Criteria for next year’s handbook: ‘intelligent articles’

This year’s student handbook committee, headed by Concordia grad Shiri Pasternak, hopes to come up with a practical and thought provoking agenda for the fall.
“We have a large, over-arching theme and that’s ‘functionality’, both on a practical and political level. Practically, the agenda will be easy to navigate to find useful information about the CSU, academic services, red tape and student life; and politically, there will be articles written on issues that affect students on Concordia campuses,” said Pasternak.
This year’s agenda has been a topic of discussion since last fall, when the ACCESS slate released the 2001-2002 handbook entitled Uprising. Although the agenda was hailed by some for pushing the boundaries of political discussion, it was also heavily criticized on and off campus for promoting what some saw as extremist views. Some students were offended by a drawing of a half-naked woman, while others accused it of promoting anti-Israeli rhetoric.
“A handbook is supposed to be something that gives information, not try to change your point of view,” management information systems student Saira Khalid told The Concordian last fall.
The most scathing criticism came from B’nai Brith Canada, which likened it to a handbook for future terrorists.
This year’s CSU budget has the handbook slated to cost $60,000. Although mainly self-funded from advertising, student funds also pay for its production, a fact that was not lost on students last year. At a general meeting held last October,
students questioned whether the handbook truly represented all those who had helped fund it.
Pasternak, who studied creative writing and literature at Concordia, said past criticism will play little part in her decision on what is included in the
handbook. “The only criteria is that the articles are intelligent,” shesaid,
adding that she agreed with the wide range of themes – including the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poverty and sexual orientation – that were
discussed in last year’s handbook.
“I don’t think those issues were the problem. The problem was that the tone was confrontational. It was an affront to peoples’ sensibilities. They weren’t ready for it,” she said. Even so, she added, that does not mean those topics will not be discussed in this year’s edition. Another criticism was that last year’s agenda was poorly laid out, leaving little room for notes. Many students were also surprised that no space was left at the back to list phone numbers and addresses, a customary section in most student agendas.
Working with design student John Stewart and photography student Kate
Greenslade, Pasternak believes they will be able to produce an agenda that is “beautiful, as well as logically organized and visually clean.”
Although it is too early to have a set theme for the agenda, Pasternak says she already has a general vision of what she hopes to accomplish. She likened the handbook to a guide for new students who may be confused and disoriented when starting university.
“[M]y guiding imperative seems to keep coming back to my experience being an exchange student in Wales last year. I want to make a handbook for someone who felt like I did when I first arrived in Swansea last year: disoriented. I wanted the questions answered: Where am I? Where can I meet people like me?
Where can I go for help when I have problems? How do things work around this school? What are the secrets of this city? Often, the best way to approach something, is from outside.


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