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  • We called it.

    Published on October 5th, 2010.

  • Too Sensational?

    This week’s cover of The Link asked the question, “The Death of ASFA?”

    With a movement within the Arts and Science Federation of Associations calling for accreditation for individual members, the cover asked if ASFA, as it currently exists, could die?

    Its a fair question to ask. Despite its name, ASFA now exists as a student association and not a federation. What this means is that ASFA’s current structure treats the member associations (groups without accreditation or any legal power outside of ASFA) as committees. The main interview subject, Bruno Joyal, said it himself. With the reform that Joyal is proposing, ASFA would be flipped on its head and would go from being a small student union-type structure into a body of deliberation and coordination across the 27 MAs.

    This would be the end of ASFA as we know it.

    Without any warning or consultation with The Link, and without any complaints or concerns voiced from anyone at ASFA, including President Aaron Green, Joyal used The Link’s website as a platform to call the article a piece of “sensationalist journalism,” he mentioned that the piece was “distorted,” and a part of the newspaper’s “radical political agenda.” Joyal also libelously stated that the article had a “quite large” number of factual errors—there was one error, where the word “accreditation” was used instead of the word “incorporation.” The error was fixed in the web edition.

    Joyal also tried to distance himself from the cover idea, in case anyone thought he had any editorial sway at the newspaper.

    I can tell you that Joyal, who approached The Link with the article in an email (attached below) and thanked The Link after the article was published (also attached below), had nothing to do with The Link’s editorial policy last week or any other week before it. In fact, the use of the word Independent on The Link’s cover means that no politician at Concordia, including a politician like Joyal, has any say whatsoever on the content of The Link.

    Joyal seems to have a very skewed view of journalism, where journalists are stenographers of his “constructive ideas” or can do no contacting of other organizations or analysis. Journalists are neither of the three: they are not stenographers, they are capable of using a method of external communication and they are capable of analysis. I would also add that the 14 members of The Link’s masthead are quite capable of making decisions for themselves, as they have for the past 18 issues of this volume, and as they will do for the last 12.

    If Joyal or Green have any comments or questions for The Link they can contact the newspaper. We also have a very forgiving letters policy. However we won’t print libel, online or off.

    —Justin Giovanneti

    Bruno Joyal’s comment on The Link’s website

    I’d like to point out that I, or any other executive of any other association, have absolutely nothing to do with the “death of ASFA” idea. It’s nothing but sensationalist journalism, as Aaron says.

    The interview I gave was balanced and I was only concerned with sharing constructive ideas. I am surprised that the emphasis was put on an idea (the “death” of ASFA) which nobody but the journalist had in mind and which certainly never came up in the interview I gave. I spoke about reforms and not about “death”, whatever that word could mean (dissolution? give me a break!).

    Also, the number of factual errors in the article is quite large. For example, the article begins by stating that we requested accreditation; we didn’t, since we haven’t even had a poll yet. I was clear about this.

    I am also sorry that other associations were mentioned in an article they essentially had nothing to do with. The Link has its own radical political agenda which the current situation was distorted to fit.

    However, I stand by whatever I said which is explicitly quoted in the article.

    Bruno Joyal

    Bruno Joyal’s email to The Link after publication

    from Bruno Joyal
    sender-time Sent at 3:46 PM (GMT-05:00). Current time there: 6:42 PM.
    to Justin Giovannetti
    date Tue, Nov 30, 2010 at 3:46 PM
    subject Article

    Hi Justin,

    thank you very much for the article. It is appreciated!

    We are not as radical as the cover makes it seem, and we haven’t filed for accreditation yet (only for incorporation). However, I think the article is good and it will force students to think.

    thanks a million, I will keep you informed.

    all the best,

    Bruno Joyal
    Undergraduate Student Representative (Pure & Applied Mathematics)
    Concordia University

    Bruno Joyal’s pitch email to The Link

    from Bruno Joyal
    sender-time Sent at 8:15 PM (GMT-05:00). Current time there: 6:40 PM.
    date Wed, Nov 24, 2010 at 8:15 PM
    subject Regarding departmental student associations


    First, I would like to thank you and to congratulate you for the recent series of articles concerning the “student centre” project. I believe your paper did an excellent job at exposing the numerous issues behind the fee levy increase. It’s my opinion that, ultimately, the articles will have played a decisive role – many students mentioned them to me, which is quite unusual.

    I would like to invite you to turn your attention to the current situation of the departmental student associations at Concordia. (What I have to say is mostly about the student associations of the Faculty of Arts & Science, i.e. those which fall under ASFA, but from what I know, it applies to other faculties as well to various extents.) For the moment, most, if not all, of the student associations have no legal status whatsoever. They are merely “member associations” of their respective umbrella association, as described in the umbrella’s By-Laws.

    In many universities in Quebec, such as UQAM and Université de Montréal, each student association is a non-profit organization, run like a company whose students are the shareholders. This has the effect of rendering the association essentially independent from its umbrella association, and much more liable towards its members, the students. A student association which is a non-profit organization can also seek the government’s accreditation. Accreditation is a process by which the Government, following a successful polling of the student body, recognizes the legitimacy of the association. This has the effect of allowing the student association to establish an assessment (i.e. a fee levy), which is to be paid by the students to their organization.

    At Concordia, however, only the larger associations, like ASFA, are accredited. This means that, for the moment, only these large associations can be directly funded by the students. Smaller associations, such as department-specific associations, are encouraged to seek membership into the larger ones, so as to obtain funding. The resulting situation is that all of the fees paid by students to their associations are received at the top of the chain, by CSU and by the Faculty associations. These “federations” (which are not federations in the sense of the Act respecting the accreditation and financing of students’ associations), are then, in theory, supposed to take these funds and split them up, somewhat arbitrarily, between their “member associations” (of course not before taking a large share, such as 50%).

    The result is that small associations, which are the closest to the student body and which are, in effect, the only associations responsible for maintaining student life (inasmuch as frosh is not part of student life), become completely dependent financially upon the larger associations to function properly. The large associations are very much aware of this situation, but they profit from it financially, so they do not loosen their grip easily. For example, one of ASFA’s By-Laws states that its member associations may not levy their own fee! This is completely against the purpose of the Accreditation Act, if not outright illegal. This means that departmental associations, which are run for free by elected volunteers, often end up wasting their energy by fighting for funds rather than using it constructively to enrich student life.
    For the moment, it is the Financial Comittee of ASFA, composed of six people, which decides, at its descretion (this is written, word for word, in the By-Laws), of the allocation of 18 000 students’ money.

    My association (MASSA, the Math & Stat student association) has decided that this situation is outright ridiculous, and that it should change quickly. We informed ourselves about the accreditation process, and we have decided to go through with it – to our knowledge, this is an unprecedented event at Concordia. This week, our intentions spread by word of mouth, and now many other associations have decided to seek accreditation (I can’t say how many yet, but there has been one more every day for the past few days). We believe that a true revolution has begun, and that the way student associations are run and funded at Concordia is about to change dramatically.

    I would be glad to know what you guys think about this, and perhaps provide you with some further information should you like to write about it. Perhaps Mr. Ethan Cox, who is probably aware of the situation already to some extent, might be particularly interested.

    Thank you for your great work, keep it up!

    Bruno Joyal
    Undergraduate Student Representative (Pure & Applied Mathematics)
    Concordia University

  • Imitation

    The sincerest form of flattery.

    The Link’s cover was published on August 24th. The Montreal Mirror’s was published on October 28th.

  • Full Transcript of the Interview With Alexander MacLeod

    • Light Lifting Alexander MacLeod Biblioasis Press 219 pp $19.95

    Alex Manley conducted an email interview with Canadian author Alexander MacLeod for “Short Listing,” published in The Link’s Oct. 19 issue. Here’s the full transcript of that interview, touching on MacLeod’s experiences as both son and father, how being shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize has changed his life, and the process of writing his debut short story collection, Light Lifting.

    The Link: Has being shortlisted affected your day-to-day life much? Do you expect that things will subside at some point—in December, in February, by the time the next Gillers roll around? Or do you not have time to think ahead?

    Alexander MacLeod: I would have to say that, yes, the Giller news has affected my life. Before the news came down, we were just planning on nursing the book along, one reader and one copy at a time, and hoping, maybe, for some good ‘word of mouth’ reactions to move it on its way. I think we thought, it might take a few months or even more than a year before people really even knew the book existed. Instead, all of that happened in one day. I got the book on a Saturday evening, I read it for the first time on Sunday, and the announcement was made on Monday morning. We’ve been chasing after it ever since and all the outside attention has definitely changed our routine at home. We’ve managed okay, thanks to the generosity of my wife and our adaptable kids, but it’s a good problem to have and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I think this will slow down after the 9th, when it’s all over, but up to that day, the day-to-day activities are pretty intense.

    Wayne Gretzky’s son Trevor recently committed to playing baseball in college. You, however, followed in your father’s writerly footsteps. You said in a recent interview with the National Post that you never talked to your father about writing, though. Do you think that made it easier for you to grow into your own as a writer?

    My parents raised six kids and I think they had a good strategy for dealing with whatever creative endeavours their children sought to pursue. My mom and dad didn’t purposely ignore my writing and they certainly would have helped me out if I had asked, but they also understood and respected how important it was to give me, or the rest of my brothers and my sister, enough room to do our own work in our own ways. There’s a lot of variety in what we’ve produced and I think that comes from letting each person figure out their own relationship with the material they care about most.

    Another thing you discussed in the Post interview was that “life” had delayed the release of the book, which is your first. Did the “big hotshot young guy” writer in you worry about the years slipping by or were you confident that your work would find an audience regardless of when it came out?

    No, I didn’t worry about that stuff. I’ve had the stories, most of them, with me for many years, and I knew the first ones weren’t going to change too much in the collection. That being said, pulling the book together during this last year was actually a very strange experience because it was like going back in time and introducing one version of myself, the guy who wrote the early stories, to the guy I am now, the person who wrote the most recent pieces. It was weird because each separate story was completely its own project but it was only when they were pushed up against each other that I saw all the common threads flowing between them, currents of concerns that had been there for more than a decade, running under the surface. It was surprising to me to discover that that the book might come together like that, cohere in a way I never expected it would.

    The Giller citation for Light Lifting characterized the stories as being very focused on physical sensation. I found that to be almost overwhelmingly the case. Everywhere your characters are grounded in the physical world through struggles of varying degrees of intensity—checking for lice, learning to swim, training to run, cycling for work, lifting light loads of bricks. Was that an intentional choice for the collection or is that something that occurs naturally in your writing?

    It wasn’t intentional but I think it’s just the way that I see things. I was interested in looking at different moments of decision or choice and those moments are usually pretty intense on the emotional, intellectual and even physical levels. I wanted the choices to matter in a fairly substantial way so I think that’s why the physical element is there. With the athletes, it’s obvious that every significant action will be expressed physically – that’s the difference between the 3:36 or the 3:39 1500m – but with the young family or the elderly people in the book, I wanted to explore how their lives, and their decisions, are also governed by those sorts of forces. An old lady who refuses to be institutionalized and won’t give up on her house is backing up her emotional desire with a physical action. Every time she goes out to shovel the sidewalk by herself she’s doing and saying something with that movement; same thing for the young couple who have to change stinky diapers or check for lice or take the kid to the hospital. Their love for their children or their love for each other takes on a physical manifestation. We can see and learn something about the full depth of their emotional commitment by monitoring their actions, the way they move through their worlds.

    The stories are very Windsor-centered, perhaps nowhere more so than in the final one, “The Number Three,” which does a great job of making something (the history of GM [sic] minivans) that might otherwise seem mundane into a compelling thread that really enriches a story that is essentially about family ties and post-traumatic emotional survival. Since you grew up in Windsor, did you have to do extensive research about all this car manufacturing jargon or was that something that you were to some degree aware of one way or another before you started writing the story?

    Better be careful with that question. It’s the Chrysler mini-van we’re talking about, here. (Ha). Details like that matter in a place like Windsor. Yes, I did some research on the generational changes that the Caravan went through from the 80’ to the present, and I was interested in the way they’ve kept re-designing it and re-engineering it to fit a slightly different segment of the market; but I was mostly interested in trying to puzzle through the relationship between the protagonist and this object he’s worked on for so much of his life. Even the names they put on the van felt significant to me: Grand Caravan, Magic Wagon, Voyager, Town and Country. They seemed almost saturated with meaning. I never worked in that plant, but plenty of my friends and relatives did and continue to. My publisher Dan Wells worked in there for seven years, following in the footsteps of his Dad. The place, that plant, and the thing it produces, that van, matter to almost everybody in Windsor and I was trying to think about how we are all connected to this object whether we work on it directly or not. I drive a 2000 Grand Caravan and I sometimes feel weird just sitting inside it because I know exactly where it comes from and I think I probably know quite a few of the people who made this actual vehicle, though no trace of their effort remains.

    It’s remarkable the way you manage to balance having seven narrators (well, 5 and 2 non-narrator protagonists) who all sound and feel just the right amount of different from each other and the right amount of similar to each other. How much did you focus on balancing the stories against each other? Did you have to make sure certain aspects of one didn’t bleed into another?

    That was almost completely accidental. I didn’t want to tell the same story seven times and I wanted there to be some real variety inside the book, but other than fiddling with the order of the stories, we didn’t really try to set up that ‘similar but different’ feel –it just happened.

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