Written by Alicia Shen
Edited by Abigail Wolfensohn
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recent cancellation of in-person classes, Congress conducted this past Friday’s meeting by video call. They welcomed a large number of first-year students interested in joining Congress next year.
At the top of this meeting’s agenda was, of course, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic: specifically, students’ concerns regarding the virus. Many Congress members and guests voiced the student body’s concerns in light of the administration’s lack of communication and clarity, and reiterated the importance of improving the relay of information between the College and its students, as well as transparency. For example, Michael Chalkhoun, Coordinator of Student Advocacy, noted the differences between Dawson College and Marianopolis’ approaches to the situation: Dawson students were informed that the administration was awaiting the Quebec government’s press conference scheduled the following day, whereas Marianopolis students were given little information about the administration’s thought process in the statement released Thursday night.
The day before the cancellation of classes, March 12th, the student body’s frustration reached a climax; students posted messages on the MSU Facebook group throughout the night and left angry comments on the College’s official Facebook page’s post concerning their COVID-19 statement. Due to the lack of communication between the administration and the student body, Congress members remarked that many students felt that their concerns were being ignored. Marianopolis College even deleted its Facebook post after it was flooded with comments from concerned students, causing more anger among members of the student body. According to President Aria Khiabani, the College removed the post because some comments included cursing and vulgar language; he noted that the administration has stated that it has no issue with students voicing their opinions, that it is well aware of students’ comments, and that it will be taking them into account.
According to Aria and Michael, the College listened to the Quebec government’s orders to remain open, and thus complied by holding classes as scheduled on Friday. However, Misha Fotovati, Coordinator of Internal Affairs, and Amanda Morrone, Vice President of Finance, observed that when the government eventually ordered the cancellation of classes at around noon on Friday, many teachers did not know what was happening, which created even more panic and confusion among the students. As of right now, Congress has no additional information regarding the upcoming two weeks. Over the past couple of days, Congress members have taken the initiative in representing the student body’s concerns: they have been in contact with the administration, listened and acted upon student concerns, drafted a plan of action and been in touch with other CEGEP and university student unions. Currently, they are discussing the possibility of an online press conference to take questions from students about the situation. Should you have any questions or wish to discuss your concerns, feel free to message any member of Congress!
Moving on to lighter news, Michael opened the conversation about whether teachers should post class averages or not, since the practice presently varies from teacher to teacher. In particular, he believes that there should be a standard for the College’s teachers regarding posting averages. Congress members were split on the topic; some emphasized that seeing class averages can negatively affect students’ mental well-being, while others expressed that the average allows them to see how they are performing relative to the class and can be reassuring for some. Misha introduced an alternative to the two options similar to the one used in her enriched mechanics class: she thinks that averages should not be posted on Omnivox, but if a student wants to know the class average, they can obtain it from their teacher. Congress will be launching a survey on the issue and present the results to the administration, which will then make a final decision about how to proceed.
Next, a couple of Congress members provided updates on their upcoming events. Cherry Sun, Coordinator of Charities and Volunteering, is planning a Shave to Save event for April 9. Participants can either shave or partially cut their hair while raising money for the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. Laurence Liang, Coordinator of External Affairs, announced that every representative from the COAC – the Coalition of Anglophone CEGEPs – is interested in organizing the COAC Boat Party, and a committee is in the works. The job fair he is also organizing has been tentatively planned for April 16th, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. In addition, Laurence and Darya Jabbari, Coordinator of Social Justice, are working with the Mari Green Team and people from Concordia to implement a composting system at school. Moreover, Zhaoran Wu, Coordinator of Cultural Affairs, unfortunately declared that Cultural Week will have to be cancelled due to the cancellation of classes.
Lastly, Vice-President Ying Ge discussed Congress applications and the potential need for changes to the application deadline because of the school closure for the next two weeks. She presented three options: keep the same application deadline and eliminate the mandatory nomination form, keep the same application deadline but change the deadline for the nomination form, or change the application and nomination form deadline to the Friday the week after the school closure. Michael appealed to cancelling the nomination form, since the nomination form may discourage people from applying given the current uncertainty of the coronavirus situation. However, Darya and Cherry disagreed, saying that the nomination form helped them talk with new people before their campaign. Overall, Congress members agreed to keep things simple for now due to the current volatile situation.
That’s it for this week’s Congress meeting! Stay safe everyone!