Volume 103, Issue 22 Thursday, March 13, 2014
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Documents shed light on campus drone research
Drone research at McGill Smoking ban outside McLe≠nnan SSMU finalizes lease negotiations Montrealers march for women worldwide
McGill researchers find a partner in defence agency
PGSS candidates face off
Rejecting beauty as a measure of self-worth The narratives and interactions of urban and rural queerness
On the importance of honeybees
Ghost-like particles in the universe Making cheese with skin bacteria
Education and initative to reduce bystander effect Budget allocations in cancer care in Montreal
Skaters empower youth in Afghanistan and Cambodia
The Daily reviews The cultural appropriation of swag
SSMU must be politicized
20 COMPENDIUM! Ghosts of candidacy websites linger in campaign period Rousing success at SHMU debates
Nicolas Quiazua and Laurent Bastien Corbeil The McGill Daily
esearch at McGill is helping the Canadian military develop drone software for use in combat operations, according to documents obtained through the Access to Information (ATI) Act. Since 2011, the University has received more than $1 million in defence contracts from the Department of National Defence. Inna Sharf, a professor of mechanical engineering at McGill who leads the school’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) research group, has been awarded three such contracts since 2004, exceeding the sum of $500,000. The sponsor, Canadian research facility Defence Research and Development Canada in Suffield (DRDC-Suffield), previously worked with Sharf on the development of the Platform for Ambulating Wheels (PAW), a four-legged ground robot developed at McGill. Sharf’s current project, a contract entitled “Autonomous Support for UAVs” valued at over $380,000, intends to provide UAVs with the ability to land autonomously on static and moving targets, thereby reducing the operator’s workload and enhancing their capabilities for “data collection and surveillance missions.” The research is part of an overall plan by DRDC to develop “small, highly maneuverable UAVs for deployment in urban environments.” DRDC has been fostering intimate ties with universities, including their “academic partners from McGill University.” DRDC-Suffield’s request for proposal, under which Sharf secured the contract, reads, “[UAVs] must not compromise operator safety but provide battle-space awareness that provides a force multiplier to the dismounted soldier unit.” Once completed, UAVs equipped with this technology will be able to “track and intercept” moving targets for autonomous navigation purposes. Preliminary flight tests were carried out indoors in the Aerospace Mechatronics Laboratory, located in the Macdonald Engineering building, and the software was developed using computers from the Centre for Intelligent Machines Laboratory in the McConnell Engineering building. Fields at Macdon-
Alice Shen | The McGill Daily ald campus were suggested as a potential outdoor takeoff and landing site due to their “access to a hangar, secluded open areas, and low rise buildings.” In an interview, Sharf denied the military applications of her research. “My work focuses on making landing and taking off for UAV vehicles more autonomous,” she said. While the technology could be applied to any type of UAV, Sharf emphasized the potential of her work in the civilian world. “There’s many applications: fire surveillance, harvest surveillance [...] Police forces are using UAVs to help them with search and rescue operations. A couple of years ago, there was a successful use of UAVs to locate a person that had a car accident and that went out into the woods,” she said. “Without UAVs, they wouldn’t have found them.” The research is still at an early stage, and the technology, Sharf noted, is not yet ready for outside use. “I’m hoping more civilian companies will make use of this research. [...] The commercial development of UAVs is still nascent, and we don’t have big companies in Canada that would be interested in funding this research, but ultimately, they will be the beneficiary of this research.”
Under the terms of the contract, the federal government owns the intellectual property rights to the work performed at McGill. Sharf, and the team under her supervision, can only use the product of their research for publication and academic purposes. DRDCSuffield is not responsible for the potential applications of the technology it develops, and only the Canadian Forces can determine how the research is used. But Sharf, along with Michael Trentini, a DRDC-Suffield researcher who is listed as the contract’s technical authority, have written about the potential applications of unmanned vehicle research. In 2006 Sharf and Trentini cosigned a paper addressing the utility of Unmanned Ground Vehicles “if they are to be used in military relevant roles and environments.” “[Unmanned] Ground Vehicles will be called upon to enter unknown city blocks to keep soldiers out of harm’s way,” they wrote. “[Unmanned Ground Vehicles] will contribute to homeland security, search and rescue, and peacekeeping roles abroad.” At McGill, professors and graduate students are responsible for initiating the majority of the school’s research collaborations. “Research contracts, on the other hand, can be initiated by third
parties – often because the third party is seeking university researchers’ input to solve a problem or issue,” Rose Goldstein, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations), wrote in an email. “In all cases the researchers have complete freedom to decide if they want to engage in a research collaboration project or a service contract,” she wrote. “McGill researchers conduct research with integrity and adhere to the highest ethical standards,” Goldstein said. Two weeks ago, a group of protesters blocked the entrance to laboratories in the Macdonald Engineering building. The action was part of the ongoing Demilitarize McGill campaign, an effort by students to disrupt military research on campus. Last year, members of the group filed several ATI requests to obtain information on the University’s defence research. In October, the Commission d’accès a l’information ruled against the University in a legal dispute in which the University alleged that it had been subject to a “complex system of repetitious and abusive requests” by students and journalists. The ATIs remained unanswered for over a year until January, when the University settled with the respondents.
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March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Redpath terrace to ban smoking Post-grads endorse Library’s plan to go smoke-free Jill Bachelder The McGill Daily
uring its February session, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Council approved a motion to endorse the McGill Library’s plan to designate the McLennan-Redpath terrace as a smoke-free environment. The plan, which has also been endorsed by the University Health and Safety Committee as well as the Senate Committee on Physical Development, will be reviewed in one year to determine whether or not the designation should be continued. The motion was brought to the table by PGSS Academic Affairs Officer Adam Bouchard. “I motivated the motion by describing how the redesigned space funnels all users through a single entrance that was being heavily used by smokers,” Bouchard told The Daily in an email. “In addition, the cigarette waste generated was killing all the plants, as the butts were not being put into
the ash trays.” Bouchard has been involved in discussions with the Library’s administrative staff, who have been trying to devise a strategy to decrease the amount of smoking on the terrace since it opened for use in January. “Student input helped define the size and scope [of the smoke-free area], in addition to the timeline,” wrote Bouchard. “We were quite involved.” The Library began its initiative after receiving dozens of complaints about smoking on the terrace. “Because we now have one entrance and exit for the main library [...] almost anybody who has to come in from the door has to walk through where a lot of people are smoking,” Trenholme Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook told The Daily. “We got an enormous number of complaints from students about smoking and about having to walk through [crowds of ] people who are smoking, as well as staff and other users.” According to Cook, complaints have also been made about the
large number of cigarette butts that litter the library’s entrance. According to Diane Koen, Senior Director, Planning and Resources for the McGill University Library, the Library has been discussing the issue with McGill Health and Safety, the Dean of Students, the Head of Facilities, and security, as well as student organizations such as the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU), Sustainability McGill, and PGSS. The Library hopes to officially launch the terrace as smoke-free on May 1, according to Merika Ramundo, the Library’s Communications Officer. Students and staff smoking on the terrace will be unaffected until the end of the Winter term. When told about the initiative, smokers outside McLennan seemed surprised but accommodating. “It would be annoying, but we’re used to smokers getting less space to smoke,” said an IT Technician who works for the Library. Zine, a U3 Political Science student who was smoking on the
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily terrace, noted that he did not understand why the entire area should be smoke-free. To accommodate those who would normally smoke on the terrace, the Library will establish two designated smoking areas just outside the terrace: one to the north beside Morrice Hall and the other in front of Redpath Library. The Library will put up signs to distinguish smoke-free areas and areas
designated for smoking. When asked how the smoking zones will be enforced, Cook told The Daily that, “There is no big enforcement, there’s no way that we could do that anyway. This has to be a cultural change. [...] It’s a very gentle recognition that we have a problem and it’s everybody’s problem, and hopefully we can create something and keep it very nice for everybody.”
SSMU and McGill sign Shatner building lease Agreement comes after four years of negotiations Juan Velásquez-Buriticá The McGill Daily
fter several years of negotiations, the McGill administration and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) signed the lease of the student union building last week. The agreed-upon lease spans ten years, from 2011 to 2021, and ascribes one quarter of utilities expenses to SSMU, a cost previously taken on entirely by the University. The signed lease sees an increase in rent costs with SSMU paying $130,000 in rent for the current academic year, as well as $100,000 in energy costs. Rent will continue to increase by $5,000 a year up to $165,000 in the 2020-21 academic year, and energy costs will increase yearly according to inflation. Under the newly-signed lease, SSMU will pay a total of $230,000 for the 2013-14 year, whereas it paid a total of $110,000 in 201011, the final year covered by the
previous lease. The Society will seek to cover these increased costs by introducing a non-opt-outable student fee of $6.08 per semester for full-time students and $3.04 per semester for part-time students. The fee would also be indexed to a rate of 5.6 per cent to cover yearly increases in rent and utilities. The implementation of these fees, however, is up for approval by undergraduate students in the upcoming winter referendum. Throughout the negotiations, the duration and financial responsibilities of the building’s utilities were the main points of contention. SSMU VP University Affairs Joey Shea told The Daily in an interview that “most other student associations within Canada pay a symbolic $1 for their rent, or their structure is different and they don’t pay anything.” According to Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) (DPSLL) Ollivier Dyens, the University asked SSMU to assume the
utility costs due to constraints in McGill’s financial situation. “It’s just because it’s very expensive. We are still paying for three quarters of the utility costs, and we are having budgetary issues, same as SSMU. We have to be responsible to our constituents, the university, the way SSMU has to do the same thing with its members,” Dyens told The Daily. Shea also said that the way McGill chose to negotiate with SSMU delayed the signing of the lease. Following various instances of miscommunication between the two parties, Shea and SSMU President Katie Larson decided to negotiate with the Deputy Provost directly. “The most important decision that we made this year was asking McGill to send the DPSLL and not a proxy from McGill Legal to the negotiation table. Having a more clear line of communication definitely made it easier to come to agreements. It is clear to me that being able to talk to the DPSLL di-
rectly made it easier to get SSMU’s concerns and points across, since they were not going through a third party,” Larson told The Daily in an email. The first public impasse in negotiations came in 2011, when SSMU signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) – a document that outlines McGill and SSMU’s legal rights and responsibilities to each other – but decided against signing the lease. At the time, thenSSMU President Maggie Knight expressed financial concerns over a structure that required SSMU to “take over the responsibilities of the utilities.” The 2012-13 SSMU executive, led by then-President Josh Redel, also publicly expressed concerns when it drafted a letter stating, “These negotiations could vastly affect student fees by mandating a significant increase to the SSMU base fee in order to maintain continued operations.” “We understand that running a building costs money, but this is a
contribution to the entire McGill community that SSMU needs help with in order to operate. Student life on the McGill campus has a massive value for the University, and we ask that McGill acknowledges [sic] this in ways more tangible than philosophical agreements,” the executive wrote. Despite these disagreements, both Shea and Dyens stated that a major part of the negotiation was done in the previous years by different teams of executives and administrators. Shea commented on the difficulty of the negotiation process, despite being satisfied at the completion of the process after four years. “You reach a point where you realize that there is a huge power differential between SSMU and McGill and no matter what we are going to be in this building and they are pretty much setting the terms of the negotiation,” Shea said. “After four years of negotiations there comes a point where you have to sign something.”
March 13, 2014 The McGill Daily | www.mcgilldaily.com
Smashing the “glass cage” of insecurity Annual International Women’s Day sees strong support in Montreal Hannah Besseau The McGill Daily
very year, March 8 marks International Women’s Day, which draws attention to social and institutional gender inequalities across the globe. In Montreal, the day is celebrated with citywide events and demonstrations, such as the annual march, which has been organized since 2002 by the March 8 Committee of Women of Diverse Origins. “There has been a very strong tradition of celebrating Women’s Day in Montreal,” Dolores Chew, President of the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, told McGill’s community radio station CKUT after the march. “We started organizing [the March 8 demonstration] because we felt that minority women – [meaning]
women who were minorities either because of race, of language, age, any reason – were not getting out [to the demonstrations].” Despite Montreal’s strong participation in International Women’s Day, for some it has not been without skepticism. “I think that [International Women’s Day] is often a thing that is co-opted by a lot of white Western women,” McGill student and staffer at the Union for Gender Empowerment Nicholle Savoie told The Daily. “There’s this idea of solidarity in a woman’s experience, but this idea of a woman’s experience really often means a white, middle-class, Western woman’s experience,” Savoie said. “I’m not totally convinced of this idea of women as a whole, because I think that can often really [hide] difference of oppression.” The theme of this year’s March
8 demonstration in Montreal was solidarity against precarity. According to Chew, the theme was meant to encompass the structural barriers that women, particularly minority women, face. “It’s about the precariousness and insecurity of the lives of many women. [These can be] caused by things like economic austerity measures taken by governments that hit hardest the most vulnerable populations, [which are] usually women and other minorities.” “The theme is on precariousness with regard to issues of health, reproductive health, [and] sexual violence,” Chew added. “We felt that more than ever we needed to draw attention to the precariousness of women’s lives.” The day’s events began with a public meeting held at Dawson College, followed by the march.
The march hosted speakers from different community organizations in Montreal, including the Filipino Women’s organization PINAY. “[Since the typhoon] many women are still living in migration centres, or makeshift tents in their communities, which exposes them to greater health risks and genderbased violence,” a representative from PINAY told the crowd of demo attendees. “After the aftermath of the typhoon, a number of rape incidents were reported, and because of the lack of work and livelihood, many women are prone to [being trafficked].” The subtitle of this year’s theme was “smash the glass cage.” Chew explained that despite people believing that there is legal equality and the public recognition of official women’s rights, in many parts of the world, there “are so many
factors that keep women down, keep them back. So it’s a glass cage; it’s there but it’s not always as evident.” She added that often people’s experience was very different than legal forms of equality. This year’s Women’s Day event also drew attention to the Charter of Values proposed by the Parti Quebecois (PQ), which seeks to ban all religious symbols for public employees in Quebec. “The PQ’s Charter of Values was topmost on the minds of many of us [on the committee],” Chew said. “Not because we felt there is a problem with secularism, but we were really opposed to the way the government was using the notion of secularism to target vulnerable populations, particularly Muslim women and making an issue where there wasn’t and generating so much racism and xenophobia.”
PGSS executive candidates face off in debate Heated discussion over upcoming Midnight Kitchen referendum question Igor Sadikov The McGill Daily
he Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) held its second hustings of this election period on Tuesday at Thomson House. Executive candidates, as well as chairpersons for referendum question committees, debated and answered questions in front of a crowd of around 40. CFS court case and mental health Many of the candidates’ platforms noted the necessity of ending PGSS’s ongoing legal battle with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). PGSS has been involved in the court case since the CFS refused to recognize the result of a disaffiliation referendum held by PGSS in 2010. When asked for their position on the issue, all of the candidates reiterated their commitment to leaving the federation. “I personally think that the CFS is one of the most corrupt organizations I have ever encountered, and the sooner we can leave, the better,” said Nikki Meadows, Financial Affairs Officer candidate. Internal Affairs candidate GeSa and Member Services candidate Brighita Lungu raised mental
health as a major issue for graduate students. Current Member Services Officer Elizabeth Cawley asked the candidates what they would do in their position to improve students’ mental health. “We need to sit down professors and staff at McGill and tell them: we do have a problem,” said Juan Camilo Pinto, Secretary-General candidate. “We need an honest debate on how professors are handling this issue with their students. Are they actually aware that there is a huge problem at McGill?” Jennifer Murray, one of the candidates for Academic Affairs Officer, spoke to the necessity of raising awareness and destigmatizing mental health. She emphasized her desire to work on improving studentsupervisor relationships to ensure that students are “academically engaged, happy, and able to complete their work on time in the way that they want to.” In the debate period, Murray’s opponent Behrang Sharif cast doubt on Murray’s level of preparation for the position, noting that her first PGSS Council attendance was “last month.” Murray countered later that, while new, she has the necessary enthusiasm and leadership experience for the position.
All other candidates – who are all running as a slate, which has a common platform – did not take part in debates, as they are running unopposed for their respective positions. Midnight Kitchen and Athletics fees McGill Graduate Association of Political Studies Students representative Lorenzo Daieff urged PGSS members to vote in favour of a fee levy of $0.50 per semester to allow the Midnight Kitchen collective to expand its operations. The Midnight Kitchen provides free daily vegan lunches to around 250 students, and is currently exclusively financed by an undergraduate fee levy of $3.25 per semester. Jonathan Mooney, current Secretary-General and chairperson of the ‘No’ committee for this question, objected to the fee levy on the grounds that the Midnight Kitchen, as a SSMU service, is not accountable to PGSS. He contrasted it with other services like CKUT, where PGSS members sit on the board of directors. Daieff responded that some members of the collective are, in fact, graduate students. An audience member expressed surprise at the intensity of the debate, remarking that the fee only
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily amounts to $6 after a six-year PhD program. Daieff added that the fee would also be opt-outable. “If you don’t want to pay $6 dollars over the course of your PhD because you want to use that for research funding, you can.” Adam Bouchard, current Academic Affairs Officer, recommended that PGSS members approve a non-opt-outable $3 dollar per semester fee to the Athletics Building Improvement Fund, which would help finance a turf
improvement project on the McTavish Reservoir. Cawley voiced her support for the project, but spoke against the fee levy, asserting that the Athletics budget is mismanaged. According to Cawley, graduate students should oppose the fee levy as a tactic to send the message that McGill Athletics “should look at their budgeting.” The PGSS election and referendum period runs from March 13 to 21.
Financial Statements April 30, 2013
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Reclaiming beauty How I learned to value myself as something other than an object of beauty Frances Calingo Commentary Writer Trigger warning: this article discusses topics of anxiety, depression, and fatphobia.
t age 10, I begin sucking in my stomach. An unsightly composition of stunted limbs and a plump midsection, I have passed my years of cuteness and entered the awkward tango of adolescence. My cheeks are round and perpetually sanguine, my face covered in unfortunately-placed hair. In gym class my skin jiggles and sweats while the skin of my peers remains still and dry. I learn from schoolyard bullies that it’s not okay to be fat or ugly. At age 10, I am fat and ugly. Worse than that, I am terribly selfconscious and convinced that everyone in the world is judging me at all times. The obvious remedy to any insecurity, any major character ailment, is to fix the way I look. The logic is that I will be a better person if I become a betterlooking person. *** At age 12, I begin my first diet. It consists of egg white spinach omelettes and low fat yogurt. I shoot sad hoops alone in my driveway. When I finish, I go inside and lay down on a carpeted floor, doing stomach crunches until the carpet burns itself into my back. I polish it off by weighing myself — the scale reads 112, sometimes 114. On the days it reads 114, I do extra crunches. I manage to stay under 115 pounds for an entire year, a feat that feels like the biggest accomplishment of my life. *** At age 15, I join the cross-country team, mostly to see if I can do it. In a three month period, I lose 20 pounds and gain the ability to run 60 consecutive minutes without dying. I feel strong; my body is an incredible machine, and I am the proud owner of an organ that never fails to surprise me. People tell me that I look great. I am flattered but confused. I had measured my progress in the miles I could run as opposed to the clothes I could comfortably wear. *** At age 16, I have my most serious depressive episode to date. My
Tanbin Rafee | The McGill Daily daily routine consists of staying at school until 6 p.m., napping until 10 p.m., crying until 1 a.m., and eating at 1:30 a.m. until I feel mentally ready to do homework. I engage in a variety of self-destructive behaviours and thought patterns. I spend my waking moments in a hypersensitive, intensely anxious state. My mind races and I can’t slow it down. I start to have panic attacks and I can’t calm myself down. I gain 40 pounds in the interim. My jeans stretch with my body until the fabric can no longer handle the stress — my thighs rub together when I walk, and the denim thins until it rips entirely. I feel hopeless, worthless, and fat. When I seek help, some people suggest that I lose weight. They argue that the lipid cells in my system impede hormonal regulation. They claim that being slimmer would correct my emotional imbalance, remedy my mental instability. And of course, they only operate with the best intent. They only mention my body because they’re “concerned about my health.” I walk away feeling unsupported and alienated. It takes a lot of effort to open up about my depression and anxiety; these issues
are deliberately internalized, consciously obscured. When I finally excavate them, intending to get to the root, they are again eclipsed by the physical (something visible for others to fixate on, a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’ by carefully injected, well-meaning commentary). *** At age 17, my first real boyfriend insists that I am beautiful. He gazes lovingly at my pudgy little flaps of upper arm flab. He tells me I am gorgeous and valuable; I wonder why I have to be gorgeous to be valuable. I don’t learn to love myself by loving someone else. A relationship doesn’t save me from that perpetual chorus of doubt, indecision, and insecurity in my head. It still repeats its horrible refrain, howling that I’m worthless unless I’m an object of mass desire, that the love of a few wonderful people is meaningless unless it’s supplemented by the love of a larger social unit. No amount of approval is ever enough. I can’t accept compliments because I can’t ever believe that I deserve them. No amount of external validation is suf-
ficient if you don’t feel attractive. *** Today, I am 20 years old. I don’t write from personal experience to indulge a demon. I have nothing I wish to publicly exorcise, no catharsis to be reached. I don’t want sympathy. Instead, I write as an exercise of empathy. Having discussed the subject at length with several friends, I’m convinced that my experiences aren’t unique. In fact, they’re devastatingly prevalent. We live in a world that privileges physical beauty, and the dominant social construction especially privileges those of specific body types and ability levels. Race, gender presentation, and class also get thrown into the mix. While the argument could be made that we’re moving toward a more inclusive society, we’ve still got work to do. I don’t deny that expanding the definition of physical beauty is important. It can be really empowering for someone who hasn’t always felt attractive to believe that they are beautiful and worthy of love. I also don’t mean to suggest that it’s wrong to want to feel beautiful and lovable. Those are very human emotions that
deserve validation. What I mean, in the simplest terms I can muster, is that we can’t ever fully move past the oppression of beauty if we keep using physical beauty to define personal worth. Even expanding subjective standards of beauty to include more varied aesthetics wouldn’t address the fact that we’re still taught to relate value with beauty. We’d still learn to love ourselves because we’re objects of beauty, whether or not it’s externally determined. Instead, I’d like to see a move toward rooting self-love in something other than beauty. I want to see individuals value themselves because they are complex, multifaceted, and very human. I think if I could talk to my tenyear-old self, if I could somehow bridge a gap of several spaces and dimensions, I’d tell her that she doesn’t need to be pretty and skinny to be worthy. She doesn’t need to be beautiful to love herself; and by extension, no one else does. Frances Calingo is a U3 Middle Eastern Studies, Anthropology, and International Development student. To contact Frances, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Out of the closet and into the city Addressing my urban-queer superiority complex Eric White White Noise
ike many university students these days, especially those also pursuing Arts degrees, I look toward the future in this constantly changing and hectic world with blank, undiscerning eyes. I often wonder to myself how the hell I am going to fit into this world. Part of my musing includes wondering where I’ll live when I’m older. I can’t really see myself moving back to suburban New Jersey, but New York is obviously pretty cool. Living in utopian Canada has jaded my view of the U.S. though, so maybe I should consider staying here: I love Montreal, but am skeptical on whether or not I’d be able to learn enough French to completely integrate into this city. I often wonder if my queerness will resign me to always living in large, urban areas. I knew very little about Montreal before coming to school here, but as I made the decision to come here as a closeted teenager, I hoped it would be a good place to figure my queer self out. It has far surpassed the few expectations I had. It’s a common narrative: a queer person coming to the city from a rural area or small town, escaping closeminded communities, unaccepting family members, and small-town mentalities. Although I don’t identify with all those conditions, cities offer a solution to unprecedented numbers of people of all shapes, colours, sizes, and of course, sexual preferences.
It’s a common narrative: a queer person coming to the city from a rural area or small town, escaping close-minded communities, unaccepting family members, and small-town mentalities. Whether on purpose or inadvertently, cities seem to be the places where queer communities form, a fact with historical precedent. It was not until the late 19th century,
following powerful forces of urbanization across Europe and North America, that same-sex relations led to the creation of a ‘homosexual identity,’ challenging the perception that these were merely sinful acts anyone was capable of. Bert Hansen’s chapter in Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History outlines the medicalization of homosexuality in North America in the last decades of the 19th century. Although homosexuality was stigmatized as a disease, the rise of sexologists across Europe and North America pioneered an important recognition and acknowledgement of (what was then termed) ‘the homosexual.’ In the U.S., Hansen remarks that urbanization in the 19th century brought people away from their family-farming communities and toward cities, offering greater opportunities for people – first men, and later women – to pursue sex differently. Those with same-sex desires seemed to find each other. As meeting places such as bars and parks formed, leading to clashes with doctors, reformers, and police, these communities developed a greater sense of self-awareness. Throughout the first half of the 20th century in the U.S., which brought new waves of urbanization, cities continued to be the sites of relaxed sexual morals, offering greater opportunities for sexual experimentation and fulfillment. Since then, what is considered the ‘gay liberation movement’ of the 1960s and 1970s, marked by events such as the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969, was focused on urban areas. Similarly, AIDS activism in the 1980s and 1990s was centred in San Francisco and New York, where large populations of gay men meant many people were affected by the epidemic. This is a cursory look at queer history, but it is nonetheless easy to focus on cities when examining the advances and changes in perception of queer people. Today, queer communities still seem to have the greatest visibility and recognition in urban centres. Nevertheless, contemporary writers, many of them in Canada, have focused on reclaiming the notion of the rural queer, establishing themselves as more relevant to LGBTQ populations than previously recognized. Lesley Marple, an LGBTQ advocate based in Nova Scotia, writes about the privileging of urban queerness and the need for greater interaction between queer communities in Rural Queers? The Loss of the Rural in Queer. According to Marple, “Within
Catherine Polcz | The McGill Daily the broader queer community, the rural queer needs space to talk about areas of struggle, without being dismissed with the familiar quote ‘why don’t you just move to the city?’ as though urban life is the solution to queer challenges.” Rural queer people need space to be respected and acknowledged, instead of disregarded and undermined. I definitely find myself guilty of an urban-queer superiority complex, and Marple’s call for greater interaction, without urban queer people belittling the lifestyle choices of their rural counterparts, is valid and salient. With greater recognition and respect, increased solidarity between the various queer communities could result in increased visibility and acceptance of rural queer people, both by their urban counterparts and broader communities. The advancement of rural queerness, with activism focused outside cities, can only mean greater visibility, acceptance, and progress for more LGBTQ populations.
Although articles such as Marple’s have helped me gain greater respect for rural queer people, at this point in my life, I know a city is where I need to be. In part it’s my personality; I like to be around people and am extroverted in some ways. I found integrating into Montreal’s queer community difficult at first, but have since enjoyed and benefited from interacting with more queer people. If I had gone to college in New Jersey, the only other option I considered besides coming to Montreal, I can’t see myself having become the gender-fucking, sparkly nail polishwearing, proud queer that I am today. I couldn’t wait to get out of my stuffy, conservative New Jersey town where I still don’t feel completely comfortable being the person I am. While I’ve had friends from small towns and rural areas struggle with their sexualities, many queer friends from urban areas tell stories of coming out at younger ages, sometimes with easier transitions. Of course, it’s all based on context, and everyone’s
journey of sexual self discovery is different. Marple asserted that urban and rural queer people have various privileges, face different struggles, and confront diverse challenges. I can’t help but see cities as the places where the largest queer communities will exist, be recognized, and mobilize. Cities have been centres of queer activism, and they will continue to be. However, that’s not to diminish the importance and credibility of rural queer people. The unity of various queer communities could mean stronger activism and a greater push for equality, acceptance, and respect. Above all, I hope a conglomeration of queer communities means allowing for any queer person to be who they want to be – free of judgment, violence, and discrimination. White Noise is a column exploring what it means to identify as gay or queer in McGill and Montreal communities. Eric can be reached at email@example.com.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
THE BUZZ ON BEES How honeybees are dying off in droves and why it matters for the world’s agricultural system
Photographs and Written by Clara Paryó
oneybees are more important than you probably think. They’re responsible for the pollination of about one third of the fruits and vegetables we consume; without them, those agricultural products would likely not be pollinated properly. According to a 2011 United Nations press release, “of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food, over 70 are pollinated by bees.” Unfortunately, the combination of pesticides, land use change, and Varroa destructor (a parasitic mite that feeds on honey bees’ bodily fluids) have led to the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) phenomenon, which is caused in
part by bee deaths leaving the colony with too few members to function. In recent winters, Canadian beekeepers have lost over 30 per cent of their bees. The McGill Apicultural Association (MAA), which has bee hives on Macdonald campus, lost about 50 per cent of its bees in 2011. A class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been identified in particular as being responsible for CCD because of the way it attacks bees’ immune systems and makes them vulnerable to certain viral diseases. This year, after a significant lobbying effort by the MAA, McGill agreed to stop using neonicotinoids on its crops, an important first step towards reversing CDD.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Pollination is defined as the process of transferring pollen, which contains the genetic material of flowers, from the male part of the plant (the stamen), to the female part of the plant (the stigma). Pollinators, such as bees, eat nectar or pollen, and, through this foraging behaviour, move pollen from flower to flower, pollinating them. Pollination is necessary for plant fertilization and is a required step before fertile seeds can spread and next season’s plants can grow.
Beekeepers use smoke to protect themselves from getting stung. Smoke works by masking defensive hormones released by “guardian bees” – thereby temporarily shutting down the hive’s defensive response and allowing the beekeeper to safely open the hive.
For more information on colony collapse disorder, beekeeping at McGill, or an upcoming documentary on the subject, go to thedocumentaryprojectmcgill.wordpress.com.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
“Does This Dark Matter Make My Galaxy Look Fat?” Looking for ghost-like particles in the universe Daniel Vosberg Sci+Tech Writer
magine a substance that you can neither touch nor see, but that makes up a majority of what we consider to be reality. You can read these words because of the light bouncing off your page or screen. This is visible light, which makes up a tiny portion of what’s known as the electromagnetic spectrum. There is a large amount of this spectrum that we cannot see – wavelengths of light that are shorter or longer than visible light. Though invisible to the naked eye, these wavelengths are measurable with specialized instruments. We build our representations of reality from these electromagnetic interactions. But there’s more to the universe than meets the eye. Physicists have uncovered evidence of a chunk of the universe that does not interact with electromagnetic energy whatsoever. No human or instrument will ever see or touch it. This substance is known as dark matter. Dark matter neither emits nor reflects light. It freely passes through objects and is eight times more abundant than ‘ordinary’ matter. Extraordinary claims about these ghost-like particles demand extraordinary evidence. Gil Holder, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at McGill, recently gave a Public Astro Night lecture entitled “Does This Dark Matter Make My Galaxy Look Fat?” In his lecture, Holder first explained that observable mass (stars, gas, and dust) is concentrated at the centre of galaxies. More mass is associated with greater gravitational fields, and consequently, faster rotational velocities – the speed at which stars and gas clouds orbit around a galaxy’s centre. Based on this observation, cosmologists predicted that rotational velocity of celestial bodies would decrease as the distance from the center of the galaxy increases. This means that the farther an object is away from the centre of the galaxy,
Eleanor Milman | The McGill Daily the slower it would rotate; however, to scientists’ surprise, measurements obtained by astronomer Vera Rubin revealed that rotational velocities remained approximately the same. Mysteriously, there is not nearly enough observable mass at the outskirts of galaxies to account for the observation that rotational velocities stayed relatively the same. In fact, eight times more mass than that which is observable would be required to explain this discrepancy. This either means that there is an invisible source of mass or physicists profoundly misunderstand gravity. Hence, even though Einstein’s general relativity theory of gravity is consistent with every scientific observation to date, some physicists believe that gravity needs to be reconceptualized. Large masses such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies have large gravitational fields that bend the fabric of space-time, bending the paths of light. When two gal-
axies align, one in the foreground and one in the background, astrophysicists can determine the mass of the closer galaxy by measuring the mass-induced distortion of light. Curiously, the number eight appears again – eight times more mass than the observable mass is required to produce the light distortions observed by scientists. In a follow-up interview, The Daily asked Holder if it’s possible that dark matter has an extremely tiny, but thus far undetectable interaction with light. While admitting the possibility, he explained, “The problem is that light interacts far more strongly with ordinary matter than any other force. If there were some interaction, it would be hard to understand why it would be so weak compared to any other particle in the universe.” Dark matter is hypothesized to interact via the weak force, one of the fundamental forces of nature. The weak force “[accounts for] all the things that dark matter does,”
Holder stated; however, he admitted that this is only a plausible hypothesis and more evidence is required. It is only hypothesized that dark matter interacts via the weak force, and there is only indirect evidence of its gravitational interaction. Further, he explained that if dark matter only interacts with the force of gravity, then it would never be detected. He speculated that there may be “interesting interactions of dark matter that have no coupling with our world except through gravity.” In order to detect dark matter, cosmologists have conducted underground experiments to shield their instruments from cosmic rays (sources of noise). The hope is to find evidence of dark matter interacting via the weak force; so far, however, dark matter has not been directly detected. Cosmologists estimate that the universe is made of 4.9 per cent observable matter, 26.8 per cent dark matter, and 68.3 per cent of anoth-
er strange entity called dark energy. It’s believed that dark energy is responsible for the accelerating expansion of our universe. As cosmologists and astrophysicists continue their efforts to render dark matter scientifically measurable, we can appreciate the astounding fact of how little we perceive (or understand) of the universe. Historically, humans declared themselves as masters of a planet they believed to be the centre of the universe. Scientists have revealed that our tiny world orbits an ordinary star among hundreds of billions in an ordinary galaxy among hundreds of billions. Further discouraging our irrational self-importance, cosmologists have revealed that all the ingredients for making staplers, humans, and galaxies constitute only a tiny fraction of reality; however, I would rather be an insignificant inhabitant of a vastly more interesting cosmos than the delusional ruler of a boring world.
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March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Cheese for thought Synthesizing cheese from human bacteria Inna Tarabukhina & Celine Caira Sci+Tech Writers
hen was the last time you caught a whiff of a smelly human foot? It probably wasn’t too pleasant. Perhaps it even reminded you of moldy cheese. But did it really smell that bad? There are cultural factors at play that might have influenced your reaction. We go about our daily lives surrounded by a rich variety and an enormous number of microorganisms; yet our society strives for total antisepsis, and our culture praises the clean and antibacterial. Our milk is pasteurized, and nearly anything we purchase is plasticwrapped and disinfected to hygienic perfection. A consequence of this hyper-sanitation could result in filtering out all smells that we don’t want. This is problematic, considering that smells and bacteria are crucial to the way in which we define, situate, and understand ourselves in relation to our environment. The intersection between smell and microbial communities is what led Christina Agapakis, a postdoctoral research fellow in synthetic biology at the University of California-Los Angeles, to explore whether knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food improve our toler-
ance to the bacteria on our body and in our environment. When Agapakis enrolled in a doctoral program to study biological and biomedical science at Harvard, she knew she was looking for a way to marry the disciplines of biology and engineering. One of her goals was to design technologies that would be useful to people beyond the lab while embracing the incorporation of a broad range of interests, methods, and concerns to synthetic biology. “Designing and developing a technology involves much more than the technical aspects of the genes and cells involved,” remarked Agapakis. Applications in synthetic biology require the consideration of many contexts at once, some more surprising than others. These include the cell itself, the interacting genes and proteins, and the designed organism’s environment. Researchers must also consider the social, political, and economic integration contexts of their work. Since her doctoral research, which focused mostly on the cellular context of synthetic biology, Agapakis has turned to the exploration of the ecological, environmental, social, and cultural contexts – a demonstration that science is moving toward interdisciplinary integration with a greater emphasis on the big
picture. “[I work] with microbiologists and ecologists, as well as artists, designers, and social scientists on research about microbial diversity and the many complex symbiotic interactions between microbial communities and between microbes and humans,” Agapakis explained. Agapakis began the “Cheese Project” during her residency with Synthetic Aesthetics, a research program that brings together artists and scientists to explore the social and cultural aspects of synthetic biology. Agapakis paired with Sissel Tolaas, an odour researcher based in Berlin who studies how smells shape our experience of the world. As a part of her research, Tolaas creates odours we usually identify as unpleasant and try to cover up and “de-odourize”. She aims to recontextualizes these odours, challenging the spectator to reconsider their initial emotional response to “good” or “bad” smells. Through their collaboration, Agapakis and Tolaas found that many of the skin bacteria involved in producing body odour are identical to the chemicals found in cheese. ”Despite being identical, the different contexts that we find these bacteria and these smells in really shapes our experience of the smell,” noted Agapakis. Before long, Agapakis and Tolaas began making their own
Photo courtesy of Christina Agapakis
“[The] vision for the future of biotechnology is one that looks a little more like cheesemaking and a little less like computer chips, embracing rather than covering up the sometimes smelly and ‘dirty’ aspects of microbial communities in all their complexity.” Christina Agapakis Postdoctoral fellow, UCLA
Photo courtesy of Christina Agapakis
cheese, using pasteurized milk supplemented with starter bacteria cultures isolated from human skin. The two researchers produced “cheese portraits”: different cheeses made from microbial samples from many different people. “These aren’t cheeses for eating, they are ‘food for thought’ to challenge some of our cultural biases about odours and about the role of bacteria in our lives,” says Agapakis. Although the future of science and technology may look sleek and encased in stainless steel, Agapakis sees it a bit differently. From her
viewpoint, “[The] vision for the future of biotechnology is one that looks a little more like cheesemaking and a little less like computer chips, embracing rather than covering up the sometimes smelly and ‘dirty’ aspects of microbial communities in all their complexity.” Agapakis’ holistic approach to science goes beyond the cultural biases associated with odours to the social issues surrounding women in science. “It was not very long ago when scientists seriously debated whether too much reading would make women infertile, presenting blatant sexism and discrimination under the banner of ‘objective’ science,” she reminded us. For her, feminist science is about recognizing cultural biases and being conscious of one’s position as a scientist and as a person. She reminds all scientists to strive for objectivity through awareness and inclusion of diverse voices in the scientific discourse. While synthetic biology and feminism may appear quite distant from one another on the academic spectrum, Agapakis sees that the separation of arts and science hides important ideas and methods. The hope for interdisciplinary research is that it will make people increasingly aware of the role that culture, emotion, and aesthetics play in the advancement of science and technology. Christina Agapakis will be one of the keynote speakers at this year’s Ampersand: the Conference, organized by the Bachelor of Arts and Science integrative Council (BASIC) on March 21 and 22. To see her speak, join the Ampersand McGill Facebook group and follow the link to buy your tickets ($7 for two days, $5 for one day).
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Everybody doing nothing Overcoming the bystander effect through self-initiative
Midori Nishioka | Illustrator Joelle Dahm The McGill Daily
ou’re at a party and you’re having fun. In the corner of your eye, you notice a very drunk individual hitting on someone. The person of desire is obviously not interested, but the inebriated person does not seem to care. You’re not sure if you should say something, so you look around to see what other people are doing. No one else is intervening either. At this point, you might just convince yourself that this is none of your business and continue enjoying the party. Perhaps when you wake up the next morning, you’ll wonder if the situation ended up being okay, but you’ll never know. This phenomenon is called the bystander effect and refers to a situation in which the likelihood of a person to help someone in distress stands in an inverse correlation to the number of people present. The larger the number of other possible helpers, the higher the probability for diffusion of individual responsibilities. A study published in the 1998 issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that bystander effect is generally less likely to occur when people have experience in fields that need direct action to help people (nurses, for example). While people with less experience in aiding others, like students, were more
likely to react while alone, the overall rate of helping was consistent in nurses, irrespective of who else was there. Preparing people for certain situations was shown to be crucial in overcoming the bystander effect. A 2011 study published by the American Psychology Association showed that the bystander effect was less likely to occur in situations that could immediately be identified as an emergency. This could for example be a scenario with the presence of a perpetrator obviously posing an immediate threat to someone; however, situations where individuals face distress take on a variety of forms, including accidents on the street, physical and verbal attacks, online bullying, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, microaggressions, and more. Situations that might not be perceived as immediately threatening should not be ignored. Kira Page, External Coordinator at the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) McGill, told The Daily in an email, “It seems important to point out that most forms of structural oppression affect people in ways that are made invisible to people who have the privilege of not experiencing those forms of oppression. [...] Racism, ableism, homophobia, misogyny, cissexism, classism, and so on are therefore usually situa-
tions that students are facing in often extremely isolating contexts.” Many of these issues have become part of societal norms, and are as such often ignored by people not directly and negatively affected by them. People who were born into this system of institutionalized racism, sexism, and patriarchal power relations, need to take initiative to see beyond this distorted value system that’s perpetuated through our daily activities. As soon as we turn on the TV, Western sensationalist media will bombard us with Islamophobia, when we switch to sitcoms we’ll put up with bad jokes about rape culture, and the ads we’re exposed to, literally everywhere, make us internalize misogyny. We are conditioned from a very young age to think a certain way, but in the end what matters is how we choose to educate ourselves. There are a variety of organizations at McGill, such as QPIRG, Midnight Kitchen, the Social Equity and Diversity Education Office, the Union for Gender Empowerment, Queer McGill, Healthy McGill, Rez Project, and SACOMSS, that provide students with information, and offer workshops, talks, and film screenings. Page stated that, “McGill students have incredible opportunities at their fingertips to learn about these things. [...] Our Culture Shock series, for instance, addresses issues of white supremacy and coloniza-
tion in the Canadian context. Social Justice Days address a wide range of social justice issues, this year, with a focus on mental health and care. The Radical Skills Workshop series gives people concrete skills for actively engaging in these issues.” The Israeli Apartheid Week that is currently underway at McGill offers a variety of workshops giving insight on problems faced by many Palestinians.
We are conditioned from a very young age to think a certain way, but in the end what matters is how we choose to educate ourselves. Even though educating yourself is a first step, Page notes that too much focus on education alone might be problematic, “There is a harmful and self-protective reliance on ‘awareness’ as the only possible or appropriate response to actual, immediately visible and preventable instances of violence. [... Education and awareness are] clearly part of
the equation, but seem to happen at the exclusion of a conversation about actually intervening. There seems to be a predilection for understanding ‘anti-oppression’ as the ability to articulate that discourse or ideas are ‘problematic,’ while not understanding anti-oppression as something that actually requires you to step up and act.” Intervening in situations of distress might seem counter-intuitive for some people. A lot of times, however, intervening does not mean walking straight up to someone and getting into a fight. Even small actions like getting someone else to help, diffusing the attention of a target by spilling your drink, turning lights on and off, or simply making your presence as a witness known might help. A smartphone app called RISE, released by the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, and other community partners, tries to teach people about how to safely intervene in different situations. The app, which was supported by organizations at the University of Ottawa, shows the user a broad range of scenarios followed by possible responses. Page does not have the impression that McGill is doing enough to educate people on bystander intervention, or to raise awareness on these issues. On the contrary, she believes that McGill is perpetuating negative influences. “McGill is implicated in these issues, often refusing to protect students being harmed (for instance, in the history of McGill, being more interested in protecting football players than survivors of sexual violence), and also often in actively perpetrating harm against students.” All of us have heard about incidents where someone was assaulted at a party and no one intervened, making it seem like the assault was okay. And most of us will probably have thought that, if that were us, we would have done something to prevent it. Yet bystander effect is a real problem in our society. It is a very human reaction that most of us have probably experienced at some point. One way to overcome this inaction and start being helpful in precarious situations, is by becoming aware of issues, taking responsibility, and acting on one’s own judgement instead of imitating the reactions of people in our surroundings. And next time you encounter a drunk person harassing someone, you might realize the socially accepted passiveness everyone experiences, and proceed to overcome your own apathy.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Decentralizing cancer care Spatial discrimination due to budget allocations in Montreal hospitals Lee Park Health&Ed Writer
tarting April 1, cancer patients from the broader Montreal region will be restricted from seeking cancer care outside of their own district by the Quebec government. McGill University Health Centre and the Jewish General Hospital (JGH), the leading hospitals in Montreal and surrounding areas in research, teaching, and providing comprehensive cancer care, will have to refer new patients to a hospital in their area. This especially applies to people who live off the island of Montreal. According to the Montreal Gazette, Health Minister Réjean Hébert decided to implement these budget allocations to reflect the decreasing number of cancer patients at the Jewish General Hospital, the McGill University Health Centre, and other Montreal hospitals, a claim which many doctors do not support. Limiting people to getting care closer to their addresses may make sense on paper, but might have serious impacts on the quality of care that cancer patients will receive. Le Portail Santé Montréal declined an interview, yet in a press release sent to The Daily, they state that this restriction will only affect new patients who have not yet started treatment. Patients who have already been admitted can stay with the doctor they have been seeing. Even though it is not certain whether new patients will be able to chose their hospital under some circumstances, Nathalie Rodrigue, President of the Coalition Priorité Cancer au Québec, an organization that rallies different groups in order to fight for more effective cancer treatment, is not so confident about it. “Nothing has been put in writing to guarantee this,” she said, “so the patients are still vulnerable. The Coalition is waiting to see what happens come April 1 and beyond.” Getting specialized care close to their homes would definitely be more convenient for cancer patients, as it would keep them from having to take long daily trips to far-off hospitals; however, the specialized treatment cancer patients require is not available to the same extent at every hospital. “There are a myriad of treatments in cancer care that make it different from other kinds of care,” Jen
Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal Greig, a cancer patient, told The Daily in an interview. Greig was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma in 2008. She received treatment at Saint Mary’s Hospital, a smaller hospital in Montreal, and experienced the benefits of being treated in a familiar environment. “When you’re super stressed out, getting all sorts of weird procedures done to you, familiarity really helps reduce the experienced level of stress,” she said. Yet, being part of the old system, Greig was able to seek alternative advice from other hospitals, including the JGH in Montreal. She stated that Saint Mary’s Hospital couldn’t do a lot of things like stem cell harvesting and magnetic resonance imaging, which forced her to go to the JGH. Next to the transportation costs and time, Greig also expressed concern about “the psychological aspect of having to make so many trips to the hospital.” Portail Santé Montréal specified that the $6 million in funding will be transfered to support hospitals in the Laval and Montéregie regions in their new radiation oncology cancer centres. In an interview with The Daily, Eduardo Franco, head of McGill’s oncology department, stated, “Decentral-
ization of our services is a good idea, and I believe the government has the very best intentions. I’m quite wary, however, [about] how this plan may be rushed to implementation because of financial concerns. Inevitably, if change is rushed, the quality of services will be affected and the patient will be the one who suffers.” “There will be a ripple effect of this dispersion of funding [that] may affect the quality of oncology doctors who graduate, the quality of teaching, the quality of treatment, the quality of specialty, the quality of care,” Franco continued. This decentralization of care might not be able to guarantee the same level of efficiency. He continues to explain that cancer treatment is one of the most expensive treatments one can receive, since it requires specialized teams for diagnosis, treatment, and follow up. Teams need to be all in one place, gain trust in each other’s competencies, and communicate with and rely on each other. Without this synergy, miscommunication is likely. After the allocation of funds, patients newly diagnosed with cancer, with limited time to get diagnosis and treatment, may end up un-
Tamim Sujat | The McGill Daily necessarily running around to get the services they need. Coalition Priorité Cancer au Québec opposes the decision to reallocate funds. “This decision is being made solely based on financial savings, when it should be ethically based on the quality of patient care,” Rodrigue told The Daily. “The patient will pay for this single-minded political decision.” A transfer of funding from the major English-speaking hospitals to French-speaking ones might create difficulties in getting service for anglophones who live off the island of Montreal. A report by the Community Health and Social Services Network from last year states that English speakers comprise 13.4 per cent of Quebec’s total population, with 66.8 per cent of them residing in the MontrealLaval region. A 2011 report by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec states that only 14.6 per cent of the 10,540 doctors, and 12.67 per cent of the nurses in Quebec, only use English at work. This makes it increasingly difficult for anglophones to access healthcare in English. The new implications also parallel those of the Quebec charter. A group of McGill professors,
psychiatrists, and researchers specializing in mental health published a letter against the Quebec Charter, stating that the JGH was built in the 1930s “because of systematic discrimination at major academic and healthcare institutions in Montreal.” Whether or not the current budget allocations may be an anti-anglo issue, decentralizing cancer care will probably result in not having the same level of expertise quality of care for cancer patients of different backgrounds. Allocating $6 million in funds to the Laval and Montégerie hospitals from the JGH, Montreal General Hospital and other hospitals on the island most likely will have detrimental impacts for cancer care in the long run if the funds are not implemented carefully. Cancer care is specialized and highly complex. It needs a team of people who can easily communicate in their specialty to ensure the patient does not get lost in translation. Dispersion of resources and specialized care could have negative implications for patients and research. Cancer care requires the best training, best resources, and the best service, to provide the best care.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
Pushing towards social change How skaters are empowering youth in Afghanistan and Cambodia Drew Wolfson Bell The McGill Daily
n the mainstream conception, skateboarding is thought to be a counter culture, a sport where frustrated youths flock to lash out against society and release some teen angst. Skateboarding is also often associated with partying, drug use, and basically not doing shit. Skateboarding has fallen into this cliché, but anyone who skates knows that there is so much more to it. Skateboarding is like a big family, and due to the painful nature of the sport, only those who truly love it stay in the family. Skateboarders look out for one another, and skateboarding is more of a lifestyle and a mindset than just a sport. This may sound cheesy to those who don’t skate, but I assure you it’s the truth. For example, after the hurricane in Oklahoma, pro skaters and Oklahoma natives Don Nguyen and Clint Walker wanted to do their part. After speaking to their sponsors, they released an Oklahomies board graphic. All proceeds from sales went directly to the American Red Cross. There have been many examples of skaters going against society’s perceived views of them. One example that stands apart from the crowd is Skateistan, a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 2007. It began when two Australians travelling with three other skateboarders ended up in Kabul, Afghanistan. While they were there, the local youth became fascinated with the visitors’ skateboarding, and what started as informal lessons soon grew into an NGO with over 230 volunteers and 13 countries assisting. In 2009, Skateistan, with the help of international funding, opened its first skatepark in Kabul. This park gave 350 youths a safe indoor place to skate, and just like that, a small, unexpected skate scene was born. Even though education for girls in Afghanistan has modestly improved in the last decade, it is still far from equitable, with only 37 per cent of all enrolled students being female. Fierce resistance by the Taliban also counters this progress. Some incidents have included burning down allgirl schools, killing teachers, and throwing acid on girls who are travelling to school. It is in this environment that Skateistian has
Skateistan participants skate a garden in Kabul emerged as an NGO that fosters small changes within communities.
Though girls still are not allowed to ride bikes, there is no restriction against skateboarding. 40 per cent of Skateistan’s members are girls. The skateparks also represent some of the only recreational facilities open to girls in all of Afghanistan. Skateboarding is used to give these girls something to engage in, and from there they can become more empowered. One of Skateistan’s members, 14-yearold Madina Saidy, was selected to speak in front of Afghanistan’s parliament. Madina used to sell a variety of goods on the street to support her family. But through the initiatives put in place by Skateistian, she has emerged as
a youth leader. Another example of Skateistan empowering the youth is its role at the national Children’s Shura. This event is a place where youths meet and talk about the issues they face and the best way to combat them. Over 150 children show up representing nine provinces as well as Internally Displaced Persons camps and street working youth. 20 of these 150 participants were also active in the Skateistian program. The idea is that once these kids get hooked on skating, much more is possible. That is why this NGO uses the momentum built by skateboarding and shifts it into education. One program is called the Back to School Program (BTS), a 12-month program split into three semesters. One grade level is covered each semester. Once the program is completed, participants can re-enroll in government schools. Of the 103 students to complete the program since its inception, half are girls. Of the 38 students in the 2012-13 graduating class, none had attended school before. Skateistan also offers an art-
Courtesy of Skateistan based educational program. This is centred on giving students a voice to express the issues and concerns that matter to them. All the programs Skateistan offer explicitly promote gender equality within Afghanistan. Even though discrimination is still apparent, Skateistan is taking the first steps to change it, and though girls still are not allowed to ride bikes, there is no restriction against skateboarding, offering young girls previously unavailable childhood experiences. Skateistan’s efforts with women in Afghanistan have been commendable. But what they have done for the country in the last six years cannot be overlooked. People under the age of 26 make up 70 per cent of Afghanistan’s population. Skateistan is so successful because they use skateboarding as a tool of empowerment. This program brings all of the youth population together, regardless of gender, socioeconomic standing, or ethnicity. By having these connections within the youth groups of Afghanistan, Skateistan is promoting change.
Skateistan states that skateboarding provides a space where both tolerance and a trusting civil society can be built. Skateistan works to build trust and understanding between youths that would not usually interact. They use the progress made and continue to build on it both in classrooms and during group activities. Skateboarding is just the starting point. The goal of the program is to empower the youth and build a sense of community to promote the changes they want within their own country. Recently Skateistan has expanded into Cambodia, bringing their program of youth empowerment through skating and continued education. Though this, they hope to bring the same change that they have achieved in Afghanistan to a country that has been equally touched by conflict. Although there are still a lot problems in the area, and these programs are just small steps in the right direction, it’s nice to know that these efforts still exist, even if they were born from a counter culture where the opposite is expected.
March 13, 2014 www.mcgilldaily.com | The McGill Daily
The Daily reviews Color Plus, Weeknight, Spring Offensive, and Mr Little Jeans
Color Plus - DIAGONALS VOL. 1
Weeknight – POST-EVERYTHING Artificial Records
If you’ve ever wondered what ambient remixes of rap would sound like, Connecticutbased producer/DJ Color Plus’ new EP Diagonals Vol. 1 is your chance to find out. The six track EP of remixes is the first to have any official remixes released by Color Plus (a.k.a. Lars Probert), and constitutes a serious attempt at combining the two contrasting musical genres of ambient and rap. Fortunately, Diagonals Vol. 1 is not just another lineup of overdone rap remixes. It is a treasure trove of lush, ethereal beats – think Memphis-style rap on lithium. Nearly all of Diagonals Vol. 1’s tracks feature the down-tempo rhythms, stuttering hi-hats, affected vocal samples, and rap verses characteristic of southern – and particularly Memphis – style rap, but like his contemporaries Shlohmo, Yung Sherman, and Tokyo Hands there’s a less brash, more contemplative approach to Color Plus’ head-bobbing goodness. He succeeds in adding a new depth and richness to classic rap beats from tracks like Birdman’s “Pop Bottles,” featuring Lil Wayne, and Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag,” while maintaining the sense of resilience so characteristic of the originals. The manner in which he artfully arranges these rap classics with airy and meditative ambient sounds produces a distinct mixing style which he carries throughout the entire EP. “Honestly” and “Chain” deserve particular mention, slowing down and distorting the voices of Atlanta staples Future and Gucci Mane to such an extent that their lyrics lose meaning and take a back seat to the interplay of rhythms between the vocals and the rest of the beat. Color Plus deconstructs “Pop Bottles” by Birdman and Lil Wayne in his track “Empty Bottle” insofar as to lose its boldness and makes Birdman’s signature pigeon coos become soothing to the listener. The all-too-common critique of southern rap as lacking in lyricism and sophistication always seems to overlook the interesting ways in which different rappers experiment with phrasing over various rhythmic figures. An EP full of creative and experimental remixes like Diagonals Vol. 1 brings these forms of rhythmic interpretation to light by placing classic samples in a brand new musical context.
For all those craving a refreshing and captivating sound that’s both calm and rhythmic, Weeknight’s new album PostEverything is the one to discover – and adore. The New York City-based duo, known simply as Holly and Andy, creates an intoxicating atmosphere with their music, pulling us into an enigmatic world where sounds and voices come together. The duo’s smooth voices, harmony, and intense rhythm manage to calm nerves and transport the listener. Borrowing from electronic and indie pop music, Post-Everything has a unique and dazzling sound. Weeknight’s peaceful and seducing melody resonates throughout the album, with songs that run together without being repetitive. “Dark Light,” punctuated by exhilarating lyrics, harsh beats, and strident electric guitar, takes listeners on an absolutely alluring phantasmatic ride. “Whale” and “S.O.M.V.” are more gentle and serene, but still captivating, bound to lull listeners into a deep sleep where the everyday world fades away. The whole album works for virtually any ambience. It can serve as a beat when you’re walking through the city or provide a calming yet encouraging backdrop to a late-night cramming session. Pretty much the only thing it can’t do is help you wake up from that deep Monday morning slumber (you’ve been warned). Post-Everything is a charming album that offers an alternative to the more mainstream variety of indie pop, while still packing a punch for all the distraction and reverie cravings in the world.
Spring Offensive - YOUNG ANIMAL HEARTS Spring Offensive Spring Offensive’s long-awaited debut album has finally arrived, thanks to a PledgeMusic campaign. While labels’ tastes are hardly infallible, there might be a reason why Spring Offensive has spent so long without a record deal. Instrumentally, the Oxford-based band leans on foregrounded drums and superpolished, vaguely mathy, guitars throughout the album. The opening to “Cut the Root” is basically a sped-up version of Foals’ “Spanish Sahara.” Foals also hails from Oxford, and this isn’t the only band Spring Offensive seems to be borrowing from. Jonquil specializes in lacklustre vocal harmonies, and here Spring Offensive proves that it can be even more insipid. The band is at its best when discussing money. It’s expressing what many moderately successful bands are sadly finding out: music is not enough to cover rent. In “Bodylifting,” the issue is dealt with wryly, with lyrics like, “I wish I had money, I wish I had self-control,” and in “Hengelo” a little more sinisterly, with, “When cash dries up you’re just skin and bones.” The culmination of, this mini-trope is “No Assets,” with a chorus of “If we’re serious we should start saving.” It also contains one of the bleakest lines in modern music, “The depth of our debt is deeper than love.” It’s refreshingly sordid and petty, a line that briefly separates Spring Offensive from the ocean of floppy indie bands that continue to linger. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the album is not so pragmatic. Check out “No Assets,” but avoid the rest, because you’ve heard it all before. -Joseph Renshaw
Mr Little Jeans - GOOD MISTAKE Harvest Records Good Mistake goes down like musical ice cream, cold and sweet. This four-track EP provides a compilation of Monica Birkenes’ (a.k.a Mr Little Jeans) past singles in anticipation of her full length debut album, Pocketknife, out on March 25. Born and raised in Norway, Birkenes is not your standard female pop star. Rather than being the product of a team of producers working overtime, she is very much the master of her own music. As both singer and songwriter, Berkenes has created an electro-pop sound that is oddly touching. Her tracks are layered with plenty of high notes and soothing, steady rhythms. There is something sincere in her voice. Emerging from her lips, every line sounds personal, every rhyming couplet is poetry. In short, these songs are pleasant and sweet. Yet the EP is saved from being just nice by its electronic edge. In Birkenes’ cover of “The Suburbs,” the wrought, emotional vocals of Arcade Fire are replaced by a voice that, thanks to mechanical tuning, does not give everything away. Her emotions simmer under the surface, but ultimately her voice sounds cold. As is common with electronic influenced music, Birkenes’ sound is apathetic but not unpleasantly so, and very laid back. But her cover of “The Suburbs” is the best track here. Good Mistake is melting and dripping with potential but Berkenes now needs to create her own more distinctive sound. Right now Mr Little Jeans could be summed up as one scoop The Cardigans and one scoop Lorde. When it takes five artists and wild hand gestures to describe her, Birkenes will have come closer to fulfilling her full potential. So watch out for Pocketknife, and here’s hoping we’ll get more than just ice cream next time. -Rachel Eban
March 13, 2014 The McGill Daily | www.mcgilldaily.com
Swag is dead, long live swag Cultural appropriation and the continual rebirth of slick Hillary Pasternak The McGill Daily
onventional knowledge traces the birth of “cool” to 1957, with the release of Miles Davis’ aptly titled LP Birth of the Cool. Sure, there was cool before “cool.” In renaissance Italy, sprezzatura was used to describe a sort of unaffected nonchalance of demeanour highly coveted among young courtiers. Plenty of young bohemians in the following centuries cultivated recognizable aspects of coolness, but the particular convergence of attitude and cultural flair we now associate with the term didn’t begin to coalesce until the 20th century. While plenty of academics have tried, most layfolk don’t attempt to define “cool.” It’s enough to know it when you see it. Kanye West is “cool,” OneRepublic less so. The Velvet Underground is, The Partridge Family isn’t. But while “cool,” as both a construct and a slang term, has proved surprisingly durable over multiple decades, its offshoots don’t have as much staying power. Try calling one of your friends “radical” or “gnarly” in 2014, and watch them snicker. The latest iteration is “swag.” Of the Top 40 set, the figure most associated with term “swag” is one Justin Bieber, the international teen idol who has spent the last year or so publicly engaging in behaviour that some pop culture observers might describe as “being the worst.” His fascination with the phrase/general concept of swag acted as a bridge between the two phases of his career – from Beatle-mopped, puppy-dog-eyed crooner to tattooed, debauched wannabe-Chris Brown with a semi-permanent squint. He’ll serve as a useful microcosm. An important note: Bieber is white, and “swag” was not his invention. The term is directly lifted from black American hip hop. His (and his ‘handlers’) likeliest introduction would be from rap behemoths like Drake or Jay Z, but there’s an entire subgenre called
Alice Shen | The McGill Daily “swag rap,” exemplified by collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), famous for their fusion of hip hop with influences from both do-it-yourself punk culture and the weirder corners of the internet. Another candidate is Lil B, the Based God himself, who you almost certainly know from Twitter. Some have called swag rap a successor to the socially conscious, anti-mainstream, subgenre of backpack rap of the previous decade (crossover successes from this movement include Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, and even Yeezus himself ). While swag rap isn’t as rigorous in its rejection of the mainstream and its capitalist trappings, both movements can be seen as a reaction to the blatantly materialistic leanings of the gangsta rap that came before them. It appears that the specifics of this history have found their way to Mr. Bieber. Bieber seems to have little interest in OFWGKTA’s sur-
real digital class clown vibe. His swag seems to largely involve layered hoodies, jewelry, and certain vaguely-defined affectations. “I’m very influenced by black culture, but I don’t think of it as black or white,” Bieber told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not me trying to act or pose in a certain way. It’s a lifestyle – like a suaveness or a swag, per se.” He famously employed a “swag coach,” another white man (Ryan Good, assigned by Usher, officially titled “tour manager”) to teach him different “swaggerific things to do,” in the words of the Toronto Star. But no aspect of swag intrigued him like the word itself. At certain points, it seemed Bieber has become a swag Pokémon, incapable of saying much beyond his borrowed catchphrase (see the masterfully crafted lyrics to “Boyfriend”: “Swag, swag, swag on you/Chillin’ by the fire while we eating fondue”). Hip hop isn’t the only aspect of black American culture to be pil-
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laged for sexy new vocabulary. A small cache of slang that’s recently emerged into the mainstream can be clearly traced to an extremely specific area: the black queer community of New York City. Years ago, “throwing shade” (to talk trash about someone) was something said by black drag queens, and not too many others. Now it has a starring role in E! Online and Gawker headlines. Your mom probably understands it. Currently in the process of making this journey to white straight North America are “getting life,” (to receive accolades) and the noun “kiki,” which refers to a very specific type of gossip session among friends. But you probably knew that. The Scissor Sisters wrote a song about it, aptly titled “Let’s Have A Kiki.” There’s no point in going into detail regarding white appropriation of black “coolness,” especially with regard to music – it’s an old story and many of us already know the specifics. Led Zeppelin stole
from Muddy Waters; before them, Elvis stole from everyone. “Cool” was born in black culture, specifically jazz, and appropriated by the white mainstream, presumably thirsty for a type of perceived authenticity that could only be found in the cultural product of those who have been oppressed. We should, of course, note that the Biebs declared swag to be “played out” sometime in the fall of last year. He’s grown up, moved on, presumably. He can do that, as a white pop artist: take up aspects of cultures not his own, use them to further his own success, then discard them at will. Not even just the mainstream, if we’re to be honest; white rapper Iggy Azalea wears saris in her music videos, and indie rock group Vampire Weekend rode to fame on gussiedup afropop. Pop cultural cool is a museum in the truest sense – full of cultural artifacts “curated” (stolen) from disparate cultures by the privileged oppressor.
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It’s time to re-politicize SSMU
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ver the next week, McGill students will be asked to vote on next year’s SSMU executive team. The SSMU executive is tasked with negotiating a favourable position for students in relation to the administration, carving out student space on an increasingly corporatized campus, supporting initiatives concerned with disadvantaged groups, and demonstrating leadership in “matters of human rights, social justice, and environmental protection,” according to the SSMU constitution. The present SSMU executive has failed to live up to this mission, especially in leadership on political and social issues. This year’s executive has continued the trend of depoliticization and increasing apathy that has plagued the student union over the past few years. During the AUS strike vote in 2012, SSMU Legislative Council attempted to censure VP External Joël Pedneault for supporting the strike, with charges that he had “politicized” his position. In 2013, SSMU councillors were roundly criticized for failing to endorse CKUT’s fee increase referendum. They claimed it would not be possible to take a stance in case some constituents disagreed, despite their mandate to support groups that amplify marginalized voices. When political stances are brought to the fore, responses are often months late and advise no discernible action. This year, political stances have been few and far between. The only political motion put to a vote at a General Assembly, opposing the Charter of Values, was brought to a general assembly in October 2013, and although a working group was created, there has since been
little discernible action. Student politicians wield an enormous amount of power in representing McGill’s 22,000 undergraduates. Each SSMU executive is paid a salary of approximately $28,000 a year, funded by student fees. That the positions are legitimized by the administration also gives them power, making it even more deplorable that they make no attempt to assert a political stance or to use their power to its greatest advantage. The political reticence of McGill students – which often relates to off-campus issues – also impacts the relationship between McGill and its greater community. Particularly, it secludes the McGill community even further from the political context in which it exists. Student politicians – past and present – have actively shied away from joining student associations such as ASSÉ. TaCEQ remains the only student association of which SSMU is a part – and now, with its looming demise, this last remaining tie to the rest of Quebec seems vulnerable. TaCEQ has failed to make any sort of impact for SSMU, and has instead been tied up in lawsuits and endless bureaucratic failures. So, as students gear up to vote, The Daily asks you to remember SSMU’s mandate. We hope that the SSMU executive elected for the coming year is both cognizant of, and committed to, acting in accordance with its own mandate. Not only is it an integral part of the job, but it is crucial in situating the McGill student community within the greater context of Quebec. —The McGill Daily Editorial Board
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Lies, half-truths, and political engagement
Friendly political discourse surrounds election campaigns Websites of past failed SHMU candidates linger online like ghosts Dame Jurus Lee The McGall Weekly
his week marked the start of campaigning for SHMU executive positions. Posters are hanging in high foot-traffic areas of major McGall buildings, candidates are shaking hand after hand while trying to remember name after name, and the websites of hundreds of failed past SHMU candidates still reside in the stark purgatory of unvisited cyberspace. There is an air of nervousness and excitement across campus as election season approaches. “I am so excited for the beginning of campaign season! I think it is fantastic to see everyone out there,” said N-baller Songstress, candidate for SHMU VP External. Yet it remains unsaid that if her campaign fails, the hollow husk of her website will linger online in perpetuity. Conversely, if she wins then her opponent will be subject to the same fate. Student democracy is zero-sum. Particularly of interest is the race for SHMU President with four candidates vying for the position. “Having multiple candidates promotes multiple viewpoints and tends to increase total voter turnout on campus. This is strongly beneficial to political discourse,” said Bend Fun, Chief
E.k. EK | The McGall Weekly Electoral Officer at Elections SHMU, failing to mention that only one candidate can become president and the unrealized hopes and dreams of the rest become caught in amber as cached files on a server. Like the names of long-dead lovers carved on trees that have long outlasted both the passion of their romance and their lives in entirety, websites of wouldbe SHMU politicians were once filled with life and promise. Now
those which have not been taken down in disappointment serve as a stern reminder to current candidates about the nature of student democracy and futility of all human enterprise. “With so many candidates in the race, it is important for candidates to follow all electoral bylaws,” added Bend Fun. “This is essential for an orderly election.” Images of smiling students in blazers in front of the Farts building will be left behind as detritus
after this campaign as it has been since the dawn of the internet. Like Ozymandias’ works, carefully constructed websites stand as digital monuments to humanity’s frailty. Tabs that detail platform, experience, and endorsements have remain unclicked for years. “It is easy to forget about bylaws in the heat of campaigning but it is quite important to follow them. Candidates have consulted heavily with Elections SHMU to make sure no infractions will oc-
cur,” stated Klear Stew-Can, candidate for VP University Affairs. Like the dead who always outnumber the living, the legions of discarded websites championing prior experience and platforms will always outnumber successful SHMU candidates. Like dust suspended in moonlight, they cast an eerie pall over all hopeful successors to the positions. “We are excited for this year’s election and wish all the candidates the best!” said Fun.
SHMU campaigns gain unprecedented momentum Debates moved to Perky-Milson Stadium to accommodate large turnout E.k. EK The McGall Weekly
ast night, the 2014-15 SHMU executive candidates met in the SHMU building ballroom for an annual debate, fielding questions from current executives and audience members. Even before the scheduled start time, it was obvious that the capacity of the room was far exceeded by the number of interested and energetic students who arrived ready to ask hard-hitting questions that pertained to their student lives and quality of education at McGall. Students lined up along McLavish in advance of the debates. Be-
fore any candidates were able to take to the podium, an announcement was made in regards to the shift in venue, and the crowd of students moved to the Perky-Milson Stadium instead. Anne Gee, U3 Brain Thinky student, commented as the massmigration took place, “I don’t know why they didn’t think of this beforehand. There are always so many people at the debates.” At the stadium, students aggregated in the stands according to their preferred candidates. Large homemade banners and rows of students with candidates’ names painted on their chests were all visible from the hastily set up podium.
During the debate, several groups of students had airhorns confiscated in order to minimize the disturbances. The majority of audience members were enthusiastically engaged in the proceedings of the debate. Questions from the floor included complex and nuanced points on the candidates’ roles in issues immediately relevant to students, such as policies on mental health and academic integrity. There were also broader questions on the candidates’ commitment to equity. Several students also inquired about concrete, tangible ways that demands could be forced to the attention of administrators. Buzzwords such as ‘sustainabil-
ity,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘consultation’ were used sparingly and thoughtfully by candidates, with attention paid to the exact context and suitability of those terms. Many of the answers were met with resounding applause or thunderous booing from the crowd, or at times a mixture of both from the energetic audience. The polarized crowd would let no issue slide, and strings of intense follow-up questions extended the debates well into the night. Following the debates, the candidates were “happy, but unsurprised” by the excitement that imbued the atmosphere of the stadium. “Students at McGall are
totally engaged in politics,” said Torque Slam, one of four presidential candidates. “It’s always invigorating to see people at the debates, general assemblies, and all the consultative forums.” “People know that we’d be getting $30,000 a year to do these jobs, so they obviously want to vet us and make sure we’re responsible enough to make that salary. It’s understandable, considering how we also end up with such huge means to affect the lives of every single student on campus,” explained Danger Claim, the uncontested candidate for VP Internal. “Why wouldn’t people care?” he added.
Published on Mar 13, 2014