Charging the bullies – and those egging them on

Communities across Canada are looking to a town in Alberta this week for a new idea in the fight against a national concern: bullying, reported CBC TV’s “The National” Feb. 9. After police broke up a potential fight outside a school in Alberta’s Rocky Mountain House, they charged those who had gathered to watch rather than the boys who were set to fight, under a new anti-bullying bylaw. It’s the only bylaw of its kind in Canada because anyone who encourages or cheers on a bully is just as guilty. Debra Pepler is an expert on bullying. She says going after the cheerleaders is important because “the child who has initiated the bullying becomes more aggressive, and that child also becomes more aroused or more excited. So these bystanders who often say they were just watching and not doing anything actually play a very important role in accelerating the bullying problem.”

Universities across Canada draw critcism over campus protests

Campus clashes are piling up across the country, reported CanWest News Service Feb. 10 in the National Post, The Edmonton Journal and Montreal’s Gazette. York University in Toronto is still reeling after battles between students and police. At McGill University in Montreal, students are escalating their campaign against no-protest zones on campus. This week, student activists at Ottawa’s Carleton University are fighting what they call an “excessively meddlesome” administration that is hurting student organizing. And in Vancouver, lawyers for the University of British Columbia and six former students skirmished Wednesday over an increasingly acrimonious tuition dispute in the BC Court of Appeal. The recent grads are alleging breach of contract when the school quadrupled tuition for the MBA program to $28,000, after the students had accepted offers of admissions in 2002.

The question is whether today’s university students are overly aggressive and litigious, or whether administrators are playing hardball to quash legitimate student dissent. The article noted that protesters at York were kept outside Vari Hall for security reasons and to ensure academic activities were not disrupted. The story pointed out that universities say they welcome student dissent and organizing but not at the expense of security or the schools’ primary function: teaching. It also said McGill has enacted interim guidelines restricting political events in terms similar to York’s.

But the article also noted that some students are not accepting the security argument and are escalating their fight. Third-year student Sarah Dover said she got a taste of what she called “thuggery practices” at another clash at the end of January. Students planned to stage a demonstration inside York’s Osgoode Hall Law School to coincide with the visit of US Ambassador Paul Cellucci. But student protesters were kept outside after campus security, in consultation with RCMP, decided the protest had to be held outside.

Easier university-college transfers urged in Rae’s review

It didn’t take long for Aizick Grimman to realize that his 2002 sociology degree from York University wasn’t going to get him the job he wanted. So the Richmond Hill student did what a growing number of Ontario grads are doing – he went back to college, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 10. When he enrolled in a TV broadcasting course at Seneca, the 25-year-old received five credits toward his diploma for courses he’d taken in university. Still, it’s taken him six years to do what many of his classmates are doing in five because they enrolled in a joint Seneca/York program that offers a university degree and college diploma in less time, at less cost. It’s one of a growing number of hybrid programs that should be encouraged, according to former premier Bob Rae’s sweeping review of the Ontario’s postsecondary system.

On air

  • Psychologist Laurence Harris, associate director of York’s Centre for Vision Research, explained how the centre’s sideways room could help astronauts cope with the disorienting effects of zero gravity, on CP24-TV’s “Home Page” Feb. 9.
  • Pablo Idahosa, coordinator of York’s African Studies Program, discussed whether more financial aid will help or worsen conditions, destroying the lives of the world’s poorest people in sub-Saharan Africa, on TVO’s “Studio 2” Feb. 9.
  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, analyzed Jean Chrétien’s testimony at the Gomery inquiry, on the South Asian edition of OMNI-TV’s “OMNI News” Feb. 9.