Je Suis the 13 Dalhousie Dentistry Students

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By Scott van Dyk, 2L

A crime has been committed. The perpetrators, 13 men in their fourth year of the Dalhousie Dentistry program, have been separated from their classmates and suspended from school.

Those suspensions effectively entail a number of things: it means that the wrongdoers will not be able to graduate – after each spending $130,000 in tuition alone and 4 years of their lives working towards their degrees. They will not be able to practice dentistry – individually costing them hundreds of thousands more in lost marginal salary, not to mention the personal costs of not practising their desired careers.

What crime was committed that warrants this punishment?

They told crude jokes to their friends in private.

For the unaware, these students were in a closed, 13 person Facebook group. They made a series of misogynistic jokes about women in general and some specific classmates. I’m not here to argue about proportionality (although by any analysis, the response is certainly disproportionate). In addition, analyzing whether a closed Facebook group should be considered private is essentially analyzing whether to attach a technical label. This avoids the substance of the matter. Rather, I am saying that the act of punishing these students at all violates our ideas of free expression.

It’s almost banal to say in discussions about free expression, but it warrants saying: Only offensive speech needs protection. To protect only common, trite speech reflecting majority sentiment is to remove entirely the content from the right to free expression.

In other words, if it doesn’t rankle someone, it doesn’t need protecting. It’s why no one has ever called for a ban on weather reporting, but there have been calls for bans on criticism of religious groups.

The refrain, “free speech is okay as long as it doesn’t offend others” misses the point of free expression entirely.

Freedom of expression demands a principled approach. Do-gooders always cite reasons for banning controversial speech. But here’s the thing: If by case-by-case exceptions are granted, then all speech which is offensive to someone will be banned. Only dull speech is left. Freedom of expression will have been completely neutered.

The alternative is to only grant some exceptions, but then we would be privileging some people over others. It wouldn’t be rational either. It would be based on arbitrary factors like which voices are noisiest, or who happens to be in a position of authority at the time.

Dalhousie has decided that their role is to be the arbiter of speech and humour. They will decide which groups are privileged. They will also decide what students are and aren’t allowed to say – even in the confines of their own lives. Further, they believe that students are too sensitive to hear certain speech. It’s best to have authority protect students from themselves.

The appropriate response by Dalhousie isn’t to punish or to “rehabilitate.” It’s to let these students simply be known as the assholes that made inappropriate jokes.

The attempt to chill speech with threats of formal punishment occurs at UBC too. See: appointing a “referee” at the Guile Debates. I.e. a literal arbiter of humour.

Again, if someone wants to be racist or vile in public, then simply let them be known as racist or vile people. Universities don’t need to violate principles of free expression. The students harmed themselves already.

In the recent aftermath of the Charlie Hedbo attacks, many Canadians defiantly stated “Je Suis Charlie.” They proudly said they will not be intimidated into restricting freedom of speech. Canadians are now proving they are Charlie only if they happen to agree with the speech. If they don’t agree, well… just look at what happened to the Dalhousie Dentistry students

Peter A. Allard School of Law

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By Geoff Golda, 3L

This morning for me began like any other Thursday morning. Because I don’t have class on Thursdays, I allow myself to get up a little later than usual. I putz around the apartment for a while, turn on the kettle and grind some coffee for the French press. I have a number of readings to catch up on today, but they can wait until after my morning coffee and cigarette. Indeed, they can wait until after I play a few songs on the guitar. Maybe I’ll get breakfast before delving into them. Or read some of my novel.

In truth, I’m no stranger to procrastination. That jolt of motivation in the eleventh hour has been the backbone of a good many of my scholarly achievements. This semester has been generally different thus far, though. This semester I’ve been doing my readings before classes. This semester I’ve been attending my classes. This semester is my last, and out of some sense of needing to prove something to myself or just wanting to be the best me I can be while still officially connected to Allard Hall, I’ve been doing things right for a change. No, please reserve your accolades. I really haven’t done anything yet.

For whatever reason, I’m putting as many things between myself and getting onto my readings as possible this morning. I’m procrastinating in a way which is not unfamiliar, but which is uncharacteristic of my year thus far. New Years resolutions have a way of fading as January wears on, but in fact I’d never resolved to be a better student this semester. I just started doing it. As I look out onto the wet streets and bobbing umbrellas below, I realize that there is something else which has caused me to hesitate with respect to my routine. There is somewhere else that I should be.

Yesterday, our noble LSS President Andrea Fraser alerted me to the fact that she would be giving a speech at the surprise announcement in the Franklin Lew forum today. She wouldn’t tell me what the announcement was. This frustrated me. A law school is no place for surprise announcements. We require notice, so that we can adequately respond. Notice of “a surprise” in my eyes is akin to no notice at all. I realize after placing my guitar down this morning that I’m unreasonably irked by the whole thing. Not only that, but I’m irked by the fact that others don’t seem to be similarly irked. “Free lunch,” they assure me, dismissive of my indignance. As if the virtue of a free lunch could overwhelm the most egregious injustices.

No. Today I will not sit idly by in my apartment catching up with readings while whatever surprise announcement is made. Today I will be heard. Justice be done, though free lunch be served. I dress myself, step out into the rain, board the 44, plug in my headphones, and turn on some meditative sounds so I can calmly measure my approach.

I walk into Allard Hall on a mission. It’s 11:25. That gives me 35 minutes to determine what on earth is going on here before the official announcement ceremony begins. I begin by asking a few students, none of whom seem to know for sure what is going on. There is a rumour going around that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin might be giving a speech – a most unlikely occurrence given that the Supreme Court is in session and moreover because there would be a number of people, including myself, who would have been exceptionally angry to have missed out on such an event. The more likely candidate regards a certain $30 million endowment to the law school by Peter A. Allard, and news that the law school would be renamed “Peter A. Allard School of Law”.

The gall! A surprise announcement that this man is able to throw incredible sums of money around and stick his name on whatever he likes? And we’re supposed to celebrate and be happy about this somehow? How perverse! Satisfied that this is indeed what is going on, I set about talking with students about what is about to take place. I throw a lot of choice words around, narcissist among them. One can’t just go throwing money about and expect the world to love him for it. Indeed, I will be taking my free lunch (I can’t speak to the chilli, but the pulled pork sandwiches were fantastic) and listening to what is to be said, but no, I’m not buying any of this, and no, I’m not happy about it.

Shortly before the actual speech portion of the announcement was underway, I got a moment to speak with Andrea Fraser about the whole thing. I made a number of the same comments that I had made to others that morning and managed to get in a little dig about how she, the strong minded and sceptical force of nature that she is, still somehow managed to be sucked into the whole thing. I wasn’t speaking as such in order to offend her, so much as to convey the general sense of losing faith in humanity that was welling up in my gut. If even the best of us are happy to live on our knees, well…

In any event, Ms. Fraser set to setting me straight. She told me that I had it wrong, that I shouldn’t be running my mouth as I had been, and that she’d hoped I hadn’t been spewing such non-sense around to others. I suggested she not be so hard on me, that indeed there were few among us willing to resist such gratuitous displays of extravagance, and that she might do well to take a page out of my book. That said, I agreed to hold my tongue until I heard what the Dean, herself, and Mr. Allard had to say.

Dean Mary Anne Bobinski stepped up to the lectern and encouraged the students, faculty, alumni, and others in attendance to begin filling the forum. Still skeptical, and eager to hear was was going to be said, I took a position in the front row near the center of the room. After a brief recap of the law school’s history and a warm introduction, with many a pause for applause, Peter Allard was given the floor.

To my surprise (!) and shame, the man humbly delivered a 12 page speech with hardly a word about himself or his achievements. Peter spoke about some of his inspirations, in particular U.S. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S. Truman, who he described as people who strove for causes which were beyond themselves as mere mortals. He talked about our mortality. He talked about some of the good things that had come out of our law school. He spoke of a hope for the future, of the courage that would be required of each of us to move this world on toward better things – in spite of the corruption and growing disenfranchised, which he also spoke of. He expressed lament over the sense of powerlessness that seems to have taken hold in the youth of today, but, with humility, he reiterated his sentiments about the power and the spirit in each of us to motivate change. To take care of each other. To live by the golden rule.

Andrea Fraser got up after him and, without having much advance notice of what would be taking place that day, was able to express from a students point of view what Peter A. Allard meant to us, and what the endowment would mean going forward. When she finished speaking, the forum was opened up, and guests were invited to champagne and sparkling water to celebrate the event. I stood in place dumbfounded for a moment, piecing back together the fragments of this unexpected day.

I decided, not being able to find each and every person I’d ranted to before the announcement in the ensuing chaos, that the best I might be able to do would be to apologize to Mr. Allard in person. I shook his hand, and he introduced himself (“Peter”) before I had a chance to do the same. I explained to him what I had done before the announcement, about the disparaging comments that I’d canvased the student body with. I told him that I now felt quite bad about the whole thing, and that I’d wished I’d heard him out before casting judgement on his actions. His response was as humbling as the speech he’d given before – he laughed, and told me that someone was bound to take such a shot at him. His magnanimity left me, as Andrea Fraser had described the effect of his gift in her speech moments before, breathless. He told me I wasn’t the only one to have had the thoughts that I did, and we started into another conversation, before we were all too quickly cut off by another group of students eager to make his acquaintance. I shook his hand once more, told him I was glad to have met him, and walked away with no more animus toward him or the school than that a detached autumn leaf might have for the tree that once bore it.

UBC’s Vantage College: Canadian students need not be so angry

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Author: Justin McGregor

UBC’s decision to build a school exclusively for international students was met with strong opposition from students and associations on campus.

Criticism of the college seems to be based on two grounds. The first attacks UBC’s willingness to spend over a $100 million at a time when, well, UBC doesn’t have over a $100 million to spend. In fact, UBC had to borrow the money just to build the college.

And the second line of criticism takes issue with the special treatment international students are allegedly receiving at the expense of current students.

It’s no secret that UBC, like most public universities, is facing serious financial problems. At the end of the 2013 fiscal year, UBC was about $414.7 million in debt. Tuition has been increasing steadily in the last couple years, and student housing is expected to increase by 20 percent.

Given all of this, it’s not surprising that UBC’s decision to invest $127 million into building a college exclusively for international students attracted some criticism. If money is so tight, first why is UBC spending money on building a new college, and second spending it on a college exclusively for international students? If UBC has any money to spend, one would think it should be on improving education for current students.

However, this fiscal objection carries little weight when you consider the potential long-term benefits the college could bring UBC. International students will be paying an exorbitant amount for tuition and accommodation—about $50,000 a year to be precise. To put that figure into perspective, consider that 100 students attending the college earns UBC $5 million. The school already has over 200 students enrolled, and it hasn’t even been built yet.

It’s true that the $127 million it will cost to build the college could be put towards building more housing for current students or finding ways to combat rising tuition costs. But it makes much more economic sense to invest in something that pays off more in the long-run than to spend $127 million on making marginal improvements now. The latter will only increase debt with no return. In contrast, the long-term revenue generated from the college can be used to address some of UBC’s financial problems, which directly benefits current, non-international students. Therefore, if the college will have any effect on UBC’s financial crisis, it will be to alleviate it, not exacerbate it.

The second objection is a bit more interesting. At the heart of it is a knee-jerk reaction to what many perceive as rich students getting special treatment. The college will only be available to international students who can afford to pay for the tuition and accommodation, which at $50,000 a year is realistically only the wealthiest of the wealthy. That international students will get an entire college to themselves almost seems as though UBC is implementing segregation. Some have gone as far as to suggest the college is evidence of “classism” and “elitism” at UBC.

Accusing UBC of elitism or classism seems a tad hyperbolic. There’s no evidence students from lower socio-economic statuses are being denied entrance into UBC, or receiving a poorer quality education than students coming from wealthier families. Tuition for domestic students is heavily subsidized, the Government offers student loans with fair interest rates, tuition increases are capped at %2 a year, and there are millions of dollars available in scholarships and bursaries, many of which target lower income students, visible minorities, and parents. How any of this smacks of elitism or classism is beyond me.

The argument that Vantage College creates a de facto two-tier system of education, one for the wealthy internationals and the other for the impecunious Canadians, is equally without merit. It is based on 1) a fundamental misunderstanding—and mischaracterization—of the school’s intent and 2) unfounded and egregious assumptions about international students.

As a starting point, I think we can all agree there is nothing inherently wrong in allowing international students who don’t speak English as a first language but who otherwise meet UBC’s academic requirements to attend UBC. Students born outside of Canada are just as deserving of a quality education as Canadians. Many people from across the world already immigrate to Canada because they believe there are more opportunities here. The same is true of education. In light of this and Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism, it only makes sense that our universities should be just as open and accommodating to international students, many of whom may plan to immigrate here one day.

Living in a foreign country and studying at an English speaking school presents challenges for international ESL students. Vantage College aims to remove some of these common cultural and academic barriers by creating a supportive environment in which international students can strengthen their command of the English language while working towards a degree. After finishing one year at Vantage College, students will be able to take regular UBC courses. The school thus serves as a stepping-stone for international students, easing their transition into undergraduate school.

I’m sure the predominant image of an “international student” which comes to the minds of many is a spoiled Asian kid, driving to school in a Mercedes bought and paid for by his wealthy parents. If this stereotype is based on any kernel of truth, I suspect that it is a very small one.

What these broad generalizations overlook are the international students relying on loans, and collective family savings, to pay for the same education that Canadian students receive at a fraction of the cost; the student born in a working class family whose parents want a better life for him; the student who takes the bus to school because he doesn’t have a Mercedes; or the student working hard to learn a new language and study a difficult subject matter in a completely foreign environment. International students attend UBC for the same reasons as you and I: to get a quality education that translates into a career. And they pay considerably more for that opportunity.

UBC’s announcement of Vantage College had brought out the worst type of critics—the armchair, I’m going to criticize your decision on vague, poorly defined principled grounds without providing any reasonable alternatives to achieving the outcome we all want. The current housing crisis at UBC can only be fixed by building more housing—and that costs money. And where do critics propose this money should come from, if not from the fruits of investments like Vantage College?

Tuition hikes? I highly doubt that. The recent %2 increase in tuition is projected to result in only $6 million-$8 million in incremental revenue. And that tuition increase, I should add, was vehemently opposed by many of the same people now against Vantage College. I also don’t imagine our fiscally conservative provincial Government will be forking out any more money for universities in the near future. In fact, they’re doing the exact opposite. Trees? We all know money doesn’t grow there—or perhaps some of us don’t know this.

I think it’s fair to say Vantage College is a reasonable solution to UBC’s financial problems. We’re able to give students from abroad access to quality education while at the same time creating some revenue for UBC. UBC is not the only Canadian university which accepts international students. Having a specialized college aimed at making life and school for international students easier is likely to attract more students to UBC. This results in more revenue, and puts UBC in a better position to address many of the financial problems which largely fueled (almost ironically) student opposition to the College in the first place.

The Allard High Experience

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Author: Tahsin Najam

Why, hello there dear incoming law student. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life. What’s that? Perhaps you haven’t obtained admission into the hallowed halls of Allard Hall? It’s quite all right – this guide will be just as pertinent to your inquisitive and curious self.

Allard Hall. A rather glorious building nestled in one of the far-reaching corners of the never-ending UBC campus. Don’t fret, there’s a reason why this building is so illogically placed. Seclusion and pretension are instrumental in creating an air of hauteur within the law school atmosphere. Implictly understood is that if university campuses were divided into a class-system, the law students would be consorting with each other at the very top with a mutual disdain for those lowly undergrads.

There are a variety of main and side entrances to Allard, but it doesn’t matter. The second that you, a student not currently within law school, enters, we know. You will be met with looks of contempt and superiority. Has this person written the LSAT? Sociology, calculus, and psychology – please. Until you have composed 1000 words on why your trip to Africa made you yearn for a legal career to put right those ghastly wrongs in the world, you are an outsider. Hope, social justice and activism? While you use them to get into law school, the faculty sneers at such things. They spend every moment of three years extracting such ideals from your mind. They won’t stop until you can rationalize global corporations killing baby pandas for the sake of laying down mile-wide oil pipelines, and maybe a dog-fighting casino (sponsored by Michael Vick). That doesn’t make sense? Doesn’t matter, you’ll justify it.

Upon entering, you must go to the front desk to declare your presence. As stated before, we know you shouldn’t be here. If you’re able to make it past the accusing glares and gain admission into the prestigious elite, the front desk allows you to put a red sticker on your student card succinctly stating, OK.” This red sticker signifies that you are a law student and that you are indeed, okay. Anything else would be intolerable, and such imposters are stamped and put in a line, subsequently being slowly trudged out of the building as the law students pelt them with old statutes and gavels. Though one history student died of traumatic head injuries upon being flattened by the Criminal Code, there have never been any other casualties.

The Law Students:

Ahhh, the law students. If you are lucky enough, then one day you too can join the ranks of these neurotic and perverse souls. There are three types of law students – one for each year they attend the educational quagmire that is law. The longer they have attended, the more likely it is that they have completed their transformation to jaded and narcissistic suits.

First Years (Or otherwise known as, the 1Ls): If you ever gain admission into law school, you will be able to experience the peculiar life of a confused first-year law student. Often described by practicing lawyers as the most difficult year of their lives, fresh-faced individuals from all walks of life come together to undergo a torpid yearlong roller-coaster ride. This isn’t the plot of a movie, it’s an actual phenomenon, and Roger Ebert just gave it a post-humous two thumbs up. Faced with an onslaught of hundreds of pages of readings, one hundred percent finals, and a brand new way of thinking, these students look up to their upper year mentors and choose the only sensible option available – drinking their sorrows away. Indeed, besides the other required courses they take, law students gain an introduction to their inevitable descent into alcoholism.

Travelling in packs around the building wishing to avoid any contact from those outside their year, 1L’s often tremble and sweat profusely if addressed directly. Used to having been in the top of their classes, they come to understand that they are dreadfully average in law school and that there’s no better wave to ride than the class curve. Many events and social functions are offered to first-years to continue their legal education and serve as an opportunity for them to meet the socially inept people that they too will become in just a few years. This culminates with a final end of the year party after which they try and cleanse themselves of that feeling of contamination that just won’t go away. Fear not 1Ls, that feeling is there for the rest of your lives.

2L: By this time, students have become accustomed to the grind of the law school life. Besides their search for a job (a process so inhumane, one breaks several Geneva Convention standards simply by alluding to it), second-years have realized that their best opportunity to not remain alone for the rest of their cat-loving lives comes from the students around them. Equally awkward and motivated, students begin to pair off in increasing numbers in a Discovery Channel-esque mating ritual. Always beginning with an inebriated fling and resulting in a contractual relationship rather than breakfast the next morning, they tolerate one another and take solace in the fact that they aren’t that other law school couple. As a wise man once said, “if you ain’t no punk, holla we want pre-nup.”

3L: By their final year of law school, students have given up all pretense of being interested in their academic pursuits. Having usually figured out which desk at what firm they are going to be spending the rest of their lives performing menial tasks at, students simply drink and live. 3L, don’t care indeed.

The Premises:

Upon gaining access to Allard, there are several areas in which you can luxuriate in your newfound status. The first is the law cafeteria, or as the Faculty pompously calls it, the Hong Kong Alumni Student Lounge. This speaks to a maxim that you must take to heart for your career in law. Why state anything concisely when you can add half-a-dozen more words and a more impressive noun? Though primarily used to confuse non-legal folk into paying lawyers for inane work, there is also a precedent to put law students through excruciating pain by reading decisions and statutes hundreds of pages too long simply because the judges and lawyers themselves had to do such things. See that sentence? It could have been half as long and just as effective.

Moving back to the cafeteria however, it is a central location in which students sit amongst each other and discuss pretentious things that they all know nothing about. Meanwhile, the large-screen TV inundates the students        with news of global politics and disasters to which they throw an occasional glance as they wait for their turn to speak. While law students take pleasure in the sounds of their own voices, they eat from the over-priced and very bland café. It operates much in the manner of any campus cafeteria, serving slop on rice and other baked and somewhat healthy goods. The difference? This nutrition is worldly; that’s not just beef stew on rice – it’s Mongolian beef with Venezuelan baby carrots. Every day, law students eat the same slop while taking pride in their cultural acceptance.

Next are the lockers downstairs. Law school is not simply an illusion of high school, it is a deliberate recreation of the best times of some of these student’s lives. As students gather around their lockers partaking in the latest gossip, or mock-complaining about their time in law school, they are secretly assessing each other’s social value whilst trying to evaluate who they must befriend or dispatch from their inner circle. Once you make it past the lockers, you see that there are card-access showers where law students fornicate with one other in an attempt to never leave the building. Or washrooms where cardigan-wearing men ogle at themselves in the mirror whilst their female counterparts do the same in a variety of outfits ranging from outlandish to severe business professional.

Finally, you can retreat to the law library where a sullen despair reigns throughout the year. There is no happiness to be found within these three floors of study spaces and stacks. As students pore over volumes of confounding legal nonsense, they, as a unit, pull out their packs of highlighters and multi-coloured tabs. As they attempt to outdo each other by making the most beautiful flowcharts, case summaries, and lecture outlines, this twisted dance can only be interrupted by one thing. SNAILS. No, I’m not speaking about terrestrial pulmonate gastropod molluscs, but the presence of non-law students. You see, it is a privilege to be able to study in this tortured space; so much so that they have coined a term for the intruders. Students not actually in law school, or SNAILS. If any such person attempts to cram their much-less complicated material on these desks, law students will stare daggers at them, and occasionally unsheathe their actual daggers in a menacing manner. These SNAILS are only spared when the monitoring library staff asks to see their stickered student card. Upon coming up empty, the SNAILS are marched out while law students shower them with salt only to return to their studies with a vindictive silence.

The Professors:

The professors are like a cast of a frenzied musical – each playing their own role, each peculiar in their own way. Whether through illegible scribbling, unintelligible barking or whispered murmurs, these professors communicate the secrets of law as students hurriedly and peevishly take down every word coming from their hallowed mouths. Never actually found in their offices, the professors are often away on exotic trips to distant parts of the world, or just found in the faculty lounge where they drunkenly swap stories of old courtroom battles just like the grizzled veterans in your favorite forlorn pub. If you do manage to get some time with a professor to ask class-related questions, they will often take that time to distract you and regale you with stories of past students and their favourite refrain – “You’re going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.” Whilst also acting as a cover to mask their forgotten knowledge surrounding their class material, this constant expression is used to build a façade to anesthetize law students into believing that they are indeed going to be all right, or put more plainly, make the exorbitant amounts of money that they came to school for.

Unfortunately for law students however, not everyone is going to be all right. Faced with suffocating debt, this is where career services play a role. A legendary branch of law school, these three women glow so bright that students have mistaken them for Greek gods sent to help students navigate through the mire that is trying to obtain a legal career. As they bring offerings for pieces of advice, students are funneled into corporate openings as firms test potential hires by first intoxicating them and subsequently asking them to complete complex legal problems while concurrently perfecting the weekly crossword. The students who fail this standard test are tossed aside only to be seen during commercials of your favorite legal drama offering their own legal services in exchange for just about anything.

Conclusion:

Finally, back to you, a potential Allard Hall student. Have you been swayed by the grandeur of law school? Fear not, if you do one day decide to attend law school, you will be welcomed with pasty open arms and clenched hearts. Despite being a breeding ground for Patrick Bateman types, the legal community is just that – a community. All it will cost you is a piece of your soul, impending alcoholism, and a skewed sense of right and wrong. Welcome to Allard High.