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Letters to the Editor

by Archives October 21, 2008

Dear CSU,

It has come to our attention that you have concerns about our organization.
First, we would like to clarify that Sustainable Concordia is a student-run group that works to promote and encourage a more sustainable Concordia, in our campus culture and the institution’s operations. The sustainability movement was born out of a need to address the social and economic realities of the problems being addressed in the environmental movement.
Sustainable Concordia is not an arm of the Concordia administration. Last year, 44 volunteers worked to oversee Sustainable Concordia projects, and countless others helped with project operations and implementation. All employees of Sustainable Concordia are students that qualify for workstudy.
We ask you stop sending misinformation about the structure of our organization.
Concordia does have two fulltime employees that work on issues related to sustainability. These employees are paid by the university administration, and while they do work closely with the student group, they cannot vote on decisions made by the Sustainable Concordia board. We would like to add that people that hold the positions of Sustainability Coordinator and Environmental Coordinator have always been Concordia graduates that played a key role in the success of Sustainable Concordia’s projects while they were students. Their role as an advisory capacity not only facilitates dialogue between the student group and the administration, but also ensures a level of institutional memory and supports student project leaders.
Second, our representative to the Sustainability Action Fund Board has informed us that at the Oct. 1st meeting, a motion was proposed by the CSU president that effectively enlarged the SAF Special Projects Committee to include all members of the Board but our representative. We feel that this motion disrespects the work that Sustainable Concordia has been leading on campus since 2002. Our organization has acquired over the last five years, valuable information about processes and avenues through which to drive change, and our coordinators have a finger on the pulse of local and regional initiatives.
We would like to be included on the special projects committee and would request your support to have Sean Starkman included on this committee.
Sustainable Concordia is built on the values of collaboration and the multi-stakeholder approach. That is, we believe that our success comes from a willingness to engage in dialogue with students, faculty, staff, and the community at large. Most changes we have been able to accomplish in the last five years came from building partnerships and relationships that have allowed us to get biodeisel introduced for the shuttle bus fleet or save the Hall building greenhouse from demolition. There was simply no way to take on these projects without the administration’s cooperation.
Finally, we are very disappointed about your lack of willingness to engage in dialogue about your concerns. Accountability and transparency are at the heart of sustainability, and we are very encouraged to see you feel these issues are important as well. However, your recent actions lead us to believe you think everyone should be held to this standard except the CSU. Your obvious neglect of your own by-laws and the lack of transparency in your decision-making is not acceptable.
We encourage you to speak with us about this matter and invite you to meet with us at your convenience.

Sustainable Concordia student group

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Dear editor,
There is a systemic flaw as to how the Concordia Student Union operates.
The CSU has seen fit to hold a referendum on the continuation of the Sustainability Action Fund (SAF) which draws 25 cents per credit from every Concordia undergrad to fund student-led sustainability initiatives on campus. The CSU takes umbrage as to how the fund has been managed, the funding given to projects run out of Sustainable Concordia, and role that the university administration holds at Sustainable Concordia (SC). These are the surface issues, the manifestations of a representative body without a prudent guiding philosophy; the underlying systemic issue is an adversarial perspective of the Concordia community, and poor conflict resolution.
SC and the SAF are two distinct entities both based on a consensus-building ideology, for the purpose of fostering a greater culture of sustainability on campus, engaging multiple Concordia Community members and encouraging respectful non-hierarchical communication between those community members. This Concordia community includes the administration; in fact, the administrative support of our campus initiatives is the envy of Canadian academia and an important aspect of Concordia’s leadership in sustainability action. A student body is by definition a constantly changing beast. The administrative presence at SC institutionalizes changes that students enact, and ensures their hard work is not lost after graduation.
Also inherent in this outlook is a desire for conflict resolution through consensus building and communication. If a conflict arises between two parties, the surest way to resolution is by bringing all interested groups together to find common ground, isolate contentious issues and work out their problems. This holistic perspective of the Concordia community has enabled SC to grow exponentially since its inception in 2002, led to the creation of the SAF in the spring of 2007, and world renown and recognition for Concordia University as a leader in sustainability.
Despite the woefully inadequate information provided on their decision making process, the public record clearly shows the CSU executive does not share this holistic perspective of campus life. The example of the SAF is pressing and illustrative. For the reasons mentioned above, the CSU executive took a dislike to the SAF’s operation; the resulting course of action makes a mockery of the democratic process of student life. Rather than asking for the SAF to undertake an internal review, rather than asking for an external audit, rather than working the phones to gather information or foster open public debate, and without having informed the SAF there was a problem, the CSU executive’s first step towards resolving this conflict was to hold an illegal, emergency meeting of the Council of Representatives and attempt to remove the SAF’s funding.
If this referendum does come to fruition, the student body will be deliberating on more than a single student fee levy: this referendum will be to decide whether the CSU executive’s narrow, divisive guiding philosophy is acceptable, and truly represents the views and wishes of the entire student population.

Alex Oster
Sustainability Action Fund

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