Concordia Student Union News

Student speaks on Experience with University Insurance as opt-out Period begins

Students must soon disclose if they choose to keep their University insurance.

On Sept. 25, Concordia students will have their final chance to declare if they choose to stay with their student health and dental plan for the fall semester.

Offered through the Concordia Students Union (CSU), the insurance plan is included in each semester’s tuition, a fact Dom Doesburg, a third-year student in computer science, wished he knew earlier.

“Having it cover my therapy, quite literally, saved my life,” said Doesburg. “I wouldn’t have been able to stay in school, or get the support that I needed.”

For almost two years, Doesburg has been taking advantage of the CSU’s health and dental plan. Seeking mental health support, Doesburg initially paid for therapy out of pocket, something he said quickly became unsustainable as a full-time student living on his own.

The health plan covers a wide array of services, with varying amounts  upwards of $10,000 in total. For Doesburg, this primarily meant psychiatry, which the Studentcare plan covered 80 per cent of each session. 

Doesburg added that he didn’t want to miss any opportunity, as he’d later use his coverage for vaccinations and dental services. 

Despite the help he receives regularly, Doesburg explained that his journey to finding resources through the CSU was not simple.

“I did it all by myself, which was not fun,” Doesburg said. “I’ve talked to other people and they are really confused, so I’ve been helping. I think on the Concordia website, it needs to be way clearer somehow.”

Doesburg added that initial research into student health care yielded poor results, with only brief explanations on Concordia’s website. Eventually, he accessed the Studentcare website, the insurance broker associated with the CSU, where he found the information to get him started.

Brooks Reid-Constantin, a linguistics student and Concordia Student’s Nightline’s president, agreed that accessibility to professional mental health may not be within reach for every student.

“I think that it’s crazy how difficult it is to get in touch with a psychiatrist,” Reid-Constantin said. 

She explained that the student health services aided her life as a student, despite any limitations to the health plan.

Nightline operates during evening hours between Wednesday and Saturday, providing active listening to callers. According to Reid-Constantin, this allows callers, often anxious students, to feel heard and relieve them of certain stressors.

Working with Nightline, Reid-Constantin said she gained a perspective into matters of mental health, despite not being a professional. She believed that students should have more options than Nightline, and should seek professional help if accessible and medication if needed.

It’s only ever one leg of the chair. You have to do a bunch of the work yourself,” Reid-Constantin added. “Giving anybody a head start and trying to take some of that financial burden off can be really helpful.”

The CSU operates mostly as a mediator between student and insurance broker. Often, a student is navigating the ins-and-outs of insurance for the first time, so they can definitely use the help. According to Hannah Jackson, the CSU’s external and mobilization coordinator, this is for the best.

“Concordia is a business. It is a for-profit corporation. We’re a union. We aren’t trying to make a profit every year and we aren’t trying to cut costs,” Jackson said. “We have a greater incentive to make it comprehensive and affordable, as opposed to the university administration.”

Jackson explained that the insurance coverage offered by the CSU is considered additional to that of the Régie de l’Assurance Maladie (RAMQ) including eye care and physiotherapy.

International and part-time students are exceptions, as they are not directly covered by the Studentcare. 

For the former, they must go through the university’s administration, to both Jackson and the CSU’s dismay. However, Jackson added that international students are eligible for dental care through which they may also receive the CSU’s newly established gender-affirming healthcare. 

Part-time students, although covered by the same insurance, must declare if they opt-in for coverage. As such, they must pay the yearly amount of $185 separate from their tuition.

“[Studentcare] can be bureaucratic. They can be very arbitrary in their rules,” Jackson said. “But I encourage people to explore what’s covered under their plan and to really claim it, because that money is there.”

A previous version of this article identified Brooks Reid-Constantin as external vice-president of the Nightline. Reid-Constantin is president of the Nightline.

Concordia Student Union News

New school year, new CSU: Harley Martin as General Coordinator

How a political science student is creating a fair and engaging CSU for Concordia students.

In the wake of a new school year, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) is starting fresh with new members on their team. Harley Martin may not be one of them since he knows his way around the CSU, but now he has a new opportunity in his hands.

Harley Martin is a history and political science student and the CSU’s new General Coordinator (GC). Last year, he was formerly the Student Life Coordinator of the CSU, until he was later appointed as the GC.

“I feel every day I’m learning new things that I wasn’t aware of before, but having a year of experience to kind of see how things work, know people, know where to look for the answers all that is really helpful,” said Martin.

Following a scandal last year with the former GC, Martin has his eyes on having a steady communication between the members, making sure no idea or issue is ignored.

“We cannot have any silos of information, so I just try and share everything with everyone like on the team,” he told The Concordian.

Martin sees a more engaging and interconnected CSU staff this year. As the GC, he makes sure that everyone on the team is doing their work, is comfortable in their environment, and has all of the information they need for their projects. It is one of the most important tasks of his job and it helps him create deeper relationships with the team.

“Everyone is really fun and does their work, but also it’s fun to hang out when we have free time and we’re sitting here for a minute. So, it has a nice feel to it which is good because you need your environment to be pleasant,” said Martin.

Hannah Jackson is an art education student and the CSU’s External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator. She is responsible for Concordia’s external connections for the CSU’s campaigns throughout the year. During COVID-19, she did not have the chance to be as involved in Concordia life as she had thought. With school being in-person again, she can now flourish in her passion for activism at the CSU and share her craft fiercely with her supportive colleagues.

“I found myself very supported not just by [my team] signing off on what I do, but also wanting to talk to me about and giving me their ideas, so that’s been really positive so far,” said Jackson.

Tanou Bah is a sociology student and the CSU’s new Student Life Coordinator. She was previously the Social Media Coordinator and she worked alongside Martin last year. Bah admires Martin’s perseverance to have a reliable team in the new year and she continues to see that in his work ethic.

“You’re only here for a year and then you’re gone and so a lot of the projects that were started can sometimes fall through. That’s why it’s great to have Harley because he knew what was happening last year and we can continue to push for that,” said Bah.

Harley Martin has one year left at Concordia and wants to continue his involvement one last time with the CSU by doing it right. He is hoping for more student involvement this year through tabling at the Loyola and downtown campuses next week, as well as by creating a safe environment at the CSU.

Community Student Life

Concordia’s anti-consumerism week 2023

A look inside making your own t-shirt grocery bag.

With Earth Day on the horizon, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) hosted an anti-consumerism week. This year’s event theme was Food Sovereignty, Sustainability & Solidarity. 

In late February, the CSU put on a variety of talks, workshops, and presentations so that students could get inspired to lead a more sustainable life.

Personally, I am always curious about different methods and ways to lead a more environmentally-conscious life. When I was looking into events for the week, the ‘Make Your Own Grocery Tote bag!’ workshop appealed to me.

The use of single-use plastics has slowly but surely started making its way out of our everyday lives. According to a Global News article, two-thirds of people in Quebec say they use their own bags or bins to shop. 

Whenever I go to Dollarama or Walmart, I always forget reusable bags, so I always end up paying for them when I get to check out. So this workshop was perfect for me. It happened on Feb. 21 at the Hall Building at the Downtown Campus.

As soon as I got to the workshop space, I saw the event organizers setting up sewing machines and some tables in a ‘U’ formation. The event organizers were people from the Concordia University Centre for Creative Use (CUCCR). Leading the workshop were Sustainability ambassadors, Kavi Nera and Maya Jain. 

Kavi Nera, a Concordia sustainability ambassador, and Maya Jain, the Material Depot programming and coordinator for the CUCCR lead the participants in the workshop. Kaitlynn Rodney // The Concordian

Every participant was given a step-by-step guide on how to turn an old shirt into a bag. For participants who did not have an old t-shirt, the CUCCR provided one from past events, like Frosh week.

The workshop began by determining if you had a big enough shirt to make one bag and two smaller bags from the same shirt.

If you had a small shirt, you would begin by cutting the collar and sleeves off. Afterward, Neva gave a small tutorial on how to use a sewing machine to sew the bottom of the shirt closed. 

Community editor, Dalia makes her bag at the Concordia center for creative reuse’s workshop for anti-consumerism week. Kaitlynn Rodney // The Concordian

For those that had big enough shirts to make smaller bags out of, the procedure was a little different. People had to make small incisions on the bottom of the shirt and then use a double knotting technique to close up the shirt.

Al Turgeon, a contemporary dance major at Concordia is using one of the shirts supplied by the CUCCR to make her map using the non-sewing method. Kaitlynn Rodney // The Concordian

I feel that with inflation at the back of our minds, it’s always helpful to know some tips and tricks for cutting costs and helping reduce waste on earth. I look forward to next year’s activities for anti-consumerism week.


To evaluate or not? Course evaluations carrying doubts about their efficacy

After A Two-Year Suspension, Course Evaluations Are Back With Students Doubting Their Ability To Affect Change And Professors Questioning Their Underlying Bias 

At the beginning of 2019, Concordia’s Student Union (CSU) conducted its annual undergraduate survey. In that survey, many students voiced their concerns regarding the evaluation system at Concordia and believed that course evaluations did little to improve the teaching or the syllabi.  

“Students who are filling out surveys could not benefit from professors’ adjustments and

thus many wouldn’t care to take time to do the surveys,” the survey concluded, which is why 84% of students wanted their professors to implement mid-term evaluations. 

JAMES FAY @jamesfaydraws

Others believed that professors did not care enough about their evaluations and were not willing to engage with their feedback. Some students doubted whether their feedback would lead anywhere with regards to tenured professors.

“I think the problem is that professors are not held remotely accountable for being bad professors. Those with tenure have no reason to improve their teaching style because they don’t care enough,” mentioned a surveyed student.    

A month after the 2019 annual survey was conducted, the pandemic was in full swing and Concordia’s courses had moved online. Following an agreement between the faculty unions and the University, course evaluations were suspended. “In part, this was done because course evaluations are designed for in-person courses and could not fairly account for the remote teaching context,” explained Vannina Maestracci, Concordia’s University Spokesperson.

While the students surveyed in 2019 had shown a strong preference for more course evaluations, they would not return until the summer of 2022.

Elisabeth Peltier, associate professor at John Molson School of Business and treasurer at Concordia University Faculty Association (CUFA) explained that “[Professors] had to learn how to work with technology and felt that having evaluations would not be fair because they weren’t doing their normal jobs.” However, CUFA was not involved in the prolonged suspension of course evaluations even after in-person courses resumed in the middle of the 2022 spring semester.

According to Maestracci, in 2021, a working group which included CSU and Graduate Student Association (GSA) representation, was set up to look at mechanisms for student feedback and issue recommendations on course evaluations at Concordia. However, there seems to be no concrete timeline to address the student issues that were put on hold due to the pandemic. 

The key request from students was to have mid-term evaluations that allowed students to give feedback before the course was over, in the hope that some of the feedback would be implemented before the course’s end. The Concordian spoke with Eric Friedman, a student taking courses in the philosophy department at Concordia who has also echoed this sentiment. 

“A discussion in the middle of the semester that addresses students’ concerns about the course and is done in class and as a discussion would be very helpful,” said Friedman.

However, as it currently stands, mid-course evaluations at Concordia are done at the discretion of the professor and are not mandatory, with many professors opting out of them. 

“During the pandemic all the efforts at the CSU was focused on advocacy around COVID,” said Asli Isaaq, academic and advocacy coordinator at the CSU. The focus on COVID-related issues has put many other student concerns on the back-burner, with annual student surveys also suspended for the last three CSU mandates.

Some faculty members might be hesitant to support the expansion of course evaluations. Some professors are skeptical of the underlying bias that students might have, and how that bias would affect the instructors’ performance evaluations. “We don’t trust teaching evaluations because there is so much research that shows that they are biased,” added Peltier. 

Recent research suggests that factors such as gender, accent, and appearance can play a role in how students evaluate their instructors. “The fact that the participation level is so low also makes evaluations not representative of an instructor’s performance,” explains Peltier.

Some students are also skeptical about course evaluations. Many were concerned that their feedback would not make a change if their professors were tenured and therefore they did not bother with course evaluations. “For tenured professors, research constitutes most of their responsibility and so course evaluations would not have much of an effect,” added Peltier.

Many students who are disappointed with the prospect of affecting change via course evaluations rely on websites such as Rate My Professors to avoid professors with bad reviews. However, external websites are not regulated and many of the reviews can be biased and untrustworthy. 

Creating an internal evaluation and reviewing platform that allows students to share their class experiences and feedback could be an idea that addresses these concerns. Some students stated that being able to see other students’ evaluations would incentivize them to take part in more evaluations. 

“I check my professors on Rate My Professors before I take a course and it helps me get a general idea of what people think overall,” says Asley, an undergraduate computer engineering student who did not want to disclose her last name. According to Asley, seeing other students’ comments is valuable and it can help incentivize participation. 

However, Isaaq believes that such a platform should have been planned for the beginning of the CSU’s mandate and logistically it would not be possible to implement it at this time. 

“I’m not saying that it’s a bad idea, but those are the types of things you plan at the beginning of your mandate,” said Isaaq. “My year is set and there’s only so many things you can do and decide on, but an idea like having your own platform to post your ratings […] takes a lot of labour and we already decided what our goals are for this year.” 

Isaaq believes that there are benefits to an internal platform since Rate My Professors does not include all of the part-time professors and has no index to show who is currently teaching or no longer teaching at Concordia. However, Fawaz Halloum, the CSU General Coordinator, said that the issue of having mid-course evaluations will be “shared with the academic caucus who may decide to take it up with the Senate.” 

The University maintains that course evaluations are taken seriously and that department chairs have access to them and can discuss any issues that arise from them with the respective faculty. 

There has been a lack of action since the survey came out in 2019 since there are still no mid-course evaluations for most courses. Maestracci affirmed that “the recommendations are under review and we will be sharing more on their implementation once that is done.” However, she did not share any specific timeline as to when students can expect this implementation.

Student Life

Concordia needs a stronger focus on vaccination

The university needs to do more to pull their weight so we can achieve herd immunity

As Concordians return to campus this week, many for the first time in over a year, and many more for the first time ever, there are still a lot of questions about students’ safety that the university administration has left up in the air.

Throughout the summer, it seemed as if information regarding reopening trickled into student inboxes as slow as a broken faucet. With only four emails sent by Student Communications relating to the possibility of on-campus activity throughout the entire summer, the reality of an “irl” semester has been hazy to most.

Even now as we begin the fall semester in earnest, the university should be doing more to ensure both student, faculty, and staff safety as we enter COVID-19’s fourth wave and clearly communicate those safety measures.

While it is commendable that Concordia has strengthened its vaccine policy in recent days, now requiring proof of vaccination for many on-campus activities, this move was too little, too late. Proof of vaccination should be required not just for extra-curricular activities, but for classes as well, in order to keep faculty and immunocompromised students safe.

The fact that Concordia has only now imposed a vaccine mandate for extra-curricular activities is short-sighted and lags behind its American counterparts. In the United States, over 800 universities, and all of the top 25 ranked institutions are requiring proof of vaccination for students in some capacity, many of them requiring it for class attendance. And it’s not just American universities, who due to the United State’s vaccine production, had a much faster rollout. Many Ontario universities are following suit. York University, Queen’s University, the University of Guelph, and Ontario Tech University all require proof of vaccination for students returning to campus.

On Aug. 26, McGill University strengthened its vaccine requirements for on-campus activities. Now, McGill students will need the Quebec vaccine passport to attend events like sports games and conferences, as well as access certain residence common areas, and more. While this move was a last-minute addition before the start of the semester, students would already need the passport starting Sept. 1 to do many other activities around the city because of the government mandate.

Concordia seems to be following McGill’s strategy of only regulating some activities which, at first glance, might pose a larger risk. However, there are many Concordia classes boasting over 50 students to a room. So, requiring vaccination for outdoor events of over 60 people, but not for indoor classes of the same size doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny.

While it is impossible to say at this moment how the Quebec vaccine passport app will pan out, due to its quick and simple registration process, it’s safe to assume that the system will be fairly streamlined and unobtrusive. However, getting students vaccinated is another issue altogether.

Hannah Jamet-Lange, academic & advocacy coordinator at the Concordia Student Union (CSU), believes that the university has a decent way to go in terms of ensuring students are adequately informed about vaccination. In an open letter to President Carr, Provost and Vice-President Academic Whitelaw, and the whole Concordia administration, the CSU stated that it would only favour a vaccine mandate if the university was to put in checks for students with preexisting health conditions, religious objections, and international students unable to get the vaccine before their arrival in Canada.

Jamet-Lange explained, “Basically, we just want to be sure that the implementation of a vaccine mandate does not cause further exclusion of international students and students who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons, while also wanting the university to actually acknowledge that a lot of people do not feel safe returning to campus knowing that people they sit in a small room with for three hours are not vaccinated.”

Moving further from simply a vaccination mandate, Jamet-Lange explains that many students have voiced their concern about Concordia’s overall safety measures. “A lot of students have health concerns, for themselves, their loved ones, and the general community,” they explained. “We also have a lot of student parents at Concordia who are concerned about infecting their children who have not yet been able to receive a vaccine, especially if schools were to shut down at any point or classes need to stay home for a certain amount of time due to a COVID outbreak.”

All in all, Concordia’s safety approach must flow and change with the ongoing situation. However, it has felt more like a game of catch-up than a resolute plan to keep students safe.

The CSU points to measures such as an on-campus vaccination site, clear information on contract tracing and social distancing, and the option of online learning as ways for the university to ease concerns from students. These are all good ideas, and will surely lead to a safer campus environment. If Concordia started shifting to a preemptive communication approach, informing students of possible COVID-19-related changes (earlier than a few days before they go into effect), then we may start to feel more comfortable around campus again.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt


Academic advising at Concordia

How students feel towards their advisors, and the University’s response

At Concordia, the main way for students to communicate issues regarding their academics is through their advisors. From faculty to faculty, their roles and qualifications will defer, but they all generally have the same responsibilities: to help students through any academic hardships.

Mainly, one will reach out to an academic advisor when facing scheduling problems, registration problems, or even problems with a professor. Oftentimes, advisors are advertised as a helpful tool for students, and make communication between the administration and Concordia’s 45,000 students easier.

A statement from the university to The Concordian highlights that, “Advisors at the department level may be administrative staff, or faculty members who undertake academic advising responsibilities in addition to their teaching and research portfolios.”

However, there has been lots of criticism directed toward the advisors. In particular, on Facebook student pages, there have been many memes and posts talking about the lack of student support.

Per department, there are approximately half a dozen advisors per faculty. For example, the Arts and Science Faculty has over 19,000 students, and six advisors. This would mean that on average, each advisor is responsible for 3,000 students. These advisors would be a part of the Student Academic Services.

According to the Concordia website, the Arts and Science advisor’s role is to, “recruit, counsel and guide students from the time of their application to admission into a program in the Faculty of Arts and Science, until completion of the program.”

Lucy Neubacher is a second year student at Concordia University, studying Anthropology and Sociology under the Arts and Science Faculty (ASF) umbrella. She has reached out to academic advisors on two separate occasions, and both times was left with more questions than answers.

She says, “First year, I had reached out to my academic advisor a couple times, and every time I was just getting very broad answers, nothing really answered my questions.”

This year, when there was a communication issue with one of her professors, Nubacker hoped to speak with an academic advisor in hopes of resolving the situation.

“Because [my professor] is the head of the department, I didn’t have anyone else to complain to about him. So I thought reaching out to my academic advisor would be worth it.”

When she finally got in touch with her advisor, she only received a link to the Concordia website, which did not help her.

“I didn’t know who else to talk to, I was really opening up to [the advisor] about, you know, my struggles and what I wanted to do. And the academic advisor just sent me an email saying ‘sorry to hear that here’s a link if you need help.’”

Academic advising at Concordia is structured in many different ways, depending on the faculty. The university’s statement explains, “Each faculty has its own advising structure with some having a mix of department level advising and Student Academic Services advising while others have a more centralized structure.”

The first advising method would apply to the ASF, while the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) has a more centralized approach.

“Advisors and the Student Academic Services provide academic advising on a broad range of topics, while department advisors (often called program advisors) can guide students through the requirements for undergraduate programs (such as course sequences, registration and substitutions),” read the statement, about the first advising approach.

For JMSB, their advising takes place in the Undergraduate Student Affairs Office.

“Students only have to go to that office to get all of the academic advising they need for their academic program. John Molson advisors are professionals who support students from the time they are accepted to the school to graduation.”

A JMSB student, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that in his case, academic advisors helped him during registration. He says, “For me, personally, they’ve been very helpful … [An advisor] actually helped me last semester, in getting me in touch and directing me, because I wanted to register for this course that was restrictive, that you needed certain prerequisites.”

“I don’t think the advisors are to blame. It’s the administration at Concordia, who haven’t prepared properly, given that everything has shifted online. They still have one advisor for a thousand students. And obviously students have more questions, because it’s more confusing now.”

Since the pandemic began, there has been an increase in requests for advising.

But the Central Advising Working Group (CAWG), established in late 2018, aims to “champion effective academic advising service to students through sharing best practices, increasing engagement between staff who support students, providing support to advisors, and addressing areas for improvement within academic advising at Concordia. The group’s work is ongoing and looking at ways to improve undergraduate student academic advising.”

Hopefully, the CAWG will be able to hold academic advisors accountable at Concordia accountable.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Concordia Student Union News

Addressing discrimination in the CSU

The CSU is creating letters apologizing and acknowledging past and ongoing discrimination

A motion to create four letters that apologize, acknowledge, and address the issue of racism, anti-semitism, sexism, and queerphobia in the Concordia Student Union (CSU) was passed on Feb. 10. These letters will be published at the end of each month from February to May.

The CSU has had several councillors who have said they have faced instances of discrimination and racism against councillors, leading many Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) members to resign. Eduardo Malorni, the CSU’s student life coordinator who came up with the idea of the letters, sees them as a way to try to remedy this issue, and is helping facilitate their creation alongside the executive team and other CSU members. Malorni hopes the letters will help fix this issue of discimination in the CSU.

“If you look at the councillors that have resigned, many are members of the BIPOC community,” said Malorni, who explained that many members that leave the CSU don’t want to rejoin since they see no change, and the issue was swept under the rug.

On March 13, 2019, former CSU internal coordinator, Princess Somefun, said she resigned due to the toxic environment and online harassment.

“The union that claims to want to empower marginalized and racialized folks has let me down due to their negligence,” said Somefun at the CSU’s meeting in 2019.

On Sept. 6, 2020, former councillor Paige Beaulieu said they resigned due to feeling unsafe in the work environment. According to an article in The Link, Beaulieu, who uses they/them pronouns, said they were mocked for their gender identity by another councillor. In the article Beaulieu explained that it is common for jokes about racism, white supremacy, sexism and transphobia to be made by some CSU councillors.

Former councillor Ahmadou Sakho said he resigned on Sept. 20, 2020, due to how difficult it was to pass motions relating to diversity. In an article by The Link, Sakho stated that it was like an arm wrestle to get councillors to implement measures that would improve the lack of diversity on the CSU.

Former councillor Christopher Kalafatidis resigned during a meeting on Aug. 26, 2020. Earlier in the meeting, Kalafatidis had accused Isaiah Joyner, the general coordinator of the CSU and a person of colour, of refusing to denounce the KKK when Joyner suggested changing a motion from denouncing the KKK to a broader stance on anti-racism.

Honestly, [it was] one of the most racist things that has ever been said to me in a professional context,” said Joyner in an interview with The Concordian.

“It happens year after year and literally nothing has changed. Not our accountability procedures or the way we approach it,” said Malorni.

Malorni explained that he came up with the idea for the letters because he saw the Jewish, BIPOC, and queer CSU councillors were feeling hurt and that their message wasn’t getting across.

“If these councillors are feeling they aren’t being heard and acknowledged, imagine what it is like for the students outside of council,” he said.

“The first thing the CSU should do is apologize, that’s what you do when you are wrong, you apologize,” said Malorni. He explained that the goal of these letters is to hold the CSU accountable for past instances of discimination, and then move forward by ensuring measures of diversity and inclusivity.

“The letters are definitely, if alone, superficial. Part of the letter is going to be actionable steps,” he said. “If a year from now, nothing has changed, then the letters were superficial and completely failed.”

Malorni explained that while these letters will be apologizing for things that the current CSU council has not necessarily done, it is important for the CSU to take accountability for past councillors’ actions.

He stated that this has to be a communal effort, from the CSU as a whole. And that by acknowledging it, the CSU can take the next step, which is fixing the issue.

Concordia Student Union News

Black History Month – but make it year-long

Concordia Student Union (CSU) puts a spotlight on Black excellence


For Black History Month, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) has been using their Instagram platform to feature Black activists, writers, artists and scholars on spotlight posts — a solid effort at highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of Black people throughout history.

As part of their latest Black Lives Matter campaign, this initiative aims to uplift and amplify Black voices during Black History Month. The campaign’s broader goal focuses on echoing the demands made by the Coalition to Defund the Police and the calls from the Concordia Black Studies collective.

“We decided to designate this project to Black History Month by showcasing a different person each day to learn about their role and how they’ve impacted society as a whole,” said Victoria Pesce, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator.

These posts include figures such as Oscar Peterson, Mary Ann Shadd, Rev. Addie Aylestock, and more.

A blurry line between allyship and performativity

“My relationship with Black History Month has always been shaky,” said Sundus Noor, a second year Concordia student. “I notice that every February there are new initiatives and events that pop up in an effort to uplift Black communities, but I sometimes feel like those things can be done all year around.”

“In some cases, it ends up coming out as trying to profit off of the month or taking advantage by tokenizing people.”

Noor explained how it can be hard to know if the intentions behind someone’s actions are truthful. But, she believes the CSU’s initiative to uplift a community is well-intended.

“It makes you wonder whether someone genuinely wants to celebrate Black people, or if they want to do it because not doing so might make them look bad.”

“I believe the CSU’s initiative comes from a genuine place of wanting to do their duty and shine the spotlight on Black people who have contributed to our societies, but there is always room for improvement,” she said.

Noor expressed her concerns about the dangers of exclusively reserving these discussions and initiatives for February and forgetting them the rest of the year.

“We shouldn’t be dumping everything in one month and forgetting everything about it after.”

“What happens after Black History Month? People’s voices seem to be erased because the month is over, and I think that’s when it becomes a form of tokenization.”

Karim Fall, a Journalism student, echoed this point.

“I’m always on the fence when the month of February comes around because some people might partake simply because they see others do it and they want to avoid being the outlier.”

“In any case, it remains important that conversations are taking place during that month, and that is progressive in a sense because it gives people the chance to learn,” added Fall.

“I’m never going to be mad at a discussion happening because we should always encourage dialogue, but it also bothers me when bigger institutions ignore it as soon as we hit March 1.”

Broader goals: uplifting beyond social media

For many students, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging to connect with the Concordia community and take part in these initiatives during Black History Month.

“I feel so far away from everything that is going on at the university at this moment,” said Florence Ojo, a student at Concordia.

Given that huge parts of our lives have been shifted to the online scene, the importance of social media engagement in uplifting Black voices has become crucial — even more so in the first ever virtual Black History Month.

Beyond virtual events, Pesce explained that the CSU has offered different workshops on topics like activism, allyship and police defunding to keep up the focus on what the Black communities need.

“We have to acknowledge how whitewashed our education is,” she said, “We don’t learn about the Black communities, or the Indigenous communities while growing up and that’s why it’s important to take every moment of the month to realize it.”

On the academic level, Pesce discussed the CSU’s efforts to hold the administration accountable and create different initiatives for the Black communities within Concordia, notably the Black Perspective Office (BPO).

“Similar to the sexual violence workshop, we’re working towards creating a mandatory workshop during which we would learn about the difference between, for instance, racism, oppression, discrimination, and more,” explained Pesce.

“It’s a part of our education that is lacking in our system.”

Fall echoes Pesce’s point, “The more I learn about Black history, the more I realize that it’s really world history.”

Similarly, Ojo believes that Black History Month is a great way to learn and amplify the voices of Black individuals, but we should not limit ourselves to a simple month of the year.

“We’re all here to learn and we should do that every day, not just during February.”


Screenshot of the CSU instagram page

Concordia Student Union

CSU Positions Book expiry

A referendum question was passed for the points in the position book to expire after four years

A referendum question was put on the ballot at the Concordia Student Union (CSU) meeting on Jan. 27 to remove the recent expiry date on positions in the CSU’s Positions Book.

Back in February 2020, a different referendum question passed, giving all positions in the book a four-year expiry date. This referendum question caused a lot of controversy, including a campaign against it, called Vote NO to ‘Democratise’ Positions Book.

A positions book is a common practice in student unions: it is an outline of the unions’ position on political, social, and student-life issues. The CSU’s positions book varies from points such as the CSU being against unpaid internships to the CSU being against racism in all forms. 

Referendums are held throughout the year, and students can add questions to the ballot as long as they gain more than 500 signatures from other Concordia students and present the question to the CSU. Then, it is voted on during the student election, and if it passes, the CSU is mandated to implement it. The next referendum is from March 16 to 18.

The four-year expiry date was brought to referendum by former councilor Danielle Vandolder-Beaudin, who tried to have a similar motion passed in 2019. According to an article in The Link, it would have revoked over 50 positions in the book, such as freedom of expression and Indigenous solidarity.

“This document represents our political beliefs, and this represents our student body. In 10 years, maybe that won’t be a general statement. We can’t assume things like that,” said Vandolder-Beaudin in the 2020 meeting.

Other counselors did not agree with the referendum question, such as former councilor Hannah Jamet-Lange, who said she did not believe that issues such as feminism and Indigenous solidarity should be regularly voted on.

During the recent CSU meeting, there was a similar divide in reference to the new referendum question that would stop the four-year expiry date. 

Many councilors saw the four-year expiry date as a way to keep the position book updated and focused. While others, such as Harrison Kirshner and S Shivaane who presented the motion, saw this as a way to undermine minority groups in Concordia.

In the general election this past fall, students voted on 19 referendum questions, several being for the positions book: Indigenous rights, Anti-racism/Diversity and inclusion, and Antisemitism/Holocaust denial positions. All position questions passed with an overwhelming majority vote.

“We have heard this is a problem from many, many students,” said Kirshner at the CSU meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, explaining that many students were surprised the CSU didn’t already support these positions.

“It’s not a good look to say we’re fighting for Indigenous issues every four years,” said Academic and Advocacy Coordinator Sarah Mazhero, agreeing with Kirshner that constantly voting on positions can imply the CSU is questioning their legitimacy.

Councillor James Hanna believes that he has a way to please both sides when it comes to the four-year expiry date.

“I’d much rather prefer the position book to be transformed into something that is binding so the CSU can actually accomplish it,” said Hanna.

He explained that his current idea is to have open-ended headers, such as Indigenous solidarity and climate change. These headers would be permanent, creating an outline of how the CSU should take action.

Under these headers would be things such as actions that should be taken by the university, and organizations to support. These positions would expire after four years, as they change in relevance to the overarching issue.

While the policy committee will work on potentially implementing Hanna’s idea, students will vote on the positions book question during the spring election in March.


Logo courtesy of the Concordia Student Union.

Behind the open letter: an interview with Juliet Bartlett

The Concordian talks to student Juliet Bartlett about her open letter to Concordia’s administration

This past week, Concordia forums have been abuzz in response to an open letter posted online regarding the university’s approach to online schooling during COVID-19. The letter outlines complaints about a wide array of issues such as the lack of a pass/fail option, tuition breaks and support for international students.

The Concordian sat down with the author, third-year Intermedia student Juliet Bartlett, to discuss the letter and her intentions behind it.

TC: Your letter is extensive and very impassioned; what prompted you to write it?

JB: The letter was quite a few months in the making. It wasn’t just something that I typed overnight. It was inspired by months of talking and listening to students either via the [Concordia] subreddit or reading posts on Facebook or my own friends as to what their experiences were. I didn’t just want to write a letter based on what I was experiencing. I wanted to write it with everyone in mind and kind of capsule [sic] the frustration the student body is feeling at the moment.

TC: Concordia has many formal ways to communicate with administration. Why did you feel an open letter was the best format for your message? 

JB: Open letters are public, they usually embody something bigger than one person. If changes were to be made, they had to be public and they have to pick up traction. Concordia — I think a lot of students feel this way too — doesn’t make changes unless it is something bigger or that’s been on the slow burner for an extensive period of time. It was really important that it was public knowledge and that it was going past the student body and Concordia to make sure that we aren’t just going to sit and be silent and take this.

TC: You’re in Intermedia. How is Concordia’s approach to an online semester affecting you as a BFA student?

JB: I’ll prelude by saying this: I love my program, the people, the professors. But, as a fine arts student, it’s affecting me specifically because for most of my projects, you need a higher-end computer to run the software you need. Fortunately, I do have a good enough computer to run these programs. It is getting outdated though. Whereas, last year, we had the option to use either the Intermedia editing suite or the Centre for Digital Arts (CDA). There’s a lot of students that I have spoken with that aren’t as fortunate as me. They’re on a laptop that’s almost catching fire while they’re trying to run Blender. And especially for students that aren’t located in Montreal, even if [the department] were to open something, there isn’t really a way to get that equipment to them. So we need to consider fees and we need to consider costs, because tuition wasn’t lowered, we got a $17 discount. The CDA fee was waived, but how can you justify the cost of an $800, plus upgrade to your computer to run the software you need for school?

TC: What would you like CU admin to take away from your letter? 

JB: Number one, I hope that they read it in full. I hope it’s not skimmed. I want every word to be considered in my letter. Number two, I want them to know this isn’t out of spite. I wanted them to erase and forget this whole current ideal that’s been spun around by some people saying that students are lazy, students don’t care, they just want a pass and they want to cheat. That is not the point [of] my letter. What we’re trying to say is that it is a rough year. There are more issues than are being assumed going on behind closed doors with students.

The ones who were in university 20, maybe 25 years ago, maybe those employees who just started, remember what it was like when you started university. Remember the stress that you felt. Then, I want you to take away all those memories you had with your friends in first year. Take away all of the social outings you went to. Then, I want you to confine them to one small room with a computer, a webcam, Moodle frequently crashing and a heavier workload. Add a strong tiredness that is 24/7. Then, I want them to imagine that this is what their university tells them is fine.

TC: In the recent CSU by-election, students voted in favour of a pass/fail option, lightening course workload, and turning away from proctored exams, all topics you mention in your letter. Do these results give you hope or do you expect more of the same from the institution?  

JB: It doesn’t give me hope in terms of what the administration’s next plans are going to be. It does give me hope and empowers the idea of the letter, and the fact that the student body does agree with that and does want this. I think it’s pretty evident that we have wanted it since the beginning of fall term. I also don’t understand how the administration wouldn’t want to [implement] a pass/fail option. Everyone seems to be struggling — that I have spoken with. Everybody’s GPA is most likely going to take a hit. So, as a university, why wouldn’t you favour pass/fail, rather than having your overall university GPA drop? Because that is most likely what is going to happen.

TC: What would you say to other Concordians who want to have their voices heard on these issues? 

JB: I would strongly encourage them to write their own letter. Sit down and really think about the things you have felt this term, these specific things that apply to your faculty and school-wide. Be honest, and write a letter. We all need to unite, both the student body and professors, because this is affecting professors as well. We need to understand that we need to work together to make changes happen. The louder we are, and the more vocal and well-versed we can be in this, the better the outcome.

In response to the concerns laid out in the open letter, Concordia University replied in a statement:

“We understand the difficulties and frustrations that students and everyone are facing during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, students’ success and well-being have been priorities for us and we have put in place a series of measures to help them through these difficult times. We have hired more teaching assistants, are loaning IT equipment to students, have extended the winter break, safely opened study spaces in the library or sent at-home kits for some courses, among the many measures taken. The university has also made significant technology investments to support the move to remote course delivery and assistance to faculty and staff, direct financial aid to students as well as online learning supports, increased on-campus health and safety measures, and stepped-up cybersecurity in a context where cyberattacks are proliferating. We will continue to further adjust to the situation and remain committed to the success of our students.

On tuition fees generally, please note that for the vast majority of students, tuition fees are set by the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur (MES) and are adjusted on a yearly basis. [For Quebec residents and out-of-province Canadian students, the government increased tuition for the 2020-21 academic by 3.1 per cent.]”


phoPo by Christine Beaudoin


Concordia’s new initiative in fighting against systemic racism

President’s task force on anti-Black racism

Concordia takes action and launches a plan to address and to fight against systemic racism in the university. On Oct. 29, President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr announced the Task Force on Anti-Black Racism.

According to Concordia’s statement, “The task force will direct and coordinate the work needed to generate recommendations that will address anti-Black racism based on the experiences of faculty, staff and students.”

Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, among others, people around the world began to express their frustration with police brutality towards Black people, and took to the streets to march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In early June, members of the Concordia community came together and wrote a letter with a series of demands and recommendations for the university, insisting that Concordia take action against anti-Black racism. The letter was written after a short period of consultation. The task force is an opportunity for an ongoing discussion with students, faculty members and staff. Over the course of two years, the task force will address systemic racism and have an action plan put in place with different recommendations from its members.

Led by three co-chairs, Angélique Willkie, associate professor of Contemporary Dance, Stéphane Brutus, professor of Management at JMSB, and Annick Maugile Flavien, founding coordinator of the Black Perspectives Office, the initiative also includes a 15-person leadership team. The students involved are undergraduates, graduates, alumni and two members of the Black Caucus of Concordia (BBC). As for the faculty members and staff, they represent eight sub-committees: campus security, anti-racist education, Concordia’s history and relations with Black communities, curriculum and educational resources, student services, faculty development, employment initiatives and fundraising.

The leadership committee is essentially the brain of the task force. In the sense that the leads are the ones working on the recommendations and all,” commented Flavien.

The importance of the student body is highlighted in this initiative as the task force is very oriented towards the student experience. Brutus stated that “The meat of the task force” is found in the sub-committees’ topics. Brutus explained that looking at the eight sub-committees, four of them directly influence the student experience: campus security, anti-racist education, curriculum and educational resources, and student services.

“This task force will aim to do many things for staff, faculty and community members, but a big part of what we want to do is really focus on the student experience in relation to these matters and try to improve the status,” emphasized Brutus.

According to Wilkie, now is really the time to “peel all of the layers of the onion on a wider spectrum.” She highlights that the responsibility of the task force is to take time over the course of two years to evaluate the situation at Concordia and to “dig in” each of the divisions that will be managed by the separate sub-committees.

Flavien stated that over the next years, “There is going to be continuous action put in place depending on what is possible at what time.” She also explained that there are already a lot of changes happening right now; one being inclusion workshops with the Faculty of Fine Arts as well as psychological services that she is leading.

“The task force will look at the demands of the letter with much more in-depth understanding of what is actually happening at Concordia, what is possible to be put into place and what best fits the community as we move forward.”

The task force will finalize the membership of the sub-committees by Nov. 30, 2020.

Amaria Phillips, co-founder of the newly established Black Student Union (BSU), commented on the need of Black students’ representation at the university. Phillips pointed out the necessity for this club especially in a predominantly white university like Concordia.

Phillips also clarified that the BSU is not part of the task force but hopes to be working with the initiative in the near-feature.

“The task force is a really important step. Now Black students really know that there is something holding the university accountable in making sure that Black students’ voices are heard,” said Phillips.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab

Concordia Student Union News

Abolition or reform? A new CSU position

CSU’s police brutality position is controversial in its wording

On Oct. 28, the CSU’s second meeting of the month discussed Arts and Science Representative Shivaane Subash’s police brutality position. In hopes of being added to the CSU’s Positions Book, the position highlights how the CSU does not support the SPVM in its treatment of Black and Indigenous students.

Two distinct positions were recognizable in the discussions: one for abolition, and one against. This doesn’t mean that any parties were against taking a position; rather, they had different approaches to the position.

Subash wrote in the position, “The CSU recognizes its racially diverse student population and how widely reported racial profiling experiences by the SPVM affects their educational experience. Thus, it is vital to advocate for their safety and security to ensure a safe, enriching university environment.”

This universal statement is one that most CSU representatives agree with. However, there are a handful of representatives that have issues with the last clause in the position.

The section originally read, “CSU stands in favour with defunding and abolishing the SVPM, so as to redirect those financial resources to areas such as healthcare, mental health, housing, education, jobs, and restorative-justice models that better suit the needs of our community.” After the discussion, the section of the quote in italics was removed.

Subash explained that she “looked at the Positions Book and realized there was just a small section on police brutality.”

As one of the only remaining women of colour in the CSU now that many have stepped down, she knew that someone needed to take a stand, and change the CSU’s position on these issues.

Subash is aware that abolishing and defunding the police is a controversial idea, and was expecting push back from fellow council members.

“This is natural, there was pushback and confusion from the general public and different leaders as well, so it was expected by everyone,” she said.

Despite this, she said it’s still exhausting to deal with this type of push back.

“It’s mostly tiring … especially when everyone is learning about concepts such as police brutality. They’re not new concepts, but they’re penetrating the public more nowadays.”

She stood by her ideas and statement, based on her own personal experience as a minority.

“A lot of people are against it because the police have always been there as an institution that we’ve had for ages,” she said.

So people are so used to that police presence, they don’t want to consider abolishing/ defunding the police.”

However, this isn’t the section that Tzvi Hersh Filler, a member of the CSU Council of Representatives, had issues with, but rather the word “abolish.”’

In Filler’s opinion, “In this case, seeing as [the police] is an essential service, scrapping it doesn’t make sense. Obviously, you have to fix the accountability issues.” He argues that the word “abolish” will create a sour relationship with the SPVM, which can lead to bigger issues.

Filler compares the situation to a similar one that occurred in New York City, where a group of Orthodox Jews were being harassed with bricks. According to Filler, the police failed to handle the situation properly.

He said, “The fact that the police were unable to properly handle [the situation], came down to the fact that the police felt like [the mayor] was out to abolish them, and that created this atmosphere where they couldn’t do their jobs.”

James Hanna, a Gina Cody councillor at the CSU is of the same opinion as Filler. Both agree that the SPVM is extremely problematic and needs to be fixed. However, these two don’t see how abolition is the key to this.

He said, “Without fixing society itself; without lowering the racism score, the level of [racism in] the police also won’t change because it’s the same pool of candidates, it’s still the subset of that same population, unless you radically change the population.”

As of now, the position’s 12.8 section stands as such: “CSU stands in favour with defunding and abolishing the SVPM.”


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