All Posts Tagged With: "Opinion"
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Prof. Pettigrew offers some suggestions
If you have finished a year or two of university, it’s tempting to sprint into your summer months with abandon, not giving school work another thought until Labour Day. But what if you still considered yourself a student in between semesters? Surprisingly, there’s a lot to learn even when the sun is shining. Here are five things to consider for those lazy hazy days.
1. Take a course. Obviously, not everyone can afford the time and money required for a summer course, but if you can swing it, it’s a lot more pleasant than it sounds. For one thing, summer courses are condensed, so you get through the material quickly and it’s easier to remember everything when the final exam comes around. Also, if you ask really nicely, your prof may hold class outside.
But can we really blame inadequate funding?
In a survey completed by 2,300 Ontario faculty members this spring, 43 per cent of professors agreed that the quality of undergraduate education has declined over the past five years. Only 28 per cent disagreed. Those are worrying figures. It’s no surprise that they prompted headlines.
The survey sponsor, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (a professor unions’ group), was quick to blame a lack of government funding for the perceived drop in quality.
“Universities are straining to accommodate the new students with inadequate resources, and the cracks are beginning to show,” OCUFA president Constance Adamson said in a release.
But wait a minute. Are the resources really inadequate?
Provisional council will look for savings in the wrong places
It’s easy to dismiss Quebec’s protesting students. Many people in the Rest of Canada did exactly that about 12 weeks ago when student unions decided that they would skip classes and block others from pursuing their educations too.
That was followed by near-nightly vandalism in Montreal, regular disruptions to commuters and policing bills that are no doubt in the millions.
Besides, the tuition students pay outside Quebec is much higher. After a fee increase of $1,778 over seven years, Quebec students will still pay far less than the rest of us. The economy is weak, Quebec taxpayers are overburdened, therefore it seemed to many of us that students are simply being selfish.
Current policies do enough to protect non-smokers
Every student has some way of relieving stress during final exams. Just imagine for a moment that your relaxation method is suddenly prohibited.
That is the dilemma now faced by smokers at the University of Alberta if a new policy introduced by a select group of University of Alberta Students’ Union councillors goes ahead (it has already passed the first reading). The policy would restrict on-campus smoking to remote areas of university property called “health promoting areas.”
U.S. salary stats highlight value of Canadian universities
A few weeks ago, it was revealed that full-time professors in Canada are, on average, the best paid in the world. They make $86,352 at mid-career and $113,820 at the end of their careers. In the U.S., profs earn just $72,648 at mid-career and a measly $88,296 in their golden years.
The revelation that American professors make less than our own was a matter of public outrage: Let’s pay the bums less!
It was also a boost to our collective ego. A mere decade ago we wrung our national hands at how our best and brightest always seemed to move south for higher pay. Now, they stay. Phew!
Tuition hike protest is about more than just money
It’s impossible to say exactly how many attended the Montreal march, but it was one of the largest ever. Estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000. CBC News described the march as being “considerably larger than the one at Montreal’s famous 1995 pre-referendum rally.” I personally watched protesters pass through one intersection for over half an hour with no end in sight.
The march was the latest in a series of escalating protests, including the province-wide student “strike” during which thousands of students have skipped classes, some for over a month.
But now that the sun has set on the March 22 Day of Action, the big question is, what’s next?
$2 million fine is misdirected
Late last week, Quebec’s education minister Line Beauchamp announced that she will fine Concordia University $2 million for giving former administrators “excessive” severance packages.
More than $4 million in severance was paid by the university to seven former administrators, a move that was criticized by faculty. The criticism has prompted an external audit of human resources.
The two biggest payments went to former presidents Judith Woodsworth ($703,500) and Claude Lajeunesse ($1 million), who both departed mid-way through their terms after disagreements with the 42-member Board of Governors, which has been called “a clique of self-appointed outsiders.”
Also on the list are two former auditors who were dismissed by the university and who then sued for wrongful dismissal. The auditors settled with the university for more than $600,000 each.
So why do universities make it so hard to switch rooms?
Dharun Ravi, a 20-year-old Rutgers University student, is facing up to 10 years in prison if jurors decide that his unauthorized webcam broadcast of a roommate’s gay trysts amounts to a hate crime.
The New Jersey court case, now is in its twelfth day, gained international attention because Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, fatally threw himself from a bridge two days after a humiliating show.
The jury has heard details of how Ravi used the word “fag” in instant messages and how he Tweeted “anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 pm and 12.”
What the jury won’t hear is what Clementi had written as his reasoning for requesting a room change, according to the prosecutor: “Roommate with webcam spying on me/want a single room.”
Students join tuition protest, skip classes
In the public relations war between Quebec universities that plan to raise tuition over the next five years and the students who oppose paying more, students appear to have won today’s battle.
On Monday, 6,500 Concordia University students joined the province-wide boycott of classes, which is a protest over a planned increase in tuition from $2,200 today to just under $4,000 by 2017. Students say they can’t afford to pay more. Universities say the rise is necessary to balance the books.
They should never have signed the agreements
Luke Simcoe is a guest blogger. He will be contributing the occasional post on web culture, the various kooks and cranks who inhabit the Internet, as well as copyright matters.
Between them, the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario possess a sizeable portion of Canada’s brain trust. Yet somehow, the two institutions recently agreed to a copyright deal so dumb that one observer accused them of a “complete capitulation to an important battle over the costs and parameters of access to knowledge in Canadian post-secondary institutions.”
Students and taxpayers could benefit from a fork in the road
University presidents, student federations and faculty associations rarely agree about much.
But they joined forces last week to bash an Ontario government proposal for three-year bachelor degrees.
The opponents argue that graduates of three-year programs won’t develop the critical thinking and research skills that those with four-year degrees have mastered. That seems obvious.
It’s redundant, it’s unfair, and coercion causes resentment
A third-year student from First Nations University wants to force all students at the nearby University of Regina—and eventually everywhere—to take mandatory Indigenous Studies courses.
The idea is gaining steam more quickly than Julianne Beaudin-Herney, 20, had imagined.
More than 1,000 people have signed her petition entitled Students Initiative to Change On-Campus Systemic Racism. Administrators have offered support, student union presidents across the country have fallen over themselves to sign. NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton added her name.
The only people who have dared to publicly question the proposal are a few U of R engineering students. They don’t want to lose the single humanities course they get out of 45 classes in 4.5 years. Engineering undergrads are already so busy that only 64 per cent of them finish in six years.
Runaway compensation is hurting students
When students across the country united for the Canadian Federation of Students’ National Day of Action to protest tuition fees on Feb. 1, tiny Brandon University’s student union did their part.
They gathered students, foisted placards and yelled into a megaphone. The message was clear.
Drop fees. Drop fees. Drop fees.
It seems strange then, that last fall when the Brandon University Faculty Association went on strike for the second time in three years, the student union wasn’t so bothered about being asked to pay more for their professors— who make up most of the university’s costs.
Student who accused professor of antisemitism is back
Remember Sarah Grunfeld? She’s the York University student who stormed out of a lecture in September of last year because her professor said that “all Jews should be sterilized.”
It later emerged that Professor Cameron Johnston, who is Jewish, was using the statement as an example of an invalid and dangerous opinion that must be reasonably qualified.
It appears that Grunfeld left the 450-seat lecture before Cameron qualified the opinion. Grunfeld was widely rebuked, including by Maclean’s own 22-year-old Jewish columnist, Emma Teitel.
But she didn’t go away quietly. She’s now back in a YouTube video called The Truth Behind the Sarah Grunfeld story. At least, we assume it’s her; the face in the video appears in silhouette.
“I was ridiculed, I was demonized,” says the shadowy figure. “I was called an moron, a dimwit, an idiot…” The figure then explains that she was paying full attention (FULL ATTENTION!) and sitting in the front row of class. “I know exactly what I heard,” she says. The shadowy figure admits that the comment happened in the “first five minutes of [Cameron's] talk about how opinions can be dangerous.” She says she waited for the professor to provide some kind of qualifier, but he did not.
This all comes before the shadowy figure accuses against the media, York University, Hillel of Greater Toronto and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs of mistreating her. The voice concludes by asking: “what’s the future for Jewish students?”
A better question might be: “what’s the future of Sarah Grunfeld?”
Few schools guarantee graduation in four years
It’s so common for students nearing the end four-year degrees to suddenly learn they’ll need to take an extra semester that they’ve developed a name for the phenomenon—the victory lap. Actually, make that two names. I recently heard it dubbed “the fourth-year surprise” too.
Whatever you call it, finding out you need a fifth year of school upends plans for graduate school, starting a career, moving to a new city, travelling. It also destroys your budget, as thousands of extra dollars are suddenly needed at a time when you’ve been drained. Oh, and try getting student loans for one course.
I know what that’s like. I was forced to do victory lap after receiving bad advice at the University of Guelph, which was happy to have me back as a paying customer for an extra four months.
That’s why I was pleased to hear last week that more U.S. schools are guaranteeing students can graduate in four years, so long as they follow all the rules. At least 20 U.S. schools now offer four-year graduation promises and more are planning to add them, Tony Pals, spokesperson for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, told the Wall Street Journal.
Sorry Niagara Falls, it’s not you
No sooner did Ontario’s government reiterate in their throne speech that they will build three new universities than a couple of small-town politicians stepped up to demand one for their town.
Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor told the Niagara Falls Review yesterday that the city of 82,000 should get a campus. Naturally, the mayor is on board too. The newspaper called it “a no-brainer.”
But sorry Niagara Falls, your case is weak.
The new book Academic Reform, by policy experts Ian D. Clark, David Trick and Richard Van Loon, took a comprehensive look at exactly what Ontario’s post-secondary system needs right now. They examined what works and what doesn’t, from Australia to Europe, from Florida to British Columbia.
They agree that, yes, Ontario badly needs new universities.
But only in the suburban ring around Toronto, known colloquially as The 905.
They projected that the Greater Toronto Area will need 51,000 to 74,000 new undergraduate seats between 2009 and 2025. The rest of Ontario will require, at most, 30,000—possibly none at all.
And the rest of Ontario already has more seats available than the GTA, despite the fact that the GTA will soon have more than half of the 18 to 24-year-olds. There are 20 universities in Ontario, but only three main campuses are in the GTA. That partly explains why nearly half of local secondary school students leave the city to go to school—far more than come into the city to be educated. Thirty per cent don’t get into university at all. Could it be because local schools are full?
It’s also clear from the research that the GTA needs entirely new campuses, not expansions. Toronto’s universities are already among the biggest in the world. York University, at 55,000 students, and the University of Toronto, at 54,000, are the fifth and sixth largest in North America. U of T has determined that it doesn’t want more growth. York and Ryerson can only grow so quickly.
The growth is in Toronto’s suburbs, like Brampton, Marham and Vaughan. Consider that Brampton grew at a rate of 33 per cent between 2001 and 2006 to 434,000, according to the Census. It’s likely closer to 500,000 now. The City of Vaughan passed the 300,000 mark in 2011 and projects it will add 116,000 more by 2031. These new citizens will demand local options to study.
That said, there are a couple fast-growing cities just outside the GTA that could make reasonable cases too. Barrie, which has put aside $14-million for a potential campus, grew 33 per cent in the past decade to 191,000. Milton, which grew by 71 per cent between 2001 and 2006 to 88,000, has land set aside for a possible campus of Wilfrid Laurier—and it’s a short commute to Brampton.
But Niagara Falls, with 82,000 people, grew by just four between 2001 and 2006. Besides, it’s only 17 kilometres from Brock University in St. Catharines—also a short commute.
If they think they’re getting a new university, they’re dreaming. All three should go to the GTA.
We’re good enough already, says Prof. Pettigrew
Over in the UK, there’s more talk about university professors needing formal teacher training. One hears similar proposals more and more lately in this country, too. But in the end, it is, like so many ideas about higher education, a meretricious scheme masquerading as commonsense reform.
On the surface, the notion that university professors should have some kind of formal Education credential has a certain appeal. Professors, after all, spend a lot of their time teaching, why wouldn’t it make sense to require them to have the same level of training as other teachers? Just because you know about your discipline, the thinking goes, doesn’t mean you know how to teach it.
In my opinion, they’re paid well enough already.
More than 1,000 students at Brandon University have signed a petition asking for their tuition money back because of a faculty strike that caused classes to be cancelled since Oct. 12.
But the Brandon University Student’s Union (BUSU), which has collected the signatures, doesn’t blame the professors—who are striking for the second time in three years—for their three weeks of missed classes. BUSU supports the picketing profs. They agree they’re underpaid.
But are Brandon’s professors really underpaid? More importantly—are professors underpaid in general? It’s a question students and taxpayers should ask—they’re the ones who pay the bills.
A student makes Jews look bad. But that’s a good thing.
By Emma Teitel. Republished from Macleans.ca.
There’s an inside Yiddish expression used by Jews to describe other Jews behaving badly in the public sphere: “shanda for the goyim” — shanda meaning “shame” and goyim denoting “gentiles” (non-Jews). The phrase is most commonly employed by Semitic seniors, when the modern media informs them that Jews can in fact be lechers (Dominique Strauss-Kahn), alcoholics (Amy Winehouse); unsuspecting nudes (Scarlett Johansson); and now, thanks to one 22-year-old Toronto Jewish girl, dangerously obtuse.
The woman in question—with whom I share at least one mutual Facebook friend (I am also a 22-year-old Jewish girl and it’s very possible we crossed paths, maybe at B’nai Brith summer camp, or perhaps in the annual United Synagogue Youth Limousine Sukka Hop)—is a York University senior named Sarah Grunfeld, who last week made shanda-esque headlines when she put her social science professor’s career in jeopardy over an anti-Semitic remark that turned out to be—well—not. The statement “All Jews should be sterilized,” Professor Cameron Johnston explained in the introductory lecture to his class, was an example of an invalid and dangerous opinion; his point was that in academia especially, opinions must be reasonably qualified. Grunfeld failed to catch that qualifier, though, perhaps because before the prof had a chance to offer it, she had stormed out of class and enlisted the on-campus Israel-advocacy group, Hasbara (Hebrew for “Explanation”), to call for his immediate resignation.
Word of Johnston’s so-called racism exploded virally online by way of what National Post columnist Jonathan Kay has dubbed the “Bubbie-net” (Jewish grandparents frantically emailing their kin with fresh findings of alleged anti-Semitism); at the same time widely-respected Canadian Jewish civil rights association, B’nai Brith (Children of the Covenant), leaped in with equal gusto to champion Grunfeld’s claim. Then came the big reveal: Ms. Grunfeld had made a mistake. Not only was professor Johnston not an anti-Semite, he was a Jew. To borrow a more accessible Yiddish phrase, political correctness at York University had effectively schtupped itself. Not to mention Sarah Grunfeld.
The maligned university student has since “qualified” her accusations against Johnston with claims twice as ludicrous as the original. “The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’,” she told the Toronto Star recently, “still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”
A lot of Canadian Jews are embarrassed and ashamed by this kind of doublespeak, and so was I, until I re-examined the root of my disquiet. There’s a reason why this particular shanda—and not, let’s say, Woody Allen’s marriage to his adopted daughter, or Garth Drabinsky’s defrauding of his shareholders, or The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart’s changing his name from John Stewart Liebowitz—ignites such fierce indignation in the Jewish community: Because Grunfeld doesn’t simply make us look bad (like the guys above); she makes us look stupid, and in doing so debunks the cultural stereotypes of intellectual superiority that we sometimes not-so-secretly enjoy.
Jewish American author Michael Chabon explored the seductiveness of this stereotype to Jews themselves in the New York Times last year in considering the calibre of the discussion following Israel’s botched raid of the Gaza bound Turkish flotilla, Mavi Marmara, in which nine activists died at the hands of Jewish soldiers (a debacle Diaspora Jews had trouble reconciling with our supposed “cultural” cleverness):
“I would look around the Passover table, say, at the members of my family, and remark on the presence of a number of highly intelligent, quick-witted, shrewd, well-educated people filled to bursting with information, explanations and opinions on a diverse range of topics. In my tractable and vainglorious eagerness to confirm the People of Einstein theory, my gaze would skip right over—God love them—any counterexamples present at that year’s Seder.”
Sarah Grunfeld—God love her—is one such counterexample. But we’d be wrong to let our gaze skip right over her, because there’s another, more disturbing lesson to be drawn from the Grunfeld affair and it’s this: as Jews, we hold the moral high ground to call out anti-Semitism. That’s why, in part, Grunfeld’s accusation had the legs it did, and why, perhaps, it got the backing from the Jewish infrastructure organizations such as B’nai Brith, which still hasn’t distanced itself from Grunfeld or denounced her fallacious claim, but has instead published her unapologetic letter blasting Professor Johnston for a sin he didn’t commit, with a logic even more addled than before. And there lies the biggest shanda of all: Grunfeld’s false allegations and the group’s uninformed decision to support her are bad mistakes, but both parties’ inability to own up to those mistakes renders them inexcusable. Because when we cry wolf —especially on one of our own—serious apologies are in order.
But it’s doubtful that apologies of any kind will be made, and B’nai Brith will continue sniffing out anti-Semitism where there may not be any, all the while undermining cases where there is. If anything good does come from this debacle, however, it’s that our enemies and unsolicited friends (Glenn Beck comes to mind) may think twice before attributing all things grave and glorious to the “People of Einstein.” Because if public representatives of the Jewish faith continue to make exceedingly stupid mistakes, then the various calumnies the conspiracy theorists like to heap on all of us—the blood libel, the plague, AIDS, the Iraq War, and our obvious plans to take over everything from Saturday night TV to the World Bank—start to ring kind of hollow. After all, with Sarah Grunfeld leading the way, for what exactly can they blame us?