Letters to the Editors

RHM ‘frivolous and worthless’

Dear Editors,

As the Rabidoux-Hirano-Mayer regime prepares to fade into oblivion, let us pause to reflect on what they stood for—as opposed to what they claimed to stand for—and on that for which they ought to be remembered. I don’t mean to suggest that they will be remembered: most students couldn’t care less about the AMS, witness voter turnout. And it would only be an exercise in frustration for students to care how their huge sums of money were actually spent, given how utterly unaccountable the AMS really is. I don’t dare speculate on how much money was allotted to the Beer Appreciation Club or the Rocky Horror Appreciation Society or Queen’s Hackers Club or the Students of Speculative Realms ... but I know that they gave so little money (and in the form of a loan!) to Eracism Week at Queen’s that the organizers could not even publicize the event. (Never heard of Eracism Week? Now you know why.) “It’s no secret that Queen’s has a vanilla flavour to it,” said Ethan Rabidoux (commenting on the Henry Report which documents systemic racism and discrimination and a culture of maleness at Queen’s in the Kingston Whig-Standard on March 31, 2006), “things have to change.” Well, it may be no secret, but don’t you dare say it lest the AMS censure you for doing just that. And change may be needed, but don’t denounce any student behaviour however barbaric lest the AMS send you to re-education camp. After Aberdeen, I said forcefully just that which last week Radidoux said. For that, the AMS passed Motion 14, to have my conduct “reviewed” by the Human Rights Office, which promptly dismissed it. I sent a letter every month, as I know others did, and made a public appearance at an AMS meeting, requesting either that the motion be withdrawn, or else that the AMS defend it. What kind of regime charges people without accusing them of any crime? Was it racism that I was guilty of, as the minutes around the motion incoherently allude to, and against whom (Germans? Whites?—oops, I mean, “vanillas”?), or was it “ageism”?—listen to this: it was my few lines in the newspaper that were really responsible for the disrespect showed to students by Kingstonians in the aftermath of Aberdeen. Not the burning car, not the crashing bottles, not the vomiting on neighbours’ lawns, not the suggested eviction of the Lees, no ma’am, it was all Mercier’s fault. For we, AMS leaders, take no responsibility whatsoever for our, or any student’s, behaviour. None. Zero. Nada. Sure, “things have to change.” But what? Me change?

In a manner of poetic justice, I received [the following] yesterday from a student I don’t know: “I want to apologize for the frustration and aggravation you endured last semester. I’m ashamed to say that I voted for RHM. I came to regret that decision many times over the course of this year. It truly is regrettable that they never officially retracted the ridiculous motion they passed last October. I asked Ethan Rabidoux early on when he was going to resolve the matter, and he promised he would be addressing it shortly. I’m not sure where the matter ended up, but I’m comfortable saying that a retraction from that administration would have been as frivolous and worthless as was the original motion itself.”

“Frivolous and worthless.” That’s exactly how RHM should be remembered. Imagine what Eracism Week could have accomplished with just a fraction of the $50,000-plus-travelling-benefits you unquestioningly wasted on their salaries.

Adèle Mercier
Professor, Department of Philosophy

Letter wrongly links sexism to headline

Dear Editors,

Re: “Sports headline needlessly sexist” (Journal, March 24, 2006).

I agree with Kim Dolan that the Journal’s headline “Always a bridesmaid” is needlessly sexist. It is needlessly sexist because Kim Dolan is attributing the sexism to it, not the Journal. Use your head Mr. or Ms. Dolan (Kim is a gender-neutral name, so I won’t make any assumptions). Were the editors of the Journal busy on press day thinking to themselves, “Hmmm, now how can we make this headline needlessly sexist?” The correct answer is no. They weren’t.

Actually, I don’t think society has ever intended “bridesmaid” to be a patriarchal put-down. I’m not an expert on marriage or weddings or anything, but I’m pretty sure that bridesmaids are actually a position of honour bestowed by a bride to her friends, as a thank you for their help and for acting as witnesses to the marriage.

Also, last I checked, I think the word “bridesmaid” is still in fact used for such honoured and close friends of a bride. At least I hope it is, otherwise my friend Lisa is going to be pretty embarrassed on her wedding day this August. What’s the new word she should use instead? Anyone?

See, if you don’t want to get married, that’s cool. You have that choice, just as I do, which is really awesome. But you should check the date. It’s 2006. Women’s rights and the institution of marriage have seen some heavy changes. As you say, there are many women who choose not to marry. Awesome. There are also millions of women, in Canada alone, who choose to get married to men (or women). It is possible for a woman to live a “fulfilled life” and be married to a man at the same time.

Your insinuation that a woman can only live a fulfilled life if she is unmarried is an insult not only to me and every other man, but also to every married woman currently living a fulfilled life. It is also probably the most needlessly sexist remark I have heard in a long, long time.

If you are Ms. Dolan, and not Mr. Dolan, I would expect that your reaction would be more respectful if one of your close friends asked you to be her bridesmaid.

Jeff Gulley
ArtSci ’04

Ultraviolet review unfair

Dear Editors,

Re: “Disappointing Ultraviolet retrospective” (Journal, March 17, 2006).

The time has come to review the reviewers. There is only one weekly newspaper which reviews campus arts publications. Of these arts publications, Ultraviolet (UV) is one of the few magazines which does not have a set theme or focus (along with the Undergraduate Review and Lighthouse Wire). Our goal is to publish the works of Queen’s students, whether they are feminist, anti-war, anti-racist or just a reflection upon a meander in the park. An overwhelming majority view this as our greatest strength. The 500 submissions, on average, we receive yearly is just one testament to that.

Jordon Beenen’s review of the latest UV accuses the magazine of being “watered down” from a “lack of focus.” To Beenen we must ask: did you read the editor’s message at the beginning of the magazine? The last we checked, a reviewer’s responsibility to her/his readers is to offer as thorough a review as possible. That would include keeping in mind the editor’s message throughout perusal of the magazine.

Dare we say: perhaps the magazine is not meant to have a “focus”? Beenen criticizes UV’s “lack of focus” by listing a few pictures and explaining how different they are in the subjects they feature. It is interesting that Beenen chastises the pictures for being so diverse from each other and remarks on how this reflects the magazine’s lack of focus, as later he comments that the two images he found the most “interesting and profound” were “Watermark” and “Pot of Gold.” Correct us if we are wrong, but those two pictures seem quite different from each other in the subjects they feature. But, we thought in order to garner Beenen’s praise, the subject of the pictures had to somehow be connected and related in some thematic way?

Beenen also makes an outright error in saying that “the biography section comes before the retrospection.” Again, we question if even one thorough reading of the issue took place as he would have noticed that there are two biographical sections. He accuses the magazine of suffering from “incoherency.” We suppose reviews such as his most recent of UV would make him an authority on the subject of incoherency.

Beenen also failed to address the mere fact that Ryan Quinn Flanagan’s story is entertaining! But at the same time, the piece does have depth. Unbelievably, Beenen attempted a literal reading of Flanagan’s Absurdist piece, accepting the surface and denying what lies beneath. The illiteracy and superficiality of Beenen’s literal interpretation of Flanagan’s story is almost humorous in its amateurish ignorance of literary complexity and innovation. It’s almost as if Beenen has no background in basic literary theory or English literature; not that that is necessary for readers, but in a reviewer of a literary magazine it is essential. Beenen also doesn’t refer to talented newcomers to the creative writing scene such as Chris Oldfield, Katie Howe or skilled photographers Jacqui Palaio and Laura Dobbie, whose work was published for the first time in this issue of UV. Beenen refers to a grand total of seven current contributor pieces.

Another sign of the Journal’s general indifference toward the tireless efforts of so many in the creation of this UV endeavour is the fact that neither the Arts and Entertainment Editor, Tricia Summers, nor the A&E Assistant Editor, Lauren Raham, were tasked with reviewing UV. The review was given to Beenen, who seemed to lack the capacity to provide a sound literary assessment, and was by consequence, not competent enough to adequately review the anthology.

The Journal is setting a dangerous precedent for itself and will lose credibility if reviews of this nature continue to be produced. A letter from Darryl Bank in the Jan 27, 2006 issue of the Journal raised similar concerns in regards to a review the Journal did on his art exhibit. We realize that when you produce a magazine or any type of art for public consumption and review, you need to expect and be prepared for any type of response. But it is indeed disappointing and saddening that a project which has been a year in the making and that has 10 years of history behind it, is treated with such seeming indifference, lack of attention and disinterest.

We, as students of Queen’s University, challenge our campus newspaper, the Journal, to improve.

Sarah Michelle Ogden, UV Editor in Chief
UV Poetry and Prose Editors
UV Publicity and Events Committee
UV Layout and Design Editors
Amy MacDonald, ArtSci ’06
Kyra Nabeta, ArtSci ’05
Ryan Quinn Flanagan, ArtSci ’06
Raki Singh, ArtSci ’06
Sherri Richards, ArtSci ’06
James Mellon, ConEd ’06
Meiqi L. Guo, ArtSci ’08
Christopher Kevin Oldfield, ArtSci ’08
Maggie McCormick, ArtSci ’06
Ozel Annamanthadoo, ArtSci ’06
Ian Hwang, ArtSci ’06
Janet Gordon, ArtSci ’06

Corporatization of campus, labour issues reasons to be wary of Coca-Cola

Dear Editors,

While the violent anti-union activity in Columbia is the most publicized abuse that Coca-Cola is accused of, it is only one of many serious grievances. Over-exploitation of rural groundwater in India, other violent labour disputes in places like Turkey and Russia as well as racist and sexist payment and promotion practices in the U.S. are all things that Coca-Cola is guilty of. But let’s talk about us students and the relationship with Coca-Cola that has been forced upon us. The contract the administration signed gives Coca-Cola the right to free advertising on campus and the right to explicitly associate Coca-Cola with our University. So when Queen’s University Against Killer Coke (QUAKC) is accused of not providing “balanced” representation, just remember that Coca-Cola can air its views on campus whenever it wants. Let’s talk about the presence of corporations on our campus. Now, depending on what subject or discipline you study, you could make the case that the involvement of industry in the education process is helpful. Either way, could one make the same case for Coca-Cola or, say, Sodexho, which also has an exclusivity contract? Coca-Cola has the exclusive right to sell its products free of competition, but who is actually selling to whom?

The Queen’s University administration has a captive consumer base in its student population and one that is primarily within the coveted 18-24 demographic. We’re pretty valuable to a soft drink company and the University is in a position to sell us to the highest bidder. Think about it: Queen’s got up-front and per annum money in exchange for a protected market for Coca-Cola. The paltry student representation in the major decision-making committees means that we were sold without our consent.

Regardless of the supposed benefits of the contract (and the evidence of any benefit is threadbare), this is a fundamental breach of trust between the administration and the students at the behest of Coca-Cola. This is what corporate influence on campus can lead to: the needs of business overruling the interests of students and the principles of democratic, responsible decision-making. So even if the Coca-Cola Corporation was innocent of all the things it’s accused of, we in QUAKC would still oppose the exclusivity contract and any other such contract with other companies on these grounds (i.e. no Pepsi, no Sodexho).

So let me ask you this: are we being trained to be “leaders and citizens for a global society” as the Queen’s vision states, or obedient consumers? That is the point, after all. Coca-Cola benefits by being the only soft drink on campus, but also because the consumption patterns we form during our time here tend to persist for the rest of our lives. So even if you like Coca-Cola beverages and aren’t willing to part with them, QUAKC asks you this: don’t buy them on campus. Don’t legitimize the unjust and undemocratic theft of our choice.

David Burling
Member of QUAKC

Letter responses to tuition fee increases misleading

Dear Editors,

Re: “Tuition hike editorial unrealistic” (Journal, March 24, 2006).

I commend the Journal for its sensible support of recently announced tuition fee increases, but I was (unsurprisingly) appalled at the uninformed replies that it produced.

For example, Toby Moorsom argues that your article was entirely ideological and lacking of support; he then says that tuition increases are “a policy that will effectively amount to another transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.” Mr. Moorsom, publicly-financed tertiary education is essentially a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to students. Over the course of their lifetimes, those who attend university earn more money than the average taxpayer. Therefore, contrary to what you argue, government funding of tertiary education is clearly a transfer of wealth from the poor (taxpayers) to the rich (students). What part of this logic don’t you understand?

Mr. Moorsom, if you are truly “pro-poor,” then you should realize that there are less blunt policies than regulating tuition—such as income grants and increased bursary funding—that are far more effective at aiding the poor. Seeing that you are an SGPS representative, your nonsensical position should be seen as nothing more than self-serving. Perhaps next time you should heed your own advice and “take your ideas out of the clouds and ground them in an objective reality.”

Chris Ratkovsky
ArtSci ’07

ISC spring session overlaps with exam period

Dear Editors,

I’m writing regarding an issue that directly involves few Queen’s students, but whose nature, I think, accurately reflects the attitude of the Queen’s administration toward students as a whole. This summer I plan to attend the International Study Centre (ISC) at Queen’s Herstmonceux Castle. I was excited until I realized that the staff planning the spring session there had made a mistake: the spring session will begin while exams are still happening. Exams will last until April 29; spring session students will leave for the Castle on April 27.

There’s no excuse for an oversight like this. The ISC is hardly new, and the planners should know that every year exams here end at around the same time as the spring session begins. Nevertheless, the oversight happened, and in the end, it affected me and 41 other students (around one-third of all spring session students).

What’s the administration’s solution? To arrange for an April 30 departure for all affected students. There was no apology, and no mention of reimbursement of the approximately $411 each student will lose because of his/her three-day-late departure. If you divide the total cost of attending the ISC for this session ($6,169) by the number of days we’re there—around 45—the average daily cost is $137. I tried to remedy this situation, talking to a professor and various staff, but nothing could be done. Queen’s was going to take my money, which I had lost because of their oversight. I still can’t believe the staff could have made such a stupid mistake and I’m even more incredulous that hardly anything has been done to make amends with the affected students. The obvious solution, again, would be some sort of reimbursement. I can’t see that happening.

What really angers me, however, is how carelessly Queen’s can treat its students. According to the administration’s logic, we should have to pay for (literally, in this case) the idiocy of the staff whose salaries our tuition provides. “Idiocy” might be too strong a word, but the only alternative I see is something like “callous indifference to what’s best for the people they’re supposed to serve.” I wonder if anyone actually felt bad about any of this. I doubt it. And such an error, such obvious unconcern for students and their money, becomes really interesting as this University pushes for deregulation. How can we trust that the administration will use our money properly when it can freely set tuition, if they can’t even avoid committing stupid mistakes when they’re dealing with only a fraction of the student body, and comparatively very little money?

I encourage anyone who’s affected by this situation and/or who finds it unjust, to get in touch with me. My e-mail address is 3bm2@qlink.queensu.ca. We can try to make this right, to make the administration listen. Hopefully, something will come of our efforts. Money isn’t easy to come by as students. We can’t afford to let Queen’s take even more of it than it already has.

Brendan McCutchen
ArtSci ’07

AMS is an equal opportunity employer

Dear Editors,

Re: “AMS hiring ad based on stereotypes” (Journal, March 24, 2006), “AMS’s underwear ad sexist” (Journal, March 24, 2006).

In light of the two letters condemning AMS hiring ads that were criticized for what the authors felt to be a perpetuation of sexist stereotypes, I would like to respond to Ms. Geffen and Ms. Williamson’s allegations by bringing to their attention the results of this year’s recruitment campaign. Of 30 newly hired service managers, 20 are female; furthermore, six of 10 service head managers are women.

With regards to the ads in question and the issue of linking male undergarments with head managers and female undergarments with service positions, I would ask readers to note that the March 3 issue of the Journal featured a full-colour ad on the inside front page calling for Head Manager and Assistant Manager applications—alongside a brightly decorated pair of women’s briefs. Moreover, a similar pair of briefs were used in the February ads for Council applications, these being the most senior positions in the AMS.

Speaking personally as a woman, a self-identified feminist and as the graphic designer responsible for this campaign, the suggestion that I would support any sort of institutional patriarchy whether through my actions or in my personal ideology is completely baseless. Furthermore, I have not only had the privilege of being a member of AMS Extended Council this year, but am also a former assistant manager at the P&CC.

I hope this response has served to dispel any misconceptions of the AMS as a sexist or misogynistic organization and strongly encourage Ms. Geffen and Ms. Williamson to actively work for empowerment through more constructive means.

Renee Lung
AMS Communications Officer

‘Fairness is not a choice’

Dear Editors,

Re: “Fair Trade Campus Brews Piping Hot Debate” (Journal, March 31, 2006).

Cory Bloor is right to point out that fair trade is a complex issue; however, its complexity does not lie in a debate about whether it is good or bad. Mr. Bloor’s objection to fair trade seems to rest on the fact that he believes it contributes to the oversupply of coffee. He’s correct to claim that there is an oversupply of coffee, but fair trade actually helps to fix the problem.

Oversupply of coffee persists in part because farmers don’t have the means to start producing a crop other than coffee. Currently, many coffee farmers produce coffee only to find that coffee prices have dipped so low that they will not even make enough to cover the cost of production. Because they lack education and training, they are often forced to continue coffee production in hopes of better prices to come, sustaining oversupply and low prices.

Fair trade addresses this problem. In order to be fair-trade certified, producers are required to contribute part of their profits to the development of their local communities. In this way, fair trade certification helps to provide education and other benefits to coffee-producing communities. Farmers are able to send their children to school and improve their local economies, ending the cycle of impoverishment.

Mr. Bloor is correct to state that fair trade treats the symptoms of the problem: this is part of its mandate. It also aims to foster sustainable production practices and an awareness about unfair trade policies. It does not represent a perfect solution to the problems in the coffee market, but it does make a real difference in the lives of many coffee farmers, and Queen’s can do its part by purchasing fair trade coffee exclusively.

The demand for fair trade exclusivity isn’t one with principled arguments on both sides. Fair trade coffee should not be understood as a “flavour” to be offered amongst others, because fairness is not a choice in the same way we choose between dark and light roast.

The barriers to a fair trade campus at Queen’s are legal issues with food service providers, not ethical concerns. Universities like McMaster have already instituted a fair trade purchasing policy and it is time Queen’s followed suit.

Nick Montgomery
ArtSci ’07

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