The results of the biggest-ever survey of Canadian post-secondary student health show that most students are stressed, anxious and drink alcohol, but they’re not having nearly as much sex or doing as many drugs as one might expect.
Those are the conclusions that jump out from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services report released today. A total of 34,039 students from 32 schools filled out the National College Health Assessment II Spring 2013, which is the basis of the report. The response rate was an impressive 20 per cent.
Drinking is students’ most common vice. In the previous 30 days, 71 per cent of students reported drinking alcohol at least once.
However, the vast majority avoided other drugs: only 12 per cent smoked a cigarette, 16 per cent used marijuana and 11 per cent consumed other drugs. That was despite eight in 10 students “perceiving” that the “typical student” at their school had used marijuana and cigarettes.
A post-secondary education may be the ticket to higher earning potential, but not before your institution bleeds you dry.
After you finished your last assignment, you feel free as you did the first time you coasted down a hill on your bike after getting your training wheels off. Then you apply for convocation and realize that, unless you’ve got over $100 just kickin’ it in the bank, you won’t be crossing any stage.
With the amount of student fees lumped together and tossed at us every September, you’d think the cost of convocation would be covered. Even if someone doesn’t want to cross the stage and rent regalia, my university—and most in Canada—charge students a fee to graduate.
I guess we shouldn’t be that surprised. Distance education students still have to pay gym membership fees. Health insurance is compulsory, too, unless you opt out, and even then you pay upfront and get a refund. What makes convocation any different?
A federal court in New York has ruled that “interns” who worked for Fox Searchlight Pictures on the film Black Swan should have been paid employees because their work didn’t have an educational component. NPR news says, “the decision may have broad implications for students.”
Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman did things like filing, tracking purchase orders and making copies. The judge’s ruling is notable because it says the educational requirement must be independent of school credits or job experience.
The judge considered the U.S. Department of Labor’s position on what may constitute a legal unpaid internship in the private sector. All six of the following criteria must be met for it to be legal:
A men’s issues event I reported on in March at the University of Toronto drew masked protesters who were there to intimidate people, city police there to keep things in order and it was, inevitably, delayed by a fire alarm. What followed was a rather lightweight critique of women’s studies from University of Ottawa professor Janice Fiamengo.
I was pleased that free speech prevailed, as it was by no means assured. A lecture a few months earlier hosted by the same men’s issues group, The Canadian Association for Equality, was almost shut down. Protesters accused professor Warren Farrell of “hate speech” for, among other things, his controversial views on date rape.
CAFE will host another provocative professor, Lionel Tiger, tonight in Toronto. That event will be at a private venue off campus where the group will raise funds for a men’s centre.
New journalism school graduate Frank Molley, of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec, recalls a humiliating experience while studying at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B.
“There were two Native journalists in the class [and] one of them did a story about a Native woman who was beaten up,” he says. When someone explained that the Native woman had been called a squaw, some students in the back of the class started laughing. He walked out.
He was also offended when a professor told him First Nation stories weren’t “newsy” enough.
Another time, he asked peers to help cover a story about the Assembly of First Nation Chiefs in New Brunswick’s plan to address poverty. No one showed up, he says, “as breaking and important as it was.” Molley says he felt ostracized, but he hasn’t given up on his chosen profession.
Despite challenges like accessibility and racism, Indigenous students are graduating and working as journalists. Exactly how many is unknown, but mediaINDIGENA.com, an online magazine, recently counted more than 60 working Indigenous journalists in Canada.
Stanford University recently announced that it will fully fund PhD graduates who go on to education degrees. While the traditional route for PhDs is academia, the reality of the job market in the U.S. means they might not find jobs in higher eduction, so they’re being encouraged to help alleviate a shortage of high school teachers instead.
As we know, the job market in Canada is very different. Here, new teachers struggle to find work.
Last week Ontario announced that it will halve the number of people admitted to teacher’s colleges in 2015. The province also added another year to the program. That means most new teachers in Canada will have four-year bachelor’s degrees and two-year bachelor of education (B.Ed.) degrees, for a total of six years. Some will also have master’s degrees and a few will have PhDs.
Students got a rare peek this week at how the Canadian Federation of Students’ national organization spends their money after blogger Brandon Clim published the organization’s 2014 budget and audited financial statements.
However, the juicy details many have wondered about—how much individual staff members earn and how much is spent on lawsuits with local student unions—still haven’t been made public.
In fact, members of CFS’s own budget committee, at last week’s Annual General Meeting in Ottawa, say they were rebuffed in attempts to learn more.
And although the financial documents are now online, outgoing treasurer Michael Olson says they won’t show up on the CFS’s own website anytime soon, because members have rejected that idea.
Dear obese PhD applicants: If you don’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation. #truth.
As you might imagine, cyberspace went nuts, calling Miller lots of nasty names, calling for his resignation, and hinting darkly at the possibility of legal action. Many outlets then took a closer look at some of Miller’s other public statements including the time he wondered whether women might be wise to schedule job interviews while they are ovulating because, he said, they are more sexually attractive then. There are also renewed questions about his ideas and involvement in Chinese eugenics—as in this article which seems to equate wealth with intelligence, and ends with an allusion to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World—Miller seems unaware of the fact that the novel actually condemns biological manipulation for social benefit.
Ontario’s government announced today that it plans to double the time students spend in teacher’s college to four semesters starting in September 2015. It will also increase the minimum number of days spent on placements from 40 to 80. And here’s the big news: it will cut admissions, starting that fall, by 50 per cent.
One reason for the dramatic change is the oversupply of education graduates. About 9,000 new teachers per year have been graduating in Ontario. Add in foreign graduates, many of them Canadians who went to U.S. schools, and there are about 11,000 teachers certified each year competing with each other and with graduates from previous years, while only 6,000 are needed.
The plan to double the length of the education was an election promise made by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in 2011 and it’s a politically smart move for Premier Kathleen Wynne to follow through on.
Queen’s University student David Woodward’s final project All I Am Is What I’ve Felt got the type of reaction many new Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates dream about: he was asked to take it down, meaning far more people will now see it.
Woodward, 22, was not surprised his work—10 white briefs adorned with cryptic slogans and images, some of them sexual—offended people. Still, he didn’t expect to be censored. He says the work is autobiographical and discusses “the limitations of romantic love.”
It has also stimulated discussion about the limits on freedom of expression at campuses like Queen’s where some employees get carried away in their mission to avoid offending anyone.
Here’s what happened. Woodward was asked by his campus alumni office, along with other visual artists and musicians, to show off his work to potential donors at an event in April. He forwarded a link to a website that showed his product. On the big day, he arrived early and hung his undies.
An event that has become all too common in our benighted century is the suppressing of anti-Muslim sentiment over fears of retribution. Canadians will recall it happening, for instance, at the University of Prince Edward Island in 2006.
More recently, the Australian National University made international headlines, when the student newspaper there was barred from running a satirical graphic about Islam.
The Woroni had already skewered other religions, but when it got to Islam, university officials stepped in, saying that the piece might gain “traction” in social media and could spark violent protests. The university’s vice-Chancellor called the graphic “offensive and discriminatory” and hinted that the Koran should be off-limits because of “very unfortunate side effects.” Even Civil Liberties Australia defended the Uni. Crikey!
We hear a lot about how “entitled” students are these days. Employers complain of new graduates who want to be the boss right away or who demand high pay before they’ve earned it.
New research by four students at the University of Windsor, all in the Master in Social Data Analysis program, sheds light on the phenomenon. The researchers e-mailed a 96-question survey to all students on campus and used 1,025 responses.
The good news: entitled students aren’t the norm. The bad news: those who feel entitled may be setting themselves up for failure at school or work.
Academically entitled students are those who want exams rescheduled around personal plans or who think they deserve high marks so long as they’ve paid their tuition and put in the hours. They’re like Cher Horowitz, the Beverly Hills bimbo who argues her way to As in the 1995 film Clueless.
Sometimes when I’m halfway through a pile of 40 essays, I get tired. At these moments, if I had a grading machine, I would probably be tempted to insert the remaining essays and watch them pop out all freshly marked.
However, after 20 years of grading university essays, I know this would be terribly misguided. I’m here to help my students learn how to thrive in university—and beyond. In order to do that, they need to have strong thinking, reading, and writing skills. Machine generated grades will not help them develop these skills. With this in mind, I pick up my pen and go back to providing the constructive human feedback that will help them.
Just to be clear, I am not some remote professor in an ivory tower above Lake Ontario. In fact, I am a non-tenured “gun-for-hire,” fighting hard in the trenches of the humanities. This past year alone I have taught 914 students in six classes in writing, literature, and film. I have graded hundreds of exercises and essays, some brilliant, some hard to understand. I have worked with 19 teaching assistants, generated over 20 evaluation rubrics, assigned 12 essays. Basically, I have been battling to keep my head up, to keep teaching as well as I am able, and to keep grading the many essays that come my way.
Every convocation season, some group somewhere in Canada protests an honoury degree recipient or commencement speaker. This year, the controversy is over the honourary doctor of letters that McGill University will bestow upon feminist scholar Judith Butler on Thursday.
Butler is well-respected by those who follow gender theory and perhaps equally despised by supporters of Israel because she calls the nation an “apartheid state” and seemed to sympathize with the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah when she called them anti-colonial and anti-imperialist forces. She later clarified that she doesn’t support “violent resistance,” but that’s not good enough for McGill Hillel and McGill Students for Israel who want the honour reconsidered.
The fact that these students are speaking out against her degree is a healthy sign. Nonetheless, the honourary degree should go ahead. I say bring on the controversial thinkers. That’s what university is all about. Or supposed to be about, anyway.
Every year since I was six years old, I’ve attended St. Francis Xavier University’s convocation ceremony in my hometown of Antigonish, N.S. I didn’t know the graduates and I wasn’t forced to go by my sentimental parents, who both work at the school. I went because I wanted to see the looks of triumph, happiness and success on the students’ faces as they crossed the stage.
I know my love of learning is not common among teenagers, but I am extra excited about university. For years I’ve read Maclean’s education issues and Guide to Canadian Universities, analyzing what schools best suit my personality and goals. Through five criteria, I’ve managed to create a shortlist. Here’s how I narrowed my search:
1. Program possibilities
I have a passion for curriculum design and education policy. Once I realized this passion, I decided to find a program where I could explore it to some degree. After long hours of soul-searching, I narrowed my major down to ethics, economics or educational psychology. This was by far the most difficult part of the process and it was only once this was done that institutions could be analyzed. I started searching for the best universities for those programs. The University of Toronto has a specialized first-year program in ethics, making it my current top choice. McGill University allows for a minor specifically in educational psychology, so I kept that on my shortlist too.
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?
Remember the end of the film Dead Poets Society? When the students all stand up on their desks and cry “O Captain, My Captain!” as a tribute to the wronged and noble teacher Mr. Keating?
The reference is, of course, to a famous poem by the American writer Walt Whitman. Whitman is one of the giants of American literature, and the poem is usually interpreted as an elegy to the recently assassinated president Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, of course, was, much-hated in the South for, among other things, his opposition to slavery.
So it might have come as a surprise that the man who so eloquently eulogized the Great Emancipator is now at the centre of a controversy over racism. A graduate student at Northwestern University is, according to reports, willing to fail a class rather than perform a piece of music based on a Whitman work. The student insists that Whitman was an “historically racist” man, who denigrated African Americans and opposed their voting rights.
Will Guest, a 25-year-old University of British Columbia student, has earned an M.D. and a PhD and will soon patent an algorithm that could have implications for Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In case you’re wondering, he skipped fifth grade, finished his undergraduate at the University of Manitoba in three years and completed his combined M.D./PhD a year ahead of schedule. After just returning from a vacation in China, we spoke about his route to success, the Canadian university system and how others can succeed.
In high school, what was your typical day like?
I went to high school in Winnipeg. We were able to work independently in our math courses so we could work ahead and complete our high school curriculum as quickly as possible and then we could take AP (Advanced Placement) courses. When we’d finished the AP courses, we could go on and actually take university courses in high school through the University of Manitoba. Fortunately, it was a pretty normal schedule. I wasn’t working day and night by any means. I enjoyed it.
In university, how tightly did you pack your schedule?
It depended on the semester. Generally, I would take six courses per term. There was one term when I was taking seven courses and that was a little uncomfortably busy.
In university, did you have time for a social life and extracurriculars?
I did but to a reduced extent. Most of my social life did revolve around school one way or another but that suited me just fine. I wasn’t that involved in sports, which is something I probably did miss out on early on, not because I didn’t have the time for it, but because it was something whose importance I didn’t realize until later. I remember, really clearly, that hitting home when I was in first-year medicine sitting in a lecture on exercise physiology and learning just how important regular physical activity was. That’s when I clued in that I should pay more attention to it. Vancouver is a city where it’s very easy to be physically active whether it’s running, biking, being outdoors, hiking, skiing.
University life, for many, involves late night parties and alcohol. Did you do any of that?
The truth is, I kind of skipped that phase. When I had my eighteenth birthday party—18 is the legal drinking age in Manitoba—I got drunk that night, which is sort of customary. Other than that I was not a big late-night partier. That’s not something I ever particularly enjoyed doing.
How hard have you had to work compared to the average student?
In the 60 hours per week range in undergraduate. At UBC, the pace has been as fast or faster. In this program it does feel like you’re working two jobs, which essentially you are, because the two streams of training are relatively parallel. It would fluctuate between 50 and 70 hours per week.
Any tips for university success for an undergraduate just starting out?
Recognize that you can dedicate yourself to your studies while having fun at the same time. As much as possible, it’s good to set your goals at an earlier stage. I was looking at the M.D./PhD program when I was in between high school and university so I had a reasonably clear idea of what I wanted to do and that enabled me to work toward a specific destination and not get confused or bogged down along the way. Ultimately everything is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Often, it does seem daunting and overwhelming but the answer to that is to just focus on what’s in front of you. Don’t get to alarmed by looming exams. Work on what you can do. Put it aside when you’re tired. Once you have no energy left, it’s best to relax and try again the next day.
Did you ever have so much stress from your workload that you couldn’t sleep?
The stress level was usually moderate. I, fortunately, didn’t ever have any trouble sleeping. The exception to that was when I was on clinical service. When we have our on-call shift, we spend up to 36 hours working in one go and you’re exhausted and you have to keep going.
What’s your approach to studying?
My approach to studying is sitting down and reading the textbook. Sometimes the explanations in the textbook are hard to understand at first but through perseverance and coming back to it, usually it’s the best way to study. There has been very much a movement away from using textbooks as a sort of antiquated way of doing things but my personal experience is that it really is the best way to comprehensively know a field, rather than sort of new-aged or more sophisticated ways.
What surprised you about university?
There was a certain amount of busy work that had to be done, which was a little disappointing. What comes to mind are lab reports in certain courses that were a little tedious, not very educational.
There’s a debate about the value of universities considering that Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and David Karp of Tumblr all dropped out of school. Why did you stick with it?
Those are all entrepreneurs who developed a very good idea at an early stage of their career. They essentially needed to devote their full-time energies to it very early on. Ultimately, the goal of university is to train an individual to be able to do something like that. I think they were people who had already achieved what university was intended to offer them. For me it’s essentially necessary to complete the full course of training up to a PhD. That’s just the expectation. What’s more, the training environment to become a researcher is really only available in an academic setting.
As for the utility of taking university courses and then finding a job, I do think it’s a matter of the field pursued. There has been a lot of encouragement of people to go into the so-called STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and I think that is something really worthy. In my physics graduating class there were, unfortunately, only three of us. In general, the physical sciences suffer from a lack of student interest and I think it would be beneficial for people to be encouraged to go in those directions because that does lead to better job opportunities.
How can you make students interested in STEM fields?
I think this comes down to their high school or junior high school experiences. So often you hear people say, “I’m not any good at math” or, “I just don’t understand physics.” They’ve written off these entire fields when the reality is that, with perseverance and, particularly with a teacher who motivates or inspires an interest in the field, I think that pretty much anyone is able to understand and make progress in these fields. It’s kind of socially accepted in our society to write yourself off.
Going forward your plan is to stick with research obviously?
That’s right, as much as possible. The next thing I need to do is residency training. I’m matched to radiology at UBC so that’s what I’ll be doing the next five years. The goal of the M.D./PhD program is to train someone as a clinician-scientist so that they can be seeing patients while also having an active research interest. At this stage, I’d like to do a neuroradiology fellowship afterwards, specifically the interpretation of films of the brain and spinal cord. That’s an additional two years.
The patent-pending discovery you made, how did that come about?
That relates to one of the main areas of work in my PhD thesis which is trying to understand the process by which proteins misfold in neurodegenerative diseases. We developed a computational tool that allowed us to calculate the free energy of unfolding different regions within a protein, which is part of the process of a protein ultimately misfolding in disease. If we knew which regions would lose their structure early in the misfolding process, these were areas that could presumably be targeted by antibodies that could ultimately recognize the confirmation of the misfolded protein over the folded confirmation. I came from more of a computational background so I was more familiar with the modelling necessary to develop this into a more general computational prediction tool.
Do you think Massive Open Online Courses will lead to the downfall of residential universities?
I could see that, at some time in the future, online universities could play a pretty substantial role in our university system. But, by and large, I think the Canadian university system delivers excellent value for money and there are really few barriers for people who want to pursue post-secondary education. I think in Canada the current system will remain dominant for quite some time. I can understand why, in other countries where the cost of education is much higher than it is in Canada, those emerging potentially disruptive technologies will play more of a role early on. But who knows?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
It’s commencement season. For many Canadian students and their families, that means sitting in stuffy rooms listening long-winded speeches from important people of whose stature they have only just learned from the program in front of them.
For a lucky few Americans, this year’s ceremonies included advice from much bigger names—people who can afford speech writers like comedian Stephen Colbert, media maven Arianna Huffington and First Lady Michelle Obama.
There was a common theme among these celebrities addresses. Each talked of how the much-maligned Millennial generation can use their educations to make the world a better place. Here are some highlights from the speeches.
Colbert is a master of making hard news hilarious. He did something similar in his speech to the University of Virginia. After jokes about study drugs, Playboy and plagiarism, he quoted Thomas Jefferson, third president of the U.S. and author of the Declaration of Independence, to make the point that Millennials can, like the founding fathers, use tough times for good. The highlight was when he held up a Time magazine with a cover declaring Millennials the “me, me, me” generation:
Your generation needs everything to be about you and that’s very upsetting to us baby boomers because self-absorption is kind of our thing. We’re the original ‘me generation.’ We made the last 50 years all about us. We took all the money. We used up all the government services and we deep-fried nearly everything in the ocean.
Since the recession, so the story goes, almost all 27-year-old university graduates are sitting in mom’s or dad’s basement playing Guitar Hero, firing off job applications and ranting on Facebook about how they’d be better off as plumbers.
This has become such accepted wisdom that when Allan Rock, president of the University of Ottawa, argued in a speech last week that it is, in fact, a myth, the Ottawa Citizen saw it as news.
Newly-released Statistics Canada charts of unemployment rates by education among 25 to 29-year-olds back up Rock’s point. Last year, university graduates were more likely than anyone else in that age group to be employed and just as likely to be working as the same age group was back in 2005 when no one fretted about jobs.