Talking with Concordia President Alan Shepard

Photo Brandon Johnston

With the range of topics that preoccupy the Concordia community being so vast, it’s nice to set the record straight with someone in charge.

The Link sat down with Concordia president Alan Shepard last week in his office on the eighth floor of the Guy-Metro Building for his views on some of the more pressing and talked-about issues this fall.

The Divestment Campaign

Although many students are calling for immediate divestment, it’s an issue that needs to be examined carefully, Shepard said.

The university’s foundation has been in discussions with students about the issue since last fall.

Concordia is looking at environmentally conscious investment opportunities that could produce returns as large as investments in fossil fuel companies—returns Shepard says the university uses for bursaries.

One of the options is to invest in sustainable mutual funds, Shepard said, noting that although he hadn’t looked into it closely, they tended to be successful.

“But you don’t have to persuade me. You have to persuade a group of independent people who are on our foundation,” he added.

Environmental activist Bill McKibben, who spoke at Concordia last week, compared the movement advocating divestment from fossil fuels to the anti-apartheid movement that encouraged divestment from South Africa in the 1980s, the president said.

“I’m not quite sure that the analogy holds,” Shepard said, explaining that the movement was at its peak during his time as a student, striking a cord when he was reminded about it by McKibben.

“I’m not sure an analogy between the direct oppression of millions of people—there’s something different, I’m not sure exactly what.”

Sexual Consent Workshops

The Centre for Gender Advocacy is calling for mandatory consent workshops to be given to all students who live in residence and Jennifer Drummond, the coordinator at Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre, has told The Link they would be “really interesting to look into [it].”

But Shepard says he thinks they may not be effective.

“Saying it’s mandatory, in my view, actually can diminish its effectiveness, that’s one thing,” he said.

“And the second is I don’t want to single out all the people who live in our residences, which is about 900 students now.”

McGill University holds mandatory workshops for its students in residence through a program called the McGill Rez Project.

Quebec’s Liberal Government

The Quebec Liberal Party formed government following the provincial elections on April 7, and Shepard says he’s happy with the new education minister, Yves Bolduc.

He added, however, that the university is grappling with severe cuts under the Liberals’ first budget, calling them “compressions throughout the land.”

He said Concordia is working out where it will have to cut, but that the university’s primary mission is “to provide an instruction environment for students and research environment for students and faculty that meets our objectives.”

“We’re trying to protect that area as much as we can,” he said. “We’re seeing a loss of revenue for the year we’re in right now—it’s inevitable.”