Concordia to punish those who blocked classes

Code of Rights explicitly outlaws obstruction

Concordia University students who blocked others from attending classes and exams during the now four-month-old “student strike” protests will face sanctions, reports the Montreal Gazette.

The university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities has charged a number of students under the Code of Rights and Responsibilities and will try them this month. Sanctions may include payment for damaged property, community service, suspension or expulsion, a university spokesperson has said.

The Code of Rights and Responsibilities states:

Obstruction or disruption of teaching, research, administration, study, student disciplinary procedures or other University activity. Notwithstanding the preceding, Members are free to engage in peaceful and orderly protest, demonstration, and picketing that do not disrupt the functions of the University. For example, peaceful picketing or other activity in any public space that does not impede access nor interfere with the activities in a class or meeting is an acceptable expression of dissent and shall not be considered an infraction of this article.

About 75 protesters, including some Concordia students, joined arms and blocked entry to the Hall Building for 45 minutes on April 12 to prevent fellow students from writing exams.

The picketers were angry that many students had chosen to continue with classes despite a “strike vote” by the Concordia Student Union on March 8 where it was determined by a show of hands that students would join a widespread boycott. The boycott was endorsed by the CSU beforehand.

At the meeting, 1,152 students voted in favour of boycotting classes and 557 voted against. The 1,700 votes represented roughly five per cent of Concordia’s 35,000 undergraduates. Student associations representing business, engineering, computer science students and history students held their own votes later in March where they decided their students would continue classes.

Concordia went ahead with classes despite the activists’ objections, unlike many of other schools.

The boycott movement is meant to show opposition to a tuition fee increase originally pegged at $1,625 over five years, after which Quebec students will pay approximately $3,800 per year.

There have been nightly protests in Montreal for more than 40 days that have led to thousands of arrests, many broken windows and a damaged economy as the disruptions keep tourists away.

Many others joined the protests against the Charest government after it enacted Law 78 on May 18. The law forces students back to school in August and imposes large fines on those who block classes or organize demonstrations of 50 or more without providing an itinerary to police.