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Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 3; January 26, 2011

The Edge

An arranged marriage, or a shotgun wedding?

Abroad Perspectives

Puerto Rico protests heat up. Student unrest around the world grows.

Over The Counter

Corruption 101 in China

Globe Tipping

‘Tis still the season…for storms.

1) THE EDGE – An arranged marriage, or a shotgun wedding?

The Ontario government wants its universities and colleges to get closer. The Government wants easy mobility for students moving between the different sectors with an official system of transfer agreements allowing a seamless transition from college to university. Others provinces have such arrangements: BC, Alberta and Quebec. But Ontario Colleges and Universities cooperating in that province? Better chance to have Conservatives make nice with the Liberals?

For decades in Ontario, its universities have looked down on colleges. Universities don’t want to give up the high ground they feel they reside upon and they didn’t like it when colleges started granting their own degrees. Get the university folk aside and alone at a cocktail party and they will tell you that the university sector is superior to colleges.

Universities look upon colleges as being for students at the lower end of demonstrated academic abilities. Admission standards of each sector in the main reflect this (there are exceptions as a few niche college programs attract students the highest academic pedigrees coming out of high school).

Many colleges just smirked back in the post double-cohort year, when they saw their incoming classes dwindle as universities shrunk percentages to fill up their bigger class sizes. Chat quietly with colleges and they will tell you that universities are hypocrites if they look down on them.

Colleges emphasize their more applied nature in contrast to the theoretical focus of universities. Sometimes this gets overstated as if that is the only difference sweeping away some meaningful differences in academic calibre. Take Business. What proportion of high schoolers with an 80 or 90% average in high school pursue business at a college? Yet when it comes to articulations, colleges want to make the case their programs are a true substitute.

Confusing the matter even more in recent years has been the peculiarly lenient position of some universities accepting international transfer students from programs whose appropriateness and calibre would be more in doubt than of those students whom they do not accept from neighbouring colleges.

College kids have for years struggled to get their credits recognized. Sure most of their courses are a different standard, but they feel they get a raw deal. There’s even a law suit launched by a group of students from one Ontario college against the university in that city.

If money talks, then it’s time that people are going to be listening – at both colleges and universities. The Ontario government has never been in a better position to force both sides to get together, as everyone is hurting for operating revenues and will have their hands out (or at least their backs for scratching). And the Government? Well it sees an opportunity to win votes and cash in on the large number of college bound kids who may be influenced before polling dates.

“The Edge” by Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. There are seven Canadian university members of the CUAC.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Puerto Rico protests heat up. Student unrest around the world grows.

The student protest movement is growing more global and more violent. Last week in Puerto Rico, imminent fee hikes at the University of Puerto Rico led to clashes between striking students and riot police. The student movement is now regrouping into another phase of struggle – preparing for a possible class-action lawsuit.

The strike, which beyond street action has included highly organized elements ranging from ground-breaking student journalism coverage, to mass social networking initiatives aimed at reaching economically-marginalized communities. It led to numbers of arrests as well as brief disruptions to scheduled classes. The University administration is determined to see this week’s final payment deadline through.

The extra fee in question is $800 – with $400 follow-ups in future semesters (assuming that number is not hiked). The majority of students regardless of their stance on the strike, are deciding to pay the fee (rather than lose their enrolment status). Strike organizers are encouraging everyone to sign their checks and/or payment slips with “Pago Bajo Protesta”, or “Payment Under Protest” – to be used as evidence of their opposition in the event of reimbursements through a class-action lawsuit (as was successfully achieved in a 2010 ruling against the University of California).

“Paying and remaining students is not undermining the strike,” said Xiomara Caro, one of the student spokespersons for the Comité de Representación Estudiantil (Student Representative Committee). “Rather it’s pay and protest – the process continues.”

Images of the student riots – widely captured and screened by the media – come at a time when The Economist magazine recently forecasted that Puerto Rico will have one of the world’s lowest economic growth rates next year. But according to Caro, this is not a valid excuse.

“Around the world the fiscal crisis is being used as an excuse to abandon affordable public education,” Caro said, “and student activists worldwide cannot lose faith in the possibility of resistance.”

Judging from international blog posts, more student movements, as far away as Croatia and Pakistan are following the lead of the Puerto Rico strike.

Source: “More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed”. The Huffington Post, January 18, 2011.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maritza-stanchich-phd/more-violence-in-puerto-r_b_810628.html

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Corruption 101 in China.
While many professors at China’s prestigious Renmin University began the semester’s first class by stressing the importance of academic achievement – Professor of Law, He Jiahong, began his by lecturing his young scholars not to buy their teachers gifts or take them out for dinner.

Welcome to China’s very first university course on investigating corruption. Working alongside top government prosecutors, Professor He is training thirty masters students to interrogate suspects and administer lie detector tests in pursuit of crooked officials. No easy task, especially in a country where corruption is widely accepted to be rampant – a reality that the majority of students have already had experience with, right from their own academic environments.

“Parents generally don’t want special favours for their kids,” He explains, “[but] if they don’t give [professors gifts], they think their child may not be treated equally. To bribe for equal treatment – that’s really sad.”

Corruption in China spreads throughout almost every element of personal experience – from the migrant worker saving for “fees” so her child can go to a school that’s supposed to be free, to government officials taking massive bribes in order to shield gangsters – as happened in the case of Chongqing’s former deputy police chief, Wen Qiang, who was executed just this year for his involvement in such activity. With execution sentences for corruption not uncommon in China, the problem does not seem to be shrinking. According to state news agency Xinhua, the country punished over 146,500 officials for corruption last year alone.

“We are only thirty students,” admits Xiong Hao, one of the new students in the class. “But I think [the course is] an important signal; it means our government is emphasizing solving the problem.”

Source: “Chinese university offers anti-corruption course”. The Guardian, January 18, 2011.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/18/chinese-uni-course-anti-corruption

4) GLOBE TIPPING – ‘Tis still the season…for storms.
Though we can all hope the worst is over, February is still on its way… and with it, the very real possibility of yet more travel-impeding storms. However, good news: even if nothing seems quite so frustrating as the prospect of a bright red DELAYED or CANCELLED sign next to your flight on the departures board at the airport, here are a few tips to help you deal – for the times when just skipping the flight and participating “via conference call” are simply not possible.

  • If you booked your flight through a travel agent, then you’re in luck; your agent can do the checking and rebooking of flights for you. Otherwise, check the airline’s website to make sure your flight has been actually cancelled, and not just delayed. Be sure the airline has your mobile phone number and e-mail as well, so it can notify you directly of any changes.
  • In order to find out if your flight status is changed or cancelled, go to your airline’s website and sign up for an e-mail, text, or voice mail alert service. Also handy are sites such as Flightstats.com or the Boston-based Flightview.com – useful when flying to or via the U.S.
  • If your flight is cancelled, call the airline’s customer service line or rebook the flight online yourself – though be aware that you may have to pay a change fee if your new flight is more expensive, or if you change it online. Some airlines automatically rebook passengers when flights are cancelled, and notify them via e-mail. Others yet have reservation agents reachable via their airline Twitter account. Either way – if you don’t have confirmation that your flight’s been rebooked, then it’s always best to call and double-check.
  • If your flight’s been cancelled and you’re not sure of when a new booking will be possible, trying to arrange an alternative mode of transport, such as a train or bus, may be an option (depending on how far you’re going), but one thing is generally agreed upon – don’t bother torturing yourself by going and sitting at the airport. Although it is sometimes the rare case that people have better luck at ticket counters than on the phone (such as during the recent Christmas storms), airlines and travel agents alike continue to advise people the best method is still via phone or online.

Source: “With another storm on way, tips for travel”. The Boston Globe, January 12, 2011.
http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2011/01/12/with_another_storm_on_way_tips_for_travel/

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