Category Archives: The Meliorist

Like my life depended on it…

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”

Henry Miller

Nana is moving.

With her, all my childhood memories, my wants, and my dreams move too. A few weeks ago (now those few weeks seem like years), I was sitting in the midst of old birthday cards, forgotten postcard messages and preserved photographs depicting smooth and easy smiles.

There I was, sorting through twenty-three years of importance, finding petrified pinecones from forgotten mountain drives and pictures of long ago crushes. We keep these sort of things to remember times of joy, pain, truth, and betrayal. Old gifts from past loves are found again, and still cherished; handwritten letters from deceased family members that bring tearful smiles.

To chose the special objects that would gain the honor of residing in dusty boxes in a soon to be mildew infested basement, I created a simple rubric. If the object made me smile, it was kept. Everything else went.

There is a picture of me from my first day of Kindergarten. I was a newly minted five-year-old, with missing teeth and a legging/dress polka dot combo that I now wish came in a twenty-three year old size. My hair was blond, cut into a very five-year-old bob and I was clutching a notebook and pen like my very life depended on it. I suppose it did.

I am soon leaving behind a daily routine that fit into easily segmented yearly calendars. For eighteen years I have been classified as a student for census’, occupation questions, welfare programs, and incomes taxes.

I have been a part of a special and elite group of learners, and have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits that accompany this label. Discounts, tax breaks, and the ever indulgence of new people who have yet to hear me expound on the passion I have for my field of study.

Education was my way into a world I wanted so desperately to be a part of. A world where the answers were always available, and everyone was respected and listened too. A world where I could read as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted. A world in which intellect was valuable. A world where everyone was equal.

Five-year-olds have an uncanny sense of inequality, a naïve and inclusive worldview that has yet to be spoilt by jaded bias and jealousy. As a five year old, I poignantly understood inequality, as I’m sure many children do.

Education is meant to be an equalizer, where every person is given the same chance, the same opportunity. I know this to be untrue now. I understand that education is as unequal as job opportunities and economic advantage.

That doesn’t mean I have stopped believing it is possible. That five-year-old has fought hard in these eighteen years to remain present in all her hopeful and ideal glory. I have never stopped questioning, although I learned to keep from doing it out loud so often.

I will soon walk across a wooden stage with thousands of other persons who likely had similar dreams to my five-year-old self. Maybe they also carry those dreams with them.

While I sat in the midst of trinkets, captured moments, faded poetry, and remnants of a long passed childhood, I feel a sense of pride. Pride in myself for never giving up, pride that I believed in something bigger than my own surroundings and that I still do.

As I packed my last vestiges of an earlier person, I left behind my negative experiences. I pushed aside the reminders of failed relationships, failed chances, and incoherent mementos. These things were mere reminders of a person I no longer was, and were only kept to remind me to never turn back.

The strength to stand tall was not discovered overnight, it was won piece by piece through love given and returned, by continually standing back up after being pushed down, by the stumbles and the leaps. It was in part given to me by the women in my family through shared experiences and handed down lessons.

Walking across a stage, accepting a piece of parchment, and shaking a hand will take moments. It is the eighteen years of belief, doubt, confusion, frustration, and pride leading up to those moments that are worth keeping reminders of.

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Fear, fighting and freedom: meet Ryan

My name is Ryan Gerstenbuhler and I have an anxiety disorder, which leaves me terrified sometimes.

In the first part of this series, we introduced Ryan and he talked about growing up in Picture Butte and how his illness has prevented him from living his life the way he has wanted too.

Growing up in a small town, Ryan had little choice but to try and be normal, as normal as he could be. Ryan is now 36 years old, and has suffered from spastic cerebral palsy most of his life. Despite consistent threats of fear and panic attacks overcoming him, his hometown surroundings kept him subdued, and restricted him from exploring the extent of his illness.

Upon high school graduation, Ryan moved out of his family’s house and into an apartment in Lethbridge. Ryan suffered a crippling panic attack upon this change, and throughout much of the 1990’s Ryan became increasingly more fearful, even to the point where he was afraid of his own wheelchair. As he describes, “I felt like my life was over, I was waiting to expire.”

However, things are now very different for Ryan, he has begun to take steps to push himself out of the cocoon of fear he has been so long wrapped up in. “Over the past ten years, I have been trying to make use of the present, and the future and learn from the past, without living in the past,” explains Ryan. “The message is, if there’s anything you want to do for yourself, if there’s anything you want to achieve, you have to do it now, because time is running out. It seems like opportunities are still there, but things are being taken away, not granted.”

If Ryan looks familiar to you in the halls, or in the streets of Lethbridge, it is because of his advocacy work on behalf of the physically challenged in Lethbridge. “I’ve been very good about fighting for what I thought I needed. If I need a higher standard of home care, and if the powers that be didn’t want to corporate for whatever reason, budget constraints or standards or what have you… I’ve been very good at beating through opposition and getting what I need that way.”

Outside of fighting for his own personal needs, Ryan has also taken on the city regarding Access – A – Ride and its lack of comprehensive service. Ryan admits the gains he has made have been small due to the bureaucracy of local government.

Despite Ryan’s success in meeting his physical needs and advocating for greater services for all challenged individuals in Southern Alberta, he has struggled to find the motivation to achieve success in his personal life. Ryan has questioned his ability to make friends, and find personal fulfillment both on a friendship and on a romantic level. His only answer is that he has had to deal with crippling self-esteem and self-worth, which has only served to aggravate his agoraphobia.

Throughout his childhood, Ryan was made to feel as if fear is controllable, and to show fear is a sign of weakness, and because of his disability, weakness will only make his situation worse.

“I was taught that I had to be better than other people I had to be something other than human. I know that sounds extreme. It sounds unreasonable because it is unreasonable, because of the fact of the matter is, I am a man.”

Throughout his life, Ryan has tried to grapple with how he, as a man who wishes for companionship with a woman, can achieve that given his physical condition and his battle with agoraphobia. Ryan is trying to change that though, “I need to put myself out there, and really advertise myself.” This is something he is actively working on by speaking to The Meliorist, by getting more involved with the University Community.

“It seems to me that this could be a form of catharsis, me saying to people: look here’s my problem, here what might happen, and then I don’t have to worry about hiding it. That’s a real trick with my type of fear. The real trap that someone can fall into when dealing with panic attacks or agoraphobia, in my estimation, is trying to control it.”

Don’t try and control, just let it do what it’s going to do, and eventually the adrenaline will drain out of your system and you will be ok.

This change didn’t happen suddenly, but the catalyst for Ryan was signature for it occurred in little more than a moment. “My life changed on July 23rd, 2001 at about 6:35pm. That was the evening I had to do a presentation before Lethbridge City Council and I was in full panic attack mode. There was so many people there to hear what I had to say about the issue I was going to speak on, I couldn’t let them down and have any kind of credulity left as an advocate, so I had to do this. For the first time since my big collapse in 1992, I controlled the fear, the fear did not control me.”

The road to getting to a place of confidence, where the closing of a classroom door is no longer a threat, and making conversation no longer seems impossible has been difficult. But Ryan has developed his own form of self-esteem therapy.

“I didn’t feel that I could handle life. I wasn’t hiding from other people, or myself, so much as I was hiding from life. What I started doing is, I started using this Stewart Smalley methods. Stewart Smalley was a character on Saturday Night Live played by Al Franken, and he was this over the top personal councilor. The end of every Stuart Smalley bit he would look in the mirror and say something like: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, something like that. He would do it in a way that everyone would laugh, but I looked at that and I thought to myself while I was laughing, why don’t I do that for myself?

So, Ryan imagined a mirror, and he imagined himself saying: “I’m good enough.” I’m good enough evolved into: “I’m the best.”

Ryan explains, “At first I was faking it, I could act the part but I didn’t really believe it.” However as time passed, and this practice became a fundamental part of his life, Ryan experienced a change. “Then one day it was like a light bulb, from spark to full glow, it blossomed and I realized I honestly and sincerely believed that I was every bit as good as I thought I was.”

Ryan takes issue through the way children take social cues from our environment to form relationships. As he looks back at his past, the word he would use to describe it is “isolated”. Feeling as if he was pushed to the back, and pushed aside, Ryan received very conflicting message from his family where he was told to push himself harder than anyone else while being told he was going to have to be dependent on others for his well being.

This lead to a lot of confusion, and then to the biggest deterrent to getting healthy: Ryan’s self-imposed isolation. Although he recognizes that he is likely not alone in feeling this way, he still asters that, “from a personal perspective, you do feel like you’re the only one. I do feel like I’m the only one who has never had a girlfriend, and if I’m not the only one, what’s our problem?”

Ryan’s experience has led him to question, “How can we keep developing as a species with everyone being so isolated?” His desire for physical social interaction means that new social communication devies hold little appeal for Ryan.

“We have YouTube, and we have FaceBook and we have Twitter, and people think this is social networking. In a way they’re right, your reaching out and you’re communicating, but you’re not communicating. Communication and being social is not interacting with a computer screen, or interacting with a video camera. That isn’t interacting in any kind of intimate or advanced way.”

Throughout this journey, Ryan has discovered something critical, something that every person needs to accept. “I spent a lot of time running from whatever issues I used to put myself into this emotional prison. The truth is, you cannot out run what’s eating it. It will keep up with you no matter how far or how fast you run.”

For more about Ryan, please visit themeliorist.ca and look under the Features section for the full audio of Ryan’s interview.

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Bibliophile

Narziss and Goldmund

Herman Hesse

Peter Owen Ltd.: 1959

“We two, my friend, are sun and moon; sea and land. Our destiny is not to become one. It is to behold each other for what we are, each perceiving and honouring it in its opposite; each finding his fulfillment and completion.”

Narziss: pg. 43/44

Herman Hesse is an author who resides in the upper echelon along with Miller, Plato, Wilde, Shelley, and Ferguson. A German native, he began his writing career by selling books and published poetry at the age of twenty-one. Hesse is the author of better-known novels Steppenwolf, and Siddhartha.

Although his novels can be quite dense and overtly philosophical at times, Hesse has a lyrical quality to his writing that allows his complex sentence structure and occasionally unwieldy ideas to wind themselves around a tongue and mind with grace. He consistently proves, throughout all his novels, that with patience comes reward and despite the difficult nature of his work at first glance, once enraptured he can hold the readers attention for hours, days, even weeks.

In Narziss and Goldmund, Hesse unwinds the life on a young man with an unsettled and wry nature. From his youth in a monks ministry, through his education, and during his time as a vagabond traveler, Hesse follows the life of this character through the major historical moments of the time; letting the setting impact his character as much as the character impacts Hesse’s choice of context.

The story is truly more about the relationship between a mentor and a pupil than it is about anything else, but Hesse allows the reader to discover that at their own pace, without forcing understanding or recognition. The discovery, through education and then rebellion, of Goldmund is as much of a discovery by the reader as it is by the character.

Evolutions in understanding, in critical thought, and in spiritual, emotional, and physical need prove the humanness of this character and support the internal philosophical struggle between basic right and wrong.

The story takes place in many spaces, but in Goldmund’s mind, it is always in his place of education. There is always his mentor, Narziss present in a room, there to comfort and guide him. As any true educator would.

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Take to the streets: Student activism rises again

This year, budget makers in America and Canada seemed to have forgotten their humble beginnings. Post-secondary education saw massive cuts, both to operating grants for institutions and in research dollars, maintenance funds, and student funding. Scholarships, grants, bursaries were all depreciated, leaving low income students little choice but student loans, third party loans, or dropping down to part time status to be able to work while obtaining an education.

Students across North America are not taking these cuts lying down. In effect, they are causing a perfect storm. In America, students across the states are protesting to their elected assemblies. Monday March 15th, students in Georgia came together to tell lawmakers that they vote, they are educated, and they are articulate. Georgia has 35 public institutions, and some students awoke at 5 a.m. to drive to attend the rally at the capitol city.

Idaho students are being hit hard. Tuition increases of 50% in just one-year means greater stress on economic resources and of course all the ill effects that come with. By the current 2010 budget, state funding remained $78.8 million, while student fees climbed to $84.5 million. This is a sharp contrast with Alberta PSE practice, which is that student tuition cannot make up any more than 30% of the total institutions operating budget. The keyword there is tuition, other fees can increase by as much as the institution or the students will allow. Idaho students came out to protest on March 11th, a small but vocal contingent.

Florida and California are the states setting the bar for university activism, with Florida universities pushing students hard to make their voices known on March 24th, a day of action to be held on the steps of the Capitol. California, though, is where the jam is really happening. Students are working with faculty and staff members, shutting down their campuses and basically throwing a highly sophisticated and intellectual tantrum.

Every lawmaker, be they Canadian or American has issued very similar public reactions. Yes, cuts are being made but that does not mean that students will have to bear the brunt of the cost saving measures. It does not necessarily mean increased tuition; it means that institutions will have to re-evaluate their spending habits. Alberta’s own Minister of Advanced Education and Technology, Doug Horner, has said something very much to that effect both to the public media and to students in private meetings. This is an incredibly short sighted and irresponsible response, in this writer’s opinion.

By cutting research funding, universities are forced to find ways to fund expensive but well publicized research projects, such as our own $20 million man. If that funding dried up, I would be hardly surprised to see the U of L make cuts somewhere to ensure Dr. McNaughton could carry on with his work at the CCBN. U of L’s name is riding on the success of high profile academics such as Dr. McNaughton and the many others who are well published and academically visible. Sometimes, this comes at the cost of providing support to professors who are less funded, and have more trouble receiving the increasingly elusive grant funding.

I’ve been in university for six years this April. In six years I have seen tuition increase, fee referendums pass and fail. I have seen buildings built, a much-needed daycare open, and countless student organized and directed events.

I have also had the amazing opportunity to work as a student advocate, representative, and activist. Campus – community radio was and has been my dig for the past six years, and I have seen the power the medium of radio can employ. I have hosted a sex talk show, a news program, and a music program featuring independent artists locally and across Canada. Most visibly, I have been elected to serve as a public official to represent students within the university community and to the provincial government. I have also had the great pleasure of writing for the on-campus publication, The Meliorist, since 2006. All of these experinces have thrust me, sometimes unknowingly, into student activism.

Students are notorious for their activist ways. Despite the increasingly used label of “apathetic,” students are proving this month both in Canada and the U.S. that this is far from the truth. Here in Alberta, students province wide will be attending a rally planned by the University of Alberta on the steps of the Legislature building March 18th to physically show the government that these cuts are hurting students, and students are no longer going to be able to handle the burdens they are forced to bear. This comes after months of individual protests at institutions across the province, and several Alberta wide campaigns planed by organized advocacy groups.

Students are whipping up a perfect storm, the question is though, what will they do with the commotion they created after the winds die down? How effective will this protesting, rallying, and general rabble rousing be? Will lawmakers in the U.S. and Canada hear the cries and reverse their cuts? Will institutions recognize that without students, they are reduced to commercial research entities pumping out name brand pharmaceuticals?

Student activism has led to revolutions in the past, but this is not the generation of the 1960s. We are students, in the here and now, facing issues in the here and now: climate change, student poverty, lack of housing, and de-prioritization of post-secondary education.

War protests still occur, and some get a great deal of media attention. However, protesting is only one part of student activism now. After the protest, students must keep going, keep trying to meet with their MLA’s and their MP’s, their congressman, and their political leaders. They must keep sending letters, and they must keep talking to institution’s administration. Students must keep working, because it is not a solitary action that will change anyone’s mind.

If all else fails, students and activists need to run for office and turn it inside out. Forget trying to work within the system, change it.

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How many affluent, middle aged Albertans does it take to change a province?

Reboot Alberta (picture by Mack Male)

Alberta is experiencing a revolution in social activism. In the past, the influence of the affluent, middle-aged, white man in Alberta was lamented; now we are seeing these same types of people shape a movement that has promised to increase democratic participation, inclusivity, and accessibility in Alberta’s political environment. Small pockets of individuals, province-wide, are springing up and enacting genuine social change through long ranging and diverse discussions.

Enter into ChangeCamp, CivicCamp, and the most recent political conference, Reboot Alberta, where the first goal is bringing about a fresh perspective in Alberta. These events are truly engaging Albertans. People of all ages and backgrounds are invited to come together to participate in these discussions, and in the eyes of many, they are signals of a new time in Alberta. It seems like genuine progressives are taking command of the political culture.

The recent upswing in interest in politics of Alberta may be due to someone who is not a middle aged, affluent, white male. Danielle Smith, the newly elected leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party (WAP) has been featured heavily in local news, and seems to be everywhere; from The Rick Mercer Report, to The Economist. Her party is one without any official policies, and only one elected member in the house. Despite this, it is also posing a threat to the Progressive Conservative (PC) dynasty, as two MLA’s have crossed the floor to the WAP. The party, its infrastructure, and credibility seem to be building up; block by block, riding by riding, communication director by communication director.

Albertan, progressive, and proud of it

The Reboot logo

So where are truly progressive Albertans to turn? For some, the answer has been found in a new party, The Alberta Party. For others, new formats of discussion are becoming increasingly viable and effective.

Reboot Alberta, a conference that has an attendee list that reads like the who’s – who of Edmonton and Calgary business members. The first meeting was held in Red Deer last November. This past weekend, February 28th, 2010, a second meeting was held at the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis. While open to new attendees, there was some concern by organizers and original members that new people would slow down the process, and halt the progressive discussion that was being built.

To gain a deeper and truer understanding of how Reboot is shaping Alberta political engagement, and what goals it has for this province of ours, I spoke to two individuals who have been a part of this organizations from the beginning.

The faces behind the button

Andrew McIntyre and DJ Kelly are both Calgarians, and both work in community advocacy, public relations, and communications. Both men are active in their communities and have been politically engaged in one way or another for quite some time. In addition, both are original ‘Rebooters’ and have worked to shape and organize this collective which believes it can “help revitalize our democracy,”

I asked both McIntyre and Kelly why they attended the Reboot conference. McIntyre responded with a decisively personal claim: “I attended Reboot to continue a conversation about a new direction for the province. Reboot serves as a space for this discussion to take place.” Kelly, a little more directly, “I attended the first Reboot Alberta because I was disillusioned with the one-sided nature of politics in Alberta. I spend a lot of time with many of the new tech tools (such as social media) and I couldn’t help but think to myself there must be a better way to engage the public – to involve them in the decision making process. I’m a firm believer that the government acts on our behalf. In order for that to happen, we must instruct them on an ongoing basis. In order for that to happen, we must have more openness and transparency. I was looking for a group that was willing to discuss new options for Alberta, to make that happen.”

So, what do these two participants want to get out of Reboot, and how do they see this movement affecting Alberta? McIntyre responded with his perspective: “a group of politically interested Albertans came together without a preconceived plan of what would emerge through voting, participation, and conversations several separate “streams” emerged, some where focused on big picture issues and others where more focused in specific action, like the group that wanted to form the Renew Alberta party.”

Kelly’s perspective changed between the first the second event, “after this past event, I’m starting to realize there is value in the conversation alone. Many of the people attending Reboot Alberta are already extremely involved in various activities in their own hometowns – work, volunteer projects, etc. What I think is really interesting, is what those people do with what they’ve learned at Reboot when they go back to those projects. That to me is much more interesting than anything that “Reboot Alberta” itself could do or become.”

Neither of these two individuals are party-focused though, and both noted that despite there being a heavy presence with members of Renew Alberta and the Alberta Party – the conference was held after these two parties merged – many Reboot participants did not partake in the partisan discussion. The conference was attended by members from the PC party, the WAP, the NDP, Liberals, and of course the members of the new Alberta Party. McIntyre reinforced the point that he, “attended as a private citizen, as did all other attendees.”

In discussing Reboot’s contribution to the re-emerging centrist and/or progressive mindset of many Albertans, Kelly commented that, “I think by its very definition, the “centre” is where the majority of people are – or at least it is the average of what all the people believe. Centre is a moving target, which is why I prefer not to talk in terms of left or right politics – they don’t actually exist. Centre in Ontario is different than centre in Alberta, or Texas, or England, or etc.” However, Kelly does see the value behind the centrist movement. He noted that it is possible for the Alberta Party to succeed here, “…mainly because it is nothing more than a group of people saying, instead of a small group of “us” deciding – whether that be members or caucus or a committee or whatever – to be a centrist you have to put the power into the hands of the “average” Alberta to decide what your party will stand for, and do. Will the Alberta Party folks be the ones to do it? Time will tell, they will only be as good as the hours they put in and the people involved.”

Coming down from the mountains

Breakaway discussion

Reboot is not a movement powered by hot air. Rather, it is truly walking the walk through its social media inclusion and the genuine desire to open up the dialogue to be more accessible. The Reboot website encourages participants to publish blog posts and position papers, and on-line discussions are held with those who may not be able to physically participate in sessions. For some, such as Kelly and McIntyre, Reboot needs to be spread out to be effective.

DJ Kelly was affected by Reboot, causing him to look for ways to bring that discussion to the relationships and communities that already exist for him. “I’m the president of my community association and I realized, upon looking at the way we engage the people living in our neighbourhood, that we do a terrible job of involving people in the way they would want to be involved. Too often when someone expresses an interest – bam – we put you on the board. But they could care less about being on a board, they just wanted to work on a cool event, or something like that. So I partnered with CivicCamp to help them create CivicCamp in a Box, which we are piloting in our community. The goal of the event is to, through the “unconference model”, take what the residents like and don’t like, talk about them, and then give them the tools to help make those things happen. That’s just one example. Another might be, I’m spending more time on my blog trying to build a bridge between what one group thinks and another.”

Is Reboot really for everyone?

The Kananaskis Delta Lodge

It is easy to see the merits of Reboot, and sing its praises while marveling at the open process it has embodied. However, despite likely best intentions, the truth is that it is the still the same individuals already engaged in their communities, politically or otherwise who are the driving force behind this movement. It is still putting up barriers, likely unintentional but present nonetheless.

The conference held in Kananaskis this weekend was costly. A registration fee of $150.00 and to stay at the conference site, the cost per night was roughly $110.00. Those costs do not include travel, or time needed for travel, nor does it include any extra costs such as food, drinks, spending. Debra Ward, an Edmontonian was one individual who couldn’t attend because of the cost. She commented that, “distance equals cost. I think that was probably why they got the same people they always get. I wasn’t the only person who would have liked to have gone. It was cost; cost and little bit of disenfranchisement. A feeling of not really being a part of what the event was trying to attract. When you’re exclusive, you miss out on a huge part of the population, think of those disabled. How do they there if it isn’t easily accessible? I have friends who are disabled; they wouldn’t, and they couldn’t go.”

Ward has other criticisms. She was also a member of the ChangeCamp organizing committee, and found the experience to be less than positive. “I sat on the organizing committee for ChangeCamp, there were only two females in that whole group. That’s pretty sad when there is two females, and we are half the population. I felt, myself, like I was given lip service anytime I tried to bring up issues. I really believed in the process of ChangeCamp, but it was a headache for me and it made me reconsider joining anything again.

Wards disillusionment comes out of the barriers in place throughout Alberta’s political organizations, barriers clearly not being addressed by the members of these up and coming movements. Ward notes, “I hate to be gender specific because I believe the best person for anything should always be the best person. But, reality is, that’s not happening. It’s not happening because it’s the same people; the same group of society that is trying to change things but because there so insulated, they’re just altering it.”

In the end, only kindness matters

Ok, well that may not be true. In the end, what matters is staying true to what you preach. In end, what matters is that if Reboot, Renew, and The Alberta Party are here for Albertans, then they should be here for all Albertans. Kelly talked about increasing interests and genuine participation by opening up the process. In order to do that, all voices need to be heard and considered. Moreover, all voices need to recognized, and actual actions need to be taken, to ensure that their concerns, and their perceptions, are taken into account.

Reboot Alberta could be a game changing movement in the province. Working alongside, though not necessarily in consort with, new parties like the Alberta Party and WAP, this social change movement has the potential to produce actual change in Alberta’s political culture.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same

Canada’s pre-eminent public intellectual John Ralston Saul famously wrote, “The rising power of specialist groups increasingly ties this train to what is called utility. In order to attract money from and for these groups, universities are now reorganizing themselves to serve directly a variety of very specific interests. The thousand year struggle to create independent centers of learning and free thought is rarely mentioned.”

Much like the society Saul talks about, Alberta has began to reorganize its post-secondary education to serve specific interests.

Furthermore, Alberta has consistently proven in its budgets and in its actions that education is not much of a priority at all. One out of every three students in Alberta go on to attend post-secondary education out of high school, and overwhelmingly, the cited reason for not attending is affordability. This should come as no surprise as Albertans have consistently paid tuition that is among the highest in Canada. Last year, Alberta was rated third, behind New Brunswick and Ontario and in 2008 we were fifth.

While the Alberta government has complained about transfer payments and taxation, post-secondary education has consistently been de-prioritized and commercialized. Long gone are the days of glorified liberal education institutions. Learning for its own sake has been sacrificed to Rexall, Shell, and prominent banks. Instead of students lust after Stein, Meade, and Keohane, we see students entering university to get degrees to obtain jobs. Our government has consistently told students that debt is a four-letter word. That is unless it is in the form of student loans.

The mid nineties brought drastic cuts to all aspects of post-secondary education, as it did elsewhere. Universities were cut at the knees, and institutions responded in this new consumer-driven market by raising tuition, and hoping students could beg, borrow or steal enough to attend their institutions.

Students responded by increasing their student loans, by getting part time jobs while they committed less time to their full time studies, and by simply dropping out when times got too hard. The University of Lethbridge, like much of Alberta has a 30% first-year dropout rate, and once again the primary reason cited is affordability. When the average student is graduating with $25,000 in student loans, loans held by our federal and provincial governments, they are easily deterred.

Much like in the early nineties, students who cannot afford to continue their education due to impending tuition increases are looking at minimum wage jobs, if they can get a job at all. Alberta’s unemployment rates are increasing steadily, and now is the time to pursue education if you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford it. On top of this, unemployment affects young people disproportionately.

Sadly, this last round of clear deprioritization and detrimental budget cuts is only shocking because of its herd-like behaviour; following the leader off a cliff. Duncan Wojtaszek, Executive Director of the Council of Alberta University Students (CAUS) and a former student executive at the University of Calgary Students Union from earlier this decade commented “The province is passing its financial hardship to students in the form of new debt. The government was saying no area was sacred, but a $54 million dollar cut to scholarships and bursaries, not including the loan forgiveness plan was not communicated to students in any way.”

Wojtaszek’s experience with Alberta politics and post-secondary education funding is diverse and lengthy. Yet, this budget was an unexpected hardship, with Wojtaszek saying that this budget “disproportionately affects students.”

“Last time around the cuts were to the entire system, this time it appears that the government is passing off all their cuts to students in the form of student debt,” Wojtaszek continues. “Institutions are making it up through increased tuition and increased fees. All sacrifices are being aimed at students, whereas last time they were at the community as a whole.”

The precedent-setting cuts made in the early nineties when then-premier Ralph Klein was crowned king of this oil bearing land rippled out, and it put post secondary education institutions behind in ways they are still struggling to make up for. Crumbling classrooms, unmaintained buildings, and poorly conceived residence buildings are a result of slashed stable and renewable maintenance funding. Low-grade technology is the result of having to prioritize one thing over another, and, as the operating grants shrink our class sizes will balloon. Wojtazsek notes that “It is certainly evident that it will put us further behind, but what remains to be seen is if it is a one time blip or if they will be systemic and permanent.”

Anand Sharma, former Chair of the CAUS in 2002/2003 spent much of his time fighting the same issues that current PSE advocacy organizations are still fighting today in Alberta. He remembers “Institutions facing tough decisions, raising tuition consistently.”

“Already we have an issue with whose getting a PSE in this province. Those who want to go can’t go, and have to join the workforce to be able to afford it,” Sharma says. “People are entering PSE later and later. Government continually underfunds PSE, and our institutions are not working with students to really tell the government that what is happening.”

The priorities from the late nineties and early 00’s are the same ones student advocates hold today: maintain the tuition cap. This is so universities cannot raise tuition to pay their Presidents multi-million dollar retirement packages, and fight differential tuition so that universities cannot raise tuition in fields like law, medicine, and pharmaceutical science by over 40%, as proposed by the U of C and U of A. Sharma comments that, “ten years from now, the people who are going to attend are going to be the wealthiest whose parents can pay their tuition. Programs like medicine and dentistry will be even more expensive.”

The truth is that Alberta does a disgraceful job of ensuring their citizens are the best educated and that our economy is diverse and sustainable. This budget round, $54 million was cut from scholarships, bursaries, and grants. The Alberta Loan Relief program was scrapped altogether, a program that used to give students who couldn’t find high-income careers immediately the ability to defer their loan payments or have them forgiven if their financial situation was dire enough. Yet, as low-income students suffer, the government of Alberta can afford to fund another $100 million to Carbon Capture and Storage. Sharma’s statement that, “It doesn’t matter if you’re on the left or right, prioritizing education is a no brainer. It is a win-win for the economy or the province. It was very short sighted” rings true when we see this hegemonic and out of touch government remain in place.

The history of continual de-funding is embarrassing, and yet we seem to have learned little from it. Alberta has experienced a brain drain during even tougher economic times than this. Incredibly promising future researchers and intellectuals have gone to provinces that regulate tuition and ensure that accessibility and affordability are more than pretty words next to a slogan that rings hollow.

Last year, the Alberta government touted the phrase “knowledge economy”, this year the new phrase is “commercialization.” Primary research, intellectual freedom, and learning for the sake of knowledge seem closer and closer to being bygones. Library lights fall, residence buildings are vacated routinely for bed bug fumigation, and our class sizes have become bigger. Students, Albertans, and university administration need to tell our elected government that we want a province that is knowledgeable, and sustainable; not a province that sends our greatest minds elsewhere, as it has the last 15 years.

“The university needs to be champions for PSE and funding for PSE, and often they are appointed by the government and they don’t feel they can be as vocal. A lot of people don’t know until there kids have to go into PSE.”

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Building communities, rebuilding Haiti

It is obvious that when disaster strikes, communities are formed, but when these communities are formed hundreds of thousands of miles away from the disaster, the true power of an old motto, “service above self,” comes to the surface. Canadians have poured out hundreds of thousands of dollars to relief agencies through donations, both large and small. One of these agencies is a relief effort known as ShelterBox. Simply put, Shelterbox is the basic necessities of life provided in a quantity that will house and provide for ten individuals. An amazing way to provide immediate relief, individuals and companies around the world have chosen this as their contribution to the people who have to pick up the pieces and begin anew in Haiti.

The University of Lethbridge Rotaract Club chose to raise funds for ShelterBox as a way to give aid to Haiti. Alix Blackshaw, Rotaract President for the University of Lethbridge commented “We have seen how effective it is and how much it can help. Our district has been a strong supporter for years, and I think that was just a chance thing because somebody knew someone.”

Rebuilding this country is not as simple as hiring the crews and drafting plans. It will take months, even years of intense financial and developmental aid, of providing expertise on proper building methods and ensuring that a government is in place who will lift up the poorest Haitians to a level of basic survival. Yes, this disaster was a magnificent force of nature, and no one could have prevented it from creating havoc. However, when homes are built nearly entirely of mud and tin, and millions live in abject poverty, there is more needed than a simple re-building plan. The entire country needs to be restructured and rebuilt from the ground up.

For this reason immediate aid, and suitable, even if only temporary, shelter, is so absolutely necessary. The basic concept of shelter, of a home, and the psychological desire to have a safe space for yourself and your family is universal. The pictures of the makeshift tent cities, and hundreds thousands of people camped in squalid conditions is enough to provide solid evidence that what Haitians needs right now is a place to sleep at night.

International aid organizations are in the process of setting up three sites that would be safe for the creation of the tent cities that will serve as homes and communities for the people of Haiti during the time it takes to build proper infrastructure. Conditions are bad right now, and as the dead lay decomposing in the street and sanitation systems have been all but eliminated, the basic services a community needs to thrive are stripped away.

Aid organizations are doing everything they can, and the outpour internationally has been immense. For a country whose people have toiled in obscurity for too long, this incredible disaster has finally woken others up to their desperate cries for help.

In Haiti itself, it is the sense of community that constantly astounds those who crowd around their radios, televisions and computer screens to witness what some are calling “disaster porn.” Regular worship is still occurring, whether it is inside the church ruins or outside. Families continue to beg disaster workers to not stop searching for their loved ones, and despite rising tensions and increasing desperation Haiti is not devolving into the violence many were predicting would occur. That is not to say that the worst is over; there is a lack of government presence, a ruthless sense of law and order, and an increasing need for sanitation services, clean drinking water and food. Still, despite this, the Haitian community is still present.

Art continues to reflect the current circumstances, and photos depict children laughing and smiling as their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents wash clothes and cook small, inadequate meals. Here in Canada, that sense of community is not lost on those reaching out to help another country in during these desperate times. Rotary was founded close to the time of our own country and has reached out to its members and its community to raise funds and awareness to help the Haitian people in this current catastrophe. The ShelterBox initiative was started with a Rotarian, Tom Henderson, who had the very simple idea of a kit equipped with everything a family would need to survive for a temporary period of time. From that conception, ShelterBox has gone on to provide basic needs such as blankets, a ten person tent, dishes, tools, water purification tablets and more to families in disaster-affected areas. This kit has been used successfully worldwide to provide basic shelter to families in need. In Haiti, nearly 4,000 Shelter box have been dispatched already, providing hope and security, albeit temporary, to nearly 40 000 people.

Though, helping people is what Rotarians do; their motto, “service above self” is inspiring for anyone. Speaking to Alix Blackshaw, President of the University of Lethbridge Rotaract club, her passion for community service is evident in the way her eyes light up when she speaks about Rotaract’s achievements and activism through volunteer work and the people she has met and the organizations she has served. “First off it just shows you how to be a member of your community,” Blackshaw says, “I’ve volunteered with every non-profit in Lethbridge. It teaches you how to be an international citizen, just the fact that even the smallest things really do help. Even the smallest fundraisers we do can help, in the big picture.”

The personal connection to the organization is shown through the dedication Alix and other club members have for the work they do and the volunteer efforts they undertake. Theirs is a community dedicated to both local and international efforts, teaching students how to be stronger citizens while creating a strong community at home. It is this community that allows Rotaract members to help people in Haiti. It is the Rotarian spirit that gives incentive to those involved in postsecondary education to increase their community visibility and to give back to the community their institutions are situated in. One of the ways Rotaract works in their local community is the annual bowl-a-thon that raises money for the Lethbridge hospital’s “Books for Babies” which provides educational resources to low income families in Lethbridge.

Communities can be created over mediums other than the traditional lunchtime Rotary template, and no one understands that quite like Elsa Cade, a Lethbridge Rotarian. Cade is a member of an American based, Democrat oriented forum/blog, and until the disaster in Haiti used it primarily as a forum to discuss science education and to voice her disapproval of George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education programme.

“I don’t write a lot, I like to read but then once this Haiti thing came out, and I had an opportunity to say look at this, this is a good thing to donate too,” Cade explains. “It’s really desperate in Haiti, and desperation is because they don’t have any place to stay, and I put this thing out there, and before you know it, I was getting all these donations and in my mailbox I’m hearing from the Executive Director of ShelterBox USA, and heard from several ShelterBox rescue teams.”

The thing she is referring too is the ShelterBox initiative, and through her appeal Cade has raised over $122,000.00 for ShelterBox, primarily through American donations. This on-line community has surprised Cade, and she expresses the momentum an on-line community can generate, “It says something about the Internet, that you can connect with people like that. It is such a powerful tool in terms of disseminating information.”

The message most prominent through these examples of humanitarianism is that community both empowers us and can serve others. Whether it be in a traditional format like Rotary, through a University club, or an on-line forum, there is are individuals at the beginning and end of each these connections, and it is people who are making the effort and have the desire to help others.

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Has Facebook given Canadians a place to get political?

The proroguing of Canadian Parliament has taken worldwide news agencies by storm. From Great Britain-based The Economist, to online news sources such as Reuters, to home grown national news sites such as MacLean’s, The Globe and Mail, Rabble, The National Post, and the CBC what this break in parliament means to Canadians has been covered extensively.

Prorogation is not as uncommon as most think, and has been done by nearly every elected government in Canadian history. However, this time Canadians have reacted with an unprecedented level of distaste. Proroguing parliament at a time when the current government is under scrutiny for alleged torture in Afghanistan, when Canada is still trying to stay afloat in the worldwide recession, and after a period of international embarrassment because of Canada’s lack of action on climate change seems to have made Canadians rather unhappy.

This discontent has manifested itself in public displays of frustration with the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), although such public displays have so far accomplished very little in the way of changing the current political situation. The great public equalizer, Facebook, has become a topic of heated debate amongst pundits who now have very little to do without Question Period to keep them hot and bothered. Speculation on the effect of blogging, Twitter, and the exponentially growing Facebook group, “Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament,” will have on the political process has been flying left and right. Defenders of the beloved social media sites denounce naysayers, citing the exponential growth, the increased volume of communication between members, and the spread of knowledge amongst Canadian citizens about what proroguing means.

There is some truth to what these social media advocates preach about. The Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Facebook group has 158,164 members at the time of writing, a number that, when compared to other leading Canadian political groups on the same site, doesn’t even compare. The BC Anti HST group has 129,790, while the Canadians Against Coalition Government – a site that was used last year to hold rallies across Canada against the Liberal-NDP coalition – had 126, 930 at the height of its popularity. For the further sake of comparison, members of ten separate groups celebrating the television program Mad Men only total to 8,116 individual Facebook members. But what, if anything, does all this mean?

Critics scoff at the impact that these groups have. It is all too easy to join a group on a social networking site logged into an average of 100,000,000 times daily; it does little to motivate a person to attend a rally or write a letter to their MP, and it is a very passive form of resistance. However, the ripple effect of online tools is impossible to know comprehensively, for better or worse.

The fact of the matter is that Facebook has 350,000,000 active users, and there are 3.5 million pieces of content created daily, viewed by half of Facebook’s active members. On average, users are invited to three groups a month and when there are over a hundred thousand members joining said group in a small window of time, you can guarantee almost everyone’s news feed will contain at least one mention of the group, and that mention will include a Facebook friend of yours.

The group itself has “gone real world,” as described by CBC political blogger, Kady O’Malley. The use of social media by Canadians to discuss prorogation has spawned an entire debate unto itself, sliding itself over top the actual prorogation debate. Articles in independent media sources such as this paper, blogs, and the mainstream media have all picked up on the mass conversion to political interest. While this group may not change which MP’s will be on Parliament Hill come January 25th, it certainly has changed how Canada is debating the decision to prorogue. The question is no longer whether or not Harper has the legitimacy to do so – and constitutionally he does – it is now whether or not Canadians will retaliate against him and the Conservative Party when session is re-convened.

An EKOS poll taken on January 7th, a little over two weeks after Harper made that fateful call to Michaelle Jean shows the Conservative Party drop by 2.8%, giving them a 5.8 point lead over the Liberal Party, their closest opposition. This drop indicates that the gap between the two parties has narrowed considerably since mid December.

Despite these polling statistics, this could very well mean nothing. Facebook, while socially relevant and broad in its scope, is still self-selecting and the 158 154 members of the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group may well be the same users who would not vote for the CPC in the first place. When session reconvenes in March, it will be most interesting to see how many of those members watch the Throne Speech, and involve themselves in continued political action. The creator of the group himself, Christopher White, is a University of Alberta Masters student with only a peripheral interest in politics. The site is entirely made of content that members posted and created, not of content he himself created.

Regardless of how much genuine direct action comes out of the Facebook group, or from any of the blogging chatter or Twittery tweets, the fact remains that it is getting us talking. Worldwide, Canada’s parliamentary break in proceedings is getting as much air and print time as South Korea’s fist fighting parliamentary proceedings. With the government proroguing parliament for the second time in a year, Canadians are getting used to hearing it, and are likely starting to understand what it means. Is it very possible that Facebook is actually useful for something other than tragically erroneous grammatical errors and pretending to be a farmer.

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Bills, bills, bills

Inspired by a CBC journalist who wrote about the many bills that were killed as Harper prorogued parliament for the second time in as many years, I couldn’t help but go to the LEGISinfo website and look for myself.

Parliament convened on the 18th of November in 2008, and was quickly prorogued on December fourth, leaving an extra long Christmas break for all members of Parliament. As it was such a short little session for our elected members, only four government bills and 52 private member bills were tabled. The four government bills passed through a first reading, but were killed, only to come back during the second session in January. The 52 private member bills were kept as they were, frozen in time until parliament could reconvene.

This is due to nifty (and somewhat convenient) law that was passed over a decade ago that allowed private member bills to carry forward from one session to the next within the same parliament – even despite proroguing. If – and now I think it is safe to say – when a parliament is prorogued due to the wisdom of the Governor General, all government bills that are killed on the spot rise again, reborn. Private member bills, however, stay kicking around in the state they were left in, to be reintroduced to the House or Senate for eventual defeat or royal assent. After the 2009 prorogation, all 52 private member bills came back, all having undergone first reading in the first session.

On to session number two. It was a busy year for the Senators and MP’s, beginning on that shiny morning of January 26th, 2009. 354 private member bills were tabled, all made it through the first reading and many were ready to come back after they were scoured by committees and layered with amendments. Only 64 government bills were tabled, though. Out of those 64, 30 received royal assent, which means more than half died on the table.

Truly, though, what does this matter to Canadians? It is not the number of bills passed or defeated; it is their content that matters. Many of them were procedural, but a few notable ones include Bill C-6: The Consumer Safety Bill, Bill C-15: The Drug Sentencing Bill; and Bill C-26: The Auto Theft Bill. All three made it to Senate and will now have to be brought back into the House then to the Senate, which will likely look remarkably different after Harper’s expected appointments.

Parliament amended the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act that extended the geographic definition of Canadian arctic waters to 200 nautical miles offshore (from 100), a response to the perceived threat on Canada’s arctic sovereignty.

An “act respecting not-for-profit corporations and certain other corporations,” as stated on the LEGISinfo site, was introduced and received royal assent. This act combined three previous bills that died during the 2008 prorogation. This act was introduced to give non-profit organization greater flexibility and recognizes them separately outside the Canada Corporations Act.

There is also Bill C-8, Family Homes in Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act. Reserve land is governed under federal law, and all acquisition or transfer of property is as well. However, the provincial government decides when a married couple divorces what the division of property will be, both real and personal. See the catch? The province cannot make decisions about reserve land, but there is no federal legislation or provisions in the Indian Act that governs the division of martial property. Essentially, those who obtain a divorce who also reside on reserves in Canada, are stuck in limbo as to the ownership of their home, their land, and any other property attained in their marriage. Even the United Nations has told Canada to get their act together. However, since this bill died on the order paper it looks like, once again, Ottawa will have to re-examine its treatment of FNMI persons in Canada.

These are only three examples of government bills that came through during the second session of parliament. It may have been short, but it sure was not sweet. Despite the potential to achieve quite a bit, many bills will have to come forward again, going through parliamentary procedure. Hopefully we will see more decisions made before the next election, or dare I say, prorogation.

Before it all went Prorogue in the House of Commons

First Session: November 18th 2008 – December 4th 2008,

Second Session: January 26th 2009 – December 30th, 2009

(Information from LEGISinfo, updated January 4th, 2010)

Private member bills:

354 tabled

354 went through first reading

23 were voted through to second reading

83 members who tabled private members bills

21 bills relating to Employment Insurance

25 bills relating to the Criminal Code

Government bills:

64 tabled

30 received royal assent

34 dead on the table, waiting to be revived

3 tabled by The Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

3 tabled by The Minister of State

5 tabled by The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

3 tabled by The Minister of Health

4 tabled by The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

3 tabled by The Minister of Finance

6 tabled by The President of the Treasury Board

2 tabled by The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

12 tabled by The Minister of Justice

3 tabled by The Minister of Environment

7 tabled by The Minister of Public Safety

1 tabled by The Minister of Natural Resources

2 tabled by The Minister of Industry

1 tabled by The Minister of Veterans Affairs

1 tabled by The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

2 tabled by The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

1 tabled by The Minster of Labour

1 tabled by The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development


The MP who wins for most bills tabled is MP Peter Stoffer with a grand total of 22 bills tabled.

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Celebrating this decade: ten momentous occasions in University of Lethbridge history

This decade has seen some incredible and historic moments. The Y2K bug/anti climax of 2000, the threat to North American security on September 11th, 2001, the rise of the China’s international political and economic power, the fall of the American economic system, climate change as a ever growing concern, Canada’s lowest voter turnout in 2008, and the political polarization that has occurred in European and South American states.

Living through the events in this past decade, and reflecting on the effect these events have had causes me to pause and marvel at our ability to adapt to new and different surroundings. The world looks very different today than it did in 2000. Old threats have diminished and new ones have emerged. Technology has boldly re-invented itself, and the age of social communication through sites such as Twitter, and Facebook have allowed our personal and professional relationships to draw new boundaries and consider greater fluidity.

The fall of capitalism, the major natural disasters we have witnessed, and the changes in our political and societal landscape are no small thing. This decade has changed the way everyone views the world. When everything can be taken from you in an instance, through no control of your own, suddenly baubles mean less. It is the intangible values, and the moments of happiness that we remember when looking retrospectively, not shiny presents of things.

The University of Lethbridge has undergone some major changes, both physical and psychological. We have grown in prestige and strength as a suburb undergraduate institution, and have expanded our physical presence in the Southern Alberta community tremendously. UofL have expanded their graduate studies programs, more students are enrolling and graduating than ever before from both graduate and undergraduate programs, and UofL is attracting world renowned talent to bestow their knowledge to UofL students, who will one day go on to surpass even the greatest.

In honour of the passing of this glorious decade, a harking back to the years before when “Jenn’s Top Tens” graced these pages; I present a top ten of the most momentous occasions in University of Lethbridge history:

On-Campus Daycare Center (2005 – 2010)

After a long and arduous process of constantly lobbying the administration, the University of Lethbridge reinstated the on-campus day care, promising to have it built as soon as possible. Luckily, this coincided nicely with a boom in our provinces’ resources, and soon the day care plans were under way and a committee was struck to deal with the detailed execution of the building.

This would not have been possible without the persistence of many people, some who are still here to see the fruits of their labours, and some who have since moved on but are no doubt celebrating in spirit. 2005, a rally was held to show support for on-campus day care and those who spoke and attended remember it well. Dr. Harold Jansen of the Political Science department extols as a “Great example of solidarity between undergrad, grad students and faculty.” Together, the entire university came together to show the need for this service on-campus, and the will of the community to make it so.

Fortunate to be able to attend the ground breaking last March, a feeling of overwhelming pride in the community I belong to rose up in me. I am proud of the incredible individuals who attended countless board of governors meetings, who presented solid arguments and who proved to the whole community that there was a need and support for an on-campus childcare center. I am proud to attend a school with lead by members of administration who continue to work to see this plan executed and deliver the tangible outcome of so many people’s hard work.

The day care is set to open officially in January 2010.

Womens Rugby CIS Wins (2007, 2008, 2009)

Our womens rugby team took the CIS National Championships three consecutive years this decade with a lot of hard work and effort. They expended their top notch training with ease and grace and secured this national honour three consecutive years running, the 2nd team in history to earn that title; proving that the pronghorns are indeed the fastest and toughest animal in North America and the University of Lethbridge truly has an athletics programs to shout about. Two time CIS Champion Allie Laurent remembers it is a shining moment in her UofL career, “Winning the universities second CIS national championship since men’s hockey won in 1993 and after only having a women’s rugby team for 7 years…then winning the next two years in a row to start a pronghorn’s rugby dynasty”. This is a feeling every UofL member can hold dear, off and on the field.

Polaris Prize (2009)

They call Dr. Bruce McNaughton the “20 million dollar man” and his decisions to join the University of Lethbridge Neuroscience program, bringing his excellent expertise and experience was very much a win for this university. Of course, the experience and first class facility he gets here was a rather large incentive for him. The Canadian Center for Behavioral Neuroscience welcomed Dr. McNaughton officially in 2008, and celebrated the achievement of securing the AHFMR Polaris Award, a research grant worth $10 million over 10 years, matched by Alberta’s iCORE research grant, giving an addition $10 million over ten years. Dr. McNaughton will be working with University of Lethbridge students on brain behavior, incorporating UofL knowledge into this innovative and groundbreaking research.

WTF?!/First Choice Savings Center – 2006

Yes, not the most glorifying moment in history for either the University of Lethbridge or the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union. After the students passed a referendum to partially, but substantially, fund the new sports and recreation center, the university thought it was fit to allow them to name the building.

Then came the infamous title “Witness the Fitness” or, WTF. Thankfully, the university axed that in favour of naming it after the second largest donor, a bank. Yes, this was the best anyone could come up with, naming the new world-class fitness center either after a bank, or a colloquial term primarily used by 12-17 year olds.

Notwithstanding the naming fiasco, the fitness center has had a major flooding incident, and was partially shut down for a period.

However, overall, with the steam rooms, the rock climbing center and that very sexy track, our First Choice Savings Center – or as it is more commonly know, the PE building, is something to be inspired by. It has aided in attracting many community members from around Southern Alberta to use the facility and interact with the university.

Uleth goes to space (2004 – 2009)

Dr. David Naylor, an astronomy professor has lead a team of both graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Lethbridge to provide a major contribution in the form of the SPIRE instrument, which was used in the Herschel mission, launched May 14th 2009. The Herschel mission is a mission designed to gather information about the universe, the deepest and darkest parts of the universe.

The SPIRE instrument is an infrared camera and spectrometer that can simultaneously look at an entire region in the sky. The UofL delivered the test model and technology to the missions’ headquarters in the UK, and was used for the first time in 2004 to qualify the early version of SPIRE.

Take that NASA, we do not just blow up parts of satellites to see what is going on.

The (new) Library Building (2003)

The building of the new library building was a huge achievement for the University of Lethbridge and allowed not only our holdings to increase, but also future technological changes to be implemented and installed with greater ease. Our library building is fantastic for a school of our size and the decisions to place it in the center of campus completes the student hub between the Students’ Union building, the PE building, and the library.

A 6% increase for Alberta’s post-secondary institutions base operating grants (2004)

The Advanced Education and Technology ministry of the Alberta Government made an incredibly forward and progressive decision in the mid 2000’s. They boosted the yearly increase to post-secondary institutions to 6%, from the traditional increase of 4%. With Alberta rapidly growing economy, and increase in expenses 4% a year was below the Alberta price index inflation adjustments.

Without this extra grant, it is unlikely that the University of Lethbridge would have been able to provide the $600,000.00 in Quality Initiative Program funding, invest financially in the plethora of new buildings, or attract the talent and knowledgeable faculty  members was have taken in over the past 5 years. While the Alberta government has told Albertans that PSE is not a budgeting priority in the fiscal crisis, it is important o remind them of all the good that was done and the benefit it has to Alberta’s students and Alberta’s knowledge economy.

Former ULSU President, Kelly Kennedy comment on this, “When the province started to give post-secondary institutions a 6% increase to base operating grant funding. They normally were given 4% increases yearly, which was generally below API. I doubt QIP and other construction would have happened if it wasn’t for this increase.”

Markin Hall, Stadium, Canadian Center for Behavioral Neuroscience center (CCBN), Water Building, and Turcotte Hall (2000 – 2010)

This decade the UofL built, with assistance from the student population, the provincial, and the federal government, six new buildings and substantially upgraded Turcotte Hall to enlarge and increase the modernity of our campus. This is an incredible feat in ten years, and has no doubt added to the quality of education for every student at the UofL.

Notably, the student body has shouldered a significant amount of the cost of these new buildings.

Poo Day (2008)

Who could forget this incredible day? November 4th, 2008, I know where I was. Sitting in my VP Academics office, hearing commotion outside and then learning that sewage line broke and level one of the Students’ Union building, a building that deals with high foot traffic everyday, is flooded with…well, poo. As this was clearly a health hazard, and the sewage and water system for the entire university had to be turned off to fix the broken line, every single person got the day off from all classes and mid-terms. Hence the affectionate given to this day by at Uleth’er: “Poo Day”.

Dr. Bill Cade, our illustrious leader for this decade.

The University of Lethbridge has been lead admirably by this President for the past decade; and under his leadership the University has lead the field in water and neuroscience research, expanded Liberal Education programming, increased the visibility of the Edmonton and Calgary campus’, and continued to display itself as a strong undergraduate university focused on graduating insightful and critical thinkers. As Dr. Cade is stepping down from the Presidency after this academic year, our institution owes a great deal of gratitude to the passion he has exhibited for the UofL. His Texas drawl, his office Chameleon, his obsession with crickets all give him the personality I think we will miss.

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