Concordia takes Quebec Attorney General to court over tuition hikes

Quebec government challenged over tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students.

On Feb. 23, Concordia applied for judicial review by the Superior Court of Quebec over tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students. The university feels it has “no choice but to pursue a just outcome through legal action,” according to a message by Concordia President Graham Carr. 

In the application, Concordia highlighted the main issues with the proposed tuition increases; they contradict the responsibilities of the Minister of Higher Education, they disregard the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by restricting mobility rights of Canadians, and they could worsen the Quebec university system’s pre-existing funding problems.

The application also lays out a clear timeline of events, including key communications between Minister Déry or subsequent representatives of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government and Concordia concerning tuition fee structure. 

Beginning in and around April 2023, the CAQ started to probe and question Quebec’s English-language universities about their out-of-province students. According to the application, Minister Déry said that “non-resident students at English-language universities were not staying in Québec, that the government’s funding policy on non-resident students gave an advantage to English-language universities.” (Lawsuit, 180)

Discussions like the one in April were followed up continuously throughout the year until the announcement of tuition hikes for out-of-province and international students to the universities on Oct. 10. This was just three days before they were formally announced to the public in a press conference held by Déry and the Minister of the French Language, Jean-François Roberge.

Throughout months of discussions with Déry, the Québec government never provided data to back up their claims that out-of-province and international students contributed to the decline of French in Montreal.

Concordia’s lawsuit argues that the Québec government has disregarded many norms of practice, responsibilities and legally binding documents.

Déry only notified CCAFE that the government was seeking advice on the tuition fees for out-of-province and international students on Dec. 14, 2023. As the Minister of Higher Education, Déry has a responsibility to consult with the Advisory Committee on Financial Accessibility of Education (CCAFE) before implementing changes to tuition fees per Section 88 of the “Act Respecting the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur, de la Recherche, de la Science et de la Technologie.” English-language educational institutions are not represented in this committee.

CCAFE responded on Jan. 19, 2024, that there was a lack of data provided by the Minister, that tuition fees for out-of-province students in Quebec was already higher than in other provinces, that universities would take on the loss of revenue due to the new grant structure, and that the tuition structure would “create significant financial barriers for students.” (Lawsuit, 180)

The application also claims the decision will restrict the mobility rights of Canadians since the new tuition structure would contradict Section 6.(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “every citizen of Canada […] has the right […] to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.” The Charter indicates that this includes discriminating against a person based on their province of present or previous residence. 

In the application, Concordia also brought up sections on equality rights as well as minority language rights as the new tuition would limit the freedoms of out-of-province students as well as disproportionately affect the English-language post-secondary institutions of Québec.

It remains to be seen if the CAQ will use the notwithstanding clause to shield the tuition increases from the scrutiny of the Charter. The CAQ has previously used this clause to defend Bill 21 as well as Bill 96 in the bill’s expansion of the investigative powers of the Office Québécois de la Langue Française (OQLF).

Interview Music

Satisfaction guaranteed with Concordia’s rock ’n’ roll band The Satisfactory

An introduction to the rising local band, The Satisfactory.

Everyone wants to be a rockstar but not everyone can. Three of Concordia’s very own are coming closer and closer to being the exception. Salvador Vaughan (a.k.a Sal), Max Moller and Viva Anoush Egoyan-Rokeby make up the entirety of local up-and-coming rock band The Satisfactory. 

The trio lived in Concordia’s Grey Nuns downtown residence last year for their first year in Montreal coming from Toronto. This is where they all properly met each other. “Sal was my neighbour when we were in residence and he would practise like 8 hours a day so I knew all the songs before we even started as a band,” Egoyan-Rokeby explained.  

The Satisfactory came to life at the start of the summer once all three returned from Toronto. Spearheaded by singer-songwriter Sal on the electric guitar, backed by Moller on drums and Egoyan-Rokeby on bass, the band always gives a performance worth seeing despite only having done it eight times. When asked about what prompted his decision to write and form a band, Sal cited his love for music and his desire to transform it into something tangible through performing. Anyone who has seen them live can attest to the acumen of this decision. 

Despite Sal largely being the one in charge, Moller and Egoyan-Rokeby do not feel like anything is being taken from them and they do not resent him. In a tongue-in-cheek response to this, Sal compared himself to The Beatles’ Paul McCartney during the recording of the band’s White Album but unlike the famously argumentative quartet, this trio guarantees that they never have any issues and get along great, apparently they’re just getting closer. 

When asked about the origin of the band’s name, Sal explained that he discovered it while looking through a cocktail book while high and that he found it cool. He then scoured Spotify to make sure no other artists had already claimed it. Despite the name, be assured that they’re a lot more than just satisfactory.

Sal finds writing inspiration in a mix of three different things, namely looking at his own life through a positive lens. This creative approach is akin to his rock idols, Oasis, a band he heralds for their heartening music along with love and eccentric nonsensical things à la “I am The Walrus” by The Beatles. Sal further describes music as something that has always been a part of his life, but something he only started taking seriously at age 13. Since then, his world has revolved around music and writing alike. The Satisfactory songs are typically humbly written when he’s alone in his room, just him and his guitar.

“I just want to be in a band and I’m ready to work my ass off for it,” Sal said.  This drive, ambition and talent is exactly why The Satisfactory has only been moving closer and closer to their goal of rock stardom, one string and a beat at a time.


‘My whole motive is to just give back’: Design student fights for a user-friendly Montreal

From changing public transport signage to blocking off Mackay street to cars, Concordia student Dashiell Friesen wants to bring change to Montreal’s streets.

In the early hours of Sept. 29, Mackay Street, located on Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus, was blocked off by students demanding the road’s pedestrianisation. 

Running up and down the street throughout the protest was Dashiell Friesen, one of Pedestrianise Mackay’s coordinators. Directing traffic away from the street and helping his peers paint a mural, Friesen found himself in an uncertain, yet exciting new situation.

“I’ve never done a project like this to this size,” Friesen said in reference to the mural. “It’s been an experience seeing it being created, [Mackay] being blocked off… […] It’s changed my perspective on protests.” 

Friesen is a fourth-year student in design at Concordia and a long-time advocate for increased public infrastructure. 

Growing up in the heart of New York, he said he experienced the utility of public transportation. Its proximity and ease of access was a gateway into independence in his teenage years. Friesen’s fascination for public transportation grew over the years, eventually leading him to apply his passions into real-life action such as the Mackay Street blockage.

Friesen has been coordinating efforts to pedestrianise Mackay Street since the past summer. First, his plans focused on transforming Bishop Street, as it already gives priority to pedestrians. However, he soon set his sights on Mackay Street, as he thought it served as a better equivalent to McGill University’s pedestrianised McTavish Street.

“There’s such a limited amount of space available, without tearing all the buildings down,” Friesen explained. “I think that’s what I appreciate the most with Montreal, it’s that there’s just more public space to just hang out.”

Friesen said he envisioned a pedestrianised Mackay having walking space above all, as well as seating areas and a garden.

The Mackay Street protest was not achieved solely through Friesen’s efforts. Alongside him was Lily Charette, mobilisation coordinator for the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA). Advocating for various causes during her time at Concordia, Charette is no stranger to researching and bringing a protest to fruition. 

“Dashiell was someone I would always talk to about [Mackay],” Charette said. “There was never really a big push for it, it was always pushed to the side in the past. He was really passionate about the project.”

The pair worked together to bring this project in the limelight. Where Charette hosted meetings and came up with a plan of action, Friesen would plan out mock-up models and write proposals to involved authorities such as Concordia’s administration or to the city. 

Last summer, Friesen installed signage stickers for Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) access at Bonaventure and Gare Centrale stations, days prior the Autorité Régionale de Transport Métropolitain (ARTM). 

While passing through stations, he noticed there were no clear directions guiding travellers to the new REM trains. Friesen utilised his background in design in order to print his own signs based on the city’s previous designs for other modes of transport.

After initially reaching out to the ARTM about changing the signage, Friesen’s efforts came to light thanks to news outlets. This, alongside his own efforts to contact the ARTM, prompted them to install clearer signage for the REM. 

“I don’t typically love participating in protests, I’m fine just seeing them. But I wanted to still be involved in advocating for something in the city,” Friesen explained. “In a way, protesting was me installing my own signs, or you know, getting a huge group of people to block a street.”

Emboldened by the change he’d been part of with the REM signage, Friesen decided to tackle pedestrianising Mackay Street. “My whole motive is to just give back in general,” Friesen said.

In the weeks since the street blockage, the painted mural has remained on Mackay Street. Friesen said he has received good news regarding the city’s plans for Mackay Street. However, he said his cohort’s job is far from over, as they’ll have to keep raising awareness in order to fuel the conversation they’ve started in Concordia’s halls.

Mackay Street and the Hall Building.

Photo by Lily Cowper / The Concordian


Concordia’s Indian international students forgotten in India-Canada Crisis

As diplomatic tensions rise, the largest demographic of international students in Canada are caught in the crosshairs

The recent rift between India and Canada has brought uncertainty and chaos for both Indian international students at Concordia and the university’s Sikh community.

On Sept. 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of involvement in the assassination of Canadian citizen and Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have rapidly deteriorated, and India has halted visa applications for Canadian nationals in retaliation. 

Angad Singh Malhotra, president of Concordia’s Sikh Student Association (SSA), said that over the last two weeks, a number of students have reached out to the SSA for help and advice regarding the situation.

“Yesterday somebody was telling me about how their parents got their visa refused because of the issues that are going on,” said Malhotra. “And they fear that a lot of them who are engaged with the community, if they are vocal, will get the refusal to go back to India.”

These concerns come as Indian government officials and media outlets portray Canada as a breeding ground for the Khalistani movement, which strives to establish a sovereign state for the Sikh population in northern India. While militant factions within the Khalistani movement exist in South Asia, the overwhelming majority of Khalistani activists adhere to non-violent principles.

For Sikh Canadians, like Singh, a Concordia graduate who asked his firstname not to be disclosed, the effects of these allegations are having deep reaching impacts into their personal lives. Following Trudeau’s announcement, Singh said he’s getting calls from his family back in India concerned about his well-being, owing to the spread of misinformation by the Indian media.

“They tell me that [based on] what Indian news channels show us, you guys are in deep trouble,” he said. “The Canadian government is kicking out all Indians or the Canadian government is kicking out all Sikhs.” 

According to Julian Spencer-Churchill, associate professor in Concordia’s political science department, the proliferation of fake news stems from the consolidation of Indian media under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These developments stem from a rise in the far right Hindu nationalism in the country over the last decade.

Indian students comprise over 40 per cent of international students studying in Canada, making the group the largest demographic of international students in the country. Nevertheless, the group suffers a lack of representation in both countries, according to Spencer-Churchill. 

“Indian international students in Canada are victims here,” said Spencer-Churchill. 

Concordia has made no formal announcement regarding the ongoing India-Canada crisis. As far as Malhotra knows, no one from the university’s administration has reached out to the SSA.

Spencer-Churchill recommended that the Indian and Sikh students lobby Concordia’s administration to allow for special accommodations, such as being able to attend classes remotely, until visa restrictions are lifted. However, he predicts that any visa complications that Indian international students are facing will be short-lived, due to the economic impact that these policies will have on educational institutions.

“The universities want money,” he said. “These people [Indian international students] are bringing their own money in many cases, […] and where they’re not like PhD students, industry is going to probably sponsor them. So there’s no advantage for Canada to keep the system stuck.”


Montreal turns orange on the third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Activists say there is still a lot to be done to decolonize our institutions.

Last Saturday, on Sept. 30, wave after wave of orange swept across the streets of Montreal, as a crowd gathered to celebrate the third National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

This day is one of commemoration for the Indigenous children who were taken away from their families to be sent to residential schools, many of which never came home. At the march on Saturday, Indigenous activists and allies honoured these children and called on governments and institutions to do more to decolonize their work. 

Kai and Mia Fischlin, two sisters of Inuvialuit and Dene descent, were present at the march. Mia was the first in her family to get involved in the activist movement and had invited Kai to join her at the march.

Kai is a Concordia student in biology, and Mia is an alumni who graduated in human relations. According to the former, it’s important for these marches to continue, year after year, especially with the continued discovery of unmarked graves throughout Canada. “And there’s still a lot to fix within the communities, the Indigenous communities all over Canada. I don’t think [the marches] are ever gonna stop until we see real change,” she said.

“Colonization didn’t happen long ago, and it’s still happening,” added Mia. “Me and my sister, we’re the first generation in our family to not go to the residential schools since it started. There’s just so much change that needs to happen, and it needs to come from everyone. It’s a lot on Indigenous people’s backs to be the only ones pushing forward, so we need everyone’s help.”

National Truth and Reconciliation Day was implemented by the federal government in 2021 as one of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In response to these calls to action, Concordia University published its Indigenous Directions Action Plan in 2019. Manon Tremblay, senior director of Concordia’s Office of Indigenous Directions, is happy with the progress Concordia has made in the last four years, but believes there is still much to be done. “We can’t sit on our laurels,” she said. “We have to continue that momentum, and we have to be able to deliver on these recommendations and these promises.”

Concordia currently has 12 Indigenous faculty members and seven Indigenous staff members—including Tremblay, who is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Tremblay believes continuous action is necessary to decolonize Concordia and make it more than “inclusive.”

“Personally, I don’t like the word ‘inclusion,’” explained Tremblay. “I find that ‘inclusion’ is a word that basically says that it’s still their house. And we’re still guests in that house, and we still have to adhere to their rules. What we’re looking to do really is foster a sense of belonging.”

Brina Rosenberg and Meika Blayone, two friends who attended the march, believe that the educational sector plays a major role when it comes to leading the movement of decolonization. 

“Knowing that the research that you can do includes oral storytelling as a resource that counts is super important, and I feel like that’s missing in a lot of university courses,” said Rosenberg. “Especially in history, knowing that oral history is just as important as written history is extremely important.” 

Blayone, who is Metis from Saskatchewan, believes Indigenous realities are erased from educational institutions. According to her, language laws in Quebec make this even worse. “French is super important, but where’s the Indigenous languages? Why are we not learning those? Why are they not an official government language?” she asked. 

Kai and Mia Fischlin encouraged Concordia students to support Indigenous communities whenever and wherever they can, even if it just means sharing a post on social media. 

“And if you see some racism going on, don’t be afraid to call them out, cause it’s a lot for Indigenous people to always fight for themselves as well, and feel alone,” said Mia.

Protesters gather through the streets of Montreal for Truth and Reconciliation Day.
Photos by Marieke Glorieux-Stryckman / The Concordian

A return to four in-person workdays opposed by Concordia staff unions

Staff members are disappointed with the deans’ decision and are taking matters into their own hands.

At the President’s welcome last week, unions representing staff members of Concordia joined the festivities to present Graham Carr with a petition signed by 613 members. The petition asked him to reconsider the decision to request Concordia staff return to in-person work four days a week. 

This decision was announced in June. Before then, the hybrid work model had varied between departments, but many staff members said they enjoyed the flexibility and that it was a healthy and effective system.

Beata Tararuj, graduate program coordinator for the electrical and computer engineering department, created the petitions against the return to four in-person workdays. She did not hear about the decision from her dean, but from one of her colleagues. 

“The number of emails that I started getting, it was like an email after email after email, after email, after email, and everybody was so not happy. Everybody was miserable. Everybody was disappointed. We felt like somebody stabbed us in our back,” Tararuj said.

Her first petition was sent to all faculties at the university, collecting 250 votes. A second petition was later sent out when the unions were able to make their votes, which now has a total of 613 votes.  

“When a student comes with a problem, I am there to listen,” said Tararuj. “I’m here to navigate through the Concordia system. I’m here to make sure that these people are well taken care of.  So I was thinking to myself, I fight for students on a regular basis. Why won’t I fight for myself?” 

Since the pandemic, people have started to adapt to the new normal of hybrid work. Concordia University is still trying to define what this vision is going to look like.

In 2021, Concordia requested its staff return to in-person work two days a week. In 2022, that number went up to three days a week. And now, staff has been asked to return to campus four days a week.

Sigmund Lam, vice president negotiations of the Concordia University Professional Employees Union (CUPEU), worries that Concordia staff may be expected to return to full-time in-person work next year—a fear that was echoed by other union members. 

So where is this decision of increased workdays coming from? In an email, Vannina Maestracci, Concordia’s spokesperson, explained that it “prioritizes services and supports Concordia’s core activities: teaching, research and knowledge creation, and the student experience.”

Maestracci also wrote that this decision was taken “to achieve the vision of a vibrant campus experience and ensure fairness.” The fairness refers to the idea of having a uniform standard for all staff (four days in-person per week) instead of letting departments decide on their own guidelines.

The four faculty deans denied our request for an interview. When approached at the welcome event on Sept. 7, president Carr refused to comment on the decision or the petition.

Many staff members have said they wish the deans had given more explanations for this decision. Shoshana Kalfon, advisor and president of CUPEU, said she wants to see the data supporting this return to in-person work.

“They have all these keywords, the word of the day. ‘We want a vibrant campus.’ Was it not? And is it required that everybody be on campus all the time for that to exist?” she said.

To her, the hybrid work model is all about giving staff choices. Some may decide to work from home two days a week, and some may decide to be on campus every day.

“I don’t know if it’s that [the administration] doesn’t want us to have the opportunity to make a decision, to make a choice—and that, to me, comes down to control.” she said. 

Lam explained that staff often end up doing more productive work when they work from home. “Quite often, people in the office are interrupted constantly,” he said. 

“Unhappy employees are less productive,” he added. “And I believe the employees have lost trust in upper management’s ability to make decisions with regard to hybrid or flexible work. And loss of trust also causes a reduction in performance.”

Alycia Manning is the enrollment coordinator for the law and society program in the history department. Last semester, she worked in-person for three and a half days a week. 

She said she valued “being at home and being able to just focus [on herself].” “You wake up, you can do a little workout in the morning, then you can do your laundry at lunchtime. It’s nice to be able to just have that, just a little bit of freedom,” she added. 

Tararuj echoed that feeling, saying she needs a healthy work/life balance to stay present with her tasks and in every aspect of her life.

“This specific position [program coordinator], it’s a demanding position. There’s a lot of tasks, there’s a lot of students. I’m a high energy person and I like to give energy to my students,” she shared. “By the time I get home, I’m so dead. I’m so tired, I can’t even go to a park with my kids.”

Daniela Ferrer—who was, until recently, VP grievances and mobilization coordinator at Concordia University Support Staff Union (CUSSU)—is also worried that this decision will affect staff’s mental health.

“Concordia pays a lot of lip service to the importance of mental health, but they really don’t seem to be listening to workers when they tell them: ‘Hey, you know, working remotely has been incredibly beneficial to my mental health and this return to campus is causing a lot of anxiety,” Ferrer said.

“[The administration is] ignoring the fact that a lot of things changed during the pandemic and people’s priorities shifted,” said Ferrer. According to her, hybrid work has brought to light people’s “lost time”—time spent commuting, sitting at your desk when all the work is done, or waiting between meetings. 

Elizabeth Xu is a woodshop technician in the fine arts department and already works four days a week from 9 to 5. She hopes President Carr will listen to what the university’s staff has to say. 

“I hope that they can open their ears and open their hearts to the will of the people,” Xu said. “If the majority of the workers are saying that this [hybrid work] is something that’s better for them, I feel like it’s just the right thing to do from one human to another, to listen to their experiences and try and make accommodations where possible, especially if the work isn’t compromised.”


Summer of infernos

Amidst the intensifying impact of climate change, Canadians endured nightmarish journeys, unforeseen expenses and heartwarming acts of kindness.

Renowned for its vibrant summer festivals, Montreal bore witness to a disturbing transformation this scorching season. Azure skies became the canvas for relentless infernos, shrouding the city in smog and smoke, a poignant reminder of fires sweeping not just across Canada, but the world.

Among those affected were Concordia University students, enduring a nightmarish ordeal that left a trail of devastation. 

For Joshua Iserhoff, a human relations student, this summer became a harrowing nightmare. His family embarked on a frantic odyssey from one threatened community to another, pursued by the flames.

The journey from Montreal to their home in Nemiscau along the Billy Diamond Highway was fraught with tension. Despite some reassuring forecasts, the unpredictable nature of wildfires always loomed. 

“Rabbits [were] running on the highway because they’re running as well,” Iserhoff recalls. “And that’s the safe place that they could find.”

Due to the fires, their endeavour involved additional hours on the road and in hotels, incurring unexpected expenses, a heavy burden, especially for a student. Their families rallied to provide support, easing the financial strain.

Their escape began on July 11 after attending a wedding in Ottawa, heading northward. At the Matagami Gate, a crucial checkpoint on the private Billy Diamond Highway, they received the all-clear from the toll attendant, oblivious to the impending danger.

Iserhoff had been driving his sister’s car when in mere seconds, the winds intensified, carrying a blinding wall of smoke and flames, plunging them into darkness, cars threatening to lift off the ground. Panic set in as he glanced at his own family in the other vehicle. 

Unable to communicate through open windows due to his daughter’s asthma, Iserhoff’s wife used soaked towels as makeshift respirators for their children, a life-saving suggestion by Iserhoff’s mother. Fortunately, an elderly stranger saw them struggling and offered N95 masks, providing a glimmer of hope.

Survival instincts took over. “I have to drive,” Iserhoff told his wife after switching cars to join his family. “She covered [the kids] with a blanket, and opened the iPad. We were singing in the cars.”

Despite putting on a brave face for his children, it was a traumatic experience. “It does something to your humanity,” Iserhoff said.

Out west, creative writing student Jess Thodas confronted an advancing wildfire that jumped across the lake that separates East and West Kelowna. “We went out with my dogs to the lake”, Thodas recounts. “We started noticing the sky was turning red.”

Reliant on sporadic emergency alerts and Twitter updates, she relied mainly on messages from within the community to stay safe.

All flights were grounded, runways reserved for water bombers. More than a week of cancellations later, Thodas finally boarded a flight back to Montreal, leaving her concerned for her family.

Thodas embarked on a challenging 20-hour journey, which involved a night sleeping at the airport with her dog. Unable to relax until reaching her apartment, Thodas just collapsed on her bed once she’d made it.

Photo courtesy of Jess Thodas
Photo courtesy of Jess Thodas

In the midst of this crisis, Dr. Rebecca Tittler, a forest ecologist who teaches at the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and in the Departments of Biology and of Geography, Planning and Environment and coordinates the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre at Concordia, provides insight into the situation.

She points out that while wildfires are a natural part of forest ecosystems, this year’s early and severe onset can likely be attributed to the hot and dry conditions caused by climate change. “We must remember that trees naturally burn, releasing what they’ve stored, unlike the greenhouse gases emitted by humans altering the climate,” she explained. 

Dr. Tittler emphasizes the pressing need to address climate change and safeguard communities in isolated forested areas and enhance evacuation measures, underlining that firefighting efforts prioritize protecting human lives due to the vastness of Canadian forests.

Despite these stories of resilience in the face of nature’s fury, each new blaze serves as a stark reminder of our shared vulnerability and the urgent imperative to confront the growing impact of climate change.

Cree Nation of Wemindji – Photo courtesy of Bradley Georgekish

CREW’s campaign to ditch TRAC met with positive response 

Concordia University’s teaching and research assistances stand together as they accumulate signatures to create a new union before the April 3 deadline that advocates for better pay and benefits

On March 24, the Concordia Research and Education Workers Union (CREW) held a pizza party at the university’s Loyola campus to bring together TAs and RAs to express their support for leaving the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia Union (TRAC). The CREW campaign is optimistic about change thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response of TAs and RAs who are choosing to make the switch.

As people started to trickle into the meeting room in the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex, the overall attitude of attendees as they started eating was that they were done with TRAC. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the parent union of TRAC, failed to support its members in meeting their demands for a collective agreement with Concordia University that included a pay raise above inflation, better benefits for international students, improved protection against overwork, paid training, and better job security. 

The main topic people discussed was their unfair salaries. According to the TRAC 2023 Demands Draft Points on the CREW website, TAs and RAs at Concordia University are paid by tier, making between $17.24 to $29.81 an hour. TAs in other universities like McGill make a minimum of $33 an hour. CREW wants to abolish the tier pay rate and establish equity amongst their members. Biochemistry TA and RA Frances Davenport emphasized that PSAC doesn’t have their back. 

“PSAC didn’t even try to refute the salary issue. One of the talking points that they put on their website was that McGill students technically do more work, so TAs at Concordia don’t deserve more money. That’s so wild to me because there are people on CREW’s campaign team who say, ‘I TA at Concordia and my partner TAs at McGill. We have the exact same job,’” Davenport said. 

CREW is confident that its new potential parent union, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), will help them win their fight. They’ve seen CSN’s support for the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), McGill’s TA and RA union, who is a local union of theirs. 

“AGSEM has been helping us campaign as well. We have come together to compare job descriptions and responsibilities and they are the same. The only difference is that for AGSEM, it is outlined in a contract, PSCA won’t even give us a contract.” Davenport said.

Alex Engler (left) biology delegate for TAs and RAs and Frances Davenport (right) Biochemstry delegate for TAs and RAs, Chantal Bellefeuille/ THE CONCORDIAN

Former TRAC President Sam Thompson was also in disbelief at PSAC’s response. 

“It’s an amazing illustration of how little understanding PSAC has of the valuable work that the teaching assistants do at Concordia. We are absolutely essential to the very functioning of the university,” Thompson said.

“Without us, it would simply fall apart. So, the idea that our work is less valuable than what McGill does is laughable.”

CSN allows their unions to be autonomous, meaning that if CREW officially signs with them, they will be able to have the final say when CREW brings their issues to the bargaining table. PSAC’s diplomatic structure doesn’t provide this. 

Joey Ricardo, a research assistant in Concordia’s biochemistry department, thinks that PSAC has neglected its members in the past and didn’t try to help TRAC negotiate for a better salary and benefits. This is the fundamental reason behind the switch, giving TAs and RAs more control over their situation. 

“CSN is less involved as a parent union and will let CREW do what they want to do. TRAC was at the mercy of PSAC. Now if someone is saying, ‘No, you can’t negotiate pay,’ CREW will be able to decide whether they want to renegotiate or not. CSN will only be there for support,” Ricardo said.

This is why CREW believes that for real change to happen, they need to put the pressure on. They think they deserve a better deal than what PSAC is willing to offer. 

“PSAC has made the claim that CSN comes and raids their unions, bringing PSAC’s unions over to CSN. CREW’s campaign team did their research and reached out to CSN for help. This movement is a grassroots movement, started by graduate students,” Davenport said. 

She says that CSN supports CREW’s principles, like how CREW stresses that TAs and RAs are university employees. According to Davenport, Concordia University emphasizes that they are students first, denying TAs and RAs employee benefits.

Thompson says that the CREW campaign has spoken to thousands of TAs and RAs who have made the switch from TRAC to CREW. The relationships that the TA and RA community has formed over the last couple of weeks have never been in a stronger position. They have received support from every single department at Concordia University.

“It’s so amazing to see members so excited by a project that fills them with the hope that contains the promise of real dignity at work,” Thompson said. 

“It’s also been an incredible opportunity to build momentum in the lead-up to negotiating with the university. Members look at the deal that they’ve had for 15 years and know that it can be better. They want the opportunity to fight for that positive change.”

For the switch to officially comply with Quebec’s labour union laws, CREW needs to have 50 per cent of TRAC members sign a petition stating that they want to resign from TRAC to join CREW. 

Towards the end of the pizza party, Ph.D. candidate Victor Quezada, who’s been working as a graduate student for Concordia since 2019, commented that he thinks the switch will officially happen. He has noticed how the TA and RA community has become more tight-knit because of CREW’s encouragement and people have been participating to get the word out. 

“I have good expectations. We have good representatives who are fighting for change. CREW are very involved, engaged, and have put everything that they have into this,” Quezada said. 

PSAC was contacted for comment but didn’t respond in time for publication.


Where’s my (fee levy) money? 

Following the vote in favor of increasing Concordia Student Services fee levy, a new oversight body will be established to manage the funds.

In the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) general elections, students voted 54.9 per cent in favor of an increase to the Concordia Student Services (CSS) fee levy. This is the first time Concordia Student Services have requested a fee levy increase since 2009. The $0.85 per credit increase brings the total fee levy from $10.26 per credit to $11.11 per credit, an overall 8.3 per cent increase. The vote was decided on a 9.1 per cent student voter turnout. 

Following the fee levy increase, the CSU and Concordia Student Services are set to create a mandating and oversight body to create greater transparency over the use of student funds.

A number of different units make up CSS, including the Student Success Centre, Campus Wellness and Support Services (which include counseling and psychological services) and the Dean of Students Office. In their application for an increased fee levy, CSS cited a net decrease in enrolment at Concordia due to the decline in 18-24 year olds living in Quebec. Currently, CSS has a surplus budget due to higher levels of enrolment previously. Without the fee levy, they expect to operate with a $2,316,991 deficit by the 2024-2025 academic year.

CSS helps students access many services at no direct cost, including but not limited to doctors, counseling, career advice and tutoring. In the 2021-2022 academic year, counseling and psychological services provided 9,654 student appointments, including triage and counseling. A deficit would see CSS needing to cut services.

“There are so many services offered in student services. It’s such a wide variety and I think each one is really important in its own way,” said Catherine Starr-Prenovost, a fifth-year psychology student at Concordia who currently works as a welcome crew mentor with the Student Success Centre, and as a homeroom facilitator as part of the Dean of Students Office.

“I can’t think of any student service that doesn’t have a huge impact on students’ lives.”

While student services are impactful, the nature of how their funding is allocated can be quite vague. 

​​”Students don’t have a way where they can govern this money, $9 million every year from their fees. They don’t have a way of knowing how it gets allocated. They can’t oversee it as there isn’t even a budget publicly available on their website,” said Fawaz Halloum, the CSU’s general coordinator.

The total revenue for CSS this year was $10,672,927 with student fees fronting 90 per cent of their funding, not including the surplus. Other student-run fee levy groups are required to hold Annual General Meetings, where board members can discuss budgets. They keep auditor’s reports and other financials ready at any time. This is not currently the case for Concordia Student Services. 

“There’s a trend that students do not want to keep paying into university services where they have absolutely no control over their money or to oversee or hold them accountable,” said Halloum.

Following CSS’ initial application for funding, Halloum suggested that an oversight body be created.

“I told them that students would want to see a board, a council of sorts, where students will sit along with the service directors. They will fight the budgets, make decisions and bring in student concerns directly and have a bit of a forum between the shareholders and the executives, which is long overdue,” said Halloum.

Halloum believes that with more oversight, the quality of work done by CSS could be improved.

“If you just start breaking it down one by one, you can find a slew of things that you can improve on pre-existing services, maybe even add certain facilities or services,” he said.

In most units of student services, a majority of the budget is directed towards salaries and benefits. According to their 2021-22 yearly report, CSS employs 118 professional employees across their units, with 322 students employees. During that year, student jobs accounted for $1,253,000 of the annual operating and non-operating budgets. This represents 10.44 per cent of CSS’ total revenue in that year, despite the fact that student employees make up 73.18 per cent of the CSS’ total workforce.

According to Laura Mitchell, Concordia’s executive director of student experience, the new funding from students won’t necessarily mean new services. “It’s to keep everything going that we have at present,” she said. “So this wouldn’t be money that would bolster one particular area. It would be spread across everything that we currently do.”

According to their application, CSS predicts a five per cent increase in costs to maintain their services every year. The extra money will help combat this increase and maintain salaries for professional and student employees amid rising cost of living expenses. 

​​”It’s all equally important, like our student jobs are really important to us,” said Mitchell. “We love working with students and we love supporting them. So obviously, we would love to be able to give a fair and generous salary to our student employees as much as we possibly can,” she added.

Student employees like Starr-Prenovost have spoken highly of their experience with CSS. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I feel like I’m treated really well and very fairly.”

A new oversight body has the potential to improve transparency to students, so they can better understand how their funds are being allocated. 

“Both sides were very enthusiastic about this idea,” Mitchell said.

Currently, CSS does have a committee called Concordia Council on Student Life that is a parity committee made up of students and staff. Mitchell says the new advisory body could resemble it. 

“We need to set up those consistent meetings and have these discussions and I think that will be great. I think it’d be really illuminating for both sides. To learn more about each other, because obviously these collaborations are really important for us too.” 

Now that the fee levy increase has been approved, a memorandum of understanding will be presented to the CSU’s council in one year to create a body staffed and operating in the following academic year.

“We don’t want to go in alone, we want to be in partnership as much as possible,” said Mitchell.

Despite the risk of deficit and increasing costs, students are the only ones currently being asked to increase their contributions to student services. The university’s contribution to CSS makes up just 4.11 per cent, which would diminish with an increased fee levy. It’s not as though the university does not have money to support these services. According to Concordia’s annual financial reports, a number of executives saw salary increases this year with President Graham Carr receiving a 9.56 per cent pay raise.

But Mitchell said they are having discussions with the university to see what that contribution looks like. “I think that’s another very important component,” she said.

Starr-Prenovost also thinks it’s important for everyone, including the university, to contribute to maintaining these services and that the efforts of people like Mitchell see results.

“I do hope to see that it comes to an increase in funding from [the university] as well. Anybody that could offer funding to the Student Success Center in student services, I think it would be a great investment,” she said.

“I really do think that the services are so important. Essentially, I think that it should be a priority  for everybody to increase funding for student services in general.”


The unseen struggles of women in engineering

Concordia students share their experiences as women in engineering 

When Gloria Anastasopoulos was 10 years old, her school organized a ceramics painting day. Excited, the young girl found a motorcycle ceramic to paint and went to ask for the monitor’s permission. 

“And she was like, ‘Why do you want to paint that?’” recalled Anastasopoulos. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, it’s cool!’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, leave it for one of the boys to paint. It’s a motorcycle, leave it, maybe one of the boys wants it.’”

After making sure nobody else took the ceramic, Anastasopoulos ended up being allowed to paint it. Now in her third year in mechanical engineering at Concordia, she still has the motorcycle, and she still carries the experience that came with it.

The first time she spoke with The Concordian, Anastasopoulos could not think on the spot of this story nor any specific instances where she felt singled out as a woman in engineering. She could only share a feeling that these moments had occurred.

Shortly after the interview however, she requested a second talk. This time, she came armed with a list of microaggressions and subtle sexism experienced by herself and her colleagues. “You get so used to seeing it, you don’t even notice,” she said. 

Anastasopoulos is very involved in engineering societies and competitions at Concordia. She said that there are many women in these groups, but a lot of them fill management roles, while the men fill more of the design and programming roles. 

She recalled the story of one of her friends, who joined a society in which most of the members were men. They sometimes met until late at night to work on projects, but her friend was uncomfortable staying out so late with men, and having to take the metro and walk home alone at night. So she left early.

“She always had this thought: ‘Do they think I’m not putting in enough effort, because I don’t stay as late as the men in the room?’” said Anastasopoulos. “But really, they just don’t understand and they don’t have to think about the kind of stuff that she had to think about.”

Another one of Anastasopoulos’ friends was passed up for a coveted and highly technical society position two years in a row. As far as Anastasopoulos is aware, the position has not been held by a woman in recent memory. 

Despite this candidate’s qualifications, the role went to another candidate, who is male. “But the president told me, almost word for word, ‘I don’t want to take her because she speaks up a lot,’” shared Anastasopoulos. “This read to me like, ‘I don’t want to take her because she goes against what I say.’”

“I regret not saying something at the time,” said Anastasopoulos. “I guess you get so used to it.”

In 2010, faced by the low number of women in engineering, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta created the 30 by 30 initiative. The goal of this plan was to ensure that 30 per cent of newly licensed engineers are women by 2030. This initiative was soon adopted throughout Canada.

Today, 20 per cent of newly licensed engineers in Quebec are women, and according to their 2022-24 strategic plan, Engineers Canada fears they will not reach their goal. This year at Concordia, 23 per cent of new undergraduates and 28 per cent of new graduate engineering students were women, reported the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis.

The difficulties faced by women in engineering are the topic of Dr. Ann-Louise Howard’s thesis. Howard is an assistant professor in Concordia’s department of applied human sciences. She started her career as an engineer, but left because of the hostile work environment. Only when she started her research did she understand that her experience was tied with gender. On March 8, International Women’s Day, she gave a webinar about her research. 

Howard’s research focuses on the female engineers who suffer in the workplace and on the microaggressions they experience. According to her, while there exists a lot of research on women in engineering, there is a gap when it comes to microaggressions.

“We talk so much about how women are welcome in engineering, there’s so much effort to showcase successful women in engineering,” said Howard. “But engineering is a very gendered profession, and microaggressions are manifestations of implicit bias.”

She also mentioned that people often fail to consider the experiences of women in engineering who are part of other marginalized communities, like women of colour or LGBTQ+ women, and the additional barriers and struggles they may face.

Anastasopoulos shared a variety of other instances where she felt her male peers did not respect the women around them. One of her colleagues told her that “girls can just go cry to the professor and get a better grade,” and that, as a man, he didn’t “have that luxury.” Another argued that the reason why Anastasopoulos had more connections than him on LinkedIn was because she is a woman.

“It’s just little stuff like that,” said Anastasopoulos. But it’s a trend.

Rania Alioueche, third-year mechanical engineering student and co-VP of the outreach team of Concordia’s Women in Engineering association, had similar experiences. Before starting at Concordia, she expected that 40 per cent of the students would be women. 

“But actually, I was the only girl in my lab class,” she said. “There would be a whole auditorium of 160 people, and there would be only 30 girls, maximum.”

In group projects, the ideas of her male peers were often accepted without question, Alioueche said. “If I would propose something, they would have to double-check, ‘Let’s check with the teacher, let’s check online if it’s true.’ They would always doubt what I said.”

The worst comment she got was after an exam. “We received our grades back,” she recalled, “and I had a good grade, and the guy next to me during the lab said something along the line of: ‘You’re flirting with the TA, that’s why you got a good grade.’”

“All the women that I know in engineering experience this,” said Alioueche. 

Alexandra Gagliano is a second-year mechanical engineering student. She noticed inequalities between the work of her male and female peers when it came to group projects.

This semester, for the first time since she started in engineering and after going through five different lab groups, Gagliano has only women in one of them. “Best lab group I’ve ever had,” she said. “Everyone does their work on time, communicates well, it’s so easy, simple.”

In her other lab groups, some of her male colleagues ignored her when it was time to write the report, and others simply did not show up to the lab.

“Maybe women are more conditioned to be responsible, so sometimes the work does fall on the woman in the group,” Gagliano said.

She also shared that making friends with the men in her program was very difficult. Many of her attempts at friendship ended when she rejected her male friends’ romantic advances.

“Sometimes, I feel a bit like an outsider if I’m the only girl in the group of like, six guys,” Gagliano said. “Sometimes it’s a bit difficult.”

Howard felt like all these examples could have been plucked from her research, as they were so similar to other women’s experiences in engineering.

“One of the things that I found was that women in engineering tough it out,” said Howard. “Part of that was, they disregard the price that they’re paying.”

These visible instances are only the tip of the iceberg, according to Howard’s research. Many more are just subtle enough to be felt but not recognized. But these small cuts add up.

Howard wondered what women internalize about themselves along the way: That they cannot be too bold? That they must become “one of the boys?” That they are not as talented as their male colleagues, and that the attention they receive is simply due to them being women?

“I feel a little alone, talking about this,” she said. “The dominant narrative is that we want women in engineering. ‘Here, look at these women who are successful in engineering,’ and they give all the credit in the world. But there’s stories that are conspicuously absent from that narrative.”

“People ask me why I did this research,” Howard said. “And I really never wanted to do this research. I wanted to be an engineer.”


Author and CNN journalist Marissa Miller sees a glass half-full

Her book Pretty Weird highlights all of her experiences

An eating disorder, a miscarriage, and mental health issues: Marissa Miller has persevered through all these, and more. Now she has collected all her negative experiences and used them to create something positive.

In her book  Pretty Weird, Marissa highlights all of her painful memories to let her readers know that they are never alone.

Marissa studied journalism at Concordia from 2010 to 2013. Since then, she has grown a large platform and hopes to use it to act as a beacon of hope for others who are going through tough times.

“I’ve always been very much an open book in the literal sense, and I use that to my advantage to make others feel less alone in their struggles,” Marissa said.

Knowing that she is helping people allows her to get past the difficulty of publicizing her experiences. “It becomes less ‘things that have humiliated me in the past,’ and more so ‘things that I can use to be a beacon for other people,” she explained.

One such experience was her struggle with impostor syndrome. But transforming her negative feelings into sentences helped her overcome them, while also comforting her readers. “It really robs the pain of its power,” she said. “It’s almost like using my mental health issues as a way to masquerade the fact that you can be broken and imperfect and also of service to others.”

She started her career as a freelance journalist, working for big outlets such as CNN Style, The New York Times, and NBC News. Now, she works full-time at CNN as a contributing editor writing mostly product recommendations and lifestyle advice. She is also a certified personal trainer and outlines all her work on her blog.

Sheldon Miller, Marissa’s father, admits that her determination and affinity for writing not only gave her confidence, but allowed her to always excel in her work. “I don’t know if she is always the most aggressive-type person…but when it comes to her career, she’s on top of everything.” 

Many people have reached out to Marissa since her book’s publication to tell her that she took the thoughts right out of their heads. “These are universal feelings that I’m putting on the page,” Marissa confirmed. She is very direct in discussing her rejections, fears, anxieties, and relationships in her book. “They might seem very crude and maybe a little bit too raw at times, but this is the human experience that we are all going through,” she asserted.

One of the biggest lessons that Marissa has learned from everything she’s gone through is that there is always something better out there. “That rings true for everything, not just your relationships,” Marissa explained.

“A lot of our depression and our anxiety will tell us that we are only deserving of what’s presented to us and what’s in front of us. But really one of the best things you can do for yourself is aspiring for more and aspiring for better because you deserve it,” she said.

On top of helping others, Marissa was also thinking of her younger self when writing her book, attempting to give herself the “older sister figure, best friend figure” that she never had as a child and teenager. Though her younger sister, Michelle, is one of the only people who knew about Marissa’s experiences.

“I’d say 90 per cent of it I knew about, either as it was happening or she would open up to me a few years later,” Michelle said. Marissa consulted her sister throughout the writing process to ask for her opinion on editorial choices. Michelle was the only person who knew about several moments mentioned in the book as the two sisters have always been extremely close. “We were so tight and open about everything,” Michelle added. “We’ll be on the phone [for] hours a day. Sometimes we’re not even talking on the phone. It’s just on, but we know that [the other person] is there,” Michelle continued.

Marissa’s parents were always very loving and attentive towards her, she mentions in Pretty Weird, but they were not as informed on her experiences as Michelle. “A lot of the stuff in the book, I didn’t really realize,” Sheldon said. “We knew as she got a bit older, there were some struggles and this and that…but until I read the book, I don’t think I realized it [to that extent],” he continued, adding that it was difficult to read about Marissa’s troubling moments. 

More than anything else, he wants Marissa to write the truth, which is what she did. This included some unfortunate stories about Sheldon’s sister, who was close with Marissa and passed away due to health issues related to long-term drug use. But Sheldon wanted Marissa to keep those stories in her book. “I knew she was writing an honest account of her experiences and thoughts,” he explained. “If Marissa was able to grab onto something in a good way or a bad way…for someone to maybe enjoy the book or learn from the book, that’s part of journalism,” he said.

While Marissa always has her family at home, she often chooses to work alone. She enjoys working on her own more than working with a team. “It makes me doubly proud to reflect on my accomplishments because I didn’t have to rely on anyone for them,” she affirmed. Marissa always took charge of group projects when she was in school, so being the only one in charge of her career “is a continuation of that.”

Much of her work as a journalist focuses on lifestyle advice and mental health. She says that she enjoys doing service journalism the most. “One of the only things that give me a sense of purpose is giving advice to other people,” Marissa explained.

In her career she has covered a wide variety of topics, such as finance and real estate when she was starting. As time went on, she gravitated toward lifestyle topics and product recommendations. “People need to know that the products they use in everyday life have more of an impact on their well-being than they think,” she asserted. Marissa is currently doing service journalism for CNN and loving every moment of it.

Pretty Weird, which is still available on Amazon, has been a huge success for Marissa. She hopes to write another book in the future. She is looking towards that, but doesn’t think that now is the right time. “I feel like I have so much I want to say. I need some breathing room,” she asserted. For now, she is very happy where she is. “I do hope to rise the ranks at CNN and stay there forever.”


Concordia University Foundation: between the community and the corporation

Concordia University Foundation juggles social and environmental responsibility with corporate profits

On Nov. 8, 2019, the Concordia University Foundation (CUF) committed to divesting  all investments in coal, oil, and gas industries by 2025, in order to become 100 per cent sustainable. The CUF also added the goal of allocating 10 per cent of its long-term assets in impact investments towards its 2025 goal. Impact investments are made with the intention of bringing about positive social and environmental change together with a financial return. Concordia emphasizes that these steps ensure that the University is investing in socially and environmentally responsible ways. However, complaints from students claim a disconnect from community centred initiatives, as multinational service providers tout sustainability as a method for financial growth.

Lacey Boudreau, a Concordia youth activist and a member of Climate Justice Action Concordia (CJAC), believes that these are steps in the right direction. However, Boudreau is wary of how much space is left for the foundation to prioritize profits over community. “You can still be investing in a company that is making a transition to net-zero which means that you can still be investing in them [fossil fuels],” she said.

Boudreau also points out that there could be discrepancies between how both the student community and the finance world interpret the term sustainable.” Shylah Wolfe, the executive director of the Concordia Food Coalition, echoed the same concern. “One of our main critiques of the sustainability action plan, [is that] the recommendations are never going to be fulfilled if we continue with multinational service providers,” explained Wolfe.

Multinational portfolio managers

Currently, the portfolio managers for the CUF’s impact investments, which are claimed to generate impacts on people and the planet, include companies such as Wells Fargo and BlackRock. Wells Fargo has been identified as one of the major banks to invest in private prisons and the immigrant detention industry. Timothy Sloan, former Wells Fargo CEO, said that the bank was exiting the private prison industry in March 2019. But amid Sloan’s statement the bank had been the portfolio manager for the CUF’s impact investments.

BlackRock, another firm listed as a portfolio manager for impact investments in CUF’s 2020-21 Annual Report, faced backlash in 2018 for its ties with large American firearms makers, while maintaining support for the oil and gas industry as part of the solution alongside environmental investment policies.

Wolfe believes that investing with multinational service providers such as Wells Fargo and BlackRock does not fulfil the aims of being impactful and socially responsible. However, Marc Gauthier, the university treasurer and chief investment officer, believes that the University’s investments are in reality 100 per cent impactful and wide reaching. 

Gauthier also explained that in the CUF’s new framework, capital allocation is driven by sustainability objectives that enable social equity, financial inclusion, discrimination reduction, affordable housing, and health improvement, among other impacts. However, moving away from multinational portfolio managers was not mentioned as part of the path to being socially or environmentally responsible in investments.

Investment screening

In 2014, Erik Chevrier, part-time instructor at Concordia, made recommendations for implementing a socially responsible investment plan at the University. One of the recommendations was negatively screening fossil fuels production.

Negative screening excludes companies that work in sectors that are harmful for the environment or society. While the foundation has adopted negative screening, Boudreau believes that steps need to be taken towards positive screening. Positive screening finds companies that score high on environmental and social issues, further weeding out low scoring companies.

From the balance sheet to the campus 

Wolfe believes that commitment to sustainability needs to “leap from the balance sheet to the campus,” and that “continued commitment to mitigating climate change fundamentally requires investment in transforming the food system.”

Wolfe adds that investing in high impact solutions such as social enterprise funding and The New Food Enterprise need to be prime candidates for CUF’s support and investment.  Concordia’s current investment in Aramark, which is a multinational food service with links to the US prison system, is another example of Concordia’s problematic partnerships with multinational corporations.

Boudreau adds that the tension between the student body and the administration regarding the definition of sustainability can have real consequences. This tension explains why students mostly rely on student-run fee levy groups such as the Sustainability Action Fund (SAF) to fund their projects, rather than relying on the University for support.

CUF and the community

The CUF asserts that its links with the community at Concordia are strong and that this communication is maintained through the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC). Denis Cossette, Concordia’s chief financial officer stated that “JSIAC is composed of both students and faculty members and is very useful to keep the discussion open”.  

“These meetings are very infrequent and it’s whenever they [CUF] want to present something,” affirmed Boudreau. She described a recent JSIAC meeting where most of the meeting was spent on the presentation of the CUF’s plans with a short Q&A session. 

“It wasn’t a space where they were interested in any of our thoughts. It was just a presentation. The plan was done,” Boudreau said.  

Boudreau believes that because the students were not part of the initial conversation, it would be very difficult for their comments to be integrated at the next level.

The high turnover of students might make it difficult for them to retain the institutional knowledge that they gain from activism on campus and to be taken seriously by the administration. 

“I think there’s a habit of the administration to have no faith and to not follow through on student projects and groups, but we have proven that we are capable,” said Wolfe.

Boudreau noted that Concordia students try to counter that weakness by keeping in touch with past Concordians to brainstorm creative solutions.

The board of directors

The CUF has a male-dominated board of directors with a visible lack of diversity and a number of incredibly wealthy individuals in charge of establishing the University’s portfolio-investment policies.

“It’s true, it’s not a board that is as diversified as the board of university but these people in their field are also applying this sustainable approach that we have included in the investment policy,” said Cossette.

“Where are the climate experts [on the board]?” Boudreau pointed out when asked about the composition of the CUF’s board of directors. 

On the other hand, the grassroots groups at Concordia take a different approach to the composition of their board of directors. “The Concordia Food Coalition (CFC) has engaged consultants to overhaul our own recruitment policies because we absolutely believe that our leadership and their perspective will inform how comprehensive and holistic our programs are and how innovative our solutions to community needs are, because the campus is certainly not mostly white cis males,” explained Wolfe.


When it comes to the transparency of the CUF, Boudreau believes that it should go beyond the public financial reports. “Even if they are transparent with the information, [they use] all these financial terms and this is how they are getting away with these things because people don’t know what these words mean,” she said.

Boudreau added that the CUF should be transparent “in a way that students understand [the information] and have the space to ask questions and to be listened to.”

The CUF became part of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in 2018. The organization was supposed to receive a grade for its investments in June 2022, but due to a change in reporting requirements by the PRI, there were delays in the grade reports.

“We’ll have our grades only in 2023,” said Gauthier. For Boudreau, seeing climate experts weighing in on the progress made by the CUF would also help the student body understand the reality of the progress made so far. “They only have finance people working on this and that does not address the root problems,” added Boudreau.

Financing and the future

Gauthier also added that the CUF looks at sustainability not only from an “investment perspective, but from a financing perspective.” Gauthier cited the University’s issuing of sustainable bonds in 2019 as part of this vision. The bonds were issued to help finance the new LEED-certified Science Hub. Therefore, apart from relying on investments, the CUF has also been trying to come up with other financing options such as the issuing of sustainable bonds. However, many community organizers at Concordia believe that responsible financing could go further and include divesting from multinational corporations.

“There’s a dynamic tension between people versus profits at Concordia,” said Wolfe. For Boudreau, “there are many radical projects on campus working against the profit narrative.”

Exit mobile version