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Group unifies Arts & Science students

by Archives October 22, 2003

There is a renewed sense of optimism at Concordia. New buildings, fields and buses complement the record enrollment and promote the thinking that the university is heading nowhere but up.

Amidst the sparkling complex and green grass is the emergence of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) a three-year-old organization representing over 12,000 students.

“There’s so much more to university than going to class,” says VP of Administration Colleen Ryan, one of the six VPs spearheading ASFA’s growth. “You have the opportunity to meet other students in your program, develop friendships, get to know your professors, and network.”

“Kiss my ASFA 2003” was the first Frosh orientation organized for Arts & Science students. Also successful was the free concert by Sky and Shawn Desman, which was among the many diverse concerts offered throughout Montreal during the first weeks of school.

Establishing ASFA among the university’s primary associations has yet to be achieved, however. Many believe it must be run smoothly from beginning to end (the initial group dissolved last year due to internal conflicts) to be taken seriously by faculty and students alike. A lot of that has to do with the participation of the 31 associations under the ASFA umbrella who now find themselves with a stronger voice and increased responsibilities.

“In many ways they are ASFA,” says Mark Ordonselli of the School of Community and Public Affairs.

“ASFA doesn’t exist just for parties throughout the year. It exists for representation and appointments to various councils, among many things.”

Indeed one job of the member association is to appoint students to various committees and sub-committees. At their second meeting of the year, students who presented themselves for nomination were elected based on short speeches to the council.

Time constraints made it difficult for the member associations to make the open positions known to all students eligible, which usually was anyone enrolled in an Arts and Science program.

It is no doubt difficult keeping in touch with a record number of students for the Arts and Science faculty, an amount so high that the university has hired 200 new professors to meet the demand.

It is especially difficult when many do not know ASFA even exists. While the first agenda, Frosh, orientation and concert events have put ASFA on the map, they are attempting to establish the means to keep themselves there and spread the word about future events and news.

“The web site is the vehicle,” said VP Internal Farouk Janmohamed at the first ASFA council meeting in early September.

“It is where the associations and students will go to get their information.”

The web site is certainly a place Arts & Science students should bookmark. For example, if you received a INC (incomplete) on your transcript from last semester, information on the web site directed you to apply at the Birks Student Centre no later than Oct. 1 to complete any late work. After the deadline date you have to go through the Student Request Committee to get an extension approved, otherwise a failure will be applied to your transcript.

There is much more to be found on the ASFA web site, and it will only continue to grow with all the information to share. ASFA hopes all associations will be linked to their site by the end of the year. Many associations under ASFA are either creating web sites or already have them established.

Under this format, events of individual associations will get coverage beyond their specific faculty, and uniting events between faculties will be easier. Different associations are already teaming up to throw bigger events, with combined Halloween parties on the horizon as a sign of the exciting events to come.

“Concordia survived for years without any representation for the Arts and Science students,” acknowledges Ryan. “They had a great disadvantage, especially considering that CASA [Commerce and Administration Student Association] and the ESA [Engineering Student Association] are so well organized. Now they [Arts and Science students] have more opportunities to meet and interact.”

ASFA has already shown its worth to its membership. For example, over-achieving students would be interested to know about the eight new Arts and Science bursaries.

The awards of $500 each are split between the arts disciplines and the science disciplines. Four will be to acknowledge outstanding academic achievement (must maintain an annual GPA of 4.0 over the period of one year or 24 credits).

The other four will be to recognize outstanding contribution to Concordia student life while maintaining a GPA of 3.0. It suffices to say that the young ASFA is doing everything it can to help its students.

There is also a ‘Special Projects Fund’ in place, an upcoming trip to New York City and an extravagant Grad Ball planned for the end of the year, a first for Arts and Science students.

At the end of the day, one has to wonder how the ASFA members are able to undertake a task as burdensome as breathing life into such an organization. Most are busy working, going to school and maintaining what social life they can through hectic schedules.

“There’s the ultimate satisfaction of being able to contribute to student life,” says Janmohamed describing why he volunteers all the hours he does.

“I only wish I [had] gotten involved sooner, and I hope more students get involved.”

If ASFA can continue riding the wave it has created, they just might.

For additional information you can contact ASFA by telephone at 848-7966, or visit their web site at www.asfa.ca.

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