University removes deadline for community feedback on their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plan after pushback from the CSU

The CSU criticized the university’s limited deadline and consultation process with student associations

Concordia University removed the due date for community feedback on their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plan after a Concordia Student Union (CSU) press release deplored the university’s limited time span for outsider input.

The EDI plan is a three-phase process that is aimed at implementing equitable hiring practices, increasing diversity, and fostering an inclusive environment on campus.

Phase two of the EDI plan ran from Sept. 2019 to Oct. 2020, culminating in a 32-page report recommending how the plan should be implemented. The report was published by the EDI Working Group, a group mostly consisting of Concordia staff members.

The Working Group released the report for community input on Sept. 10, as part of the last step in phase two before proceeding to the third phase in November.

Initially the university gave a 10-day limit for community input on the recommendations made by the Working Group. This was planned to run from Sept. 10 to 20, which the CSU called an “exclusionary and flawed process.”

“There has been little publicity on this important process,” read the release, published on Sept. 16.

According to Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci, the deadline was removed around Sept. 17.

Following the press release, the CSU met with Lisa Ostiguy, Chair of the Advisory Group on EDI and Special Advisor to the Provost on Campus Life.

Ostiguy said the intention behind the limited deadline was not to limit feedback, but had to do with the pre-set due date of the EDI’s plan, which is next month.

She said she heard the CSU’s concerns with the EDI plan and process during their meeting together. She said, “we would continue to welcome any feedback, and if the Working Group finalizes their work, it doesn’t mean that the feedback would be lost.”

Any input on the EDI made after the report is complete would be passed along to the third-phase steering committee.

Ostiguy said the university did include student associations’ input throughout the EDI process.

During the second phase, over 40 student groups were contacted by the Working Group and invited to a three-step consultation process in August, which included a video-call information session, a questionnaire, and small group consultation sessions from Aug. 13 to 26.

She also mentioned that Kajol Pasha, a CSU student representative, was a part of the EDI phase one’s Advisory Group and phase two’s Working Group. Both groups had other students in the members list as well.

But according to the CSU and the CSU Legal Information Clinic, more needed to be done to include feedback from student associations.

General Coordinator of the CSU Isaiah Joyner told The Concordian he felt it was problematic that the CSU and other student associations were not heavily involved in the consultation process for the EDI plan.

Joyner said the Working Group did not reach out in a substantial way to centres like the CSU Student Advocacy Centre and the Legal Information Clinic, which “deal with these issues [of racism and discrimination] on the front lines.”

Walter Chi-yan Tom, manager at the Legal Information Clinic, said he is a “frontline worker” in helping students and faculty with issues relating to racism and discrimination.

Tom told The Concordian that the majority of the discrimination complaints he deals with are made by university employees on issues they face in the university workplace.

“Thousands of files we have gone through over the past ten years, they don’t even see that we are important enough to be interviewed as a stakeholder?”

The Legal Information Clinic was not included in the list of 40 student groups that were invited to the three-step consultation process in August.

He says throughout the entire EDI process there was minimal contact to get his input, or for any student associations’ input, compared to the input faculty had on the plan.

Last year’s Advisory Group report states that student associations were “contacted” for input; Tom said what the Advisory Group’s report means by “contacted” is that an email was sent.

“Bottom line, there wasn’t any real consultation or communication,” said Tom.

As the EDI moves into its third-phase — implementation — Tom questioned the report’s general recommendations.

“They are more recommendations on the principles, not necessarily the specific measure[s] for implementation.”

The CSU’s press release listed what they see as “serious flaws” in the Working Group’s report, including no reference to Quebec’s Act of respecting equal access to employment in public bodies, “which requires, among other things, Concordia, like all other universities, to identify and remove systemic barriers to equitable representation of women, Indigenous people, visible minorities, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in different job categories.”

The press release also stated “that a quick search of the term ‘systemic racism’ or ‘systemic discrimination’ in the report produces no results.”

However, on the report it does state, “We commit to dismantling systemic historic and continued discrimination and inequities at Concordia University.”

In a statement to The Concordian, Maestracci said, “Over the two years, the extensive community consultation opportunities included a survey completed by 700 students, information sessions and six days of consultations in small groups as recently as this August and which included students.”

“The opportunities to take part in the EDI conversation were communicated widely to the Concordia community,” said Maestracci. 



Visuals courtesy of Concordia University

Student Life

Slice of Life: Peeing in peace

It shouldn’t be so hard to make washrooms gender-neutral on campus

Ah, gender-neutral washrooms: so controversial (sigh), yet so simple. News flash! Everyone has a gender-neutral washroom in their home, and everyone deserves access to a facility that suits their needs. But the call for more gender-neutral washrooms goes far beyond that. It’s about advocating for the right to feel safe in a washroom—a right cisgender people often don’t think about.

Many ideological and physical constructs of society, right down to the way washrooms are designed, exclude many LGBTQ+ members. Non-binary people having to choose between ticking off ‘male’ or ‘female’ on certain forms; trans people having to choose which washroom to use—or choose to not use the washroom altogether—are all examples of these exclusionary structures.

D.T, a trans advocate and public educator for the Centre for Gender Advocacy, said it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number and location of accessible gender-neutral washrooms across the Concordia campuses. “I also have a problem with ‘single-stalled’ washrooms in general,” said D.T. “Why do we have to exclude ourselves, and further isolate ourselves?”

Ella Webber, a trans student at Concordia, said they found a list of gender-neutral washrooms on the Centre for Gender Advocacy website. It also has information about other resources available to trans and non-binary students, both at Concordia and around Montreal. “Concordia never mentioned that in [the] orientation which I went to,” said Webber. D.T. explained that the list on the centre’s website hasn’t been updated since 2016 and doesn’t account for construction on campus that may bar accessibility. “I think at orientation we should be notified about Concordia’s queer facilities like [the centre] and their resources,” said Webber. “When I do find [gender-neutral washrooms] it’s super helpful, and so much more comfortable for me as a trans person.”

Personally, I know there are single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms on the Loyola campus on the second floor of the CC building, in the Hive Café, and in the basement of the CJ building. D.T. informed me that, in the H building on the downtown campus, Reggies bar, the other Hive Café, plus the 5th, 7th and 10th floors, all have gender-neutral washrooms as well (although, due to construction on the 7th floor, the washroom is currently inaccessible—same goes for the VA building).

D.T. and the centre described the H building as extremely problematic in terms of accessibility, one of the reasons being that many of the single-stalled gender-neutral washrooms in the building are shared with wheelchair users. This means they are only accessible with an access code or key provided by the security desk on the first floor (not where the washrooms are). Trans and non binary students not only have to locate the gender-neutral washrooms that are actually open on all of three floors in the Hall building (total number of floors is 12), and plan to get the necessary key or access code, but, after all that, once at the security desk, they may be asked to justify their needs to the security officer. “They run the risk of being outed and asked intensive questions,” she said. “It’s super shitty.”

D.T. met with Andrew Woodall, the Dean of Students, a few months ago to communicate the centre’s goals—both short and long-term—for the gender-neutral washrooms project. Short term, they would like to see three types of washrooms: an all-gender washroom available to everyone, trans or not, regardless of their gender identity and expression; a men’s washroom for men, male-identifying or transmasculine persons; and a women’s washroom for women, female-identifying or transfeminine persons, explained D. T.

Long term, the centre would like all washrooms to be gender-neutral, thus “respecting everyone’s right to choose the washroom that is appropriate for them.” While Woodall was very supportive of the centre’s project and their demands, he said these changes would take time. “The centre is not satisfied with this response,” said D.T. She also explained how something as simple as changing signage to actually indicate whether a washroom is gender-neutral helps increase accessibility and awareness. “We don’t want only promises,” she said. “We would like the university to put a concrete plan in place to get us to our goal.”

I’m a big fan of the ‘my rights end where your rights begin’ logic, so let’s talk privilege for a second. Do you navigate your days thinking about where the next available and safe washroom is? Do you mediate your liquid intake so you don’t have to go as frequently? If you answered ‘no’ to the above, I’d suggest rethinking the privilege—yes privilege—you have of simply using a washroom. Everyone should be able to pee in peace.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Updated on Jan. 9. 2024

In the original version of the article, one of the two sources was named fully. One of the sources has since requested to be left anonymous.


The importance of inclusion in the film industry

Inclusion riders can improve the age-old problem of the lack of diversity in Hollywood

At the conclusion of the 90th Oscars on March 4, actress Frances McDormand, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress that night, ended her acceptance speech by saying: “I have two words for you: inclusion riders.”

I must admit, before her speech, I had never heard anyone use the term in relation to the film industry before. According to an article by National Public Radio (NPR), I was not the only one. Following the actress’ speech, internet searches for the term spiked overnight.

According to The New York Times, McDormand’s mention of inclusion riders was the biggest public acknowledgment of the term to date. An inclusion rider is “a stipulation that actors and actresses can ask (or demand) to have inserted into their contracts, which would require a certain level of diversity among a film’s cast and crew,” according to NPR.

These days, I believe people are more accepting of diversity in terms of race, gender, ethnicity and culture, and so inclusion in the media is a crucial aspect of progress. Yet, for something that should be an obvious movement in the film industry, it is taking far too long to achieve results.

According to a 2014 Hollywood Reporter article written by Stacy L. Smith, the founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, women are severely underrepresented in the film industry. A nine-year study conducted by USC observed that, in 2013, women represented less than a third of speaking characters among the top 100 grossing films, a ratio that has remained constant for the last 25 years. In regards to current statistics, women comprised 34 per cent of all speaking roles, 37 per cent of the major characters and 24 per cent of sole protagonists among the 100 top-grossing films in 2017, according to the website Women and Hollywood.

Racial diversity wasn’t much better last year among these top 100 films, as 68 per cent of all female characters were white. Of the remaining 32 per cent, 16 per cent were black, seven per cent were Latina, seven per cent were Asian and two per cent were another race or ethnicity.

For years, Smith has made it her personal mission to promote diversity in the film industry. Unfortunately, factors such as the biases of producers, directors or casting directors interfere with the interviewing and hiring process, which not only prevents any progress from being made, but also makes it more difficult for gifted actors to reach their full potential, according to The New York Times.

According to NPR, Smith’s findings do indicate that although not many actors pushed for an inclusion rider in the past, many have started asking for it. She also elaborates that the

benefits of inclusion riders could increase diversity in the film industry both on screen and among the crew, according to The New York Times.

Among those taking action in the last few weeks, Michael B. Jordan, who most recently played the role of Erik Killmonger in Black Panther, announced that his production company, Outlier Society Productions, will now be adding an inclusion rider into its projects, according to The New York Times. This decision marks the first time a major actor has publicly adopted a rider since McDormand’s speech.

A lot of progress has been made in the last few decades to promote diversity and equality in society. However, in my opinion, it is important to recognize that we still have a long way to go and that we must acknowledge the faults within our current system, especially in the film industry. In Smith’s words, we must make sure that “the world on-screen looks like the world in which we live.”

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Student Life

Diversity and inclusion in video games

Game Curious Montreal aims to break stereotypes about dominant gaming culture

The purpose of Game Curious Montreal’s events is to “build bridges between different communities … and create a space for people who feel excluded or marginalized in dominant gaming culture,” according to Carolyn Jong, a collective member of the organization.

Attendees of the latest event, held at Café Aquin on Sunday, Jan. 28., played video games and munched on snacks, but the conversation quickly became a discussion about how the games they played addressed real-life struggles, such as oil mining and the loss of native languages due to colonialism.

In the video game Idle No More: Blockade, for example, players fight stereotypes about Indigenous people rather than physical monsters. “It’s empowering because it shows counter-arguments and ways to push back against those stereotypes,” Jong said. “[The game is] about gathering people to fight back against a corporation that’s trying to put a pipeline through Indigenous lands. I think that’s a good model and message to be shown through games.”

Game Curious Montreal is a working group of the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at Concordia, a resource centre for student and community research that promotes awareness of grassroots social and environmental activism, according to the QPIRG’s website.

Gersande La Flèche, another collective member, pointed out that Game Curious Montreal events also aim to eradicate stereotypes about gamers. “We are trying to reach out to people who don’t consider themselves ‘gamers’. We want people who don’t know what video games can be or should be,” La Flèche said, emphasizing the importance of keeping an open mind. “Even if you think you’re bad at games, you’re probably not,” they said. “You just probably haven’t found the game that’s made for you.”

Similarly, Jong advises students and gamers not to give up if they feel constrained or excluded from the dominant gaming culture. “You’re not alone. There are lots of other people who probably have felt that way,” she said. “It’s the culture that’s trying to enforce the boundaries. There are a lot of different kinds of skills when it comes to games. Being good at games doesn’t matter.”

La Flèche said they believe supporting video games about resistance is a concrete way to fight back against colonialism. “The game My Grandmother’s Lingo is about [a native language] that colonialism was trying to eradicate,” they explained. “Sharing a game about your grandmother’s language and sharing words is a step of resistance as well as bringing awareness to the issue.”

However, La Flèche encouraged people to show support for Indigenous communities in the real world as well by volunteering and making donations to Indigenous resource centres and homeless shelters. “Supporting murdered and missing Indigenous women is also a big one,” they added. “[We have] women’s marches that draw so many people, so why aren’t we drawing the same amount of people to marches for murdered and missing Indigenous women?”

For Moustafa Chamli, another Game Curious Montreal member, it’s important to support video games that fight against oppression by giving representation to minority groups. “In video games, you rarely get the First Nations or black person perspective,” he said. “The barometre of standard media has been set as cis-hetero-white-male, so any differing view becomes anathema or too different.”

Chamli emphasized the necessity of giving Indigenous people space in society and the gaming world. “They have things to say. They have an anger and sadness that need to be expressed,” he said. “Understand that other cultures deserve to exist and help them grow, not by taking their space but by giving them the space that they should be having.”

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

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