Letters to the Editors

Students take action for Darfur

Dear Editors:
Re: “Students Plan Darfur Action” (Journal, November 24, 2006).

We would like to take this opportunity to expand upon the information included in last week’s Journal. Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) Queen’s has initiated a targeted divestment campaign that is not being carried out in isolation, as the article might suggest. This Pan-American initiative has had great success in the United States, with successful campaigns at Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth.

What is targeted divestment? Companies that have a business relationship with the Sudanese government, impart minimal benefit to the underprivileged and have demonstrated no corporate
governance policy on Darfur are targeted. The “worst offending” companies are then divested. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of Sudan’s oil revenue, which is fuelled by foreign investment,
is used to fund the military and perpetuate atrocities in Darfur. Targeted divestment serves to engage both companies and governments to improve the situation for more than 2.5 million refugees.
In response to Professor Bland’s comments: He suggests that sending volunteer units to Darfur
will do more than a campaign of awareness, education, and advocacy. We disagree. According to USAID, NGOs are sending staff out of Darfur because of growing security risks.

Jan Egeland, UN Undersecretary of Humanitarian affairs warned two months ago that UN humanitarian operations could not be sustained if the security situation keeps deteriorating. Bland also suggested we join the army. Even if 10,000 Canadian youth joined the army tomorrow, clamouring to deploy
to Darfur, it would not matter unless the government chose to send them there. It is first necessary
for the government to approve such a mission. Our time is best spent aggregating the voices of concerned citizens to raise Darfur’s profile in Canada. We may not be able to shape government policy, but we can shape government priorities. It is time to end our collective indifference towards the atrocities in Darfur.

Ira Goldstein, ArtSci ’07
Yoni Levitan, Comm ’07
STAND Canada Queen’s

Responding to the Journal’s Special Report on diversity

Dear Editors:
Re: “Confronting the ‘other’ on campus” (Journal, November 24, 2006).

The Journal’s recent exploration of issues related to ethnicity, gender and economic background prompted my own examination of prejudice. Although rarely discussed, there exists a unique discrimination on campus so pervasive it affects those of all colours and genders.

It is so blatantly widespread that its implications may be as far-reaching as the worsening relationship between the Kingston and Queen’s communities. I refer to the way students freely voice their utter disgust of “townies,” the disparaging name given to Kingston residents.

Without fear of ethical reprehension, students routinely paint a portrait of a creepy, uneducated and filthy “townie” proletariat whom they are free to insult and blame for the eight months of the year they call Kingston home. Students from Kingston feel besieged in their own hometown, fearful to admit being a “townie.”

The tone of most remarks is not endearing (like someone complaining about in-laws), but rather the harsh brutality traditionally associated with darker forms of bigotry.

I recently spoke with fellow student-townies Thomas Mak, Farshid Akbari and Rumaan Ahmad—all visible minorities. “I’ve rarely, if ever, been subject to discrimination or jokes due to my ethnicity, but people make fun of me for being a townie all the time,” Mak said. The two others agreed. Ethnic inequality at Queen’s poses a very grave threat, particularly at the institutional level.

However, I believe it rather telling that student-generated prejudice toward “townies” caused more distress amongst my sample group than any ethnic wrongdoings they may have experienced.

Jason Caldwell
Sci ’08

Dear Editors:
Re: “Confronting the ‘other’ on campus” (Journal, November 24, 2006).

The “culture of whiteness” has been a hot issue in campus dialogue of late. As a recognizable minority I understood quite well that Queen’s, accurate or not, had a white cultural dominance reputation in comparison to other major universities nearby, such as U of T and McGill, when I was choosing my post-secondary education. This did not sway me from choosing Queen’s because I thought the idea that I would be somehow less fulfilled culturally was absolute hogwash. Just how engaged one becomes in understanding other cultures has a lot more to do with personal motivation to be more culturally conscious than simply be exposed to them.

Although I may not have come to Queen’s with expectations regarding the cultural environment, I did feel that there was an understanding, a tacit agreement if you will, that the relative lack of minorities would guarantee me a spot in a photo of one of the school’s many glossy brochures at some point in my Queen’s career.

It is now been four years and the fresh-faced 17-year-old I was when I first arrived on campus has long given way to a withered 21-year-old shell of my former self, yet in all that time nary a photo! Not even as some token in a forgettable cafeteria plan brochure. I can’t help but find this
oversight as an act of carelessness at best or blatant manifestation of institutionalized racism at worst.

Dimitri Thalakada
ArtSci ’07

Dear Editors:
Re: “Confronting the ‘other’ on campus” (Journal, November 24, 2006).

I read this article with some interest. What I found most interesting was the subtle bias that seems to have crept into what ought to be a very scientific and neutral analysis.

Instead, you decided not to report on what would have been the most useful information, that being
how Queen’s actually compared with other universities in terms of diversity, and by other universities
I don’t just mean places like York and Toronto, I mean places that aren’t located near the big three
metropolitan cities of Canada. Outside of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver I suspect you would
find that Queen’s is noticeably more diverse than the majority of Canadian cities. Why did the
Journal not bother to compare Kingston with Saskatoon, Halifax or even Calgary? I suspect that if
you were to look at the University of Saskatchewan, or Memorial University, or even Western and
McMaster, you would find a “culture of whiteness.” Perhaps if you had bothered to interview more people who weren’t a) an international student from a country where Caucasians are a minority or b) from the Vancouver, Montreal, or GTA regions instead of glossing it over, you would have noticed that not everyone agrees with that perception.

I come from a city just outside Hamilton, where I was one of 16 Asians in a school of 1,500. When I came to Queen’s, I found it much more diverse than what I was used to.

This is not to say that racism doesn’t exist or that Queen’s isn’t less diverse than people think. It seems particularly stark when you look at what the Henry Report found: visible minority faculty
members being discriminated against. However, to imply that this is somehow unusual when compared to other universities in Canada and the rest of the country for that matter, I say: prove it.

Joseph Chu
Comp Sci ’08

Dear Editors:
Re: “Confronting the ‘other’ on campus” (Journal, November 24, 2006).

The tagline for your three-part diversity series caught my attention: “Who We Are, Where We’re From, Why We’re Here.”

Despite the focus on diversity and differences, assumably the ‘we’ to which you refer is the Queen’s
University student body. For a moment, I would like to focus on this collective identity. Recently, Justin Trudeau spoke to hundreds of University students and pointed out that “leaders of tomorrow” are not going to be effective agents of change in Canadian society. In order to make the cut: “We need you to be leaders of today.” Ironically, the well promoted Queen’s student descriptor “Global Leader of Tomorrow” seems to fall short. In terms of what this means for diversity at Queen’s, and the Queen’s reputation in general, the question begging to be asked is: what are we going to do now?
I congratulate you on your exposé and thank you for making this information more accessible. I hope that with this knowledge, students will strive to become global leaders today.

Frances Darwin
ArtSci ’06

Elie Wiesel’s indifference ‘completely undermines his credibility’

Dear Editors:
Re: “A lifelong battle against indifference” (Journal, November 24, 2006).

Last Wednesday night I heard an inspiring lecture by Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, about the spiritual need to not be indifferent to the oppression and suffering of other peoples.

I was with him all the way until he spoke of the Palestinians. He acknowledged that they were dispossessed and were suffering but he told them he could not speak out for them because they
used violence.

I was shocked by this disconnect between his indifference towards the Palestinians and his call for
us to speak out in defence of the humiliated, and the oppressed. In no other conflict were the oppressed required to submit to their oppression without violence or else forfeit the claim to our
compassion and defence. Think of South Africa under Apartheid, East Timor, and others whom we deemed freedom fighters.

Right now a humanitarian crisis is underway in Gaza. Eighty per cent of Gazans live in poverty. Israel has stopped the monthly transfer of $55 million in customs and tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority that they collect on their behalf, according to The Jewish Standard.

The Jewish Standard also reports that unemployment in Gaza is nearly 50 per cent. Gaza is under
siege, its borders tightly controlled by the Israeli army. Food and medicine are in drastically short
supply as are electricity, potable water and sewage disposal since the main power plant and other infrastructure was bombed last summer.

On top of that, Israeli military assaults in Gaza have killed 383 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 68 children and 14 women, according to petitiononline.com. Thousands of Palestinians have been maimed, and houses, farms, businesses schools, hospitals and mosques have been destroyed—hundreds of thousands left destitute. Hospitals can no longer cope with the numerous wounded and sick. Children can’t sleep; their parents can’t comfort them. They all suffer even though the vast majority has nothing to do with the Qassams or the kidnapped Israeli soldier.

As if that isn’t enough, Canada the United States and Europe have stopped their usual financial aid to
the Palestinian Authority and the U.S. has used threats to prevent Arab banks from transferring funds
from any countries that want to aid the Palestinians. Wiesel’s indifference and his apologetics in this case completely undermine his credibility.

It is apparently much easier to call for justice and compassion when it is other nations doing the oppressing and not your own. Fortunately there are many other Jewish voices more courageous
than his.

Helga Mankovitz
Kingston resident

Cuba’s freedom of the press

Dear Editors:
Re: Letter, “Cuban political prisoners deserve coverage” (Journal, November 10, 2006).

In her letter, Professor Babbitt speaks about the lack of print coverage for the Cuban political prisoners. It seems entirely ridiculous that a Queen’s University faculty member who has long supported and promoted the oppressive Castro regime is complaining about press coverage. Indeed, Babbitt goes so far as to write: “The Queen’s community should know that the Journal may be deliberately disallowing reporting about some significant events and issues.”

Professor Babbitt is complaining about the press, yet it seems like she has never openly and publicly lamented or condemned the fact that the Castro regime controls all press in Cuba, all newspapers
are from the state-run press and ideas which run contrary to the approved ideology are not printed.
Those who oppose the government are all too quickly rounded up, jailed and called mercenaries of the
American government. Indeed, Babbitt is only concerned about press freedom when it is her press freedom that is questioned.

J.A. Allan
MA ’06

HCDS’s failure to promote Mental Awareness Week ‘detrimental’ to student health

Dear Editors:
Re: “No plans for mental illness week” (Journal, October 3. 2006).

The Journal’s exposure of Health, Counselling and Disability Service (HCDS)’s failure to organize awareness activities during Mental Health Awareness Week was a much needed wake-up call for members of the Queen’s community.

Perhaps more detrimental to the mental health of students than the mental health awareness week fumble is HCDS’s lacklustre care for students with mental health problems. From poor quality of care, absurd wait times and a satisfaction with good-enough outcomes rather than remission, the health service routinely fails to provide an adequate standard of care for students who so desperately need it.

For example, obtaining an appointment with a physician willing to see patients with mental health issues taking common psychiatric medications can result in a wait in excess of three weeks.

During that time, the student who needs their medications adjusted, their prescriptions renewed and emerging symptoms dealt with is crushed by midterms, assignments and other stressful events.
While faculty are generous with accommodations, would it not be preferable to have aggressive treatment that results in remission instead of playing catch-up? A major factor in the discontinuity of care and longwait time is the fact that HCDS mandates a minimum of a 20-minute appointment when you are taking certain medications including those for depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD or schizophrenia.

Furthermore, many physicians will not see students that are receiving treatment for certain conditions. This forces some students to play a game of medical musical chairs, shifting from one physician to another when a doctor refuses or is unable to treat them. This situation applies in two ways. Firstly, the physician does not treat the condition because he/she objects, for one reason or another to all available treatment options. Secondly, it applies if your current medication excludes you. Some physicians will not see patients on certain medications, most notably any ADD/ADHD medication, even
when the medication they take is non-stimulant, non-controlled and has a low potential for abuse.

The core of the issue is that the availability of an appointment is different if you have these elements in your history. In short, you wait longer and have less choice of physicians if you have a mental illness.

While I agree that physicians have a limited right to choose how, what or whom to treat, students aren’t told what restrictions a physician has on their care when they choose a doctor. Before attempting to correct their gaffe with mental health awareness week, perhaps HCDS should attempt to resolve the many issues that dramatically reduce the quality of life for students with mental illness by improving the standard of care offered to them.

Improving physician accessibility and decreasing wait times, as well as professional development geared towards the mental health of students could help improve the overall quality of life and academic performance of many students.

Name Withheld

Editors’ Note:

Health, Counselling and Disability Services Director Mike Condra could not confirm that doctors would refuse to treat patients already receiving certain treatments, saying the claim was too vague. He said that there are some services that HCDS does not have the resources to provide, but they do refer patients to the appropriate service provider. For example, if a patient requires a specialist, such as a dermatologist, HCDS will be unable to treat them, but they will refer the patient to an appropriate doctor.

Condra also said that physicians will generally not prescribe ADHD medication to a patient, but they will continue to see patients with ADHD, provided their medication has been started by another
physician. If a patient is potentially in need of ADHD medication, Condra said the physician will refer the patient to a psychiatrist for an assessment to ensure the diagnosis is clear. He said he could not comment on treatment related to ADD.

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