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Every Welcome Week, McMaster reps across faculties and residences partake in Shinerama, a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Shinerama is an incredibly successful fundraising campaign as McMaster fundraises over $100,000 every Welcome Week. Altogether, over 40 Canadian colleges and universities fundraise money for Shinerama annually, collectively fundraising approximately $500 thousand every year. However, it may be time to question our fundraising efforts—where exactly is our money going, and why are we doing it?

While Shinerama can bring students together to promote working towards a good cause, it can also alienate first years of a low socioeconomic status. Being asked for money constantly, especially during a week where many first years are acclimatizing to a new environment can be daunting.

Being asked for money can make students uncomfortable, especially when university tuition and housing is a huge financial burden for many. First years may not have money to spare but being constantly asked and reminded to donate can make people feel obliged to contribute money. As a result, many first years often feel uncomfortable going up to reps who are shining, as they’ll feel the need to give money they don’t have.

One way to tackle the issue of soliciting first years for donations is to solely run a fundraising campaign during the summer or during the school year. Welcome Week often is a place where first years feel very vulnerable due to such a new environment and asking students for money who may not be financially stable can put them in an uncomfortable position. This issue has been ongoing, but with the OSAP cuts this year, this problem may have been especially prevalent this past Welcome Week. Simply changing the time of our annual fundraising campaign so that it is no longer during Welcome Week can help alleviate this problem so that first years don’t feel obliged to donate when they have tuition fees to cover as well.

Another issue that has been raised is Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s efficacy as a charitable organization. In 2017, around 30 per cent or approximately $4 million of total funding for Cystic Fibrosis Canada went towards administrative costs or fundraising fees. Although McMaster raises over $100,000 for Shinerama each year, that does not even cover overhead fees. Cystic fibrosis is a good cause to raise money for, but it is also important to critically analyze how much money actually goes towards funding research.

Cystic fibrosis is a common genetic disease in Canada which is one of the reasons why fundraising efforts are so large. However, it is important to note that Cystic Fibrosis Canada states that Caucasians make up 93 per cent of diagnoses in Canada. While Caucasians are not limited to only white people, the Caucasian population in Canada is mainly white. According to Genetics Home Reference, the disease has been found to be most prevalent in White Americans (around 1 in 2,500 to 3,500) compared to African Americans (1 in 17,000) and Asian Americans (1 in 31,000).

As most people affected by cystic fibrosis are white, many students feel unrepresented by our fundraising efforts. As McMaster likes to promote the fact that their students are diverse, they should consider contributing to diseases or causes that affect a diverse population, not a mainly white population.

Evidently, Shinerama has a lot of room for improvement. As McMaster raises a large amount of money each year, it is important to critically analyze where our money is going. So what are some other options?

One solution to this problem could be rotating charities every year. Many local grassroots organizations such as sexual assault centre (Hamilton) are in dire need of funding and $100,000 could really benefit their programming and resources. SACHA currently only has six full-time staff, one part-time staff and the rest of the organization runs solely on volunteers. As a result, SACHA is often flooded with requests for sexual violence support. If McMaster chose to raise money for SACHA even for only one year, it would provide a huge support to an organization that provides crucial programming and training on sexual violence and bystander intervention.

By raising money for local grassroots organizations, McMaster students could also improve relationships with the Hamilton community, which is one thing that many people really enjoy about Shinerama fundraising during the summer.

Fundraising efforts done by McMaster students can have incredibly positive effects on our community if we do it correctly. Moving forward, we should critically analyze when we fundraise and who we are fundraising for so that our efforts can be allocated more effectively.

A previously published version of this article stated that there was only one part-time staff working at SACHA. It has since been corrected to state that SACHA has six full-time staff and one-part time staff.

A previously published version of this article stated that almost 60 Canadian universities fundraise for Shinerama, collectively raising approximately $1 million every year. It has since been corrected to state that over 40 Canadian colleges and universities fundraise, collectively raising approximately $500 million annually.

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wMany Welcome Week representatives will do anything for a donation in their faculty’s name towards Shinerama. Typical activities include selling popsicles in the sweltering heat, a song or dance to entertain a Hamiltonian doing their groceries or even a back massage to a tired fellow-rep.

Shinerama is the annual campaign many Canadian universities fundraise for during their Welcome Weeks, with the money ultimately going to Cystic Fibrosis Canada

But while most of these creative fundraising techniques are sanctioned by the university, provided the person solicited for the donation provides consent, one common fundraising technique involving alcohol expressly forbidden by the university has been driven underground.

Shinerama Keggers are a lucrative enterprise. For a small entry fee (usually $5-$10 dollars) student houses provide unlimited beer from a keg until it runs out, or the police come to shut it down due to noise complaints or public drunkenness.

These events are promoted through Facebook, or more covertly through text or word-of-mouth of the address where it will be held.

I thought about writing a news article on this phenomenon, reporting on specific Shinerama Keggers held by specific faculties that friends or I have attended. But pinpointing any one faculty would be unfair. This practice is widespread among all faculties, it’s been normalized in university culture, despite attempts by the Student Success Centre to emphasize safe alcohol consumption.

I’m not here to be a party pooper. In fact, for some people parties are an integral part of feeling welcomed into the McMaster community. But Shinerama Keggers are not the way to go about this and are problematic in several ways.

Firstly, while the primary audience is usually faculty Welcome Week representatives (especially for the Shinerama Keggers that happen in the summer), it is not uncommon to hear of first years being invited to the ones that happen during Welcome Week. This contributes to constructing partying and binge drinking as a necessary part of the university social experience, which it isn’t.

Such events are also explicitly forbidden, meaning organizers go to extreme lengths to conceal them. Shinerama Keggers are sometimes referred to as “Apple Juice Parties” or “Charity Keggers” in order to have no official association with Shinerama fundraising. It is kind of ridiculous that mature university students feel that they have to host an “Apple Juice Party” in order to raise donations to compete for Faculty Cup glory that is quickly forgotten.

Finally, the irony of fundraising for a health cause, Cystic Fibrosis Canada, by profiting from selling alcohol is rich. Proponents of Shinerama may argue the ultimate goal of raising money for Cystic Fibrosis research justifies the means but many have questioned whether fundraising should even go to CFC or whether it could be more effectively directed.

I’m hoping this article will spark an open discussion on the extreme lengths students feel compelled to go to in order to raise money for Shinerama. Although this practice may gradually cease as university Welcome Weeks are increasingly scrutinized, they might also be simply pushed further underground.

As has been done every year since 1965, the $165,000 raised by students during Welcome Week 2014 will be donated to the national Shinerama campaign to be given to Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

However, some universities, such as Acadia University in Nova Scotia, have stopped donating Welcome Week funding to Shinerama in favor of supporting local charities, which raises the question of why. It’s a question even the Executive Board of the McMaster Student Union has been looking into.

“It would be great if McMaster could fundraise to help mental illness in Hamilton as this is a huge issue that is progressively getting worse,” said Nicole Rakowski, a fourth-year life science student and an avid volunteer in the Hamilton community.

Although some criticize Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s finances, over the years the Shinerama campaign has undeniably been successful in terms of generating funding for an important cause.

“The collective efforts of students have really made a difference,” said Dr. Andreas Freitag, the Medical Director of the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the McMaster University Medical Centre. “The Hamilton Cystic Fibrosis Chapter, and Cystic Fibrosis Canada are really grateful for the support.”

Although a discussion on choosing which charity to support is divisive, critical discourse should ultimately be embraced at an institute of higher learning and critical thinking.

“Having a discussion and questioning and thinking about all these things makes a lot of sense.” said Violetta Igneski of the McMaster philosophy department.

A popular tradition

Given cystic fibrosis is an orphan disease, researchers are grateful that university students across Canada have rallied behind this cause.

McMaster students have been especially passionate, consistently placing in the top tier of more than 60 Canadian campuses that donate Welcome Week fundraising towards Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

“In total we’ve raised over one million dollars,” said Karissa Holyer, this year’s MSU Shinerama coordinator.

However, the cause has not been without controversy. In 2008, Carleton University’s Student Union passed a much-debated motion to stop their Shinerama campaign because of concerns that it is a disease that only affects white males. This false claim quickly generated intense criticism on a national level, including by Macleans and the Globe and Mail, leading to a reversal of the motion.

In reality, cystic fibrosis is a disease caused by an autosomal recessive gene, meaning it is a rare genetic disorder, affecting around 4,000 Canadians. If both parents carry the gene, their child will have a one in four chance of having cystic fibrosis.

Although everyone with the disease has a different experience, generally cystic fibrosis generates mucus that clogs the lungs leading to bacterial infections. The body also has a decreased ability to absorb key nutrients from food.

A campaign success story?

“It’s a great way to get involved in the community and make a difference,” said Jasmine Gilmour, a first year Humanities student said of Shine Day. The campaign is a way to demonstrate that McMaster cares about causes beyond campus.

With this type of enthusiasm typical of Shinerama participants, it’s not surprising that Cystic Fibrosis Canada seems to be prospering. The organization’s net fundraising revenue in 2013 exceeded $12 million. As well, CFC has gained a high profile thanks to endorsements from celebrities like Céline Dion and Ben Mulroney, the organization’s national ambassador.

Despite these high profile endorsements and cross-Canada support, according to Charity Intelligence Canada, a foundation that analyses Canadian charities to increase accountability, CFC has an overall grade of B+.

This grade may be partially due to the organization’s overhead costs. Almost $2 million of CFC’s budget is allocated to administration costs and $627,000 goes to meetings. McMaster’s fundraising from 2013 ($139,534) is less than half of this overhead. Moreover, in 2013 the excess revenue over expenses was double the total raised by McMaster.

One of many important causes

Cystic fibrosis is indisputably an important cause. There is currently no cure, but thanks to medical advancements, half of affected Canadians live to their 40’s and older. Despite these developments, Cystic Fibrosis is still the most common fatal genetic disease in Canada.

Holyer believes that over the years the campaign has contributed to social change, citing the fact that since the Shinerama campaign started 49 years ago, life expectancy for people with cystic fibrosis has increased by an average of 11 months for each year the fundraising has taken place.

CFC grants support research on improving disease management and finding a cure. In fact, funding from Cystic Fibrosis Canada is regularly allotted to McMaster researchers like Dr. Freitag for whom grants are an integral source of funding.

But the MSU is not limited to choosing between supporting a local charity or a national one; a rotation or alternating model is also possible. Campus Events, for example, alternates the organization that receives the money raised during the annual Charity Ball.

“It’s a model that’s been around for 18 years,” explained Al Legault, director of Campus Events. Each year, their committee of volunteer organizers hears pitches from local groups in need and chooses a deserving local charity. “It’s a matter of being fair and really looking at helping numerous groups instead of sticking with one.”

He also cited the benefit of students connecting to a local cause.

“Students will feel closer to the event themselves if they have a say. Favoritism is not a bad thing, but with this event things change every year. We may as well change every year.”

Holyer defended the tradition of sticking to one organization for Welcome Week fundraising.

“This is the charity we support during Welcome Week, but we also support other charities during the year like Terry Fox.”

But regardless of the way this tradition has been institutionalized, it is essential to reflect on why this choice is made and whether it is worth continuing.

“Why did we choose this and what criteria are important in deciding where our money should go, should it all go into one charity? Should it go in to different charities? Should we have some kind of division between international, national and local? All of these things might be worth having a discussion about,” said Igneski.

The passion of Welcome Week representatives and the first years who join them on Shine Day is admirable. But ultimately, given the huge sum of money being raised, McMaster students should think critically about where the money is going and why.

Shinerama’s trademark shoe-shining and car-washing services have become increasingly popular, and this year, McMaster students have raised nearly $17,000 above their target for cystic fibrosis research.

McMaster students raised more than $116,500 for the cause leading up to and during Welcome Week, topping their best of $96,000 last year. The Faculty of Science collected more than $23,000, a record achievement for any faculty in the history of McMaster’s campaign.

Other groups that raised over $10,000 - a benchmark set by the Society of Off-Campus Students (SOCS) last year - were the Faculty of Health Sciences and SOCS.

The campaign began during the summer and will continue until November.

Fundraising breakdown (estimated):

Science $23,260
Society of Off-campus students $11,600
Health Science $15,260
Commerce $8,500
Nursing $6,260
Social Science $4,770
Humanities $4,640
Arts & Science $4,620
Engineering $4,080
Kinesiology $2,630
Residences $1,000-$2,000

Target: $100,000
Raised (to date this year): $116,500

Ask. Then ask again – this time through a months-long and thousands-strong public protest. And, eventually, you will receive.

Student activist groups in Quebec are tentatively celebrating victory. The newly elected Parti Québécois minority government has promised to cancel the tuition hikes initially proposed by the previous Liberal government.

What have we learned here in Ontario? Apparently, not much.

Here’s the state of post-secondary education in our province. Our schools have the highest tuition in Canada. They also have the lowest level of provincial support. And in my time here, I’ve never seen a McMaster University budget that wasn’t prefaced by a desperate call for more funding.

So schools take on more and more students, both because provincial funding depends on it and to boost tuition revenues.

But there’s nowhere to put the extra students. It’s no secret that McMaster, like other universities in the area, is well over capacity. Its class sizes are too large, its residences are stuffed and its common spaces are crowded.

And for that less valuable education, students are paying more every year.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s anything natural about the gradual fee hikes. They aren’t about inflation. A report released on Tuesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says tuition across the country has increased at three times the rate of inflation since 1990. In Ontario, where it’s highest, the report says that undergraduate tuition will increase from its current level of $7,513 to $9,231 four years from now.

It’s a vicious cycle. More students means more need for funds. More need for funds means more spaces for new students, all paying higher fees than the students before them.

University administrators will tell you this is a problem. They know campus is crowded. They know that young people don’t get much value from sitting through lectures with hundreds of others. They know high fees mean more difficult or more burdensome access to education.

But the province – and its universities along with it – has committed to the recommendations of the Drummond Report, which was released in February. The Report supported continued enrolment growth. It recommended tuition increases – not ones low enough to match inflation, but not ones high enough to match the growth of the student population, either.

It also continued the push for more differentiation of Ontario universities, which would make some universities teaching-focused schools and others research-oriented in order to enhance the student experience. But, for good or bad, McMaster’s president Patrick Deane wants nothing to do with it. He believes that teaching and research should go hand-in-hand.

In other words, the University isn’t going to solve this problem. The province isn’t going to solve this problem.

Students need to solve it. Can we get together and make it happen? Can we make change like they did in Quebec?

Well, how about our record of direct democracy here at Mac? At last year’s students union General Assembly, we just barely got the three per cent needed to reach quorum. We ran to one side of the room of the other, and, ultimately, every first year ended up paying for a Welcome Week they probably could have gotten through the old, opt-in MacPass system. That’s our direct democracy.

But people didn’t even show up because they cared about Welcome Week. It was participation for the sake of participation. The 601 campaign to get people out was a great marketing strategy. But imagine if Quebec students’ primary objective was to gather in huge numbers first – only to collectively decide later that their reason for being there was to be angry about tuition.

Understand, too, that student groups in Quebec were holding meetings similar to our general assembly every week.

It’s not that we’re incapable of getting together for a good cause. We raised $116,000 for Shinerama this year. At least for a week, hundreds of students gladly made a concern for cystic fibrosis part of their identity. And how many of them felt personally affected by the disorder?

So what’s it going to take for us to care about the state of post-secondary schooling?

The official charity of Welcome Week 2013: our education?

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