Concordia University students challenge possible strike-action sanctions

WATCH: Several Concordia University students may face expulsion for their involvement in anti-austerity protests that left three professors feeling intimidated. Rachel Lau has details.

MONTREAL — Concordia University student Jonathan Summers is facing possible expulsion after two dozen students barged into a political science class on April 1.

The elementary school teacher and graduate student in Educational Studies insisted he was not one of them.

“It’s pretty funny,” he told Global News.

“I was running the Graduate Student Association general election as the Chief Returning Officer that day.”

He received a letter anyway, summoning him to a tribunal.

“It just looks like they’re just targeting people on campus who are active in their student associations,” he said.

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Summers is asking Concordia’s president Alan Shepard to “dismiss all charges against students.”

The students are accused of violating Article 29-G in Concordia’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities, the “obstruction or disruption of university activities,” which includes teaching and studying.

“There was no communication prior to the charges being laid, and I feel that that has lost the trust that we have been able to build over the past year,” said Terry Wilkings, the Concordia Student Union president.

Student associations are insisting the threat of sanctions is unfair because students were “peacefully enforcing a strike mandate.”

A copy of one of the strike complaints sent to Concordia University after classes were disrupted on April 1, 2015.
A copy of one of the strike complaints sent to Concordia University after classes were disrupted on April 1, 2015. No Tribunals For Students

“They voted to strike on that day and that was a situation that was taken collectively in a democratic fashion in their general assembly,” said Summers.

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However, that’s not how the university sees things.

Though she can’t comment on exactly what happened on April 1, university spokesperson Chris Mota insisted classes were cancelled for the faculties that had voted in favour of a student strike.

But, former CSU president Benjamin Prunty said there’s a reason why classes that were still in session were interrupted.

“The university cancelled classes for the Department of Political Science only for the second day [of the strike – April 2], which is why classes were disrupted on April 1,” he wrote to Global News in an e-mail.

He pointed out students had voted for a two day strike, not one.

The university said it did not intervene during the protests, because there was no threat of violence or safety during the disturbances in class.

All the same, three professors have filed official complaints, suggesting they felt intimidated.

The university is supporting the professors, and several students received letters summoning them to a tribunal hearing.

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The CSU estimates about two dozen students have been summoned, even though they say they negotiated with the university prior to striking.

“To see that now, mid-summer, after everything that happened that they’re co-signing and co-complaining with the three faculty is incredibly surprising for me,” said Katie Nelson, a striking student who has received three summonses.

The tribunal will be made up of two students and one faculty member and if found guilty, consequences range from a written warning to expulsion.

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