Tag Archives: uleth

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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Student engangement loses its sex appeal

Student engagement is the no longer the two sexiest words in post-secondary vernacular. All too often bandied about as a reason to do this or that, to spend this money or not spend any at all, the idea behind ‘student engagement’ has become almost meaningless. With students expected to pull A’s, work part time to support their academic career, maintain a semblance of a social life, and get involved in school activities it is no wonder that dark shadows grace many an eye and stress is palpable in the hallways.

At an institution, Students’ Unions are based around the very idea of an active and engaged student body and without such, these bottom up organizations would be fairly inconsequential. It is no wonder then that our very own Students’ Union, the ULSU, constantly fights the good fight, proving that our UofL students are active and responsive. At the very least, page twelve of The Meliorist proves that there is somewhat of a Chuck Norris loving – classmate call out – disgruntled roommate student community here.

Recently, there have been grumblings about newly placed barriers the University administration and the various departments within have put up to discourage club activity on campus and over all students ‘good times’. There have been significant changes in the attitudes the ULSU has taken regarding clubs and their vigilance to ensure that rules and regulations are being followed. Observing the number of events and the outstanding attendance for club activities, this is not acting as a deterrent to event organizers.

Speaking to Alex Masse, Vice President Academic for the ULSU, he commented on club restrictions, “Everyone at the SU thinks that clubs should be able to go out and have dinner at a restaurant, or help promote a concert, for example like the Headbangers want to do. Everyone wants to make it happen, but it’s on our books that it can’t happen.”

Student events have been increasing by both the ULSU and clubs at large. As well, events and speakers being brought in by the University of Lethbridge to engage students and community members at a more visceral level, an education outside of the classroom, continue to be of excellent quality and well attended.

Student engagement is not a one sided issue. It is not just a matter of students not caring, or not being interested in exploring new idea’s and paradigms. In fact, to believe in true student apathy is a disregard for the sacrifice students make to continue their education at a post-secondary institution.

The reality is, students are no longer just students. Students hold part-time jobs alongside attending full time classes. Financial restrictions place a greater emphasis on success in academics as well as time spent working to ensure rent is paid, food can be eaten, and tuition is forked over.

Tuition in Alberta continues to rise, worrying many that it will soon reach unaffordable rates. Albertan students now pay the third highest tuition in the country. A province that can afford to promise two billion to a green washing initiative sadly does not prioritize education to the same extent.

Those who are involved, especially those who work to advocate changes to post-secondary education, understand the pressures many students are under. Masse, “I do see where students are coming from when they do come across as being disengaged. Quite frankly, we are dealing with a campus where so many people are spending so many of their waking hours just trying to do well in school and then dedicating the rest to work. I don’t think that it is so much that students don’t want to be engaged, I think that haven’t bothered to care because they are already hurting from all the other burdens placed on them, because of the amount of actual paid employment students need in order to get through a degree without having a crippling amount of debt. It’s really hard to find the time to come out to hear such and such person speak about whatever topic, regardless oh how important it is.”

Students are engaged, and they do care. The continuous efforts being put into their academics and into ensuring they are financially stable enough to remain in post-secondary education demonstrates that. It is our institutions and our governments that need to prove to students that they also care, that the work and effort is noticed. Lowering tuition rates, ensuring there is adequate on campus housing, and fiscally prioritizing funding to post-secondary education will have a lasting impact on students and on their communities. Students will give back in volunteer time, in student engagement, and in making this campus a better and more vibrant community for all.

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The problems with genocide IIII: Shoah

Liberal Education 3010

A topics course

Instructor: Dr. Bruce McKay

“This course will consider the problem of genocide from a number of perspectives through a number of theoretical frameworks. We shall ask such questions as: Can we more fully define genocide? Why, in particular, is genocide a problem? Is it a solely modern phenomenon or do other aggressive acts in history constitute genocide? Why is it so difficult to take action when we know that it is occurring? What can we do about it? How can people bring themselves to enact such crimes against fellow humans? What should the role of the arts be in understanding genocide? How can we remember genocide while at the same time reconciling the events of the past with the necessities of the present and future?”

Topics: HolocaustShoah, Yiddish Literature, pogroms, Persecution.

The Yiddish language is being lost in the midst of generational changes.

Through the Shoah/Holocaust many of the Eastern European Jews who spoke Yiddish as thier primary lanagage were killed. Genocide not only destroys lives, but also culture. While genocide is unable to eradicate every person of a certain ethnicity, it does destroy culture, and aids in wiping out an entire generation of citizens. There is a great deal of community culture that is dependent on the passing down norms and values by the generation preceding.

I have learnt most of my social cues from my parents,  and my grandparents. The mentorship that happens in every community is integral, but as in all ethnic wars, that is torn away with the destruction bestowed.

Jewish people have been marginalized and persecuted for their culture and their region since the Roman empire made Christianity the only allowable region. While the Holocaust was unthinkable, it was truly the cumulation of the centuries long persecution. From the Roman empire, to Catherine the Great, the isolation and anti-Semitism has created a culture defined by persecution.

Lectures given from Philosophy, History, and English; the lens the Holocaust and Jewish history is studied from are varied and defined. The studies undercurrents are still shared though, and one runs parallel to the next.

Institutionally, I understand the mechanisms. I can theorize the strategy of certain decisions and certain schemes. There is always an underlying methodology to certain types of madness.

To understand that genocide is a bigger picture using Philosophical rhetoric, and to read primary sources, readings that are from the same mind that the eyes and ears are governed by. Fiction, which retells horrors some people are incapable of speaking about.

How do you connect with people who have been through hell?

To study theory and outcomes does not impart any understanding of the emotional turmoil people went through,but first hand accounts give qualitative evidence that resonates. The imagery of intense acts of violence and hate are profound and so very human.

Raised in a family who had deep ties to the allies in World War II, Nazi and Holocaust history has been fairly prevalent. When I was nine, I saw Schindler’s List for the first time, and while it wasn’t the first history lesson I had regarding the second world war and the Holocaust, it was the first to be truly profound.

When we speak of genocide, or the commiting of ethnic atrocities,  the Holocaust is the example most used. The killing of millions of people from the Jewish community,as well as other marginalized and suppressed groups is a blight on human history. To imagine the suffering that occurred at the hands, literally, of other human beings.

The Nazi regime created impossible situations, pitting people, neighbours, friends against each other, creating Kappos to divide and conquer.

It is frightening to think that it happened, that millions of people were wiped out in a few years only. To read survivor memoirs, knowing this is a direct history of people only two generations preceding.

I still grapple with the question: how do you respond to genocide?

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Art, with the lovely Jane Edmundson

Jane Edmundson is a Lethbian through and through. Born and raised in Lethbridge, Alberta, a graduate of the UofL with a BFA in Studio Art, and currently working at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, she is a staple in the Lethbridge music and arts scene as well as a supporter of local artistry and artist community groups. Nourishing a serious crush for typefaces, shiny dance pants and shoes, she knows good looking when she sees it. Just ask Lethbridge based musician Paul Lawton.

I spoke to Jane in mid October about what “art” means to Lethbridge, how funding cuts have affected the University of Lethbridge gallery and why we are truly much more cultured than the rest of Alberta.

JE: Well, in my 3rd year, I started as a student employee at the Gallery which ended up parlaying into a full time position working on the database and while I was doing that, I was also helping out the Preparator with exhibition installation so when he went on leave, I ended up filling in for him and I’ve been doing a mixture of the prep job and curatorial assistant duties for two years. I suppose I stayed because I couldn’t turn down such an amazing experience in my field getting work in the museum/gallery field right out of school is pretty amazing.

JP: Is this fairly typical of Lethbridge? Hiring gallery staff from the bottom up?

JE: Since the University Gallery encourages student volunteerism, often those volunteer positions can parlay into paid positions. The SAAG also has employed many University [of Lethbridge] graduates. It is a good pool to hire from.

JP: Many people view Lethbridge/Southern Alberta as fairly uncultured, yet those who know, know that Lethbridge boasts a tremendous art collection and devoted art scene. In your experience here, do you feel there is a thriving art culture?

JE: I think it is definitely thriving. Having a university here really facilitates the community by providing young artists and museum studies students that are interested in creating work and mounting exhibitions. Also the University promotes cultural education, which means there are lots of professors and staff that are interested in supporting local artists and exhibitions.

The University of Lethbridge Art Society (ULAS) maintains various displays of student art all over the city that Lethbridge residents can encounter in non-traditional venues, The Penny Coffee House, for example.

The SAAG brings critically acclaimed up and coming, and established artists to town for exhibitions because the community is smaller than those in Vancouver or Toronto. Students and Lethbridge citizens can interact directly with the artists when they come to town to install their exhibitions or when they are visiting as lecturers for the Art NOW course at the University.

There are also various independent artists studios all around downtown giving professional artists living in town a framework of support and the Bowman Arts Centre and Trianon Gallery provide even more opportunities for exhibitions and cultural experiences.

Really, the opportunities for artists and art supporters just keep growing.

Oh! And Trap\door artist run centre; they are a great support network for local artists, and they bring international up and coming artists to town for exhibitions and residencies.

JP: You mention Art NOW, which brings in a variety of artists to educate the UofL student community. Does this do a lot to benefit the UofL art gallery as well?

JE: I think the two go hand in hand very well. Visiting artists are drawn to the University because of its great reputation as a cultural institution, which comes from having a strong Fine Arts Faculty and the extensive art collection and any artists that are hosted by the Gallery to install contemporary exhibitions (such as Allyson Mitchell, who was recently here to install her Ladies Sasquatch exhibition) are also featured in Art NOW, which helps bring students that are enrolled in the class to visit the Gallery.

JP: What does the UofL gallery have to offer to the Lethbridge community that is unique? Why the need for an on-campus gallery when we have 5 or 6 others in a small city with a variable population?

JE: The students and staff/faculty on campus can have easy, direct access to art and research materials, and even those in the campus community who wouldn’t normally search out those cultural experiences can easily wander into the Gallery (or walk through the Helen Christou Gallery).

The Uni Gallery programming features both exhibitions from the collection, as well as contemporary exhibitions. The Gallery has also developed an online database of all the works in the collection. So, students, faculty, Lethbridge citizens, artists and researchers can learn from the collection first hand, or through the database, or through the contemporary art that the Gallery brings to Lethbridge

The integration with visiting artist lectures and the Uni Gallery gives students and community members an opportunity to learn in the lectures, and then go and view the art directly.

The Gallery and art collection allows Museum Studies/Art History students to learn directly from the collection and exhibition programming/installation techniques directly from Gallery staff. Having this type of hands-on education is extremely rare in an undergrad setting.

The 3000 level Museum Studies students are now curating one exhibition a year for the Helen Christou Gallery, which is an amazing opportunity for undergrad students who are hoping to go on to graduate school in the field

Basically, education.

JP: Helen Christou Gallery. What is, where is it, and what purpose does it fulfill?

JE: The HCG is our satellite space, it is on Level 9 of the LINC building, right beside the Security Offices. Essentially, it is a corridor space which we have adopted for exhibitions and the space is programmed along with our Main Gallery space so sometimes the two shows relate to each other, and other times they are independent of each other. We utilize the space as another way to reach students and staff/faculty who may not normally visit the Main Gallery space

Generally the shows featured in the HCG are eye catching, and accessible to people of a variety of cultural and art appreciation backgrounds.

JP: You have done some curating for the UofL galleries, what has been your favorite exhibit been to put together?

JE: My first exhibition, Tasty Treats, which was in the HCG, featured works from the collection that depict various food. It was really fun and I had a great opportunity to make awesome posters and a great brochure with my curatorial text.

JP: I have buttons from that show! They are adorable.

JE: This past summer I got to curate my first Main Gallery exhibition, and I chose to display some of the large scale, photographic pieces from the collection that examine depictions of the human body, which I thought ended up being really understated and lovely, and the Gallery felt really peaceful. It was nice to get to do something more serious after the first, more carefree show. (The Main Gallery show was called “The Body Multiple”)

JP: Has there been any affect on the UofL Gallery with arts funding cuts? Also, do you anticipate any impact from upcoming University wide budget cuts?

JE: We were affected most by Harper’s decision to cut the Exhibition Transport Service, a national shipping network for artwork and art exhibitions. It was subsidized by the government, which meant artworks and full travelling exhibitions could be shipped between galleries and museums for an affordable price.

Most of the public galleries in Canada are not-for-profit, so they can’t afford astronomical costs of shipping. When the Conservatives [government] cancelled the program, it had the University of Lethbridge Gallery and galleries all across Canada scrambling to meet shipping costs for planned exhibitions. We had to adjust some of our planning for an artist’s project coming up this November when the shipping costs proved to be prohibitive.

However, we are luckier than a lot of other galleries in Canada that don’t have the other sources of funding we have. We are supported by both the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. We are lucky to have a great Director/Curator that earns us grant funding also because we have the support of the University, and the forethought of the people that first began the art collection, the Gallery also has funding via an endowment so we are doing better than a lot of places.

JP: Is it a curator’s primary role to secure funding now, in a [sic] economically frustrated world?

JE: It is a huge part of their role, yes

JP: Lastly… Which Lethbridge gallery is your favourite, and why?

JE: (laughs) I can’t answer that! (more charming laughter) I am biased, the University Gallery has given me so many opportunities; I am indebted

JP: Fine, which Gallery in the WORLD is your favourite?

JE: The time I spent in the Musee d’Art Contemporain in Montreal was absolutely fantastic

If you want to see a sample of Jane Edmundson’s curating skills, Head Shots is the featured exhibit at the Helen Christou Gallery until October 23rd, 2009.

Article first published in The Meliorist, Volume 43, Issue 7 on Ovtober 8th, 2009.

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The problem with genocide II

Liberal Education 3010

A topics course

Instructor: Dr. Bruce McKay

“This course will consider the problem of genocide from a number of perspectives through a number of theoretical frameworks. We shall ask such questions as: Can we more fully define genocide? Why, in particular, is genocide a problem? Is it a solely modern phenomenon or do other aggressive acts in history constitute genocide? Why is it so difficult to take action when we know that it is occurring? What can we do about it? How can people bring themselves to enact such crimes against fellow humans? What should the role of the arts be in understanding genocide? How can we remember genocide while at the same time reconciling the events of the past with the necessities of the present and future?”

Today’s class: Discussion on Romeo Dellaire’s Shaking Hands with the Devil.

I neglected to post after last class. Not fully able to explain why. Typically I find writing very cathartic, ordering my thoughts and providing self discovered answers to the very many questions I always seem to have spinning around.

Last class, a time line of the events was hashed out. Confused, unsure and overwhelmed, the timeline did well to sort out some historical detail but little to sort out the bigger questions.

Belgian occupation, rising the Tutsi’s to a sociological class above the Hutu; Independence in 1962, Hutu left in charge, civil war follows suit. Tutsi’s flee to Uganda and feeling as if their nation and their land had been stolen, react by creating a revolutionary army; Majory General Habyarimana stages coup, the beginning of a 20 year dictatorship and the start of Rwandense Patriotic Front engagement with Rwandan armed forces; Arusha Peace talks begin 1991; peace talks conclude and the process of reclaiming peace and ending civil war begins in 1993, or so the world believe.

April of 1994: Habyarimana’s plane is shot down and the code is put out across the radio for all Hutu to “cut down the tall trees”. Tutsi slaughter across the country and for the next 100 days one of the worst acts of genocide occurs while countries deny calling it genocide and the UN proves to be ineffectual. the RPF ‘work’ to reclaim Rwandan land and the French come back to establish safe zones to take wounded and displaced Tutsi and Hutu too.

I left class with question I cannot answer. Not really sure if anyone can.

I read through Roméo Dellaire personal account of his experiences and I am floored by the accounts. He gives a bureaucratic account, using language I understand and am comforted by but no amount of technical jargon covers the horror of recounting hundreds of thousands of deaths, lives taken merciless using rough and violent means.

“Only hero’s can intervene in genocide. If he is an everyman, shouldn’t we all be able to do this?”

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A Symbiotic Love Story

The ROOTS Garden Club Celebrates Official Opening September 3rd, 2009

By Jennifer Prosser, Features Editor, The Meliorist

September 10th, 2009. Volume 43, Issue 1

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific’

-Beatrix Potter

The Campus Community Garden operated by the University based ROOTS Garden Club is modestly tucked in a broad field about 10 minutes from the Students’ Union and just a few steps away from the on – campus family Residences’ and the soon – to – be open on-campus daycare. Fenced and protected from those roaming deer and adorable bunnies, the garden invites its tenders in with a bright sign and a welcoming attitude by all who garden there.

Nine plots with robust evidence of tender love and care, although clearly some have been cared for a little less than others, sit orderly filled with various vegetation. The large communal plot shows evidence of the water problems the garden saw this summer and marked with thistles and small patched of long grass scattered here and there, it reminds visitors of the native vegetation still present. Despite the lack of water and the thistle problem, the large communal patch proudly boasts healthy rows of lettuce, tomatoes and various other vegetable type plants. As evident, my gardening skills are limited to balcony herb pots but on my wander through our on- campus garden patch, I feel as if the earth is a little more forgiving than I thought and the possibility there.

Throughout the summer, members of the University community worked together to build, till, plant and tend the garden’s interior. Shared labour yields shared rewards in this cooperative and the harvesting was very good for this first year community garden. On the day of the official grand opening, the sun shone brightly on plant and animal life. Young children of the University’s many Faculty and Staff ROOTS members ran excitedly to their family’s garden plots, and students and other members of the ROOTS garden club came to mill, chat, pull weeds and celebrate the official opening.

President Cade spoke briefly and succulently, quoting the University of Lethbridge’s Strategic Plan on “Commitment to Society” (principle no. 1),  “Commitment to Students” (principle no. 3), and “Commitment to Responsible Action” (principle no. 5). While this may be the current University of Lethbridge talking points, it is also speaks to the support this garden has from all of the University community.

Our on – campus community garden has been hard fought for by the community with active participation from across the University. Funded by the University of Lethbridge Students’ Union and the University of Lethbridge to the tune of $17 000.00, this was an initiative that deserves all the support it garners. As the season grows shorter and the members of ROOTS collect the last of the produce grown, a new season is only around the corner and I even hear whispers of winter garden prep.

To get involved with ROOTS and take an active role in supporting our garden, look for their table at Clubs Rush. The on – campus composting project will also be present at the ROOTS table during Rush Week to share information on composting and talk to students about having composting on – campus, benefitting both our garden and our communities environmental impact.

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