Henry Kissinger once said “the reason that university politics is so vicious is because the stakes are so small.” Was he right? We investigate.
Our case study is one of the most politically-engaged campuses in Canada: Concordia University, in Montreal, QC. This marks the twentieth anniversary of their tumultuous 2002/03 year. School started with a planned speaking event from Benjamin Netanyahu, the then former (and now current) Prime Minister of Israel. Pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police, and this event came to be know as “the Concordia Riot.” The fallout from that day defined how the school year proceeded, with heated council debates, media stunts, lawsuits, arrests, explosions, and a contentious student election. This was all captured in the extraordinary National Film Board documentary Discordia (2004), directed by Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal.
What you see in the film is indeed vicious, but were the stakes so small? We track down the people involved to find out. What did it all amount to? What did it mean personally, professionally, and politically? Where did everyone end up? Plus, you’ll hear the inside story from the directors themselves. Finally, we’ll ask a current a Concordia student activist how the events in Discordia compare with student activism today. Is student activism in the doldrums?