Concordia Student Union News

CSU Confirms Plans for Second Affordable Student Housing Unit

After the completion of the Woodnote in 2020, the Concordia Student Union is going ahead with plans for a second building

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is moving forward with plans for a second affordable student housing unit, confirmed Laurent Levesque, CEO of UTILE, the housing non-profit that built the Woodnote. This new building will likely be finished by the end of 2025.

UTILE has said that this new unit could house roughly 144 students, or the same amount as the Woodnote. “We’re in the phase of the project where we collect objectives. The CSU is telling us the project parameters they want us to meet, and that will eventually be turned into a contract. This then becomes UTILE’s mandate for the building,” he said.

The Woodnote’s total cost was $18 million. Of that total, the CSU funded $1.8 million while $1.6 million came from the city of Montreal, and $3 million from the federal government, according to Levesque. For this second building, Levesque’s hope is to stay around the same budget. “We’re always trying to house as many students as possible without getting to a size that makes a feeling of community impossible to achieve. The realistic target is about the size of the Woodnote, and that goes for the budget too.” Levesque wishes that more funding from municipal, provincial, and federal governments would be allocated to fund this expansion.

The project is in its initial phase, so there are lots of details to work out. “We don’t have a name for it yet,” said Levesque. “The Woodnote’s name was chosen by students in part because of its design and location near Parc Lafontaine. We’ll get there [with this second building] once the land is found and the design starts to take shape. We’ll only do that once the CSU confirms that this project is something they want to do. We expect to be able to deliver the project in three to four years, which is faster than the Woodnote.”

Eduardo Malorni, the Concordia Student Union’s general coordinator, gave an update on the project. “The CSU is currently in discussions with UTILE regarding the possible creation of a second housing cooperative project following the successful completion of the Woodnote. This would manifest itself as an investment into the PUSH (Popular University Student Housing) Fund. Currently we are in discussions regarding the scope of the project and if all goes well, we will be sending a referendum question to be voted on by the student body regarding their support for the project in the March 2022 CSU General Elections.”

In a report compiled in 2020, around 50 per cent of the Woodnote’s residents were Quebecers. The other half was split between Canadian and international tenants. Levesque said that there was a turnover rate of around 30 per cent within the building, which he saw as beneficial. “It shows that students are happy to live there and happy to move out when their studies are done.” UTILE hopes to replicate the conditions of their first building with this new Concordia project., as their goal is to ensure affordable housing for students.

“We are essentially the only non-profit group to be doing this work on student housing. Our research has shown that there are over 250,000 student tenants in Quebec alone. That’s a lot of people that are suffering in the housing crisis,” Levesque said. 

UTILE sees Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s reelection as a green light, as she has committed to creating 2000 units of affordable student housing in her second term. On municipal contributions, Levesque said that “It’s very reasonable for the CSU to expect for the city to pitch in again. We don’t want to place the burden on student unions to fund these initiatives, so it’s good that the city is here to help. There is a lot of political momentum for this project.”

As plans get drawn up and contracts get written, the student housing crisis continues to worsen. The CSU has told The Concordian that it intends on moving forward with the construction of this second building which will help dozens of students find affordable housing in Montreal.


Photo By Catherine Reynolds


Homa Hoodfar shares her story

Retired Concordia professor who was incarcerated for 112 days talks feminism, Evin Prison and Concordia’s support

Homa Hoodfar, a retired Concordia University professor and researcher, sat down with The Concordian  to discuss her 112-day experience in Evin prison in Iran. The Iranian-Canadian anthropology professor was arrested while on a personal and research visit to Iran. The 65-year-old suffers from a rare neurological disease that causes severe muscle weakness. She spent some time hospitalized before being brought back to her cell where she could barely walk or talk.  Hoodfar has been back in Montreal since Sept. 26.

The Concordian: In an interview with CBC, you said the guards arrested you because they thought you were trying to meddle in an Iranian parliamentary election and bring your feminism work and research into politics. Can you expand on that?

Homa Hoodfar: In Iran, there’s less than three per cent women in the Parliament. When I was there, which was during this election, women in Iran were questioning why there were so few of them in the parliament. In an interview I held on an earlier trip there, I said that the question is not that there are too few women but too many men in the parliament. During this trip to Iran, there were women who were organizing to change the face of the parliament and make it more female-oriented. Somehow the guards said I had something to do with that campaign. I knew of the campaign, but I didn’t know a single one of these women. Yet, for the government, feminism is a form of soft revolution which tends to change the Islamic culture. My argument to them was that any culture that doesn’t change is a dead culture. Our culture has changed and women are trying to voice their opinions like any oppressed group, but the guards want to believe that these ideas are coming from outside of Iran. For them, I’m a self-declared feminist and it was enough for them to arrest me.

TC: Can you speak about the research you’ve done related to Middle Eastern countries?

Hoodfar: My academic work has implications into the contemporary situation in the Middle East. I don’t only work on Iran’s situation. I’ve also been working on [research in] Egypt, Pakistan and even Indonesia. Although, the guards weren’t interested in my work elsewhere, they were just interested in my work in Iran. I had been working on family laws, women reproductive rights and refugees. Also, in 2011, with one of my PhD students, we did write a book on the debate of women in the parliament. Yet, this book doesn’t even mention Iran and somehow they believed that I changed my field of research to interfere with the current elections.

TC: What came to your mind when they came to arrest you?

Hoodfar: They actually came to raid my apartment on the night before I was supposed to leave for Canada. They took my computer, my telephone, my iPad and a lot of books and folders with all my research. There were six big bags of everything that they took. They asked me to go to an interrogation the next day and to go to court within the next five days. At the time, there were no charges or files. Although, as a social scientist, we always say that social science is considered to be a criminal activity, because a lot of people who do research are called in by the police to investigate the research. If the government doesn’t like the results, the researcher usually will go to jail for five or six years. So I was not surprised when this happened to me but I wasn’t expecting to be put in jail. Usually they ban you from travelling and call you in for interrogations a few times.

Different student protests happened to pressure the release of Hoodfar. Photo Alex Hutchins

TC: What do you remember from the Evin prison?

Hoodfar: I was in a very tiny cell which was about two meters by a metre and a half. There was nothing except a carpet and three military blankets they give you. One you sleep on, one you use as a pillow and the other one to cover you. I was on my own for a few days, but then they moved me to a room with three other women because of a prison inspection and so I suppose they didn’t want me to be in a solitary cell. After that, they brought me back with another woman to stay in the tiny cell. There were no windows in this room, and lights were on all day and night. With the light, I was not able to sleep so they gave me sleeping pills. I would also receive my medication from my family, which was very important because my health wasn’t very good. I would also demand that they give me newspapers or something to read because there was nothing to do besides going to the interrogations. Until they brought the young woman to stay with me, there was also no one to talk to. Most of them were sex workers who were only 21 or 22 years old. I ended up chatting with them and collecting their life history. Then, I started to write on my wall with my toothbrush, treating it like field research, which made the time there easier. Whenever I would go to the interrogations, I would take mental notes and when I couldn’t sleep at night, I would write on the wall. Young women thoughtI was crazy but just the action of writing helped my mind stay active. I collected the data and hopefully, when the time is right, I will start writing them down. I had at least 45 sessions of interrogations, some of which would last all day. I also would hear when the guards were interrogating other people. They used different methods for the sex workers than they used for me.

TC: Was there a method of interrogation they used which was difficult for you?

Hoodfar: I knew of their methods. They kept on telling me that I was nothing, but I knew it wasn’t true. I also accepted the fact I would stay in the prison for a long time and, because I did, there was nothing that they could do to really bring me down. What angered me the most was when they played the song used at my spouse’s funeral, which they found on my iPad. In contrast, young women were very frightened and cried a lot because they thought when the guards saw them crying, they might be more lenient towards them. Of course, for me, the interrogators were younger than me, which in the Iranian culture, it gave me an upper hand. Initially, they were playing on the fact that I was the old woman, but I took their method and reversed it and used it against them. I was thinking to myself that I lived for 65 years the way that I wanted and reached my goals. Therefore, I told them it didn’t matter if I had to stay in the Evin prison for the rest of my life. I had no regrets at all. I also told them that if the rest of my life has to be there, so be it. With all that being said to them, they didn’t have anything to frighten me with. This is when they played the music and I asked them to stop it. Which they didn’t want to until I asked them if this was part of the Islamic human rights, because yes, our culture has different human rights. They did everything to make me cry and the fact that they couldn’t break me was a victory.

TC: How long were you in contact with your family?

Hoodfar: Before I was taken to Evin, I would go to interrogations but then would go home and I was able to chat, Skype, or go on Facebook. The problem was that they were listening to the conversations I had on my phone, but at least I was in touch with my family. I was also very overwhelmed with the support that came with my release. The support came from a lot of scholars from the left or right wing, from Islamic scholars and also from people from very diverse backgrounds. I received letters of support from Indonesia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Turkey and many more countries. It was also very heartwarming to see all the support coming from Canada. Iran wanted me to stop my research but now more people know about my research than if they didn’t arrested me.

TC: What was the process for them to release you?

Hoodfar: The day I was released was actually a very interesting one. Two nights before the release, they took me where the interrogation took place and taped me for about five to six hours. They wanted me to say that I regret what I’ve done, to which I told them that I haven’t done anything illegal and therefore I don’t regret anything. Then they told me there were three conditions on which they could release me on diplomatic ground. I had to say that I regret what I’ve done, that I won’t be doing networking in Iran and that I won’t do any research on women in politics anymore. I told them I don’t regret and, if I’m released, I will continue to do the same thing because I’m a researcher. I have never done networking in Iran anyway and doing research on women or women in politics is part of my work. I was very touched when I learned about the student campaign and the demonstration happening. I only got to see the pictures when I got back to Montreal.

Hoodfar reunites with her niece after her time in Evin prison. Photo by Alex Hutchins

TC: After a terrifying and tireful experience, how are you feeling?

Hoodfar: Physically, my lungs are still not very well and I still get tired when I talk for a long time. I am hoping that, in a month or two, I get my energy back and start working more. Mentally, I still get upset about how the academic freedom is curtailed in Iran and how people can’t express themselves. Overall, I think I’m good. It was great to know that so many people went out of their way to support me and secure my release—especially the Canadian government, my colleagues, the academic scholars and my students from many years ago. I try to focus on the positive things rather than thinking negatively. I hope the situation in Iran changes. There is a lot to be done, and I hope social science gets more space to be discussed.

I especially want to thank the students. I don’t know everybody, but I appreciate what everyone did. I was very touched to see the videos and pictures from the demonstrations, which was a very nice surprise for me. Sometimes, when I get a little sad, I go on my computer and watch the Free Homa pictures and signs. Students at Concordia did a lot, and I’m very thankful for them.

Check out our interview with Homa Hoodfar below.


Saying farewell to Concordia’s pitching duo

Dan Connerty and Sam Belisle-Springer reflect on their time with the Stingers baseball team

Anyone will tell you that, in any sport, every team could use more than a few veterans that other players can depend on. What is less widely discussed is the pressure these veterans often put on themselves to be dependable.

With the Stingers baseball season over, veteran pitchers Sam Belisle-Springer and Dan Connerty have finished their last season with Concordia. Both players started their careers with the Stingers in 2013. Connerty left to pitch in the United States for two years, returning to Concordia in 2016, while Belisle-Springer has played four straight seasons.

When the 2016 season started, both were slated to be the team’s premier starting pitchers. Connerty had just come back from playing for Northwood University in Michigan and was named team captain, while Belisle-Springer had been awarded Pitcher of the Year in 2015.

Both were feeling the pressures of leadership.

“Going into [this season], I knew I had to be a starting pitcher, I had to be the number one guy,” said Belisle-Springer. The team had lost one of their other starting pitchers from the year before, and Connerty hadn’t played on the team in two years. “There were a lot of question marks. A lot of that pressure was pressure that I put on myself, and I think that really played into my slow start.”

Meanwhile, Connerty found himself struggling with the pressures of captaincy. He admitted that when manager Howie Schwartz named him captain, he felt like he needed to be the perfect leader the team deserved at all times.

Through the month of September, Connerty and Belisle-Springer allowed a combined 29 runs in just over 23 innings. Before too long, Schwartz decided to sit both of them down and put his background in sports psychology to use.

“He sat us down, we spoke for a good twenty, thirty minutes about what we needed to focus on,” Connerty said. “[Howie] said that I was just putting too much pressure on myself. [I’m a] strong enough leader off the field that, when I go into the game, I don’t have to expect to be perfect.”

Connerty adjusted his leadership strategies, understanding that not everyone on the team had the same competitive spirit he and Belisle-Springer brought to the game.

“There was a difference this year [from] the 2013 team. Not playing at 100 per cent wasn’t acceptable [in 2013]. We had guys on the team who held you accountable. This year, you couldn’t really do that,” Connerty said. “There’s a fine line between being constructive, and coming off as a condescending asshole.”

Belisle-Springer agreed that sometimes the commitment level on the team was lacking. “I had the feeling that half the team didn’t care,” Belisle-Springer said. “The starters really cared but we had a lot of guys who were [just] there.”

With Schwartz’s guidance, the two pitchers were able to finish the regular season with style. By mid-October, both had managed to bring their respective earned-run-averages below four. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to translate this strong play into success at Nationals.

“I had a really strong stretch of three or four starts, and I wasn’t able to carry that over into Nationals,” Belisle-Springer said. “The big disappointment is that I feel like I’m a lot better than what I’ve done in my four years.”

Dan Connerty pitched in the United States for two years before coming back to the Stingers.

The Stingers lost in the semi-finals of the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association National Championships to the Université de Montréal. Neither Connerty nor Belisle-Springer have won a title in their time with the team.

“The main reason I came here was to win a national championship. I really thought we had it,” Connerty said. “Once I got to Nationals, I wanted to leave this weekend with no ‘what ifs.’”

Despite performing well individually at Nationals, Connerty still can’t shake the sting of the loss. “As the captain, your goal is to get the team prepared to win,” Connerty said. “We didn’t win. In that sense, I failed. I can handle it, [but] it’ll take time.”

Belisle-Springer doesn’t want to carry too many regrets about how his collegiate career ended, but wishes his team could have had one more showdown with their rivals. “It was disappointing not to get another shot at Mcgill,” he said. The Stingers played the Redmen six times this season without pulling off a single win.

As for how the team will do without them next year, Belisle-Springer is uncertain, but cautiously optimistic. “I think we’ve got some good young guys.  [Pitcher Jarryd] Taylor is going to be really solid next year,” Belisle-Springer said. “Hitting-wise, that’s where I’d be a bit worried, because we weren’t a great hitting team this year and the best hitters are leaving.”

For Connerty and Belisle-Springer, the end of their time at Concordia does not necessarily mean the end of organized baseball. They both have intentions of going pro.

“We’re both at the skill set where we can continue to take baseball further,” Connerty said. While Major League Baseball may be out of the question, both pitchers are confident they could make it in lower-level independent leagues or overseas.

“I’ve always been told, anything you can do, do it as far as you can,” Connerty said. “[So] why the hell not? Real life’s pretty boring anyway.”

Belisle-Springer is equally ambitious about his future in the game and said he’ll look back fondly on the time he spent playing for the Stingers.

“I grew a lot as a baseball player, and I have a lot more growing to do,” Belisle-Springer said. “When I finally put it all together, I’ll be able to say I was a pretty good baseball player. One day.”


ASFA tackles the culture of frosh

Arts & Sciences Federation Association (ASFA) will be kicking off Frosh week by hosting consent workshops for the first time on Aug. 30 and Aug. 31.

It will be mandatory for anyone who has purchased a ticket to Frosh for the full week to attend the workshop prior to being let into Frosh events. “We decided we would take precautions this year and be careful and [ensure] that everyone was safe,” said ASFA internal affairs and administrative coordinator Julia Sutera Sardo. “Executives, leaders and volunteers have already undergone consent, harm reduction and the safe serve program (SSP) in preparation for frosh week.”

This is part of ASFA’s goal to reduce the typical culture surrounding Frosh, said Sutera Sardo. She said that she had not previously attended Frosh, due to not appreciating the culture of binge drinking and lack of consent surrounding the week.

However, Sutera Sardo said ASFA wanted to change how frosh was organized this year to provide a safer space for everyone attending the events. “I was really happy I got to take part in changing the culture of how things work,” she said.

ASFA social events coordiantor Marc Da Silva said Frosh is really well organized this year as opposed to last year. “I’m definitely really excited about the consent workshops that are being given,” said Da Silva. “I think that’s a necessity in making sure frosh is safer.”

Sutera Sardo said that ASFA’s goal in changing the culture of Frosh has definitely been a group effort. ASFA is working in collaboration with the Dean of Students office to provide the consent workshops.

ASFA VP of community outreach and sustainability coordinator Agunik Mamikonyan said ASFA will be hosting five different sessions for the consent training, each session lasting an hour and a half each.

“We’re going to register [Froshees] when they come in and they are going to get their bracelets by the end of the session.” Mamikonyan said this is in order to ensure all attending the week of events at Frosh will have undergone consent training.

Dean of Students Andrew Woodall said ASFA reached out to the Dean of Students to get information about consent, bystander intervention and how to organize safer events. “We’ve been working with the execs—the outgoing and incoming since January as a group on trying to change the culture of orientation of Frosh,” said Woodall.

Woodall said Froshees will undergo workshops focused on consent training and understanding how alcohol may impact and limit decision making. While executives and Frosh leaders are undergoing workshops focused on not only consent, but risk reduction as well, said Woodall. “Generally what we’re doing with the execs and the Frosh leaders is more about risk reduction—so consent and bystander [intervention], alcohol, what to watch out for and some drugs, too.”

Woodall said that the extensive training for leaders and executives is due to them setting up the event. The training will address how to set up an event in a manner with least risk to the Froshies—such as having longer lineups for alcohol, having water and food available and not having alcohol as the point of a game.

Sutera Sardo also ensured Frosh participants would have a safe space if they needed it. “I made sure that we had a safe room [for beach day], because I feel having experienced panic attacks myself before, sometimes you just don’t feel comfortable in a specific zone with people or you may be dehydrated,” said Sutera Sardo. The safe room will help those attending Frosh by offering a separate space to relax and lay down.

In addition, there will be plenty of water available, first aid certified executives and security will be present. “By implementing some chill stations and safe rooms in all of our events we’re going to be able to have that place there, in case somebody feels uncomfortable and wants to speak to us,” said Sutera Sardo.

Sutera Sardo said that in order to create a more inclusive platform for Frosh week, ASFA is trying to involve not only first years, but undergraduate and graduate students. “Frosh isn’t only about freshmen,” she said. Sutera Sardo explained the first event being the cocktail mixer party is designed to incorporate more mature students. Sardo said her goal is to make more of a connection between new students, experienced undergraduates and graduate students, as well as creating a better network between students at Sir George Williams campus and Loyola Campus.

Sutera Sardo said while planning frosh there were many meetings with other student groups and associations, as well as representatives from Concordia’s security, hospitality, electricity department and facilities management departments to generate a greater communication with one another.

“I feel like a lot of times problems that arise at Frosh all start in the planning of it, so we took about four months to plan everything,” she said.

Last year ASFA changed the title of Frosh week to “launch week” in order to change the bad vibes associate with the events. However, this year the title has been changed back to Frosh. “Students were not familiar with the term “launch” and didn’t realize it pertained to orientation activities,” said Da Silva.

“We’re doing the best we can and I really buy into this team’s desire to do away with the reputation [ASFA] had a couple of years ago,” said Woodall.

“In the end, all we want is to be able to communicate and share our ideas in a really safe manner,” said Sutera Sardo. “[ASFA] council has sometimes been an unsafe place and by having these trainings [for frosh executives] hopefully it will be safer and will be conducive to just better communication.”

This article has been updated for accuracy and clarity since publishing. The Concordian regrets the error.


Who pays for that?

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The Concordia Student Union has a president and seven executives who represent Concordia University’s 35,000 undergraduate students for an entire year starting on June 1.

During the general elections in March, A Better Concordia made a commitment to students to provide more events, sustainable projects and more initiatives for Loyola campus. They also pledged to be transparent, honest and to stick to their promises.

The CSU foresees its total budget, from revenues generated through student fees and various other funds, as $5,505,350 for the 2012-13 academic year at Concordia.

Here is The Concordian’s guide to the CSU’s preliminary budget for the upcoming year and a basic breakdown of the numbers.


To start, the CSU facilitates a budget through its earnings and expenses. Regarding revenues, the CSU’s projections show it receives $1,242,000 from student fee levies alone. Each undergraduate student pays $1.75 per credit toward the Concordia Student Union. Therefore, a full-time undergraduate student taking five courses worth three credits each is paying $26.25 per semester. An individual taking 10 courses for the academic year is contributing $52.50 to the CSU’s profits.


The CSU allotted $224,000 of their budget for the salaries of eight executives. The 2012-13 annual salary for an executive is approximately $28,000.

During the year, an executive or vice-president of the CSU receives an additional expense account of $625. For example, an expense account would cover costs of transportation. CSU President Schubert Laforest has an expense account of $1,300 for the entire year.

An annual $3,000 honorarium is provided to the chair of council; the secretary receives $3,000 for the year as well.

The CSU allotted a total of $349,318 to be spent on employees. This includes the salaries and benefits for administration and receptionists, the general manager and other expenses.


The CSU expects to generate revenues from their orientation in two ways. Contributions are defined by funding gathered from sponsorships and here the CSU believes they will make $5,000. Sales made from food and alcohol are expected to generate ten times that, at about $50,000.

In terms of expenses, the CSU tabled $150,000 to cover the two-week long orientation, one of the lowest orientation budgets within the last few years. Last year, the CSU spent a total of $180,888 on orientation activities, and $227,017 in 2008.


As part of a special student council meeting held in August, the CSU decided to allot an additional $4,000 of its surplus to the Loyola Luncheon. The initial budget for the Loyola luncheon for salaries and expenses was a total of $32,400 but with the additional funding from the surplus, it is approximately $36,400.


Operational costs for the CSU comes to approximately $230,155 for the year. Operations include but are not limited to telephones, computers, office expenses, postage and promotions. Landlines for the CSU executives, HOJO and other CSU offices come to a total of $55,000. Postage costs $1,200 while office expenses, such as stationery, run at $25,000.

With files from Chuck Wilson

Exit mobile version