Budget cut blues
Re: “What Queen’s will have lost” (Sept. 11, 2009)
I endorse the views Mark Jones expressed in his Sept. 11 opinion piece, as they pertain to the compromises to curricular integrity entailed by the English Department’s decision to eliminate all significant content requirements in the introductory course to its discipline.
As an alumna of the English Honours program (1973-77), as a former Undergraduate Chair (2001-02), as a former Head (2002-07) and as someone who has taught in the department for more than 20 years, I support Professor Jones’s interpretation of the department’s decision to override the will of the students, as expressed in the survey of student opinion in April 2008.
The new guidelines for English 100 leave the definition of the course almost entirely up to the discretion of the instructor. In the future, it will be possible for the first-year English courses to reflect instructors’ idiosyncratic interests rather than give predictable coverage of the periods and concepts that have long been the disciplinary foundation of our curriculum. Moreover, the deregulation of our first-year course has been made as a preliminary to loosening upper-level requirements, with the likely result that in future many of our students will graduate without courses in early literatures.
While it’s likely that professors who work in those areas will continue to teach their specialties when they can, it’s equally likely that students’ opportunities to experience a broad survey of courses in English literature, beginning with the first-year course, will depend entirely on the vagaries of instructor availability in any given year. They will not be guaranteed. Deregulating our first-year course exacerbates the effects of cuts already compromising the integrity of our curriculum. It reflects the department’s need to ensure a broad range of instructors will be willing to teach the course, a need that has become suddenly pressing in an era when budget cuts have virtually eliminated sessional faculty.
As a professor of modernist literature, I for one will be very sorry to know that I can’t rely on my students ever having studied Shakespeare, Milton, the Romantics, the Victorians, or any key literary genres, before they arrive in my upper-year modernism classes.
Professor of English
Undergraduate chair, 2001-02
Department head, 2002-07
Respect for by-laws
Re: “Working to bridge the town-gown gap” (Sept. 15)
I read, with great interest, the article “Working to bridge the town-gown gap” in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal and was pleased to see there are members of city government and the student body focusing on this very important issue.
I want to clear up one possible misconception that might arise. According to the article, Barry Batchelor (a resident of Collingwood St. and retired professor) said “he only knows of two other houses on the lower end of Collingwood St. and stretching from Union to King streets who chose to stay in the neighbourhood.” Batchelor is presumably referring to the residents who lived in the neighbourhood in 1984, when he first moved to Collingwood St. The statement might lead one to believe that Collingwood is almost entirely a student neighbourhood. While there are many student homes on the street, at least 12 of the homes—close to half—are owner-occupied and there are still more home-owners on nearby streets of Queen’s Cres. and Beverley St.
Some of these residents work at the University while others work at one of the three nearby hospitals, county courthouse, downtown or at home. The neighbourhood is also home to retirees and children.
By and large, the permanent residents and students get along fine though home owners would certainly appreciate if renters and landlords paid closer attention to city by-laws.
Professor, Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy
Time to lighten up
Re: “Raising the political bar” (Sept. 18, 2009)
The premise of Mr. Ray’s central argument—that political discourse has deteriorated to a new nadir of incivility—is evident to anyone who has caught even a minute of question period these past several years. However, many of his subsequent points of analysis are disingenuous at best and simply wrong at worst. He argues that Mr. Harper “lacks the necessary wisdom to understand what a minority parliament entails—working with other parties.” Yet the 39th Parliament in which Mr. Harper became Prime Minister—while leading a party that was barely celebrating its second birthday—was the second longest-serving minority in Canadian history. In the current Parliament, Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party introduced a budget that incorporated ideas from all parties—a budget the Liberal Party supported and Mr. Layton opposed unconditionally while admitting, I think quite vacuously, that he had not read it. Political discourse can and should be raised—any Canadian must be either amused or angered when he or she hears protestors at recent health-care town hall meetings across America. Yet even the exorbitantly complemented President Barack Obama—who, as a candidate, ran an entire negative website against John McCain based on the 1989 Keating for which Mr. McCain was exonerated—has often lowered himself to the nadir both our countries have ominously reached.
Let’s hope, as the economic situation lightens up, everyone’s mood will with it.
Omer M. Aziz ArtSci ’12
Is Queen’s really “one of Canada’s leading universities with an international reputation for scholarship”?
During the first week of classes, I’ve seen spelling and punctuation that would have made my Grade 5 teacher’s lip curl.
The first example comes from Theological Hall. Here, it seems one or more would-be thespians are in need of a dictionary in addition to a choreographer. The second comes from a house on Johnson St. The person or persons living at this address ought to know the difference between the plural and the possessive before inviting the rest of us aboard. Sailor’s may well be sexy, but sailors’ what?
I repeat Tom Lehrer’s advice for the benefit of those unfortunate enough to have missed it: “Don’t write naughty words on walls if you can’t spell.” If nobody ever taught you to punctuate, now is the time to learn. The reputation of “one of Canada’s leading … etc, etc.” is at stake.
Re: “Progressing Conservatives” (Sept. 18, 2009)
Personally I am shocked and discomforted by this article. Why does the Journal feel it needs to defend and boost supporters of a particular political party. It seems to me like it’s coming from an extremely biased point of view. Anybody who affiliates themselves with a political party in Canada faces stereotypes and stigmatization. Whether it be Conservative, Liberal, Green Party, NDP, or Bloc Quebecois, we all deal with unfair judgements from others. I think that publishing this article makes the Journal look like it’s affiliated with the Conservatives, and shows a lack of concern for other parties. It was not very tasteful to publish such a political article, and in my opinion it was a bad start to the year.
Alumni come first
Re: “Fauxcoming, or going away?” (Sept. 22, 2009)
I find it interesting that Lauren McCormick, ArtSci ’12, so sorely misses a so-called tradition that she has experienced only once before. I can find nothing that “intrinsically” links the Aberdeen Street party with our real Homecoming. True, this should be a time for undergraduates to celebrate and have a good time, but what has been missed in all this discussion is that Homecoming isn’t about us. We have Queen’s year round, but alumni get to come home for only one weekend, and that has been taken from them. The traditions that have been lost are those of the alumni, not those of the undergraduates.
In one article, I heard more whining and ridiculous ideas from current students about what Queen’s traditions supposedly are than I have from the hurt anniversary classes of ’59 and ’84. I’m a third-year student now, so I don’t have the experience of the alumni to pass final judgment, and I will miss Homecoming weekend. But I’ve been to Aberdeen Street, I’ve been to every football game and I’ve spoken to alumni I know and alumni I don’t. I’m done with students’ arguments that make them sound like petulant children acting as though they have been grounded.
So, when you do see alumni this weekend, have a drink with them. Talk with them. Go watch the football game. Celebrate our university with them, but let’s host—rather than have—the party.
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