Letters to the Editors

Persistent starter

Dear Editors,

Re: “The procrastination bug” (Oct. 27, 2009).

I’d like to clarify a few points Holly Tousignant made in her Oct. 27 Journal editorial on procrastination. I meet many students like Holly every year. In fact, procrastination on university campuses is widespread.

According to a recent survey by the Carleton University Procrastination Research Group, 75 per cent of students label themselves “procrastinators” and 95 per cent of students wish they could reduce this behaviour. Contrary to what’s the article title implies, procrastination is not a bug—it’s a habit. The habit starts with a breakdown in self-regulation.

For Holly this happened early in life and she was a well-honed procrastinator by the time she hit university.

Unfortunately, being a university student requires a high level of self-directed work, which means students need a high quotient of self-regulation.

Secondly—for the vast majority—procrastination isn’t a coping mechanism for anxiety. It usually increases the student’s guilt, leading to further anxiety. As Neil Fiore says in his book The NOW Habit, “Procrastination increases anxiety. Only work diminishes it.” Thirdly, Holly feels her procrastination is tied to perfectionism and indecisiveness.

Although procrastination and perfectionism can be bedfellows—when coupled, they produce nasty side effects. Procrastination isn’t always a sign of perfectionism.

In fact, in his research on procrastination at the University of Calgary, Piers Steel argues perfectionists actually procrastinate less but worry about their work more.

Holly, figuring out how to stop a well-heeled habit isn’t easy and requires expert advice.

Queen’s University learning strategies professionals are available to help students with this and other issues. Learning Strategies Development runs workshop for both undergrads and grads on overcoming procrastination.

We also offer confidential one-to-one consultations where we can develop a plan to kick your habit so you can start seeing yourself as a “persistent starter” rather than a “procrastinator.”

Barbara Fretz,
Learning Strategies Counsellor

Need for dialogue

Dear Editors,

Re: “Right to education” (Nov. 3, 2009).

“The Israel Defense Force did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” These are the words of Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and a leading UN official.

Kemp refers to the same combat zones in which Kamal Reilly alleges Israel committed atrocities in his “Right to education” letter to the Journal. His response distorts and omits relevant information in order to vilify the state of Israel.

Reilly omits any reference to Hamas’s terrorist tactics.

We’re referring to their use of Palestinian civilians as human shields and the use of the Islamic University of Gaza as a hub of terrorist activity.

Using the University to store weaponry and launch terrorist attacks transforms what was a place of learning into a threat to Israeli citizens—a legitimate military target.

Hamas’s terrorist tactics represents not only an attack on the right to education but a systematic assault on the freedom of the Palestinian people.

Hamas committed a double war crime in attacking civilians while using their own as shields.

Like any country, Israel has the responsibility to defend its people.

Queen’s serves as a forum for scholarly debate free of prejudice.

As members of the Queen’s Human Rights Alliance (QHRA)—a club that fights for diversity of thought—we believe this discussion is important in principle and stifling such debate is an affront to democratic values.

Queen’s shouldn’t boycott anything or anyone in the academic realm on this issue, but rather foster debate for the purpose of a better outcome.

Only by working together with tolerance and through co-operation can peace prosper.

Jason Wiseman, ArtSci ’10,
QHRA executive
Daniel Salvatore, ArtSci ’10,
QHRA President


Divest from the tar sands

Dear Editors,

Re: “Prospecting the oil sands” (Oct. 23, 2009).

I’m writing in favour of Queen’s divesting from agencies involved in the Albertan tar sands.

Over the past few years, governments have had great difficulty reducing carbon emissions. Groups in civil society should act together to reduce carbon emissions, such as calling each other out on destructive practices. It’s impossible to escape the fact that increased oil production and subsequent use will increase the atmosphere’s carbon content and lead to further global warming. Now isn’t the time to start ramping up production. The tar sands are an especially inefficient and destructive way to produce oil.

This is a perfect chance for the University to step into its societal role—to think, act, lead and educate. How better to educate than by example? Queen’s wasn’t created to pander to private companies or rich alumni.

Queen’s was created to educate citizens, not produce employees. I don’t want companies to hire Queen’s alumni because the University invests in them. I want them to hire our alumni because of their education and skills. Is the University’s role to preserve privilege or build skill and intelligence in society?

Students shouldn’t be expected to cower in front of a rhetorical economic stick. Let's recognize why students have rising debt in the first place—post-secondary funding has been a decreasing priority in the government budget for years. Students should join agencies such as the Canadian Federation of Students and demand government funding which has been repeatedly promised but not delivered.

I don’t share Louis Tsivilis’s assumption that students’ best interest is access to immediate small monies. Preserving self-respect is—for me—a higher priority. It should be the same for the University as well.

I also don’t share Tsivilis’s concern about finding work. In my short time as an alumnus, I’ve found there are enough vocations in protecting and living with the earth rather than damaging it.

Less than a year ago I toured the National University of El Salvador. I was inspired by the political freedom of the University and impressed by the recent role it played in conquering a military dictatorship and setting up a more fair democratic system.

My friend attended this university years ago. On her first day, she saw a law professor murdered and thrown from a window. He was murdered for speaking out about human rights abuses by the current government. The students and professors came under frequent threat of violence and death. The campus is covered in murals memorializing massacres of students. Yet they persisted and remained, on the whole unafraid, to speak their minds because it meant maintaining their political freedom. If we lack the courage to speak out against the Tar Sands because we are afraid of losing some funding from a company or two then, my friends, we are lost.

I hope this divestment question appears on the winter referendum ballot and students ask Queen’s to divest from agencies involved the Albertan tar sands.

James Douglas, ArtSci ’09
Environmental Learning Center


Cha Cheill, alumni

What is an alumni association and what do they do? This October, the Queen’s Alumni Association provided the opportunity for a group of students to travel to Queen’s Park to glimpse the life of a political reporter. I now know I owe much of my education to the many Queen’s alumni who came before me and the opportunities they continue to provide to current Queen’s students. We arrived at Queen’s Park, just in time to attend Question Period and witness the heckling in regards to the eHealth scandal, followed by a question period of our own with Premier McGuinty. But what followed was the day’s highlight. Ted Sorenson, U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s former speech writer, was in Toronto for his book launch. Fortunately, he was at Queen’s Park and agreed to meet with us. At 81, he’s still eloquent and providing hilarious anecdotes and insightful commentary on Canadian and American politics. As he himself said, “I may be blind, but I have more vision than the past two presidents.”

We were overwhelmed as we met MPP after MPP who proved there are honourable politicians there for the right reasons. Toronto Star columnist, Jim Coyle, and Sun columnist, Christina Blizzard—chief organizer—offered sage words of wisdom and exemplified the importance of responsible journalism and the media’s role.

Our day was capped off by an enjoyable reception with the alumni. On the way to the bus the mood was lightened. A chance encounter with a MPP led to a group of us attending the chicken farmers of Ontario’s chicken wing and beer dinner—an informal conversation with the Speaker of the House, replete in green high tops. After learning we had a deadline to meet, he marched into the kitchen and returned with doggie bags full of chicken wings and wet naps for us to share on the bus. Only in Canada.

What’s an alumni association and what do they do? They are Queen’s graduates who selflessly dedicate their time and resources to meet with students, such as myself, who are in need of advice and guidance, encouraging education through funding or events such as Media Day. It only seems right I dedicate my first letter to those who foster my goals. Cha Gheill alumni.

Leah Larocque,
ArtSci ’11

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