Untold Concordia features anonymous stories of discrimination

Anonymous co-creator speaks about how the page can validate student experiences

Untold Concordia is an Instagram page that features anonymous submissions detailing stories of oppression, such as racial, gender, and sexual discrimination by Concordia faculty members and student organizations.

One of the two creators behind the page agreed to speak with The Concordian under the condition of anonymity. They told us they started the page after seeing how popular the Untold McGill page became in early July.

“The [McGill] page was getting so much traction and so many people seemed to have a desire to have a space to share stories like this, [we thought] that was probably shared at Concordia, and we were right,” they said.

As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in the early summer following the death of George Floyd, conversations revolving around discrimination came to the forefront. The goal stated on both Instagram pages is to highlight experiences of oppression and discrimination at the respective universities.

“Your experience is valid,” reads the first post. “Submit your stories and help create a platform for others to be heard.”

All posts are referred to as submissions rather than complaints. The co-creator told The Concordian the page is not affiliated with Concordia University and the submissions “aren’t complaints in any official capacity.”

One of the posts describes witnessing how a professor teaching a sexuality class did not use the right pronouns for one of their students; another describes being severely let down by the Concordia administrations’ handling of their sexual assault complaint.

Anyone can anonymously fill in a submission form by clicking the link in Untold Concordia’s bio. They can also choose if they prefer to keep the comments on or off on their post.

“We never ask them to reveal their names and we encourage them not to reveal the names of anyone involved … for their safety and our own,” said the co-creator.

“Some of these accusations can be relatively serious, and we want it to be truly up to the submitter if they do want to file formal complaints. They have the lee-way to do that without any of these submissions coming to hurt them in that process,” they said.

One of the issues with anonymity is determining the validity of the complaints. From the beginning, both creators discussed this issue and what to do if someone were to try trolling them.

So far, the posts have all been believable. Both creators are members of minority groups who have experienced “varying levels …  of oppression and systemic oppression within the University and outside, and coming from that place, you can kind of tell.”

Because the account isn’t an official complaint forum, anonymous users can feel free to describe the experience according to their understanding.

“They’re not meant to be perfect, factual re-accounts of events that happened. They are people’s perspectives; they are all true in their own way.”

“I’ve never seen one that I’ve been like — I don’t believe that — every single one of them to me is truly believable,” they said.

The posts speak to the larger issues of discrimination.

“The university is a structure like every other built on centuries of oppression that is rooted in Canadian history and much of the world’s.”

They feel some of these posts don’t refer to instances of “active hate and active oppression, but they are people not realizing how harmful what they say is and how harmful what they’re doing is just because it feels normal to them.”

“A few of our posts have been around the subject of various professors using slurs in quotations or in discussions, and saying ‘since I’m referencing, quoting a text is allowed.’ Students who are directly affected by the slurs feel very uncomfortable.”

Just this week, University of Ottawa part-time professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval was suspended and later apologized for using the N-word during an online lecture after a student made a formal complaint. Several professors and government officials are weighing in on this issue, with Legault denouncing backlash against the professor.

They said many submitters have thanked them for the page, especially as many submitters have tried to file formal complaints and it is difficult to get through.

Concordia Student Union (CSU) General Coordinator Isaiah Joyner said that the process of submitting a complaint against someone with the University can be challenging for students.

“The whole overall process [for complaints] is not student friendly, it’s more bureaucratic…it’s very rare that you see the effects yielding the result in the favour of what the students want.”

The co-creator of the account said they would like Concordia to realize students are turning to anonymous means to voice their concerns.

“Eventually, maybe, Concordia will kind of realize that there are so many students that feel uncomfortable reporting these instances and that these instances are more harmful than they think they are, [and] maybe take action for that.”

“For these young people who are for the first time stepping into their own, there needs to be ways for them to express how they feel and how they’ve been harmed that is more streamlined and … accessible,” they said.

Concordia Spokesperson Vannina Maestracci released a statement to The Concordian on Untold Concordia: “Although we understand that some prefer to use social media anonymously to be heard, we’d also encourage all members of our community, if they want, to take advantage of our internal accountability mechanisms so that we can properly address these issues.”

“Complaints brought through our mechanisms are treated confidentially and independently and can be addressed in a variety of ways, including with support services, depending on what a student wants.”


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Protected by the mask: how remaining anonymous in music breathes new life into artistry

How does the rise of Orville Peck compare to Canada’s other elusive singer who rose in 2010?

Every so often, a new artist explodes overnight with the help of a viral single, but with little or no indication about who might have sung it. In 2017, a masked Canadian singer performing under the pseudonym Orville Peck released a single titled “Dead of Night,” a song that would eventually thrust the virtually unknown artist into country music stardom.

To this day, we still don’t know who Orville Peck actually is. We know a few things though. We know he’s older than 20 and younger than 40 and that he identifies as gay. Other than that, there’s only speculation about who he really is.

Really, though, it doesn’t matter. Once Peck released his debut album Pony in 2019 with the help of record label Sub Pop, the mystery that surrounded him made his music that much more enticing. With only a handful of official music videos up on YouTube, most are either over one million views or creeping up to it. These numbers aren’t stratospheric, but considering he’s an unknown Canadian gay country singer, it’s impressive that he’s garnered so much attention.

Though Orville Peck’s rise might seem either improbable or the likely result of a creative marketing team, his road to success is certainly precedented by other elusive singers. In 2010, a teenager whose identity was unknown at the time drew a lot of attention for the release of three different tracks on YouTube. These songs eventually fell on the ears of a certain Toronto legend who goes by the name of Drake and he then uploaded them on his October’s Very Own blog. By now, it’s probably obvious that this protégé is The Weeknd.

Unsurprisingly, the three songs took off. The tracks he posted, “The Morning,” “What You Need,” and “Loft Music” have now accumulated over one hundred million views combined, but when they were released, everyone became enamoured by this Michael Jackson-esque singer who doubled down on the drugged-out, hazy aesthetic he now knows all too well.

At this point, it’s common knowledge that The Weeknd’s real name is Abel Makkonen Tesfaye. And though he’s reached a new level of superstardom, there are still a handful of The Weeknd fans that won’t approach his new music with an open mind simply because he’s ditched the sound and look that he rose to fame with.

It’s true that The Weeknd’s music isn’t the same as his Trilogy days, but it’s also a sign of growth. Not every artist has to be a down-in-the-dumps-twenty-something that makes sad and dark music. But does this newfound happiness that sometimes appears in The Weeknd’s music make his work less palatable. The truth is, it depends.

For singers like Orville Peck, it’s possible that revealing his identity might not change much. His music doesn’t have the same pop sensibilities as The Weeknd, but his whole persona also revolves around the anonymity. It prevents the daily scrutiny that artists face about their personal lives.

Orville Peck and The Weeknd are, of course, not the only two artists to come up with anonymous personas. Daft Punk is notorious for always wearing their robotic helmets. Sia, SBTRKT, and MF Doom all perform with their own masks on. Slipknot’s latest addition to the band is a percussionist who masks himself with an attire not unlike Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow outfit from Batman Begins.

It’s clear that anonymity in music is more than just a commercial ploy. For relatively new artists, it allows them to bypass the media scrutiny that comes with a viral single. It allows the listener to fall in love with the music itself. That new fan will also become infatuated with the idea their new favourite singer might just be a common person like anyone else. They just so happen to make good music.

In an interview with the New York Times, Orville Peck explained that “[he understands] there is a temptation to try and unmask what [he does], but to do so would be to miss the point entirely.” He’s got a point. The whole idea behind Orville Peck is an artist who only wants to be known for his music and artistry. His anonymity is just a piece of the puzzle.

For some, anonymity is just a veil granted at the beginning of their career. A mask that lets them release music as they please. To others, the secrecy behind the music is just as important as the music itself. Given how obsessed fans have become in 2020 (see Nicki Minaj or Doja Cat’s rabid fanbases), it’s understandable why Orville Peck doesn’t want everyone to know who he is. He’s doing well as it is and he’s probably better off.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


The artificial bliss of opioids

One student’s experience with drug addiction—and why the narrative must change

When I would come home from school, my mom would often tell me to walk the dog. This used to bother me because I hate even the most mundane exercise, but then something changed. In my senior year of high school, I started to walk the dog more often, sometimes without my mom even having to ask.

Unfortunately, my new love of dog-walking had a darker side; it became part of my routine for taking the painkiller Vicodin. Hydrocodone (the active ingredient in Vicodin) is a semi-synthetic opioid, similar to morphine. Morphine comes from the opium poppy, a plant used for decorations, bagel seasoning and heroin production, among other things.

After taking Vicodin and leashing up the dog, I would hike through the hills of my native Oregon. About half an hour into the walk, my worries of the day would begin to fade, and a sense of relaxation would overcome me. At that stage in my addiction, the pills did not impair me; in fact they helped me navigate my daily life with more ease and greater joy.

My affair with opioid painkillers (not to be confused with over-the-counter ibuprofen or Tylenol) started with a headache. Earlier in the school year, I had come home one day with a throbbing headache. I drank some water, and when that did not work, I took an aspirin. A few hours later, my head was still pounding. Out of desperation, I went into my mom’s purse and took one of her Vicodins.

At the time, I did not know how dangerous Vicodin is. I thought it was just a super strong Tylenol. My mom was recovering from surgery and had been prescribed the drug. Ironically, my grandmother, who had come from Los Angeles to take care of my mom, broke her collarbone on the flight up and left the hospital with her own 90-pill prescription. Both my mom and grandmother hated taking painkillers; this left an abundant supply for me.

When I took my first Vicodin, I was stage managing a school production involving 300 people. It was a terrific but stressful job; the Vicodin not only took away my headache but freed me from my worries.

A critical point is that my addiction could have been avoided if physicians had been more aware of the dangers of opioids at the time. Had that been the case, my mom and grandmother wouldn’t have been prescribed enormous quantities of opioids. Had there been safer prescribing practices in place, perhaps my addiction would never have started.

After that first pill, I did not take another one for a few days. Slowly, I began to develop excuses to use them—if my mom wasn’t going to take them, why should they go to waste? I developed a tolerance after a few weeks and started taking two pills to get high. Being high on painkillers isn’t like being high on other drugs. I could still function, attend school and go about my life, but everything just felt better. Nothing bothered me. I felt confident, and a warm sensation enveloped my body. At the time, I did not consider myself to be abusing drugs, and I was oblivious to this destructive pattern.

As time passed, I began to get careless. After months of a constant opioid buzz, I forgot what it felt like to be sober. Vicodin began to make me aggressive, and I started to yell more often at the actors and crew I managed at work. I stopped caring about everything, and my A in chemistry plunged to a dangerous C-. At home, my parents seemed none the wiser about my habit, and I took extraordinary steps to hide my pill-popping.

The gravy train came to an end when the pills ran out six months later. Taking the last pill in the bottle felt like a sacred event—the end of a relationship I believed I could handle on my own. Within hours, I had called my mom who was in Albuquerque. We got in an argument, and I blurted out that I had used all of her painkillers and needed help because I felt terrible. She started sobbing and flew home the next day.

My parents helped me access the resources and treatment I needed. Growing up, I never suffered from any serious mental health issues, but following my opioid use, I turned into a depressed, anxious mess. There were medications to treat my ailments, but they could only do so much. My first moments of sobriety were difficult as I mourned the end of my relationship with Vicodin. The drug turned the most mundane moments into extraordinary ones. Losing that perpetual excitement took months to get used to, and to this day, I miss the months I spent in artificial bliss.

No one wakes up one morning and decides they want to become addicted to drugs. Stealing drugs or causing my family heartache horrifies me. Opioids had an amazing capacity to mute my moral compass. Getting high no longer became something to relieve stress, but rather a necessity to remain functional and have the ability to experience happiness. Once this emotional shield began to fade, things that used to bother me enraged me; moments that hurt me devastated me and life felt like a mission without a goal.

In learning how to live without opioids, I had my “aha” moment. Most users are not lazy; they’re not failures or junkies—they are just like you and me. Often, they are just more sensitive or perhaps suffer from a mental illness.

Unfortunately, the stigma against those who suffer from substance abuse remains static with little to no improvement in public compassion. It took becoming addicted for me to realize it’s time we must shift our mentality and try to help instead of judge. Although I chose to tell my story anonymously, I hope a day will come when someone can write an article like this without hesitating to reveal who they are. Those who fight daily to stay sober ought to be celebrated as the warriors they are.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

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