Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor for Friday, Feb/12, 2015.

Don’t Blame Torcolacci

Melody Torcolacci is a distinguished athlete of proven personal and moral integrity. Hired at Queen’s to coach track and field, she finds herself teaching, in her own words, “due to budget cuts.” Her lecture slides contain gross fallacious statements, to be sure: “No scientific evidence proves that vaccines do not cause obesity” is one such, there being no evidence, scientific or otherwise, that could possibly prove what isn’t the case.

She obviously ignores the quintessential difference between correlation and causation.

But why on earth should we expect Olympian athletes and coaches to have honed critical thinking and research skills, and to have been educated in even basic verities about statistics?

The real fault here does not lie with Torcolacci. I'm sure the woman is doing the best she can with what she’s got. No, the fault lies with an administration that hires Phys Ed coaches, expecting them to do things they are not qualified to do.

An administration does that when it is not willing to pay the price it costs to hire people who are qualified to do those things because it spends inordinate sums of tax and tuition money on ever-increasing levels of superfluous, unproductive, and grossly overpaid administrators. It’s at this that students' rightful anger should be directed.

Health 102 is a first-year undergraduate course that attracts as many as 800 students. Why is that? I don't suppose it could have anything to do with the fact the course has a reputation as a “bird course”, a lazy student’s access to an easy grade, And lazy students must share responsibility for the existence of bird courses. More serious students have been complaining about the course to numerous Queen’s administrators since at least 2011, but have been systematically stonewalled. Why is that?

I don’t suppose it could have anything to do with the fact that the course attracts 800 tuition-paying students; and that, thanks to our new-fangled “academic planning”, departments at Queen’s now have to raise their own money to survive.

When university leaders create massive incentives to cut corners, they have only themselves to blame if corners are cut. With education as with all else, you get what you pay for — except with administration, where clearly you don't even get that. A growing proliferation of bird courses at Queen’s is only to be expected, along with the inevitable concomitant devaluation of a Queen's degree.

It’s Torcolacci who is now suffering public embarrassment. But the real shame belongs to Queen’s administrators. It’s at them that students' rightful anger should be directed. Had they done their jobs in the first place, Queen’s ,and Torcolacci —not to mention our distinguished Medical School — would not be the butt of jokes in the press and popular imagination today.

Adèle Mercier
Department of Philosophy

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