Archive for Vivien Chang
Vivien Chang is a recent University of British Columbia graduate. Her works have appeared in Huffington Post Canada and The American Spectator. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @vivienlchang.
Testing out the safety service after multiple attacks
On Thursday night, I waited at the corner of Main Mall and Agricultural Road at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. It was dark and foggy. Any other night, I might have just braved the six minute walk to the Student Union Building, but after two assaults involving young women on campus earlier this month—a 19-year-old was groped under her skirt at 2:45 a.m. on Sept. 28 and a 20-year-old was attacked on Oct. 13— I wanted to test out Safewalk, the student-run program providing chaperones to those who feel unsafe walking alone at night.
Although I spent four years at UBC and knew about the service from day one, I’d never bothered to call. I’m not the only one.
Safewalk is a student service available across Canada, usually manned by volunteers, although the Alma Mater Society student group that runs it at UBC pays its walkers. After a string of assaults—there was at least one more reported over the weekend when a 17-year-old girl was dragged into the bushes late at night and left with a black eye—I knew there would be renewed discussion about the service, which is used to reassure students that measures are in place to protect them. Indeed, the RCMP recommended on Monday that women not walk alone at night and instead use Safewalk. Last week, I wanted to see: how useful is it?
I called at 8:03 p.m., a few minutes after Safewalk started taking requests for the night. They answered my call right away and said someone would be there in under 30 minutes. Perhaps due to the recent spike in assaults, the service was busier than usual. Regardless, it felt too long to wait.
Ski and Board club members divided over value
There’s a popular saying among members of the Ski and Board Club at the University of British Columbia, one such member reports: “If you can’t find a better solution, there’s always the lodge.”
In the future, there might not be. Whistler Lodge, in the famous resort town two hours up the coast from Vancouver, may be sold to help improve the financial situation of the Alma Mater Society, the undergraduate student group that owns it.
One might expect an uproar about losing the 42-bed chalet built in 1965 but even Ski and Board Club members are divided on whether it’s worth keeping.
University wants participation in Truth and Reconciliation
Daniel Bourghardt, a third-year arts student, was overjoyed when he got an email from the University of British Columbia on Sept. 9 saying classes will be cancelled on Sept. 18.
In a grand gesture of solidarity with First Nations communities, the university has called off classes to encourage students to participate in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) national event at the Pacific National Exhibition across town from the Vancouver campus. It’s part of a Reconciliation Week that includes performances, survivor gatherings and a downtown march on Sunday with a keynote speech by Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King. Trinity Western University, a Christian school, is also suspending classes.
Why the professional networking can wait
LinkedIn’s decision to lower the minimum membership age in Canada from 18 to 14 takes the competitive atmosphere of the youth job market to a whole new level. The professional networking website announced Monday that teens can start joining as of Sept. 12.
This occurred in conjunction with the launch of University Pages, kind of like Company Pages, that are aimed at helping high school students connect with university administrators and alumni.
This is all fine, except that 14-year-olds shouldn’t have to stress about LinkedIn. Our formative years should be a time of self discovery. We should be able to experiment, make mistakes and learn from them, lose our footing and find our way back again. We certainly shouldn’t have to worry about career prospects so early in life.
Beauty may trump merit in competitive job market
A few years ago, a 21-year-old Chinese woman sought cosmetic surgery to look more like Jessica Alba and made headlines around the world, but the pursuit of altered appearances for pragmatic reasons is much more common in China.
China now ranks third, just behind the United States and Brazil, in the number of cosmetic operations performed annually, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
The most popular procedures—eyelid surgery, rhinoplasty (nose job), and jaw reshaping—are not meant to fend off the effects of aging, but to give young people an advantage over their peers.
For the nouveau riche in China, getting a more aesthetically pleasing face is the last step in their reinvention. Ever since the country introduced a hybrid state capitalist model in the late 1970s, the economy has grown exponentially and so has the ultra-rich class. Kevin Kwan’s popular new book, Crazy Rich Asians, portrays the emerging Chinese elite as decadent to the point of frivolity. “They are everywhere, buying everything in sight,” he writes. “If there’s a designer label, they want it.”
Just as the Chinese one-percenters seek to purchase status and prestige in the form of custom-made crocodile-skin Hermès Birkin bags, they see beauty as a commodity. For the young, especially, an attractive face offers an edge in both the increasingly competitive job market and the cutthroat dating field where women are considered “leftover” (not marriageable) after age 25.
But what does it mean for this year’s army of seven million new university graduates? It means that getting ahead is not based on merit, but on looks. While it’s true that a world-class education is highly marketable anywhere, job applications in Asia often require a photo of the applicant, giving the genetically blessed and surgically improved an unfair advantage. And there are fewer jobs for new graduates in China than there have been in years, upping the competition to new levels.
The obsession with physical appearance at work may be difficult to understand, but Chinese youth see it as an investment in their futures. For the first time, upward mobility is a possibility, and if it takes a new face to climb the corporate ladder, so be it. They are eager to embrace what modern technology and medicine have to offer, whether it’s an iPhone 5 or a more perfect nose.
Perhaps they will outgrow their new money philosophy of excess. In the meantime, it’s important to note that plastic surgery is not without its risks. Permanent numbness, infection, and even death are all potential side effects. For most people, good hygiene, makeup, and a positive, confident attitude can do wonders, without the need to alter their faces.
Ideally, one day China’s new graduates won’t need to resort to such drastic measures to get ahead.
Vivien Chang recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia.
Why I don’t buy into “sizeism”
Journalism student Gemma Michael, in a recent opinion article in The Charlatan student newspaper at Carleton University, wrote that “fat-shaming” is “society’s final ‘ism.’” According to her, “ideas about beauty, and the outrage and disgust that persists when someone in media doesn’t fulfill that idea, is a social issue.”
It’s an example of how activism against those who promote smaller body sizes has gained ground on campuses. Last week the idea of “sizeism” entered the mainstream consciousness when blogger Jes Baker’s letter addressed to clothing-maker Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Mike Jeffries went viral. The Militant Baker, as she’s known on her blog, also posted provocative pictures of herself and a parody of the brand’s logo: “Attractive & Fat.” Some of these pictures have her posing nude, others in an actual A&F t-shirt and one has her flipping both middle fingers at the viewer—or perhaps at an imaginary Jeffries.
What did the CEO say that so offended her? “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told online magazine Salon in 2006. “We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Jeffries’ comment was undeniably offensive, but is being overweight really the next “ism?” Can the experience of fat people really be compared to racism or sexism? Or is this an overreaction?
From Pong Flu to the Cinnamon Challenge
University sounds tame enough, but it’s actually a dangerous place. I’m not talking about Charlotte Simmons’ loss of innocence on the sex-crazed, alcohol-laden, fictional campus of Dupont or even the food fights and public urination in National Lampoon’s Animal House. I’m not talking about the obvious things either, like drinking way too much. I’m talking about the activities students think are innocent enough, but that can, surprisingly, lead to early graves. Here are five examples.
1. Pong flu
According to a recent Clemson University study, the ping pong balls used in beer pong games are rife with bacteria. That’s not surprising considering they often come into contact with the floor. When they are successfully tossed into cups of beer, players chug the contaminated brews, unaware or dismissive of the offending bacteria. Luckily, the potential danger of the game doesn’t mean you have to stop playing altogether. An alternative that many health-conscious—and germaphobic—students are resorting to involves replacing the beer with water and drinking clean beer instead.
Find a husband on campus before I graduate? No thanks.
When Anne-Marie Slaughter spoke at the Women and Leadership conference at Princeton University in February, there was at least one person in the packed audience who did not agree with her call for the “next wave of an equal rights revolution.”
That person was the now infamous Susan A. Patton, who spoke at one of the breakout sessions afterward and then wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Princetonian dismissing both Slaughter’s discussion of whether women can have it all and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s suggestion that women “lean in” to advance their careers.
According to Patton, instead of worrying about their future work-life balance, university women’s priority should be this: “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
Why I hope this venture goes ahead
When the Alma Mater Society here at the University of British Columbia revealed last year that the planned new Student Union Building (SUB) will house a brewery, students were overjoyed at the prospect of cheap, local craft beer.
Not only would a SUB brewery add some flavour to UBC’s decidedly drab cuisine, it would also significantly up the ante of our campus culture. Right now, our coolness factor is suffering. Our version of the Harlem Shake has only 156,000 views on YouTube. The University of Toronto’s has more than 2.2 million views, even beating out that legendary Lip Dub we made last year (remember that?) with its mere two million views.
Students are staying longer for a variety of reasons
When Michael Prior came to the University of British Columbia in 2008, he expected to spend the standard four years at the school.
Now in his fifth year, he realizes his original plan was unrealistic. The 22-year-old English Literature major has funded most of his own education, so he works for pay about 20 hours a week. That requires a lighter course load.
Prior is hardly alone. In fact, graduating more than four years after starting may be the new standard. A recent study from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario reports that less than half of Ontario university students finish in four years.
Hannah Talbot, a first year Arts student at UBC, was surprised. “I always thought that it was a four-year deal until I came to university and realized a lot of people were in their fifth or sixth year.”
Former user says study drug wasn’t worth it
Like many before him, John* took what he was told was the drug Adderall without recognizing its potential side effects. “I had been studying at the library for days, my concentration was diminishing and my friend was like, ‘there’s this guy that has Adderall,’” the University of British Columbia student says. He bought some.
He’s not the only one. The illegal use of the amphetamine-based prescription drugs, which can improve concentration, may be an epidemic on campuses across North America. It’s the equivalent of steroids in baseball. The student who can study longer has an edge over peers.
Legally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), many university students without the disorder have found ways to obtain the medication, either through campus hustlers or by faking ADHD symptoms. According to one estimate, a staggering 30 per cent of students at the University of Kentucky had abused Adderall. Though extensive research has not been undertaken in Canada, it is estimated that up to 11 percent of post-secondary students have used the drug.
Millennial students are materialistic and proud
In a famous scene from the 1995 film Clueless, protagonist Cher Horowitz is robbed but, though scared out of her wits, refuses to get on the dirty ground. “Oh, no. You don’t understand. This is Alaïa,” she says of her dress to the gunman. “It’s, like, a totally important designer.”
In the mid-1990s, Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz was comedic relief, an exception to the rule. Today, many of us are Cher Horowitz.
A staggering 34 percent of American Millennials grew up wealthy, according to Forbes, and the figures are likely similar in Canada.
Luxury items, previously reserved for the one percent, are now more accessible than ever and much of the student population at the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver where I study seems swept up in luxury consumerism.
Darren Dahl, who specializes in consumer behavior at UBC, views abundance as the primary ethos of our society. “Previous generations like the Baby Boomers didn’t have the discretionary income some of the kids today have,” he says. “Because there’s a higher level of discretionary income, there’s an ability to spend in this cohort that wasn’t in existence in previous cohorts.”