PUBLIC ENEMY? Student Derek Warwick faced possible behaviour code charges for his posters.
Comments made recently by University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera about undergraduate gender imbalance have ignited opposition from a number of students and faculty on campus. Fuel was added to the fire when posters satirizing the remarks put up by a group of students were abruptly taken down, and when the students were informed they could face disciplinary action.
The statements, published in the Edmonton Journal on October 21, indicated Samarasekera’s concerns about a national 58 per cent female undergraduate presence. At the U of A in particular, undergraduate women outnumbered men 14,000 to 11,000 in 2008.
“I’m going to be an advocate for young white men, because I can be. No one is going to question me when I say we have a problem,” Samarasekera said to the Journal.
Also noted was her worry that “we’ll wake up in 20 years and we will not have the benefit of enough male talent at the heads of companies and elsewhere.”
A group of students calling themselves the Samarasekera Response Team put up around 300 posters satirizing the remarks around campus during the night of October 27, only to find almost all of them removed by noon the next day.
“Our intentions were to raise awareness and to foster dialogue through the use of humour,” said Michelle Thomarat, member of the SRT and Political Science master’s student. “We felt like the comments that had been made trivialized the inability of certain demographics to get into university, for example lower-class men and women, and people of colour who do actually face difficulties.”
Some members of the group were soon contacted by Campus Security Services. The students were informed they would be facing charges under section 30.3.4(3) of the Code of Student Behaviour prohibiting “dissemination of malicious material.” However, as of Wednesday evening, CSS said no charges would be laid based on their investigation.
But SRT members said they were puzzled and frustrated that they were even threatened with charges as CSS tried to persuade them to implicate other students involved.
“It’s totally unbelievable,” said Jil Jorgenson, another member of the team and undergraduate in Human Ecology. “I tried to gain more information about why exactly we were being questioned [...] what we were being charged with, and what the concern was with the posters. [CSS] really didn’t give me a clear answer.”
Derek Warwick, an undergraduate in the Women’s Studies program who started the poster campaign, was very surprised by the reaction.
“We all went to CSS under the impression that they just wanted to clear something up. Never would we have guessed that we were facing charges for distribution of malicious material,” he said.
The U of A administration has denied any involvement in the students facing code of behaviour charges, and CSS won’t say who launched the complaints, nor would they provide any additional comments about why the issue warranted their attention.
Both the SRT and CSS say they don’t know who removed the posters.
Numerous faculty members have thrown their support behind the SRT.
“This is an effort to suppress what is legitimate dissent with the president’s published comments on the gender imbalance,” pointed out Lise Gotell, a professor in Women’s Studies. “[That they were facing possible charges] is utterly ridiculous.”
Gotell argued that this addresses a larger issue of campus environment.
“This is a university that supports not only academic freedom, but academic engagement, and to punish students for expressing their opinion is completely unbelievable. We should all be extremely concerned, whether or not we agree with the campaign undertaken by the [SRT],” she said.
Samarasekera was unavailable for an interview, but indicated similar thoughts on the issue in a statement to the U of A community.
“The poster presented [my] comments without the context in which they were made,” she wrote via email. “[However] I personally have no problem with it. Satire is a long-standing and accepted form of social commentary and protest. We in the academy must be very cognizant of respecting each other’s freedom of expression whether we agree with the message or not.”
But apart from determining the legitimacy the posters themselves, the comments which inspired them should continue to be questioned, Gotell said.
“It’s inappropriate for the president of the University of Alberta to declare herself to be an advocate for white men. This is a diverse campus; we have gender and ethnic diversity. These are things we should be celebrating,” she said.
Jorgensen thinks that overall, this controversy indicates the type of student attitude the administration has grown familiar with.
“What were really committed to doing is just exercising engagement in politics and engagement in our community that’s so lacking right now,” she said. “The backlash of the poster shows that. I don’t think the University is used to students caring about things.”
Here is a little more research Ive done for the Province of Ontario in 09 by age cohort. Its worthy of discussion in terms of trends and again it is not new but has been going on for some time.
As a matter of interest currently both the Provincial (Ontario) and Federal Public Service has a 55% female 45% male composition.
Keep in mind my research is on feminism and feminists and is targeted solely at them not women in general. Self proclaimed feminists, especially the 3rd wave variety who believe they are a permanent under class of victims are a very small minority. In addition I lobby politicians on the state of gender politics and these trends. In case someone was going to do the usual, as your chivalrous Derek, I believe, already has in other forums. and call me a misogynist let me disabuse you of that. I love women but I don't suffer foolishness or fools easily.
My crunching covers the current age groups by gender as follows and their dominance.
Total teachers registered in the Province 219,181 - more to come courtesy of McQuinty.
Total Female = 149,636 Male = 59,968 Ratio female to male is 265.50% >female
It gets more interesting when you break them out by age cohort. Watch the trending from young to older
Age 20-30 female 32,421 male 8,012 Female lead by 404.66%
Age 31-40 f - 47,069 m -17,303 Female lead by 272.03%
Age 41-50 f - 36,016 m -15,134 Female lead by 237.98%
Age 51-60 f - 33,707 m -14,116 Female lead by 238.79%
Age 61+ f -10,000 m - 5,403 Female lead by 185.08%
Trending is obvious in that we have far fewer male teachers and accelerating under the McQuinty Liberals. It will be interesting to see what its like under the Tory Stelmach. No doubt the trending will be similar as this flies under the radar of most politicians because there is a male gender gap not female. If it was female the screeching could be heard from Edmonton to Cupid, NFLD.
Why are males not interested in teaching? What impediments are in play through the schooling of boys that causes them to turn away from teaching as men?
Here is possibly one reason and is a true story - " A couple of weeks ago an older girl bullied a 9 year old boy and roughed him up some. He did what we told him was right and he reported the incident to the female principal and female teacher. He was told not to be a sissy, nothing was done.
A few days later he and a male friend were playing a bit rough and all hell broke lose. They were doing nothing wrong just being boys. They are still close friends but don't really understand why they were disciplined and the other incident was ignored. Try and explain to a 9 year old that this is the way it is. How does one explain the statement made, I can do this because I am a girl. What is this teaching young males."
This is not isolated and goes on every day all across this country but in many and various ways.
I haven't yet found the demographics for our other largest tax cost industry of health care but I will source them someday. I will posit I will find a largely female dominated Industry as well with trends of greater domination coming particularly in the higher ranks of Doctors.
Wake up men - you are being feminized and marginalized in many ways and you do not even see it.