Archive for December, 2005

University bureaucrats.

Sometimes I believe that they hire university bureaucrats at a moron convention. This is slightly different from the idiot convention from where they get politicians. However, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many university bureaucrats and politicians are practically interchangeable (consider that many folks wanted to appoint Bob Rae as the President of UofT).

Recently, I received an e-mail from a UofT Arts & Science student about a problem he was facing with the bureaucracy. He was running late for an exam because of the TTC, and having arrived he placed his pencil case on his desk and began to write his essay exam. The pencil case contained a calculator. One of the invigilators, who had gone around his desk several times finally spotted it and accused him of possessing an unauthorized aid. The calculator was confiscated.

The student had brought the calculator to school in the first place to study for an exam he had the next day which would require the use of a calculator. Now that it was confiscated, it would be difficult for him to study or to write the exam.

The university bureaucracy, when he talked to them about it, told him that he had brought in an unauthorized aid to his essay exam, and that he could reclaim it by a) admitting that he’d brought an unauthorized aid, b) admitting he took it back, c) agreeing to have it appear on his transcript for six months/meeting with the Dean’s designate for disciplinary measures.

What’s absurd is that there is no way possible that the calculator could be used as an aid of any kind on an essay exam, and even the presiding instructor who created the exam said this. To me, it’s no different than taking your digital watch off and putting it on the table — something many of us have done on several occasions.

Nevertheless, the bureaucrats are sticking behind this. This student, and I give him credit for this, refused to admit that he had brought an unauthorized aid, and is going to meet with the Dean’s designate to discuss this issue. I wish him all the best.

It frustrates me tremendously that this kind of unnecessary action is being undertaken. Apparently, these bureaucrats have nothing better to do with their time, and so are taking upon these kinds of trivial issues — that can have an immense impact on the transcript of a student (particularly if he or she wants to use it to apply for research or other positions). If deterrence is truly their intent then this is not the way to do it. It’s stupid and inane.

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I think I need a girlfriend first…

saqib says:
…so when you going to buy this for your girlfriend?
saqib says:
http://www.szul.com/diamonds [...] id=726013
nomes says:
as soon as i get a credit card
nomes says:
i’ll über-max it out on the very first day
nomes says:
and spend the rest of my life repaying that debt
nomes says:
wait, it’s starting to sound like a university education

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Last Exam Syndrome:

Being unproductive and unmotivated in the time leading up to and including the very last assignment/test/exam of the term. You keep telling yourself that this is the last thing, and that just makes you want to do whatever it is even less. You waste your time reading various articles on the web, or participating in message boards you’d rarely otherwise frequent, or blogging. Ultimately you churn out something, perhaps minutes before the deadline, or you give up on studying as the train pulls into your station.

(This manifests itself on a smaller scale within a test or assignment when you’re near the end and start being careless, writing in big splotchy letters that run off the blue lines in the stupid exam booklet. There might be thirty minutes left, but you’re done and want to make it seem like you would’ve done a better job if you had more time. So you write “TIME…” in large letters under your crappy conclusion, hand in your exam booklet, and saunter off and fall asleep on the first flat surface you see to make up for all the sleep you’ve lost.)

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I hate not living on campus.

I want to take up archery again.

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Ineptitude.

Right now I feel kind of inept.

Emotionally, intellectually, my spirit: inept.

I met an acquaintance today (well, yesterday), after two years — he was in my Lord of the Rings course — and he told me about how he’d transferred to York. University of Toronto is shit, he told me, compared to York. The professors actually care about you, the courses are designed to help you learn, not to make you burn. The level of difficulty isn’t necessarily easier, he said, it’s the way York treats you — indeed, it treats you as a human being, a person. If the purpose of a university education is learning, then the University of Toronto has broken it, just like it has broken the spirits of several students who have come here. He went on about it for a while.

I really have no reference point when it comes to the University of Toronto and comparing it to other institutions. Well, not until I met this guy. Sure, the evidence is anecdotal, but hot damn — what the fuck.

I looked back at my two years on ASSU and I tried to pull out tangible things that I or we have brought through to make things better for the students. Academically. I found none. Nothing new, nothing improved. ASSU, in the last two years — to my recollection — has accomplished squat. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m missing something. Yes, of course, there was the time I got the Dean to apologize to BIO250 students. Then the other times I’ve gotten into tiffs with instructors/lecturers/professors for all kinds of reasons. But other than that? I really don’t know. Perhaps being able to maintain the status quo is something. I think? I don’t know. We tell ourselves to take solace in our little victories, and that’s nice, but have we really moved ourselves to accomplish something big? I’m sitting here and I’m thinking that ASSU can be so much more, but I feel like I’m devoid of ideas.

If I’m devoid of ideas, I’m devoid of action. Where do the ideas come from? Everyone. But for that, you need communication and I don’t see that. There needs to be a regularized channel of communication. Apparently, that’s what course unions in ASSU are for. To keep the Executive’s ear to the ground, so that we can all pool our resources and effect some change. But that doesn’t happen. I don’t see it happening. I see that it might happen, but we really need something for that.

I don’t think it takes just one leader. Maybe it does. Maybe it takes a confluence of several leaders, in several positions. I don’t know. We ought to think about these things. How do we make our lives better — the lives of students better? We don’t think. It seems to me that we keep putting things off for an ever-later date. We don’t think. We’re devoid of ideas.

(I’m sorry if these musings seem esoteric or are inaccurate, feel free to ask for clarification or reprimand for correction.)

Recently, there has been a rash of thefts in the lockers that ASSU rents out to students in the basement of Sidney Smith. Things such as laptops and textbooks (incidentally, the one I’ve had tiffs over) have been stolen. Although ASSU has repeatedly asked Campus Police to conduct some sort of investigation, they’ve said that they don’t have the time or resources to do so — because the value of the stolen goods is not large enough, apparently. I don’t think you can base shit on the value of the stolen goods, it has to be based on the relative value. For students, a textbook is a big deal, a laptop is a fortune. If a senior administrator at the University had her car stolen, the Campus Police, I suspect, would be on that buggy like a hungry dog on a scrap of meat. What does it take?

The web site for the Undecided Party of Canada has some thoughtful ideas. It may seem to be a joke site, but don’t be fooled, it addresses some very serious issues and posits some absolutely interesting ideas.

On its about page:

If Conservatives could call themselves Progressive,
If the current federal Liberals can call themselves…Liberal,
If an organization that takes contributions from union dues without requiring the consent of those paying the dues can call itself the New Democratic Party,
And if the Reform Party can go without making any significant reforms, change its name to the Alliance Party without creating any significant alliances, and then drop the Alliance name after negotiating the only important alliance in its short history,

…any misconceptions about the meanings behind the UDP’s name can simply be considered part of the fine tradition of misdirection and manufactured disorientation that defines the political process.

This site is making me reconsider my support for the NDP. I’m half thinking of writing “undecided” on my ballot and spoiling it. I encourage people to become politically active, but when I reflect upon the state of things I feel incredibly discouraged. Most people are dimwits, it seems, in politics. It’s like they have an idiot convention where they pick who’s going to become a politician — liars, assholes, braggarts and all-around fuckheads are in high demand.

I’ll probably end up voting NDP. I’ll probably end up campaigning for the NDP as well. It’s important, I guess. If you can’t really effect change by kicking the shitheads out or being wittily ironical by spoling your ballot, you can at least moderate them by electing less fucked-up people to do something more positive.

This has to be one of the most incoherent and rambling posts I’ve written in a long time. I’ve barely covered half of what’s on my mind. Maybe less. I have an essay due on Wednesday. I have to work on that.

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The most ironical news article…

Iran’s hardline president, who has called for Israel’s destruction, said today that the Jewish state should be moved to Europe if the West wants to make up for the Holocaust.

I’ve always loved how pragmatic Eastern leaders can be.

“Some European countries insist on saying that during World War II, Hitler burned millions of Jews and put them in concentration camps,” Ahmadinejad said. “Any historian, commentator or scientist who doubts that is taken to prison or gets condemned.”

Talking about reform and democracy in Iran, though, is an entirely different matter.

“Only recently the UN General Assembly condemned Holocaust denial and here the Iranian leader is showing himself to be fundamentally contradicting the norms of international behaviour and decency,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

He quickly added that Israel is exempt from international behaviour and decency because, well, it’s Israel.

“They certainly don’t inspire hope among any of us in the international community that the government of Iran is prepared to engage as a responsible member of that community,” [U.S.] State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

He added that Ahmadinejad’s comments appear “to be a consistent pattern of rhetoric that is both hostile and out of touch with values that the rest of us in the international community live by.”

Ahmedinijad, he stressed, not George W. Bush.

“An extremist with a microphone can be dangerous enough; an extremist with nuclear weapons poses a danger to the entire world,” [Rabbi David] Saperstein said in a statement.

He later clarified that he was not talking about Ariel Sharon or George W. Bush.

- Move Israel to Europe, Iran’s president urges

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Sometimes, university professors say the darndest things.

For instance, “There’s a medical certificate [about ten days] before the date of the exam, and a medical certificate [about ten days] after the date of the exam, but no medical certificate [close to] the date of the exam.”

This, coming from someone who has been undergraduate chair of a department.

There’s something to be said about remarkably inane adherence to rules.

(And that’s a paraphrase and not a direct quotation, not to be confused with Dr. Stewart.)

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Civility and civilization…

This morning in ANA300 (anatomy) lecture, the instructor, Dr. Stewart, was lecturing on motor neurons. These, essentially, are the nerves that allow us to conduct movement (that is, manipulation of muscles). She was discussing how lesions (damage) to lower motor neurons, that causes disuse of muscles can lead to substantial muscular atrophy. An example of this is the polio disease.

Then, she said something to the effect of “Now, polio has been eradicated in civilized countries.” And she continued speaking about other parts of the world.

My friend looked over at me and, offended, said “‘Civilized’?” I too was offended and raised my shoulders and hands in a “what the hell,” kind of way.

Then I raised my hand and Dr. Stewart called on me. I said, “I’m sorry, I have to object to your use of the word ‘civilized.’”

“Okay… Well, what would you have me use instead?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I responded. “Developed.”

“Okay, so polio still exists in underdeveloped countries — is that better?”

“Much better, thank you.”

What I wanted to say was something along the lines of, “Hold up, Africa and Asia had great civilizations while Europeans were still learning to crawl out of their caves — what do you mean by ‘civilized’?”

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Welfare and Trauma?

Yesterday morning I got on the Spadina streetcar through the backdoors as I usually. It was quite packed, and I would typically wait for another streetcar but I was in a hurry. I also usually take my backpack off but I was holding a bag full of books so I simply didn’t have the opportunity to do that.

From the front of the car, this black lady came hurtling through, “Excuse me! Excuse me!” She was physically pushing people out of her way. She came and stood near the doors, beside me.

Then she started muttering something about how they stole $10,000 from her young children, her social services, and “This is what you’ve become Canada!” Then she said she felt like she was going to throw up, and pushed me out of the way and proceeded toward the back asking (demanding, more like it) for someone to give up a window seat.

A person (in the aisle) complied and got up for her, and the person sitting beside also got up. So she got her window seat (and I think she said thank you but I don’t remember) and opened the window.

She continued muttering things, but I had to get off at Willcocks and so did not get the entire gist of her argument.

I think she might have undergone some kind of trauma (losing a lot of money, perhaps; losing her children?) or something.

But yeah. Another TTC story.

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