Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Grad School in Pop Culture

Aside from PhD Comics, and bit parts (like two episodes of the Simpson (here and here) and references to the grad work of the depressed uncle played by Steve Carrell in Little Miss Sunshine) how often does grad school make its way into the plot of popular (or even unpopular) culture? There are zillions of films about undergrads, of course--including Canada's highest grossing film ever, btw.

If you are starved to see your life as a grad student represented on the screen, you may wish to catch the latest episode of Being Erica which features Erica travelling back in time to grad school and a remembered confrontation with her supervisor. Yike!

A recent article on blueavocado.org about the lack of pop culture references to non profits (or at least the lack or realistic ones) got me thinking... where are the grad students in pop culture?
We certainly have an abundance of lawyer shows and doctor shows, and oh yes, detectives. Why not charities, or jobs like mine, working in a non profit--the GSS. Better yet, why not a show in a student union for grad students!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Queens, athletics and cut backs

Hat tip to Dan for this link, regarding another athletics facility partially funded by student levy, and in this case the deficit and budget cuts that followed when the rest of the funding wasn't secured...


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ryerson students athletics increase

$126/year increase for student athletics fees at Ryerson was approved by student ballot. Fees are curently about $20.98 for graduates -- and a per credit fee up to max $30/term for undergrads--so students will now pay ... less than UVIC grad students pay for athletics per term (or the same as undergraduates now pay at UVIC) but get Maddison Square Gardens as their athletics facility...


The Canadian Federation of Students' AGM: A reformer's perspective | rabble.ca

The Canadian Federation of Students' AGM: A reformer's perspective | rabble.ca

Rabble has picked up the debate regarding the CFS. I am surprised how long it would take for the debates among student activists to become significant in the broader left.

This is one of the rare thoughtful articles--yes, on the left it has to be about ends and means.

I wasn't at the meeting, so my response is based on past experiences not the 2009 meeting.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Graduate Students join massive strikes at U California

Graduate students joined staff unions and undergraduates in a state wide strike protesting plans to drastically increase tuition in the face of cuts to university funding in the state.

Graduate students are facing a wide range of possible fee increases, including increases of a whopping 64% for some programs, in a move which violates a university policy to keep the grad tuition in line with other schools.

Undergraduate tuition is slated to increase 32% across the baord.

Meanwhile, senior adminsitrators apparently voted themselves a raise at the same time, while cutting wages or laying off staff and non-tenure professors.

Callout to graduate students at UC Berkeley is here.

The website of the strike is:

A fascinating interview with Bob Samuels, president of the University of California, American Federation of Teachers (author of the blog Changing Universities) and Zen Dochterman, UCLA grad student taking, was on Democracy Now on November 20, and the interviewees provide some interesting analysis of the privatization of the university and how funding is allocated.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Martlet Story: GSS responds to athletics referendum

Amy Cox and Mike Large have been busy ensuring grad students are heard on the referendum campaign with two recent op eds in the Martlet.

Newest is here:

My fave comment is "Why is the GSS so well run?" Thanks, "argh", it's because we have people like Amy and Mike!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stand up for quality childcare at UVIC

Like many graduate students, I'm a parent with a 9 year old in childcare. My son was lucky enough to be enrolled in UVIC's childcare--he has been at UVIC childcare since he was 16 months, and I believe the program is great.

All UVIC parents have friends (or have been ourselves) on long waitlists (2-3 years even!) to get in and know UVIC childcare needs to expand.

The UVIC Childcare Action group has been working to bring this issue to the attention of the university. I’m happy to report that our campaign has succeeded in its goal of gaining the attention of the administration, and of bringing awareness to the importance of the childcare crisis faced by UVIC students, faculty and staff. I work for the Graduate Students' Society and we have been active in this groups. We know childcare is a significant issue for our members.

However, we now face a new situation. In its response to our campaign and the need for more childcare, the Board of Governors is seriously considering engaging a private childcare corporation, Kids & Company. For a very low “membership” fee, Kids & Company asserts that they will set up childcare facilities to meet UVic’s demand. However, parents and early childhood specialists alike are raising the warning bell about privatized childcare. Without wanting to demonize Kids & Co. in particular, we can say that for-profit childcare must, necessarily, cut corners to make a profit, and that this inevitably means lower-quality care despite higher fees.

Large private facilities pay lower wages than not-for-profit organizations like UVic Childcare, which results in high staff turnover (not good for children). They also meet only the minimum provincial standards in both caregiver-to-child ratios as well as staff qualifications; in both these areas, UVic Childcare exceeds the standards. Kids & Company has not yet gained a foothold in B.C., but they have established centres in Calgary, Toronto, Waterloo and Halifax.

While information regarding the company’s performance is not easy to obtain, we have heard some disturbing stories from parents, and two incidents in which Kids&Co centres had their licenses put in jeopardy – once for mould and sewer drain issues (Toronto) and once for accidentally leaving a toddler behind in the building during a fire-drill (Calgary). While Kids&Co has not been operational for long enough to gain perspective on their success, the example of an analogous big-box chain, ABC Childcare in Australia, which expanded rapidly and experienced multiple problems with staffing and quality before going bankrupt, suggests that we may want to be wary of inviting privatized childcare to solve our problems.The Board of Governors is currently gathering information from Kids&Company about the nature of the services they would provide, and they are hoping to make a decision at their meeting on November 27th. In preparation for this meeting, the UCAG has been working to substantiate concerns about privatized childcare with evidence of potential problems.
In addition, we have clarified our objective: faculty members need quality childcare in order to allow them to do their jobs properly, not just any childcare.In support of this objective, we are asking that if you have not yet written a letter in support of our campaign – and we do understand, we’re all busy! – that you do so now, and that you stress that you believe that quality childcare is essential to the success of faculty members who are parents of young children.

***Letters must be sent by November 9 to be included in the Board of Governors agenda.***

Many of us have had – or know of someone who has had – experience with less-than-ideal childcare, and we understand that it is difficult to be productive when you’re uncomfortable with the environment in which you have left your child. We’re concerned that if Kids & Company supplies childcare services to UVic, it may create problems for parents at the same time as it solves them. Thank-you for taking the time to write a letter in support of our campaign.

You’ll find a letter template below; please add your personal perspective or experience, if you wish, and email it to Ray Protti usec3@uvic.ca; David Turpin dturpin@uvic.ca; and cc it to lsmarks@uvic.ca; provost@uvic.ca; and jdunsdon@uvic.ca.

If you are a graduate student, I would appreciate it if you cc the GSS on your letter and let us know if you are willing to have us publish it on the GSS website.

You can email me at gssmgr@uvic.ca.
Yours sincerely,
Stacy Chappel
University of Victoria Graduate Students' Society
University Childcare Action Group


To: Mr. Ray Protti, Chair, Board of Governors and Dr. David Turpin, President, University of Victoria dturpin@uvic.ca
Re: Childcare expansion
Dear Mr. Protti and Dr. Turpin:

I am writing to respectfully ask that you work towards immediate expansion of the UVic childcare system. The current situation is not working for UVic parents.

Through contact and discussion with other concerned parents, I have increasingly come to realize that my situation is far from unique. The UVic childcare is rated among the best in Victoria, but its waitlist times are are extremely long (over two years for students and averaging four to five years for staff and faculty).

This has caused serious hardship for UVic students, staff, and faculty. Impacts on productivity, retention, and recruitment are significant, and growing. This is reflected in the recent departure of a promising young faculty member, Dr. Katrin Meissner, who left UVic because she could not find care for her child.

Recent UVic initiatives to develop a home-based childcare network and part-time childcare in Center 6 are welcome and encouraged. However, these initiatives will not provide sufficient care to meet the demand, and will provide few permanent, full time spaces. This problem could be solved by expanding the UVic group childcare, to provide additional spaces without compromising the quality of the care.

Additional space is particularly needed for the infant and toddler age groups, where few facilities are available in the community, and waitlist times are particularly long. Recruitment, retention, and accessibility are strategic initiatives for UVic. These goals are currently threatened by limited access to high-quality childcare on campus and in the community.

Faculty and staff who cannot find childcare they are satisfied with are forced to either quit, reduce their work to part time, or struggle with multiple demands, resulting in greatly reduced productivity. Parent students without childcare are unable to access higher education.Given that the UVic childcare system is among the best in Victoria, significant expansion of this system is the best solution to the childcare crisis. I hope you will work together with the students, staff, and faculty towards this goal.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It’s your call: One click could save you $55 per term in athletics fees

Should students pay for a new athletic facility with a “new” $55/term fee (in addition to the current $73/term fee)?

You will be asked to vote on this question October 19-23, 2009 on webvote at https://webvote.uvic.ca

The Graduate Students’ Society is opposed to this fee increase. Here are some of our reasons:

Is this fee increase legal?

The GSS is concerned that the fee increase is not permitted under BC’s tuition limit policy, which caps increases of tuition and fees for current programs at 2% per year. This new fee will be a 75% fee increase for students.

The GSS has sent UVic a letter (PDF) asking UVIC to account for this, and will post any reply we receive on our campaign site here: http://gss.uvic.ca/2009athletics.htm

Who uses and who pays?

In the January 2009 term alone, contribution by students to the Athletics and Recreation budget was $1,082,939.00without including additional fees paid by students for intramural, weight room, and program fees.

According to UVIC data for January – March 2009, which assumes average usage of 1-3 visits per week, about 30% of undergraduates and 8% of graduate students are using the Ian Stewart Complex (the most popular recreation facility on campus).

Athletics fees: the goal posts keep moving!

Until UVIC purchased the Ian Stewart Complex (ISC), athletic fees increased at a rate almost identical to inflation. Since the purchase of ISC, students have been paying a greater proportion of the cost for Athletics at UVIC each year. In the past decade, the proportion of the Athletics budget covered by student fees has risen from 20% to 38%.

Mandatory fees can be a benefit—if they are less than market rate

Compare this fee proposal to the U-pass... the U-pass costs one quarter the cost of buying a monthly buss pass. Every student pays in, but the cost is kept lower than market rate. In return, transit improves bus service to Victoria campuses.

Now compare the proposed athletics fee proposal to other recreation passes in Victoria *:

No. of terms

Current fee

New fee

One term



Two Terms



Three Terms




Sannich Rec student pass


Oak Bay Rec annual pass


YM-YWCA pass

- family pass



* graduate students will have the option to opt out of the summer term; summer term will be charged at 50%. 60% of graduate students and 20% of undergraduates pay 3 terms of fees per year.

What are the other options?

UVIC says mandatory student fees need to cover 36.7% of the cost of the building—but what are other options? UVIC’s consultation process suggested selling the Ian Stewart Complex as one revenue source. Other options include bigger donor campaigns, a stronger lobby for government support.

UVIC’s facility analysis indicates UVIC will seek to cover costs of the building with the following revenues:

1. New students Mandatory Fee

2. Program revenues

3. Donors

4. Government funding

5. UVIC contribution

What are the arguments in favour of the fee increase?

UVIC made a presentation to the GSS Grad Council about the proposal. It can be found here.

UVIC’s facility analysis (500 pages) can be found here.

UVIC’s/vikes website supporting the fee increase is here

Student facebook group in support of the fee increase is found on the vikes website here

Visit open houses

Help the campaign

Visit the GSS campaign site, download a poster, learn more: all here

Saturday, October 3, 2009

GSS Event bulletin October 2, 2009

UPDATE - looking for our current UVIC GSS events notices? visit them here:


Ok ... back to the original post, below:

  1. GSS Victory on representation
  2. Wine Club Tickets on Sale for Oct. 7th @ 5PM
  3. Open Mic Night Oct. 8 @ 7PM
  4. Wednesday Morning Coffee at the Grad House
  5. Know Your Rights & Responsibilities – An Interactive Workshop on Understanding Discrimination & Harassment (For Students)
  6. Writing Wednesdays for Graduate Students
  7. Longer Writing Centre Hours
  8. Graduate Student Fellowships
  9. Subscribe/Unsubscribe
  10. Submit an item
1 GSS Victory on representation
Last year the GSS campaigned for increased representation for graduate students at UVIC. On Friday, October 2, the GSS won a major victory when the Senate voted in favour of increasing graduate student Senate seats from 1 seat to 3. Congratulations to everyone who helped on the campaign.

2 Wine Club Tickets on Sale for Oct. 7th @ 5PMThe Grad House Restaurant’s Chef Alan King-Jones has selected four great wines and paired them with amazing appetizers for this years’ inaugural Wine Club. Tickets are $12 for graduate students and $15 for guests, and are available in the GSS office. Tickets on sale to October 5th only.

3 Open Mic Night Oct. 8 @ 7PM
Come join in the fun! Hosted by Miles Waghray, we provide the electric piano, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and a hand drum. You provide the talent.

4 Wednesday Morning Coffee at the Grad House
Come get free coffee and tea with other grad students in the David Clode room at the Graduate Students’ Centre, across from the main office. 9 - 19:30 am

5 Know Your Rights & Responsibilities – An Interactive Workshop on Understanding Discrimination & Harassment (For Students)

Tuesday October 6, 1:00 – 2:30pm

Sedgewick Building Wing C (Room C-168)

Through interactive activities and group discussions participants will:

Understand the legal and practical definitions of Discrimination and Harassment
Learn how to identify Discrimination and Harassment
Develop some positive ways of approaching and managing conflict
Understand what Policies and Practices UVic has in place to promote a campus free of Discrimination and Harassment
Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities are around matters of Discrimination and Harassment and How You can Encourage A Welcoming and Inclusive campus Environment …

We can accept a maximum of 20 participants.

Please contact Bette Cameron in the Equity & Human Rights Office to RSVP: 250.721.8488

6 Writing Wednesdays for Graduate Students(Hosted by Student Transition Services and Graduate Students’ Society)
Looking for a great study space on campus?Seeking motivation to complete essays or your thesis/dissertation?Interested in connecting with graduate students in a similar state of mind?Drop by the Student Transition Centre, located in the basement of the Student Union Building, room B010 every Wednesday between 10:30am and 2:00pm. It’s a relaxed friendly atmosphere with free coffee, tea, use of kitchenette and a quiet structured working space. Starts October 7th 2009 – You don’t want to miss it!

7 Longer Writing Centre Hours
The Writing Centre (TWC) is now open longer and in two locations! You can find us in the McPherson Library Learning Commons Mondays through Fridays, 10am-4pm, and Wednesday evenings, 4pm-7pm. As well, we offer a drop-in service on Tuesdays 4-7pm and Saturdays 1-4pm in the Campus View Room in the Cadboro Commons Building. Everyone welcome! We can help you with award applications, proposal writing, and course papers. We can also help you get your thesis or dissertation in better shape. Our current roster of tutors are from the departments of English, Law, Linguistics, Math, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Political Science, and History in Art. You can book an appointment at http://www.rich36.com/uvic/.

We’re looking forward to helping you become a more effective and efficient writer!

8 Graduate Student Fellowships: BC Institute for Co-operative Studies
The BC Institute for Co-operative Studies at the University of Victoria invites applications from University of Victoria graduate students for fellowships of up to 12 months' duration during the 2010/11 academic year, beginning September 1, 2010.The purpose of the fellowship is to provide graduate students working on research projects related to co-operative and community-based economy with financial support, suitable space and a stimulating environment conducive to writing and reflection.The Institute welcomes applications from all disciplinary backgrounds for projects that promote the scholarly study of subjects related to co-operative and community-based economic arrangements. 'Co-operative and community-based economy' is taken to refer to collective undertakings, not necessarily co-operatives:* aimed at providing the needs and wants of some community or group, where any profits are a means of supplying those needs and wants,* managed autonomously and by democratic processes, and* in which persons and their participation are given priority over capital in the distribution of any surplus.

9 Subscribe/Unsubscribeor change your email used with this bulletin here:
10 Submit an item
by emailing a plain text message (no attachments or PDFs!) to gsscomm[at]uvic.ca.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thinking of running for grad council?

Hey grad students ! Why not run for grad council as your departmental graduate representative to the GSS?

Info here:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

BC September 2009 budget update and graduate students

BC's September budget update makes little mention of graduate school, graduate students or research, although graduate studies is briefly mentioned as one targeted area of expansion in the Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour service plan.

Capital spending is discussed in the budget speech, with $500 million for capital expansion on campuses--$86.4 million is going to UBC's pharmaceutical research facility--which is a drug commercialization facility. The ministry must disclose projects over $50 million, sp presumably the rest of the capital spending falls under that amount. Other major projects mentioned focus on environmental technologies or research, including Okanagan College's Centre for Green Building Technologies ($27.6 million), Energy House project at Northern Lights College ($7.8 million) and 21 million for UNBC's project involving turning waste wood into energy. Indeed, the investment in research and development mentioned in the budget speech is in green energy.

The Ministry's service plan shows an increase in funds directed to post-secondary institutions (5% increase). Bear in mind there is a 2% price index increase over last year, and UVIC is slated to have a 14% increase in graduate enrollement this year. Meanhile there's a 15% cut back to Student Aid BC--this is for ministry spending so whether this will result in cuts to bursaries, and exactly how this will be handled, is not yet clear. But earlier this year, the Pacific Leaders graduate funding was put on hold, and other student support focussed on helping disabled students, nursing students and those needing loan forgiveness was quietly cut in July (see Vancouver Sun article).

Grad Students and self funding

I always find it fascinating and impressive to see how graduate students manage to do so much while in school.

For instance, Nursing grad student Pasquale Fiore teaches nursing courses at Camosun and is a Reiki master... he also manages to keep up with artistic hobbies. Today he showed me he art cards today--they are on sale at the UVIC bookstore and feature Victoria and BC lanscapes and scenes.

you can see his work here on a sight dedicated to creative work by nurses--so it seems he is not alone among his colleagues in creating art work!

I asked him how he manages to pursue a graduate degree, his SSHRC research, teaching and his art projects, and he says, "With a very good iPhone. It beeps and tells me what to do!"

So next time you need to send mom a card, check out Pasquale's cards at UVic bookstore!

Friday, August 21, 2009

SFSS-CFS dispute must be resolved in full trial

Those who were involved in the referendum in which the GSS left the Canadian Federation of Students have been watching the trial resulting from the Simon Fraser vote on the same issue with some interest. Simon Fraser students voted 66% in favour of leaving 2008, but the CFS contests the validity of the referendum. The SFSS tried to get a summary judgement (judgement without trial) affirming the vote was valid, but lost this month--not because they were wrong, but because the jude decided the issue needs a trial to be resolved. The judge's ruling makes for interesting read. And it seems not only SFSS will be paying (part of?) the CFS costs for the summary judgement proceedings but SFSS students are paying CFS fees with their tuition and it seems unclear what is happening to them. Is SFU holding them in trust until this is resolved?

The GSS referendum to leave the CFS (in which our members voted to leave) has not been contested. GSS members voted 57% in favour of leaving the CFS.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bike Kitchen cooking up near you

UVIC is doing well by their cyclists, I must say.

In the past year, cycling commuter showers have been included in every new building.

The Spokes bicycle program helps students who have just arrived get a bike for a year-- free! And Spokes also lets you rent bikes for visiting family and friends (oh, and visiting scholars too!) at dirt cheap prices.

There are even charging stations for those with electric batteries on their bikes.

And now, lucky me, right outside the Grad Centre, UVIC plans to install a "Bike Kitchen". Four stands to fix your bike, and tools and compressed air all right there for you. For students, a bike is a great way to get around. Minor repairs are much easier with a stand, but investing in that sort of equipment is out of reach. A bike kitchen is a fantastic bonus for all the cyclists on campus. The Bicycle User Committee intends to use it as a meet-up spot for rides as well.

Kudos to all involved in this project, and to the Bicycle Users Committee for all their work improving UVIC for cyclists.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So many ways to tandem

I was trying to figure out a way to include this on the grad student blog, but I can't--except it qualifies as thesis distraction. Or perhaps there are some interesting kinesiology or physics questions that arise..

Anyway, as mentioned, I do love a tandem bike, so here are some interesting variations on the theme!

Back to back

three wheeler

what the hell? wild rowing machine tandem...with disco soundtrack and 1950's (norwgian?) documentary voice commentator that reminds me of my grade 10 PE teacher...

I want this one:

This one is great--hand crank and cycle tendem combo--called the "handem tandem" !

Couldn't get it to embed, but it is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whD86tuujxE

Perhaps a new project for the grad house... the beer bike (10 riders, two bartenders!)

And finally, a side by side sitting up

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SSHRC campaign presents 17,000 signatures to the house of commons

I just received this email from the campaign to stop the changes to SSHRC. Congratulations to the organizers of this campaign.


Hello, Thank you for being one of more than 17,000 people who have signed the written petition in opposition to the government's earmarking of Canada Graduate Scholarship funding within SSHRC.
Once we started our campaign against this earmarking, petitions flooded our office from every province and territory in Canada, as well as the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan.
It was an incredible response.
In this last legislative session, I had the honour of presenting this petition in the House of Commons on your behalf. Together, we have made a powerful statement in opposition to the government’s attack on the social sciences and humanities and its overall disregard for the fundamental principle of academic freedom.

(Featured: Arati Sharma and Rick Theis of CASA, Hon. Niki Ashton, and from CFS Graham Cox, Federico Carvajal and Gaétan-Philippe Beaulière)
We must continue to work together. The battle continues in the face of ongoing actions and interference of the Minister of Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear. In advance of the next budget, we will continue to make it clear that not only is discipline-related earmarking unacceptable but that social sciences and humanities research in Canada is vital. The contributions made by students, researchers, academics and people working in the social sciences and humanities are integral to moving our country forward.
Thank you again for joining me, and the thousands of others who have spoken out in opposition to the actions of this Government.
I invite you to watch the embedded video link of my presentation to the House: https://mail.uvic.ca/owa/redir.aspx?C=856195e385fa4f9aaab6b65e26669bdb&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.youtube.com%2fwatch%3fv%3d-ms6o_LlUc0
I look forward to staying in touch!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Graduate Student's Society is no more

Because we are now the Graduate Students' Society.

Hurrah for punctuation!

Tandem Heaven!

As a tandem rider, I am excited the Northwest Tandem Rally is at UVIC this weekend. And I'm finding it hard to sit at my desk because from here I can see hundreds of tandems taking off for a lovely ride to Butchard Gardens!

I was especially jealous of this:

... the rare three-seater! I have heard rumours someone in town has a tandem big enough for my whole family, but have never seen one.

I wish I was out there too... look how friendly the tandem folk are:

Wait a minute, is that my old English teacher from high school?

Can't wait for the weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Conference Board should have used Turnitin!

Looks like the Conference Board of Canada should be using Turnitin to check their work, and to avoid this embarassing situation.  Kind of a bummer to withdraw three reports that were proposing tougher copyright legislation due to "failing to meet research standards"--or "plagiarism" as Dr. Michael Geist bluntly puts it.

Michael Geist, who blew the lid off this story, is a University of Ottawa prof and a Canada Research Chair. He is a regular commentator on intellectual property issues in the digital age. Geist has been a critic of the direction copyright legislation in Canada is moving, and of the Conference Board report recommendations. But he went one further than his criticism of bias, and stated  the Conference Board had plagiarized text from a lobby group in the US for their report! The lobby group  promotes business interests in copyright legislation, making even cited use of the work questionable. Whoops! Or I suppose I should say, Gotcha!

Hmmm. How does UVIC define plagiarism? Yup, inadequate or missing citation of others' work meets UVic calendar's definition of plagiarism. Now, a student in this situation wouldn't get to withdraw three reports, but stubbornly stand by their "results". And students' work isn't likely to shape federal policy on copyright. 

You may be wondering, what exactly is this Conference Board? Until now, I always thought they were some branch of Stats Canada and never really gave it a thought--I've heard them quoted as a source of information about Canada many times on CBC radio.

The Conference Board is actually non profit society, and is self described as independent (though linked to the Conference Board of New York), non-biased, and undertaking applied research. 

But a look at who is in charge at the Conference Board gives a different sense. While their Board of Directors does include the President of one co-operative (the cooperators), that board member sits amongst the CEOs of Microsoft Canada, CGI, Merk, Debeers, and the Business Development Bank. Not a bad lineup for a business lobby--but questionable in an impartial research group. Give me the Chamber of Commerce any day. 

Well, I say chalk one up for truly independent university researchers like Dr.Geist. As noted a few days ago, academia is under lots of pressure from business too, not to mention that shift in SSHRC grants toward funding business-focussed research. There is a reason universities need to be independent and publicly funded! 

No doubt this is all fodder for gossip at Congress (of the Humanities). With Geist as a member of a keynote panel Friday night on copyright, this should make for a flivelu discussion! I propose Geist perform a rendition of Tom Lehrer's take on plagiarism, Lobachevsky, in honour of this schadenfreude-filled moment!! 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dental referendum vote today!

Don't forget to vote in the GSS dental referendum this week!

Lots of information is posted here:
but essentially the choice is to keep the current plan and pay $15 more per year (raising the plan fee to $200 per year) or to keep the current rate ($185) and reduce the maximum claim to $500. Right now the maximum claim per calendar year is $750.

The cost to add your family will likely be $205 per year if the increase goes through.

Begbie statue stolen

Someone stole the statue in the UVIC Law building. One evening last week, someone nabbed the bronze of BC's first judge, Matthew Begbie. The statue stood prominently in the entry of the Law building for many years. Known as the "hanging judge"--some say unjustly--Begbie has been the subject of much controversy over the years. The statue, which shows Begbie riding on a horse, was sawed off at the hooves and removed.

Honoring Begbie at UVIC has been the subject of much debate over the years--and the statue has been the subject of mild pranks. Until recently the UVIC Law building was also named for Begbie--now it is named for Fraser, UVIC's first law dean.

Given the controversy the Begbie statue has caused it would be easy to assume the theft is a student protest or prank, but Universities have been targets of art theives before. Notably the recent theft of Bill Reid's gorgeous gold carving work from UBC (now found, with some damage), and theives stealing bronze monuments for the melted-down value. The recently solved theft of a famous (and heavy!) Henry Moore bronze shows the thieves stole a multi-million dollar work of art to melt it down to earn a few thousand from the scrap. Apparently law enforcement can attend conferences on metal theft, and some areas even have metal theft specialists on their police force.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Corporate interference in academic journals

A worrisome case from Australia--where a pharmaceutical company sponsored publication of an "academic" journal through a medical/scientific publisher, Elsevier for a fee.


hat tip to:
Therapeutics Initiative at UBC for the link: http://www.ti.ubc.ca/

The Terapeutics Initiative itself came under fire recently for refusing pharmaceutical influence:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

punctuation plays part in first April Fool's newpaper prank

This was sent to us due to the apostrophe catastrophe:

1977: The British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement devoted to San Serriffe, a small republic said to consist of several semicolon-shaped islands located in the Indian Ocean. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica.

The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Only a few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that gripped the British tabloids in subsequent decades

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pacific Leadership Scholarship being cut?

I heard the BC Advanced Education critic for (Rob Fleming, MLA) saying the Pacific Leaders graduate scholarship has been cut in the recent BC budget.

Please sign this petition to keep graduate student funding in BC!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Grad students respond to recent business only grad funding

The letter, to Prime Minister Harper, was quoted in its entirety on rabble.ca:

The Federal Budget presented on January 27, 2009 contains a paragraph (page 106-7) laying out temporary increases in Graduate Scholarship Funding. The increases are welcome. However, the last sentence says that SSHRC scholarships "will be focused on business-related degrees."

This provision must be eliminated. It makes no sense to earmark scholarships for one discipline, rather than another. We need to allow students in all disciplines to further their learning opportunities, and excluding the majority from consideration for scholarships, limits our choices as a society that relies on new knowledge to prepare a better future.

Granting councils rely on peer review, and accord scholarships on the basis of merit, not on the basis of field of study. The main estimates are examined on a departmental basis by the appropriate standing committee, as set out in Article 81.(4) of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons.

When SSHRC spending comes forward to be discussed, we urge parliamentarians to remove the condition that scholarships be focused on business-related degrees. Should this earmark provision not be withdrawn, the 22 Council members of the SSHRC should ignore the earmark, or resign in protest. The SSHRC president should undertake a public campaign to explain why earmarking is not an acceptable practice in graduate student funding.

We urge all professional associations to write the leaders of the opposition parties urging them to maintain the independence of funding for graduate students in all disciplines by having the House of Commons pronounce itself against earmarking scholarship money by discipline.

Setting aside for a time the controversial -- did business-related programs, such as financial economics and business administration produce the people who put us in the economic mess we are now in -- all University faculty, graduate students and administrators should make it clear to members of parliament that the directing of funds entrusted to granting councils is not the role of the government of the day.

Yours truly,

Frances Abele, Carleton University,
Greg Albo, York University,
Jessica Alina-Pisano, University of Ottawa,
Caroline Andrew, University of Ottawa,
Feyzi Baban, Trent University,
Manfred Bienefeld, Carleton University,
Neil Bradford, Huron University College,
Andrew Biro, Acadia University,
Paul Leduc Browne, Universite du Quebec en Outaouais,
Doris Buss, Carleton University,
Duncan Cameron, Simon Fraser University,
Bill Carroll, University of Victoria,
John Paul C. Catungal, University of Toronto,
Ken Collier, Athabasca University,
Amrita Daniere, University of Toronto,
Serge Denis, University of Ottawa,
Matthew Farish, University of Toronto,
Christina Gabriel, Carleton University,
Emily Gilbert, University of Toronto,
Kanishka Goonewardena, University of Toronto,
Sneja Gunew, University of British Columbia,
Matt James, University of Victoria,
Dimitrios Karmis, University of Ottawa,
Roger Keil, York University,
Fuyuki Kurasawa, York University,
Charmain Levy, Universite du Quebec en Outaouais,
Fiona Mackenzie, Carleton University,
Stephen McBride, Simon Fraser University,
Rianne Mahon, Carleton University,
Dominique Masson, University of Ottawa,
Margie Mendell, Concordia University,
Lisa Mills, Carleton University,
Amina Mire, Carleton University,
Douglas Moggach, University of Ottawa,
Joshua Mostow, University of British Columbia,
Carlos Novas, Carleton University,
Leo Panitch, York University,
Martin Papillon, University of Ottawa,
Kate Parizeau, University of Toronto,
William Ramp, University of Lethbridge,
Katharine N. Rankin, University of Toronto,
Francois Rocher, University of Ottawa,
Cristina Rojas, Carleton University,
Stephanie Ross, York University,
Blair Rutherford, Carleton University,
John S. Saul, York University,
Mario Seccareccia, University of Ottawa,
Byron Sheldrick, University of Guelph,
John Shields, Ryerson University,
Amy Siciliano, University of Toronto,
Janet Siltanen, Carleton University,
Louis Simard, University of Ottawa,
Martin Skowronski, University of Toronto,
Malinda S. Smith, University of Alberta,
Donald Swartz, Carleton University,
Sunera Thobani, University of British Columbia,
Sarah Todd, Carleton University,
Wiliam Walters, Carleton University,
Rosemary Warskett, Carleton University,
Mel Watkins, Simon Fraser University.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

See ya, Joe, and thanks!

GSS director of Communications Joe Kolthammer has stepped down. The Grad Council passed a motion to thank him for all his hard work, and I want to add my personal thanks.

Joe was first elected in Spring 2007 and worked tirelessly producing four issues of the source, largely without any assistance. To give you a sense of the immensity of this, the magazine to be managed by a part time staff person. However, Joe managed to pull off high quality work with limited resources.

Joe also led the GSS referendum campaign to leave the CFS, and prior to the referendum gave many (frustrating) hours to that dispute. What could have been largely unpleasant was fun because of working with Joe.

This year, Joe didn't stand for re-election. However, when no one stood for the position, he accepted nomination from the floor of the March 2008 SGM and undertook to revamp how the Director of Communications position works--partly with an eye to making it more do-able for a grad student with other full time commitments. Joe also knew that due to the enormous shift in communications, and the work required in producing a magazine, it was time to rethink how we managed our publication and communication strategy.

All this was an enormous amount of work, and I will miss Joe's contribution to the GSS.

Most of all, though, I will miss having Joe around: his always hilarious (but rarely sent) letters to the Martlet, his old green cardigan, and making me laugh (and increasing my vocabulary) with every visit. Oh! And wearing my son's crazy bird costume!

Hopefully all that won't have to change (except maybe the bird costume... that might not bear repeating!).

Ok, maybe once...

Here's to the kudzu of anarchy!


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CUPE 4163 Supports York University Workers' Right to Bargain

CUPE 4163 Supports York University Workers' Right to Bargain -
Calls Proposed Back-to-Work Legislation an Attack on Workers' Rights
Victoria, B.C.

At this moment the government of Ontario is taking steps to pass
back-to-work legislation aimed at undercutting the rights of workers,
ordering the members of CUPE 3903 to return to work and refusing them the
right to bargain. The members of CUPE 4163 stand by these workers in calling
on the government of Ontario to allow the constitutionally protected
tradition of collective bargaining to continue, and to instead require the
administration of York University to return to the bargaining table in good
We live in a time of economic uncertainty. As belts tighten, corporations
and governments are looking for ways to save money, to cut corners, and to
trim costs. We must resist the urge to let them do so over the bodies of
workers and that is exactly what this legislation supports. By undercutting
the rights of these workers to utilize their only tool of negotiation, that
of withholding their labour power in the absence of a just contract, this
back-to-work legislation threatens all workers.

The argument is being made that it is the rights of students which should be
thought of in this case. Students have been out of the classroom for 77
days, and the Ontario government is arguing that they must not be made to
pay the price of this conflict. This is obviously true, yet if the
university administration was truly concerned with the rights of students,
why is it that this administration couldn't be bothered to negotiate with
the union for 65 days out of that 77 day span, meeting on only 12 occasions?
The best interests of students must indeed be held foremost by all parties,
but to return them to classes without a resolution is not in their interests
at all. The fact that this resolution does not place students first is
further reinforced by the reality that graduate student TAs, who are also
being prevented from attending class as a result of this strike, voted
almost 2 to 1 to support the union in continuing this action in the absence
of a just offer.

The truth of the matter is that there is a growing crisis in our university
system. We face what has been described as an attempt to introduce the
policies of Walmart to our system of higher education. Each year, a larger
proportion of the teaching and research at universities is undertaken by
workers who are given little pay, and even less security. These contract
faculty do not know, from one term to the next, whether or not they will
even be teaching. This situation is not in the interest of these workers,
and it is certainly not in the interest of students.

It is this crisis which is at the heart of the struggle at York, and it is
an issue which back-to-work legislation will attempt to force out of sight,
and out of mind. For the sake of the workers and students currently at York,
and for the sake of future workers and students at universities across this
country, this crisis needs to be addressed. It needs to be addressed through
the system of collective bargaining, a system which the Supreme Court of
Canada has ruled is a constitutionally protected practice, in a ruling which
came in response to the last attempt, here in BC, by a provincial government
to enforce back-to-work legislation.

This attack on workers' right to bargain must be fought. If this
back-to-work legislation is allowed to pass unchallenged, it will have
far-reaching consequences for all workers. The university's knowledge that
they may have final recourse to back-to-work legislation in the face of
determined workers allows them to avoid negotiating entirely, and simply
wait for an imposed settlement. We stand in solidarity with CUPE 3903 in
opposing this tactic, and call for the administration of York University to
return to the bargaining table in good faith.


Educational Employees Union, CUPE 4163
University of Victoria
Technology Enterprise Facility, room 217
Box 1700, Stn. CSC
Victoria, BC
V8W 2Y2
Phone: (250) 472-4778; Fax: (250) 472-4806

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Golden Age of Schadenfreude!

I didn't even need to read the story on the tyee to know it *must* be linked here. Golden Age of Schadenfreude? Hello!

Here are some other favourite schadenfreude links:

Schadenfraude pie recipe and photo essay. Yum!

The wikipedia entry on shadenfreude includes comparible words in other languages (than German).... but really is there a perfect translation for schadenfreude?

the musical avenue q (starring the muppets) even has a song about schadenfreude. However, you may know it for another popular ditty. Who knew it was muppets singing that!! (Pic from official site)

Finally, my tandem is known (to my son and I) as the Schadenfreude blue wheeler. And indeed, I feel schadenfreude for you as I zip past and you are not on a tandem. That's blue. And has wheels.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Apostrophe on apostrophe

20 year old typo causes bureaucratic diversions

Every year I prepare the legal filings of our Annual General Meeting. This includes Form 11, which details any changes to our bylaws.

In October, the GSS passed several bylaw changes and I dutifully submitted them using the reuired Form 11. Following the procedure requested by the registrar in past years, I simply attached a copy of the new bylaws and sent them in with a note on the form asking them to replace the old bylaws with the new.

Today I received notice the bylaw changes are being "held on file" until I correct them because, as noted in the comments, "Name must be exactly as registered: Student's Society".

Apparently our founding board couldn't use an apostrophe correctly (what would Lynne Truss say?) and the GSS founding documents thus list us as the University of Victoria Graduate Student's Society. Or perhaps there really was only one graduate student back in the 80s when we were incorporated as a society.

Perhaps I should file a complaint about the GSS on this blog. It seems we are doomed to a legally required error... what is a person to do when government demands you maintain a typo to keep your bylaws legal? Perhaps call a special AGM simply to remove the errant punctuation? (Imagine the debate...it would rival the infamous Ince/Pollock semicolon battle of March 20;06!).

So there you have it, dear imaginary reader, my apostrophe on the errant apostrophe and the resulting form filing catastrophe.