Saturday, October 27, 2007

Unpublished U-square consultation results!

Well, results from the September U-Square consultation have been compiled, but not yet published. I thought they were pretty interesting, so here they are, in handy graphical format. Click the graph images to enlarge them. Thanks to Margaret Orlowsky for sending me the results.

If you filled out the forms, you'll recall that the 1-5 ranking represents a range from 1 ("would not meet vision") to 5 ("would meet vision").

This graph (above) has the results from the first part of the survey form, which asked about individual prospective elements for the U-Square space. I didn't include all of them, but the main ones are there. As you can see, housing and store retail are the most unpopular, with most people ranking then at 1. Food retail fares better with a more even distribution. Surprisingly, neither the Boardroom (intended for conferences, BoG and Senate meetings) or Alumni Centre were especially popular - I like both these elements quite well. The grassy knoll and open space elements are the most popular. "Grassy Knoll substitute" (some sort of structured green space) was fairly was popular. The only buildings with an upwards trend in the whole questionnaire are a SUB expansion and student social space, and more moderately, the vague "community hall" (which nobody seems to be able to define). All the others, including the university's development office, and continuing studies do poorly.

This graph shows the results for the four combinations of elements that were suggested on the feedback forms. Combo 1 (with housing and retail as well as service stores) is essentially what the plan for U-square was before May, when the student petition and AMS policy opposing the plan convinced the BoG to redesign. So it's not surprising that it's the least well-received. Combo 4 was put on the form due to the efforts of the student representatives on the U-square planning committee, and contains less built space than the others.

To me, these results show that a combination with minimal building, mostly open space, a knoll, and some public social space would be the most welcome option. I think an alumni/welcome centre and boardroom in the centre of campus, would be great too, but most of the respondents seem to disagree. Looking at the results from the individual elements, it looks like none of the combos integrate the most popular items. The important thing to remember is that we can't really have it all. If we want a SUB expansion, that's less open space and less green space. It's important to keep in mind that only about 300 people answered the forms - not a great sample. It's possible that the results are skewed towards the organized "save the knoll" faction.

About the committee process: This feedback form and the responsiblity for dealing with the results resides with the U-Boulevard planning committee, which includes 3 student reps: Brendon Goodmurphy from the AMS, Matt Filipiak from the GSS, and Margaret Orlowsky, at-large. This committee was touted by the President as the harbinger of a new era of working together with students on development issues. It seems that according to Matt and Margaret, the process hasn't been exactly what they expected - the students on the committee are giving input and coming up with ideas, but the actual decisions are made by Nancy Knight, and Joe Stott, the two university representatives. Like all committee structures, the people who do the actual work (ie. the writing) have the real power: in this case, these are people that work in Nancy and Joe's offices. Now we're hearing that Nancy and Joe are unhappy with the results I've just outlined. Since they're the ones that give instructions to the architects, and there's no binding vote on the options, we may have reason to worry, despite the presence of student representation. To quote Margaret "they keep asking what meaningful consultation is - it's asking what people they want you to do, and then doing it". It seems like the university still has problems with this concept - especially when the people doing the consultation are the same people that were responsible for (and are still personally attached to) the old and failed plans.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

AMS meeting October 24th, or boo to code & policies.

Yesterday there was an AMS council meeting. I missed it, but since everyone loves hearing about the machinations of democracy, or better yet, themselves, here's a summary written up by Blake Frederick, the AVP Academic and University Affairs (otherwise known as Brendon's minion), on his brand-new blog: I also have word that a certain illustrious blog was featured to encourage more people to run for office! woot!

Reading Blake's summary over, it strikes me that the code and policies committee is a bit ridiculous. Yesterday they brought forward a policy restricting sound recording and video recording at AMS council and committee meetings. This is a topic that when you really think about it, might actually be important a couple times a year. Whatever. But code & policies has pro-actively taken it on! It almost instantaneously devoted attention to this (in my opinion silly) topic, to introduce (in my opinion silly) code amendments, when at the same time, code & policies has been sitting on some big items that have literally been waiting for attention for years. Big items like committee reform, and a students' assembly. These are initiatives that actually had council support, and partial approval, but were sent to the committee for some more work and expertise. Hah - the committee is basically a junkyard of abandoned policy. Apparently, committee chair Scott Bernstein's personal aversion to the gaze of video lenses (the horror!) is more important than council's priorities.

This actually brings up some bigger topics:

  • Council tends to bundle things off to code & policies when anything of a slightly technical nature comes up, or when they can't seem to agree. This means that any complex or controversial policies end up being delayed indefinitely, and council can conveniently forget about them. This is also symptomatic of the fact that other working groups in the society don't seem to draft policies at all. There isn't a great venue for policy consultation other than the committee, and the whole council itself. Both have proved agonizingly inefficient in different ways.
  • In the terms of reference for the committee (code section V article 6), it is clear that the body is to be used by council as an expert group. If the code & policies committee doesn't follow council's priorities, in favour of (in this year's case) bylaw changes and the chair's personal initiatives, there's a problem.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

VFM intro, or, how complicated can counting be?

Voter Funded Media, the contest that saw the birth of this and other (now defunct) charming student publications, is soon to be re-launched for this year. Yay! The media-reform project is meant to improve media culture, and by extension democracy in general. This is theoretically accomplished by making media into a public good: you reward media by votes, from a public fund, that voters pay into. In our case, that means that when you vote in AMS elections, you'll also have a ballot for your favorite elections-media group, and prizes will be allocated accordingly. Also, our "voter funding" is actually being proffered (to the tune of $8000) by VFM-originator Mark Latham, not a public fee.

Last year the contest had many successes and some failures. This year there are some changes afoot. Here's an intro to a few features of the contest:

  • Contestants - VFM is open to both established media, and new media. So, for example, last year the established Arts undergrad paper, The Underground, entered the contest and won. Tim and Gina started this blog from scratch, and also did a great job. As the contest matures, and more "new" media sources stick around and get established, the name-recognition advantage for established groups will decrease. The Ubyssey, our official student newspaper, didn't enter last year, to leave the field more open for new groups. They even paid the entrance fee for a bunch of new media groups.
  • Start time - This year, the contest will be launching several months before the AMS election campaign begins. The ultimate intent of VFM is to establish permanent, healthy media choices, not just during elections time. This will give media that start early a chance to establish credibility and a reader base. Last year, the contest was pretty rushed, due to last-minute planning and approval at the AMS.
  • Formats - Contestants can use a wide range of media formats: internet-based, paper-based, magazine-based, whatever. The mix is pretty fun.
  • Media strategies - Last year, a fair number of styles surfaced through the contest. There were some joke entries, ranging from great (Radical Beer tribune) to lame (Cameron Funnell). There were more serious, issue-focused entries like The Knoll and this blog. There were some informative, but unenlightening elections newspapers like Election Erection and The Underground. And there was of course, the Duncan-Kearny group that did no media coverage whatsoever, but got people to vote for them based purely on personal popularity.
  • Allocating prizes - At the simplest level, prizes are allocated on the basis of voter's preference. Theoretically, they reward the media that best served them. It gets more complicated though: this year's VFM committee has decided upon a rather complex, unintuitive voting system for the contest, which they claim will minimize the impact of "strategic" votes and narrow-appeal media groups. The system involves each voter weighing the contestants by giving them more or less theoretical money. Then some percentile (not the mean) of the allocations determines how the prize pot is "sliced". Don't worry, a primer on this later.

Last year, VFM sparked some really decent debate. The candidates had to learn alot, and know the issues. It established a lively discourse during election time that was great to be part of. The new media that popped up was exciting and fresh. However, VFM didn't increase overall voter turnout, which is still mired at about 10%. Arguably, the best media contestants did not win. And FVM took up alot of candidates' time, preventing them from pursuing more traditional campaigning methods and getting out the vote. The good thing about VFM though, is that it improves with maturity: with more years, the contest will have more momentum to begin with, and the quality of contestants will be progressively pushed up leaving little room of get-rich-quick punks and deadbeat hacks.

We'll see how things go this year. UBC Insiders' awesome VFM roster is being established as we speak, so stay tuned. Here's to media! *clink*

FYI: The VFM contest is hiring an administrator. This person would be reporting to the AMS Elections Administrator, Brian Peiovesan, and they're offering 750 bucks. The job posting is found HERE, for those interested.

A chat I had with Mark Latham, and revelations thereof, can be found HERE


Trek Park update, and related topics.

Trek Park, the space "liberated" from the old bus loop as a protest for the U-boulevard re-development project, is looking a little worse for wear. The park, consisting of some grassy areas, a large checkerboard, and some benches and furniture, was set up to create a student-friendly, free public space, and raise awareness and opposition to the underground bus-loop that the UBC Board of Governors is planning to give final approval to this year.

The 'park' was set up by a group of students loosely affiliated with The Knoll newspaper and AMS resource groups on the first day of school this September. It has since become somewhat of a fixture in the campus centre: but lately, a bit of a decrepit one. Moldy furniture sponges up the rain, bits of wood and metal collect in rickety piles, and the once-emerald grass is drowning in a little lagoon. "Trek park is in shambles," admits park originator Nathan Crompton, "but we still love it!" he adds. "People keep trashing the park...more than once a week" he explains. It seems like some students are sick of the protest park, and willing to show it. When Trek Park volunteers tried to throw out some of the weather-damaged furniture, taking it to the dumpster on the north side of the SUB, it was placed back by the next day. The dome, some artwork, and other areas of the park have been vandalized too. Park signs have been removed and one showed up near the fraternity houses. Someone put a foot through the "free speech" park notice board a few weeks ago.

"I think they've made their point" said one student from my genetics class, as we were walking by. "A few weeks was fine, but I think everyone has seen it by now," said another, "and who had the idea to put grass on an impermeable surface?" Some students view the park as vaguely "too hippy," or for the slightly more political, a rag-tag protest effort that won't make a difference. Others simply think it's a scar on the landscape.

Stephanie Ratjen, another trek park volunteer, said that while students may have seen the message already, the university administration still hasn't taken the action they're demanding. The things that the park is there to protest are still unresolved, she said, adding that the consultation now going on about the above-ground portion of the U-boulevard has been "a failure," despite student representation on the consultation planning committee. The process she refers to is the result of a turnabout in the U-boulevard planning process that occurred in May. At that time, a student petition opposing the plans for the area, and pressure from the AMS and GSS, persuaded the BoG to scrap the above-ground plans, and create a new consultation process. This process is being conducted now (remember the free burgers and booths in the SUB this month?) to find out what land-use options were best for the area. It's being led by a committee that includes student representatives from the AMS and GSS. The BoG remains steadfastly committed (or so they say) to the underground bus loop, though it has yet to gain final approval. "They just want it to go away, " says student BoG rep Darren Peets, "they'll approve it to get rid of it."

Whether or not it's worth fighting the bus loop, and whether or not this renewed consultation is failing or not or not, is up for debate. Perhaps the park protest is a case of the vocal few making a fuss while the rest of us just want get on with life. Maybe some of their rhetoric makes park volunteers look like clowns, not serious players. Maybe they are alienating people that should be worked with. But the thing I like about this protest is it's pro-activeness, it's creativity, and the ideas coming out of it. No it's not a picture of urban design, but at least the park is trying to lead by example. At lest the people doing it are bringing up the real problem issues behind campus development and planning: the democratic deficit in UBC's governing structure, the skewed balance of power in committee processes, and an administrative culture that is only lately waking up to the real stake the student community wants in its physical surroundings.

To me, the protest also brings up a conversation that's really important: strategies for activism. Where's the effective balance between defying the status quo and working within its structure to have an inside voice?

This Thursday from noon to 8, Trek Park is hosting Knoll Aid, a jam session and general jamboree. Lots of music is lined up, should be fun.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

AMS elections buzz

As a disclaimer: this is a list of mere speculations, which is by no means complete, accurate, or in any way official. Some of the people on it are still undecided. If only more people would dish gossip *on* the record.

It's that time of year again!! Midterms are here and the rumors are flying.

Here's the speculation on the grapevine, (only as far as I know, I'm sure there's plenty more):

President: Matthew Naylor (current VP External), Michael Duncan (current SUS president). Also, joke candidates from some Arts undergrad clubs. Woo!
VP Academic: Possibly (undecided) Blake Frederick (current AVP academic)
VP Admin: re-run Sarah Naiman (current VP admin)
VP Finance: Chris Tarantino (SUS dude), Omid Javadi (current EUS VP and and engineering councilor)
VP External: no word yet!
BoG Reps: Conor Topely (current CUS president and CUS councilor), Tahara Bhate (current Science Councilor)

Alex Lougheed (current SUS secretary and science councilor) will almost certainly be running for something, not sure what. I've heard some talk of several people from the Resource Groups side running, but I'll update on that when I get more sources. An arts club is purportedly putting together a joke slate of epic proportions. Costume speculation anyone?

I'm sorry to report that Stephanie Ryan and Sam Heppell of Arts are both apparently graduating. I was hoping they would run. They're the type of councilors that bring good critical analysis to the council table, and I know they'd do the same in a campaign. Perhaps they will still reconsider?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Want to be consulted? It's your fuckin' week.

There's a veritable cornucopia of consultations going on right now. So get your voices and obnoxious views into those final reports, dudes. For serious.

Sub Renew - AMS is starting the consultation process for the prospective expansion and renovation of the SUB. Everything from buying out Pacific Spirit Place (the university-owned and operated cafeteria) to constructing a brand new building in the University Square precinct, to a mere sprucing up of our current digs is on the table. AMS VP Admin Sarah Naiman is heading up the process. The SUB renew committee has been meeting since last spring. They've hired a "space planning" firm for some big bucks to plan the space programming. That means they'll find out what we want and lay out floor plans. Architecture will come later. (If this confuses you, join the club).

Anyhow. Right now there's a focus group consultation phase. Next there will be a round table consultation phase. After that you'll get to vote on which options you like most. (note: will there be a "none of the above" option available?). After that you'll vote in a referendum to approve a fee to fund the preferred SUB renew plan.

Here's the next focus group sessions, organized by constituency:

    • General - Oct. 18 - SUB Council Chambers (room 206)- 5-6
    • REC and Varsity - Oct.19 - SUB Council Chambers (room 206) - 5-6
    • Resource Groups - Oct. 18 - Resource Group Area of the SUB - 12:30-1:30
    • Greeks - Oct. 25 - SUB Council Chambers (room 206) - 5-6
    • Residences TBA
    • Audiology and Speech Sciences, Dentistry, Nursing, Medicine, Occupational
      and Environmental Hygiene, Pharmacy, Rehab Sciences - Oct. 15th - SUB Room 42U (lower level) - 12-1
    • SCARP and Architecture - Oct. 15th - Lasserre rm. 202 - 5:30 - 6:30
    • Commerce - Oct. 16th - SUB 42U (lower level) - 11-12
    • Science - Oct 16th - Ladha Science Student Center, top floor - 12:30-1:30
    • Journalism, Law, LAIS - Oct. 16 - Council Chambers 1-2
    • Education, Forestry, LAFS, Human kinetics, Social Work - Oct. 22nd - SUB
      Council Chambers (room 206) - 3-4
    • Arts and Music - Oct. 23 - SUB 205 (2nd floor) - 12-1
    • Applied Sciences - Oct 24th - SUB Council Chambers (room 206)- 3-4
    • Graduate Students - Oct. 23rd – Penthouse, Graduate Students Center - 5-6

Transit consultation - The AMS is running another consultation about transit issues. That's because, soon the U-pass is up for renewal, and they want to come up with the best deal and know what to lobby for with Translink. Check out the Facebook group "Transit: what's your BEEF" to post feedback.

AMS VP-X Matt Naylor and the External commission are hosting a panel discussion this Friday at the Norm, which should great, with cool panelists. It's from 12:00-1:30 in the Norm theatre in the SUB. Check it out.


NDP Transit Critic Maureen Karagianis
NDP MLA Gregor Robertson (my riding's MLA, and personal crush)
AMS President Jeff Friedrich
UBC TREK Administrator Carole Jolly
NPA Councillor Peter Ladner
U-Boulevard/University Square consultation - The University's Campus and Community Planning office has been conducting some consultations regarding the future of the long-beleaguered U-boulevard neighborhood plan, recently re-christened "university square". You may have noticed a big booth next to the SUB conversation pit last week for four days. Hopefully, you filled out a form and took a look at the options on the table. In case you've been under a rock, the previous above-ground plans were turfed due to student dissatisfaction at last May's BoG meeting, and new land-use options are on the table. The underground tunnel and bus loop are in all likelihood going forward, though the latter still requires the BoG's final approval. According to Student BoG rep Darren Peets, apparently the results of the current consultation for above-ground land-use are not exactly to the liking of some of the university brass. This probably means the responses have preferred less buildings, less density, and more green. Keep your eye out for the final report on that - it should be ready by November's BoG meeting.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

UBC Faculty Association has a bad week: part 2

Israel Boycott debate re-opened

Also in the September's Faculty Focus newsletter (click!), is an article calling on faculty and UBC to open up a debate on an academic boycott of Israeli academia. The article is authored by some familiar faculty members, including the head of the undergraduate biology program, Martin Adamson, and Arts AMS councilor Nathan Crompton. Citing the hardships of Palestinians in having access to higher education, they say that the idea of a boycott cannot be condemned offhand, and must be discussed.

The idea of academic boycotts is not new: they were undertaken against South Africa and Russia by some groups of academics in the 90s. In recent years, academics in Europe and the UK have often attempted to intellectually boycott Israel through their universities and professional unions. These attempts never seem to last very long, since they tend to be ignored, revoked, and renewed with boring regularity. Last May for instance, the UK's largest lecturers' union UCU passed a motion to encourage the discussion of an academic boycott on Israel, urging members to "consider the moral implications of conducting ties with Israeli academic institutions," and calling on the EU to freeze funding of Israeli research. You can find out what I thought of that HERE, and I would have similar feelings about UBC participating in such a boycott. Specific to this article, I thought it was a bit silly that the authors frame the article as a call for "discussion" of a boycott against Israeli academia, instead of actually endorsing such a boycott, since clearly that is their intent.

The reason this particular article in Faculty Focus is interesting is that UBC's president, Stephen Toope has expressed himself in the most strident terms against any such academic boycotts of Israel. In response to the (UCU) motion last May, Toope joined the wave of university presidents across Canada in condemning their action, saying in a statement that "The threatened boycott of Israeli universities by Britain's University and College Union is a dangerous and unsupportable attack on the core values of academic life." I heard president Toope and SFU president Michael Stevenson express themselves similarly in person, when they both spoke as honorary co-chairs of the semi-annual "Stretch Your Mind" conference of Israeli academics at the JCC.

UBC Hillel's director, Eyal Lichtman, has already responded to the article in Faculty Focus, in an email, stating that

any such boycott would be an affront to academic freedom, of course, but when it targets the society with the highest per capita rate of academic publications in the world, the consequences to the advancement of science and other research is incalculable ... The singling out of Israel, where academic and press freedoms are the freest in the Middle East, is a disturbing sign and therefore an indicator that Israel, amongst nations of the world, is being singled out for attention based on premises that must be considered anti-Semitic.
The anti-semetism card is pretty heavy-handed here. The article we're talking about wasn't written in a confrontational or hateful manner by any stretch. But even more annoyingly, Lichtman's response wasn't even shared with Hillel students, but rather sent to outside strategic people (not sure exactly who) - one of whom was so good as to forward it to a buddy of mine. When I asked Hillel staff for further information on this reaction, and why it hadn't been shared with students, I was greeted with stony silence and the statement that "it's out of our hands". I wonder whose hands it is in? or what there is to be in anyone's hands? When I asked further, another staff member said it wasn't a secret, but just not a "public strategy". This is, after all, meant to be open discourse, and this bugs me. This type of overreaction, coupled with annoying non-public strategies does damage to those (and I count myself among them) who want to discredit attempts at intellectual boycotts.

Some background:


UBC Faculty Association has a bad week: part 1

Two items of interest from the UBC Faculty Association this month. See above post. Sources from the Faculty Focus (click!) newsletter.

Teaching evaluation ire

The Association has called upon the university to put an immediate moratorium on the new teacher evaluation system to be implemented this term. The new system would see "modular" forms filled out by students. Some modules would be available only at the professor, department, or faculty level, while one module (the "university module")would be published and available to students university-wide. Instructors would give their consent before the university module for their courses would be posted.

The six University Module questions are HERE. Have a gander and see what you think.

This evaluation system has gone through a lengthy committee process at the university's Senate (a body that makes all academic decisions), and was finally passed last spring. It's generally thought that a greater amount of public accountability for teaching will increase the culture of excellent teaching at UBC. The AMS has been supportive of this evaluation system. Not so the faculty association. In their September issue of the Faculty Focus newsletter, Faculty Association president Brenda Peterson wrote an open letter to UBC president Stephen Toope, calling upon him not to implement the new system. The process and speed of implementation, the online posting mechanism, the questions themselves (which were deemed too focused on the student's "learning comfort"), and the availability of the data were criticized. Essentially, the claims are that any publicly available evaluations would infringe upon their members' privacy, become a popularity contest, and encourage high marks and grade inflation.

Not all teachers think that though. At my lab's Thanksgiving dinner, my supervisor Dr. Curtis Suttle, associate dean of science, said to me that he had no problems with the new system. "I think it's fine. There's no reason why the information shouldn't be out there" he said (in between bastings of the magnificent turkey). "For science, it's not that different from what we already do. It might be a bigger change for others."

Personally, I think that the faculty association underestimates students. We aren't vindictive. We aren't brats. The teacher-student relationship is a relationship like any other: it demands respect and fairness from both sides. Students are perfectly willing to give good teaching scores to the instructors of challenging courses if those instructors were clear, organized, engaging, and willing to help - yes, even if they only scraped a C.

Lots more background on this:


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Deans whip off the gloves in AMS-sponsored Dean's debate

Yesterday the Deans of Sauder, Arts, and Pharmacy faced off in an informal debate during the noon hour at the Norm theatre. All three deans launched with gusto into the topic of debate: "whose degree is better?". Dean of Arts Nancy Gallini seamed to triumph decisively in the tongue-in-cheek verbal sparring, while Dean of Sauder, Dan Muzyka struggled to keep the competition close. Dean of Pharmacy Robert Sindelar took the highroad strategy, sweetly abstaining from too much saucy stereotype-slinging and focusing on his faculty's strengths.

The AMS-sponsored event was moderated by David Farrar, UBC's still-new-smelling VP academic and provost. This position on the UBC executive is responsible for academic matters including teaching, and the 11 faculty deans report to this position. Farrar comes from U of T, where he was the VP students and vice-provost. He's generally thought to be student-minded and committed to teaching, though with only a month in, time will tell. Anyway, Farrar expressed his thanks to the AMS and complimented our beautiful SUB and specifically, the Norm theatre, (since it was his first time in it).

The discussion got serious in the question period, however. The deans of Sauder and Pharmacy fielded some questions about ethics in their respective professional fields. AMS president Jeff Friedrich asked all the deans about UBC's recent poor ranking in surveys comparing UBC's student experience to those of university "peers" (google "NSSE UBC"). While the Deans seemed sweetly personable, idealistic, and earnest up until this point, they fell down hard on this question. Dean Gallini and Dean Dan instantaneously cried poor. They have experienced cuts every year since they arrived at UBC. They are still living the legacy of the starved 90's (ie. the tuition freeze 90's). UBC is a commuter campus, and students don't have time to be engaged meaningfully in their academics. They challenge us, the AMS, to reach out. All these platitudes are familiar, and even legitimate. Yes, we cannot expect gold-standard student services and academic attention if there's no money to enrich and diversify programs. Yes, many student commute to UBC and work long hours. But in face of recent events, I found it insane to listen to Dean Dan cry poor for core academic funding, and have Nancy Gallini wholeheartedly agree with him. To catch everyone up, this is the same Dean Dan that just asked the UBC Board of Governors for 30 million of those core General Purpose Operating Fund (GPOF) dollars so that he can have a fancy new building instead of Angus.

He actually had the audacity to flippantly comment that our taps aren't platinum-plated, but that we muddle through. Well Mr. Muzyka, it seems like you would borrow against UBC's GPOF to the hilt, or squeeze for student fees in order to platinum-plate your very toilet paper if you could get away with it. The moral of this story is that priorities seem to be all wrong: the deans justifiably lament their program cuts and slim resources, but have no compunctions asking taxpayers (or students for that matter, whatever!) for slick and unnecessary buildings.

This debate was informative: not only do Dean Dan's priorities suck, so does his comedic timing.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

New AMS website - nice, but still out of date

You may have noticed that the AMS website has been overhauled. To match with the new setting-sun logo, is now a blue-and-white marvel of slick website design, courtesy of Calgary company White Matter. Good navigation, executive blogs, event notices, and recent news are featured, and nifty pictures and graphics artfully punctuate the pages.

Too bad the website is still out-of-date, and undetailed . The last minutes of student council that are posted are dated June 27th, more than three months ago. While browsing the executive section, I noticed that the quarterly reports of Spencer Keys and Amina Rai were handily available for download. Too bad those are the AMS presidents from two and three years ago, respectively.

Browsing the various student government services has variable results: the Ombuds office, SAC, and Financial commission sections seem to be complete and up-to-date, while the policy manual, AMS Foundation, Student Council, sections need more expansion: descriptions are curt, contact information not handy, and details sparse. The constituency section has some contact info, but doesn't even have links to each constituency's own website.

Looking over on the Student Services side, things are spotty too. AMS tutoring seems not to have witched over to the new template, but AMS minischool looks fine. The new AMS service, "AMS connect" which was to take over all volunteer postings after UBC took over Joblink last year, is still confusing. It seems to function, but is unintuitive and weirdly arranged.

The point of all this is not to slag the AMS's new communication and marketing efforts. The point is that, even with a whole company in the AMS's employ, and a fancy layout, the AMS website is still going to be below par if there isn't somebody (a real human!) who continuously updates and fixes it.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gender gaps (in both directions) still exist

Yesterday I was in for a bit of a shock. While poking around the UBC Planning and Institutional Research (PAIR) website (ie. ubc statistics), I noticed a startling statistic. In the faculty of science there are 11 full women professors, compared 146 full male professors. That's right. 1/15th of the full professors in the faculty of science are women - that's less than 8 percent. When you look at assistant and associate professors, there are about one third as many women as men. Instructors and Lecturers approach an even ratio - still with more men.

The statistics in other faculties, though not as extreme, are similar: full professorships belong in colossal majorities to men, with an increasing but still significantly lower proportion of women as you go down the academic ranks to Associate and Assistant professorships. Interestingly, Applied Science fares better compared to Sauder and Science with respect to ratios in the lower ranks. Even Arts, a supposedly female-slanted discipline, only a quarter of full professors are female, and 3/7ths of assistant and associate professors. Education is the one exception that has more women in the associate and assistant professor categories.

Yeah, we know. It takes a long time to get a full professorship. The huge cohorts of women academics that graduated in the 80s and 90s are not yet in tenured positions. Still though. And why is there still a gender gap in the recent hirings? I found it pretty stark and depresing. 11/146!?!? Dear Lord.

To follow up on these revelations, today I open up the Ubyssey. What do I see but an (excellent)article by Freeman Poritz about another gaping gaping gender inequality. Women are collecting over 60% of undergraduate degrees in Canada. They are graduating high school with better marks than men, and outnumbering them in 8/11 faculties, including Science and Atrs, UBC's two largest. This isn't particularly new news - it's a trend across Canada that young women are opting for more post-secondary education than their male counterparts. What is happening to our young men? How is our school system failing them?

I find both these sets of statistics disturbing. Women are still not able to make it to the higher ranks of the professional world in numbers that reflect their stakes. Young men aren't making it to university. What is going on? I don't know, but clearly the struggle for fairness in the balance of power between genders in our society (even in the microcosm of academics) is far from over. We barely understand (far from actually addressing) the crucial dynamics at play - and they are complicated.

Feminism is all about gender equality - that includes men's equality too. And feminism's work is not yet done.