Why Do People Avoid Canadian Blood Services?

 
 

Friendly reminder that it’s in you to give

Most of us have probably heard or seen an advertisement to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services (CBS), especially when demands are critical; however, given only 1 in 60 Canadians choose to donate blood, why do other Canadians avoid CBS like the plague?

One of the most common concerns when it comes to giving blood are needles and passing out. Those who have trypanophobia tend to shy away from giving blood or even getting tested for their blood type, which is a bit of a harder hurdle to get over. For those that worry about passing out due to the amount of blood they’re giving, CBS has minimum weight requirements in place and snacks around to maintain blood sugar levels to avoid that very situation. If you’re prone to fainting at the sight of blood in general, it’s a bit harder to avoid passing out unless you don’t watch the entire process of blood donation.

Others cite not being aware of where or when blood donations are occurring. It is very easy to find this out information by visiting the CBS website or calling their number at 1-888-2-DONATE. Most donation dates and places are at easily accessible areas and times; there are often convenient blood drives on university campuses and at community hubs. For those that say they haven’t donated blood because they’re never asked or invited to donate somewhere, remember that it’s not only up to CBS to get you to the donation locations.

Some individuals chalk up their lack of blood donations to not having the time or just avoiding it altogether. For those individuals, it’s key to offer incentives such as having rewards for donating a certain number of times or being a first time donor. While CBS does offer pins and certificates for certain levels of donations, it may be worth investing a little money into short campaigns that give out things like $5 gift card. Of course, these types of initiatives appear more like bribery in exchange for blood, when blood donation should be more of an act of altruism.

Medication and chronic illnesses can also be barriers to donating blood. I’m sure there are other individuals like myself that were unaware for years that they could donate blood even while taking medication for a chronic illness. This is why being aware that CBS has a detailed list of medications or medical conditions online that do or do not hinder your ability to donate blood is incredibly important. Otherwise, some eligible donors may avoid donating blood altogether just because they’re not sure they won’t be rejected at the door for taking a particular medication.

Restrictions on how long you have to wait to donate blood after getting piercings and tattoos may also be discouraging younger people to donate. Individuals have to wait three months after getting a tattoo or piercing to donate due to the risks of infection associated with both, which is an important reason to wait to donate blood. However, approximately 36% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 have tattoos based on a 2012 study, younger generations may be showing up less to donate because of blood donation requirements around tattoos. Perhaps if CBS increases awareness about the restrictions, they might catch potential young blood donors before they head to an appointment for their next piercing or tattoo.


Photo: thethunderbird.ca

Photo: thethunderbird.ca

If you are a man that has sex with men, CBS requires you to wait a year since your last sexual contact with a man to donate blood. The blood ban hits gay men disproportionately since it automatically excludes those who are sexually active or in long term relationships. It also perpetuates the stigma of HIV/AIDs in the gay community, even though you can get HIV/AIDs if you are in a heterosexual relationship. Given that the proportion of individuals that identify as LGBTQIA+ is increasing among younger generations, the CBS should consider changing their donation rules related to men who have sex with men so they don’t lose a lot of eligible donors in the future.

There are many reasons why people avoid donating blood, most of which can be remedied by increasing awareness around restrictions to donating blood, how to get involved, or providing more incentives. CBS should also consider that they may be attracting less of the younger generation due to the rules around donating if you get tattoos, piercings, and men who have sex with men. In the end, I would still urge all of you to look into donating blood and to donate if you can.

 

Soyez Prudent

 
 

How do we preserve French culture?

I am a former French immersion student, and have no French background, no ancestry rooting back into the first Acadian settlers of Nova Scotia, no ties to the French. Meanwhile, I am concerned for the state of French within our province and across our country, given that French is an official language of Canada and it was a path I chose to continue to study. The culture, from as far as I can see, is slipping.

The French are classically portrayed as beret wearing, ascot sporting, baguette eaters with a hint of poutine on the side, but the French have a much richer ancestry. Many of your favourite dishes likely came from French cuisine, a huge component of the arts was inspired by and produced by the French, and, of course, they are responsible for creating the language of love. Canada often advertises itself as a bilingual nation, but short of direct interactions with Quebec or France, I see little to no promotion of French by the government. This could be due to the fear of the Québec and their separatist desires, but if anything, the promotion of French across the country would discourage such a move.

During my work placement last year, it was brought to my attention that there was a high demand for French teachers in Halifax, even as far as the end of September. The doors began to swing wide, accepting people with minimal French backgrounds as educators for those who wish to pursue it. That’s a problem. If people who are not well versed with the language are being hired on to instruct others, we immediately see a major decrease in student ability and comprehension, unless students take the initiative themselves. While I love the idea of maintaining the French program, it should not be kept or promoted if it isn’t going to be strong and well-run.

Moving to the local French, the Acadians cultivated the land and developed strong irrigation systems that have been adapted to use in the modern day. Many of the art pieces (the stars you see on so many homes across the province as an example) and structures we see across Nova Scotia are adaptations, if not direct representation, of the Acadians, and while there are museums and hot spots for Acadian culture, unfortunately there is little to no funding, and upkeep and maintenance is lacking. The understanding behind these symbols is also being lost, the star being a direct representation as the household being Acadian and not just French, but many people see it as purely design. There are some reports out there that suggest the star was the French equivalent to a wind chime in that it was believed to protect homes from evil spirits, but that could be individual beliefs rather than representation of the Acadians at large.

There was recently a panel on how to protect the Celtic heritage at the Bauer, but I think the same conversation needs to be had with French. Yes, it isn’t as discouraged or oppressed in our region such as that of others, but it is not immune to the greater powerhouse that is English. To paraphrase my mother, she used to tell me events only carry the weight that we give them, which to me is symbolic of what we value. Is age of greater value than the expulsion of the Acadians? We certainly seem to prioritize and celebrate birthdays far greater than moments in history. How about the Congrès Mondial Acadien? A large festival that I can’t say I had heard of prior to this article. I believe my mother’s statement can also be applied to all aspects of life. What do we give weight to?

To fix this issue, I think there should be a greater emphasis on addressing the problem in the first place. With the decreasing number of professionals entering the system to promote French, and an increasing number of students enrolling in Immersion, there is an imbalance. If French were something to be promoted through business, or with incentives, that could encourage the use on a day to day level. There is always a lot of talk on what French can get you and where it will take you down the line, but in my experience, French has only increased my employability minimally. 

On a personal note, a friend of mine recently underwent testing to see if she qualified as bilingual for the government and while she did not attain the highest level, she did do well; however, she could not hold a conversation with me. Now I’m not saying I have great French, but I know that I can hold a conversation with first language French speakers. My personal experience leads me to believe that our system is corrupt and that we should be addressing the issues. 

If somebody doesn’t do well on the test, that doesn’t mean you can’t hire them, but instead (particularly within the government) offer courses. Recognizing that development of Canada was in large due to Acadians should have been something addressed in the Canada 150 celebrations. There is a lot of talk about the indigenous populations and rightly so, but French became an official language for a reason, and it is seldom addressed.

I am here to say I want more. For some in the country, French is still the only language they speak. French within a community has always been accepted, unlike other languages, but if we fail to embrace it, we risk losing it.

 

The Battle of Coffee

 
 

The best coffee in Antigonish for the friendliest student price

Now, before I start, I must add that I am not a coffee expert and I do not claim to be one. This is just my guide to the best cup of coffee in Antigonish. I’ve been living in Antigonish now for four years, and I think I’ve cracked the code on what places sell the perfect cup, at the best price.

Finding the perfect cup of coffee can be really hard, but once you find that sweet spot that makes the perfect cup, it’s hard to let go of it.

I never used to be a coffee drinker before coming to university, imagine that. Even in my first year I prided myself in not needing any aid in the morning to get my system going. However, now that I’m in my fourth year I can guarantee you that by the middle of second year I became a loyal coffee drinker. I’ll admit, I hated it at first, but the late night of paper writing was not kind to me, so I used to just drink the coffee while secretly despising it. Now that I like the taste of coffee, does that make me an adult?

Alright, so let’s get started. Right off the bat, I’m sorry to all the loyal Tim Horton’s drinkers, but that coffee isn’t even in the top five of good coffee, it’s watery dirt. There, I said it. As for McDonald’s, you are not bad. If I had to pick between the two of you for a place to get coffee I’d have to go with McDonald’s without question. I see you, but you do have room to improve.

I’ll start with Pachamama. Now, I am a big fan of this little but blossoming spot. The food and snacks are delicious and vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free friendly! Big win in my books, coming from someone who has celiac disease. As for the coffee, it’s not bad coffee to say in the least instead it just does not mingle well with my taste buds, also the price isn’t too friendly to my tight student budget I’ll be honest.

Oh, Tall and Small, you own my heart, but not precisely my coffee heart. I should correct myself; your drip coffee does not hold my heart. But! Your latte’s, well that is another story, I am a devoted latte customer at the T&S. If you ever really want to treat yourself with any specialty coffee latte, cappuccino you name it, then Tall and Small is your answer. Plus, Collen and Leah (shout-out) make some wicked coffee art with a kind smile. For someone who operates on a student budget, I must admit to spending too much money on lattes.

So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, who’s the coffee winner? It’s Sodexo coffee! I’m just kidding, far from. It’s the Waffle Bus! This may come across as a surprise, but I mean should it? It’s no secret that this place makes some of the best food in town, so it’s only natural that their coffee is also the jackpot. It’s so smooth, and always piping hot, I recommend going with the light roast, plus they have brown sugar to put in your coffee, it’s a game changer. Plus, if you bring in a reusable mug, it’s only $1.50, saving the planet while also fixing your coffee needs for a great deal.

Like I said before, I am by no means a coffee connoisseur, but four years of testing out new places in the nish, I think I found the perfect spot. By all means, you can disagree with my top coffee. Before you do, test out the Waffle Bus’s coffee. Who knows, you might agree.

 

Living at the End of Time

 
 

A critique on capitalism in popular culture

The collapse of competing economic ideologies by the 1990s, led to the supremacy for an invisible ideology; it believed only in the power of markets, it dissolved our future, and created an existential ennui that has left many of us disjointed from time and alienated from ourselves and our environments. In the video  essay, “Hypernormalisation,” Adam Curtis includes a brief clip from an interview with a Russian woman during the late Soviet era. The interviewer asks the woman what her dreams are, she replies, befuddled, “what are dreams? What purpose do they serve?” For Curtis, this is symptomatic of the late Soviet Union, the stagnation of communism produced an existential ennui. 

The dreams of scientific Marxism had failed to produce a futuristic, stateless utopia and instead created an oppressive state capitalism that had reduced their lives to little more than ensuring that numbers increase on production charts.

The end of Soviet expansion, the misadventures in Afghanistan (itself a prophetic omen for American imperialism), economic decline, and creative stagnation would come to give Western leaders a false sense of triumph and victory. It will also foreshadow our own creative stagnation that has cast a spectre over the world, which is Capitalist Realism.

With the fall of the USSR in 1991, Francis Fukuyama predicted the “end of history,” understood as the struggle of one civilization against another and the conquest of a single world order. In this vision of the future, liberal democracies would spread to country after country, and would usher in a coherent and copacetic, global vision of economic and political philosophies. Pilloried at the time and even more so after 9/11, various criticisms were levelled at Fukuyama, most popularly that “Western Civilisation” was at war with a new global power, Islam. Media outlets, desperate for a new boogeyman, and with the help of American intelligence agencies, manufactured a single, imperial entity out of numerous disparate factions all claiming religious inspiration. According to these theorists and media personalities, instead of “ending” history, we were being ushered into a new era of clashing civilizations; Islam versus the West. However, they were quite wrong.

In reality what was happening, for Soviet Russia and Western society, was that history was already beginning to end in the 1970s. What was largely believed to be true, was that American capitalism was the true, victorious engine of innovation and progress, but what was actually true was that the spark of American innovation in the post-war period came not from the free market, but from the government sponsored race to land a man on the moon, a vision not of American politicians but of Communist men with utopian dreams of the future.

American belief in progress and the future only took root due to the impulsive desires of American politicians to beat godless Communism. This is not to say that America has ever lacked imaginative dreamers, on the contrary, many important innovations and research was completed by American men and women. What mattered was that the American government also shared those dreams and contributed funding to make non-marketable future visions possible.

Once the Space Race had been won in 1969, President Nixon, never a champion of the NASA program, cut funding for three additional Moon landings after Apollo 17, plans for Mars missions, a Moon base, and a permanent space station went unsupported. Once victorious, American politics reverted to their base impulses; the belief in the supremacy of the market over of all things. From Reagan and Thatcher, to Obama, Trudeau, and Macron, none of the elected leaders of the Western world know how to imagine a world that is not dominated and decided by the mindless “free market,” what is possible is only possible by the whims of an hand that, in theory, is invisible, but is subject to the manipulations and interventions of Mammonist greed of corporate raiders and fund managers. 

The prioritization of market capitalism led to two major outcomes. Primarily, the period after the 1970s led to the beginning of wealth inequality under which America is currently suffering. The fetishisation of wealth has lead to American politicians believing that capital hoards are beneficial to society, which they have been proven, time and time again, to be false.

In reality, capital hoards and the rise in prominence of financial institutions lead to worsening conditions for income earners (this includes the invented “middle class” but also for working classes and people living with disabilities). Secondly, while the cancellation of the Apollo missions did not directly cause the end of the belief in future progress, it is symptomatic of this trend. Famously, President Carter asked Americans to believe in a different world in the wake of the Oil Crisis. Instead of embracing the challenge of living in a oil-reduced world.

This pessimism is not content to parasitize our elected leaders, but it pervades across many major areas of our lives. We no longer trust in our institutions to perform, instead we rely on two-dimensional data and statistics to inform us without the reality of context. We have turned our entire life over to middle-managers, people who have jobs without duties; this is the dream realised on neo-liberal capitalism. That the state could largely relinquish control of the economy over to the corporate interests and let them exploit benefits produced by labour. Ironically, the illnesses of market capitalism pervade even among our supposed mortal enemy (at least until their recent destruction), Islamic State. Little else needs to be brought to bear to crush the criticism that Fukuyama was pre-emptive in his analysis.

If what matters is only what can be bought and sold in a “free” market, then the potential progress of the future, cannot be countenanced. We become locked in what has been described as “Capitalist Realism.” 

The future visions of our predecessors that the benefits of industry and automation would be shared equally among the people of our society has been stolen from us and instead of attacking those responsible for the theft of our productivity, we are encouraged to attack the weakest among us as being responsible for our collective failure of imagination. Instead of challenging our bosses for greater share in the benefits of our labour, for more time with our loved ones, for more time to engage in personal pleasures, and for more time to attend to our health and well being. We end up attacking those who enjoy even a portion of these benefits.

Instead of envisioning a better world, reimagining the methods of distribution of profits and benefits of labour, we become locked in the sickness of nostalgia and fear of change. We purchase and re-purchase our past in an attempt to relive the future that was lost to us. In the ennui of our period of history, we long for something better, but we have the sickness of nostalgia that prevents us from realising and imagining better futures. We are hampered by the all-pervading sense that there is only market capitalism, that all that has value is determined by buyers and sellers in stock exchanges and commodity markets and that our elected leaders can only tweak tax rates, pull levers, and make mildly inspiring but meaningless speeches. 

We no longer believe in change, but in minor iterations of our present reality. Instead of experimenting with alternative societies, we continue the drudgery of capitalism with reproductions of previous aesthetics, failing to reproduce the conditions of more inspirational generations, haunted by previous societies, we fetishize them, we become fully hauntological.

Even our cultural artefacts reflect this; in every version of Sim City, our ability to affect change is restricted to minor bylaws and tax rates. Instead of drawing on our struggles against injustice and inequality, ending slavery, child labour, racial discrimination, banning CFCs, providing pensions and health care, we are reduced to imaging only what is possible through the market, we are reduced to accepting only that which the market has decided has value. Our imagination has been so thoroughly restricted to the current capitalist reality that we can only imagine the end of the world, whether that be from plague (Contagion), zombies (Day of the Dead and countless others), catastrophic environmental collapse (2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Walking Dead), space-borne destruction (Armageddon), or nuclear destruction (Sum of All Fears), even our science fiction visions are capitalist in essence (District 9, Elysium, The Expanse, Cowboys & Aliens, Downsizing (possibly the most egregious film in recent history), The Boss Baby, etc.); they fail to think creatively and imagine a world outside of capitalism. In these various realities, it is as if they are tacitly admitting that we will die by capitalism rather to reinvent ourselves to save ourselves from our own base, avaricious impulses.

The experience of our reality is that not only are we possible of being more than sum total of our market or monetary values, but that we must be able to imagine being beyond value. We must be able to imagine a better future where our health and well-being is not decided for us by middle managers and politicians who fret ceaselessly about the daily, irrational, whims of the market, but also we we must imagine this future for the well-being of the planet and the survival of our species. 

We cannot wait for the market to discover whether or not there is profit in preventing climate change, that time has come and gone and the time for action is now. The poor, the people living with physical and mental disabilities, and the workers cannot wait for American insurance companies to determine whether there is profit in providing care. It does not require us to have an Other to improve ourselves. To fail in this endeavour of imagination is not to end the world, humanity will continue to live on and return to history but as misery, not triumph. However, we can do better.

 

The College Admissions Bribery Scandal

How privilege will get you further in the post-secondary education system

Most of us remember the stressful time of applying to university during the last year of high school. After all, many of us worked hard to get good marks and engaged in extracurriculars to get into university of our own accord; but, what if after all the hours you spent on getting into university, you were told your spot was given to someone who bribed their way in?

A scandal related to university admissions in the United States was recently revealed, wherein rich parents are accused of making $25 million in illegal payments to get their children into selective schools. The scandal has involved actresses like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, but the majority of the case centers around Rick Singer, who ran illegal payments through his college prep company called The Edge College and Career Network. The scandal has brought up how privilege plays a role in the university admissions process, and how easy it is for the elite to bypass the rules.

One of the methods parents used to get their children into top American schools was by bribing athletic staff or designating their children as recruits for various teams, such as in Loughlin’s case. It raises questions about how many athletes have earned their place, and how many of them received sports scholarships, which could make or break a less privileged individual’s chances at paying for university. Furthermore, the scandal is a blow to student-athletes who do put in the hours for training and in their academics, instead of using photoshopped pictures to get a place on the team.

Another issue that has been uncovered by the admissions scandal is the use of standardized tests as benchmarks for acceptance. While the testing system in the United States is known to be flawed, the fact that parents involved in the scandal were having others write the test for their children or abusing accessibility accommodations should be denounced. Not only will these students be entering university without some of the academic skills and knowledge they need, but they’ll likely make it harder for students that actually need accessibility accommodations to acquire them in the future.

On top of this particular university admissions scandal, it’s well known that rich parents or alumni donate large sums to universities in exchange for their children’s acceptance into top schools. Even if donations can help fill funding gaps or help researchers at post-secondary institutions, they shouldn’t be used under the guise of providing personal family favours behind closed doors. More generally, universities need to do a better job of scrutinizing who they get large donations from.

Beyond this particular admissions scandal, the truth is that not having the right background reduces your chances of university admittance from the outset. If you or your family doesn’t have the time or resources to hire tutors, participate in extracurriculars, or travel, then it becomes difficult to become the model student that universities look for. However, the affirmative action programs that try to address some of these issues are constantly under attack, often from the privileged group that gets into universities at disproportionately higher rates to begin with.

How privilege factors into university admissions is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to post-secondary education. Privilege matters enormously in university when you can afford all the associated costs, don’t have to work at the same time, and in the most extreme cases, paying off someone to write essays for you. Those who don’t struggle through university likely have time to network, take unpaid internships, or travel, which also gets them through the door faster at high paying or important job positions post-graduation.

Privilege in the post-secondary system has much deeper roots than the latest university admissions scandal in the United States. It is a set of both blatant and invisible advantages that affects students long after their first step on campus, and if you look around, you’ll see it here at StFX too.

The Never-Ending Debate on Daylight Savings

 
 

Is it necessary or a waste of time?

Canadians are pretty much responsible for Daylight Savings Time (DST) becoming a thing. Well, only sort of. Though ancient civilizations had been using some kind of DST in an unorganized fashion, it wasn’t until New Zealand entomologist George Hudson that DST formed to its modern incarnation. The first official use of this modern DST was in Ontario (specifically, Port Arthur, which began using it in 1908). We are responsible for starting the trend of DST in various countries around the world. Depending on who you talk to, this is either something to be proud of or something to loathe.

March 10 was the fateful day, it was one in the morning and I was trying desperately to sleep despite my slight insomnia. I blinked and realized something painful: it’s Daylight Savings. It’s not 1am anymore. It’s super disheartening in the moment, losing an entire hour like that. After finally falling asleep and experiencing that first sweet 6pm daylight, it turns out I’m grateful for that hour I lost. I’m the kind of person that loves afternoons; the time between 5pm and 7:30pm is my favourite time of the day, but only thanks to DST. In the winter months, it’s an entirely different story. I don’t think I’m alone in hating how early it gets dark.

Hilariously, everyone is unanimously happy when we gain an hour in November, despite it’s now going to be darker that much earlier. Another hour to get things done, or so we say. Overall, it seems as though our feelings on DST are mixed. When it ends in November, we are all happy to gain an hour of sleep but hate how early the sun goes down. But when DST begins in March, we’re dreading the time change but thankful that supper time comes with a sunset.

Most Canadians are used to Daylight Savings. A minor inconvenience that we’re all more than accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a unanimously agreed upon ‘good thing.’ Let’s look outside our bubble for a moment. There are actually a few parts of Canada that don’t even observe DST, such as most of Saskatchewan. Beyond that, DST is mainly observed in Europe and certain South American countries, such as Chile. Australia is inconsistent with only certain parts recognizing it. Growing up with DST my entire life, this came as a shock to me when I first heard it. It’s kind of annoying, sure, but it never impacted my life to the point that I thought about how many countries had it. In the age of having access to the internet pretty much all the time, it’s easier than ever to educate yourself on the pros and cons of observing DST, as well as read many, many opinions regarding the tradition. To save, or not to save? That is the question. It appears the European Union is already considering letting go of the practice. Let summer time be the only time.

Honestly, one of the first things that come to my mind whenever someone mentions the Daylight Savings debate is a ten-year-old internet meme known as “My cousin Oskaar”. Maybe this just makes me sound dated, but the viral YouTube video has never left my brain since I first saw it all those years ago. It goes like this – a guy from Australia gets a video message from his cousin Oskaar from Iceland, who proceeds to rant about how hilarious the DST argument is to him. “You know I get three hours of sunlight per day! And you guys are arguing about losing one”, Oskaar yells to the camera surrounded by the pitch black 3pm Reykjavik sky. The video has amassed over 3 million views since it was posted on YouTube in March of 2009, and it’s hilarious how the video is still relevant today. We’re all still arguing over DST, wondering if losing or gaining one hour is worth all the trouble in the end. 

There are plenty of arguments that have been made over how losing an hour impacts people mentally and forces them to become more unprepared. No matter how many arguments I see about abolishing the practice, though, I just think back to how happy I am when it doesn’t get dark after my class ends at 5pm.

Then again, isn’t the obvious solution to stay on summer time all year round? That way, we get longer afternoons. So what if the morning is dark longer? I’m usually asleep for most of the morning anyways, if I’m being honest.

Since most countries don’t observe it, and there is such a huge debate over whether or not to keep it around, I’m going to have to choose to let it go but only if we’re on summer time, even in those harsh Canadian winters.

 

Challenging the Stigma on Video Games

 
 

How gambling-like qualities are more beneficial than you think

I am an avid supporter of video games, partially due to my love for playing them, but also because of the impact that I know they can have on people. Some studies suggest that video games, action style games in particular, have a positive effect on one’s cognitive abilities and development. Other studies have made correlations of the treasures and loot gaining to gambling addictions. Video games often have similar traits to those of gambling machines, with bright colours, positive noises, and different rewards; the difference to bear in mind is that players must often complete missions, explore or attain resources in order to gain those rewards. There are gambling simulations in many games as well, but that is the equivalent of say there’s a deck of cards in the house. The correlation may be present, but it is not fair to say that a video game causes someone to go looking for ways to gamble.

Whether it is board games or video games, the act of play is what brings my friends and I together most. Humans are inherently social creatures and yet we are constantly exposed to the promotion of individualism, and it can be detrimental to our health. A healthy social life is often missing from our lives and it is something that we take for granted. You do not need to go out and spend $20-$50 on a night out just to see the people you care about. Seeing friends can be as simple as meeting at someone’s house for a glass of water, but it’s a lot more fun with gaming. If the Sims have taught me anything, its that relationships take work, and they need to be maintained even on a low level to provide personal satisfaction.

To this effect, this is where gaming can become that much more inclusive in a social dynamic. With the introduction and explosion of online gaming, individuals who are unable to meet in person have the option of working with their friends online as well as the strangers they can choose to connect with online. This creates a community of people that often expands beyond random encounters as many friendships are born, even if it’s just as avatars through a game. Jane McGonigal gives an enthralling TedTalk that explains how gaming applies to people’s greatest regrets on their deathbeds and a lot of it has to do with the interaction and social development between friends and family.

In developing cognitive ability, action games often require fast response and an attention to detail. Making people focus more on their surroundings and develop quicker reflexes. The results shown from studies typically find that the improvement of these skills is often minimal, but that does not eliminate the value that they offer. These games often carry objectives that carry consequences if not completed to success, which can also help with processing loss and develops motivation for success.

My favourite types of games are adventure games, I love exploring new realms and cities. I love following the passion and plights of the characters, my favourite being Final Fantasy X; however, the Sims has always been a game that has had my attention. The Sims, for those who may not be gamers, is a simulation game where you design a character, or a family, and their home and control their lives. Some of the game is realistic, while other aspects are purely for enjoyment. You can have a relationship with death, be abducted by aliens, or experience house fires and divorce. This game is unique because it allows a person to explore identity and what it means to them in a life-like platform, different than the avatars for role playing games (RPGs).

Video games have a stigma, because kids are often inside staring at a screen, but that stigma does not hold validity in my opinion. Gaming companies have been keen to observe the stigma against the classic form of gaming and have made efforts to create ingenious ways to have people still immerse themselves in their favourite games, but in a physical way that incorporates movement. Many games include subtitles to promote reading and, depending on game, can teach different valuable skills. For those who complain about letting their child stare at a screen, many of them are often happy to let them watch movies or cartoons, but it’s the lack of patience for watching their child get upset or excited over the game that discourages them from approving. The notion of bad eyesight, well, unfortunately even in schools there is a big move to technology and screen time is becoming increasingly inevitable even outside of the home.

The idea that a game promotes violence is hard to believe as well, though again there are signs of correlation, but I must confess I grew up playing Grand Theft Auto and can’t say I’ve ever had any desire to shoot anyone or hurt anyone physically. My point is that games are fun, and the public is discouraging something that could be incredibly beneficial if given the opportunity. If you’re worried about dangerous games, go for puzzle games or alternatives like Harvest Moon. There is no reason to put a limit on fun because of the what ifs if there is an alternative that creates the desired environment.

 

Is Legal Ethical?

 
 

Outdated Students’ Union policies give way to totalitarian appointment of Brody Haskell

Over Super Bowl weekend, the Washington Post published a minute-long advertisement expressing their slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” It was made to represent the struggle foreign correspondents face in the rise of journalistic related terror across the world. This ad can also relate to the current situation involving our incoming president and the recent controversy.

First off, a vote happened. Cecil VanBuskirk was elected, with 63% of the popular vote. As a result, he takes on the position of president of the Students’ Union, and with that comes the responsibility of representing StFX students. 

Perhaps a critique of the voting results is needed. I can assure you that several people voted for VanBuskirk because of his wide-spread presence on campus meeting with societies and departments. Perhaps people viewed Will Fraser as abrasive and too ‘know-it-all’ for them to get his vote. But, there is a difference between voting for a candidate based on a public appearance and voting for a candidate based on research of their platform. 

“Knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free,” the Washington Post commercial claimed. The student body should  reflect on that mantra and make an informed vote for the candidate that reflects what they value in the future.

Secondly, yes nepotistic qualities were shown when VanBuskirk chose his friend Brody Haskell as the new Vice President of Finance and Operations. The recent controversy happened at the council meeting on March 17, 2019 regarding the hiring process for executive members of the Students’ Union.

VanBuskirk found a clause  in the By-Laws that needs fixing. Isn’t that a good thing? Within the Students’ Union, there are three main documents: The Act of Incorporation (The Act), By-Laws, and a Policy Manual. They all should be seamlessly fluid with one another, and unfortunately, they are not currently up-to-date. 

This is also a problem with the high turnover rate of Council positions, as actually changing By-Laws takes time, and is not simply voted upon in council, it must be brought up to the legislature. The responsibility of the By-Laws falls to the Chair of Council. It is a gargantuan task to go through every single law and make sure it is consistent with The Act, albeit to have it done within a year!

The Act of Incorporation contains the clause VanBuskirk enacted to supersede the By-Laws. It is a document that has not been updated since 1972. That should say more about the current rule and law processes of the Students’ Union than of VanBuskirk himself. He did not do anything illegal, he was well within the scope of the policies.

Don’t blame VanBuskirk, blame the Students’ Union for neglecting their duty of hiring lawyers to edit documents that impact the integrity of the Students’ Union. At least now, an increasing amount of students are voicing their displeasure about the issue on social media. This is better than the alternative of having no conversation. However, only a quarter of the student body voted to begin with in this past election. A lack of publicity effort on behalf of the Students’ Union, who did not advertise the debate in The Xaverian Weekly and advertised only 13 days before the election on their own social media account, could be factors in those numbers. 

In the end, the lines between ethical and legal became muddied. The extent to how Vanbuskirk exerted his power showed the flaws in the systems of the Students’ Union at large. In order to have a total democratic student government means that the policies and acts that are a part of it have to show democratic values, and without it, there will always be an opportunity for unethical behaviour, however legal it may be.  

 

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. 

logo_hearingforall2018_copy-1.png

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.