Thursday, November 5, 2009

University of Alberta - Edmonton ~ Poster campaign about president’s comments causes controversy

November 4, 2009 - 9:29pm

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.”

04 Nov22:14

As a "white male" student at

By Dalton (not verified)

As a "white male" student at the U of A I feel it is not at all "inappropriate" for Samarasekera to declare herself my advocate. She should be my advocate as much as for any student and I am thankful for her comments. Everyone faces their challenges, and just in the past men have dominated inappropriately in many fields doesn't mean that tables won't turn. It's clear from these statistics that nowadays the educational system is in some way favoring female students and this must be dealt with. I don't think the reactions to her comments are criminal, but they are inappropriate.

04 Nov22:16

Don't stand up for those "white males"

By Dalton (not verified)

As a "white male" student at the U of A I feel it is not at all "inappropriate" for Samarasekera to declare herself my advocate. She should be my advocate as much as for any student and I am thankful for her comments. Everyone faces their challenges, and just in the past men have dominated inappropriately in many fields doesn't mean that tables won't turn. It's clear from these statistics that nowadays the educational system is in some way favoring female students and this must be dealt with. I don't think the reactions to her comments are criminal, but they are inappropriate.

05 Nov00:10

Can someone point out to me

By Steve (not verified)

Can someone point out to me where the President said she would only advocate for white men?
Saying she will advocate for white men does not exclude other groups. The President should be an advocate for all students, including white men.

05 Nov01:27

Both intelligent

By Ryan H (not verified)

Both intelligent comments.

Some people just need to have an issue, and these people are going to have selective hearing. There are countless injustices in the world, and the president of a university making a very salient point that a lot of people would be too scared to make is not one of them.

I agree with the students who put up the posters that there are other groups far more marginalized than white males when it comes to access to PSE (though the biggest roadblock, economic imperatives, does not know race or gender boundaries and, as such, advocacy should not be based around race, gender, culture, sexual orientation or any other distinguishing factor other than 'student'), but they have chosen to interpret Indira's comments in a way that is unfair to her.

I'm all for lobbying for equal access to PSE, but I can't stand for blatantly using misinformation in an attempt make a point.

Indira's comments were not wrong. It can be argued (and I probably wouldn't argue against this) that she worded her sentiments poorly. However, this does not give you the right to shit on her.

As an open-minded and objective person, I think only two things come out of this — one sad and one ironic.

First, the opportunity to start very legitimate and honest discussion about advocating for equal access to PSE was lost due to an attempt at 'satire.' This is sad. Doubly sad if you consider that this is what some people think of as satire these days. Seriously, not funny at all. Watch some mid '90s Simpsons episodes written by John Swartzwelder or read some Harvey Kurtzman-era MAD Magazine. Goddamn kids these days.

Second, the irony of the situation is that if some right-wing student group twisted an official's words like this to start some campaign to, say, promote scholarships for white males, these "Samarasekera Response Team" people who grossly misused Indira's comments would run around screaming bloody murder. Making a political point like this is a two-way street, pinkos. You're no better than the bat-shit crazy, Fox News conservatives who skew facts and blurt lies to make points. Guess what? They think they're always right just like you think you're always right. Nothing is special about you.

If you want to make a point do it openly, honestly, and don't try to force things on people. No one wants to be told how to think, even if you're dead-set in your belief that you know how they should.

"Speak like an adult, don't stomp your feet like an angry child demanding a KitKat bar and another hour of television."
-JFK or Ghandi or the Pope or someone (probably)

Ryan Heise, BA, BJourn,
White Affluent Male With Two Very Expensive Degrees From Two Of The Finest Liberal Arts Schools In This Country (which, trust me, equates to nothing special)

PS - I openly admit that if the posters were actually satirical and funny, I would not have taken the time to write this. That's right: my own personal amusement is more important than any issue could ever possibly be. I guess I'm just a White Affluent Male Narcissist™.

05 Nov01:47

Rebels without Causes

By Antony Ta (not verified)

Reminds me of a few lines from "Me and Mia," from Ted Leo & The Pharmacists:

"All the bourgeois social angels
Telling you you've got to change
Don't have any idea
They'll never see so clear
But don't forget what it really means to hunger strike
When you don't really need to
Some are dying for the cause, but that don't make it yours"

Not that there's anything wrong with affirmative social action, but some people will always create an issue where there is none, or try to stand up for something for which there is no reason to stand. In the case of Warwick and others, I admire their passion for continued global equality both racial and gender-based, but attacking a public figure like Indira who is actually supporting this type of equality in her interview with the Edmonton Journal is probably the worst way possible to achieve this.

05 Nov03:23

The so called gender gap is

By Caroline (not verified)

The so called gender gap is not a "time bomb" working its way through the education system as Indira V. Samarasekera was so quoted for many reasons:

  1. High school is not giving girls something boys aren't. Mentioned in an article in response to "More women than men making the grade" to not be putting in the same amount of effort into studies (ie/ time spent studying and amount of classes skipped). This is likely due to the fact that they need not rely so heavily on education to still be paid more than a female. Some of this encouragement to study and methods on how to study can be taught within the home where parents can begin to retake some of the responsibility of educating their children.

  2. Related to point one: WHITE men with a high school education are still paid more than white females with a high school education and most especially racial minorities of any gender. In order to break even women and racial minorities have no choice but to attend post-secondary.

  3. Men still out number women in higher level positions within the job market, so as it stands there is no concern there of women taking over senior positions and the "lack of male talent". If anything there should be a concern still of the lack of women in positions such as these. As someone of Indira status of being both female and a racial minority should understand.

  4. Universities are only encouraging enrollment because they are using students merely as a form of capital. Degrees are over priced. There is no need to increase enrollment at all. Especially considering that the job market cannot produce the same number of jobs requiring a relevant degree; therefore, any increase in post-secondary enrollment only compounds the "credentialism paradox" spreading throughout western society.

  5. The number of men enrolling has not reduced, it's merely the fact that the number of women and racial minorities enrolling has increased. This point is most likely related to points one and two.

What confuses me is the way this subject is being approached. Why is of women's few positive steps towards equality being perceived as something so negative? The posters were funny in the fact that they portrayed how ridiculous this concern is about the apparent disadvantage of white males in the education system. Middle class boys are at higher risk of behaviour problems in houses where parents are dual earners, but does this mean they are disadvantaged? Not in my books. The only reason this is receiving such focus is the misconception surrounding feminism, which I personally feel should be referred to an anti-sexism. Feminism is not merely about women gaining power it is about a balance and for men to feel so threatened that this becomes a societal issues only proves how disadvantaged women remain in contemporary society.

My overarching point is: why not focus on something that is more important like the mismanagement of 60 billion dollars of the U of A’s budget and finding ways to fund raise so that the president and administrative staff can take the burden of this debt off students who already pay too much?

On a finally note, for the amount I am paying (and which consistently increases each year) I want and deserve my say in any and all subjects concerning the U of A community without the fear of being charged with malicious content.

Caroline - a female with no choice but to incur thousand dollars of debt in order to obtain a degree that might possibly (but highly unlikely) get her a financially secure career.

05 Nov03:38

I must revise my first point

By Caroline (not verified)

I must revise my first point as I realized it's late and my editing skills are lack luster at such a time.

  1. High school is not giving girls something boys aren't. Mentioned in an article in response to "More women than men making the grade" studies have been shown that men are not putting in the same amount of effort into studies (ie/ time spent studying and amount of classes skipped). This is likely due to the fact that they need not rely so heavily on education to still be paid more than a female. Some of this encouragement to study and methods on how to study can be taught within the home where parents can begin to retake some of the responsibility of educating their children.

One possibility that I have found common to a number of my male friends is that in High School they didn't need to put in the same amount of effort to receive honour grades. I, on the other hand, learned study methods through the simple fact that I needed to revise my work consistently in order to receive the same grades. As a result upon acceptance to post secondary I already had the basic skills to study where as my male counterparts did not and severely suffered because of it.

Another possibility is that females have been shown to be better at writing and communication in general than males. With a post secondary system that is so heavily based on written papers, exams and research (a little less so in sciences than arts, but still a very important factor in any degree) males might face more difficulties than females in this instance. Then again individual characteristics play a large part in such a situation.

05 Nov03:58

Shoot did I say 60 billion?

By Caroline (not verified)

Shoot did I say 60 billion? Must be thinking of some other deficit. I meant 60 million. Or 59 million if you want to be technical.

05 Nov09:01

Sexism and disparaging posters

By Mike Murphy (not verified)

The young ideologues who thought they were being smart by disparaging White Men are incredibly shallow and sexist.

Substitute the White Men for Black Men or indeed Women and what would be the reaction. It would appear White Males are the last group to be able to pillory in our society. Every one else is off limits due to the social discourse and mores of the day. The Women's Studies Profs teach this nonsense that White Men oppress women, that they are this nebulous patriarchy it would appear so its OK to denigrate them. Its not OK to be sexist or racist to anyone.

I'm curious though why is it a white male who seems to have taken a lead role in denigrating his gender and race. Is he a self-loathing young man? What kind of job is he hoping to get when he sends out his resume as a graduate of Woman's Studies? If there is indeed a patriarchy of white males ruling the world then he might have a hard time finding employment.

05 Nov09:18

Caroline needs more info on the gender gap

By Mike Murphy (not verified)

Here is the situation for 2009 grads across the USA. This is not about white men but the difference between genders across all ethnic groups. I can say though the largest cohort on the female side will be white.

Have a peek here and see if this is equal.

Professor Mark Perry’s research at University of Michigan shows the following:

Associate’s degrees: 167 for women for every 100 for men.

Bachelor’s degrees: 142 for women for every 100 for men.

Master’s degrees: 159 for women for every 100 for men.

Professional degrees: 104 for women for every 100 for men.

Doctoral degrees: 107 for women for every 100 for men.

Degrees at all levels: 148 for women for every 100 for men.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Equality is a two way street but if I were a man I would start taking notice of the clear swing of the pendulum in education and elsewhere. Since 1981 in the USA women have been, on average, earning 135 bachelor degrees to every 100 for men (not just white men by the way)

05 Nov09:33

Caroline. If I told you how

By Theo (not verified)

Caroline. If I told you how much I thought I'd get and tehn how much I want to sprend - What the University calls a projected budget. I can have a 60 billion dollars - sorry they can have a 60 million dollar deficit. any time they want to.

05 Nov09:35


By Theo (not verified)

The anniversary is Monday. No wonder all those very critical posters had to be taken down by the Security Services

05 Nov10:52

The SRT are morons...

By Your Name Here (not verified)

The SRT is probably composed of some idiotic feminists who believe women have an unfair position in Canada. Instead of seeing the trend the President of our University is noticing, that white male demographics are decreasing considerably compared to the other OVER-REPRESNTED groups in the university, and that Indira would like to correct this trend BEFORE it becomes an issue in society, they would like to pretend that injustice has occurred and us the white male have yet again found a way to overpower everyone else via out sneaky sneaky methods. My God, females already get a $3000 scholoarship in engineering just for having a vagina and being in "satisfactory" academic standards - which is NOT an accomplishment when there are probably more men (nevermind white) in the faculty, relatively who are doing better or as good. There is no scholarship out there for, strictly white men...unless one attended a KKK meeting I would imagine.

The way we openly give scholarships to lure in females and other ethnicities without even asking their background due to "satisfactory" marks implies that women and other ethnicities are less intelligent that white males. I am sure that skin heads would agree with this level of thinking is retarded. Make everything equal for everyone and these stupid assumptions wouldn't exist..

As a white male, it's about f***ing time that someone else out there is seeing the gender imbalances. We do not need feminists in this country anymore. They have done their job. Seriously, if they have such a problem with female injustice, start with the middle east or even africa where they circumsize females so they can't enjoy sex.

05 Nov12:01

Mike what you need is a lesson on how the world really works.

By Caroline (not verified)

Oh goodness! Let's run for the hills everybody. On average only 48 more women than men for every 200 people graduating are getting degrees! Shit the women are taking over...

Did you actually bother to read anything I wrote without focusing on the fact that I made a few mistakes in what I was writing but corrected? (And you wonder why some men are having difficulties in school...)

I still revert to my two points that commonly are related to people mistaking and misreading statistics. The context of the "decrease" of male in enrollment is just that male enrollment not increased the same amount as women's has. And why would it increase when men merely need a high school degree to still be financially valued over a woman with a high school degree? Or are more likely to enter into a trade apprenticeship like an intelligent person would here in Alberta and begin to make money immediately rather than sit in school for another 4 years.

Take a load off boys. I still love the opposite sex (gender not included) and feminist women are not attempting to disparage men for things that occurred ages ago. The problem is that those things that occurred ages ago are still so ingrained in the way society works people don't tend to think of them as a problem.

Mike if you really want something to do, look up the "gender gap" in the real world and let me know what you find.

However, the man who is hiding behind his words is one of the reasons feminism and the inequality between genders still exists. Way to go guy, I don't think you did much by being such a coward other than prove my point not yours. You must have missed the point where administration is considering lowering general entry level requirements for males. If this was to occur it would mean that women would have to now be smarter than men in order to get the degree that would help place her in a job where she can hopefully earn just as much or more than a man with a high school degree. Again you are someone who needs a lesson in how the world really works.

While I applaud such a scholarship (in an area still dominating by men) for attempting to break down societal norms I do not believe that the academic standards should be lowered for the women in order to earn it. Perhaps what you should be doing is putting your effort into lobbying for an engineering scholarship for men instead of attempting to take away from what women have earned. (However, I’m sure there are some scholarships for men already out there.)

05 Nov12:39


By One (not verified)

Honestly: What is your opinion regarding why women do not get paid equally for their work in employment post-university or even post-highschool?

05 Nov15:43

The Pay Gap

By Mike Murphy (not verified)

Chew on this for awhile Caroline and do a little research as opposed to the usual feminist mythology you are leisurely bathing in courtesy of your womens Studies Professor. They are famous for providing misinformation, otherwise why would you need a women's Studies program. They have to justify their existence somehow. Do you have a male studies program or discourses in masculinity? Doesn't sound like it. Why not?

Oh yes if you had a gap of 48% on average men getting a degree over women I'm sure you would have more than one childish and petulant poster campaign. Heck you might even engage in civil disobedience. Happy research to find the truth.


The “pay gap” is probably the most widely-cited example of supposed disadvantages faced by women today. It is also totally misleading, as it is only a snapshot of average yearly full-time incomes that does not account for overtime (about 90% male), type of work, or other non-discriminatory, voluntary factors. The Department of Labor recently funded a study that proved this and found the pay gap is caused by choices, not discrimination.

See also, Prof. June O’Neill, Ph.D. (former director of Congressional Budget Office), “The Gender Gap in Wages, circa 2000,” American Economic Review, 5/03.)

This was further supported in the book “Why Men Earn More" by Warren Farrell, Ph.D., which examined 25 career/life choices men and women make (hours, commute times, etc.) that lead to men earning more and women having more balanced lives, and that showed how men in surveys prioritize money while women prioritize flexibility, shorter hours, shorter commutes, less physical risk and other factors conducive to their choice to be primary parents, an option men still largely don’t have. That is why never-married childless women outearn their male counterparts, and female corporate directors now outearn their male counterparts.
Farrell also lists dozens of careers, including fields of science, where women outearn men.

Women simply have more options than men to be primary parents, and many of them exercise that option rather than work long, stressful hours. That is why 57% of female graduates of Stanford and Harvard left the workforce within 15 years of entry into the workforce.

This is an option few men have (try being a single male and telling women on the first date that you want to stay home).

Blaming men for women's choices is unfair. In fact research shows most men have no problem with their wives outearning them.

Research also shows most working dads would quit or take a pay cut to spend more time with kids if their spouses could support the family.

Research also shows that parents share workloads more when mothers allow men to be primary parents.

For more, see:

ABC News: “Is the Wage Gap Women’s Choice? Research Suggests Career Decisions, Not Sex Bias, Are at Root of Pay Disparity”




05 Nov16:23

Ontario Teacher Demographics

By Mike Murphy (not verified)

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.

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