How Do I Get Your Vote?

 
 

What it takes to get your participation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We Are Queer and We Will Not Be Silenced

 
 

I love being a queer at StFX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love being queer at StFX.

 

A Tale as Old as Time

 
 

The cold hard truth about group projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Does Your Vote Count?

 
 

Problems within the Students’ Union elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Juul Tones

 
 

Smokers in the new generation

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

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

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

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

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

Artwork: Caleb MacIsaac

Artwork: Caleb MacIsaac


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

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

 

Moose Hide Campaign

 
 

End violence against women and children

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

StFX’s New Year’s Resolutions

 

Seven ideas to combat inaction

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

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

1. Listen to the revolutionaries

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

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

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

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

2. Prioritize action

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

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

3. Treat students like people, not money

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

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

4. Be trauma informed

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

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

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

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

5. Embrace and value diversity

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

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

Embracing diversity isn’t that hard, I promise.

6. Break more traditions, and start new ones

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

7. Rethink the reputation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

StFX’s New Year’s Resolutions

 
 

Seven ideas to combat inaction

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

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

1. Listen to the revolutionaries

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

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

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

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

Photo: cambridge.org

Photo: cambridge.org

2. Prioritize action

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

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

3. Treat students like people, not money

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

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

4. Be trauma informed

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

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

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

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

Photo: Facebook @stfxstrong

Photo: Facebook @stfxstrong

5. Embrace and value diversity

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

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

Embracing diversity isn’t that hard, I promise.

6. Break more traditions, and start new ones

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

7. Rethink the reputation

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New music for your rotation

 
 

New music for your rotation

Now, Now - Saved

There’s been a massive wave of what I’ll call “study music:” usually lo-fi hip-hop instruments, a little synthwave here and there, but always a crackle over the mix with the tone all the way down - for some reason muffled music feels like a hug. When I found Now, Now I was binge searching for this sort of stuff. You know what I mean? Something not boring enough to blend into the wallpaper but not tiringly complicated, and two seconds into “Yours” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Mixed with the visuals in their music video, “Yours” has sniffs of vaporwave, of whatever Tycho is, of everything 80’s, but forget about the influences. “Yours” is a mid-July affair, a first kiss, a clouded line between hooking up and catching feelings.

If all that sounds like your bag, “SGL” builds even further. I’m not entirely sure how they’ve managed to blend emo with a distinctly modern chillwave, but they did. Their track would fit perfectly on the most recent FIFA and it would probably have won a Grammy in 2005.

“Window” might be my personal favourite. Let’s just say it’s clearly meant for extracurricular activities...

Last, if you have to check only one song on a whim, let it be “MJ.” I’d stake next month’s rent on it being the summeriest thing you’ve ever heard. There’s little I can really say me about Now, Now beyond “they’re just brilliant.” Their 2012 release Threads, while a totally different sound, is one of my favourite albums of all time. For today and the cold winter months listen to Saved. Go back to the sun, fall back into hazy love.

Employed to Serve - The Warmth of a Dying Sun

I suppose I should get all the bias out now. I’ve got a relatively big Employed to Serve tattoo on my left arm. I’m hardly impartial but trust me on this one.

Vocalist Justine Jones’ work on their two full-length albums may be genuinely some of the best work in the last 20 years. There had been a massive movement in “heavy” music after Trap Them released Darker Handcraft, in which everyone wanted to be the grimiest, the crustiest, and they all fought to be “the next Converge”. Employed to Serve’s Greyer Than You Remember was a statement of intent: they are the next big band in the dirty underground. 

One of my favourite music review podcasts, “That’s Not Metal,” described the LP as “a goat stuck in a combine harvester.” That’s what it is - listen to “Watching Films to Forget I Exist” for a bit of clarity. The riff that kicks in around 0:22 spits venom, demands your attention, and demands chaos all packaged in groove. It is one of the best riffs ever written, no question. But how were the filthiest band of the filthy bands going to follow up a tour de force in brutality? By slowing everything down.

Their first single from The Warmth of a Dying Sun was “I Spend My Days.” You’d be crazy not to hear Alice in Chains’ “Them Bones” in the opening riff. When us, who’d been salivating over this new album, had it in our hands, we lost our minds. Each track felt more mature, more calculated, more visceral. If Greyer was a series of machine-gun jabs, Sun is a prime George Foreman body shot.

For those of you who are into the heavier side of things, you’ll stankface your way through this. Employed to Serve drags out your inner Phil Anselmo - the grimacing mean-mugging headbang, but not the questionable politics.

boygenius - boygenius

We’ve got to get the aggression Sprained Ankle. She’s gotten relative popular, it’s great! So when I stumbled on a live video of her performing with some “boygenius,” I figured it was worth my time. Fast-forward 28:01 and I’m crying like my dog had died.

How did we get here? I’m not a crier. I don’t cry. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve cried within the last ten years. What’s up with that? Why am I writing this review, listening to the tracks again, and wiping my eyes? I still don’t know. There’s little room for interpretation in boygenius’ brevity. There are moments of ache that are, at times, unbearable. The whole of “Souvenir” and most of “Ketchum, ID” are borderline perfectly melancholic. If someone were to ask for an example of “so beautiful I want to cry,” I’d give them the first verse of “Me & My Dog.”

If anything, boygenius avoids traditional supergroup traps in which talent overtakes creativity. 

Who remembers Chickenfoot? Me neither. No, our three geniuses approach a song as a song. What are we left with? The soundtrack to your guts, to your chest.

 

More Than the Winter Blues

 
 

Examining seasonal stress

Imagine you’re a young child again, it’s winter time and you’re putting on your big coverall splash pants. Plastic bags tied to your each of your feet so the snow doesn’t soak your feet. You’ve got so much padding that movement is limited but you’ve got your crazy carpet sled and a massive grin on your face. Where did the time go? Why does the present seem so much more stressful? We can argue climate change, the aging process or responsibilities, but there is a lot that impacts our mental health.

You might suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, where every winter (although it can affect people for the spring and summer months) you experience more than just some seasonal blues. There are different symptoms related to the disorder including depression, fatigue, problems sleeping, lack of concentration and more. I am not a doctor, and I am not here to tell you a sure-fire way to solve your problems, but if you are experiencing prolonged periods of symptoms such as depression, it may be time to reach out to someone. StFX provides medical services in the Health and Counselling centre, and there is the local Mediplex for walk- in appointments after 5pm.

In the interim, there are things that you can do to help alleviate symptoms of those seasonal blues or other anxieties you may be suffering.

First up we have the outdoors, but more importantly daylight! Opening the blinds, sitting in the light of the window, going outside and soaking up as much sun as you can. These are all things that can help, and the earlier the better. In the case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, Timo Partohnen and Jouko Lonnqvist, authors for The Lancet medical journal, write “The best treatment regimens include 2500 Ix of artificial light exposure in the morning.” However, they later explain there is no causal relation to a shortage of light and rather that the disorder is driven by a disruption of circadian rhythms (the physiological processes of living beings). These ideas ultimately suggest the idea that light early in the morning can help to trigger the body awake and help to regulate the circadian rhythms.

The second is exercise. I know, it’s the worst. The last thing we want to be told when we’re feeling sleepy and sad is to get up and move. Exercise has multiple positive effects and can help to balance hormone levels such as serotonin (happy) and cortisol (stress). The other perk is that by working out, you’ll be in good shape for those summer swims at the beach!

Apart from these treatments, many modes of relief include coping and support for stress. These include attempting to rest and making healthy food choices. It’s important to socialize even if we feel disconnected or not up for it, because of the impact that others have on us. They can unknowingly increase our moods, sync bodily rhythms and offer support through those tough times. Learning breathing techniques can help during those stressful moments.

No matter what route you take to avert stress during these winter months, know that there are supports in place to help you get ready to blossom in the spring. Stress is something that we all face, but it is what we do with it and how we cope that determine how it affects us. If we perceive stress as a motivator, it can heighten our abilities to do tasks and overcome difficult feats, but it can equally diminish our abilities if we choose to let it. There may be times when it becomes too much and that is when you must reach out to a friend, a family member or your local medical professional.

 

Lunar Eclipse Atlantic Times

 
 

All times are local for January 20 & 21

Labrador

Partial umbral eclipse begins: 11:34 p.m. (January 20). The moon begins to enter the shadow.

Total lunar eclipse begins: 12:41 a.m. (January 21).

Greatest eclipse: 1:12 a.m. (January 21).

Total lunar eclipse ends: 1:43 a.m. (January 21).

Partial umbral eclipse ends: 2:51 a.m. (January 21). The moon completely exits the shadow.

New Brunswick

Partial umbral eclipse begins: 11:34 p.m. (January 20). The moon begins to enter the shadow.

Total lunar eclipse begins: 12:41 a.m. (January 21).

Greatest eclipse: 1:12 a.m. (January 21).

Total lunar eclipse ends: 1:43 a.m. (January 21).

Partial umbral eclipse ends: 2:51 a.m. (January 21). The moon completely exits the shadow.


Prince Edward Island

Partial umbral eclipse begins: 11:34 p.m. (January 20).The moon begins to enter the shadow.

Total lunar eclipse begins: 12:41 a.m. (January 21).

Greatest eclipse: 1:12 a.m. (January 21) Total lunar eclipse ends: 1:43 a.m. (January 21).

Partial umbral eclipse ends: 2:51 a.m. (January 21). The moon completely exits the shadow.

Nova Scotia

Partial umbral eclipse begins: 11:34 p.m. (January 20). The moon begins to enter the shadow.

Total lunar eclipse begins: 12:41 a.m. (January 21).

Greatest eclipse: 1:12 a.m. (January 21).

Total lunar eclipse ends: 1:43 a.m. (January 21).

Partial umbral eclipse ends: 2:51 a.m. (January 21). The moon completely exits the shadow.

Newfoundland

Partial umbral eclipse begins: 12:03 a.m. (January 21). The moon begins to enter the shadow.

Total lunar eclipse begins: 1:11 a.m. (January 21).

Greatest eclipse: 1:42 a.m. (January 21).

Total lunar eclipse ends: 2:13 a.m. (January 21).

Partial umbral eclipse ends: 3:20 a.m. (January 21). The moon completely exits the shadow.

 

International Student Speaks Out about Recruitment

 

An inside perspective into the life of an international student

I want you to use your imagination for a second. Imagine leaving your home, the country you were born and raised in, to gain a higher education and pursue a bright start to your future. Imagine saying goodbye to your family and friends and packing up two bag-loads of your life to take with you as you travel alone to an entirely new continent with which you are not entirely familiar with. Imagine arriving at your destination and failing to see anyone in the distance who remotely looks like you, and then later discovering that this will be the setting of the next four years of your life. 

When I was recruited by Saint Francis Xavier University, I was quite literally sold the Canadian dream. With promises of a diverse, peaceful culture that embraces and celebrates other nationalities, of renewable bursaries and opportunities for work that would “reduce the cost of my tuition tremendously,” there were hopeful stars in my eyes as I pictured my future at this university. I was going to make tons of new friends with whom I would share my culture as I equally experienced theirs, and I would perhaps even return home with a Canadian accent after a few months. 

The reality could not have been any more different. In all of the dreamy tales fed to us in the large assembly hall of our high school, it seems that the university recruitment team simply forgot to mention that the tuition at StFX was going to be hiked by 6% every year for the next three years because the university is in so much debt, and that this would actually translate to a 12% increase for international students, since they pay double the tuition fees compared to Canadian students. 

The lovely recruiters also had a little ‘slip’ of memory and neglected to inform us that the total cost of residence for the year does not include or cover the two/three-week Christmas break during December, and that all students are required to evacuate their rooms and expected to independently find alternative accommodation for themselves over this period. Of course, mentioning these vital factors to potential students was not of great importance at the time. As long as they managed to successfully rope in and recruit a couple of us, the rest would figure itself out. After all, the university is kind enough to perform favors such as providing alternative campus living arrangements for those international students who are unable to go home for Christmas, all at a little charge, of course! What is an extra one or two-hundred dollars to someone who already pays $30 000 to be here?   

 My question is, why, oh why, then, would StFX continue to recruit a large number of international students, if they constitute most of the debt carried by the university? Is their solution to this problem, therefore, to hire a debt-collector masked as an International Student Advisor, who will deceive international students into a trap of sharing their financial struggles, only to add them to her ‘blacklist’ of individuals to monitor and watch out for? The international population is truly better off not having an Office of Internationalization, if it houses individuals who intentionally advocate against them. The very students whom she is purposed to be a support for (at least, according to her job description), are the ones whom the university has mandated her to take a strong position against and, quite frankly, get rid of. 

Moreover, university administration made it very clear that 2018 would be a year of change and uncompromising rule. Whereas the university was previously quite understanding and lenient towards international students, and permitted them to construct plans for payment that would still allow them to register for courses so long as they had been making some steady payments to their accounts during the year, this policy changed overnight. With an ironclad fist, the university denied access to course registration to all international students whose student accounts were anything above the new threshold of $5 000. Lo and behold (and this should certainly not come as a surprise to any of us), this new policy was not transparently communicated to any students, nor was there sufficient notice given prior to implementation of this new practice. 

So, when July came around and it was registration time, many unsuspecting international students received devastating emails from the Accounts Office that informed them that they would not, in fact, be able to register for classes, and they essentially would have about one month to miraculously decrease their balances owing to $5 000 if they wished to continue their enrolment with the university for the upcoming year.

I’ll ask you to again to imagine being an international student on the receiving end of this news; having traveled a long way from your country to this foreign land for an education, which, so abruptly, was snatched away from you. Imagine being halfway through university at this point, and being unable to join your peers as they progress into the year ahead while you remain behind, a balance of $10 000 or worse, $50 000, standing between you and your future, as you work tirelessly to reduce it just so you can catch up. 

Worse off, the concept of government loans or assistance to students is virtually non-existent in many of the countries from which StFX recruits its international population, and most parents are paying 30 thousand dollars straight out of their pockets, in economies that are not half as stable as Canada’s. Yet, international students are being held to the same merciless standards as Canadian students who have these privileges.

This is the unfortunate reality of several international students who attend(ed) St Francis Xavier University. Unexpected, uncommunicable costs are constantly flung in their direction, and they are expected to just bear the increments and tough it out, with no compromise on the part of the university. Just this month (on November 8 2018), StFX residence services sent out an email regarding accommodations over the Christmas break for internationals who are unable to go home, indicating that they would be placed in FX Hall (formerly Coady MacNeil Hall) for the break at a daily rate of almost $30 for a single room, totalling a hefty $600 for a three-week stay. How it could be possible that a student who is probably unable to afford a trip to go home to begin with, be able to afford to pay $600 - for such poor living conditions - is beyond me. This also comes as a huge slap to the international community, who, just last year, fought to be placed in a more livable building because the present condition of Coady MacNeil Hall is dilapidated and unbearable, suitable only for its current use as a storage facility for janitors’ cleaning supplies. Thus, after begrudgingly moving internationals into Power Hall for the December 2017 holiday, the university administration turned around and decided to not only revert back to Coady MacNeil as the building allocation for Christmas this year, but to hike the cost of stay by over $400 without any warning or any explanation for the increased rate. 

Amazingly, one of the universities strategic goals is “Increased enrolment by under-represented students, including international students,” a statement bleeding with irony, contradiction, and deception. What the university really wants is more students to manipulate and deceive as they demand double the tuition for half of the deserved services. 

The message here is clear: we, the international students, are unwanted and useless, and our comfort/sanity while we are halfway across the world from home, is not a priority. While many other universities place their international population at the forefront of every decision, acknowledging the fact that they are so far from their homes and their families, StFX treats their international students as inconveniences whom they are doing a favor by inviting onto this campus. You can count on the fact that we as international students will not make any recommendations to our peers in our home countries for Saint Francis Xavier University as a choice for higher education. 

I wish StFX all the best as they try to achieve their strategic goals in future years, because for as long as they continue to treat international students like the butt of the joke and some good-for-nothing cash cows, the reputation of this university and how it really treats its international students will spread and always stand to reflect the truth which their recruitment team fails to speak.

 
 

The Meaning of X-Ring

 

Why the piece of gold jewelry means so much

Every December, excitement fills the air as graduating StFX students wait to receive their coveted X-rings. As soon as they receive theirs, the countdown begins for the next year of eagerly awaiting X-ring recipients. But, why is a piece of silver, gold, or platinum metal worth all the fuss?

Like many, I came to StFX in my first year fascinated by the gold ring that I would get years down the road. I had admired them since the application process to StFX, and the intrigue surrounding them only grew as I saw a few fourth-year classmates proudly show theirs off. Who wouldn’t admire a ring that supposedly could connect you to other alumni through a quick glance at their right hand?

Since first year, the meaning behind X-ring has changed quite a lot for me. No longer is it a mystery, but a symbol of four intense and rewarding years at StFX. All the late nights, piles of assignments, and early mornings suddenly seem worth it, even though throughout the process of getting to X-ring, it sometimes seemed like an insurmountable task.

X-ring is more than just the academic achievements behind earning it. It’s also about the friends, faculty, and members of the community that become a proxy family during your time at university. For many of StFX students that come from across the country, or from abroad, X-ring represents the home away from home that we create during our years in Antigonish. To have a constant reminder of that sense of family and lifelong friends gives a lot of significance to the ring.

For many receiving their X-ring this December, it is meaningful because it connects them to family legacies. Some recipients come from a long line of Xaverians, and getting the X-ring is the final step in joining the family ranks. For others, like myself, we are the first members of our extended family or friends who are getting X-rings, which makes it all the more special in our eyes; however, no matter if you’re tied to a family legacy or not, some of us will hope to see other family members or our own children be able to get their own X-rings in the future.

There’s also the question behind every X-ring about the legacy we’re leaving behind at StFX. With hope, the impact we made through societies, athletics, the community, or by sticking up for important issues on campus, will live on long after we leave campus. Especially this year, issues such as bringing changes to the sexual violence policy or the revitalization of campus through buildings like the Mulroney Institute may be on the minds of many, as X-ring recipients may not be around to see the final outcomes of those projects.

X-ring signals the beginning of a shift in our relationship with StFX as well. Perhaps, farther down the line, we’ll give back through donations, come back for homecoming, or stop wearing our X-rings altogether if we feel that the university isn’t acting proactively enough on important issues. There’s no question that we’ll think about keeping up to date on what’s happening at StFX and staying in contact with the friends that we made while here every time we glance at our rings.

Lastly, what X-ring means for many is that we’re one step closer to our goals, whether they be personal, academic, or career oriented. As much as receiving an X-ring can set off the existential panic about what our futures should be or where to go next, at least we can say that we’ve got one thing done. Hopefully, the lessons and experiences from our time at StFX carry forward for the rest of our lives.

This December 3, when seniors finally file through the Keating Centre to receive their X-rings, know that there is a lot of meaning behind the smiles and excitement of getting one ring. And for those who still eagerly await their rings, some food for thought: how will you make your X-ring mean something to you?

 
 

Capers 4 Healthcare

 

Cape Breton residents protest diminishing health care in the region

On November 16 a group of Cape Breton residents, known as Capers 4 Healthcare, shut down the causeway for an hour to protest the diminishing health care in the region. With more than 150 people, they planned to protest in front the Minister of Health and Wellness’ office in Antigonish; but given the rough weather, the group was forced to turn back for safety reasons. The Minister, Randy Delorey, declined invitations to attend public events hosted by the group, resulting in direct action.

The protest was organized given the recent health care reforms proposed by Stephen McNeil, wherein hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford would be closed. The local medical community and health workers’ union were not consulted and were only given a few hours notice. With doctor shortages, long waits for procedures and disappearing specialties, the announcements can’t help but make the changes feel drastic and dangerous for the community.

Three months after this announcement, the premier and other members of government gathered to announce the move and replacement of facilities, wherein staff had all been made aware and were supportive. An undermining act adding salt to the wound for the people of Cape Breton. 

The changes will enact the opening of new community health centres, with the teams of health care professionals working collaboratively. Many of the services offered will address the health concerns of the region such as mental heath, addictions, or diabetes; however, for emergencies patients will be redirected to the hospitals at Cape Breton Regional or Glace Bay. The plans are expected to begin taking effect within the next two years. 

The demographics in Cape Breton and all across Nova Scotia are changing as more youth continue to move to cities or out of province for available work. In Antigonish we have a seen a hike in the elderly population and the opening of new senior communities or retirement homes. These changing demographics require the industry to change out of necessity, which makes sense; but if a region already suffers from shortages of health care                                   professionals, one can’t help but wonder how changing the system of approach makes it effective. 

The idea of the new services sounds very nice, but without consultation of current experts in the area, as well as a plan, such as a survey of what prospective new practitioners are seeking, the ideas seem loosely formed and lead to caution or worry. Family practitioners in Nova Scotia earn, on average, between $10 000 and $100 000 less than doctors in other provinces according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Not only is there no guarantee of those resources, but the government is eliminating existing services and making it harder to access services in the case of an emergency. 

As a young person from Nova Scotia, this makes me concerned for my parents as they age, as well as the resources available for me. As I finish in the Education program at StFX this year, I could potentially end up in a rural area depending on job availability, if I choose to stay in the province. Knowing that resources may not be available to me in a crisis deters me from wanting to move, which presents the argument of how will the government prevent other resources in the community from leaving, or, how will they pull them in? 

These action items need to be addressed and our current political representative is not doing their part to ensure peace of mind. In fact, our provincial government made a point to show how resources in the city take a higher priority than those in rural communities by consulting with their region. The proposed plans may sound nice, but until they can confirm many of the underlying issues, it is important for the community to stand up and speak. This protest was to voice concern, and it did not get the attention that it deserved, and instead echoed the theme of where attention is placed in our province. 

 
 

Technology in Classrooms

 

The kids are alright

When Silicon Valley entrepreneurs innovated, moved fast and broke things, did that include the classroom? What began as a niche introduction to schools in the form of massive, vacuum tubed contraptions, turned into a supercomputer in every pocket and connected to other computers via nearly instantaneous networks. 

While there are some teachers who praise the availability of information to their students in the classrooms, many teachers and professors have voiced their derision about the constant phone distraction and use in class.

For most people over the age of 20-something, technology in the classroom more likely meant that there was another classroom where the computers were kept; the computer lab. 

Row after row of beige boxes would line the lengths of the room and once in a while, your teacher would let your class escape to the computer room to “do work” or “research,” if you had the internet. It was a distraction, but being so new to the internet in the 90s and early 2000s, there was little else to do but work with a word processor or check out a website overloaded with rotating flash animations. Our access to information was regulated, although not by design.

With the conquest of the office desk largely complete, computer evangelists turned their sights to the next largest market; education. Computer evangelists wove a passionate tale of improved grades, engagement, and excitement in learning to teachers and school administrators alike. With digital encyclopedias students could access information as fast they wanted. Eager to be proactive, administrators and teachers ate up the evangelists’ promises and quickly filled the spare classroom with beige boxes. What began as a trickle has turned into a deluge.

The reality of our situation is that not only do we have encyclopedias worth of information, we have endless reams of information that has proven to be a major issue, not only for students, but for adults and teachers alike. The problem of information overload is real enough to have warranted major headlines in the last few years. 

Teachers who instruct their students to do research now have to contend with a huge number of websites that not only offer poor quality information but also outright lies and falsehoods on a scale greater than previously. It’s not that there are differing perspectives offered, it’s that facts are not often even agreed upon.

While technology is now ubiquitous to the classroom, that technology is not always the prepared technology belonging to the school, or it hasn’t been modified properly for use in the classroom. Too often students who use their own cellphones in class are subjected to the notifications of social media, games and apps that distract them from school work. 

Regardless of how well they focus, even trying to ignore the buzz or audio alert from a phone is not enough to avoid having your attention undermined and your train of thought derailed, as demonstrated on an episode of CBC’s Marketplace, with both teens and adults. 

It’s stunning to see how much interruption a single buzz or ring of a phone can cause someone trying to focus and do some work. There’s a strong argument to be made that students entrust their phone to their teacher until such time as they need their phone.

The iPads that are often used in classrooms lack fundamental software that makes them truly useful in a classroom setting. True, students can use Kahoot, web browsers, and productivity apps to complete classroom assignments. What’s missing is the control over an iPad that a teacher should be afforded, that they could push pertinent information to all of them at once or direct them to a passage in a text, or highlight something on screen, without taking away the interactivity or exploration benefits of iPads.

It should also be said that students at the university level are no more resistant to the effects of constant information access that elementary or high school students. How many of us have sat in a lecture, trying to take notes, but felt the familiar buzz of our phone only to pick it up and ignore the class? Or noticed the students with laptops open and, instead of a word processor, students have Youtube, or Facebook, or a game playing on screen instead of notes? 

The truth is that we’re all susceptible to distraction. Whether you’re 80 and new to computers or 18 and grew up with the iPhone, we all crave information and attention. The teens of today are not necessarily in danger of becoming addicted to their phones, indeed each generation has their toy that they replace with more pressing activities as they grew older. 

Teens today will do the same when the times comes. Truthfully, the kids are alright.

 
 

A Symbol of Unified Individualism

 

Thoughts on the meaning of X-Ring

When was the first time you heard about StFX? Who told you about this university? Well, chances are that person was a proud owner of an X-Ring. That individual is only one member of the Xaverian community, a proud and widespread network of alumni from our tiny university nestled here in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. But why is it that such a large community of people are united by one symbol, the simple yet elegant X-Ring? Why does it matter?

From the beginning of our time at StFX, we see the X-Ring everywhere and hear about it all the time. Every year the atmosphere on campus changes on December 3 as the graduating class celebrates receiving their X-Rings; you can feel the excitement in the air. While other universities may ridicule our ceremonies and fascination with a simple ring, it is from this excitement we feel every year on the feast of Saint Francis Xavier that justifies the meaning of the X-Ring. For me, the X-Ring represents the memories of my time at StFX. Through the highs and lows, the good and the bad, the ring reminds me of my experiences here and how I have grown from them. Who I was when I first stepped onto campus is entirely different from who I will be when I leave. As a student of StFX, I am fortunate to have an iconic memento to stand as a constant reminder of who I was, who I am, and who I will strive to be in the future. 

Have you ever been in a public place wearing StFX apparel, and someone approaches you only to start up a conversation about your studies, all because they wear an X-Ring on their finger? This bond with the Xaverian community of members both new and old lasts through generations and it is arguably one of the greatest assets that StFX has. No matter where we may be, meeting another bearer of an X-Ring is sure to spark a tantalizing, nostalgia-fuelled conversation about the incredible times once had on our beautiful campus. I have had many of these such encounters while out in my home community, from conversations with elderly ladies at Costco to a recent graduate of 2016, the connection between Xaverians is timeless. Through these conversations, the everlasting bond between fellow Xaverians grows and continues to attract new students to our university each year. My elementary school music teacher is a Xaverian, my high school hockey coach is a Xaverian, even my MLA is a Xaverian, and connections like these are not uncommon amongst the students who attend StFX. 

This of course all hinges on the social meaning that the X-Ring inevitably holds, especially as the Xaverian family becomes more widespread. It is the symbol of the StFX brand, and we as holders are its advertisers. Some may view this in a negative light, as corporate greed or as a means to support a societal structure that relies on students being pushed through universities all for accreditation. But while arguments could be made to support the negative, I choose to see things through a lens of positivity. The X-Ring shines bright as a representative of the best aspects of our university. From our amazing programs to our house cup hockey games, our Welcome Week and O Crew, Wing Nights and our outstanding varsity teams, it is through these amazing qualities and many more that the StFX experience is remembered so fondly for much of the Xaverian family.

The truth is, the X-Ring means something different to everyone. Your ring represents all the work you have put in to be able to wear your ring for the first time. All the tests, projects, readings, presentations and hard work, your StFX experience will be forever embodied by the golden X-Ring you can call your own. 

 
 

From Pulse to Pittsburgh

 

Can what we learned after Pulse help us support our Jewish friends after Pittsburgh?

During the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, a gunman entered the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Over a span of nearly four hours, the shooter terrorized approximately 320 predominantly queer Latinx patrons of the club. In the end, 49 people were killed. At the time, it was the largest civilian mass shooting in the history of the United States. Just six months later, Canada experienced a shooting in Quebec, when six men were murdered during the evening prayer services at a mosque in Quebec City. Most recently, on the morning of October 27, 2018, an armed man entered the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and murdered 11 individuals, ranging in age from 54 to 97. They have been described as the very best of their community, the individuals who were always at services early, always the last to leave, and who dedicated their lives to making the lives of others in their community better. Much has been written about who each of these 11 people were, and I encourage you to read about their lives and to remember their names. 

While all mass shootings are tragic and heartbreaking, there is something different about these three shootings that ties them together. They were all borne out of hate and prejudice, and they all targeted a very specific community. Pulse targeted the LGBTQ+ community, the shooting in Quebec targeted Muslims, and the Pittsburgh shooting targeted Jews. The Pittsburgh shooter entered the Synagogue proclaiming that “All Jews Must Die” and later, when being treated for the gunshot wounds he sustained from the police, he continued to hurl anti-Semitic slurs at the Jewish doctor attempting to save his life. 

The day after the Pulse shooting Dr. Rhea Hoskin and I filed an ethics amendment for one of our ongoing studies so that we could collect the responses of LGBTQ+ people from around the world as they reacted to the news of the shooting. Hundreds of people answered our survey, from all around the world, and I hope that what we learned from their grief can help us be better friends, family and neighbours to the Jewish communities currently reacting to Pittsburgh. 

Perhaps the story of 49 queers dancing at a gay bar doesn’t quite seem the same as 11 senior citizens preparing for Shabbat services; so let me tell you a little bit more about how the contrast here is only surface deep. Synagogues, mosques, and churches are considered sanctuaries: places of refuge and safety. Yet, historically, many houses of worship have rejected their LGBTQ+ members, making the traditional sanctuaries inaccessible. As a result, gay bars became the sanctuaries of the queer community. Gay bars were where people went to seek refuge from a hostile and homophobic world. They were the places where it was safe to hold your partner’s hand and where two women or two men could dance together on the dance floor and see their reflection in everyone else around them. Gay bars were where people went when they were kicked out of their homes by their parents, and when their religious leaders called them sinners. Thus, Pulse was every bit as much of a sanctuary for the queer Latinx community of Orlando as the Tree of Life Synagogue was for the Jewish community of Squirrel Hill. In other words, both of these shootings took place within sanctuaries where people sought refuge from the world, where they felt safe, and where they came together with their community to celebrate life, mourn the loss of life, and - at the most basic level - connect with humanity. 

This notion, of having one’s place of refuge violated and turned into place of hate-fuelled murder, was one of the most common themes that the respondents in our Pulse survey mentioned. They reported feeling as though the loss was theirs, that it was personal, and that it could have just as easily been them. Many spoke of having lost ‘brothers and sisters,’ a phrase that has been commonly used by those responding to the Pittsburgh shooting as well. More than 84% of our Pulse respondents described the shooting as having an impact on how safe they felt as an LGBTQ+ person, even if they lived thousands of miles away. Jewish people around the world are now feeling the same way. They may have been at Shabbat services themselves at the very moment that this shooting took place. Their sense of being safe in the world has been shaken, and while many have already been feeling increasingly unsafe due to rising anti-Semitism, they now feel it with a level of certainty that they cannot ignore. 

Some respondents to the Pulse survey were perplexed by their grief, wondering why they were having such a strong reaction to an event that technically did not involve them personally. Some went so far as to question whether they had the right to feel the grief that they felt, as though they were somehow trespassing on the grief of those who lost a loved one. Others spoke of how the event ‘burst their bubble’ or made them realize that they could be killed just for being who they are, or loving who they love. For many younger participants, the shooting was the first time that they really experienced this kind of connection between homophobia and their own potential mortality. On the other hand, older participants experienced the shooting as a reminder of past violence and a warning that they cannot become complacent. I can only imagine that similar differences may be occurring between the older and younger generations of the Jewish community, with the young perhaps naively coming face-to-face with the fatal cost of anti-Semitism for the first time and the older individuals being far too painfully aware of the long history of Jewish persecution and murder.  

After Pulse, vigils were held all over the world, just as they are being held now for the Pittsburgh victims. In the days and weeks following the Pulse shooting, many LGBTQ+ individuals expressed a desire to surround themselves with others from the LGBTQ+ community. Often this desire was linked to feeling that their non-LGBTQ+ friends and family failed to understand the personal meaning and impact of the shooting. To those outside the LGBTQ+ community, Pulse was just another shooting, special perhaps only because, for a short duration in time, it was the largest shooting. The disconnect between how LGBTQ+ people felt and how their friends and family saw it as ‘just another shooting’ seemed to exacerbate respondents’ grief and feelings of isolation. I think these sentiments should give us the greatest pause and also guide us in how we respond to Pittsburgh. 

Mass shootings have become far too commonplace, such that they are just background noise in the daily news cycle. No one can fully digest all of them or fully ‘feel’ all of them, but when a shooting targets a specific community, a minority community, we must take note and we must reach out. LGBTQ+ people all over the world felt alone and in danger after Pulse. They felt like the world moved on and they were hurt by the failure to acknowledge the role that homophobia unquestionably played in murdering 49 LGBTQ+ individuals. Our Jewish friends and family are feeling this way now. While they continue to grieve and feel unsafe, they are watching others move on to the next topic, or they are listening to the media debate whether it was ‘really’ an attack on Jews or if, perhaps, it was an attack on all religions, or an attack on America and an ‘American-way of life’. It was not. It was an attack on Jews, Jewish Faith, Jewish Culture, and specifically, the Jewish tradition of welcoming and safeguarding refugees. The drive to explain the motives behind this shooting in an overly inclusive way (i.e., it was an attack on all of us/all religions) diminishes the reality of anti-Semitism in today’s society, and in our very own backyards. More importantly, it needlessly adds to the grief and suffering of those within the targeted community.

When we live in a society that constantly excludes others and draws rigid boundaries between “us” and “them” over the smallest of social identities, we cannot just erase those lines when tragedy hits and pretend like those lines weren’t the catalyst for the tragedy in the first place. Thus, while people’s intentions may be well meaning when they say, “this was an attack on all of us,” we cannot claim victims as “us” when we did not fully claim them as such while they were living. As one participant after Pulse put it: “Never before had the queers been considered so American until the moment that 49 of them were dead.”

Pulse, Quebec, and Pittsburgh, while not identical, are all connected through the shared feelings of immeasurable loss and those feelings are stronger among the members of the affected communities, no matter how far away they may actually have been from the event. These feelings are only exacerbated when others fail to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and the specific prejudices implicated in each (i.e., Homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism). 

We must acknowledge the toll that these prejudices take within our society and do all that we can to eradicate them. It may seem like a daunting task that is too big for any one person, but I’d like to challenge each member of this campus to take a step in the right direction. Over the next week, make a list of how you categorize others in the world. Who is on your “us” list and who is on your “them” list and then ask yourself why?* Even if it seems harmless, question if a certain category on your “them” list is worth having there if, ultimately, having them there keeps you in the habit of dividing the world by us and them rather than finding points of agreement and common ground. Challenge yourself to re-organize those lists so that your “us” list gets longer, and your “them” list begins to shrink. Don’t rejig the list after tragedy strikes, do it beforehand so you can be a part of preventing these tragedies from happening.

*If you are having trouble starting the list, often the identities that are important to us end up defining the ‘us’ list (your university, major, nationality, sexual identity, gender, residence, city/sports team, political party, or favourite pizza parlour – Kenny’s vs. the Wheel!). Make a list of your most important personal identities and then ask yourself how much you consider the opposite of each of those identities to be part of your ‘ingroup’ or ‘us’ and how much you think of people in those opposite categories as members of an outgroup, or ‘them.’

The following list names 66 individuals who were killed in the three shootings mentioned in this article. May their memories be a blessing.

Pulse Quebec Mosque

Stanley Almodovar III (23) Ibrahima Barry (39)

Amanda Alvear (25) Mamadou Tanou Barry (42)

Oscar A Arcena-Montero (26) Khaled Belkacemi (60)

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala (33) Aboubaker Thabti (44)

Antonio Davon Brown (29) Abdelkrim Hassane (41)

Angel L. Candelario-Padro (28) Azzedine Soufiane (57)

Juan Chevez-Martinez (25)

Luis Daniel Conde (39) Pittsburgh Synagogue

Cory James Connell (21) Bernice Simon (84)

Tevin Eugene Crosby (25) Sylvan Simon (86)

Denoka Deidra Drayton (32) Melvin Wax (88)

Alejandro Barrios Martinez (21) Daniel Stein (71)

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool (49) Irving Younger (69)

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez (25) Rose Mallinger (97)

Kimberly Morris (37) Jerry Rabinowitz (66)

Akyra Monet Murray (18) Joyce Fienberg (75)

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo (20) Richard Gottfried (65)

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez (25) Cecil Rosenthal (59)

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera (36) David Rosenthal (54)

Joel Rayon Paniagua (32)

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez (35)

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez (31)

Leroy Valentin Fernandez (25)

Mercedez Marisol Flores (26)

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz (22)

Juan Ramon Guerrero (22)

Paul Terrell Henry (41)

Frank Hernandez (27)

Miguel Angel Honorato (30)

Javier Jorge-Reyes (40)

Jason Benjamin Josaphat (19)

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice (30)

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla (25)

Christopher Andrew Leinonen (32)

Enrique L. Rios, Jr. (25)

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez (27)

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado (35)

Chrisopher Joseph Sanfeliz (24)

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan (24)

Edward Sotomayor, Jr. (34)

Shane Evan Tomlinson (33)

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega (24)

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez (37)

Luis S. Vielma (22)

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez (50)

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon (37)

Jerald Arthur Wright (31)

 
 

StFX Students and Remembrance Day

 

What’s the situation with young people and November 11?

Remembrance Day is so engrained in Canadian culture that it runs the risk of becoming routine. While the core spirit of the holiday – remembering veterans and reflecting on Canada’s involvement in wars – remains, is Remembrance Day more of a symbol than an impactful, solemn event as it is intended to be?

Being in a history class, I decided to ask some of my classmates to write down anything they knew about the poppy – where it came from, what it represents, anything. I was curious to see if StFX students who take history classes at a 200+ level would know more than the basics. Among the 8 students I surveyed, there were a few common things mentioned. Seven of the eight surveyed mentioned the poem In Flanders Fields (with two mentioning the author’s name, John McCrae). Special mention of the First and Second World Wars was the second most common thing to mention, with six students referencing it. Besides these two, everything else was pretty scattered. Many answers were unique; referencing the Canadian Legion, the commonwealth, generic “battlefields” and “remembering the past”, and only two students had things to say about the history of the poppy itself. This information was exclusively tied to the evolution of the poppy’s appearance, and the do’s and don’ts of how poppies should be worn.

Honestly, this was about what I expected. In Flanders Fields is such a ubiquitous part of Remembrance Day culture. Not only is it common to memorize the poem in grade school, but it’s also used in song form during some Remembrance Day ceremonies. Knowing about the World Wars should also be a given. Besides this, student answers about the poppy varied. 

If a class of mostly history students had overwhelmingly basic offhand knowledge about poppies and November 11th in general, does that mean students who aren’t engaging with history (especially Canadian history) would be even less aware? It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure if spouting ‘fun facts’ about a holiday based around remembering war is all that important. 

Something that makes Canada’s Remembrance Day unique is the speed in which it all got started. Founded as a special day in 1921, Canadians were among the first to engage with war in a way that involved living memory. We were rapidly involved in setting up memorials and remembrance ceremonies. Is there a bias against updating anything to do with Remembrance Day today? I’d say that the negative reaction is there. The White Poppy has routinely been a controversial idea; created to be a symbol of pacifism, the White Poppy often incites negative reaction from people who automatically assume that this alternative is meant to replace the Red Poppy. While some people do use this poppy, it looks like it won’t become mainstream for a long time, if ever. 

Poppies, In Flanders Fields, the Legion, and ceremonies are the common traits of November 11th, but beyond all of this, isn’t the emotional reaction you get from this holiday the thing that’s the most important? A lot of people have ties to veterans, whether they knew their veteran relatives or not. Taking off the “world war” lens, we have so many other war-related things to be including in our cultural memory. The Korean war, the Gulf war, the Afghanistan War, and Canada’s involvement in peacekeeping missions are certainly included in Veteran’s Affairs Canada’s official Remembrance Day information. I believe that among the general public, the focus is overwhelmingly on WWI/WWII. It’s not bad by any means to focus on these catastrophic events in world history, but with more and more veterans from the world wars passing away, maybe a heightened focus on Canada’s modern and 

ongoing military engagements would be beneficial. Bringing awareness to younger people who might not have any living relative who interacted with “wartime Canada” in the WWI/WWII sense could create further inclusion for those currently serving in the Forces and perhaps revitalize the ceremonies and bring forth the concept of living remembrance.

 
 

It’s Time to Eat

 

Discussing Politics Revamped and Served with Pie

Over time the interest in politics has been declining, meanwhile we have never had more access to information or have been so informed about the politicians and representatives locally or internationally. In America, Donald Trump was voted into office and the impact his presidency has had has caused people to get heavily involved in discussing politics. Enter MADA, Making America Dinner Again, a movement to encourage people to get involved in politics in a safe environment. Created by Justine Lee and Tria Chang, they encourage small dinner parties consisting of six to eight people, keeping it preferably even. They suggest that the host takes time to get guests with differentiating opinions and to reach out to established groups to create a list of follow ups in case of cancellation. The idea is to allow different sides to express their opinions and defend their points while creating a safe space to encourage people to be open and honest about how they feel and what they believe. They have created a full step by step guide for those interested in hosting. 

I believe this is a brilliant tactic to engage the community into enjoying the act of debating their viewpoints, but also in creating informed opinions. The current political climates in our university, our town, our province and our country are rising. StFX is dealing with the discontent of their student body on management of sexual assault. Antigonish and neighbouring areas are rising against Randy Delorey over the growing concerns to changes made in Healthcare. Nova Scotia faces a growing migration issue from small communities to urban centres for employment, and a lack of attention from the federal government. Canada’s federal government is under scrutiny for its green policies and the Trans Canada Pipeline amongst other issues. There is a problem that the issues aren’t being discussed and are not as heavily advertised as the Trump administration. More people need to be informed of the current events that happens at home in their community on top of the international community. 

By implementing the idea of these dinner parties, but perhaps under something more relevant to Canadian politics, we could encourage people to get involved in local politics. Discussing matters relevant to them and staying informed on current events within the community. The creators of this movement have made it simple to create your own; from including options to cover costs, to offering suggestions for locations if you’re uncomfortable hosting it on your own. The evening breaks down into activities, topic selection, discussions and more to encourage a fun environment. Rules are implemented, such as a safe word, in case the conversation becomes too heated. 

Eating has a long history of bringing people together, and in a campus environment it can become even easier using meal hall if you have a plan.  As social creatures, this interaction helps people to deter the growing trend of isolation. We do not have to agree to build a community, but if we can communicate, express ourselves clearly and defend why we think that way, we become that much stronger. With the different societies and social media groups, finding people with different opinions is simplified. The biggest challenge of this activity is patience and respect, something we often take for granted even in ourselves. Separating a person from their opinions or actions can sometimes be difficult, if not impossible. Knowing the boundaries in a discussion and being able to come together afterwards and recognize that a person is more than their beliefs on a specific issue is what is vital in building healthy opinions and relationships.