Working toward paid internships for students

Concordia student associations gather to discuss the future of internships at the university

Huddled around a rectangular table in the Hive Café downtown, executives from various Concordia student associations discussed the future of internships at the university on Jan. 16. The congress, organized by the Concordia Student Union (CSU), followed through on the union’s campaign promise to end unpaid internships. Although it was geared toward student executives, the congress was open to the public.

The representatives of each association took turns discussing how internships work in their respective programs and how they could be improved. Asma Mushtaq, the CSU’s academic and advocacy coordinator, explained that while internships “might appear more manageable on paper,” they do not properly capture the “real student experience.”

This so-called “real student experience” varies greatly from program to program. According to Mushtaq, during the preliminary awareness campaign regarding unpaid internships, many students were shocked to learn that unpaid internships are required for graduation in some departments, despite other students getting paid up to $20 an hour for internships. “We’re trying to bring more consistency,” Mushtaq said.

Many students have reported that Concordia’s early childhood and elementary education program is notoriously demanding in its internship requirements. Sydney Daoust-Filiatrault, the vice-president of the newly created Early Childhood and Elementary Education Student Association (ECEESA), explained that to graduate from the program, students must complete five unpaid internships over four years.

Toward the end of their degree, students are expected to complete three internships, working 25 hours per week for eight weeks. These internships only count for three credits, and students are also obliged to attend a weekly three-credit seminar. This means that, to be considered full-time, students must take at least six other credits of classwork. Students must also receive at least a B grade to pass their internships, and if the same internship is failed twice, the student will be asked to withdraw from the program.

For Daoust-Filiatrault, this demanding schedule does not take into consideration students who work or have other time commitments. She explained that, on top of 25 hours of weekly work, students must also prepare lesson plans for their internships and do work outside of the classroom. Daoust-Filiatrault added that, while many teachers and administration recommend students study part-time during their internships, this can extend their studies far past four years.

Although it is possible to ask for permission to appear as a full-time student to Concordia while only taking six credits per semester during the internship period, “that doesn’t change how the government sees you,” she said. “So anyone with bursaries loses them, despite working full-time, despite not being able to make money while you’re full-time.”

According to Daoust-Filiatrault, this unfairly targets students who need a job to afford their education. “At this point, I feel like we’re losing everything by doing [internships],” she said.

The CSU campaign for paid internships is still in its early stages. According to Mushtaq, the student union is in the process of collecting preliminary data and statistics to present to the university and senate. Collecting this raw data and information about the variety of internship experiences from students is an essential first step to approaching the university, she explained. “Having something concrete from the ground level helps us create a more concrete action plan,” Mushtaq said.

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Campus Equity Week for part-time job security

CUPFA holds awareness campaign for part-time faculty

Last week, the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association (CUPFA) held its 2017 Campus Equity Week, a week-long awareness campaign highlighting the difficulties many part-time faculty members face within the university.

Erik Chevrier, CUPFA’s chair of internal mobilization, headed the campaign’s organization and conception. Chevrier explained that the goal of the week was to inform people about the particular struggle of part-time faculty members who don’t have guaranteed positions within the university.
This year’s awareness campaign was focused on job security. According to Chevrier, few students know about the specific conditions that affect part-time faculty members, such as how they must re-apply every semester to teach their courses at Concordia and how it can take them up to 10 years to be eligible for health benefits.

Recently, according to Chevrier, part-time faculty members have been offered fewer courses.

According to Chevrier, since the 2012-13 academic year, 26 of the 50 departments that offer part-time positions have reduced the amount of courses offered to part-time faculty members. This has resulted in a total of about 431 fewer courses available to part-time professors.

Some of the most extreme examples Chevrier gave were from the sociology and anthropology departments, which went from offering approximately 92 courses in 2012-13 to 34 this school year. The geography, planning and environment department also saw a drop of almost 30 courses over the same period—from 74 to 46.

For professors who rely on these jobs as their main source of income, it can be extremely stressful to live without job security. Chevrier said he wanted the campaign to be fun and engaging, so CUPFA created short quizzes for students to fill out. The association also encouraged professors to take some time during their classes to give students the quiz. It featured little-known facts about part-time faculty at Concordia, such as how about 57 per cent of the university’s courses are taught by part-time professors.

According to Chevrier—who teaches courses for the political science, sociology and psychology departments—the quiz was very well received by students who were both surprised and concerned by how little they knew about part-time faculty working conditions.

“We teach quite a few courses. With that in mind, we should be respected like others at Concordia University as well,” Chevrier said.

The awareness campaign also included three short videos featuring students from the Arts and Science and Fine Arts faculties, as well as the John Molson School of Business, explaining what part-time faculty members brought to their classes. Many part-time professors actively work in their fields, which Chevrier said can bring a real-world perspective to the classroom and enhance students’ learning experiences.

“Looking forward, we want to be respected as equals, as professors,” he said. “We want to be recognized as colleagues.”

Campus Equity Week is organized under an international body called the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor (COCAL), a network of groups that advocate for better treatment and working conditions for university part-time faculty, such as adjunct and part-time professors. Universities across Canada, the United States and Mexico each hold their own Campus Equity Weeks as part of COCAL’s international campaign.

Photo by Gabrielle Vendette

Student Life

What is the real key to happiness?

A University of the Streets Café discussion reflects on the “pursuit of happiness”

University of the Streets Café hosted yet another edition of its public discussions at Café Aux Deux Marie on St-Denis Street last Wednesday to discuss a hefty topic—the illusive pursuit of happiness.

The talk was moderated by Anurag Dhir, a community engagement coordinator for McGill University’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office. The event featured speakers who explored the idea of purposefulness and happiness in their line of work: Peter Hartman and Juniper Belshaw. Hartman is a motivational speaker and founder of Happy For A Change, an organization that looks to spread the word about positive global initiative. Belshaw currently works for the Cirque du Soleil as a senior advisor for talent management, but she used to work and volunteer a lot in the  non-profit sector.

The atmosphere of the talk was quite relaxed. Once the speakers made their preliminary addresses, participants were encouraged to join in on the discussion.

While the intention of the talk was to discuss how to lead a life of impact within a community, the natural course of discussion led to the attendees sharing their views on what happiness means to them, and how to achieve a life of happiness. Most of the audience members agreed that living a life of happiness begins with the acceptance that things happen, and one can’t control everything.

There was a general consensus that, to live a life of positive impact, one must first find positivity in their own life. This echoed the sentiments of Belshaw, who at the end of her introduction said “maybe tonight I’m hoping to talk about how we build sustainable social change where we’re creating the world we want, but also living it as we do it.”

Peter Hartman, who also organizes discussions about finding a purpose in life through his organization Happy For A Change, said he’s used to hearing a lot of discussions turn into talks about the pursuit of happiness.

“There is overwhelmingly this focus on happiness,” he said. “I was hoping we would get beyond that… but I find it so useful, because every time we have that conversation we get a little bit further,” into what it means to lead a life of purpose.

Photo by Ana Hernandez

Hartman explained that, for him, living a life of purpose means living a life of meaningful action. “It’s when there is intention behind the actions that you do,” he said. “It’s not just that you have relationships—it’s the manner in which you have relationships that contribute to your overall purpose.”

Relationships, Hartman added, can be as basic as the contact a person has with a store clerk.

This and other guiding principles are the basis of Happy for A Change—what he calls a philosophy and a movement—with the goal of using people’s own search for happiness to make a positive change in the world.

“We understand that everybody is different and people want to work on different things, so we’re trying to find the lowest common denominator, what is the smallest action possible that we can convince people to do that would create change?” said Hartman. For the speaker, that action is going on social media. Hartman believes that going on social media is something that practically everyone does every day and he tries to harness its power by convincing people in the self-help industry to use their financial means to promote and market ideas that create a better society on social media.

Attendees discussed their thoughts on finding happiness through community engagement. Photo by Ana Hernandez

University of the Streets Café is a program part of Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement, which has existed for 15 years. According to Alex Megelas, the organizer of University of the Street Café programming, their mandate is to “promote a culture of community engagement at Concordia.” They do so by creating links between staff, students and different community based groups and organizations. University of the Streets Café is one of their initiatives.

Megelas said his principle role is to create discussions that reflect the goal of the program. This year, their goal is to look at city engagement and, more specifically, “how we live in cities as, individuals and together, [and] create shared experiences.”

The next University of the Streets Café discussion called “Representative Democracy: How do we foster citizenship literacy”, and will be held on March 9 at 7 p.m. at Temps Libre at 5606 De Gaspé St.

Student Life

Three Concordia history professors launch new books

The books discuss climate change, contraception and intercommunal violence

The Paragraphe bookstore on McGill Ave. was packed on March 2 with a large crowd of avid listeners for the launch of three books by Concordia history professors: Anya Zilberstein, Nora Jaffary and Max Bergholz. The professors introduced themselves and their fields of research before going more into depth about the contents and ideas behind their books.

Zilberstein’s book, A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America, explores how climate change has informed discussions about science and politics. In her book, she outlines different theories about climate and man-made climate change through history, starting with the colonization of the Americas. Zilberstein said that, while many aspects of the theories outlined in her book are old or historical, elements of the theories themselves “have lingered on well into the next centuries.” Through her book, she said she hopes to inform readers that ideas about climate and man-made climate change have been used to push political debates and and alter the idea of the disposition of humankind.

In Jaffary’s book, Reproduction and its Discontents in Mexico: Childbirth and Contraception from 1750 to 1905, she explores women’s sexuality, pregnancy, birth and contraception in Mexico as the country transitioned from a colony to an independent nation. She said her original research did not lead her to where she thought it would—ideas of progress associated with the liberation of a colony didn’t necessarily mean progress for women’s sexuality. It continued to be heavily scrutinized, especially at the end of the 19th century. Jaffary describes approximately 250 cases of female sexual deviance in her book.

Bergholz began the description of his book, Violence as a Generative Force: Identity, Nationalism and Memory in a Balkan Community, with the story of where he found his case study: in the dusty basement of an archive in the city of Sarajevo. His book is a microhistory of a small village on the border of Bosnia and Croatia called Kulen Vakuf. It takes an in-depth look at intercommunal killings that happened during 1941, which included the disappearance and murder of 2,000 people in 48 hours. Bergholz said he seeks to answer the question of how a violent incident can occur and how it changes people’s identities and relations with each other.

The authors said it took about 10 years to complete their books. Jaffary described the research as a detective mission and explained how she had to adapt her writing to what she found. “You have an idea of what you might find, but you’re not sure and then you realize that the thing you’re looking for doesn’t exist, but this other thing exists, so you try to get as much of that as possible,” said Jaffary. During the research  process, Jaffary had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and Spain and collaborate with fellow researchers. “It was stimulating, but not in a high-pressure way,” she said.

For Bergholz, both the research and the writing of his book were very demanding. He said the research involved spending long days in archive basements, sometimes going days without finding relevant information. “You have to get up and motivate yourself everyday to look at page after page after page,” he said. “I had to develop a tremendous amount of focus and discipline to keep my eye on the horizon.”

Bergholz said writing the book was emotionally taxing because of the traumatic, violent nature of the subject matter. To fully describe the events in the book, he said he had to “inhabit the material in a way and to internalize it, to try and feel the history… [which] means that those terrible things become, in some way, embedded inside your mind. They did for me.”

Graphic by Florence Yee


Perm’s Swan Lake premieres in Montreal

The Russian ballet troupe discussed their premier of Swan Lake last Wednesday

Russia’s Perm Ballet Opera performed its rendition of Swan Lake for the first time at Place des Arts last Wednesday, as part of the Grands Ballets’ 2017-2018 season. At the pre-show talk before the premiere, arts journalist Shelley Pomerance sat down with the artistic director and two principal dancers from the Perm troupe to discuss some of the history behind the Perm Ballet Opera and the ballet piece itself.

Perm is the third-biggest Russian ballet company and has a rich history, intertwined with that of the Mariinsky ballet company. Perm’s artistic director, Alexey Miroshnichenko, explained that, during World War II, the Mariinsky ballet theater, which was located in St. Petersburg, moved to Perm, Russia for safety reasons. The ballet troupe stayed there for four years, turning Perm into a well-known centre for ballet. Before moving back to St. Petersburg, they founded a ballet school.

Miroshnichenko said Perm has a dance style that is a combination of the Moscow and St. Petersburg traditions, but is still closer to the St. Petersburg style because of its history. “In the St. Petersburg school, they teach to dance with the soul,” he said. “In the Moscow school, they dance with the head.” He chuckled when asked where he comes from—he answered: “St. Petersburg.”

The role of the artistic director in the Russian ballet tradition is overarching. Miroshnichenko explained it has changed very little since the first appearances of ballet companies in the Russian Empire, when artistic directors were also the main choreographers. He has been the troupe’s artistic director since 2009 and oversees the adaption of all ballets. “I am responsible for everything that’s going on,” he said.

When asked what he thinks his most important role is as the artistic director, Miroshnichenko smiled slightly and answered “discipline,” rising a chuckle out of the audience.

To the surprise of many, Swan Lake was not a success when it was first presented in Moscow in 1877. Miroshnichenko explained that, while many people think Swan Lake is the most originally-preserved ballet, many modifications were brought to it after the death of its composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. A mere four original musical pieces were kept.

Pomerance has been doing this type of pre-show analysis and introduction for four or five years. “If you only see [a ballet] once, it’s helpful to have something to guide you through the ballet so you know what’s going on and what the choreographer was thinking,” she said. Pomerance said the old artistic director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal felt very strongly about having these types of introductions, especially for contemporary ballets, which is what Les Grands Ballets specializes in.

While Pomerance does not have a preference for one type of art over the other, she said the more she works with ballet and other types of dance, the more she has developed a fondness for its combination of music and movement. She said music and dance “are two art forms where there are no words, and where so much is expressed… You can convey so much emotion through the body and through music.”

Les Grands Ballets’ next production, Minus One, will premiere on March 23 at Place des Arts.

Student Life

Talking global feminism at Université de Montréal

The French university hosts its first-ever conference on intersectional feminism

The Regroupement des étudiants de l’Université de Montréal en soutien de l’ONU Femme hosted its first-ever event on Feb. 6—a conference dedicated to international feminism called “Le féminisme autour du monde: orient et occident.”

The conference coincided with the Semaine interculturelle de l’UdeM, a week dedicated to promoting the plethora of cultures that exist in and outside the university through conferences and activities. The conference featured two speakers: Ryoa Chung, a professor of philosophy at UdeM, and Khaloua Zoghlami, a doctoral candidate in communications at UdeM.

The bulk of the conference focused on international feminism and the many problems that arise when trying to apply feminist theories to women in varying cultural situations. Chung, the first speaker to address the crowd in the lecture hall, outlined many of the theoretical problems associated with using liberal feminism as the ideal way for women to emancipate themselves in other countries. Liberal feminism is assumed to be the most objective feminist theory because it pulls from the Liberal political theory, but it can impose Western values onto different cultures.

The conference on international feminism was the first of its kind at the University. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Chung warned that, while laced with good intentions, liberal feminism easily veers into this type of imperialism when proponents of this type of feminism do not make themselves aware of the particular struggles women in underdeveloped countries face.

“When we want to speak in solidarity for another person, there are pitfalls that we need to avoid, and one of these pitfalls we need to avoid is positioning ourselves as the saviour who knows how to save the other woman from herself,” Chung said.

She cited many examples where the epistemology and the basic theoretical constructs of some branches of feminism already put specific groups at a disadvantage. For example, sometimes the perspective of a religious or racial group cannot even be recognized by the majority, therefore any specific challenges they face are not represented in any actions taken.

Zoghlami brought to light many of the theories presented by Chung during her discussion, using her own experiences as a Tunisian-born woman as a springboard into talking about intersectional feminism. She said the type of liberal feminism women ascribed to in Tunisia was very confining.

“You had to be a specific type of woman to truly benefit from the rights allocated to women, because if you were a women who wore a veil, was attached to your religious practice, came from an underprivileged area, were black or were a collection of all that, these privileges did not concern you or were not concretely applied to you,” Zoghlami said.

She said one of the oldest and most influential feminist associations in Tunisia, L’Association Tunisiennes des Femmes Démocrates, supported the government’s measures to dissuade women from wearing their veil. At that same time, the government was already enforcing bans that blocked women who wore a veil from getting a job or an education. The liberal feminism these women borrowed from their French counterparts, she said, was derived from an imperialistic mindset and left no room for some women to practice their religion if they so chose to.

Zoghlami added that this was not a type of feminism she could identify with, because, in her view, it only fought for a small portion of women. She said she struggled to consolidate her identities as a woman and as a Muslim.

Only recently was Zoghlami introduced to the idea of intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism argues that there are specific challenges associated with women who associate to more than one group, such as religion, race or sexual orientation. It states these specific challenges should be fought in tandem with one another, not separately. For Zoghlami, this means being able to fight for her rights as a Muslim woman, not as a Muslim and a woman.

Lia Ferranti, the president of the Regroupement des étudiants de l’Université de Montréal en soutien de l’ONU Femme, said the group really wanted to host an event in relation to the very popular Semaine interculturelle de UdeM.

“We asked ourselves how we could talk about feminism and interculturality, and we told ourselves, well why not talk about feminism around the world?” Ferranti said.

With 600 people interested in their Facebook event, Ferranti was surprised by how easily the conference came together. She said both Chung and Zoghlami were extremely open to speaking at the conference. “We realized that their two subjects really corresponded to the Occident and the Orient, and we set it up in a way to try to touch on everything, and it all came together,” Ferranti said.

She said the university was there to help and support them along the way.

“We are the first feminist organization recognized by UdeM,” Ferranti said. “The executive committee is practically all the founding members.”

The group is currently awaiting official recognition from the UN headquarters in New York in order to be named UN Women UdeM, but Ferranti said it will still take a while.


Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity takes a look at love

New exhibition part of 375th anniversary celebrations highlights love in all forms

Uplifting is the word that comes to mind when walking into the Montreal in Love: Embracing Diversity exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). The walls are covered with pictures of happy couples and families smiling, laughing and spending time together.

Aside from the feelings of happiness and love that come through the portraits, the other common element between all of these different couples and families is that they are all interracial.

During her inauguration speech, Marie-Christine Ladouceur, the project manager for Montreal In Love, said she wanted to represent the city’s diversity in the most authentic way—and what better way than with the people who embody this diversity. “Talking about diversity through love is a language that everyone can understand,” said Ladouceur.

The exhibition is part of a series of year-long festivities currently taking place to celebrate Montreal’s 375th anniversary. The goal of the exhibition is to showcase the unique social diversity present in Montreal.

The exhibition features 30 couples and families who were photographed in locations they thought represented them well, such as at home or outside. Some video installations also offer a more in-depth look at their relationships. Very short written excerpts from interviews accompany the photos to give a snapshot into life for these interracial and interreligious couples, exploring the challenges they face and how they overcome these challenges.

New series of photographic works highlight the diversity of love in the city.

For one couple, Youssef Shoufan and Manu Alix, being part of this project gave them a chance to look at their relationship through a different lens. When initially approached for the project, Shoufan did not see the relevance of showcasing interracial love, as it was part of everyday life for him. Only after being involved in the project and encountering other interracial couples did he come to understand the importance of talking about this unique type of relationship.

For Alix, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a Québécois family, the interview portion of the project allowed her to rethink what being in an intercultural relationship means to her, as well as rethink her ties to her own culture. “It allowed me to crystallize my identity in the sense that, I grew up outside of Montreal and I thought I was white when I was younger… Arriving to Montreal meant for me to reconcile myself with another part of my identity… one that is being part of a visible minority, of diversity,” says Alix.

Montreal in Love also allowed Montreal photographers Jacques Nadeau and Mikaël Theimer to get up close and personal with the featured couples and families. The two photographers witnessed intimate moments shared between people, and, according to Theimer, that’s what he loves about photography. “It’s not photography that I love, it’s the places where my camera allows me to enter that I love—in the intimacy of a couple, in private events, behind the curtains at a show, in the hospital,” said Theimer.

While the exhibition shines a light on the everyday life of many Montrealers, Alix said, “I dream of the day where we won’t need projects like these to underline the importance or the beauty of diversity.”

Montreal in Love runs at the MMFA until Feb. 19.


Syria from the point of view of Syrian art

New exhibition at Skol showcases Syria through a different lens

In a small white room near Place des Arts, the work of five Syrian artists portrays what they perceive as the reality of living in and being from Syria during the current civil war. The multidisciplinary exhibition, featuring photography, film and ink drawings, shows a different view of war-torn Syria than what we’ve seen in Western media.

The exhibition is called Internal Landscape, a title that references both the geographical landscape of Syria and the internal landscape of the artists’ minds and memories, according to the exhibition’s curator, Delphine Leccas.

The goal of the exhibition is to capture “the impression we have of a country that we have left and the image we have of this country in the back of our brains, the emotions we continue to hold of this country,”according to Leccas.

The main themes that come through the various art pieces are nostalgia and a will to return to a normal life, yet these seemingly clash with the courage, strength and pride that emanate from the works of art. “People continue to live in Damascus. They have dreams, and they want to have a future like [everyone] else in the world,” said Alma Salem, cultural advisor. The exasperation and defiance of the Syrian people comes across in the exhibition—both emotions blend together in the featured works.

Leccas is the co-founder of the non-profit organization AIN, which supports young Syrian artists. She lived in Syria from 1998 to 2011 and worked with many artists, showcasing them in exhibitions organized by the association. She said that, before the revolution, the artistic scene in Syria was mostly underground.

“The majority of foreign artistic directors who came to Damascus came face to face with the official art scene that didn’t interest them at all, and they would leave saying, ‘Syrian art is very academic. It’s not very interesting,’” Leccas said. “But they didn’t have access to all the workshops where artists were working in the shadows.”

She said that the revolution and war pushed many artists to different parts of the world and social media helped to propagate Syrian art and make it known. Leccas said there was “a need, a vital necessity” for the artists to produce art and share it in light of what was happening in their homeland.

“There is a real danger in creating art, and we forget that because we have a tendency in Europe and in the Western world of seeing the artist as someone who entertains themself,” Leccas said. “We forget that the artistic act can be a strong political act and that it can put lives in danger.”

The four artists featured in the exhibition are Aiham Dib, Muzaffar Salman, Randa Maddah and Monif Ajaj. All of their works were created when they still lived in Syria during the civil war and three of the artists still live and produce art in Syria.

Internal Landscape runs until Feb. 25 at the Centre des arts actuels Skol.

Student Life

My personal experience with counselling

How one Concordian got through anxiety and self-confidence issues with the help of a psychologist

I guess I would say it started about halfway through secondary three.  I always seemed to be plagued by this idea that no one really liked me. It wasn’t the unsettling feeling of having an off day or not being my usual self—it was an ongoing feeling of anxiety based on this worry that no one in my circle of friends really wanted anything to do with me.

In fact, they all probably hated me. And why not, right? I was annoying, I always complained, I never did anything fun, I never laughed enough, I never went out enough—or so I thought.

I went on living this way for almost a year, and the bad thoughts and insecurities got perpetually worse.

To add to my rapidly depleting self-confidence, one of my classmates decided to make me the target of her bullying. I hated every day I had to get out of bed, because I had to face the people my anxieties and behaviour had ultimately pushed away: my best friends.

It got so bad that I couldn’t say anything to them without feeling this intense wave of anxiety and self-hatred. I would start telling myself, “Shut up Gab, nobody cares about what you have to say. You’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re dumb and you have no friends. They all just hang out with you because they feel bad that you’re such a fucking loser.”

I knew I couldn’t go on like this. I will always remember the day when—in the midst of silent car ride with my mother, without even looking at her, I told her I needed to see a psychologist.

She handled it beautifully and gave me the card of a psychologist she’d heard many good things about.

Today, I can say without a doubt that seeing a psychologist changed my life. I am not the same person who walked into that office four years ago. Seeing a psychologist helped me face my demons, become confident in the person I am and believe that I am worth all the love and respect in the world.

It’s definitely not easy to overcome self-hatred. Taking control of your life, when you’ve been so used to sitting back and letting it take control of you, is extremely difficult. You are forced to dig up aspects of your life you buried ages ago because they were just too hard to deal with. I promise you though, it’s worth it.

Thanks to counselling, I was able to tell my bully I wouldn’t stand for how she was treating me anymore. I was able to have an open, honest dialogue with my friends about my anxieties.

This is why  I’m writing this—to encourage you to seek help if you think you need it. Self-love is hard, and I still have a long way to go before I can fully appreciate my uniqueness.  But now I know how to disassociate my hateful thoughts from the person I actually am.

I now know how to take a step back before becoming overwhelmed by anxiety and self-deprecation.  I analyze the situation that is making me feel this way and determine how I can resolve it.

Counselling gave me the tools to work on self-love, a little bit at a time.

Student Life

Feel like family at NDG’s Kokkino Café

The relaxed, family-run spot serves up café classics, with a side of charm

John Zampetoulakis, co-owner of Kokkino Café, calls on a customer by name. “Sarah, you want a grilled cheese?” She shakes her head no and he nods. He proceeds to butter her freshly popped toast and walk out from behind the counter to set her bowl of soup and toast in front of her. At Kokkino Café, table service is on the house.

Zampetoulakis and his wife, Angela Reichman, opened Kokkino Café over eight years ago. “I worked in a lot of restaurants, I made a lot of money and I said, you know what, no more. I want to do this for myself, for my kids, for my community,” said Zampetoulakis.

Photo by Gabrielle Vendette

The spot is a family-run business- even Zampetoulakis and Reichman’s four kids participate in the action.

The concept of the café is a little different than the average grab-and-go coffee joint. At Kokkino, the customer places their order at the counter, takes a seat and the food is brought to them.

Zampetoulakis said he decided to serve his customers this way because “it’s nice and it’s relaxed—it feels like home.” Similarly, customers only pay the bill when they’re ready to leave. “They pay me before they go, that way they have time to digest their food,” he said. “When you’re done, whenever you’re done, you’ve had your experience and then you pay me.”  “Relaxed” is a great way to describe the experience at Kokkino.

Photo by Gabrielle Vendette

The café’s food is freshly made every morning by the two owners and inspired by Zampetoulakis’ Greek origins. The variety of the menu is impressive for an operation run mainly by one couple.

Kokkino offers soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and desserts. There is a wide selection of teas, and of course, an abundance of coffee. The spot also has a variety of vegan options.

At Kokkino, accommodation is the rule, not the exception. It’s not uncommon for someone to walk in and grab an order they texted Zampetoulakis that morning.

“I know everybody that comes in here. I know what they like, I know how they like it,” said Zampetoulakis. He also custom-makes sandwiches ordered at his counter. There is an attention to detail in his work. Every interaction Zampetoulakis has with a customer is genuine and shows his compassion.

Photo by Gabrielle Vendette

The owner’s vision for the café is focused on creating a calm atmosphere for people to enjoy their coffee and meal. He said he wanted to “create a place where people just feel they can relax.”

Customers who walks into Kokkino are greeted with a warm hello from Zampetoulakis. Dogs are also allowed inside, because, according to him, “it’s just chill. That’s what I want.”

When you go to Kokkino, prepare to be treated like family.  Just don’t forget to bring your dishes to the counter before you leave.

The cafe is located at 5673 Sherbrooke Street West. The spot opens at 9 a.m. every day, and closes at 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, 10 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays.


Task force is back

Student-led task force proceeds with implementing requests made in Mei Ling settlement

The student-led task force discussed the creation of an advocacy coordinator position, the composition of this position’s hiring committee, and how to ensure equal representation of different ethnicities in both the hiring committee and the task force during its third meeting on Nov. 2.

The meeting took place in the School for Community and Public Affairs building on Mackay Street at Concordia’s downtown campus. The three task-force meetings thus far come as a response to a request made by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) for Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) to revise the task force’s mandate. ASFA was required to create a task force as part of the settlement that was reached following the lawsuit against ASFA made by CRARR on behalf of Mei Ling*. Mei Ling was a former ASFA executive who experienced sexual harassment, discrimination and racism from two other ASFA executives.

In a press release published by CRARR on Oct. 3, they requested a revision of the mandate due to the fact that the previous one, while efficiently tackling sexism and sexual violence, did not focus enough on representation of racial minorities.

The new mandate, which was ratified by the ASFA council on Oct. 13, was distributed at the meeting. It listed actions that will be taken by the task force to ensure cases of racism, sexism and sexual violence are dealt with swiftly. These actions include obligatory consent and power dynamic workshops for ASFA executives and others, collaboration with students of different backgrounds to create and implement necessary services, and working with Concordia University to ensure that these services are accessible to all.

Rebecca Paris, a recent Concordia graduate, attended the meeting. She said she wishes there had been such a task force when she was a student, as she felt there were no resources available to women of colour facing discrimination. “If I ever had issues of racism at Concordia, I had to create my own network of people,” said Paris. “It was made for us, by us and it was with no support of the university. It was made with no support of the entities here.”

Paris said many of her friends still go to Concordia and so, “as a support system for them, it’s important for me to be there if I have time.” She said people of colour need more visibility in the university and they should have designated safe spaces.

While the task force is not part of ASFA, Agunik Mamikonyan, the community outreach and sustainability coordinator for ASFA, leads the discussions during the meetings. Mamikonyan said she decided to take on the task“because she felt she had the time and passion for it.

Mamikonyan believes there is an urgent need for this task force. “There’s an obvious gap within Concordia University and it’s been a recurring problem, especially recently,” she said. “There have been a lot of cases coming up and no one to deal with them.”

The meeting concluded with the objective of finding students to sit on the hiring committee. A date for a future meeting has not yet been released.

*Mei Ling is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the subject involved.


Women photographers at MMFA

SHE Photographs looks at women through camera lens wielded by female photographers

The first thing you notice when you walk through the SHE Photographs exhibition is the variety of subjects and photographic techniques presented. Everything from still-life photography, to self-portraiture to collage is featured. There are black and white photos and colour ones, lone photographs the size of a wall and some that come in a series, and yet, they all convey a sense of unity.

Each picture addresses a different aspect of being a woman in today’s contemporary society. They grapple with themes such as solitude, old age, relationships and love. The visitor gets snapshots of the artists’ lives and points of view through the photographs, and this creates a very intimate link between the audience and the artists.

Diane Charbonneau is the curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA). She said she believes it is important to have an exhibition that focuses solely on work done by women because it allows us to interact more with the feminine perspective. She said it is essential to look at the subjects women address in photography.

As curator for this exhibition, she went through more than 500 pieces and picked ones that present a vast realm of subjects. According to Charbonneau, she was inspired by all the different themes that women address in their photographs and wanted to showcase a wide variety of photos.

This photo of Mrs. Thérèse MacGuire by Claire Beaugrand-Champagne is part of her series “Old People,” and is featured in the SHE Photographs exhibition.

The exhibition features many artists from Canada, mainly Montreal, and abroad. One artist on display is Geneviève Cadieux, an associate professor of photography at Concordia. Cadieux has been featured in multiple national and international exhibitions. In 2011, she was the recipient of the Governor General’s Award for Visual and Media Arts. Fascinated by the human body, it is the central subject in much of her work. According to her website, she enjoys focusing on very small details and expanding them into larger elements.

Claire Beaugrand-Champagne is another veteran photographer. Her occupation has taken her to many places around the world, including Italy and Thailand. Beaugrand-Champagne said she uses photography as a way to talk about social issues. In this exhibition, a few pieces from her photography series “Old People” and “Women from Montreal” are on display.

Beaugrand is currently working on a project called “Montrealers,” where she goes to people’s houses and photographs them in their environment. She said she believes where a person lives says a lot about who they are.

Everyone takes pictures these days, Charbonneau said, but this exhibition is a chance for us to take a step back and look at the perspective these women offer us. She said photography is so relatable because we recognize ourselves in each shot.

The SHE Photographs exhibition runs until Feb. 19 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

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