Categories
News

Inclusive teaching workshops offered to professors

Concordia faculty is learning new techniques for teaching diverse classrooms

Concordia’s Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is offering inclusivity workshops to professors to teach them to create a more respectful atmosphere in their classrooms.

The goal of these workshops is to help instructors understand “the kinds of challenges, including microaggressions, racism, bias, dimensions of power and privilege that are experienced by a diverse group of students, and apply inclusive strategies in the design of their courses, classroom teaching and interactions with students,” said Fiona Downey, deputy spokesperson for Concordia.

Alicia Cundell, the teaching consultant with CTL said, “we want faculty to become aware of and, at some point, be able to change those behaviours that students find marginalizing, offensive and exclusionary.”

CTL is hosting its annual four-week WinterFest, an event dedicated to workshops on creating an inclusive space in the classroom. The kick-off event was held on Jan. 24 in the Black Box venue in the EV building. It “allowed participants to intervene in scenarios and try different ways of handling the situations,” said Downey. “These scenarios were authentic experiences from Concordia students that were anonymized and dramatized by professional actors.” She added, “other sessions will offer concrete strategies for the classroom, course design and having challenging discussions in the classroom.”

The kick-off event was an interactive theatrical experience. Actors presented classroom scenarios that were inspired by real experiences Concordia students have dealt with. Audience members, which consisted of faculty and administration, were allowed to suggest changes and interact with the performers as the scenarios unfolded.

The piece was directed by Jessica Bleuer, a cultural equity consultant and registered drama therapist who lectures in Concordia’s Department of Creative Arts Therapies. She hoped that professors would gain a more “empathetic understanding of their minority students and an idea of the things that make classrooms unsafe.”

Weekly workshops are being held every Friday from Jan. 25 to Feb. 15.

Archive Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Categories
News

Pap test Mondays at Concordia

Concordia’s Health Services offers students pap tests

The government of Canada has reported that cervical cancer has been steadily declining and they believe this is directly connected to an increase in Pap tests.

Anne-Marie Lanctôt, manager at Concordia University’s Health Services, said there are slots reserved every Monday for Pap tests. The timing for these appointments depends on the patient’s needs, as well as the physician’s availability. “Paps can also be done throughout the week with any of our physicians, not only on Mondays,” Lanctôt said.

“Students don’t need to pay any out-of-pocket fees if they are covered by Quebec medical insurance (RAMQ), they have out of province insurance or Blue Cross coverage which is up to date,” said Lanctôt. “These exams are covered by health insurance and available to students as per the Canadian guidelines, every one to three years.”

Thinking women are screened for all STIs is a common misconception about Pap tests, according to Lanctôt. “The screening guidelines for Pap tests are distinct from the screening guidelines for STI testing, and they depend on a number of factors,” said Lanctôt. “This is a screening test for abnormal cells on the cervix.” Abnormalities could indicate precancerous or cancerous cells caused by Human Papilloma Virus.

Emma, a student who used the clinic’s services, said she was advised to book an appointment when she went in for an STI screening. “I had just turned 21 and it’s highly recommended to get it done after that, in case of health risks,” she said.

Concordia’s Pap test page advises women to get Pap screenings every one to three years as of 21 years of age depending on a woman’s risk factor. “High risk groups might include: women with very early onset of sexual activity, women with multiple partners, and immunocompromised women,” said Lanctôt.

These tests can be conducted as part of a standard checkup or a pelvic exam. Before her exam began, Emma was asked about her sexual history, if she had had all her vaccinations, about her medical history, and whether or not she has noticed any unusual symptoms

Emma said the whole process lasted about 10 minutes. During a Pap test, a nurse or doctor will insert a device called a speculum into the vagina and then scrape a sample of cells from within the cervix. “It was uncomfortable at first, but then became painful,” said Emma. “I could manage it, but it wasn’t something I would like to feel again.”

The sample is then tested for any abnormalities.

“What I wasn’t aware of is that it takes three to five months to get Pap test results back, so that threw me off a bit,” Emma said.

According to Lanctôt, people often assume abnormal Pap test results means they have cancer, which isn’t the case. In some cases, abnormal cells return to normal. However, if the results come back as abnormal, a follow-up exam will most likely be scheduled.

The Canadian Cancer Society outlines several follow-up tests and/or treatments for abnormal results which include another Pap test, an HPV test and an endocervical curettage, “a type of biopsy that removes cells from the endocervical canal which is the passageway from the uterus to the vagina.”

Students can book an appointment any day of the week through Concordia’s Health Services by calling the office or visiting the clinic on the second floor of the GM building on the Sir George Williams campus. Health Services is also located at AD 131 on the Loyola campus.

To protect our source’s privacy The Concordian used a pseudonym.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.

Categories
News

Concordia President Alan Shepard leaving Concordia for Western

Concordia taught Alan Shepard “the power of good will”

In late November 2018, President Alan Shepard announced he would be leaving the University on June 30 to become president of Western University, in London, Ontario.

Much is being done to ensure that the transition period proceeds as smoothly as possible. Shepard said that leading up to July 2019, “each of the vice-presidents on [his] team will prepare a briefing binder of work going on in their portfolio and they will have that ready for the new president, whoever that turns out to be.”

As for projects currently in the works, like the health institute, Shepard said they will continue to be developed. Once projects have been announced, “the change of leadership wouldn’t typically interrupt that.” The same goes for ongoing negotiations like that of Teaching and Research Assistants at Concrdia. “We have professional teams that negotiate with mandates that are set out by the board of governors, so that’s all in place and that will continue too,” Shepard said.

Shepard became president of Concordia in 2012 after being provost at Ryerson University in Toronto. “I wanted to be a provost. That was my career goal.” Shepard said being president was not something he had planned for. Despite that, he said he’s loved it.

The job didn’t always come easy. “Sometimes it’s really hard. There are some very long days where things aren’t going well, we’re in the news for bad things,” said Shepard. “But I like the challenge of leading a community. I like seeing the big picture of an institution.”

He said when he first came to Concordia he felt that there was a mistrust of and skepticism about the senior administration. Because of this, Shepard said the Concordia community taught him about “the power of communicating really directly with people and the power of good will, operating in good faith, transparency.”

“I think the progression is awesome,” said Shepard, referencing nine strategic directions, which were implemented at Concordia five years ago. Shepard said, According to him, the plan has been discussed and copied by other universities across Canada. “It was a very progressive model of strategic planning that involved lots of people at the beginning of the conversations.” He added that “what we really wanted from people was engagement. It’s a university of all of us, so what is it we want this place to be and stand for?”

Shepard believes the nine strategic directions plan will continue once he’s left Concordia. “People really find it meaningful and a good framework for them, and my guess is that it probably still has another four or five years ahead.”

Shepard intends to implement a strategic planning process at Western as well, but not before consulting people there. “It probably won’t look exactly like this – it’s a different place,” said Shepard. “One of the things I like about this job is you get to kind of listen and talk, kind of diagnose what’s needed; what does that community need? And that community’s needs will be different, and I don’t know how different yet.”

Shepard said he is going to miss a lot about Concordia and Montreal. “I’m going to miss the students very much; I love Concordia students. There’s something really robust and resilient about our students. I like the diversity in the campus.”

Shepard believes he has things to learn when he takes on his new position. “Western is a different kind of institution,” said Shepard. “It’s in a very different part of the country; it has law and medicine, which have not been in my portfolio ever before. I’ll learn some new things there.”

When asked what Concordia is looking for in a new president, Shepard said, “they’re going to be asking you, they’re going to be asking the community.” In order to do that, a search committee is being formed and they will be tasked with putting together a job profile. Shepard said he wouldn’t participate in the search for a new president of the university. At most, he said he might appear before the committee and talk about the university and what he thinks they should look for, “but what they actually look for is their choice, not mine,” said Shepard.

Shepard said he doesn’t know when a new president will take over. Graham Carr, Concordia’s provost and vice-president of academic affairs will take over as interim president on July 1.

Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Categories
News

Student frustration escalates quickly

University says constant repairs are a must to maintain service

 

Escalators in the Hall building create issues for students with limited mobility when they’re out of order.

“Honestly, it sucks,” said journalism student Nick Lariviere, who has cerebral palsy. He said anyone can be impacted by an out of order escalator. “It can get really hard to navigate that building for anyone, let alone people with mobility issues.”

University Spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr noted that in 2012, all elevators and escalators in the Hall building were replaced to increase efficiency. “We have seen a dramatic decline in comments about escalator/elevator downtime,” said Barr.

According to Barr, escalators in the building are also required to undergo a certain amount of daily, monthly and yearly repairs in order to meet safety standards and industry regulations. Barr said some of the unscheduled interruptions are often the result of vandalism. “If interruptions do occur outside of regular scheduled maintenance operations, Concordia has onsite certified technicians to expedite repair work,” said Barr. “In instances of unscheduled downtime, communications are issued to building stakeholders and the internal Concordia community.”

The unscheduled downtime, however, can create a lot of traffic throughout the building, forcing students to use the elevators and stairwells. “I can use the stairs especially since I’ve never had a class above three floors from the ground floor there, but for some people it’s a lot of work going up those stairs,” said Lariviere.

Interruptions can also make students late for class. “My class is on the 10th floor, so I had to run up the escalators that weren’t even working. It made me a few minutes late in the end,” said English and creative writing student Bryony Hoare.

“I’d rather walk up stairs than up another broken escalator,” said Lariviere. He finds the escalator steps harder to walk up. “I think due to my right leg, the wider steps are harder on my knee.”

Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Categories
News

Lifting the lid on the Hall bathrooms

Students have been voicing strong opinions on the state of the bathrooms in the Hall building, both online and around campus.

“They’re nasty,” said English literature student Marco Buttice. “I constantly see urinals with out-of-order signs. I think they just haven’t been renovated in a really long time, and it shows.”

“The washroom facilities were renovated within the last 10 years and the ground level men’s washroom was refreshed and had new stall dividers installed this past summer,” said University Spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr. She added that the women’s bathrooms on the main floor will also be renovated this coming summer and that new stall dividers were installed this past summer.

Barr said renovations are often done during the summer months when there are fewer people using the building, “to limit the impact on the community.”

The problems are not isolated to the main floor. Just last week, the women’s bathroom on the 10th floor was out of order, forcing students go to a different floor. A sink in a 9th-floor women’s bathroom makes a loud screeching sound when it’s on, but no water comes out of the tap. Many sink handles are rusted to the point that they can no longer be turned.

Four out of nine stalls and three out of nine urinals in the 4th-floor men’s bathroom are marked as out of order. Two floors up, a row of four stalls is blocked off to “repair [a] faulty main shut-off valve,” according to a sign posted between two of the stalls. Two other urinals in the building, despite not being marked as “out of order,” do not drain properly, and are beginning to overflow with water and urine. Even the urinals that do work often have very poor water flow.

Some toilets are clogged, others don’t flush, and some flood or leak when flushed. Water from flooded toilets spreads into neighbouring stalls, rendering those useless as well.

These issues limit the number of stalls that can be used. Third-year political science and human rights student, Olivia Salembier, said “because of the reduced amount of stalls available, very large lines develop, so you have to wait a decent amount of time, especially in between classes.”

“Overall, the cleanliness is absolutely awful,” said Salembier. Business student Bronte Williams agreed, and said “I think the Hall bathrooms are of such low standards compared to other buildings at Concordia.”

Barr said the bathrooms are cleaned on a daily basis, though some students don’t feel that’s enough. “I understand some people vandalize the bathrooms and this is hard to control, but more janitorial services for the bathrooms could eliminate the poor standards in terms of smell, dirt, and general filth,” said Williams.

“No major significant complaints or issues related to the Hall building washrooms have been made via the appropriate comments or complaints forms,” Barr said. Katherina Boucher, an anthropology and journalism major said, “I actually don’t think I go one day without complaining about it and honestly, I just do the detour to the John Molson School of Business building if I have the time.”

To make an official complaint regarding bathroom facilities, Barr said students should contact Facilities Management at Call2400@concordia.ca or call 514-848-2424 ext. 2400.

 

With materials from Ian Down

Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Categories
News

JSA councillor named CEO for ASFA

ASFA decides after an executive stepped in for by-elections

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) elected a CEO to oversee the upcoming by-elections during a general council meeting Thursday Nov. 9.

Fiona Harrison-Roberts, finance executive with the Journalism Student Association (JSA) was elected to be the interim CEO for the by-election.

“We’ve had issues finding an ASFA CEO. No one applied,” said Elliott Boulanger, internal affairs and administration coordinator. The job posting was made public on ASFA’s Facebook page in September.

The position had to be filled immediately because of the upcoming by election so Boulanger took over the responsibilities of the CEO.

The role of the CEO during the by-election consists of ensuring that anyone participating in the election is complying with the rules and regulations, issuing directives on how these regulations are carried out, looking into the legitimacy of the election expenses and proposing regulation reforms to the council.

The CEO is also tasked with providing “information regarding the specifications and the carrying out of these regulations” to any person who requests it, and providing public access to “all information, reports, returns or documents relating to these regulations,” according to the job posting on ASFA’s Facebook page.

The council had to resolve three issues, the first being that no one applied for the position of CEO. The other two issues stemmed from the fact that Boulanger, an executive, had stepped into the position.

The issue with Boulanger taking on the position was that as an executive, they were in charge of hiring the CEO. Rory Blaisdell, council chairperson, recognized that this was an emergency situation where the position needed to be filled but also said “Elliot cannot hire themselves for the position.”

Boulanger made it clear that they were still actively looking for someone to fill the CEO position. “It’s not that I want to do it—I don’t. I have two jobs, classes, my internal position, I have a lot and this position is not the ideal situation on any level but the election has to happen,” they said.

Blaisdell told council that an executive could be hired, but in those cases, it has to be done by the council and not another executive. “If you are hiring an executive then you must be notwithstanding your Annex A,”—the clause that states executives cannot fill this role.

Boulanger was asked to step out of the room while council explored its options. During that time, a straw poll was conducted to see if any councillors were willing to take on the position of an interim CEO.

“I decided to volunteer for the position because I felt like it was the right thing to do,” said Harrison-Roberts. Two other councillors also volunteered for the position and when the votes were counted, Harrison-Roberts was declared the interim CEO.

The council then had to vote on a motion to notwithstand sections B, C and D from Annex A. Those sections state that current or former councillors, the executive body of any ASFA member association or any ASFA member who holds an elected or appointed position within ASFA, or one of its member associations are not eligible to hold an electoral office.

Council approved Harrison-Roberts as the official interim CEO.

The council also voted to compensate Boulanger for the work they had done thus far to the amount of $100, which came from the $400 honorarium.

The ASFA by-elections will be held from Nov. 27 to 29 and voting will be conducted online.

Photo by Eithne Lynch.

Categories
News

FASA to renovate Café X

The old café will be redesigned as a student-friendly place.

The Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) discussed the renovation of Café X space during a general council meeting on Oct. 29.

Café X, formerly located in the VA building, and was known for offering an all-vegetarian menu with vegan and gluten-free options. It was forced to close in late 2017, after not generating profits. In 2016, FASA contributed $12,000 to the café during its final year to help pay off its tax debt. The group also helped with the expenses associated with the closure of the café last year.

FASA has been in consultations with a design company to come up with a new use for the old space. “We would like to make the Café X space a nicer, more friendly space for people to hang out in,” said Sara Jarvie-Clark, FASA’s general coordinator.

The total project is expected to cost $76,000. FASA is looking to contribute $40,000 and will be seeking external funds to cover the rest of the cost. “There will be very few continuous annual expenses associated with maintaining the space,” said Jordan Beaulieu, FASA’s office coordinator.

The old café will be turned into a multi-purpose space and will include a sink, coffee makers, a vending machine with healthy options, a computer and printer, as well as rearrangeable tables and chairs for meetings. The space will also include a blank wall for projections, so the space can be rented out for film screenings. The floors and walls will be renovated as well, and new lighting will be installed.

Café X’s door today. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

During the meeting, the council was slated to vote on one of three colour schemes for the floor, walls and counters in the space. Jarvie-Clark reassured members that the design company would not be using materials that are easily stainable. FASA councillors voted on a patterned floor but will consult the design company about the possibility of having dark floors and counters, which the current design options do not allow for.

The current renovations differ from the original plan in order to reduce the cost of the project and complete it quickly. “FASA will provide its own furniture for the space, rather than having the cost of furniture built into the cost of the renovation,” said Beaulieu. “Moving forward, we can do more updates to the space as we see fit.”

The timeline for the renovations is still being negotiated. Beaulieu said FASA hopes to start as soon as possible. “We’re not sure how long the renovation will take, though it’ll likely be pretty quick once it’s begun.”

Photos by Gabe Chevalier.

Categories
News

A health institute at Concordia

The Institute for Preventive Health and Healthy Living is still in its consultation phase

 

Concordia is looking to open a new Institute for Preventive Health and Healthy Living.

This initiative is one of 29 priorities of the Campaign for Concordia: Next-Gen Now, whose website claims it is Concordia’s “most ambitious campaign ever with a goal to raise $250 million.”

The website further states, “our major effort will support nine strategic directions that cement our position as Canada’s next-generation university.”

Despite the university not having a medical or public health faculty, “given Concordia’s tradition of fostering multidisciplinary collaboration, we feel we are in a unique position to facilitate collaborative thinking about health, and produce accessible breakthrough solutions to today’s health challenges,” said Christophe Guy, vice president of research and graduate studies.

The university has consulted with over 150 faculty members from all four faculties of health-related research expertise about the initiative. “Consultations largely consisted of information gathering and brainstorming sessions with different researchers in the health sector, who come from diverse disciplines,” said Alisa Piekny, PhD and Associate Professor in Biology. A goal of the consultation session was to “discern how researchers define themselves, and identify critical mass in areas that could become a ‘silo’ under the larger umbrella of the health institute,” said Piekny.

“Not all of these faculty members may choose to participate in the institute, but many have indicated an interest in doing so,” said Guy. Piekny said she would participate in the health institute. “I have been involved in discussions on forming the health institute for over a year now, and feel strongly that this is an important initiative for Concordia,” said Piekny.

The institute’s website also states that it aims to integrate and amplify the strengths of the university so that it “complements institutions grounded in medical environments.” This will be done by focusing on three clusters: preventive health, innovative treatment, and health-related data and technologies.

The institute is still in its consultation phase, therefore details on how much it will cost, where it will be located, how large it will be and how long it will take to become a reality are still undetermined.

The university does not intend on taking funds from other initiatives in order to fund the institute. “Some Concordia operating funds will be needed, along the lines of what we provide to other research centres and platforms,” said Guy. However, they intend to raise funds through donations, external funding, and are already in talks with prospective donors.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

Categories
News

Not in our blood

Héma-Québec singles out homosexual and bisexual men.

Héma-Québec held a blood-drive in Concordia’s LB building this past week, but not everyone was allowed to donate.

Héma-Québec’s website provides a list of criteria for who can and cannot donate. The section “men who have sex with men,” stateS that if a man’s “last sexual contact with a man was less than 12 months ago,” he cannot donate blood.

In 2016-17, close to 360,000 people volunteered in Héma-Québec blood drives. Over 316,000 blood products, such as whole blood, plasmas, platelets, and red blood cells were delivered to hospitals. Once blood is donated, it undergoes testing for various viruses, bacterias, and diseases. If anything is detected, the blood sample is destroyed to ensure only healthy blood products are given to hospitals.

In the late 1970s, more than 1,000 people contracted HIV and Hepatitis C from contaminated blood, in Canada. It became clear that the blood screening process at the time was not effective. In order to combat this, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System was formed in 1993, and recommended the quality of blood products and the safety of the recipients be of top priority.

Héma-Québec states that the 12-month waiting period was created with the Commission in mind. It considers the fact that gay men are statistically more likely to contract HIV.

According to Statistics Canada, “there were approximately 1,396 new infections in 2014 attributed to the men who have sex with men (MSM) exposure category, representing 54.3 per cent of all new infections.” However, the same source also found females infected with HIV in 2014 made up an estimated 23.2 per cent of all new infections, and the majority of these women contracted the virus through heterosexual contact.

“I think the rule is outdated,” said Akira De Carlos, a health and resource coordinator for Queer Concordia. De Carlos said homosexual and bisexual men find it unfair that they are unable to give blood. “Just statistics-wise, if you’re homosexual, it does not mean that you will necessarily get HIV,” said De Carlos.

AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM) “feels that the current blood donation guidelines are discriminatory and unscientific,” said Ren Haskett, education for prevention coordinator for ACCM. “Men who have sex with men are unfairly targeted by the current criteria, regardless of their actual sexual practices and risk level,” added Haskett.

ACCM is the only “English-language community organization that provides services for people living with HIV or Hepatitis C,” said Haskett.

They added that the 12-month deferral period does not reflect the current science behind HIV testing. “A year long deferral period is also not reflective of current science as the window period for the nucleic acid amplification testing used to test blood donations for HIV is only nine days.” These tests look at genetic material to detect bacteria and viruses in the blood, which allows for earlier identification of diseases.

“It’s 2018, health services have changed. Safe-sex education is more available and accessible,” said De Carlos. “Treatments and medical methods have evolved as well.”

There are some changes in the works, according to Haskett: “Héma-Québec and Canadian Blood Services are exploring behaviour-based screenings for all donors.”

The Canadian Blood Services website defines behaviour-based screening as a long-term solution. These screenings would determine potentially high-risk behaviour in a donor based on how many sexual partners they’ve had and their safe sex practices. This way, patients’s safety would still come first, while also limiting the societal impact on specific groups like the LGBTQ+ community.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

Categories
News

A breath away from mindfulness

Teaching students mindfulness techniques to help with stress management.

 

A free mindfulness workshop taught Concordia students techniques on how to manage their stress this past Wednesday.

The workshop was led by Jewel Perlin, a psychologist with Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services. It was one of many workshops offered through the Zen Den, a space for students to visit and relax.

Perlin said she hopes students apply the skills they learn in the workshop to help control their moods and thoughts.

Mindfulness is concerned with the connection between the mind and body and is used to better manage stress and maintain good mental and physical health. Perlin referenced Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who defined mindfulness as a practice “with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.”

Dr. Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which combines mindfulness and medical practices to help manage physical and emotional pain.

The workshop taught students easy ways to practice mindfulness in their day-to-day life. Some of those practices included a guided meditation, a body scan where students were encouraged to focus on what their body was feeling starting at their feet and working their way up. Finally, they were led through the “ball of light” exercise, a breathing and stress management technique in which someone envisions a warm ball of light traveling up one arm on an inhale and down the other while exhaling.

“I have some anxiety issues regarding my future,” said Elif Aksulu, a student who attended the workshop. “It was very strategic. Usually people talk about mindfulness, but they don’t actually show you how to do it,” said Aksulu. “It was really nice to be guided through the process.”

During the workshop, the students were told that their emotions were like a green apple. This analogy comes from the idea that if someone is told not to think about something, the first thing they will think of is exactly that. The more they tell themselves not to feel something, the more likely that emotion will start to overcome them.

When using the mindfulness techniques, participants were told to pay close attention to their emotions—specifically, to accept whatever they were feeling.

Perlin said a difficult element of mindfulness is to not pass judgment, “from a very young age we’re programmed to look at things as either good or bad. When we’re trying to develop a nonjudgmental stance it’s about being able to be aware of what we’re doing in the moment without passing judgement.”

The university’s Counselling and Psychological Services will be hosting another mindfulness workshop on Oct. 18. For more information on upcoming workshops and services, visit their website here.

Graphic by @spooky_soda.

Categories
News

One sandwich at a time

Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre feeds the homeless.

 

Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre is continuing its tradition of feeding the less fortunate.

The Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre’s website states that they are a “home on campus for all those who wish to celebrate the human spirit in the widest sense of the word; we are open to all students whether religious, secular or spiritual.”

The centre invites students of all faiths to prepare sandwiches and bake cookies once a month, from September to April. The students then go out in the streets and distribute the food to those in need.

These events are not only an opportunity for students of different faiths to interact with one another, but they also allow students to “contribute to the community in a positive way and show that intercultural and interfaith relations are a reality and something that we can all build upon,” said Ashely Crouch, the manager of Concordia’s Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre.

Crouch said the initiative was created five years ago because “a lot of students wanted to come together to do something really good together.” All students are welcome to drop in and help out, even if they only have 30 minutes between classes to volunteer.

They prepare various kinds of sandwiches, such as tuna, chicken and peanut butter and jelly. Any meat used is halal, which means the animal was killed in accordance with specific practices of Islamic law.

On average, they aim to make 80 sandwiches and cookies in total. However, depending on the number of volunteers who are able to pass out the food, this number may change.

Students distribute the sandwiches in groups of three or four, and are assigned a general area, such as the Place-des-Arts metro station, the Guy-Concordia metro station, or Cabot Square due to its high concentration of homeless people.

Before students take to the streets, Crouch reminds them to stay in their groups, not to approach people that seem dangerous, to never offer money, and to always treat people with respect.

Crouch said students often end up having interesting conversations with those they meet as they hand out food. “It humanizes people and it allows us to really have conversations with people that we might not otherwise,” Crouch said.

The next multi-faith event will be held on Oct. 30

Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Categories
News

Demanding to divest from fossil fuels

Fighting climate change by pulling Concordia’s investments.

Two student groups, Sustainable Concordia and the Divest Coalition, have been working together to pressure the university to divest from fossil fuels.

During a Divest 101 workshop hosted by both Sustainable Concordia and the Divest Coalition, Emily Carson-Apstein, the external and campaigns coordinator for Sustainable Concordia, used a tree analogy to explain why divestment is a solution for climate change.

She said climate change is like a tree. The branches and leaves are the symptoms of climate change, such as forest fires and air pollution. The trunk of the tree corresponds to oil companies, big business corporations, even universities, which, in one way or another, worsen the effects of climate change. Carson-Apstein said divestment was like the chainsaw that could cut away at the trunk to stop the symptoms at the top from growing back.

During the workshop, it was mentioned that Laval University was the first Canadian university to divest from fossil fuels. Although having one university do so would not make any noticeable environmental change, Carson-Apstein argued that withdrawing funds is still important. If Concordia were to pull their investments like Laval University did, other universities could potentially do the same.

Sustainable Concordia “envisions a university which teaches and demonstrates sustainability principles of ecological health, social justice, and economic equality,” according to its mission statement.

The group wants to see the university run in a non-hierarchical manner, which would enable students, faculty, staff and administration to work together to achieve “transparency and maximum participation,” according to its website.

Approximately 10 per cent of the university’s foundation funds are invested in companies that “may have some connection with fossil fuels,” said Mary-Jo Barr, Concordia University’s spokesperson.

Student groups like Sustainable Concordia and the Divest Coalition want to see the university pull their investments from these companies. They believe that pulling the investments is just as important as investing in clean energy because it takes money away from industries that play a role in worsening the effects of climate change.

Divesting from these industries is easier said than done, according to Barr. “Many funds are pooled investments, making it difficult to isolate or clearly exclude fossil fuel investments,” she said. “The university and its foundation have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the greatest possible return on investment in order to meet their objectives of providing the most benefit to the recipients of the CUF’s funds: Concordia students and researchers.”

The returns from these and all other investments go back into the university’s endowment fund, which helps pay for scholarships and bursaries.

As a compromise, “the board of the Concordia University Foundation has opted to maintain a broader focus on sustainable investment rather than adhering to a narrower objective of divestment,” said Barr.

The University put $5 million towards the Sustainable Investment Fund in 2013 and promised to increase it based on its performance. However, according to Carson-Apstein, the amount hasn’t changed since then.

“The $5 million fund was created because of pressure by students, but students still don’t have any control over what it is invested in. The school just agreed to invest that money sustainably,” said Carson-Apstein.

The university also works with student groups like Divest and Sustainable Concordia through the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC), whose goal is to make recommendations regarding socially and environmentally responsible investments to different governing bodies at Concordia.

The student groups have two seats on the JSIAC, and during these meetings, they participate in discussions, but “don’t have any influence on the agenda, minutes, or what happens with the decisions made in the meetings, especially in the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee,” said Carson-Apstein.

Archive Photo by Savanna Craig.

Exit mobile version