Rankings rancor

November 22 1993

Rankings rancor

November 22 1993

Rankings rancor


I could not help noting in your Nov. 15 issue, “A measure of excellence” (Cover/Special Report), that my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario, continues to battle hard for last place in the ratings. As a Western alumnus with two degrees, I am probably rare in believing the Maclean’s rankings to be accurate and potentially useful, not only to applicants but—if they would only listen—to the university’s senior management. For three years in succession, Western has uncomfortably bad-mouthed Maclean’s for daring to state the obvious. Western may have further to go to become number 1, but Maclean’s deserves credit for rating Western in eleventh place. The judgment is a fair one.

Keith E. Risler, London, Ont.

In reflecting on Maclean’s third annual ranking of Canadian universities, one begins to wonder about the wisdom of such rankings. With the rising costs of higher education, few students can be expected to use these rankings in any meaningful way, since not many are in a financial position to relocate. Even assuming that all students could use the rankings for selection purposes, top-ranked universities would not be in a budgetary position to absorb many extra students. In view of such constraints, the choice for most students now is not among universities, but between higher education and a life without it.

Prof. M. Mujeeb Rahman, Department of Psychology, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown

For practising sophistry while pretending sophistication in the ranking of Canadian universities, you flunk out both on social science and journalistic ethics.

A. W. May, President, Memorial University, St. John’s, Nfld.

Fair trial

I am appalled at the media’s attempt to remove the publication ban on the Karla Homolka trial (“Cashing in on tragedy,” Justice, Nov. 8). The ban is there to ensure that justice is done. Many argue that jurors would be able to put aside their knowledge of detailed information revealed in the Homolka trial and form an impartial judgment about the facts as presented during the

coming trial of her estranged husband, Paul Teale. Yet, there is a vast body of research on human memory that demonstrates how difficult it is to disentangle what we know from how we came to know it. This kind of evidence could be used by the defence to argue for a mistrial. If satisfying the public’s desire to know every gruesome detail threatens the ability of the Crown to fairly prosecute Teale, then justice may not be served and public outrage would truly be justified.

Jane Dywan, St. Catharines, Ont.

Plus ça change

Well, here we go again, western Canadians. We have a new federal government with a majority position (“Tilting right,” Canada, Nov. 15). We have a Prime Minister from Quebec. We have a finance minister from Quebec who is also responsible for Quebec regional development. We will have as the leader of the Opposition another man from Quebec whose sole political interest is to milk Canada for as much as he can get before removing Quebec from Canada once and for all. The West is the most prosperous part of Canada—-and will be most targeted to provide the revenue to support the government’s agenda. It is not surprising that British Columbia’s token cabinet minister, Victoria’s David Anderson, has been given the dirty job of revenue minister, responsible for raising the tax money. It is not difficult to imagine where the majority of those revenues will be spent.

Paul J. Arnold, Victoria

Reduced to clear

It’s not surprising that Conservative senators would consider using their office expense budgets to rebuild their party (‘Taking charge,” Canada, Nov. 8). It is this kind of self-justified appropriation of the public wealth for private gain that has given us $35 billion per year in public debt. Maybe they could do better for the country if they would review their office expenses, and voluntarily reduce them. Or, perhaps, the senators, who have so much time to spare, should simply quit, and work to rebuild their party—using Conservative party funds.

Kevin D. Brown, Calgary

Never cry wolf

I would like to comment on Farley Mowat’s letter in your Nov. 8 issue (“Politically incorrect”), in which he states, in response to your skeptical reviewer, that he had “a great childhood.” In 1928-1929,1 went to first grade with Farley in Saskatoon. We often walked to school together. Farley and his dad went on field trips together, and once a year the Mowats ran a pet show for the neighborhood children. Farley’s dog would have always won if his dad had not handicapped him to give the others a chance. I envied Farley the amount of time his father devoted to him. The Mowats moved before we finished primary school. I met Farley a couple of other times—once, in the fall of 1939 in Picton, Ont., when he and his father were both enlisting for war service, still close together. There is no doubt in my mind that his love of animals and the environment stems from the wonderful childhood he enjoyed.

F. W. Wootton (brigadiergeneral, retired), Kingston, Ont.

A welcome change

Allan Fotheringham writes: “Because the voters are complicating things and splitting votes among five parties, they will simply assure that the raucous House of Commons spectacle they abhor will be even louder, even more chaotic, even more unruly” (“Good news: a new election in 1994,” Oct. 18). Which House of Commons can he be referring to? The one that I occasionally watch on TV is the very essence of lifelessness, an excellent soporific for those who work night shifts. Maybe now we’ll have a Parliament with substance, where otherwise idle promises will not be allowed to fade into obscurity, and where the concerns of the people will not be suffocated by endless rhetoric. I am quite excited at the prospect.

Richard Weatherill, Victoria

Dr. Foth quite rightly pointed out that Preston Manning’s French is “worse than Kim Campbell’s Russian” and that Jean Chrétien “got this far in politics without learning how to pronounce words in either language.” The punch line, though, is that Lucien Bouchard turns out to be the most bilingual of the three, if not the most statesmanlike. Little wonder Quebecers voted en masse for the Bloc Québécois, regardless of its sovereigntist stance.

Luc Saucier, Montreal

Fotheringham bemoans the loss of several politicians from Parliament: Barbara McDougall is the one woman he mentions. What will he miss about her? Her “wonderful legs”! Come on, Fotheringham. Through words, we actively construct our social world. Images like these continue to limit our view of women, in politics and otherwise. This kind of “old boys” talk is outdated and unacceptable.

Tamzin Cathers, Guelph, Ont.

Another’s poison

Peter C. Newman is at it again. Has he ever met a rich man that he didn’t like (“Epitaph for the two-party state,” The Nation’s Business, Nov. 1)? Can he possibly react rationally to any anti-Conservative sentiment, including a rather stunning defeat at the polls? For him to characterize the new patterns emerging from the election as “an elected dictatorship” flies in the face of many Canadians who have felt the past nine years of Mulroneyism to be just that. This underlies the overwhelming desire of Canadians to effect a change—any change.

Sharon Varney, Edmonton

Peter C. Newman displays considerable historical insight, but his conclusions are pessimistic. True, the main issue of the campaign was change, but it is unfair to brand the new Liberal government as retrogressive and autocratic, and Canadians as nostalgic and servile. He does not seem to recognize that the rise of the Reform party and the Bloc Québécois is about to make substantial changes in Canada’s legislative process. Perhaps Canadians are essentially followers, but we are not given to blind loyalty, nor are we fixated on the past.

Evelyn McNab,

Don Mills, Ont.

Tasteless ads

Not only did the Conservatives underestimate their opponents, but Maclean’s underestimated its readers by stating that it was Liberal-organized volunteers who complained about the ads that highlighted Jean Chrétien’s facial disability (“Rewriting the rule book,” Cover, Nov. 1). I am not a Liberal volunteer, but still thought the ads were in the worst taste. That any focus group could see those ads as other than odious attests to its insensitivity.

Catherine Wright, Ottawa

Thank you for the five pleasant and favorable photographs of Jean Chrétien, published in your Nov. 1 issue (‘Today’s man,” Cover). Those photographs counteracted in some measure the “monster” images that were used by the Conservatives in their campaign.

Hugo Redivo, Penticton, B.C.

Criminal record

I was appalled and outraged to read about the guilty verdicts meted out in the Clayoquot Sound controversy in British Columbia (“Protesters convicted,” Canada Notes, Oct. 18). Surely there is enough real crime in our midst without converting the innocent with their dreams into criminals branded for life.

Winifred Matthews, West Vancouver, B.C.

Letters may be condensed. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone. Write: Letters to the Editor, Maclean’s magazine, Maclean Hunter Bldg., 777 Bay St., Toronto, Ont. M5W1A7. Or fax: (416) 596-7730.