Concordia Briefs

Winter Updates Include No Orientation and Prostitution Verdict Reactions

Went somewhere for the holidays? The Link made sure to get the story while you were out.

No CSU Winter Orientation Planned for This Year

The Concordia Student Union will not hold a winter Orientation this year as the week of events “historically has not attracted enough students to justify its cost,” the union announced Monday.

“The CSU Executive feels that [low attendance in the past] has not been a reflection of poor planning, but rather of the event itself,” reads a press release from the union. “It is for this reason that we have chosen not to hold a winter Orientation this year.”

The CSU executive is instead promising to host a “student engagement fair” and events related to the topic of gender, as well as a party at the as-yet-unopened Hive Café. The café is meant to be a student-run alternative on the Loyola campus to Chartwells-operated cafeterias.

Last year, the student union allocated $60,000 towards its winter Orientation.

Simone de Beauvoir Institute Reacts to Supreme Court Decision on Canada’s Prostitution Laws

Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute, a college devoted to studying feminism and social justice, supports the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down three Canadian laws related to prostitution.

In a unanimous ruling on Dec. 20, the Supreme Court deemed prohibitions on brothels or bawdy houses, public communication for the purpose of prostitution and profiting off of prostitution to be unconstitutional.

“For the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, to strike down laws which increase violence against women is an important feminist victory,” reads a statement posted to the Institute’s website. “The decision of the Supreme Court recognizes the importance of removing legal barriers to women’s safety and security.”

The institute was granted intervener status by the Supreme Court, allowing it to make arguments in the case despite being a third party. In legal documents filed with the court, the institute stated it doesn’t subscribe to an “abolitionist-feminist discourse” that views prostitution as fundamentally harmful to women.

The institute argued that criminalizing public solicitation could potentially endanger sex workers, as it prevents them from communicating their limits or evaluating their clients sufficiently before moving into private spaces. According to the institute, “laws which prevent clear communication between sex workers and clients prevent a frank discussion of sexuality between consenting adults.”

The institute also opposed the ban on brothels and profiting from prostitution.

“Sex workers cannot work together out of the same apartment, because the apartment would be considered a common bawdy house,” reads the institute’s statement. “Similarly, sex workers cannot hire a driver or a bodyguard, who would be considered to live off the avails of prostitution.”

The Supreme Court gave Parliament one year to rethink the country’s prostitution laws.

Concordia Refutes Low Graduation Rate Cited by La Presse

An article published in the Jan. 3 issue of La Presse has been pulled from the French-language newspaper’s website after Concordia contested some of the facts it contained.

The article claimed Concordia’s graduation rate has fallen sharply in recent years. According to the article, 75 per cent of Concordia students who began their studies in 2001 had obtained their diplomas six years later, but by 2012, only 48 per cent of those students who entered Concordia six years earlier had graduated.

Such a graduation rate would put Concordia far behind other Quebec universities. According to the article, the Université du Québec à Montréal, the Université de Montréal and McGill University had completion rates of 68 per cent, 78 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively, for the cohort of students entering university in 2006.

But Concordia argues its graduation rate—actually 74.2 per cent for full-time undergraduates, according to the university—is favourable compared to the national average.

“This faulty information about graduation rates is the result of an error in interpreting the data provided to the newspaper,” reads a statement posted on Concordia’s website.

According to the university, the reporter compared 2006 graduation rates for full-time students to 2012 graduation rates for part-time students, leading to the incorrect conclusion that graduation rates had fallen drastically.

Student-Run Co-operative Café and New Administrative Jobs Discussed at December CSU Meeting

Councillors and executives of the Concordia Student Union were divided at the last council meeting of 2013 on the best way to create a new café on the Hall Building’s mezzanine in the location currently leased by Java U.

In the CSU’s November byelections, undergraduates voted 89 per cent in favour of giving the union a mandate to “establish or help found” a student-led co-operative café or restaurant in the space, which is managed and operated by the CSU’s for-profit arm, CUSACorp.

However, CUSACorp hopes to put out a request for proposals, a process that would see interested parties like non-profit organizations or businesses submit proposals to the CSU which would then be evaluated according to a predetermined set of criteria, such as whether the food will be locally sourced or the café would provide employment to students. CUSACorp would then ask students to vote on the different proposals received.

Councillors in favour of CUSACorp’s position argued that the referendum question in November unfairly presented voters with only two options—a student-led co-operative or a for-profit business like Java U. A CUSACorp report presented by VP Clubs and Internal James Tyler Vaccaro—also the chairperson of CUSACorp—at the council meeting argued “a method which allows for the CSU’s members to vote on various food service options empowers them in the decision and provides them with the opportunity to make an informed choice.”

VP Sustainability Benjamin Prunty told The Link that “[CUSACorp’s] recommendation was short-sighted and that adopting it would be in contravention of the Judicial Board’s reference decision.” The JB decided on Nov. 9 that the results of a referendum are binding on the CSU and that the CSU has the power under Quebec law as sole shareholders to issue directives to CUSACorp, despite the CSU’s own bylaws stating the union will respect CUSACorp’s autonomy.

“I have to be very firm in standing by the mandates that I get from students so long as they’re not injurious to other students,” CSU President Melissa Kate Wheeler told The Link.

“I think that there’s something to be said for the wording of the question. I think that the question excluded other alternatives and that’s definitely an issue, but I don’t see that as enough of a problem to move away from the heart of what that question was, which I think is pretty easily discernable—that [voters] want something student-run in the Java U space.”

Wheeler said she’d like to see interested individuals within the CSU work with CUSACorp to “install something student-run, local, healthy and cheap into that space, whenever it becomes available.”

The topic was eventually tabled until the next council meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 8.

The meeting also saw the union create three new paid positions: an events coordinator, a sustainability coordinator and a financial assistant. Wheeler said the goal is to assign some of the “non-political” administrative tasks currently performed by vice-presidents to union employees instead.

“There’s enough work that is purely administrative that we could create these positions safely,” Wheeler said.

“The point in all of this is to liberate, to a certain extent, the VPs to have more creativity, flexibility and whatnot in their own positions, because what we have found is that student unions with more staff get more done [and] have a higher project completion rate and a shorter time frame for those projects.”

Wheeler said the positions wouldn’t be filled this academic year as the current executive has only six months left in its mandate. However, next year’s executive will have the option to fill the positions, provided that it budgets for them.

“We’ve created these positions as an investment in the next executive,” said Wheeler.

—With files from Andrew Brennan