Rethinking our approach to learning

Higher education should be a blessing, not a curse. 

Learning often doesn’t feel as meaningful as it should. I am often frustrated by how easily my attention slips away from my academics and how little I retain after hours of class time. The reality for many students is a daily cycle of cramming information and then regurgitating it, only to forget or never fully understand said information. 

Because of the sheer volume of material we’re given to consume, we’re often unable to give it the attention and interest it deserves. Stress levels are ridiculously high with no time to breathe and sit with what we’re being taught. So many students are constantly in a frenzy, struggling to keep up with what is required of them to achieve high results. They aren’t enjoying their education, only doing their best to survive it. 

We’re in dire need of solutions. One such solution is creative teaching methods that emphasize genuine engagement. I spoke to Professor Norman Cornett, a former McGill professor who realized that the standard approach to learning was having a destructive effect on his students. These students were suffering, and falling through the cracks of a system that only pushed them down farther. 

Upon this realization, Cornett adopted what he refers to as the “dialogic” method, a method that spotlights engaging dialogue about educational material by encouraging stream-of-consciousness thought and unfiltered opinion. He allowed students to share uninhibited responses to works and invited creators to engage with these reactions, thus forming a dialogue between student and material.

This was often achieved through creative practices (such as making students listen to a symphony in the dark, to name one example) that sought to emphasize the individual needs and interests of the students, and to present material in a way that wasn’t the typical “read and regurgitate” practice. “Imagination represents one of the foremost assets human beings innately possess,” said Cornett. “To realize its full potential, higher education must therefore harness the imagination as an essential dynamic of learning.” 

But beyond professors reconsidering their own teaching methods, what can be done by students who are at the mercy of educational structures? Change is slow, and we’re subjected to degree requirements and rigorous curriculums. A few solutions can help you maximize your experience. 

Choosing courses whose content reflects your own interests whenever possible, as well as engaging more with professors and seeking out instructors that present material in a way that works for you, are just some of these solutions.

It’s also helpful to consider alternatives or supplements to higher education entirely. A degree doesn’t need to be the emblem of success—we’ve all seen those lists of successful figures who never graduated. The knowledge that comes from non-curricular books, interpersonal learning, and life experiences like traveling can be just as (if not more) valuable. I’m not saying you should drop out when school gets tough, only consider all the possibilities in your life’s trajectory.

It has already been said by many that the education system is deeply flawed. Students need more time to breathe and more space to actually absorb what is being taught. More than that, they need to be engaged more deeply with the material. This will require imaginative solutions, and the willingness to accept that learning could be so much more. 


Concordia professor Nadia Chaudhri dies at 43, leaving a historic legacy

Amid her fight against ovarian cancer, the neuroscientist inspired hundreds of thousands on the internet

Dr. Nadia Chaudhri, an award-winning neuroscientist, Concordia professor, and beloved mother and wife, passed away on Oct. 5 due to ovarian cancer. While dealing with a terminal diagnosis during the pandemic, Chaudhri demonstrated nothing but courage and inspiration to an audience of over 150,000 on Twitter.

Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Chaudhri attended Franklin & Marshall College in the U.S. from the age of 17, where she was recognized for outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements. With a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh, Chaudhri has taught at Concordia University since 2010.

The professor had become a role model for the representation of women and minorities in neuroscience research — a cause for which she raised over $630,000 from thousands of donors, setting a record-breaking fundraiser at Concordia. Much of this support had emerged from Chaudhri’s popularity on social media, achieved by inspiring thousands with her personal stories about her fight against cancer, including the highs and lows of her difficult journey.

“Truth time! I can’t get out of bed without help anymore. But I’m gathering my strength for one more Shuffle down the palliative care floor tomorrow. I know I’ve got one more in me,” Chaudhri tweeted on Sept. 11 in an effort to raise funds for the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award.

“I am not afraid,” Chaudhri added two days later, while spending her final weeks of life at the McGill University Health Centre.

For Dr. Alexandra Chisholm, now a postdoctoral fellow at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Chaudhri played a key motivational role in the early stages of her career.

Chisholm shared with The Concordian that Chaudhri provided exemplary guidance and support when she began teaching the fundamentals of animal learning to undergraduate students in the Department of Psychology at Concordia. The neuroscientist also sent a warm congratulations email to Chisholm for her PhD thesis defense in experimental psychology — which Chaudhri could not attend as cancer complications had already begun.

“She was always the first to volunteer her help and expertise because she genuinely cared about her students’ development, wanted us to feel supported and wanted to push the limits of our critical thinking skills,” said Chisholm. “She helped me to build the confidence I now have today as a course instructor.”

Besides inspiring and funding her students for their success in neuroscience, Chaudhri also raised awareness about ovarian cancer through Twitter. She shared her early symptoms, which were not diagnosed correctly until six months later, in order to help her followers detect any potential complications of their own sooner rather than later. She highlighted how crucial it is to listen to one’s own body, while also stressing the need to fund cancer research as current chemotherapy treatments do not always manage to save lives.

“[Dr. Chaudhri] enriched us. Our entire community grieves her death and offers deeply heartfelt condolences to her son, Reza, and husband, Moni — whom she lovingly called her Sun and Moon — her family, friends, colleagues and the thousands of supporters to the Nadia Chaudhri Wingspan Award who embraced her cause,” said Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr for a Concordia article.

On Oct. 7, the University lowered its flags to half-mast to commemorate Chaudhri. Despite an early end to her inspiring journey, Chaudhri’s contributions to neuroscience and cancer awareness will not be forgotten by the Concordia community and her international supporters.


Photo courtesy of Nadia Chaudhri’s six-year-old son.

Following the tide of artistic creation

Part-time studio arts instructor Jenny Lin on how her practice continues to evolve

“I’ve been working in a really introspective way,” Jenny Lin said of her recent artistic endeavours. The visual artist and part-time Concordia professor has found herself in what seems to be a creative ebb—drawing back from her usual schedule to make room for new projects and pursuits.

One glance at Lin’s resume will reveal how busy she’s been over the past couple of decades, with most of her artistic work taking place during her teaching career at Concordia. “I feel like I can be a better teacher when I’m actually making work,” she said. A 2018 recipient of the Fine Arts Distinguished Teaching Award, Lin is soft spoken yet firmly present.

Lin began teaching at the university during her master’s degree in print media in 2001. She taught a screenprinting course in her third year, but upon graduating, found herself unsure about a career as a teacher. Instead, Lin worked in the studio arts office for a few years before Tony Patricio, the office administrator, convinced her to apply for a teaching position. She got her first teaching job in 2004 and has been an instructor at Concordia ever since.

“It made me a bit more confident and sure that I wanted to do this,” Lin said about landing her first gig. What started as a few occasional classes developed into a steady schedule, and by 2007, Lin had solidified her place at the university.

Lin’s screenprinted zine, avoid taking too personally or literally, 2018. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lin said her job as a professor influences her creative career, and vice versa. “It’s inspiring to be around people making art and [to] get to talk about what they’re doing, and help guide them through the process,” she said. “The teaching really inspires me to keep making work.” Keeping an open creative channel between work and play is essential for both aspects of her practice to succeed, Lin said. “[I’m] lucky to be able to work in the studio art [department]. Both things feed each other.”

It’s fair to say that she’s found the balance, because Lin’s artistic biography is staggering. Since her time as an undergraduate student at the University of Calgary, Lin has racked up over 150 credits in group and solo exhibitions, video screenings, residencies, artists’ book collections and workshops. But her list of accomplishments isn’t what Lin considers to be most important—it’s the people she’s been able to work with, and certain projects that have her particularly inspired.

Although Lin completed her master’s degree in print media, she also took video courses while studying at Concordia. At the time, Lin was interested in creating art through non-physical means. Though she has shifted gears a little since her graduate work, this is a sentiment the artist continues to investigate. “I feel interested in [the] different ways that people can be reached by an artwork,” she said. “It’s interesting that someone could see something on the web, in their house, or on a random computer, and enter into this world—like a story—that they get immersed in.”

In her recent projects, Lin has been more focused on print media and zine work. These works can be immersive in their own way, she explained. In addition to being a tangible medium that the viewer can interact with, “artists’ books can fit in many spaces,” she said. Opposed to more traditional work that only appears in a gallery, for example, zines and artists’ books facilitate a more intimate relationship between work and viewer, Lin said.

The artist said she feels more distant from the virtual world now than she did while creating video and digital work. “The way that I was presenting it, or the way that people were accessing it felt a little unsatisfying,” she explained. Lin refocused her practice, leading her to build quite an extensive collection of artists’ books, host bookmaking and zinemaking workshops, and participate in zine fairs across the country with her partner Eloisa Aquino, who is also an artist. Lin and Aquino publish some of their collaborative work under the name B&D Press.

The artist’s 2016 poster/zine titled That which separates you and I or here and there. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As for why she’s drawn to bookmaking and published work specifically, Lin said “[zinemaking] is a way to create a space for more marginalized voices, and also to create a different space where it’s about encountering different people.” She has worked with a variety of groups in efforts to showcase art from marginalized groups, such as the Qouleur collective, which focuses on art and activism of people of colour within the LGBTTQ+ community. According to its Twitter page, Qouleur also hosts a “festival celebrating racialized queer/trans* identities and experience.” Lin said she connected with many people, and was inspired by the time she spent working with Qouleur.

In 2015, Lin helped create the Queer Print Club at Concordia. The artist said she “felt there was a need to bring something more collective and more political into the studios, [and] it seemed like the perfect thing to bridge the community, and the art studios, and teaching in this institution.” According to Lin’s website, the club encourages undergraduate students to “[create] projects that explore the collaborative, community-based and democratic aspects of print.”

Although some may see print media and zine work as disposable, Lin believes in its ability to connect with and create space for those not reflected in the mainstream art scene. In mainstream publishing, for example, “there’s way more distance between the artist and the audience,” Lin said. She also finds smaller, physical artworks refreshing in an age of social media and technological inundation. “A physical object touches and impacts a person differently, and stays with them in a way that’s different than looking at something online and scrolling through or clicking through,” she said.

“[Zine work] is a way to create a space for more marginalized voices, and also to create a different space where it’s about encountering different people,” said Lin. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.
This is not to say that Lin considers virtual or computer-generated art forms to be inferior to her recent endeavours in print media. The artist referenced Montreal-based publishing company and studio Anteism as a current example of how to bridge the gap between virtual experience and physical work. According to Lin, Anteism experiments with artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) in tandem with publishing. Lin is particularly inspired by the work the studio does with artists’ books. Although she has worked in the fields of AR and print media throughout her creative career, Lin admitted, “I’m not at a point where I know what to do with it myself.”

This artist also cited Zohar Kfir’s Testimony virtual reality (VR) project as insight into how computer-generated content can be used to express reality. Kfir’s project involves testimonies from sexual assault survivors that the viewer is told through VR—they are confronted with looking at the subject while they tell their story, as if they were face to face. “I like the idea that people identify issues with technology,” Lin said. “If there’s a lack of something […], people try to make work that addresses that. There are more and more people that are trying to humanize the experience of VR.”

Lin’s home studio. Photo by Gabe Chevalier.

As of now, Lin has a few projects in the works, and although she admits they’re progressing slowly, she knows which direction they’re headed in. The artist’s recent introspection has highlighted key ideas that she wants to explore further. Lin explained that she wants to create works by “trying to pinpoint emotional responses to different situations, and gathering really random and fragmented thoughts and fragmented images, and pairing them together […] to create something that feels cathartic.”

Lin mentioned that her teaching schedule has reduced, allowing more time for creative pursuits, whatever those may be. She is currently working on a project with Aquino involving the Quebec Gay Archives. According to their website, “the Quebec Gay Archives have a mandate to acquire, conserve and preserve any handwritten, printed, visual or audio material which testify to the history of the LGBTQ+ communities of Quebec.” Lin and Aquino are interested in exploring queer people’s responses to their collections.

Lin has also started an AR book in collaboration with Anteism, however it’s still in its early stages. “I feel like I’ve opened up more time purposefully,” the artist said, and although she has a few projects on the horizon, Lin is still waiting for them to take shape. “It’s just part of the process,” she said with a reassuring nod.

See more of Lin’s work on her website:

More of Lin and Aquino’s collaborative work can be found on their website:

Feature photo by Gabe Chevalier


Creating stunning visuals across disciplines

Concordia painting and drawing professor, François Morelli, exhibits his life’s work

Large-scale ink and watercolour drawings adorn the walls of 1700 La Poste, while wire sculptures take over its main floor space. The pieces were crafted by François Morelli, a professor of painting and drawing at Concordia whose work ranges from free drawing and sculpture to performance and ink stamping.

Pieces straight from Morelli’s sketchbook are linked together to create a mural in the upstairs balcony space of the gallery. Morelli’s Belthead project rests in the back room of the gallery. Huge, colourful drawings of tangled belts cover the walls like vines, bringing attention to a sculpture by the entrance, which inspired the drawings.

In a documentary which screens every 10 minutes after the hour in the gallery’s basement, Morelli says: “Do what you do because it is important to do it.” It is a message that will resonate with most people regardless of their involvement in the arts. With his work, Morelli creates a whimsical world where it’s okay to make mistakes. Ink blotches, both large and small, are welcome.

A piece in the Belthead collection. Photo by Chloe Lalonde.

Morelli explained that he often starts drawing with a few random strokes and continues intuitively from there. In most of his work, the viewer is able to see lightly painted lines that could have transformed the piece into something completely different, yet the artist chose not to follow them. His approach is authentic and unfiltered—a process which was likely taught to him over the course of many years.

As a painting and drawing student at Concordia in the 70s, Morelli began doing rubbings of the trees on his street and measuring the distance between them. Rubbing involves placing a sheet of paper on a textured surface and rubbing it with a pencil or another medium, so the textured pattern of the surface transfers onto the paper. According to the artist, his goal was to make a large drawing on a scroll that would interact and engage with what was on the street by including textures, lengths and measurements.

“As I was doing this, the police stopped me, asking me what I was doing. I told them I was making a drawing, making art,” the artist said. “From that point on, I realised that, in doing this, I would be interfacing with people and they are going to be asking me questions.”

Morelli said that over the years, he has been building on the idea of social movement. He explained that, in using public spaces for his art, he takes an anthropological approach to his practice and works with historical sites and the social, political and economic realities surrounding them. Architecture, the sidewalk, people and the flow of people in transit all became involved in the artist’s performance work.

Morelli’s sketches of the Marche Transatlantique sculpture. Photo by Chloe Lalonde.

A sculpture from one of Morelli’s collections, titled Marche Transatlantique, is featured in the exhibition. Marche Transatlantique was the result of a romantic affiliation and a personal invitation. In this performance piece, Morelli walked with the absurd, grotesque sculpture on his back from the Berlin Wall to Philadelphia, where he was invited to participate in an exhibition. This performance was the second of three walks. The first was Migration, which involved a hay sculpture being carried from the United Nations to St-Jean-Port-Joli, Que.

Creating art, teaching art and performance art have a symbiotic relationship in Morelli’s body of work. One cannot exist without the other.

François Morelli’s exhibition will be on display at 1700 La Poste (1700 Notre-Dame St. W.) until Dec. 17. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.

Student Life

The JMSB prof who does it all

An insight into the eclectic life of Concordia Professor Robert Soroka

The rain flooded the streets, as the cold, damp air crept into the hollows of my bones. It felt like I was in the British capital instead of our beloved metropolis, for the rain made everything seem grey and melancholic.

On this dreary day in October, I was dodging puddles and pedestrians because I had an interview with a legendary figure at Concordia.

When it was first announced at  that we’d be starting a feature series on part-time professors, I looked at the list and randomly chose the name Robert Soroka. To be honest, I thought he had an interesting name, and I knew nothing about him.

After claiming him off the list, I soon discovered Mr. Soroka was quite popular at our offices. Several of my colleagues were jealous I beat them to the punch and landed Soroka. They told me he was “amazing” and “one of the best professors at Concordia.”

I won’t lie, I was nervous and felt utterly unprepared to meet him. “What if I screw this up?” I thought to myself, as I walked up the staircase. For a moment, I considered fleeing from the interview, but I pushed through the anxiety and knocked on his door.

Upon meeting the professor, my nerves calmed down. We sat down and, since I’m no good at small talk, we jumped right into the interview. We decided to start from the beginning and discuss his education.

“I did my bachelor’s of commerce at McGill in marketing and management information systems,” Soroka said, as he detailed his undergrad experience. He liked business and ended up getting his first degree at the age of 20. A rarity to say in my opinion, considering students these days take their time getting their undergrad.

Following his degree at McGill, Soroka started working as a marketing analyst at a large Eastern Canadian retailer. During this period, he started his MBA at Concordia, working during the day and studying at night. By the time Soroka was in his early 20s, he had his master’s in business administration and several years of work experience under his belt.

Following his master’s degree, Soroka saw an advertisement for a teaching position for a local college and decided to apply. Applying to be a teacher marked a turning point in his career, because Soroka began to actively pursue teaching positions while continuing to work full-time.

He eventually landed two teaching positions at two different local colleges in Montreal and began teaching part-time at both institutions. “I thought the interaction with students was invigorating, and being in an academic environment was stimulating,” said Soroka, as he recounts a time when he used to work during the day as an analyst, then teach in the evening, balancing what he described as a tough and jam-packed schedule.

But another shift would soon occur, as the man decided to switch gears and enter law. Yes, you read correctly, the man began his Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, which is essentially a graduate-level law degree, at the State University of New York. Following this degree, Soroka worked within the criminal law sector in New York state for some time before returning to Montreal.

It appears Soroka always had his eye on the education field. He had the opportunity to meet with the chair of the marketing department at the John Molson School of Business while he was working full-time. He said this individual trusted him and gave him a teaching position, based on the fact that Soroka had acquired a decent amount of experience in the business world.

This job kick-started Soroka’s university teaching career at Concordia. He currently teaches courses in marketing, management and finance at JMSB, while also working at Dawson College. He stressed that, even though he’s a part-time faculty member, he contributes immensely to the community at Concordia.

“I choose to contribute and to teach, and it’s a great feeling” he said, as I tried to jot down all his involvements at Concordia. I can see clearly on his office wall that he won the distinguished teaching award in 1997, demonstrating his capabilities as an educator.

He currently has a three-year appointment on senate, sits on the hiring committee for the JMSB marketing department and previously sat on the business school’s strategic planning committee. He’s also worked with students on case competitions, is a union representative for the university and worked on developing the credit programs for the School of Extended Learning. “As part-timers, especially with a business background, there many more lucrative ways of earning a living.” he said, “but we chose to teach and to contribute.”

Apart from dabbling in law, business and education, believe it or not Soroka is also a talented playwright and thespian. He’s acted in a few plays during his lifetime, stating that he loves to communicate with audience, whether it’s through education, the law or the arts. During one play in particular, he had a lot of downtime between between practicing for every scene and he thought he “could do a better job” in terms of writing the script. So he decided to write a play of his own and he turned out to be quite talented at it. He wrote a few more including Thesis of Life, which has been produced three times, according to his website.

“How do you deal with rejection?” I asked the multitalented professor, considering I’m just about to graduate and have a bit of anxiety about my professional future. Soroka told me that, in every professional situation, you’re bound to face some sort of rejection. For someone who’s experienced a lot of highs during his diverse career, I was surprised to hear those words. He then told me that, every time he’s faced some sort of rejection, he’s used it as a learning experience, and each experience has inevitably contributed to his learning.

As I began to wrap up the interview, another revelation came out. It turns out Soroka was also a local television personality in Montreal, appearing on both CTV and Global. In between all his other activities and commitments, he submitted a demo reel and a resume to the CTV studios. A producer immediately called him and set up a lunch. He offered Soroka a spot on Montreal Today, a morning show where Soroka would act as ‘the consumer cop,’ drawing upon his expertise to provide an business analysis on a variety of topics. He met a lot of professionals during this period and also got to do some investigative journalism after a few years on the show.

Professor, lawyer, business man, playwright and television personality. Give me my asthma pump, I’m about to pass out.

After concluding the interview with the multitalented professor, I felt rather inspired and uplifted by Soroka’s stories. He is an example for the entire Concordia students and staff alike, especially when it comes to being involved in several different projects and juggling many responsibilities.

If I could take anything away from this interview, it would be a stronger motivation to get involved in the Concordia community and the proof that it is possible to have it all.


There’s no humour in stereotyping

Why having a sexist sense of humour is dangerous as an educator

The one thing most students can agree on is that your professor will either make or break your overall experience in a class. Genuinely interesting content can be ruined by a monotonous, non-engaging professor, or a tedious, boring subject can be brought to life by an engaging teacher.

But what do you do when your overall experience in a class with a prof was treacherous, flabbergasting and just downright insulting, yet some of your classmates enjoyed the course for the very same reasons you despised it? Well, for starters, you write an article about it.

Last winter, during my first year at Concordia, I took MARK 201: Introduction to Marketing Strategies as an elective, thinking I’d enjoy it. From an objective standpoint, I did enjoy the content of the class, the projects and all the different types of networking that came from it. It was all extremely interesting, however, attending lectures became not only a chore I grew to despise, but listening to some of the things the prof would say were both shocking and saddening.

A male professor who has been part of the department for many years ended up being my professor for those long, cold, dreary winter months. In a nutshell, he had an ostentatious sense of humour that was almost solely comprised of sexist jokes.

As a disclaimer, I should mention I don’t have any recordings or documentation of my experiences in this class—this is a personal recount. However, if I did possess any I’d likely have enough content to fill an entire book with the number of times this professor degraded his wife and their marriage, and even mocked his own children in front of our class of more than 150 students.

The professor would joke about how, once you’re married, your wife never touches you and about how a man needs to keep his wife happy, or be prepared for the worst—to which he’d allude to that the only way to satisfy a wife is by buying expensive baubles. Literally, every class, multiple times per class, jokes of this nature and worse were made with zero regard for how his students felt about them.

The worst part about these jokes wasn’t how stereotypical they were about women, but how much the class actually laughed along with them. Sometimes it was a mixture of males guffawing and women giggling, although it is safe to say women, generally, weren’t the ones to laugh.

The professor’s jokes also went far beyond his wife and his marriage—any class discussion about cosmetics, accessories or even cookware was partnered with a slew of one-liners and anecdotal stories about women and their follies. He even made blonde jokes. Yes, a professor working at a progressive, liberal and an otherwise amazing educational institution in 2016 truly thought blonde jokes appropriate during a lecture.

One particular instance stands out in my mind as the moment when any of my remaining respect for this professor was catapulted out the window. The class was having a discussion about the marketing strategies of CAA, the roadside assistance service. The professor started pitching CAA’s services to the class by describing a scenario in which a person has to call for help because their car has broken down. He said women benefitted most from these services, indicating that at some point, every woman would find themselves stranded on the side of the road with a broken car they essentially knew nothing about, without a man at-the-ready to save us.

To my absolute shock, this comment was met by either giggling or absent-minded head nodding by a good number of my classmates, both male and female. I remember feeling two things: first off, I was really disappointed a professor would make such an ignorant, blanket statement so casually, particularly because I worked at an auto repair shop. The second thing I remember thinking was I was probably taking this too harshly, and I shouldn’t speak up, even though I had a personal experience that would disprove what he said.

Thankfully, a girl sitting ahead of me raised her hand and said, with applaudable sass, that women are just as capable of fixing cars as men. Hats off to you, girl. This reaffirmed that others likely felt offended or fed up with the jokes this professor was making, that this wasn’t simply me needing to learn how to take a joke.

There’s a time and a place for certain types of jokes. I mean, I think we can all admit to smiling at a properly-executed or well-timed “…in the kitchen” or “my wife…” joke at some point in our lives. However, for a professor to employ that sense of humour in every one of his classes with absolutely no consideration for how it will affect the overall educational experience of his students is completely unacceptable.


Concordia in solidarity for the release of Homa Hoodfar

Announcers demand Hoodfar’s release after 107 days of imprisonment

Concordia students, faculty and community members gathered across the street from Bethune Square to raise awareness of the incarceration of former Concordia professor, Homa Hoodfar, who has been jailed in Evin prison in Iran for 107 days.

Hayley Lewis, the event organizer, said not only is it unclear what Hoodfar is being charged with, but it is also unclear as to what condition she is currently in. “All that we know is she’s a 65-year-old woman who we love, who has been in prison for 107 days and who is in extremely bad health,” Lewis said.

“Please keep talking about Homa Hoodfar,” Lewis announced to a group of over 100 protesters. “Post about her, write about her—do not let her disappear.” Lewis emphasized the importance of pressing the Canadian and Irish governments to see to Hoodfar’s safe and definite release.

Lewis said Hoodfar suffers from a degenerative neurological disorder that requires medication, but she has not been getting said medication while imprisoned. “She is sick, she is unwell and we need her back,” said Lewis.

Lewis invited guests from the Concordia community to speak—Concordia faculty members, personal friends of Hoodfar and Green Party Leader and Concordia student Alex Tyrrell spoke at the demonstration. They all stood in solidarity for the immediate release of Hoodfar. Lewis also invited the Bread and Puppet theatre, a Vermont-based group, who presented a theatrical political performance to spectators in support of Hoodfar’s safe return home.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“We have a moral responsibility to get her home,” said Kimberley Manning, principal of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute and a member of the recently-organized Homa Hoodfar working group. She said that since Hoodfar’s arrest, the Concordia union faculty association, the Concordia administration and two of Hoodfar’s closest friends have been supporting efforts to free her. However, Manning said they still need lots of help.

“Homa taught here for 30 years, nurturing several decades of students and contributing [in] countless ways to the wellbeing of this institution,” said Manning. “Now it’s our turn to help her.”

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Manning said action is being taken in Dublin as well, as Concordia professor Emer O’Toole from the department of Irish studies helped mobilize the protest for Hoodfar in front of the Iranian embassy, which took place in Dublin on Sept. 7. “[O’Toole] has been working tirelessly to place pressure on the Irish government to do all they can do to get Homa free,” said Manning.

“Members of the Concordia community and the public should not underestimate the gravity of what’s taking place here,” said Tyrrell. “Her life is on the line.” He added that she has been held in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer.

Tyrrell said Hoodfar’s research aimed to help develop an understanding of Muslim women, one of the most discriminated against groups locally and globally. Tyrrell said the community has an obligation to stand up for imprisoned peers and to defend academic freedom around the world.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Margie Mendell, Professor and Graduate Program Director for School of Community and Public Affairs and a friend of Hoodfar said we must get Hoodfar home and out of Evin prison. “We will not gather again to say that she has been in Evin prison for 200 days,” Mendell said to the crowd. “We will gather together to welcome her home and to celebrate her freedom.”

Fay Devlin, one of Hoodfar’s former students, said “I do not think this is going to do anything,” emphasizing that the community needs to do more for this cause. She suggested students should use social media and share photos to help spread awareness. “Sign the petition,” she said.

Former student of Hoodfar, Fay Devlin, stands in solidarity for her release. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“I think public demonstrations of this type are very necessary, but they’re not sufficient by any means,” said Peter Stoett, the director of Loyola Sustainability Research Centre and political science professor at Concordia University. He said Hoodfar’s release depends more on the negotiation between the governments involved—namely, the Canadian, Irish and Iranian governments.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking it’s going to change the government of Iran—their perspective is pretty hardened on this, and that’s going to take some serious diplomatic maneuvering,” said Stoett. Lewis, however, encourages people to get involved and write letters to the government.

“The final purpose of this [demonstration] is just to celebrate Homa’s work, and remember what an outstanding woman she is and the brutality of the situation she’s in right now,” Lewis said.  She said that the more people who are informed the better. “There are a lot of political prisoners all over the world—we want to stand in solidarity with them, as well.”

With files from Cristina Sanza


Concordia pleads for the safe return of Professor Homa Hoodfar

Former Professor Hoodfar remains detained in Iranian prison

Concordia Academics held a press conference on Sept. 7 in the EV building on the Sir George Williams campus, Concordia calling for the immediate release of Dr. Homa Hoodfar, a retired Concordia anthropology and sociology professor emerita.

“On June 6, our department changed forever,” said Marc Lafrance, a sociology and anthropology professor. “On this day, one of our most admired and beloved professors was arrested and held in Iran’s infamous Evin Prison in Tehran.”

Hoodfar, 65, was arrested three months ago and charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security—charges her family denies.

Recent news of Hoodfar’s deteriorating health pushed the Concordia community to issue an official press release asking for help from the Irish and Iranian governments for her safe return.

“A week ago, Homa Hoodfar fell gravely ill and was hospitalized,” said Kimberly Manning, principal of Concordia’s Simone De Beauvoir Institute . She said Hoodfar suffers from a rare neurological disease that requires medical attention.

Manning pleaded that Hoodfar’s case is an emergency and that at the moment, “we don’t know if she is alive.” Lafrance raised the question about whether or not she is receiving her medication or basic needs, such as food and water.

Hoodfar, who holds Irish as well as Canadian and Iranian citizenship, has received a great deal of support from Irish scholars since her arrest, said Emer O’Toole, a Canadian Irish studies professor, at the press release.

Photo by Chloe Ranaldi.

“Over the course of the summer [more than] 5000 academics signed a petition which called for Hoodfar’s immediate release, including notable public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Orhan Pamuk,” said Manning.

On Wednesday morning, Irish academics gathered outside of the Iranian Embassy in Dublin to show their support for Hoodfar.

 Hoodfar is recognized for her studies on development, culture and gender in the Middle East.

“We encourage all Concordia students to sign the petition that calls for Homa’s safe return home,” Lafrance told The Concordian. “Students are invited to share her message on social media.”

To sign the petition or to learn more about Professor Homa Hoodfar, visit:

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