Texas abortion bill is anti-woman, not pro-life

How abortion punishment contradicts pro-life claims

Republican Texas state representative Tony Tinderholt has reintroduced a bill that, if passed, would criminalize women who seek out abortions, as well as open up the possibility for those women to be convicted of homicide. In Texas, this means that women who choose abortion could face the ultimate form of punishment: the death penalty.

The basic value held by those who are anti-abortion, also known as “pro-lifers”or at least the value they claim to upholdis that an unborn fetus has the right to develop fully and be born into the world. What’s strange is that, rather than focusing their efforts on this simple idea, a number of those who are involved with the extremist anti-abortion movement use violence to get their point across and make a statement.

There is a long and unfortunate history of anti-abortion extremist violence in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Vandalism, arson, assault, abductions, bombings, and shootings—abortion clinics across these countries have seen the worst. Sadly, this is far from being an issue of the past. In 2015 alone, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Claremont, New Hampshire was vandalized; a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pullman, Washington was intentionally set on fire; and three people were killed (along with several others injured) in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

If extreme pro-lifers really are pro-life, then why do they use such violent—and sometimes fatal— methods in their attempts to make themselves heard? If one is truly pro-life, should they not value all lives, rather than only the lives of unborn fetuses? What about all the lives lost in these brutal anti-abortion attacks? Moreover, what about the lives of the women seeking out abortions in those clinics themselves?

When it comes to the concept of punishing a woman by death penalty for her choice to have an abortion, the same line of questioning should be used to critique this bill. If someone is against abortion for the sake of the sanctity of human life, but they are fine with implementing the death penalty as punishment for abortion, can their arguments really be taken seriously?

No part of the term “pro-life” seems to track with the concept of imprisoning a woman for life or sentencing her to death for making reproductive choices for her own body. In fact, a belief in the death penalty could be considered extremely “anti-life”.

The proposal of these cruel, sexist bills under the guise of a “pro-life” mindset is misleading at best and—at worst—utterly inhumane. Tinderholt is using this abortion bill as a mirage to veil the truth of the matter: that the extreme end of the anti-abortion movement was never about protecting human life. It is, and always has been, about stripping women of their reproductive and human rights.

Archive Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Ralph: Canada’s cool older sister

From performing in musicals as a teenager decked out in Vans, a pair of fairy wings, and a crinoline over her jeans, to working in several bands over the years while sporting boho-chic hats, Toronto artist Ralph’s sound and look have evolved greatly throughout her life and career.

Ralph can safely say that she has always taken risks in music and in fashion to stand out and do things differently. Having now ditched traditional singer-songwriter attire for a more fun and edgy look, she said she currently focuses on comfort and occasionally plays with gender ambiguity.

“I love that my style can walk this line of androgyny,” she said. “I think that’s really fun to play with for music videos and for looks in general.”

Since the release of her 80s-driven EP in early 2017, Ralph said her main goal when it came to her latest album, A Good Girl, was to focus on a more contemporary sound.

“I got type-casted as this 80s synth-pop artist and I didn’t want that,” said Ralph. “I think my music transcends one genre.”

According to Ralph, the album released last fall still features nostalgic moments reminiscent of sounds from the past, but feels fresh and new—especially with the inclusion of the track “Girl Next Door,” a collaboration with Toronto singer and rapper TOBi.

Ralph said that despite having strayed away from her beginnings performing as a folk artist, there are still many similarities between her music then and now. The most significant constants are the themes she is drawn to when writing lyrics.

“Pop is just such a huge genre and you can kind of make it what you want it to be,” Ralph said. “I write pop music in the same way that I wrote folk, in the sense that I still tell stories.”

Ideas of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-worth are driving forces behind Ralph’s lyrics. Having dealt with an eating disorder in the past, and still occasionally feeling insecure about parts of her body, she said that slowly opening up about her struggles has been therapeutic for her and her audience.

“It can be scary and challenging, but I think it’s really rewarding, and there are so many people who need to hear conversations about it,” said Ralph.

Another of the many themes Ralph explores in the album is how relationships shape our lives.

“It’s a universal theme, it’s very relatable,” Ralph said. “Whether it’s the relationship we have with ourselves, the relationships we have with our friends, with our family […]. They help you grow so much.”

Ralph’s favourite track on the album, “Cereal,” dives into this topic, focusing on love and heartbreak. It features the lush, female harmonies of Montreal-based duo Milk & Bone. “I remember listening to it and just getting shivers,” said Ralph. “It felt like the perfect closure to the album for me.”

“Cereal” was the last song Ralph wrote for the album and it holds a special place in her heart. “It’s funny listening to it now because it’s about a breakup and I’m back together with the person that it’s about,” said Ralph.

While Milk & Bone will not be joining her for her Montreal performance, Ralph said she is thrilled to be touring with Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman. She and Helman, also a Toronto native, met at the iHeartRadio Beach Ball festival in Vancouver two years ago. “He’s such an amazing songwriter and performer,” said Ralph. “Each time I see him play, I’m blown away and I respect him more and more as an artist. It’s a cool opportunity.”

As far as future collaborations are concerned, Ralph said she hopes to branch out and work with people outside of Canada. “I have a lot of friends in Los Angeles who are great singer-songwriters and musicians,” Ralph said. “I think [collaborations] are such a cool part of being a musician […] It’s such an awesome experience to create something out of nothing with someone else.”

When it comes to A Good Girl, Ralph said her biggest challenge was curating the track list. She said she wrote approximately 40 songs for the album and struggled to make cuts. “You have to be open minded and able to understand that you will write a million songs,” she said. “I get so attached to each song that I write, that it feels excruciating to think that I may never use that song for anything.”

Ralph said she is learning more every day about when it’s best to include a song or leave it off the album. “I’m just constantly getting better at understanding how to be more collaborative, more patient, less stubborn, and to think about how being an artist also often involves being part of a team,” said Ralph.

Already looking towards the future, Ralph said she already has 30 new songs written with her next album in mind. She started writing on the road during her last tour, and plans to perform new material on her current tour.

“I’ll write another 10 or 12 and then we’ll start picking which songs we want to put on a new album or EP that’ll come out in the spring or summer,” Ralph said.

For now, Ralph said she is focused on touring and promoting her latest album. While she typically sees a large number of young men and people from the LGBTQ+ community attending her shows, she said Helman’s audience tends to be mostly comprised of young women.

Ralph said the LGBTQ+ community is her biggest support system. “I’m so grateful to have that, but it’s also really cool to also be exposed to a different kind of audience that isn’t necessarily hearing my music,” she said. “I think a lot of my music speaks to young women, so it’s really cool to be creating a new fan base and meeting new people who are connecting with the songs.”

Though she gets worried about staying healthy while touring, especially during the winter, Ralph said she is mostly excited to be on the road again.

“My shows are open and safe for everyone to come, and they’re fun,” Ralph said. “They’re fun and personal […] and we dance a lot. If you’re not a big dancer that’s cool, but I encourage everyone to try and shake their hips a little bit.”

Ralph and Scott Helman will be performing at L’Astral in Montreal on March 20. Their tour will conclude with a show in North Bay, Ontario on April 6. A Good Girl is available now.


Just a sci-fi girl in an apathetic world

How attending Comiccon helped me find community

Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time with me knows I’m a horror junkie. Even as a kid, I grasped onto any opportunity to feast my eyes on something that would permanently maim me. When I was just barely 10-years-old, I cherished sleepovers at my grandparents’ house because my grandmother would take me to the video store and let me pick out any DVD I wanted.

At home, I was never allowed to watch anything rated PG-13 or higher. I was sequestered while adults watched movies that all my friends had seen, like Titanic or Grease, until I hit double digits. My parents deemed Kate Winslet’s nipples and hickeys from Kenickie as content far too inappropriate for my prepubescent eyes.

My mom’s parents were never the sheltering type, though. Nor were they fond of enforcing strict bedtimes. The first horror movie I remember watching was in their basement, shortly after midnight, both of them fast asleep on the couch beside me. It was Child’s Play—often colloquially referred to as Chucky. The film is a 1988 Tom Holland slasher (the first of seven in the series) about a possessed doll who terrorizes a little boy and his mother. To an adult, it’s a fun, vulgar, slightly cheesy hour and a half. As a child, it was virtually my worst nightmare—and I couldn’t get enough.

Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find others that shared my dark taste in cinema, especially as I got older. From supernatural scares at seventh grade slumber parties, to ninth grade torture porn marathons, to Marble Hornets binges during senior year, I found that most of my friends shared this interest of mine (or at least tolerated it). I’m guilty of making a good handful of boys sit through the classics with me. My first relationship started in my family’s dingy basement, kissing on an old couch while the credits rolled on Friday the 13th. Our hearts pounded in our ears as a result of teen hormones, but mostly because of that insane shot where Jason Voorhees’ decomposing body shoots out of the water and totally wrecks Adrienne King.

The thing with horror is that, while it’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, it’s become relatively accepted. It’s not hard to find people to bond over it with. Yes, an obsession with it might be off-kilter, but it still makes for good conversation, pizza night entertainment, and background noise for makeout sessions. Throughout my 20-something years, I never really considered my interest in horror to be “nerdy”. It was so vast and varied as a genre that I wasn’t forced to identify with a particular group. There was something in it for almost everyone. Before last summer, I hadn’t truly known what it was like to be into something that few people understood.

About a year ago, I discovered The X-Files—a sci-fi television show about two FBI agents who investigate cases that deal with the supernatural. I had always been generally aware of The X-Files. I knew it existed. Most people I knew had either tuned in occasionally when it originally aired in the 90s, or had seen an episode or two on Netflix and given up. One night, I came across it in my “Top Picks” and decided to give it a chance. It was one of those rare occasions where, from episode one, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Everything about it screamed “me”. I promptly reached out to anyone and everyone I knew and was shocked to find that literally no one in my personal life thought anything of it. Not only did the show not stand out to them as special, but some people even admitted outright that they hated it.

Aside from a few other fans I found in real life who I texted during major plot twists, watching The X-Files was a completely solitary experience for me. I watched each of the 11 seasons and two films all by myself. Because of this, my experience of the show was very private in nature. It felt like my dirty little secret—an escape of sorts. I spent hours laughing, crying, and gasping in front of my television screen during popcorn-fueled binge sessions after the rest of my family went to bed. I became deeply attached to the characters. Unlike horror movies, it was the first time I had an obsession that I couldn’t share. It truly felt like the show had been created for me, and the fact that I had no one to experience it with was both entirely uplifting and mildly heartbreaking.

Up until this point, I had little-to-no experience with nerd culture. I’d never picked up a comic book, I didn’t really like anime, I’d seen only a handful of superhero movies, and I thought “gaming” was something that 30-year-old white guys with neckbeards did in their moms’ basements while double fisting Mountain Dew and Doritos. Plus, I had always associated nerd culture with sexism. In my mind, “nerdy” spaces were cesspools of male cliques firing off condescending remarks and participating in sexual harassment. I wanted no part of it.

Nearly every time I clicked into an online forum discussing The X-Files, my preconceived notions of these spaces were instantly validated. I simply didn’t feel welcome. This was jarring, especially considering the feminist tones of the show. I was annoyed and I concluded it was an interest I’d just keep to myself. But, it was lonely. I wanted so badly to be a part of a community I could share it with.

When I was first offered the opportunity to attend Montreal Comiccon as a member of the media this year, I was skeptical. I wanted to go to see if I could find fellow “X-Philes,” but I knew I’d have to write up something about the convention, and I didn’t want to have to write a scathing review about a toxic environment. Boy, were my preconceived notions ever wrong.

Montreal Comiccon completely shifted my perspective on what it means to be a nerd. It channeled what the true spirit of what being a “nerd” really is. I mean, where else on earth can you walk into a room full of strangers by yourself and instantly feel completely welcome and at ease? Where else can someone who is in love with an odd, campy, 90s television show about aliens find a thousand other people who feel the same way?

Walking into a room full of hundreds of “X-Philes,” I felt the most included and myself I had in a long time. It also made me realize that nerds weren’t all straight, white men in cargo shorts tweeting about #GamerGate and quoting The Big Bang Theory. Nerds were 10-year-old girls, drag queens, disabled people, gay couples, women of colour… I suddenly realized that this thing—this series that I had turned into such a private indulgence—was far bigger than just my secret obsession. These characters that I had developed one-sided relationships with weren’t just mine, they were ours. They helped us all relate to one another.

Comiccon takes a person’s private experience with art and makes it social. The main reason people attend is to meet other people and find those who love the same stuff they do. Making friends only gets harder as you age, so finding somewhere you can be yourself, express gratitude to the artists behind your favourite work, and meet people from different walks of life with shared interests is something pretty special.

There will always be cliques, fandoms, and rivalries. We will always be into different kinds of art. We’ll always experience that art differently from one another. Comiccon showcases that perfectly, but also reminds us that, at the end of the day, we’re all just huge freakin’ nerds. Together.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante


Students elect 12 new members to ASFA

Newly elected members focused on issues of transparency, mental health

After three days of student voting, 12 new members have been elected to Concordia’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA). In total, seven students were elected to ASFA as coordinators for the 2018-19 academic year, and an additional five were elected as independent councillors.

For the newly elected officials, being elected to ASFA is an opportunity to focus on a wide range of goals, from implementing accessible voting measures to helping students access mental health services.

Patrick Quinn, a re-elected independent councillor, said one of his primary goals is to make the voting process easier for Concordia students.

“More often than not, I hear students complain about how time-consuming voting is, how complicated it is, and the lack of participation associated with student elections,” Quinn said. “It’s going to change now. As an elected [ASFA] independent councillor and an Arts and Science councillor [on the Concordia Student Union council], I will be working with my colleagues to make online voting happen,” he told The Concordian.

Quinn also mentioned the importance of transparency and avoiding conflicts of interest in student organizations. This year, CSU executives Omar Riaz and Soulaymane El Alaoui were issued formal warnings after accepting a paid trip from Lev Bukhman, the CEO of Alliance pour la santé étudiante au Québec, the company the CSU uses to provide students with health and dental insurance.

“This academic year has made it clear to students that elected officials need to review ethics and conflict of interest policies. As an elected representative on the CSU council and on the ASFA council, I will review current policies and see if there are any changes to make,” Quinn said.

For independent councillor Tori Smith-Ayotte, mental health is an issue of critical importance, and she is focused on working with the CSU, ASFA member associations and non-profit initiatives, such as, to improve emotional wellbeing on campus.

“Most people aren’t aware of the [mental health-related] events and workshops available to students, and I have learned firsthand how going to these events and finding where I belong at Concordia can change someone’s life,” Smith-Ayotte said about the importance of campus resources, adding she would like all students to be included in the conservation surrounding mental health.

Marguerite Rolland, who was elected as the advocacy and executive coordinator for the 2018-19 academic year, told The Concordian, she will be working on providing students with opportunities to make a community impact and gain volunteer experience for their CV and official co-curricular record.

Rolland said this project will be a monthly volunteer series in which ASFA selects a Montreal-based non-profit or charity and organizes day-long volunteering excursions. Students would participate in as many of these volunteer days as they wish, and if they attend eight during the school year, they would receive 50 confirmed volunteer hours on their co-curricular record.

Rolland said she is hopeful this project will reduce scheduling conflicts and organizational hurdles that may keep students from volunteering, as well as help them gain experience with a wide range of charitable organizations.

“ASFA will do all the paperwork, organizing and technical work,” Rolland said. “Ideally, we’d like to have a different aspect of community involvement with each [non-profit] partnership, so students can build connections and find the type of volunteering that works the best for them.”

Along with student concerns, Kayla Miller, the newly elected Loyola and sustainability coordinator, is looking to tackle environmental issues next year.

“Reducing our ecological footprint is integral to achieving environmental and economic equity and promoting sustainable consumption within the federation,” Miller said, explaining that one of her goals is to minimize waste produced during Orientation Week activities. “I want to completely eliminate the use of plastic cups, plates and cutlery by providing reusable materials […] and I aim to incorporate locally sourced vegan food options.”

Other students newly elected to ASFA include Bakry Alsaieq, Elliott Boulanger, Fatima Janna El Gahami, Gaëlle Kouyoumdjian, Evan Lee, Enya Leger, Justin Occhionero and Caleb Owusu-Acheaw.

ASFA president Jonathan Roy told The Concordian he is happy with the election results. “I’d like to extend my warmest congratulations to all the elected candidates, and look forward to working with them in the transition,” he said.

Newly elected ASFA members:

Councillors: Evan Lee, Gaëlle Kouyoumdjian, Justin Occhionero, Patrick Quinn, Tori Smith-Ayotte

External affairs and communications coordinator: Fatima Janna El Gahami

Loyola and sustainability coordinator: Kayla Miller

Student life coordinator: Enya Leger

Advocacy and executive coordinator: Marguerite Rolland

Internal affairs and administration: Elliott Boulanger

Finance coordinator: Caleb Owusu-Acheaw

Academic coordinator: Bakry Alsaieq

ASFA referendum results

During election polling on March 27, 28 and 29, students voted “yes” to three out of four referendum questions posed by the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA).

The referendum question regarding an increase of $0.18 per credit for ASFA’s fee levy (what would have been $1.40 per credit) was the only one that did not pass. The proposal failed by only three votes.

ASFA president Jonathan Roy said he is “disappointed” the fee levy increase did not pass, but said it gives him hope to know it only failed by a few votes. “More of our students are recognizing that an increase would only benefit us overall, so there’s always next year,” he said.

Prior to the elections, Roy told The Concordian the federation’s fee levy had not been increased in a few years and that ASFA currently receives the smallest fee levy of all the student associations, despite having the most members.

On the other hand, the Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) will receive funding from students to upgrade their facilities and continue providing free, reusable items and materials to the community. Student voters approved a $0.04 per credit fee levy for CUCCR, which will be implemented with registration for the Fall 2018 semester.

The other two referendum questions that passed both concerned ASFA bylaw revisions. Voters approved a general bylaw revision that will, according to Roy, declutter the current bylaws, making the administrative aspects of the federation more fluid and allowing ASFA to run more efficiently in the future. The electoral also voted “yes” to the addition of a clause to ASFA’s bylaws that requires the federation to take no action in opposition to Indigenous sovereignty. Both bylaw reforms will take effect on June 1, 2018.

Roy said he is “very happy” the bylaw reforms passed. He said he feels the changes voted in by the electorate reflect the values of ASFA and their membership, and he is glad the federation is “standing in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


ASFA to pose four referendum questions

Federation to consult their electorate on fee levy and bylaw alterations

During election polling on March 27, 28 and 29, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) will be posing four referendum questions to their electorate. They will include two fee levy questions and two bylaw questions.

Increasing ASFA’s fee levy

The first referendum question will ask Concordia students whether or not they support increasing ASFA’s fee levy to $1.40 per credit—an increase of $0.18. According to ASFA president Jonathan Roy, the association’s fee levy has not been increased in a few years, and while they are the association with the largest number of students, they ask for the smallest amount of money per credit.

“Inflation plays a role,” Roy said. “Things get more expensive, and we’ve also been growing.” He said ASFA has added three new Member Associations (MAs) this year, and they may be adding several more. Roy also stated that ASFA plans to increase and improve the projects and services they offer students. This includes providing support to their Task Force on Sexual and Racialized Violence and Harassment—a new initiative that is fully backed by ASFA. According to Roy, the association plans to expand their advocacy projects as well, by hosting lecture series, mental health talks and providing MAs with more funding.

“We can’t do that without money,” Roy said.

CUCCR seeks funding

The Concordia University Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) will be the subject of ASFA’s second fee levy referendum question. The centre is seeking funding from students to upgrade their facilities and continue to provide free, reusable items and tools to the community.

Although the funding will not be supplied to CUCCR directly by ASFA, the association will be proposing the implementation of a $0.04 per credit fee levy on behalf of CUCCR as a referendum question.

According to Roy, ASFA is advocating for the implementation of the fee levy as it will help with CUCCR’s basic operations and allow the Concordia community to benefit from the centre’s resources.

ASFA bylaw revisions

When it comes to the current state of ASFA’s bylaws, Roy said they have a reputation for being “convoluted,” “confusing” and “a hot mess.” This is why ASFA will be asking its voters to approve a general bylaw revision that will make the administrative aspects of the association more fluid. Roy said the “stripped-down version of the bylaws” will allow ASFA to run more efficiently in the future.

Indigenous sovereignty

Finally, the ASFA executive is asking that their electorate vote “yes” to a bylaw that would require ASFA to take no action in opposition to Indigenous sovereignty. Roy said implementing this bylaw would reaffirm ASFA’s “commitment to supporting Indigenous peoples’ rights.”

According to Roy, in the past, ASFA has taken positions that support Indigenous sovereignty and rights, such as reciting a territorial acknowledgement before every meeting.

Elliott Boulanger, a First Peoples studies student and an ASFA candidate on the Fill In The Blanks slate, said their team endorses a “yes” vote to this bylaw.

“It would show that ASFA is taking a stance on Indigenous politics and sovereignty,” they said. “I think it’s long overdue. It should have been done a long time ago.”

To students who may be opposed to the addition of this bylaw, Roy said it’s not about disregarding the rights of any other particular cultural or ethnic group, but about ensuring equality and respecting the “various cultures and communities that live in the Montreal/Tiohtiá:ke region.

He said having the bylaw implemented would ensure that anyone looking to change it would have to endure a much more laborious process than simply discussing it at a council meeting.

“It makes it a lot harder for anyone to oppose this attempt at standing in solidarity with Indigenous people,” Roy said. “We hope that students see the merit of this question and will stand with us.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


ASFA candidate seeks to “fill in the blanks”

If elected, Marguerite Rolland plans to provide students with co-curricular opportunities

At her core, Marguerite Rolland is an organizer. From planning out every detail of her cottage trips with friends, to her work as president of the Concordia Linguistics Student Association (LSA), she prides herself on her knack for structure and efficiency.

When she isn’t up to her ears in her latest spreadsheet, Rolland spends her time engaging in student life at Concordia in every possible way. Apart from her work with the LSA, she is also a student advocate at the Concordia Student Union (CSU) Advocacy Centre and an undergraduate research assistant for the linguistics department.

“My whole first year, I was very involved in the LSA, and then this year I wanted to branch out a little bit more, so I started joining ASFA committees,” Rolland told The Concordian.

In this month’s ASFA elections, she is running for advocacy and executive coordinator as part of a team called Fill In The Blanks—a name that reflects the team’s desire to “provide students with experiences and opportunities that supplement their academics at Concordia,” according to Rolland.

Along with her teammates Fatima El Gahami, Bakry Alsaieq, Elliott Boulanger and Manal Alsaieq, Rolland said she is trying to figure out “what’s wrong with ASFA, and what’s right with other faculty associations.” According to her, ASFA is not respected by the majority of the student body.

“In the past, they’ve been regarded as this sort of fratty, toxic, unprofessional association,” Rolland said. “ASFA isn’t really a resource for students in the same way that [other student associations are].”

Rolland’s main goal, if elected, is to change that reputation by transforming ASFA into a vehicle for student success.

“The one thing that unifies all Arts and Science students is that we all walk out of Concordia with a BA or a BSc,” she said. “Unfortunately, that alone is not worth very much anymore. Students graduating with these degrees need to stand out. They need something else on their CVs, like co-curricular activities, volunteer experience. […] I want ASFA to offer those things.”

One of the projects Rolland and her team have proposed is a volunteering series organized by ASFA, where students could sign up and have off-campus volunteering sessions organized and scheduled for them by the federation. According to Rolland, if the idea is approved, participating students would be able to complete a full day of volunteering once a month with a specific organization or charity. After eight sessions, students could be granted recognition for participating in the volunteering program by having it included on their co-curricular record.

“You would be able to choose what type of volunteering works for you and build connections that way,” she said. “It’d be accessible to students because they wouldn’t have to go out and find organizations themselves. They wouldn’t have to schedule it or set it up and they wouldn’t even have to go every week.”

Rolland and her team also hope to bring forward other projects, such as implementing an online voting system and providing workshops or seminars on things like coding or graphic design—useful skills students would then be able to list on their CV.

Another issue the team hopes to highlight is the current lack of mandatory office hours for ASFA executives. She said she believes that implementing mandatory office hours would encourage students to come into the office, speak with executives, ask for help and suggest their own ideas.

“I think it’s important to show students that we’re not just here to plan frosh, host random parties or give out random amounts of money to the [Member Associations (MAs)], but rather, that we’re actually trying to do something,” Rolland said. “We’re trying to go somewhere and we’re trying to do it in a way that makes people want to get involved.”

Currently, MAs can apply to to receive funds from ASFA to host various events. Rolland said she hopes to “cut that [Special Project Fund (SPF)] in half and have a specific SPF that’s designated for academic experience.” The Academic SPF would fund MAs that wish to host academic activities, such as conferences.

When asked what differentiates her from the other ASFA candidates, Rolland said she draws on her experiences working with the LSA and the Student Advocacy Centre.

“I know how to work in a team, and I know how to ask the right questions,” she said. “I feel like I’m very aware of what’s happening in the school and what students are not happy with, so I have a really well-rounded sense of what is wrong and what needs to be fixed.”

Overall, Rolland said her main goal is to accurately represent Arts and Science students, as well as bringing ASFA back to its original purpose—providing students with things their academics aren’t giving them.

“I’m not a politician; I’m an organizer,” she said. “I think it’s important to represent your students and what they believe, but I think, at the same time, ASFA is primarily a resource. I would like to bring it back down to being a resource first and foremost and make sure it has a good foundation.”

Rolland said that, even if she isn’t elected, she still wants to see the initiatives she cares about put forward.

“I’m anti-apathy,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about who’s doing it, it’s about getting it done.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


De-stress yourself before you wreck yourself

Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre co-hosts Self-Care Week

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) is hosting a Self-Care Week at Concordia in collaboration with the Centre for Gender Advocacy, Health Services, Counselling and Psychological Services and several other groups.

“We wanted to host a self-care week to provide opportunities for individuals in our community to de-stress, cope, break isolation and try out some new activities that might resonate with them,” said SARC coordinator Jennifer Drummond.

Until March 9, students can attend a variety of workshops and presentations focusing on self-care and wellbeing, exploring topics like mindfulness, stress management, herbalism, artistic expression and communication.

Self-care generally encompasses acts of love for one’s own physical, mental or emotional health. According to Drummond, self-care, at its core, is “an activity or practice that helps you de-stress, feel good or cope with life.” Essentially, it involves putting yourself first and making sure you are in a good place physically and mentally.

Many people tend to cope with stress, strong emotions or unwanted situations in negative ways. According to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia, a negative coping strategy can be distinguished from a positive coping strategy by evaluating its effectiveness in both the short-term and long-term. Negative coping strategies tend to provide temporary stress relief, but may increase the amount of stress we experience in the long term. These often include activities that promote avoidance and distraction, such as procrastinating or relying on drugs and alcohol to escape stressful problems.

While negative coping strategies might help someone feel relaxed for a short period of time, true self-care promotes long-term physical and emotional health. This means using more positive coping techniques, like getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and scheduling time for yourself.

Drummond said she hopes to increase student awareness of the services available at Concordia.

“There are a lot of great resources on campus,” she said. “We wanted to have diverse activities and workshops available during the week.”

Drummond said this week of events will give Concordia students a chance to take a break, have meaningful conversations and connect with others.

“Starting small is one way to implement something new into your regular routine, like trying a self-care practice that is short or easy to do, or even doing something once a week instead of feeling like you need to incorporate something every day,” she said. “Self care is whatever works for you.”


(See Facebook event for details and RSVP info)

Tuesday, March 6

Guided Conversation

Multi-Faith & Spirituality Centre

2090 Mackay St.

2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.


Beading Workshop

Aboriginal Student Resource Centre

Hall building, 6th floor, room 640

3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Plant Sale

Concordia Greenhouse

Hall building, 13th floor

5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.


Wednesday, March 7

Insomnia and Poor Sleep

Health Services, Counselling and Psychological Services

GM Building, 2nd floor, Room 200

12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.


Indigenous Art Workshop

Centre for Gender Advocacy

Hall building, 6th floor, Room 640

2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


Thursday, March 8

Stress Management Workshop

Health Services

GM Building, 2nd floor, Room 200

1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.


Herbalism and Stress Workshop


Hall building, 6th floor, Room 640

3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.


Friday, March 9

Mindfulness Workshop

Counselling and Psychological Services

Hall building, 6th floor, Room 640

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.



“I journal a couple of times a week to check in on myself. That’s usually when I figure out what is bothering me and I make plans to improve my situation. It’s cleansing.” – Cynthia Larche

“I used to be bingeing stuff on Netflix, but since I switched into computer sciences, I started reading to relax. It feels much better, since I usually stare at a screen all day to work.” – Isaac Abramowitz

“Time managing your homework and work schedule so that there’s time where you can just relax, as opposed to being constantly busy.” – Salena Wiener

“When I know I’ve had a really tough day, before I go to bed, I just sit in bed cross-legged with a fuzzy blanket over my shoulders. I close my eyes and focus myself on what my senses are feeling. It’s basically a mindfulness technique that places me in the moment.” – Jonathan Roy

“Being a student, I really need something non school-related in my schedule! I signed up for intramurals as a way to make sure my brain would get a break every once in a while.” – Gabrielle Lametti

“Learning to not feel guilty about saying no to going out when you don’t want to. Learning to not feel guilty about eating St-Hubert on the couch and watching Netflix.” – Emma Loerick

“Meditating every single day.” – Anaïs Venegas-Grün

“Sad, angry, depressing music helps me deal with my emotions, as opposed to keeping them in.” – Edgar Jose Becerra Granados

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


CLOrk: Altering our perception of sound

A look at the Concordia Laptop Orchestra which is changing the way we think about electronic music

The trend of live electronic music has gained a lot of popularity over the last 10 years. DJs, composers and sound artists in general have taken sound and altered the world’s traditional perception of it completely.

Students and professors in the electroacoustic studies program at Concordia University have made a great impact in the sound art scene as well, creating and manipulating the auditory in classes like the one that serves as the home of the Concordia Laptop Orchestra, otherwise known as CLOrk.

The Concordia Laptop Orchestra—an orchestra composed of students creating and manipulating sound on their laptops—took off in January 2011 and has since evolved into a “democratic, experimental environment for realizing new ideas, new technologies, new performance and new communication practices,” according to Eldad Tsabary, the founder and director of CLOrk, who has been teaching electroacoustics at Concordia since 2005. Tsabary is now the coordinator for the program.

According to him, electroacoustic studies focuses on the creation, manipulation and perception of sound. It is not about using sound to produce music, but rather using sound as the music.

“The field of electroacoustics is fascinating to me because it is in constant and rapid flux,” said Tsabary. “It is a technology-dependent practice […] and it also transforms really fast artistically, where artists and researchers are constantly looking to update and innovate the modes of creation, mediation and collaboration.”

Tsabary’s role as a professor has focused on the development of aural training and live practices—both fascinating aspects of the field which have influenced his work with CLOrk.

Acting as an exercise in improvisation, collaboration and experimental sound, Tsabary uses CLOrk to provide students with the opportunity to collaborate and incorporate the work of other artists, such as musicians, dancers, poets, actors or singers, into their performance.

“The collaborator is often the ‘guest of honour,’ so to speak, serving as a shared focus of attention and direction,” Tsabary said. “While the orchestra focuses on a guide and follows their lead, the soloist is inevitably following the orchestra’s voice as well […] The result is really a conversation.”

At a CLOrk concert on Feb. 8, one of the guests of honour was local performer Édward Fuller. He stood in the centre of the room at a microphone, with no shoes on, surrounded by approximately 25 laptop orchestra members. He spoke in improvised, poetic, sometimes broken sentences, guiding and being guided by the orchestra’s sounds.

At the front of the room during their performance, an online chat screen was projected, featuring real-time conversation between each of the laptop orchestra performers, as well as between the performers and the audience.

“When I felt that the orchestra had developed the ability to listen and support a synergistic performance, we added online chat,” Tsabary said. “It provides us versatility, real-time musical discussion and quick, collective troubleshooting when something does not work well. Adding the audience into the conversation is fun, and it breaks down the traditional distance between audience and performer.”

While the performances are often entirely improvised, each class leading up to a concert acts as a rehearsal. In these classes, students meet with Tsabary to discuss and improvise, deciding what works and what does not. According to Tsabary, there is a great deal of preparation that goes into a laptop orchestra concert.

“There are technical preparations to make and strategies to develop, like good communications and musical flow. In the first week of the semester, we did not use any mediation means, but simply played, listened to each other, discussed, raised problems, proposed solutions, tried them out and continued to do so in an iterative manner,” he said.

Édward Fuller improvises spoken word at the Concordia Laptop Orchestra’s latest concert. Photo by Candice Pye

Tsabary said that while there is never really a specific goal or plan going into one of the concerts, his ideal CLOrk experience consists simply of a “well-balanced collective creation.” Ultimately, he said his wish is for a seamless group experience where each student feels they have contributed equally and is satisfied with the role they played in the process.

One of Tsabary’s electroacoustics studies students, Kasey Pocius, participates in CLOrk rehearsals and concerts regularly. They said that while the program does provide experience with live performance, improvising and working in large groups is not explored outside of CLOrk.

“I personally find CLOrk works quite well as a continuation of the work covered in the ear training classes, as attentive listening is incredibly important in the laptop orchestra context,” Pocius said.

According to them, the grading system for the Concordia Laptop Orchestra class is very unique, as the students are solely evaluated on their attendance. Pocius said the improvisatory nature of CLOrk does not lend itself to a more traditional grading system, so it is difficult to prevent students from taking the course just to receive an “easy A.”

Nonetheless, they are happy with how the last concert went. Tsabary has had a positive influence on the program overall, according to Pocius.

“He continues to push research in terms of ear training software and practice,” they said. “In the more discussion-based courses I have had with Eldad, he always tries to foster a good environment for discussion.”

While electroacoustics students have learned a lot from Tsabary, he said he has also learned a lot from his students. As a composer himself, Tsabary has noticed his own compositional practice mixing into the laptop orchestra.

“I find it way more exhilarating to create within the group setting than to compose individually,” he said. “It is a lot of fun to allow your ideas to interact and cross-fertilize with others’ ideas and to witness how a collective imagination realizes in a cohesive orchestra performance. To me, it is a next-level type of creation, where ownership is given away in exchange for individual growth.”

Photos by Candice Pye


Navigating HIV in university

Concordia to offer free rapid HIV testing pop-ups and film screening

In a country where it is a crime not to disclose that you have HIV before having sex, it’s no wonder having an STI comes with so much stigma.

Canadians who are HIV positive can face criminal prosecution for reasons like forgetting to use a condom or failing to alert their sexual partner of their illness before engaging in sexual activity. These people can be charged with aggravated sexual assault, which carries a mandatory designation as a sex offender and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

While these laws are in place for the sake of public health, they might deter people from getting tested. If you don’t get tested, then you can claim ignorance. If you aren’t absolutely certain you have HIV, you can’t be held legally responsible—right?

Unfortunately, this is the worst time in recent history to practice non-disclosure and unsafe sex. According to the Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), the prevalence of HIV in Canada is increasing and has been since the late 90s. In 2014, an estimated 75,500 Canadians were living with HIV. This number represents an increase of 6,700 people, or 9.7 per cent, since 2011.

CATIE’s website states that more than one in five people living with HIV are unaware that they have the disease. This is extremely dangerous because HIV is a virus that anyone can contract, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. The illness is most often contracted through sexual contact or needle use. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bodily fluids—such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit the virus to someone when they come in contact with mucous membranes (including the rectum, vagina, penis and mouth), damaged tissue or the bloodstream in any way.

In a university setting, where many young adults begin to experiment with sex and drugs—and sometimes both, together—students may be putting themselves at a higher risk of infection as a result of limited or no condom use. Luckily, resources to increase sexual education, STI prevention and knowledge about treatment options are available to students now more than ever—you just have to know where to look.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

If you think you have an STI

If you’re a Concordia student and you’re worried you might have an STI, you can book an appointment for STI testing Monday through Friday at Concordia’s Health Services on either campus. If you’re experiencing symptoms, you book an appointment with a Health Services physician. If you don’t have symptoms, you can see one of the nurses. There are also a variety of other places around the city where you can get tested for STIs, including CLSCs, Head & Hands and a number of clinics in the Gay Village.

It will take approximately 10 to 14 days for Concordia’s Health Services to receive your test results. You must come to the clinic in person to get them, either through the walk-in clinic or by appointment, where a nurse will explain your results to you and refer you to the appropriate treatment options, if necessary.

The Concordia website warns that it is the patient’s responsibility to follow up after an STI test, noting that students should “never assume that ‘no news is good news.’”

Even if you are convinced you don’t have an STI, testing is recommended for everyone who is sexually active. Many infections show no symptoms, so Concordia’s health professionals recommend students get an STI screening done every six months to a year.

If you’re at high risk for HIV

If you’re planning on having sex with someone who may have an STI, use a condom. Using condoms properly and regularly is the only form of contraception that also reduces the risk of getting or transmitting an STI.

For students at a higher risk of contracting HIV from a partner or through injection drug use, Concordia can also supply you with pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a preventative medication that people with a very high risk for contracting HIV can take regularly to lower their chances of getting infected. According to, prescription guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered mainly for people who are HIV negative and in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner.

PrEP can only be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Concordia students can book an appointment with a Health Services physician to discuss whether or not it is the right HIV prevention strategy for them.

Without health insurance (public or private), the monthly cost of PrEP can be up to $995, according to Rézo Santé, an organization that provides gay and bisexual men with sexual, mental, social and physical health information. However, if you are covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), PrEP is covered under your plan. However, unless you have received an exemption, there would still be a monthly fee (as of 2015) of up to $83.33.

Montreal pharmacist Maciek Zarzycki told The Concordian that, while PrEP is effective for preventing HIV, it might not be the most cost-effective prevention method.

“It is significantly more cost-effective to use condoms,” Zarzycki said. “For PrEp, you need a prescription from your doctor, as well as a form filled out by your doctor that would approve you to be covered by insurance.” He also noted that PrEP can have several adverse side effects, such as a negative impact on liver health and cholesterol levels.

“Considering the side effects and the cost, it is not the best solution,” said Zarzycki. “Condoms are just as effective in HIV prevention, are significantly less expensive and do not give you any side effects.”

HIV resources at Concordia

Concordia’s HIV/AIDS Project’s mission is to provide a permanent space for dialogue and research on HIV/AIDS and to support students who might be the next generation of HIV/AIDS researchers, activists and teachers. They offer community lectures, courses and internships for students. Their next event will be a film screening of Memories of a Penitent Heart, a documentary that “explores the relationship between memory, stigma and the AIDS crisis,” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Cecilia Aldarondo.

Concordia Health Services and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) will be offering a free, three-day, rapid HIV testing clinic this month. Testing at the pop-ups will be confidential, and the whole process will take only 20 minutes. Patients will simply be required to fill out a health questionnaire and briefly meet with a nurse to review the form. After the nurse collects a few drops of the patient’s blood by pricking their finger, they will receive their results about a minute later and have a post-test discussion with the nurse.

The free, rapid HIV testing clinics will take place downtown at the CSU in room H-711 on Feb. 13 and 14, and at the Loyola Hive on the second floor of the Student Centre building on Feb. 15, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Montreal women march towards social justice

Montrealers join forces in support of inclusive, intersectional feminism

Hundreds of Montrealers gathered outside Place-des-Arts at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20 for the second annual Montreal Women’s March. Organizations like the Centre des Femmes de l’UQÀM, a feminist group from the Université du Québec à Montréal, helped organize the event alongside many diverse groups and volunteers.

People from all across the city joined dozens of other marches taking place across the country, and more throughout the United States, demonstrating for much more than just gender equality. Demonstrators and representatives from various organizations showed their support for several social justice issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ+ community.

Claire McLeish (left) and Samantha Skallar hold up their signs at the Montreal Women’s March on Sunday. Photo by Alex Hutchins

At the rally, women from all backgrounds cheered loudly, wore pink “pussyhats” and brandished poster-board signs that featured phrases like, “We love, support and fight for our trans friends,” “Talk to boys about toxic masculinity” and “Respect existence or expect resistance.”

The largest sign, held up on the steps at the Esplanade, read the hashtag of the day, “#ÇaPassePu,” which roughly translates to, “This doesn’t work for us anymore.”

The march took place exactly one year after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States and the first Women’s March on Washington, when hundreds of thousands gathered in their respective cities to protest his proposed policies.

A demonstrator brandishes a poster-board sign that reads, “GIRL POWER.” Photo by Alex Hutchins

One year later, the rally was now about much more, specifically amplifying the voices of marginalized communities, including sex workers, transgender people, those with disabilities and victims of sexual assault.

Many of the women who spoke at the rally highlighted the #MeToo movement, which has become internationally popular for denouncing sexual violence and harassment, as well as voicing support for survivors. Several speakers in Montreal shared their personal stories of sexual assault and harassment.

Those attending the Montreal rally demanded inclusivity and intersectionality. One speaker announced to the crowd: “If we do not have an intersectional perspective, we will fail some of our sisters.”

The rally came to a deeply moving and emotional peak when one of the speakers instructed everyone in the crowd to hold hands and chant, “I am on fire, I am powerful,” in reference to Alicia Keys’ song “Girl On Fire” and her speech from last year’s Women’s March on Washington.

Another notable speech came from Nathalie Provost, one of the survivors of the December 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, where 14 women were killed in an anti-feminist mass shooting at the hands of gunman Marc Lépine. Provost survived the shooting after being shot in the forehead, both legs and a foot, according to Maclean’s.

In her speech, Provost looked back on the tragedy, telling the crowd about how, at the time, she had said she was not a feminist. She mentioned that her daughters were in attendance with her at the rally to support women’s rights.

Demonstrators Anastasia Katsoulis, 14, and Edgar Jose Becerra Granados, 16, told The Concordian they decided to attend this year’s rally because they believe everyone should have equal rights.

A man at the rally holds a sign that reads, “Men of quality do not fear equality.” Photo by Alex Hutchins

“That’s what feminism is. It isn’t just for women,” Katsoulis said. “It’s for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s for people of colour. It’s for everyone.”

Becerra Granados stressed the importance of actively demonstrating for movements you believe in.

“It’s important to go to these kinds of things if you consider yourself a feminist, especially nowadays with social media,” they said. “It’s easy to just say you support something, but you really have to go out and do stuff like this to show that you do.”


Photos by Alex Hutchins


A night of painting and prevention

Concordia alumna and student host fundraiser in support of Ovarian Cancer Canada

Concordia alumna Veronica Tamburro’s life was turned upside down when she discovered her grandmother had been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.

“I was very close with her, so it was something that affected me greatly,” Tamburro said. Her grandmother suffered through the disease for five years before she eventually passed away from complications six years ago.

Tamburro and her mother have since dedicated countless hours to Ovarian Cancer Canada, an organization that provides support to those facing diagnosis, as well as their family members. For years, Tamburro has played a central role in the organizing committee for the annual Montreal Walk of Hope, raising awareness about the disease and fundraising to finance ovarian cancer research. Walk of Hope is Ovarian Cancer Canada’s main awareness-raising, fundraising event in the city.

This year, Tamburro has taken her involvement as a volunteer to a new level by collaborating with Paint Nite and Ovarian Cancer Canada to organize “Let’s Get Loud! Paint Nite Edition,” an event where a local artist will guide guests through two hours of painting, socializing, food and raffles at Concordia.

“Veronica came to me and said she wanted to do something beyond the Walk of Hope to really bring the community together and raise awareness,” said Jennifer Laliberté, Ovarian Cancer Canada’s regional director for Quebec. “It’s really been her and Athena Sita. That’s what makes this community so amazing. There are people like Veronica and Athena who give us their time and energy to support the cause. They’ve been amazing.”

From left, organizers Athena Sita and Veronica Tamburro are raising awareness and funds for Ovarian Cancer Canada. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Tamburro said Athena Sita, a current Concordia student, has been her partner-in-crime throughout the entire creation and organization process of the event. Both women are artistic, driven and passionate about volunteering, so she said hosting a Paint Nite event to support Ovarian Cancer Canada with Sita seemed like the best opportunity to express their artistic side and attract more attention to the fundraiser.

“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Sita said. “We actually met in our English class in CEGEP about seven years ago. We’ve been close since then.”

Tamburro approached Sita with the idea in October and the two have worked comfortably together ever since.

“It’s been very smooth-sailing. We communicate all the time, and whenever one of us can’t do something, the other one pulls through. It’s like dating,” Tamburro said with a laugh. “Communication is key.”

Hosting an event to support Ovarian Cancer Canada is extremely important to both Tamburro and Sita, not only because of the loss of Tamburro’s grandmother, but because of the nature of the disease itself.

“A lot of emphasis is put on breast cancer. Ovarian cancer is the ‘other’ women’s disease,” Tamburro explained. “It’s lesser known, but it’s just as important. If you’re a woman, if you have ovaries, if you’re a feminist, it’s something you should care about.”

Sita agreed, stressing the importance of self-education on the topic. “I didn’t know anything about ovarian cancer until Veronica started mentioning it. So, I said, ‘Maybe I should start doing research on how I can get myself checked out.’ This fundraiser is a great way for people to learn more about the disease,” Sita said.

According to Ovarian Cancer Canada, the disease is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. With a mortality rate of 56 per cent, more than half the people who are diagnosed with it die within five years. In Canada alone, approximately 2,800 women are diagnosed every year.

“A lot of the symptoms people with ovarian cancer can have can also be associated with regular menstrual symptoms, such as abdominal and pelvic cramps, back pain, muscle aches, fluctuation in appetite,” Tamburro explained. “This is why many people only find out at a late stage when the cancer has already progressed significantly.”

Laliberté expressed how surprising it is that we hear so little about ovarian cancer given how difficult it is to manage. She said one of the reasons the disease is so deadly is because there is a lot we still don’t understand about it, which is why Ovarian Cancer Canada is working to increase the amount of money they donate to ovarian cancer research—so people can understand it better, catch it earlier and seek better treatments.

Laliberté will be at the Paint Nite event herself, giving out information about the disease, such as how to recognize the signs and symptoms and how to evaluate and understand your own risk factors. She will also be providing information about Ovarian Cancer Canada, what they do and how people can get involved.

The event will take place in the G-Lounge at Concordia’s Loyola campus at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19. Although the Paint Nite tickets are sold out, those interested will be able to purchase a ticket for $20 at the door, allowing them to participate in the raffle and enjoy food, non-alcoholic drinks and a DJ. Half of the ticket proceeds will be donated to Ovarian Cancer Canada along with all revenue from the raffle and food sales.

“It’s as if there will be two events in one. There will be an area where Paint Nite is happening, and a lounge area at the back where we’ll have a DJ,” Tamburro said.

To those who cannot attend the event, Tamburro said doing research and donating goes a long way. She and Sita said they are both very excited to be doing some good for the organization.

“It is something that is so meaningful to [Veronica] and so important her family,” Laliberté said. “She wanted to share that.”

Photos by Alex Hutchins


A crisis in Concordia University’s creative writing department

What we know (and what we don’t) about the university’s “open secret”

The Concordia English department has come under fire after claims of sexual misconduct and abuse of power surfaced last week. Professors in the creative writing program have been accused of fostering a toxic, abusive and misogynistic environment for female students.

A scandal unfolds

After a blog post featuring these allegations was published by Concordia alumnus Mike Spry on Monday, Jan. 8, the university was criticized for allowing sexual misconduct at the hands of professors to go on for so many years.

Spry stated that, throughout his studies at Concordia, he witnessed “the normalization of sexualization of students by professors.” He noted that romantic or sexual relationships between students and professors were not “unusual or even prohibited” at the university.

The “open secret”

On Jan. 11, just days after Spry’s blog post was published, Julie McIsaac published her own essay, titled “And Then a Man Said It.” As a former Concordia creative writing student and ex-girlfriend of Spry’s, she wrote that Spry “not only permitted the culture of toxic masculinity that he rightly calls out, but he also helped to breed it.” McIsaac claimed Spry “was much more than a bystander” and was, in fact, “an active player who belittled and harassed women writers.” She also wrote that he was a man who she “knew to be deeply sexist.”

Former Concordia student Emma Healey also experienced sexual misconduct first-hand during her time in the creative writing program. In 2014, she published a personal essay, titled “Stories Like Passwords,” in which she discussed an abusive relationship she had with one of her professors.

Similar claims of sexual misconduct were also brought directly to the chair of the English department in February 2015 when six students wrote a formal complaint detailing the program’s toxic culture.

Healey’s traumatic experience in the creative writing program is far from the first within the English department. Former students Stephen Henighan and Heather O’Neill told the Toronto Star that the toxic culture within the creative writing program was prevalent when they attended Concordia in the mid-80s and late 90s, respectively. O’Neill said she was continuously sexually harassed by the late Robert Allen, a former Concordia professor and department chair.

Investigations begin

On Monday, Jan. 8, after Spry’s essay garnered significant attention, Concordia president Alan Shepard released an official statement in which he claimed he only became aware of the allegations that afternoon. In the statement, Shepard wrote the “allegations are serious, and will be treated seriously,” but admitted the university’s response to the issue is a “work in progress.”

Shepard also held a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 10, where he announced that an investigation into the allegations had been launched, along with a “university-wide assessment” of Concordia’s environment.

On Friday, deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy, dean of students Andrew Woodall, English department chair Andre Furlani and Kate Sterns, the coordinator of the creative writing program, held an open meeting to update students on the situation and respond to questions. At the meeting, Ostiguy said the university was in the process of investigating the claims and drafting a policy on student-staff relations.

The student body speaks

Concordia’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) released a statement on Jan. 9, calling on the university to “fully investigate all allegations and put [the] students’ safety first.” The statement also encouraged students to reach out to the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) and the Office of Rights and Responsibilities “if they have ever experienced or witnessed cases of sexual assault and/or harassment.”

A day later, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) stated that they were “extremely disappointed to have learned about the allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct” within the English department. They said they believe the survivors and “it is important that the university, the administration and the named individuals and departments be held accountable.”

Timeline: A history of allegations and inaction


Robert Allen begins teaching in the English department at Concordia.


Stephen Henighan, now a writer and Guelph University professor, studies under Allen at Concordia. Allen’s marriage ends and he begins preying on students, Henighan told the Toronto Star.

Late 1980s, early 1990s

Younger male teachers follow in Allen’s footsteps, and a culture of sexual abuse in the creative writing program is born, according to Henighan, who taught at Concordia during these years.

Late 1990s

Sexual harassment and abuse of power is “pervasive” in the department, Heather O’Neill, a Montreal author who was a Concordia student at the time, told the Globe and Mail last week. According to O’Neill, she was repeatedly sexually harassed by Robert Allen, including several “attempts to get [her] to sleep with him.”

November 2006

Robert Allen dies. The Montreal-based Véhicule Press publishes an obituary describing Allen as having had “a lasting influence on hundreds students over the years.” The English department plans a celebration to honour Allen.

Nov. 11, 2013

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre is created to support victims of sexual assault in the Concordia community.

Oct. 6, 2014

Canadian writer and former Concordia student Emma Healey publishes an essay on the website The Hairpin in which she makes allegations of sexual misconduct against a creative writing professor.

Oct. 17, 2014

Emma Healey and her essay are highlighted in a Globe and Mail article, titled “The danger of being a woman in the Canadian literary world.”

February 2015

Rudrapriya Rathore and five other Concordia students send a letter to the chair of the English department describing the creative writing program’s culture as “toxic” for women. The signatories meet with a human resources employee, but their complaint goes nowhere.

August 2015

Deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy chairs the Sexual Assault Policy Review Working Group, which reviews the university’s sexual assault policies and makes recommendations.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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