Concordia Student Union News

CSU starts addiction task force

Group will advise union, administration on recovery services for students

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is launching its first addiction treatment, prevention, and recovery task force.  

The CSU addiction task force is composed of five students whose mandate is to implement new addiction-harm reducing initiatives on Concordia’s campus.

The task force will be funded by the student life initiative budget, which the student life coordinator holds in order to implement any initiative for student life, including the upcoming Rapid HIV Testing Clinic.

“Addiction impacts students in a lot of different ways; it impacts their academics, it impacts their involvement in student life on campus,” said Michele Sandiford, the CSU student life coordinator and member of the task force. “We think that it is important to give them a space where they can thrive in school and thrive in the community.”

This issue is particularly important to Sandiford, who has been in recovery for two years. When she was elected as a CSU executive, she made this project part of her mandate. She said this year’s executive team has been interested in supporting mental health issues, giving her the necessary support to achieve her goal.

“For now, we really are just a body that makes recommendations to the CSU and the university, and we’re trying to implement some sort of resources or programing,” said Sandiford. “It’s about establishing recommendations for what might work for students.”

At the moment, the CSU addiction task force is a pilot project in development, while they determine what is already available to students on campus and what they might need in the future. While the launch date of the project is still unknown, the team will continue to discuss its primary focus during their weekly meetings. They also started looking into ways to promote their cause.

“We’re looking at space, we’re looking at resources, accommodations that can be made for students, and ways that we can support them,” Sandiford said. “It might be something like peer support or better access to resources.”

The team of five, including Sandiford, whose other members have not yet been revealed, is composed of students that have backgrounds in addiction recovery or have specific interest in harm-reducing or addiction treatment.

In order to maximize the task force’s impact on students in need, the group “[goes] over research, what’s already available for students, what can be made available, and from the personal experience of the members of the committee or task force,” Sandiford said. “If [students] have specific ideas for things that they might need, we’re happy to have that information brought to us,” she added.

Sandiford hopes the team will be able to bring the right help to Concordia students. She also hopes to offer students easy access to the proper assistance that many of the team’s members had a chance to get or are still going through.

Photo by Mia Anhoury.

A previous version of this article included the sentence “The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is launching its first addiction treatment, prevention, and recovery centre.” The sentence now reads: “The Concordia Student Union (CSU) is launching its first addiction treatment, prevention, and recovery task force.” In addition, the sentence “Since the task force is not fully operating yet, Sandiford advised students needing help with addiction to seek counselling for the moment,” has been removed to ensure clarity and accuracy. The Concordian regrets the errors.


Keep Concordia in mind this summer

It’s the end of another great year at The Concordian. While we’re sad to say goodbye, we thought we could dedicate this final editorial to the important issues that have been discussed on campus throughout the year.

We know how easy (and satisfying) it is to finally leave exam halls, submit final assignments and close the doors on Concordia at the end of each semester. It’s an exhilarating feeling to embark on our summer vacations, whether they consist of binge-watching Netflix or travelling the world. But, we at The Concordian think it’s vital to keep some things in mind even while we step away from our university this summer.

This year was…eventful, to say the least. We’re proud to have covered and highlighted important issues in our newspaper, from the significance of sustainable foods, to Concordia’s ways of handling sexual misconduct allegations. We think it’s important to leave you with a few key issues to keep in mind while away from Concordia.

First, the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence will be taking place until May 2018. These allegations regarding Concordia’s creative writing department were significant in raising awareness about sexual misconduct at our university. It highlighted how power abuses can lead to dangerous environments for students. Ultimately, it opened our eyes to how Concordia can sometimes fail at addressing such allegations in the first place.

Although we won’t be surrounded by the news every day this summer, it’s still important to check up on the Task Force’s progress addressing sexual misconduct at our institution. It’s our responsibility, not only as students, but as citizens, to remain aware and engaged in these issues at our university. While we commend Concordia students for speaking out against sexual violence and shedding light on this issue throughout the year, we hope students can continue to talk about sexual assault every day—since, unfortunately, it happens quite frequently.

We also hope Concordia students remain interested in the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) Daycare and Nursery Project. Although it was initially proposed in 2011, and has experienced many setbacks such as obtaining construction permits, we at The Concordian are still keeping an eye out for the project’s final establishment. According to a 2017 article by The Concordian, the daycare was supposed to open in March 2018. As we’re already into the month of April, it’s clear to see the project is still experiencing difficulties and obstacles.

The daycare would be an outstanding achievement by the CSU, and more importantly, it would help student-parents feel more supported by the school. According to a study commissioned by Concordia in 2011, student-parents comprise about 10 per cent of our university’s population. That 10 per cent of students are more likely to feel stressed by missing classes and exams and handing assignments in late because of their responsibilities as parents. This is all due to the university’s lack of safe and affordable childcare options, which is why CSU’s daycare project is so important.

We at The Concordian hope that this daycare can be established in the upcoming months. We hope students can continue to talk about this project, support it and help actualize it. It would be extremely beneficial for so many student-parents, and it will be a positive addition to our school.

There are many important discussions and projects happening at Concordia. Throughout the year, we saw students speaking out against unpaid internships, the importance of voting and environmental abuses. One such group highlighting environmental abuses is Divest Concordia, an initiative that calls on our university to end its investments in fossil fuels. The group has called on the university to make a decision on divestment and to announce whether or not they will be taking concrete steps towards more environmentally-friendly investing. Unfortunately, however, Concordia has been postponing the announcement—and still has yet to comment on its divestment. We believe that even though Concordia hasn’t made an announcement yet, we cannot forget about Divest Concordia and its important stance. We need to support such groups and initiatives in order to better our time at Concordia, and to contribute positively to our world.

So this summer, keep the conversation going. Keep speaking out against sexual assault; keep shedding light on racism and discrimination; keep supporting groups pushing for a better university; remind yourself to check up on Concordia’s steps in building a better environment for students. We know how easy it is to say goodbye, but we at The Concordian hope you choose to keep our university in mind this summer.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Task force is back

Student-led task force proceeds with implementing requests made in Mei Ling settlement

The student-led task force discussed the creation of an advocacy coordinator position, the composition of this position’s hiring committee, and how to ensure equal representation of different ethnicities in both the hiring committee and the task force during its third meeting on Nov. 2.

The meeting took place in the School for Community and Public Affairs building on Mackay Street at Concordia’s downtown campus. The three task-force meetings thus far come as a response to a request made by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) for Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) to revise the task force’s mandate. ASFA was required to create a task force as part of the settlement that was reached following the lawsuit against ASFA made by CRARR on behalf of Mei Ling*. Mei Ling was a former ASFA executive who experienced sexual harassment, discrimination and racism from two other ASFA executives.

In a press release published by CRARR on Oct. 3, they requested a revision of the mandate due to the fact that the previous one, while efficiently tackling sexism and sexual violence, did not focus enough on representation of racial minorities.

The new mandate, which was ratified by the ASFA council on Oct. 13, was distributed at the meeting. It listed actions that will be taken by the task force to ensure cases of racism, sexism and sexual violence are dealt with swiftly. These actions include obligatory consent and power dynamic workshops for ASFA executives and others, collaboration with students of different backgrounds to create and implement necessary services, and working with Concordia University to ensure that these services are accessible to all.

Rebecca Paris, a recent Concordia graduate, attended the meeting. She said she wishes there had been such a task force when she was a student, as she felt there were no resources available to women of colour facing discrimination. “If I ever had issues of racism at Concordia, I had to create my own network of people,” said Paris. “It was made for us, by us and it was with no support of the university. It was made with no support of the entities here.”

Paris said many of her friends still go to Concordia and so, “as a support system for them, it’s important for me to be there if I have time.” She said people of colour need more visibility in the university and they should have designated safe spaces.

While the task force is not part of ASFA, Agunik Mamikonyan, the community outreach and sustainability coordinator for ASFA, leads the discussions during the meetings. Mamikonyan said she decided to take on the task“because she felt she had the time and passion for it.

Mamikonyan believes there is an urgent need for this task force. “There’s an obvious gap within Concordia University and it’s been a recurring problem, especially recently,” she said. “There have been a lot of cases coming up and no one to deal with them.”

The meeting concluded with the objective of finding students to sit on the hiring committee. A date for a future meeting has not yet been released.

*Mei Ling is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the subject involved.


Task force mandate on the horizon

Agreement and collaboration ensues after CRARR’s mention of lawsuit to ASFA

The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) issued a press release on Oct. 3 asking the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) to revise their current mandate for a student-led task force. If ASFA fails to accommodate the conditions of the settlement, CRARR is permitted to seek legal action from the provincial Superior Court.

The task force is a settlement requirement of the Mei Ling case—in which allegations of sexual and racial discrimination by the former ASFA president and an ASFA executive were made by Mei Ling, a pseudonym for a former Concordia University student and ASFA executive. She filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission against ASFA under the pretences of discrimination and harassment in February 2015, with CRARR as her representative.

As the Nov. 19 anniversary of Mei Ling’s settlement approaches, CRARR wants to ensure that ASFA has not forgotten about  the mandate or the need to assemble the task force, said CRARR executive director, Fo Niemi. He said the purpose of the press release is not to threaten ASFA. “We’re right now in October, and if things aren’t done by November, people are starting to then gear up for exams and likely people will wait for January,” said Niemi, adding that the winter semester can go by very fast.

He said CRARR is seeking to have a mechanism in place to ensure no problem is ignored and no one is left behind in cases of discrimination, racism, sexual assault and harassment. “My main concern is the way the task force was set up in May,” said Niemi. “It focused more on … sexual assault. You didn’t see racism as a stand alone issue.”

CRARR’s ultimatum was meant to motivate ASFA to make the necessary adjustments to the original task force mandate. Niemi said the focus of their current mandate focuses mainly on sexual assault, when the agreement talks about racism, sexism, discrimination and sexual violence.

Niemi said on August 30 he met with ASFA’s lawyer Michael Simkin, ASFA general coordinator, Andrea Krasznai, Sarah Oleil, councillor and social events coordinator for the Women’s Studies Student Association and another ASFA executive in the ASFA office and they were very receptive of CRARR’s demands.

However, Niemi referenced an article in The Concordian written on the last task force meeting. He said the meeting covered in the September 2016 article gives the impression that people are not set on or have understood that addressing racism must be part of the task force mandate. Niemi said since May, CRARR has been concerned with the fact that ASFA has not yet altered the mandate to comply with the spirit of the settlement.

Just hours after the Oct. 3 press release was published, Krasznai and Agunik Mamikonyan, community outreach and sustainability coordinator began working on an updated mandate to meet CRARR’s request. On Oct. 7, the revised mandate was sent by ASFA’s lawyer to CRARR for revision.

Mamikonyan said the mandate was re-written to not only provide solid steps on how they would take action, but they included the aspect of general discrimination.

Krasznai said once both the lawyer and the ASFA council approve this new mandate, the implementation process will begin. This includes an assessment of services to be provided for the task force, how ASFA decides who will be involved in the task force.

“Most likely I would assume that council will be more or less okay with the [mandate] because it’s things that were already in progress,” Mamikonyan said.

Niemi said CRARR is using a one-year mark to assess whether progress has been made and whether legal action needs to be taken.

“I don’t think that we will get to the point where they will have to sue us to a higher level or anything, because we’re really trying,” said Mamikonyan. “We think we can find a mutually agreeable solution.”

Approval of the revised mandate will be decided by ASFA council on Wednesday Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in room H-767 of the Hall building on Concordia’s S.G.W. campus.

Graphic by Florence Yee


Task force revealed as anniversary of Mei Ling settlement approaches

Student-led group seeks a mandate to uphold requirements settled in Mei Ling case

A student-led task force held their first meeting on Sept. 22 at Concordia, where they discussed adapting a mandate aimed at preventing violence and injustice towards minority groups within student associations and university groups.

As the anniversary of the Mei Ling settlement approaches on November 23, Concordia’s Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) has been facing pressure from the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) to honour their agreement to assemble a task force, operated to review cases of discrimination within student groups and associations.

Mei Ling, a pseudonym used to protect her identity, had experienced sexual and racial discrimination from former ASFA employees she worked with, causing her to file a complaint with the QHRC against ASFA for harassment and discrimination in February 2015.

Sarah Oleil, councillor and social events coordinator for the Women’s Studies Student Association (WSSA) at Concordia, said the original mandate released May 12 was revised by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), the civil rights advocacy group responsible for filing the complaint to the QHRC on Mei Ling’s behalf. However, CRARR said the mandate lacked content concerning harassment and exclusion—major components of Mei Ling’s complaint—and suggested that ASFA should rework the mandate.

“CRARR sent us an official letter saying it’s not to their satisfaction—there are certain elements and concrete aspects missing from it,” said Andrea Krasznai, ASFA’s general coordinator. Krasznai said her role within task force is to be the coordinator between the parties involved, which she lists as CRARR, Council of Representatives and the task force.

“Since the anniversary of the agreement that has been made with CRARR last year is approaching, they are asking to get this really rolling,” said Andrea Krasznai. Krasznai said CRARR is expecting certain changes to be made to the task force’s original mandate.

Oleil said that CRARR told ASFA the mandate needed to focus not only on sexual assault, but also implement concepts that deal with harassment, exclusion and racism. She said CRARR also demanded that the task force be diverse in its representation.

Photo by Ana Hernandez.

“This task force was set up [with the idea] that students should have protection against racist and sexist violences,” said Oleil. “Students should be involved in protecting each other and holding different bodies at Concordia accountable for these actions that occur within their environment, but specifically that occur at ASFA.”

Krasznai said she is not certain when the task force will be fully organized and assembled. She explained she does not want to rush the assembly and creation of the mandate just for the sake of finishing the project.

Krasznai said that she and other ASFA executives have been seeking professional help from a lawyer to further understand the legal aspects related to CRARR’s demands in association to the Mei Ling settlement. “At this point I don’t think we should focus so much on when is it going to be done, but how is it going to be done, and who can help us,” she said.

She added that they have yet to assemble a full group. “I would love to be at that point,” she said.

The meeting did not result in any alterations to the current mandate. However, the task force members plan to meet in approximately three weeks to continue adapting the current mandate to match CRARR’s suggestions.

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