated duration is 2 hours. The 7th floor and H-110 are wheelchair accessible. Please click the link above for the agenda.

As an Undergraduate Independent Student, this is where you have voting rights. I encourage you to come and be represented no matter your stance, even if you are comfortable with the action/non-action of the specific departments you take courses in.

I have also contacted the advocacy centre at the CSU and have confirmed that you have the same protection and access to academic appeal process through the advocacy centre as all other undergraduate students.

This is the link to their website: http://advocacy.csu.qc.ca/
Office is H-729, with office hours Monday – Friday, 10am-6pm.

While you can expect the same accommodations for On-Strike classes as other students in your class, we are all expected to attend classes within departments who are NOT on strike. I have heard of instances  however where specific arrangements have been made between the students and the professor to dissolve their classes for the remainder of the strike in departments who have not had an official strike vote.

Meaningful recourse to academic amnesty and protection against penalization during a student strike rests on the solidarity and unanimity of the movement (ie if no students show up to class or if the class does not take place at all).

Nevertheless, the individual stance of the professor can greatly shape the experience of  students during the strike- knowing that your prof is sympathetic, supportive and willing to make accommodations goes a long way to dissipating the uncertainty we may feel about going on strike and reprioritizing our energy to strike activities.

In Geography & Environment, we have many professors who are supportive of students’ decisions to stand in solidarity with the 120,000 plus students on strike in the province of Quebec against proposed tuition increases.

To publicly express this, a number of professors in our department have signed the Concordia Declaration, where there is a section which states,

In whatever ways we are reasonably able, that we will try to accommodate students who make a decision not to attend class or participate in academic work during a strike (for example, some professors may alter the weighting of graded assignments, create provisions for assignment due date changes, and so on); That we will inform the students we work with and the classes we teach that we have signed this declaration and initiate dialogue with our students about possible accommodations when appropriate.

If your professor has not signed the declaration but belongs to the Concordia University Part Time Faculty Association (CUPFA), there is also a statement which has been released which states:

If students attempt to prevent you from entering the building, you must not force your way in. CUPFA will not be responsible for precipitating an “incident” between students and the University. Under no circumstances should you call SecurityWhile you cannot support the student action by withdrawing your labour and not teaching your class, you can support them by others means. You have the discretion to shift assignment dates so as to avoid penalizing students who are out.

Also know that many professors throughout the university- regardless of their support for the strike and for accessible education- have hesitated from signing the Declaration due to perceived pressure from the institution or worries about job security and are NEVERTHELESS working to make accommodations for their students.

Professors are constantly receiving emails from higher level administration instructing them to try and enter classes to teach no matter where their solidarity lies and to inform us that they will be attending class no matter what. Remember though that they are able to use THEIR OWN DISCRETION to treat us reasonably and respectfully during this historically unprecedent moment where an anglophone university successfully enacts general strikes.

So feel out what they say in person, what their statements have been in class before the strike, and start a dialogue with them about what accommodations are possible.

Sorry this was so long, hope it helps somewhat. Please add pertinant information in the comments that you feel would help other Independent Students.

This entry was posted in Articles, GPE Department, Strike. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Special Letter to Independent Students taking Geography & Environment Classes

  1. Jodie S says:

    Thanks for taking on board the concerns of independent students and digging up this information – much appreciated 🙂

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