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Bai Chao Chen: Why the GA on Friday is the critical turning point for the MSU

Written by Bai Chao Chen
Edited by Anson Yeh

General context
On April 8th, 2021, Feiyang Xin started a petition against in-person final exams and posted it on the Marianopolis Student Union’s Facebook group. The petition garnered the required 200 signatures for a General Assembly by the MSU Congress. Students will be called to vote on the following question:

‘‘Does the MSU wish to hold a referendum to propose in-person final evaluations?’’

If the result is 50%+1 in favor, Congress will have to hold a referendum on whether students want in-person or online finals. If that vote reaches a majority as well, Congress will need to open negotiations with the administration and bargain in favor of the student body. If the result is negative at any point, Congress will not endorse said petition. 

Context of COVID-19 in Quebec as of April 12th
Quebec is currently experiencing the third wave of COVID-19, this time with a variant bonus round that recently killed a 16 year old. To summarize, the first wave occurred in Spring 2020, the second one in Fall 2020 and this one specifically in Spring 2021. Essentially, a new wave occurred every time the Government chose to reopen too soon. In Spring 2020, Quebec was caught off-guard against the new virus resulting in the first wave. In Fall 2020, the Government had a messy reopening of schools as well as different sectors of the economy. Added with conflicting rules, the public was visibly confused. We are currently amidst the third wave and, as expected, the Government has implemented  confusing policies once more in the past month. Premier Legault keeps changing the curfew time and closing gyms. On the other hand, the Minister of Education, Jean François Roberge, is eager to show how he wants students to return to in-person school even though it might be against the wishes of many parents. The vaccination program is carrying on, although only for people above the age of 60, health care workers and other essential workers so far. There is no vaccine in sight for us young folks just yet.

Thoughts on the referendum
To be frank, risking getting COVID is not worth it especially with the vaccination and herd immunity so close at hand. Expecting individuals to respect the sanitary rules with the finish line so close is naïve. Generally, what tends to happen for teenagers and young adults is as follows: they wear a mask at school and as soon as they are out, they start forgetting about physical distancing, wearing their masks properly, etc.  This is my opinion but if you observed the outskirts of numerous schools over the three waves, which I have for an entire year, you would arrive at a similar opinion. Furthermore, people in the West tend to wear cloth masks since there are no rules regarding what sort of face covering people must wear. A video posted on YouTube by the University of New South Wales demonstrates how surgical masks are more effective than cloth masks. The individuals in the video sneezed, coughed and exhaled. The particles can be observed with the help of LED lighting and a high-speed camera. In that case, people wearing a cloth mask do increase the risk of infection, albeit by how much remains to be seen.

Will Congress succeed?          
The final matter that needs to be addressed is the performance of the MSU Congress. Will they succeed in defending the interests of the student body if the students vote in favor? Or will they fall short like last fall?

In the Congress Weekly of November 13th 2020, a student petition was analyzed. Students taking math courses wanted their final examination to count for 75% of their final grade. Congress, the voice of the student body, tried to communicate with the administration and the Mathematics Department, however it ended in a deadlock. The other parties ran out the clock resulting in the lack of a resolution, the voice of the student body was unheard, and the bargaining failed miserably. A passage from the same article demonstrated the mindset of those involved: “Congress believes that the petition has received much backlash because the students were unfamiliar with the petitioning process which inevitably led to its mismanagement.”. Instead of assuming responsibility for failing to represent the student body, they put the blame on the students who started the petition. Congress must make sure they understand what their mandate consists of: their duty is not being on an ego-trip, they are the voice of the people not the elites. This time could be different. If the vote is passed successfully, they must bargain with the administration for the health and well-being of the students. Will Congress run it down again or will they make me eat my own words?

Only time will tell…!!!

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  1. […] as we enter the third wave. As the petition has reached the 200 signatures criteria, this General Assembly is called to vote on whether or not to hold a referendum to oppose in-person […]

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