Posts tagged "PSE"

envision education / get involved with the university community

“envision education”
A community-led visioning workshop – creating a new vision for our university

What is this event?
“envision education” is a community-led visioning workshop that brings together members of the university community to develop a plan for our university. Community resistance to cutbacks, budget reductions, layoffs, and program elimination is met with two general responses: “what would you rather us do?” and “there is no alternative.” A workshop that brings together the university community will enable us to develop an alternative, and propose ideas that we can work for at our university.
Think of your ideas that would answer these questions: what should our university be? What should education be? How do we get there?
The workshop will be led by organizers with the SFU Community Coalition, and is open to all members of the university community.

When and where?
The workshop will be held on Friday, May 15th from 11:30am to 1:30pm in room MBC 2290 at the SFU Burnaby campus.

Who can participate?
All members of the university community are welcome to participate – a broad range of participation allows us to develop a wide and encompassing idea of what we think our university should be.

How do I sign up?
If you would like to attend and participate in the visioning workshop, please confirm your attendance by contacting Kevin Harding by email at Please include your name, email address, and which campus constituency you belong to (APSA, CUPE, SFUFA, TSSU, GSS, SFSS, Poly Party, or other) to help the organizers plan for numbers. Please register by May 14th.

What do I need to bring?
Mostly yourself – we hope to have representation from all the community constituencies so that we can bring together a wide vision of what the university should be. Bring your thoughts on what you think the university and education should be, and how we can get there.

The take-home message?
· “envision education”
· a community-led visioning workshop – creating a new vision for our university
· Friday, May 15th, 11:30am-1:30pm.
· Register by emailing your details to
· Think about these questions: what should our university be? What should education be? How do we get there?

crazy sign time / election time

the legislature -- alternatively, the house of evilTomorrow, Gordon Campbell will venture through suburban Victoria to Government House, a lovely plot of land with a garden, and will recommend to the Lieutenant-Governor that the legislative assembly be disolved and writs of election be issued for the province.

The most immediate impact to you and me? Tons and tons of signs will soon occupy every conceivable green space in your local neighbourhood, covered in bright colours, and you may well have people going door to door telling you that you should vote a certain way.  Television channels will be overrun with commercials telling you that Gordon Campbell wants to kill your grandmother, or that the NDP are so inept with finances that they couldn’t be trusted to run a popsicle stand.

Electoral politics is lovely.  I’m not actually going to wade, too deep, into the BC NDP/BC Liberal election fight, other than to simply state that I don’t think that re-electing Gordon Campbell and his merry band of neoliberal buccaneers would be the best thing that the electorate could do.  There are a number of reasons for this, of course.  At the same time, I don’t immediately believe that an election of the provincial incarnation of the NDP will lead immediately to sunshine, rainbows, lollipops, and unicorns.  No, it certainly won’t, but the Liberals are certainly not the best choice of a route to such promised lands anyways.

I will, of course, get to the prognostication on the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics in a few paragraphs, but there is actually something important that is being voted on — that is, the proposal to change the electoral system that we use to translate the single ‘x’ that you place on a ballot next to the name of the least offensive candidate to another system entirely.

This is important, and I hope you take the time to educate yourselves on the BC-STV proposal, and then vote in favour of it. Jasmin wrote an excellent note earlier about the BC-STV proposal, and indicated in it the philosophical problems that people who are of a more anarchic bent (myself included, perchance)  have when it comes to voting in the governmental elections (I think Subcommandante Marcos said it best when he explained that voting “simply legitimises a system premied upon exclusion”) but there are several reasons why you should actually take the time to understand what’s going on.

So let’s all learn a little bit.  Right now, we have an electoral system called ‘first past the post’ (FPTP) or ‘single member plurality.’ Currently, you mark an ‘X’ next to the name of the candidate that you’ve decided to vote for, or, in my case, find least offensive.  Then the votes are all counted and the person who receives the most votes, not necessarily a majority, wins the one and only seat up for grabs in your riding.  Theoretically, this could (and often has, in practice) mean that the person designated the ‘winner’ in your riding could actually have received less than a majority of the votes.  In cases like this, I would argue that the system has failed; the majority of people are not represented (politically) by the ‘representative’ elected.

This is why a new electoral system was discussed by a Citizen’s Assembly, and why the proposal to change voting systems to something called the British Columbia Single Transferable Vote (hence BC-STV) was proposed.  In 2005, the proposal won 58% of the vote in the province, and a majority in all but 2 of the 79 ridings, but was not implemented because a 60% threshold was imposed. (there’s a side argument here about a minority of voters ensuring that a minority of voters are actualy represented, but back to the main fare).

BC-STV is different than FPTP in that you don’t just mark a single ‘X’ next to your preferred/least odious candidate.  Instead, there’s a list of candidates, and you get to rank them, as in you write down a 1, 2, 3 next to the candidates in the order that you would prefer.  This allows you to mark a first choice, and a second choice, and so on.  Ridings are also no longer represented by a single member — they’re bigger, and have multiple members.  When the elections are run and votes are counted, there’s a bit of math involved, but your vote can be counted for the person that you voted for but also for your second choice and so on, providing a bit more ‘proportionality’ in the system.

Proportionality is important.  Given that there’s every possibility that an MLA could be elected without a majority of support in a riding, there’s every possibility that a government could be elected without a majority of support in the province, country, etc.  And it happens.  It happened to the NDP in 1996, where they won the most seats with fewer votes, and it’s happening right now federally with a Conservative government that only 36% or something of Canadians voted for. BC-STV aims to change that a bit, bringing in other parties to the legislature.  You may well see that when the referendum is passed, we could have Green Party MLAs and the like in the next round of voting. An additional benefit is that the seats are supposed to roughly correspond to the parties’ votes — ie, if Party A gets 30% of the votes in the election, they ought to get about 30% of the seats.

This has the potential of opening the system up to more parties that could be peoples’ second choices, and may allow a viable ‘alternative’ to the BC Liberals and NDP to form.  And that means that the system could change, ever so slightly, from one premised on exclusion to one that is at least less biased against inclusion.  Which is why we all should vote in favour of it.

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guelph action / activism elsewhere

71cfe5dd4abdb7ba02524cc4f36f-1So, a bit of a break from my roughly 20k-words worth of papers is due, in my estimation.  I’ve come across some evidence of another university going through similar budgetary difficulties as SFU has recently — at the University of Guelph, in Ontario.

Apparently, as part of a budgetary review sparked by a “budgetary crisis,” the university has proposed axing the Women’s Studies program.  According to the university admin, this isn’t being done because of any political views or disagreements with the content of the program, but because it simply isn’t fiscally feasible to provide the program.

Here’s a quote from the administration, courtesy of the Ontarion, the university’s student newspaper:

“It’s not about women’s studies. The university is in a serious financial crisis,” said associate vice-president academic and psychology professor Serge Desmarais. “Given the budgetary issues that are going on, the deans decided to look at what had low enrolment. We must ask whether certain programs are worth sustaining.”

This quote is quite similar to the one used at Simon Fraser University when the administration suspended the Canadian Studies program — closing off its admissions and cutting funding.  Here, the administration pointed to a low enrolment in the program and argued that this was proof that the program was unsustainable.

According to a Guelph local newspaper, faculty and students aren’t just letting the program die quietly.  Faculty and students have sent letters and protested the closure to the media.   Recently, over 100 students, faculty, and staff banded together and marched on the administration building to protest the closure of the program.

One student noted that

“(U of G president Alastair) Summerlee got a raise for an amount over and above what it costs to run the women’s studies program,” Anastasia Zavarella added. “That’s just galling.”

Perhaps one of the more interesting quotes out of Guelph is from a former director of the program:

Helen Hoy, the former co-ordinator of the women’s studies program who now teaches two courses in the program, said it’s chronic underfunding that has kept enrolment numbers low and not lack of popularity.

She said the program has grown since 1995 to include not just feminism but race, sexual orientation, age and social justice issues.

“Yes it’s a time of financial difficulty, but this panicked talk is to encourage us to fold. This is not the time to back away,” she said.

According to Hoy, chronic underfunding is the reason for the low enrolment numbers.  This makes sense to me, in a very real sense; program underunding often prevents programs from being able to offer enough courses to draw students in and allow them to complete their degrees in a timely manner.  If programs and courses aren’t available due to low funding, and thus infrequent offerings, students quite simply won’t take them.

We just saw a similar thing happen to Canadian Studies.  The most interesting quote out of the final public lecture from Canadian Studies was by Mel Watkins, who, according to The Peak:

[…] made a similar argument in a more provocative manner, suggesting “only half facetiously” that the funding should be transferred from Economics and Business departments, since the dominant theories of those disciplines are partially responsible for the recession.