Negotiations between TRAC and university hit a snag

Concordia offers to negotiate an agreement for 2016-17 and 2017-18, but not next year

There isn’t a handle on the door to the new Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) office, nor a sign indicating the union’s presence in the nondescript PR building on Concordia’s downtown campus.

The TRAC office was moved from its Bishop Street location to this new space during reading week. The room is painted white and furnished with a blue couch and the desk of union president Alexandre St-Onge-Perron, which is littered with boxes full of files. The office is lit in part by a green emergency exit sign and is accessible only by pushing on the door’s emergency push bar.

A TRAC grievance officer and union member recently got trapped in the office because the door locked from the inside. In order to get them out, St-Onge-Perron had to push the emergency bar on the door, thus sounding an alarm.

This, however, is the least of St-Onge-Perron’s worries. The negotiations to sign a new collective agreement between his organization and the university hit a brick wall in March. To the union’s displeasure, the university’s administration did not instruct its negotiators to broker an agreement for the 2018-19 academic year during the current round of negotiations.

In an email to The Concordian, university spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said “all parties continue to negotiate and explore issues at the negotiating table.”

St-Onge-Perron said the lack of mandate for the university negotiators to discuss an agreement for 2018-19 is neither TRAC nor the university negotiators’ fault, but rather the fault of the negotiators’ “bosses.” That’s why, St-Onge-Perron explained, the union’s message to president Alan Shepard is: “Give your negotiators a good mandate.”

TRAC will protest the lack of progress on an agreement for the upcoming year on April 18 when the university’s board of governors reconvenes. The board is responsible for providing the university negotiators with a mandate, according to St-Onge Perron.

“We have to convince [the negotiators’] bosses by mobilizing,” St-Onge-Perron told The Concordian in January before the two sides began negotiating the monetary aspects of the agreements for 2016-17 and 2017-18.

When the two sides met on March 16, the offer on the table from the university only included the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years, according to St-Onge-Perron. This meant the two parties would have to start meeting again to discuss 2018-19 when the new agreement came to an end about three weeks later.

“They said, ‘No, we’re not allowed to negotiate the future,’” St-Onge-Perron recounted, referring to the university’s negotiators. “Everybody assumes we’re going to negotiate for the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years since October.”

“It’s very frustrating. We told [university negotiators] it would not work. There’s no way we sign this,” St-Onge Perron said categorically. There is no set date for the two sides to meet before the April 18 board of governors meeting.

TRAC still works under an agreement that expired two years ago and whose monetary terms need to change, St-Onge-Perron explained. Namely, the union is still held back by the issue of contract splitting, which consists of teaching assistants being paid a certain wage for their time in class and a second, lower wage for marking papers.

Article 15.05 of the 2013-16 collective agreement—the one currently in use—states that “marking duties may be the object of separate marker contracts.” St-Onge-Perron argued to The Concordian that university departments are taking advantage of this clause to save money.

Nonetheless, St-Onge-Perron said the university’s negotiators recognize the departments’ use of the article is not beneficial to teaching assistants, and they are open to solving the issue.

“If we’re only negotiating the past, there’s no solution for split contracts. We at least need to negotiate the past and the future.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Concordia library union claims major pay cut

University spokesperson describes allegation as ‘misinformation’

Concordia University spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr described a letter written by Concordia University Library Employees’ Union (CULEU) president Kent Cluff and recently published in The Concordian and The Link as “misinformation.”

In his letter, Cluff claimed Concordia’s library staff “have been forced to take a major pay cut” as a result of the university’s “management priorities” and Quebec’s Liberal government. On April 6, Barr told The Concordian library employees did not receive a pay cut from the university.

“Our working conditions have been changed,” Cluff clarified in an interview following the publication of his letter. “We are bringing home less money because we are paying a portion of the pension contribution that would have been paid in the past by the university.”

According to Barr, since January 2018, all eligible university employees who wanted to remain part of the university-managed pension plan, including library staff, “were obliged to increase their contributions towards their pension.” The increase is a requirement under new Quebec legislation, which Cluff criticized. Since employees are contributing more, he explained, the university is contributing less, and Cluff wonders how Concordia is using those savings.

Barr said Concordia selected the lowest possible contribution ratio for employees under the legislation: 45 per cent for employees and 55 per cent for the employer.

According to Cluff, the library union previously agreed to a three-year deal that included a pay increase every year, but the increase is offset because of the higher contribution to the pension plan. Cluff said the increase acts as a pay cut because it cancels out the members’ pay increase.

In an email, Barr wrote that all Concordia employees received annual salary increases, “and many also received annual step increases (regular progression within pay scales) as outlined, and agreed to, in the collective and employee agreements.”

While the alleged pay cut was not discussed during the negotiations for the library union’s previous agreement, signed on November 30, Cluff told The Concordian it will be “one of the major negotiating points” in the upcoming communication due to begin shortly.

“We told the university that we want to get to the negotiation table, and we would like to have been there already,” Cluff said.

According to Barr, conversations will be held soon to schedule the next round of negotiations.

Cluff’s letter was published just a few days after the official unveiling of the new Webster Library on the downtown campus, on March 24. It was inaugurated in the presence of Quebec Minister for Higher Education Hélène David, whose party Cluff condemned.

“Many of our members were even involved in the event itself,” Cluff said. “We were kind of torn because, on the one hand, we wanted to celebrate that, but it was important to point out that, at the same time, we were experiencing this pay cut.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


A conversation with Alan Shepard

Article written by Étienne Lajoie and Matthew Lapierre

Concordia president talks funding, pension plans and sexual misconduct

Concordia president Alan Shepard sat down with The Concordian on Monday, April 9 to answer questions about government funding, library employee pension plans and the university’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Q: In its 2017 budget, the federal government invested $117.6 million to launch the Canada 150 Research Chairs competition to “boost Canada’s brain gain.” Twenty-four chairs previously working in the United States were brought in. Has or will Concordia benefit in any way from this funding program?

A: We did apply for that grant; we didn’t get it, but we got others. One would be the Canada Excellence Research Chair program. There were 11 chairs given out to nine institutions. We were one of the nine universities, so that comes with $10 million in funding.

Q: How does that work? Do you receive funding and then reach out to researchers?

A: These processes are very complicated and highly audited. We have the opportunity to hire a chair. We have to identify that person, they have to be vetted and ratified by an internal committee at Concordia, then it goes to the federal government for further ratification. The person you are proposing has to be a strong international player. Then, if that’s all accepted, the person arrives and you get the funding over a number of years.

Q: There seems to be a disagreement between the university and the Concordia University Library Employees’ Union concerning pay cuts that the library employees have had to take. Both agree there’s more money going to the pension plan. Does the university intend on sitting down with the union to solve this apparent conflict?

A: We are in a period of negotiations with many unions. The government, two years ago, adopted pension reform legislation for our sector. What had been happening is Concordia had been paying 80 per cent of the pension contribution, and the employees paid about 20 per cent. And as it happened with public sector employees, the government had a desire to make it either 50/50, or 55/45, where the institution pays 55 per cent and the employee pays 45 per cent. Those were the parameters.

When you go from contributing 20 per cent to 45 per cent of your salary to the pension plan, that’s noticeable. We did a lot of preparation over a year and half to get people to understand that. We’re in negotiations, and we’re mindful that employees have had to pay more.

Q: The Concordian obtained a statement written by Emma Moss Brender, the department of philosophy’s chair assistant, regarding allegations of sexual harassment in the department. Would you like to comment on these allegations?

A: We feel like the university has been proactive with these files. Since I arrived at Concordia, my team and I have been working in a proactive way to make sure the environment we have is safe, respectful and appropriate. When we have allegations, we investigate them. If the investigation shows some kind of sanction is warranted, we don’t shy away from that. I do think over the last seven years every university has had cases where lines have been crossed. I do think the cultural milieu has changed from even when I began my career.

Q: Concordia provost Graham Carr was part of a delegation of university executives who visited Switzerland’s post-secondary institutions from March 25 to 29. Can you tell us why Carr was part of this delegation, and how Concordia will benefit from this?

A: Quality Network for Universities is a national organization, and it tries to provide professional development opportunities for senior leaders of universities. One of my criticisms of the Canadian higher education system is sometimes that it operates in a bit of a bubble. Switzerland is one of the most innovating countries [in higher education], so we’re always trying to figure out how we can either emulate or borrow ideas from other jurisdictions.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Speak Up wins most votes, disqualified from election

Written by Matthew Lapierre and Étienne Lajoie

CSU judicial board to hold a hearing on April 6 to address the ruling

Speak Up, the slate whose candidates won the most votes in every position for which they ran in the CSU executive elections last week, was disqualified by Nicholas Roberts, the union’s chief electoral officer (CEO) on Friday afternoon, while the votes were still being tallied.

In the unofficial results released by Roberts on his personal Facebook page, candidates from the Accessibility, Transparency and Community slate (ACT) were tentatively announced as elected to all of the executive positions.

According to John Hutton, Speak Up’s candidate for finance coordinator, the slate will be contesting the disqualification. According to the unofficial results announced Friday, Hutton received 515 votes compared to the closest runner-up, Nichita Bobic, who had 335. In an email to The Concordian, Safa Sheikh, a member of the CSU’s judicial board, said the board will have a hearing on April 6 to discuss the disqualification.

On Friday, March 30, Roberts sent an email notifying candidates in the election of his decision to disqualify Speak Up. He based his decision on an editorial endorsing Speak Up published by The Link on March 27, the day polls opened. Roberts also claimed an email he received from The Concordian’s reporter asking if he had informed Speak Up of the location of the ballot counting was proof that Speak Up had communicated with student media during the polling period. The Concordian did not publish any correspondence with CSU candidates during the polling period.

Roberts cited article 316 of the CSU’s standing regulations: “No new correspondence between candidates or referendum committee members and student media can be published during the polling period.”

Roberts alleged in the email that Speak Up must have been aware of The Links editorial and that the editorial was considered unapproved campaigning.

In an article published Friday, The Link wrote, “Despite Roberts’ claims, The Link did not correspond with the Speak Up slate regarding the endorsement. The decision to endorse or not endorse specific candidates is made by The Link’s editorial team alone, without input from outside parties. Decisions are then kept secret until editorials are published.”

According to the unofficial results, the next CSU executive team will be composed of Andrei Bochis, Daniel Jolicoeur, Nichita Bobic, Myriam Bourgeois, Jamie Lewis Mella, Vivi To, Lida Sonylam Aman and Gabriel-Louis Guppy.

Bochis and To were all previously members of the Concordia Model UN delegation. Bochis, the unofficially elected CSU general coordinator, acted as president of the delegation. In an interview with The Concordian, Bochis said he firmly believed Concordia students would see “a lot of positive change in the upcoming year.” The unofficially elected general coordinator said his team would focus on unfinished projects, like the CSU daycare, which current general coordinator Omar Riaz said would open in March. Bochis added that the CSU needs “to focus on transparency and on fostering trust within the organization.”

Referendum questions approved

All four of the CSU’s referendum questions were approved by voters.

One dollar per credit will continue to be given to the Library Services Fund, which allows 24-hour access to the Vanier and Webster libraries and various services, including laptop and tablet lending and access to course reserve textbooks.

An increase in the fee levy for Concordia’s co-op bookstore was also approved by voters. The fee will increase from $0.10 to $0.14 per credit for every undergraduate student starting in the fall of 2018.

Voters confirmed the CSU’s motion for a two-round voting system to be used if the student union has to internally elect a candidate to fill a vacant executive position.

Concordia voters also approved the expansion of club and student spaces.



General Coordinator

Andrei Bochis—Elected

Yes: 346

No: 245

Abstain: 188

Omar Riaz

Yes: 342

No: 141

Abstain: 183

Sophie Hough-Martin—Disqualified

Yes: 523

No: 197

Abstain: 181

Student Life Coordinator

Michèle Sandiford—Disqualified

Yes: 509

No: 187

Abstain: 207

Daniel Jolicoeur—Elected

Yes: 345

No: 220

Abstain: 207

Yara Karam

Yes: 342

No: 209

Abstain: 207

Finance Coordinator

John Hutton—Disqualified

Yes: 515

No: 188

Abstain: 240

Nichita Bobic—Elected

Yes: 335

No: 205

Abstain: 240

Kathy Du

Yes: 300

No: 221

Abstain: 239

External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator

Camille Thompson—Disqualified

Yes: 499

No: 169

Abstain: 255

Gabriel Guppy—Elected

Yes: 360

No: 197

Abstain: 256

Mustafa Bokesmati

Yes: 284

No: 205

Abstain: 256

Loyola Coordinator

Alexis Searcy—Disqualified

Yes: 448

No: 171

Abstain: 256

Jamie Lewis-Mella—Elected

Yes: 322

No: 199

Abstain: 251

April Tardi Levesque

Yes: 275

No: 209

Abstain: 256

Felicia Da Conceicao

Yes: 98

No: 249

Abstain: 256

Sustainability Coordinator

Myriam Bourgeois—Elected

Yes: 405

No: 203

Abstain: 223

Akira De Carlos—Disqualified

Yes: 493

No: 182

Abstain: 219

Sebastien Martinez De La Garza

Yes: 284

No: 217

Abstain: 219

Academic and Advocacy Coordinator

Mikaela Clark-Gardner—Disqualified

Yes: 515

No: 171

Abstain: 251

Lida Sonylam Aman—Elected

Yes: 337

No: 200

Abstain: 251

Aouatif Zebiri

Yes: 305

No: 216

Abstain: 251

Internal Affairs Coordinator

Princess Somefun—Disqualified

Yes: 516

No: 176

Abstain: 218

Vivi To—Elected

Yes: 360

No: 202

Abstain: 218

Fatoumata Binta Balde

Yes: 303

No: 215

Abstain: 220

Referendum Questions

Library Services Fund Fee Levy—PASSED

Do you agree to contribute $1 per credit to the CSU for the Library Services Fund for the next ten years (2019-2029), in order to maintain and increase existing services funded through the Library Services Fund? The contribution would be collected in accordance with the university’s tuition and refund policy.

Yes: 724

No: 321

Abstain: 237

Two Round Electoral System—PASSED

Do you as a CSU member agree with adding by-law 7.3.2 such that the Concordia Student Union Council establish an internal Two-Round Electoral System when voting on vacant executive seats?

Yes: 629

No: 234

Abstain: 424

Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore Fee Levy Increase—PASSED

Do you agree to increase the fee levy of the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore by $0.05 per credit to a total of $0.14 per credit, effective Fall 2018?

Yes: 666

No: 326

Abstain: 300

Expanding Campus Space—PASSED

Do you support the CSU expanding and improving student spaces for clubs on campus?

Yes: 948

No: 140

Abstain: 196

CEO barred candidates access to ballot counting

The Concordia Student Union’s chief electoral officer (CEO), Nicholas Roberts, barred candidates from witnessing the election ballot count and tried to prevent student media from interviewing a candidate who had not been allowed in the room on Friday, March 30.

According to chapter four, section nine of the CSU’s standing regulations, candidates are allowed in the room to witness the ballots being counted.

On the morning the votes were counted, Patrick Magallanes, a sitting councillor from the Faculty of Arts and Science who was running for re-election, and John Hutton, Speak Up’s candidate for finance coordinator, were present to oversee the counting of the ballots in addition to a reporter from The Concordian. Roberts allowed Hutton and the reporter into the room, but told Magallanes he was not allowed to enter. When The Concordian reporter tried to leave the room to ask Magallanes why he wasn’t allowed in, Roberts told the reporter that if he left the ballot counting room, he would not be allowed back in.

“Either you’re in or you’re out,” Roberts said. He refused to comment or answer any questions concerning the incident.

Magallanes later told The Concordian that Roberts denied him access to the room on the basis that, if he were allowed in, then Roberts would have to allow other candidates in as well.

“This, in my mind, is an abuse of the power that he has,” Magallanes said. “It made me feel emotionally upset.”

Magallanes said he felt his rights as a candidate were violated because he was not allowed to witness the ballot count. He requested a ballot recount but received no response from Roberts. He said that if Roberts did not respond to him by April 2, then Magallanes would file an official complaint against him with the CSU’s judicial board.

Although Hutton was allowed in the room, Roberts did not allow him to approach the ballot counters or scrutinize any ballots. According to Hutton, the Speak Up candidates wanted to have more people witness the ballot counting, but Roberts notified them that only one member of each slate would be allowed in the room because there wouldn’t be enough space. The ballots were counted in H-535, an auditorium with approximately 100 seats. At least 75 seats were empty while the ballots were being counted.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

* A previous version of this article stated that Lida Sonylam Aman had been a member of the Concordia Model UN delegation. This is inaccurate and we regret this error.


Preserving an endangered language

Concordia journalist-in-residence researches Mohawk language with students

When Marc Miller, the Liberal MP for Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, started speaking at the House of Commons on June 1, 2017, some of his colleagues looked stunned.

It was the first time a member of Parliament in either of Canada’s houses had pronounced words in Kanien’kéha, the Mohawk language. Miller, a Montreal native and old friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, told the CBC he wanted to “put his money where his mouth is,” so he reached out to teachers at Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa, a training program led by the Six Nations of the Grand River, and started learning.

“It is especially positive that Marc Miller spoke in the House of Commons to politicians: the ones who make laws and help to, hopefully a lot more in the future, save our language through critical funding efforts and bills to protect Kanien’kéha,” said Steve Bonspiel, the editor-in-chief of The Eastern Door, a community newspaper in Kahnawake, a Mohawk territory south of Montreal.

In January, Bonspiel, who is Concordia’s 2018 journalist-in-residence, and six Concordia students began examining the efforts of two Mohawk communities to revitalize and preserve one of Canada’s oldest and endangered languages. The multimedia project will include a feature article, a radio report and a video documentary.

In an interview with The Concordian, Bonspiel said there are many reasons why so few people are able to converse in Kanien’kéha, including colonialism and the loss of Indigenous language in residential schools, “where our children were beaten and raped if they spoke it.”

“The government continues to fund English and French in our schools but has made it difficult for us to teach and learn [Kanien’kéha], because we always have to beg for money to promote it,” Bonspiel added.

Natalia Fedosieieva, a student of Ukrainian origin in Bonspiel’s class, said she could draw a parallel between the Mohawks’ efforts to preserve their language and her attempt to preserve the Ukrainian language in her family “through speaking, writing and reading a lot.”

“Sharing the experience and listening to someone else speak about similar language problems gives me a feeling of real empathy for them,” she said.

Like the rest of her colleagues working on the project, Fedosieieva is not Indigenous, but Bonspiel said despite coming in with zero knowledge on the topic, the students “have grasped the material and were hungry for more.” The students have met and talked to, among other people, elder Harvey Gabriel, the author of two editions of a Mohawk dictionary, as well as two students studying the language in Kanesatake, a Mohawk territory near Oka.

Bonspiel said that while it depends on which school a Mohawk student attends, most kids only learn English and French when they grow up.

“Parents are torn. They want their kids to learn the language, but they also want them to have a higher education in university, so oftentimes it is seen as choosing between the two,” Bonspiel said. The project, he added, will try to address a “giant series of questions” surrounding the language.

“Are people okay with knowing half truths or believing a narrative that is steeped in colonial rhetoric, told through a colonial lens and delivered with a heavy slant against us?” he asked.

“How do we change that? Who will listen? Many questions and so many answers yet to come.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


President claims no disconnect between university and students

Article written by Étienne Lajoie and Megan Hunt

Alan Shepard says he is interested in the results of the CSU student congress

In an interview with The Concordian on March 15, Concordia president Alan Shepard offered no comment in response to a recent CBC report revealing that two Concordia part-time instructors, Jon Paul Fiorentino and David McGimpsey, were the subjects of complaints in a third-party investigation.

“I wouldn’t be able to make any comments about any investigation,” Shepard said. The university has not made a comment regarding the complaints since the report was published on Feb. 28.

Although Fiorentino and McGimpsey were originally scheduled to teach this semester, their classes have been reassigned while the allegations against them are being investigated. Shepard told The Concordian on Feb. 15 that professors are not allowed to teach while they’re under investigation.

Lack of faculty attendance at student congress

When asked if he felt the university’s administration was disconnected from the student body, Shepard said: “Absolutely not.”

As previously reported by The Concordian, only one Concordia faculty member was present at the congress organized by the Concordia Student Union (CSU) to discuss proposals on potential sexual misconduct policy changes. Kate Bligh, a part-time faculty member in the School of Irish Studies, as well as the theatre and English departments, said that in her 20 years of teaching, she had never been asked to attend any consent training similar to what the CSU wishes to implement for all students, staff and faculty within a reasonable time frame.

“The same way we hold discrimination and violence to this standard, we have to do the same with sexual assault and violence,” Bligh said.

Shepard said he was “very interested to see the results” of the congress, adding that Bill 151, provincial legislation requiring universities to take certain steps to address sexual violence, will require consent training for faculty and staff in all universities.
“We have to comply by September 2019 and I anticipate that we’ll do it this coming year, so it’ll be early,” Shepard said. According to him, the university is already doing “a huge amount of voluntary consent training” for students, but whether or not the training will become mandatory depends on the findings of the newly created sexual assault task force.

He also said the university’s Sexual Assault Research Centre, whose employees were not present at the congress, “does a great job [and] has been training hundreds, if not thousands of students. Probably thousands at this point.”

Shepard told The Concordian he hasn’t received an invitation from the CSU to meet with executives, but said if they want to speak with him, he is “always willing to talk to them.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Kimberley Manning is running for change in Outremont

Simone de Beauvoir Institute principal looking to be the Liberal candidate in upcoming by-election

“What does a feminist Parliament look like?” asked Kimberley Manning, the principal of Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, in an interview. It’s a good time to think about the answer, she said.

Manning’s name will be on the ballot for the Liberal Party of Canada’s nomination of a candidate to run in the Outremont riding for the upcoming by-election. In December, Thomas Mulcair, the riding’s current member of Parliament (MP), announced he would be leaving federal politics in June, creating an opening in the House.
Manning is open about her goals if she is selected by Liberal Party members: she hopes to find better ways to recruit, train and mentor women from marginalized communities—not simply “white, middle-upper-class women” like herself.

Manning admitted the road ahead will be challenging, largely because she is not well-known in the riding. Meanwhile, her Liberal Party opponent, Rachel Bendayan, ran against Mulcair in 2015. Back then, Bendayan lost by approximately 5,000 votes, despite spending over $108,000 on her campaign—$4,000 more than her victorious rival, according to Elections Canada financial filings.

“I’m definitely starting way to the rear of where she is at in terms of her organizing. So, ultimately, it literally comes down to numbers—the number of people that I can sign up to the party, and the number of people who will ultimately come out the night of the nomination,” Manning told The Concordian. What she lacks in political experience, the professor believes she can compensate for in her studies of legislative processes as part of her PhD in political science, as well her advocacy in the halls of Canada and Quebec’s assemblies.

Last spring, Manning and her trans daughter, Florence, made their voices heard a few times in the Senate to help the passage of Bill C-16, an amendment adding gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.

“That was very galvanizing. I really got to feel and experience what it means to really try to advocate for something that you believe in within those institutional structures and ultimately be successful,” she said.

“As a parent, I want my child to be seen as who she fully is. I want her to have the dignity that should be afforded to all people who reside in Canada,” Manning wrote to senators on May 30, 2017, a few weeks before the bill was passed.
A few days later, in a blog post also signed by Elizabeth J. Meyer, the author of Gender, Bullying, and Harassment: Strategies to End Sexism and Homophobia in Schools, Manning rebuked comments made by Manitoba senator Don Plett.

“With all due respect, Senator Plett is wrong,” she wrote in response to the senator’s opinion that there isn’t any law “in the world that will prevent children from bullying.”

Manning doesn’t hide her strong, personal attachment to the Outremont riding—the result of being a resident for seven years—nor the reason for her move there from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (N.D.G.).

“There was a school that was prepared to work with us to create a safe environment for my child,” Manning said about her decision to move to Outremont.

In an interview with Parents Canada magazine, Manning said she met Shuvo Ghosh, the head of the Gender Variance Program at the Montreal Children’s Hospital—the only pediatrician in Quebec specialized in the treatment of transgender youth—and later determined with her husband that N.D.G did not have a safe school for their child.

Manning, who teaches political science in addition to her position at the institute, is careful when describing her role in protecting the rights of members of the trans community. Her involvement, she pointed out, is nascent compared to other trans activists, but is very personal. She said her testimony at Senate hearings “was a very powerful moment.”

At Concordia, Manning is the faculty lead on C-FAR, the Critical Feminist Activism in Research, a group exploring the idea of a feminist university that “calls for a disruptive practice in which ‘meaning-making processes that create and sustain relations of domination’ are brought fully to light,” she wrote in Concordia Magazine, citing the ideals of political theorist Rita Dhamoon.

“How do you take some of those principles and processes into Parliament?” Manning subsequently asked. “One of the reasons I want to run is because there is so much work still to do in terms of creating more open and inclusive political structures to increase participation.”

Running for the Liberals, Manning told The Concordian, is an opportunity to deepen “the work that’s already underway.”

“I just see it as where I can be most effective and have the most impact,” she added.

In November, Manning sat on a roundtable with Randy Boissonnault, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues.

“It was really extraordinary to see the way in which he encouraged and was able to bring in everybody around the table,” she said.

Getting picked to run under the red banner will require asking people to join the Liberals, and come out on the still-undetermined night of the nomination. The biggest challenge, Manning added, “is just having the time to meet people, to get to know people, and have those conversations which are so key to […] ensure there are enough people who are going to say, ‘Hey, what she’s doing is really interesting and I’d really like to help.’”

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Space Concordia fee-levy request denied

Space Concordia president Mark Snidal argued his group should receive a fee-levy during a CSU special council meeting on March 5. Photo by Étienne Lajoie

Group seeks approval to ask students for $0,16 per credit fee-levy; complaint policy questioned

Space Concordia president Mark Snidal went to the March 5 Concordia Student Union (CSU) special council meeting hoping council would approve asking the student body if they would accept a $0.16 per credit fee-levy for his organization, effective Summer 2018.

“Over time, our scope has expanded […] more recently we’ve started including projects from students outside the scope of engineering,” said Snidal when asked why he believed Space Concordia should be receiving money from Concordia’s student body through a fee-levy.

In addition to their skepticism about Space Concordia’s benefit to the entire student body—and, therefore, whether it merited a fee-levy—the union called into question the functioning of the organization’s proposed complaint policy, which would be implemented along with a fee-levy.

Snidal explained that a permanent committee for dispute resolutions would be formed in order to address complaints made by members “arising out of or related to the Constitution, or out of any aspect of the operations of the Association,” the constitution reads.

The committee, Snidal suggested, would be chaired by a Space Concordia executive. It would also consist of a temporarily appointed member from Space Concordia, as well as a member of the CSU council and two students at large.

Certain council members pointed out that a conflict of interest may arise if the organization names its own chair, and council member Rowan Gaudet said he’d never seen the CSU appoint someone to sit on a complaints board for a fee-levy group.

“I think that’s not really our place […] that’s not something the CSU is responsible for, and also the CSU can’t promise it will go well,” Gaudet said.

“I think it’s really important that the complaint process is done in a way that the people coming forward feel comfortable and safe, and not necessarily that they are going to be outed by a committee right away when the committee is being chosen,” added Sophie Hough-Martin, a council member who sits on the student union’s policy committee. Hough-

Martin also recommended the group include consent and sensitivity training for its members.

According to CSU council member Aliénor Lougerstay—who also works as Space Concordia’s vice-president for marketing—the organization only recently received feedback from the union about their constitution, which includes the complaint policy, despite having submitted the proposed constitution to the CSU policy committee in December.

Lougerstay said the original proposal for the committee for dispute resolutions was that it be internal. However, the CSU policy committee noted that, since a person might file a complaint against the Space Concordia executive body, it couldn’t be internal.

“We tried to figure out something, so that’s how we came up with the idea [of having a CSU member on the committee.],” Lougerstay said.

In the end, the CSU council voted in favour of referring Space Concordia’s fee-levy request—including the complaint policy—back to the student union policy committee for review.


Concordia to launch sports journalism course

Intensive one-month course, funded by 2015 Sportsnet donation, to begin in May

Concordia journalism department chair David Secko announced the creation of a sports journalism course in an email to students on Jan. 30. The intensive 400-level course will be offered from May 7 to 25 starting this spring, and will comprise three sections: intensive classes, assignments and virtual classes, and final classes in the last two days.

The course and its professor will be paid using money the department received as a donation from Sportsnet in December 2015, said Secko in an interview with The Concordian in September. According to Secko, the department’s goal was to create a sports journalism course “that will help cover sports, but also help students who may not want to cover sports interact and gain new skills.”

He added that applications to teach the course will be open to all qualified part-time faculty members.

Brian Gabrial, a former journalism professor who was the department chair when the donation was made, said a committee of faculty members decided how the $650,000 donation would be spent. Most of the funds will go towards scholarships and the creation of the sports journalism course, which Gabrial said many students have suggested over the years.

However, Gabrial told The Concordian he would have prefered to use the money to buy more equipment for the department. “I probably would not have spent any money on scholarships, because our students have a lot of scholarships available to them,” he said.

The Sportsnet donation followed a request made by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). According to a 2015 post by media blogger Steve Faguy, Sportsnet needed to spend 10 per cent of the price it paid to acquire rival network The Score on donations to programs and initiatives that benefit Canada’s broadcast system.

The CRTC decision also specified that Sportsnet could not benefit from the donation in any way, Gabrial explained. For this reason, the sports network could not hire any Concordia students as interns, despite Sportsnet president Scott Moore suggesting this to Gabrial in March 2015, according to the initial proposal through an access to information request.

In its initial proposal to Sportsnet in the summer of 2015, the university described the course as one “that will challenge students to produce and live-stream a one-hour weekly sports program.” It’s unclear whether the recently created course will have a similar format.

When asked about the final course format, Secko said he could not give much detail because “the course instructor needs to be assigned first, as they will be leading the class.” However, Secko added that “the department envisions the class to be advanced, intensive professional-skills training on sports journalism.”

The initial proposal also read that the university would like to buy a TriCaster, which is “an all-in-one portable device that merges multiple feeds from cameras, telephone lines, social media and more into one signal,” as well as a Dejero, a device “designed to allow reporters and guests to participate in a live remote broadcast that can be transmitted live to a studio.”

Gabrial said he hopes students will be interested in the course and sign up for it. “I would be very disappointed if it didn’t get a lot of interest from the students. It’s a lot of work [to create a course],” the former chair told The Concordian. “If the course is not showing interest, we can’t keep it on the schedule. If there’s no interest for it, you can’t offer it.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Cease and resist

Former Concordia professor David Ketterer claims university diverted his emails; denied him the distinguished professor emeritus title

On Nov. 27, 2017, former Concordia English department professor David Ketterer received a letter from the university’s senior legal counsel, Melodie Sullivan. “The university is in receipt of your [emails] sent to various members of the faculty and administration,” Sullivan wrote in the letter sent to Ketterer’s home in Liverpool, England. “As I have indicated to you on numerous occasions, no reply will be provided to your communications unless, in our opinion, a reply is required.”

Sullivan’s warning came six years after a cease and desist letter she sent to Ketterer, and multiple emails—some of which seen by The Concordian—were sent to Concordia administrators, including provost Graham Carr, by Ketterer.

“First, you have been informed that, other than communication required in the context of the legal actions you have taken against Concordia, the university does not intend to reply to your emails,” Sullivan had told Ketterer on June 13, 2011.

The legal actions Sullivan referred to were three claims Ketterer made on three separate occasions in Quebec’s small claims court. In September 2009, Ketterer, now an honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool, was the plaintiff in a case against Martin Singer—the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science at the time—Barbara Harris, Singer’s executive assistant, and three other Concordia administrators.

Ketterer requested $7,000 from the five individuals, and blamed their behaviour for why he didn’t obtain the distinguished professor emeritus (DPE) title from the university. The former professor said he has been nominated by English department chairs twice for the title “on the basis of [his] research and publications.”

In a recent email to The Concordian, Ketterer wrote that he wanted the DPE title because he was entitled to it.

Ketterer’s accusations against the five individuals, according to court records, were based on a May 2003 email written by Harris, which explained that the professor hadn’t been recommended by the Faculty of Arts and Science committee responsible for the DPE because “he had no department or university service here, nor had he ever supervised a single graduate student.”

Harris, who was the only defendant present at the September 2009 hearing, said the letter’s claim that Ketterer had no department or university service at Concordia was incorrect, and that there were other reasons Ketterer wasn’t recommended. According to Concordia senate guidelines, one of the three eligibility requirements for the DPE title is that the candidate “will have retired or will have chosen to retire from full-time service to the university.”

Instead, the decision not to give Ketterer the title was based on a decision made by the committee in 2008, according to court documents. The committee wrote that it had considered Ketterer’s dossier and, “in light of the criteria established by the senate,” did not forward it.

Judge Jacques Paquet, who presided over the hearing, sided with the defendants, writing that Harris’s mistake “had nothing to do with the committee’s decision.” A year later, in 2010, Ketterer was back in court, this time suing Concordia for an amount of $999.80, again referring to the Faculty of Arts and Science’s 2008 decision, contending that an award he received in 1996, “fulfilled the criteria of a ‘demonstrably outstanding contribution” to either teaching or research, one of the characteristics needed to obtain the DPE.

In her decision, judge Eliana Marengo wrote that the matter would not go to adjudication because that would require reviewing the committee’s work, which the court did not have the authority to do.

Ketterer’s Sept. 12, 2011 court appearance was his last. That day, judge David L. Cameron dismissed the proceedings, citing, among other reasons, Ketterer’s “series of small-claim cases.” Cameron condemned Ketterer to pay the university’s judicial costs— $194 for the 2011 case—but more importantly, prohibited him “from bringing proceedings in the Court of Quebec except with the authorization and subject to the conditions determined by the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec.”

In a series of emails to The Concordian, Ketterer defended his actions, claiming the university diverted his letters to administrators and violated two academic rules in 2008.

In her Nov. 27, 2017 letter, Sullivan wrote: “Note that all communications received from you, such as letters and/or phone calls, are forwarded directly to me.” Less than three weeks earlier, on Nov. 8, Ketterer described the diversion of letters to Sullivan “as a human rights violation” in an email to Carr.
In an email sent to Sullivan on Dec. 17—in which Carr and Concordia ombudsperson Amy Fish were Cc’d—Ketterer claimed the “deliberate diversion” of his letters was illegal according to British law. “It is not just a matter of censorship; it is a violation of my human rights,” he wrote again.

In an email dated June 10, 2011—three days before the cease and desist letter was sent—Ketterer made a reference to the university’s Code of Rights and Responsibilities formal complaints system, and the reason why the system was created: the 1992 Concordia shooting. “The functionality of this recourse is particularly important because is [sic] a result of the Valery Fabrikant incident,” Ketterer wrote.

In response, Sullivan wrote in the cease and desist letter that, “the reference made in your email to the Fabrikant affair and the murders of four Concordia faculty members may reasonably be considered to be an implicit threat made against Vice President [Bram] Freedman and his colleagues. … Such threats will not be tolerated.”

“She simply invents the notion that I am making a threat,” Ketterer told The Concordian in an email. Ketterer argued he didn’t do more than “relate the Code of Ethics Formal Complaint procedure to the Valery Fabrikant incident.”

According to Ketterer, the motivation for “a couple of Concordia’s senior administrators” to create the DPE title “seems to have been some kind of public relations angle. [The title] is just a synonym for retired (and thus a title to be applied to all retired Concordia faculty unless he or she was a Fabrikant, etc.),” he wrote.

The Concordian contacted Concordia University, but did not get a comment by press time.

Photo by Takayuki Tatsumi


Former GSA president’s complaint to be investigated

Quebec Human Rights Commission to look into alleged harassment

A complaint filed by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) on behalf of   former Graduate Student Association (GSA) president Alex Ocheoha against the association and three of its directors will be investigated by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, according to Fo Niemi, CRARR’s executive director.

In a press release, Niemi wrote that the GSA and the three directors “engaged in verbal and other acts of discrimination, harassment and intimidation.”

Ocheoha, who is of Nigerian descent, was president of the GSA from June 2015 to May 2016. He first filed a complaint against the association and its directors in November 2016. “They were addressing me in a disrespectful manner, they were shouting at me, they were trying to cause trouble at the meetings,” Ocheoha told The Concordian at the time about the directors’ behaviour.

“Discrimination and harassment at the GSA is systemic,” Ocheoha stated in a recent email. “There is a pervasive culture of harassment, and there is no system in place to deal with it.” Specifically, the former GSA president referred to the fact the association does not have an advocacy centre like the Concordia Student Union does for protecting students’ rights.

Ocheoha said the directors frequently found ways to prevent him from fulfilling his presidential mandate, and that their email communications felt like racial and cyber harassment. According to Niemi’s press release, the problems “included frequent attempts to impeach him and deprive him of his executive salaries [sic].”

The council of directors—composed of 20 directors—is the second-highest governing and decision-making body of the GSA. According to the association’s bylaws, the directors should “endeavour to improve the general condition of the GSA and of graduate students at Concordia University.”

Emails obtained by The Concordian in November 2016 show that GSA directors responded to their former president’s complaints of harassment with emails that were shared with everyone in the organization. On Oct. 29, 2016, for example, Ocheoha received a response to an email from then-GSA director Rahul Kumar on which the whole GSA organization had been Cc’d. In the email, Kumar wrote: “What do you want to prove from this, Alex? That you are full of shit?”

When contacted by The Concordian to comment on the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission investigation, Kumar wrote: “I am sorry I can’t comment on the legal matters, sorry.”

When Ocheoha pointed out that the Cc’d email was an example of ongoing harassment, another former director, Mathilde Ngo Mbom, responded: “Aaaaw the grown-up man feels harassed! Take your balls out of the pockets, put them where (i.e: between your legs) they should be and stop being a cry baby.” She also wrote: “The next time you show some sense of mental disorder, I’ll send these emails to the police, and they will request that you meet a psychiatrist (by force) because you need one.”

Niemi wrote in the press release that the emails and the organization’s “apparent failure to prevent and remedy the situation over a long period created a toxic culture of contempt within the GSA during Ocheoha’s tenure.”
“I get extremely upset each time I recall the very hurtful experience I had during my time as president,” Ocheoha wrote in a recent email. The former president claimed the council was aware of the harrassment and tolerated it. “They all saw the email, and nobody did anything about it. The perpetrators came up with false allegations to justify their harassment,” Ocheoha told The Concordian.

CRARR is seeking $15,000 in moral and punitive damages against the GSA “for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent and stop the harassment and abuse directed at Ocheoha,” according to the press release. CRARR is also seeking an additional $12,000 to $15,000 in damages from each of the three directors, and “systemic remedies that include a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination and harassment involving prohibited grounds such as race, age, disability.” The organization also wants to mandate civil rights training for GSA executives and directors for three consecutive years.

According to Niemi, Ocheoha was willing to settle the case in mediation, but the GSA declined the option. The Concordian reached out to current GSA president Srinivas Bathini as well as vice-president internal Mohammad Taufiquzzaman, but neither responded in time for publication.

In an internal monthly report to the GSA council in October 2017, Taufiquzzaman wrote that one of his highlights as vice-president internal over the course of the month was “looking after the GSA house and the staff members.” His future plan, he wrote, is “maintaining a healthy environment within the GSA house and its student body.”
“It was very insensitive that people appointed by council to a legal committee, which they created to deal with my complaints, were people who were harassing me,” Ocheoha said. “The GSA is supposed to fight for students’ rights, and not use students’ money to oppress other students.”

Photo by Kirubel Mehari


GSA members not surveyed about harassment, discrimination

Dean of graduate studies says university receives few complaints from graduate students

After finding that many of the consultations and complaints filed with Laval University’s student help centre, the university’s centre for the prevention and intervention of harassment, as well as the university ombudsman came from graduate students, the school’s graduate student association (AELIES) surveyed its members and released its findings in November 2017.

The results: 58 per cent of the graduate students surveyed said they had uncomfortable interactions with their master’s or doctorate supervisor “on a few occasions,” and 16 per cent of students surveyed said those situations happened “regularly.” In November, AELIES president Pierre Parent Sirois told Le Devoir he found the statistics “worrying.”

Concordia undergraduate students were recently asked questions regarding on-campus harassment and discrimination as part of the 2017 Concordia Student Union General Undergraduate Student Survey, which was presented to the CSU council on Oct. 11. However, a similar survey of its members has not been conducted by the Graduate Student Association, according to the association’s president, Srinivas Bathini. The GSA’s vice-president of academic and advocacy, Thufile Ariful Mohamed Sirajudeen, said the association would consider surveying its members.

According to the Le Devoir article, students and their supervisors at Laval University sign mentoring agreements (“ententes d’encadrement”) to prevent conflict or discomfort. AELIES’s survey revealed that, in 70 per cent of cases, the agreements had a positive impact on the relationship between the student and the supervisor, and on the progress of the work.
In an email to The Concordian, Paula Wood-Adams, Concordia’s dean of graduate studies, wrote that the university does not have the same type of contract, “as is the case with a good number of universities.” She added that Concordia has “clear guidelines explaining the responsibilities of the students, supervisors and their respective programs.” The guidelines, she said, were revised last year and are “clearly posted” on the university website.

The master’s and PhD supervision guidelines each state that, “while it is important to acknowledge that students are partners in the university enterprise, it is equally important to recognize their differential power status, especially as it relates to their supervisors.”

According to Wood-Adams, the School of Graduate Studies communicates the guidelines to new graduate students twice a year, in January and September.

The guidelines indicate that, if an issue arises between a student and supervisor and an informal resolution is “unsuccessful or inappropriate,” and the graduate program director determines that the student-supervisor relationship is “beyond repair,” the director “must make a recommendation to the dean of graduate studies to terminate the relationship.”

Wood-Adams added that the School of Graduate Studies only receives a few complaints every year through the office of the ombudsman or the School of Graduate Studies itself—two avenues students can use to come forward.

“Most issues are resolved following a meeting with the student where we provide advice on how they might clarify or resolve the situation,” Wood-Adams said. Students can also bring along an advocate from the GSA or student advocacy office, she explained.

Wood-Adams said consultations with the School of Graduate Studies remain confidential, “except in cases where they are alleging conduct that might be illegal.” The final option available to both students and supervisors is to terminate the supervision.

“I should emphasize these are very rare situations,” Wood-Adams wrote.

Photo by Alex Hutchins

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