A ‘Disorienting’ Start of Semester

QPIRG Concordia Presents Social Justice Issues to Students

Jaggi Singh during the 2010 walking tour of Concordia. Singh will conduct a similar tour during this year’s Disorientation. Photo Justin Giovannetti

The Quebec Public Interest Research Group at Concordia is promising to show new and returning students a different side of university life at its annual Disorientation week, which takes place from Sept. 23 to Sept. 30 this year.

According to Jaggi Singh, QPIRG Concordia’s working groups and programming coordinator, this alternative orientation is an opportunity to get acquainted with social justice issues. He describes it as a “week-long series of events [that] tries to emphasize different ways that people can get involved.”

The goal, he said, is to get more people to participate in the different student groups at Concordia that battle against oppression with the aim of social justice and equality for all.

Singh told The Link that QPIRG Concordia is comprised of hundreds of members spread out in over 30 working groups. The non-profit organization, which is well over two decades old, is “essentially a social justice centre on campus,” he said.

“We make links between the campus and community around social justice issues,” he added.

QPIRG Concordia receives a fee levy of 31 cents per credit for undergraduate students and 50 cents per semester for graduate students. Singh said the funding gives the organization the resources to hold events like Disorientation, as well as publish an undergraduate research journal and hold a research conference every year.

According to Singh, most of the working groups that are part of QPIRG Concordia will be featured during the week at a variety of events, and anyone interested in social justice issues will be sure to find at least one event that sparks their interest.

Mad Pride Montreal, one of the working groups associated with the organization, will host the Mad Hatter Tea Party on Sept. 24, a workshop dedicated to mental health.

A walking tour of Concordia on Wednesday hopes to teach attendees about social justice struggles at the university, including a 1969 student occupation protesting against racial discrimination—which eventually ended in $3 million in damages to the university’s computer centre—and the 2002 riot against then former, now current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech at the university.

Students and members of the community can learn more about the many fee-levy groups on campus whose focus is on social justice at a fair in Norman Bethune Square on de Maisonneuve Boulevard on Sept. 26.

Among those groups in attendance will be the student-run collective People’s Potato, which will provide every student’s favourite thing—free food.

“The motivation for [the fair] was about space and sort of reclaiming [the] square,” said Singh. “It’s a central space on [the] downtown campus and it’s great for us to use it.”

Singh said that the idea isn’t just to have a few people there to promote “weird political ideas,” but rather to “use [the space] as members of the community and campus to engage, to talk and to interact.”

A bike tour of historically working-class neighbourhoods near Concordia on Sept. 27 will “discuss historical struggles for social and environmental justice in Montreal, as well as contemporary campaigns related to accessible public spaces,” according to QPIRG Concordia’s website.

Most of the events are accessible to those with disabilities, and QPIRG also tries to make whisper translation available for all events not taking place in French, Singh said.

“[QPIRG Concordia] has a mandate that emphasizes anti-oppression, and one part of the expression of anti-oppression politics is the commitment to accessibility in all its forms,” he said. “Physical accessibility, but other forms as well.”