The Mail

The Mail

December 7 1998
The Mail

The Mail

December 7 1998

The Mail

Rankings ranked

I have enjoyed reading your annual university ranking issue since I was deciding which university to attend five years ago (“Universities,” Cover, Nov. 23). Every year, however, I question how Maclean’s can rank these universities by incorporating all the various programs into one. I would like to see an issue where you rank specific university programs, such as engineering or computer science. I feel this would be more helpful to a high-school student who knows what he or she wants to major in but doesn’t know which university to attend. Saying a certain university is the best or worst to attend is a big generalization.

One school may have many weak programs with one or two exceptional programs, while another school may have many well-recognized programs with a few poor exceptions. Students who base their decision on the reputation of the university as a whole might make a big mistake.

Paul Lagroix, Toronto

As a recent grad from St. Francis Xavier University, it is great to see that it is moving up in the rankings. It’s in a great town, has great professors and a friendly environment. I always knew that the Atlantic provinces’ universities were the best.

Linda Durnford St. John’s, Nfld.

This year’s university rankings and their aftermath left me feeling profoundly disappointed. However, it was not the fact that my university, Calgary, scored low in its category. The attitude of my university’s administration towards the rankings is what is truly saddening. Rather than accepting that the University of Calgary is a good young uni-


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versity that is presently facing serious challenges due to massive government underfunding, U of C administrators have chosen to attack Maclean’s system of evaluation as not being relevant to the university’s goals. Small class sizes, a well-stocked library and financial support for students will always be the foundations of a quality learning institution. A low score in these rankings should be taken by all stakeholders as a challenge.

Rob South, External commissioner, Students’ Union, University of Calgary

A very impressive take on Canadian universities, but I was disappointed that one important aspect of university life was more or less ignored— the social atmosphere. Of course, there was the four-page explanation of how to improve your sex life while on campus, and many parents when reading this may decide that a community college might be the better way to go to prevent poor Johnny from getting too out of hand or injected with deadly viruses (“Campus confidential”). However, there is much, much more to campus living. I am deeply concerned about the emphasis that you have chosen to put on learning and scholarship as the only things on campus that matter. I would suggest that you include in your examination of the student body in future years a measure of the number and diversity of on-campus student activities.

Eric Sutherland, Toronto

Ann Dowsett Johnston’s excellent report on the underfunding of Canadian universities raises the issue of what it will mean to this country if we are not able to sustain excellence in the broad education provided by the liberal arts (“Measuring excellence”). What it will mean is a loss of innovative power and humane reasoning we can ill afford at a time when we are dealing with globalization, the impacts of technology, and major ethical questions in the management of medical research and medical care, not to mention many other social issues needing attention in this very human world. As dean of one of Canada’s largest faculties of arts, I am encouraged by the fact that some of the best understanding of these issues and the

Sloan's success

I am very pleased that you wrote an article on the Halifax group Sloan, the most interesting and truly innovative of Canadian pop groups (“ ‘Totally awesome,’ " Music, Nov. 23). I think that a huge portion of their appeal is in their ingenuity and kindness when dealing with fans. I have had the opportunity to meet them on a number of occasions and I don’t have a single unhappy memory. They have truly stuck to their beliefs and have allowed their success to ride on the pure talent that each of the members possess.

Sara Saljoughi, Toronto

firmest support for the liberal arts come from corporate leaders and employers. That kind of backed-by-action caring for tomorrow needs to be contagious among the funders of higher education and among all of us who care for the quality of life in Canada.

Patricia Clements, Dean of arts, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Private standards

In his column ‘When journalists become players” (Backstage, Nov. 9), Anthony Wilson-Smith made the point that “the CBC [is] one of the few news organizations with a formal mechanism to investigate complaints about coverage.” Without entering into the substance of the Terry Milewski debate, I believe it is important to recognize that Canada’s private radio and television broadcasters and specialty services also have a formal mechanism, external in their case, namely the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, which has investigated complaints about news coverage and apparent conflicts of interest according to its guidelines, the Radio and Television News Directors Association’s Code of Journalistic) Ethics and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics.

Ronald I. Cohen, National chair, Canadian Broadcast Standards Council,


Including Quebec

Interesting column by Norman Webster (“The world according to Lucien Bouchard,” Nov. 23). He describes the premier very well. But if Bouchard is able to lead to “more instability, irritants, insults, poisoned wells and anything else possible,”


my question is: when will the Rest of Canada understand and make a move to include Quebec’s protection in the Constitution rather than just say words as in the Calgary declaration? The death of separatism in Quebec will come only with the change of the 1982 Constitution. Nothing else will change Quebecers minds and they will keep voting for the Parti Québécois because they believe that is their only protection. Will Canada ever understand?

René Charbonneau, Repentigny, Que.

Right, privilege, duty

Greg Jack’s solution—restricting university education to an elite—is unnecessary and it would be costly to Canadian society (“University is not a universal right,” The Road Ahead, Nov. 23). Universities are not just places to go if you want a quick job— that’s why they still offer programs in languages (Latin, for example), history, literature, political science or basic sciences. Most important, these programs are best at creating citizens with the capacity to participate in a democracy. For example: those who have studied history may remind their MPs what life was like before health care, or what legitimate grievances Quebec may have. From the best to the worst schools, according to Maclean’s, the difference in entry requirements is 12 percentage points. Canada can afford to fund higher education and should, for the benefit of democracy in Canada, make it available to people throughout the country, of all economic and academic backgrounds (including 18-year-olds who score only 65 per cent).

John G. W Minnery, Waterloo, Ont

Education is neither the right nor the privilege of Canadians, it is their duty. Student proficiency should only be used to limit enrolment to what the institution can handle. And proficiency needs a broader measure than high-school marks. The results of ca-


reer counselling, aptitude tests, community involvement and prior enterprise all need to be factored in when deciding to accept a student (of any age) into a program. So let’s improve our counselling and advising services, give people more opportunities to find who they are when they are young, and make sure people know what university is all about and where the programs can take them. We shouldn’t be raising the bar on who gets educated, we should be raising the bar on educating everyone.

Eric Schultz,

Dorval, Que.

Praiseworthy conduct

Thank you for the cover story “Whistle-blower” (Nov. 16), which provided background information on the dispute at Sick Kids’ Hospital over drug tests. Dwarfed as we Canadians often seem to be, by big governments and big industry, we must support our whistle-blowers. Would we have known the truth about the Somalia tragedy without Dr. Barry Armstrong? Unless the five scientists from Health Canada had spoken out, would the Senate committee on agriculture and forestry have been able to get accurate background on the bovine growth hormone? And does not the action of Dr. Nancy Olivieri and her colleagues point out critical issues, far beyond the drug deferiprone and the company Apo tex Inc., which cry out for consideration? We need legislation to provide direction, support and, if necessary, legal advice for responsible whistle-blowers in Canada. I’m taking a copy of the U.S. legislation to my member of Parliament as a start. In the meantime, I say bravo to the whistle-blowers willing to speak out—now and in the future.

Rev. Bob Shorten, Burlington, Ont.

Hospital for Sick Children CEO Michael Strofolino is being disingenuous when he says that the hospital wouldn’t sell its soul for $300,000. I think it would, but it is not only the $300,000: it is the worry of how Dr. Olivieri’s ethical conduct might affect other corporate funding that has probably resulted in the hospital not backing her. Hospitals, including the Hospital for Sick Children, have sold their souls to the corporate sector for years. I have a particular interest in breastfeeding, which is “bestfeeding” for infants and children. Hospitals receive large “grants” from formula companies. And, of course, the formula companies expect nothing in return. Is it surprising that hospital routines so undermine breastfeeding, and despite our knowing how to help mothers breastfeed without problems for many years now, nothing is done to change the routines?

Dr. Jack Newman, Toronto

If Dante wrote his Divine Comedy today, hell would not be filled with popes and princes—instead, it would be bursting with CEOs and politicians. And the ninth circle would be reserved for corporate lawyers. Dr. Olivieri would be the perfect Beatrice, Dante’s guide.

Joachim Foikis, Victoria

So, the “forces of darkness” are not confined to the Prime Minister’s Office. They also appear to have a leasehold in the offices of the board of trustees and administration at the Hospital for Sick Children. Maybe it is time for the public to tear up the lease and regain the ethical ground in what is, after all, a publicly funded hospital. You are to be congratulated for running this story in the face of what must have been considerable pressure from the corporate mavens associated with Sick Kids’ who would have preferred that it be buried, but good.

Dr. Paul Ranalli, Toronto

B.C. blues

Diane Francis’s right-wing rant against British Columbia’s NDP government is so full of bias and propaganda that it could be a Reform party campaign pamphlet (“The B.C. route to economic disaster,” Nov. 23). For one thing, the ultraconservative Fraser Institute is the source of a lot of her information. Like most of the mainstream media, she chooses to ignore studies done by other research centres that show that most of British Columbia’s current economic problems are due to factors beyond the government’s control, namely the combination of an economy too reliant on the export of primary resources and the economic crisis in Asia, where most of British Columbia’s exports go. It is also interesting to note that in her uniform criticism of all social democratic governments, Francis fails to mention Saskatchewan (except to say that it prohibits the use of replacement workers), where the NDP has governed effectively (with, might I add, consistently balanced budgets) for years.

Emily Luther, Vancouver, B.C.

Help, we are drowning in beautiful British Columbia, and it is not from all the rain. It’s the Glen Clark government. As a lifelong resident, I find it heartbreaking to watch an incompetent band of nincompoops ruin a once-mighty and prosperous province. Diane Francis hits the nail on the head as she writes about the systematic destruction of British Columbia’s economy by the NDP misfits. If only we could recall Premier Glen Clark.

Derek D. Wiens, Burnaby, B.C.