Forward with dissent

Julia Redmond
November 21, 2014
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

In this week’s feature article, we examined a topic that has been a long time coming—the Learning Portfolio. Features Editor Christina Vietinghoff takes you through the basis for its establishment, the prevailing attitudes on the tool, and some of the issues with it.

While it’s certainly an interesting read, what’s more interesting is the part that we couldn’t write.

Over the course of the investigation for this piece, we came across many people with good intentions. They wanted to help us out and give their perspectives—but they couldn’t. We talked to students, to administrators, and to faculty, many of whom were ready to speak in casual contexts about the problems they saw with the Learning Portfolio: how they’d tried it with their class and had simply given up on using it because it wasn’t worth the complaints from frustrated students, how they found  it to be slow and awkward and a poor choice of platform, or how it was not at all the tool they knew it was intended to be.

But as soon as we asked them to speak on record, people we knew to have strong opinions on the matter had nothing but positive things to say about what is an ultimately disappointing university initiative. They did this for fear of saying something that might jeopardize their jobs, their relationships at Mac, or their reputations. They watered down their ideas because the general climate of the university is an all-out promotion of this tool, bolstered by the untouchable message of Forward With Integrity.

I wish I could say I was surprised by this situation, but unfortunately it is all too familiar to us here at the Sil.

The goal of our news and features sections is to address and investigate issues relevant to the McMaster community. We try to bring to light the problems that remain unaddressed. We try, in our capacity as a team of (student) journalists, to hold the university to account.

But I don’t think this is a job just for the campus newspaper. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my years at Mac, it’s that the people here truly care about this place where they dedicate so much of their time. And they have a lot of opinions on our university’s operations. What I wish for McMaster, though, is that this dedication to the community extended to action. I wish that everyone would, in their own way, hold the university’s authority to account and give a healthy amount of dissent.

It’s often easier to let the university run in the way it’s been designed to, where many of the big decisions are made behind closed doors and the results just come down the pipeline for us to accept. We can continue to let it be a place where asking any kind of controversial question just means you’re redirected to a trained PR professional.

But sometimes stirring up a bit of trouble produces better results than just leaving the status quo.

We’ll keep trying to dig into issues we identify as problems—if you have any, be sure to let us know—but I hope we won’t be the only ones.


  • Andrew Terefenko is the Executive Editor of the Silhouette, having completed two terms as Production Editor and one as Opinions. He is open to constructive criticism, as long as it is flattering.

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