Tag Archives: Concordia University

Learn play-by-play from the pros*

Every year, Concordia University’s journalism department hosts a day of seminars from sports journalists, sponsored by Rogers Sportsnet.

This year’s lineup looks interesting, if only because of a panel called Life After the Expos, with Dave van Horne and Elliott Price. It will be followed by a play-by-play workshop, which also includes Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds.

Registration is free, and the event takes place at Loyola campus on Saturday, Nov. 7.

* Of course, the likelihood of anyone getting a job in sports journalism, much less as a play-by-play announcer, is just about zero in this media environment.

A tale of two documentaries

It was seven years ago this month – Sept. 9, 2002 – that a controversial speech planned by a student group at Concordia University turned into an out-of-control riot that became a major turning point in student politics.

For all the media attention it received, the Netanyahu riot didn’t cause much lasting physical damage. There were no serious injuries, and the 2008 Habs riot caused much more in the way of property damage than the two windows and emptied fire extinguisher cost Concordia. But the political and media fallout was enormous. The riot led to an unprecedented ban on all organized events related to Middle East issues on campus. After that ban was lifted a few weeks later, the Concordia Student Union pounced on a controversial flyer and some amateur legal analysis to hastily suspend the Jewish student group Hillel. The next spring, students voted en masse to expel the left-wing radicals in charge of student politics. For the next half-decade, students continually decided that a corrupt moderate student government was still better than bringing the leftists back.

Two documentaries were produced about the Netanyahu riot and the political conflict around it.

One was called “Confrontation at Concordia”, by Martin Himel, which aired on Global TV. There’s no official version online, but it was uploaded to Google Video in its entirety (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) by a white supremacist group (it’s unclear whether they take the side of the Jews or Palestinians in this debate – one would assume they despise both). Himel’s documentary makes Michael Moore look reasoned and unbiased. He clearly takes the side of Hillel, even comparing actions of Palestinian supporters on campus to actions in 1930s Germany that preceded the Holocaust, asking rhetorically how far Concordia’s tensions could escalate in comparison. The film invites experts from only one side of the debate, and includes a lot of voiceovers in which Himel makes bold statements based solely on his own opinion. Himel even appears multiple times to talk into the camera.

The documentary caused outrage among Concordia’s left, and even moderates (such as myself) decried it as biased. It was the subject of complaints to both the Quebec Press Council and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Both dismissed the majority of the complaints, finding only that Himel and Global should have made it clear to viewers that this was a point-of-view opinion documentary and not a news piece.

The other documentary, called Discordia, was a production of the National Film Board and the CBC. Directors Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal took a radically different approach to their film, focusing it more on three figures involved and the personal, emotional rollercoaster they went through in those months. Addelman and Mallal do not appear in their own film, and there are no voiceovers. Only a few subtitles give dry, matter-of-fact statements. All the opinion is given by the three stars: Noah Sarna of Hillel, Samer Elatrash of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, and Aaron Maté of the Concordia Student Union. Though it is slightly biased to the pro-Palestinian side because two of those three are on one side of the debate, the film makes no grand hyperbolic statements and gives no clue to its directors’ political views.

Neither documentary, of course, tells the whole story. Such a thing would be impossible in an hour-long film. But the latter, at least, gives a slice of the nuances of the debate, while the former shows the real (if outrageously exaggerated) fears that Israel’s supporters had about what was going on at the activist university.

Concordia has calmed down considerably in those seven years, so the closest the younger generation will get to the “viper’s nest” is through such historical documents.

Brownstein the auto warrior

On the left: Heroes. On the right: Terrorists.

On the left: Heroes. On the right: Terrorists.

The Gazette’s Bill Brownstein is on a driver’s rights binge this week. On Monday, he was on CFCF talking about how the city was “held hostage” by the Tour de l’Île, and repeating the anti-cyclist talking points:

  • The Tour de l’Île shut down the city and prevented people from getting to hospitals
  • Why can’t the Tour de l’Île be held on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve where it won’t bother anyone?
  • Cops never ticket cyclists and always ticket drivers
  • Drivers would like to walk and cycle everywhere, but it’s impossible in this city
  • Drivers are an oppressed majority, and having a handful of bike paths and Bixi stations scattered around the city is going way too far
  • Removable poles along bike paths are better than permanent concrete medians like we have on de Maisonneuve Blvd.

Of course, there are counter-arguments to all these. The tours’ routes were constructed to allow car traffic through wherever safely possible (and for crying out loud, it’s one weekend day a year), emergency vehicles were given priority, and holding it on another island would defeat the purpose of a Tour de l’Île, wouldn’t it?

When you consider how much space in this city is reserved solely for four-wheel transportation, and how many traffic rules are designed solely to prevent them from crashing into each other, you wonder if people who say drivers are oppressed aren’t on some crazy drug.

Sadly, Brownstein’s throwaway half-joking suggestion of a “car party” might very well come true if drivers’ limitless sense of entitlement continues to grow.

This tunnel under de Maisonneuve Blvd. will link Concordia's Hall and Library buildings with the Guy-Concordia metro station.

This tunnel under de Maisonneuve Blvd. will link Concordia's Hall and Library buildings with the Guy-Concordia metro station.

Today, in his newspaper column, Brownstein talks about the tunnel being constructed at Concordia’s downtown campus that would connect the two older buildings at de Maisonneuve and Mackay with the Guy-Concordia metro station (and, just as importantly, the two newer buildings):

Are you kidding me? The students can’t handle the two-block trek outside! Has this exercise really been worth it? Construction on that corner has done a marvellous job of crippling traffic for motorists and cyclists alike.

While this is true, consider what will happen once the tunnel is built. Students will no longer have to go outside to get between the metro and the Hall Building. They will no longer have to jaywalk across de Maisonneuve Blvd., and they’ll no longer be an annoying swarm for drivers to contend with on a daily basis. Not to mention how much easier it will be to transport equipment between buildings. This construction will actually be good for drivers.

Brownstein also talks about Old Montreal being closed to traffic and the horror that’s causing by forcing drivers to walk a couple of blocks to their overpriced restaurants overpriced hotels with their bags. (Bonus points if you notice the blatant hypocrisy here.)

Sorry Bill, you haven’t made a convert out of me.

CORRECTION (June 25): Brownstein was talking about Old Montreal hotels needing to send bellboys blocks away to pick up bags, not people needing to walk to overpriced restaurants. Fagstein regrets the error.

Concordia’s dollars and sense

Concordia University and the Concordia Student Union have signed an agreement which will see the eventual construction of a new $70-million building for student activities funded largely by the students themselves through mandatory per-credit fees.

Meanwhile, the CSU says it spent $200,000 on legal fees alone in the past year.

Good thing I’m not a student there anymore. I can laugh about their misfortune instead of crying at the massive waste of money.

Another bought degree at Concordia

As graduation season approaches, now is the time universities announce who will receive honorary doctorates at convocation ceremonies.

Unlike actual degrees which require lots of hard work, honorary degrees are bestowed upon people the university believes will make it look good. In many cases, mere celebrity will suffice. This year, Concordia is giving degrees to Air Farce veterans Don Ferguson and Roger Abbott, who graduated from Loyola College, as well as Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau.

Other awards are handed out to people who excel in their industries and set an example for students.

And then there are those whose titles include the words “CEO”, whose honours have more to do with how much money they’ve given to the university than how much they’ve contributed to society, as I wrote last year.

Richard J. Renaud

Richard J. Renaud

This year, two names fall under that category: Richard J. Renaud and Mel Hoppenheim. It’s no coincidence that the former has a building named after him and the latter an entire program.

Concordia doesn’t hide the fact that contributions to the university are a factor when deciding who to hand degrees to. In fact, it’s listed right there as one of the criteria (PDF). But the university tempers it by adding other categories of contribution – supposedly volunteer or creative work would also help, though I don’t recall any volunteers for the People’s Potato getting honorary degrees recently.

The big reason Renaud is getting his degree now instead of years ago is that he just retired from the Board of Governors last year (a seat on the board is another perk you get when you give the university millions of dollars). The board decides who gets degrees, and has a policy against awarding them to sitting members.

This isn’t to imply that Renaud has ulterior motives for his contributions to the university. The value of an honorary degree hardly justifies the price. But it’s sad that this supposed academic honour is bestowed upon the rich far more often than the poor.

Mackay St. project “on hold”

Two weeks after announcing a narrowing of a block of Mackay St. next to Concordia University’s Hall Building as the triumphant accomplishment of the mythical “Greening of Mackay” project, Concordia University has stepped back a bit in the face of protest from neighbours and has put the project “on hold.”

Concordia’s announcement said it would be reviewed “over the next few months,” which I can only guess means it’s not going to happen this summer at all.

That’s unfortunate.

Of course, with all the construction going on in that area as Concordia builds a new tunnel from the Hall Building to the Guy-Concordia métro station (and its new buildings next to it), people probably wouldn’t have noticed a further narrowing of the street anyway.

Concordia unblocks Facebook

Concordia University announced today that it will, effective Monday, unblock access to Facebook from its wired network.

Concordia blocked access to Facebook in September – but intentionally left it open on its wireless network, in residences and in its libraries – out of concerns for “spam, viruses and leaks of confidential information related to use of the social networking site.”

This line of reasoning was criticized – even mocked – by Internet experts like Michael Geist, who argued none of these things are specific to Facebook.

It also led to coverage in the media: CBC, Gazette, McGill Daily and others.

So what changed? Officially, it was reopened because of improved security:

After the recent improvement of certain security checks and procedures at Concordia, including the installation of a new firewall, the university made the decision to officially reinstate Facebook.

Again, it’s unclear how a “new firewall” will protect Concordia against whatever ills it attributed to Facebook. It used phishing as a prime example, and it’s unclear how a firewall will stop those kinds of activities.

But realistically, the growth of Facebook has meant the loss of productivity from its use (my guess for the real reason behind its original blocking) is outweighed by its value as a communications tool – between students and professors, between the university and its alumni, between sports teams and their fans.

Concordia reminds its network users to use best practices for safeguarding personal information and passwords.

The seething of Mackay

Mackay St. during frosh week in 2002.

Mackay St. during frosh week in 2002.

UPDATE (May 1): The project has been put on hold.

The “Greening of Mackay” has been a project of the Concordia Student Union and other Concordia student groups for over a decade now. The idea is that the street, from Sherbrooke St. to de Maisonneuve Blvd., would be closed off to traffic and parking and turned into a pedestrian area.

Unfortunately, the city and its residents like cars, and they’re not crazy about a street and its parking spots being permanently removed from them. So efforts to close the street off permanently have always failed. Instead, they settle for partial closures, such as the one pictured above, for a week or two, slap the familiar “greening of Mackay” label on them, and declare victory.

That’s what they did last week when the university announced that “the ‘greening of Mackay’ will finally become a reality this summer!” In reality, the street isn’t being closed off but merely reduced to one lane. And it’s only for the summer.

Getting consent of property owners wasn’t so much of a problem – the entire southern half of the block belongs to the university, with the Hall Building on the east side and university annexes on the west. And the borough, which is all about closing streets lately, was easily convinced to forego a few hundred thousand dollars of parking revenue. (The fact that Karim Boulos, the VP of external affairs for the John Molson School of Business, is also a Vision Montreal city councillor, might have helped a bit too.)

But not everyone is happy. Robert Landau of Landau Fine Art (which is actually on Sherbrooke St., not Mackay) has organized a petition against the borough, signed by lots of people who don’t live on Mackay but want people to be able to park there.

It’s amazing the lengths people will go to in order to protect on-street parking.

UPDATE: CBC Daybreak has an interview (MP3) with Landay and Concordia’s Chris Mota, which gets a bit testy.

Anti-psychiatry Scientologists push envelope on academic freedom

Anonymous video of display at Concordia

The local anti-Scientologist Anonymous group is in an uproar over a display setup at Concordia’s Library Building this week by a group calling itself the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (auto-play video warning).

The CCHR is part of the Church of Scientology, and its message is that psychiatry is responsible for all the world’s ills, including the shooting at Dawson College in 2006.

This is a rather bold claim, and seems to be based more on religion than on science. Kind of like Intelligent Design. Only Intelligent Design isn’t as likely to encourage people to make the wrong decisions about their health.

Anonymous has taken to writing letters, alerting the media (I’ve received two emails about it so far) and personally insulting Concordia administrators.

The response from the university (according to these people) is that while they may not agree with the message, the university respects their right to say what they want provided they don’t descend into hate speech or discrimination.

For some reason, Concordia always seems to be the centre for these kinds of envelope-pushing events. Perhaps it’s because other universities stop them before they start, or because people just feel that when they want to test the limits of freedom of expression they should do so at Freedom Of Speech University.

In any case, Concordia has caught the attention of Anonymous. And for that they have my sympathy.

UPDATE: The Gazette covers the controversy. CTV follows with comments from an actual psychiatrist. Radio-Canada also reports on it.

The end of a Concordia dynasty

From my archives in 2004: On the right, the thrill of victory; on the left, the agony of defeat

From my archives in 2004: On the right, the thrill of victory; on the left, the agony of defeat

In 2003, a slate of moderate (what their opponents would label as right-wing) student politicians called “Evolution, Not Revolution” achieved what had seemed impossible: winning Concordia University’s biggest student vote of the year and taking control of the Concordia Student Union executive against an established radical left-wing that had controlled it for years. Even though public opinion was clearly on their side, the mainstream of the student body didn’t vote, because they didn’t care.

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Those who can’t, research: Concordia MA in journalism studies

Concordia University is launching a two-year graduate program in journalism studies for fall 2009, and is currently accepting applications. Unlike its one-year graduate diploma, the MA program isn’t designed for students interested in pursuing a journalism career, but academics and mid-career journalists looking to research about journalism itself, and complete a research project (perhaps to find a business model that will bring back those 30% margins?).

Applications are due by April 30 (April 10 if you want to apply for scholarships)

Universities: Like real life, only without consequences

It’s so adorable when kids look up to real journalists. The Concordian this week has an interview with Gazette universities columnist Peggy Curran.

Speaking of which, these Concordia kids want me to talk to them about something later this month. Any suggestions what topic of infinite wisdom I can impart on young journalist-wannabes (other than “you’ve picked the wrong profession”)?

Big neighbourhood

Speaking of Concordia, the Côte-de-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough (which really needs a new name) is conducting a public consultation about a request from the university to make dramatic changes to its sports complex on the Loyola Campus, which would include the creation of a removable dome which could be installed over the football field to protect the Stingers from rain. (And… uhh… some educatiomanal stuff too… right…)

(Some) details in this PDF.

Google Map: A long way to walk

Google Map: A long way to walk

What I especially love is that the consultation isn’t taking place anywhere near the people most affected by this. Instead, it’s taking place 4 km away in Côte des Neiges, forcing local residents to take a half-hour transit trip or walk an hour each way.

I suppose there are worse examples (Pierrefonds, for example), but it just seems to me if you’re going to hold a public consultation about a neighbourhood project, you should hold that consultation in the neighbourhood.

Oh Concordia, how little has changed

The Evil Borg Cube (a.k.a. Hall Building)

The Evil Borg Cube (a.k.a. Hall Building)

I used to look back at my alma mater Concordia University, and ponder how student politics there had changed. In my years (2000-2004), there were scandals, recalls, backroom deals, lawsuits, riots, arrests and just general overall craziness. But since then it had been mostly quiet. A one-party system had been instituted at the Concordia Student Union, finances seemed under control and everyone stayed out of the headlines.

But thankfully, university student politics have a habit of repeating themselves every few years, as high turnover results in institutional Alzheimer’s and the same mistakes get made by a whole new group:

  • Person in charge of finances is left unchecked, money goes missing, and then she does as well? Check.
  • President proclaims innocence? Check.
  • Financial mismanagement so complicated even auditors can’t figure it all out? Check.
  • Recall petition to remove executive? Check.
  • Executive tries to find loophole to subvert democratic will of petition? Check.
  • Club money goes to questionable expenses? Check.
  • Comparisons to corrupt African regimes and measures put in place to make sure this “doesn’t happen again”? Check.
  • Patrice Blais? Check.