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Java U hosts sustainability chat

by Archives February 7, 2007

Although Concordia is the most energy-efficient major university in Quebec, the question of how to apply the principles of sustainability on a larger scale led Tuesday’s discussion just a week ago at Java U in the Hall building.

As some referred to Concordia’s downtown campus as an “urban jungle” devoid of proper vegetation, many involved in the open conversation hosted by the University of the Streets Cafe and Sustainable Concordia said that more can be done to lead the way.

It was the first of five discussions leading up to the Blueprints for Change Sustainability Festival taking place at the end of the month.

Attended by students, faculty, staff and local residents, the discussion was centred around the theme of Concordia being an urban catalyst for society. Issues pertinent to the Concordia community were discussed in an open-minded and welcoming context as mediator Lance Evoy of the Institute of Management and Community Development invited everyone to voice their concerns and feelings.

“The idea behind this was to re-appropriate public spaces so that ordinary citizens such as residents and students would have somewhere to think out loud and challenge each other openly,” explained Evoy.

Having received financial support from the Centre for Continued Education and donations from the university, law firms and the private sector, the University of the Streets Cafe has established itself in the past three years as a viable medium for community spokespeople to interact with the public.

Sustainability Coordinator Melissa Garcia-Lamarca shared her views and introduced the soon-to-be-released Sustainability Assessment. Pioneered by Concordia, the blueprint of this campus sustainability assessment is now being followed by universities all across the country.

“I think the strength and richness of Concordia comes from its social functions” said Garcia-Lamarca. Indeed, the university has spear-headed social endeavours such as the sustainability assessment for years.

After speaking about sustainability, another topic raised for discussion was the role of universities and their function in society.

“[A] university,” read Evoy, “has often seen itself as an enclave removed enough from the immidiacy and demands of modern life to produce the knowledge and information to better understand society, and the science and technical inventions to ultimately transform it,” “For others, the word has meant unresponsive, disconnected and alienated institution.”

In response to the definition Evoy read out, Sheila Mason, a long-time professor of philosophy, mentioned that “universities no longer have a monopoly on learning.” She said that with mediums such as the Internet and search engines such as Google, learning is happening everywhere and often outside a traditional university context.

Gerardo Sierra, an engaged citizen, hosts many Spanish-speaking cafes such as this one. He introduced the idea that universities should provide experiences that are “life-giving as opposed to ‘life taking’.” He went on to say that often, exciting experiences are taken away when placed in a classroom context. “The word ‘university’ has its latin roots in the word universe. Therefore, universities should be place[s] to explore the universe.”

For upcoming cafes, check out http://univcafe.concordia.ca.

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