Inquire Publication V5 I2
WHERE ACTIVISM TAKES ROOTS
Queen’s CABS Queen’s University
Education In an age when the promotion and protection of human rights and security are regarded as measures of societal progress, violations of the basic rights of individuals are met with considerable opposition. State and non-state actors alike have attempted to counteract global human rights violations— yet cases of religious, ethnic, and cultural persecution continue to persist. In 1863, the Bahá’í Faith was founded by the Prophet Bahá’u’lláh in Iran. Since the inception of the Bahá’í faith, the various regimes that have governed Iran have systemically persecuted members of the Bahá’í community and pursued attempts to extinguish the faith at large. Although it is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Islamic
Republic of Iran is among the most severe perpetrators of human rights violations internationally. Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the persecution of the Bahá’ís intensified; mass arrests and the execution of hundreds marked the new regime’s stance on the Bahá’í Faith in Iran. The government undertook efforts to institutionalize their campaign of religious persecution including the barring of Bahá’í students and faculty from studying or teaching at universities. In 1987, the Iranian Bahá’í community responded to the expulsion of its students and faculty by establishing the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). BIHE provides those students who had been deprived of education by state officials a chance to continue their undergraduate and
Men -----Feminism Matt Bradley Queen’s University 3
Mali Omeed Hasan Queen’s University 8
graduate studies. The Institute was, and still is semi-clandestine, operating outside of the public sphere. A 1991 memorandum known as the “Bahá’í Question,” signed by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calls for the Bahá’ís to be treated in such a way that “their progress and development are blocked.” The denial of education for any individuals who self identify as Bahá’í is a central tenet of this plan. Although discretion has been essential to the survival of BIHE, the Iranian government has carried out a campaign to shut it down. For years, government forces have been launching raids, confiscating equipment and arresting individuals associated with the institute. In 1998, 500 homes, in which BIHE classes were held, were raided; confiscating equipment, books, computers, and arresting thirty-six faculty members. Further raids were carried out in 2001 and 2003. In recent years, as part of the campaign to deny the Bahá’ís access to education, and ultimately eradicate the faith, there has been a revival
If You Love Me Allan Jone McMaster University 4
in the attacks against BIHE. A 2006 letter from Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology instructed Iranian universities to expel any students discovered to be Bahá’ís. There is significant evidence to demonstrate that this directive from the Ministry was heeded by university officials as more than half of Bahá’í students enrolled in autumn 2006 were expelled throughout the course of the following academic year. In addition to pressure on universities, the raids on BIHE have continued as well, with May 2011 marking the most recent attack by Iranian government forces. Coordinated raids were conducted simultaneously throughout the country on the homes of individuals involved with the Institute. Thirty-nine households were extensively searched with personal belongings confiscated. Nineteen individuals were arrested—all of whom were professors and administrators of BIHE. Seven of these nineteen individuals were sentenced to extended prison terms simply for providing an education to those who had been deprived of that right.
Continued on page 11.
Gender & Religion
The Cost of Violence
Schwab Bakombo University of Toronto 5
Arnav Agarwal McMaster University 7
Where Beauty Medical is a Crime Marijuana Ronald Leung McMaster University 10
There has been growing concern internationally for the plight of the Bahá’ís in Iran, with both state and non-state actors pressuring the Iranian government to cease its campaign of persecution. Desmond Tutu, Romeo Dallaire, Ban Ki-moon, as well as former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy are a few of the many notable defenders of human rights who have stepped forward to decry the treatment of the Bahá’í community. Universities across the globe have also stepped forward to support BIHE by recognizing the degrees awarded to graduates of the Institute. Queen’s University is one such school, and as a result, a number of BIHE graduates have succeeded in completing their PhD at the university. One of Queen’s current students, Saba, completed her Undergraduate and Master’s degrees through the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education. She is currently in the process of completing her PhD in Neuroscience here at Queen’s, and has agreed to share her story.
Matthew Got McMaster University 13
Myopic Academy Amanda Ali
University of Toronto
Inquire Publication V5 I2
INQVIRE EDITORS CONT ENT
STAFF NOTE INSIDE Thank you to the editorial staff, contributors, and all of the Inquire Publication executive members across three campuses. Queen’s University Co-Presidents Jessica Chen Jorge Caicedo Co- Editors in Chief Devin McDonald Craig Draeger Vice President Finance Vivian Li Vice President Marketing Victoria Piccin Matt Nesvadba Vice President Initiatives Caroline Friedrich Vice President Advertising Paris Adams Editor in Charge of Production Jason Campbell Editor in Charge of Responses Sean Ngo Intern Megan Scarth University of Toronto President Quila Toews Editor in Chief Amanda Ali VP Initiatives Elaine Logashov VP Marketing/ Advertising Stephen Zhao VP Finance Amelia Abderrezak Director of Communications Carolyn Hintze McMaster University Co-President Flora Huang Tahrin Mahmood Editor in Chief MIke Davison Vice President Finance Harkanwal Randhawa Vice President Initiatives Armo Qaddoura Vice President Marketing Qian Feng Jennifer Pearson Director of Events Sharon Yeung Director of Finance Arnav Agarwal
Like many Inquire issues, this issue circles the global in its coverage of topics. Matt Bradley examines the role men play in feminism, the pursuit of gender equity and gender politics at large. Similar, Allan Jone and Schwab Bakombo explore gender in the specific spheres of society, both in terms of the influence of religion in forming and constructing gender norms, and in terms of the sense in which gender roles bind medical practice. On the international stage we probe issues such as the price we pay, as a species, for our inability to move beyond armed conflict. The Campus Association for Bahai Studies provides a looking glass into the persecution of the Bahai community in Iran and the efforts to support the community through a network of informal classrooms. Ronald Leung touches on the heinous acid attacks that plague many countries. In our last section we explore cultural and political topics such as medical marijuana and the career environment in academia. This issue touches consistently on the need for critical examination of issues in both public policy and civil society. Minority groups around the world continue to be the victims of oppressive regimes, cultural norms and practices of generations past. Though it is easy to reproach foreign countries, we must also examine our own public policy and the degree to which it effects those unable to represent themselves. Public policy does not progress on its own volition but its slow march forward is brokered by the continual efforts to advocate for issues of great importance. - Devin McDonald and Craig Draeger
Men-----Feminism Matt Bradley Queen’s University 3 If You Love Me Allan Jone McMaster University 4 Gender and Religion Schwab Bakombo University of Toronto 5 The Cost of Violence Arnav Agarwal McMaster University 7 Mali Omeed Hasan Queen’s University 8 Where Beauty Is a Crime Ronald Leung McMaster University 10 The Denial of Education Queen’s CABS Queen’s University 12 Medical Marijuana Matthew Got McMaster University 13 Myopic Academy Amanda Ali University of Toronto 14
Inquire Publication V5 I2
Men -----Feminism This article begins with a title and, in a fashion all too indicative of my misguided English, this title is grammatically imprecise—Men ----- Feminism. However, I do not believe this imprecision can be corrected by any simple appeal to editorial prowess for such correction must adeptly contemplate and define the relationship between men and feminism—in feminism, beside feminism, with feminism, despite feminism. Few scholars have risen to this challenge and, as a collective, literature concerning the viability of the male feminist has done little to ease the surmounting confusion that plagues men at a practical level— what role, if any, do men have in the feminist movement? It is impossible to avoid the political implications of this question, especially when it is asked by men. Tom Digby argues that the pervasiveness of patriarchy will continue to implicate the male feminist to be seen and as an outsider by some women and a traitor by some men. A man exploring his role in feminism is witnessed as an intrusion into femininity and a betrayal of masculinity. Such understandings reaffirm the assertion that manhood is the antithesis of feminism. My concern in this article is not to protect male interest from feminism nor is it to promote conceptual space for the male voice in feminist thought. Rather, I wish to challenge the social configurations of power which systematically repress important questions −to explore why the notion of the male feminist leaves so many of us, men and women, ambivalent and uncomfortable. Why
is it controversial to explore the relationship between men and feminism and what can we learn from this reticence?
“Men” and “Women” are not pre-social beings that can be justly categorized by an appeal to some foundational essence of manhood or womanhood. The label “man” or “woman” does not signify a stable, unitary group that can exist across racial, class-based, religious or even gendered modalities. What constitutes a “man” in a suburban, Christian community in Southwestern Ontario will necessarily be different from what “man” denotes on the Tibetan plateau. Judith Butler argues that even the body does not present a base for which to presume a fixed, collective identity. Women can be born “biologically” male but become actualized as feminine; so too can men be born “biologically” female and come to identify themselves as male. These instances expose the illusive and coercive nature of gender categories. There is no essence that pre-determines our current heteronormative binaries: boys to play with hot wheels and girls with dolls, men to be attracted to women and women to men, men to be dominant and females to be subordinate, females to be feminist and males to be patriarchal. In light of this absence, it is significant to consider how we are coerced to maintain “gender appropriate” behaviour. The denotation of gender appropriate action has not remained constant across time and space. Each epoch redefines what constitutes the proper comportment of the
body, the proper social activities for men and women and the proper sexual relationship between people. These norms become internalized and reproduced by subjects not because they reflect any objective truth, but because the punitive consequences for resisting the status quo are high and often dangerous. The legal penalty for sodomy in early modern England reinforced the “naturalness” of heteronormativity by punitively punishing those who engaged in outlawed sexual acts. Modern day discrimination against transsexuals reasserts male and female categories by ostracizing those who challenge gender distinctions.
Discourses regulate our behaviour not by predetermining which acts we should undertake but by demonizing those acts which stray from the “appropriate.” We are able to see power by acknowledging the struggle of those that resist prevailing social norms: women that pursue positions of authority and men that embrace feminism are prevalent examples. Our fervency to attack and quell discussions of men and feminism is a window into the inner-workings of power. Power transcends individual agency and motivates us to repress outlying forms of speech and action. The ambivalence and discomfort we feel when exposed to dialogue between men and feminism is illustrative of how power functions to shape social relations: by repressing those acts that challenge prevailing gender categories. We cannot escape the influence of power. It is present in our every act, every word and every breath. However, the
Matt Bradley Queen’s University
“What role, if any, do men have in a feminist movement” pervasiveness of power in our daily lives does not inevitably reproduce the existing social framework. We each retain the agency to change our relationship to power by challenging the forces that encourage certain actions and repudiate others. This ability requires us to acknowledge our own biases and prevailing assumptions and to resist their limiting grasp. The a priori disapproval of the concept of a male feminist provides insight into the innerworkings of power. Recognizing this reticence allows us to understand how patriarchy reproduces subjects as dominant or subordinate: by demonizing those acts which contradict one’s socially inscribed gender. We need to acknowledge the sociopolitical implications of discussing the relationship between men and feminism and resist them. This realization does not necessitate space for men in feminist thought, but it does require us to challenge the forces which disapprove of the role feminism plays in male thought. Feminism is strongest when equality and gender justice are sought through the joint
efforts of both men and women operating on an equal playing field. Under a patriarchal system the male social location is more privileged regardless of individual intention. However, the power relations that reproduce patriarchy are not deterministic; they are malleable. Individuals can change their relationship to power by resisting prevailing social norms and embracing those who do the same. This realization does not necessitate space for a male voice in feminism. Rather, such recognition demands that the relationship between men and feminism be taken seriously, not as a regression, but as a chance for communal growth towards gender equity. There may or may not be conceptual space for men in feminism, but there is certainly space for feminism in men. “Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist.” —Kelley Temple, National Union of Students UK Women’s Officer
Commentary: A great article that illustrates the power dynamics of gender and gendered role association. I think another reason that men cannot easily associate themselves with feminism is the because of how loaded of a term ‘feminism’ really is. If feminism simply means equality then who wouldn’t want to call themselves a feminist? Unfortunately, societies have attached falsehoods to the meaning and thus we see a lack of men who are able to confidently identify as feminists. - Megan Khan
A very well written article that touches upon a very important topic. It is important to consider the role of socialization in creating socially approved gender roles and question the values that these gender roles stand upon. Not only will this, as you have quite rightly put, strengthen the role of feminism but address the suffering caused by socially constructed notions of masculinity and femininity. - Shiza M.
If You Inquire Publication V5 I2
HPV Vaccination for Males
Love Me Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually-transmitted disease which is the major cause of cervical cancer. The World Health Organization estimates that 500,000 women suffer from cervical cancer annually. HPV vaccines are available and have proven to be safe and effective for both sexes as a viable means of intervention. Given that the main burden of HPV-related diseases is attributed to women because of cervical cancer, why do public health vaccination policies target the opposite sex? Although HPV infection in males does not lead to cervical cancer, it can still act as a transmission vector. Academics Zimet and Rosenthal have argued for the inclusion of males in HPV vaccination programs. Summarized in their review, the support of male HPV vaccination cites six fundamental reasons:
(1) Female-only vaccination will not protect men who have sex with men from HPV and HPV-related diseases; (2) the fastest way to achieve the greatest protection for females from cervical cancer and its precursors is to vaccinate males as well as females; (3) vaccinating males is a more equitable public health policy and recognizes that both genders contribute to the transmission of HPV; (4) vaccination of males may be more acceptable to some cultural groups than vaccinating females; (5) genital warts and HPV-related cancers in males represent costly and emotionally burdensome conditions that can be prevented more expediently by vaccinating both males and females; and (6) historically, implementation of risk-based (or gender-based) vaccination policies have been less effective and more confusing to the public.
These reasons create a logical argument towards expanding and encouraging public health policy to target male HPV vaccination. However, money is most often a central consideration when making changes to health systems. Current literature proposes that HPV vaccination in males is less cost-effective than large-scale HPV vaccinations campaigns for females. Other studies, however, rebut that current methodologies used to calculate cost-effectiveness calculations do not capture the best measure of health outcomes. Consequently, the supporting data is not conclusive enough to dismiss male HPV vaccination as neither economically viable nor advantageous for public health. Unless consensus is achieved within the research community regarding the cost-effectiveness of male HPV vaccination, an economic argument will remain elusive. Keeping some of Zimet and Rosenthal ‘s aforementioned ideas in mind, let’s take another look at the situation.
“Why do public health vaccinations policies target the opposite sex?” the public, but rather publicizes HPV as a female disease because of its high correlation to cervical cancer. As a consequence, women not only bear a high proportion of the physical burden but bear the brunt of the social burden as well.
policy that encourages the vaccination of both sexes? At the end of the day, HPV affects both men and women. Neglecting to vaccinate males ignores one side of the problem and creates a bias towards women in society’s perception of HPV.
It is troubling to see health systems take such a narrowminded stance towards HPV vaccination and control. I want to draw a comparison between the achievements of gender equality with HPV vaccination policy. Issues of gender equality, similar to HPV, often disproportionately affect females.
And so, if you love the person you’re with or you anticipate to be with, whether you are male or female in a heterosexual, homosexual, or other type of relationship, perhaps it’s time to shift the paradigm and face HPV as a collective entity.
“If two people are entering into a relationship, they have a mutual responsibility to protect their partner” Commentary: The transmission of HPV requires at least one infectious partner in a sexual relationship between two or more people. If two people are entering into a relationship, they have a mutual responsibility to protect their partner and themselves. The current media does not appropriately communicate the idea of a shared burden to
After reading this article, a recent public advertisement that’s been on the television came to mind: one in which a male and female are eating dinner at a fine restaurant. During their date, text informs the viewer that he has HPV and is putting her at risk of contracting it. Ads like this are a step in the right direction, and illustrate that there is a gradually shifting societal understanding of this infectious disease. Paired with the fact that incidence of HPV-related throat cancer in men has been predicted to
Allan Jone McMaster University
The recognition that males have an equal role to play in reducing gender equality has influenced a fundamental change in the way society perceives this problem. Why shouldn’t we extend that same collaborative atmosphere, found in gender equality, towards HPV prevention and control through the promotion of an equitable public health
surpass that of HPV-related cervical cancer in women by 2020 (see: “Human Papillomavirus and Rising Oropharyngeal Cancer Incidence in the United States”), we can see that the idea of male vaccination programs can not be ignored. - Mike Davison
Inquire Publication V5 I2
World religions are not immune to issues concerning gender equality. My goal is to explore how religion and society contribute to gender inequality. I will make use of some compelling arguments presented by scholars such as Malory Nye, Judith Butler, Tomoko Masuzawa, and others as they relate to the social construction of gender roles.
Gender, as it pertains to identity, is largely based on social contexts. Religion and culture are often intertwined to the point where they can be comprehended interchangeably. Nye’s theory regarding the association of religion and culture offers a guide to understanding gender roles in religion and offers a perspective from which we can understand how religions were probably derived from cultures. In addition, it is widely accepted that gender roles are social constructs that are well-defined in almost all cultures. The struggle for gender equality in religion is still an issue despite the progress that has been made in bridging the divide. It may be helpful to begin with careful observation of the relationship between religion and culture. The history of religion may corroborate the idea that religion informs culture and vice versa. It may also convince inidivduals that Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are social constructs deeply rooted in history. Perhaps every one of them, at the time of their conception, was constructed with specific social interests. Tomoko Masuzawa, a US professor and author of Invention of World Religions, focuses her research on the historical development of the 19th and early 20th century search for the origin of religion. In terms of the relationship between
religion and culture, she makes a pertinent suggestion that may help to support the fact that religion and culture often inform each other; “religion is not an abstraction. It has vital significance only as it is deeply rooted in the moving process of folk life.”(Masuzawa, 2005, p.39) Careful observation of cultures may suffice in confirming the fact that humans have, since their existence, been trying to shape social customs in order to establish a common good.
Marriage, for instance, is at the threshold of complete redefinition in Canada. For centuries, most Canadians held the belief that marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman. The issue of gay marriage is being accepted by more Canadians to represent a civil rights position. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that within a few decades, the reshaping of our customs will lead many Canadians to view gay marriage as equally acceptable. Nye’s theory pertaining to the relationship between religion and culture presents some limitations because it may suggest that religion and culture are the same thing. “Most cultures are largely shaped by their dominant religions and vice versa.” The 19th century German scholar Max Müller believed that scholars of religion should employ sacred texts as their main focal point. Müller suggested that in order to understand the role religion plays in gender inequality, it is imperative to study religion from an exegetical perspective while also seeking to understand its cultural origins. Scholars who ignore this suggestion offered by Müller will conduct their research “outside the sacred texts and run the risk of straying in[to] murky waters.” The signifier of God is commonly
understood to be male. Nye suggests that “the ideology of a male god is what paved the way for the subordination of women in many societies.” Because androcentricism is pervasive in the study of religion, God is literally explained as a male person. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam teach that Adam was created first and Eve afterwards. This belief was interpreted by some cultures to mean that women are inferior to men in principle. In the Congo, where I was born, the very culture defines the role of women as that of the caretaker of the home. The aforementioned concept is heavily challenged by the biblical “Wife of Noble Character’s” story as it is told in Proverbs 31. The moment the African man becomes a Christian, he does not lose his culture; he simply associates it with his understanding of scripture. From his comprehension of the teachings of his church, men may internalize the religion they have been taught and see it as correct.
For instance, this can be clearly seen in the way we understand marriage today. The woman was made as a helper suitable for the man according to Genesis 2: 18. In verse 28 of the same chapter, both man and woman are mandated to be fruitful and multiply. The Koran, in Chapter 15, also supports hierarchy in creation. Since belief is often open to different interpretations, many societies have tried to interpret scripture in light of social constructions in order to set limitations of what is deemed acceptable in gender roles. Procreation, as the basis for matrimony, is often employed by the church in order to advocate heterosexual marriage. The consensus among many Christians, for instance, is that the existence of marriage in
Schwab Bakombo University of Toronto
“Gender, as it pertains to identity, is largely based on social contexts” our society is justified only as far as it can enforce certain obligations. From a social perspective, these take the form of obligations and responsibilities serviced in procreation. Gender identity is another complex issue that drives a lot of academic and non-academic discussions. The ideas advanced by Judith Butler are intended to bring about a lasting transformation of gender equality. Most scholars hold the belief that “biological differences between the sexes do not determine gender, gender attributes, or gender relations.” The definition and attribution of gender roles differ from culture to culture. It appears that gender roles have become established and defined in society by men. Gender has historically been a concept devised by men because religion and culture are closely associated. This is confirmed by the fact that even the study of religion is soaked “in the pervasiveness of androcentricism.” People may perceive gender as a social category but careful observation of the priesthood in Catholicism maintains that “the category of gender is in use among us only to benefit some members of the group.” Butler argues further by proposing that “this construct called sex is as culturally
“Marriage, for instance, is at the threshold of complete redefinition in Canada”
constructed as gender.” The potential issue with Butler’s approach is that distinctions between the sexes cannot be completely ignored; it is helpful to maintain biological distinctions between the sexes. However, from a social and religious point of view, we still require progress to achieve equality between the sexes in this androcentric world. In Islam, for instance, marriage laws favour of men: “By licensing polygamy, concubinage, and easy divorce for men, originally allowed under different circumstances in a different society, Islam lent itself to being interpreted as endorsing and giving religious sanction to a deeply negative and debased conception of women.” Even so, polygamy seems to have been permitted in limited circumstances only. The man who estimates that his monogamous marriage has become too inconvenient may choose to justify his “fantasies” by employing scripture as a license for adding one more nuptial bedroom. It can be argued, by the use of biblical characters such as King Solomon, that ancient Judeo faith has essentially corroborated such practices. Nevertheless, the subject of gender inequality remains a fundamental issue. Thinkers like Butler voice their concern
Inquire Publication V5 I2 for women’s rights by way of gender construction and gender roles. The role of women in religion continues to be a struggle by virtue of equality. As we continue to make progress towards gender equality in society and religion, we must reason together and make conscientious decisions. Men and women are individuals whose autonomy and existence demand that they equally reclaim their unalienable rights.
The biological difference of the sexes should be conceptually maintained for procreative purposes but society must work together and seek ways to end this debate by realizing that equality is in fact an unalienable right. Until we find common ground in overcoming the chasm that gender construction has maintained for so long, we shall live in a world where true equality will never be realized.
An unbiased and robust study of religion may be necessary for differentiation between religion and culture while coming to terms with the fact that gender gaps need to be closed. Society, including the church, must change its views regarding the differences that promote gender inequalities. I am aware of the fact that my belief is not universal because in some parts of the world, religious establishments may
be part of the problem rather than the solution. Any sacred scripture can be interpreted to lead some individuals to believe that gender differences ought to be maintained, but an unbiased analysis may also lead people to see that “in Christ there is no male or female.”(Galatians 4:28) Nye is correct in establishing a strong relationship between religion and culture even though they can be studied
independently. Common hope will bring about reform in religious exegesis and cultural reshaping; after all, “change has always been characteristic of living religions.”
Commentary: by modern thinks in the framework of theology. As such, religion itself is a reflection of social values and can only exert a minimal impact on the progress of gender equality. Specific religions as an institution may have some semblance of an unified opinion, but this opinion is still One aspect that you might want to include, (and somenonetheless moved by the values of our times. Rather, thing I was asking myself as I read it) is perhaps a brief overlook of the Enlightenment idea of Equality as an un- the changes in gender relations have come from material alienable right. While it may be normally presumed, what causes rather than religious movement. Western society remains predominantly Christian, but the introduction you as an activist are calling for is religious reform and of Women into the workforce due to war and the rising the religious communities that you are addressing may be necessarily work from a secular/Enlightenment basis. affluence of the Middle class that has allowed Women to fight for their own suffrage rights are what truly put genIn other words, if you are asking them to change their interpretations of their scriptures according to the ideal der equality into motion. The Catholic church still does not admit women as priests, but predominantly cathoof gender equality is may be perhaps more strategic to lic societies can still have high levels and rising levels of work from their scriptures. - Caleb Upton gender equality. On the other hand, there is immense pressure on the religious institution of Roman Catholicism to allow for the ordination of women. Theology will This article frames religion as an semi-autonomous acchange with social values, not the other way around. tor in its relationship with gender equality and society, as if gender inequality itself is a side-effect of religion. However, religion and the philosophy it exudes on soci- Stephen Zhao ety comes from ancient texts that must be interpreted As brief as this article is, it is well formulated and the conciseness of it really helps, as it contributes to the simple framework you are putting together.
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Inquire Publication V5 I2
VIOLENCE US$9 trillion is the estimated size of the economic impact we would have experienced, had the world been completely peaceful in 2011. While the world become more peaceful in 2011 for the first time since 2009 according to the Global Peace Index, it is hard to ignore how much of the job is left to be done. From a Canadian perspective, a rise in the rankings to being identified as the fourth most peaceful country globally is a positive sign, leaving only Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand ahead of us. However, the index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, brings to light far more than the relative rankings of these countries in terms of their peacefulness: ranking the cost of violence. How large is the potential impact of a completely peaceful world? Some of the largest threats on a global scale include climate change, poverty and economic instability. The estimated US $9 trillion is reported to be equivalent to the size of the German and Japanese economies combined, the former ranked as having the fifth largest GDP and the latter as having the third largest GDP globally in terms of purchasing power parity as of 2012. Furthermore, the amount is easily
able to cover the entire amount allocated to deal with the European sovereign debt crisis with the European Financial Stability Facility. Insight into the imbalance in resources allocated violent ends and those allocated for peace highlights a significant area of concern as well. Encompassing over one hundred and ninety member states, the United Nations provides an international forum and promotes progress in human rights and living standards through various programs and funds. The UN Millennium Development Goals seek to confront various global challenges, including the establishment of universal primary education, halving extreme poverty levels, and the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. The regular budget of the organization of the U.N. is reported to be nearly $1.9 billion annually. Drawing approximately half of its annual total expenditures from the voluntary contributions of its member states. Its annual expenditure of $15 billion on peacekeeping missions, programmes, funds and specialized agencies could easily be covered by the $1 trillion in annual world military expenditures. This
would pay for the U.N. system for sixty-seven years! A quick calculation on the potential impact of a complete reduction in violence yields staggering results as well: over six hundred years of the U.N. system’s expenditures are covered with nine trillion dollars. It is evident that a reduction in violence carries with it an economic impact of great significance, but bringing an end to violence on a global scale does not happen overnight. The first step to embracing a peaceful world is realizing how much of it is left to unlock and explore by fueling efforts to live in harmony rather than to live apart. While a 100% reduction might be a mile away, even a 25% reduction in violence is reported to have an estimated economic impact of $2.25 trillion. We may be ranked as the fourth most peaceful nation, but the paradox lies in our obliviousness to how, as a planet, we are losing exactly what we’re fighting over. Knowing the impact of our actions is the first step to changing perspectives globally on nurturing a united world and making change happen: after all, every domino effect begins with a single domino.
Arnav Agarwal McMaster University
“How large is the potetnial impact of a peaceful world?”
Arms Trade Facts
1. 74% of the worlds arms are produced by sixe countires: USA, Russia, Germany, China, France and the United Kingdom. 2. Everyday ~1500 people are killed by armed conflict. 3. For every death there are 28 other casaulties. 4. There are 875 million small arms in the world with another 8 million being produced each year. 5. In 2010 total global military expenditure reach $1.6 Trillion. 6. Whereas $1 billion in spending in the military sector creates an estimated 11 000 jobs, the same amount spent in education creates 29 000 jobs.
Commentary: Though I acknowledge the merit of the article, I am sceptical of the premise. We cannot just simply decide to call a time out on armed conflict expecting to wait and bare the fruit. Conflict is a complex issue tied up with and often the outcome of ethnic or religious difference. Much of the intra-state conflict which plagues the world today is within the scope of governments deciding to end inter-state conflict. Though I hate to be pessimistic, many structural issues which bring about conflict can only be resolved over long periods which bare changes to notion of identity and culture.
That is not to say that we can’t do anything; the global community can be present to provide the resources to make progress towards peace and reconciliation. However, before that can happen we need to recognize violence as a consequence of structural issues rather than the something that happens in a vacuum. - Anonymous Calling for an immediate worldwide end to violence is basically as effective as calling for an end to evil. And you might as well speculate on the economic impact of death itself. And a united world can be good or bad, depending on what it is united under. - Anonymous
Inquire Publication V5 I2
French Aspirations in the Mali Campaign
Omeed Hasan Queen’s University As French and Malian troops entered Doutenza and Diabaly, a feeling of uncertainty looms amidst the landlocked republic’s population. For the 16 million Malians, the duration and outcome of the current French military campaign seems rather hazy, with a very real potential for a drawn out military conflict. French initiatives under Francois Hollande’s leadership were publicly stated as being short-term in nature. However, France’s historical ties to Northwest Africa (Maghreb) coupled with their ambition to play the role of a more potent conciliator in global affairs may indicate otherwise—France could seek to reestablish its military and political might over its once colonial territories. By engaging the Islamist fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad(MNLA) in the newly
declared Azawad region, forces from France, Mali, and various West African states are effectively establishing a new front line against the Al-Qaeda off shoot in the Islamic Maghreb. This indicates France’s willingness to take a leading role in the new global war on terror. The successful acquisition of the northern Kidal, Gao, and Timbouctou regions of Mali by the MNLA and their allies was a significant development for the Al Qaeda, specifically AlQaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, since it effectively established a new safe haven and potential base for operations. It was a collaborative military effort between Tuareg fighters, who had been battle-hardened from the preceding Libyan conflict, and the Islamist fighters of Ansar al-Din. The two factions proved to be dominant over the pro-government Mali forces. Territory that was formerly a
hotspot for European tourists is now a cradle for Islamic fundamentalism within the region. Rapid advancements were made that led to a defacto north-south division of Mali by the end of March of 2012. Under the auspices of the Pan-Sahel Initiative, the United States sponsored a counter terrorism training program for the Mali government, yet these efforts proved no match for the rebel forces. With the looming threat of the Islamist coalition pushing onwards to Bamako, Mali’s capital city, it was a race against time for the French to ensure the entirety of geographic Mali remains under control of government forces. Disrupting rebel supplies with airstrikes, while training West African and Malian troops to overtake the brunt of the dayto-day skirmishes. The reality of the expansion of a Sharia
law further into the historical French Colonial Empire caused distress in Paris. The combat phase was initiated as French Mirage fighter planes began sorties over Mali on January 11, 2013 to eliminate a column of mobile rebel forces in central Mali, ending a 9 month long unchallenged Islamist rule in the Azawad region. This was the opening act of an asymmetric military campaign that was widely understood amongst the international community to only last a few weeks in duration. The short-term objectives are to prevent any further southerly territorial advancement by the MNLA. In this respect, France has proven itself successful by swiftly establishing its presence, as well as reviving a crippled Malian army. Long-term objectives are attempting a smooth and
efficient transfer of the burden of the fight to Malian and West African troops under the ECOWAS umbrella. Although no direct military assistance from France’s European Union counterparts was given towards achieving the objectives the campaign, support was shown through diplomatic and financial channels. The overwhelming firepower and technological advantage the French led coalition possesses over the MNLA has created the possibility of a scenario where guerilla forces will attempt to regroup over the Mauritanian border, allowing for pockets of conflict to emerge from the South and West. A key development is that Islamist strongholds were taken out in the city of Gao, with Malian authorities claiming that this confrontation resulted in the death of 60 militants. This is one of a string
Inquire Publication V5 I2 of sobering events that have severely impeded the efforts of the Islamists of Azawad to create a command and control region for Jihadist operations. There is a common misconception that majority of land in Mali will not yield significant strategic value for France in the future. France has steadily maintained its business pursuits in the former colonies, but has recently been under heavy competition from China, India, Germany, and the United States. In the same period where China’s proportion of imports into Africa grew from 3.4% to 12.5%, the French figures plummeted to 8.9% from 16.2%. The competition to win over West African nations’ allegiances for commercial interests may be giving France extra incentive to intervene in Mali. Mali has great potential in the oil and gas sector, although it requires a serious initiative to develop an adequate infrastructure that will be needed to effectively extract the oil and gas to enter
the global markets. On top of this oil and gas potential, gold and uranium deposits remain scattered throughout Mali. In conflicts of this nature, it is the most marginalized within the society that will ultimately pay the price. The Malians have experienced recent suffering in the form of severe food shortages in this previous year— the military campaign may exacerbate the acute humanitarian crisis. The resulting pre-invasion displacement figures have been estimated 229,000 domestically displaced persons, with 147,000 fleeing into neighboring states, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees. Francois Hollande’s ensuing decisions come at a time that represent a critical crossroad in French foreign policy, as the previous decade was spent trying to reduce the military impression on the African continent. As nations in French West Africa started to gain independence in the 1960’s
onwards, the French were diligent in solidifying defense agreements with their former colonies, in order to maintain a military presence in the region. The demilitarization over the last decade was seen in the form of an unprecedented closing of military bases. In late 2012, Hollande conveyed a with certain degree of conviction to lawmakers in Senegal that no combat troops would be dispatched to counter Islamist forces in the Azawad region. With 2500 newly arrived French troops, there is clearly an incongruence between Hollande’s rhetoric and actions in this situation. A broad initiative to combat Islamist fighters may very well coincide with neocolonial aspirations of the French Republic.
“Francois Hollande’s ensuing decisions come at a time that represents a critical crossroad in French foreign policy”
Commentary: threat of a fundamentalist Islamic government in Mali,
“I think the author is near the mark here: conflict with Islamists in Mali may suggest the loss of a significant trading partner for the French, while simultaneously presenting a chance to enhance diplomatic relations with the current government in Bamako through intervention. Whether we can broaden this to a French ‘neocolonial’ intent, and what this term really implies for Mali’s economic and political future, is less certain; unless by neocolonialism the author simply means protecting its trade interests. Although France’s role as a trading partner with Mali has been on the decline, it still maintains extensive Foreign Direct Investment in the country. The
which may further reduce trade with the West in favor of countries such as China, may be at the heart of this intervention. Although unlikely to be in Africa’s near future, a unified continental army that could solve such conflicts in the interest of the entire continent would be the ideal for Africa’s independent future.” - Mike Davison
Inquire Publication V5 I2
Where Beauty Is a Crime
Ronald Leung McMaster University
What’s in a face? A focal point of emotion and communication, the human face connects us together by relaying expressions and social cues. Its arrangement and size determines, for the most part, society’s judgement of our beauty. It greets each one of us in the mirror. It is formative in building our selfworth. A delicate layer of cells and skin can play such a big part in life; it’s certainly not surprising however, that it is often the target for criminal acts of revenge, passion, and punishment. A common occurrence in the Middle East and parts of Asia, the deep-rooted patriarchal system has prompted countless cases of disfigurement in women. The weapon of choice hydrochloric, sulfuric, or nitric acid. Used as cleaners or precursors to clothing dyes, these deadly substances can be bought for less than a dollar. That’s how much a face – and a life – is worth in those parts of the world: less than a dollar. In a small village 300 kilometers from Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, 14-year-old Shammema Akter was sleeping in her
parent’s house. The window was open to air the muggy heat that was trapped inside the home after a full day of blaring sun. Akter awoke to a sudden splash of liquid. Immediately feeling pain beyond comprehension as her face bubbled, the acid liquefing her skin. Her face dripped off, her right ear disintegrated, and she remembers screaming until she fainted. That was seventeen years ago. After thirteen surgeries, Akter still suffers from blindness in her right eye, and deafness in the right ear. Her nose had to be reconstructed. The entire right side of her face remains scarred. Atker was attacked by her husband of an arranged marriage, whom she ran away from after multiple rapes. In 2006, she smiled at hearing the 43-year sentence. “I don’t look at mirrors,” Atker says— she doesn’t want the nightmares to return. Its harsh sentences, such as the one received by Atker’s husband, that have slowly reversed the climb of acid attacks in Bangladesh. Previously a hotspot for such crimes, with close to 500 attacks reported in 2002 alone, the number has dramatically dropped
to 71 in 2012. The Acid Survivors’ Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that has worked tirelessly in Bangladesh. They have not only provided support for victims, but also worked to invoke change in the country. Tougher legislation has sped up trials and tightened control on dangerous acids, discouraging attackers from committing more attacks. Media awareness has fueled the need for change. Major newspapers in Dhaka fearlessly publishing firstwitness accounts of acid attacks, allowing the victims to talk about their disfigurements. Other countries such as India still struggle to control acid attacks. A deep mentality of “deserved” retribution is still held by many. Disfigurement carries the label of being unfaithful, overly promiscuous, or disrespectful to the male figures in their lives. The blame and ostracization wrongly expressed towards the victim instead of the attacker. This mindset leads to a lack of police prioritization–in other words, if you’re the victim of an acid attack, tough luck. It isn’t so much a misogynistic
viewpoint than a deep-rooted belief in the ancient patriarchal system that allows violence against women to continue. The rape and murder of a 23-year-old last month in New Delhi made headlines across the globe, and shocked the world by revealing just how commonplace this type of violence is in certain parts of Asia. Just as this horrible crime stirred activists to protest for women’s rights, government officials and prominent religious figures also voiced their outdated, insulting, and ignorant thoughts. Member of Parliament Ramesh Bais told reports “the rape of grown-up girls and women might be understandable, but if someone does this to an infant, it is a heinous crime and the offenders should be hanged.” A selfproclaimed “godman”, Asaram Bapu also shared this view: “She [the 23-year old rape victim] should have taken God’s name and held the hand of one of the men and said ‘I consider you as my brother’.”thus purporting that if she had begged and referenced a religious connection to the rapists she would have been sparred. A social administrator, Jitendar
Chattar, blames rape on instant noodles: “To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts.” The oppression of women has been practiced for so long that even prominent politicians and leaders consider every option but the most obvious; these outdated, obtuse, and uneducated views must be dismissed before true equality can be achieved. Legislation and government action can only go so far—although they can achieve great results, with Bangladesh’s stance on acid attacks as a perfect example. Whether or not India and other countries still mired in misogyny will follow this path is still up in the air, but with enough pressure, perhaps more legal protection for women can be achieved. What is ultimately necessary, however, is a complete equalization of the entire patriarchal system which, unfortunately, may take generations to achieve. Hopefully one day the tipping point will be reached and personal safety will not simply be a privilege, but a birthright.
Commentary: Ronald Leung’s article illustrates the continued tension between Western standards of freedom with worlds that maintain deeply rooted and traditional beliefs. The tension is evident, we are onlookers to what we suspect is a crime continually perpetrated and seldom punished. In our international rage and outcry, we hope to bring our freedoms to other countries but often are dismissed as paternalistic and overbearing. In many ways, as Ronald has suggested, the final battle may in the end be ideological and not pragmatic. i wish and hope that in time, we can foster a culture of humanity - together. - Sean Ngo
I think the difficulty with a lot of these problems is that they can’t be legislated away. Even if the political majority of these countries are in support of reform, and subsequent reforms are passed, it still takes a long time for attitudes to change. Change will be rooted in a respect for the dignity of individuals regardless of gender. Such respect cannot be drafted into a law. Herein lies the role governments ought to play in protecting minorities. They must be the vangaurds of change. - Anonymous
Inquire Publication V5 I2 INTERVIEW How did you learn about BIHE? The Bahá'í community is a small and very organized one. People receive the news both via official ways, meaning announcements through Feasts [Bahá'í community gathering], and word of mouth. By the time I wanted to apply to BIHE though, it was not a new thing anymore, but a norm for Iranian Bahá'í students.
purchased by BIHE staff and were mailed to Iran. We would oftentimes end up sharing the books among ourselves. Who were the teachers/professors? What were their qualifications? Until 2005, the instructors were mainly the Bahá'í former professors who had been expelled from the universities after the Revolution. Some of them were physicians whose
“Because we didn’t have the suitable locations or equipment, our classes would be held in the living room of one of the students” What was your experience like during your time as an undergraduate student at BIHE? I think the experience has been unique in many ways, both in the difficulties and the blessings. Because we didn’t have the suitable locations or equipment, our classes would be held in the living room of one of the students. We simply couldn’t afford to have classes more than six times a semester, which meant that the classes were only for question/answer rather than teaching. On the other hand we were blessed with an attitude of love and support that usually bonds the members of an oppressed group.
job wasn’t really teaching in a university, but they had the knowledge in their fields. A few of the instructors were Muslims who wished to help the Institute. In 2005, the Institute started to take a new approach, namely using the opportunity for distant learning through the online education facilities, which paved the way for a huge number of professors around the world to start helping BIHE. What were the risks involved with being a professor, student, administrator associated with BIHE? The main risk has always been imprisonment. For many, this has already happened and there are still many professors and administrators in jail. For hosts of the classes, there has also been a risk of having their property confiscated. This has happened a number of times
“Online education ..... paved the way for a huge number of professors around the world to start helping BIHE.” What course material did you cover? For most of the courses we used the materials used in North American universities to keep our standards comparable to theirs. Some of these resources were actually found in bookstores and other public shops, but many of them were not, and these latter ones were
with regards to our “labs” which had to be held in set locations and obviously couldn’t be moved. Did you feel that the course material you studied was at the standard of most institutions of higher education? When I was in my undergrad, I used to compare our course-
P. 11 work to that of the students in regular universities of Iran, whenever I would get the chance. The cases were limited so I cannot make a general judgement, but I had the impression that we were doing a more difficult job. Here, I have never taken a [undergraduate] course, so I cannot really compare. How have you found the transition from attending BIHE for both your undergraduate degree as well as your Master's degree to Queen's University? As stated, BIHE didn't even have a campus! Forget about labs, offices, classrooms, etc. I have, however, experienced being on a real campus before coming to Queen’s University, at Lyon, France, where I visited the lab of my Master’s supervisor for a couple of months. I have also been into regular universities of Iran, secretly, attending the classes by asking the professor’s permissions and telling them that I was not a student (I officially wasn’t!) and was just eager to attend, and it would work sometimes. But this is the first physically existing university that I belong to, that I can get in without needing a friend coming and signing a “Guest’s Entrance permission” form on my behalf—Iran’s universities are very regulated and you are not allowed into campus, which is surrounded by walls, without being associated with the institution—that I can walk through without worrying about being stopped and sent out. What were some of the unique experiences or opportunities you were exposed to as a student of BIHE? I guess there were many. One of the primary experiences was experiencing all the devotion and love that came about from sharing the difficulties and successes with my classmates. University life can become harsh at times, and you can easily find your instructor being unreasonably demanding or even unkind. But even given all this, there were moments that you would be impressed by the amount of love and support that they would invest in their work. My supervisor during my Master’s hosted me at her home for the duration of my stay there, paid for my travel expenses, and helped me with all the process of getting an entry visa for France. All just to give me a chance to experience working in her lab and have my thesis defence with a jury from her department—BIHE didn’t
have any other experts in her field, except herself—as well as presenting my poster at a conference held in her city. One of my professors who lived in Toronto, which is 8 hours behind Tehran, where I was, had to get up at 5:00 a.m. once every week to have classes with us before she went to work. It was a precious moment for me when I came to Canada and could hug her and see her, after having heard only her voice for years. Studying at BIHE has developed a strong sense of appreciation in me for everything that makes life much more beautiful. How has BIHE changed in recent years? BIHE started as a small group of people dedicated to providing education for those who were deprived of it. Now, it has grown to an Institute with over a thousand students whose goals for education are not limited to just uplifting their personal life situations. BIHE has recently set a more specific direction for its future, and it is contributing to the socioeconomic development of Iran. This has made some huge changes to the dynamics of the institute in several ways. First, because this new model requires a lot of interaction
with the Iranian society at large, it increases the risks that the Institute faces. Second, because the goals have a more social perspective, the attitude of service and sacrifice inside the Institute has intensified, which can sometimes become exhausting. Third, because of the nature of the immediate demands of society, the focus of the Institute might turn into more practical aspects of knowledge, rather than more theoretical approaches. Is there any other information that you think that readers of this publication should know? These alterations to the Institute's structure and programs have increased the risks for individuals associated with BIHE. Now more than ever they need the support of organizations and people in order to continue their work in providing education to those whose rights have been removed, and contributing to the advancement of society. Keep in touch with your university's Campus Association for Bahá'í Studies (CABS) group for updates on campus events to support the Bahá'ís in Iran.
“Now more than ever [BIHE]... to continue their work in providing education to those whose rights have been removed”
FACTS 1. The Bahá’í faith is the youngest independent faith in the world. 2. A central theme in the Bahá’í faith is the unity of humankind, and the need for a global society. 3. The principle responsibility of humankind is to accept unity across all boundaries of race, religion, ethnicity, creed and nation, assisting in the process of unity. 4. The Bahá’í community is 5 million members strong spanning 2112 ethnic groups across 188 countries. 5. Members of the faith come from varied religious backgrounds including Christain, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and many more.
Inquire Publication V5 I2
Commentary: I think this is an important issue to bring to light. I had personally never heard of the Bahai faith prior to this article. I admire the perseverance of all those in providing university education to the those inside and outside Iran. I think this is quite a difficult issue to deal with as those in the Bahai faith do not have much ability to control what goes on inside Iran beside hope to get foreign governments to condemn Iran. The education system helps student pursue valuable education which allows them to continue to suppost Bahai people both inside and outside Iran. I am happy that universities such as Queen’s have chosen to take the important step of recognizing degrees from BIHE. Without this important institutionalization of recognition BIHE students, student opportunities would be limited abroad. - Anonymous
The Iranian regime is attempting to create a cultural ghetto for the Baha’is -- instead of confining the entire community physically, they are systematically depriving them of fundamental rights that allow any community to sustain itself -- the right to an education, the right to make a livelihood, the right to a pension, the right to free assembly, the right to participate in civil activities, etc. It is a conscious attempt to slowly and very deliberately strangle a 300,000 strong minority all the while hoping that the world will not notice) I like to think of it as nothing less than genocide in slow motion. - Rene Steiner I happen to have the pleasure of teaching 16 students at BIHE and some of them have served prison sentences already. As mentioned I am humbled by the resilience and heartfelt commitment of these students to the spirit of excellence and learning. Any system that produces such noble human beings, is deserving of support and admiration of all. - Anonymous
I was wondering how establishment of the Office of Religious Freedom’s and announcement of its first ambassador could help with issues like this around the world. Any Ideas? Sometimes I find it hard to be around other Baha’is be- Saba Far cause of this. I don’t need to be told about the persecution in Iran. I am Baha’i; I already know. The people who do need to know are in the mosque down the street. They are in the churches and synagogs. They are in Starbucks. When I hear this over and over (and over) I think, “I must be in the wrong building. I should be in the building where this is not being said.” - Selah
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Inquire Publication V5 I2
Marijuana Matthew Got McMaster University On December 16, 2012, the Canadian government rolled out yet another policy that was aimed at “improving public safety and maintaining patient access.” Similar catch phrases have been used time and time again, and if anything is to be learned, it is that the government is not telling the whole story. A quick read through Health Canada’s press release reveals that the Medical Marijuana Access Program (MMAP) will be no more— their justification is that the “current medical marijuana regulations have left the system open to abuse.” Currently, the MMAP operates by either granting patients a license to grow marijuana in their homes, or by allowing them to purchase marijuana grown and distributed by the
government for medical use. Patients who chose to purchase from Health Canada are charged $5 per gram, a price heavily subsidized by taxpayers. The size of the MMAP has grown from under 500 authorized patients at its inception in 2002, to over 26,000 patients today. With the proposed changes, the government will no longer grant permission to grow marijuana nor produce marijuana themselves. Instead, the market will be open to companies that meet strict security requirements. Health Canada intends to treat marijuana like they treat other narcotics used for medical purposes. Under the new system, healthcare practitioners would sign a medical document allowing the patient to purchase an appropriate amount
“The market will be open to companies that meet strict security requirements”
of marijuana from the new vendors. With this new system, Health Canada believes there will be greater quality control of the marijuana and that it will be harder to acquire excessive amounts. The changes have garnered applause from both the Association of Fire Chiefs and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police for addressing the unintended impact of the MMAP on public safety, specifically fire hazards and criminal activity. The inconvenient truth is that this policy is neither primarily about public safety nor maintaining patient access. Most strikingly, this policy screams of health cuts, as the government will no longer be subsidizing patients when they purchase their marijuana. As private entities will be given the rights to marijuana production and distribution, this industry will become increasingly dominated by big pharmaceuticals, driving up the marijuana prices and jeopardizing access for low-income patients. Following the changes, MMAP patients who are now no longer permitted to grow their own marijuana or purchase at a discounted price are left with
“This policy is neither primarily about public safety nor maintaining patient access” few options. Those who cannot afford to purchase at the prices set by industry will be left without treatment, forced to continue growing but now illegally or forced to purchase illicitly. If they choose to fix this problem, they will be forced to increase social payments to these patients, undermining their original motive for ending the MMAP. If improving public safety were really a main focus of this latest policy, reforming the MMAP would have been an appropriate move. The current program has a major loophole that has been widely acknowledge but has not been corrected—the production licenses issued do not regulate the amount of electricity used by the patients to grow their marijuana. Since marijuana production is proportional to
the total wattage used, simply regulating the wattage per license would limit the amount of marijuana produced by each patient. This would prevent abuse of the production licenses while addressing many safety issues. The government has been presented with a great opportunity to improve the MMAP for patients. Instead, as the program has gotten bigger and with more patients relying on it, they intend to back out and surrender the program to the private sector. Understandably, there are people currently enrolled in the system that abuse it. However, the appropriate action would be to reform the system so that it is harder to manipulate as in addition to making it safer and more accessible for patients.
Commentary: Outsourcing the marijuana industry to the pharmaceutical sector will absolutely result in higher prices and lower standards as they aim to maximize profits as they do in the prescription drug industry. Prescription drugs are currently the fourth leading cause of death in Canada which doesn’t exactly scream “public health” on behalf of the pharmaceutical sector. Since marijuana has rarely, if ever, caused a death, how are prescription drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol any worse for “public health”? The entire political thought process is based on stigmas and public opinion rather than scientific research which has shown that the plant has medicinal benefits for a range of physiological issues with little health downside. With such little scientific knowledge amongst the political
community, it’s time that scientists were involved in the decision making process. - Jason Campbell It seems the more logical step to take would be to legalize marijuana altogether. I don’t want to delve into the myriad of reasons for supporting legalization, including the immense gaining momentum support for legalization both in Canada and abroad. The point I want to stress is that a lot of the problems that arise from the production and distribution of medical marijuana seem to stem from the illegality of marijuana writ large. - Anonymous
MYopic Inquire Publication V5 I2
Do research advisors favour students who pursue academic careers?
Amanda Ali University of Toronto With Bachelor of Science degree in hand, graduate school is the next logical step for many students. Graduate studies provide a unique opportunity to deepen scientific understanding, broaden research skills, and develop personal strengths. Traditionally, a Master’s degree led to a PhD degree and then a postdoctoral fellowship (post-doc) before applying for a faculty position at a research institution. In our evolving research environment, this trajectory has changed, and several post-docs may now be required before that illusive faculty position is secured. This has resulted in a cohort of highly educated PhD graduates seeking careers outside of academia, but not without repercussions; it appears that research advisors (principal investigators) favour students who pursue academic careers. A survey of PhD students at tier-one institutions in the United States examined the career trends of scientists-in-
training in the field of biology (life sciences), physics, and chemistry (Sauermann and Roach 2012). When given a 5-point scale to indicate the degree to which PhD students are encouraged or discouraged to pursue various careers, more than 70% reported they were “encouraged,” or “strongly encouraged,” to become research faculty. Looking specifically at biology and the life sciences, 53% of PhD students rated “faculty research career” as the most attractive path to pursue, but the influence of their advisors’ “strong encouragement” on their opinion was not addressed. An informal poll of graduate students at the University of Toronto mirrors these sentiments, with many trainees observing first-hand the favour – in the form of time, approval, and support – that is bestowed upon those who intend to pursue academic careers. Academia-bound graduate students may attract their
“Our view of graduate studies should not be limited to the pursuit of academia”
advisors’ attention with their dedicated interest in research (which frequently manifests as increased productivity). Because the success of a principal investigator is reflected by their contribution to science, it is natural for them to favour hard-working pre-scientists who will magnify their scientific contribution by going forth and prospering. When a PhD graduate chooses to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship, it is an outward sign to the field that the advisor has nurtured and developed that student’s passion for science. For the student to go on to their second and third post-doc, and then vanish into an abyss of jobless academics, is a near impossibility in the mind of the beaming advisor. We teach what we know, principal investigators included. They share with their academia-bound students a common passion for science, and this is a tie that binds. Having made the choice to pursue academia themselves, advisors can share personal experiences and offer insight into the trajectory of that particular career path. Understandably, it is within the advisor’s domain of expertise to discuss strategies for a successful post-doc interview, but outside of their expertise to discuss potential careers in government, industry, or business. With this in mind, it seems sensible for advisors to favour those who are interested in pursuing the academic route to ensure that young scientists go on to become senior scientists.
“In our evolving research environment, [the academic] trajectory has changed” So what’s the problem? Very few advisors are willing to admit that these biases exist; perhaps they are subconscious like many other biases. Much like a parent refusing to choose a favourite child, it is taboo for an advisor to openly admit to preferring students who pursue academia; but the students feel it, and they want their advisor’s support. This desire for approval and the weight of an advisor’s “expert” opinion may be enough to push a confused and jaded graduate student down a career path that isn’t right for them. Choosing to pursue a post-doc may only be delaying the inevitable career-path decision, wasting time that could be spent cultivating other skills. Basic economics offers the most compelling argument: the supply of life science PhDs interested in academic positions exceeds the number of available positions (Sauermann and Roach 2012). When advisors push half-interested and less-than-capable gradu-
ates into academic careers, they saturate the field and steal opportunities from the truly gifted. As many disciplines and professional schools offer their trainees guidance and a bridge into the working world, so too should advisors offer graduate students the same support and “encouragement” to pursue careers outside of academia. Our view of graduate studies should not be limited to the pursuit of academia, but should be reconfigured to accommodate the variety of careers at which PhDs can succeed. Research advisors should strive to mitigate preferences and relieve pressures to pursue academia, and instead should help graduate students identify their true talents and find the path that is right for them.
Inquire Publication V5 I2
Commentary: By asking whether research advisors favour certain students (those who are interested in pursuing academia) over others, the author highlights the problem of pushing “confused and jaded” students into a career path they are neither interested in nor capable of, and concludes that supervisors should acknowledge their bias and start treating their students equally. Personally I believe that this bias exists, and should continue to exist. It takes a lot of time and support to craft the best possible scientist out of the raw talent found in graduate students pursuing academia. For this reason, supervisors need to spend more time with academia-bound students because there is no one better, having gone through the process successfully, to advise them in preparation for the long journey ahead. Meanwhile, students interested in working in the industry, government or elsewhere should make use of their institutions’ “alternative careers” seminars and resources to explore other paths they may pursue, and (importantly) to create networks with people in their field of interest. The research advisor cannot be blamed for influencing a ‘confused’ student one way or another when there are plenty of resources
beyond the supervisor that the student could seek out to address their feeling of uncertainty. I do agree that graduate programs should equally support students with interests outside of academia by providing exposure and resources to alternative career paths. However, it is my opinion that individual supervisors have expertise in one particular area, and it is better to focus their efforts on students who will benefit from that expertise the most. - Mushriq Al-Jazrawe A related article was published in Nature, January 2013, entitled “Graduate students: Structured study.” It examines the shift in PhD programs in Europe from the academia-focused system of working under one supervisor (in Germany called ‘Doktorvater’ – “doctor father”) to a ‘structured’ program with more than one supervisor and coursework in variety of topics that can benefit students interested in working outside academia. - Anonymous
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