Tag Archives: SFU

How Feminist is Politics, Re-Spun?

How many Canadian feminist blogs do you know about?
How many Canadian feminist blogs do you know about?

Politics, Re-Spun didn’t make it into the Spring 2012 landscape of Canadian feminist blogs. But that’s understandable, considering the scope of the research project: it was bound to miss a bunch. Granted we deal with lots of different topics that do and don’t intersect with feminist issues, as well as explicitly feminist issues.

Our writers also self-identify as feminist, which is great [and pretty much a requirement, I think]. But I think we’re easily a feminist blog. But are we feminist enough?  I don’t think so.

I think there is a lot of room for more explicitly feminist content, including from new/guest writers/editorialist/commentators.

But in reviewing the dozens of blogs listed in the landscape, I noticed a few things. I saw some amazing sites in there, ones I had never heard of or encountered in social media. So the blog list is extremely useful.

But I also noticed what Jarrah at Gender Focus noted:

  • Blogs authored by multiple contributors are significantly more likely to remain active than blogs managed by one person (42% vs. 18%)
  • Bloggers that explicitly identify as feminist, and who author a blog alone, tend to foster a higher level of interaction amongst readers

– from Mapping the Canadian Feminist

It looks like, at least on the surface, that there is a bit of a conundrum. Blogs with one author tend to have deeper interaction with readers, but those with multiple authors generally have a better chance of remaining active.

What’s common about these statistical observations is community. Social media is supposed to be about enriching community. That’s the locus of this communications paradigm.

And one way to enhance the depth of community is to be more mindful of the elements of that community. This is why I’m very happy that WAM! Vancouver and Candace Coulson embarked on this study.

Now the trick is to figure out how to make this an annual study so feminist discourse becomes more entrenched in the Canadian landscape.

Considering the assaults on women whipping around in Mairka lately, and likely in the future, Canada needs to step up its feminist narrative.

Download the report | Download the catalogue of Canadian blogs of feminist interest 

WAM! Vancouver invites bloggers, feminist advocates and members of the media to excerpt and to share information from the report, ensuring attribution to Coulson and WAM! Vancouver. Feel free also to print, make copies of and distribute the report as long as the content remains intact and unedited.

– from Exploring the Canadian Feminist Blogophere

We don’t want your dirty gold: corporate donations and the university

The following is a piece written by contributor Kevin Harding and guest contributor Natalie Gan.  The piece was written in 2010, but is being published on Politics Respun for the first time.

The issue of controversial corporate donations to public universities is a live one, with the Munk School at the U of T, the Ridell Program in Political Management at Carleton, and others being more and more discussed. Below is a discussion of the Goldcorp donation to Simon Fraser University.

We don’t want your dirty gold!

The pervasiveness of neoliberal capitalism and its continued impacts on every facet of our daily lives are realities that seem to be, all at once, immediately pressing, immense, and impossible to challenge. Recent experiences at Canadian universities and in the arts reinforce the immensity of the challenge, with corporate ‘donations’ being offered to cash-strapped institutions, continuing both the precariousness of public education as well as its marketization, or corporate patronage of the arts, commodifying art as a product of cultural expression to be sold.  Worse, many of these donations— essentially purchases of commodified reputation or goodwill —come from corporations that have been accused of enormous violations of environmental, ethical, and human rights laws and standards.  Adding to this already deep pile of problematics, some recent donations link areas of life that have not yet been fully ‘neoliberalized’ or completely and forcibly subjected to the vagaries and whims of the market, like education and the arts, with the realities of mining and resource extraction in the global south, solidly connecting different cycles and processes of capitalism and uniting them in a frenzy of accumulation by dispossession and capitalist expansion.

Continue reading We don’t want your dirty gold: corporate donations and the university

To my friends at SFU – a message about the strikes

To my APSA, TSSU, and SFUFA friends at SFU: Today, CUPE 3338 is picketing Burnaby Mountain. They’re doing so because they’ve been trying to bargain with SFU for two years, with not much success. They’re picketing because they feel they deserve a fair collective agreement, and they see no other way to put pressure on the university.

Please remember that you have a right to not cross picket lines – it’s protected in university policy, in your framework agreements, in your contracts. You have a right not to do extra work that the university administration will ask you to do.

You have a right not to do the undergrad advisor’s work if you’re a faculty member. That undergrad advisor’s job is one that directly supports yours; they counsel students just like you do. They deserve fair pay and a fair bargaining situation from the university like you do.

If you’re an APSA member, you have a right not to be forced to do your CUPE colleague’s work. This means you can refuse to set up computers and projectors if you normally don’t do anything like that. Your CUPE colleagues, who do this work normally, happily, and excellently, are arguing with a picket line that they deserve fair treatment.

TSSU members – you know what this is like. You’re withholding marks to pressure the university into bargaining; at the same time, please don’t cross picket lines just because it’s not your union holding the signs.

Faculty members – please don’t take up the marking that the TAs aren’t doing. Remember when you were a PhD candidate, and were struggling along with your dissertation proposal, two classes, and then had to TA four sections to afford your studies? That’s where your TAs are at – the university’s proposals haven’t recognized changing realities, seem to want to prevent sessionals from any kind of job opportunities, and more. You were there, when you finished your defense and were afraid of how you’d get a job – anywhere – that would help you avoid sessional postings constantly. Your TAs are amazing people, like you are, and they deserve better.

SFU Administrators – I know that the province has you in a position that you’re finding it hard to bargain your way out of. You have a pressure in terms of bargaining mandates that won’t let you do much, but I know that you have options in how you can do better. Please, try to see how you can cooperatively accomplish your goals without taking it out on your dedicated CUPE staff, your students who are your TAs, and everyone together.

A no longer radical, now reactionary campus: The SFSS CUPE Lockout and SFPIRG eviction

There’s an almost mythical status to the label that Simon Fraser University used to promote itself in 2005 during its 40th anniversary celebrations: the university was a “radical campus.”  The term comes from student activism that used to flood the campus, once called Berkeley North, student activism that established one of the first Womens’ Studies departments in Canada, student activism and sit ins that created a coop daycare, student activism that resulted in SFU being the first university in Canada to elect students to its senate.

Each of these now-mythical points that gave SFU the ‘radical campus’ label came from student activism: students petitioned and demonstrated to get the right to be on the senate of the university. Students staged a sit-in in the faculty lounge to start the daycare.  Students staged a strike to demand the right to have a say in how the president of the university was chosen.  Student activism was the basis of the label of the radical campus, and student activism was found in the campus student union, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG).

Sadly, today the SFSS seems to have shoved off the more than 4o-year history it could have once proudly claimed as student activists: the Board of Directors of the SFSS, led in “what can only be interpreted as an ideological move” by president Jeff McCann, internal relations officer Jordan Kohn, treasurer Keenan Midgley, and others issued a lockout notice to its unionised staff members, with staff being locked out effective 2:13pm on Sunday.  Late today, a committee of the same board voted to begin the process of terminating the lease of the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG), a student-driven and student-funded group that conducts research and organizing on student selected issues.

These moves are purely ideological, and they’re incredibly disappointing.  They show a mindset that opposes unions simply because they exist, and a right-wing reactionary current that seeks to kill off ‘progressive’ organizing no matter how they have to do it. The lockout of the union and the beginnings of the SFPIRG eviction show that the issues at play aren’t purely financial, as the SFSS does not pay outright for the space that SFPIRG occupies, and many of the key players in attacking the workers of the SFSS have been central in attacking SFPIRG in the past.

The lockout of the staff union comes after two years of negotiations on a collective agreement and after the SFSS board broke off mediation with the Labour Relations Board.  Right-wing reactionaries claim that the workers of the SFSS are paid too much, or have ridiculous benefits.  Neither of which is overly true – staff are paid fairly for the work that they do, and their benefits are below average.

But the argument that comes from many of the right-wing reactionaries is absurd in its hysterics.  Staff are paid well! They shouldn’t be paid this much!  I used to work for the Simon Fraser Student Society, and while I no longer work there and do not speak for the union or its members, I can tell you it wasn’t a walk in the park.  The last project I worked on was the ill-fated K’Naan concert at SFU, where arts director Kyle Acierno was actively involved in bringing K’Naan to perform at SFU, despite not knowing the costs or infrastructure requirements that would go into such an endeavour, resulting in the eventual collapse of the concert, an embarrassing no-show by the star, and an international media story that saw blame bounced around from the star to the students involved.  My role, while I took up graduate studies mid-way through the planning process and had no direct input into the processes, was to try and limit the exposure of the student society as much as possible, and prevent as much of a disaster as possible.  I was involved in legal discussions, insurance discussions, liaisons with university administrators and RCMP, and on and on and on.  When staff have this kind of responsibility in their job requirements, they should be paid well. I, as a staff person, did my best to keep the organisation running smoothly, and I gave a lot of my time and energy to its projects.

But according to the right-wing reactionaries, this is too much.  Always paid too much.

It’s a strange argument that surfaces here.  Jobs that students apply for and want are too much? How is that possible?  I participated in the hiring of three staff over my time at the SFSS, and we had hundreds of applicants for each position.  Students want jobs like what the SFSS offers when they graduate.  Why are the reactionaries not calling for CEO salaries to be lower? Management salaries to be lower? Politician’s salaries to be lower?

It’s a strange and perverted argument that sees right-wing reactionaries spewing hate against people who work daily to see student events work.  A perverted mindset that hates unions because they get better working conditions for their members.  A strange view that wants to destroy unions because they help people get paid fairly.  A vindictive mindset that wants the SFPIRG shut down because they enable students to work on projects that don’t agree with Stephen Harper’s Conservative mindset.

And it’s infected the radical campus.

It’s time to show solidarity with CUPE 3338, and demand that the SFSS lift its lockout and negotiate fairly with its union, and cease the eviction of SFPIRG.

Only 1.5 Tenured Women in SFU’s PoliSci Department


There are only 1.5 tenured women who work full-time in SFU’s Political Science Department out of 21 profs. Soon there will be 0.5. What century is this?

Behold the list of faculty in the department:

  1. Of the 21 people on that list, only 6 are women. Whoops, that’s pretty low to start with.
  2. Of the 6 women, 2 are actually retired or retiring very soon; they both had tenure. Whoops, time to update the faculty list webpage.
  3. Of the remaining 4, only one has tenure and she works in another department as well. The other 3 don’t have tenure and only 2 of them work fully in the political science department.
  4. This all means that of the 6 women in the department, the only 2 who work full-time in political science don’t have tenure.

That’s just embarrassing. After picking up a couple degrees there this decade, I’ve seen the tail end of a problem that has existed for many years to get to the point today where women are so ridiculously outnumbered.

Gender and cultural equity matter. Diverse voices matter. A reasonable number of non white men would be good, but now a large majority of the department’s professors are white men.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some extraordinary, intriguing professors in the department, as well as maybe a normal proportion of horrible/demeaning/arrogant teachers. This applies to tenured and non-tenured professors of whatever gender and cultural background.

But the bureaucratic and interpersonal dysfunctions in the department are my best explanations for why the department was put under administration by the dean’s office, why faculty are leaving, why grad students are dismissively neglected, why undergrads seek other majors and different schools for graduate studies, and why when I go to academic conferences people ask me if it’s really as bad at SFU as they’ve heard.

And the worst part is that the leadership of the university has known about these problems for years. I have no idea the extent they have gone to address the problems, but whatever they’ve tried, it’s failing.

Suddenly now we have the horrible statistic of almost no full-time tenured women in the department. And judging by the problems that led to this dire situation, I can’t see how the department is capable of or interested in fixing this situation.

Nous sommes prets. We are ready. That’s SFU’s motto.

A recent slogan is “Thinking of the World.”

It’s time to walk the talk.