THE MAIL

December 1 2003

THE MAIL

December 1 2003

THE MAIL

‘If the government cannot handle the funding of universities, it must follow the U.S. example and allow private inStitUtiOnS tO Set UP UniVerSitieS.’ -NARESH KURADA, Arlington,Tex.

Ranking issues

The ranking of universities is undoubtedly a source of much useful information for future students (“Universities 2003,” Cover, Nov. 17). For the most part, clearly quantifiable data is analyzed. But some elements are more subjective, the most surprising and unsatisfactory being reputation. A question about reputation sent to a CEO or university administrator is doubly problematic. An honest person would probably have to cite the University of Toronto, mainly on the grounds of earlier Maclean’s surveys: the system is clearly self-perpetuating. Even if the respondent knew (for the sake of argument) that this reputation was undeserved, they would be obliged to give that answer. Secondly, what does it matter that Toronto has this reputation? One of the most important lessons a university can teach is the ability to distinguish appearance and reality. Should Maclean’s therefore be encouraging young people to make university choices on the basis of vague suppositions of lay people?

Geoffrey Greatrex, Associate Professor,

University of Ottawa

As a Grade 12 student, I am experiencing the stresses of choosing the right university. There is so much that I want from my university experience and there are so many questions that I want answered. Which university provides the best education? Which university is the most fun? Which university is really the best? I know that ultimately I am the only person who can decide which university is best for me, but your university guide has provided me with the tools to do so. I appreciate the effort you took in providing me and my peers with an unbiased view of the information that we needed to know.

Ileana Funez, Hamilton

I am 17 years old. I am in Grade 12, taking a full course load. Last week, I spent as much time working as I did at school, and this is not uncommon anymore. I’m trying to make enough money that I won’t have to take out a huge student loan for university next year, but I already accept the fact that a loan will be necessary. Because of my long hours, however, my grades are slipping, and I know all too well that my new average of 83 per cent may not be enough to get me into university. My life has become a Catch-22 of working to earn money for school, but losing marks because I work. I’m a teenager who feels like he’s 40.1 am Canada’s future. I am exhausted. And I know I’m not alone. Patrick Doyle, Waterloo, Ont.

What purpose do you believe is served by ranking universities? Would the same purpose be served by ranking newsmagazines? Bill Baergen, Stettler, Alta.

SPECIAL EDITION EXCLUSIVE RANKINGS MACLEAN’S CANAOA1 wn*LT NHWVA8AMH I nt«dwui NOVIUM* 17 MU UNIVERSITIES 2003 MEASURING EXCELLENCE AN INSIDER’S GUIDE

Five minutes I More than enough time to feel the pain Regarding Canada’s response to the illegal confinement and torture of Maher Arar and William Sampson in Syria and Saudi Arabia, Rae Wigen of Whitehorse has a suggestion: “Let the foreign minister and his senior officials submit to five minutes of the kind of treatment these men endured for weeks and months. I’m sure it would lead to a reappraisal of their policy of quiet diplomacy.”

A year of fun

I can relate to and laugh at the stories Paul Wells tells about residence life (“Cheese in the microwave,” The Back Page, Nov. 17). I pity those who opt not to live in residence for at least one year. Events such as stupid pranks (foaming the telephone), sledding on cafeteria trays at 2 in the morning—all those goofy things make life interesting and bring together people who become your friends for most of your undergraduate career. You usually get put with people in your program, which helps you with classes and tests and quizzes. Plus you know someone in your class of, say, 500-plus, when that can seem a bit overwhelming. I love hearing about others’ experiences, be it from the first day on campus when, as Wells said, he and the rest were herded onto the football field, or the weird neighbour who makes the whole hall smell, or to the final convocation experience. These stories should be available to incoming students to show them what a residence experience really is. An exciting and fun—emphasis on fun—year of your life. Karen Reynolds, Guelph, Ont.

Martinizing Canada

We should all have Paul Martin’s luck (“Paul Martin’s Ottawa,” Cover, Nov. 10). On a scale of 1 to 10, Martin gets a 12 for taking over just as former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s free trade and GST began to bear fruit. The added income was enough to eliminate deficit budgeting. Few noticed that the Liberals were actually spending tens of billions more than the Tories. And many who did tended to blame Jean Chrétien alone for the resultant waste on corruptive practices, greed, social engineering, votebuying, cronyism and incompetence. Paul Martin went along undetected, while transforming the deficit into personal debt and bankruptcies for innocent citizens. People viewed his budget-slaying as confirmation of his genius. The road to 24 Sussex became a cakewalk. Too bad for the taxpayers, though. Jack Moran, Ottawa

Let me get this straight. We’re supposed to believe that Paul Martin Jr. who, as finance minister, cut funding to health care, gave tax breaks to the wealthy, kept his shipping company registered offshore and created unprecedented conflict between the provinces and the federal government by slashing transfer payments, is now going to save our

social safety net, improve our relationship with Washington while maintaining our independence as a nation, create unprecedented co-operation between the provinces and the feds, and save the world’s poor. And we’re supposed to believe this because Paul, his party and an aging millionaire rock star say it is so! I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve got this deep, instinctive feeling that what’s coming will become known as the so-so or same old-same old era. Just one question: how gullible does Martin think we are?

Will Webster, Kaslo, B.c.

Vietnam redux?

Peter Mansbridge’s column “Iraq: a new Vietnam?” (Mansbridge on the Record, Nov. 17), in which he points out similarities between Iraq and the U.S. incursion into Vietnam, is easily understood. However, the one salient difference is also the main reason these two conflicts will forever be differentiated. The war with Vietnam was waged on the basis of two opposite ideologies, each possessing an immovable moralistic and political foundation. The occupation of Iraq can never boast of being such a morality play. It is simply a thinly veiled attempt to gain a strategic foothold in the oil-rich Mideast and force U.S.-style democracy on the Iraqi people. Daniel Kowbell, Toronto

Committed to peace

In “Angel of reform” (Iran, Nov. 17), Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi comes across as a very committed and courageous person, obviously a worthy winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. However, I almost laughed out loud when she said she had “never thought of the Nobel Peace Prize as having a political dimension.” She is either very naive or disingenuous, because it has been clear from its inception that the Nobel Peace Prize is mainly about politics. While the members of the selection committee recognize many deserving recipients, they inevitably pay more attention to the political statement they wish to make with their award.

L. A. Saunders, Upper Coverdale, N.B.

A man of character

In spite of Peter Donolo’s laudatory article praising Jean Chrétien (“Never a dull mo-

ment,” Politics, Nov. 17), I still feel our Prime Minister is arrogant, egotistical and selfcentred, and that these are his good points. Charles Crockford, Waterloo, Ont.

Recently, when the superpower readied for battle against a member of the axis of evil, its commander called out to other nations, “Come, you are with me or against me, it’s your choice.” When Jean Chrétien heard those words, he was dismayed and spoke to his people, saying, “I know his power, so let no man’s heart fail him because of my decision to oppose where justification has not been established.” When asked, “Who art thou?” Jean replied, “When faced with Goliath, I am your David, and this is our country.” At that moment, Chrétien created a legacy of autonomy, courage and principle, and his country became an adult among nations. Bruce R. McDade, Sydney, N.S.

War is war

The Maclean's Excerpt from the First World War diaries of Canadian John Patrick Tea-

han (“Diaries of doom,” History, Nov. 10) provides us with an important commentary upon the degradation and confusion of war. As a man of colour, I hope Teahan’s poignant diaries will demonstrate that the absurdities of war are quite universal, that war in any culture breeds insanity and ineptitude, and that, as Buddhism observes, “This is because that is.” In other words, it’s time we stopped using the Third World as our Three Stooges show and started looking at how Western affluence has been gained over centuries of colonialist exploitation. If we seek to magnify the honour and bravery of soldiers such as Teahan who endured the absurdity and madness of war, why, instead of adopting a condescending dis-

course of subtle ridicule, do we not adopt the same attitude of admiration for the many people in Third World countries who struggle against oppression and tyranny and who deserve the same praise? Richard Douglass-Chin, Hamilton

a It’s time we started looking at how Western affluence has been gained over centuries of colonialist exploitation

The Liberals’ speed bump Mark Casey’s accusation that Canadians fear social conservatives is a stereotyping of what “Canadians” want (The Mail, Nov. 10). A strong majority of Western Canadians sent the socially conservative Canadian Alliance party to Ottawa as Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. Casey’s divisive words only drive deeper the slivers of Western alienation that have begun to emerge in separatist parties in the West. Considering that the Progressive Conservative party has made little to no progress since it fell from power in 1993, all politically rightwinged Canadians should be thankful that Paul Martin’s road to glory has, at the very least, a sizeable speed bump in it. Bo Friggstad, Yorkton, Sask.