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October 24, 2002 Letters


We welcome your letters, opinions and comments at BC-121/1463 Bishop St., by fax (514-848-2814), or e-mail (barblak@alcor.concordia.ca) by 9 a.m. on the Friday prior to publication.

Students made fair a success

On November 2 and 3, Concordia, in collaboration with the Cultural Centre of Pointe Claire (Stewart Hall), sponsored the nineteenth annual Science and Technology Exhibition. It was attended by more than 1,500 visitors of all ages, and from all observations they appeared to have a good time. There were hands-on demonstartions from many departments, i.e., Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Psychology, Geography, Biology, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Buiding Engineering, Computer Studies, Digital Image and Sound.

The main factor in the success was the attitude and manner of the students who organized the exhibits and interacted with the visitors. They were superb! Every visitor was treated personally and with avid attention. Concordia was well represented by the students. They and their attitude are the main reason that I continue to be involved with this event. I am proud to be associated with them.
By way of this general letter I wish to thank them very sincerely for making this event a great success.

Robert Pallen, Associate Professor, (Retired), Chemistry and Biochemistry

CSU should take responsibility

The Concordia Student Union’s article which appeared in The Gazette on Nov. 11 (“Administration tries to mask its own incompetence”) is a perfect example of how the union continues to lobby for its own political agenda rather than the greater good of all students.

The student-run union cites its contempt for Rector Frederick Lowy’s administration and Concordia’s board of governors, but students are increasingly citing their own contempt for the CSU and are coming to realize that CSU policies and attitudes are part of the problem.

The CSU, rather than act in a responsible manner to ease tensions between student groups, has continued to inflame the situation by picking sides. In particular, the CSU continues to defend the violence at Concordia’s downtown campus on Sept. 9, during the scheduled Benjamin Netanyahu lecture.

Many members of the CSU were involved in the violence, and so it comes as no surprise that resources are being wasted to give moral and financial support to those who threatened the safety of peaceful protesters and lecture attendees.

The CSU has done a good job of blaming others — the administration, student groups and the board of governors — for the problems at Concordia. Maybe it’s time it accepted at least partial responsibility for the problems on campus and start working with students to ease the tension.

Steven Rosenshein, student, Economics

Professor Hubert Guindon will be deeply missed

Canada has lost one of its most perceptive and profound public intellectuals. Hubert Guindon died from cancer on October 18, 2002, at the age of 73.

Hubert epitomized in his words and deeds the Socratic ideal of “the considered life, ‘ which for him meant that a life well-lived was one enriched by thinking about things that mattered, and by writing about them with honesty, integrity and passion. He did not arrive at polished theories on all subjects, but he provided shape and direction in the essays that he wrote and in the lectures that he delivered. What he wrote was original, observant and often controversial. Hubert was a wise and kind man who taught me and others to feel more deeply, to hope and to trust in life and reason.

Hubert Guindon held a degree in Philosophy from the University of Ottawa and he studied Sociology at the University of Chicago. He held full-time academic appointments at the University of Montreal (1954-61) and at Concordia University (1962-94). He was a visiting professor at Carleton University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, the University of Toronto and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commercial in Montreal, and he delivered invited lectures in universities from coast to coast.

He is best known for his numerous works on Quebec’s bureaucratic revolution and the consequences it had on federal-provincial relations, the politics of language and the rise of nationalism in Quebec society. His book Quebec Society: Tradition, Modernity and Nationhood (1988) made the list of outstanding books in America and his articles are frequently cited and often reprinted in academic journals, edited books, popular magazines and newspapers.

Despite a healthy scepticism of modern institutions like the church, the state and the academy, Hubert Guindon was honoured by them all. He was a past president of the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, a member of the executive of the International Sociological Association and a distinguished member of the Royal Society of Canada. He served on numerous government commissions and community boards, including the Castonguay Task Force on Urbanization and the Pépin-Robarts Commission on Canadian Unity.

Towards the end of his life, he was an active participant on Le comité de prospectives de l’assembleé des évèques du Quebéc. His intellectual contributions were acknowledged in the Senate of Canada on October 22, 2002, and his funeral, held in the Chapelle du Sacré-Coeur à la Basilique Notre-Dame de Montreal, was presided over by the arch-bishop of Quebec and attended by hundreds of his friends, family, colleagues and students.

I first met Hubert Guindon in 1969. He was my teacher and later the supervisor of my MA thesis. Over the years he taught me many things: loyalty is best given to people not institutions; happiness depends on wisdom and the autonomy of mind to make one’s own choices; the impulse to revenge is strong and understandable, but is best avoided in favour of forebearance; courage and hope are essential to living and thinking and they depend crucially on perseverance in adverse circumstances; and humour is a most important pedagogical device - it disarms moralizers and disrupts unconsidered thinking.

I will always remember Hubert as a great educator who taught his students how to see and think more clearly. He provided us with cognitive maps - sketch diagrams - that anchored informed perceptions and fostered critical thought. A radical sceptic by nature, he also believed passionately in the human spirit, which he said should be valorized and celebrated even though human kind was the author of much cruelty and misery. To that end, he was a great advocate for social justice for many people and causes: the poor, the sick, unfairly dismissed workers, wronged colleagues and students and next-door neighbors in need of his wise counsel and generous spirit.

My most abiding memory of Hubert is him conversing to groups of students and colleagues in his house, his body slouched forward off the chair, his left knee almost touching the floor, talking beyond our comprehension and with a gentle touch of his arm enjoining us to see the world beyond our eyes.

In the last week of May, I travelled from Halifax to see him for what was to be the last time. We spent a wonderful afternoon dining and talking at his favorite neighborhood restaurant. He was a bit gaunt and pale from the cancer treatments and the recent loss of his dear sister. But his sense of humour was razor-sharp. He joked about his doctors and the care he was receiving and about the pettiness of university administrators. He told me that he felt a lightness of being. He had made some compromises with some of his demons. He had put his life in order and was preparing for the last farewells. I asked him if he feared death. “No,” he said, “only dying, because its for the living, but then you have to accept it, that is how you go on.”

The fundamental question for us who are left to grieve is how to learn to live with his absence and go on ourselves. For those who were his close friends, colleagues and students this will be no easy matter. For the moment, I find consolation in the simple facts that Hubert Guindon once lived and that he was loved by many people who mourned his passing and shared their loss of him. So in this sense his presence can never be removed from time, which is to say there is a sort of eternity after all.

John L. McMullan, Professor of Sociology & Criminology, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax

More members defend CUPFA

I am writing in relation to a letter you recently published from a part-time faculty member in the Theater Department. The letter was itself a response to an earlier article by Carol McQueen that focused on the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor conference at Concordia in early October, as well as the key issues to be addressed at the COCAL event.

As a part-time faculty member and one of the CUPFA hiring representatives in the Music Department, I have to disagree with a number of the points Ms. Bligh made in her response.

First and foremost, her assertion that a strong part-time union at Concordia protects “time servers” more than it promotes high professional and pedagogic standards seems gratuitous at best. Without any argument to back up her claim, Ms. Bligh makes a blanket statement that would imply, if extended to one of many other strongly unionized areas, that the guild protecting Montreal Symphony Orchestra musicians fosters similar mediocrity and low levels of performance amongst its members.

Moreover, above and beyond its role as an advocate for fair working conditions, CUPFA provides, on a yearly basis, generous professional development grants that permit its members to attend conferences, launch special research-related projects, etc., and thus acts as a net promoter of academic excellence at the university.

A second part of the letter that I must take issue with concerns the example of office space allocation problems affecting part-timers, the addressing of which was cited by Ms. Bligh as “storm-in-a-teacup complaining,” and as emblematic of the type of trivial harping that makes the Association an embarrassment to her.

Having experienced the types of supposedly inconsequential difficulties she refers to (e.g., being unable to listen to and discuss a student’s recorded assignment in our part-time office because other professors are simulataneously consulting with their students), I find the example itself anything but insignificant.

But beyond the particular point, how can one criticize one’s union for pursuing the matters — both broad and more narrow in scope — that have an impact on its members? If the larger issues were being neglected by CUPFA, one might raise objections, but the writer herself admits that she has benefited from the excellent work the Association has done in protecting all of our livelihoods and in creating the type of environment professional teachers need to survive and enjoy their work over the long term.

Contrary to what was expressed in Ms. Bligh’s letter, I am proud to be a CUPFA member, and have every confidence that the Association will successfully negotiate an even better collective agreement for us.

Michael Pinsonneault, Music and Communication Studies

It is unfortunate that Ms. Bligh of the Theatre Department (Letters, CTR, Oct. 24) feels that there is no debate within CUPFA. Given the self-righteous tone of her letter, it occurs to us that if the tone of debate needed to be raised, she could have taken advantage of the opportunities organized by CUPFA in general meetings or in the special meetings held for Fine Arts members. Regrettably, she has neither attended now contributed a useful idea at any such gathering.

As fellow Fine Arts faculty members, we resent her suggestion that artist practitioners should be resigned to a workplace situation where there is little hope of job security. She appears to subscribe to a 19th-century view where artists were viewed as bohemian outsiders, gifted intuitives doomed by fate to struggle in poverty. Why, we ask, when other members of the academic community see their years of dedicated service rewarded by job security, should career artists and fine art academics who are also part-time faculty members, accept such a disenfranchised status?

As practicing artists who are also committed teachers, we further resent Ms Blight's inference that professionalism and academic excellence are not flourishing within Concordia's present system. Indeed our Fine Arts Faculty enjoys an outstanding Canada-wide reputation, and this is due, in part, to the contributions of its large proportion of part-time faculty.

Within our own particular area of Studio Arts, many of those whom Ms Bligh disparages as “time-servers” have earned professional recognition that has come in such forms as the Order of Canada, major museum exhibitions as well as vibrant local, national and international careers.
Although Ms Bligh may so stridently “demur,” many of us do believe that CUPFA provides “intelligent and appropriate” representation and healthy debate. Although no university institution is faultless, we realize that CUPFA provides the kind of leadership that continues to improve our situation. If Ms Bligh wishes to appear credible, why has she not availed herself of the above-mentioned opportunities to provide CUPFA with her input?

Liliana Berezowsky, Elise Bernatchez, Harlan Johnson (Studio Arts)

It is clear that Ms. Bligh has no experience with labour negotiations. In fact, I do not recall her bothering to attend the COCAL V Conference, something that might have changed her attitude and educated her regarding the leadership CUPFA plays in labour rights for part-time faculty in North America, let alone in Quebec or within our university. People who choose to throw stones should have a professional outlook and check on standards established at other universities. They should certainly not live in glass cocoons.

Over 215 educational labour leaders and unions were represented at this conference, which focused on the rights of part-time faculty. There were all kinds of meaningful workshops, including one on fine arts to which I participated as a panelist.

Job security was viewed as central to all the unions representing part-time faculty in North America. In fact, part-time faculty unions in Quebec are currently negotiating their collective agreements, and along with CUPFA, job security is a key concern to all of them. The suggestion that CUPFA abandon job security as an issue is tantamount to being irresponsible to all the members, particularly to those of us in fine arts. It would become the only part-time faculty union in North America to do so.

May I suggest that Ms Bligh consider leaving for the greener pastures of a non-unionized university such as McGill. At least there her greatness in teaching will be appreciated according to the standards and working conditions that she most certainly deserves. As for the rest of us in Fine Arts, we will continue to support our Association, which has done more than a yeoman's job in advancing our most urgent concerns. Job security and some stability ARE what we need.

Louise Samson, Music