Tag Archives: UofL

“Dark sarcasm in the classroom”

At 3pm today a group of students gathered in a public space at the University of Lethbridge to discuss the recent comments Stephen Harper made at the G 20 summit in Pittsburgh on September 29th, 2009.

Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal students spoke about the affect the comments had on their communities and their person. Eloquently, expressions of disappointment and confusion were made by many of those who spoke out. The audience listened, relating to the personal opinions of these individuals. Personally, I felt proud to be a member of the STUDENT community that came together to openly discuss the comments of our Prime Ministers, the individual elected to represent the country of Canada on the world stage.

As I looked around at the attendee’s, I felt a notable absence. There was not one faculty member present.

Professors lambaste undergraduate students for not being an active members in the academic community. Student apathy, they cry out is a shame and a disappointment to them. Students just don’t care anymore.

Blatantly untrue. Student do care. They care enough to form clubs and go through the rigmarole of dealing with the bureaucracy that comes form both the Administration of this community and the Students’ Union (…I should know). They care enough to create an OPEN forum on comments made by Canada’s Prime Minister. Comments which effect every Canadian. Students care, but do Professors?

Where was our academic faculty at this discussion? It was hardly difficult to get to, being held in the largest and most visible building on campus. It went on for over any hour so I can’t see any reason why five minutes would have been so disruptive to their office hours and most importantly, it was THEIR students who came together to discuss. It was not partisan, no one was crying out to bring down the government. In fact, there was almost no political element to it all. It was merely a way for the University of Lethbridge to come together, and promote dialogue about our country.

I have had an enduring internal battle with my disappointment in faculty involvement in our campus community and an understanding of the need to distance oneself from controversial topics. However, when a forum of this nature is held, it genuinely blows my mind that not a single faculty member could be bothered to show. Not even to support the students who were not afraid to put an opinion to their face, not even to support open dialogue within out academic community.

To me this speaks of the quality of support that many academic faculty members offer towards the UofL community.

I have been an active member of this community since coming to the UofL. My experience here is notable because of my professors yes, but also because of CKXU, the Students’ Union, our independent media, clubs, and the academic-social gatherings such as the one today.

I had a professor last year who wrote – on the return of my final academic paper in his class- that involvement in student government will only lead to a future of working in wine stores or selling used cars. Firstly, the elitism dripping from this comment conveyed his opinion that both those jobs are second class and below him, leading me to wonder just what he thinks of himself. Secondly, discouraging students from actively participating in the betterment of their academic community sickens me. This is a respected member of the academic community and the only time I see him outside of a classroom is walking in the hallway, head down, not even saying hello to his students.

This is not an individual case.

I hardly expect members of the academic community to read this blog, nor do I expect them to recognize the value of my plea but I offer it all the same.

Care. Please.

Students do, and all we’re asking for from our mentors, our guides into critical thinking, and in many cases the people we admire most is to support us in our efforts to ameliorate this community.

Is that just too much?

Tagged , , ,

How 10 people, some cold concrete and a cardboard shelter revived my optimism

Last night I spent the wee hours of the morning with the five individuals who have been campaigning and sleeping outside for the 5 Days for Homeless national campaign as well as my three co-workers, Eric, Brodie and Adam. It was fairly late/early when the four of us crawled into the makeshift cardboard shelter the five volunteers had created.

The night was terrible, am not even going to bother to sugar coat it. The ground was cold and the wind did not stop, the smell inside the shelter was a pungent combination of wet dog, feet and the kind of musk only a heap of unwashed humans can create.

10 of us were crammed into this shelter, which became pretty beneficial as despite the aroma that 10 unwashed people give off, 10 unwashed people also give off a lot of heat. The shelter was well made and supported so it was a fairly stable area to sleep in, however the constant fear of one of the 7-20 lb rock’s that were holding the roof down crashing through what seems like flimsy cardboard  kept me awake throughout most of the night.

Getting up this morning wasn’t all that bad. It was cold and grey but it seemed that once I woke up there was no more incentive for me to remain “in bed”. Unlike at home where my huge comforter and soft futon mattress beckon me long after I have begun my morning routine, there was nothing in the dank and cold cardboard ground I was sleeping on to keep me there.

The interesting thing about my sleep was the physiological aspect of being miserable. Annoyed at the wind, annoyed at the person shifting around next to me, annoyed that this is something people do every night, the negativity was more demoralizing then the physical discomfort.

This morning I shrugged on my neon colored jacket and hit the main area of campus to solicit some donations. Wearing the brightest piece of textile known to man I figured no one would be able to walk on past. How wrong I was. We have become so conditioned to ignore those who ask for help or look to be in less than desirable situations that many walked right on by even when it was abundantly clear I was not homeless.

The classic lines such as “I don’t carry change” or “I don’t have any change” (as they pat their pockets and a faint chinning noise can be heard) or the straight up walk-by-don’t-make-eye-contact-if-I-don’t-see-them-I-don’t-have-to-feel-guilty technique were all employed. The most frustrating one was the avoidance tactic. Of course, you see me, of course, you can hear me asking you and yet you chose to not acknowledge that another human being is speaking to you? Classy UofL. Not just students either, three professors walked right past me after I had asked them for change without saying a word or even making eye contact. A fine example they provided.

Those individuals, although numerous, were far out shadowed by all those who did stop and did give whatever they could. Whether it was $10.00 or $0.10 every amount is truly appreciated and even the acknowledgment means something. I also struck up a couple interesting conversations about the merit of the 5 Days events.

On professor questioned me on the use of humorous tactics to get donations and thought it to be making light of the situation and a poor reflection on the cause that is being advocated. While humor may look like the participants are making light, in fact humor is often used as a coping method when dealing with jarring life style changes or a threat to basic rights. These five individuals have chosen to do this for the week and came prepared for what was in store, however I doubt that psychologically any of them were ready for the constant cold, the loss of all comfort and the lack of support from many people.

This event is not about proving that five people can hack it as homeless, far from it. It is meant to create visible awareness about the homelessness problem all across Canada and act as a weeklong fundraiser for charitable organizations in Canadian cities. The part of being homeless that is harder to see and even harder to truly empathize with is the physiological aspect. Everyday not being sure of a hot meal, a warm bed or even a space to call your own; everyday some have no choice but to beg for change to afford coffee or some food. Worst of all is that many see no end to this lifestyle Yes, there resources available but those resources are scarce and there are many out there who fall to the bottom of the pile.

As a child, I didn’t have the most stable living environment. For reasons that are unnecessary to go into, growing up I experienced periods of uncertainty of where my family and myself would be sleeping that evening or that week or next week and how we would be able to move on from there. Thankfully my sisters and myself were incredibly fortunate in having family members who were able to support us and were able to ensure a level of safety and security and there came a time when housing and security were no longer questioned and just accepted as a right of life. Not every youth has those resources and that support system and not every homeless person is alike. There are varying reasons and motivations for turning to the streets, mental health issues and addictions notably, but there are the more subtle reasons. Depression is very common amongst those who are homeless and resource’s are hard for them to find as many of the resources available are specific to high needs individuals (re: families, addicts, those with mental health illness…). The working poor is also common, especially in Alberta. Abuse in the home is a prime motivator for someone to leave home, women’s shelters and youth emergency homes are often at capacity with women and children who have left their abusive enviroments but do not have the financial stability to support their families right away.

These past 12 hours have given me a great deal of optimism for the future of humankind. There are people who truly care and care enough to sacrifice basic needs to help those less fortunate.

Please give to those organizations who work tirelessly to provide resources in whatever city you live in. Every human being deserves to be treated as such and every human being deserves a little humanity in the face of hardship. I am sure that many are thanking all the participants of this event and without these individuals who took the time and made the effort the world wouldn’t be the same place. I thank them and I hope you will too.

(p.s. sorry I wasn’t able to live tweet, my BlackBerry stopped working yesterday which meant a cut off of all communication…)

Tagged , , , , , , ,

My one night for Homeless

Tonight I will be snuggling in tight with the five students who are sleeping outside for a week to raise awareness about homelessness and money for Wood’s Homes here in Lethbridge.

As much as I would love to have a hot meal and cups of tea all evening brought to me, I am fortunate enough to have access to those things every night. Tonight, please come by the shelter set up outside the ULSU building and bring me nothing but your change. Every little helps, truly it does and the goal this year is $10 000 for Lethbridge and I am really hoping that we as a community can come together to surpass that.

All donations over $20.00 are tax deductable and you can make donations online as well at the 5days.ca website. Myself and my three co-workers will post a blog on the ULSU blog site tomorrow morning about our experince (check it out at ulsu.wordpress.com) and I will hopefully be live tweeting our evening and my morning tomorrow. You can follow the twitter feed at twitter.com/JProssa.

By no means are we in a position to genuinely be able to understand what someone who is truly homeless has to go through as it is not just the physical discomfort but also the emotional and physiological discomfort and torment that goes along with having no place to live and no security. The societal problems overshadow the physical ones and this week is also about combating the stigma that homelessness carries as well as raising funds.

Please give, even if its just a little. The five students will be collecting donations and living outside until 5pm Friday so come by thier shelter with some change and some encouraging words and fight homelessnes.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

five years and still no degree…oh jeez!

Top Ten Things I have learned here at the University of Lethbridge:

Well, another year finds me here and as I am going into my fifth (yes, fifth year, this is something many of you can look forward to…) I only hope my extensive experience here will aid you if you’re new or give you a chance to commiserate if you’re not.

1.       Finishing in four years is kinda like watching the first The Terminator and The Terminator: Judgment Day but refusing to see The Terminator: Rise of the Machines. You’re already in so deep you may as well enjoy it. Four years is a long time yes, but don’t get hung up on the four years business. If getting a sweet gig sets you back some time, no worries. If volunteering, or pursuing something you love causes you to take 3 classes instead of five, it’s worth it and if you think the only way to be successful is finish your degree fast and get out, you’re wrong. You are already paying for school and already committed to being a student, you may as well enjoy it. Just be warned, there is a fine line between enjoying and roosting. Seven years and Terminator Salvation is a bit much. Quit while you’re ahead.

2.        You will get fat. Well, maybe not fat but trust me. By the end of each term you will see students at the gym in numbers you have never seen before because once finals are over you will start to care about how you look again. Don’t stress about it but just know, it may happen. Love yourself from within etc…

3.       On that note, the University and its various subsidiary services offer free food all the time. You can usually dine for free at least once a week. This is great, especially for CJ loving residence kids. Lectures usually offer wine and cheese, go to these. There is always some random reason the university decided to dish out free cake in the atrium or have a free BBQ for students. Keep your eyes peeled and if you don’t mind waiting in line, you will be good to go!

4.       Midterm season in the second semester coincides with the windiest days that North America will and has ever seen. Do not walk outside if you can help it. Do not walk with loose papers anywhere, even inside the school, trust me. Realize the wind is your friend. Helping you stay in and study, helping you practice your meditation skills at 3 am when it rattles your window. Embrace it. Love it.

5.       Volunteer at CKXU. Well, volunteer anywhere. If you want to have a good experience here do something. Old episodes of Degrassi Junior prove nothing else but that clubs are awesome and will help you be a better person.

6.       Go to cool things and events happening here. You are paying to be educated here, you are choosing to live here, embrace it. The UofL art gallery is wicked and has new exhibitions every semester. There are always free recitals and lectures happening. Take advantage of this stuff now, because that middle management office job will at best offer you free cake on someone’s birthday and we’ve already explored the consequences of that.

7.       This is a list of places off campus which are worth checking out:

–          Red Dog Diner – Cheap food, fast and really really good. Family owned business that is open to midnight Sunday – Wednesday and 2 am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This is amazing for Lethbridge.

–          Blueprint Records – The only record store in town, specializing in hard to find stuff and used CD’s/Vinyl. Anything you want, they got it. Mike, the owner is awesome at ordering stuff in so do not be afraid to ask.

–          The SAAG – Southern Alberta Art Gallery. It’s pretty amazing and has world renowned art collections. Check it.

–          Andrew Hilton – Amazing wine selection and often tastings are available.

–          Westside Backstreet – Super chill place to grab a bevi and a Jamie. Sandwich that is. No one names Jamie works there that I know of.

–          Cuppers – Amazing coffee and tea. Huge selection. Trust me; these are two things you will need.

8.       Talk to people in your class. This is a little after school special of me, but Little Foot was way better off once he had his posy to help him out in “The Land Before Time” than when he was on his own. Friends are good, the more you surround yourself in the better.

9.       Take advantage of every opportunity this University can offer. Stop into the co-op office often, check what’s available, see how you can get a co-op. Talk to your adviser about an exchange, there are tons of international universities you can attend while paying the same amount of tuition you would pay here. This is awesome. Go on an archeological dig, run for student office, become the president of a club or just really really enjoy our luscious shower facilities.

10.   Don’t complain. The more you complain the less likely you are to seeing the positive points and the more likely you are to hating whatever you are doing. Either change what sucks or get over it. Awesome Sauce.

Tagged , , ,
%d bloggers like this: