Advice from a woman who couldn’t find help on campus
I dropped out of McGill University because of depression. It was the type that begins as a barely perceptible malaise but quickly penetrates your mind and renders you nearly unable to speak, think, or even walk. Perhaps the most common misunderstanding of depression is that it’s simply an overarching sadness permeating your positive thoughts. In its most serious form, the illness may actually leave you unable to feel anything—comfort or happiness, fear or rage. It wasn’t until I’d reached this level that I finally decided to take time off from my routine and accept help. If you find any aspect of this story relatable, I hope that you seek help immediately.
I vividly remember the first (and last) time I used McGill Mental Health Services. My parents had been asking me to get in touch with someone for months. I’d always responded to these requests by saying no, I wouldn’t see anyone because I was “fine” and “therapists are for people who need attention.” But after two years of growing increasingly despondent, I knew I had to do something. So I temporarily abandoned my mask of confidence and called.
What this town needs is a Magic Bus
Drunken students from the University of Sherbrooke have caused so much trouble that bus drivers say they will no longer pick them up.
It’s a common problem in university towns: hordes of inexperienced drinkers hobbling onto buses late at night with unhealthy amounts of vodka sodas sloshing around inside leading to vandalism, violence, public displays of affection and spilled Chinese take-out noodles.
This policy may, however, be a first. Sherbrooke’s Student Federation is calling it discriminatory. It’s hard to argue with that but they’d be wise to drop the fight and do what college governments at the University of Guelph did many years ago in response to similar problems: create a magic bus.
Why cutting orientation isn’t the answer
Russell Smith, in the Globe and Mail, would like you to know Frosh Week is disgusting and boring, and drinking is deeply boring. Those are some of the reasons he thinks universities should do away with the matriculation ritual that tends to include binge drinking, dancing and making friends with whom you will drink and dance for the next four years. (Boring, right?)
Smith’s visceral dislike for frosh activities is the aftermath of his own “miserable” experience. A Queen’s University alum, Smith recalls the gruelling and often unhygienic initiation rites inflicted on 17-year-old engineering students. He argues that the brightest minds wait out the debauchery in their dorm rooms, praying the school year will bring real fun—the kind that involves learning and all that jazz.
It’s no coincidence that Smith’s takedown came shortly after this week’s wildly stupid and offensive bi-coastal misogyny display in which students at SMU and UBC were caught on camera reciting poorly written chants about the thrills of sexually assaulting underage girls. It was a double whammy to our national ego. Canada’s emerging scholars: too base to respect the laws of consent, too dim to write a rhyming couplet. Smith’s antidote to this apparent problem is to one-up the dean of UBC’s business school—who has suspended funding for Frosh Week in light of the scandal—and eliminate the event from college calendars forever.
In his words: “Universities can teach maturity. They can teach teenagers how to be adults and that means to function outside a clique or a tribe. Frosh-week bonding makes a fetish of immaturity. It serves no pedagogic function and universities should stop encouraging it.”
Making regular use of the campus showers serves no pedagogic function either, yet for some reason universities tend to encourage that too.
Why mainstream students need to get out and vote
When I attended my first student union meeting at the University of Toronto last February, I knew that many students involved in campus politics are radical leftists so I was unsurprised when those present passed motions endorsing the Aboriginal movement Idle No More and to lobby the provincial government to ban unpaid internships, in which students freely choose to participate.
But when the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) published a statement endorsing Idle No More and sent a letter to the Ministry of Labour calling for a ban on unpaid placements, they claimed to represent 46,000 University of Toronto students and that is simply not true. Many students have no opinion on these issues, while many others, like me, are strongly opposed.
We have no idea how most students actually feel because only 3,161 voted in the last UTSU election, a turnout of less than seven per cent. Munib Sajjad, the president, received around 2,000 votes, which means less than five per cent of students voted for him—despite running unopposed.
McGill student ran out of class to attend
When Eric Smith of Ottawa checked his favourite music blog Monday morning, he and his wife jumped in the car for a two-hour drive with a hastily organized destination: a Montreal salsa club.
The reason? A surprise concert by Arcade Fire.
On its website, the Salsatheque club showed the poster for a group called The Reflektors, whose faces were hidden.
By late Monday morning, social media was ablaze with word that a previously unknown band playing a gig in a relatively small salsa club was actually Grammy-award winning Arcade Fire. “Reflektor” happens to be the name of the single off their upcoming album.
Smith, 31, joined the line of people who rushed to get one of the 100 tickets that were going on sale just before the 9 p.m. show.
But there was a catch: Fans would only be allowed in if they were dressed formally, or wearing a costume.
How to cut down on bad behaviour like at Saint Mary’s
Though I couldn’t wait for orientation to end, I did learn a few valuable lessons about respecting the students around me at an optional short conference on campus culture and etiquette.
The key word is “optional.” If frosh week had a mandatory component that taught all students about what’s expected of them, instead of just how to get drunk in the beer gardens, I think universities could prevent incidents like Saint Mary’s rape-referencing orientation chant.
Hundreds of ways to get involved at McMaster University
Teresa Ziegler is listening to a pitch from two enthusiastic third-year students who want her to join yet another club. Classes haven’t even started and she’s already committed to the strength and conditioning club, a medical club, a few volunteer groups and the rowing club, whose members are showing off 12-foot oars in neon t-shirts that read “Beat the freshman 15.”
How will she handle it all? “I’m just going to go them all and find out what I’m most passionate about,” says the first-year Kinesiology major.
Ziegler’s got the right approach to McMaster University’s Clubsfest, the annual outdoor fair where representatives from the school’s roughly 325 campus groups spend four hours recruiting members. It’s a frenzied competition for names and e-mail address where a capella ballads from the Gospel Choir compete with pop tunes from a Chinese culture club while representatives from the Disney Dreams Club try to entice women away from the Catholic Students Association’s table.
Avoid these freshman pitfalls
1. Fail to realize that, special as you are, you’re just one person on a huge campus. This has unfortunate side effects like clogging up busy hallways and other such silliness.
2. Buy brand new copies of every single book listed on every syllabus only to find out at the first lecture that half of them are ‘on reserve’ for free in the library.
3. Fail to speak up in class. This can lead to painful silences that are eventually filled by that one guy who lives to talk and whom just about everyone hates.
4. Go to every frosh event no matter how ridiculous. You’ll be fine if you don’t make it to “Back-to-School-a-Palooza” and “Frosh-Tastic Tastings” and “School’s In… Togas!” Toga parties are done anyway. The only good one happened 30 years ago… in a movie.
5. Explore the fun and exciting world of parent-free alcohol consumption but go way too far. Most people drink in university but freshmen have a knack for ending up with their faces in toilets. Or garbage cans. Or friend’s roommate’s beds. It’s just not classy.
6. Sign up for way too many activities and force all your friends to sign up for way too many activities too because this is university and we must make the most of it!!!!!
7. You burnout, get sick, stop doing everything and come perilously close to failing. This is why it’s imperative to figure out which classes you can afford to skip occasionally.
8. Complain about how hard it is to budget when your parents aren’t around to buy groceries after spending all your savings on vodka and unnecessary textbooks.
9. Live on campus and wear pajamas or shorts all year long. We all know you don’t have to walk far in rainstorms and blizzards to get to classes but there’s no need to rub it in!
10. Date a high school boyfriend/girlfriend and Skype them for hours each night.
Do not be this roommate, freshmen. Nobody likes this roommate. Good luck!
It’s one big party this week from Acadia to Western
Instagram and Twitter feeds from Acadia to Western are bursting with photos of raucous football games, wild parties and budding friendships. We’ve gathered the best shots of #frosh 2013 so far and plan to post many more. Want to be part of our coverage? Tweet your frosh photos to @maconcampus now. Want more? Add us on Facebook and visit Maclean’s On Campus daily.
Watch out for the curmudgeons and Christmas graduates
If you’re just starting university, chances are you don’t know anyone on campus. Orientation is a great opportunity to meet friends before homework starts to pile up. As someone who has been involved in McMaster University’s Orientation Week since 2009, I thought I’d share six types of people that you’re likely to meet and some advice on how to approach them.
The Curmudgeons: These people are vocal about what they dislike, and they dislike a lot. They think the events are cheesy, the cheers are dumb and despise football. In some cases, they just doesn’t know how to get engaged. In other cases, they may be homesick or having a rough time outside of university and that’s affecting their ability to have fun. Chat with them to see if you can help but remember that some people are just complainers. Don’t let them ruin your fun. Oh, and don’t become the curmudgeon yourself.
Simon Fraser Student Society promotes big campus show
Simon Fraser University, atop Burnaby Mountain in suburban Vancouver, “has a bit of a reputation as a commuter school where there’s not a lot of fun,” says Christina Guan, who does social media for the Simon Fraser Student Society. “A lot of students, especially new students, feel there’s not a lot of school spirit,” adds the third-year communications major. One reason it suffers, she says, is orientations without huge shows to cap them off, unlike at the nearby University of British Columbia, which has always had a big Firstweek finale (this year included; Kid Cudi’s on the bill). So when Guan heard the SFSS was planning its biggest-everFall Kickoff show and DJ contest, featuring Mat Zo, Dzeko & Torres and CLMD, she saw a chance to turn things around by getting as many students as possible to attend the show. Her approach was to create a YouTube video of people dressed as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers dancing around campus. The TV show, which first aired 20 years ago this week, is something she says most of 2013′s frosh can relate to. Go Go Guan!
University means big changes to romantic relationships
Nearly a third of university students (32 per cent) who filled out the biggest-ever survey of health on Canadian campuses earlier this year agreed that their intimate relationships had been traumatic or very difficult to handle, tying it with sleep problems as the third most common worry after academics (57 per cent) and finances (37 per cent).
That’s not surprising considering that when a person moves away to school and leaves a partner behind, he or she will see far less of that partner and far more of other interesting people.
“The main reason students will tell us they end their relationships is because they weren’t able to spend enough time together,” says York University psychologist Jennifer A. Connolly, who researches young love. “Relationships often benefit from stability,” she adds. “Established ways to spend time and have fun together make the relationship easy. If that’s disrupted there may be disruptions to the relationship as well.”
Keep costs down with these 14 money saving tips
University is expensive no matter how you do it but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save money—potentially thousands of dollars per year.
Whether you’ve moved from the other side of the world or are commuting from the other side of the city, here are 14 ways to keep costs down.
1. Get a student bank account.
All the major banks in Canada offer free banking for post-secondary students. At CIBC, for example, students get unlimited transactions for free while non-students might pay $13.95 per month. All you need is proof of enrolment.
2. Buy used textbooks online.
Many universities have websites with postings from students who are offloading last semester’s books at deep discounts. You can make dough selling the books back at the end of the year too.
National Student Food Summit shows students in action
Students often want to help the environment or tackle poverty but don’t know where to begin. The 10th annual National Student Food Summit, held this weekend in Toronto, showed that campus cafeterias can be good places to spark change.
Many students have no choice but to spend thousands of dollars per year on meal plans and so it’s hard to argue with them when they demand seats at the tables where major decisions about campus food systems are made. This weekend’s summit showed students using their seats at the tables to assert values that go well beyond food.
The gathering was organized by Meal Exchange, a non-profit that aims for affordable, healthy and socially just food. It’s known best for anti-hunger programs like Skip a Meal, where students donate meal points, and Trick or Eat, where they canvas for food banks at Halloween. One of the sponsors was corporate food provider Aramark.
New research shows how much early instructors matter
I arrived at the University of Guelph just shy of 10 years ago and was so excited to study marketing that I spent much of frosh week highlighting and making notes in my intro to marketing textbook.
By week three, I was skipping my marketing classes because the professor couldn’t speak enough English. He verbally stumbled through the same lecture notes that he had posted online and when asked in one early lecture to elaborate on some point, he couldn’t even find the most basic words. His response devolved into mime as he frantically fumbled with an imaginary steering wheel until some blurted it out: “he means car!”
We laughed awkwardly that day but things became a whole lot less cute when he informed us that our 20 per cent participation marks would comprise four pop quizzes worth five per cent each. It was a desperate attempt to stop us from skipping classes where he did nothing but read lecture notes.
The affordability problem is hard to address
Ryerson University has dropped its food contract with Aramark, which was paid $5.6 million over five years just to cover losses. Now the downtown Toronto school is promising “a new era of food” with more local, sustainable, gluten-free, vegan and halal options from a new corporate partner, Chartwells. The Ryerson Students’ Union isn’t happy. It would have preferred an in-house co-op.
But I doubt the switch to Chartwells or a co-op could address Ryerson students’ main complaint.
When I spoke to Ryerson students last fall about food, they said their biggest concern wasn’t finding more vegan or halal. The reason they packed lunches or frequented the Pizza Pizza across the street was the high prices on campus. Indeed, a turkey wrap, milk and melon cup cost a painful $14.28. It was $13.33 with a meal plan.
How fathers’ rights advocates spawned a vitriolic movement
When Earl Silverman was found dead, hanging from the rafters of his garage after an apparent suicide, those who knew him best said he had died from indifference. For the last five years, Silverman had owned Canada’s only shelter for men, taking battered husbands and their children into his own house in Calgary so they could escape abusive wives. A soft-spoken man in his late 50s, Silverman was inspired to start his shelter after leaving his own wife, who he claimed abused him physically and emotionally during their 20-year marriage, but he was unable to find a shelter that would admit him. In March, Silverman had closed his shelter, sold his home and filed for bankruptcy. On April 27 his body was found, along with a four-page suicide note—in which he allegedly blamed the federal and provincial governments for indifference toward the suffering of men.
“That note was his final attempt to get his story on the record,” says Karen Straughan, an Edmonton-based writer, activist and friend of Silverman’s. “During his life, he was always silenced, so I think this was one last, desperate attempt to be heard.”
And he was heard. As soon as the details of Silverman’s death were released by Calgary police, the news began to travel swiftly through the Internet. Hundreds of websites and message boards devoted to men’s rights caught onto the story. Popular sites like A Voice for Men and the men’s rights forums on Reddit and 4chan were flooded with messages about Silverman’s struggle and demise. Many of those who commented online had never heard of Silverman while he was alive, but after his death they felt compelled to share their feelings of grief, frustration and anger.
Students report rental fraud from Halifax to Calgary
When Adam Michaleski decided to move from Manitoba to Calgary after graduating from Brandon University this spring, he didn’t expect to lose $1,300 and a place to live. But a fake landlord he found on Kijiji who showed him around a nice place took his e-transfer for a damage deposit and then disappeared without a trace.
Rental fraud is a widespread problem for students. A landlord in Halifax recently made off with more than $10,000 after scamming at least 30 people out of their cash, reported CBC Nova Scotia. While the police caught that perpetrator, who pleaded guilty, many cases go unresolved.
Dana Drover, who investigates financial fraud for the Halifax Regional Police, says it’s important for renters to leave a paper trail. If the landlord is paid with a cheque instead of cash or e-transfer, “there’s solid evidence that the money left the account and landed in the account of the recipient.” The two peak periods for rental scams are when students come to university in the fall and when they leave in the spring, he says. A telltale sign of fraud is a landlord who seems rushed, he adds.
Why you should always go straight home after the bar
Students from two Ontario universities are no longer in legal trouble for dumb things they did while drunk but their cases serve as reminders that youthful indiscretions don’t just disappear.
At least not when newspapers write about the cases allowing Google searches to forever link names to drunken behvaiour that some (though not all) potential employers will look down upon.
Exhibit A: Two University of Guelph students, both 19, pleaded guilty this week to mischief for shooting passing cars with paintballs around 2 a.m. one January morning. They apologized and got absolute discharges from a judge but the Guelph Mercury still printed their names.
Nearly half of sexually active girls did not use a condom
Language barriers may be putting the sexual health of some new Canadian teens at risk, says a study that suggests sex education must be tailored to the needs of immigrant adolescents.
The study by the University of British Columbia School of Nursing involved 4,500 East Asian students in Grades 7 to 12.
It found the vast majority of students were not sexually active because of cultural reasons, but of the 12 per cent who were having sex, one in four used alcohol or drugs before a relationship while nearly half of girls did not use a condom.
Researcher Yuko Homma said about half the study group of Chinese, Korean and Japanese adolescents were new to Canada and spoke a language other than English at home.
She said the teens’ parents likely would not have had any formal sexual health education themselves because some cultures shy away from such topics.