By Kayla Freeman, Contributor

Each year of university can feel like a new beginning, culminating in a gruelling session of final exams. Final exams are customarily used to test students’ comprehension of course material over the course of the semester. However, many students study for exams by cramming as much information as they can the week, or sometimes even the night before the final. This trend has birthed what is commonly dubbed ‘exam culture’. Habits such as pulling all-nighters and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine are shared on social media and amongst friends, sometimes in an attempt to justify these unhealthy behaviours. Promoting these behaviours amongst peers and friends by sharing your poor habits can cause students to believe that these practices are acceptable, or even commendable.

The realistic approach to approaching education, on social media and otherwise, is to understand the repercussions of these exam habits. Rather than shaming friends and followers across Instagram or Twitter, I opt to lead by example. Refusing to contribute or engage with this type of behaviour on the internet may dissuade friends from posting these habits online due to lack of engagement. Also, encouraging positive habits will hopefully have the same impact by influencing others to adopt improved means of coping during exam season.

After I finished my first year, I learned how to study for exams in a way that was not detrimental to my mental or physical well-being. Students are often overwhelmingly stressed during exam season, as due dates for final papers, projects and exams approach. This can lead to issues such as insomnia, anxiety and lower sleep quality. The stress felt during exam season can lead to poor sleep quality and push students to consume excessive amounts of caffeine.

It is easy to see that these habits that are built over the years of undergrad, or even high school, often translate into normalized behaviours that negatively impact both physical and mental health. I believe one of the biggest problems that students face today is that these poor habits are being shared across various social media platforms in an attempt to normalize them. Sharing your unhealthy habits can encourage others to follow these behaviours, which is harmful.

It is easy to see that these habits that are built over the years of undergrad, or even high school, often translate into normalized behaviours that negatively impact both physical and mental health.

Often, I see students compete on social media about who stays up the latest, who drinks the most caffeine or who buys the most snacks. When these mindsets are shared online, they become accessible and may incite a trend, leading others to partake or post similar photos or videos. Along with this, it has become increasingly common to see students indulging in unhealthy foods, easily accessible via UberEats or other delivery methods.

This can be dangerous, especially during exam season when these poor habits often are used as distractions from studying and can lead to a mentally and physically vulnerable state.

Overall, exam season is a time when students are most at risk in terms of their health. Rather than normalizing poor behaviours by posting about your unhealthy habits online, it is more beneficial for these behaviours surrounding studying to be called out and given direction. If we all begin to conform and assimilate to “exam culture,” it will simply lead to more harm for students.

During the upcoming semester, it is essential to address and confront negative habits that cause more harm than good. It is also imperative to understand personal limits, rather than conform to the habits of the crowd. Through knowing and understanding individual capacities, poor habits can be substituted for more healthy ones. Investing time in discovering new and improved coping strategies for stress management may encourage students to prioritize their health alongside studies and education.

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Photo C/O Sandy Shaw's Constituency Office 

Sandy Shaw, the Member of Provincial Parliament for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, has returned home from a stint at Queen’s Park. Before the winter break, the Conservatives drove Bill 124 through the House on Nov. 8, a move that has been widely criticized.

“It’s been a long week of fighting for hardworking people in the province of Ontario,” said Shaw.

As a member of the New Democratic Party and the representative for the riding in which McMaster sits, Shaw knows student issues are important for her constituents. According to Shaw, Bill 124 was just the latest in a series of Conservative attacks on students’ funding, freedom and future.

Bill 124, also known as the “Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act,” limits wage increases for public sector employees to one per cent per year, among other things. This does not keep up with inflation in the province, which fluctuates between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent yearly.

In a press release, Ontario Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy explained the rationale behind the Bill.

“The legislation would allow for reasonable wage increases, while protecting the province’s front-line services, restoring the province’s financial position and respecting taxpayer dollars,” he said.

However, the Bill has also been criticized for its effects on workers.

“Bill 124 . . . caps the wages of a million workers of families in the province of Ontario. At the same time, this government is giving themselves promotions and raises,” said Shaw.

“Bill 124 . . . caps the wages of a million workers of families in the province of Ontario. At the same time, this government is giving themselves promotions and raises,” said Shaw.

Despite the pushback from Shaw and the NDP, the Conservative government sought to pass the Bill.

Although Bill 124 was announced in early June, soon after, the provincial government entered an extended summer recess ending in late October. As a result, despite the intense controversy surrounding the Bill, the debate period lasted for less than two weeks. Shaw was concerned the Bill had been passed too quickly.

“I personally did not support this exceptionally long break. I mean, there’s a lot of work that we need to get done in the province. And this is a government that doesn’t take the time to study legislation, to get legislation right,” said Shaw.

Unions across Ontario have launched complaints against the Bill, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Nurses Association.

According to Shaw, the Act will impact the most vulnerable workers in the province, many of whom are women and marginalized community members. The Act also has specific impacts for McMaster; it caps the wage increases of McMaster teaching and research assistants at one per cent, despite efforts by the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3906, the union representing McMaster teaching and research assistants, to increase wages.

“Students need to be recognized for what they are, which is contributors to the province, contributors to their communities, and that they are struggling under all kinds of burdens imposed by this government … it’s just cruel and heartless,” said Shaw.

“Students need to be recognized for what they are, which is contributors to the province, contributors to their communities, and that they are struggling under all kinds of burdens imposed by this government … it’s just cruel and heartless,” said Shaw.

The provincial government is defending the one per cent wage cap by citing the province’s need to balance its budget. Shaw disagrees.

“Essentially what they’re saying is [that] the deficit is the fault of frontline workers in the province of Ontario, [that] it’s their responsibility to fix the deficit ... And so the reason I think the break was so … wrong [is] because when we came back after five months, the government ran this legislation through the house in two weeks,” said Shaw.

Shaw views the province’s actions as an all-out attack on students. Bill 124 was preceded by budget cuts for schools at both the elementary and post-secondary levels, which include the now unlawful Student Choice Initiative and reduced funding for the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

“In what world does this make sense? In what world does it make sense that students that struggle just to pay this increasing tuition burden, that students [that] struggle with part time, precarious, low-wage, minimum wage jobs, if they can find them at all, now are losing jobs [where] they can earn money on campus,” said Shaw, referring to the SCI and other Conservative education policies that impact education.

Announced on Jan. 17, 2019, the SCI gave post-secondary students the opportunity to opt out of “non-essential” student fees, which included and thereby endangered on-campus organizations and student media. In response, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the York Federation of Students took the directive to court, labeling the SCI as unlawful and criticizing the unjust procedure that led to its passing.

The Divisional Court of Ontario ruled in favour of CFS-O and YFS on Nov. 21, 2019, stating that the bargaining process between autonomous universities and student unions did not fall within the jurisdiction of the provincial government.

But where do we go from here? Shaw says that we all have to play our part. While Shaw is on the house floor holding the government accountable, students can lend their voices too.

“Students have shown, historically, time and time again, that when they mobilize, that when they speak up, that’s powerful. And this is a government that does not want to hear powerful voices. They want to shut down debate. They want to shut down dialogue,” said Shaw.

While mobilization may be possible, McMaster students have diverse political views, as does the rest of the province. Despite differences, there is one thing that all students may have in common.

“Every student I’ve ever met is concerned also about the world in which they’re going to graduate into,” said Shaw.

For Shaw and the NDP, slashing student services isn’t a solution for balancing provincial budgets. As she returns to the legislature, Shaw pledges to fight for student interests, aiming to ensure that the world we graduate into is one where the needs of vulnerable workers are prioritized.

Photos by Andrew Mrozowski / A&C Editor 

On Nov. 21, the Ontario Divisional Court struck down the Student Choice Initiative, a controversial directive introduced by the provincial government which required universities and colleges to allow students to opt-out of student fees deemed “non-essential.” Three judges unanimously ruled that the government did not have the legal authority to interfere with the autonomous and democratic decision-making process between universities and student unions. 

On Jan. 17, 2019, Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities publicly announced the SCI alongside a series of changes to post secondary funding, including cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program. When students were given the opportunity to opt-out in September 2019, services deemed non-essential such as food banks, student societies and campus media became vulnerable to funding cuts.   

On May 24, the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the York Federation of Students launched a joint legal challenge against the provincial government’s SCI directive, claiming that the SCI was unlawful, proposed in bad faith and carried out in a way that was procedurally unfair. On the basis of the legality of the SCI, the Divisional Court of Ontario ruled in favour of CFS-O and YFS on Nov. 21.

The legal document explaining the judges’ decision cites previous Supreme Court rulings, which concluded that, while universities are regulated and funded by the government, “it by no means follows, however, that universities are organs of government … The fact is that each of the universities has its own governing body … The government thus has no legal power to control the universities even if it wished to do so.”  

"Student unions can confidently budget again ... For students to access the services of their student unions" - CFSO Rep https://t.co/c3XO2R6LOZ

— The Silhouette (@theSilhouette) November 22, 2019

The Ontario government attempted to defend themselves by arguing that the SCI was a “core policy decision” not subject to judicial review, and that they were exercising their prerogative power over spending decisions. However, the Court’s legal documents state that, “with the exception of narrowly defined powers in the MTCU [Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities] Act, policy-making and governance authority over a university is vested in its [university’s] Boards of Governors and Senates.”

 

THE DECISION

The Divisional Court found that by interfering with the agreement between student unions and universities, the SCI posed a threat to universities’ autonomy from the government.

Louis Century, an associate at Goldblatt Partners and lawyer for the CFS-O, sees the decision as proof of the importance of student unions.

“I would hope that student unions would read this decision as an affirmation of the central role that they play on campuses. That was a core part of the Court’s decision, is recognizing that . . .  they’re actually core to what happens on campuses at universities, so much so that the government overriding their affairs is overriding the autonomy of the university generally,” he said.

“I would hope that student unions would read this decision as an affirmation of the central role that they play on campuses. That was a core part of the Court’s decision, is recognizing that . . .  they’re actually core to what happens on campuses at universities, so much so that the government overriding their affairs is overriding the autonomy of the university generally,” said Louis Century, an associate at Goldblatt Partners and lawyer for the CFS-O. 

The YFS and CFS-O also argued that the government had implemented the SCI in bad faith, on the basis of a politically-motivated attack on student unions. While the Court heard this evidence, it did not end up being a factor in determining the legality of the SCI.

In a fundraising email sent to the Conservative party in February, Premier Doug Ford wrote, “Students were forced into unions and forced to pay for those unions. I think we all know what kind of crazy Marxist nonsense student unions get up to. So, we fixed that. Student union fees are now opt-in.”

Kayla Weiler, the National Executive Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, believes that the SCI was about silencing the organizations critical of the Ford government that advocate on behalf of students.

“This was never about choice. It was always about the Ford government trying to silence the exact bodies that hold them accountable and challenge them to do better,” Weiler stated during a press conference on Nov. 22.

“This was never about choice. It was always about the Ford government trying to silence the exact bodies that hold them accountable and challenge them to do better,” Weiler stated during a press conference on Nov. 22.

Since its introduction, the SCI has been widely criticized. Student union representatives have argued that, while the purpose of the SCI was to allow students to decide where their money would go, student unions already have democratic procedures in place that allow students to decide which services to fund. At McMaster, for example, undergraduate students have the opportunity to vote on fees during annual general meetings, referenda and other processes.

Weiler believes that the implementation of the SCI was to question the validity of student unions as valid democracies and valid organizations. 

“It’s about time for the government to recognize us as autonomous organizations. . .What we want is to be recognized as autonomous organizations that fight for student rights, and we don’t want to have government interference into our budgets or the work that we do and we don’t want the Premier to comment on the fact that we are crazy Marxists. What we want is legislation that protects us and not hurt us,” said Weiler. 

“It’s important for these conversations to be held in a particular campus because Doug Ford is not a student in 2019. The Minister of Colleges and Universities is not a student in 2019 at Algoma University or the University of Windsor or George Brown College, so why are they making decisions for the students on these campuses?” 

 

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Unless the decision is successfully appealed, the fee structure for student unions will return to normal.

“Any legal requirements that existed before this case was brought are now restored,” said Century. 

The MSU, however, will not implement the results of the Court’s decision until the appeal period closes.

“Until we have the appeal period, and until we have that final decision, we do need to operate in the most financially stable way, which is assuming that those agreements are still in place,” said MSU president Josh Marando.

“Until we have the appeal period, and until we have that final decision, we do need to operate in the most financially stable way, which is assuming that those agreements are still in place,” said MSU president Josh Marando.

If the decision is upheld in Court, the results of the SCI will still be felt at universities and colleges across the province. Some Ontario student unions had to cut entire jobs and services this year as a result of SCI.

MSU general manager John McGowan pointed out that McMaster was lucky to be able to rely on reserve funds this year. However, student services have still felt the impact. With their budgets uncertain, services have had to hold off on hiring and long-term planning. 

Furthermore, the MSU dedicated resources towards implementing the SCI and educating students about the process.

“There has been quite a bit of time and energy put into creating the fees, educating students on what those fees look like, as well as making sure that we're compliant with the framework and the new tuition and ancillary fee framework,” said Marando.

If the SCI decision is upheld in court, it will mean that an unlawful directive caused harm to campus services and student unions. Chris Glover, the MPP for Spadina–Fort York and the Ontario New Democratic Party’s postsecondary critic, noted that many campus services are currently struggling financially as a result of the SCI. Glover called on Ford to reimburse student services for the losses they incurred under SCI.

“I really think that the government should step up …  Their actions were unlawful and now students are suffering, campus services are suffering, and the government should make up for this shortfall, Doug Ford should make up for this shortfall,” said Glover during a press conference. 

If the student fee structure that existed before the SCI is restored, it is unclear how services and clubs whose funds have been negatively impacted may be compensated, if at all. Both CFS-O and YFS representatives emphasized that, at the very least, the Court’s decision should be a lesson as to the importance of engaging with and protecting the democratic processes at all universities and colleges. 

 

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Photo C/O Tamas Munkacsi

By J., Contributor  

If you need any additional proof that the McMaster Students Union made the correct decision to revoke MSU club status for the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association, then look no further than Mac CSSA’s own lawyer.

On Nov. 3, Mac CSSA made an appeal to reverse the SRA’s de-ratification of their club, during which Mac CSSA’s lawyer revealed that “Chinese consulate officials have attended informal Mac CSSA events” and “those visits by officials were solely for the purpose of just explaining consular services … like if there’s an emergency event, contact us [the Chinese consulate]”.

This may seem benign, until you consider why Mac CSSA was de-ratified in the first place. According to Mac CSSA’s public statement, they reported Uyghur activist Rukiye Turdush to the Chinese consulate after she gave a speech on campus that criticized China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims. Alarmingly, Mac CSSA later argued that Turdush’s talk was considered an “emergency event” due to “thousands of Chinese students at McMaster experiencing immense emotional distress” as a result of Turdush’s speech.

Mac CSSA does not represent all Chinese students, and their response is actually quite insulting to the Chinese students at McMaster, myself included, who instead condemn the concentration camps in Xinjiang. Additionally, I cannot imagine the emotional distress that Uyghur students at McMaster must be experiencing, as they risk potentially being reported to the genocidal regime currently destroying their people, should they dare respond to the Chinese nationalists who openly defend a government that commits genocide against Uyghur Muslims.

However, more importantly, the statements from Mac CSSA’s lawyer are clear evidence that Chinese government officials — while on McMaster’s campus — instructed students to inform them of emergency events, with an “emergency event” loosely defined to cover whatever causes “distress”, which apparently can include criticism of the Chinese government.

The reporting of Turdush’s talk to the consulate shows how these Chinese diplomats’ instructions have been successfully heeded. Given that consular officials hold an extraordinary position of power, their alleged dissemination of such instructions on campus is deeply problematic, regardless of how “informal” these visits are.

Currently, universities around the world are trying to fend off increasing interference from the Chinese government. Australia is formally investigating such interference amidst incidents which include a Chinese diplomat inciting death threats against a democracy activist at the University of Queensland. Meanwhile, the United States recently required that Chinese diplomats notify U.S. authorities prior to visiting universities. Similarly, we must also firmly respond to such intrusions on our campus, while also remaining measured.

This is not the time to vilify Chinese students at McMaster. Already, the McMaster Chinese Students Association has received crude comments on their Facebook page, even though McMaster CSA is completely unrelated to Mac CSSA. Homogenizing Chinese students at McMaster in any capacity is extremely dangerous, as it plays directly into the propaganda line of the Chinese Communist Party: that all Chinese people are united behind the CCP. In reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Likewise, it is equally dehumanizing to dismiss legitimate criticism as racist or anti-Chinese, as that erases the real and valid experiences of minorities who have been oppressed by the CCP. For example, last week’s article, “CSSA-gate at McMaster: The scars of exclusion”, declared that the “real test for racism, in my view, is ... in how you treat those who don’t agree with you, and who do things that make you uncomfortable”. My response: tell that to the Uyghurs who are suffering in concentration camps for the high crime of not being sufficiently Han Chinese, or the visible minority students who, after Mac CSSA’s actions, became fearful of openly criticizing the Chinese government. 

I am Chinese too, and I am proud of my heritage — but I refuse to parrot the nationalism that leads some to defend the Chinese government in oppressing my people and in inflicting horrific suffering upon millions from Xinjiang to Hong Kong. That is also why I am alarmed to see Chinese diplomats interfering in campus politics by instructing students to report on vaguely-defined “emergency” events.

Moving forward, we must improve efforts to support, integrate and include students who come from countries where liberal democracy is not the norm, and where basic rights — such as those of expression, assembly and press — are alien concepts. We must also remain wary of Chinese government attempts to monitor and control students on campus, whether through diplomats or proxy organizations. 

Finally, we must remember that Chinese government interference on campus is a political problem, not a racial one. After all, ethnic Chinese voices are among those most critical of Chinese Communist Party oppression, as we are one of its main victims.

 

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Photo C/O Kyle West

By Anonymous, Contributor

As a non-Chinese faculty member, I have been following events unraveling around the Student Representative Assembly’s decision to de-ratify the McMaster Chinese Students and Scholars Association. As an associate chair of my department, I interact with undergraduate students on a daily basis, which is why I was troubled to hear about how the Student Representative Assembly proceeded with the de-ratification of a student-run group on campus. Recent reports reveal that SRA representatives believed that they had placed Mac CSSA on probation for six months, while the group itself was not notified. Furthermore, Mac CSSA was de-ratified during a meeting on Sept. 22 for which the club was not given due notice. 

From reading the SRA meeting minutes and watching live streams of the SRA proceedings, I was struck by the unanimity of it all. Many questions were raised but not discussed and many comments were made but not challenged. Some SRA members even mentioned the absence of Mac CSSA or any rebuttal document at the final de-ratification meeting. Yet, no one in that room tried to table the motion to de-ratify Mac CSSA. What would have changed if the proceedings had been delayed to allow for a chat with the Equity and Inclusion Office, to consult a lawyer and, at the very least, to allow CSSA members to attend the de-ratification meeting? By not properly engaging with opposing voices in the SRA chamber, the rush to judgement that occurred with the de-ratification of Mac CSSA seems to have emerged from a groupthink mentality. 

Given my experience as an equity-seeking person myself, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, watching this unfold has made me extremely emotional. By speaking with one voice, rushing to judgement and bypassing the regular procedures, the SRA’s actions threatened not a single group on campus, but the entire institution. This type of prosecution, though clearly not at the same level of magnitude, has shades of the Lavender Scare or even McCarthyism. In those times, as the guilt of the accused was decided prior to the public accusation, any irregular process to convict them was sufficient. Never mind that once accused, there was no chance of defense. Only after the Sept. 22 de-ratification and after Mac CSSA had initiated an appeal process themselves did the SRA give Mac CSSA a chance to answer questions regarding the allegations put forward to de-ratify them. The evidence presented by Mac CSSA in their appeal was dismissed and the SRA denied their appeal.

I’m not defending the actions of Mac CSSA and I’m not even saying that the MSU is wrong to censure a club. But I strongly believe that the cornerstones of our democracy are the right to a fair trial, the right to defend oneself and the right to be presumed innocent. In a fair system, if your arguments are valid, your evidence is sound and your process is unbiased, there is no reason to fear the presence of the accused. Particularly when dealing with an equity-seeking group, it is imperative to ensure that all the necessary steps of a process have been taken with care so there is no questions about the outcome. Even if the outcome may not be different, a fair and transparent procedure is necessary. The process is what protects our values. It is what protects us from fear-mongering, from undue influences and partisanship. 

Joshua Marando has admitted that he made such mistakes with regards to CSSA “not being informed at the meeting” as well as the miscommunication of the “initial probation”. While he referred to them as “big oversights,” they were downplayed as “not intentional by any means,” implying to me that even a compromised process can be justified.

The SRA should not be allowed to get away with this. When we compromise procedural justice, even the most righteous of intentions can lead to significant unintended consequences. In this case, the irresponsible management of Mac CSSA’s de-ratification has had profound consequences. Due to my position as an associate chair, I interact with many Chinese undergraduates, graduate students, staff and faculty colleagues, all with varying views. This incident has led to the alienation of a large group of people who may have differing political views, but who are still important members of the McMaster community. 

As a student government body that represents people with diverse backgrounds, it is critical for the MSU to maintain an impartial political stance, and treat everyone equally and fairly, which includes international students. The MSU should not forget that Mac CSSA is a club of their own fellow students. They are not some nameless and faceless foreign government entity that some SRA members may have implied in the height of their groupthink euphoria. 

The Mac CSSA de-ratification reveals the kind of power the SRA has — in terms of club de-ratification, they are able to act as witnesses, judge, jury and executioner in a decision-making process. It must be made clear to them that such power comes with the trust of the McMaster community, which should be used to strive for equality and inclusivity, instead of dividing the campus by abusing it. 

This should really be a wake-up call for the MSU that undue procedures can be a slippery slope that you cannot come back from. The step to de-ratify a club that consists of fellow students is a serious one and deserves thoughtful action. With that being said, this Mac CSSA-gate fiasco could provide an opportunity to establish precedents and norms to prevent it from happening again, similar to the development of the Miranda rights for people accused of criminal actions. 

The MSU should really reflect on why they were so quick to compromise their own processes — what was their justification and what would have been the harm of following the correct procedures? The MSU should take measures to counteract groupthink by assigning a devil’s advocate or equity champion, by consulting a specialist before making a decision, by involving third-party members to get impartial opinions or by setting up a rule that the leadership should be absent from discussion to avoid overly influencing decisions. 

The MSU should also be aware of the systematic barriers and implicit biases that may have played a role in their flawed procedures. They have an obligation to reach out to the less privileged groups of students to help them be a part of the community, to have a voice at the table, to communicate and connect and to be valued. 

As David Farr, acting president of McMaster, recently said, “Equity, diversity, and inclusion are critical to our academic mission and vital for innovation and excellence.”

The MSU should play a leading role in that mission, rather than acting against it.

 

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Ember, Contributor

cw: fatphobia, disordered eating

Food is what fuels our bodies. So why is it that there is an ever increasing rise of popularity in dieting and diet culture? A movement that encourages us to deprive ourselves; to aspire to be thin. To put it plainly? A hatred for fat bodies that results in widespread disordered eating.

The way we frame different topics and discussions is very important. This especially applies to the way we talk about food, our bodies and other people’s bodies.

Caloric science is based on outdated Western scientific methods from the nineteenth century by Wilbur Atwater. It is the estimate of how much energy is contained in a portion of food by burning it in a tank submerged in water, and measuring how much burning the food increased the temperature of the surrounding water.

However, it is hard to accurately predict the energy stored in food; our bodies do not work as simply as a furnace burning fuel. There are many factors that influence the calories of the foods we eat, like how the food is prepared, if cellulose is present and how much energy it takes to digest the food.

Not to mention, there are additional factors that affect digestion, such as metabolism, age, gut bacteria and physical activity. Labels on food do not accurately represent what we’re putting into our body nor what we’re getting out of it.

Ever since Canada enforced the Healthy Menu Choices Act back in 2016, which requires food establishments to list the amount of calories in their products, there has also been an increasing number of discussions surrounding the negative impact of the addition of calories to menus.

Another measurement that is often used to determine how healthy we are is body mass index, even though it is an inaccurate measurement of “health” for multiple reasons. It was meant to analyze the weight of populations, not individuals, and doesn’t take into account whether mass is fat or muscle. As a result, BMI is a biased and harmful method to gauge health.

Along with measurements like calories and BMI, language surrounding food can also be dangerous. You may hear things like “carbs are bad”, or you may hear discourse on “healthy” versus “unhealthy” foods, “cheat days” and “clean eating”, to name some examples. This language can contribute to the notion that we should feel bad for eating food, when it simply is a way to nourish ourselves and additionally, something to enjoy.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Diet culture is so pervasive and present in society. It is encouraged by menus listing calorie amounts, peers, elders and healthcare professionals in various ways. Thoughts like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” stem from conflating “health” and “weight”, which has roots in racism, classism and fatphobia.

Hannah Meier, a dietitian who contributed to a project tackling women’s health, writes about how society glorifies dieting. In Meier’s article titled A Dietitian’s Truth: Diet Culture Leads to Disordered Eating she writes, “I was half-functioning. I remember filling pages of journals with promises to myself that I wouldn’t eat. I planned out my week of arbitrary calorie restrictions that were shockingly low and wrote them all over my planner, my whiteboard, the foggy mirror in the bathroom.” 

For many of us, the mindset of diet culture swallows you whole, consumes your every thought and waking moment, then spits you out like rotten food.

Oftentimes, people aren’t advocating for diets because they want to be “healthy”. Instead, they often feel passionate about dieting because of their hate and disdain for fat people since they associate being “fat” with “unhealthy”, “unhappy” or “unlovable”.

It’s also important to note that views on fatness and fat bodies change depending on the time period and culture; renaissance paintings often depict fat women in angelic and celestial aesthetics. As well, certain cultures, both past and present, value fatness as a symbol of privilege, power, wealth and fertility.

Diet culture, eating disorders, and fatphobia are so tightly knit together that they are like an ill-fitting sweater woven by your grandmother that you didn’t want or ask for. Sometimes you think about wearing it, to make things easier or simpler. But it won’t. You will only become a shell of your former self; a husk that is barely scraping by.

Any joy derived from depriving yourself is temporary. A scale will weigh how much of you is there, but it won’t weigh how much of you has been lost to an eating disorder. It is a mental illness, a distortion of reality and external factors that influence how you think. You can’t just stop having an eating disorder on a whim.

Calorie counting isn’t healthy, demonizing certain foods isn’t healthy and having preconceived notions about someone’s health based on how their body looks isn’t “just caring about their health.” Stop calling food “unhealthy” or “healthy”, start calling it “nourishing” or “not/less nourishing. Eat food that makes you happy and makes you feel good. Bodies are so many things, including wonderful and complex. You only have one — so treat it with kindness.

 

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By Wei Wu, Contributor

On Oct. 30, pro-life demonstrators stood by L.R. Wilson Hall carrying signs with images of aborted fetuses. It is not clear whether the demonstrators were students at McMaster, or whether they had connections to any existing clubs.

According to Michael Coutu, a student at McMaster, the demonstrators exposed passersby to their signs and distributed pamphlets, which contained graphic images of aborted fetuses. Coutu is concerned about whether the demonstrators received clearance to be on campus. 

“Although they were not particularly loud or disruptive, I still found the images and rhetoric being spread very concerning and ill-advised,” said Coutu. 

Students have raised their concerns online regarding the contrast between the Oct. 30 situation to the May 11 protest during May at Mac, in which student activists were ticketed for trespassing during a peaceful protest that criticized McMaster regarding a range of issues. One of the issues was sexual abuse within student organizations such as the Maroons. 

Initially, the May at Mac demonstrators did not provide identification when asked to do so by security and were asked to leave. However, some of these individuals returned and continued their demonstration later on, which resulted in them being ticketed for trespassing.

Mac Daily News released an update after May 11, stating that university security had been working with limited information at the time. According to this update, security had approached the May at Mac protestors because of complaints from community members about the protestors’ pamphlets, which included “unsubstantiated allegations” made against a named McMaster student. Still, the update referred to the method of ticketing as “regrettable and unfortunate”. The university stated they would take steps to rescind tickets and clear them from the students’ records. 

The juxtaposition between how the university approached the protests of May 11 and Oct. 30 — initially issuing trespassing tickets and charges for one group but not the other — raises questions regarding the limits of protesting on campus and the types of images that are allowed to be publicized on campus. 

In a statement on freedom of expression, McMaster University clearly states that it supports the freedom of expression of all its members, as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly for all of its members. The university affirms that members of the McMaster community have the right to exchange ideas, challenge received wisdom, engage in respectful debate, discuss controversial issues and engage in peaceful protest. 

 So long as students do not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others, students are free to host and participate in demonstrations at McMaster. Members of the McMaster community are not required to obtain permission from the university administration in order to protest or demonstrate on campus.

 Although the demonstration on Oct. 30 touched upon a highly sensitive topic that some individuals may have found deeply disturbing, university policy protects the right to share their beliefs and engage in public discourse at McMaster.

 “Other images, even though we might not agree with them, we might not find them agreeable, would be allowed and permitted. That’s part of the freedoms of expression the university campus has,” said Gord Arbeau, McMaster’s Director of Communications, adding that he did not know about the pro-life demonstration.

McMaster maintains that it supports freedom of expression and peaceful protests on campus.

 

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Updates

Highlights

After unsuccessful negotiations on Nov. 5, the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 3906, the union representing McMaster Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants and other academic workers, announced that they are inching closer to calling a strike before the end of the month.

The announcement comes after months of labour negotiations between CUPE 3906 and the university. Since August, CUPE 3906 has been negotiating on behalf of McMaster TAs and RAs. They are represented under CUPE 3906 unit 1, one of the union’s three bargaining units.

In August, the employment contract for academic workers at McMaster expired, as it does every three years. The contract, called the collective agreement, outlines the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, including rules about wages, work hours and benefits. When the collective agreement expired, the university and CUPE 3906 entered into collective bargaining to renegotiate the agreement on behalf of its members, giving the union a chance to push for improvements to their working conditions.

To prepare for negotiations, CUPE 3906 released a survey for its members to identify their bargaining priorities. One of CUPE’s main sets of bargaining priorities is centred around wages and work hours. Under the previous collective agreement, graduate TAs earned $43.63 per hour, and undergraduate TAs received $25.30 an hour. However, the agreement also states that they cannot work more than 260 hours a year, or more than 10 hours a week on average. 

For graduate TAs, this results in a maximum of $11,343.80 a year. Nathan Todd, the president of CUPE 3906, pointed out that unless TAs have other means of financial support, such as scholarships, this maximum will not cover full-time tuition, which TAs must pay in order to maintain their conditions of employment.

Furthermore, says Todd, many TAs work above their hours. Between running tutorials, grading work and holding office hours, they can work above their hours without overtime pay.

One way that CUPE 3906 hopes to address this is by proposing to increase the minimum number of hours for TA contracts from 33 to 40. While this does not allow TAs to work more than the allotted 260 hours, it helps to increase the number of paid hours on short-term contracts.

Additionally, CUPE 3906 has stated that McMaster has proposed changes that will make it harder for TAs to take on additional guaranteed work hours. According to CUPE 3906 representatives, the university is proposing to remove language in the collective agreement that allows TAs to increase their number of guaranteed number hours if they get hired for additional work in their second year. The university has a policy not to discuss the content of ongoing labour negotiations, so representatives have not confirmed whether McMaster made this proposal.

Another bargaining priority is the implementation of university-wide paid TA training. Currently, the collective agreement between CUPE and the university allows TAs three paid hours a semester to participate in health and safety and orientation training, which is meant to provide new employees with general information about the university and resources available to them. The agreement states that orientation training can point new employees towards professional development resources that they would presumably have to access on their own time. 

CUPE has stated that this is insufficient. Instead, the union has proposed  five paid hours of pedagogical training and three hours of anti-oppression training.

“I don't think asking for training on how to do your job is unreasonable. It's the kind of thing you'd expect from any professional workplace,” said Todd.

CUPE’s proposals also include paid family medical leave, preference to Indigenous applicants for positions in the Indigenous Studies Program and protection against tuition increases.

According to Todd, the proposals that the university put forward during the Nov. 5 meeting did not speak to enough of the priorities that CUPE had raised. He also said the university’s proposals included concessions, where the employer takes back gains that had been made through bargaining in previous years.

“Those are the two things that we asked them to do at the end of the last negotiations to keep negotiations forward, because we can't accept a contract that has concessions,” said Todd.

McMaster  representatives have not commented on the details of their proposed bargaining agreements. 

In a historic vote on Sept. 26, 87 per cent of CUPE’s unit 1 membership voted to authorize a strike. The positive strike vote allows the bargaining team to call a strike if they are unsatisfied with the deal that the university offers them during negotiations.

After another unsuccessful bargaining meeting on Nov. 5, CUPE announced that they are inching ever closer to declaring a strike.

Gord Arbeau, director of communications at McMaster, said that in the case of a strike, the university would remain open and exams would still be scheduled. He stated that the university is undergoing contingency planning to determine how to mitigate the impacts of a potential strike, but did not elaborate on what these strategies would entail.

McMaster has an existing policy that outlines the rights and responsibilities of undergraduate students in the case of work stoppages. According to the policy, undergraduate students are entitled to withdraw from academic activities during a work stoppage, and cannot be penalized academically for doing so. However, they still must meet course requirements, and have the right to extended deadlines, make-up assignments and other alternative arrangements. Furthermore, students who feel that the disruption has unreasonably affected their grades may submit appeals.

A strike would also have significant effects on TAs and RAs. According to Todd, if a strike were initiated, unit 1 members would stop receiving payment and some benefits from the university. Striking members would cease duties related to their employment, including tutorials, labs, grading and email correspondence with students. However, unit 1 members would be eligible for strike pay. CUPE 3906 offers $15 an hour of tax-free strike pay to striking members for 20 hours a week, which amounts to up to $300 a week.

On Nov. 18 and 19, CUPE 3906 will meet with university representatives for a mediation session in a final attempt to negotiate a collective agreement. If they are unable to reach a deal, CUPE 3906 will be in a position to call a strike.

According to Arbeau, the university is hopeful about the upcoming meeting.

“We remain hopeful that an agreement that is responsible and reflective of the important work that the membership does [and] hopeful that an agreement can be reached without a work stoppage,” he said. 

CUPE 3906 also hopes to come to a fair deal in order to avoid a strike.

In a statement from Nov. 9, CUPE 3906 wrote “We remain eager to reach a fair agreement that reflects your priorities ahead of this deadline, and hopeful that the employer’s entire bargaining team will come to the table on the 19th ready to do the same.”

 

Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By Taylor Johnston, Contributor

We are currently within one of the greatest eras for technology. Many jobs are becoming automated, there are online-only industries and our cell phones are so multiuse that they can act as a small computer. The appeal of online education and the concept of going “paperless” has been rising based on its flexibility and cheaper costs. Some universities are even introducing online degrees. However, is it all as amazing as it seems? 

There are two types of online education: self-paced and structured. Self-paced gives all the course content to the student at once, but it must be completed within a certain number of months. Therefore, the student can work as quickly or leisurely as they like. There are ministry high school programs such as those taken through the Independent Learning Centre that have adopted this self-paced format and have been proven to be very efficient, which has been attributed to allowing students can learn at their own pace. 

While structured education is also a common method of online teaching, it can also present more flaws. A structured online course attempts to mimic in-class courses by giving students access to content material on a week by week basis. While some students may like structured learning to help them stay on track of class, it can also be less beneficial for many students, as it doesn’t give the student the freedom of learning at their own pace. As a result, structured learning can add stress for students who like to learn at a different pace than the one that the course is providing.

Many Ontario universities offer select elective courses in the online-structured format, which hold many attractive qualities in terms of flexibility and the opportunity for another in-class course to be added to a student's schedule. However, do the pros of online education outweigh the cons? 

One apparent difference between online education and in-person education is the amount of interaction you have with your instructors. This may have you thinking, “In non-online classes I am just one student in a lecture hall with hundreds of others, and there is not that much opportunity for a one-on-one relationship anyways. Wouldn’t online courses be the same?” However, even the experience of going to lectures holds an added level of value as you get to hear the “in the moment” thoughts and opinions of your professor that are otherwise non-existent in most online courses and degrees. 

One apparent difference between online education and in-person education is the amount of interaction you have with your instructors.

Furthermore, in-person education usually gives more opportunities for office hours where students’ questions can be asked and answered. The main method of communication for students that want to talk to professors and teaching assistants throughout an online course is strictly email, where communication can often be misunderstood and unclear compared to in-person conversations. Although some people may find office hours to be a waste of time, other students find them very beneficial to their education and learning and unfortunately, you cannot get that from online education. 

The main method of communication for students that want to talk to professors and teaching assistants throughout an online course is strictly email, where communication can often be misunderstood and unclear compared to in-person conversations.

Online education provides the opportunity to access education regardless of how far away you live from university. However, the benefits of in-person schooling still outweighs the online system due to the added benefits of being able to physically interact with your professors. With in-person courses, you are able to talk to classmates and meet others, which can be a huge benefit to your learning. Still, it is important to recognize that as students, we can still reap the benefits of online education as it provides a bridge for those who are unable to physically attend lectures.

 

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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor 

cw: white supremacy, hate speech

Hamilton is the hate capital of Canada. Even if you're not from Hamilton, as a McMaster University student, this is the place where you've chosen to pursue your education. This is where you are preparing for your future. This beautiful, vibrant city that is full of artists and music also has the highest rate of reported hate crimes in the country. 

After the Hamilton Council updated a trespass bylaw in response to the hate seen at City Hall, Councillor Sam Merulla said that the counter-protestors have given a small group of right-wing extremists a platform and that the city’s focus on hate issues have manufactured” this problem. If you’re reading this, councillor, how dare you? How dare you ignore the systemic hatred in our city? 

Council passes updated trespass bylaw related to cracking down on hate activities at #Hamont city hall, etc. A feisty Coun. Sam Merulla suggests city's focus on hate issue is giving "six morons" a national platform. "We have manufactured a problem in this city."

— Matthew Van Dongen (@Mattatthespec) October 23, 2019

For months now, several hate groups, including the so-called Yellow Vests, have been protesting outside City Hall on Saturdays. This far-right hate group has co-opted the name of a French movement protesting rising fuel prices and calling for changes to economic policy and taxation. The Yellow Vests’ activity has attracted other far-right groups, such as the Soldiers of Odin and the Proud Boys

These groups have been appearing more frequently and are much more aggressive towards the counter-protestors. When they first appeared they came in a large group, walking purposefully towards us and through us. I was with fellow counter-protestors that day, yet I felt so frightened that I started sobbing, and I couldn’t stop.

On October 6, the organizers of the Gandhi Peace Festival invited the Yellow Vests to attend the event. People associated with a group that carries signs such as “Make Canada Holy and Righteous Again” or “No Immigration, Legal or Illegal” were invited to take part in a festival that is supposed to celebrate peace and acceptance. They even spoke with the mayor. While I recognize that the invitation was intended to foster a sense of community, it did just the opposite. This invitation made it seem like the Yellow Vests were accepted by the community, giving them an opportunity to validate their harmful rhetoric and portray counter-protestors’ efforts as unreasonable and violent. 

This invitation made it seem like the Yellow Vests were accepted by the community, giving them an opportunity to validate their harmful rhetoric and portray counter-protestors’ efforts as unreasonable and violent. 

The Yellow Vest protests are not an isolated incident. This violence and hatred spreads through our city like a virus — but instead of addressing this hate, some city councillors have remained silent on the issue or in the case of Merulla, have blamed the people who are trying to right this wrong.

It hurts. It hurts to see these hate groups spewing their harmful rhetoric every week. But I am white, cisgender and middle-class, and it is my responsibility to stand up for the people who aren’t safe or comfortable being there. It is my privilege that I can stand in the City Hall forecourt on Saturday afternoons to counter-protest. But even with all that, I feel apprehensive. I am frightened. When the midday sun is shining down on me in the heart of the city where I have lived my whole life, I feel afraid. And that is unacceptable.

When the midday sun is shining down on me in the heart of the city where I have lived my whole life, I feel afraid. And that is unacceptable.

It hurts to see hundreds of people filling the streets for a climate strike, while only around 20 people appear regularly to protest against the Yellow Vests on weekends. Yes, striking for the climate is a vital cause and it fills me with joy to see revolutionary action on such a scale, but I can’t help but feel bitter. Where are those numbers every week outside of City Hall? Where are those numbers when counter-protestors are arrested?

This article is by no means blaming people for not attending the counter protests. It is not safe for everyone to attend and I know that. But the lack of knowledge about what's happening in this city is not okay. Nothing will change if we don’t change. Please, my heart can’t take this anymore.

And to the counter-protesters: you have my wordless gratitude. Thank you for persevering. Thank you.

 

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