Disabling Hearing Loss & Perpetuation of Poverty

 
 

What we can do to help

According to the World Health Organization, there are 466 million people worldwide living with disabling hearing loss. They estimate that by 2050, this number will be over 900 million. Currently among those with disabling hearing loss is 34 million children which is almost equal to the population of Canada. Most of these individuals are living in low and middle income countries where they lack access to basic health care. 

It is often highly preventable causes that result in childhood hearing loss. 60% of all cases in children are a result of preventable causes such as meningitis, measles, malaria, and untreated ear infections. The treatment of something as simple as an ear infection is often assumed to be highly manageable, especially to those of us living in high income countries. However, it is important we recognize the significant barriers that a lack of resources can have on treating simple illnesses, which can result in significant health issues in the child’s future. 

As a result of disabling hearing loss, children are often socially isolated and stigmatized within their communities and 90% of them do not attend school due to their inability to participate. Many cases of hearing loss go undiagnosed and are interpreted by families and community members as intellectual disabilities. As these children grow into adults, they are often uneducated due to their disability, and therefore less likely to receive employment, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty and the subsequent health outcomes. 

 In Canada, there are many hearing aids that used to be worn by an individual that are no longer being used. For example, some people have upgraded to a newer hearing aid and discarded older models. Many do not know that they can repurpose their old hearing aids by donating them to someone in need. Instead, hearing aids often get put away on a shelf and forgotten about.  

The current production of hearing aids is meeting less than 10% of the global need for them. This is a problem that   affects individuals and communities around the world. While only meeting 10% of global need is a shockingly low amount, it is also important to mention that 80% of people who experience hearing loss are living in low and middle   income countries. Statistically, they are more likely to experience hearing loss, and they are highly unlikely to have resources to aid them. Another important thing to recognize is that disabling hearing loss in low  and middle income countries is not a result of neglect or carelessness of the individual or their family, but it is the social determinants of health – various social barriers to education, resources, etc. - that give rise to this health problem and many others. 

Hearing for All (www.hearingforall.ca) is an initiative that I, Emma Logan have started to address this problem by collecting hearing aids that are no longer being used and having them refurbished by partner organizations to be donated to those in need. By providing hearing aids and audiology care to communities in need, we can provide people the opportunity to attend school, get a job, and live a higher quality of life. This builds stronger economies and together we can work towards eliminating preventable hearing loss among children in developing countries. 

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If you are an individual who wears hearing aids and have one (or more) at home that you do not wear anymore, please consider donating them to us. If you are an organization that sees a high volume of hearing aid users, please consider becoming a collection point   for us. 

We are writing this article to raise awareness on this topic in hopes that the conversation on disabling hearing loss and how it perpetuates poverty and can result in stigmatization becomes more prevalent in Canadian households. 

We understand that repurposing hearing aids is not the only solution to this problem, there are many complex issues that allow for this issue to  manifest in low and middle income countries in particular. So, we encourage you to join us in our mission as we take direct action toward eliminating    barriers to hearing health care for those in Canada and around the world and continue  researching and learning about how we can find solutions to this problem.   

 

“Show Them What Crazy Can Do”

 
 

Nike’s newest ad campaign sparks discussion

Nike’s most recent advertising campaign, “Dream Crazier,” provides commentary on the advances made for women’s sport in recent decades, and more importantly seeks for more. Building off of their “Dream Crazy” ads from September 2018 featuring Colin Kaepernick, Nike continues to take a stand with notable athletes who receive criticism from the media for actions taken in their sports. For “Dream Crazier,” Serena Williams is the highlight as she narrates the powerful message and is featured at the end of the ad. While Kaepernick’s controversial action of kneeling during the national anthem is widely known among fans of the NFL, Serena Williams had also recently been criticized for taking a stand against a call made on the court in the 2018 US Open final. By featuring such widely discussed athletes in their ads, Nike has the opportunity to share a strong message behind their products and image which fortifies them as a brand who supports strong values.

“Dream Crazy” supports the notion for athletes to dream of their success and to work towards that goal relentlessly. Highlighting both men and women—some able-bodied and some with disabilities, the ad encourages each athlete to challenge what others believe they can accomplish and to rise above. Building off the message shared by Kaepernick in “Dream Crazy” Nike shines a light on women in sport specifically and shares their powerful message through the voice of Serena Williams. By focusing on the harsh realities women face in sport, the message of “Dream Crazier” seems to be even more powerful than that shared in “Dream Crazy.”

The video begins by addressing some of the hypocrisies women face in sport that men do not. These include: being criticized for showing emotion, for getting mad at a call made by the ref, for wanting to play against the boys, and finally having their femininity questioned if they’re too good. This final example was the case of Caster Semenya, the South African championship runner. After addressing the hypocrisy the video goes on to highlight some historical events of women breaking barriers in sport that have led to where women’s sport currently stands. The take-home message seems to encourage women to continue to dream crazier and to raise women’s sport upward, for despite all the great advances made that the video highlights, there is still much more to be done to improve women’s sport.

The fines laid towards Serena Williams during the controversial 2018 US Open are but one of several examples of sexist and inequality in women’s sport. It proves that there is much yet to be done. The most prominent two issues I see in women’s sport are the discrepancies in pay between men and women athletes and the sexism women face in terms of their treatment compared to men in a given sport. Firstly, a female athlete gets paid enormously less than a male athlete. In a 2017 article, Forbes found that, “the top ten highest-paid female athletes last year together earned a combined $105 million” and that each of the top three men, Floyd Mayweather, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo made over that amount in the same year. These major discrepancies are mostly due to differences in sponsorship dollars. That money is driven by ad revenue and viewership, which women’s sport severely lacks. In a 2015 article from the USC News, Andrew Good writes that “in 2014, [Sportsnet] affiliates devoted only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports, down from 5 percent in 1989.” With data like this, it is no wonder that the revenue from women’s sport is nowhere near their male counterparts.

In terms of sexism, there are two examples that come to mind; criticism towards women’s outfits in tennis and beach volleyball as well as the difference in the rules of hockey for men and women. In the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, a pair of beach volleyball players from Egypt; Doaa Elghobashy and Nada Meawad broke barriers for Muslim athletes as they adorned their hijabs during competition on the world’s stage. Not only did these women wear hijabs, their outfits covered their whole body, save for hands and eyes. This differs drastically from the typical bikini-clad athletes from other countries. Whether worn by choice or otherwise, the bikini outfits worn by women’s beach volleyball players are undoubtedly sexual for the sake of appearance, not performance. As Elgobashy went on to say to the Associated Press according to Alexandra Sims who writes for Independent, “I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.” Elgobashy’s statement is a reminder that the outfit does not make the athlete, and that women should have the choice to wear whichever outfit style they like regardless of any external pressures for them to look a certain way (in those sports that do have standardized protective equipment). Yet another example of a woman facing criticism due to her outfit occurred with Serena Williams’ when she returned to tennis after giving birth. She chose to wear a  catsuit outfit, made in collaboration with Nike and inspired by the Oscar-winning movie Black Panther. The suit helped with blood circulation and the prevention of blood clots, which was a result of her recent childbirth, as told by Nicole Chavez for CNN. Not long after the match, the President of the French Tennis Federation implemented a dress code to the sport, despite allowing men to frequently remove their shirts in exchange for a clean one multiple times during a match. This is yet another example of unnecessary treatment of women from men who govern a sport.

Another similar dichotomy is in hockey, as for years, women’s hockey has been made to be non-contact compared to the celebrated physicality of men’s hockey. This decision seems to stem from the belief that women are somehow more fragile when compared to men, which is simply not true. While it is the case that men and women differ in size and strength physiologically, women are incredible athletes who excel in both non-contact and contact sports regardless of this difference. So why is it that the rules of a game must be changed to suit a different gender? When looking at the women’s sports teams on campus, arguably our most celebrated team is the X-Women Rugby team. Their consistent success over recent years has cemented our program as being one of the best in the country, in the very aggressive contact sport of rugby. It seems odd that for women’s hockey the rules are changed from their male counterparts simply due to gender and the belief that women may not be able to handle the physicality of contact hockey.

With such examples in mind and with the strong message shared by Nike, the question is how can women’s sport be improved and what must be done to get there? I believe that the main change that must be had is the exposure of women’s sport on the major sports broadcasts like TSN, Sportsnet, etc. The argument against increasing the media time of women’s sport is a simple one, the fact that viewership falters and ad revenue drops. The issue in this rebuttal though is that viewership will never increase if the coverage of women’s sport continues to be shown at a rate of 3.2 percent as discussed above. Because of this, girls likely don’t have the same kinds of role models in sports that boys do growing up, which may have strong implications on the levels of participation in sport for young girls. Having role models in sport that girls can relate to may inspire them to grow up and strive to be like the Serena Williams’ or Hayley Wickenheiser’s of the world just as boys look up to the Sydney Crosby’s and LeBron James’.

Nike’s “Dream Crazier” ad is but one of many steps forward that we must take to improve women’s sport. It is a journey that everyone involved in sport must take, from fans and players to coaches, advertisers, presidents and governing bodies. Improving women’s sport and eliminating the sexism and hypocrisy female athletes face will take many steps forward, and Nike’s ad may be the first step for some of us, as I know it is for myself. So, my question is this: are you prepared to dream crazier? I know I am.

 

Gun Policies in Schools

 
 

What can the Dartmouth High School incident teach us?

Lockdowns in high school usually are routine drills in which classes try to fend off boredom while following the instructions of staying away from windows and doors while being silent; but, a lockdown at  Dartmouth High School on February 20 wasn’t business as usual.

Dartmouth High School was put under lockdown for several hours after a 15-year-old boy threatened another student with a fake firearm. The boy eventually surrendered to the police and has been charged with assault with a weapon, threats, pointing a firearm and possession of a weapon. While the situation luckily resolved without injuries or harm to students, it does raise the question of what schools should be doing regarding firearms in schools, both real and fake.

First, it’s important to know that individuals at least 12 years old can acquire a minor’s firearms license, which allows them to borrow non-restricted firearms for purposes such as target shooting and hunting. Conditions can be applied to the license such as supervision when using firearms, and minors are not allowed to possess licenses that use restricted or prohibited firearms. It means that junior and high school students may possess firearms licenses and know how to use firearms, which schools might want to keep in mind while creating gun policies and assessing potential security threats.

It’s essential when formulating gun control policies in schools to consider the role of teachers and the administration during lockdowns. Teachers are already required to take on many roles when it comes to educating students, and protecting students in school shooting type scenarios is invariably going to add to their workload if they’re required to do additional training. There’s always the question of if teachers should be armed, although asking a teacher to shoot one of their students that poses a threat may not be realistic. At a minimum, teachers and the administration should be aware of how to put school policies around guns and lockdowns into effect to ensure the safety of their students.

The role of parents should also be considered when it comes to potential school shooting situations, given that they will most likely rush to schools to make sure that their children are safe. While guardians or parents are often required to pick up their children as a safety measure in those situations, they can also impede the ability of police to control the scene and get necessary resources. Even when parents are told to back off, the fact that students can communicate with their guardians using cellphones, like during the lockdown at Dartmouth High School, can help ease anxiety while lockdown situations are being resolved.

It’s important that police services react to security situations in schools involving firearms appropriately as well. Since school shooters often seek to do the most damage possible, it becomes more important to eliminate threats as quickly as possible instead of isolating buildings and waiting to negotiate. Those strategies, along with other lessons from situations like Columbine, have been incorporated into training for Halifax Regional Police, according to Staff Sgt. Mark MacDonald. Given that the huge police response to the incident at Dartmouth High School helped resolved it without injuries, the training seems to be paying off.

Fake firearms are becoming a bigger problem and have been involved in several lockdown incidents in schools across Canada, which gun policies should take into account. While fake firearms may not cause the same amount of harm as the real deal, they can still be used to coerce individuals. Not to mention, if 3D printers become more widespread, it may become very easy for schoolchildren to print fake or even functioning firearms. Luckily, Canadian law does take into account the dangers that imitation firearms present, which means those that use them to threaten others are charged with the same penalties as possessing an actual firearm.

Even in the bigger context, gun crimes are rising in Canada, especially involving handguns. In itself, this poses problems for schools if firearms are easier for students to acquire. What should be more worrying for schools is the fact that suicide was the leading cause of Canadian firearms deaths between 2000 to 2016. Students in schools like Dartmouth High School are in the middle of a stage in their lives where many changes are occurring that may cause instability or mental health issues, which can lead to suicide or school shooting situations. These factors should be considered when formulating gun policies in schools to ensure that the safety of their students is guaranteed.

Schools should draft gun policies that take into account the different parties involved in school shooting type situations and general firearm trends nationwide to ensure students are able to receive an education in a safe environment.

 

House Cup Rivalries On The Way Out

 
 

Has our social culture went too far too many times?

House rivalries are a staple of your StFX freshman experience. No matter where you live – even if you live off-campus – you will have, at the very least, a house cup rival. But the yearly residence hockey face offs are not where the rivalries end. The fact of the matter is that residence life is affected by drama between one another. For some houses, the drama isn’t a huge component. For the OC students, the rivalry ends at the hockey rink. For those of us who are living on campus and have lived through our first year in a typical StFX residence, let’s just say everyone knows about a story or two.

Living in Chillis for my first year, the stories I would hear about the Chillis/TNT rivalry felt kind of like legends the second years had to pass down. It was all word of mouth, obviously; nobody ever had evidence that some of the stuff happened. Usually it was related to the house cup. Stories about flooding residences and throwing chicken wings on our front lawn, classy. Although, the stories were pretty one-sided. I don’t recall hearing much about what Chillis did in retaliation, or the things we started. It was just another one of those things that made up the residence experience.

The Chillis and TNT, as I knew them, don’t really exist anymore. The decision to change University Ave into co-ed residences has changed a lot about incoming students’ experiences in those houses and is even creating problems with the annual house cup. It’s not just University Ave that has been going through changes, Burmac isn’t a thing anymore after one too many destructive games. Lane Hall is currently being used for professors and staff until it gets torn down in the near future. The classic StFX house rivalries as we know them are being quietly dismantled.

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? I’d say it’s not really a black or white situation. On one hand, house cup rivalries can escalate into something that goes well beyond good old fun. A particularly scathing example is 2005’s Burmac rivalry, when misogynistic posters were spread on Burke’s female floors. This so-called “prank” led that year’s hockey game to be cancelled outright. CBC reported that, “a dead deer was put in the foyer of the Burke residence” a year prior. Honestly, it’s a miracle that it took until 2016 for Burmac to be cancelled; but on the other hand, house cups are something people looked forward to each year. Despite some of the out-of-control examples, plenty of house cups came and went without much of a problem. It brought residences together.

I think the key here is that StFX’s residence rivalries aren’t just relegated to hockey games. The year in your res may have felt like it led up to the house cup, but was that really what it was all about? Not really. House rivalries, and by extension residence traditions, are just how we keep the status quo on this campus. Categorizing each other into residences and taking on all the stereotypes (good and bad) that come with them. Based on my experiences, StFX is a bit unique compared to other Atlantic universities because your  residence sticks with you. The res you were in marks you among the X community and can even become a part of your Alumni identity. At University Ave, there’s a big “uppers” culture; people returning and hosting events for the res even after they graduate. When talking to a friend who goes to Mount Allison, she told me that her frosh residence did not impact her much at all; it was just somewhere she lived for one year. At X, it definitely does become a part of who you are, even if you aren’t extremely involved in residence life. They can give you a family, but residences can also be difficult to fit into and can promote unhealthy traditions. Traditions that absolutely seep into rivalries between different   residences.

StFX prides itself in residence life. Number one social university, but maybe it’s a good idea to tone it down a bit because rivalries become out of control and negatively impact everyone.

 

Technology on Campus

 
 

How StFX can keep up in the digital age

I’m sure that most faculty members and students can remember where they were and how inconvenienced their lives became when the wifi and campus network went down last fall. The situation highlighted that StFX may not be keeping up with technology.

To be fair, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with the fast pace of technological change today. Most of us carry around smartphones that are more powerful than the computers they used to get to the moon almost 50 years ago. While StFX has kept up with most of the technologies that people now expect, like wifi, they have many ways they could improve in order to stay relevant as a post-secondary institution.

As evident from the wifi going down last year and for brief periods this year, StFX should work on maintaining the quality of its network. With spotty connections in some areas of campus like near Bloomfield and sometimes will refuse even to let you connect, there are succinct areas for improvement. StFX’s network is also highly connected to everything from accounts to printers, which is why it went down so quickly when it was hacked through accessing the printing network. Given that, StFX should be investing in creating a more secure network that doesn’t go down with one attempt to mine bitcoin, along with increasing the overall quality of the wifi.

Email is also a technology issue that StFX has problems with. Many students and faculty are bombarded by the bulk emails that StFX sends out, and IT services has no idea who actually controls the account. There have also been incidents of targeted phishing and email ransom threats through the email system in the past. Email is an important means of communication for students and faculty alike, which means that StFX should be committed to making it secure and that the right information gets to the right audience.

StFX should also consider making an integrated platform for students that has access to all the services they need. The services to check account balances, register for courses or residence, check grades, and more are currently scattered across different systems including Banner and MesAmis. This makes it difficult to keep track of where to go for services and means having several different passwords to access the different sites. Many other Canadian universities offer an integrated student portal or platform, so StFX should seriously consider making one for the ease of convenience and to stay competitive with other post-secondary institutions.

One area that StFX has kept up with technological changes is by investing in a learning management system, or Moodle. Moodle, like systems such as Desire2Learn and Canvas, provide online tools for course material, grades, and discussions that help make courses more accessible and interactive. Given that more students are choosing to do online or distance courses, StFX has made an excellent decision by catering to that market through Moodle. However, from personal experience, not all courses are available on Moodle and some faculty members don’t use it, which is an area that StFX could improve upon.

Social media is also playing an increasing role in post-secondary education, which StFX has kept up with reasonably well. Having multiple social media accounts that provide information about the university to those on campus, along with prospective students, is a step forward. Events on campus are readily advertised on social media as well, which can be helpful for groups that may not have gotten the publicity otherwise. Adapting to social media can be beneficial for StFX, provided it is done constructively to build the university’s image or for publicity.

Photo: Facebook @stfxuniversity

Photo: Facebook @stfxuniversity

On the flip side, many things that the university would rather not showcase also get out through social media. It’s easy to find photos of parties and other damaging content to StFX’s reputation on social media platforms, which isn’t good for the university given they’ve tried to distance themselves from party culture. The university also posted pictures on social media from an open house earlier this year for prospective students, which conveniently covered up the protest that occurred at the same event over StFX’s sexual violence policy. StFX has every right as a business to curate the image they present on social media, but they should be aware that it’s simple to find inconsistencies in a digital world.

StFX may soon be having to adapt to new technologies as well, along with refining the technology they already have. As drone usage becomes more widespread, perhaps the technology could be integrated for security purposes at large events on campus. The university could also adopt bots or artificial intelligence to answer questions directed to their Facebook page, or create an app that has information for students. New technological innovations are always around the corner and should be considered as ways for campus to be a leader in the digital age.

StFX has adopted many of the technologies that we take for granted; however, they have a long road ahead when it comes to addressing the issues in their current systems and dealing with the complexities of social media. If the university wants to remain a relevant and competitive post-secondary institution, it should invest in their technological capabilities to remain on top of the game.

 

That’s Showbiz, Baby!

 
 

A look into the StFX infrastructure

The Mulroney Hall is the newest in a string of construction and renovations across campus. The university’s president offered an announcement of a performance space in the new hall, a “classroom, performance, and presentation space” according to the university’s Twitter page. 

This follows suit in a trend of new buildings offering grand lecture halls, but a lack of actual performance space. A curious trend given how the school often advertises its small class sizes.

StFX is the host of Festival Antigonish, a wonderful and large series of plays that occur throughout the course of the summer. The shows are held principally in the Bauer theatre, with the children’s shows in Immaculata Hall. These are two excellent performance spaces and offer different unique traits to their audience. For those who have not been in the Bauer, it is an approximate 300˚ stage, so the actors are surrounded by their audience, which makes for more complicated stage blocking and a captivating theatre experience. 

Immaculata Hall is your more standard stage layout, but it is only slightly elevated and does not have strong acoustics for performance. Seats are arranged on a flat surface with other seating elevated on the sides and at the very back.

A forgotten theatre space is the StFX Auditorium underneath the school chapel. The space is well laid out for bigger performances but has a negative reputation. 

Rumours have circulated for years about issues with the foundation, possible mould and more; although, dance performances still occur there which begs the question of how much truth there is to the stories. 

Upon visiting the auditorium, it is evident that the space is long overdue for some renovations. The peeling paint and worn floors offer a comforting sense of age and good use but deliver a sense of urgency for renewal.

In a town that is overflowing with talent, and thrives off its theatre community, it would make sense for the community to keep up to date on its infrastructure. To do this, Theatre Antigonish often hosts fundraisers, such as cabaret events, to maintain upkeep and to buy the rights to put on further productions. 

The question some individuals have regarding fundraising is how much of the funds can go directly to the Theatre community rather than the university itself.

The 2019-2020 budget has just been approved with a renovation budget allocated to the locker rooms in the Oland Centre. It is highlighted that the six million dollars were fundraised, but with no mention of how or why the budget approval was necessary if it was by donation. If fundraised funds can go directly to a building, then I promote the beginning of a fundraiser for the renovations of the arts buildings on campus. 

Were renovations for the Oland Centre not voted upon as an addition to the student fees charged to students? This would suggest that funds raised were not by donations or events.

Our town hosts bi-weekly art fairs, open-mic nights, poetry events, lecture series, music performances and more. It only makes sense to have more spaces to promote and encourage this culture as it is clearly prominent and successful. Looking at recent events, Hairspray and The Shoe Project were both events that were sold out during their performance runs. 

The upcoming Sunshine on Leith is already said to have strong ticket sales well before opening night. These are clear signs that the theatre community is vibrant and strong. This is also something the university can use to promote its arts programs and benefit its current struggling reputation.

The continued creation of spaces for larger class sizes and grand lectures in the new building is fine but given the nature of our community and the already pre-existing spaces that can accommodate those types of events, it would make sense to create spaces that can still be used for those purposes but that can incorporate the community on a larger scale. 

StFX already has very strong ties to the community, but by offering resources that they desire, it can help boost those connections and promote future student enrolment to StFX. I call to action the student population and community; how do you think StFX or the community should approach the subject of performance spaces on campus or within the community? 

 

Spice It Up, Professors!

 
 

Let collaboration and engagement marinate 

By the time you are in university, you have been subjected to over a decade and a half of learning; whether it be in the classroom with a teacher, on the playground with your friends, or at home with your parents, everyone learns differently. By participating in events, students learn valuable social skills.

Recently, I became enamored with the skill of free solo climbing. Free solo climbing is the ascent up a mountain with no ropes or harness. This skill posits perfection at every turn, as a slip or wrong decision can lead one to injury or death.  Going down is even more difficult than going up. You must continue until you reach the summit. It is success or failure, nothing else. While this is an extreme example, the parallels to learning are evident in that you need stakes for motivation to take over. 

The stakes of your marks in a class are typically motivation for students; however, marks are seldom enough for some students. I know of someone who had one day until his final exam and hadn’t begun studying. He read from cover to cover the entire textbook, and while he did okay in the exam, I can assure you that is not the correct way to learn. It was clear that he was not motivated in class, but instead resorted to the sensory overload of cramming every definition into his mind prior to regurgitation hours later on a final.

Some students are lazy and not motivated; however, there is a reason that they are paying up to $20 000 a year to attend university. The key is finding a way to unlock that motivation in a positive setting.

It was my final year of university when I figured out how I can learn best. For me, I respond to games and intellectual challenges that engage everyone in the classroom. Some of these games had real prizes, such as an extra percentage on the midterm, or a cash sum and these stakes were enough for me to apply myself to the topic in class that day. And, I found that I retained that information better with incentive. Also, having the teacher pick your partners is an important aspect of collaboration! Solving problems with someone you may have never spoken to before is vital for learning.

As for professors, they are in a difficult position. With limited class time, typically as low as three hours a week, drilling down and getting all the course information into a student’s head is virtually impossible. Classes have a large amount of content that needs to be covered. Those 600-page textbooks are usually condensed into PowerPoint slides, which are then echoed by the professor during class time, sometimes in a boringly monotonous voice.

Another impediment to student learning is the role that academic tenure plays for professors. Once attained, their teaching style can become routinized, and there are seldom drastic changes to it. This is unfortunate, especially for professors who have been teaching for decades. Preferred styles and learning abilities change as well. What was taught one way ten years ago can be drastically different from the way it should be taught today.

Is the ultimate goal to learn and take tangible skills out into the world for the rest of your life? If so, then it is paramount that students understand how they learn best and how to voice these ideas to professors.

I implore professors to spice it up and get away from PowerPoint lecturing. In turn, professors can engage students by forming impromptu groups as well as creating games such as Jeopardy for all to collaborate.

 

Study, Study, Study…

 
 

But work on yourself, just a bit more

Year after year university students stress over large workloads, difficult classes, and pressure to succeed. For some, just passing a course is a godsend, for others anything less than an 85% is a tragedy. So, the question then is exactly just how important are grades? To answer this, let’s think back to when grades seemed to really matter most, high school.

Ah high school, a pivotal point in many students lives, yet one students are often all too glad to leave behind. Surrounded by a flurry of questions about the future that couldn’t possibly answer at the time: like what career we wanted? What the plan was to get there? And, if that career choice was the best option? The secondary stream is when grades really begin to carry serious weight. For students who applied to university or college, grades were the point of entry. Not only are grades essential to being accepted to post-secondary institutions, but scholarship and bursary opportunities are abundant and hugely impactful to high school graduates. From entrance scholarships to prestigious family-funded awards, which both require high marks and extra-curricular activity involvement, the possibilities of having costs for post-secondary education covered increase with better grades.

Full of potential and ready to tackle classes and achieve great success, many students fail to get the marks they had achieved in their high school classes. So, in the case that grades fail to impress, how important are they? To those bright minds who acquired entrance scholarships, failing to maintain the necessary average ends the potential four years of funding. But aside from entrance scholarships, are good grades essential to keep up in each year of university? Many university applications take a sample of a specific courses from high school pertaining to the chosen field of study into account for the application, leaving most courses to be unaccounted. These courses are largely drawn from grades 11 and 12 classes, so does this send the message that only grades in upper year classes matter? I surely hope not. Most graduate courses and other post-undergraduate programs take an individual’s entire university transcript into account. So, throughout every year, each course, and all assignments, good grades are integral to holding a good standing as a university student.

What qualifies as a good grade? That depends on an individual’s plan after graduation. Some programs such as Law schools have limited spots and plenty of applicants attempting the LSAT, making it difficult to stand out amongst the competition without exceptional grades. Other programs, Education for instance, require a reasonable 75% average or higher for consideration, yet such programs often still have limited positions. Some programs offer strong employment possibilities directly out of university, such as Business or Nursing, where completing the degree is likely of greater value than an individual’s specific grades. Good grades depend on who those grades are meant to impress, be it a post-undergraduate program or a future employer. Regardless of the academic requirements of a program or needs of an employer, there are values learned at university that are much more important than numbers on a transcript.

Grades do not paint the whole picture. If that was the case, university would be solely a place to learn and do research in the field of study. University is far more than just academics, it is a student’s first foray into the world of adulthood. University is a place where we learn about ourselves both in and out the classroom. From meeting new people in residence or meal hall and classes to having discussions with professors after class, we discover how to adapt to a new environment, socialize and build relationships, and realize what values matter most to each individual. 

The personal growth each university student undergoes over the course of their degree is much more impactful than the grades they achieve. Grades may lead to acceptance into a program or a job, but a strong character will carry an individual through the rest of the journey.

I’m applying for Education next year as I’m graduating this spring, and I believe that the value of grades as well as the elements of personal growth are captured perfectly in the application process for our Education program at StFX. The first half of the application is graded out of 100 which includes a transcript, two essays, and three references; The second half is an interview which is graded equally out of 100, clearly indicating the importance of an individual’s character and personality. 

I believe a person’s character to be more important than that of simple academic success. By weighing the interview equally to the application, a person’s ability to speak clearly and present themselves in person is an integral part to a well-rounded candidate to be a teacher. Not only does this ring true for teachers, but also many other programs and occupations value a person’s character as one of the most important qualities. Once formal schooling ends, success is no longer measured in grades but rather in occupational feats and accomplishments. No longer graded on assignments and tests nor judged by a mere number, instead performance and outcomes driven by work ethic and character are the keys to success.

 

Backyard Astronomy

 
 

Stargazing the Gemini Twins

Castor and Pollux are bright stars belonging to the constellation Gemini and are part of the dozen bright stars that light up the winter sky. They represent the heads of the twin which were actually half brothers as stated in mythology. Located 34 light years away, Pollux is a magnitude 1.14 orange coloured star, It has a diameter of 9 or 10 times that of our sun with a surface temperature of  5 000 C and cooler than our Sun’s 5 600 C.

This star seems to have an outer corona comparable to our sun. The exoplanet Pollux b resides 1.6 astronomical units from the parent star and takes 1.6 years to complete a circular orbit.

To the upper right of Pollux we find Castor. This white coloured spectral class A1 star shines at magnitude 1.58 and is located 52 light years from us. With a surface temperate about twice that of Pollux, Castor is a collection of three pairs of stars in a very unique dance. A telescope will show Castor’s close companion with both components Castor A & B are themselves doubles and possess a mysterious third double companion. Although components A & B orbit each other in 445 years, component C orbits A & B every 14 000 years.

One of the best examples of an open cluster is M35. Found near Castor’s foot, this group of 200 stars glows at magnitude 5.2 and is a fantastic object in binoculars. When viewed with a telescope, the tiny cluster NGC 2158 is now revealed. M35 is located 2 800 light years away while smaller NGC 2158 is four times farther from us.

Photo: stellarium.org

Photo: stellarium.org

The brilliant duo of planets Venus and Jupiter continues as Venus (brighter and left side of the two) keeps sinking to the south-eastern horizon on its way to rounding the sun in its orbit. Venus passed the planet Saturn on the morning of  February 18. Jupiter on the other hand was steadily climbing higher and rose just before 4 am on February 1 and after 2 am on February 28. 

Mars is still visible low in the western sky after dark moving from Aries to Taurus and is much fainter than its summer time show. It passed one degree north of the planet Uranus on February 13.

Known as “The Backyard Astronomer,” Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He has been interviewed on more than 50 Canadian radio stations and local Ottawa TV. In recognition of his public outreach in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union has honoured him with the naming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter @astroeducator or his website www.wondersofastronomy.com.

 

Unnominated but Noticed

 
 

David MacLean’s alternative Grammy Awards

Album of the Year: Turnstile – Time & Space

This album is nothing short of a hardcore masterpiece. I’ll have to cut myself off at some point, otherwise I’ll just talk on about how incredible this piece of work really is. Quite a few music journalists have had Time & Space near the top of their end-of-year lists. Everyone’s been talking about Turnstile, everyone’s been caught up in the hype. I haven’t heard one quip.

The Grammys have a habit of throwing in an odd choice for AOTY (see Arcade Fire). So why not nominate a hardcore band? Sure, that level of mainstream success hasn’t really happened since Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come started to become the cult phenomenon it is today. 

I only bring up Turnstile because they’ve created a genuine world-beater. Time & Space combines a frantic hardcore razorbladed pace with a whole mess of things that don’t make sense: lounge music, trip-hop, some bongos. But whacky isn’t a gimmick for Turnstile. It’s all in the name of energy. 

Around the same length as Reign in Blood, Time & Space is a genre-defining record that only comes about every decade or so. You’re in and out of it in a few breaths, and breathless by the end.

Best Rap Album: Milo – budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies

Poor Milo, he’s got a bit of a rep. His rhymes always seem to dance between grabbingly clever and offputtingly pretentious. Stereotypes aside, budding ornithologists is well worth your time. Remove his voice, the disjointed sampling crackles, a wool blanket covered in static. 

Every track acts hypnotic, dragging you into a lull. And at your most vulnerable, he says his piece. There are no mumble-rap tropes here, just plain ol’ boring beautiful poetry. Lines are rarely repeated, no hooks to be found.

As a listener, you’re here for the dissertation. Milo’s ability to mix nuance with sarcasm, complexity with tongue-in-cheek quips, is incredible. I’ll admit, I’m still working through budding ornithologists. 

After my first listen, I was happy. But after my second, third, fourth, I still feel as though there’s lines I missed. If we’re to argue rap as poetry, this album will be our year’s best.  Astroworld will probably win, Swimming is posthumous, budding ornithologists is brilliant.

Best New Artist: Marmozets

They’re the most exciting young band in the world. No hyperbole, no lying, they’re the best. I’ll add one better: Becca MacIntyre is one of the most talented singers in the game. Big talk, eh?

In the United Kingdom, everyone’s been talking about Marmozets. Their 2014 release, The Weird and Wonderful was a statement of intent. They’re here to be the biggest band on the planet, and they’re Motorhead – they play rock and roll. And so we’re left to ask, “how will they ever follow it up?” Well, 2018’s Knowing What You Know Now confirmed their place as the next big thing. If I’m to put a label on their sound: Queens of the Stone Age riffs and sensibilities, Deftones vocal-oddities, and stadium-level choruses. Just listen to “Major System Error,” listen to how she sings the word “together.” Listen to “Play,” the riffing demands you jump around. This was          Marmozets’ year and they’ll take over the rest of the world soon. 

And I’ll be damned if Greta Van Fleet wins.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile

Odd choice for a final category, I know. But I’ll take any chance I get to talk about Sons of Kemet’s newest release. Each track on Your Queen is a Reptile has it’s namesake from prominent women of colour. Now, I’m not entirely sure if the songs themselves are structured by the way in which these women lived their lives, but lord the pace is high.

Our first track, “My Queen is Ada Eastman” should give you a half decent indication of where the rest of the album will head. The infectious percussion has me catching myself nodding a bit too hard in public places. Hips move unintentionally, feet begin to tap. My personal favourite, “My Queen is Anna Julia Cooper,” is almost annoying: I’m tiring of dancing, but I can’t stop. The interplay between each musician is both jaw dropping and catchy, a hard thing to pull off.

Sons of Kemet have created an important album. Often albums with “messages” sacrifice musical integrity to preach and scream “I’M UPSET” into a clunky megaphone. But Your Queen is a Reptile gives you titles and music. Beauty - nothing more, nothing less. 

 

Halifax Passes Motion to Ban Plastic Bags

 
 

Does it really change that much?

The majority of us probably have, at some point or another, started accumulating a stash of plastic bags in a forlorn corner of our room or house. Those stashes may soon be a thing of the past if Nova Scotia follows Halifax’s lead in implementing a ban on plastic bags.

The Halifax regional council has recently passed a motion to work with the other nine Nova Scotian municipalities to draft legislation that would ban single-use plastic bags by the end of 2019. This move comes despite staff recommendations that the municipality start with voluntary or phase-in measures. Halifax’s ban follows in the footsteps of other cities such as Montreal and Victoria, who have implemented bans and subjected stores to fines if they’re caught using plastic bags.

One big issue with Halifax’s proposed ban is the inability translate it to a province-wide effort. While close to 15 mayors or wardens in the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities, which represents approximately 75% of Nova Scotia, are willing to take Halifax’s proposed bylaw back to their communities, the province has been reluctant to get involved. According to the Chronicle Herald, environment minister Margaret Miller has stated that the province is satisfied with municipal efforts, despite acknowledging the fact that a province-wide initiative could help resolve patchy and confusing bans implemented across different municipalities. Even though fellow Atlantic province PEI implemented a province-wide ban on plastic bags, Nova Scotia seems willing to sit this one out.

Trying to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags is nothing new either. Businesses have been charging for plastic bags for a couple of years and promoting the use of reusable bags by selling them in store. Costco stands out at the most prominent example, requiring any customers to bring their own boxes or bags when shopping there. These initiatives by private companies are helping reduce the number of plastic bags being used or at least making customers think twice about if they need a bag. Perhaps bans from municipalities like Halifax are playing catch-up with the private sector’s initiatives.

Given that the Ecology Action Centre collected nearly 2,500 signatures in favour of the ban, the societal shift away from plastic bags may already be here. The question is, how many businesses and individuals will follow through with their support of a ban when their bottom line may be affected, or they realize how often they get plastic bags regularly for the sake of convenience?

Another issue the plastic ban ignores is what to do with all the bags currently in circulation, sitting around our houses, or in landfills. There are many people already trying to repurpose plastic, whether it be making baskets, using them for small household garbage cans, and more. Yet, there seems to be little initiative addressing how to reuse or repurpose plastic bags by municipalities, which could be a lucrative project as we move towards a greener society.

Causing an uproar over banning single-use plastic bags seems a bit ludicrous when you put it into context with all the other single-use plastics or containers not being banned. Whether it’s straws, Styrofoam takeout containers, or the plastic packaging used in shampoo bottles, there are a lot of plastic and other harmful materials being put in landfills. Understandably, banning some items like straws can be detrimental for individuals who rely on them for accessibility reasons or may not be able to afford the alternatives; however, if Halifax and Nova Scotia want to really make a positive environmental impact, they should be considering a larger scale ban on other single-use plastics or excessive packaging as well.

Even broader still, climate change and the environment should be policy areas that we take more seriously. Just this January, Halifax became the second Canadian city to declare a climate emergency. Moreover, in 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave a gloomy world forecast if we are unable to prevent warming the globe by another degree Celsius, meaning harsher cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and far-reaching changes across many sectors are likely in our future. In that sense, while smaller actions like banning plastic bags are good, perhaps there should also be a focus on how to tackle the big issues of climate change that can and do have devastating consequences.

Halifax, along with the other Nova Scotia municipalities, has taken a good step in drafting legislation to ban the use of plastic bags by the end of this year; they should keep in mind what other big picture measures they can take alongside the plastic bag ban so we can avoid pushing our planet even further past the environmental tipping point.

 

Who is bulk.email@stfx.ca?

 
 

Stop the spam

Anyone attached to StFX in any way has probably, at one point or another, complained to someone about how awful their StFX email is. Besides the important notices and emails from friends, peers, colleagues, students, professors, and administrators, we all get flooded with completely unnecessary emails about all sorts of things. It is email without a specific audience, completely unsolicited, and sent throughout the entire school. It’s spam and it’s coming from the University itself.

Why is StFX spamming our inboxes multiple times a day about events and items that rarely, if ever, concern us? 

The amount of spam from StFX led me to turn off notifications for my inbox. My peers in the education program and some of my professors have all voiced similar complaints about the amount of emails filling our inboxes. I’m very happy for the people who have worked hard and are now entering the thesis-defense phase of their education, congratulations to them, but an email sent in bulk devalues their efforts by, essentially, spamming the university at large. Sending notice of the defense to select groups associated with the work or the program would be a much more appropriate way of raising awareness.

But is what StFX sends its users actually spam? Unlike other emails that occasionally fill my personal inbox, StFX’s emails contain no “unsubscribe button,” nowhere in the message is the opportunity for the recipient to turn off the emails. There is no way, as I discovered, to email the sender and ask them directly to stop. If you try to reply to “St. Francis Xavier University,” you realize two things very quickly. First, you’re not actually emailing StFX, you’re emailing bulk.email@stfx.ca. Second, you’ll receive an instant reply telling you that bulk.email@stfx.ca is an unattended inbox; meaning no one uses it. A lot like a spam email.

What’s one to do? I emailed StFX IT services and asked them about it. They replied that they had no idea who actually runs bulk.email@stfx.ca and that the only way to stop the emails from ending up in my inbox was to create a “Rule” that automatically redirected the emails to my junk folder, which I promptly did. Now, instead of filling up my inbox all with emails from StFX (or more accurately, bulk.email@stfx.ca) they all go right into my trash. It’s simple and relatively easy.

I also emailed communications about this. I received a reply from Cindy Mackenzie, Manager of Media Relations. Cindy told me she, too, has no idea who runs bulk.email@stfx.ca and that I should contact IT. A dead end.

So, who runs bulk.email@stfx.ca? It remains a bit of a mystery. If you or someone you know has the answer, please let us know. Send us a tip, we’ll even keep you anonymous. Thanks in advance.

For everyone else who shares my frustration at being spammed by our very own University and wants the emails to stop, it’s relatively easy. Right click the offending email in your inbox and, from the dropdown menu, select “Create Rule,” and send that sucker to your Deleted Items folder where you’ll no longer get notifications or even see the offender.

Anyone connected to the notorious spammer, bulk.email@stfx.ca, please, reconsider how bulk emails are handled. Surely, there’s a better way than sending out untargeted, mass emails daily. Make a few lists, use Excel (I’ll even help you out!) and separate emails by the programs they’re attached to. An email about the science department? Maybe don’t send it to the English students. A lecture about Medieval Theology? Just direct it to the theology students. Or better yet, maybe have a calendar on the website about up-and-coming events that people can choose to view instead of flooding their inboxes. Just a thought.

 

How Do I Get Your Vote?

 
 

What it takes to get your participation

With the recent Students’ Union election, the school had a voter turn-out of approximately 1554 students, just under a quarter of the student body. As someone who works with several organizations, this low level of participation and engagement is familiar. There is a decline in student engagement, but what is causing it? 

In the case of the Students’ Union election, a good chunk could be attributed to a lack of knowledge. I didn’t know when the election was, let alone who was running until one of the candidates came to speak to my department. 

The current Students’ Union has not been very engaged with the student body in my opinion, and this became evident with the election. We here at The Xaverian Weekly didn’t know we were hosting the presidential debate until a post on social media the day before. There was clearly a lack of communication and it becomes visible there are many different factors that influence the level of student engagement.

Say I was armed with the knowledge of my candidates, the dates and locations of big events, and was even offered alternative solutions to encourage my participation, would the result of my participation change? The answer is probably no (don’t worry, I vote). 

When Stephen Harper was up for election in 2015, the voter turn-out increased across the country to 68.49%, the highest it had been since 1993; however, when Donald Trump ran for president, the United States saw a decrease in their voter turn-out at 58.1%. With knowledge readily available and the resources and means to partake, there is no reason not to get involved, especially when it comes to something that will impact your household and your life.

Returning to campus, engagement is something that I struggle to attain from my target audiences with surveys for events that I create. Surveys are a great tool to garner the interests and opinions, but sometimes people respond with what they think the surveyor wants to know rather than honest opinions. 

I’ve attended several events over the past two years hosted by different organizations and have seen engagement and participation increase in the Antigonish community rather than the campus specific community. The biggest turn-outs are typically those with a live music element or a drinking aspect. 

It could be coincidence that important events line up on specific days when people have plans, but that demonstrates market competition. The hierarchy of events means that hosts must strategically develop their events to best target their audience. Is the time practical and will people be off work, and have the energy? Is what I’m offering interesting, and if not, how can I make it so? Who is the target audience? What is appealing to them? Question upon question all with the intent of getting people to venture out to participate in an hour-long activity, or submitting an online questionnaire, or to vote the leader of their country. Gone are the days when face-to-face interaction was all it took to entice people into getting involved, but so is the time when people did in-person canvassing. 

This expands just beyond the professional realm as well, I am constantly hounded by my peers to organize social events, and as a planner, I am deterred from it. To give you an example why, I have short story; I am a former immersion student, and my peers asked me repeatedly to host a reunion. They were given a date, events were decided by the group and everything was set. Three times in a row, the events had no one show up, but time after time people would turn to me and ask me to host another. This is an insult to me as an organizer because I have put my time and effort into this project, and it has gone to waste. I achieved success on my very last time by telling people I was headed to a restaurant and told them they could join me if they wished. Zero preparation gave my event the boost it needed, and this is a trend I’ve come to notice. If you plan an event ahead of time, people might be less inclined to attend; commitment has become an enemy.

Trends change, and with it interests and desires. The  requirements to host a fruitful event seem to be ever shifting and hard to predict. I reach out to you, our readers, how do you find success with your events or products? 

I am not a business student and marketing is not my strong suit; I can identify strengths and weaknesses but am at a loss for the best way of finding a consistently successful strategy. The older I get, the happier I am to attend events and put myself out there, but my  personal experience may be different than others. 

 

We Are Queer and We Will Not Be Silenced

 
 

I love being a queer at StFX

When I was in grade school, I was bullied by my peers for being too loud, for wanting to answer the teacher’s questions, for being overly attached to anyone who showed me kindness. When I was seven, my classmate told me I was ‘gay’ for having a close female friend that I spent all my free time at school with. I didn’t understand what the word meant at the time, but the way he said it made me ashamed. I thought I was doing something wrong. That shame only got worse after my parents explained what it meant and my best friend would kiss me behind closed doors when her parents were home.

When I got to high school, I had a better understanding of what it meant to be gay or lesbian, but everything was self-learned from the stereotypes I saw on TV. My school was in a white and Christian neighbourhood; you never talked about homosexuality unless it was gossip, shame-inducing gossip. I never talked about it, but I thought about my own sexual identity a lot and I was so confused. 

On TV, any non-heterosexual character was either strictly gay or lesbian and their relationships always involved sex. But I wasn’t like that. I knew I liked boys, but I also liked girls, and I had no words to explain who I was or what I was feeling. It is so damning to grow up in a space where the only words that I had to describe myself were ‘unnatural’ and ‘broken’.

It wasn’t until eleventh grade when my understanding expanded again. During a late-night conversation with a friend, I laid out all the frustration I was feeling about my identity crisis and he replied with three words: “Are you bisexual?” That question was a game changer for me. 

On one hand, a weight had been lifted off my chest. I finally had a word to explain why my heart would leap out of my chest when the pianist in jazz band would talk to me and why I got flustered whenever my friend asked me to spend the night at her place. 

On the other hand, it left one question unsolved and created a new problem. Why did the idea of having to be in a physical relationship scare me so much? What would happen if I came out to my peers and word got back to my dad, a teacher at our school that everybody loved? He always told me liking girls is okay, but whenever he would talk about my little brother’s friends who didn’t participate in typical ‘boy’ activities, he would always ask me if I thought they were gay with a hint of disgust in his voice. In the end, I graduated high school with a secret known to only four people: one was the girl I had loved for years, and another looked at me with pity every time he saw me holding her hand and comforting her over the last jerk of an ex-boyfriend.

Coming to X has changed my life in more ways than I can express and a lot of that is because of the people I’ve met through X Pride. Here I was at a traditionally Catholic university surrounded by an amazing group of queer peers who were proud and unashamed of who they were. 

Their influences goes deeper than most people understand; their pride helped me be open about who I am and love the person I have become, and because of that I came out to my mum and brother, the two most important people in my life.

I love being queer. And I love being a queer at StFX.

X Pride has also exposed me to the diversity of the queer community that I had been missing throughout my life. Through conversations, events, and amazing celebrations such as Pride Month, I learned more about each letter in LGBTQ+ and I got to learn about the sexual and gender identities encompassed by the plus. Not only did I learn about the diverse identities in this community, but I also learned that each person had a different experience and these experiences shaped how they viewed their identity. 

I thought about myself, my history, my aversions and desires, and I asked questions. In 2019, I wake up every morning proud to be a panromantic, asexual woman who is a part of one of the strongest, most loving, and more diverse communities at StFX.

In June 1990, an organization called Queer Nation circulated a pamphlet at the New York City Pride Parade title “Queers Read This.” There’s one line from it that encompasses where I am now in my life and how important the diversity in the queer community is: “You’re immeasurably valuable, because unless you start believing that, it can easily be taken from you.” Each person finds value in themselves in different ways, but these different ways are all expressed through the language and labels we use. 

Language has a special meaning in the queer community. As X Pride president Robert Chatterton said recently, “language has significance within our community and labels are what help us identify who we are and how we can celebrate our differences.” To someone who is cisgender and heterosexual, these differences aren’t obvious and they can be confusing. Trust me, they can even be confusing for queers. But this is why we ask questions, so we can better understand the people around us and avoid misgendering and making assumptions about the people we encounter on a day-to-day basis. In the queer community, we are all different people coming from different backgrounds, with different fears and aspirations. One common aspiration is that we be heard and accepted by the people around us.

Recently in StFX politics, Students Union presidential candidate Cecil VanBuskirk stood up and talked about the positives of queer label erasure, stating that the way to solve LGBTQ+ issues on campus is to do away with labels entirely. To a cisgender heterosexual man, queer label erasure may look like a way to end discrimination. As a queer woman, I am not afraid to call this what it is. Whatever his intentions may have been, candidate VanBuskirk’s remarks present “oppression in its politest form” (Chatterton). 

In a Facebook post to X Pride, Chatterton states that “the removal of labels only masks the oppression that has been faced by marginalized communities for centuries.” The last thirty years have been an incredibly powerful time for the queer community. After the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s that claimed tens of millions of lives, the queer community came together in solidarity of the brothers and sisters they lost to a disease that was perpetuated by the Reagan and H. W. Bush administrations in the United States. They did more than fight for the acknowledgment of the epidemic facing their community; the 1980s also represented a time when the queer community reclaimed the names thrown at them by homophobes for centuries. Queer, lesbian, and gay were no longer words to shame people acting outside the gender and sexuality norms; instead, they became the labels used to proudly identify a community of fighters.

As a collective, we are queer. As individuals, we are gay. We are lesbians. We are bisexual. We are pansexual. We are transgender men and women. We are non-binary. We are aromantic. We are asexual. We are intersex. We are two-spirit. We are all different people with different experiences and identities, and when we come together we are fierce and we are proud and we will not be silenced. Our labels reveal our diversity, but our diversity makes us stronger, and any attempt to silence us will be met with a pride that we have because of the sacrifices made by the millions of members of our community that came before us and created a space for us to exist.

I have spent too many years ashamed of who I am to let someone tell me that I’m too queer to exist. Discrimination against the queer community is not a result of too many labels, and it cannot be solved through queer label erasure. Discrimination happens because people don’t want to share space with people who are different, who challenge the status quo, and who will not be shamed into submission. 

I love being queer. And I love being a queer at StFX.

I love being surrounded by a community that accepts my differences. I love living in a community where I am not judged for my labels and am instead celebrated for them. I use my labels to define a part of myself; my labels do not determine my existence.

I am a panromantic asexual woman. I have diagnosed anxiety and depression. I love politics, queer literature, and Star Trek. I love the family I’ve found in X Pride.

I love being queer. And I love being a queer at StFX.

A leaflet distributed at pride march in NY published anonymously by Queers in 1990,  “Well, yes, “gay” is great.  It has its place.  But when a lot of lesbians and gay men wake up in the morning we feel angry and disgusted, not gay.  So we’ve chosen to call ourselves queer. Using “queer” is a way of reminding us how we are perceived by the rest of the world.”

“It’s a way of telling ourselves we don’t have to be witty and charming people who keep our lives discreet and marginalized in the straight world.  We use queer as gay men loving lesbians and lesbians loving being queer. (…) And when spoken to other gays and lesbians it’s a way of suggesting we close ranks, and forget (temporarily) our individual differences because we face a more insidious common enemy.  Yeah, QUEER can be a rough word but it is also a sly and ironic weapon we can steal from the homophobe’s hands and use against him.”

I love being queer at StFX.

 

A Tale as Old as Time

 
 

The cold hard truth about group projects

One of the inevitable parts of classes is group work. When you don’t have a group project requirement on a syllabus – consider yourself lucky. Here’s the thing – are group projects helpful? Is group work valuable? Based on my own experiences, I’m inclined to say no.

Group work usually results in this situation: you’re put together with three other people you might not be acquainted with. Before the class ends, you’ll rush around finding everyone in your group...you’ll to flag them down before everyone leaves, to get emails or to exchange facebook profiles. Weeks pass and eventually someone in the group realizes that the presentation date is looming. 

Someone must take initiative and start a group chat. You might meet up a couple times, but there’s always one person who doesn’t show up, always with an excuse. See, the thing about group projects is they are just individual projects hastily strung together at the last minute. 

You know I’m right – and I’m sure plenty of professors get that vibe as well. It’s stressful to be in a group project when you know that nobody is thinking about the actual group. It’s every person for themselves, and with so many group projects having only one grade (not individual marks), that mentality is a pretty bad one to have. You meet, awkwardly, with people you barely know, do your part of the presentation (and maybe even someone else’s if you’re unlucky) alone, and the night before one or two members put everything together in hopes that it’ll be a passable final product. During presentation day, having to rely on each other’s differing public speaking skills can be just as stressful as the work that came before it.

Group projects overall just feel like a waste of time. You’re not really learning any teamwork skills because there isn’t much teamwork involved. The final product is usually inconsistent. PowerPoint presentations are particularly botched in group work; I’ve seen group presentations where it looks like four separate presentations loosely stitched together. When presentations are cohesive, it’s usually one person who does that extra work to give the work that final, polished touch. Chances are that it is the same person who got everyone together in that group chat!

The experience of being in a group project is radically different if it involves friends. If you can pick your own groups and you have some friends in the class, group projects will not only be less stressful, but maybe even fun! However, being able to pick your partners in a class where you don’t know people often results in the same situation of professor-organized groups. Often, groups are predetermined, and four total strangers end up with the aforementioned loosely connected PowerPoint presentation. I don’t think that removing group projects from a class would remove anything particularly helpful or necessary. Taking all of this into account, professors should try and incorporate them into classes as little as possible. 

There are certain exceptions to the standard group project outcome. One of the times where I feel like a group project works as intended is when the group is required to do something performance-based. Obviously, this is not the kind of project that applies to all classes... but skits and performances can apply to many different subjects and utilizes the group work requirement properly. Clearly, a group performance requires so much more planning and group participation than a PowerPoint, and to perform at even a mediocre level everyone has to be on the same page. So performance group projects? Absolutely fine. It’s a good way to work on team skills, something that traditional group presentations lack.

Group projects are weird. Everyone thinks that they did, “the most” for their group, and everyone underestimates how much the other group members did. Maybe this huge imbalance of work and payoff is a sign that group work just isn’t worth the fuss. The less group projects in a class the better, as far as I’m concerned!

 

Does Your Vote Count?

 
 

Problems within the Students’ Union elections

On Wednesday, January 23, Cecil VanBuskirk was elected as the incoming Students’ Union president with 741 votes. While VanBuskirk was all smiles cutting cake at the Inn after his victory, his election win may not be an accurate representation of what StFX students want, but rather a representation of the advantages to running for president in a flawed Students’ Union electoral system.

Elections for Students’ Union positions have been plagued over the last couple of years by a multitude of problems. Elections have suffered from low levels of engagement, inability to find candidates for positions like VP Academic, and flaws in the electronic voting system itself. As the Students’ Union presidential election results become official and elections for other representatives get underway, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate whether the Students’ Union elections are run in a way that ensures the best candidates are elected to some of the most important positions for representing students on campus.

While casting ballots electronically has its problems, such as making sure the Students’ Union elections are equitable, it is one of the few areas of success for the Students’ Union. By having an electronic voting system, they’ve avoided the costs that running a paper ballot system incurs, such as staffing polling booths. While paper ballots are feasible on such a small campus, the Students’ Union’s decision to stick to electronic ballots means that they don’t need to worry about the organizational capabilities they’d need to get students to physical ballot boxes.

However, the emails with links to the Students’ Union electronic voting site have been known to get filtered into spam folders and are easily buried under the numerous other emails students receive in one day from the university. Electronic voting systems can also be susceptible to hacking or electoral fraud, although the Students’ Union voting system claims that “voters who bypass authentication or have already voted are denied access to the ballot.” The Students’ Union should ensure that the way they email students voting links isn’t impeding participation in elections.

Another aspect of the Students’ Union electoral system that may be discouraging, or confusing students, is the ballot itself. The Students’ Union uses a ranked ballot system, except in the case of a single candidate running for a position, in which case students must vote yes or no instead. This means that if no candidate receives a majority during an election, the candidate with the least amount of first place votes will be eliminated, and those who voted for the least popular candidate will have their votes reallocated to their second-choice candidates, and so on until a candidate has a plurality. Given that most students are probably more familiar with first-past-the-post or simple majority ballots, it may be worth sending an explanation of how ranked ballots work during the election season, especially given that there has been confusion over the wording on the ballot instructions in the past.

The Students’ Union has extensive bylaws for when campaigns and nominations can open, but they have been a bit lax on them especially with the presidential election this year. The call for presidential nominations opened two days late, and since nomination deadlines were extended due to a lack of applicants, the candidates were announced three days after the beginning of when campaigning should have started.  Any potential B.Ed. students who wished to run were also at a disadvantage, as their classes started several days after the deadline for nominations, impacting their ability to gather signatures needed for nomination forms. If the Students’ Union truly wants to attract the widest range of candidates and give them the best chance to engage with voters during campaigns, they should make sure they follow their own election bylaws or amend them to be fairer to all.

A big issue during the recent Students’ Union president election was slander and attack ads. Candidates in elections can discuss other candidates’ policies, but the election bylaws forbid slandering other slates or candidates. While no candidate should be personally attacked for their platform, candidates should be careful when making accusations of slander if the claims are verifiable and legitimate statements that they’ve made in debates or posts on their campaign page. Words matter enormously during elections, so it is best for candidates to make well-informed statements before other students, the Students’ Union, or the campus media hold you accountable for them.

Students are also barely engaged with Students’ Union elections, as is evident from the approximately 23% voter turnout for the Students’ Union president elections this year. While many students are aware of elections on campus, most simply don’t care enough to cast a vote until it’s someone they know or unless they already follow campus politics. If this trend continues, Students’ Union elections are likely to follow mainstream politics in which elections become a quasi-popularity contest, instead of having those in power actually represent, in this case, what is in the best interests of StFX students.

Some of the lack of involvement from students may stem from the fact that many don’t know what exactly the Students’ Union does, and how much their advocacy, or lack thereof, affects our everyday experience at StFX. The Students’ Union has taken the initiative to recruit volunteers and students at large to try to inform students about the election and the importance of elected Students’ Union representatives, but the tables they’ve set up are few and fairly easy for students to walk past.  Perhaps investment in a website or providing a file to all voters that outline the duties of all Students’ Union positions along with a brief overview of all the candidates for specific positions during elections could remedy the issue and create a more informed campus.

No electoral system or election is perfect, and the Students’ Union elections are no exception. The Students’ Union should seriously contemplate how to increase student engagement in elections, make sure that their bylaws are inclusive, and make sure the electoral system is easy to understand and access. After all, having election results that reflect the interests of the majority are crucial when the Students’ Union is the primary organization advocating for students on issues with university administration, all levels of government, and other societies. 

 

Juul Tones

 
 

Smokers in the new generation

E-cigarettes have been around for years now with Juul taking the helm “with the goal to provide a satisfying alternative for adult smokers” according to their website. Are the effects of an e-cigarette that much lower than regular cigarettes? Current research from publications in the England Public Health suggest no, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t risks.

If burn temperatures are increased there is the risk of what is commonly referred to as a dry puff, where the smoke released is harsher than that of a regular puff. The dry puff occurs when the e-cigarettes are placed at maximum power and puffs are set to last approximately 4-5 seconds; it can also occur when liquid levels are low, and the temperature is high. The liquid in the cigarettes when burned at these high temperatures releases formaldehyde which can be dangerous in large quantities. Seasoned smokers of e-cigarettes know to avoid these harsher puffs, but people who are new to the products may be at risk to inhale.

This is important to note because Juul has become under fire for their targeting of youth, who would have no experience. From young people in their advertisements, to launch parties, social media influencers, flavoured pods and bright colours, these things are what market advisors claim to be associated with targeting younger people. There has been a surge of new young nicotine smokers and although that cannot be directly connected to Juuls, it appears that they are the most prominent e-cigarette on the market which causes suspicion. The dangers of young people not familiar with smoking these devices is real; though they would come to recognize the difference of a dry puff with practice, they will still inhale dangerous chemicals while learning. 

As someone who has never smoked but has lived in multiple households of tobacco chewers and smokers, I can’t speak to the personal benefit of switching from smoking to vaping. I can, however, say that while there isn’t the same lingering stench and thick smoke that once came with cigarettes, there is a distinct smell that goes beyond the different flavours of e-cigarette liquids. It’s artificial smelling, with something akin to essential oils lining the stale water vapor. It does not promote confidence that these are a healthy alternative. I have also witnessed that while the nicotine quantity can be reduced to minimal quantities (even zero) in some devices, the act of smoking often increases drastically because it appears healthier and more puffs are needed to satisfy the nicotine addiction.

The people who smoke these devices also promote it as an aesthetic, a similar tactic used by the big tobacco brands for years. I’ve had people come up to me saying, “Watch what I can do!” and blow smoke rings. The difference being that water vapor is longer lasting than the smoke from cigarettes and it is often used for tricks. Trick competitions have begun and gained sizeable notoriety which only further promotes usage. As we approach the release of shorter long-term studies and we’re seeing early effects of these devices and it is minimal, but it will be years before any conclusive evidence will show what impact these devices have and how we will change our perception of them. 

Artwork: Caleb MacIsaac

Artwork: Caleb MacIsaac


These devices are dangerous in my opinion, because we don’t know the long-term effects of the chemicals used, but we do know the effects of things like nicotine. To boot, watching important people in my life increase their puff count and have it so easily switched to cigarettes when drinking alcohol, does not incite confidence that these products have the intended effect. As a preservice teacher, I do see my students, some as early as 12 years old, smoking e-cigarettes and it breaks my heart. Some parents aren’t phased and say “well, it could be cigarettes” as if that excuses the behaviour. Policies have since been implemented banning the devices from schools, but if my youth taught me anything, kids are crafty, and they can always find a work around. It begs the question of companies like Juul, who are under fire: why don’t they release pods that don’t have any nicotine? That way if kids do manage to get a device, they have the option to be nicotine free. The war on drugs was not an effective tool in substance management and educating kids with limited research won’t have the same result to inform, so why not educate them on the substances we are familiar with such as nicotine. By offering them this information, any young people who are smoking can make an informed decision on what they put in their bodies.

From what I have seen, when e-cigarettes are used with the intended purpose and are monitored by users, then they are effective tools to reduce the damages of smoking. I don’t like them, but they are the lesser of two evils.

 

Moose Hide Campaign

 
 

End violence against women and children

The Moose Hide Campaign (MHC) is a movement of Indigenous and non-Indigenous men and boys who are taking a stand to end violence against women and children. The campaign is not limited to men and boys, women and girls are encouraged to wear the moose hide and take roles in the campaign like ceremonial witnesses for events, keynote speakers, and cultural leaders and advisors. 

MHC was started by Paul Lacerte and his daughter Raven in 2011. Lacerte is from Cariboo Clan and the Carrier Nation. 

There are many avenues to participate in the campaign. Wearing a square pin made of leather or non-leather is an option. The Xaverian Weekly will provide pins (leather or non-leather), information about the campaign, and other resources about local services in the newsroom (Room 111D, SUB) each Friday of February from 11am-2pm. 

All moose hide squares come from traditional hunters who hunt moose for food and ceremonial purposes, or from animals who have died in road accidents. No animals are hunted specifically to supply hides for the Moose Hide Campaign. 

The patches are produced with care by Indigenous women who are deeply committed to the protection of women and children and who value the living origins of the patches. Making the patches provides a valuable source of income for the women involved.

Another avenue for participation is the day of fasting and gathering on February 13, 2019. MHC provides a fasting guide for people who are new to the traditional practice. The guide is available in The Xaverian Weekly newsroom where the day’s events on February 13 will be livestreamed. If unable to participate in person, MHC has an online “Pledge Now” button that records a short 45 second video with phone, laptop or tablet. Photos and messages are also accepted as alternatives to video. 

 

StFX’s New Year’s Resolutions

 

Seven ideas to combat inaction

2018 was an eventful year for StFX. In August, the school hosted more than 1 000 athletes from across the country for the 2018 Special Olympics Summer Games. Construction continued on the Mulroney Centre, began on the Oland Centre, and students were forced to adjust their routes to class as construction also began on the new stairs and ceremonial flag plaza. 

Not too far into the 2018-19 school year, the university began to make national headlines for mishandling a case of sexual assault, and student protest became a force to be reckoned with as Xaverians came together to combat the school’s apathy and inaction. Protests calling for fair fees and accommodations for international students also garnered attention in late November. Coming into the new year, many students are hoping for big change. Perhaps, I believe, StFX should be too. To help them on their way, I’ve pulled together a list of 7 new year’s resolutions based on the big events and stories from 2018.

1. Listen to the revolutionaries

Cornell University professor Sidney Tarrow writes in his book Power In Movement that “people do not risk their skin or sacrifice their time to engage in contentious politics unless they have good reason to do so.” This year, StFX students and faculty took a stand against sexual violence at the university’s open house. 

More than 5 000 individuals signed a petition listing calls to action. A number of individuals wrote and shared open letters, ran forums, and staged protests. Students petitioned for fair fees and accommodations for international students, they stood with Coady workers, and proved that our generation is willing to get up and engage and fight for what’s right.

StFX prides itself on being an institution founded on principles of social justice. While that claim is dubious when applied to the institution itself, students, faculty, and community members have proven their commitment to justice by engaging in contentious politics on a number of occasions. This year alone, the StFX community proved themselves revolutionaries.

Taking to heart Tarrow’s words would serve StFX well. Revolution doesn’t happen without good reason, and so to better the institution, listening to the revolutionaries is key.

2. Prioritize action

Everyone’s heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words,” and yet, some people seem to have a hard time applying it. StFX is a big fan of the empty promise. In terms of the fight for action on issues of sexual violence, students were promised action on multiple occasions in 2018, and have yet to see any significant changes. The new Sexual Violence Prevention Committee has yet to be created, a clear apology has yet to be issued on behalf of the administration, and the action plan promised at the open forum in November has yet to be released. 

Creating trust in a system (one that we as students are supposed to trust with nearly every aspect of our lives) requires more than just telling people what they want to hear. Following through on promises and committing to real action needs to be at the top of StFX’s list of priorities for 2019.

3. Treat students like people, not money

Students pay a lot to be here. For a student in a general arts or science program, fees before living expenses come to about $9 000. For international students, that amount more than doubles. 

University is expensive, we all know and expect that, but unfortunately, many students don’t feel valued for anything other than the contents of their bank account. For example, charging students who can’t afford to fly home for the holidays a fee to stay on campus. International students were right to petition for fair fees in 2018, but they shouldn’t have had to. Treating students like people, rather than sources of cash, should be an easy resolution for StFX to make.

4. Be trauma informed

Sexual violence has been at the forefront of nearly every discussion had on campus since September. Not because every conversation is about issues of sexual violence, but because it is impossible, when those issues are so prevalent in the day to day life of more than half the student population, to put them out of mind. 

The university, in addressing issues of sexual violence, must recognize the impact of trauma.

Consisting unproportionately of upper-middle class white men, it is evident that the StFX administration is largely unfamiliar with the struggles of female, queer, Indigenous, and international students who all face increased risk of sexual violence on a day to day basis. This privilege, too, needs to be recognized as we continue to take action on issues of sexual violence. 

There are so many people at StFX who have more experience with issues of sexual violence than those who make up the administration. Lean on those people, who are already doing the good work, and combating violence - listen to them when they tell you what needs doing, and how to go about change.

5. Embrace and value diversity

In social justice work, the guiding principle of “letting the most qualified person speak” is referenced frequently. That means letting those most affected by issues speak to their own needs and situations. In academia, this principle also applies. Who better to teach a course on Indigenous issues than an Indigenous person? Or a course on race than a racialized person? Hiring diverse faculty benefits everyone - allowing students to learn from those with first hand experience in the worlds they’re studying, and creating an environment more accepting to all.

Additionally, celebrating the diverse student body at StFX should be given more time and energy. Pride month shouldn’t just be one month. The flag shouldn’t go up early January and come down four weeks later. Christmas shouldn’t be the only holiday celebrated with big events across campus. The StFX student population comes from across the globe, and the university experience should reflect and recognize this. So, hire diverse faculty! Fly the pride flag year round! And the Mi’kmaq flag! Recognize and celebrate holidays that aren’t Catholic!

Embracing diversity isn’t that hard, I promise.

6. Break more traditions, and start new ones

September 2018 marked a big change in StFX tradition: single gender residences Cameron and MacKinnon Hall were, for the first time, considered co-ed. While the decision was highly contested, it was also necessary in combating misogynistic rituals. Tradition can be extremely harmful, and breaking this one was a step in the right direction. StFX should continue to challenge campus traditions, asking themselves if a tradition is truly adding to the university experience they want to present, or if it might be causing more harm than good.

7. Rethink the reputation

On a similar note, StFX is well known across Canada, and even internationally, for its reputation. While many students jokingly refer to StFX as a cult, two of the main reputations that have befallen the school are 1) that StFX is the number one party school in Canada, and 2) that the StFX community is like family. Both these reputations, while wielded proudly by a number of students, staff, and alumni alike, are unfortunately quite harmful.

The party school reputation lends itself to the promotion of alcoholism - excused as part of the experience rather than the affliction that it is - and makes space for behaviour that is violent and inappropriate. If this reputation is one the school plans on sticking with, they should balance it out with more education - on safe substance use, mental health, addictions, consent, and violence.

Referring to the school community as a family, as Professor Johannah Black pointed out at November’s open forum, brings up the often troubled dynamics that real families face. 

Too often, families cover up or ignore sexual violence, disown family members in acts of discrimination, or integrate unhealthy power imbalances into the home; I would hope that this isn’t the picture of family StFX has in mind, but it would serve the school well to rethink the emphasis placed on the term.

This list (though quite long) only addresses a small portion of what StFX should be striving for in 2019. What has been well proven, however, is that new year’s resolutions tend not to stick. 

Maybe what StFX needs, then, is a revolution - but whether or not they’re ready to accept that is another story all together.