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Features

Where’s my (fee levy) money? 

Following the vote in favor of increasing Concordia Student Services fee levy, a new oversight body will be established to manage the funds.

In the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) general elections, students voted 54.9 per cent in favor of an increase to the Concordia Student Services (CSS) fee levy. This is the first time Concordia Student Services have requested a fee levy increase since 2009. The $0.85 per credit increase brings the total fee levy from $10.26 per credit to $11.11 per credit, an overall 8.3 per cent increase. The vote was decided on a 9.1 per cent student voter turnout. 

Following the fee levy increase, the CSU and Concordia Student Services are set to create a mandating and oversight body to create greater transparency over the use of student funds.

A number of different units make up CSS, including the Student Success Centre, Campus Wellness and Support Services (which include counseling and psychological services) and the Dean of Students Office. In their application for an increased fee levy, CSS cited a net decrease in enrolment at Concordia due to the decline in 18-24 year olds living in Quebec. Currently, CSS has a surplus budget due to higher levels of enrolment previously. Without the fee levy, they expect to operate with a $2,316,991 deficit by the 2024-2025 academic year.

CSS helps students access many services at no direct cost, including but not limited to doctors, counseling, career advice and tutoring. In the 2021-2022 academic year, counseling and psychological services provided 9,654 student appointments, including triage and counseling. A deficit would see CSS needing to cut services.

“There are so many services offered in student services. It’s such a wide variety and I think each one is really important in its own way,” said Catherine Starr-Prenovost, a fifth-year psychology student at Concordia who currently works as a welcome crew mentor with the Student Success Centre, and as a homeroom facilitator as part of the Dean of Students Office.

“I can’t think of any student service that doesn’t have a huge impact on students’ lives.”

While student services are impactful, the nature of how their funding is allocated can be quite vague. 

​​”Students don’t have a way where they can govern this money, $9 million every year from their fees. They don’t have a way of knowing how it gets allocated. They can’t oversee it as there isn’t even a budget publicly available on their website,” said Fawaz Halloum, the CSU’s general coordinator.

The total revenue for CSS this year was $10,672,927 with student fees fronting 90 per cent of their funding, not including the surplus. Other student-run fee levy groups are required to hold Annual General Meetings, where board members can discuss budgets. They keep auditor’s reports and other financials ready at any time. This is not currently the case for Concordia Student Services. 

“There’s a trend that students do not want to keep paying into university services where they have absolutely no control over their money or to oversee or hold them accountable,” said Halloum.

Following CSS’ initial application for funding, Halloum suggested that an oversight body be created.

“I told them that students would want to see a board, a council of sorts, where students will sit along with the service directors. They will fight the budgets, make decisions and bring in student concerns directly and have a bit of a forum between the shareholders and the executives, which is long overdue,” said Halloum.

Halloum believes that with more oversight, the quality of work done by CSS could be improved.

“If you just start breaking it down one by one, you can find a slew of things that you can improve on pre-existing services, maybe even add certain facilities or services,” he said.

In most units of student services, a majority of the budget is directed towards salaries and benefits. According to their 2021-22 yearly report, CSS employs 118 professional employees across their units, with 322 students employees. During that year, student jobs accounted for $1,253,000 of the annual operating and non-operating budgets. This represents 10.44 per cent of CSS’ total revenue in that year, despite the fact that student employees make up 73.18 per cent of the CSS’ total workforce.

According to Laura Mitchell, Concordia’s executive director of student experience, the new funding from students won’t necessarily mean new services. “It’s to keep everything going that we have at present,” she said. “So this wouldn’t be money that would bolster one particular area. It would be spread across everything that we currently do.”

According to their application, CSS predicts a five per cent increase in costs to maintain their services every year. The extra money will help combat this increase and maintain salaries for professional and student employees amid rising cost of living expenses. 

​​”It’s all equally important, like our student jobs are really important to us,” said Mitchell. “We love working with students and we love supporting them. So obviously, we would love to be able to give a fair and generous salary to our student employees as much as we possibly can,” she added.

Student employees like Starr-Prenovost have spoken highly of their experience with CSS. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I feel like I’m treated really well and very fairly.”

A new oversight body has the potential to improve transparency to students, so they can better understand how their funds are being allocated. 

“Both sides were very enthusiastic about this idea,” Mitchell said.

Currently, CSS does have a committee called Concordia Council on Student Life that is a parity committee made up of students and staff. Mitchell says the new advisory body could resemble it. 

“We need to set up those consistent meetings and have these discussions and I think that will be great. I think it’d be really illuminating for both sides. To learn more about each other, because obviously these collaborations are really important for us too.” 

Now that the fee levy increase has been approved, a memorandum of understanding will be presented to the CSU’s council in one year to create a body staffed and operating in the following academic year.

“We don’t want to go in alone, we want to be in partnership as much as possible,” said Mitchell.

Despite the risk of deficit and increasing costs, students are the only ones currently being asked to increase their contributions to student services. The university’s contribution to CSS makes up just 4.11 per cent, which would diminish with an increased fee levy. It’s not as though the university does not have money to support these services. According to Concordia’s annual financial reports, a number of executives saw salary increases this year with President Graham Carr receiving a 9.56 per cent pay raise.

But Mitchell said they are having discussions with the university to see what that contribution looks like. “I think that’s another very important component,” she said.

Starr-Prenovost also thinks it’s important for everyone, including the university, to contribute to maintaining these services and that the efforts of people like Mitchell see results.

“I do hope to see that it comes to an increase in funding from [the university] as well. Anybody that could offer funding to the Student Success Center in student services, I think it would be a great investment,” she said.

“I really do think that the services are so important. Essentially, I think that it should be a priority  for everybody to increase funding for student services in general.”

Categories
Opinions

Death of the theme party

Please let me wear my regular clothes again

Picture this: it’s a Friday night, and you’re either hunched over a computer trying to squeeze out the last bit of academic energy you have left in you, or anxiously procrastinating. The weekend is near and you’re ready for a night on the town — you deserve one, after all. But you’ve been so caught up in the academic haze that you forgot to make plans. 

You eagerly ask your roommates what they have planned. One has opted to spend the night with their significant other watching the 2006 critical flop (yet still beloved) film Aquamarine; the other has a date. Before admitting defeat, you rapidly fire off “what’s the move” texts to anyone you’ve ever had a remotely good time with — and some you’re willing to give a second chance to. 

It’s growing late and you’re about to give up when your cracked iPhone buzzes with hope. With a racing heart, you check your messages. 

“We’re going to so-and-so’s party on St. Dennis, you can totally come,” one of the fun friends has informed you. You run to the closet to pick out your best threads. When the phone buzzes for a second time, the text says: “It’s pirate-themed. See you there <3.” With a sinking heart, you hang your brand new navy blue Uniqlo chore coat back in your closet. Panic sets in. Do you wear an eye-patch? A funny hat? Do you need a parrot? 

This is the third week in a row you’ve been underprepared for a theme party. Time and time again you’ve been asked to dress for different themes, like goth, 90s night, like characters from the movie Midsommar, all in white, all in brown and one time even just like someone named John. 

You try to participate, but between the price of beer and the snack you know you’ll need on the way home, your budget is tight. How can you justify a whole new outfit that you will never wear again for solely this one night? 

You consider not going at all, but reluctantly, you grab a torn shirt, your roommate’s funky old striped pants and a bandana. You look nothing like a pirate. You’re dressed closer to Johnny Depp in real life than Jack Sparrow and you feel ridiculous. It’s not fashionable, not flattering and not fun. But dammit if you aren’t participating because parties have rules and you have to play by them. 

On your way, you stop at the depanneur to get the standard six pack of whatever beer is under ten dollars. The man behind the counter gives you a look of confusion and modest judgment. “Nice pants,” he says politely. But you know he doesn’t mean it.

You arrive at the party and see that, once again, everyone is outperforming you. 

People have eyepatches, fake parrots, and one person seems to have an eerily convincing peg leg (you do your best not to look directly at it). As you dodge questions about why you’re wearing a torn up dress shirt in an attempt to masquerade as a pirate, a sense of shame begins to creep in followed by resentment. Three weeks in a row, you’ve tried to look the best you could and tried to conform to the theme, but sadly, you just can’t keep up anymore. 

The TikTok-i-fication of your nights out has started to ruin the fun of it. With bring-your-own-cup parties and “summertime in the winter” parties, nobody had to feel left out. But, now it seems as though each week your friends try to outdo each other with a more convoluted and ill-conceived trendy theme that they saw a group of influencers attempt online. 

You and a group of other underperforming partygoers gather in the shadows, avoiding snide remarks. After a couple of hours, people begin to filter out and you decide to join. On the way home, you stop at A&W and chat with your friends recounting the night’s shenanigans. An appropriate amount of time passes and you turn to leave.

“Next week at my house: clown theme!” someone shouts as you begin to walk away. 

You bow your head in defeat. “Tonight might as well have been clown-themed,” you think to yourself. 

On the way home, you accept your fate and begin to brainstorm where to buy a red nose as the bag of buddy burgers grows colder in your hands.

Categories
Features

At 92 years old, Mary Xenos-Whiston is still learning

A profile of Concordia’s oldest student

Mary Xenos-Whiston has been a lot of things in her life: a teacher, a mother, and a guide at an art gallery. But the one thing she has always been is a student. At 92 years old, she is Concordia’s oldest student and is currently enrolled in Dr. Nicola Nixon’s American poetry class. 

According to Xenos-Whiston, lately she has been doing the usual: “Going crazy,” to which her daughter Barbara commented, “Being 92 is not for the faint of heart.” 

Despite going crazy, she is still enjoying her class on American Poetry . “I wouldn’t be taking them if I wasn’t really enjoying them,” she said.

“My life is too short for doing things that I don’t enjoy,  like house cleaning.”

Xenos-Whiston was born to Greek immigrants in Verdun, and she’s lived in Montreal her whole life and has watched the city and University change dramatically. Her father owned a restaurant in Verdun, where she recalls it being the first to get a soft-serve ice cream machine. In her early years, much of her life was based around the church. Her and about 50 other Greek families would gather at Holy Trinity for weddings, funerals and Saturday night dances before the church burned down in the 1980s. 

As a girl Xenos-Whiston had a love for learning; she frequently found herself in the top math and science classes while attending Verdun high school and she always had a book with her. 

This love for learning has kept Xenos-Whiston in school for most of her life. She’s taken courses for fun at Concordia since the ’90s. After originally enrolling in English courses, it wasn’t long until she discovered other interests. “I discovered the FFAR [interdisciplinary fine arts] courses, wow,” she exclaimed. “I took a course in Jazz, I took a course in this, I took a course in that, I was just interested in learning.” 

During this time she earned another bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Concordia and has taken many courses in women’s studies. But her history with Concordia goes back to before the school even went by that name.

Mary Xenos-Whiston’s graduate portrait, Sir.George Williams University 1954/ BARBARA WHISTON

Xenos-Whiston began attending Sir George Williams University in 1950, where she received her Bachelor of Arts, majoring in history as one of the few women attending the school. “Girls did not go to university,” Xenos-Whiston said. She recalled a former teacher questioning her about her enrollment on campus one day. 

“What are you doing, going to Sir.George? You’re only going to get married and have children,” she recalled the teacher saying. “And I thought that’s what you think.” 

She did eventually marry and give birth to her daughter Barbara, but she found time for a great deal of academic success along the way. Xenos-Whiston completed a master’s degree in education at McGill in 1978, and a PhD from the University of Montreal in 1990.

After World War II she saw the city transform spectacularly. “The government allowed educated European immigrants to come here in the late ’40s and early ’50s and Montreal changed.” Xenos-Whinston watched as the city’s identity changed around her: what used to be diners became German, Italian and Chinese restaurants.

“Before you knew it, Montreal was a new place. It was great.” 

Concorida’s Iconic Hall building under construction in Crica 1965, 12 years after Xenos-Whiston had graduated from Sir. George Williams University. JACK BORDAN/Concordia Records Management and Archives

After finishing her first degree Xenos-Whiston began teaching in elementary school and spent her days going to the theater. In 1991 she retired. After a life served in education, some people may never want to look at a classroom again. But this was not the case for Xenos-Whiston who continued her education at Concordia.

“Look, some people go to movies. Some people play hockey. Some people spend hours training for things and then going and doing them. I love taking courses,” she said. 

Today, her family sees school as a part of her. 

“I can’t imagine her not being in school,” said her daughter. The only time Whiston could remember her mother not being in school was after she was born, when her mother left teaching for a few years. 

“After that, she’s constantly been a student; it’s part of her identity. I just can’t imagine her not doing it. It’s always been a surprise to hear about what courses she is taking and what papers she is writing, what ideas she is interested in and what she is discovering. It’s kind of fun.” 

Going to school has not always been easy for Xenos-Whiston, who is now legally blind and uses hearing aids. She has note-takers in class and through the Centre for Equitable Library Assistance (CELA) can get accessible copies of texts used in her class. It’s no easy feat, but she is still determined to be in class.

During the pandemic, her courses at Concordia were what kept her going. When her daughter asked if she could have made it through COVID without Concordia, her reply was simple. “No, I would have died.” 

Concordia does offer a senior non-credit program, which allows older people to audit classes. When auditing courses, students don’t have to write papers or exams like they would for credit. But Xenos-Whiston doesn’t have as much interest in this. 

“I did try it out,” she said, “But, to me, a course is not a course until I write the paper. So I decided that I wanted to write the papers.” 

92-year-old Concordia student Mary Xenos-Whinston has been taking courses for fun since the 1990s. CATHERINE REYNOLDS/The Concordian

It’s professors like Dr. Nicola Nixon who’ve inspired her to keep coming back. Nixon is an associate professor in Concordia’s English department and Xenos-Whiston’s professor this semester. 

“It’s not so unusual to have certain older post-retirement people in your courses, auditing,” said Nixon.

“Of course, they don’t want to write essays or write exams or any of those things and her willingness to do so, I find it quite admirable, But for her, it’s part of, you know, kind of immersing herself in the course, as opposed to just having a passive relationship to it.”

Xenos-Whiston and Professor Nixon have known each other for about five years now. “At first it was basically a professor-student relationship,” said Nixon. “I did go to her birthday party this year […] I suppose we’re more friends now than the first few years she was taking courses.”

Nixon says Xenos-Whiston is a good student, she engages with the class and brings in a lot of her own lived experience. Even considering her age, getting good grades has never been something she has struggled with. 

“If I go home, I could write a paper, get it in tomorrow and get an A,” she said. “My transcript is all As.” This is all but one failure from the year when she took philosophy.

However, school has not been her only hobby over the past 92 years. Exercise has been important to her for much of her life and she was an avid swimmer and walker for some time. A love for contemporary art led her to guide tours at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts between 1995 and 2005. 

Also a passionate music fan, she would go to concerts every other week, frequently attending the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the opera occasionally. Her love for music led her to spend years attempting to learn to play piano, but she never quite got the hang of it. “My family struggled, suffered and listened to me for about ten years try to learn the piano,” she said.

“When I die and go to heaven, I’m going to tell her, she was unfair to give me such a love of music but not the skill to do it.”

Despite not being able to play piano, Mary Xenos-Whiston has accomplished much in her life. At 92 years old she holds four degrees, “Most of it out of sheer curiosity and for pleasure’s sake rather than anything else,” said her daughter. 

But Xenos-Whiston still plans on taking courses. Her only dilemma is deciding if she will leave English for a while and take some more FFAR courses. When asked if she had ever considered taking Hip Hop: Beats, Rhymes and Life, a popular FFAR course at Concordia, she said she hadn’t, but did add “maybe in another 10 years.”

Categories
Concert Reviews Music

 Concert Review: Jean Dawson lights up Le Belmont

 On his first headlining tour Jean Dawson proves himself to be one of the most exciting new live acts

It was 8:45 p.m on Nov. 1. when Jean Dawson took the stage at Le Belmont, dressed in a massive black denim jacket atop an Aphex Twin hoodie, paired with leopard print pants. A black ski mask with a Homer chain hanging from his neck shone bright against his otherwise dark silhouette. The outfit showed a diverse array of interests that Dawson displays quite literally on his sleeve — even in his music. His sound melds hip-hop, R&B, pop-punk and electronic music into something that sounds both familiar and distinctly unique at the same time. 

Dawson was accompanied by a four-piece backing band cramped onto Le Belmont’s tiny stage. The Montreal show was his first in Canada. Despite being on his first headlining tour, Dawson performed as if he had been at it for years. 

The show began with the wailing guitars backing “Dummy” off Dawson’s sophomore album Pixel Bath. What I expected to be a roaring start for Dawson was actually a little bit sleepy. The band was clearly giving their all, but the lead singer had yet to truly warm up. Dawson followed “Dummy” with “PORN ACTING*” . The crowd was getting excited but it wasn’t the high-octane, over-the-top energy I expected. Dawson said later in the show that he was sick, which was also his reasoning for the ski mask.

Once Dawson performed “Devilish,” the show began to live up to the tour name, named after the artist’s most recent album CHAOS NOW*. The mosh pit opened up and it was pretty tough to avoid for the rest of the show. Fans jumped up and down and shouted lyrics into the microphone Dawson would wave over the crowd.

The rest of the performance easily surpassed my earlier expectations of a high-energy show. As Dawson’s energy built, so did the crowd’s. Fans shouted out song requests; one fan requested “Policia,” which shocked Dawson. Considering the song is mostly sung in Spanish, he was taken aback that it would get requested in Canada. While the song didn’t make it into the main set, Dawson and the band appeased the fan’s request by playing “Policia” in their encore. 

Other highlights of the show included “PIRATE RADIO*,” which had the crowd slow down the moshing a bit as everyone sang along to one of Dawson’s slower tracks. The interaction between the crowd and Dawson culminated as he walked into the crowd during “0-HEROES*” leading up to the song’s massive chorus and another extended period of moshing.The backing band also held their own intense guitar and drum solos throughout the show. 

The show concluded with “Power Freaks,” with Dawson finally taking off his ski mask to reveal a head of wild blonde dreads, in an electric final number (before returning for the fan favourite “Policia” in his encore.) Despite a bit of a slow start, Dawson tore up Le Belmont with an electric performance — one that will hopefully be the first of many to come in his career as well as in Canada.

Photo by Evan Lindsey

Categories
Features

Concordia Food Coalition to develop new food enterprise

Following Concordia’s New Contract With Aramark, The Fight Is Still Not Over For A Food-Sovereign Campus

In April, Concordia’s board of governors signed a new contract with multinational food services corporation Aramark to return as the University’s food supplier until May of 2026, with the possibility of a two-year extension. Aramark has been notorious for its ties to the US prison system ,and offering poor working conditions. 

The University’s decision to sign a new contract with the corporation goes against a continual effort to steer Concordia away from multinational corporations and towards social enterprises or not-for-profit food suppliers instead, in an attempt to make Concordia into a food-sovereign campus. 

In 2021, it seemed as though the University was seriously considering this alternate option.  “Concordia was making an effort to explore options outside of multinational corporations,” said Shylah Wolfe, executive director of the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC). 

Oliver de Volpi, Concordia’s Food Services manager, corroborated this claim. “We investigated some other options. The one that was even presented by Concordia Food Coalition didn’t pan out. They weren’t ready to bid.” 

Ultimately, the University did sign a new contract with Aramark. But, it’s not the end of the movement for a food sovereign campus.

Currently, the CFC is drafting a business plan for what they are calling the New Food Enterprise (NFE), which will be modeled largely off of Diversity Food Services (DFS), a social enterprise providing food service at the University of Winnipeg. 

The CFC’s website states that “the NFE will be an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable social enterprise capable of becoming Concordia’s campus food service provider. We are building a coalition of community stakeholders and local food producers to supply affordable and sustainable food options at scale to the university.” 

The NFE will bring together the Concordian Student Union, the Hive Cafe, SEIZE, and collaborate with the University’s senior administration. The CFC website states that “there is already broad understanding that the NFE is the transformative model that Concordia needs. Our job is to bring it to fruition.”

The Concordia Student Union has contributed $50,000 total to the NFE project. The CFC has taken $10,000 of the aforementioned funding to contract Chief Operating Officer of DFS Ian Vickers as a consultant. The VP Student Services Office has also pledged $25,000 to the project, Wolfe told The Concordian, with the remaining funds supporting additional planning, financing and partnership development.

“They’re putting their money where their mouth is, and taking us a bit more seriously. Now that we have four years to develop an alternative that is not just lip service, it will be an actually fleshed-out plan,” said Wolfe.

The money was pledged by the University before Aramark won the Request For Proposal (RFP) bid, with the CSU’s funding coming in during the bidding period. 

Since 2020, and during the RFP period, the CFC and other student representative groups sitting on the Concordia Food Advisory Working Group (FAWG) advocated for Concordia to adopt a model similar to that of Diversity Food Services. This would include cooking from scratch, more involvement in local food economies, and providing better benefits for staff. 

“What we’re doing now is essentially taking a provenly successful model at the University of Winnipeg with Diversity, and essentially building out an offering on a silver platter to the administration that we would run it with Diversity closely consulting,” said Wolfe.

According to Wolfe, the business would be owned by stakeholders made up of the University, the CFC, and DFS.

According to the University’s sustainable food systems plan, Concordia and Aramark are making efforts to be more sustainable and improve upon their last contract, by bringing in more local products, removing Aramark’s rights to operating vending machines on campus, and making meals offered in cafeterias one-third vegetarian, one-third vegan and one-third meat by 2025. 

De Volpi further stated that while Concordia did decide to re-sign with Aramark, the decision was not motivated purely by finances. 

“75% of the criteria for coming back to campus is not financially related. It’s sustainability operations, it’s nutrition, it’s that part of it. And Aramark won the bid. They’ve made contractual obligations to be easily a leader in Canada in both sustainability and nutrition. We’re going to hold them to it as well,” he said. 

But many advocating for a new food service model feel that their current goals aren’t enough.

“I think that the goals that the University has are commendable, but they’re not transformative. I think that it is difficult for them to ever do anything transformative if they continue with the bureaucratic processes that they are using,” said Wolfe.

“That last 25 percent is weighted twice as heavily as the other 75 percent,” explained de Volpi.

Erik Chevrier, a part-time professor at Concordia who did his PhD on building food-sovereign campuses, and a Concordia FAWG member, explained why Concordia’s sustainability goals can’t be too transformative under the current RFP model. 

“If you look at the targets, they’re not too hard to meet. So the targets are somewhat written for the big food service providers to be able to meet them, because if not, they’re setting unrealistic goals. So in some way, the idea that if they make this criteria too stringent nobody could actually fit the criteria. They’ll have no food service provider,” said Chevrier.

Financial aspects are involved in the RFP process. According to Chevrier, Companies need a minimum of $5 million annual revenue in food service before being able to bid. This requirement makes it difficult for small or new food service entities to compete for a contract. This is to help ensure that the companies Concordia partners with can remain viable throughout the year, and makes it harder for smaller-scale or new companies to compete during the RFP.

“There’s a big risk for us. We bring in [a food supplier] who’s never existed before that, you know, a month in and they say we just don’t have the personnel to operate anymore. We’re going to close down. Then what do we do with 1,000 students that live here and the rest of the population that depends on us?” said de Volpi. 

Wolfe feels that the risk is on the CFC and now with the ability to develop their own business plans, when the next RFP comes around in 2026, the New Food Enterprise will be able to prove their viability.

“We’re basically taking all of the risk for them, to develop this, to garner the support, the political will and also build out the actual back-end with a supply network. We’re essentially going to build them a business that will do all the things that they said they were going to do, but give them none of the risk,” said Wolfe.

Chevrier pointed out that Concordia has a number of student-built food initiatives that have been able to remain viable for many years.

“We’ve created them in the past, or students have, like the People’s Potato,” said Chevrier. “Nobody believed that it would last 20 years when it was first incarnated.”

Across Canada, Concordia has one of the strongest student-run food economies, with seven organizations operating in 2018. 

JAMES FAY @jamesfaydraws

These economies all work together across Concordia in a way that Aramark doesn’t. 

Aramark makes half of their money off a mandatory meal plan for most students in residences. This plan provides flex dollars that can only be spent at Aramark’s other retail locations across campus. Chevrier believes that allowing flex dollars to be spent at student locations would be largely beneficial. 

EVAN LINDSAY/The Concordian

“First of all, it’ll create competition for the big food service providers, maybe get them to behave a little bit better. And second of all, it could actually provide a local economy, where students can actually choose where they want to go,” said Chevrier.

While DFS, the business the New Food Enterprise is based on, did struggle during its start-up phase,  has now yielded a better performance for the University of Winnipeg than their previous multinational supplier, Chartwells. 

“The University does better with us than they ever do with Chartwells because we sell three times what Chartwells did. People actually want to eat real, made from scratch food a lot more than they wanted to eat that processed food.” said Vickers.

The new contract with Aramark is an improvement on the last, but the problem many have with it is not Aramark themselves, but Concordia continuing to work with multinational corporations. 

“There’s a lot of evidence to show that actually, the global food industry is decimating our planet. So basically, most of these big corporations, externalized costs in that they basically externalize them to people,” said Chevrier. 

Concordia has a long history of working with multinational suppliers. Their relationship with Aramark began in 2015, and prior to that they worked with Compass-Chartwells and Sodexo, two other multinational food supply and hospitality corporations.

Combined across Canadian universities, these corporations make up 60.8 per cent of the food suppliers among universities in Canada, according to Erik Chevrier’s thesis on building food-sovereign campuses. 

“Each of these corporations really relies on supply chains that actually drive down costs as much as they can by externalizing the environmental and social costs,” said Chevrier. 

“Concordia, as an innovator, I think should actually be looking towards how we can better the world, especially in some of the industries that they’re actually partaking [in.]”

The advantage of moving away from multinational corporations and towards social enterprises like DFS is that they are able to better interact with local farmers and food producers. Currently, according to University Spokesperson Vanninia Maestracci, 43 per cent of food offered in cafeterias is local or sustainability sourced. 

JAMES FAY @jamesfaydraws

Vickers stated that last year, 72 per cent of food served by DFS was locally or sustainably sourced. Purchasing locally most of the time is naturally better for farmers, who have experienced a 31.5 per cent increase in total outstanding debt across Canada since 2017, according to Statistics Canada. 

By working with more local food suppliers, DFS is able to better manage its supply chain and from-scratch cooking is made more possible to attain.

“Our cooks come in first thing in the morning. They bring in fresh turkeys, the first thing the chef will do is throw the turkeys in the oven instead of roasting them off so that she can slice them out and then cut it down and that becomes turkey sandwiches. She takes those bones and she puts them in a pot and starts making turkey stock. Then she can make gravy for what’s going to go on the poutine, as well as make soup,” said Vickers.

According to Vickers, the cost of bringing in local food is largely the same as well.

“We tend to be between two and three per cent less expensive,” he claimed. 

Independent food suppliers have the freedom to work with as many producers as they like and don’t suffer the same turnaround times for payment as larger corporations do. 

“When it’s an independent business, being able to pay farmers for cash right at the farm gates or out of their delivery truck is more possible,” said Wolfe. “We can work with as many suppliers as Diversity does, which is sometimes up to 100 different local producers.” 

“Large corporations like Aramark or even the University would not be able to do that because they have like sometimes 90- to 120-day payment processing so they have to work with huge distributors,” she stated.

“Part of the reason Diversity is able to do this is because, while they are a for-profit business they are also a social enterprise,” explained Vickers.

“What would normally be the profit that you would pay to your owners, is invested instead in environmental, social, cultural, or local economic sustainability,” he continued.

“What [the University] charged myself and the rest of our management team with is taking the profit and reinvesting it into being a good player in the global economy. So what does that mean? It means that we buy as locally as possible every single time.”

Additionally, under this model Diversity Food Services is able to offer a living wage, benefits and pension plans to all of their employees. 

EVAN LINDSAY/The Concordian

There is a lot of money to be made in these contracts — a study by the CFC found that the food service providers who won the RFP process in 2015 stood to make a minimum of $7 million in revenue annually. 

Under the new food enterprise model, any money made by the business could then be reinvested.

“The profits, if there are any, would be in the community,” said Wolfe. 

“That money would be reinvested in the business so that it’s cheaper, so that meal plans and generally food is cheaper, or so that workers get more money or it would be donated to the community organizations that need funds to run their projects.” 

Creating a project like DFS at Concordia is ambitious, and bringing in more local food to supply the 3,000 meals a day that CFC provides is a big task. It’s one that Vickers says will need a really solid plan, but he doesn’t think its impossible.

“Your local agriculture is so much better equipped to do this than we are,” said Vickers. “It would be incredibly feasible.”

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News

“The class of life”: Concordia’s new Kanye West course

The university is offering a first-of-its-kind course examining the life and work of Kanye West

Concordia has never had a shortage of unconventional classes: Video Games and/as Literature, Science Fiction, The Movie Soundtrack, and Sexual Representation in Cinema are all examples of unique courses available to Concordia students that aim to put an academic lens to the world of art and pop culture. Concordia is hardly the first or only university to host classes such as these — the University of Victoria at one point offered The Science of Batman and The Created Medieval History of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth — but one of Concordia’s newest courses may truly be the first of its kind.

Kanye vs. Ye: Genius by Design will be offered at Concordia in the fall of 2022, in the faculty of interdisciplinary studies in fine arts. The course was designed and will likely be taught by Yassin “Narcy” Alsalman, a rapper himself, who has long taught courses centered around hip hop at Concordia such as Hip Hop: Beats, Rhymes and Life.

This is not the first time that Alsalman has centered a course around one particular artist, having taught classes on Lauryn Hill and A Tribe Called Quest in the past.

“I’ve always taught my hip hop courses using artists or albums as a central theme and seeing how much influence Ye had on so many of my students throughout the years — I felt this could be a compelling, interesting examination of one of the greatest artists of our generation,” said Alsalman.

Classes like this are Aslaman’s way of giving back to a culture that shaped who he is today.

“Hip hop is the most important culture of our generation. It requires to be studied and understood and respected. This is my way of giving back to a culture that birthed my entire way of being and sustenance,” said Alsaman.

The course will centre around much grander themes than just West’s own music and personal online hijinks.

“America and race, industry vs. artists, truth and consequence, media representation of the intellectual,” said Alsalman when asked about the course’s themes.

With a figure as controversial as West, the course is likely to elicit a multitude of reactions. This is something that Dr. Eldad Tsabary, the coordinator for Concordia’s electroacoustics department and unit head for the faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies in Fine Arts, is well aware of.

“As an academic course, I’m sure it’s going to be difficult sometimes and I’m sure it’s going to be emotional sometimes. But I think that’s also part of what Fine Arts is good at. You know, I like to study science. Arts is a really good vessel for exploring and studying topics that do have a multi-layered kind of nature to them,” said Tsabary, who played a role in approving the course to be taught at Concordia.

West is both loved and loathed by many, but Tsabary and Alsalman have both made it clear that this course is not about singing his praises, or tabloid drama.

“You can study any topic of interest from the point of view of curiosity and discussion, right? And there’s a lot to discuss. You know, it’s not about putting Kanye on a pedestal,” said Tsabary.

While he is a fan of West’s work, Alsalman is also aware of his problematic nature. However, he has said it is not something that worries him when teaching this course.

“I don’t listen to the noise. As a cultural practitioner and professor, I have to look at things in totality and not do the internet skip rope around narrative. I am also well aware of American media manipulation. That being said, there has always been problematic public moments with Ye and we will talk about those in a critical lens, as opposed to taking sides or blaming. I want to see why, not what,” said Alsalman.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done around hip hop culture and representation of Black and Brown communities in our schools and I want to chip away at that at Concordia and help build the presence more and more through my work.”

Ava Weinstein-Wright is a third-year student at Concordia in Honours Sociology and Anthropology, who is signed up and is excited to take the course this fall.

“I think that music or TV shows or just even clothing and fashion can be a great gateway into further analysis such as political analysis, gender analysis, class analysis, like it’s really important.”

Even though she is excited to take the course, Weinstein-Wright has some concerns about it.

“My concern with this course is that people aren’t going to take it seriously considering the height and clout that it’s gotten considering it’s reached national news.”

The university has received a lot of media attention with magazines like Complex talking about the course – something that its future professor predicted, although not this early. “I thought this would happen while I was teaching but this was a pleasant boost and surprise,” said Alsalman.

When asked why students should take this course, Alsalman had one simple response, in a written statement to The Concordian.

“Because it’s the class of life (Kanye voice).”

Graphic by Lily Cowper

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News

A Ukrainian family reunion in Montreal

The first of eight Ukrainian families funded and supported by Ukrainian Montrealers arrives in Canada, following Russia’s invasion of their home

For the past month, Iana Shapovalova and her family have been raising money to bring eight families, a total of 37 people, to Canada from Ukraine. The first of these families arrived in Montreal on Friday, March 25.

The Shapovalovs are originally from Ukraine and the eight families they are trying to rescue are mostly their relatives.

Iana Shapovalova arrived in Canada in 2013 at 11 years old and until recently was living a normal life; a 19-year-old in her third year of CEGEP, undertaking an internship in computer programming. But, following the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine on February 23, Shapovalova and her family began doing everything they could to bring their relatives to safety.

“I cannot cry or anything, I gotta like, move, I gotta do stuff. Like, this is my way of fighting, to give them a hope, to give them the ideas of ‘Okay. We’ll make sure that you are okay,’” said Shapovalova.

Shapovalova and her family started posting on social media, working tirelessly and doing everything they could to bring their relatives to safety. The GoFundMe page they started has raised $16,837 as of March 28.

Initially, all of the funds were to go to flights and visa applications, but the Canadian government has since made visa applications free for Ukrainian refugees. The first family’s visa application process cost $855 CAD. Initially, the idea to raise money was difficult for her family.

“My family’s the kind of family that, you know, we’re gonna figure it out on our own. Like, we don’t really want to be like those poor guys that need help, you know. But at this point, you got to put yourself down because, you know, it’s for someone else. It’s for families,” said Shapovalova.

A month of fundraising, numerous visa applications, phone calls, interviews and the direct help of a member of parliament (whose identity was not shared), culminated on a rainy Friday on March 25, when the first of eight families funded by the Shapovalovs arrived.

Iana and her brother Illia arrived at the airport at 4 p.m. to meet their family. After the family of seven (including two parents and their five children) landed, they spent another six hours in the airport completing COVID protocols and immigration processes. There was only one other family from Ukraine coming in alongside them.

“They’re pretty much the first ones going through this process,” said Shapovalova.

Iana and Illia patiently waited at the airport the entire time, while their parents waited in the cars to bring them to their arriving relatives to their new home.

Iana’s father took on the role of keeping in touch with family in Ukraine whenever possible.

“Every call was just so important,” said Shapovalova. “Every call, I would just run downstairs just to listen to the conversation, because you never know if you’re gonna hear them another time.”

Hanna Pliushchakova is Iana Shapovalovas aunt and the mother of the first family to arrive. She spoke with The Concordian in an interview which Iana translated. “We never expected to be leaving this way,” Pliushchakova said. “We left when we saw that the danger was unavoidable.

Pliushchakova said the trip was long and tiring but now that they are home and rested it is getting easier. The days leading up to their journey were naturally stressful as well.

“We were very worried not only because of this trip coming up, but also we couldn’t get in contact with some family members that are in Ukraine,” said Pliushchakova.

“There’s this part of worries and there are the anxious thoughts of ‘How is this going to go? What is this whole process going to be like, going somewhere?’ We have no idea.”

Coming from Mariupol, Ukraine the family had a normal life. Pliushchakova mostly stayed home with her children while her husband worked managing a chain of retail stores. Now they do not expect to ever be able to return to Ukraine.

“It’s a double feeling, one point of view is that everything there is destroyed and there is no way back because there’s nowhere to go,” said Pliushchakova.

“The second side of this was that we’re very, very glad that we can start from scratch here in Canada in a safe place.”

While many here in Canada are calling on their government to do more, Pliushchakova finds it difficult to ask for more support.

“It’s hard to tell because there’s this whole overwhelming feeling of getting this help already. The way that Canada is so open to Ukrainian refugees. It’s very, very touching for us and we’re very, very thankful.”

The Pliushchakov family will quarantine with a couple who has offered the basement of their house. Eventually they will rent their own apartment, begin learning French and English and put their five kids into school.

On the day of the first family’s arrival and seeing her family’s work come to fruition, Iana said she is speechless.

“I remember just going to bed and being like, if they can make it, to hear all of them. Like at least like three families. That would be like a miracle. I’m definitely just, you know, speechless. It’s really hard to put it in words, I’m really happy for them,” said Shapovalova.

“But at the end now, you know, just seeing this generosity from people here. It’s such a big contrast to what is happening there. Basically, they’re just sponsoring my family and it’s wonderful.”

Hanna Pliushchakova’s family is the first of eight that the Shapovalovs hope to bring to Canada, with the second family arriving on March 28. Supporters can donate and follow the families journies at their GoFundMe page.

Photo Courtesy of Iana Shapovalova

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News

Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs to strike against tuition hikes

Strike planned on the anniversary of the Maple Spring student strikes which prevented tuition hikes in Quebec in 2012

At a special assembly on Wednesday, March 16, Concordia University’s School of Community and Public Affairs Students’ Association (SCPASA) voted to strike. The demonstration will take place on March 22 – the ten year anniversary of the Maple Spring student strikes, one of the largest student walkouts in history, which saw thousands of students protest tuition hikes.

Today the SCPASA is striking for many of the same causes which students walked out for in 2012. Their primary concern is ongoing tuition hikes, although specific numbers regarding hikes were not shared in the motion.

“We continue the concerns about the ongoing privatization of education and the increasing tuition,” said Ellie Hamilton, a co-chair of the SCPASA Strike Readiness Committee and third year student at the School of Community and Public Affairs. The SCPASA is also striking for reasons that students in 2012 could never have seen coming – a lack of what they believe to be adequate health and safety measures provided by Concordia to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Concordia Student Union (CSU) published an open letter in February requesting the university implement a number of additional health and safety measures to accompany the return to campus, however Concordia has yet to comply with many of these requests such as providing K95 and KN95 masks to students.

“COVID exposed weaknesses. It didn’t create them, and they don’t go away just because we’re pretending the pandemic is over. So primarily tuition, secondarily health and safety and accessibility on campus.”

According to the SCPASA, 30 per cent of students at Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs voted in favor of the student association at the special general assembly where the strike was voted on. The School of Community and Public Affairs is an interdisciplinary program which integrates public policy, advocacy, and community development.

“For our first vote we had 76 per cent in favor, which is a very strong start. And again, we’re emphasizing over and over this is the first step, not the last.” said Hamilton.

The SCPASA will be planning other strikes in the near future with one set to take place on March 25, in order to line up with a future climate strike.

On March 22, the SCPASA will send representatives to the Large Protest for Free Education, an event organized by many Quebec student associations including the CSU, which will take place at Place Du Canada. Those involved will also be walking out of classes and engaging in friendly picketing on campus.

“In the short term, we want students to get experience with these types of mobilizations and we also want them to see that this is part of a bigger moment,” said Hamilton who explained that one of the main goals of this strike is “To help people place themselves within history. Understanding that this is the first step that builds us towards that point we saw with Maple Spring, where students were actually at the negotiating table directly with the government and not trying to do it by proxy through the provincial legislature.”

To Hamilton, organization, mobilization, and strikes like these are important because they have yielded very real and tangible results in the past, as was the case with the Maple Spring.

“This is what democracy looks like at its strongest; it’s when the people are able to get to the negotiating table and have a much more active voice informing policy than just casting a ballot through party machinery that they’ve never touched in their life,” said Hamilton.

Furthermore, to Hamilton fostering this democratic involvement is an essential role of education, which is hindered when universities become further privatized by increasing tuition costs.

“It’s important to protect education, because this is a necessary component to democracy,” said Hamilton.

“We want people to get good work from their university degrees. But if that’s all a university education is to people, we’re losing sight of that second piece that we need to be democratically engaged citizens.”

Photo by Caroline Fabre

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News

The CSU is set to create their own mental health services program

Students will be able to vote on the creation of a new fee levy to fund the program in the upcoming by-elections.

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is attempting to create a new fee levy to fund a CSU mental health service program. The program would feature dedicated long-term staff with experience in mental health services. The $0.45 per credit fee levy will be posed as a referendum question in the upcoming CSU by-elections.

The fee levy follows the result of a previous student referendum question where 96.8 per cent of participants voted in favor of establishing CSU-backed mental health services.

The idea to create more of these services came amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added extra stress to students’ mental health. However, this is not the key motivating factor for the CSU. They cited a growth in diversity within the Concordia student body as a reason to create more diverse and culturally appropriate mental health services – something that Faye Sun, sustainability coordinator for the CSU, thought was important to highlight.

“The way that mental health services operated in the past catered more to a very specific demographic of people.” said Sun. “Students who could afford to go to university.”

“Now we have more diversity in not just income, but race, culture, religion, and I think the services that are offered by a university and by a Student Union should be able to adapt to those changing circumstances as well.”

According to CSU Internal Affairs Coordinator Harrison Kirshner, the goal of the CSU’s mental health service isn’t to replace those already offered by the university but simply to create more complimentary services.

“We hope that the university service enhances. And that they’re able to offer more resources to students in the long run. But, our goal is to complement those services because in our opinion, mental health will always be an issue on campus. And we need to be able to provide resources to our students, and there’s never enough resources that we can provide,” said Kirshner.

Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services have recently seen a large increase in demand, which led to long waitlists and students being denied care.

“The current services that are being offered are inadequate and are overwhelmed. Students wait months and months for appointments,” Kirshner said.

Another goal of the CSU’s planned mental health services is to provide more preventative care for students.

​​”We have noticed that a lot of students tend to seek help whenever they’re in a crisis, but a lot of these issues are precipitated by a lot of various things that are going on in their lives that are not being addressed,” said Sun.

Sun said that housing insecurity, financial insecurity, unemployment, and other factors play a large role in students’ mental health. But, often they are not given enough consideration by existing mental health services.

“We would like to come up with initiatives and projects that can directly address those issues and [that’s] why we’re not just providing therapy itself. But, projects that hopefully can address these other issues that are contributing to students’ poor mental health.”

If the CSU’s mental health fee levy question passes in the next round of elections, these services could be introduced as soon as the 2022-23 academic year. Students will be given the opportunity to vote on the question from March 15-17 during the CSU by-elections.

Photo by Catherine Reynolds

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Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS : Black Country, New Road – Ants From Up There

Ants from Up There is far from a sophomore slump

Black Country, New Road’s sophomore effort is one of the most visceral listening experiences I have ever had. Ants From Up There comes almost exactly one year after the bands debut For the first time. The band broke into the indie and alternative rock scene to massive critical acclaim. Despite the buzz that their first album generated, I wasn’t taken by it the way I was with Ants From Up There. 

The album is both triumphant and tragic, expertly harnessing all members of the band, which includes a dedicated violin and saxophone player in addition to the more typical bass, guitar, keyboards and drums. Some moments had me feeling like I was flying just like the Concorde jet that frontman Isaac Wood references several times throughout the album, and others made me feel like I needed to lay down on my floor, curl into a ball and hide from the world. 

The band clearly wears a lot of their influences on their sleeve, and fans of bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor may find many of the guitar refrains and slow builds to be extremely familiar. But Isaac Wood’s intensely authentic, honest and vulnerable performance throughout the entire album is something wholly unique. The band’s instrumentals combine so many different sounds together in such a balanced way, mixing jazz, alternative rock and other genres into something unlike any other band working today (at least that I know of). 

After a short intro, BCNR launches into “Chaos Space Marine,” a song that could be described as an extremely energetic rock odyssey. This was one of the band’s more triumphant moments that had me jumping up and down in my room and sprinting off into some grand unknown future. Many of BCNR’s songs like this piece utilize less typical time signatures and build slowly into grand explosions of sound that feel exciting and unexpected. 

A slow build into an explosion of sounds could accurately describe many of the songs on AFUT as well as the feeling of the entire album. While songs like “Chaos Space Marine” and “Good Will Hunting” build to triumphant conclusions, tracks like “Bread Song” and “Snow Globes” feel much more tragic. As I listened to “Snow Globes” gradually crescendo to Wood shouting “Snow globes don’t shake on their own” over and over again over a symphony of guitars, saxophone and violin creates this sense of  falling into this sense of oblivion along with wood. 

Since I first heard it, I feel like I forgot other music existed. While it is a challenging listen, with long songs and instrumental and vocal performances that some might think are harsh and abrasive, it is also beautiful, honest and made me feel the most excited I’ve been hearing an album in a long time.

Tragically, Isaac Wood, whose lyricism and guitar performances are the core of the band, announced he would step away from the group just days before AFUT was released. The split seemed to be amicable, with Wood leaving to focus on his own mental health. The band has said they will continue to make music together after Wood’s departure. These real life circumstances make Ants From Up There feel like a tragic goodbye at what was only just the beginning. 

 

Score: 9.5/10

Trial track: “Chaos Space Marine” 

 

[spotifyplaybutton play=”https://open.spotify.com/track/2UEH1NjNHGsoEIr3GKLhNR?si=74e303469d32457a”]

 

 

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News

Students to decide whether CSU purchases a student center

The decision to purchase 2045 Bishop St. will appear as a referendum question in the upcoming CSU General Election

The CSU unanimously voted to let students decide whether the union should purchase a building on Bishops street for a new student centre in the upcoming election.

The purpose of this new building is to create a student centre that would include office space for the CSU, as well as a space for other student clubs and fee-levy groups to operate out of. The CSU would also be able to use the space to host their own events.

The price per square foot for the building is $419.31, rendering the 13 thousand square foot building a $5.5 million cost to purchase. The CSU is also exploring the option of adding an additional floor. Since it is not a heritage building, the CSU will have the ability to renovate and make modifications to the building as needed.

The CSU has been exploring the possibility of creating their own student center for some time. Initially, they approached Concordia about renting a space, however, these spaces were deemed to be unaffordable. However, according to CSU President Eduardo Malorni, Concordia will offer financial support in other ways, although those were not specified at the special council meeting held on Feb. 17.

The downtown property is located directly across the street from the Hall Building at 2045 Bishops St. “In terms of location it doesn’t get more ideal than this,” said Malorni.

The prime location is one of the many reasons that Malorni believes now is the right time for the CSU to buy the building.

​”Other reasons why now is a good time is we do have a good surplus in the fund, where we could expense this and not be left completely depleted or be left in a situation where we might not be able to maintain the building for long term.”

Purchase of the building would also give the CSU more independence and control of the events and activities they want to create for students.

“This is a step in the future of the CSU being more independent from the university. Even though Concordia is acquiring buildings, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those buildings are going to be used for student life,” said CSU Councilor Lauren Perozek.

“This building would be under our purview and our control. We could use it for more student life related activities and our contribution to the students.”

Primarily the project will be funded by the Student Space, Accessible Education & Legal Contingency Fund (SSAELC fund) fund. The SSAELC fund was created 20 years ago and in that time has been used for other purposes. Its initial purpose was to be used for the purchase of a property and creation of a student centre. The fund has now accumulated enough capital that this initial goal is possible. The CSU will also pursue other grants to fund the building’s purpose.

The union will have to undergo a hefty due diligence process involving many inspections of the building. Some parts of it will require renovations, but others are usable at this moment. The result of the referendum question as well as the results of the many building inspections will determine if the CSU goes through with the purchase of the building.

“There are spaces that are not in great condition, but it’s in usable condition. So we could definitely use it for a lot of purposes already. Starting from day one that we own it,” said Malorni.

According to Malorni the CSU actually does not need to send this expense to referendum at all, but he believes students should be involved in the decision.

“I personally think that if we’re going to spend such a large amount such as $5.5 million, our decision should be backed up with the students’ consent on this, which is why I want to send it to the referendum.”

Photos provided by Catherine Reynolds

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News

Concordia has no immediate plans to address boil-water advisory in the annexes

Student Organizations feel Concordia’s struggle to permanently address water-advisories is indicative of other maintenance issues

Since water advisories were first posted on Concordia’s downtown campus, little has been done to implement a long-term solution and provide clean running water to Concordia’s annex buildings.

In a September 2021 communication by Concordia Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), it was announced that “​​preliminary findings appear to indicate the presence of lead in the water of certain annex buildings on the Sir George Williams campus.”

The response by Concordia was to provide water bottles to the annexes, until free standing water coolers were eventually installed. They also posted signage at sinks and faucets.

Further testing was completed to determine the severity of the lead content in the annexes. Following a second test, the water advisory in some buildings was removed. However, many buildings were still determined to have unsafe drinking water and were placed under water advisory. According to Internal Affairs Coordinator of the CSU, Harrison Kirshner, two of the annexes that were particularly affected were the P and K buildings, where many club offices are located.

“There is an investigation that needs to be done. It’s not a quick fix, unfortunately,” said Lina Filacchione, the manager of occupational health and hygiene for EHS. “We have to know where it’s coming from, what the actual problem is before you start to figure out what’s the solution to this.”

The origin of the lead will determine if the water issue falls under the city of Montreal or Concordia’s jurisdiction.

But, the investigation to determine the origins of the lead is delayed and permanently fixing the issue is not Concordia’s first priority at the moment.

“The main issue is really making sure that they have drinking water. That’s the base priority,” said Filacchione.

Despite Concorida’s response, student organizations are feeling uninformed about the situation. Matthew Dodds is the office manager of Concordia’s Graduate Students’ Association, which is based out of the annex. He says the last communication regarding the water advisory came out last November.

“Some updates like ‘we are still testing the water, or here are some infrastructure solutions we’re working on’ would have been nice,” said Dodds. “These are old buildings, we do deserve to know what’s going on in them, we do work in them. We provide services out of them.”

While Dodds and other student organizations affected by the advisory want to be kept in the loop, there is not much more to tell them according to the EHS. “There’s been no new updates since then. We send updates when we are doing some testing,” said Filacchione.

“It’s still ongoing. It’s still on the agenda, but as for the ‘when’ and ‘how long it will take,’ I don’t have the answer for that unfortunately.”

The most likely next step according to Filacchione would be to get consultants to come and determine the source of the lead, but even that has not yet been put into motion.

The lack of communication from Concordia’s maintenance services echoes other issues that Dodds has experienced working out of the annexes.

“It took me two weeks to get a lightbulb changed,” said Dodds. “I wonder sometimes if the maintenance team at the university is smaller than it should be.”

Kirshner has been in communication with the university regarding the water advisory and other maintenance issues. Like Dodds, he says that this response from the university is nothing new. Many organizations have struggled in the past to receive prompt maintenance support.

“It’s important for them to take action, because students deserve to have an on-campus environment no matter what building they’re in, including the P and K annexes. I think those are the annexes that most of student life takes place in, and clubs deserve to have adequate resources in their office space,” said Kirshner.

“It’s typical of this institution. So, for example, the Muslim Students Association have a library at the ground floor of the E annex and the roof is about to collapse. So they can’t use the library. I’ve been trying to follow up [with Concordia] since September on this and they say ‘we’re working on it.’ Well, okay, but what are you doing about it?”

Despite the fact that the university has followed through on their promise to supply water coolers, Kirshner wants to see greater action on maintenance issues.

Kirshner says he has a scheduled meeting with EHS regarding clubs and the annexes in general where he wants to “get the ball rolling” on these issues. But for now, there are no long-term plans to provide clean running water to the annexes other than the installation of water coolers.

Filacchione said they know these spaces are occupied and used by many departments and faculty. “We need to be cognizant of that and make sure we’re meeting their needs.”

Photos by Kaitlynn Rodney

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