How bullying is a gendered issue

The Gillette ad that broke the internet is what women have been taught their whole lives

It was the advertisement that spurred a million Twitter threads. In early January, between public outrage over the stupid things that disgraced YouTuber Jake Paul said and the disrespectful behaviour of students at Covington Catholic School, people on social media got very riled up about a two-minute Gillette commercial that suggested men can be better. From bemoaning the use of “boys will be boys” as a blanket excuse, to invoking the #MeToo movement, the ad argued that men will only be the best they can be when they hold each other accountable and, you know, show basic decency to women and each other.

Of course, this caused men on the internet to go absolutely bananas. The ad was called leftist propaganda by some, and opportunistic corporate virtue-signalling by others. I have no desire to debate either of these stances—it should be painfully obvious that toxic masculinity is very much a real and prevalent issue, and that corporations will never stand for progress if they truly believe it will hurt their profit margins. But one idea that gained particular traction from the more misogynistic corners of social media is interesting: the Gillette ad could not exist if the gender roles were reversed. If a brand urged women to correct their behaviour, we would not celebrate it or even tolerate it. This opinion has been posed (almost solely by men) on subreddits and angry blog posts, with even right-wing favourites like Piers Morgan agreeing that a gender reversal would lead to “all hell[…] break[ing] loose.”

The only problem with Morgan’s opinion is that it’s completely untrue. On the contrary, from a very young age, women and girls are explicitly taught to address the issues of bullying, respect, and self-esteem from a gendered lens.

From Disney Channel special episodes to sleepover go-to movies such as Mean Girls, Clueless, and Legally Blonde, plenty of media targeted towards young women includes the not-so-subtle message that women should be lifting other women up, not tearing each other down. Advertising for everything from skincare products to tampons focus on the need for girls to love their bodies and believe in themselves. As positive and important as this message is, these discussions of body image and empowerment rarely focus on any social—dare I say patriarchal—factors that contribute to these issues in the first place, instead treating insecurity as a behavioural shortcoming that women can overcome with the right encouragement.

That’s not even beginning to touch all the brands that don’t even bother trying to capitalize on self-love, and instead encourage women to just change everything about themselves. If men are truly upset about being discouraged from schoolyard fights and workplace sexual harassment, they should spend a day being told that their weight, hair, skin, teeth, face, fashion sense, and personality (in no particular order) need a makeover. Although the intentions of chick flicks and airbrushed advertisements are very different, one thing is clear: women and girls spend their whole lives being told how they can and should be better.

It’s even being incorporated into public school curriculum. When I was in middle school, the girls in my class and I spent one recess per week in “Go Girls,” a program run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. Highlights included naming things we liked about ourselves and making a pact that we would never let one of our fellow girls sit alone at lunch. Although this program runs nationally, it has a lot of competition with non-profits like Girls Inc., Girl Guides of Canada, and Young Women on the Move offering similar services.

The names may vary, but most of my female peers remember participating in similar programs in public school, and being taught specifically about women-centered issues, like catfighting and body image as part of their health curriculum. Very few of my male friends, however, can remember anything comparable. They never had to invest free time each week to participate in all-boys programs or make a pact to not get into physical altercations with their friends—some cannot even remember learning about consent in school.

I frequently hear people speak about how, while men tend to fight physically, women fight with words. I can’t speak to how accurate this is universally, although in my own experiences, it would seem to be true. So why are we teaching girls that female catfights are an unhealthy way to handle conflict, but not teaching our boys the same for roughhousing? Gender indisputably affects where we stand in this world, and girls have been taught that their entire lives. The tragedy is that men have not, leaving them woefully unprepared to reflect and grow in the age of #MeToo.

Ultimately, the problem here is not that Gillette took a gendered approach when exploring violence and bullying. The problem is that it’s easy for men to see this ad as an attack on their entire gender because, in the past, they’ve never had to see bullying for what it is: a gendered issue.

The solution might not be any more Gillette ads. After all, it would be hard to argue that a major corporation like Procter and Gamble saw their own ad as anything more than a smart marketing move. But we are definitely one step closer to finding a solution when we stop being afraid to discuss how our gender affects the ways in which we need to grow and improve. After all, women and girls have already been doing it for years.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Concordia Student Union News

CSU judicial board overturns disqualification of Speak Up team

Speak Up slate defended themselves at a judicial board hearing on April 6

The Concordia Student Union judicial board overturned the union’s chief electoral officer’s (CEO) decision to disqualify the Speak Up slate, whose candidates received the majority of the votes in the 2018 CSU election. On April 9, the judicial board called for a recount of the ballots.

“We are pretty happy with the decision,” said Sophie Hough-Martin, Speak Up’s candidate for general coordinator, after her team found out about the decision on Monday morning.

“We remain of the opinion that our disqualification was baseless and lacked evidence.”

CEO Nicholas Roberts disqualified Speak Up on March 30 in the middle of the ballot count, citing the election standing regulation Article 316 which states that, while student media are allowed to publish material related to the election during the polling period, “no new correspondence between candidates or referendum committee members and student media can be published during the polling period.” Despite disqualifying the Speak Up slate, Roberts was not present at the hearing on Monday.

In an email obtained by The Concordian, Roberts claimed his decision to disqualify the team came after The Link published an editorial endorsing Speak Up on March 27, the first day of polling. According to Roberts, Speak Up’s claim that they were unaware of the editorial and had no role in its publication “could not be taken seriously.” He claimed, based his experience as a contributor to The Link’s opinions section, that the editorial must have been prepared at least a week beforehand, making it unlikely that the endorsement was kept secret.

Journalists from The Link disputed these claims both at the hearing and in an online article about the election results. They claimed Roberts’s familiarity with the newspaper is based on The Link’s previous publication cycle, which changed dramatically following their shift from a weekly publication to a monthly print magazine with daily online content. Currently, editorial topics are selected by the masthead on Friday, and the article is published on Tuesday. The Link’s editor-in-chief at the time of the hearing, Kelsey Litwin, told The Concordian she was displeased “that the independence of student media was questioned.”

The small room in the Hall building where the hearing took place was packed with members of Speak Up, their witnesses and interested students on the night of April 6. Speak Up’s Hough-Martin testified first on behalf of her team. In her testimony, she claimed her team was unaware of the endorsement prior to its publication.

Hough-Martin reminded the judicial board that the burden of proof is on Roberts to provide conclusive evidence that her team was involved in the publication of the editorial.

“The editorial did not provide any new information that was not publicly available already or information from past interviews that would have been validly conducted during campaign period,” she said. “We don’t have control over what journalists or editorial boards pursue.”

Although Roberts was not present at the hearing, the judicial board questioned him about the decision on April 5, and read his statement aloud at the hearing.

“It was clear to me that […] Speak Up was aware that a major campus newspaper would be disseminating info on the first day of elections that strongly promoted their platform,” Roberts said. “It was clear to me that this was a fact that Speak Up could not be unaware of.”

Despite his insistence, Roberts was unable to present any evidence that Speak Up collaborated with The Link on the article.

Four members of The Link’s staff were present at the hearing, and Litwin testified. She insisted the editorial was decided by 15 members of the newspaper’s masthead, and Speak Up did not participate in its publication in any way. Litwin provided evidence that The Link has produced editorials and endorsements regarding students elections since 1984, and the reason the endorsement was published on the first day of polling was simply because the paper always publishes editorials on Tuesdays.

Speak Up also brought forward two witnesses to help support their case: former CSU general coordinator Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis and former CSU councillor Eamon Toohey. Marshall-Kiparissis, who worked on the 2015 CSU policy committee that introduced Article 316, said the standing regulation was designed to reduce—not increase—ambiguity surrounding press rights and elections.

“I’m going to be honest […] I’m a bit baffled that standing regulation Article 316 is being interpreted this way, and it’s also unprecedented,” Marshall-Kiparissis said after explaining that the standing regulation was designed to clarify that student media are allowed to publish editorials and other material during the polling period, and that this media involvement does not qualify as campaigning.

On behalf of the Speak Up slate, Hough-Martin requested the disqualification be overturned, the ballots be kept in a safe location for at least six months, and that a judicial board member be assigned to oversee future correspondence between Speak Up and electoral staff.

During her testimony, Hough-Martin warned the judicial board that, “the decision to uphold the disqualification [would undermine] the democratic will of hundreds of undergraduate students at Concordia and call into question the integrity of the CSU and its democratic elections.”

This is not the first time Hough-Martin has been disqualified by Roberts. In November 2017, Roberts claimed Hough-Martin did not submit her election expenses form in time for the CSU by-election, according to emails obtained by The Concordian. CSU standing regulations indicate that a candidate must submit the documents within four business days after the polls close. The decision was overturned because the judicial board determined Roberts had incorrectly considered the weekend as business days.

In an email to Hough-Martin at the time of the 2017 by-election, Roberts wrote: “As you did not hand in the form, and I could not get ahold of you, you have been disqualified. This will be my final email.” According to Hough-Martin, it took six days for the by-election results to be updated once Roberts’s decision to disqualify Hough-Martin was overturned by the CSU judicial board.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari


Students elect 12 new members to ASFA

Newly elected members focused on issues of transparency, mental health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newly elected ASFA members:

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

External affairs and communications coordinator: Fatima Janna El Gahami

Loyola and sustainability coordinator: Kayla Miller

Student life coordinator: Enya Leger

Advocacy and executive coordinator: Marguerite Rolland

Internal affairs and administration: Elliott Boulanger

Finance coordinator: Caleb Owusu-Acheaw

Academic coordinator: Bakry Alsaieq

ASFA referendum results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Montrealers march to support Parkland teens

A month after Florida tragedy, hundreds of protesters demand gun control reform

“A year ago, I was sitting in the classrooms of Stoneman Douglas,” said Cyril Yared as he waited for the rally to begin. “I still have two sisters who are there.”

While millions have heard the horrific story of the Feb. 14 school shooting that took 17 lives in Parkland, Fla., for Yared, the tragedy is personal. Now a first-year McGill student, Yared graduated last year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD), the high school where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on teachers and classmates. While Yared’s sisters, who were both at school on the day of the shooting, were unharmed, Yared did know Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old girl who was killed by Cruz.

“I knew that one day the world would know her name—perhaps because she found the cure for cancer or some other extraordinary reason,” Yared said about Schentrup, whom he says remembers as a bright, ambitious student who took classes several grades ahead of her level. “She was left as evidence of another community shattered by the sound of gunshots.”

Yared was one of three Parkland residents who spoke at the rally in Cabot Square in downtown Montreal on March 24. Debbie Desmettre, a 1997 MSD graduate, and Ellen Malka, a mother of two MSD students, also gave stirring speeches.

“Our community, our peaceful little Parkland, was attacked,” Malka said. “These kids experienced things that nobody should ever have to.” She added that, while her children were not physically harmed in the shooting, one of them was traumatized by the sight of the victims’ bodies during the evacuation.

“Although this is an American issue, we feel it is our duty to stand in solidarity with our neighbours,” said Sophie Saidmehr, a McGill student and one of the two primary organizers of the local protest. “This is no longer a partisan issue; it is simply a question of our humanity.”

After the speeches, protesters marched along Ste-Catherine Street West and René-Lévesque Boulevard. Many protesters brandished signs with politically charged messages, including “Protect Children, Not Guns,” “Never Again” and  “We Call B.S.”—a reference to MSD student Emma Gonzalez’s now-famous speech given at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 17. Throughout the march, chants among the crowd included “Take no pay from the N.R.A.” and “Vote them out.”

The event, which gathered hundreds, was a sister march to the one held in Washington, D.C., which organizers estimate was attended by about 800,000 people, reported NBC News—300,000 more than originally predicted.

The protest, officially called March For Our Lives, was created in response to high rates of gun violence in the United States. According to Time, there have been 239 school shootings in the United States since 2014, resulting in 138 deaths. Many statisticians, activists and mass shooting survivors believe the astonishing rate of violence is connected to the country’s lax gun laws. In some states, weapons such as AR-15 style rifles can be purchased without a background check or waiting period.

For a long time, the cycle has seemed never-ending: another highly publicized, deadly mass shooting would occur, from Columbine to Las Vegas, and little political action would be taken after the news cycle ended. However, following the Parkland shooting, a number of teenage survivors voiced their outrage on social media and in the press, adopting the role of gun control advocates. In collaboration with the non-profit organization Everytown For Gun Safety, a number of MSD students, including Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg and Sarah Chadwick, organized the original demonstration in the capital.

Since the protest was announced in the days following the Parkland shooting, more than 800 sibling marches were planned across the globe. Other Canadian cities, like Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and St-John’s, also participated.

Despite the topic of gun control often being labeled an “American issue,” some Montreal protesters handed out flyers opposing the fact that AR-15s, the weapon used in the Parkland and other high-profile shootings, are also legal in Canada. There are, however, tighter restrictions on these weapons here than in the United States, such as mandatory background checks and a cap on the number of ammunition rounds that can be owned at one time, set at five.

After just a few weeks, the Parkland shooting survivors have already made significant progress in passing Florida gun control legislation by pushing Senator Marco Rubio to endorse certain gun control measures. However, Yared said there is still work to be done, and it’s important that Canadian and American citizens who are concerned about this issue register to vote and speak with their government representatives.

“This march is just one step,” Yared said. “We just have to keep going forward […] We’ll have to fight at the polls to get the change that we want.”

Photos by Mackenzie Lad


“I want some accountability from this institution”

Former Concordia student files human rights complaint against Concordia University

More than two months since the start of the investigation into sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against creative writing instructors, another Concordia professor has been accused of sexual harassment.

A former student, who wished to be identified by the pseudonym “Alya,” filed a human rights complaint with Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) after enduring what she considered to be repeated sexual harassment from a professor in the philosophy department.

Alya not only claims she was subjected to sexual harassment, but that the university did not take sufficient action despite years of discussing her experiences with faculty members, deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and the university’s Office of Rights and Responsibilities (ORR). In her complaint, Alya said she is seeking $60,000 in damages from the university, and is requesting that Concordia take sanctions against the accused professor and “address the systemic failings of its sexual violence and sexual harassment policies” within the next six months.

“I want some accountability from this institution,” Alya said. “I want this to not happen to other people. It’s not fair. It’s not okay.”

The initial abuse

Alya claims she met the professor in 2008 when he was teaching a mandatory first-year course for students in the philosophy department. When he first began to show an interest in her outside of the classroom, she hoped it would lead to a friendly student-teacher relationship.

From her perspective, what happened instead was “creepy” and blatant harassment. He began to email her repeatedly, often late at night, inviting her to concerts and out for drinks. In one of his emails, the professor wrote he could “get you drinking Scotch and [sic] Dancing!!!!”, despite Alya telling him she did not drink. In another email, he wrote: “I could always slip some vodka into your pop when you weren’t looking.”

Alya alleges that, on two occasions, the professor invited her out under the guise of meeting with master’s students, but when she arrived at the bar, it was only the professor and another female student, who Alya said she believes also experienced harassment.

Feeling powerless and violated, Alya said the harassment drove her to discontinue her studies at Concordia and leave Montreal before completing her second semester to pursue a summer job.

“Even now, if I see someone that resembles him, it freaks me out,” Alya said. “I haven’t gone into the philosophy department since then […] There was no way in hell I was going to step foot in the philosophy department again with that man still working there.”

Nine years, no action

According to Alya, the allegations outlined in her complaint should come as no surprise to university administration. Since the spring of 2009, Alya said she has discussed her experiences with university officials, including deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy and former ombudsperson Kristen Robillard. Yet, according to Alya, she was bounced around “like a ball in a pinball machine.”

Alya first reached out to the ORR in May 2009, with the hope of being able to hand in and receive credit for assignments she did not finish when she left Concordia before the end of the semester. Alya said the ORR asked her to contact the then-chair of the philosophy department, Matthias Fritsch.

For the course taught by the accused professor, Fritsch granted her an extension and arranged for the outstanding coursework to be marked by an independent grader. However, Fritsch denied her request for an extension on work for two other courses she did not complete, telling her via email that her argument that she felt too uncomfortable to be in the department was “insufficient” and her decision to leave Montreal was made “at [her] own discretion.”

In the same email, Fritsch also recommended Alya speak to her other professors about extensions, but cautioned her that it “would be best not to mention the harassment case, as it is confidential and also […] an insufficient reason.” Alya did not tell her other professors about the harassment and failed both courses.

When she returned to Concordia to take classes outside of the philosophy department in December 2014, Alya reached out to Gregory Lavers, the then-interim chair of the philosophy department, about removing her failed courses from her transcript. He referred her back to the ORR, where she was told she had waited too long to file a complaint with the university. She was then referred to Robillard. Despite filing a complaint with the then-ombudsperson, Alya never received a response, even after she called to follow up.

One of many Concordia complaints

Currently employed in the tattoo industry, Alya said that, when she began her studies at Concordia nearly 10 years ago, she had been hoping for a career in academia. Although her transcript was altered in 2017 to change her failed marks to “discontinued,” Alya said her lowered GPA had already cost her opportunities, including rejection from a McGill education program.

Despite filing the complaint on her own, Alya insists she is not the only woman who faced harassment from this professor. As a student, she suspected some of her female peers were also being targeted, and she claims she once spoke to the ORR on behalf of another student making allegations against the professor. She also said she discovered a number of female students avoided taking courses taught by this professor because of his reputation of being inappropriate.

In October 2017, encouraged by the #MeToo movement and the subsequent investigation into Concordia’s own creative writing program, Alya decided to reach out to CRARR and file a complaint.

“With the Me Too thing, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, people can actually do something about what happened.’ This exact thing happened to me, and no one did anything,” Alya said. “I thought, ‘Okay, I have to do something.’”

Although the current investigation being conducted by deputy provost Lisa Ostiguy is focused on Concordia’s English department and creative writing program, there have been multiple complaints filed against the university in recent years. According to Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR, the organization has taken on six human rights complaints against the university, four of which are still being considered by Quebec’s Human Rights Commission.

“We believe, in the end, someone at the institution has to be held accountable,” Niemi said.

“We want to pinpoint, specifically, the president and the board of directors […] Ultimately, the president, Alan Shepard, has to be held accountable.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Concordia professor strives to prevent violence before it starts

As co-chair of anti-radicalization initiative, Vivek Venkatesh is focused on prevention over punishment

Concordia professor Vivek Venkatesh balances many responsibilities, from director of the university’s Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance to creator of Project Someone, a multimedia initiative designed to promote digital literacy and prevent hate speech. Now, he has one more role to add to the list—co-chair of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s new chair on the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism.

The initiative, which recently received $400,000 in funding from the Quebec government to be distributed over the next four years, will focus on goals that include developing research programs to shape public policy and enhancing cooperation between researchers, communities and other stakeholders that play a role in preventing violent radicalization.

Venkatesh’s involvement with the chair began in October 2016, when he spoke at a UNESCO conference on the subject of youth radicalization via the internet. Following this conference, he worked with Université de Sherbrooke professor David Morin and Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) professor Ghayda Hassan to create a chair proposal that focuses on the prevention of radicalization.

“It needs to go beyond simply incarceration. It needs to go into the field of rehabilitation, of community resilience and bringing the public voice to bear,” Venkatesh said of the chair’s approach to addressing the issue.

Venkatesh noted that there is no single definition of radicalization agreed upon by governments and academics, although it is often considered a process in which people who would normally hold “moderate viewpoints” on political and social issues shift to more extreme perspectives. Venkatesh added that the UNESCO chair is not focused on all forms of radicalization, but rather on instances in which radicalization leads to violence.

For Venkatesh, the issue of radicalization has personal significance, as he has lost a family member to a terror attack. “It shaped the way I think about hate,” he said. “It shapes the way I think about how we can build spaces to have dialogues.”

The chair proposal, according to Venkatesh, was first vetted by group of professionals working with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO before being presented to and approved by the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

Although all three co-chairs bring their own unique research and expertise to the table, Venkatesh is heavily invested in exploring the ways in which art and multimedia platforms can be used to prevent and understand radical violence. The three professors are also not working alone; they have support from over 25 international partners, including universities, non-profit organizations and other UNESCO chairs.

Before becoming co-chair of this effort, Venkatesh was already working to address hate speech and radicalization in a highly digitized world through Project Someone, which includes programs that provide learning resources on digital literacy, and an “anti-hate” comic series intended to start classroom dialogues on the issue.

Ultimately, Venkatesh said he believes the success of this chair will hinge on the diverse experiences and perspectives that he and his co-chairs have brought to their work.

“One of the things that will be successful to this chair is the fact that […] we have our experience and projects,” he said. “We know what we do well, and we know how we can help each other do better.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


President claims no disconnect between university and students

Article written by Étienne Lajoie and Megan Hunt

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

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

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

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

Lack of faculty attendance at student congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Kafein owner can’t stay afloat amidst construction

Bishop Street businesses have not been compensated for loss of foot traffic

After 15 years as a small business owner and months of decreased foot traffic, Gaby Nassar is losing Kafein, a café-bar popular among students.

“Basically, the landlord is taking over my business. This is happening in a week or two,” Nassar said. “I’m so behind on rent, and he would excuse my debt to him. So that’s where we are now.”

From Nassar’s perspective, the overdue rent payments and outstanding debt are the result of one thing: a 42-month construction project that has dissuaded potential customers from walking along Bishop Street, where his business is located.

As The Concordian previously reported, Bishop Street businesses have been struggling since October 2016, when the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) began construction on a new metro ventilation station that will ensure fresh air for the green line between the Peel and Guy-Concordia stations. The infrastructure project is predicted to finish in 2020, but according to Nassar, things took a turn for the worst as soon as the project began.

“We basically lost 25 per cent [of foot traffic] within the week after the construction, right off the bat. During the school year, students would make the trek, but then in the summer months, we had a 40 per cent decrease [in sales],” Nassar explained.

After the loss in customers jeopardized his rent payments, Nassar, along with a coalition of four other affected Bishop Street businesses, including Ferrari restaurant, Craft Grilled Cheese, Gourmet Burger and Mesa 14, filed a lawsuit in April against the STM and the city of Montreal. They requested compensation of $2,500 per business for every month of construction, free advertising in nearby metro stations, as well as funding to commission an engineering firm to see if the project could be sped up.

Despite the fact that his landlord is taking over Kafein, Nassar will be continuing with the lawsuit. Although a court date has yet to be confirmed, Nassar said he believes it will be at least six months until the trial begins.

Nassar did not lose the business he has operated for years without a fight. He claimed he had been speaking with “high-level [city] officials,” but after the latest update he received from them, he knew he would be unable to support his business financially.

“[The city] is not coming up with a program to help businesses until June or July, and that’s way too far outside my comfort zone. Even then, they’re not 100 per cent sure if I would be included in that program,” Nassar said.

Nassar said he doesn’t know what Kafein’s future will be once his landlord takes over the business. Currently, he is focused on finding some justice through the upcoming lawsuit.

Nassar added that many of the other Bishop Street business owners are struggling as well, to the point where they may soon close or lose their business to landlords. In the case of Craft Grilled Cheese, the owner has already decided to close the restaurant permanently. Ste-Catherine Street businesses may be the next to experience a decrease in customers, as a two-year construction project began in January 2018, according to Global News.

Although attention from tourists and pedestrians decreased as soon as construction on Bishop Street began, Nassar said he is grateful for Kafein’s most devoted customers, including many students.

“We had gotten a lot of support in the last year. People were willing to make the trip, and there were a lot of obstacles,” he said. “It’s too bad. A lot of people tried to help with this; we just couldn’t do it.”

The Concordian reached out to the STM for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Photo by Kirubel Mehari


Students discuss proposals for policy changes

Article written by Matthew Coyte and Megan Hunt

Concordia students and department association representatives voiced their thoughts on potential sexual misconduct policy changes at a student congress hosted by the Concordia Student Union (CSU) on Feb. 28. At the end of the night, attendees voted on which demands would be included in a proposal the CSU will present to the university’s administration.

Following the congress, Leyla Sutherland, the CSU student life coordinator, said that despite the discussion not taking place in an official student union setting, the approved proposals will have a real impact and will be presented to the administration “very soon.”

“When the details are plugged into these proposals, they will be very effective ways of addressing and hopefully combating campus sexual violence,” Sutherland said. “I didn’t know what was going to come from [the congress]. I’m happy to have so many proposals to dig my teeth into.”

The congress took place in the downtown Webster Library lobby. The chairs that had been set up were quickly filled, and many attendees had to stand. Audience members candidly discussed their concerns about sexual misconduct at Concordia, as well as the administration’s response to the allegations plaguing the creative writing program.

A recurring concern was the lack of mandatory training on issues such as consent, power dynamics, sensitivity and disclosure. Although Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) offers consent workshops, students and staff are not required to attend. SARC did not have a representative at the congress.

Following a lengthy discussion, which saw the proposal go through multiple iterations, the congress attendees voted on a demand for the university to fully fund mandatory consent training for all students, staff and faculty within a reasonable time frame. The demand received unanimous approval from attendees, meaning it will be fully endorsed by the CSU and included in their proposal to the administration.

The congress attendees also voted to approve a demand for the university to accept all the policy recommendations made by Our Turn, an organization that works with student associations across Canada to prevent sexual violence. These recommendations include developing and adopting peer-to-peer sexual violence prevention and training. Another proposal included lifting the current rule that all applicants to the university’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence fulfill the vague requirement of “good academic standing.”

Concordia students gather to discuss policy changes at student congress. Photo by Mackenzie Lad

One of the many student associations present at the congress was the Concordia Association for Students in English (CASE).

“I think it was important for CASE to participate because, obviously, a lot of the attention has been surrounding cases that are specific to the English department, even though it’s happening in various places at Concordia,” said CASE president Debby Gemme. “This particular executive team is committed to helping fix these issues […] and I think this went really, really well.”

A Concordia student employed by the Montreal Sexual Assault Centre (MSAC) said they wanted to participate in the congress after receiving a spike in calls to the centre from Concordia students and others following the #MeToo movement.

“It has come to our attention that there’s a problem with the Concordia administration and how it addresses complaints,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous. “I’m hoping that numbers have power, and it’s going to put enough pressure on the administration to give us more leeway or liberty in defining these new policies that work better to address students’ rights.”

The congress was attended by numerous student politicians, including councillors, Senate and executives members. Jonathan Roy, the president of the Arts and Science Federation Associations (ASFA), also attended the meeting. He said he is happy to be able to present these proposals to ASFA members, as well as to the Senate of which he is also a member.

“These are very acceptable, realistic requests. We want to feel safe in our own school; that’s not a wild thing to ask for,” Roy said. “We need to take action and hold the administration accountable.”

Despite the congress being open to faculty, only one professor showed up to voice her opinion. Kate Bligh is a part-time faculty member in the School of Irish Studies, as well as the theatre and English departments. She shared input that helped the congress shape their proposal, including insight that the university could not legally force part-time staff to undergo this training, as it would violate their contracts. All training at the part-time level would have to be voluntary. She also suggested the congress add these proposals under the health and safety regulations already in place, which the congress did.

Bligh said that, in her 20 years of teaching, she has never been called to attend any training like the kind the CSU is hoping to implement.

“The same way that we hold discrimination and violence to this standard, we have to do the same with sexual assault and violence,” Bligh said. “We need to decide what sort of culture our school should have.”

Photos by Mackenzie Lad

Student Life

Sort of a funny story

Magic happens when women tell their stories and break down stereotypes

“I knew I wanted to create a show, but I didn’t feel I had the right to.” This is what my friend Kate Lindner told me as she explained the inception of Infemous, a monthly variety show she now produces and hosts at the Montreal Improv theatre.

Despite being active in Montreal’s comedy scene, Lindner, a Concordia creative writing student and emerging comedienne, was initially worried she didn’t have the experience needed to justify producing her own show. But, with the support and encouragement of other women in comedy, Lindner created Infemous, an hour-long show featuring improv, monologues and sketch comedy performed exclusively by women and non-binary performers.

When Lindner offered me the opportunity to perform as a guest monologist in the second Infemous show, I had plenty of questions—the first of which being: what, exactly, is a monologist?

As it turns out, a monologist is a storyteller, which on paper sounds like a pretty fitting match for me, considering I’m a creative writing student. Unlike my written work, though, the challenge and excitement of monology stems from the fact that it’s dynamic and live, with no opportunity for revision after the fact. The idea is to share, in front of a live audience, two five-minute monologues related to femininity in some way. The monologues are intended to be entertaining, funny, memorable, but most importantly, true.

It would be my first time on a stage since my high school theatre nerd days, and even then, I was used to reading lines other people had written. While my creative writing education focuses primarily on fictional worlds and characters, and my work with The Concordian requires airtight, fact-checked truth, my role in Infemous would be about being myself and telling my own stories. I was worried I would be met with blank, unresponsive stares; that I would somehow mess up at being me. I was scared that maybe I didn’t have any stories worth telling.

Obviously, being afraid to stand in front of a live audience isn’t a particularly unique anxiety, but it is a big part of why Lindner decided to create Infemous. We still live in a world where women and non-binary people are left wondering if there’s room for their stories and abilities. Infemous offers a space where our voices are both welcomed and celebrated. It’s not a place for shock-value offensiveness or competition between performers—it’s a place to break stereotypes and explore narratives that might still feel foreign on most stages. During the first two Infemous shows, performers cracked jokes about everything from used tampons to female masturbation, and the audience laughed along each time.

Despite my anxieties, the night was a blast. The entire cast met before the show to play improv games, decorate signs with glittery paint and let a fancy new app guide us through breathing and mindfulness exercises. The audience was receptive and gracious to my stories about public humiliation and baby-sitting gigs from hell, and every step of the way I felt comfortable and validated.

The other performers were wildly hilarious, but I wouldn’t have expected anything less from them. It was an amazing night, but not a night that could have existed without women creating these spaces, telling their stories and jokes, and inviting other women and non-binary folks to share theirs as well.

Ultimately, I couldn’t have asked for a better group to share my stories with, or a better cast of women to share the stage with.

If you’re interested in checking out Infemous, the next show will take place on March 24 at 8 p.m. at the Montreal Improv theatre.

Feature photo by Lauren Pinsler



Concordia president addresses concerns

Alan Shepard says university often does not assign classes to staff under investigation

Concordia president Alan Shepard discussed public concerns about the investigation of the university’s creative writing program and the creation of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence in a press briefing on Feb. 15.

In early January, courses taught by two creative writing instructors, whose names have not been publicized, were reassigned after accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct within the program circulated on social media. Although these instructors have not been teaching since the investigation began, Shepard could not confirm whether they will be assigned any classes in the upcoming summer and fall semesters, citing legal reasons. However, he did mention the university’s typical response to staff investigations.

“In general terms, if someone’s not teaching because they’re under investigation, they typically wouldn’t return to teaching while they’re still under investigation,” Shepard said. “If somebody’s under investigation, then they’re under investigation, and we don’t mix and match.”

The president also clarified that the investigation is only reviewing the actions of certain instructors and concerns about the atmosphere in the English department, and not the university as a whole. However, he said the sexual misconduct task force, to be made up of both staff and students, will be reviewing policies that affect all faculties and departments.

“The task force is a general review of the policies and procedures, a kind of environmental scan,” Shepard said. “Whether there will be any other [department investigations] will be something we’ll determine after we have done the work of the task force.”

Bomb threat: One year later

Shepard praised the university’s response to the bomb threat made on March 1, 2017, when Islamophobic letters were sent to multiple media outlets, and three of Concordia’s downtown campus buildings were evacuated.

“The Concordia community handled that episode well, particularly our security services […] which is really important in that kind of civic emergency,” Shepard said.

Coming up on the one-year anniversary, the incident has recaptured the public’s attention with the trial of Hashim Saadi, a former Concordia doctorate student who was arrested in connection with the threat. Saadi’s trial is currently on hold while he undergoes a psychiatric evaluation.

Although the university reviewed its safety guidelines following the threat, it was decided there would be no policy changes.

“Whenever we have a major incident, we always do a so-called post-mortem,” Shepard said. “We felt like our policies and our practices work well, but it’s important to learn from every instance like this.”

Concordia is now subscribed to an emergency response app called Alertus, which immediately notifies app users about emergencies at the university.

“I have it on my phone, and I recommend everyone have it on their phone,” Shepard said. “In the event that we have some terrible thing unfolding, God forbid, we can send a message.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

From stage to screen to studio

Long-time instructor Harry Standjofski is bringing his ilm and theatre experience to the classroom

“I’ve never really had a job,” quipped Harry Standjofski, a part-time instructor in Concordia’s theatre department, when asked about the beginning of his career. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Although his career may not fit the traditional nine-to-five model, Standjofski has spent years working as an actor, playwright and director in Montreal and across Canada. From quirky theatre anthologies to best-selling video games, Standjofski’s work transcends diverse mediums. While the highlights of a career spanning nearly four decades have included the publication of two original plays and a string of roles on both the stage and screen, no project has been as long-term as his work at Concordia.

“I started here as a student, actually,” Standjofski said. “A few years later, I was working here, so in that way, there wasn’t really a time before Concordia.”

After studying theatre and graduating from the university in 1982, Standjofski, who was born and raised in Outremont, spent three years traveling and working as an actor before signing his first part-time contract with Concordia. Since then, he has spent most years working with the university in some capacity, often teaching one or two studio courses per semester. Unlike theoretical courses, which focus on studying concepts, theory and the work of other theatre artists, many of the courses Standjofski teaches offer students practical knowledge of the theatre craft.

the invisible man
Caption: A scene from “L’homme invisible/The Invisible Man”, a bilingual production Standjofski directed in 2014
Credit: Amy Keith

“Actors [in the theatre program] will spend most of their classes actually acting and learning in the studio,” Standjofski said. In past years, he has also taught playwriting, theory and scene study, and has been involved in the process of auditioning actors for admission.

Although most of the acting courses are reserved for students in the program, Standjofski misses a time when students from other departments were also allowed to enroll.

“One of the greatest feelings was when a student [from another program] would take a class, and then afterwards actually decided to switch into theatre, which happened more than once,” Standjofski recalled.

In addition to his work as a teacher, Standjofski is also heavily involved with the Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association (CUPFA) as a representative for the theatre department. He acknowledges the fact that the experiences of part-time staff members are varied across departments and faculties, but he has been happy with his experiences as a part-time staff member, and the theatre department has embraced his involvement with CUPFA.

“I really couldn’t ask for anything better,” Standjofski said about his experience in the department. “They’ve done everything they can to work with us, and they’ve listened to my recommendations. […] The theatre department wants the best for us. In that sense, it has been really great.”

An award-winning theatre career

In the worlds of both theatre and film, Standjofski said there is often an expectation that artists, particularly actors, have to travel for their work, whether it’s for touring theatre productions or location film shoots. For many actors, being rooted in one city might make finding work a challenge, but Standjofski has thrived in Montreal’s vibrant theatre community.

“I’ve spent time travelling a lot in Canada. I did shows in Vancouver, in Calgary […] I found myself all over the place,” Standjofski said about his early years as an actor. “I don’t see Concordia or being in Montreal as something that has limited me in terms of opportunities.”

Despite the fact he has worked at Concordia since 1986, Standjofski has balanced his position with consistent theatre work. Acting may be the craft he focuses on as an instructor, but he has also made waves as a playwright. In 1986, he began his professional playwriting career as a playwright-in-residence at the Centaur Theatre, one of Montreal’s most prominent English theatres. In 1992, he published Urban Myths, an anthology book that featured Anton and No Cycle, two of his original plays. However, he said he has seen many more of his plays produced in cities across the country, from Edmonton to Montreal.

Some of these written works have earned him notable awards. In 2004, his one-act play jennydog earned two Montreal English Critics Circle Awards (MECCA), and in 2005, his play Here & There was nominated for a Masques Award, a provincial award for theatre excellence in Quebec.

Along with playwriting, Standjofski has established himself as a notable Montreal actor. One of his standout passion projects is Urban Tales, an anthology series that runs annually at the Centaur. Consisting of multiple short pieces linked by distinct themes, Urban Tales is an opportunity for emerging and established Montreal artists to work together. Over the past 11 years, Standjofski has directed and written for the series, and performed as both an actor and musician. One of his most recent roles was the part of Russ in Bruce Norris’s Pulitzer-winning play Clybourne Park. Produced by the Centaur, the show ran in April 2017.

Standjofski said teaching part-time offers an element of flexibility that allows him to pursue other projects during the academic year.

“I’m able to teach my classes, mark my students and that’s it,” Standjofski said.

From the stage to the screen

While theatre may be his first love, many of the projects Standjofski has taken on have been on-screen roles.

Some of his film credits include roles in Canadian films like Café Olé, as well as critically acclaimed international films like the 2010 adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s novel Barney’s Version and Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film, The Aviator.

Standjofski (back row, second from right) with the cast of Clybourne Park in April 2017
Credit: Centaur Theatre (photographer not named)

Standjofski has also tapped into a lesser-known entertainment market: voice acting.

“At this point, if you watch [animated series] or like video games, you’ve probably heard my voice,” he said. Standjofski has lent his voice to everything from Canadian-made animated series like Young Robin Hood to mainstream animated movies like Arthur’s Perfect Christmas. Perhaps most surprisingly, Standjofski’s vocal work can be heard in a variety of video games, including every one of the popular Assassin’s Creed video game installments. “It’s a lot of f

un to do, and it has been consistent work,” he said.

Standjofski has also benefited from being a bilingual performer. He has appeared in a number of French-language television series, such as L’imposteur and A nous deux.

In Standjofski’s experience, there is much more fanfare when working in French television, compared to its much larger, more saturated English-language counterpart. While there may be more anglophone roles in Canadian television, francophone fans are much more likely to recognize him in public.
“It’s a lot different,” Standjofski said. “People you meet recognize you, they’ll know you from the things you’ve done. There’s a connection there.”

Training the next generation

While film and voice acting are fulfilling careers in their own right, Standjofski’s teaching position keeps him close to the work that made him fall in love with theatre in the first place.

Harry Standjofski with actress Sylvie Moreau on the set of the French film Un Capitalisme Sentimentale

“You can appear in dozens of things, and never do anything you really love,” Standjofski said about working in the film industry. “In class, we read [Anton] Chekhov, we’re looking at work on that level, and I like being able to get back to that work […] I can’t speak for every student, but most of the time, they’re here because that’s the work they want to be doing.”

Despite the versatility and longevity he has found in his own career, Standjofski admitted there are barriers for emerging and established artists within the theatre world, namely when it comes to finances. Specifically, some of the most illustrious job opportunities may be very removed from the works Standjofski is so happy to teach.

“You might have to do something that’s not really […] what you’re passionate about,” Standjofski said about the challenges of finding acting work that’s both profitable and fulfilling. “But taking a commercial and doing something like that can be what funds everything else.”

Ultimately, his favourite moments as a teacher don’t come down to a single production or class. In fact, his proudest memories don’t take place in the studio at all—they come later, when he sees his students succeeding post-graduation.
“In a lot of things, like Urban Tales, I’ve worked with students, year after year. I’ve cast a lot of graduates,” he said. “There’s something really nice when I can work with someone, and not as their teacher, but now just as a collaborator.”

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