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October 11, 2001 Student union faces angry constituency at assembly



by Barbara Black

Business and engineering students attended a Concordia Student Union general assembly in large numbers on Sept. 26, and massively outvoted the CSU executive’s activist agenda.

The alumni auditorium of the Hall Building was filled to capacity with well over 800 students, including a large turnout from the two professional Faculties.

They had at least two issues in mind. One was the withdrawal of companies from student-organized job fairs as a result of a CSU publication denouncing several Montreal-area companies. The other concerned the nomination of student representatives on Senate and the Board of Governors.

Cristelle Basmaji, president of the Commerce and Administration Students Association (CASA), was one of the key organizers of the unusual turnout of these students, many of whom had never been involved in campus politics, even to the extent of voting in CSU elections. She sent letters to business students urging them to attend.

At the assembly, Basmaji and others succeeded in getting a resolution to ban several corporations from campus moved to the top of the agenda; it was soundly defeated. She also introduced a motion to permit CASA and the Engineering and Computer Science Students Association (ECA) to nominate their own representatives to the Senate and Board, as was the practice until last year. This was passed.

After that, most of the students got up and left the assembly, leaving it without a quorum, 550 students.

A motion was introduced that would have moved the remaining items of the assembly’s agenda to the CSU’s Council of Representatives. However, Basmaji and others successfully argued that it would be undemocratic to have a demand to the university for the reinstatement of excluded activists Tom Keefer and Laith Marouf decided by a group of 30 students. As a result, the assembly was adjourned.

Basmaji is in her third year and has attended many CSU assemblies, but always felt “very much in the minority” when faced with the current executive’s anti-capitalist agenda.

She agreed that the assembly had been an education in civics, both for the CSU executive, which has claimed to speak for all Concordia students although it got votes from fewer than four per cent, and for the mass of students who traditionally leave student government to the politically committed. “This was a big change,” she admitted.

A group of students started circulating a petition last week to recall the current CSU executive. Basmaji said she felt sure that more than enough signatures would be collected. If 10 per cent of the student body, or about 2,400 students, sign the petition, an election must be called within a month.

Meanwhile, the CSU handbook, Uprising 2001-2002, continued to anger many outside the university. On Oct. 1, B’nai Brith denounced its virulent attacks on Israel, and called on police to investigate the publication as “an incitement to violence.”

An essay in the National Post by Jonathan Kay on Sept. 28 ridiculed a poem in the handbook by “the confused Mia Brooks” that calls for an “intifada against the patriarchy,” and called CSU activist Keefer “a notorious loudmouth.”

For the second time in a month, The Gazette published an editorial denouncing the CSU as a “personal playground for a bunch of radical professional activists.”

The university’s administration continued to receive angry and curious calls from the public, and has made a formal request to the Quebec government to investigate whether the activities of the CSU contravene the charter and bylaws of the student union. However, Education Minister François Legault’s initial reaction was that his ministry would not intervene.

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