March 30, 2010
Concordia votes No
The CFS, the Frigo and the student centre are rejected as Fusion elected
After the first day of polling on March 23, only 300 students had voted at Sir George Williams Campus in the 2010 Concordia Student Union general election, leading to many long faces amongst the two slates running.
“Concordia students are incredibly politically apathetic because they’re given no reason not to be apathetic,” said Community presidential candidate Mike Xenakis. “A lot of students just come to school, go to class, then go home. It’s hard to tap into that market.”
The verdict from students, delivered a day late on March 26 due to a gas leak at Loyola Campus, was surprising only to some. The Fusion slate was elected with nearly 73 per cent of the vote, sweeping all but three of the student government’s 35 seats.
“It’s very humbling, it’s a tremendous feeling and it’s overwhelmingly tiring to win,” said CSU president-elect Prince Ralph Osei, the current VP Services and Loyola.
“Towards the end of the campaign, I was feeling that I didn’t actually want to hold an office,” said Xenakis, who will be graduating next year. “I just wanted to get the ideas out.”
Of the four referendum questions, only Cinema Politica’s request for an extra five cents per credit was approved—and only by 22 votes. Le Frigo Vert’s request for a fee levy increase of 12 cents per credit and the proposed Student Centre fee levy of $2.50 per credit were both rejected. Nearly 72 per cent of students also voted to leave the Canadian Federation of Students.
In all, less than 10 per cent of students turned out to vote.
“I was disappointed by the turnout, but I guess it was because there was such low competition, with only two slates participating,” said Chief Electoral Officer Oliver Cohen.
“We may have been too successful,” joked outgoing CSU VP External Auob Muntasar, who spent much of the year encouraging students to vote against the CFS. “Students voted No to everything.”
The extra day of polling on March 26 was added at Loyola Campus after a gas leak led to the cancellation of voting and the evacuation of the campus on March 25.
“I’m thrilled by the results. The way the election was run was clean, especially in regards to the CFS ballots,” said Beisan Zubi, who was part of the No to CFS committee. “They were kept separate, the question was exactly as it should be according to their bylaws and everything directly adhered to their rules.”
The vote to leave the CFS, the end of six months of strife between the CSU and the national lobby group, was only the beginning, according to outgoing CSU President Amine Dabchy.
He expects to meet the CFS in court soon.
“For the CFS’s own sake I hope that they accept the will of Concordia students because they are getting a lot of bad press,” said Zubi. “They keep [ignoring students], people keep getting mad and there will be more defederation campaigns across the country.”
“We’re feeling great that the majority of students voted in favour of our fee levy question,” said Cinema Politica coordinator Svetla Turnin. “The vote took place under extraordinary circumstances […]. I think a lot of students who were not informed about the fee levy questions voted no to everything.”
Cinema Politica’s victory, one of the closest in CSU history, would not have happened without the extra day of voting.
Frantic texts, calls and e-mails were sent out on the evening of March 25 as preliminary results showed the fee levy question to be losing by only 10 votes. Supporters were out in strength at Loyola encouraging students to vote.
“It was extremely close, but after the recount we increased our margin a little more,” said Turnin. Before the recount Cinema Politica was winning by only 15 votes. “We didn’t expect it to be so close because we weren’t asking for a lot, but I guess that the result was the outcome of a heated campaign at the referendum level.
“We are very pleased because we are the only fee levy that passed,” Turnin concluded.
Le Frigo Vert
“It became apparent where Community stood during the count, so I was watching the fee levies,” said Xenakis, who also sits as a board member at the Frigo. “I couldn’t believe it. The only time a fee levy fails is when there’s a No committee.”
Despite the lack of organized opposition to the Frigo’s fee levy request, 178 more students rejected the 12 cent per credit fee levy than voted for it.
Alex Oster, the outgoing VP Sustainability and Projects, called the Frigo’s loss the collateral damage of the election. He suspected that students who didn’t understand the request voted No due to the large No to CFS campaign.
“Everyone was really surprised [at the Frigo],” said Xenakis. “I think the Frigo did more to get a fee levy pass than most groups do.
“The Frigo hasn’t had a fee levy increase in five years and they really needed it,” he continued. “I think they’re going to try to do damage control and try to maintain their operations.”
The Frigo will probably attempt another fee levy request during the start of the next school year, according to Xenakis.
The Student Centre
“The high price turned students off, it was a lot,” said Oster, who was responsible for the Student Centre project. “The Student Centre is far off in a lot of people’s heads.”
The fee levy question which would have led to a $4.50 per credit fee—costing a 90-credit student $405 over the course of their degree—would have led to the purchase of an existing building near the university’s downtown campus by next January.
“I had friends watching the ballot count and they were saying, ‘It’s not looking good, it’s not looking good,’” said Oster. “Leading up to it everyone was saying, ‘It’s not going to be a problem. Don’t worry, it’s a solid project, people like the project.’”
No students attended a pre-election event to promote the centre, where Oster was ready to answer questions. During the election, the centre’s ownership came under question because the university would own the space, but the student union would control it.
“I think the failing was my own because the outreach wasn’t there and it was ours as the CSU because we targeted most of our energy on the CFS,” said Oster. “I don’t think it was a conscious decision, I just think that it was taking so much time and so much energy and so many resources and people said, ‘If [defederation] doesn’t happen now, it’s not going to happen.’”
Oster warned that the Student Centre plan would need to be scaled down, with more tenants planned for and more sponsorship—creating a building very different from the one he planned.
“Unless it is the call to arms of an executive, I don’t think you are going to see a student centre project like this for a long time,” said Oster.