Friday, May 30, 2008

Nursing school sold, Ryerson continues to commodify

This week, Ryerson University announced that it has sold the naming rights of its School of Nursing. The School is Canada’s largest in the field of nursing and is now, officially, the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing.

Three years ago, Ryerson’s Senate (then Academic Council) and Board of Governors wrestled over how to re-write the University’s Academic Naming Policy. In the end, the policy stipulated that there had to be a vote within the academic unit to approve or deny the proposed name change. Ryerson’s article makes no reference to the percentage of faculty who voted in favour of the name change.

The school will be named after the mother of long-time Board of Governors representative Jack Cockwell, at a cost of $5 million.

Cockwell is a director of the right-wing C.D. Howe Institute, a think-tank and policy research group. It has produced research that promotes marketizing the public school system to allow families “greater choice” for elementary and secondary education through providing tax credits for private schools. It has also used personnel from the American Educational Policy Institute, an organisation that argues for higher tuition fees, to research strategies to properly fund graduate education, that include (unsurprisingly) higher tuition fees.

If market theory were to truly be applied to the post-secondary education system, it would not be the donors who decide on naming of Academic units. Nor would it be a faculty vote, as per Ryerson’s policy. It would be a decision of the 1405.7 students in the School of Nursing who pay well-over $9,931,000 a year in tuition fees. In fact, assuming it takes four years to graduate, these students’ contribution is seven times that of Cockwell’s one-time payout. Nevertheless, students graduating Fall 2008 will have the name of a South African nurse on their degree, only because her son makes a lot of money, and donated a small (likely tax deductible) portion of it.

The absurdity of market forces dictating how our public institutions run is most apparent when colleges and universities sell pieces of their public image, such as their programs’ names. Thanks to people like Cockwell, high tuition fees and ancillary fees are privatizing higher education. If, however, people like Cockwell really wanted to apply free market principles, then they would allow students to decide on the program name that will appear on their degree. They would also consent to more student representation on the Board of Governors and Senate and less criminalizing of student dissent as they pay such a large portion of the university's operating costs. Strangely, the more students are forced to pay, the more rights they loose. This goes to show that those calling for a market-based approach to higher education, like Cockwell, really don’t know Jack about the system.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Student debt causing doctor shortage?

The National Post recently ran the article Student debt dictates who enters medical field” which paints a shockingly honest picture of the societal dangers of high-cost post-secondary education programs like medicine.

There is a significant body of research that points to the fact that rising tuition fees are a barrier to participation in post-secondary education. Especially problematic are the once-deregulated fees paid by students in professional programmes, (though this is not to downplay the fact that other students, like international students, are also treated like cash cows via enormous tuition fees[1] [2] or provincial health fees).

Generally, the justification for high tuition fees is that students will make their money back in reams throughout their working careers (false). Applying this logic to the field of medicine however, pushes graduates who are keen to pay off their massive student debts, to choose jobs and work locations based on pay alone.

Medical graduates are not choosing to be family practitioners despite the growing need. They are leaving rural areas and even the country for work rather than providing their much-needed service in smaller towns. To some, this is an outrage—young professional medics who have milked society for its tax dollars to get them through school and then abandoning it for more money in other jurisdictions. But the sad reality is that it was their society, influenced by the baby-boomer generation and out-of-touch politicians who chose funding continuous tax cuts with unsustainable tuition fee increases. Not to mention that this will further the cycle where only the sons daughters of doctors go on to become doctors and lawyers themselves, thereby narrowing the accessibility of the field medicine.

Until Canadian society comes to grips with the fact that funding tuition fee reductions is an important tool in strengthening society, medical professionals will continue to disappear out of desperation to live a life unsaddled by debt.

Other Links$File/add_janfeb06.pdf

Monday, May 26, 2008

The university-military industrial complex

Jim Prentice must have been a busy man on May 16. The Minister of Industry made two separate announcements for a total of $6 million from Lockheed Martin to fund research at Dalhousie University and the University of New Brunswick. For many of us in Ontario, these announcements flew under the radar.

The funding was part of a deal for 17 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft between the Canadian government and Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest weapons, including nuclear weapons, manufacturers. According to, Lockheed’s former vice-president Bruce Jackson chaired the Coalition for the Liberation of Iraq, a bipartisan group formed to promote George Bush’s plan for war in Iraq.

Universities are public institutions that educate students through public funds. The increasing amount of private money driving research is an issue that academics and students are fighting across Canada. The increasing presence of the military on Canadian campuses is also being resisted by many students, staff and faculty.

It’s interesting that such a deal was hatched when students are not in school. Despite this, students and community members protested this announcement.

The RFP’s next issue will be taking a hard look at Canada’s media and how events are portrayed, whose voice is being heard and which opinions are ignored. Public money funding research at a public institution to further Canada’s contribution to war is a contentious issue. In order for the general public to fully understand how they’re implicated in funding Canada’s war machine, it is critical that the media makes these links. Only then will Canadians have a clear enough vision to form their opinions on Canada’s role in foreign conflict, or occupation.


Please come to this important event


Sovereignty Sleepover: Toronto, Queen's Park May 26th – May 2

Rally: Queen's Park May 26th, 5 p.m. – dusk.

Respect the right of First Nations to say no to economic exploitation and environmental destruction.
No jail for saying no.
Free Bob Lovelace

On May 26th Indigenous communities and our supporters will gather at Queen's Park to uphold our duty to protect the land, forest, water, and air and to promote respect for our Indigenous rights to say no to economic exploitation and environmental destruction. It is time to end the jailing and harassment of our people for protecting mother earth and traditional ways. Please come to our large rally on May 26th at the legislature. We are also inviting supporters to join us in four days of ceremony, speakers, workshops, music, and a three night sovereignty sleep-over directly on the front lawn of the legislature.

Right now Indigenous communities across Ontario are taking a stand to assert our right to protect our traditional territories and the future of our peoples. First Nations communities are peacefully protesting destructive industrial projects that the government is permitting on traditional lands without community consent.