Pink Tax has been a prominent issue for those who menstruate but now inflation is only making it worse

When they say inflation is upon us, they’re not joking. Students are forced to limit their Fortino’s-turned-Food Basics runs to just the essentials, rethink the frequency of their Uber Eats orders and spend Black Friday at home this year and far away from one’s laptop.  

Inflation is having an enormous impact on low-income households in particular, who spend more than half of their income on daily essential items. Individuals in the top twenty percent of the income quintile on the other hand, only spend about thirty percent on essentials and spend the majority of it on luxury items.  

Did you know that before 2015, period products such as pads and tampons were taxed as luxury items in Canada? It was only on July 1, 2015 that the federal government realized that maybe they shouldn’t be taking advantage of a natural bodily process that individuals can’t control.  

The cherry on top? Inflation impacts the price points for essential items far more than luxury goods. This means that low-income families must make sacrifices that look more like cutting back on essential items like healthy food rather than re-evaluating the purchase of a Starbucks holiday drink.  

For women and those who use feminine products, the consequences of inflation are further exacerbated due to the preexisting pink tax. If you didn’t know already, the pink tax refers to the gender-specific and straight up discriminatory pricing of products that are advertised for those who identify as women.  

Companies love to dangle bright colors, flowers, and passion periwinkle grapefruit-scented products to market toward women while jacking up the prices. These advertisements function to convince those who identify as women, their femininity lies within those products. The next thing you know, women end up paying thirteen per cent more than men for the same essential items.  

In addition to the need for purchasing universal basic hygiene products, women and those who menstruate are faced with the challenge of ensuring their menstrual products are always stocked.  

Did you know that before 2015, period products such as pads and tampons were taxed as luxury items in Canada? It was only on July 1, 2015 that the federal government realized that maybe they shouldn’t be taking advantage of a natural bodily process that individuals can’t control.  

Although taxing menstrual products as essential items was a step in the right direction, this also means that these prices will be affected more as a result of inflation. With poverty disproportionately affecting individuals of color, women and those who menstruate who fall under the same category would face the same hardships, if not more.  

You didn’t think I was done, did you?   

For example, gender-based societal and moral obligations, like being responsible for a disproportionate amount of household shopping, means that women spend longer in stores and are therefore more likely to experience the stress of inflation.  

We can also discuss the already uneven economic recovery from the pandemic that affects women's ability to purchase essential items. The gender wage gap is a problem that somehow keeps getting worse, even at a time where the world is allegedly progressing forward.  

The child care crisis during the pandemic resulted in a decrease in women’s involvement in the labor force and their earnings along with it. Specifically, women with lower-wage jobs, immigrant women and Black women were hit the hardest. Evidently, inflation affects different women through different ways.  

For example, gender-based societal and moral obligations, like being responsible for a disproportionate amount of household shopping, means that women spend longer in stores and are therefore more likely to experience the stress of inflation.  

Without government intervention, these issues will only continue to get worse. Given that inflation has been an issue for the better part of thirty years, the research on the intersectionality of the problem is very limited. Policies need to start keeping up with inflation, meaning that preexisting federal assistance programs must expand to actually live up to the “assistance” part.  

I know that this simply adds on to the never-ending list of issues the world is facing, but I guess that’s what you have to do when you’re constantly left high and dry. So students need to use their voices to help solve such problems. Vote in elections, donate, and support organizations that are fighting against things like period poverty.  

Public fatigue and diminished monitoring are just some of the reasons the virus isn’t making its way to the headlines, but are we letting our guards down too soon?

For many of us, the return to in-person learning and the rolling back of public health measures, including mask mandates, signaled light at the end of the tunnel. However, with our newfound optimism, we’ve entered a period of social neglect, and the decline in COVID-19 media coverage has only made it easier to forget about the ongoing pandemic.  

Decreased engagement with content and information concerning COVID-19 is forcing news outlets to shift their focus on other, more profitable stories, ultimately, challenging journalists as they try to communicate critical news about the virus.  

Dr. Katie Moisse, assistant professor in the school of interdisciplinary science and an experienced science journalist, spoke about the current challenges of delivering COVID-19 news to the public.  

“It is difficult to reach people . . . People [are] done hearing about the pandemic despite it not being done. So, journalists are finding new [ways] to bring us this information [and] are having to fight for this coverage,” said Moisse.  

Limited amplification of these stories in the media combined with public disinterest continues to hinder meaningful engagement with these news stories, which could hold serious implications for public health. 

As we head into a particularly daunting flu season, with the triple threat of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus, there is a growing need for journalists to actively report on the progression and spread of these viruses.  

It is difficult to reach people . . . People [are] done hearing about the pandemic despite it not being done. So, journalists are finding new [ways] to bring us this information [and] are having to fight for this coverage,

Dr. Katie Moisse, assistant professor

“It’s important that we not drop the ball on this story, it’s such a big part of our lives,” explained Moisse. 

Throughout the pandemic, journalists have played an important role in influencing the public’s response to COVID-19 through the dissemination of accurate and reliable information. However, I believe journalists have played an even greater role in exposing the cracks in our systems to inform government action and policies.  

Without effective coverage or data on COVID-19, and amid the emerging threat of influenza and RSV, we are heading into the winter with a false sense of security. 

Dr. Ana Tomljenovic-Berube, assistant professor teaching global human health and disease in the school of interdisciplinary science, shared that COVID-19-related public health monitoring has also begun to fade away without preventative measures in place. Currently, Public Health Ontario offers weekly updates on case counts as province-wide testing has ramped down. Still, the reported numbers paint a grim picture.  

“The things that have been protecting us all of this time will continue to protect us if we are diligent about their usage . . . We all need to take responsibility as a society to protect each other,”

Dr. Ana Tomljenovic-Berube, assistant professor

On the week of Oct. 23 alone, a staggering 9,797 COVID-19 cases were recorded and this number does not include positive cases identified through independent rapid antigen testing. Yet these alarming case counts and the increasing number of hospitalizations are not always making their way to front-page news

Influenza and RSV, compounded with the absence of public health restrictions only continue threaten an already compromised healthcare system.  

“We are beginning to see a rapid rise in [influenza and RSV] infections likely due to lack of preventative measures. However, having the [triple threat], which we haven’t dealt with before, will lead to much more dire circumstances and this is what we’re starting to see in pediatric wards,” explained Tomljenovic-Berube.  

The McMaster Children’s Hospital, which recently reached maximum capacity, presents an example of the overwhelming burden being experienced by healthcare facilities across the province as they grapple with the combined spread of COVID-19, flu and RSV.  

Some institutions are already acting on scientific evidence from the flu season forecasts to implement protective measures. For instance, the University of Waterloo reinstated its mask mandate on Nov. 9 to enhance the health and safety of students and staff.  

Regardless of mandated measures or dwindling media coverage, it is important to remember that we can take personal precautions to keep ourselves and those around us safe as we continue to learn in-person in closed and congregate settings.  

“The things that have been protecting us all of this time will continue to protect us if we are diligent about their usage . . . We all need to take responsibility as a society to protect each other,” said Tomljenovic-Berube. 

We need to recognize the pandemic is not over yet, even if the headlines fail to emphasize the current infectious disease crisis. And recklessly ignoring these escalating public health threats at our own discretion poses a risk to not only ourselves, but to all the vulnerable individuals around us. 

The fast fashion industry is as dominant as ever and here is why we need to stop contributing to it

The one Friday every year when many parts of the world erupt in chaos, is the most anticipated Friday for some and the most dreaded for others. On Black Friday people surge into department stores at the early hours of opening time and in some stores, the day might end with unwanted clothes littering the floors while shoppers play an intense game of tug of war over a pair of pants.  

The prevalence of fast fashion consumption becomes increasingly evident as this materialistic holiday rolls around and more and more people are encouraged to buy larger amounts from unethical brands that offer very appealing deals.  

Many stores follow the fast fashion model in efforts to increase demand by rapidly producing clothes that are always up to date with fashion trends. Hence the name, fast fashion.  

These clothes are also made of relatively cheap materials, though the labourers making them are underpaid. As a result, the cost of items from the participating companies is exceptionally low, making it even more appealing to consumers.  

And now, living in a world with inflation on the rise, students find themselves on a tight budget when it comes to our spendings. Buying from fast fashion companies becomes immensely difficult not to do today due to the cheap pricing.  

However, the fast fashion industry brings great harm to the environment as the production of clothes involves copious amounts of energy, toxic fabric dyes and carbon emissions.  

Clothes are a necessity, but sometimes the cheaper price of fast fashion can make individuals get carried away. 

It is difficult to balance a tight budget and buying clothes from sustainable companies as their items can be quite expensive. Unlike fast fashion that produces in bulk, sustainable companies rely on smaller production amounts to reduce waste. Thus, making them more expensive. 

Naturally, many turn to fast fashion as it is more affordable. The problem with partaking in fast fashion consumption arises when consumers buy from these unethical companies in bulk. As they can fit many items into one bill that would fit three or four good quality pieces from sustainable companies that can also last you longer.  

In this manner, fast fashion fuels ignorance within our society. I believe buying from these companies for the sake of affordability is an individual’s right, but buying from the industry every month or so to keep up with the latest micro trends is ignorance at its finest.  

The items from your haul of new clothing allow the company to continue exploiting the men, women and many times, children who made those products.  

And though we may think we are not the issue; we most defiantly are. In a study done just this past year, 90 per cent of university students said they had recently purchased fast fashion clothing, with 17 per cent of those individuals doing so on a weekly basis.  

Moreover, despite individuals today owning more clothes than anyone before, the average person only wears 20 per cent of their clothes 80 per cent of the time. Now think about the weekly and monthly shops from fast fashion companies and just how wasteful all of it truly is. 

So this Black Friday, as you treat yourself to new clothes, consider spending your hard-earned paycheck on a few timeless pieces that are made ethically and whose quality will last you a lifetime. Or visit your local thrift store. Thrifting is such a great way to get unique and even quality pieces for such a low price, while the clothing is not going to waste and while no new clothing needs to be made. 

If we collectively avoid fast fashion to the best of our abilities, we can not only make our environment a cleaner one but we’ll also improve our quality of life overall by moving towards being a less ignorant and more mindful society.  

With the next HSR bus pass referendum expected in 2023, McMaster students have mixed feelings about the current contract

All full-time McMaster University students have access to an unlimited Hamilton Street Railway bus pass included in their yearly tuition. The HSR bus pass was implemented and maintained through a contract between McMaster University and the HSR.  

The HSR contract is renegotiated and renewed every three years through a referendum, in which students vote on whether to continue to pay the mandatory HSR tuition fees. The next referendum is expected to occur in 2023. Current HSR bus pass costs are $232.94 for undergraduate students and $294.15 for graduate students.  

The results of the graduate student 2017 HSR referendum were posted by the Graduate Students Association. 36.6 per cent of eligible voters voted in the referendum and 81.7 per cent of voters opted to renew the HSR bus pass contract.  

The next referendum occurred in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to online schooling and postponed campus residence, the HSR bus pass deal was temporarily suspended. As remote schooling continued into the Fall 2020 semester, the bus pass fees for that term were reduced 75 per cent from the normal cost. Additionally, there was a temporary implementation of opt-in/opt-out options for the remainder of the term.  

The bus pass fully resumed operations in the 2021 winter semester and has remained active since. 

The HSR contract has been sustained throughout several referendums, reflecting how the majority of students continue to find the HSR contract beneficial. 

Third year undergraduate student Kieran D’Sena spoke about his own frequent use of the bus pass and its importance to students who don’t live in the immediate vicinity of the McMaster campus. 

“I frequently talk to [students] who live downtown and they rely on the bus to get to class. Having [the bus pass] included in the tuition makes the process so much simpler,” said D’Sena.  

“I frequently talk to [students] who live downtown and they rely on the bus to get to class. Having [the bus pass] included in the tuition makes the process so much simpler.”

Kieran D'Sena, Third year undergraduate student

Third year undergraduate student Luca Scanga explained that although he does not require the HSR to get to campus, his bus pass is still an integral part of his routine and develop a greater relationship with Hamilton.  

“Even though I live very close to campus, I need the HSR for grocery shopping, getting around to other people's houses in Westdale and Ainsley Wood, and getting downtown. If you don't have a car, which most students don't, it's great for getting around the city," said Scanga.  

“Even though I live very close to campus, I need the HSR for grocery shopping, getting around to other people's houses in Westdale and Ainsley Wood, and getting downtown. If you don't have a car, which most students don't, it's great for getting around the city."

Luca Scanga, Third year undergraduate student

Other discussions brew among McMaster students, shedding light on alternative perspectives regarding the HSR bus pass. The r/McMaster subreddit hosts conversations from students expressing frustration with the mandatory bus pass tuition fees. Students do not currently have the option to selectively remove HSR fees from their tuition.  

Regular adult HSR bus fare is $3.25. A student who requires the HSR to get on to campus may use their bus pass approximately 130 times during the fall and winter semesters, excluding holidays. With adult prices a student would be paying $409.50 in bus fares a year, which exceeds current HSR tuition fees.  

This is an ongoing story. 

On Sept. 30 the McMaster community observed the second annual Truth and Reconciliation Day with on-campus gatherings, an educational panel and Indigenous artwork 

On Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, the McMaster University community observed Truth and Reconciliation Day. The federal holiday was first established in 2021 to honour the victims, survivors and all members of the Indigenous community affected by the painful history of Canadian residential schools. This is the second year Canada has observed Truth and Reconciliation Day as a national holiday.  

Truth and Reconciliation Day coincides with the previously established Orange Shirt Day, which is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day honouring all Indigenous children taken from their homes and put into residential schools.  

Orange Shirt Day commemorates survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad’s experience being stripped of her new orange shirt on her first day of residential school. The orange shirt is now used to represent how Indigenous students had their identities stripped away from them by the residential school system.  

While other Canadian provinces designated Sept. 30th as a statutory holiday, Ontario did not.  

Several events were planned approaching Truth and Reconciliation Day, including a virtual tour of the Mohawk Institute Residential school as well as a recorded panel discussion hosted by the Indigenous Studies faculty.  

The panel featured guest speakers Dr. Vanessa Watts, Dr. Mary Jane Logan McCallum and Dr. Lianne Leddy. It was moderated by the director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, Dr. Savage Bear. They focused on the historical context behind the creation of the residential school system, as well as how these institutions were falsely contextualized in archives, using propaganda and the erasure of painful truths.  

Additional to the informational panel, the MSU Diversity and Equity Network facilitated both social media-based and in-person informational campaigns leading up to Truth and Reconciliation Day. Infographics and informational resources were posted on the MSU Diversity Instagram

Avantika Vaidya, a social and political advocacy coordinator for the MSU Diversity and Equity Network, described how, along with the advocacy role they played on social media, the social and political advocacy team also commissioned Indigenous muralist Kyle Joedicke to paint a piece to be displayed on the McMaster campus.  

The piece is currently being displayed in the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning and will be later given to the Indigenous studies department. Vaidya explained the main goal of this project was to create a space of visible expression of Indigenous culture and bring that into the McMaster community. 

“I think art in all forms is one of the only universal languages that ties in humans from across cultures and identities. I think that using this kind of medium as a celebration on the second year of Truth and Reconciliation Day seemed very appropriate, and we're excited that it was able to be carried out and is there for everyone to appreciate and understand its value,” said Vaidya. 

“I think art in all forms is one of the only universal languages that ties in humans from across cultures and identities. I think that using this kind of medium as a celebration on the second year of Truth and Reconciliation Day seemed very appropriate, and we're excited that it was able to be carried out and is there for everyone to appreciate and understand its value.”

Avantika vaidya, MSU DEN Social and Political Advocacy Coordinator

Vaidya spoke on the importance of recognizing Truth and Reconciliation Day as a federal holiday. Although classes were canceled, campus was alive with vibrant celebrations and meaningful recognitions. Community members marched together, participated in painting an orange armour stone at the on-campus Indigenous Circle and gathered for a film screening of Indian Horse.  

“I think when you explicitly create a day for recognition and when you announce it as such, it does create a space for opening up discussions amongst people who maybe aren't as informed of its significance and of its history.” said Vaidya.  

“I think when you explicitly create a day for recognition and when you announce it as such, it does create a space for opening up discussions amongst people who maybe aren't as informed of its significance and of its history.”

Avantika vaidya

With one week left before the municipal election, the MSU hosted a mayoral debate to inform students on their voting options 

On Oct. 17 the MSU held a mayoral debate from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the MUSC Atrium. Four mayoral candidates including Michael Pattinson, Ejaz Butt, Keanin Loomis and Solomon Ikhuiwu were present, with the five remaining mayoral candidates not in attendance. The debate was livestreamed and a recording of the debate can be found on the MSU Facebook page. 

Candidates were allowed three-minute opening remarks and followed by a structured debate facilitated by MSU President Simranjeet Singh. Singh posed candidates questions on important issues in the election revolving around affordable housing, climate change, policing, public transportation and Hamilton’s new nuisance party bylaw

All candidates in attendance were in support of the LRT and increasing support to ancillary services, including mental health resources and homeless shelters. When asked about policing, candidates debated the balance between supporting thin spread police resources in Waterdown and Ancaster and the discrimination minorities in Hamilton continue to experience.  

Concerning safe, affordable housing, Loomis discussed his plan to build 50,000 homes in the next ten years by clearing red tape in city hall. He was challenged by Pattinson, who argued it is not enough to say red tape in city hall will be tackled. He claimed that 20,000 homes that had already been approved were not in progress yet and that the key to creating new housing was to ensure developers were not allowed to sit on purchased land after site approval.  

When asked about how to tackle climate change in Hamilton there were also differing solutions. Loomis emphasized investing in green energy in a shift from Hamilton’s reputation as a steel town, whereas Pattinson focused on green, accessible public transportation in order to attract residents to Hamilton’s natural ecosystems. 

In the closing statements, all candidates thanked students for attending the debate and Ikhuiwu urged students to carefully research candidates and exercise their right to vote. Loomis emphasized that the candidates he claimed were his main competitors, Bob Bratina and Andrea Horwath, were not present for the debate held on McMaster University’s campus. 

On Oct. 18 an on-demand ballot was held in CIBC Hall from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for voters across all Hamilton wards. Canadian citizens living in Hamilton over the age of 18 were to vote in the municipal election so long as they were able to provide proof of residence.  

If voters missed the Oct. 18 on-demand ballot, polls will be open to Ward 1 citizens at Glenwood Special Day School on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m among other locations. For more information on candidate profiles see the Silhouette’s for the municipal election series and to learn how you can vote visit www.msumcmaster.ca/macvotes

The Islamic Republic of Iran proving that women are not done fighting for their freedoms in hypocrisy at its finest

C/O Artin Bakhan (Unsplash)

On June 24 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, effectively taking away a woman’s right to an abortion. Just last year, in 2021, the French Senate voted to outlaw the hijab, or headscarf, for girls under 18, stripping their right to express their religion.  

The death of Mahsa Amini was no different in the context of bodily autonomy and women’s rights.  

During Amini’s visit to Tehran on Sept. 13, she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the law requiring all women to wear a headscarf. She was taken to a detention center where she was trained on proper hijab rules and died 3 days after her arrest.  

Iran’s security forces claim she died of a heart attack. However, it was revealed her death was caused by a skull fracture due to repeated blows to the head, ergo, the title of this article. It was murder.  

Following Amini’s funeral on Sept. 17, protests across the country quickly began to stand in solidarity with Amini. Iranian women took to cutting their hair and burning hijabs to portray a symbol of rebellion against the oppressive regime.  

Some media outlets and social media accounts have placed various misleading labels on the protests, such as referring to them as “anti-hijab protests.”  

I want to make one thing exceptionally clear: these protests are not against the hijab or against the religion of Islam.  

Rather, Iranian women are fighting against using the hijab as a tool of oppression, or in other words, burning its use in this abusive way. The hijab symbolizes modesty and a particular way of life for many Muslim women. Therefore, to use such a beautiful article for purposes that utterly contradict Islam is not okay.  

I want to make one thing exceptionally clear: these protests are not against the hijab or against the religion of Islam. Rather, Iranian women are fighting against using the hijab as a tool of oppression, or in other words, burning its use in this abusive way.

The protests are also not a free invitation to start equating the hijab, or Islam, to oppression. Circling back to the bigger picture, protestors are fighting for their right to choose. Their right to wear a hijab, not wear a hijab, to dress how they like and to have full control over their bodies.  

The ironic thing is that the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was actually an Iranian-led declaration of autonomy against foreign ideas. It was supposed to be a good thing. It was later on that it turned into a state government that exploits a manipulated version of religion to control its people.  

Yes, Islam does have certain regulations and belief systems that Muslims are expected to follow. However, the religion is very largely based on intention or niyyah. This means that no one can be forced into practicing the teachings of Islam; rather, it is solely up to the individual’s own will.  

The Quran, the holy book of Islam, clearly outlines, “There should be no compulsion in religion” [2:257]. I don’t see any place for oppressive, tyrannic men that choose abuse, torture and murder to enforce Islamic teachings upon women. The hypocrisy itself is beyond me.  

According to human rights groups, over 75 people have died and 1,200 have been arrested since the beginning of the protests. The numbers, however, are likely higher due to internet blackouts across the country, making it difficult to receive accurate data.  

Iranian women are risking their lives to fight this battle against an immediate attack on their freedom. It’s not just a social media campaign; this is real and this is happening. As allies, it is up to us to share and raise awareness about their voices.  

Iranian women are risking their lives to fight this battle against an immediate attack on their freedom. It’s not just a social media campaign; this is real, and this is happening. As allies, it is up to us to share and raise awareness about their voices.  

Many protests have occurred outside of Iran and around the world in support. This included a protest held in front of Hamilton City Hall on Sept. 26, where hundreds gathered to express their anger and concern over Iran’s oppressive regime.  

Recent events, including those in the U.S. and France, clearly show that the century-old fight to advance women’s equality is being put to the test in an age where we never thought it would. Unfortunately, this makes us wonder if progress in this area is sustainable, as it seems that we’ve taken several steps back from things that were presumed to be basic human rights.  

Still, women everywhere are vigorously and courageously fighting for their freedom, regardless of the nature in which it’s being taken away. One thing they all seem to have in common is the simple demand for control over one’s own body. It shouldn’t be that hard, but we find ourselves living in an odd world where it is.  

The absence of masks does not relieve students from the pandemic state of learning but rather pushes us more toward it

C/O Tai's Captures (Unsplash)

We appear to have introduced the new normal of the post-pandemic. Students can once again freely socialize, hybrid learning is at its peak and the mask mandate is long gone. However, COVID-19 and many other common sicknesses are circulating within the population. 

Cold and flu season has arrived and with the end of the mask mandate on campus, it is concerning how quickly viruses are spreading among students. With illnesses running rampant throughout campus, many individuals are thrown back to the early pandemic — time when students lacked the tools to protect themselves against fast-spreading diseases.  

Living Systems Laboratory, a second-year course taught by Dr. Tomljenovic-Berube, includes a unit on epidemiology. This unit teaches students about the biological mechanisms of how viruses spread. Students learn that illnesses such as the flu are airborne diseases that spread through respiratory droplets obtained through the air, or infected surfaces. They are also taught the infectious rates and measures to prevent sicknesses from spreading which have been prominently implemented throughout the pandemic.  

Learning about the rates at which diseases spread among the student population due to a lack of masks can cause concerns for students attending in-person classes. It can be worrying to go back to school knowing that other sicknesses are still present among COVID-19, especially when you hear your peers sniffling and coughing in lectures and tutorials.  

Contagious students are likely attending in-person elements and due to the lack of a mask mandate students are not wearing masks in enclosed spaces. It can be uncomfortable sitting next to a coughing student and neither one of you has any form of protection. Understandably, masks come from a time of frustration and loss. However, masks also provide us with a safety barrier and continue to do so; masks hinder the spread of airborne illnesses.  

The lack of mask usage on campus fosters a growing population of sick students and rather than taking us away from online learning, the campus-wide epidemic pushes us more towards it.  

The beginning of a common illness hinders students from physically attending school. Thus, this population relies on online lectures and accommodations for missed labs and tutorials. Unfortunately, online learning hinders student performance since a barrier is created limiting social interactions.   

Students who choose to stay at home for the duration of their sick period fall even more behind. Fortunately, the duration of a common illness is no more than a week. Due to the lack of regulation, students can attend campus earlier than this. However, this small notion further spreads the illness within the student population since the individual’s contagious period may not be over.  

The cold and flu are like COVID-19 in terms of mechanics; they are airborne viruses that target the immune system. Henceforth, masks should be mandatory for ill individuals. As learned through the pandemic, masks work because they prevent ill individuals from spreading their contagious respiratory droplets. Masks function as a barrier. When worn correctly, they prevent individuals from inhaling respiratory droplets as well as spreading the virus to individuals they interact with.  

Although no one likes being sick, ill individuals should not be forced to stay home nor should they walk around campus maskless during their contagious period. It should be mandated that individuals in their recovery phase wear a mask. This will limit the spread of the common illnesses and protect other students who are exercising their freedom to not wear a mask.  

Jargon and other poor narrative skills are among the problematic elements of scientific writing hindering communication and trust between the scientists and the community

Science has its own language, best understood by individuals who have spent countless years within academic and clinical environments. While this language can be helpful to describe, understand and then communicate phenomenon within a discipline, the rigid practices of science communication do not make it easy for the larger community to begin decoding this complex language. 

Elements such as jargon, poor writing skills and a bland style of communication all contribute to making scientific writing inaccessible to the public. Terms such as double-blind experiment, null hypothesis and mRNA are classified as jargon terms and individuals who lack a postsecondary science education background will have a challenging time understanding these words and their implications, hindering their overall understanding of scientific ideas. 

Elements such as jargon, poor writing skills and a bland style of communication all contribute to making scientific writing inaccessible to the public. Terms such as double-blind experiment, null hypothesis and mRNA are classified as jargon terms and individuals who lack a postsecondary science education background will have a challenging time understanding these words and their implications, hindering their overall understanding of scientific ideas.

Like journalistic writing, scientific writing should also be straightforward and adhere to basic grammar rules. Audiences should not struggle to read a scientific paper due to complexly worded sentences or the use of the passive voice. 

Even undergraduate science students often find it difficult to understand research papers. But as students of the discipline, we are expected to automatically understand the contents of a research paper and provide insightful analysis. 

It is exceedingly difficult for students to learn how to comprehend these papers on our own. We are given inadequate training in understanding scientific writings and the jargon used within them. As a result of this, we must learn based on the resources available to us: prior research papers, which are also lacking public accessibility. While self-learning has challenges of its own—it places a barrier requiring us to overcome the huge learning curve to be accepted in the academic world—this also allows the cycle of inaccessible science to continue.  

Science students are perhaps the most aware of the inaccessible nature of the discipline, but they are unable to resolve issues of inaccessibility because there is no guidance or adequate influence with science communication to correct this imbalance. 

Given the clear disconnect between the science community and society, how are science students expected to enter the scientific field when the language of science is not inclusive? 

McMaster University undergraduate student, Juliana Wadie, recently published a research manuscript exploring the accessibility and potential for reader engagement of lay summaries. She discovered many scientific journals scored low for accessibility and engagement in terms of public use, offering further examples that although there may be are elements within a research paper dedicated to making scientific findings accessible to the general public, these efforts are clearly not being executed correctly.  

While 90 per cent of individuals trust science and 52 per cent of individuals believe science is important to their everyday life, 44 per cent are more likely to trust social media for scientific facts. If the public cannot decode scientific information, there is bound to be widespread misinformation circulating. 

While 90 per cent of individuals trust science and 52 per cent of individuals believe science is important to their everyday life, 44 per cent are more likely to trust social media for scientific facts. If the public cannot decode scientific information, there is bound to be widespread misinformation circulating. 

As a result, there has been seen to be a 61 per cent increase in public health crises and a 57 per cent increase in the societal division between those who trust science and those who do not.   

When it comes to conveying crucial information to society, scientific communication must adopt the storytelling element; readers must stay engaged in the material for scientific writing to be deemed accessible. 

Initiatives taken by McMaster University are helping to correct scientific communication allowing the public to better understand scientific writing. The school of interdisciplinary science at McMaster has research dedicated to science communication and within the faculty of science, there have been numerous courses created to combat the inaccessibility of scientific. Improving the language of science allows for a better translation of scientific knowledge to the community 

The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself.  

Celina Ruan: My name is Celina. I am in my third year of the Honours Biochemistry program. I'm involved in a couple clubs at McMaster [University] such as the MSU SWHAT service. I'm also a part of the Wellness Outreach Team for the Student Wellness Center.  

What is SWHAT?  

SWHAT is a service under the MSU and it stands for Student Walk Home Attendant Team. We are a group of volunteer walkers that help walk students home. It is a free, confidential and safe service that provides free walks or [accompanied] bus rides to anyone in the McMaster community, on or off campus. We have a service area of around half an hour and we operate seven days a week from 7 pm to 1 am. We can walk anyone home during that time. Say someone has a night class and they don't want to walk them alone, they can request a walk ahead of time or just call in and we'll send off walkers with flashlights and walkie-talkies. Our services are to make sure everyone gets a safe walk home.  

Why did you become involved with SWHAT?  

I got involved in SWHAT in my second year in the winter semester. I applied to be a walker. I started in that semester and I thought it was just a really great community. All the [executive members] and other walkers are all really nice. It was also just a really nice space to go in the evenings, just to play board games or work while being there to bring safety to the community. Then, in my third year, I saw the opportunity to apply to be an exec. I thought the service that SWHAT provides was really important, especially because there have been some instances on or near campus that have affected the safety of McMaster students. It'd be really important to help provide a sense of overall safety and wellness to my classmates and other people in the McMaster community.  

Some students are worried that they are too awkward or that it will be weird to have two strangers walking home with them. What do you have to say about that?  

I think that can definitely be a hesitation for a lot of people to start using SWHAT. You might think: "I don't know if it'll be convenient. It'll be awkward." But we can promise you that we'll try to match your energy. If you prefer a quiet walk, we can join you on a quiet walk. But if you would like a conversation, we have two friendly and welcoming volunteers that can provide that for you on your walk home.  

"I think that can definitely be a hesitation for a lot of people to start using SWHAT. You might think: "I don't know if it'll be convenient. It'll be awkward." But we can promise you that we'll try to match your energy. If you prefer a quiet walk, we can join you on a quiet walk. But if you would like a conversation, we have two friendly and welcoming volunteers that can provide that for you on your walk home."

Celina Ruan

We've had walks from campus to Shoppers Drug Mart, anywhere on campus or one of our most frequent requests is to parking lot M. I think some of the most common misconceptions are how many times you can use it. We are a free service and there is no limit to how many times you can request a walk. Our aim is just to provide campus safety.  

How would a student book a SWHAT walk? 

The usual process from start to finish on the SWHAT walk is pretty straightforward. So we get some requests using our Microsoft Teams form. So that can be booked ahead of time but a lot of our requests come from calls during our operating hours. You can call our dispatcher and we'll take down your name, time, location and even the gender of your choice for the walkers.  

Any other comments?  

Just don't be afraid to request a walk. Our service is there just so you can use it. We're active seven days a week and we're more than happy to provide a walk. Later in the fall semester, we'll be having an event called the Walkathon. For one month, we will select a charity or a nonprofit organization. For every walk that is requested, we will be giving $1 to that charity. If you're looking to walk somewhere and would like a partner, call SWHAT! 

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