All Posts Tagged With: "Comment"
Perhaps a Chinese university would make more sense
The University of Ottawa’s English newspaper thinks French-speaking Ontarians deserve “a university to call their own,” because, they argue, “Franco-Ontarians are plenty in number but hugely underrepresented at universities.”
They quote Geneviève Latour, a student and co-president of the Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien, an advocacy group. “It’s really a question of having the right to it,” she says.
Oh please. Francophone Ontarians are neither “large in numbers” nor “underrepresented.” In fact, they’re quite well-served already. Ontario does not need another francophone university.
The Fulcrum and Latour should check out the study on francophone post-secondary participation published this week by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. It says that students from French-language school boards are slightly more likely to attend university than average.
That’s not surprising considering the number of options available to study in English or French.
Photos of disrepair on campus don’t tell the whole story
Every Monday I teach in a classroom that, I must admit, is not my favourite. It has a dusty old chalkboard (I know, chalk!), and several ceiling tiles are missing. A couple of the windows are caked with so much salty residue that one can barely see through them, and a fluorescent light is burnt out. There are two lecterns in the room and both are broken—though one has been hastily repaired with a piece of cardboard.
It’s just not a great room in which to teach.
So I get the motivations of a new generation of staff and students seeking to shame their universities into improving facilities. One prof at Hunter College in New York started tweeting pictures of holes she saw on campus and now has a blog called Holes at Hunter. A similar blog, Classrooms of Shame, seeks to draw attention to such “deplorable conditions.” In Canada, too, blogs like I heart SFU show similar pictures and a prof at Memorial University recently went public with complaints about mould and asbestos on his campus.
Why can we find money for execs but not foreign students?
International students at the University of Alberta are facing a possible five per cent tuition increase next year, equating to $900 to $1,600 per year, depending on the program. They already pay several times as much tuition as domestic students to make up for lack of taxpayer funding. Domestic tuition, meanwhile, is set to rise only one per cent. While many international students have cried out in protest, some domestic students support higher increases for non-Albertans.
I, however, have to side with my international colleagues that this tuition increase is unfair. I can’t imagine the sudden stress they’re under. Why is it that Alberta universities can find millions of dollars for things like $8.1-million executive office upgrades and 3.65% pay raises but can’t keep tuition down for these vulnerable students?
My empathy comes from the experiences I’ve had as a student on a diverse campus. For the past year, I’ve been a writing tutor working exclusively with students who are relatively new to Canada. I meet with an entire class of English as a Second Language students every week and so I know them not only on an academic level, but a personal level. Some say I’m their first Canadian friend.
Recent survey of international students might surprise you
In 1916, Bill Boeing went to MIT to hire his first chief engineer. He picked Wong Tsoo, a Chinese guy who had emigrated to England at the age of 16 for undergrad before crossing the Atlantic for graduate school. Wong quickly got to work on Boeing’s first commercially successful plane, the C-Model. Imagine how different the airline industry might have been had another country’s university—Canada’s perhaps—enticed Wong. Both Canada and the U.S. had racist anti-Chinese policies at the time, such as the Head Tax, but if Canada had been less racist than America, might the Wongs of the era have chosen McGill?
We’ve come a long way since then. From 2001 to 2008, the number of international students in Canada increased at a rate of 4.3% per year; between 2008 to 2012 the annual increase was, astonishingly, 12.3%. There were 265,377 in 2012 (74% of them in post-secondary schools). We now get five per cent of all international students worldwide, making Canada the seventh most popular destination after the US, UK, China, France, Germany and Australia, according to Project Atlas.
Where smoking is outlawed it does more harm than good
Students at the University of Prince Edward Island are pushing to ban smoking on campus. Cigarettes, they say, are not only deadly for the poor schmucks who choose to light up but also harmful to the non-smoking citizens forced to walk through their carcinogenic clouds. The student union, reasonably enough, wants a plebiscite.
I’m not a smoker. I think unwanted cigarette smoke is annoying and gross. Ontario’s government must have polling showing many people feel the same way or they wouldn’t have, just yesterday, banned smoking outside at restaurants and bars. I can think of more useful things for the province to do (for example, working on the deficit) but research has shown that smoke doesn’t easily dissipate outside on patios when people are sitting so at least there’s science behind the policy.
But that’s as far as it should go. Campus-wide bans are pointless, draconian and unnecessary.
McMaster students stood up for 11 a.m. moment of silence
One of the tensest moments of my first year at McMaster University didn’t happen when I was writing exams or fighting with my roommate or handing in a late assignment. It happened on Nov. 11, 2009 when I was sitting in the musty basement lecture hall of an old arts building on campus.
The English professor started lecturing at 10:30 a.m. When 11 a.m. rolled around, the time traditionally reserved as a minute of silence in respect for those affected by war—through combat or collateral—a student raised her hand.
“Shouldn’t we stop lecture for a minute right now?” she said, and outlined her case: that would be the most respectful thing to do.
A long, awkward silence fell over the large hall. Then, the professor said no. I don’t remember her reason, exactly. It was a convoluted argument about respecting her lecture in the academic space and not interrupting it by glorifying war. She was very against recognizing the moment.
Why I side with students who won’t wear the red poppy
Students at the University of Ottawa came under fire this week for supporting the white poppy campaign, a drive to get people to wear a white poppy rather than the traditional red one, on the grounds that the red poppy can be seen as a tacit support of war itself. Since white is traditionally associated with peace, the white poppy is meant to meant to support remembrance but with an emphasis on peace rather than war itself.
This piece in The Toronto Sun sneers at students for “hopping aboard” a “left wing” bandwagon. The Minister of Veterans Affairs jumped in too, calling the campaign “totally disrespectful.” Meanwhile, over at the National Post, Matt Gurney claims that the “very existence” of the campaign “is insulting by its implication that the red poppy glorifies war.”
Too bad. The red poppy does glorify war. And it has been so successful in doing so that it seems as though its supporters don’t even realize they are doing it. Celyn Dufay, the Ottawa student at the centre of this imbroglio is quite right in explaining, simply enough, “we want to work for peace.”
#Movember is about more than just charity
I have never really been a guy. I’ve always been male but I’ve never been “one of the guys.”
I can’t help but yawn during prolonged football and soccer games. My eyes glaze over midway through feverish discussions about the newest Dodge Ram. When asked by a server what kind of beer I’d like, I usually wait for a friend to make his request before I add, “make that two.”
Though I find myself outside the realms of frat houses and basement lairs, there is one time of year when these distinctions seem to fade into the background. It doesn’t matter that I can’t manage a video game combo or bench press my weight. One month of the year, all that is secondary.
That month is Movember.
Customers are always right. Students aren’t.
The University of British Columbia announced this week that they will be creating a giant focus group to help guide university decisions. “The results of the surveys,” we are told, ”will help UBC design new programs, make changes in courses, update communications and improve service to students and alumni.”
Clearly, the Canadian academy has crossed a line. It wasn’t very long ago that any university would blush at such shameless consumerism. Today, it seems, we are proud of it.
But wait, I hear you saying, what’s wrong with universities finding out what their students and alumni think? Why not take their views into account? To a certain extent such an objection is reasonable, but UBC is not just getting input on superficial matters like what flowers to plant or what their web site should look like; they are seeking input on courses and programs too.
Yes, rapists are responsible, not low-cut tops, but…
This week Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe incurred the wrath of Twitter with her ambitiously titled column, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk”. Yoffe’s argument? College women should refrain from getting blotto because a lot of sexual assaults on campus involve alcohol; women who don’t imbibe excessively may be less susceptible to sexual assault. She writes:
“Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”
Barbara Amiel on the campus zeitgeist
Lucky John Greyson and Dr. Tarek Loubani. Obviously, not for spending 51 days in an Egyptian jail, where they claimed to have been beaten horribly and, knowing something of justice in the Arab world, I don’t doubt it. But lucky they were jailed by the military they despise and not the Muslim Brotherhood. Could have been either, depending on when they were in Ramses Square administering to the wounded. If Mohamed Morsi had been in control, they might still have been beaten brutally, but probably first stripped naked on the street. Lucky, and this is ironic, given they are two left-wing chaps, Conservatives Stephen Harper and John Baird were in office and really worked hard for their release.
I don’t want to sound retrospectively envious, well actually I am, but when I was imprisoned in Mozambique in pretty brutal conditions, Canada refused to lift a finger. Thankfully, the British and the Americans negotiated my release. Then-minister for external affairs Mark MacGuigan, a member of the decidedly left-wing Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, told the House of Commons that while the conditions in which I was held were “undoubtedly very bad,” there was no reason to protest my 11 days in Machava prison, even though no government or lawyer had been notified of my detention. What was done to me would be done to any citizen of Mozambique charged with “the same offence”—which was no offence.
The last thing students need is fewer days on campus
For the first time this fall, a majority of Ontario universities have scheduled a break from classes in either October or November. Students have been pushing for this over the past few years as a way to improve mental health and several schools, from Ryerson to Western, have given in. The idea is that a fall break will help students cope with the high workload of university, leaving them less likely to get stressed, depressed or anxious.
A break may indeed temporarily lift spirits and improve mental health but further diminishing the amount of time they’re expected to show up may also make it harder for them to cope in the long run—especially if they get full-time jobs where they’re expected to show up five days a week.
Showing up to the same place at the same time each day is a skill and it’s one that universities aren’t taking seriously enough if they think they can drop even more days from their schedules.
Wait for better transit to campus keeps getting longer
In the Western Gazette this week, writer Mary Ann Ciosk describes a scene that plays out hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times a year in university towns across Canada:
“I check the time again—the bus is now 20 minutes late, and I have three minutes remaining before my class starts… Finally, a low mechanical growl can be heard in the distance, and around the corner appears our salvation, the 2 Dundas! But as the bus approaches, a new horror sets in. The 2 does not slow as it draws near the stop, but speeds past us with its cargo of disgruntled students tightly packed together—the bus is full.”
The issue of full buses making students late has long captured the imagination of campus news editors and student leaders. This fall is no exception. University of Lethbridge students pushed for better transit at a recent mayoral candidates debate. The Carleton University Students’ Association recently met with Ottawa transit officials to tell them too many students are getting passed up. In Victoria, B.C., post-secondary students held up signs on a street corner protesting poor service.
Nonetheless, in some cities at least, the wait for a better ride to campus just keeps got longer.
Cheerleader ticketed for cheering on homecoming weekend
When members of Western’s cheerleading team launched a member into the air on their way to the football game this weekend against Queen’s, their attempt to boost school spirit during homecoming was rewarded with a $140 fine. London Police deemed the demonstration “a nuisance” and ticketed head cheerleader Max Gow.
The team’s coach told the London Free Press he and Gow plan to fight the ticket. That won’t surprise anyone. What will is that this fine was just one of 270 issued during Saturday’s celebration. The number might seem high to outsiders but students here are used to the annual ticketing blitz know as “Project LEARN” (Liquor Enforcement and Reduction of Noise), when party, noise and litter bylaws are strictly enforced for the first month of classes. Many students, myself included, think the campaign targets us unfairly.
It wasn’t the prof. It wasn’t the material. It was too easy.
There’s a point in most fizzling relationships when the magic is gone and everyone is just going through the motions. My relationship with the University of the Fraser Valley’s English department reached that point in a Fall 2011 class when, like a threadbare superhero plot, everything just became too easy.
It wasn’t the prof. He was great. It wasn’t the material. I loved that too. I think it was the fact that I scored an A- in the course and knew I didn’t deserve it. Or that we all were scoring grades we didn’t deserve and that the department was convincing us that we earned them.
I remember my friends and I swapping stories about late nights, unfinished readings, rambling and incoherent essays. We attributed our successes to what we called the ‘bullshit’ factor. Our pride protected us from the truth: that we were victims of a system that was exploiting us for tuition.
Prof. Pettigrew on the limits of ‘teach what you love’
I don’t like Spenser’s Faerie Queene, but when I first taught Introduction to English Literature,there it was on my syllabus. I felt like I had to include it, so I did. When the time came to teach it, I gave some background, including an account of an earlier poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Once we got to Spenser though, I quickly realized my students weren’t liking it, because I didn’t like it. They had picked up on my enthusiasm for Sir Gawain, and wanted to know more about that Green Knight guy.
So I learned a good lesson: teach what you love, not what you think you’re supposed to teach.
This same principle, taken to an absurd extreme, has also been adopted by University of Toronto English Instructor David Gilmour, who got folks excited yesterday when he was quoted in an interview saying that he had no interest in teaching female writers because he only taught what he was passionate about: “Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.”
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.
Prof. Pettigrew on religious accommodation
Every Friday, my university cafeteria serves fish and chips. I’m not a big fan of fish and chips myself, so I don’t particularly look forward to it, but it does always make me pause and recall the ways in which even generally secular universities often hold on to their religious pasts.
The fish and chips, of course, descend from the days when Catholics were expected to avoid meat on Fridays, itself a remnant from older practices of fasting ahead of the sabbath.
Even as one whose views of religion at universities ranges from the skeptical to the hostile, I can’t get too worked up over these last vestiges of religion in public funded schools. I doubt very many people even realize why they serve fish on Fridays and, someday, they likely won’t.
But tolerating the not-quite vanished traditions of a dying tradition is one thing: encouraging faith-based observances at a public university is quite another.
And so it was with some concern that I noted that the University of Regina has gone so far as to install special sinks to facilitate the washing that observant Muslims do in preparation for their prayers. U of R has also created a dedicated prayer space for Muslims as well.
Student unions need to choose performers carefully
It is suddenly fashionable for student unions to cancel performers, often at great cost, after deciding they’ve done something reprehensible.
Student unions at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa dropped rapper Rick Ross this summer after complaints about lyrics that endorsed date-rape drugs. Ross, who was fired by Reebok over the same song, apologized.
Earlier this month, Western students cancelled Sean Kingston’s performance when they learned of a rape charge against him and then felt the need to apologize after his replacement Classified was accused of joking about rape on stage.
So it wasn’t surprising that the York Federation of Students cancelled A$AP Rocky last week after they learned he was charged with hitting a female fan at a Philadelphia concert. What might raise eyebrows is their choice of replacement. If you’re worried about misogyny—the message York’s Federation of Students is projecting by cancelling A$AP—Major Lazer might not be the best choice.
What happened to innocent until proven guilty?
Sam Tsega, 22, has been accused of a crime for more than three years but Carleton University, where he is a student and lacrosse player, only recently chose to suspend him from campus, classes and extra-curricular activities.
In a letter signed by the university’s president last week, Tsega was told he is banned from all activities and university grounds until he can provide satisfactory evidence he does not pose a threat to the safety of others. What type of evidence he might provide remains unclear.
The university is wrong to get involved in Tsega’s day-to-day life. Here’s why.
The shooting death of Ottawa man Michael Swan, 19, took place three years ago. Police said it was likely drug-related and arrested three men by tracking a cell phone stolen from Swan’s house. Tsega was originally accused of manslaughter, then second-degree murder, and, as of last week first-degree murder.