Concordia Food Initiatives gathered for their annual Food Fair

Concordia’s food coalition promoted their missions and year-round events at a general annual Food Fair meeting.

Concordia University’s sustainable food organizations are giving out free meals and hosting events year-round to promote community engagement and raise awareness about food justice and system education.

Many food groups, including the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC), CultivAction, and the Hive Free Lunch (HFL), gathered for their annual general food fair meeting on the second floor of the SC building at the Loyola campus on Jan. 25.

Around thirty students and local community members attended the meeting to learn about each organization’s initiatives, receive updates, and ask questions. Roxanna Chadwick, a third-year Concordia student, enjoyed the experience of getting involved with student activities on campus and learning more about agriculture.

“It was interesting to see the different initiatives on campus that are related to food and are trying to make it more accessible for the community,” Chadwick said.

The CFC announced an event series called “Organizing Food Sovereignty,” with the aim of introducing students to food politics at Concordia. Each month, the coalition will collaborate with other food groups to provide students with a variety of activities to engage with others, learn about food systems, and give out free meals to students.

“One of those events are called Dinner and Docs, and it’s a series where we partner up with a food group on campus, and we choose a documentary for dinner, and we eat together, and make food together, and watch a documentary on the themes of food sustainability and community, so those are exciting,” said Maggie Morrison, a food system educator for the CFC.

During the meeting, Improove—a food waste organization— gave away plenty of fresh produce for free, which would otherwise have ended up in the garbage. Their goal is to get rid of all food waste caused by large industries. Bruno Zara, a speaker for Improove, said, “We collect this fruit before it is thrown away to make baskets that we sell on site.” They are now selling $15 boxes full of fresh produce to students every Thursday at the SC building.

CultivAction, the campus community farm, gave away free plants and microgreens. “A big piece of news for us is that we’ve just secured a fee levy at Concordia, which means that we have stable funding and are going to be making our food freely available to Concordia students,” said Caleb Woolcott, a speaker for the organization. He also explained that they are planning to host a variety of workshops and educational opportunities for students. Some of these events will include how to grow your own food in the winter.

In addition to their weekly free lunch program, the HFL promoted their free breakfast program, which launched in September 2023.  “We aim to help solve food insecurity for students; I know it’s a big thing, and also help raise awareness about the food scene at Concordia,”   said Tony Nguyena, a HFL worker revealed that at the end of this year, the HFL will be publishing a cookbook full of student-favourite recipes to raise awareness and help students facing food insecurity.

These initiatives and activities will be available to students for the remainder of the semester and are intended to promote student engagement and awareness.


Investing in sustainable fashion is worth it, and here’s why

Sustainable fashion has a lower environmental impact and their clothes are more durable.

Sustainable fashion is becoming more popular over the years. The fast fashion industry is known for contributing to the climate crisis and throwaway culture. Clothes are produced rapidly and are often not expensive. Brands rely on countries with low labour costs to manufacture their clothes, and the working conditions have been concerning. People are now conscious of these impacts and do not want to partake in fast fashion.

Sustainable fashion aims to minimize its impact on the environment. How eco-friendly brands choose their raw material and manufacturing is well considered. These brands use organic cotton, linen, hemp, or recycled fabrics, rather than polyester and nylon. The labour practices are acceptable since workers get paid well and work in safe conditions. 

Sustainable fashion often incorporates recycled material into new products. What is fascinating about sustainable fashion is that they tend to create timeless designs, which is the opposite of what we usually see in trendy fast fashion. Moreover, considering the quality of material used in sustainable clothing,  it’s expected to last longer than conventional clothing. Investing in good quality products is a great way to save money in the long run.

Another point to consider is that by buying from fast fashion brands, we might be unintentionally partaking in animal cruelty. The high demand for leather and fur items  is leading to more animals getting killed. Animals are also affected by the chemicals used during production—a consequence of animal testing. Fortunately, sustainable clothing brands are cruelty-free and strive to keep animals and the planet safe.  

Although sustainable fashion is all about having a lower environmental footprint and damping the consequences of the fashion industry, it is often expensive, which discourages consumers.“It is disappointing that many of these sustainable brands are out of the price range of the average consumer and are unfortunately not size-inclusive, making it difficult or impossible for people of non-standard sizes to shop sustainably at an affordable price,” said India-Lynn Upshaw Ruffner, a Concordia student minoring in sustainability.

That said, all the work that goes behind sustainable production is quite adequate to justify its low affordability. I encourage everyone to start making conscious choices when shopping because it’s high time that we make a difference in an industry that is dominated by fast fashion. Here are some sustainable clothing brands that are affordable and accessible online: YesAnd by Marci Zaroff, Pact, Happy Earth Apparel, Outerknown, and MATE the Label.


Keeping it dirt cheap: how a student attempts to revive thrifting culture on campus

A pop-up shop stacked with clothes appeared in front of the Hall building before reading week.

Days before reading week, students shuffled across campus to finish their classes, preparing for a well-deserved break. One student, however, had a different plan in mind.

Chris Aguiar, a Concordia student in economics, set up shop in front of the hall building with a pair of clothing racks chock-full of his personal garments. His goal: to bring back a moment from the thrifting culture he thought was lost.

“I think there’s a lot of people trying to exploit [thrifting] for personal gain,” Aguiar said. “It just takes away from the spirit of a thrift find. I’m gonna keep it dirt cheap just because I got it for dirt cheap.” 

Aguiar has been thrifting for years, seeing its development from an alternative in affordable clothing into a mode of fashion. Over time, he’s built up an appreciation for the culture surrounding thrifting. Amassing a sizable collection, he hoped to clean some of it out to free up his closet and turn a profit. 

After spotting a similar pop-up shop near Jeanne Mance park, he felt that setting up his racks in front of the hall building was obvious. Aguiar would be reaching his core target: university students in the middle of changing seasons. 

“Obviously, [students] want to get something nice. But more importantly, they want to thrift something,” Aguiar said. “They want a good deal.”

According to Aguiar, regular avenues selling used clothing have become a hassle. As thrifting culture has grown in popularity, he’s noticed a large uptick in prices at thrifting stores. Moreover, online thrift stores like Depop take a percentage of the sales earned by the vendor.

A Concordia-graduated designer, Hannah Silver King, works with deconstructed garments, meaning her designs are often inspired or made from used material. This process is known as upcycling and it often has her using material from thrifted items. She admired Aguiar’s efforts in selling clothes at fair prices, as she herself had noticed the recent rise in thrifted items’ prices. 

“There’s definitely a big market for it now, especially online,” King said. “If we can create this circularity [reselling thrifted clothes], I mean why not? Instead of throwing things away.”

King believes that most people wouldn’t have the resources to do as Aguiar had done—most people looking to sell their clothes would have to follow the beaten path, ultimately opting in to local thrift stores that might mark-up prices. 

As thrifting continued its journey into mainstream culture, trends naturally emerged. Some, a contributing factor into the rising costs of recycled clothing. “A lot of stores decide to curate thrifted clothing. These vendors are going to the bins and they’re picking what’s cool and selling them for triple the price,” said Quinn Kuperhause, director of business relations for the Concordia Fashion Business Association. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”

With the rise of so-called “vintage” clothing stores, Kuperhause explained how thrift stores would have to compete for the market, which is another reason for rising prices. She sympathized with Aguilar and thought his pop-up shop was a breath of fresh air in what she believes is a heavily saturated market.

Outside of thrifting, Aguiar hoped to incorporate his passion for fashion into selling denim jeans which he produces himself. As for his pop-up shop, he claimed its week-long stay at the Hall building would be cut short as the cold weather sets in.

“I think it’s good that people want to recycle and reuse clothes more often. Everyone deserves to have drip,” Aguiar said.


Concordia University Foundation: between the community and the corporation

Concordia University Foundation juggles social and environmental responsibility with corporate profits

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

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

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

Multinational portfolio managers

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

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

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

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

Investment screening

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

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

From the balance sheet to the campus 

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

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

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

CUF and the community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The board of directors

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Financing and the future

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

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

Interview Music

A conversation with Sirintip about her latest album, Carbon

The New York-based artist sat down with The Concordian to talk about her new LP 

Oct. 14 saw the release of the long-awaited Carbon LP from Sirintip (AKA Sirintip Phasuk), and honestly, I am here for it. The New York-based artist took the time and effort to make this album into what it is: a means of communicating the “narrative of science” and implementing data from pollution to turn into musical sequences. She has used her Thai and Swedish influences and poured them into a melting pot with jazz, turning the project into a wonderful concept album.   

The Concordian sat down with the artist to talk about Carbon:

Tell me about your musical upbringing. What is the origin of Sirintip?

So I grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. I was always singing. I started playing Thai instruments in school but then I took private lessons for piano and violin but I was always singing. The music school I went to [in Sweden] had 1,000 kids and everyone could sing, and this happened at the same time that the Harry Potter movies came out so I felt very much like the other kids. We had seven hours of choir singing every week which was intense. Then in my teenage years, I was exposed to jazz and then I did my master’s in New York.

Tell me about your songwriting process, what comes first? What comes last?

So for this album, I started with the concept. There are 13 songs in the album and each song is a specific cause or effect of climate change. So what I did was research, among other topics, plastic pollution: what is it? How does it affect us? For the whole record, I decided that I didn’t want to put anything clearly in the lyrics, I wanted to build the message into the songs. So then people can listen and connect to the songs, and be curious enough to learn and research the concept. I don’t believe that forcing anyone to think or do anything is the way to go around this. I think it’s better to try and inspire conversation. So for “Plastic Bird,” I took plastic trash from my kitchen, recorded it with my ZOOM recorder and uploaded it into Ableton as a sample. When you put all the samples on a drum rack you can play the sounds on your keyboard. 

You all stayed at the Manifold Recording Studio in North Carolina for nine days with some of the artists who collaborated with you on this album. What was the day-to-day experience like for you?

It’s the most incredible experience. The studio is solar-powered which is really cool. That was an important piece for me, not just writing about climate change to sustainability but also to find ways to becoming more sustainable in my artistic practice and it’s so systemic that sometimes it’s just impossible like If we need to perform in Europe, we’re not going to be able to afford a ship to get us there but at least we were able to work in the studio for nine whole days. We’d work the whole day at the studio and then walk three minutes to the guest house, sleep, and then restart the procedure the next day. We were completely immersed without distraction. We were in the middle of nowhere and so there would be a lot of wildlife like deer roaming around right outside the studio.  

You said for your debut album Tribus that “The idea behind the album is to bridge the gap between pop and jazz by combining singable melodies with grooves, jazz harmonies and electronics.” Does this still resonate true with Carbon?

I think that is just something that is inherently me, so when it came to Carbon it was more like “How do we turn this air pollution data into music?” When I grew up in Thailand I would play Thai instruments and in Thailand, on mainstream media it’s just pop music. When I moved to Sweden their main musical export is pop, with people like Max Martin writing a lot of the hits of the 2000s [and even now]. So when I moved to the States I started studying jazz, but because it is an Afro-American tradition and being in New York studying it I realized it was better for me to add to the music by bringing in both my Thai and Swedish influences. I feel like the foundation of my writing is jazz: there’s a lot of complex harmonies, a lot of weird time signatures, as well as challenging concepts and improvisations when live. It’s just packaged in a more pop way, because I feel that it’s important for people like my parents who do not listen to jazz to sing along to it.

What is in store for the future of Sirintip? What do you have coming up?

I want to be working with scientists firsthand. Back in July, I went out on a research vessel with 25 scientists in the North Pacific. They were studying plankton so I was learning from them and working with them and writing music based on their research. Knock on wood I might be going in July to Greenland to study icebergs and glaciers, plus I want to do other research trips too. All this is to bring all that knowledge and write an interdisciplinary suite where I’m combining my electronic roots with an acoustic rhythm section and a small chamber orchestra to present this work so that it comes from science and the work that I’ve discovered with scientists, and to help tell the narrative of scientists


Concordia Food Coalition to develop new food enterprise

Following Concordia’s New Contract With Aramark, The Fight Is Still Not Over For A Food-Sovereign Campus

In April, Concordia’s board of governors signed a new contract with multinational food services corporation Aramark to return as the University’s food supplier until May of 2026, with the possibility of a two-year extension. Aramark has been notorious for its ties to the US prison system ,and offering poor working conditions. 

The University’s decision to sign a new contract with the corporation goes against a continual effort to steer Concordia away from multinational corporations and towards social enterprises or not-for-profit food suppliers instead, in an attempt to make Concordia into a food-sovereign campus. 

In 2021, it seemed as though the University was seriously considering this alternate option.  “Concordia was making an effort to explore options outside of multinational corporations,” said Shylah Wolfe, executive director of the Concordia Food Coalition (CFC). 

Oliver de Volpi, Concordia’s Food Services manager, corroborated this claim. “We investigated some other options. The one that was even presented by Concordia Food Coalition didn’t pan out. They weren’t ready to bid.” 

Ultimately, the University did sign a new contract with Aramark. But, it’s not the end of the movement for a food sovereign campus.

Currently, the CFC is drafting a business plan for what they are calling the New Food Enterprise (NFE), which will be modeled largely off of Diversity Food Services (DFS), a social enterprise providing food service at the University of Winnipeg. 

The CFC’s website states that “the NFE will be an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable social enterprise capable of becoming Concordia’s campus food service provider. We are building a coalition of community stakeholders and local food producers to supply affordable and sustainable food options at scale to the university.” 

The NFE will bring together the Concordian Student Union, the Hive Cafe, SEIZE, and collaborate with the University’s senior administration. The CFC website states that “there is already broad understanding that the NFE is the transformative model that Concordia needs. Our job is to bring it to fruition.”

The Concordia Student Union has contributed $50,000 total to the NFE project. The CFC has taken $10,000 of the aforementioned funding to contract Chief Operating Officer of DFS Ian Vickers as a consultant. The VP Student Services Office has also pledged $25,000 to the project, Wolfe told The Concordian, with the remaining funds supporting additional planning, financing and partnership development.

“They’re putting their money where their mouth is, and taking us a bit more seriously. Now that we have four years to develop an alternative that is not just lip service, it will be an actually fleshed-out plan,” said Wolfe.

The money was pledged by the University before Aramark won the Request For Proposal (RFP) bid, with the CSU’s funding coming in during the bidding period. 

Since 2020, and during the RFP period, the CFC and other student representative groups sitting on the Concordia Food Advisory Working Group (FAWG) advocated for Concordia to adopt a model similar to that of Diversity Food Services. This would include cooking from scratch, more involvement in local food economies, and providing better benefits for staff. 

“What we’re doing now is essentially taking a provenly successful model at the University of Winnipeg with Diversity, and essentially building out an offering on a silver platter to the administration that we would run it with Diversity closely consulting,” said Wolfe.

According to Wolfe, the business would be owned by stakeholders made up of the University, the CFC, and DFS.

According to the University’s sustainable food systems plan, Concordia and Aramark are making efforts to be more sustainable and improve upon their last contract, by bringing in more local products, removing Aramark’s rights to operating vending machines on campus, and making meals offered in cafeterias one-third vegetarian, one-third vegan and one-third meat by 2025. 

De Volpi further stated that while Concordia did decide to re-sign with Aramark, the decision was not motivated purely by finances. 

“75% of the criteria for coming back to campus is not financially related. It’s sustainability operations, it’s nutrition, it’s that part of it. And Aramark won the bid. They’ve made contractual obligations to be easily a leader in Canada in both sustainability and nutrition. We’re going to hold them to it as well,” he said. 

But many advocating for a new food service model feel that their current goals aren’t enough.

“I think that the goals that the University has are commendable, but they’re not transformative. I think that it is difficult for them to ever do anything transformative if they continue with the bureaucratic processes that they are using,” said Wolfe.

“That last 25 percent is weighted twice as heavily as the other 75 percent,” explained de Volpi.

Erik Chevrier, a part-time professor at Concordia who did his PhD on building food-sovereign campuses, and a Concordia FAWG member, explained why Concordia’s sustainability goals can’t be too transformative under the current RFP model. 

“If you look at the targets, they’re not too hard to meet. So the targets are somewhat written for the big food service providers to be able to meet them, because if not, they’re setting unrealistic goals. So in some way, the idea that if they make this criteria too stringent nobody could actually fit the criteria. They’ll have no food service provider,” said Chevrier.

Financial aspects are involved in the RFP process. According to Chevrier, Companies need a minimum of $5 million annual revenue in food service before being able to bid. This requirement makes it difficult for small or new food service entities to compete for a contract. This is to help ensure that the companies Concordia partners with can remain viable throughout the year, and makes it harder for smaller-scale or new companies to compete during the RFP.

“There’s a big risk for us. We bring in [a food supplier] who’s never existed before that, you know, a month in and they say we just don’t have the personnel to operate anymore. We’re going to close down. Then what do we do with 1,000 students that live here and the rest of the population that depends on us?” said de Volpi. 

Wolfe feels that the risk is on the CFC and now with the ability to develop their own business plans, when the next RFP comes around in 2026, the New Food Enterprise will be able to prove their viability.

“We’re basically taking all of the risk for them, to develop this, to garner the support, the political will and also build out the actual back-end with a supply network. We’re essentially going to build them a business that will do all the things that they said they were going to do, but give them none of the risk,” said Wolfe.

Chevrier pointed out that Concordia has a number of student-built food initiatives that have been able to remain viable for many years.

“We’ve created them in the past, or students have, like the People’s Potato,” said Chevrier. “Nobody believed that it would last 20 years when it was first incarnated.”

Across Canada, Concordia has one of the strongest student-run food economies, with seven organizations operating in 2018. 

JAMES FAY @jamesfaydraws

These economies all work together across Concordia in a way that Aramark doesn’t. 

Aramark makes half of their money off a mandatory meal plan for most students in residences. This plan provides flex dollars that can only be spent at Aramark’s other retail locations across campus. Chevrier believes that allowing flex dollars to be spent at student locations would be largely beneficial. 

EVAN LINDSAY/The Concordian

“First of all, it’ll create competition for the big food service providers, maybe get them to behave a little bit better. And second of all, it could actually provide a local economy, where students can actually choose where they want to go,” said Chevrier.

While DFS, the business the New Food Enterprise is based on, did struggle during its start-up phase,  has now yielded a better performance for the University of Winnipeg than their previous multinational supplier, Chartwells. 

“The University does better with us than they ever do with Chartwells because we sell three times what Chartwells did. People actually want to eat real, made from scratch food a lot more than they wanted to eat that processed food.” said Vickers.

The new contract with Aramark is an improvement on the last, but the problem many have with it is not Aramark themselves, but Concordia continuing to work with multinational corporations. 

“There’s a lot of evidence to show that actually, the global food industry is decimating our planet. So basically, most of these big corporations, externalized costs in that they basically externalize them to people,” said Chevrier. 

Concordia has a long history of working with multinational suppliers. Their relationship with Aramark began in 2015, and prior to that they worked with Compass-Chartwells and Sodexo, two other multinational food supply and hospitality corporations.

Combined across Canadian universities, these corporations make up 60.8 per cent of the food suppliers among universities in Canada, according to Erik Chevrier’s thesis on building food-sovereign campuses. 

“Each of these corporations really relies on supply chains that actually drive down costs as much as they can by externalizing the environmental and social costs,” said Chevrier. 

“Concordia, as an innovator, I think should actually be looking towards how we can better the world, especially in some of the industries that they’re actually partaking [in.]”

The advantage of moving away from multinational corporations and towards social enterprises like DFS is that they are able to better interact with local farmers and food producers. Currently, according to University Spokesperson Vanninia Maestracci, 43 per cent of food offered in cafeterias is local or sustainability sourced. 

JAMES FAY @jamesfaydraws

Vickers stated that last year, 72 per cent of food served by DFS was locally or sustainably sourced. Purchasing locally most of the time is naturally better for farmers, who have experienced a 31.5 per cent increase in total outstanding debt across Canada since 2017, according to Statistics Canada. 

By working with more local food suppliers, DFS is able to better manage its supply chain and from-scratch cooking is made more possible to attain.

“Our cooks come in first thing in the morning. They bring in fresh turkeys, the first thing the chef will do is throw the turkeys in the oven instead of roasting them off so that she can slice them out and then cut it down and that becomes turkey sandwiches. She takes those bones and she puts them in a pot and starts making turkey stock. Then she can make gravy for what’s going to go on the poutine, as well as make soup,” said Vickers.

According to Vickers, the cost of bringing in local food is largely the same as well.

“We tend to be between two and three per cent less expensive,” he claimed. 

Independent food suppliers have the freedom to work with as many producers as they like and don’t suffer the same turnaround times for payment as larger corporations do. 

“When it’s an independent business, being able to pay farmers for cash right at the farm gates or out of their delivery truck is more possible,” said Wolfe. “We can work with as many suppliers as Diversity does, which is sometimes up to 100 different local producers.” 

“Large corporations like Aramark or even the University would not be able to do that because they have like sometimes 90- to 120-day payment processing so they have to work with huge distributors,” she stated.

“Part of the reason Diversity is able to do this is because, while they are a for-profit business they are also a social enterprise,” explained Vickers.

“What would normally be the profit that you would pay to your owners, is invested instead in environmental, social, cultural, or local economic sustainability,” he continued.

“What [the University] charged myself and the rest of our management team with is taking the profit and reinvesting it into being a good player in the global economy. So what does that mean? It means that we buy as locally as possible every single time.”

Additionally, under this model Diversity Food Services is able to offer a living wage, benefits and pension plans to all of their employees. 

EVAN LINDSAY/The Concordian

There is a lot of money to be made in these contracts — a study by the CFC found that the food service providers who won the RFP process in 2015 stood to make a minimum of $7 million in revenue annually. 

Under the new food enterprise model, any money made by the business could then be reinvested.

“The profits, if there are any, would be in the community,” said Wolfe. 

“That money would be reinvested in the business so that it’s cheaper, so that meal plans and generally food is cheaper, or so that workers get more money or it would be donated to the community organizations that need funds to run their projects.” 

Creating a project like DFS at Concordia is ambitious, and bringing in more local food to supply the 3,000 meals a day that CFC provides is a big task. It’s one that Vickers says will need a really solid plan, but he doesn’t think its impossible.

“Your local agriculture is so much better equipped to do this than we are,” said Vickers. “It would be incredibly feasible.”


The CSU is trying to bridge the gap between art students and the rest of the University

By proposing events such as Art Swaps, the CSU proposes to serve as a ground for the exchange of supplies among students and the general Concordia community

On Sept. 29, the Art Swap series held its first event in the courtyard of the VA building at Concordia’s downtown campus. 

“We figured that having this event in the courtyard would create the sort of traffic that this event would like to cater to,” said Sean Levis, sustainability coordinator for the CSU and co-organizer of this event. 

Thanks to a collaboration with Zero Waste Concordia, Art Hives, the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA), and Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), the CSU was able to make this event possible. 

Art Hives staff and volunteers preparing their stand – Esther Morand/The Concordian

The CSU decided to organize a four-part swap series building off of the Queer and Kids Clothing Swaps that happen every year during the anti-consumerism week. 

The Art Swap is a space “where students are encouraged to either take the art materials that are viable to them or leave any art materials that they don’t use,” Levy noted. 

These events raise awareness around the idea of exchanging, rather than spending.

“The purpose of this event is to get students on campus, exchange different materials and promote a culture of sustainability, discouraging the commercialization of specific products, encouraging gifting and trading,” Levis said. 

Glitter containers – Esther Morand /The Concordian

“The whole point is to avoid buying new things and encourage this cycle of reusing and recycling and overall bring more sustainability on campus,” added Julianna Smith, external affairs and mobilization coordinator for the CSU. 

“There’s been this culture of individualism with the pandemic. This is a community effort to get people to connect, have fun, and promote sustainability on campus,” noted Smith. “On top of that, a lot of these events are trying to involve students to allow them to share common ideas and feel like they belong to a space.”

People painting and crafting at the Art Hives table – Esther Morand/The Concordian

Other spaces like the Art Nook offer students the possibility to make art and use available materials. 

“It’s always open, it’s a free space, where people leave and take supplies, it is an ongoing art supply swapping space,” added Smith. 

The Art Nook is located just behind the CSU offices on the 7th floor of the Hall Building. 

Three other swaps will occur throughout the year. At the beginning of November, there will be a book swap that will feature events such as “dates with books,” where book covers will be covered in brown paper with only short descriptions to accompany them for people to pick up. 

“It’s the idea of not judging a book by its cover,” Levis said. “It’s the idea of the de-commercialization of certain products.” 

There will also be a seed swap in April with the Greenhouse, where planting workshops will occur. 

Lastly, there will be a Black hair-care products swap in February. The workshops will be for people to be able to make their own hair-care products. 

“We are creating specific themes for these events. It’s an effort to reinvigorate student life at the same time,” Levy added. 


Waste Not, Want Not’s fireside chat highlights the importance of a university curriculum based in sustainability

Some important voices at Concordia come together to discuss a sustainability curriculum and fight against the climate crisis

On Thursday, Jan. 13, Waste Not, Want Not, a compost and waste reduction initiative at Concordia, hosted a virtual fireside chat. The purpose of the conversation was to discuss the future implementation of sustainability education into the curriculum at Concordia. This curriculum would give all students at Concordia a greater understanding of sustainability and the climate crisis.

The panel discussion included both student leaders and university administrators: Chief Data Officer at Times Higher Education, Duncan Ross, Concordia University Provost and Vice-President Anne Whitelaw, Concordia Student Union (CSU) Sustainability Coordinator Faye Sun and Waste Not, Want Not founder Keroles Riad. The conversation detailed the implementation of sustainability education, touching  on the timeline, importance and effect that such a curriculum would have on students at Concordia.

The conversation followed a referendum question proposed by the CSU in 2021, which saw 89 per cent of students vote on implementing sustainability education into the curriculum. The question was proposed in a by-election which saw a 20 per cent student turnout, the highest in CSU history.

While the curriculum is not currently in development, Concordia has already begun doing more work in the field of sustainability in 2020 with the Sustainability Action Plan. One aspect of this plan is forming a committee, and one of the topics of discussion is on curriculum development. But for Riad, any step the university takes towards supporting the initiative is important, including the fireside in itself.

“I think it’s one of those situations where it feels as if the university makes progress just by showing up,” said Riad. “Having senior administrators get out of their comfort zone, outside of those scripted PR events and actually have a conversation that is real, and that discusses different perspectives — I think that’s really important.”

The goal of the initiative would be to have all students at Concordia learn about sustainability and the climate crisis. In the meantime, according to Riad, the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) and the Faculty of Fine Arts are currently working on their own sustainability initiatives. But, to create a university-wide curriculum, there is a lot more that needs to be done.

“Number one is a commitment, a goal that everybody agrees on. Number two is a mechanism that ensures that we are getting to that goal in the proper timeline, with built-in flexibility where all our departments and programs can design curriculum the best way for their own disciplines,” said Riad.

“The last thing I think [is needed] is university support, and resources that programs and professors can access so that the initiative is not broken.”

During the discussion Whitelaw mentioned the university is already working on creating some of these resources.

“We will be hiring a sustainability curriculum developer in our centre for teaching and learning that will be supporting faculty members to include sustainability content in their courses,” she said.

A curriculum based around sustainability isn’t a unique idea. A similar program was put in place by Université Laval in 2009, which took ten years to fully implement. This timeline roughly falls in line with the goal of implementing a similar initiative at Concordia by 2030.

With growing fears of the climate crisis and sustainability becoming a more and more popular topic, for Riad this new curriculum can’t come soon enough.

“There’s nothing that prevents the university from saying, ‘Well, look, we heard you were listening. Let’s move even faster, let’s be more ambitious,’” said Riad. “You’re not going to hear me or anybody at the university saying ‘Oh, please don’t move so fast. Don’t go too fast. You’re being too ambitious.’ Nobody’s gonna say that.”

Riad believes that conversations surrounding sustainability at the university level are an important step in a very long road to greater climate action.

“It’s like a marathon. I think today was a good step forward, but we have not reached the finish line. And I think we should not only keep running, but accelerate faster.”You can view the Fireside Chat here. Learn more about Waste Not ,Want Not here.

Holiday gift ideas for a conscious shopper

The Holiday season hasn’t been about religion in a while – it’s about gifts now.

I love the holiday season as much as the next Starbucks-peppermint-mocha-loving gal — but I will admit that I feel a tinge of guilt when heading out to my local Simons, or checking out a loved one’s Amazon wishlist.

The trendiness of anti-capitalism is growing. Coupled with the swelling pressure to purchase, I’m led to find a more responsible way to give gifts to my favourite people.

Buying presents for loved ones is a pleasure that compares to inhaling your first batch of gingerbread cookies. The warmth experienced when you see that special someone genuinely smile can be achieved without selling your soul to the season’s Lucifer, Jeff Bezos.

So, here are some of my recommendations for conscious holiday presents.

The Facebook Marketplace route 

This is my personal favourite — browsing through Facebook Marketplace is the best pastime, and the most rewarding! You can set your filters, get precise with your search words, and find the most random stuff. Since most of your Marketplace finds will be in your area, you can also turn this shopping experience into an adventure, discovering new parts of your city while picking up your hidden gems.

I find that the “miscellaneous” category has some of the best finds — vintage memorabilia, posters, outdated technology or even fun coffee table books are a surprising delight.

This season, I snagged a 1980s Porsche phone for my dad — who always dreamed of owning his own supercar one day. The small red phone will be a perfect addition to his collection of strange knick-knacks.

This may seem random, but lamps are also great to look for on Marketplace. Ambient lighting can upgrade a space with the simple flick of a switch. However, a nice vintage lamp, or any ambient lighting is not something people often spend their own money on. I’ve always enjoyed giving lamps out as presents. I recently found a green glass lamp that would’ve fit great in my sister’s office, but I wasn’t quick enough to snag it.

You will have to make split-second decisions on Marketplace. Especially in the holiday season, items can disappear as quickly as you’ve pressed the “Is this still available?” message. When I get in contact with a seller and I’m sure of my decision, I try to put a deposit down to secure the item — something small like $5 to $10 depending on the final cost of my purchase.

If you see something has been listed for a while, feel free to try and offer a lower price: you may get lucky! Just make sure to secure the transaction before getting your hopes up. Time after time, people willing to pay the listed price will sneak in and get the goods at the last minute.

The handmade route

A personalized, homemade gift is a hit or miss. The key with this technique is to play to your strengths: don’t draw someone a portrait if you have the drawing skills of a 4-year-old (unless your friend has a good sense of humour).

All I want to illustrate is that you should utilize your talents. If you can knit, make some coasters or hats for your friends and family. If you can paint, maybe a nice painting of a meaningful object or landscape. If you’re a writer, maybe a funny letter mailed to them with a note to open on Dec. 25th, or even something more heartfelt for that special someone. 

Knitting or crocheting doesn’t have to be intimidating — there are simple patterns you can learn if you are a beginner. Go ahead, use winter as an excuse to pick up another grandma hobby.

I recommend thrifting your yarn since it costs a fraction of the price. There’s something so fun about thrifting materials — that feeling of saving something from a landfill and creating it into a meaningful gift for a loved one. I’ve even found most of my knitting needles in thrift stores.

If you’re an artist, maybe try looking for fun objects to use from the aisle of random bags located on the back walls of most thrift stores. I’m sure you can find some paintbrushes, crayons, pastels, or interesting fabrics.

While you’re at it, you can always pick something up from the houseware section at the thrift — a fun book, a CD or cassette (for decoration or nostalgic purposes), a funky throw, some vintage pyrex, candle holders, novelty mugs… get creative.

Now that you have the tools, go on, get! Go find the most creative and heart-warming gifts of the season. Remember: It’s not about the price tag, it’s about the thought behind the gift.


Feature graphic by James Fay


Vote yes to sustainability in curriculum!

Concordia is four times lower than the national average in sustainability curriculum, and we must demand better

Disclaimer: Christopher Djesus Vaccarella is a CSU council member

In the upcoming CSU by-election, there is one referendum at play that will ask students to call on Concordia to make an institutional commitment: to implement the teaching of sustainability and climate change curriculum in all programs by 2030.

Let me tell you why you should vote yes to this question and how we can start a new era at our university. Concordia has a sustainability curriculum problem, and it is time to change that. According to data compiled by Waste Not Want Not from STARS, the North American gold standard for assessing sustainability in universities, only 8.5 per cent of Concordia graduates come out of their respective programs with any meaningful inclusion of sustainability curriculum. The average for Canada? 37 per cent! Both numbers are abysmal, but Concordia reaches new levels of low.

This is concerning, considering the climate crisis is only accelerating. Furthermore, there has been a push for a more expansive sustainability curriculum at Concordia, and we’re seeing a ground-up cultural shift led by the CSU, the Political Science Student Association (PSSA), Waste Not, Want Not and other groups on campus. For example the PSSA has implemented a policy which brings in sustainable practices, while also engaging in sustainability projects, which I wrote. To date, we have planted 250 trees in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and engaged in an urban agriculture project. At the CSU, we accomplished getting environmentally friendly menstrual products, and with the help of my amazing sustainability committee colleagues, have pushed to make Concordia a more sustainable campus, while entrenching these goals in our policies. Finally, according to Waste Not, Want Not,  since 2016, the Concordia community doubled its annual composting, and each Concordian reduced their annual overall waste by 16 per cent.

So, while students are making changes and are pushing for more sustainability practices and education, why has the administration been so slow in implementing new policies?

It does not take a rocket scientist to tell you we’re heading into a very dangerous situation when it comes to the climate crisis. It will take much more than divesting assets and retrofitting buildings to be more energy efficient for institutions to tackle this issue. The most important component is education, and teaching students about the plethora of current climate and sustainability issues. This education should aim to raise awareness, change behaviour, and equip students with the tools they need to contribute to the fight against the climate crisis within their professional careers. Issues with climate change and sustainability not only focus on the environment, but also on income inequality, gender inequality, systemic racism, exploitation and many more social issues. It is ill-advised to ignore growing concern and not teach students, regardless of their program, about these issues.

Recently, I have heard some people say that it does not make sense to teach these issues if you are in a business or accounting program, arguing sustainability is “not important” to the curriculum. Really? Then explain why major corporations, pension funds and promotional agencies are either transitioning to green energy, divesting or focusing on attracting green tech. Explain to me why the new International Sustainability Standards Board, which will, by the way, have one of its North American main offices set in Montreal, focuses on green financial practices and new, sustainable standards for corporations to follow.

Personally, it only makes sense that every single student, regardless of their program, must take classes that focus on sustainability issues and the climate crisis. Critics of this proposition say that “forcing” people to take these classes is not good and again, there is that element of “this is unnecessary for specific programs.” The job market in all fields is increasingly requiring more sustainability-related skills and awareness. Right now, we are ill-prepared at Concordia, and cannot compete in that job market.

Concordia must make the institutional changes and ensure that sustainability and climate change curriculum is a core part of all programs by 2030. This will mean more students will be aware of ongoing issues happening on this beautiful planet. It will also mean more people can help solve current and future climate issues, meaning more brainpower to help solve them.

This is the only habitable planet we have, and we must ensure that it is protected for generations and generations to come. Education is the most important aspect to help solve and combat issues pertaining to sustainability and climate change. With better education and tools at our disposal, we can leave a greener and more sustainable path for our kids, grandkids and our collective future.

With this, vote yes to advocating for more sustainability curriculum at the upcoming CSU by-elections. Let the administration know that we are demanding change, and that it is 110 per cent needed. Let us lead the change and inspire others to follow in our footsteps, and let us build the path to a greener, more prosperous and more equitable planet for everybody. Vote yes in the sustainability curriculum referendum question, online from Nov.16 to 18, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Christopher Vaccarella, on behalf of the Yes to Sustainability Curriculum Referendum Committee, proudly working alongside Faye Sun and Keroles Riad. You can contact Christopher Vaccarella at (, Faye Sun (, and Dr. Keroles Riad (


Feature photo by Lou Neveux-Pardijon

How to make paper in a world that refuses to go paperless

We need to stop cutting down trees

There is a specific satisfaction you get from holding a good, solid book in your hands, or flipping through your freshly-printed 10 page essay. A feeling that is not satisfied by holding a Kindle, e-reader, or scrolling through a word doc.

We all know that paper is made from trees, and trees are becoming more scarce. This sad reality can be traced back to the paper product industry, since it accounts for 42 per cent of deforestation worldwide. Paper products such as packaging, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, contracts, and more are responsible for one third of Canada’s waste, and only a quarter of this number ends up being recycled.

It would be dumb to try and deny the importance of forests in the world, especially large old-growth forests that have immense ecosystems of their own. These provide us with oxygen, medicinal plants, and are often home to Indigenous communities, some of which have never had contact with the “modern” world.

Going paperless could be considered in a very “plugged in” setting, but not everyone has access to computers, or even a stable internet connection. Ideally, we could recycle all of our paper, and create a cycle of continuous use without the need for virgin material. But sadly, humans often make the mistake of putting paper in the wrong bin or recycling paper contaminated with food — rendering the paper no longer recyclable and contaminating the rest of the bin it was thrown into — which puts a damper on our plans.

There is a process in which paper is cut up into tiny little pieces, which you can picture like blended paper confetti. Then, it is thrown in water with a solvent, and a mesh frame filters the paper chunks into a unified sheet. The paper is then laid out, dried with sponges, and left out in the open until fully solid.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the most satisfying paper feel is that of a rugged, thick sheet that has rough edges. The recycled paper confetti comes together to form a beautiful speckled cream colour. It’s a calming and beautiful process that could help the paper industry navigate toward reusing instead of chopping.

There are however downsides to recycled paper; it takes an abundant amount of energy to make. But let’s see what the outcome is when we weigh the pros from the cons, according to this BBC Science article:


  • Making recycled paper uses fossil fuels for energy instead of burning wood products like regular paper mills do.
  • The cost of recycling and transporting paper waste materials is an issue, including the energy cost of transporting scraps


  • Generally speaking, recycling paper is better than making it from scratch since it uses less raw materials, and is able to reuse the resources already used to make the initial product
  • Making recycled paper creates 35 per cent less water pollution than starting from scratch
  • Making recycled paper our only paper would theoretically decrease paper production air pollution by 74 per cent
  • The cost of machinery to start a recycled paper business ranges from thirty to sixty thousand dollars, which stays relatively affordable in comparison to any other general production startup costs.

I don’t know about you, but I’m reading more pros than cons.

Basically, there’s a huge untapped market that we could dig into, to reduce the amount of trees cut down for paper products, as well as reuse secondary raw materials in a way that would reduce the overall size of landfills. Obviously it’s not that black-and-white, but maybe this is a small way to make a real difference?


Photo by Lou Neveux-Pardijon


Interview with Concordia President Graham Carr: Fall 2021

On the return to in-person classes amid COVID-19, vaccination policy, and more.

President and vice-chancellor of Concordia University, Graham Carr, spoke with The Concordian about the gradual return of in-person instruction, the construction of a new building for the Concordia Student Union (CSU), and the strategy for the university’s success on a global scale.

TC:  With the fall semester just a week away, how ready is Concordia for a gradual return to in-person classes?

GC: I think we’re pretty ready for a gradual return to in-person classes. I think a lot of people in our community are also really looking forward to coming back.

TC: In this hybrid semester, how will the university provide students with the best learning experience while also mitigating the risk of COVID-19?

GC: Those are… the two most important goals for this semester. We want to do our utmost to make sure that students have as great of an experience as possible academically, whether they’re here in person, studying remotely, or doing a mix of in-person and online. And of course, as we have been doing over the last 18 months, we’re very focused on the health and safety of the community.

The deans, led by the Provost, over the course of the summer really took their time to think through the schedule that they wanted to offer students for fall. That meant thinking through which courses they felt could productively be delivered online that may not have been delivered online before, and which courses were going to offer an important in-person component or a hybrid component as well.

One of the things that motivated the decisions in all of the faculties was making sure that there were a significant number of online courses targeted to students who we knew might have difficulties being in Montreal in person, particularly international students. So we did a mapping of which courses had high international student enrollment and were compulsory for programs, and have tried to make sure that we have online components there.

TC: If an international student’s arrival is delayed by the 14-day quarantine (or other issues related to vaccination or travel) — and they have in-person courses — would Concordia be able to accommodate them in any way?

GC: Yes. We’ve been messaging with international students directly for months now, because it’s been a challenging environment for international student travel generally. And the instructions that we were getting from federal and provincial authorities were that students should be planning … to start arriving in Canada in mid/late August, and we know that a number of international students are already arriving.

But others, for the reasons you described, won’t be able to be here at the beginning of the semester. So what we have done is we’ve set a deadline for Nov. 8, which is the add/drop date, and have given students that leeway to arrive in Montreal — which is important for the visa processing that they all need to go through as well. So we’re trying to be as flexible as possible and, in the meantime, provide those students … with a way to begin their semester in an online environment.

TC: Concordia has encouraged both international and local students to get vaccinated as soon as possible. But some Canadian institutions such as the University of Ottawa and Carleton University have gone even further, making vaccination mandatory for all students and staff to continue studying or working on campus. Is Concordia considering using the same approach anytime soon?

GC:  In Quebec, the government has deemed higher education to be an essential service. And we are not … allowed to deny essential services to individuals on medical grounds. … To be quite honest, I think we are, like other universities in the province, reluctant to demand mandatory vaccines when it’s not clear how we would implement that. It’s not clear how we would monitor that, particularly on university campuses, which have many, many, many points of entry.

So instead, what we will be doing is taking advantage of something that’s unique in Quebec, which is the vaccine passport. What we are looking at is how we can apply the vaccine passports for non-essential activities that happen on the campus: things like going to the gym for recreational purposes, going to Reggies, going to cafeteria and other food places, or attending cinema events that are not academic. If we can implement those measures on campus, our feeling is that will further encourage and incentivize unvaccinated people (whether they’re faculty, staff or students) to get vaccinated.

We will have vaccination sites on both campuses, which we’re mounting in collaboration with public health and the city of Montreal, and we’ll have mobile vaccination units as well. Now there’s also a kiosk at the Trudeau Airport which allows international students … to get vaccinated once they arrive, if they are not fully vaccinated at that point.

So I think when you put together the ensemble of those measures, over the already-high vaccination rate that students in Quebec have achieved*, I feel that there’s quite a good range of measures that are in place … to help us ensure a safe experience for everyone.

* In Quebec, over 82 per cent of university and CEGEP students are either fully vaccinated or have booked their second dose appointment, thus exceeding the provincial government’s original target of 75 per cent.

TC: If Santé Québec ends the provincial mask mandate later this fall, which would apply to university classrooms as well, will Concordia follow suit and make masks optional on campus then?

GC: Well, I’m not going to forecast what may or may not happen. Obviously, that would be a major decision on the part of Santé Québec. You may remember that it was McGill and Concordia that insisted upon mandatory masking (including in classes) with procedural masks, not face coverings. And subsequently, that became policy for the higher education sector as a whole, as we see, as of [Aug. 24] for certain elementary and secondary school districts as well. The public health situation has been evolving.

If we’ve learned one thing over the course of the last 17 months or so, it’s the challenge of predicting where the next bend in the COVID-19 road will occur. And I think our track record has been pretty good in terms of adapting to those changes in ways that maintain the health and safety of our community. Obviously, we work very closely with public health authorities, and we would certainly cross that bridge when we get to it — I think is the best answer at this point.

TC: Earlier in March, the CSU held a referendum on a variety of issues, including the construction of a new building for the CSU, and nearly 85 per cent of all students who participated voted in favour of the project. With the CSU saying that it will provide a new “space for events, social gatherings and new services,” does the Concordia administration support this project? And if so, how would you collaborate with the CSU to make this plan a reality?

GC: In 2019-20, the then-head of the Concordia Student Union began meeting with me and more importantly with Roger Côté, who was the vice president of services at that time, to discuss exactly how we would collaborate on creating the student union building.

Those conversations obviously got interrupted because of COVID. There was a change in the CSU with the elections for the 2020-21 team, but conversation resumed late in the 2021 mandate — probably around the time when the referendum was taken — between the CSU and our facilities management people, led by Michael Di Grappa, who is now the vice president for services and sustainability. So the university has been very open to that.

There’s been talk at Concordia for decades, frankly, about having a Concordia Student Union building on the downtown campus. Equally importantly, we want to make sure that in the coming years, we improve student services on the Loyola campus as well. I know that’s something that the current CSU leadership is also interested in. There’s a report which is due on the animation and future of the Loyola campus, which had student representation over the last year and a half. I’m looking forward to seeing that report. So for us, how we can, as a university, improve student services, including places for students is important, but not just on the downtown campus — on both campuses.

TC: Last year, Concordia was ranked first in Canada of all universities under 50 years old. Going forward, what will be your strategy to not only maintain Concordia’s reputation among Canadian universities, but also to increase its prestige on an international level?

GC: That’s an important priority for us, because we know that one of the things which is hugely motivating for students in selecting a university are the rankings.

I would say that looking forward, … one of the areas where we’re really focusing is on sustainability, and particularly the work that we’re doing to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So there is the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which measure how universities are performing against the 17 UN SDGs. By performance, they’re measuring not only their academic and research activity, but also what’s called the stewardship of the goals: how the institution advances the goals through its own operational practices, its external partnerships, etc.

And earlier this spring, … Concordia was ranked 62nd in the world, for the work that we’re doing on advancing the SDGs. And in three categories, we were actually ranked in the top 25 in the world; in one of those categories, which was reducing inequalities, we were ranked number one in Canada.

This will not only improve the impact that Concordia is making as a university for the community and society at large, but it will bring recognition internationally for us. … We announced in the spring that we wanted to undertake a map of voluntary university review, to map how we are performing against each of the UN sustainable development goals — that process has begun. And I think it’s something that’s very exciting, very mobilizing for the community as a whole, and has a great opportunity to position Concordia as a leader internationally.

TC: Is there anything you would like to say personally to all Concordia students ahead of the new academic year?

GC: I want to wish everybody good luck! I have to say it will be nice to see more people on campus in the fall.

I recognize fully that there’s a spectrum of opinions, attitudes and concerns about the return to campus, and I appreciate that some students and some faculty, staff and administrators have misgivings about returning because of the public health situation. But I think we have to be feeling so much better than we felt a year ago at this time.

There’s still uncertainty, but the situation 12 months later is that we can offer a rich mix of in-person and online activities. Our online courses continue to improve because of what we’ve learned over the course of the last 17 months. And more importantly, we’re able to bring society to reopen in part because of the success of the vaccination program, which was not the case a year ago.

I fully expect that everybody coming on the campus should be vaccinated at this point, unless they have a valid medical or religious reason not to be. And if there are students, faculty or staff who still are not fully vaccinated, my message to them is:

Please, get fully vaccinated. Not only for your sake, above all, but also for the health and safety of the community as a whole.


Photo courtesy of Concordia University

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