Archive for Rudayna Bahubeshi
Zombies protest 17 per cent U-Pass increase
Zombies welcomed public transit users at Carleton University’s main bus stop on Halloween morning. The students in costume were protesting what they called “the death of affordable and accessible transit,” and were collecting signatures from supporters to send to city council.
The protest was a response to the local transit authority, OC Transpo, which announced that Ottawa university students will pay $180 per semester for their universal transit passes (U-Passes) next year. That’s a 17 per cent hike from the $145 they paid this year. According to the Carleton Undergraduate Students’ Association, the new price—$360 a year for most students—means Ottawa and Carleton will have Canada’s most expensive student transit passes.
In contrast, consider that students at Dalhousie University in Halifax pay only $69 per semester.
People will protest anything. Or will they?
On the weekend, Carleton University and McMaster University both unveiled statues of Gandhi in celebration of Gandhi Jayanti, the political leader’s birthday, a national holiday in India. The celebration was part of the Year of India in Canada, an initiative to strengthen cultural and economic ties between the two countries.
But in the days leading up to the Carleton statue unveiling, a group inspired by New York activist Arvin Valmuci created a Facebook group called “Stop the Carleton University Gandhi Statue” and sent an open letter to the school demanding they revoke the statue—or risk protests. They pointed to a website claiming Gandhi was guilty of “racism, sexual perversion and hatred of minorities.” Among other things, they allege that Gandhi “slept with his grandnieces.”
More than 150 “liked” the Facebook group.
It may seem odd to Canadians that people could hate Gandhi.
But many do. Valmuci works with a group called the Organization for Minorities of India. The same group protested a 23-year-old statue of Gandhi in San Francisco last year. The group called for the statue to be replaced by Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. After telling the San Francisco Chronicle they wouldn’t take it down, P.J. Johnston, the man responsible for the statue said, “I suppose Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela must have their critics as well.”
It’s true, they certainly do. There will always be people opposed to any political symbol on university campuses, even if that symbol is nearly-universally lauded for promoting peace like Gandhi.
Like the San Francisco Arts Commission, Carleton decided to ignore the group against the statue.
Whether they made the right choice seems almost moot. No protesters showed their faces.
Ruling will make students afraid to express views: defense
Ten American university students were sentenced on Friday to 56 hours of community service and three years of probation in a case that has spurred debate about freedom of speech on campus.
Ten of the “Irvine 11″ students were convicted of conspiring to disrupt and disrupting Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s speech, which he delivered at the University of California Irvine early last year. The court ruled that there is a difference between expressing one’s own opinions and preventing someone else from offering theirs.
The students, all members of the Muslim Student Union, disrupted Oren’s talk by repeatedly by yelling messages they had planned through e-mail exchanges, such as, “it’s a shame this university has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself.”
Prior to the trial, UC Irvine disciplined some of the students and suspended the Muslim Student Union for an academic quarter, which the dean of UC Irvine’s law school, Erwin Chemerinsky, believed was sufficient punishment. He called the decision to prosecute the students “harsh” and “a terrible mistake,” despite the fact that “there’s no free speech right to shut someone down.”
Last year, Canada experienced its share of free speech controversies on campus when both Ann Coulter and Christie Blatchford had events shut down because of protesters who had planned ahead of time to disrupt their speeches as a form of political protest.
Tony Rackauckas told the court that the Irvine 11 committed “censorship” and “organized thuggery.”
The defence lawyers, on the other hand, argued that the students were exercising their own rights to speak and that a criminal sentence amounts to “shutting down” their rights to free speech. Worse, they say, such harsh punishment will deter student activists from expressing their views on campus in the future. Reem Salahi, a lawyer for the defense, said they will appeal.
But will business degrees really lead to better jobs?
Communication, critical thinking and problem solving are just a few of the skills that are gained from an arts education. But for many students, that list of skills doesn’t add up to a job, so they’re choosing business instead.
Worries about the decline of the Bachelor of Arts aren’t new. But when Ontario universities welcomed their biggest class ever this year, the headlines masked the fact that arts programs shrunk in size again in the province, this year by 0.3 per cent. Job-focused programs such as business accounted for much of the growth, increasing 2.9 per cent.
It’s not a new trend. Data from the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) show that between 2006 and 2010, in the average year, arts confirmations for first-year students coming from high school decreased on average by five per cent (that includes fine and applied arts, humanities, and social sciences). Business and commerce saw an increase of approximately 12 per cent.
Residences are full. Courses are too. Welcome to first year.
On your first day of class, you could find yourself scanning the room for an empty seat.
The University of Regina has grown by 11 per cent this year. The University of British Columbia (Okanagan) has grown 12 per cent year-over-year. And Ontario welcomed its biggest first-year class ever this fall.
Are universities ready for the students?
Some schools have planned for the growth. Although they have 400 more students than they expected, McMaster University has added extra classes and created more study spaces to cope.
Thomas Chase, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at University of Regina, told Maclean’s On Campus that Regina is ready too. He said that class sections are not expected to get any larger and that residences are expected to be nearly full, but no first-years have been turned away.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly elsewhere. The University of Guelph had to set up a deal with the local Best Western hotel to provide dozens of students with rooms after its residences filled up to capacity. And although Carleton University opened the doors to its new residence building on Monday, the building will be under construction until at least the end of October. Many students who were promised a single room will find themselves with a roommate until the building is complete.
At the University of Alberta, some students complain that they are unable to enrol in mandatory classes after 300 extra students signed-up this year. There aren’t enough teachers to meet the demand.
But at least one school has a potential solution to the increase. Eric Bercier, of the University of Ottawa’s registrar’s office, said that his school raised admissions standards to cut down on the overwhelming number of applications it received this year. Even after hiring 250 new teachers in the past five years, there may not have been enough resources to go around. And so, they didn’t risk it.
Rudayna Bahubeshi is a fourth-year humanities student at Carleton University.