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.”


#refund2020: a student-led battle against Concordia’s tuition fees

 Over 100 students have signed the #refund2020 petition, aiming for economic and academic justice at the university

A new student campaign called #refund2020 was launched on March 21, demanding a full refund of summer and fall 2020 tuition fees to all Concordia students.

The movement is based on students who are feeling dissatisfied with paying full tuition fees for an allegedly inferior quality of remote education, as well as limited access to on-campus activities and services.  

Ace Baldwin is the founder of Economic Justice Concordia, a student group seeking to “break down financial and economic barriers to wellness for Concordia students.” Besides tuition-related demands, which also include a detailed report of Concordia’s expenditures in 2020, Baldwin’s campaign advocates for prioritizing student health on campus.

Nathalie Heller, co-organizer of #refund2020, says that it can take up to several months to schedule a mental health appointment at the university, even if a student only wishes to have a brief conversation with a specialist.

As an international student currently living in Colombia, Heller also believes that non-Canadian citizens are at a disadvantage when it comes to health coverage at Concordia.

“My health care plan would be over $1,000 this semester, yet Quebec’s Blue Cross insurance can’t [always] be extended to other countries. I can’t even negotiate my coverage abroad, so it feels unfair since I had already paid for this service in the past,” she explained.

The campaign also wants to provide the Pass/Fail and DISC options to every student, this time for an unlimited number of courses taken in the summer and fall of 2020. As of now, Concordia students are allowed to apply the Pass notation to just one course in the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters.

The platform also aims to eliminate all proctored exams at the university and to bring back course evaluations, which would allow students to provide honest feedback for their professors.

While #refund2020 has collected over 130 signatures on its official website, the campaign is determined to take further action.

On April 10, Economic Justice Concordia will host an on-campus rally in collaboration with students from McGill University, according to Baldwin. Further details should be announced closer to the date of the protest.

“We are serious about this. It’s a joint effort to show our administration and the Quebec government that this is a pressing issue,” said Baldwin.

#refund2020 also organized a tuition action night, which is set to take place on March 30 at 7 p.m. over Zoom. The event will be hosted by Nora Loreto, a writer and activist specializing in social movement organization, especially for labour unions, women, and students.

“We will discuss how collective action works — and also how it looks — because there’s often a disconnect between the two concepts … Despite living through a difficult period right now, the pandemic is actually a very fertile moment for political action,” Loreto explained.

The activist wants to inform Concordia students on how to organize general assemblies and have a detailed action plan, since movements such as the 2012 Quebec student protests have proven to be effective.

As of now, #refund2020 has not received an official response from Concordia’s administration.

However, Baldwin remains hopeful that their campaign will soon reach an agreement with the university, with both parties approaching this situation as allies rather than opponents.


Logo courtesy of #refund2020


Economic Justice Concordia changed the date of their on campus rally to April 10. A previous version of the article said the rally was on April 3.


JMSB student starts petition to turn Grey Nuns Residence into temporary homeless shelter

In just four days, the petition collected over 3,000 signatures

After the recent deaths of homeless people in Montreal, David Desjardins, a third-year John Molson School of Business (JMSB) student at Concordia University, wanted to do more than just raise awareness about the city’s growing homelessness crisis.

Since the start of the pandemic, Montreal’s homeless population has increased from a pre-pandemic figure of around 3,000 to hundreds, maybe thousands, more. While experts have not been able to pinpoint the exact figure, the increase has manifested at homeless shelters, with staff reporting that they are operating at full capacity, though this is not enough to adequately serve the city’s increasing homeless population.

Meanwhile, several student residences in the city remain closed due to the pandemic. At Concordia, the Grey Nuns Residence — a heritage student residence and hotel building located near the downtown campus — is closed, with almost 600 beds unoccupied since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Desjardins decided to call on Concordia University to step in, and started a petition on Jan. 28, directed towards President of Concordia University Graham Carr, to turn the Grey Nuns Residence into a temporary homeless shelter.

Part of Desjardins’ motivation for starting the petition includes believing that “we need to act with urgency to find these people somewhere to stay, at least temporarily, or else we will see bloodshed.”

The petition, which started off with a goal of 150 signatures, currently has over 3,000.

“It’s been pretty impressive, I’m very happy to see all the support we’re getting,” said Desjardins.

In addition to it’s high occupancy rate, the Grey Nuns Residence boasts a cafeteria space, several multipurpose rooms, and 234-seat silent reading room. There are no specific plans on how this space would be used; instead, Desjardins said his petition is meant to get the ball rolling.

He believes new resources made available for the homeless during the pandemic, such as the Old Royal Victoria Hospital being converted to a homeless shelter in August 2020, “was a great first step.”

However, Desjardins believes that, in many ways, efforts to help the homeless have fallen short.

“I wouldn’t even say the government is doing much to be quite frank.”

Since enacting stricter lockdown measures on Jan. 9, Legault did not exempt the homeless population and homeless shelters from the 8 p.m. curfew. That decision not only meant that homeless people could incur fines up to $1,500 for being outside after curfew, but that shelters could no longer accept new clients past the curfew as well.

Even after the death of Raphael “Napa” Andre, a 51-year-old homeless man who froze to death in a portable toilet just a few metres away from a shelter after curfew, Legault said he would continue to refuse exempting the homeless population from curfew regulations.

“You have to understand that if we put in the law that a homeless person cannot get a ticket, well then anyone could say “I’m homeless,” explained Legault.

Severe backlash followed Legault’s stance, with politicians and community members calling on the premier to have compassion towards the homeless. On Jan. 26, a Quebec Superior Court judge reversed Legault’s regulation, ruling the homeless were no longer subject to curfew.

Following the government’s rocky commitment to the issue, Desjardins looked for new solutions to help with the homelessness problem. He believes more organizations and businesses should be willing to help.

“I think that anybody who does not take action in these times where it’s needed, are going to be guilty and are going to have blood on their hands,” said Desjardins.

If the project is approved, Desjardins thinks the university would have to find creative ways to fund the project. While he would allow a portion of his own tuition to fund the project, he believes many students would be against their own tuition being used.

“Once we have a green light, we can look at finding ways to get food, clothing, personal protective equipment … and all kinds of other things that are going to require funding for this project,” said Desjardins.

For now, he has contacted staff from the Grey Nuns Residence, and says he would be open to being involved with the project if it goes forward.

“I’m just doing everything I possibly can to make this happen at the moment,” said Desjardins.


Photograph by Christine Beaudoin

Interview conducted by Hadassah Alencar and edited by Adam Mbowe.


Pro-Armenian protestors gather to call for Mayor Valérie Plante’s support

A thousand protestors gathered in front of city hall on Thursday

A pro-Armenian protest in front of Montreal City Hall on Thursday Oct. 8 called on Mayor Valérie Plante to publicly support Armenians in the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh territory conflict.

On Sept. 27, conflicts re-erupted in the region, leaving at least 23 civilians killed. While the Nagorno-Karabakh territory is recognized internationally as located in Azerbaijan, the majority of the territory is occupied and controlled by a majority population of ethnic Armenians.

Aram Shoujounian, one of the organizers of the demonstration on Thursday, said they want Plante to denounce Azerbaijan and Turkey’s violence towards Armenians in a conflict that has claimed over 300 lives, according to Armenian, Turkish, and Azeri reports.

Shoujounian said the protest also calls on Plante to recognize the independence of the “Republic of Artsakh.”

While the disputed territory is officially called the Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenians refer to the territory as the Armenian-language name of the region: “Artsakh.”

At present, the majority of the territory is ruled by a government called the “Republic of Artsakh,” and positions within the government are largely held by ethnic Armenians.

“We’re telling Valérie Plante, and the entire city hall, to recognize the Republic of Artsakh as an independent state, because that’s the only way to guarantee the security and the right to live on the territory of the Republic of Artsakh,” Shoujounian told The Concordian.

“We do not want our democratic societies to stay neutral,” said Shoujounian.

Located between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the territory has been disputed through political and military conflict for decades, beginning in the ‘80s.

Russia brokered a cease-fire with both countries in 1994, but conflict continued throughout the years.

Canada suspended drone technological exports to Turkey after reports emerged that the technology was used by Turkey to target Armenian civilians.

A ceasefire agreement on Oct. 10 was promptly broken just minutes after the agreed upon deadline. Both countries put blame on the other for breaking the agreement.

On Friday Oct. 16, Justin Trudeau met with Armenian and Turkish leaders to speak on the conflict, and to encourage a peaceful resolution. A petition supporting Armenia and Armenians in Artsakh was begun by Ontario Liberal Member of Parliament Bryan May, and will collect signatures to present to parliament until Nov. 8.

Fourth-year Concordia student at the protest.

One fourth-year Concordia student said she was attending the protest because more needs to be done.

“There is a second genocide towards Armenians happening right now and people are silent,” she said.

She says leaders need to take a stand to get involved beyond peace talks, stating, “Talking nicely and telling them to cease fire won’t work because we had a ceasefire agreement.”

Nathalie Setian, the student’s close friend, said, “they [Azerbaijan and Turkey] just want to invade and erase us as a nation as an Armenian race.”

Both Armenian Montrealers said they came to pressure government officials to support the self-determination and safety of the people in the disputed region, and to aid the movement in Montreal.

“We’re raising money [for Armenian soldiers], we’re donating a lot, we’re writing open letters,  we’re urging the government and the politicians and especially the media to stand with us,” said Setian.

“We’re raising our voices and doing as much as we can to get people to stand up for us, because we’re not accepting biased and falsified information by journalists.”

Last week the Armenian diaspora in Montreal organized a protest in front of the Montreal Gazette and Global News media offices, to call out the “surface level” reporting on the conflict, and how the reporting does not accurately represent the level of threat this conflict has for the ethnic Armenians in the conflict zone.

“If you are neutral, that means you support terrorism,” said Setian.

“We don’t want genocide to repeat itself and we don’t want whatever happened in Syria to repeat itself in Artsakh,” said Setian.

Since the protest, Setian has co-written an article on the conflict.

On Saturday Oct. 17, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a ceasefire starting at midnight. The deal was brokered by the OSCE Minsk Group. Early Sunday morning, the ceasefire deal was broken with both sides blaming each other for the violation.

Today, Monday Oct. 19, Plante has released a statement saying she stands in solidarity with the Armenian people, and will support efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“To the Armenian community of Montreal I would like to offer you all our support…I wish you strength and peace in these very difficult times and know that we stand altogether with you,” said Plante.

Photos by Hadassah Alencar


Tuition fees in the age of Zoom University

Students all over Quebec asking for universities to Lower tuition

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, universities all over Canada and the world have shifted to online learning.

Multiple petitions to lower the online semester’s tuition at Concordia are making their way through our Facebook feeds.

The first petition, created by Yuvraj Singh Athwal, has a goal of 1,500 signatures, and has around 1,200. The second petition, created by a group of anonymous Concordia Students, has a goal of 1,000 signatures, and currently has around 700.

Due to this very necessary shift into the online world, students have lost in-person access to many resources which, for many, are a crucial part of the typical university experience.

Athwal, the organizer of the ‘Reduce tuition fees due to online classes’ petition, explains in the description, “None of the students are using any of the university resources including libraries, labs etc. Also, the learning experience with online classes is not even comparable to that with in-person classes which is more dynamic and life-like.”

The second petition remains similar, stating in its description, “This substantial change is having an immense impact on the quality of our education. In-person interactions, facilities and resources represent a great part of our learning experience.”

In-person resources can include library study spaces, clubs, gyms, labs, certain food experiences, and most importantly the social context of university.  However, it is important to note that on certain occasions labs are open, and students can reserve in-person study spaces at the library.

In the petition description, Concordia students go on to say, “Students are required to work from home, in confined spaces where distractions are prominent and exchange of ideas nonexistent.”

Students have written comments on the petition explaining their frustrations with the cost of this unique semester. Student Leila Beyea wrote, “Finding a job during this has been so hard, and I just don’t have $10,000 to spend on a year of school where I don’t even get to meet anyone or see the school.”

In addition to the petition, a class-action lawsuit has been brought forward by the law firm Jean-François Bertrand Avocats Inc., with Claudia Larose, a student at Laval University, as a representative.

According to Flavie Garceau-Bolduc, a lawyer on the case, “[The class-action lawsuit] is a request for a reimbursement of the perceived cost of university for the Winter 2020 semester. The students — when enrolling to courses — had certain expectations in terms of the services they’d have access to. Without going into specifics, this can include libraries, gyms, and study rooms. This also encompasses the social context for which students pay. So when [students] cover their academic costs, it’s not only for classes but for much more than that.”

In its first stages, and still waiting for approval from the Quebec judiciary system, the lawsuit seeks retribution of damages of $30 per credit for each student enrolled in the Winter 2020 semester.

Garceau-Bolduc said, “Instead of each student taking judicial action against universities to ask for reimbursements […] we take on that burden collectively for the students. This avoids overworking the tribunals, but also avoids individual costs for each student looking for retribution of damages. It’s really a procedure which has the objective to give access to justice for all citizens looking to recuperate these damages.”


Visuals by Taylor Reddam


Navigating Quebec’s tight-knit art community

Changing the culture of representation for contemporary artists

Benjamin J. Allard, BA Concordia Communication Studies alumnus, former research assistant and Art Matters curator, currently runs Radio Atelier for CIBL 101.5. Radio Atelier a podcast about local artists and current exhibitions in the greater Montreal area, and Quebec at large.

Allard recently put forth a petition, as part of the INVISIBLES group, to highlight his concerns with arts representation in the media. INVISIBLES is specifically asking Radio-Canada to rethink their approaches to coverage of artists and arts events.

The petition, which now holds 10,572 signatures (and counting) is in French, and begins as follows; “we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the coverage of the visual arts on Radio-Canada contravenes your journalistic standards and practices by not respecting the principles of equity, impartiality and integrity.” Its clarity and strong language demand attention.

“INVISIBLES is an umbrella organization for people and institutions interested in the subject of visual art representation in the media,” said Allard.“It’s super new, they had a meeting in Quebec and we’ll have our first meetings in Montreal [soon].”

The petition has also made headway with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which opened a public platform, from Nov. 25 to Feb. 20, where individuals and collectives had the opportunity to suggest ideas and provide feedback on CBC/Radio-Canada programming as they renew their broadcasting licences, which expires on Aug. 31.

“We want to make sure that the content produced and distributed by CBC/Radio-Canada reflects the diversity of Canada’s population, while meeting its needs in both official languages,” read the platform. The forum will hold and record a public hearing on May 25 in Ottawa to further address the issue of representation.

Allard, along with a team representing INVISIBLES, was invited to meet with Radio-Canada on Feb. 20 to discuss their demands. They proposed a document of suggested practices, which was received well by Société Radio Canada/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (SRC/CBC), L’Association des galeries d’art contemporain (AGAC) and the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference (ARCA). However, SRC/CBC explained that contemporary artists need better press relations in order to receive accurate representation.

“There are some projects on their way to create something to help at that level, but nothing is confirmed,” said Allard. “AGAC and ARCA had things to say about that, it’s not something really new they told us. However, they also offered to meet radio producers, which (according to them), they never did before. It is very generous and it’s the sign that it’s the beginning of a dialogue.”

But, if pre-existing government-funded arts programmes, in and of themselves, are not exploring diverse audiences, how can we expect the media to do the same? 

Since its conception, the petition has also attracted the attention of MAtv’s “Mise à Jour Montréal” who invited Louise Déry, the director of UQAM’s art gallery, to discuss the issue.

In a segment of Feb. 17’s episode, Déry reflects on how art writers for The New Yorker, The New York Times and The LA Times attend art schools’ graduating exhibitions to get a sense of emerging artists. Quebec media, on the other hand, doesn’t do that.

In most of Quebec’s newspapers, the arts section has been merged with culture, leading coverage to typically include generally inaccessible events, such operas, plays and symphonies. Rarely do they immerse themselves in art galleries outside of Montreal’s larger cultural institutions.

Allard argues that it is always the same artists who are put forward on the Quebec scene, and this way of thinking starts in university.

Allard attended Concordia’s MFA Open studios on Feb. 19 and noticed that all their visiting artists were from Montreal. “This is unacceptable,” he said. “I think that [the] university should strive to create new networks and this passes by inviting people outside current networks.”

On their social media platforms, INVISIBLES showcases a Quebecois artist or art collective a day for a project called 366 jours/366 artistes. Among the 366 artists are multi-disciplinary, video, performance and screen printing artists like Rachel Echenberg, Marc-Antoine K. Phaneuf and Dominique Pétrin. Also featured in the project are some that are well represented, such as sculptor David Altmejd and Concordia Studio Arts professor, painter Janet Werner. Both artists have pieces at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Montreal and the Musée national des beaux-arts in Quebec.

Tune in to Radio Atelier on CIBL 101.5 on Mondays at 6 p.m. for more from Allard, or find them wherever you get your podcasts. For more information, or to listen/download episodes online visit



By-law deals fatal blow to residents’ petition

Construction on Loyola green space to move ahead despite opposition

N.D.G. resident Irwin Rapoport’s campaign to save the Loyola campus green space was dealt a fatal blow on Monday.

Construction of the new research centre on the green space will now move ahead after Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough officials discovered a clause in Bill 122, a new provincial law adopted in June, which states “public property intended for collective use in the education sector is no longer subject to approval by a referendum.”

Rapoport and other N.D.G. residents had hoped to preserve the green space. “The residents are seeking a moratorium on any development of green space on the campus,” Rapoport told The Concordian early last week. A group of residents wanted to have the development moved to one of the nearby parking lots, with an underground parking garage built to replace the current lot.

Following a borough council meeting on Monday night, Rapoport called the legislation “an attack on democracy.” He criticized the borough for its oversight. “You didn’t cross the t’s and dot the i’s on this one,” he said.

C.D.N.—N.D.G. Mayor Russell Copeman said the city is just respecting the rule of law. “I was as startled as the next person about this [discovery],” he said. “But we’ve double-checked everywhere, and we really feel that, by our legal department, we have no option but to reject the petition. It would be illegal to hold a register under these conditions.”

With the threat of a referendum off the table, Concordia can move forward with its plan to begin construction of the $52-million research centre this spring. The building, which will house research centres for nanoscience and cell biology, will occupy 15 per cent of the nearly 8,800 square metre field behind the Richard J. Renaud Science building.

Rapoport said he is concerned the research centre may only be the beginning of development on the green space. At an C.D.N.—N.D.G. urban planning committee meeting on Aug. 7, he confronted a Concordia official about whether or not further developments would follow. “I asked him: ‘Would you guarantee that the remainder of the field would not be developed?’ He couldn’t say no. He couldn’t say yes or no.”

University spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said Concordia has no plans to develop the green space beyond the current project. Furthermore, “any future development would need to be approved by the borough and would involve public consultation,” she said.

Even moving the development would not solve all of the community’s concerns. Lisa Kagan lives adjacent to the green space, and said she is worried about noise pollution from the construction and the building’s ventilators. She also worries the building’s presence will create more traffic on her street, which borders the space.

“Already, I have to deal with a lot of Concordia students on my quiet street hopping my fence, and parking and traffic.” She said students often block her neighbours’ driveways with their cars. In addition, she said, before Concordia security stepped in, she would catch a student hopping her fence “at least once a week.”

Rapoport had originally petitioned the city to open a register on the project, gaining 95 signatures of the necessary 12 before the clause in Bill 122 was discovered.

Rapoport said he will continue to fight this project. “We’re going to have to appeal to a higher level of the opposition of Montreal.”

“This green space is more than just Concordia’s green space—it’s become a de facto public green space,” Rapoport said.

Concordia student Gabi Mandl disagrees. “I am so thankful that Mayor Copeman and the council unanimously approved the project because they clearly understand how valuable it is,” the chemistry graduate student said. “This isn’t a building being constructed for business or profit. It is for students to be able to learn and flourish.”

Concordia chemistry graduate student Gabi Mandl. Photo by Kirubel Mehari

Mandl said she hopes to pursue her PhD at Concordia once the new centre is built. She said the community’s demands are unreasonable and unrealistic. “I don’t think it’s a good use of funding to build [an underground] parking lot when all they have to do is build a building next to a parking lot on a huge, unused plot of grass,” she said.

Some residents had previously proposed moving the building either to the parking lot across campus next to the physical services building or the one next to the green space behind the St-Ignatius of Loyola Church. Mandl said the first option would place the new building too far away from the existing science building for the two to be connected by a tunnel. Such a tunnel is necessary to protect the student body from exposure to dangerous substances, including nanoparticles and cell cultures.

The tunnel is also necessary to protect samples from contamination and exposure to the elements. Biochemistry undergraduate student Tommy Roumanas said the human cells Concordia uses for research must be kept safe while in transport. “Human cells are very, very delicate,” he said. “As soon as we take them out of that 37 C incubator, we’re on a timer.” Furthermore, contamination of these cells can go unnoticed for months.

As for the parking lot next to the green space, which is close to the science building, Mandl said she worries about the cost of replacing this lot with underground parking. According to one study, underground parking garages cost on average about $41,600 per space. At this rate, replacing the roughly 80 existing parking spaces would cost more than $3.3 million. Furthermore, Barr said the university does not have permission to build on the suggested parking lot.

According to Barr, a website is in the works to keep the public informed on the project. “Our neighbours are important to us,” she said. “They have always been welcome on our campuses. We aim to create a campus that is an asset for all.”


Political science petition garners support

A petition calling for significant changes within the department of political science was endorsed by the Concordia Student Union and the Arts and Science Federation of Associations this week.

The petition, brought to both groups by its author Gene Morrow, contains six points covering issues such as grade changes in the form of bell curving, loss of space on campus and cutting popular courses without consulting students or faculty.

The petition calls for immediate intervention by Brian Lewis, dean of arts and science, and has already been signed by 250 students. Lewis said that he is “talking to a number of people to try to better understand the situation in political science,” and that discussions with faculty and student representatives were continuing.

Schubert Laforest, president of the CSU, said that the issues raised in the petition are ones that have been followed closely by council. Council officially gave their support at the regular council meeting Wednesday with a motion that will promote and distribute the petition to students.

“I think that the petition does bring out a lot of issues not just at the political science department but across the arts and science faculty,” he said. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg, and we’re going to be sitting down with [Morrow] and ASFA to figure out what we need to do going forward.”

James Tyler Vaccaro, VP communications of the Political Science Student Association said that while the association did not draft the petition, they had “acted as a source of information when called on by both ASFA and CSU councils” and that he hoped the issues raised in the petition would be resolved soon.

He also said that contrary to the sixth point on the petition, which deals with an apparent lack of availability and transparency by department chair Csaba Nikolenyi, the PSSA had not experienced the same problem.

“We have not had any difficulties meeting him to discuss a broad range of topics this year,” said Vaccaro.

Morrow, a student in the political science department, told The Concordian that he suspected he knew why the PSSA’s experiences had been different than those of some students.

“The PSSA, because they are the institutional actor within the department, they are the appropriate contact point between students and faculty,” he said. “I think that they have a much better time getting access to speaking with the chair, but they don’t necessarily have better access to the information than anyone else does a lot of the time.”

“For example a member of Senate tried to get minutes from the departmental council, and was told to file an access to information request,” Morrow said. “They were told point blank you cannot get access to this without filing an ATI request. Why is this necessary? Why does this have to be walled off and blocked?”

Morrow went on to say that students within the department were often starved for information when it came to decisions made by the chair and faculty, including why they were made or who was involved.

“People would be willing to tolerate that, but there’s never any communication from the department to students. There’s never any communication to students about what’s happening in the department. The general feeling is that we’re an afterthought.”

New copies of the petition will be available at the offices of the CSU and the PSSA for students who did not have a chance to sign the first petition.


‘Ceasefire’ called on Lex Gill impeachment petition

Lex and the giant... impeachment? Graphic by Katie Brioux

All concerned parties involved in the impeachment process of CSU president Lex Gill have agreed to a “ceasefire,” and will be meeting with the CSU at an undetermined date to hash out their differences.

News of the intent to impeach Gill was made early last week, when former CSU councillor Tomer Shavit, Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) president Alex Gordon and Commerce and Administration Students’ Association (CASA) president Marianna Luciano announced their plans to release a petition that called for Gill’s impeachment. A website called was also made public the same day.

On Saturday, Gordon arranged a meeting with Gill, along with members of the CSU and Shavit, to “mediate [their] problems outside of the petition,” he said. They have agreed to a “ceasefire” where the petition is concerned, and to arrange a round table with members of ASFA, CASA, CSU and Shavit to address all parties’ concerns.

In an interview with The Concordian, Gordon admitted he was not certain of the legality of the petition and that the website was lacking some documentation. “It would be ideal if we could settle this and move forward,” he said. “We had a really productive meeting. All parties are now on the same page.”

Gordon said there was a lot of discontent among ASFA and CASA, and that he was looking out for ASFA’s best interests by originally supporting the petition and bringing to the forefront a number of unsettled issues.

The creators of the website pointed to alleged inappropriate behaviour on Gill’s part, a lack of transparency and professionalism, and orchestration of the “illegal” firing of former CSU CEO Bram Goldstein as their central complaints.

Gill described the documents on the website as being “misleading, inflammatory and an insult to Concordia student’s intelligence.”
At the CSU council meeting last Wednesday, Gill said the petition’s clauses were “rife with conjecture, misinformation, logical fallacies, defamatory statements and straightforward lies… I stand by my team’s work, dedication, leadership and courage, and implore [Shavit] not to drag the rest of them into his personal problem with me.”

As the meeting heated up, many members of the executive stepped forward to defend Gill, including VP external Chad Walcott, and CSU councillor and student governor Cameron Monagle.

“[Gill] is doing an excellent job… we do not need controversy and petty insults, we need a stable student body and we need to deal with serious matters,” said Walcott. Monagle proposed a motion that expressed the council’s support for Gill, which was passed unanimously.

Shavit said later that he was disappointed that CSU members spent so much time trying to prove his arguments were petty instead of focusing on the concerns brought up over Gill’s transparency and accountability.

“We are not making any claims against the other executives,” Shavit said. “We appreciate the work they do. This is an issue with Lex Gill, and Lex Gill alone.”

At the council meeting, Gill suggested that Shavit wait until March 1 to present his petition, at which time the new CSU bylaws would allow him to collect signatures for a petition that could trigger a general assembly to remove her from office. The current bylaws would require a petition to impeach the entire executive. She even added that if a petition was made and validated according to the rules, she would be happy to call the general meeting, book the room and move the motion herself. “That is, after all, how democracy works,” she said.

With files from Paula Rivas.

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