Features – The Cord https://thecord.ca The tie that binds Wilfrid Laurier University since 1926 Fri, 15 Feb 2019 22:17:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://thecord.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/logofavicon-32x32.png Features – The Cord https://thecord.ca 32 32 42727683 Dollars vs. diplomas: The NCAA controversy over students being paid to play https://thecord.ca/dollars-vs-diplomas-the-ncaa-controversy-over-students-being-paid-to-play/ https://thecord.ca/dollars-vs-diplomas-the-ncaa-controversy-over-students-being-paid-to-play/#respond Wed, 30 Jan 2019 18:51:59 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=63740

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Going to work seems like a tedious and unenjoyable task for most, but every two weeks when a paycheck direct deposits into the bank it seems like the stress of the job was worth it. Now imagine working those 40 hours a week, and having thousands of people pay hundreds of dollars to watch you work, and not getting paid for it? In the minds of some student athletes, thats exactly what life is like.

Under the National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA], athletes must play under the rules of amateurism, which means they may not be paid in cash or other goods and services for their work, otherwise they will lose amateur eligibility and can no longer compete in college athletics.

Not being able to play for a school may not seem like the biggest deal in the world, but for many college football players, one of the highest-grossing income sports for the NCAA, not being available for NFL scouts to see is detrimental.

NFL rules state that players must be out of high school for three years before they are eligible to enrol in the NFL draft and combine, so those years of college football showcase their talents to potential teams.

There are two sides to the argument of playing these amateur players in college athletics. Many argue that the schools make money off these players names and performances and they dont see a cent of it and work for free; but these players are usually on full-ride scholarships at top universities while getting to play the sport they love only a dream for students who would never be able to afford a post-secondary education.

In many cases, the NCAA brings down the hammer when it comes to amateurism infractions. In 2005, University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush violated the rule of receiving payment as an amateur, and as a result, USCs 2004 national championship as well as Bushs Heisman award were vacated and are no longer recognized by the NCAA.

A similar incident happened to the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2010 when football players signed autographs for free tattoos, which resulted in head coach Jim Tressel having to step down from his position, and the team not being bowl eligible for one year, the year that new head coach Urban Meyer took the team to a perfect 12-0 season that would not result in even being allowed to play in the Big Ten Conference championship game.

Theatrics and finances that are the backbone of American college athletics arent the focus in Canada; some may say its because athletes werent talented enough to take their talents elsewhere.

What the case actually has been that student comes before athlete in student-athlete for a reason.

In Ontario, the situation is a little bit different. Students are not allowed to receive full scholarships for pure athletics, but rather can receive athletic financial awards (AFAs), which are capped at $4,500 in Ontario. Athletes must have an 80 per-cent average coming out of high school to be eligible for an AFA.

In upper years, the average drops to 70 per cent in Ontario and 65 per cent in the rest of Canada, which has different rules for how much financial assistance university athletes are allowed to receive.

For a lot of schools, not all schools, but a lot of schools, their graduation rates are horrendous. A few years ago, I saw Louisiana State University was in the national championship, and their graduation rate was 33 per cent.

If they were African-American, it was about 15 per cent. At the end of the day, you have to have a degree,said Peter Baxter, the athletic director for Wilfrid Laurier University since 1998.

Your degree is going to take you a lot further; you could be injured at any time in sport and its gone. At Laurier, our graduation rate is six per cent higher than a non-athlete, so its 95 per cent.

When they come in, our recruitment isnt scholarships, our recruitment to a parent is that were going to get you a great athletic experience, but were also going to get your son or daughter a degree.

Athletes who play at an elite level, usually Division I or II sports, attempt to be recruited by big name schools to try and get a chance as a professional athlete.

The problem with this mindset is not only that less than one per cent of college athletes actually do make it professionally, but also that declaring for the draft means leaving school before a degree is finished, which is the argument as to why these athletes should get financial compensation instead.

The National Football League established a rule that players must be out of high school for three years before becoming eligible to play.

The National Basketball Association does not carry the same rule, but most players enter college for one year to get exposure by teams before leaving to go professional.

Canada has its fair share of professional sports leagues like the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL), the Canadian Football League (CFL), and even sports for women like the Canadian Womens Hockey League (CWHL), to name a few. The problem, however, is that these leagues dont generate nearly as much income as their American counterparts.

Theres 12 [Laurier alumni] right now who play in the Canadian Football League, the average career for most Canadians going into the CFL is about 2.6 years, if less. A lot of them, if they get drafted, theyll play, but most could be making about $75,000. Youre not going to be investing that, your career might last, if its long, six years, so you wont make a lot of money in the CFL, and nobodies gone to the NFL from here,Baxter said.

Many athletes in America who are Olympic hopefuls at young ages that can be as young as 15 struggle with the decision to pursue these dreams or attempt to go to school

Theyre young and they want to pursue that dream, but Kwaku Boateng, who plays for Edmonton, he was an Academic All-Canadian and was in the school of business. He worked for Kik along with a few other football players who do, and he told me if football doesnt work out, well he has the business side. I think Kwaku might be working in the offseason with Sunlife Financial as a representative in the summertime.

The cost of an education in America for a Canadian, who would qualify as an international student, can skyrocket to over $200,000 for a four-year undergraduate degree, and many athletes do not get full scholarships. On top of that, the athletes who may not be good enough to play in Division I or II schools and go to Division III athletics are not eligible to receive scholarships for athletics, and practice time is reduced under NCAA sanctions.

The quality of our universities speak for themselves. If youre going to play and study at one of the 56 members of USPORTS, youre going to get an outstanding education, and the benefit is that theres 56 schools instead of hundreds and hundreds, so theres a quality assurance there as far as the academics of it,said David Goldstein, the chief operating officer of USPORTS.

Were also not under the same commercial pressures in the sense that our student athletes in all sports are truly student athletes getting real degrees, theyre getting great educations, theyre having a real university experience and arent isolated from the rest of the student body which can be an issue in some of the revenue sports at some of the major schools. Now thats an outstanding experience in its own right, but you get a special experience here in Canada.

In America, the NCAA generates over $8 billion in profit a year from college football alone, with some schools making over $100 million a year in income.

The highest paid coach in Division I football makes $10 million a year, and though much of the income goes back into the school for scholarships, facility upgrades and other necessities, many employees make six figure salaries when some athletes seem to be struggling to stay afloat, the source of the amateurism argument.

The NCAA has the amateurism concept which essentially means if you get paid a single dollar by virtue of playing your sport, you cant play a college sport because youre no longer an amateur, youre no longer eligible we dont have that. There are rules and regulations for each sport tailored by what the coaches and athletic directors have wanted and preferred over years and decades,Goldstein said.

Generally, until you turn 20, we allow you to play pro sports without it impacting your eligibility, and even afterwards, you might play a professional sport and you might have to sit out a year, and you might lose a year of eligibility, but you can still play some university sport. I think its important because the idea underlying is that when youre 15, 16, 17, our philosophical view is that you shouldnt be forced to make a decision that might hinder your academic career in pursuit of your athletic career.

Many athletes in America who are Olympic hopefuls at young ages that can be as young as 15 struggle with the decision to pursue these dreams or attempt to go to school, as many fear that when they become Olympians, if they accept any sort of sponsorship deal or make any amount of income from their athletics, they wont be able to attend college and still play their sport three years down the road.

You should be able to get both. Our rules allow someone to try to pursue professional sports, and if for whatever reason it isnt working for them, that avenue where they can play university sports is still available to them, and thats fundamentally different,Goldstein said.

We have some athletes who have been Olympians and theyve had the opportunity to earn endorsement money, and we as of now dont have any rules that prohibit that. Its never been a big enough issue and that could always change but you dont have to choose to benefit from your Olympic success or to play university sports, you get to do both.

Though many may argue that those in revenue generating sports are only there for the avenue to professionalism, the opportunity to get a degree at an accredited university is still available to them. The fact of the matter is, a lot of them dont take it seriously. In 2014, is was reported that the University of North Carolina had been committing academic dishonesty and fraud for 18 years in order to keep their student-athletes in good academic standing, especially in their basketball program.

When I tell an academic our athlete graduation rate compared to a non-athlete, theyre floored, because the stereotype would be the LSU football factory and you do football and your courses are whatever and they have no academic integrity,Baxter said.

Our student-athletes have to time manage their academics, thats why we do the student athlete development side because theyve got that, and they have to have their social life; we have our three pillars of academic success, athletic success like nutrition, sports psychology and all that, and the third part, which speaks to what Laurier is all about, is community service.

Regardless of whether one is on the side of paying athletes who make money for their school from their performance, or can agree that the opportunity to learn and play a sport is a gift, many can agree that the value of education is more important that sport may ever be.

We encourage them to get away from those who are the same-thinking, because when you leave here, you have to get along with the rest of the world, some people wont be the same type of thinking as you are, and thats ok,Baxter said.

For an athlete, when they get their degree and they have to get their degree the transcript might not say student athleteon it, but I know all the things they learned in a team environment, in training, all the grit and perseverance they have to go though, the values they learn on their teams, that will carry them a lot further.

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2019 Students’ Union President and CEO candidate interviews https://thecord.ca/2019-students-union-president-and-ceo-candidate-interviews/ https://thecord.ca/2019-students-union-president-and-ceo-candidate-interviews/#respond Wed, 16 Jan 2019 12:00:39 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=56213

ZEMAR HAKIM

ZEMAR HAKIM

IBRAHIM MUSA

TALHA NAEEM

KLAUDIA WOJTANOWSKI

Q1: How/when/why did you decide to run for Students' Union President?

I was very involved in the Students’ Union and I was just doing it for fun obviously, for the joy of making new friends, having a good time and for my passions, and then people started to tell me ‘You might have the resume for this job’, and last year, about a year ago, people a year younger than me started talking about me running, and I didn’t think that I would, and then I talked to my manager about a year ago, so it would be in November I talked to my manager, and we’ve basically been working on the platform and campaign since.

I initially started to think about it a couple months ago. My friends actually just brought it up, I assume jokingly, but then later I guess they became a little bit more serious and then they’re like ‘you stand for a lot of the things that students stand for, a lot of students can relate to you,’ so I was like ‘hmm, maybe’ and I started to see a lot of the things they said in reality. And so that kind of gave me that motivation to take the initiative to go for it.

Throughout my engagement at Laurier, I felt at the end of my education I am a transformed personality. I have learned a lot from my peers, my mentors and I’ve contributed to build the Laurier community. That has inspired me to now step forward and take this initiative of being the President and continuing to serve the student body. It happened naturally -- I cannot think of a moment, but this was a collection of lovely moments that helped achieve that idea and deliver to students my platform which resembles their needs.

I’ve always had an interest in leading the student body in some way, shape or form, and it’s something that I’ve done my whole entire time here at university, you know I started off in Bricker, which is a residence, so that’s 250 people, and then going forward with the Board of Directors there’s undergraduate students, across two campuses, and then continuing on that path with the Board of Governors at a higher level, presenting students and being their voice, now having the opportunity to run for Students’ Union president just that on its own is really amazing. I really finalized my decision this summer, it was a lot of reflection and thought, and making sure that I was making the right choice for the right reasons, and that it was something that I knew I would be the best person for the role because I always have the best interests of students at heart, and that includes who should be their Students’ Union president because it affects a lot of students in ways that maybe they don’t even recognize yet. So that’s the why, I guess, the how, and the when, and the how really was having those conversations with so many people; past presidents, people that had considered for the role and then maybe went backwards, that really was one of the things I thought long and hard about.

Q2: If elected, how are you going to advocate for students on both campuses?

So my entire platform is multi-campus, all the initiatives and mandates in that are for the Brantford and Waterloo campus. There’s an external section which is through the university lens, so these are your 24-hour student building access that I’ve provided, smoothie bars in the athletic complex here, and in either the YMCA in Brantford or if they are continuing putting gym equipment in the Wilks House Gym. So that’s all external, and then internally, because the Students’ Union is multi-campus, all the platform points within the departments of programming & services, financial administration, university affairs and clubs would fit on both campuses as well.

As President, you do stand for the students -- you’re the voice of the students -- I’d like to think of it as ‘the students have a voice and you are going to be the megaphone in which the students can be heard from.’ So in my opinion, the only way that can actually happen is if the students are talked to in person. Social media is fine and all, but that connection you make with students in person is completely different; and I don’t mean in groups, I mean one-on-one conversations.

If I am the President, I will put forward the initiative of multi-campus. I have taken classes on both campuses, done volunteer work on both campuses and done paid position work on both campuses. That has enabled me and given me enough knowledge of both campuses to build a platform which is multi-campus and have a multi-campus approach when I go to my position. I will be working on multi-campus transportation to connect campuses, I’ll be having equal services on each campus and still have the flexibility to resemble each other’s need.

I think that’s an excellent question. I think that a lot of people look at the Students’ Union, look at Laurier, and think Waterloo and Brantford. The cool thing about the Students’ Union is it’s 18,000 undergraduate students across two campuses. There is nothing, really, that should dictate that we are separating things at all. When you’re the Students’ Union president, you’re focussing on both campuses at all times, and I think that most of my platform is multi-campus. It’s really important though to focus on that equity piece, right? Because Brantford students have different needs, and Waterloo students have different needs in certain areas. So, we need to hone in on those as well, you know, I think being multi-campus is absolutely phenomenal, and it gives us an opportunity to so many wide arrays of programs and opportunities to really expand our reach, and my goal as the Students’ Union president would be to continue that process, and you know integrate where it’s necessary and where it’s important, and making sure that every student feels the way that they should as a student in university, that they have that same access to support, to resources, so multi-campus? Absolutely, but let’s also focus on the things that are Brantford specific, and the things that are Waterloo specific. So, advocating for those students no matter where they come from, no matter what year they’re from, or even if they aren’t at Laurier yet. What are those students looking for in their future campuses?

Q3: Can you critique one aspect of the current President’s performance?

I think that he’s been very transparent, but I do think accessibility is a big one. So, when he’s not in the office I don’t see him on campus a lot, whereas with other presidents in my first and second - and third - year, I kind of saw them walking around the concourse, science atrium, or Brantford. That’s my critique I guess.

The current President’s performance -- don’t get me wrong, he’s been an amazing guy, obviously my other opponents have mentioned how he has checklist stuff, he’s fairly active on campus, but I feel as though students would want to see a little bit more of their President’s presence on campus, in physical form, whether it’d be in Brantford or Waterloo.

The current President, Tarique Plummer, had a very elaborate platform and that was a very courageous platform to put forward and he has been working really hard to accomplish that. Some of those initiatives are longer term, in terms of two or three years or maybe beyond that -- and I have yet to see a structured plan to accomplish that over two to three years. I’m not sure, it’s only a half-year, there’s still four more months to go, so I’m really waiting for him to give something out to students about that.

This is a question that I got at the open forum, and I’m going to stick with that answer to be honest, because I think that Tarique has done an excellent job, or president Plummer has done an excellent job, of bringing some really cool initiatives to the forefront. Um, The Perch is one of those initiatives that, you know, has really changed the way that clubs interact, not just with themselves or within each other, but also to the external community. Students think that it’s awesome, and I think so too. There’s still glitches and things like that need working out that they’re working forward to fix as a students’ union, I know that for sure, I think one of the things that I could critique is just the execution of some of those plans, you know the real follow-through at the end of the day, with different ideas on his platform that it really wasn’t there, and maybe it wasn’t there from the beginning, or somewhere along the way it got lost, um, so, that’s definitely one of the things I would critique like I mentioned, he still has four months, so he has a lot of ways that he can turn that around and fix that. I’m happy to provide that critique because I’ve spoken with him one-on-one also, and he’s very happy to take that into his advice and be like, “Well let’s see what we can change”, and you know maybe hopefully I’ll be the one to help him along those last three months as we transition.

Q4: Why do you feel you’re the best candidate for this position?

I think I’m the best candidate for this job because I’m very informed in the Students’ Union, and I’ve been involved in pretty much every department; I’ve been a VP of clubs, I learned the hiring and recruitment process through being a coordinator of the university affairs department, and the programming and services department, and I’ve been on the board so I know policy.

I feel as though many students can relate to me -- I’m not overly active throughout the school, I can’t say that, but nor am I just focussed on my studies. I have found this perfect balance, where I can balance my work life, my social life, my academic life and my volunteering all inside the walls of Laurier and beyond -- and I feel that many students can relate to that and being relatable is very, very important.

In my Laurier career, I have more than 20 co-curricular recognitions on my record and I have volunteered on both campuses. I have served Students’ Union as chair of the board and CGO and also the chair of elections and also served as a director on the board within the volunteer positions as well. This makes me uniquely qualified and have the vision of both campuses and makes me uniquely qualified in a way that I have this qualification to serve the students and once I go to the office to serve the students, I have that connection with the students. I have volunteered not only for Students’ Union but every single department on campus -- I already have those connections built and I know what are the needs of our diverse campus and what are the needs of our student body with the wealth of organizational information and knowledge that I gained from my work within Students’ Union.

You know what, I am the best candidate for this job, and the reason why is first and foremost, yes, you’re representing the voice of the students, it’s something that I’ve done across the board. No one can say that I’m not outspoken, I have 100% advocated for students and not been shy about what students’ opinions are, and what they should do, and where the students’ union really fits into that, and where undergraduate students fit into that. I’m the undergraduate rep on the board of governors, there’s only two, there’s 50 people there, and they’re all adults, academics, people in executive positions at the university. I’ve had no problem raising my hand at those meetings and advocating for students’ needs. Recently you got an email about the strategic plan, students got an email about the strategic plan, and the outreach towards undergraduate students, I’m happy to say I was the one that asked the question at the last board of governors meeting when we were saying hey, what are we doing, how are we reaching out to stakeholders, and I didn’t hear anything about undergraduate students. So, I raised my hand and I said, what’s the outreach going to be like? How are students going to contribute to the strategic plan? I think that definitely this was part of the university’s plan all along, to involve students, but I think really brining that to the forefront, it made it a priority on their agenda, and that’s what it’s all about. Taking the time to then say, “Hey, you know what, this is a priority, this is what students want.” So, can we do it? Can we provide those opportunities for them? I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m most qualified, I have a ton of management experience, I was on the board of directors for the Students’ Union, I’ve sat down with so many people within the Students’ Union as well as outside of the Students’ Union. I’m a fresh face, you know, I haven’t been very involved in the extra-curricular activities in regard to the Students’ Union, but I’ve been able to have my pocket in things like residence life for two years, I’ve worked with so many students in my time there, and I just want to continue to represent them. I think that I’ve done a really good job representing them, this whole time that I’ve been in the university, and at Laurier, but if there’s one thing I would just love to continue to do is that for at least one more year at full scale, whatever I can to help them out.

Q5: How have your past experiences at Laurier prepared you for running for SU President?

I think my past experiences have helped me, knowing the fulfilment and joy that there is to get involved on this campus, and through that passion I met so many people, that are help bringing this campaign to life right now.

Past experiences at Laurier would include things as simple as just being in class. For example, when we had clicker questions: sometimes there would be something that happened -- it wouldn’t have posted the right answer, so the entire class would get it wrong and I just put my hand up and [would] speak out on behalf of the class, whereas everyone else was just silent and was going to take a few marks off. So just standing up for students on simple occasions like that speaks quite a lot. Working with the [AM Student’s Association?], we’ve had charitable organizations where we help them out, fundraise a bit, for natural disasters around the world, for helping out orphanages around the world. Things like that, students kind of have a soft heart for and they admire that kind of stuff, so I feel that’s why.

I have worked for all departments at Laurier: I have worked for the Diversity & Equity Office, Laurier International, Students’ Union, Dean’s Office -- and I have worked with all the campus partners in terms of my volunteer record. This gives me a holistic vision and also I have served the Students’ Union in different capacities. Currently, I’m in AVP of Finance and Administration, which gives me a wealth of knowledge, informs me about the issues and prepares me ahead of time to expect what will be expected of me as a President and make myself so ready for the position when I’m there. I feel like I’m already transitioned in and ready to go today as a President.

I’ve ran for elections twice before, so I ran when I was running for the board of directors, that’s when I was running in my second year, and I ran for board of governors for my third year, and so this is my third rodeo. I definitely have had that help me in general because I know the processes, I know the policies, they’ve changed a little bit over the years, but that was definitely a huge help on my side. The other thing that’s really helped me prepare is honestly students. I sat down with 40+ students to determine my platform. I’m going to be very completely honest and say that every single point on my platform was something that undergraduate students developed. That I then brought to the next person I sat down with and was like, “Can you think of anything to expand on? Do you have any other ideas to contribute?” Every single student had so many great things to say. Some of those things aren’t even on my platform, because I just didn’t see that they were feasible, or something that I knew the Students’ Union wouldn’t be able to take control of, or in general just a little bit out there. I know it’s important to have their voice, and be able to know that someone is listening to them. To give them honest feedback, and let them know why something is or isn’t feasible. They were the ones that prepared me, because they questioned every single part of my platform. My team had no problem not being shy about asking and being like, “Why are you doing this? How are you going to do that?” With that being said, that totally changed how I looked at certain parts of my platform. My platform evolved extremely over two months. We started from things that now I could never think of doing because I realised they’re not what students want versus what students need. Those students definitely had a huge, huge impact on developing that platform, questioning me on my platform, but also really driving my passion, and made me realise how many issues aren’t represented on this campus, and how many simple and practical things that we can bring to the forefront, if we just take the time to listen to students and listen to their ideas, it just once again reignited that in me and that’s why I love elections season.

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The results for “The Best of Laurier 2018” https://thecord.ca/the-results-of-the-best-of-laurier-2018/ https://thecord.ca/the-results-of-the-best-of-laurier-2018/#respond Wed, 09 Jan 2019 12:00:42 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=53295

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Are you happy with the term holiday? Another look at word choices this winter https://thecord.ca/are-you-happy-with-the-term-holiday-another-look-at-word-choices-this-winter/ https://thecord.ca/are-you-happy-with-the-term-holiday-another-look-at-word-choices-this-winter/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 12:01:51 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=52931

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

“I hate when they say that. Just say Merry fucking Christmas.”

I remember this man from my hostessing job when I was in grade 12. This time of year, I always wished my customers Happy Holidays as they left for the night. 

This man didn’t seem to like that very much, and made that loudly clear to the woman he was eating dinner with as they left the restaurant.  

I’m Baptized Catholic myself, but I knew that some of my customers wouldn’t be. Apparently, at least to one person, I was participating in the so-called war on Christmas. 

I still am, if that’s the view that you take. The holiday season is called that for a reason — of course we have Christmas, but we also have Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, misoka and countless others. 

So, this war on Christmas — is it really even a thing? Do people honestly believe in it, or are we all overreacting?

“I don’t think a lot of people would be offended if you said Merry Christmas to them,” said Laura Goldfarb, a third-year student here at Wilfrid Laurier. Goldfarb is also co-president Hillel Laurier, a subsection of the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. 

“I think it’s always good to be cognizant of other cultures, and to say ‘happy holidays’ is the safe route.”

Goldfarb, despite not celebrating Christmas, is still looking forward to the holiday season. She, as well as others who identify as Jewish, will be celebrating Hanukkah around the same time that Christians will be celebrating Christmas. 

“Hanukkah is basically the Jewish festival of lights. It’s eight days long and it basically celebrates the Jews winning the war over the Greeks in some point in history. That’s kind of a very crude explanation of an important tradition,” Goldfarb said. 

“The only thing Hanukkah really has in common with Christmas is that it comes around the same time every year,” she explained. 

“When you say Merry Christmas, you’re not acknowledging Hanukkah. That’s just the truth,” Goldfarb said. “So when you say happy holidays, you’re acknowledging that holiday too, which is nice because Jews love Hanukkah! It’s a fantastic holiday.”

Goldfarb also shared some of the traditions associated with Hanukkah, including lighting the menorah, spinning dreidels for chocolate money and eating jelly doughnuts. Not coincidentally, Hillel will be in the concourse with jelly doughnuts soon. 

“People who want to secularize the winter season, I don’t think they are warring against any particular festival or religion.”

“These are some customs that everyone will like — you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy them,” she said. 

However, if there is one holiday that has been secularized the most already, we’d have to come back to Christmas. Even a large number of atheists celebrate Christmas with their families. Is this really the war on Christmas, rather than accepting other religious holidays around the same time?

When I asked Joseph Goodwin, campus minister, St. John Paul II Student Centre, and the Catholic Chaplin as part of the multi-faith resource team here at Laurier, whether he believed in a war on Christmas, he strongly answered with a no, through laughter. 

“I don’t think anybody in the history of Christmas has ever decided ‘war on Christmas’ is appropriate, unless they were actively, violently persecuting Christians, which has happened sometimes throughout history,” he said. 

“People who want to secularize the winter season, I don’t think they are warring against any particular festival or religion.” 

Both Goldfarb and Goodwin had a similar response when asked whether or not they’d be offended if someone wished them well on a holiday that they didn’t personally believe in. 

“I’m Jewish. If you say Merry Christmas to me, I say Merry Christmas back and I’m not offended at all,” Goldfarb said. “But other people may have different reactions to it.”

“I’d say happy Hanukkah right back, because it would appear that this person is Jewish, and if they said happy Diwali or happy Eid to me, I’d assume that they’re Hindu or Muslim respectfully, and I’d say it right back to them,” Goodwin said. 

That’s not to say that Christians want to relinquish all hold on their religious holiday this season, though. Christmas is an important holiday that Christians still hold onto very tightly. 

“My prime directive is not to be diverse and accepting. Everyone has their own worldview that they approach life with,” Goodwin said. “Mine centers around being a Christian, so that’s not an exercise in diversity, that’s an exercise in being who I am.”

“Of course, I support and encourage everyone to be who they are,” he continued. “As a Christian celebrating Christmas, part of my sort of incarnation of truth is to go into the world and be who I am and show God to people.”

“It’s almost out of my mind to think ‘how do I go about being diverse and accepting.’ Because I’m a Christian, I’m accepting because that’s the model of Christ.”

As for a last takeaway message, both Goodwin and Goldfarb looked to a positive note on the holiday seasons. 

“[Christmas] is the time when we should be the most open — the most tolerant,” Goodwin said. “There’s no Christian culture that’s there to be reclaimed.”

“If you’re the type of person who really wants to be aware, be respectful and appreciate other cultures, go with happy holidays, there’s nothing to lose,” Goldfarb said. 

To each of you, happy holidays. On behalf of all of us here at The Cord, I hope the holidays you celebrate — no matter what they are or aren’t — are rewarding, restful, and remarkable. 

What term for you prefer?

 
pollcode.com free polls

 

The Cord reached out to various other religious Laurier groups with an opportunity to share their holiday traditions, but they did not respond to requests for comment or declined to be interviewed. 

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Opening a time machine to the past https://thecord.ca/opening-a-time-machine-to-the-past/ https://thecord.ca/opening-a-time-machine-to-the-past/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 12:01:30 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=52765

News Editor, Aaron Hagey, and Opinion Editor, Emily Waitson discuss recapturing their childhood and nostalgia's impact on daily emotions.

Nostalgia; the sentimental reminiscence that goes through your mind when you encounter a piece of your past, is perhaps one of the most powerful and motivating — yet uniquely consuming and volatile — emotions that adults can experience throughout their lives.

There are countless things that can trigger the wistful thoughts that are often brought on by this elusive emotional phenomenon: video games we played, television shows we watched, toys we played with and the music we used to listen. It reminds us of a childhood that has come and gone. Anything in your life that has created a strong connection with a significant or once arbitrary moment from your youth can evoke these nostalgic feelings and associations.

Despite the warm, fuzzy emotions that nostalgia can give us, it often acts as a pair of rose-coloured glasses that retroactively tint the past in an overly-optimistic way. It blurs the unpleasant and the mundane fillers that aren’t as memorable, making us yearn for what seemed like a stress-free, blissful existence that will never be attainable in the same way again.

Much like a daydream, nostalgia serves as a peephole through which we observe memories that seem like an idealized Disney cartoon of the past. It’s a place that has never really existed the way we remember it, except within the boundaries of our minds.

Millennials seem to cling to their pasts with forceful devotion and fierce dedication to the idea that we grew up in the “best” generation. They were born into a world where technology wasn’t nearly as developed as it is now — Windows 95 was the highlight of the internet age at the time and the dial-up tone still rings strong in our ears — and we experienced a joy that feels singular and unmatched to this brief period of time.

Simple pleasures like renting VHS tapes from Blockbuster, painstakingly picking out your five-buck purchase at the Scholastic Book Fair or the surprise of getting a pack of Fruit Gushers in your lunch bag seem like long-forgotten moments in our personal histories that we wasted, because we didn’t appreciate them to the extent that we should have at the time. With the future so murky and uncertain and our paths leading to many unknowns, some of us seem to be in a perpetual state of chasing our youth in order to avoid facing what’s in front of us head-on.

What businesses have difficulty with, however, is finding the balance between historically accurate points in time and the idealized way people tend to look at the past, while still bringing elements into it that suit a modern audience.

With resurgences of old TV shows, re-releases of once popular snack foods and throwback events that touch on the music and pop culture of decades long past, it’s easy to see how companies are utilizing nostalgia in order to encourage consumers to buy their products.

Brad Davis, associate professor of marketing at the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics at Laurier, focuses on brand strategy and consumer behaviour, looking critically at the kind of tactics that are utilized in order to sway buyers.

While he understands that most decisions —   especially purchases — are emotion based, there are well thought out strategies behind the businesses who are able to tap into that emotion in order to encourage interest in their products. The use of nostalgia as a marketing tool has stayed relatively cyclical because it is known to work time and time again.

“There’s an appeal to going retro because they know it worked once … There’s a feeling that it’s a little bit safer, creatively. The other side of it is there’s always a nostalgia for the past. The past is always nicer than the future,” Davis said.

“[Companies understand that] we look back at the past with kind of with a sense of how things were easier or better than. The past always has a certain appeal to it, so that’s kind of a constant. That tends to increase on occasion when we are more anxious about where we are now or in the future.”

Nostalgia is, in its most basic form, emotional comfort food for the mind: something which allows us to travel back to a simpler, less complicated and often happier period in our lives. A point in time when we were less burdened by problems like paying rent, passing exams, tending to responsibilities and the weight of a well-balanced life — one that we often wish to return to in moments of reflection.

“Sometimes we kind of [experience] this consumer equivalent of going back to your blankie — going back to those comfort products of things before. We like to retreat back to when we felt safe. There’s a sort of emotional hook to it,” Davis said.

What businesses have difficulty with, however, is finding the balance between historically accurate points in time and the idealized way people tend to look at the past, while still bringing elements into it that suit a modern audience.

“Nobody wants to drive the old Volkswagen Beetle, because [in reality] it was a piece of crap,” Davis said.

“We don’t really want to literally go back to the past, we want to just capture that spirit or that essence of it. So companies will do that — they’ll bring back the shape, the form, the spirit, but with more of the modern amenities [like the Beetle].”

Davis says that one of the factors that drive people to, for example, associate certain brands with childhood memories, is that they are categorized into “family brands,” which are associated with youth — like comfort foods, such as Kraft Dinner.

“We eat them because it evokes feelings of long ago, of mom and dad — where we didn’t have mortgages and we didn’t have other [things] to worry about. You’re not just eating the food, you’re kind of eating that era, that time,” he said.

“The whole notion of the ‘comfort food’ is [that when] you’re depressed … you go back to that kind of stuff because it makes you feel that little bit of escapism, back to when … it was an easier time for you.”

There have been scientific studies done to examine what products create certain links in the minds of consumers, as well as what sections of the brain light up under examination.

“They did neurological tests with Coke and Pepsi and one of the things that they found with Coke is that, when people go to drink it, what lights up is the sense of community. People prefer Coke because it evokes that sense of community and being part of something bigger. When they drink Pepsi, it’s the reward centre, because it’s sweet,” Davis said.

As Coke’s infamous 1971 advertisement jingle warmly sings, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke,” it directly targets the community associations people connect with their brand, which is what seems to separate it from a drink like Pepsi.

One of the other problems with targeted nostalgia marketing is the difficulty that lies in navigating the delicate balance between what Davis refers to as the “generational ownership of certain products or brands,” which can create negative associations for newer generations who aren’t interested in brands that they see as “old.”

“Every generation wants to distinguish itself from the one before it ... so it’s difficult when you’re trying to appeal to a younger generation [and have] a brand that was kind of owned by a past generation, that defined them,” Davis said.

“People who engage in nostalgia are actually not more past-focused overall. They can often take this little dip into nostalgia to become more future-focused: to become more hopeful and inspired and motivated to pursue goals in the future,” Wilson said.

“The problem with appealing to a new generation or using an old brand is that it was owned by a past generation [like Cadillacs] … Brands are very psychological: in that, if you perceive this to be an old person’s brand, there’s no way in hell you’re going to sell it to a younger generation,” he said.

There is a significant amount of psychological science behind the phenomena of nostalgia that provides an optimistic, yet cautious, look into this sensation that can feel almost addictive in nature.

Anne Wilson, a psychology professor at Laurier and Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) Successful Societies program, specializes in social psychology and has been studying the concepts of self and identity over time, especially in the ways people think about their past selves and how people project that image into their future.

Wilson sees nostalgia as a “bittersweet” emotion, one which seems to vary in either the bitterness or sweetness depending on the individual. However, research in social psychology has started to identify how nostalgia can actually serve positive social and emotional functions.

“Even though there is this aching or bittersweet aspect to nostalgia sometimes, it’s actually associated with a lot more positive emotions for people. People report experiencing nostalgic memories or remembering things in a nostalgic way especially at times when they’re feeling bad,” Wilson said.

It is during these times of sadness, then, that these memories pop up, acting as a calamine lotion to soothe the itch of melancholy that is being experienced.

“So when we’re experiencing nostalgic memories, we tend to be pulling out the things that were really meaningful or positive to us. Because of that, it allows us to have this moment or sense of feeling connected and often loved and to enhance our feeling of meaning and to have all these positive, powerful feelings,” Wilson said.

As for when we are most vulnerable to these feelings of nostalgia, she believes that the answer to that is more complicated than it may seem. Instead of occurring most frequently at specific times, it instead tends to occur throughout our lifespans.

“There’s actually a different perspective of research that suggests that, as you get older, you’re more likely to look back on your more distant past — there’s something called the ‘reminiscence bump’,” Wilson said.

“People are much more likely to remember things from their early adulthood and late teens when they get older because that’s the period of identity formation.”

However, when it comes to young adults, nostalgia marketing tends to focus on the younger generations because they are more susceptible to a number of factors: including being open to shifting self-identity, changing themselves or their brand loyalties and the presence of higher disposable income.

“Identities are a lot more fluid at that time and a lot of people haven’t settled on exactly what core features of their identity they’re going to stick with, so it’s a time of transition ... Young adults are often going through periods of transition, so they might be turbulent or stressful times … things that tend to happen in young adulthood,” Wilson said.

One of the potential issues Wilson points out is how, in the age of social media, having everything recorded can leave us grasping for genuine sentimentality and meaning, especially when creating worthwhile memories.

“There’s some research about how, if you spend much of your time interacting by taking images ... that can lead to impoverished memory for the events … you’re kind of imagining it from this third-person perspective of ‘how good is this shot gonna look’ as opposed to actually experiencing all of the positive benefits that you get in the moment,” she said.

Though that may seem daunting, she doesn’t want that to limit people’s ability to indulge in moments of nostalgic bliss, as one of the common, but false, perceptions of nostalgia is that it isn’t good to live in the past.

“People who engage in nostalgia are actually not more past-focused overall. They can often take this little dip into nostalgia to become more future-focused: to become more hopeful and inspired and motivated to pursue goals in the future,” Wilson said.

While we live in a time that seems to be dually focussed on the simplicity of the past and the rapid progressiveness of the future, the occasional indulgence in the little things that made our respective childhoods so fond to return to is a comforting emotional tool to use.

As long as we strive to live in the moment, rather than channel too much energy into curating the picture-perfect memory, nostalgia seems to be the perfect sentimental Band-Aid.

Don Draper from Mad Men summarized it best: “Nostalgia – it’s delicate but potent … In Greek, nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone ... It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards … it takes us to a place where we ache to go again ... to a place where we know we [were] loved.”

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Finding your festive flare at holiday markets https://thecord.ca/finding-your-festive-flare-at-holiday-markets/ https://thecord.ca/finding-your-festive-flare-at-holiday-markets/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 12:01:10 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=52596
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Finding funds for your future: Hints and tips for looking past undergrad https://thecord.ca/finding-funds-for-your-future-hints-and-tips-for-looking-past-undergrad/ https://thecord.ca/finding-funds-for-your-future-hints-and-tips-for-looking-past-undergrad/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 11:01:54 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=52345

Contributed Image

I think I speak for a lot of us considering post-graduate education when I say one of the scariest parts is the cost. After building up debt — and maybe some bad spending habits — throughout our undergraduate degrees, the price tag attached to further education, be it through university or college, is not a small one.

Like everything else in university, no one is holding our hands through any of this. Applying to Laurier, each of us probably had countless tours and orientation sessions, or at least a personal connection at the very least.

Now? Applying for further education and trying to find the money to get there? A lot of the weight is on our shoulders. 

“As a current student, we always encourage students to complete our competitive scholarship profile,” said Necia Martins, associate registrar with Wilfrid Laurier University’s student finance and client services. 

“We have our general profile as well as our faculty specific profiles, and those do make you eligible for more awards internally, where our donors have signalled that that’s what they’re looking for: someone who’s well-rounded and academic, as well as excelling in other areas outside of academics.”

And that’s nothing to scoff at. At Laurier, Martins stated that there are awards that are worth over $10,000. 

From personal experience, I received a pretty hefty renewal scholarship through Laurier in my first year that I didn’t even know existed — all because of my extracurricular involvement in high school. You never know what you might get plopped on your lap if you just fill out the profile.

That goes for other universities as well. If you’re considering graduate school in the next few years, find out about how they administer awards, whether it’s through a profile like Laurier or individual applications. Some scholarships and awards need more preparation than others, so it’s always good to get ahead. 

“We request essays or any sort of written component typically for specific awards,” Martins explained. “Sometimes all the criteria boxes are checked by completing the profile, but in some of them we find we want to understand a bit more about your interests or a bit more about your experiences.”

“We are asking those questions to better understand you.”

The takeaway from it all? Research early. Get in contact with the program advisor in the subject you want to apply for, even if you’re not planning to apply to Laurier for your education. Get advice from your professors.

If you’re applying to graduate school next year, though, you have the opportunity to apply for plenty of external funding, as well. 

“Start early, do some research, talk to faculty, talk to colleagues, talk to the writing tutors,” encouraged Jordana Garbati, writing consultant at the newly re-branded Laurier writing services, formerly the writing centre. 

She and her co-worker, fellow writing consultant James Southworth, ran a series of workshops on writing scholarship proposals earlier this year. 

“If you’re applying to graduate school, I would definitely apply as well for an external scholarship. These are winnable awards, every university has a certain allotment to give out. It’s a unique type … you’ll be continuing to write these through your graduate career,” Southworth said. 

Though most of the deadlines for external awards for current graduate students have passed, the deadlines for undergraduates applying for funding at the graduate level are still upcoming. 

“The biggest thing to focus on is framing your project as opposed to just starting your proposal with what you are going to do. It’s very hard for an assessor of that project to understand that it’s making a contribution to the field, so first take a step back and tell us what’s happening in the field and expose some kind of a research gap,” Southworth said. 

The national scholarships, NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; SSHRC, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and CIHR, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, make up the tri-council of research grants to scholars and students alike. Make sure to check online and with your program about specific deadlines. 

“It can get quite complex, so start early to make sure that you are ticking all of their boxes,” Southworth said. 

These external award applications will be assessed by scholars both within your field of study upon your application and from those outside of it. Southworth encouraged having a friend from a different discipline read your proposal to see if it makes sense to them, as well as your faculty specific mentors. 

“Here at writing services, we certainly help with the writing of the scholarship proposals, but information about how the funding works and how it’s allotted … the graduate department is able to advise about that,” Garbati said. “There are other places on campus to get support.”

The Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) is another opportunity for students. Though you can only accept a national award or a provincial one, there is no harm in applying for both.

Some other good news is that, when applying from an undergraduate level, you’re not cemented into completing your research proposal to the exact way                     you submitted it. 

“You’re writing a grant proposal, but it’s not a contract,” Southworth said. “Part of the rational there is that when you’re at graduate school, you’re going to be exposed to so many new ideas and projects can take different turns.”

“Research and writing evolves,” Garbati said. “Don’t lie, you’re still hopefully        following the same path, but if it gets off track onto a new track in the same area, that’s okay as long as you’re representing your work honestly.”

For those who are considering applying to even more competitive external awards, Martins also oversees the Laurier selection of students for the Rhodes Scholarship. In its essence, the Rhodes scholarship pays for students to attend Oxford University in the United Kingdom for two years at a graduate level. 

Two students are selected from Ontario every year, so it is incredibly competitive and Laurier has set up a vetting system to send forward the students they think will be the most competitive. 

“If students are interested, they don’t necessarily need to be a student today. They can be a graduate, as long as they meet the other criteria, like the age criteria,” Martins explained.

“The scholarship is based on finding that well-rounded, someone-who-wants-to-change-the-world kind of person … an amazing human that does such incredible things,” she continued. 

If this scholarship, arguably the most prestigious in the world, looks at more than just your grades, that should be a good indication that your involvement matters. You can be an amazing scholar, but you can’t just keep your nose buried in a book all the time. 

The takeaway from it all? Research early. Get in contact with the program advisor in the subject you want to apply for, even if you’re not planning to apply to Laurier for your education. Get advice from your professors. 

And, for the sake of your mental health and for your chances at those big scholarships, do something other than studying. Get involved early so you can make the natural progression up to positions like president that look good on a resume. 

“Represent yourself fairly, honestly as best as you can,” Garbati said.

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Waterloo Region’s municipal election candidates https://thecord.ca/waterloo-regions-municipal-election-candidates/ https://thecord.ca/waterloo-regions-municipal-election-candidates/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:59:57 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51903

Features Editor, Madeline McInnis, talks to all of the candidates for Laurier's ward and for Waterloo's mayor this election season. Answers have been printed verbatim from interviews with the candidates but have been cut off at approximately 100 words per answer.

  1. Are you for or against expanding the ION? Why or why not?
  2. How can you ensure student retention in Waterloo post graduation?
  3. In your opinion, how has King street construction affected Waterloo? Has it been and will it be positive?

Dave Jaworsky

  1. The first step in getting the ION successful is to build ridership on phase 1, which is around Waterloo and Kitchener. That way we can demonstrate to the federal and provincial government that it’s working here and it’s needed, and then we can seek further funding for LRT phase 2, which will take us down to Cambridge and will complete the system in Waterloo region.

2. The talent at the universities is a key contributor to the economic growth of Waterloo. What we are doing here in Waterloo is making it a more attractive place to live, work and play. We are focused on job creation and entrepreneurship so that new graduates have a great job and a great city. We’re building connections between our university district and uptown through Waterloo park with our new central promenade and exploring new transportation options like E-scooters to ensure that we look like a cool place to live and build your life.

3. The King street streetscape work was necessary because the old streetscape dated back 50 years and was car-centric. The new streetscape supports all modes of transportation including segregated cycling lanes, wider sidewalks for wheelchairs, strollers and patio lifestyle. We’ve installed new exciting tree lighting, an innovative invention of a local company, all along King Street to attract people here every evening so that our retailers can thrive. We will also have the ION running through uptown that will have a great way to bring tens of thousands of people through our uptown area each and every day. Uptown Waterloo is one of the most vibrant urban cores in all of Canada.

Kelly Steiss

  1. I would really like to hear clearly from the Cambridge residents what they would want for the ION. We do need a system that serves our entire region, but I want to make sure we serve Cambridge in a way that makes sense.

2. We need to make sure that we have a variety of housing options available that are affordable. We also need to make sure that our city is a place where our graduating students feel welcome, where there is a diversity of economy as well as options for entertainment and belonging.

3. King Street construction has been devastating to our local businesses. I believe we could have done a better job. My hope is that as we move forward that we can make it look great, because right now we have to do better.

Chris Kolednik

1. I’m against any expansion of the LRT and the ION, especially they’re talking about going from basically Fairview Mall area to Cambridge. So I’m dead-set against that. The proposed cost was going to be roughly a billion dollars or so. I’d rather see that billion dollars go towards high speed rail basically connecting Kitchener to Toronto.

2. Simply, jobs. In my campaign, I even specify in some of my Twitter, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. What do people want after they graduate? And I know that I wanted the same thing, was that I wanted a good paying job. At the end of the day, people want stability, security and a good-paying job. Again, I want to be the jobs mayor. I want to create thousands of jobs in this region, not just in high tech but in manufacturing, continued insurance and continued in the education service.

3. From my perspective, it hasn’t been a good thing because I’m a commercial realtor, that’s my background. Some of those businesses on King Street are my clients and they were tremendously affected and we’ve actually seen businesses shut down as a result of the LRT construction and then the streetscape construction. Again, it’s not something that I would have been in favour of, per say. I think it should have been better organized and better planned for those businesses, but, again, it’s obviously here now and we have to deal with it. We have to shine a positive light on the situation and we have to get more people back to the uptown Waterloo core.

Devon McKenzie

1. I would encourage the expansion of the ION to continue to connect our communities and our business areas.

2. First, we need to focus on affordable housing and continuing to build job opportunities for our newly educated minds.

3. As somebody who owns a number of businesses in uptown, it was a struggle to try and survive the construction. However, now that the businesses’ streetscapes are open, the businesses are starting to see an upturn in business. So we’re appreciative to have them open and widened.

Rami Said

1. I am for expanding the ION. At this point, we’ve already invested a large sum of money into it and it’s in Waterloo and the region’s best interest to ensure that it’s successful. When you give up on something partway through, there’s no chance of it being successful and I think for future generations it’s going to be used quite a bit.

2. So there’s two parts to student retention: the first one is jobs and the second one is culture. So, obviously, some of my positions on the BIA and uptown business committee, we’ve been pushing for employment growth. So a good example is when we sold the art building, ensuring that it was devoted to developing more office space for uptown Waterloo. And in terms of the arts and culture, sites like the Button Factory, for example, you know, making sure people actually want to be in Waterloo. It’s one thing to get a job, it’s another to actually feel included and part of the community.

3. Well, that’s a complicated one. I think longterm we’re going to see a lot of positive results from it. Obviously, in the short-term it’s been very stressful, we’ve lost some businesses, rent rates are going up slowly, that’s a systemic problem everywhere. So there’s been some negative feedback in terms of how it’s gone. It was over 50 years old, some of it already crumbling and falling apart. This work had to be done. It wasn’t something we could push off saying that it’s not in our best interest. So for future aspects, it allows development, it allows for stronger businesses where things aren’t falling apart or breaking.

Tenille Bonoguore

1. I’m pro ION, as long as, I want to make sure that it is supported by a robust bus system as well. As a transportation tool it is, hopefully, it is going to prove very valuable and essential, but also as a development tool it provides a strong spine on which to intensify. So it think both of those things are really important and great.

2. Waterloo needs to be a great place to live for all ages and all incomes and this pertains to families, it pertains to seniors but it also pertains to young workers, so its not just about making sure we have excellent jobs here, we also need to have an excellent culture that makes people want to stay. So for me it comes down to strong employment options as well as really thriving culture, a variety of things on offer in the core and across the city and a variety of housing styles so that there are homes that people can afford in the places where they want to live.

3. The next couple of years are going to be tough. We have to wait for people’s habits to change and to bring them back to uptown, and we also need to, there’s a lag time in the developments that are coming so the population that will be uptown going to their businesses isn’t here yet so I think long term it’s going to get off to a really positive point, but it’s been a hard couple of years and I don’t think the hard times are done yet so I think it’s really important for this city to be working very hard to continue supporting local businesses until those habits change again and people are coming back uptown and living uptown again.

Carol Parsons

1. I would say I’m definitely for expanding the ION. We need to better support the active transportation in our city. We need to make sure we are bringing people into our city because while it’s allowing them to efficiently commute to work outside of our city, so we definitely need to support the expansion of the active transportation system in Waterloo region.

2. Again I think it comes down to a couple of things. It comes down to engagement, making sure that we create a community that they are connected to and therefore after graduation want to commit to staying in. I also think we have to — intensification is something that we hear a lot about and I think it’s so important because we need to make sure we are bringing people into our community by creating jobs and opportunities for them to be here.

3. It has definitely been challenging, I think especially for uptown retailers, being able to bring people uptown during the construction was difficult. I know that we have some great support from the uptown BIA as well as the city but that’s behind us and I believe that moving forward that it is a good thing, it will bring more people uptown, therefore bringing hopefully more retailers uptown, more business owners uptown and therefore more people uptown so I do believe it’s a positive thing moving forward.

Elizabeth Sproule

1. If the ION meets expectations — we’re talking the LRT down King street — I would actually be open to considering another path that goes in a perpendicular direction, because I think that in order for it to fully service our city it has to go in more than one direction.

2. People long to live in a vibrant community where there are things to do, places to go, a sense of community and a vision that they can see themselves being in place for many years and I think that if we can build that we will retain people. People want services if they’re there if they say if there’s entertainment, community support, I think that’s the way we get people to stay in our city.

3. I think in the long term it will be positive when we get a more diversification of our businesses along King Street, assuming that the LRT will increase foot traffic, I think we will have a more robust Uptown at the end of the day. Of course it’s been such a struggle and we have suffered a number of loses, but I’m hoping that in the future that can be counteracted and it will really be a great place to be.

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A fountain for youth: University students and the writing renaissance https://thecord.ca/a-fountain-for-youth-university-students-and-the-writing-renaissance/ https://thecord.ca/a-fountain-for-youth-university-students-and-the-writing-renaissance/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 11:00:25 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51585

 

Photo by Sadman Sakib Rahman

When you think of fountain pen users, you probably think of one of two categories: lawyers and politicians who can afford pens that cost thousands of dollars or the oddball novelist who writes exclusively in leather notebooks. 

Although these stereotypes have their merits, the “writing renaissance,” as this period in writing history is affectionately being called, is actually being brought about by an entirely different demographic: university students. 

“Whether it’s 18-year-olds going into university or 22-year-olds leaving university, I think there is so much that is coming to them via the internet and all kinds of social media, and I think that the fountain pen is a pleasant change,” said Mano Duggal, owner of Phidon Pens in Cambridge. 

In the Waterloo region, fountain pens enjoy a considerable following and fan base. You only need to look at the incredibly successful and popular pen shop, Phidon Pens, as well as the great amount of people who share in the same passion for all things writing. 

Increasingly, students are becoming a larger and larger portion of this group.

Phidon is located in Downtown Galt and features enough inks, pens, notebooks and accessories to keep you looking around for hours. The store just celebrated its tenth anniversary in September with celebrations including a sale, calligraphy demonstrations and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig. 

“Over the years, I’ve given some interviews and the people ask me ‘why pens, why do you sell pens?’ and I always say ‘why not?’” Duggal said.

The two of us attended both days of the celebration and there was not a single dull moment. The store was always full of people enjoying everything the store has to offer, as well as all of their special displays and products for the anniversary. 

Predictably, we were not the only students that stuck around.

“I just feel like students have a low budget that they are working with and they’re buying pens and notebooks that are mainly being used for their education, so it’s just a small little break that I offer them,” Duggal explained, in reference to the 10 per cent student discount she offers at her store throughout the year. 

“I always tease students when they come in and say ‘that’s my contribution to your education!’”

Though the teasing is light and kindhearted, Duggal’s sentiments ring truer than she intended in the moment. Countless studies have shown that handwriting notes improves grades, so buying a fountain pen at a discounted price really could be an investment — a serious contribution — to our educations. 

Though I’m not sure that there’s been any research into the direct correlation between fountain pens and straight A’s, I think it’s safe to say that you’re way more likely to want to write with a smooth, flowing pen than a 30 cent ballpoint. 

“When I was in college years and years ago, I found that it’s easier to retain information if you write it out. So, when I was studying, I would literally just write out my notes three or four times and it was committed to memory,” said Kata Law, a local artist and owner of Wanderlust Watercolours.

On top of using fountain pens for her art, Law also ran the only Pelikan Hub in the Waterloo Region in both 2017 and 2018. Pelikan Hub is an annual global event where pen lovers meet at 6:30 p.m. in their respective timezones all across the world for socializing, networking with other pen users and professionals and trying new products. 

Cambridge’s Hub was one of the largest in Canada with over 30 participants. Toronto’s attendance was the second largest in the world with over 100 registered guests. It’s pretty safe to say that this is an excited community.

And who makes up that community? At Law’s Hub this year in Cambridge, there was a student in a Laurier sweater. There were two University of Waterloo students of note. We personally sat next to a student from Conestoga College who had introduced his mother and sister to fountain pens.

 

There was no shortage of student representation at this international event, that’s for sure, and we were all excited to talk about our experiences in the fountain pen community and compare pens. 

In particular, the consensus between us students seemed to be that there was a strong connection between thinking about what we wrote and actually remembering it. 

“It lets people be mindful of what they’re writing … You have to think about it, you can’t just sit and erase everything,” Law said. 

The permanency of writing in pen is something that will help come time for exams, but it will also help in actually retaining the information that you learned. You don’t have to have a photographic memory to remember how you wrote something on a page, and something as simple as using a specific colour can help jog your memory when it really counts. 

That’s all fine and dandy, but you can get that with any pen, not just a fountain pen. So what’s the big draw? The answer lies in the experience of writing itself. 

Have you ever used a pen so smooth that you don’t want to put it down? It was probably a gel pen or rollerball that just flowed with ink. Picture that feeling every time you write.

The experience of a pen with a nice weight in your hand that writes perfectly every time and requires absolutely no effort on your end — all with the added bonus of having infinite colour choices that pre-packaged pens can’t provide: that’s what a fountain pen is. 

“I think it makes my writing look a lot better and it feels very nice to write with,” said Sarah Szymanski, a fourth year Laurier student. Szymanski recently started writing with a fountain pen for the first time.

The biggest drawback from getting a fountain pen, like almost anything in university, is the initial cost. From $6 here at our own bookstore to $975,083.08 on Ebay, the current highest listed amount for a fountain pen, the cost associated with getting into the hobby can be, well, scary.

“I feel that, if you get one, it’s always your first [fountain] pen. And you can get a ballpoint for 50 cents, but you’re not going to enjoy the experience of writing, which, if you’re going to be writing that much, you may as well enjoy the experience of it while you’re doing it,” Law said.

Having a pleasurable writing experience isn’t the only draw to our favourite inky friends, however. As single-use plastics are becoming more and more taboo, some of us are starting to think twice about the amount of plastic pens we use, and that’s another draw towards something that’s refillable. 

“It’s really exciting that it’s reusable. When I’m done with the ink, I don’t throw the whole pen out and have to get a new one. I can just refill the ink cartridge and I still get to keep the same really cool pen and use it forever, probably,” Szymanski said. 

And that’s true, too. If you take good care of your pens, they can outlive you. There’s even dedicated fountain pen enthusiasts who work exclusively with pens from the early 1900s. 

For us modern fountain pen users, though, there’s always a new thing coming out. Szymanski uses her fountain pen, a Lamy Vista, to take notes during class. This is her first fountain pen, and, coincidentally, Law’s first fountain pen was a Lamy Vista too. 

But, as any fountain pen user can attest, once you buy one, you have to have more. It’s a hobby that just keeps growing, whether it’s a new ink colour, a new pen every few weeks or just taking the time to refill your pens at the end of a long day. 

When asked if she would buy another fountain pen, Szymanski said “Yes definitely. Definitely, so I can use … different colours instead of just switching this one out.”

Personally, we write all of our notes in black and add accents, like the date, key terms and headings, in colours. When it comes time for actually studying those notes, we feel like we’re seven steps ahead, actually studying instead of flipping over to Facebook every time I try to read our notes. 

“I definitely feel that there is a strong need for bringing back pens in the classroom. Definitely, writing is good for you,” Duggal said.

Students are creating what has been cited as the so-called writing renaissance, bringing the fountain pen mainstream again. It’s a fact that we have a lot to write and a lot to say. There are few occupations that require so much writing, so now’s the time to really get the most out of your investment into a good pen — or 10.

That said, you don’t have to ditch your MacBook and hand in all of your essays in cursive. In fact, that’s probably not advisable at all. You can find a happy medium between your screen usage and your handwriting, and it’s probably recommended to do both for the best grades possible anyway. 

“Writing is as old as civilization: I see no reason why [using both fountain pens and computers] shouldn’t go hand in glove,” Duggal said. 

“But, nonetheless, if [less screen time] means that we’re slowly coming back to a point where people find it interesting and useful to use a fountain pen, I say fantastic. I think it’s great.”

Though it probably seems retro and cool to those of us who are using them now, the prestige of the pen never really died — it just got overshadowed by our ballpoints and their availability. However, if you’re looking to be part of an unspoken movement, it’s as simple as handwriting your class notes.

Simply, in summary, Law said it best: “Get a fountain pen, they’re awesome.”

You don’t have to commit to impulse buying your first pen like we did, though. Chances are that if you see someone using a fountain pen, they’ll want to talk to you about their fountain pen. As long as it’s not a Visconti or a MontBlanc, they might just let you try it, too.

“I think the fountain pen community is growing exponentially and pretty much everyone is kind and willing to share their information,” Law encouraged. 

“If you have any questions, ask someone who has a fountain pen. Just don’t break it when you borrow it.”

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Putting a face to the homeless in Waterloo Region https://thecord.ca/putting-a-face-to-the-homelessness-in-waterloo-region/ https://thecord.ca/putting-a-face-to-the-homelessness-in-waterloo-region/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 11:00:49 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51276

I have lived in downtown Kitchener (DTK) for roughly 14 years of my life, residing steps away from central DTK spots like Victoria Park, Charles Street Terminal and City Hall.

I’m also located near the less acknowledged, yet imperative, markers of social assistance that provide our city with places of refuge and much needed support for those in need.

I’m a minute away from OneROOF, I passed by the House of Friendship every day when I walked to school and I go by the welcoming windows of The Working Centre every time I make my way through downtown.

Over the past few years, businesses like Google have established Waterloo Region’s tech sec-tor. Beautification efforts to improve the downtown streetscape have been continuously put into motion, and the ongoing construction of the LRT has been the focal point of Kitchener-Waterloo expansion since its approval back in 2011.

Through all of these endeavours to make our city more vibrant, more prosperous and more pleasing to look at, there is a noticeable area of neglect in this detailed process of re-imagination that has been left at a standstill.

Despite all of the unique localities this promising region has to offer, there is a prevalent problem connected to KW and cities like it in Southern Ontario that is difficult to ignore — people experiencing homelessness.

Although a report released on May 4 documented an apparent 12 per cent decrease in people experiencing homelessness from 2014 when similar data was compiled, the issues that these people are facing have become even more complicated.

The report documented a total of 264 people experiencing homelessness on April 23, with 85 per cent stating that they were living long-term in shelters and the remaining number spending their nights in short-term, public shelters or tents.

Sandy Dietrich-Bell, the chief executive officer of OneROOF Youth Services, noted, “I’m not necessarily seeing an increase in numbers, but we’re certainly seeing an increase in the severity of need in what we call the acuity. Their acuity needs are higher and much of that is related to the fact that they have complex issues.”

“Gone are the days where someone has just had a fight with mom and dad and they just need a temporary place to stay. Most of the youth that we’re seeing have very complex issues: lots of mental health [problems], drug addiction, violence and abuse in their history. Our numbers are remaining steady, but the issues are definitely a lot more difficult to manage,” she added.

Increased accessibility, financial support and acknowledgement of the growing need for resources such as mental health services, substance abuse programs and affordable housing are what is vital for Waterloo Region’s ability to flourish.

These issues are particularly difficult to tackle for a shelter like OneROOF, as it is the only shelter in the Waterloo Region that is targeted towards youth experiencing homelessness or youth at risk.

“We are the only youth-specific shelter for young people in Kitchener-Waterloo, and although shelter is not the answer to the issue, it certainly is part of the continuum to break the cycle of homelessness. What we’re lacking is the rest of the continuum,” Dietrich-Bell said.

“So, for example, there’s no supportive housing units available to the adult homeless population, let alone the youth population.”

And while there are shelters in the surrounding area that are available for people of varying needs, including temporary housing, the resources that are required to build and maintain a sustainable foundation to live off the street is what is really essential for long-term progress.

“So when there’s no affordable housing in the community and a landlord has many folks vying for the same apartment, it’s not likely that they’re going to opt to give it to a young person who’s facing barriers and is homeless. There’s also, and has been for many, many years, a gap in the availability of substance abuse programs and timely mental health programs,” Dietrich-Bell said.

When there is no additional government support for non-profit organizations like OneROOF, the House of Friendship or the YWCA, donations, recognition and assistance from the community are invaluable in keeping their doors open and facilities running.

“We don’t receive any provincial or federal funding, so we rely on the community and grant writing and each year we have to start over and hope that we continue to garner the support,” Dietrich-Bell said.

“There’s lots of ways to get involved either monetarily [or] by [the] giving of your time and space.”

Along with donations, a step forward to improve the way homelessness is treated is changing the way we see the people who are affected by it.

It is incredibly easy to cast judgement on the people you walk by on the street and assume they are living the way they do for a particular reason you know nothing about.

While walking through Downtown Kitchener especially, it is a common occurrence for me to see commuters giving a wide berth to someone who is asking for money. Businessmen in suits distractedly step over people sleeping on the sidewalk, like they’re nothing more than litter.

The general public behave like the problem lies solely in the people who are affected by these difficult circumstances, as opposed to the city, who should be prioritizing the funding for the services that could effectively help those experiencing homelessness.

“People need to see them as individuals first and their circumstances second. We get into trouble when we start labelling people and seeing only the label. Our fears and our ignorance gets the better of us and then we treat them as less than human beings,” Dietrich-Bell stated.

“Here at OneROOF, we never use terms like ‘homeless youth’ or ‘drug addict’ — we always put the youth first. So, we’ll say ‘youth experiencing homelessness’ or ‘youth that has an addiction’ because we want people, by the virtue of the way we speak, to see the human beings first and their situations second.”

When speaking with Julia Manuel, director of the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre, she detailed the services available for these survivors: “Our program is one of 35 centres across the province, so we’re a part of the sexual assault domestic violence network and our program is unique in that we have 12 social workers [and] 12 nurses that respond as a team to both St. Mary’s hospital and Cambridge [Memorial],” she said.

Unsurprisingly, women, men and youth who are in unstable living situations or are homeless are at a higher risk for numerous potential risks and dangers, such as sexual assault.

“I want to say that we see a correlation between sexual assault and homelessness. We do see women who come through who are not always necessarily homeless in that they’re living on the street, but what we see a lot of are women coming in who are victims of human trafficking,” Manuel said.

“They are in this community and are seeing they don’t really have anywhere to go. We have women who come out of relationships who are now saying ‘I don’t have anywhere to go now, because it was his home’ or ‘her home’ and ‘now I can’t go back there,’ or ‘they’ve kicked me out’.”

“We see that a lot with young kids, like young teenagers, where they’ll come in and say their parents kicked them out or they’re from group homes — so they don’t actually have a home.  People live on the street, but they’ll bounce from place to place and then may get assaulted [that way],” she said.

My hope is that we can continue building and improving this city so that the people who are experiencing homelessness and are less fortunate, yet equally deserving, can be given the same chance at a home to call their own.

Exposure to the numerous dangers are heightened due to not having a home, which is an aspect that she has seen through her work with the program.

“I would say that, given that they’re going into environments where they’re not really sure… they’re taking what they can get. As long as they don’t have a roof over their head, that’s definitely a vulnerability for them.”

Programs like this are highly needed, as they give victims in a variety of circumstances and living situations options to choose from on their own terms. This program connects them with the support they want and need individually, which is why they work well for people experiencing different levels of these complex issues.

“Our big role, the main message that I would give to any victim, is that we provide options — if you want the police or you don’t want police. We can provide you with medications, we can connect you with resources, we can also provide short-term, ongoing counselling and/or refer you onto the community agencies,” Manuel concluded.

Nearly all of the services that are available for people experiencing homelessness and the risk factors connected to it are located in Kitchener.

The expansion of these resources has yet to reach many parts of Waterloo and Cambridge: places that would seemingly benefit those who are affected and in need of these services, but are not solely located in Kitchener.

Increased accessibility, financial support and acknowledgement of the growing need for resources such as mental health services, substance abuse programs and affordable housing are what is vital for Waterloo Region’s ability to flourish.

The ongoing expansion and growth of Kitchener is relatively positive for a city that began in 1854 as the Town of Berlin.

But with all of our advancements, we shouldn’t be gentrifying our humble roots so that the people who need the social services provided by the tirelessly good-doing shelters and assistance programs in the area are pushed to the outer edges for the sake of appearances and convenience.

Attention to the innovations that have been brought to the Waterloo Region and the ones that are being planned for years to come is fine and well, but it should not impede the much-needed progress that needs to be made for the people who need it most.

In the 2014 detailed document, “Ending Family Homelessness in Waterloo Region,” an outline of how to help families and those experiencing homelessness in the region, follows a thorough list of ways the community can support and change the methods that our cities are using in order to provide these people with assistance.

This online resource is incredibly helpful in understanding a very complex social issue that should be seen as a cycle to work towards preventing, rather than a seemingly simple series of problems that we can collectively hide and ignore.

One of the “Essential Elements for Ending Homelessness” that is listed says “Home: A sense of belonging to a personal space. Home is personal and self-defined.”

I am incredibly privileged to have a place in Kitchener to call my home.

My hope is that we can continue building and improving this city so that the people who are experiencing homelessness and are less fortunate, yet equally deserving, can be given the same chance at a home to call their own.

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