International students struggle with hybrid system

Concordia’s hybrid school system leaves international students frustrated

As students return to Concordia with a new hybrid system of online and in-person classes, international students are feeling like they have been left in the dust.

In March, the university sent an email encouraging international students to return to school for September. It was anticipated that the provincial government would want students to be physically in Quebec for the new semester.

“It really felt like Concordia just completely left us behind in the equation,” said Jane Doe*, an international student from Kentucky who is majoring in environmental geography. “They were just so eager to be back in person, whether it was Concordia or Quebec, I don’t know. But we were totally left out.”

Doe explained that because of border closures, many international students are unable to fly to Canada in time for the start of the fall semester. Concordia University told international students that they have until Nov. 8 to arrive in the country. The Concordia website states that if an international student does not have their visa approved by Nov. 8, which is the DISC deadline, their registration will be removed and tuition refunded.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, international travel into Canada is now allowed only if the person is symptom free and has received the full series of an accepted vaccine. But International students from Morocco and India won’t be able to fly into Canada until Sept. 29, with possibility for a renewal of the ban.

“I was so pissed because I thought for sure that they [Concordia] wouldn’t do that so soon,” Doe said. She explained that she assumed Concordia would continue online school into the new school year. During the past year online Doe moved back to the U.S., got an apartment, a job and expected that her last semester at Concordia would be online.

Doe is currently paying for rent for her apartment in Kentucky and in Montreal, and had to quit her job in Kentucky. According to her, international students, specifically from the U.S., cannot apply for a loan if they are attending online school.

“I had slowly moved into my own place, totally moved on from this part of my life [in Montreal] and then I was told I had to come back,” said Doe.

Doe is currently not in Canada as a student but is in the country on a tourist visa, which means in three months she will have to return to the U.S. and return again to Canada as a tourist. Doe said that she applied for her study permit extension five months ago, but has received no update even though the process is supposed to take six to eight weeks. Despite calling, she still hasn’t received a response. She explained that this is caused by the massive amount of international students also applying for a permit extension.

“There’s a lot of students that I’ve heard from that are really concerned about this because they might not get their documents in time,” said Hannah Jamet-Lange, a French international student and the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) academic & advocacy coordinator.

Jamet-Lange explained that if international students are unable to get their documents in before Nov. 8 they are disenrolled and the student can take a leave of absence for the semester. But Jamet-Lange stated that taking semesters off can impact an international student’s visa and work permits.

“We’ve been advocating a lot for a hybrid system just because it will make it easier for students that are still abroad to still access their classes,” Jamet-Lange said, who explained that the CSU released an open letter to Concordia in August, which laid out concerns about the unclear reopening plan, and gave recommendations on how to best accommodate students.

One of the recommendations was recordings of all classes, both those held in-person and those held online to ensure accessibility. The letter further stated that this includes but is not limited to, “students who are self-isolating and international students who are unable to enter Montreal due to travel bans and/or delays in immigration procedures.”

Vannina Maestracci, Concordia university spokesperson, stated that all universities have to follow eligibility criteria and regulations for study permits.

“The request to be in Montreal is linked to their study permit and immigration status, not to the delivery format of their courses,” stated Maestracci, who explained that the provincial and federal government are allowing international students who are having difficulties traveling to Canada the ability to start their semester online.

She explained that Concordia has offered international students until the beginning of November to travel to Canada while letting them start their classes remotely.


Graphic courtesy of James Fay

*Granted temporary anonymity for external circumstances.

Student Life

Concordia is not doing enough: the case for tuition reduction

The University has not been lenient towards students amid a global pandemic

Last May, Concordia’s proposed budget was decided by the Board of Governors and was “long-term oriented to address post COVID-19 structural issues.” The 2020-2021 budget assumes the impacts of COVID-19 will go on for three years into the future. However, recent developments in clinical testing by Pfizer and Moderna have led the government to stockpile available doses. This means a return towards pre-COVID life might come sooner than expected. As such, a crucial reduction in tuition is justified despite the university potentially operating under a larger deficit for the current fiscal year.

Thousands of students have petitioned since the beginning of the fall semester to reduce tuition. Nearly 97 per cent of students who participated in the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) by-elections of 2020 voted in favour of tuition reduction.

In a town hall meeting  hosted by the CSU on Nov. 19, students considered mass organization and protests against tuition hikes, similar to the 2012 student strike. They stated that, “In the context of the pandemic, we need to do that now as well — enough is enough.”

Many feel as though the school is indifferent towards the plight of its students.

“I’m convinced that the university doesn’t really care. They’d let half of us die if it means that the other half will be filled with students, because what they’re really interested in is keeping us enrolled and keeping us paying,”  said a student who was interviewed by The Link.

While students continue to voice their concerns, Concordia’s current budget leaves little to no room for financial leniency towards them.

According to Fiona Harrison-Roberts, the outgoing finance coordinator of the Journalism Student Association (JSA), “Concordia will be increasing the price of tuition this year as opposed to reducing tuition.”

“COVID-19[‘s] recurrent and structural impact will need to be integrated into the budget model for fiscal years 2021-2022 and thereafter,” as mentioned in the budget’s PDF document.

With a bulk of students shifting from full-time to part-time as well as a decline in first-year students, Concordia experienced an expected loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19.

“The drop is attributable to lost income from on-campus activities such as residence room rentals, parking and conferences, and diminished tuition revenue because of a decline in international student registrations, particularly at the graduate level,” said Concordia’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr in a public statement .

Currently, Concordia is operating under a deficit of five to eight per cent for the fiscal year.

“It is a large amount; however, the figures are similar to what the Government of Quebec has invested in proportion to its own budget to address the COVID crisis,” Carr added.

While Concordia is using the government’s actions to justify their current expenditures, the question to be asked is whether comparing themselves to a provincial government that has not done enough in the face of COVID-19 is a smart thing to do.

Regardless, as the student body grows more restless and with vaccines available this upcoming year, a “three-year financial plan” to combat the effects of COVID-19 becomes less pertinent. Students continue their uphill battle this year in paying rent and tuition, working, and studying through “Zoom University,” with little to no financial relief from their institution.

Concordia boasts of a “solid financial track record” in reference to their “balanced budget for 2019-20” after public funding cuts forced deficits for many years.

“In 2019-2020, before COVID, we had a balanced budget for the first time in six years,” stated Carr.

While it may be a commendable feat for some, Concordia’s members should ask themselves: at whose cost was this achievement realized, if not the students’?

Operating under a larger deficit to ensure the financial safety and security of nearly 50,000 students during a global pandemic is not an unreasonable demand. Especially when such an operation runs at the detriment of both the financial and mental health of its students.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Student Life

Test our knowledge, not the bounds of privacy ethics

Taking an exam shouldn’t mean giving up your privacy

Concordia University’s OnLine Exam (COLE) system, which uses Proctorio’s technology, has received much backlash online, and rightly so. The platform helps to facilitate evaluations even if students cannot physically be present on campus, an unfortunate reality for many amidst our current COVID-19 pandemic world. However, by using Proctorio’s assets, universities are setting a dangerous precedent. One University of Dallas student journalist put it as “spyware cloaked under the guise of being an educational tool.” From knowing what tabs you have open, direct access to your camera and microphone, the ability to see what devices you have plugged in and eject them, it’s an unprecedented amount of power forced by universities onto already pressured students.

Before I go further, I want to emphasize that academic integrity is essential. Cheaters ruin our world, whether through traffic, shoddy quality goods, relationships, or taxes. Academia has a responsibility to protect itself against this, but not just because it hurts other students and our work. Ultimately, how we conduct ourselves in our schooling is how we approach our workplaces and our communities.

But enough is enough. The line was crossed months ago, and the excuse of COVID-19 simply isn’t good enough. These privacy concerns were already discussed at the start of the pandemic. In an April 7 Medium article, a former Bay Street lawyer (and Concordia alumnus), Fahad Diwan, broke down exactly how the university was violating student rights in a legal context. Shocker — he thinks it’s wrong and maybe even illegal.

“The use of Proctorio needs to be suspended until Proctorio can get manifest, free, and enlightened consent from students,” said Diwan in the post, “and Concordia University can demonstrate that online, closed-book exams are absolutely necessary.”

Well, that didn’t happen. The administration and faculties washed their hands of the controversy with the same excuse everyone is using — it’s COVID.

Let me ask my fellow educators and administrators — would you consent to this? Would you accept Concordia creeping into your computer, your files, your emails? And I’m not talking about your work machines. I’m talking about your personal tech because that’s what Proctorio does to students through their pervasive Chrome extension. Maybe you do because you have “nothing to hide.” And if that’s the case, I encourage you to post your login credentials publicly on your social media so we can all see why you are such a good netizen (please don’t do this — it’s against Concordia security policies, but also super stupid). This attitude is stunningly anachronistic that I feel genuine shame for those who utter it. Your computer, your phone, your tech IS YOUR BUSINESS.

But let’s go further: what if you were required to report your GPS location for every class you taught because the university told you they needed to verify where you were working for tax purposes? After COVID, what if they monitored when and where you were in the building because your phone automatically connects to Concordia’s wireless network? What if they said you needed to record all lectures and submit them to the university, where an independent team including students would assess if you were effective in teaching during your class discourse, as well as scanning for other problematic behaviour? What happens when you are required by Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS) to install software that would monitor your productivity? What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

These are no longer “what ifs.” They are WHENs. Like I said before, school environments dictate how we conduct ourselves in our communities and workplaces. By insisting students use these platforms instead of exploring alternative evaluation methods and being unwilling to show empathy for students, academia will receive the same fate. But what’s worse is that universities are setting up the digital prisons they so often rail against. How come Foucault’s panopticon, widely taught in the humanities, did not at least come up in the conversation when implementing this Orwellian spy apparatus?

I beg this: is it worth protecting against cheats if it makes you lose your soul? We’re not police officers —  we’re educators. We seek to empower our students, not wield power over them. Worse, we tell the world and every employer that these tactics are acceptable and to use them on the next generation of workers.

You might feel powerless in this situation. But students have the agency to resist. So, if you are taking exams this semester with COLE or with any system that uses Proctorio or other invasive technologies, fight back! Put a sign in your room or wear a T-shirt that says #ScrewCole or #ExamsNotProctology. It’s your right to free expression.

Before taking your exams, post photos on your social media and tag local media and journalists — encourage your friends and classmates to do the same. Because having to take a university exam shouldn’t mean your school gets to look through your life, digital or otherwise.


 Graphic by Taylor Reddam


The hidden joys of working out from home

An unprecedented year for fitness addicts can still be salvaged

COVID-19 has been a major hindrance for people accustomed to active regimes. The closing of most fitness institutions has caused a huge lifestyle transformation for many, leaving them to wishfully recall the physical and mental benefits of working out.

Despite the undesirable circumstances, perhaps there’s an obscured bright side that we’re choosing to omit. Maybe, habitual routines being put on hold can act as an enabler towards progressing our overall well being in the long run.

Sounds crazy, but hear me out.

The pandemic has left many fitness enthusiasts unhappy, but to argue there are no viable fitness substitutes would be erroneous. Even the greatest athletes have inadequacies, and for better or worse the opportunity has presented itself to potentially hone in on aspects of fitness that are unkempt due to general social negligence.

In essence, people are physically results-oriented in their training, meaning workouts that have the most tangible effects on appearance like weightlifting have become overly promoted and glorified. On the flipside, elements that are frankly more vital for overall fitness such as cardio and mobility are omitted by common gym practitioners.

Whether it’s exercise in the form of outdoor running that people tend to overlook, equipment-free calisthenic training that could — quite literally — be done anywhere at any time, or flexibility workouts, the assortment of choices are effective and generally free of charge.

There’s a common and unconscious misconception that the convenience of these workouts and the lack of equipment somehow makes them less productive. And while it’s more likely to see the world’s inspiring athletes doing extravagant workouts that inspire emulation, the reality is every single one of them does the less trendy work (listed above) behind closed doors just as often.

During the summer, I decided to stop my grumbling in boredom — video games could only take me so far — and made a personal decision to engage in three completely foreign activities. I decided to pick up a new sport (golf, in this instance), started to regularly run, and registered for independent online yoga classes that I participated in roughly four times a week.

Flexibility was a personal hurdle that I had previously willfully ignored throughout my training in favour of weightlifting and playing sports. In ensuring I follow through with the fresh routine, I aspired to engage in some of the activities I avoided most, hoping that by doing so I would challenge myself mentally while bettering my overall physical wellbeing.

My immobility from training incorrectly since my years in high school was frankly embarrassing, I quickly found out. Saying it was bad was putting it lightly; it was unequivocally ugly. As a result, the fear of being alienated in a yoga environment led to ignoring the issue altogether.

Having the classes online made the introductory sessions easier to digest. Independent yoga enabled me to be less concerned about having to perform certain poses and stretches as traditionally outlined, giving me leeway to progress at my own pace.

The routines themselves were a genuine challenge. It was a struggle to actively remain still at times. Using one’s own physique as a training tool is something I will retain for the rest of my life. Holding up the body in perpetual suspension was on par with some of my most strenuous workouts of the past — a humbling notion in itself.

A shortcoming to remote lessons, though, is the lack of a professional mentor in the vicinity. While one might be doing their utter best to perform a movement appropriately, sometimes an in-person visual or physical aid is required to create the adequate sensation and accuracy. When I found myself stumped, I referred to online guides, but ultimately had to go out of my way to figure out an explanation that would have been instantaneous in a traditional yoga environment.

As of right now, I am pridefully average from a flexibility standpoint after nearly five months of deliberate practice. Additionally, my knee that has impeded me since college does not plague my mind as frequently as it did pre-pandemic. Ultimately, I found a way to avoid stagnation despite the untimeliness of the pandemic, which is what I am incontestably most proud of.

The meaning of fitness fluctuates from person to person, so consequently there is no perfect resolution to the COVID-19 workout dilemma. At the end of the day, my situation was simply an anecdotal experience that was not meant to boast my pre-eminence in any way, shape, or form, but hopefully to show that fitness can still be attained during these times, with or without the institutions that we have grown accustomed to.

By opening the mind to creativity and exploring fresh, though perhaps tentative, exercise avenues, athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike can continue to stay as active as ever.


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Canadian university students petition for online classes amidst COVID-19 concerns

On March 10, students from various Canadian universities launched online petitions urging their administrations to consider suspending all in-person classes.

These petitions have since gathered thousands of signatures.

After seeing the University of Washington’s success with its petition, McGill University’s Ready McGill, a student-run emergency preparedness initiative, initiated the movement in Canada with an online petition on to suspend all in-person instruction and shift to online lectures. The petition is now closed and reached nearly 9,000 signatures.

Ready McGill said they were disappointed by McGill’s “wait-and-see approach.”

“[McGill University administrators] want us to get sick first before they would consider cancelling school, which might be politically convenient for the administrators, but really disastrous for us the students and faculty,” Ready McGill wrote in a statement to The Concordian.

Comments are flooding the online petitions, some criticizing the universities’ business-as-usual attitude despite the high possibility of a widespread outbreak on campus.

Concordia University and the University of Toronto followed suit and launched their own petitions after seeing the traction McGill’s was getting, garnering 11,000 and just under 19,000 signatures, respectively.

“I am a student concerned for not only my health but the health of those around me,” wrote Concordia journalism and political science student Caitlin Yardley in the comment section of the petition. “I live in a building with predominantly elderly people and although I would likely recover from contracting the virus, my neighbours might not. For the health of the community, please suspend classes.”

“A lot of students are quite concerned about the situation. And of course, everyone wants to protect their own health and safety first,” said the president of the Students’ Society of McGill University, Bryan Buraga, in an interview with The Concordian.

“The level of extent to which they believe that the university should close varies,” Buraga added. But he feels that there is a “prevailing sense” from the students that the university should cancel in-person classes.

Concordia philosophy student David Becker created Concordia’s version of the petition in hopes that the support and signatures it received would pressure the university’s administration to act.

“I think it is important that this becomes a story because most schools in North America are trying to find a solution to keep their students safe and Concordia doesn’t seem to be doing anything,” said Becker.

Over 200 U.S. universities including Harvard University, Columbia, MIT and UC Berkeley temporarily closed to prevent the possibility of transmission among their students.

Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci released a statement about the university’s current course of action. The plan was to initially convert only six classes with over 250 students enrolled to online.

But after Legault announced Friday the shutdown of all Quebec daycares, elementary schools, high schools and universities until March 27, a statement was sent to all Concordia students that classes are to be cancelled until Monday, March 30 by the university’s president and vice-chancellor Graham Carr.

While the school is shutdown, Concordia professors will convert all in-class lectures to an online format by March 23, while the university prepares a plan for what comes after March 30 with the instructions from the ministries of education and public health. There are currently no updates regarding all exam schedules and the delivery of upcoming finals, but Concordia is working on a plan for students to complete the winter semester.

“We are finalizing a plan to allow us to deliver instruction online through a variety of technologies such as Zoom, that we have in place,” Maestracci said. Zoom is a video conferencing software on which university professors can hold their lectures and meetings with students online. New York University and University of Washington converted some of the classes to online instruction using Zoom.

Both campuses at Sir George Williams and Loyola are closed to all students as of Friday, March 13. Concordia employees began working remotely on necessary university operations during the shutdown.

While school is cancelled, it is recommended to frequently wash your hands with soap, avoid sharing utensils and other personal items, and keep a social distance from others for the next upcoming weeks according to the Gouvernement du Quebec.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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