Montreal, April 15 2015 – Today, students from various associations that have been on strike in recent weeks are blockading the Concordia administration building in protest of the university’s inaction in taking a stance against the Quebec government’s permanent cuts to education, and as part of the broader anti-austerity movement of Printemps 2015. We understand austerity measures as being part of a larger neoliberal project of dismantling public services and deepening social and environmental injustices.
The pretext of austerity is unfounded: it seeks to recuperate money by cutting public services, disproportionately impacting already marginalized peoples and putting essential services such as education and health care further out of reach. Meanwhile, the government does not demand the wealthy to pay their fair share and heavily subsidizes a resource extraction economy that relies on the ongoing colonization of Indigenous lands and the denial of Indigenous self-determination, further displacing communities by expanding projects such as the Plan Nord.
As Concordia faces the consequences of austerity measures, the situation here is a reflection of this same capitalist logic: Concordia has some of the highest paid senior administrators in the province[i] and is effectively run by a Board of Governors largely comprised of corporate interests, from private wealth management firms and luxury auto dealership ownerships to Hydro Quebec. At the same time, our departments have suffered under these budget cuts in the form of overwhelming numbers of poorly paid part-time faculty, reduction in quality of education due to expanded class size, increasingly precarious teaching assistant positions, higher workloads for employees and faculty, loss of “non-critical” positions in Health Services, Custodial and Sustainability Positions, etc.
Rather than challenge the Quebec government’s position on a permanent roll-back of education, Concordia has quietly accepted the more than $42 million in cuts to our university since 2012. Students have once again taken a stand where institutions such as Concordia, mandated to create opportunities for “education, research, creative activity and community partnerships,” have not.
We deplore the more than $172 million in cuts to all levels of education under the Liberal government’s new Austerity Measures Act, which imposes approximately $15.7 million in budget cuts to Concordia University this year alone. These cuts place the integrity of education and research further at risk and at the discretion of top-down, corporate administrators and a disconnected Board of Governors whose primary concern is profit. This is a clear assault on education as a collective, public good that can and should be used for the benefit of all. We reject the growing commodification of knowledge that tailors research and learning to market demands and sells education as a mere private investment available only to the select few.
We stand in solidarity with UQÀM students, who have been unjustly criminalized and targeted by their university administration. We demand that Concordia remain off limits to police and condemn the recent presence of riot police on campus this March 23, 2015. We have seen on numerous occasions the disastrous presence of police on our campus, particularly in 2012, and denounce the growing militarization of university spaces amidst a climate of supposed economic scarcity. We ask that the Concordia administration publicly denounce the politically-motivated expulsions at UQÀM.
Finally, we demand that the university take a strong position against the austerity measures unilaterally imposed by the Quebec government. To challenge these unnecessary cuts, we must fight together for an accessible university, against the commodification of education and for a more just society that is inclusive and cares for everyone regardless of their economic status. We stand in solidarity with teachers, students, workers, and other groups who are directly affected. Continuons le combat!
[i] In 2013-2014, Concordia President Alan Shepard’s base salary was $360,570. He also received $75,105 in other goods (vehicle, housing and entertainment, private insurance, parking, etc.). Concordia’s Vice President Advancement and Vice President Services – along with Concordia’s President – were rated within Quebec’s top 7 paid university administrators in 2011, both making more than 330,000$ per year.