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An agreement in the works

In their first meeting since they voted in favour of an unlimited strike mandate, the Concordia University Faculty Association has come to a tentative agreement with the university following 16 months of collective bargaining.

On March 18, CUFA met with university administration for a full day and night of conciliation where it was agreed by a majority vote of approximately 80 per cent that the tentative agreement had to be submitted to the membership for ratification.

In accordance with article 12.5 of the CUFA constitution, CUFA met again on March 28 to vote on a motion presented by the executive to recommend the negotiated collective agreement for confirmation.

“We hope that the membership will follow the recommendation of both the CUFA executive and the CUFA council and vote in favour of the collective agreement,” said CUFA President Lucie Lequin.

CUFA released a statement listing gains made in conciliation which were addressed early in the month as issues. These gains include increased stipends for department chairs and extra teaching, compensation for extended-term faculty professors for excessive number of course preparations and an increased professional development allowance.

The union did hope for a better agreement but said that it “is in our view, the best deal possible at this point in time.” In the same statement, it is noted that the cuts to post-secondary education made by the provincial government are “draconian.”

Following the special meeting, two more meetings for the entire membership will be held on April 4. The meetings will be taking place on each campus, to elaborate on the different elements of the deal and to answer any questions or concerns.

This will be followed on the same day by a secret ballot which is to be conducted electronically over the course of five working days. This will constitute the third and last step, according to Lequin.

“We understand that the agreement in principle is going through the CUFA ratification process over the coming days,” said university spokesperson Chris Mota. “And we look forward to receiving the results.”

This tentative agreements comes after 74 per cent of CUFA’s union membership voted on an unlimited strike mandate. This vote allows the union to go on strike with 48-hours notice.

Concordia President Alan Shepard told The Concordian that he hopes future labour relations will improve with additional staff to “provide proper engagement” since management was significantly understaffed during this round of negotiations.

“I would love us to embark on a bit of a new era at Concordia where we find common ground with our unions and other associations and look for projects that we can do together so that we can continue to have a positive climate,” Shepard said. “We need to figure out collectively, ‘how can we do collective bargaining in a faster way that doesn’t drag it out for years?’ because I don’t think that serves anyone’s interests.”

With files from Marilla Steuter-Martin

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Opinions

When media coverage goes wrong

Image via Flickr

CNN gained worldwide attention last week but for all the wrong reasons.

When Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were convicted last Sunday of raping and circulating an image of a severely intoxicated 16-year-old West Virginia girl, CNN took a very odd angle in reporting the story.

Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a juvenile correctional facility while Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year.

After the ruling, CNN’s coverage of the story focused on the repercussions going to jail will have on the two high school students rather than the struggle the rape victim will face for the rest of her life.

This tribute was a segment of two CNN reporters, Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowley talking about the two student’s “potential loss” at life after being sentenced and forever identified as sexual offenders.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” Harlow reported live on air to Crowley after witnessing the conviction. “It’s incredibly emotional, even for an outsider like me. These two young men, with promising futures, star football players, A-students, literally watched as their lives fell apart.”

To even state that watching two young men get put to justice and get punished for the sick crime they committed was “emotional” is an absolute outrage, not only to the victim, but to the family of the victim, other rape victims, and the entire world.

Harlow had no right to try to make her viewers pity these two boys. No one cares if they had promising futures now ― people should be more concerned that the victim clearly had just as much of a promising future and will now live a very different life because of this traumatic event.

Watching the CNN footage, it is clear within the first couple minutes that the two reporters are empathizing with the sex offenders and barely mentioning the victim.

To me, this is absolutely absurd and wrong on so many levels. How about the struggles the girl will face now and for the rest of her life? Not only was she raped, she was humiliated by having images of herself posted on the Internet. If that isn’t enough, she has also been the target of several death threats because she was brave enough to report her rape.

It is in the best interest of the network and the journalists to cover this story without a slanted angle, and remain as neutral as possible. This media coverage even caused an online petition, that to date has already 205,000 signatures, demanding an apology from CNN for their coverage which “is nothing short of disgusting.”

Paul Callan, legal contributor at CNN, stated that “the court room is filled with tears, a tragedy.” I can call this so many things, but tragedy is not one of them. How is holding people accountable for their actions and serving them justice a tragedy?

Those boys had a choice and they chose to rape an innocent girl, film it, then share it on the Internet. She had no choice.

We shouldn’t feel guilty or empathize with these two sexual offenders but be happy that they are put to justice and are punished, a punishment they clearly deserve.

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Opinions

Pros and Cons: Side effects of smoking

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Not hiring smokers will push them to kick the habit

by Robin Della Corte

A new trend seems to be popping up across North America where employers, including several Canadian jobs posted on indeed.com, are refusing to hire smokers.

“Everyone knows smoking kills you and we prefer to work with very intelligent people who aren’t choosing to kill themselves with every puff,” Rob Hall, Momentous Corp’s president told CTV news in an interview last week.

Hall stated that by refusing to hire smokers, it has slashed half the cost of employee health benefits compared to five or six years ago.

According to Stewart Harris, a law professor at Appalachian State University, “smokers cost more money. Smokers miss more workdays, smokers have more health problems.”

A recent study conducted by the University of Nottingham showed that smokers are 33 per cent more likely to miss work, taking an average of 2.74 more sick days than non-smokers.

It has been estimated by the Conference Board of Canada that, on average, an employee who smokes costs employers $3,396 a year, as reported by Health Canada in 2008.

These costs are associated with increased absenteeism, lower productivity, unscheduled smoke breaks, maintenance of smoking areas, property damage and health and fire insurance costs.

The study also shows that smoke-free environments increased productivity, increased morale, lowered cleaning costs and lessened exposure to secondhand smoke for all non-smoking employees.

With these factors, many employers have introduced policies that restrict smoking in the workplace, limited certain types of jobs to non-smoking employees and offered programs designed to encourage and assist employees quit smoking.

From experience, I see that smokers generally take more breaks. From the five jobs I’ve worked, two of them were in restaurants—and if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’d know that in most cases you can’t have a lunch break. However, smokers are allowed to step outside sometimes five or more times in a day, depending on the boss’s restrictions.

I would work like everyone else, a seven or eight hour shift, not having one single break and it would frustrate me more than anything being almost the only one working for those straight hours while almost all the workers would have the luxury of stepping out and taking their time with their cigarette.

Companies have the right to hire who they want as long as it doesn’t discriminate under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Although it does come down to a personal choice of lifestyle, smoking is not who you are; it’s a choice you made that does have negative consequences.

Instead of defending smoking, maybe smokers should take this as even further motivation to quit.

We’re already unproductive, smoking doesn’t change that

by Victor Barbaros

Do you smoke? You better think twice. Actually, more than twice or you might have trouble finding a job.

According to a recently published article on CTV, a growing number of private companies in Canada, as well as in the U.S. and abroad have begun to include the “non-smokers only” requirement when looking for new employees.

When I saw this article for the first time, I thought it was a joke; it’s ridiculously unfair to include the non-smoking status as a prerequisite for a job. I figured this was a discriminatory condition. Still, I decided to compare my thoughts with some official sources, mainly the Canada Labour Code.

A passage from the government of Canada’s website states that, “The Code does not provide for breaks over the work day. Most employers provide two paid ‘coffee’ breaks during the day. But to protect workers with unscrupulous employers, this practice needs to be enacted.”

Labour Standards in Quebec also allow for a coffee break, which is, “not obligatory, but when it is granted by the employer it must be paid and be included in the calculation of the hours worked”.

By law, during a working day we are allowed a minimum of 30 minutes for a lunch break, which is not paid. We also have a “coffee break”, which is defined by the employer when it comes to duration, but is paid.

Let’s be frank; during a full day shift, we don’t work each and every second. We take the time to talk to our colleagues, our bosses, get our coffee and so on.

So, you see, it’s not just the act of smoking that determines the quality and productivity of one’s employees. Smoking is not the only time-spending habit that is worth consideration.

This isn’t to say that smoking doesn’t decrease productivity. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, most smokers are addicts. This means that an employee-smoker wouldn’t smoke his “morning-cigarette” and “lunchtime” cigarette (like you do with your coffee). In most of the times the smoker would need a puff each one to two hours. What’s funnier, the smokers usually don’t like to smoke alone; they need a companion, a partner that shares the same habit, so don’t be surprised when you see that they are going in couples. The time spent by an employee enjoying his or her cigarette may vary from insignificant to substantial.

I don’t try to cover this counterargument, however, I don’t believe productivity is the issue that most people have against hiring smokers. I think that the antismoking attitudes in our society and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle are reinventing themselves.

Since the 1950s we’ve heard about legal trials lost by big tobacco producers based on the insufficient advertising of the negative effects on the population’s health.

We speak about the risks of smoking everywhere, however, according to the 2010 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, 17 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older are smoking.

Smoking may not be good for you, but ultimately it’s not fair to favour job applicants who make different lifestyle choices. We are entitled to certain breaks and how employees spend them shouldn’t be controlled.

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A change in tactics from the SPVM

Photo by Keith Race

The Montreal Police are enacting mass arrests through a municipal bylaw in an effort to stifle protests in the downtown core over the last few weeks.

The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal has come under fire from some demonstrators who feel the police are stifling their right to protest.

“The exercise of democracy has to be done without disruption to ensure that no unfortunate event take place. Those who cause disruptions have to be excluded from demonstrations, so that individuals who want to be heard can do so peacefully,” municipal bylaw P-6 states.

A few hundred people set out from Place Émilie-Gamelin last Friday night for a demonstration meant to remember the one-year anniversary of the massive March 22 student protest that took place last spring. The protest ended with 294 arrests including journalists from The Concordian and The Link.

Police officers kettled demonstrators at the intersection of de Maisonneuve Blvd. and St-Timothée St. before announcing the protest was over. Kettling is a riot tactic employed during protests to control crowds; police section off demonstrators from all sides before containing individuals to a limited area with only one exit in order to swiftly end the protest.

“I’m still trying to understand why journalists would be fined,” Hera Chan, the photo editor at The McGill Daily said. “We’re all members of community, however I don’t think it’s a correct method, I don’t believe police should use this method — at the end of the day who is going to write the story?”

Chan explains that even though she identified herself as a member of the press, she was still arrested and fined last Tuesday night during a student protest.

“I do see a change in enforcing the law, in much stricter fashion, trying to do mass arrests of entire protests,” Chan said. “As you can see by numbers, people who come out to the streets has gone down drastically but numbers arrested have not.”

Many people who were arrested received a fine of $637 under the violation of municipal bylaw P-6 according to the media relations of the SPVM. According to bylaw P-6, protesters must “provide by writing, eight hours in advance, the date, time, the duration, location, and if applicable, the route of the demonstration.” However none of the protests did so and so were declared illegal.

The law also states that individuals are prohibited to participate in a demonstration assembly, parade or group with your face covered, such as by a scarf, hood or a mask. The municipal bylaw was simultaneously passed at the same time as Bill 78 last year in order to limit demonstrations.

However, while the municipal bylaw was not quick to be applied last year, there has been a noticeable change in the last few weeks.

“I thought the protest was really disgraceful and disgusting how they arrested more than 250 people after five minutes of the protest,” said Université du Québec à Montréal student Camila Martinez-Lisle. “No disrupting activity had been made apart from walking in the street and chanting slogans.”

Martinez-Lisle believes that the SPVM has “been more and more aggressive and violent against protesters.”

Similarly, Montreal’s annual anti-police brutality march this year led to many arrests. More than 250 people were detained and ticketed the night of March 15.

Christopher Curtis, a former Concordia student and current reporter for The Gazette, was also kettled and detained during demonstrations for hours.

“For better or worse, the police will be deciding who is a legitimate media source and who eats a $600 ticket,” Curtis said. “And I think that means student media and some lesser known media outlets can’t be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Curtis explained that while in the kettle he asked protesters why they came and many said that some of their friends didn’t come because they weren’t willing to pay another $600 fine.

Several thousand protesters also took to the streets on March 5 for the education summit where Premier Pauline Marois announced the indexation of tuition fees by approximately three per cent per year indefinitely. The protest resulted in 72 people being detained, 62 protesters being ticketed for unlawful assembly and 10 arrested during clashes police officers.

The SPVM was unavailable to comment by press time.

With files from Kalina Laframboise

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Creating a double standard

The hearings on Bill 14, the Parti Québécois’ proposed language reform bill, at the National Assembly last week continue to cause controversy in the anglophone community.

The bill is a new piece of legislation designed to reinforce French as the language of work, education and government. Bill 14 will make French “the normal and everyday language in which they address others and are addressed” and “[make] sure that it is possible for all who so desire to live in French in Quebec and that French is the language used in the public sphere.”

It will also repeal the provisions on the bilingual status of municipalities, increase red tape for smaller companies which will be required to offer more French services to their employees, and affect the rights of military families.

The bill that serves to tighten French in this province will restrict access to English schools.

One of the exceptions to this law is in Section 72 of the Charter of the French Language, which claims removing “an exemption for the child of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or his spouse’s child.”

However, if Bill 14 passes it would amend this law, forcing children of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to have to attend a French institution.

Steven Lafleur, a physiotherapy student at McGill University who was able to attend an English high school since his dad was in the military, does not agree with the changes at all.

“I think that this bill is total nonsense,” Lafleur said. “My parents are in the military and I for one have gone to English schools for the sole reason that they are in the army.”

Lafleur explained that the main reason why children of parents who served in the military would be an exception to the law is because they don’t control where they are posted.

According to section 88.0.4 in Bill 14, nothing under the subdivision of education “shall be interpreted as requiring or authorizing a decrease in the quality of English instruction dispensed by schools to students declared eligible for instruction in English.”

Lafleur was born in Cold Lake, Alta., where his parents were posted when he was born before moving to Saguenay.
He explained how difficult the transition can be for a child adapting to a new home.

“I can imagine how a child would feel if he/she would move to a totally new place, have no friends and on top of that, have to learn a new language,” Lafleur said. “By granting military children the right to attend English schools, this made it easy for those being posted in and out of Quebec.”

Lafleur stated that should the bill pass, there will be consequences.

“If the bill passes, I know of at least two schools that would probably have to close, being mostly composed of military kids,” Lafleur said. He doesn’t understand why the government would remove this privilege to children whose parents served in the Armed Forces because it really benefits them.

“Bill 14 doesn’t do anyone any favours,” said Donna Varrica, Dawson College’s communications co-ordinator. “We’re going to be worried if the bill passes because we’d lose a portion of our enrollment.”

Bill 14 wants to create a second exit test in anglophone colleges, Varrica stated. Usually, when leaving a college, you complete an exit test in the language of your school. If Bill 14 passes, it will implement a second exit exam in French within the anglophone colleges required by graduation but will not implement an English exit test in francophone colleges.

“They would create a double standard by doing this,” Varrica said. “The end results would create a graduate who has shown proficiency in both languages rather than one. In a sense, it would penalize francophones.”

The passage of the bill will be decided by the Coalition Avenir Québec, the party that holds the balance of power in the National Assembly right now.

“I seriously have no idea why the PQ would want to remove this right,” Lafleur said. “Knowing English nowadays is a huge benefit for sure, and I’m not any less Quebecois because I attended English schools.”

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A nuit blanche for the right reasons

Photo by Natasha Taggart

For the sixth consecutive year, Concordia University students are camping out on the corner of de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Mackay St. for the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign.

The campaign, which began on March 10 and will continue until March 15, is an event where students and volunteers sleep on the streets with no food or shelter to raise awareness for the homeless. All proceeds go to Dans la Rue, a Montreal-based organization serving youth living on the streets and youth at risk.

Other universities that take part in the campaign in Montreal are Université du Québec à Montréal, HEC Montreal, McGill University and Université de Montréal.

Over 25 universities are participating this year and the entire campaign has raised over $985,000 for various Canadian organizations dedicated to helping those in need.

Concordia’s first campaign started in 2008 when organizer and former John Molson School of Business graduate Josh Redler started 5 Days for the Homeless after hearing about it at the University of Alberta in 2005. In their first year, they camped outside Concordia with a few other people and, since then, the campaign has grown every year since.

“If you can’t help your community then how do you expect to help others around the world?” Redler said. “A lot of people try to have a blind eye when they’re walking past homeless people, thinking they’re worthless or not trying but we’re trying to change that perspective.”

The campaign’s goal this year is $30,000 and by the end of Monday, they raised $1,480. According to Redler, Concordia’s campaign has raised more than $30,000 in most previous years, except for last year.

“The student strike got in our way last year,” Redler explained. “We rely on the downtown campus to have people to come out to donate, but most people didn’t want to come out during strikes.”

Eric Wooboble, a student at Dawson College, will be doing the campaign for his third time and hopes to stay all five nights.

“I think this event reminds the students through experiential learning that there are people who need help in our communities too and not to forget about them,” Wooboble said.

While volunteers are not required to stay the five consecutive days, Redler explains that even one night outside can change the perspective of the homeless community.

“The first night is always the hardest,” Redler said. “You hear noises, you’re out of your element and even though we have security sponsored by Concordia, we know anything can still happen and that stays in our head the whole night.”

In 2011, the campaign had 45 people who volunteered to sleep outside. This year, Redler predicts 15 full-time sleepovers with 10 additional different people per night.

Rose Wangechi, alumni officer in charge of student programs at the advancement and alumni relations office, said she will also be donating. “This is one of the most outstanding events held on campus by our generous students,” she said. “I’ve seen the project grow into this worldwide event, from the first day [Redler] and his friend first told me about it. Simply remarkable.”

In 2009, Member of Parliament Justin Trudeau came out to support the cause and former Montreal Canadiens hockey player Georges Laraque will also be joining for one night this year. Laraque also volunteered during 2011 and 2012.

“This campaign can open people’s eyes,” Redler said. “And it can make homeless people seem less of a scary thing and that they’re just people too and that they need some help.”

Following the campaign, people are still welcomed to donate their money online at 5days.ca under the Concordia University section.

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A lesson in bargaining

Photo by Madelayne Hajek

The Concordia University Faculty Association voted 74 per cent in favour of an unlimited strike mandate, should collective bargaining negotiations fail.

After 15 months of contract negotiations, CUFA voted in favour of a strike mandate, citing that negotiations shouldn’t have lasted longer than approximately six months. It is the first time the full-time members of CUFA have ever voted to hold an unlimited strike mandate which grants CUFA the ability to strike if they provide 48-hour notice.

“We stand strong or tall together,” Lucie Lequin, president of CUFA said. “It is not only members involved in union that matters but collectively members who seek respect for all in regard to working conditions and remuneration.”

CUFA negotiations began on Dec.15, 2011, and the teams have met on more than 35 occasions.

“We are in conciliation,” university spokesperson Chris Mota said. “We remain committed to a fair settlement. We’re working hard for that and we know that CUFA is doing so as well.”

Mota explained that there are still three meetings scheduled this month with CUFA on the 18, 21 and 27 of March.

Lequin hopes to a have a fair and reasonable settlement.

“We are not frustrated only by monetary matters,” said Lequin. “But also by such elements as quality of teaching and workload.”

CUFA met on March 1 for their last conciliation meeting. According to Lequin, the meeting indicated that the negotiations will be ongoing with further discussions but that the chief negotiator for Concordia reached the end of his mandate.

In early November, the Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association voted 95 per cent in favour of an unlimited strike mandate.

“I’m dismayed that the only thing that moves at Concordia is brinkmanship,” Maria Peluso, president of CUPFA said. “I’m not surprised that the full-time faculty has succeeded a strike mandate, something they clearly needed.”

Peluso stated that there are a lot of misunderstandings at Concordia and that there seems to be a costly pattern with negations. CUPFA negotiations lasted seven years, according to Peluso.

“You never stop negotiations with Concordia,” said Peluso. “Even after you sign an agreement, they don’t implement what you sign and this is a problem.”

Eddy Ginocchi, president of the steelworkers union, claims he had problems with the negotiation process at Concordia as well. According to Ginocchi, money is a central issue since workers are underpaid and people who are doing the same jobs elsewhere are getting paid differently.

The contract for the downtown campus employees ended May 31, 2008, while the Loyola contract ended a year later. Previously, the downtown group went through four years of negotiations with the administrative team while Loyola went through a three year process. The next meeting is with the Loyola group on April 25, while the Sir George Williams workers have yet to set a date. Ginocchi said that the administration isn’t very forthcoming with collective bargaining and remains unwilling to discuss it.

“We are wasting time and money with negotiations, they’re always dragging on, and the amount of money being spent is unbelievable,” Ginocchi said.

Concordia Student Union Councillor Gonzo Nieto believes that CUFA’s grievances have not being taken seriously by the university, which is why it has come to a strike mandate.

“Hopefully the university and CUFA come to an agreement on full-time salaries,” Nieto said.

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Supreme Court cracks down on hate

Image via Flickr

In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada defined the word hate as “unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification,” and, years later, it is seen as just that when it comes to upholding the law.

Two weeks ago the court made an important ruling on a hate speech case. The case in question concerned anti-gay activist William Whatcott who had picketed in public with controversial signs and distributed pamphlets.

The court decided that even though ruling against Whatcott was violating his rights of freedom of expression and religion, the court believed it to be fair and reasonable because they decided his actions amounted to hate speech.

Whatcott is expected to pay $7,500 in damages but stated that he refuses to do so. He believes that this ruling means the court is imposing their moral values on the rest of the country and censoring his free speech rights. Refusing to respect a tribunal order, however, can lead to contempt of court and jail time.

David Arnot, chief commissioner for the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, told the Leader Post that the decision vindicates the organization’s position that Whatcott’s words and behavior “crossed the line between critical speech and hateful speech — the type of extreme speech that has the potential to incite violence against others, challenge their safety and human dignity and in fact actively promote discrimination.”

After this, Whatcott hit the streets again last week and took a controversial stand with anti-gay and anti-abortion signs outside of the University of Regina, where he offended many students.

I am a firm believer in freedom of speech and religion, however, when one is imposing a certain view or opinion on another person or group, that’s when I have a problem.

This is not to say you can’t have an opinion, but how you choose to express it is a different story. One must realize that opinions differ amongst people, and that one is not better than the other.

Despite his lawyer’s warnings that further acts of this nature could land him a contempt of court charge, Whatcott again said that it won’t stop him.

“I have to follow Christ first. What I have said is true. There’s not a sentence that I retract, so likely future flyers will be more of the same,” he told the National Post.

Justice Marshall Rothstein wrote on behalf of the court that Whatcott’s actions “delegitimizes homosexuals by referring to them as filthy or dirty sex addicts and by comparing them to pedophiles, a traditionally reviled group in society.”

Although Whatcott saw it as a violation of his own right to freedom of speech and religion, the court responded that “ultimately, it is the need to protect the societal standing of vulnerable groups that is the objective of legislation restricting hate speech,” the National Post reported.

In my opinion, who a person marries doesn’t affect anyone else but them. If a woman chooses to get an abortion, rape victim or not, how does it affect anyone else but her? It doesn’t.

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CUFA holding a vote to strike

After more than 15 months of contract negotiations, Concordia University Faculty Association has been voting throughout the week on an unlimited strike mandate.

Due to their constitution the vote began on Feb. 28 and will continue online for five days, with results likely to be available by March 7 or the morning of March 8, according to Lucie Lequin, president of CUFA.

“The administration team, most of the time, came to the table not prepared and used some of the time set aside for negotiations to prepare while the CUFA team had to wait and waste time and money,” Lequin said.

If the motion is approved members of CUFA will begin actions that could include a full strike, but for a strike vote to pass it requires 60 per cent in favour.

“We are still in negotiations,” university spokesperson Chris Mota said. “We don’t want to reveal any information but there are meetings set up to meet with representatives from both CUPFA and CUFA.”

Lequin stated that negotiations should not last more than six months approximately.

“That is never the case at Concordia,” Lequin said. “This Concordia style of negotiations is very costly financially and does not create a climate of respect.”

CUFA negotiations began on Dec. 15, 2011, and the teams have met on more than 35 occasions. In December 2012, the university requested the assistance of a conciliator

from the Ministry of Labour. The parties met in January and February and further meetings are scheduled for March 1, 18, 21 and 27.

“It is really a pity that negotiations have dragged for so long without reaching an agreement acceptable to both parties,” said full-time mathematics and statistics professor at Concordia University, Jose Garrido. “ The university needs negotiations carried out in good faith, between parties acting in a responsible collegial way. We seem to be very far from that right now.”

In November, the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association voted 95 per cent in favour of an unlimited strike mandate should collective bargaining negotiations fail, but have not yet taken any strike action.

The most recent contract of CUPFA expired Aug. 31 and part-time faculty members were not satisfied with the proposal offered by the university. They took action by holding a special General Assembly pressuring the administration to further amendments to the collective agreement. Similarly, CUFA called a special meeting in early December where councillors unanimously voted for the executive to hold a strike vote.

Lequin said that normally the relationships of the CUFA office with those in the administration that deal with CUFA affairs are usually respectful and collaborative.

“Why is it so different when both sides reach the negotiations table is a mystery; we think it is a question of style that we called old-fashioned negotiations,” said Lequin.

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Language police scrutinized over “pastagate”

Image via Flickr

The Office québécois de la langue française told a Montreal restaurant owner last week that the word “pasta” had to be translated on its menu, but have sinced reversed the decision.

After backlash from the public over the controversy, the OQLF issued a statement saying that the inspector who went to Buonanotte, the restaurant in question, had displayed “an excess of zeal” and that “pasta” is an acceptable word after all.

On Feb. 20, the OQLF visited Italian restaurant Buonanotte on St. Laurent Blvd., and declared that having the word “pasta” on the menu without the correct French translation was a violation of Quebec’s Language Charter. Most of the items on their menu have names in Italian, like “pasta,” but the descriptions are in French.

“They could’ve picked any word, of all the words, they pick ‘pasta’, which touched a sensitive core,” said Massimo Lecas, the owner of Buonanotte. “And the fact they didn’t circle pizza, it heightens it to another level where it was absurd because why would you circle one but not the other.”

The letter Lecas received from the OQLF also took issue with the words “bottiglia” and “calamari” on the menu without providing French equivalents. The story quickly gained international attention, triggering an unprecedented amount of backlash against the OQLF.

However, after an evaluation of the situation in recent days, the OQLF declared that the use of “exotic” names for foods, like “pasta” or “polpette” can be used by food establishments without fear.

“I still haven’t been reached by the OQLF,” Lecas told The Concordian Monday. “I only know of my so-called “victory” from media coverage. Have they called me or told me personally or apologized? No,” Lecas said.

However, a file opened by the OQLF states that Lecas has until March 18 to contact the organization to find a solution.

“Up to date, my file is still open, nothing has been closed,” he added. “Maybe it’s a strategy, I don’t know.”

Media relations officer of the OQLF, Martin Bergeron, said that the OQLF will be releasing a press release shortly but for now, he is unable to release any information concerning the situation before then.

Others speak out

Montreal restaurant Joe Beef also had a visit from the language police who reportedly had problems with the restaurant’s wall art which contains English words. One piece is a sign from a Prince Edward Island beach saying “exit” and an antique sign above the staff bathroom saying “please leave this gate closed.” Restaurant owner David McMillan decided to keep his art up, except for the bathroom sign which he decided to take home.

McMillan was contacted four or five months ago but only decided to come forward after hearing what happened at Buonanotte.

Brit & Chips on Côte-des-Neiges Road also had a visit from the OQLF, demanding that the sign in their front window reading “fish and chips” be translated to “poisson frit et frites.” However, restaurant owner Toby Lyle challenged the OQLF, adamantly refusing to change the sign.

“Word travels fast,” Lecas said. “None of these stories made Quebec look good, and always wonder why Montreal doesn’t have the same shops like in New York or anyone else, and it’s because of things like this.”

In an effort to protect the French language, the provincial government provided the OQLF with a six per cent budget increase this year, to $24.7 million.

Categories
Opinions

Cursive writing: a romantic art or a useless hassle?

Cursive writing has been under scrutiny lately. Is it a useless skill to have in a technology-driven world or is it a form of writing that should be preserved for the sake of keeping some type of handwriting in the curriculum? The Concordian looks at the pros and cons of cursive writing, and whether or not it should be preserved in the future.

Pro: The value in reviving a dying art

Catlin Spencer
Staff writer

In grade school, there were workbooks and piles of stencil sheets that were supposed to be filled out in an attempt to learn cursive writing. The problem was, our school gave very little priority to learning cursive; our teacher wasn’t given enough time to thoroughly grade our work, there were never any follow-ups and it was never used in any of the higher grades. Because of that, the majority of the students were able to forget cursive writing with little to no reprimand. Our school focused primarily on the new upcoming technology, and writing classes were replaced with keyboard lessons. I never learned proper cursive writing, and I’ve regretted it ever since not just because I can’t write well in cursive, but because my handwriting in general has suffered. It’s a slippery slope from eliminating cursive to losing handwriting to an over-reliance on technology – a fate that may be in store for future students if more schools decide to end handwriting classes like the principal of innovative teaching for Parkland School Division in Edmonton.

There are the times when things have to be handwritten, and not just scrawled, legibly enough to be read by anyone. For example, technology is not infallible; computers crash and deadlines are unforgiving. It may happen that work has to be written by hand. Also, final exams at Concordia, with the exception of take-home exams, must be handwritten and there are teachers that prohibit the use of laptops and tablets while requiring that students take notes. While no one else has to read a student’s notes, it would be embarrassing not being able to read your own writing, and even more so to lose marks on an exam because no one could read your answer.

Call it old-fashioned, but handwritten letters have always had a personal touch that you just can’t get with pixels and ink-jet printers. Whether it’s a thank you note or a love letter, no matter the font, it won’t have the same impact of a paper where each letter of every word was a done by the careful stroke of a pen or pencil. People appreciate the thought, and the time taken.

There is, however, hope for the art of script.

In an opposite measure than schools in Edmonton, a House panel in Idaho unanimously approved a bill in that would require public schools to teach cursive handwriting. The decision pointed to research that showed that handwriting courses help with visual recognition, refining motor skills and increases interest and capabilities in creative arts. There was also much concern over the possible loss of being able to read cursive, leading to a time when people will not be able to read old diaries, journals and important documents written in cursive. Generations of information could be lost, and we would become disconnected from a part of our past.

For these reasons, it would be a shame and a bad idea to eliminate handwriting from the curriculum in schools. It would mean the loss of an artform and a major blow to the quality of handwriting in general.

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Con: Out with the old and in with the technology

Robin Della Corte
Assistant news editor

When I was 10-years-old, hours and hours were devoted to mastering my lowercase k’s, z’s and uppercase G’s. Now, in a day of technology, these hours seem to have been wasted stressing over my cursive writing.

Today, more and more teachers have taken out cursive writing practice from their curriculum and replaced it with teaching students keyboarding and other computer-based communication.

Having only used my cursive writing skills in elementary school, I couldn’t be happier that teachers are finally realizing just how useless cursive writing has become.

George Couros, the principal of innovative teaching for Parkland School Division in Edmonton, told CTV News that both technology and literacy are developing but that “we need to really focus on what we do in school to help kids connect with the world.”

Going into highschool, I thought all my assignments would be handed in using cursive writing only, as my elementary teachers had prepared me. To my surprise, this wasn’t the case.

While I do recall having to give in a few handwritten assignments in my first year of high school, I’ve used my computer through high school, college and now, university.

In his letter to The Gazette, Robert Marcogliese argued that reading newspapers, instruction manuals, information documents, novels, university textbooks, Facebook, maps or even greeting cards, he “finds it impossible to remember any recent occasion when [he] had to read cursive text, or to practice [his] cursive writing skills.” The only time he remembers cursive is when signing cheques, which he believes will eventually become obsolete.

I don’t see the point in forcing children to learn a completely old-fashioned style of writing, when most teachers prefer students to hand in submissions which are typed.

It is a far better use of a child’s time to learn something undeniably useful to them, such as computer science and typing techniques.

There are some classes in college and university where teachers prefer if you take handwritten notes, but this hardly requires the perfection of each standardized letter.

When students are taking down notes while the teacher is speaking,few even bother trying to make it look neat. All they care about is getting the information down, and rightly so.

Ask yourself, when is your child ever going to use cursive writing? To write a fancy letter? No, because now, if you want to send a letter or message to your friend, it’s called an email or a text message.

I’m not saying to abolish learning to write by hand all together, but I think cursive writing should be excluded from elementary curriculums which should be updated in order to coincide with the times and to benefit children in the future.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Categories
Music

Lady Gaga lights up the Bell Centre

The words “Gaga” echoed throughout the nearly sold-out show over and over again moments before Lady Gaga made her appearance onstage at the Bell Centre.

Having been to her last concert, I expected a change from The Born This Way Ball, which is exactly what I got.

The thing that pleased me about this show was that during her two and a half hour performance, she performed songs from all three of her albums, and not just from her newest album Born This Way.

Gaga entered the stage on what seemed to be a real horse but turned out to be a fake one with two people inside controlling it – talk about an original entrance.

Her stage consisted of a huge castle, and a runway that went more than halfway onto the floor area, allowing her to interact with fans.

The castle and the runway were perfect to use during songs, especially during the song “Love Game”, when Gaga came up just a few feet away from the crowd, smoking a cigarette, and lying down singing.

As many would have predicted, her costumes and controversy – such as insinuating oral sex with her dancers during “Government Hooker” – brought much more entertainment to the show.

Her opening costume was the highlight of all her clothing. To get a good idea of what her outfit was, imagine tight black nylon covered in sparkles with metal silver wings attached to her sides, and a cage-like headpiece. In other words, a fashionable alien.

It is quite evident that the 26-year-old singer has a strong relationship with her fans since throughout the night she would interact with them. Gaga even invited four lucky fans onstage to sing her final encore song “Marry The Night”.

Her energy is what kept her devoted fans up and jumping throughout the entire night. The show altogether flowed like a the circus, with top-notch singing and dancing.

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