Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Two fun promos!

Thought I'd drop by to share a couple cool clips.

This is from Terry*, an interdisciplinary project at UBC that runs a course (ASIC 200) and an amazing speaker series. The newest branch of the project is Terry Talks, a one-day conference modeled on the popular TED Talks. It'll bring UBC's most dynamic students to give "the talk of their life" on a high-profile platform. All you folks should consider attending or even applying to be one of the special few!

Promo number 2 is from our very own AMS, starring Prez Michael Duncan. What happens when the Joker threatens to take over the AMS and blow up the SUB? There's only one way to find out dudes.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why UBC Should Not Join the NCAA

The issue of whether or not UBC should join the NCAA has been around for years and the discussion is reaching a peak with major consultations set to occur. I've been to a consultation meeting already and through my discussions with people on all sides of this issue, I think I've heard all of the major arguments for and against. Based on what I've heard, it has become very clear to me that joining the NCAA has overwhelming negative consequences for UBC and indicates a further deprioritization of non-varsity students by Athletics and Rec.

Without getting too much into the details, UBC-V has 361 athletes competing on 8 men's varsity sports teams and 9 women's teams. The varsity teams are members of either Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In 2008, the NCAA Division II members voted to accept a 10-year pilot project to allow Canadian institutions to apply for membership. This has opened the door for UBC to apply for Division II, a desire that has been motivated by the Athletics and Rec department since the 1990's.

Cited Reasons to Join

  • Increased level of competition. UBC teams have had tremendous success, continuously winning championships. It is speculated that the NCAA Division II will offer a higher level of competition for these teams. But even if this speculation is granted as true, an increased level of competition only benefits certain varsity teams. For other teams, the CIS or NAIA offer the appropriate level of competition. Some varsity athletes have expressed the concern that the NCAA is not appropriate for their teams.
  • Put people in the stands. Students at UBC are not going out to watch their teams compete, even when they're winning all the time. Stands are regularly near empty and it is hoped that the prestige of the NCAA will get UBC students interested in their athletics teams. But increasing interest in athletics, as many of the student athletes themselves argue, is not best achieved by joining the NCAA. Interest in the NCAA stems primarily from Division I competition, not Division II. And if you look at the membership of the conference that UBC would be playing in, all of them are no-name schools. Who's going to get excited because the Notre Dame de Namur University is coming to campus?
  • Attract more athletes to UBC. The assertion is that the high school kid's dream of playing in the NCAA will attract them to enrole at UBC. The major oversight here is that the dream is to play in NCAA Division I, not Division II.
  • Bigger scholarships. The CIS and NAIA set restrictions on the financial incentives UBC can offer athletes to the cost of tuition and ancillary fees (NAIA covers room and board too). Under NCAA regulations, UBC would be able to offer prospective students lucrative scholarships, much like those offered in the United States. Athletics has no conception of how much this will cost, but they did say that it wouldn't be in effect until at least 2013. This point raises questions about how we want to use limited funds to attract students to UBC. Should we place the emphasis on varsity athletes or on underrepresented groups and high achieving students?
  • Increased fundraising. Athletics argues that the prestige of the NCAA will motivate a new $75 million fundraising campaign. Once again though, there is not really any prestige associated with Division II. How can we be sure that Athletics' level of confidence in their ambitious fundraising goal is merited? If they don't pull through with fundraising, the cost will fall on students. There is also an issue of equality of funding between men's and women's sports teams. Many donors will specify that they only want to contribute to a certain team, which usually turns out to be a men's team. As a result, there is a huge disparity in funding both between the sports, but also between men's and women's teams.
Reasons Not to Join
  • Accreditation and SAT. If UBC were to join the NCAA, the University would have to undergo accreditation and meet standards laid out by the United States. The implications of this are not entirely clear to me, but allowing the US to have any influence over the operation of our autonomous educational institution is worrisome, at the least. In addition, potential student athletes would be required to write the SAT to attend UBC and compete in varsity athletics. Forcing our domestic students to meet American standards of testing is something that should on its own raise serious doubts with regards to application to the NCAA.
  • Problems of dual membership. If UBC decided to apply and was accepted to the NCAA, they would only have observer status and not obtain full status until at least 4 years later. CIS has not yet decided on whether or not to allow dual membership for sports teams, but if they disallowed it (which is quite possible), CIS would kick out 7-8 of our sports teams and those teams would be without an organization to compete in during the 4 year observer status lag.
  • The NCAA is UnCanadian. UBC would be the only non-US institution to compete in the NCAA if we joined. Many student athletes are concerned that competing in an American sports environment is inconsistent with the values of Canadian sport.
  • Funding. All students at UBC are currently charged $207 in Athletics fees each year. This fee has been increased by UBC (illegally) by 30 times of what the cost was in 1985. Joining the NCAA will surely cost a ton more. Think about travel - half of the teams in UBC's would-be division are located in Hawaii. Then there is the general pressure to use student money to upgrade facilities for varsity athletes that will come as a result of being a member of the NCAA. The decision to pursue the NCAA clearly indicates that Athletics' priorities lie with the small group of varsity athletes, not the other 44,000 students. Varsity athletics is already eating up 80% of our athletics fund and it shows. Shouldn't the priority of Athletics be on programs that benefit all students, like perhaps a free gym or intramurals?
  • Slide into Division I. Athletics Director Bob Philips has been saying since 1997 that his ultimate goal is to join Division I of the NCAA. Given the shaky foundation of arguments to join Division II, it should be fairly clear that Division II is only meant as a stepping stone to Division I. I can't provide an analysis of the positives and negatives of joining Division I, but I do know that the average Athletics operating budget of Division I schools is over $35 million (ours is $3.7 million). We would have to increase our athletics budget tenfold to reach that level of funding. And where would the money come from? Students, of course.

Athletics is trying its best to appear as if its consultation is meaningful, but if you look at their consultation booklet, you'll notice that it reads more like pro-NCAA propaganda material than anything else. The consultation questions are suspect as well. Look at this one: "Please indicate your level of agreement with the following statement: 'Increased athletic financial aid for student-athletes through NCAA Division II membership is important.'" Athletics director Bob Philips has made it clear since day one that his desired legacy is to see UBC in the NCAA. It should come as no surprise that he's running the consultation as a top-down exercise consistent with that view.

How many times now have students been 'consulted' on this campus only to find out that their opinions made little difference in the decision making? This is yet another example. Since the consultation sessions are being run as pro-NCAA rally sessions, the only hope for opposition lies with our student leaders.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dion Coming to UBC

Hi everyone,

We just wanted to let everyone know that Stephane Dion is coming to UBC on September 23. He will be holding a town council at Hebb Theater at 4.30, so if you are interested in asking him uncensored questions, or just listening to what he may have to say, regardless of whether or not you have decided who you are voting for, this is a great chance to do so!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Student Environment Centre's Annual Conference

Food is FUNdaMENTAL : A Conference on Mouths, Minds, Development and UBC Farm

The Student Environment Centre (SEC) and Friends of the UBC Farm (FOF) are thrilled to be hosting a conference at the end of September entitled “Food is Fundamental”. The conference is being held to educate, discuss and take action on pressing “food issues” that concern people, the environment and the economy in both local and global contexts. The timing of the conference is no coincidence as it is also meant to bring immediate attention to the situation at the UBC Farm as it is being considered for private residential development. In addition to calling these potential development plans into question, we are addressing publicized and popular food topics as well as those that are considered to be extreme or “on the fringe”, but are in fact resurging agrarian values and perspectives. In summary, we want to talk about FOOD! We want to create a dialogue that connects soil and land to our plates and we want to address the need to eat and live healthily and happily with significantly lessened adverse effects on the planet, people and our companion species.

Our speakers are all local, with one exception, and will be presenting on topics such as “dubious foods”, food crises, food sovereignty, the politics of genetic engineering, fisheries, First Nations and native foods, and many more areas of interest. Additionally, we understand it is one thing to talk about ecological, social, and economic responsibility and consciousness; it is quite another to actually live it. And whether it is intentional or unintentional, in virtually every aspect of our lives, we are currently supporting an economic system that inherently depletes, ignores and manipulates nature. This is especially true with our current industrialized and profit-driven systems of food production, distribution and consumption. There are however, many ways of condemning, resisting, and changing these systems. This must all begin the most basic and necessary form: personally and communally practicing a lifestyle and culture of food that does not endorse or support oppressive, violent, and irresponsible food-systems. This is exactly why the final and largest day of the conference, Saturday, September 27th, will be mostly workshops on subjects like: “alternative eating”, reducing and using food waste, growing your own food, brewing your own beer, how to shop responsibly and consciously etc. and what better venue to hold these workshops on than the UBC Farm, where talk and practice meet.

This conference will be a week filled with interesting and engaging learning, teaching, discussing, entertainment, fun and eating for everyone, so please, come join us at the conference because, indeed, “Food is Fundamental”!

Dates: September 23rd-27th

For schedule details and registration:

To volunteer during or before the conference email: or come to our weekly meetings: Tuesdays @ 12:30pm, SUB 245

Some Conference Highlights:

Tuesday, September 23, 12 – 2pm (Norm Theatre): Panel discussion on first nations food sovereignty

Thursday, September 25, 12-2pm (SUB 214/216): Panel discussion on GMO foods

Friday, September 26, 12 – 2pm (SUB Ballroom): A presentation by Nancy Knight about campus sustainability

Saturday, September 27, 10 – 1 (UBC Farm): Workshops, farm tours, presentations, and music

Saturday, September 27, 1:30-6:30 (MacMillan): Keynote speakers, presentations, workshops and free dinner by community eats


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RBF's triumphant return

As you were wandering about campus this week, you might have noticed people strutting about in army fatigues, bright red shirts, and megaphones shouting vaguely about fun, beer, parties, beer, campus life, beer, politics, and beer. These are not drunk Russians left over from the soviet era. Nay, these are the members of the Radical Beer Faction, UBC's oldest political group. Back when the AMS elections ran with parties (called slates) RBF ran a full slate of joke candidates, ranging from fairies to fire hydrants. These days, RBF is an AMS club, focusing on fighting what they have termed the "war on fun" on campus. This "war," being waged upon students by the "axis of boring" of the UNA, RCMP, and university administration, has allegedly reduced the number of parties on campus due to restricted liquor licences, and bitchier neighbours. For the RBF's lobbying document, click here.

RBF VP politburo "Scary" Mike Kushnir recently had a nice little interview on the CBC radio drive-home show On the Coast explaining the Faction and the its activities at UBC. Have a listen.

Mike is a pretty eloquent guy. For the response from the RCMP and a shout-out from Grant Lawrence, CBC radio 3 host of awesomeness, here is part 2 of the segment.

If nothing else, RBF has built itself a kickass brand with Soviet-style iconography, enthusiastic membership, and a great message: the way we party is political. Take a look at some of Tim's old posts here, and here to see why. The issue of beer gardens and how students party on campus actually does relate to the fundamental issue of students' social and political engagement with fellow students. Props to the Ubyssey for harnessing the energy of this group in a by-weekly RBF column, which will be paired with a column from another active campus group, Students for a Democratic Society.


Monday, September 8, 2008


As many of you might know, UBC has been working for a while to try to find a method of getting lectures to be more interactive. The advent of things like PRS and iClickers has made it possible for professors to ask students questions in class in order to gauge their understanding of covered material, or at least to encourage student participation (or get students to attend class, which I think is generally a good thing). However, as much as I like these goals, and as much as I support involvement and interaction in lectures, there are certain problems with the way UBC is going about dealing with the issue.

The PRS system was first adapted a while ago, and since then students were required to buy PRS clickers ($45 at your friendly UBC bookstore- although I believe it was less 5 or so years ago) for certain classes. The idea was that they would be needed in several classes, and that they could be reused each year, or else you could sell them back to the bookstore for 50% of the current market price. Classes were also set up with antennas, which, according to my research, cost about $200 each. Professors were trained how to use the clickers. The problems came when they were actually being used, however- professors often had difficulty with the program used to run the clickers, some students found them to be a waste of class time, etc. So as a solution, UBC decided to adapt iClicker technology instead.

Now, there are several advantages to the iClicker, and this system addressed some of the issues that both profs and students were having with PRS. Namely, they are less expensive (only about $30), they're easier to use in that they don't require that you log into the class, and the technology is generally easier to learn. So far, so good.

So what's the kerfuffle? Well, first of all, it seems like UBC has actually overlooked students in their decisions. Students who purchased PRS clickers are now forced to pay more for a new clicker(or lose marks in class, for instance)- even those who managed to sell back their old clicker have to spend some money to buy their new one. But the issue seems to be multifold. First of all, the UBC Bookstore has imposed a 'quota' on how many PRS clickers they're buying back. This seems largely unfair- to state that you will be buying back clickers, and then to say that you've bought back enough and have reached some sort of 'quota' (that students didn't even know about) doesn't is dishonest to students who have been told that they can sell back what is now a useless piece of technology. It's not even so much the fact of having a quota- it's that they didn't inform students explicitly of it! It also means that some students have ended up having to pay $75 for technology that they have used in one or two of their classes last year, and might be using in one class this year. Despite what students end up paying in total for iClickers (be it $10 after the buyback, or $30 on top of what they paid for PRS last year), the issue is also that when students are regularly spending $700 for per term for textbooks, $10 still counts ($10 can pay for a meal, in fact!). And students aren't just spending money- they're also spending time lining up for 40 minutes at a time in the bookstore when purchasing these clickers. Furthermore, UBC has already invested in PRS technology- I don't know if the PRS antennas can be used for iClickers, but if not, then that's thousands of dollars spent on technology that is now obsolete. And where does some of that money come from?

The bigger issue, however, at least from my perspective, is that these new iClickers don't actually solve the problems of PRS. Sure, they may be easier to learn to use, or they might avoid the annoying problem of having to log into your class, but from my experience, the biggest problem with PRS was that it took up too much class time. Not because there were oodles of technological difficulties, not because professors couldn't use the program, not because it took ages to join/access a class- but because the use of the technology wasn't efficient, and was organized properly. My typical experience with PRS was a professor giving us a question, taking a while to explain it, giving students what I thought was too much time to actually solve the problem, and then giving us some more time because some students hadn't answered the question yet. I did see some effective use of PRS (in my chem 233 class, for instance). But face it- the new iClicker won't solve these issues. It was competely possible to use PRS effectively, to not let it guzzle up class time, to ensure that the answers were encoded properly. And the students who hated it despite all that will hate iClickers probably just as much, because lots of the problems associated with it were ones that were simply associated with trying to generate class discussion and participation.

I don't deny that there were technological problems with PRS- I certainly experienced frustration with the system. I'm also not saying that iClickers aren't a better technology- they certainly seem to address some of the student concerns about price, and professors' concerns about ease of learning. And on the whole, I love the idea of getting students to engage in the material covered in class, and I like the notion of student participation, and profs being able to see if students actually understand the material, or if they need to spend a bit more time on a concept. For first and possibly second year students who didn't have to get a clicker until this year, this issue may be largely irrelevant. All I'm saying is that I saw the system work quite well, and it's possible for the system to work well. I just don't think that the solution to the inability to properly operate technology that you've invested thousands of dollars in warrants the introduction of new technology that won't solve the actual problems, but that won't do so at students' expense. So what's the solution? I think that the Bookstore should buy back all of the PRS clickers, and ensure that next time, the policy on buybacks and 'quotas' is clearer.


On Academic Engagement

This article/rant is a guest post written by Sonja Babovic, a third-year Science student, and as such may particularly resonate with other students in the Faculty of Science, though the author believes that the fundamental ideas discussed in the rant can be applied across the board.

It really irks me when people complain about keeners in their classes. You know, the people who commit the horrific sin of trying to participate in the course and actively learn. Who ask questions in class because they are interested in the answers, and maybe even believe that the whole class could benefit from thinking and discussing said question/answers. I will make no effort to hide that I am one of those keeners, and I don't see anything particularly wrong with this.

Complaints I hear about keeners can be lumped into two main categories. The first argues that people who ask questions, especially intelligent questions, in class, are only trying to showcase how smart they are. While this may be true in some cases, I think that it is far more rare than most complainers make it out to be. If someone asks a question, it's usually because they want to know the answer. There are much more direct ways to brag about one's academic success, and from my experience, most top students keep quiet about their grades, because at even the slightest mention of them the student runs the risk of being labelled as a braggart. On the other hand, posting words to the effect of, "i failed the midterm because i didn't study and i'm screwed for this course LOL can someone help me plz?" is still considered perfectly respectable.

The other complaint I hear is that keeners are just trying to draw attention to themselves. Let's go with the worst-case scenario and pretend this is true in all cases. For one, I think there are much more disruptive ways to draw attention to oneself than sparking lively academic discussion. Like being obnoxious by talking loudly in class and berating your classmates and/or the instructor. Or playing World of Warcraft on your laptop while sitting in the front rows, which is incredibly visually distracting. Or consistently making out in class. I’m not kidding.

Or POSTING IN BLOCK CAPS ON DISCUSSION BOARDS, as exemplified by this gem:

but most importantly
WISH MYSELF A GREAT LUCK ( while all of you just good luck) ahahahhaah
happy tomorrow.

Secondly, I've observed a common sentiment regarding UBC among many of my colleagues: classes are too large and profs are too distant. I hear complaints over this so frequently, and I am left puzzled when the same people roll their eyes at anyone who tries to spark any kind of in-class dialogue. Do you want classes where your prof lectures at you for 50 minutes straight, or do you want your classes to be a more participatory kind of forum? Or do you just want to complain?

I mean, you'll have to excuse me for being at university because I genuinely want to be here. If you picked your courses or your program of study because a) you thought it would get you into medical school, b) your parents forced you to, c) you didn't know what else to do with your life, or d) all of the above, that is unfortunate. As an adult, you are responsible for your own happiness, and why you would spend arguably the best years of your life doing something you show no apparent interest in, is truly beyond me, and I'm sorry I can't help you there. My opinion is that you should be doing whatever makes you happy on a fundamental level, but, you have the right to instead spend your time doing something that bores you to tears.

I'll be the first to admit that UBC is far from perfect, and I've spent hours of my life ranting about things I think could be improved on here. As an example, I've found many of my very time-consuming undergraduate labs lacking in intellectual stimulation, often devoid of correlation with the course material, starved for knowledgeable TAs dedicated to help students get the most of their lab experience... the list goes on. At the same time, I think that if things ever get to the point where I'm disgruntled and dissatisfied most of the time, that point would be a really good time to leave. I realize this may come as a shock to many people, but if you really do dislike UBC so much, and if you can think of no positive things to say about it... nobody is making you stay here? The same logic applies to your program. If you have constructive criticism and are trying to engage in meaningful dialogue with others to bring about the change you desire, you have massive respect from me. But if all you're going to do is indulge in cynicism and whinery, this helps no-one, least of all yourself, and in this case I do wonder why you are staying in a place that makes you so unhappy.

I see so few people in Science genuinely interested in what they are presently taking, and this is unfortunate for a host of reasons. I do realize that being enthusiastic about what one is spending well over 40hrs/week doing is outside the social norm of cool. However, a more important consideration, to me, is that it’s generally a good thing to be able to speak of things that matter to you with pride and confidence.

I don't know about you, dear reader, but I left the notion of "being cool" back in high school, where it belongs.


Friday, September 5, 2008

GSS Council Overwhelming Overturns President's Ban on Student Handbooks

After about an hour and a half of an often sloppy debate, GSS Council decided near unanimously to reject GSS President Mona Maghsoodi's ban on distribution of the already printed and controversial GSS Handbook. Out of approximately 34 Councilors present, only 4 voted in favour of banning distribution.

I went to attend the meeting and was greeted by about 20 students standing outside the GSS Ballroom and a hired security guard blocking non-graduate students from entering the meeting, citing that Mona had invoked one of the GSS' bylaws. Mona informed me that I would not be allowed to enter, but that the Ubyssey would, even though I was reporting for UBC Insiders. She later came back and notified the students waiting outside that "after talking with a couple of Councilors, I decided that it would be best to let you in."

It was a bit of a ridiculous scene. Half of the Councilors there thought the entire emergency meeting charade was a joke and the other half waited patiently for Mona to give a convincing argument to prevent distribution of the Handbook. I'll present here Mona's two primary problems with the Handbook and you can judge for yourself.

1) The tone of the Handbook would disturb the "really, really helpful UBC Administration". Mona felt that it would compromise this relationship. UBC has commented that it doesn't really care about this issue.
2) The book contained "inappropriate hypocritical slurs would disturb our political advertisers - ie. Gordon Campbell". She added that since Campbell paid to be an advertiser, the GSS "must protect him". This comment was met by enormous laughter.

Mona was also concerned about the claim on page 95 of the Handbook that childcare is not a priority on this campus. She said that this was factually incorrect and that "UBC is crazy dedicated to helping us with childcare".

In response, honorary council member Joshua Caulkins claimed that the Handbook was a bit controversial, but that it's important to "shake things up" and it would not jeopardize the GSS' relationship with the UBC Administration or the Handbook's sponsors. He added that the issue "should have been dealt with months ago". Josh said that "the Society's reputation is at stake" and the Handbooks should be distributed to "avoid further embarrassment."

Council ultimately decided to distribute the Handbooks on the condition that they contain a disclaimer insert stating that the views expressed in the Handbook are not necessarily those of the GSS, its Council, or the advertisers. The Handbooks are expected to be released to students once this insert is added.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Difficulties Imagine-ing

As you all know, each year UBC relies on student volunteers to help run Imagine by signing up to be MUG/Squad leaders and managers. So it would seem, with hundreds of volunteers, that the university would be better able to accommodate these student volunteers that it relies so much on- perhaps by doing things like canceling labs for all students in 2nd year and up, or by letting the professors know that they shouldn't deliver actual lectures on the first day of school. And for the most part, this hasn't been a problem that I've really encountered until this year.

Some of this general disgruntledness comes from the fact that I'm a science student (I think). Most Arts classes I've taken are quite good about not doing anything more than a brief introduction in the first class. And to be fair, most of the time, UBC Science does a pretty good job of ensuring that there are no lab check-ins on the first week of school- which is why I was suprised to find out that my lab section did, in fact, have a check-in session on Tuesday- and that it was quite important to attend, as it involved things like finding lab partners and checking equipment and things.

I was then further surprised (it was a fairly suprising day, but not in the wonderful way) to learn that my biochemistry 302 class (whose size I don't quite know, but it must be large, seeing as it's in Wood 2) actually received a 1.5 hour lecture on the very first day. It struck me as being fairly inconsiderate of students who were volunteering on behalf of the university, and who were being thanked by the administration for helping out with Imagine. After all, the first day of orientations could not run without the help of students. Covering actual information during the first class on Imagine day only discourages students from participating in orientations, as it creates inconveniences for when you come to the next class and spend another 1.5 hours being confused about what the prof is saying because you weren't there last time. Perhaps it's my biassed sampling, but students I know/have asked about the matter have all talked about not wanting to fall behind during the very first day of school. Of course, it's only one class, and it's not all that hard to catch up, but creating barriers to involvement certainly isn't helpful in recruiting students to participate in things like Imagine.

So what is my proposed solution? I would advocate that the University should cancel classes on the first day for all students in 2nd year and up (at least in undergraduate programs). I envision this dealing with several issues at once. First of all, it would mean that Imagine volunteers wouldn't have to worry about missing any important information presented in the first class. Secondly, I see it actually easing the work of Imagine coordinators. I know there's always a big fuss about trying to find classrooms and spaces in which to run the student success workshops, and there's sometimes a bit of a problem when it comes to showing first years their class locations. Not to mention trying to get through crowds of students on campus without losing doe-eyed (or not) some of your MUG group. And for those of you who couldn't care less- you get an extra day of vacation! So while I understand that some professors are worried about getting through all of the curriculum, and the tight schedules, and so on, I don't think that one day makes all that big of a difference- so I think that everyone (or at least all students) wins.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

UBC Student, SDS Activist Banned from Canada

UBC student and activist Brian Gehring has been banned from entering Canada. Brian was one of the 19 people arrested in the Knoll Aid 2.0 protest that happened on campus last spring in response to the widely opposed construction of the underground bus loop and destruction of the Grassy Knoll.

Brian, an American citizen, had been spending the summer in Bellingham and was attempting to return to UBC to inquire about outstanding academic issues and find information on applying to grad school. Canadian immigration officials detained him at the border and interrogated him at length about his involvement with SDS and Knoll Aid. Officials searched his car and confiscated his cell phone and downloaded its contents. Brian does not have a criminal record and has not even gone to trial yet regarding his involvement with Knoll Aid.

The RCMP cited that he had broken the law by trying to enter Canada without a study permit. Brian mentioned that this reason was superficial and contrived as his interrogation focussed solely on his student activism. In addition, American citizens are normally permitted to enter Canada for up to 6 months without a permit. Officials often deny entry to people with criminal records (which Brian does not have), but they went beyond this measure in Brian's case. They outright banned him from Canada for a year and told him that he would never be eligible to receive a study permit to study in Canada again. He has not yet graduated from UBC.

There was no word on Brian's plans to appeal this decision.


GSS Handbook Upheld

Nothing like a little controversy to start the fresh school year off! The Graduate Student Society (GSS), like the AMS, releases an agenda and handbook that's distributed to students for free every year. This year they asked a well-known campus activist, Nathan Crompton, to put it together. Supervising it was the GSS Handbook Committee chaired by GSS VP Student Services, Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes.

The Handbook has been printed at a cost of at least $20,000. In addition to normal stuff like an intro to student services and an agenda, the handbook features a critical, cynical and satirical history of UBC and numerous assertions about the university's profit-mongering raison d'etre. The content proved to be too "inappropriate" for GSS President Mona Maghsoodi though. In response, three members of the Executive decided to suspend distribution of the Handbooks and lock them in an unknown location. Although Mona would not return my calls and it has been noted in other publications that she declined to say which elements of the handbook are contentious, but said it's not necessarily the "activist stuff."

In response to the nature of the content, Nathan Crompton said that "there's a certain level of satire. I don't think it's over the top." He also expressed his views on the purpose of the handbook. "A lot of people see the handbook as a way to impress the president. We didn't make that kind of handbook."

Some people think the radical political content of the handbook is fine, and withholding it is "censorship". Others find the content inappropriate for the handbook and objectionable in general. For me, the more interesting question is: How was this thing massively produced before being checked over? Presumably the president of a student society would weigh in on such a massively important publication before sending it to the printers. According to Nate, the editors did their work in the plain view of the GSS Executive. Editors held 'Open House' meetings, where executives were invited to review Handbook material, in addition to several Handbook presentations to the GSS Executive in which Executive members were informed that the Handbook would feature the activist history of UBC.

Since the the Handbook is the responsibility of the Handbook Committee and GSS Council, not the Executive, the final decision on whether or not to distribute the handbook lies with GSS Council. See the debate play out at tomorrow's GSS Council meeting! Free beer!

Happily, we've got an electronic copy. You can download and take a look a the contraband handbook itself HERE .

What do you think? Good political critique of the university's past and present, or overly negative and editorialized introduction for new grad students? What reflection does this fiasco have on the GSS as a whole?