Written by Jerry Zhu
Edited by Aaron Gao
This Friday, Congress commenced its weekly meeting with an introduction of special guests, which included Green Team members Edward Li, Kalliopé Anvar McCall, and Mahmuda (Mahin) Sekendra, as well as Director-General Christian Corno. Mr. Corno was invited to attend the meeting in light of the recent push from MSU members to cancel classes on Friday, September 27—the date of the International Climate Strike. All Congress meetings were present except for Ying Chen, Coordinator of Communications, who had to attend an important club activity.
President Aria Khiabani opened the agenda with a presentation of the results of the Climate Strike referendum, which closed at noon: out of 1293 ballots, 1130 students voted yes, translating into 87.4% of students voting in favour of cancelling classes on September 27. Laurence Liang, the newly elected Coordinator of External Affairs, pointed out that referendums in other CEGEPs across Montreal produced similar results.
Mr. Corno began by expressing his openness to hearing the student body’s voice, further stating that it is rare for Marianopolis students to vote in such unanimity to cancel class unlike at certain other Cégeps. However, he remained reticent regarding the administration’s opinion on the matter throughout the meeting, although they were ready to make a decision right after the meeting.
Green team members Edward, Kalliopé, and Mahmuda were then invited to present their arguments to Mr. Corno. Kalliopé began by firmly stating the Climate Strike organizers’ position: “Our goal for Friday, September 19 is to march. We want to put pressure on the Canadian government.” However, many students wanting to participate are concerned about having to choose between their education and protecting their future. Edward proceeded to reference the staggering results of the referendum, which demonstrate the MSU’s willingness to participate in the Strike, and reminds those at the meeting that part of Marianopolis’s mission statement is to encourage students to be involved in environmental stewardship. Mahmuda further stressed the extremely high voter turnout—which was even higher than that of the MSU elections—saying that “Marianopolis students want to look beyond our walls. This whole thing is about asking our educators to support us,” with Kalliopé adding that “it’s important for us to be seen as an activist college.”
The number of students who would actually attend the Strike was a subject of concern, but Michael Chalkhoun, Coordinator of Student Advocacy, reaffirmed that such a high turnout was a sign of students’ keen interest.
Mr. Corno expressed that although this may be more common in other colleges, the College has historically always prioritized education for its students and that if ever classes were to be cancelled, later sacrifices and compensations would have to be made. He also said that the administration’s inaction up to then concerning the topic was not a testimony to a lack of care for environmental issues. Instead, they wanted to hear the student voice first, as proven by his presence at the meeting and were not sure what would happen until earlier in the week. He then restated his willingness to make a decision immediately following the meeting.
Laurence then pointed out that all English Cégeps in Montreal except for John Abbott (which is also conducting a referendum) have decided to cancel classes on September 27. Edward voiced his worry of Marianopolis being potentially perceived as isolated and unsympathetic towards the Climate Strike movement if it were to be the only school not to cancel classes.
After carefully listening to all arguments presented to him, Mr. Corno thanked Congress for the invitation to attend the meeting and left to discuss the matter with the administration, with the promise of a verdict shortly.
Afterwards, the members of the College committees were announced. The student body representatives on the Anti-Harassment Committee will be Andrew and Michael and on the Sexual Violence Committee, Cherry and Darya.
Next, Congress brought the discussion to a post-mortem on the recent General Assembly, held the previous Thursday on AP. All agreed upon its success; one even noted that it was the most highly attended General Assembly of the last 30 years. On a side note, the congregation of so many students translated into a massive influx for the Volunteer Village, which took place simultaneously in the Student Lounge. As the constitutional review couldn’t be finished in time, Congress is currently planning another General Assembly within the next six weeks.
The meeting ended on a positive note when the Director-General announced the College’s verdict: Marianopolis will indeed close its doors on September 27 in support of the Climate Strike.