Archive for Jane Switzer
Crawling through slush isn’t harmless fun
The Ryerson Engineering Student Society was caught with its pants down last week, and president Sheldon Levy isn’t happy. In a statement, Levy described a YouTube video shot by a concerned passersby depicting underwear-clad engineering frosh week leader hopefuls crawling across the slushy campus as a “departure from dignity” and contrary to the university’s principles. In the video, the hopefuls are screamed at as they crawl across the man-made pond in the centre of campus known as Lake Devo. At one point, a male student spanks a crawling female.
Levy’s comments were met with predictable backlash accusing Ryerson of being the fun police, but he’s right. Events like this aren’t “harmless” or “fun.” Incidents of public humiliation never are. When I was a student at Ryerson, I wouldn’t cut across Lake Devo wearing a sturdy pair of shoes. Watching students in the video drag their limbs through the grimy slush just made me shiver.
A Ryerson graduate shares some advice
I’ll never forget my first week of journalism school.
Fresh out of Queen’s University’s English program, I entered Ryerson University’s Master of Journalism program in the fall of 2010 with a stint as co-editor of the Queen’s Journal and two solid internships—at the Kingston Whig-Standard and Maclean’s—under my belt.
Ryerson’s serious-looking website promised a hands-on, “rigorous and intensive” program. I was only 21, and I figured I’d be competing for lucrative paid internships alongside people with diverse but equal, if not better, experience. It was called a ‘master’s degree’ after all.
It wasn’t meant to be. During my first reporting class, the instructor mentioned in passing the “lede,” basic newsroom shorthand for the first sentence of an article because it (surprise!) leads the story. One of my classmates raised her hand. “Um, what’s a lede?”
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Astronauts, McGill’s budget cuts and UBC’s animal research
1. McGill University’s board of governors spoke out for the first time Thursday on the Parti Québécois government’s mandate to cut $20-million in spending by April, and the CBC reports their response is pretty clear: They’re not gonna take it. McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum told the CBC the cuts are “draconian, unpredictable, [and] ineffective.” Quebec’s universities are under order to cut $120-million in the next four months, but McGill is in a particular pickle: the university’s budget was set last spring, before the student protests against tuition hikes that consumed Montreal and led PQ leader Pauline Marois to announce a tuition freeze in September. McGill contends the cuts are impossible, and is board is asking the provincial government to revoke the cuts and honour its original commitment to the school’s budget.
2. The University of British Columbia released 2011 data on animals involved in its research today, reporting a total of 225,043 animal used in research in 2011, up from 211,604 in 2010. The university’s animal research wing has received negative attention in the past (particularly from a 2010 report from the Canadian Council on Animal Care), but The Province reports that university scientists defended their work at a media briefing before the data was released, pointing to medical advancements made as a result of animal testing. The 2011 report says the majority of the animals used in 2011 were rodents, reptiles, fish and amphibians. UBC’s vice-president of research told The Province sometimes there are no other alternatives: “Animal research is not going away at this time.”
Puppy parties, NHL lockout and the plot to kill Bieber
1. If you’ve fallen into an exam stress hole and your university doesn’t offer the burgeoning (and cute) service of dog therapy, watch this video – you can’t possibly be in a bad mood after watching a man high-five a Labradoodle. CBC Edmonton reports that the University of Alberta is the latest Canadian school jumping on the dog therapy wagon – and it’s wildly popular. Students lined up down the hallway for a chance to play with the pups, and a university official told CBC they hope to make the visits an ongoing program throughout the year.
2. In a bid to improve the college experience for LGBT students, the AP reports that the University of Iowa has become the first U.S. public university to pose options question about sexual orientation and gender on its application. The application asks students whether they “identify with the LGBTQ Community” among other optional questions, data the university hopes to use to gauge how well LGBT students feel supported. If a student answers yes to the question, Iowa’s admissions office will also e-mail them with information on housing options and campus resources.The AP reports that the only other U.S. college to track LGBT students is Elmhurst College, a private liberal-arts school in suburban Chicago.
The pope’s first tweet, Mount Royal’s money woes and beer for your cold
1. Stressed out from exams and warding off a cold? Drink beer! The National Post writes that Japan’s Sapporo Breweries is promoting a study that says hops, a key ingredient in beer, may have respiratory virus-fighting powers. Researchers at Sapporo Medical University (a partner in research, but no relation to the brewery) found that humulone, a chemical compound found in hops, helps protect against cold-like symptoms in adults and more serious illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis viruses in children. Note: Do not actually guzzle IPAs for breakfast. Sapporo researcher Jun Fuchimoto told the AFP that someone would have to drink around 30 350-mL cans for the beer to have any anti-viral effect.
2. On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI joined well-known Twitter user Jesus and sent out his first tweet “in perhaps the most drawn out Twitter launch ever,” the Associated Press reports via CBC. The ceremony included a proclamation as the 85-year-old pontiff tapped the screen of an iPad: “And now the pope will tweet!” The inaugural papal message: “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.” Aw. At last count, the pontiff’s English @Pontifex account was closing in on 850,000 followers. Bad news for anyone hoping to hit up the pope via direct message: The Vatican told AP the pontiff won’t actually write his own tweets.
Four-year suspension lifted
Following a four-year suspension to curb rowdy partying, property damage and injuries, Queen’s University will reinstate its annual homecoming weekend next year.
Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf announced Tuesday the alumni gathering will be held on two weekends in the fall of 2013, Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 18-20.
The university announced a two-year suspension the event in November 2008 following a raucous September weekend that saw 140 arrests, 700 liquor charges and 23 severely intoxicated people sent to the emergency room as an estimated 8,000 partiers crowded onto Aberdeen Street, a two-block stretch of student housing. The annual event gained notoriety in 2005 after revelers jammed the street in droves, smashing beer bottles and lighting a flipped car on fire. In 2010, Woolf further delayed the return of homecoming by three years.
University dean suspended, Christmas cards for criminals and more Ikea monkey
1. Your obligatory Darwin the monkey news roundup: In a little over two days since his spontaneous romp through a Toronto Ikea parking lot, the rhesus macaque monkey has achieved international celebrity, even getting the Daily Mail treatment usually reserved for footballers’ wives. Darwin is headed for a sanctuary northeast of Toronto, but the Canadian Press reports that his owner wants him back. Enough monkey business – get back to studying.
2. The University of Windsor announced Monday that education dean Clinton Beckford has been suspended “in recognition of an academic integrity breach involving plagiarism.” University of Windsor president Alan Wildeman told the Windsor Star Beckford will return as “a contributing member of the faculty,” though not as dean, but wouldn’t say how the incident came to the university’s attention. Beckford’s unpaid suspension will last until June 30, 2014.
Project will cost an estimated $70-million
Queen’s University announced today it will construct two new residences by fall 2015, adding 550 beds to accommodate a growing student body – and overflowing campus.
The university said in a release the new residences are needed to accommodate a “modest” increase in first-year admission for fall 2012. Queen’s previously expanded the Waldron Tower residence hall and currently leases rooms for graduate students at the downtown Confederation Place Hotel. The Queen’s Journal has reported over the last few years that common rooms have gone the way of the dinosaurs as enrollment at Queen’s has increased.
Construction on the new residences will start next year. Queen’s currently estimates the project will cost $70 million.
Bonus for future first-year students: The new space means about 20 common rooms in existing residences will be restored – and so will weekly Bachelor watching nights.
Pot brownies, grassy libraries and a monkey loose at Ikea
1. Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana use in November, but feeding it to unsuspecting classmates is a half-baked plan. On Saturday, two University of Colorado at Boulder students were arrested after their professor and five classmates fell ill from unknowingly eating “marijuana-laced brownies.” University police spokesman Ryan Huff told Reuters that Thomas Cunningham, 21, and Mary Essa, 19, brought the brownies as part of a pre-exam “bring food to class” day, and that police were called after the professor complained of dizziness and drifted “in and out of consciousness.” Three of the people who ate the brownies were hospitalized, but have since been released.
2. Speaking of pot brownies, shoppers at a Toronto Ikea undoubtedly rubbed their eyes in disbelief on Sunday afternoon when a tiny monkey clad in a diaper and faux shearling coat turned up in the parking garage at the North York store. The Toronto Star reports that the monkey, later identified as Darwin, somehow managed to escape from his owner’s car. Darwin was on the lamb for about half an hour before being captured by Toronto Animal Services. Darwin’s owner, who turned himself in and signed the monkey over to the care of Animal Services, was fined $240 for owning a prohibited animal. The little guy is already a social media sensation: Twitter parody accounts @IKEAmonkey and @Ikea_monkey popped up hours after the escapade.
Why some students stick around school
Exams are wrapping up, and university campuses across Canada are emptying out for the winter break. But as The Canadian Press reminds us, not everyone goes home for the holiday season: family drama, lack of downtime, distance and and high airline costs (though, at least in the future they’ll be less deceptive high airline costs) are just some of the reasons students stay at school.
But it isn’t all bad: many students travel, spend time with friends, explore new traditions and bake. And, as the article notes, some universities host events for stranded students yearning for a home-cooked meal:
For the past 12 years, Concordia University in Montreal has hosted a dinner soiree. The school invites all of its 4,700 foreign students, and the first 300 to respond are treated to a three-course meal.
If you go to Queen’s University, the International Centre is hosting a holiday networking tea on Dec. 20.
Are you staying at school for the holidays? Share your on-campus plans.
Word received ‘unprecedented’ number of searches: Merriam-Webster
English majors, take note: Merriam-Webster has chosen pragmatic as its top word of 2011.
On Dec. 15, the American dictionary publisher announced its annual top-10 list, determined by the volume of searches on their online dictionary. Pragmatic, an adjective that means “practical as opposed to idealistic,” received an “unprecedented” number of searches throughout the year.
Merriam-Webster says search trends are often influenced by economic and political conditions. In 2011, the words ambivalence, insidious, didactic, austerity, diversity, socialism, vitriol and “après moi le déluge” topped the list—influenced in some part, no doubt, by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
What do you think, Canadian wordsmiths? Should pragmatic be the top word of 2011?
Canadian university researchers among international team
Two teams of nearly 3,000 scientists from around the world, including researchers from 10 Canadian universities, announced this week a new milestone in the hunt for the Higgs boson, a particle that explains the existence of mass.
Scientists at the CERN Physics Research Centre in Geneva, Switzerland presented evidence on Dec. 13 pointing to the existence of the Higgs boson, coined the “God particle” by the American Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman.
The teams worked independently for 21 months inside the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, to re-create the conditions at the time of the creation of the universe—the Big Bang. The experiments produced the same results: scientists determined that the Higgs boson has a mass between 128 and 525 gigaelectron volts, in the lower regions of the energy field.
The researchers are quick to point out that the news another step in the process, not a definitive discovery. Still, University of Toronto physicist Robert Orr tells the Toronto Star we owe a lot to the elusive Higgs boson: “The whole world we live in is based on the science of electromagnetism. Our whole society has evolved from that: iPads, cameras, lights, computers.”
Researchers say meteorites fell over Selwyn, Ont.
Astronomers from the University of Western Ontario released a rare video Wednesday of a meteor falling from the sky just east of Toronto.
The footage was captured just after 6 p.m. on Monday evening by six video surveillance cameras belonging to Western’s Southern Ontario Meteor Network. The basketball-sized meteor was first spotted over Lake Erie and moved toward the north-northeast ending just south of the town of Selwyn, Ont., according to a news released from the university. Researchers say it likely sprinkled small meteorites over the area east of Selwyn near the eastern side of Upper Stony Lake.
Peter Brown, the director of Western’s Centre for Planetary and Space Exploration, says the occurrence is rare—only about a dozen meteorite falls have had their orbits measured by cameras. That’s why researchers at Western and the Royal Ontario Museum are interested in hearing from anyone who may witnessed or recorded the event or has found fallen meteorite fragments.
“Finding a meteorite from a fireball captured by video is equivalent to a planetary sample return mission,” Brown said in the news release. “We know where the object comes from in our solar system and can study it in the lab.”
Did you see the meteor? Contact Kimberly Tait at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nova Scotia to give university $2.4 million following financial report
The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday it will cover the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design’s $2.4-million deficit if the school submits a financial plan detailing cost-cutting measures by March 31.
The move follows the release of a 13-page report by former deputy minister Howard Windsor on NSCAD’s financial outlook. The report, released Tuesday, says the 125-year-old school is in “serious financial trouble” and will struggle to accept new students next fall without receiving help.
“NSCAD today is operating at a loss equal to more than 10 per cent of it’s annual budget,” the report says. “The situation is not sustainable.”
Both the province and NSCAD accepted all eight of Windsor’s recommendations, which included giving the school $2.4 million under certain conditions. In the report, Windsor also suggests the university review its programs and spaces on its three campuses and look at ways to collaborate with other post-secondary schools. Windsor did not recommend that NSCAD merge with another school in his report, but he didn’t rule it out either.
It’s a rough time for arts schools: Queen’s University suspended enrolment to its Bachelor of Fine Arts program in November, citing a lack of resources. On Nov. 10, The Council of Ontario Universities disclosed that Fine Arts graduates from the class of 2008 had the lowest average salary of 2010.
University of Guelph economists predict grocery store competition will slow price increase
Canadians can expect some relief in food prices in the next year, according to a report by two University of Guelph economists.
The study, released Monday, predicts that retail food prices will rise 2 per cent in 2012, a modest increase compared to the 4.3 per cent pace of current food inflation. The price of meat, fresh vegetables and baked goods could rise up to 3 per cent, but the increase is small compared to what Canadians have endured in the past. In 2011, meat rose 5 per cent, fruit rose 6 per cent and baked good rose 7 per cent. Fresh vegetables topped the list with a 10 per cent increase.
The study notes that the opening of new grocery stores—specifically Wal-Mart Canada’s planned crop of super-centres and Target’s Canadian debut in 2013—will keep competition between stores high and slow food prices from increasing. Canadians spend an average of 10 per cent of their household budget on food.
Sylvain Charlebois, associate dean of research and graduate studies at Guelph’s College of Management and Economics, co-wrote the study with Guelph economics professor Francis Tapon. Charlebois told The Globe and Mail the modest increase will give budget-conscious consumers a break.
“The Canadian consumer will benefit from what will likely happen in the next couple of years in the food distribution sector,” he said. “There will likely be a price war.”
10 ways to study effectively without falling apart
Exams, assignments and anxiety: for university students, the end of classes in December is just the beginning. Fortunately, there are ways to make it through without sacrificing your well-being. Here, in no particular order, are 10 tips for surviving and thriving during exam season.
1. Embrace list making. Jot down your exam schedule, assignment due dates and important reminders on a calendar. Make a study schedule and stick to it, but don’t forget to pencil in breaks.
2. Find the right study space. Whether you prefer a bustling coffee shop or the library’s silent floor, find a proper chair and pick a well-lit space. Steer clear of the ultimate temptations: television and chatty roommates.
3. Triage. Let’s face it: you can’t properly analyze an entire Shakespeare anthology in three days. Time is limited, so study the hard subjects first (when you’re most alert) and prioritize material based on urgency and relevance.