Letters to the Editors

Sweeping culture clash under the rug

Re: “A question of values, not race” (Dec. 2, 2010)

Dear Editors,

Sometimes I wonder if critics of Maclean’s ever stop to read their articles. If Mr. Yu had taken the time to read what was actually a well-researched, thought-provoking problematic of real cultural issues (albeit with a sensationalist headline), then he perhaps would not have wasted 800 words propagating another false prejudice, namely that Maclean’s is out to destroy multiculturalism through baseless stereotypes.

I am not overly concerned that Yu’s opinion is built up against a straw man of Maclean’s as a reactionary, overtly racist publication—I have my own reservations about some of their authors. However, it seems to me that his stance on this issue is reflective of a general trend in anti-racist allies, and in university students especially, to allow leftist prejudices to do the work of critical analysis.

Any attempt to identify and address the real tensions between cultural values in our society (unless it is a polemic against Anglo-American culture) is met with blanket denial and accusations of systemic prejudice. 

Perhaps Mr. Yu has not experienced a clash of values between self-identified Anglo-American and Asian students, but this would not give him grounds to ignore the host of statistics and experiences of whites and self-identified Asians interviewed in the article that all point to a divisive cultural conflict within Ontario universities.

If anything, recognizing the cultural conflicts that lead to stereotyping and marginalization—conflicts many of us are engaged in without knowing it—helps us to avoid turning the lived experience of self-identified members of social groups into one-dimensional pigeon holes. 

The Maclean’s article rightly states that “Discussing the role that race plays in the self-selecting communities that more and more characterize university campuses makes many people uncomfortable,” but that “it would behoove the leadership of our universities to recognize these issues and take them seriously.”

The authors end by lauding the progressive approach of UBC, which emphasizes intercultural dialogue and campus as a “meeting place” where diverse groups do more than just avoid each other on the way to class. Is this really a display of “gross generalizations” and “hidden motives?” I don’t think so, but don’t take my word for it—read the article yourself.

- Jeff Fraser, Artsci ‘10

Defending ThankQ

Re: “No thanks to ThankQ” (Dec. 2, 2010)

Dear Editors,

It’s unfortunate that Ms. Stairs didn’t get her facts straight or, it appears, look into any of the other initiatives accomplished by the volunteers of the ThankQ committee before condemning them. As one of the originators of this event in 2008, I feel compelled to move the conversation about ThankQ beyond her inadequate account. The premise of Ms. Stairs’ argument supposes that the purpose of ThankQ is to target students receiving financial aid.

This is erroneous, and in several ways. While it is true that Queen’s students are given an opportunity to thank alumni for their contributions to the University, the event is also a chance to educate and raise awareness about the positive impact alumni have made and continue to make. Judging by Ms. Stairs’ assumptions, we clearly did not achieve our latter goal.

Yes, Queen’s scholarship and bursary winners are invited to come to a table set-up by volunteers and pick up a bag tag. What she fails to mention is that friends, colleagues, sports teams, AMS clubs and anyone who happens to pass by and want to express their appreciation are also invited.

The event is not just about those receiving direct financial assistance. ThankQ does not discriminate in who it invites to thank alumni for helping make our university great.

Ms. Stairs might not be aware that all students benefit from alumni contributions. Ever ordered a London fog at the Tea Room? Want to graduate in Grant Hall?

Technology upgrades; library acquisitions; and the artwork that lines the hallways of our historic buildings: that’s what the bag tags are for! Articles like this further perpetuate the stereotype of ungrateful students and as an alumna I’m upset that the author has denigrated an event entirely prompted as a positive, appreciative learning opportunity.

Not that this makes a difference to my argument, but I went to Queen’s on a financial scholarship. And I’d shout it from the rooftops that it made all the difference in the world. But, I completely understand that some people could feel uncomfortable saying that, which is why ThankQ would never ask anyone to.

Wearing a bag tag doesn’t identify you as a student who receives financial aid; it just means that you recognize you are benefiting from the many contributions surrounding you. In other words, you’re proud to be a Queen’s student.

- Melissa Pogue, ArtSci ’09

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