Busy is Hard to Unlearn: Having It All

An article in the Globe and Mail that discussed how students today don’t really take a Summer break gave me pause. If you search the Globe and Mail’s site for students + busy lots of articles are found–including the one that I shared. While the article is dated, the sentiment is important as we get through the first month of a new year.

Once I was in high school I found a love for running and spent my Summers training for Cross Country and Track Seasons, but I also took the occasional Summer School class up at Mt. SAC. I was also enrolled in some Honors and Advanced Placement courses, so by the time I graduated I had more than the first term of college courses completed. While in university I also took Summer School and ultimately graduated with my BA in Women’s Studies and Minor in Political Science in 3.5 years. Yes, you read that right.

I was a first generation college student and the eldest of 5 kids. College wasn’t really about having the time of my life and finding myself (well, I did a little of this), but was about being  busy and serious to get it done. I had my family to think of and how they would help all five of their kids go to college or university. Three of us have degrees and the two others took some coursework, but never completed to earn the four year degree. Two of us have multiple advanced degrees.

The crux of this post, though, is the article about teenagers not having Summers today. I can recall being in middle school and getting bored after one month and I was ready to return to my school schedule. I was a good, focused student. Today, though, I am a workaholic and not saying this out of pride, but just sheer honesty. I work hard and I love my job, but I have to remind myself that I am not my job. I say this, as I want to be a good example to my own teen and her little sister. I want them to have a Summer and decompress from the busy school term that is filled with classes, competitive swimming, piano lessons, and more.

What does it mean to be so busy? What does it mean to have it all? Yes, I’ve linked to the now infamous NYT and Atlantic articles. What some of this means is that it’s getting harder to relax. I’ve blogged previously about the electronic umbilicus between me and my gadgets. I’ve also blogged about Breaking Up with Foursquare. I’m mindful of my work balance issues and trying hard for better balance. But, I also know that my Type A personality is at work, and I work in a field where my job is not the traditional 9-5 gig. I always have a project to work on, a chapter to revise, or journal article to write. And, I need to say “no” more.

It’s no wonder that during my first week of vacation I was at the office three days for meetings. Meetings planned months in advance with four or more people and our busy schedules meant that we could only find time in July–my month off. The second week of my vacation I was also at work three times. Each time I came into work the wonderful, Graduate Secretary smiled and me and said, “Now, I thought you were on vacation?” I love her to death for her humor and support! It’s work for me to relax and I’m trying to get better, as I don’t want to pass on this attribute to my daughters.

This third week, on Monday I met with some mentees and I’m finally ready to get to my own projects and writing! But, as any of us working in higher education knows, there is still work to be done on courses and other work related stuff during the month off. This post is the first in a series thinking about what it means to be busy or attempt to have it all. I think I just about have it all, but it means that I’m busy. Cue the big sigh.

Wente: Redux

Margaret Wente is in the business of getting more clicks, commentary, and raising her profile. This does not mean that she has anything great to say–in my honest (notice I didn’t say humble) opinion. I think that Wente does a great job of repeatedly insulting women. I took it upon myself to use the “Motivation” app for this last article in the Globe and Mail.


Student Protests

People who follow me on Twitter know that I don’t have a special place in my heart for many of the op-ed columnists in the Globe and Mail. Both Margaret Wente and Jeffrey Simpson have weighed in regarding the student protests in Quebec. Students that I work with on the campus where I teach have asked me about my opinion and I haven’t really commented. But, as the multiple sides discuss options and a hopeful resolution, I’ve come to several opinions.

My first opinion is that the students do have a right to protest the fee hike. They have a right to feel angry. They may not like hearing that their fees are small in comparison to ROC, but it’s true—their fees are relatively low. Simpson can cite all the data he wants about which universities are the most prestigious, but he is forgetting that Francophone nationalism is at play here. This is about keeping education affordable in Quebec for  students from Quebec. One cost of the maintaining a strong Francophone culture is subsidizing education. Whether the ROC wants to subsidize this education is another discussion. And, I say this knowing that I am merely a permanent resident and a visitor on these lands in the greater Victoria, BC area.

My second opinion is that the students reviewing the university budget and asking that advertising and administrative travel be slashed is completely unrealistic. This is an unfortunate example of sheer naiveté. I’m sorry, I said it. Most major universities and colleges will get some free advertising via their local newspaper and news affiliates and this free advertising will be worth tens of thousands of dollars and possibly more. But, there are other advertising costs that the university makes in order to recruit more students, staff, and world-class faculty. It costs money to put together recruitment materials. When the recruitment teams go to high schools those tri-fold brochures or larger paper matter costs money. The team of students and staff who take families on tours cost money.

Here is just one display of advertising materials:

I only noted one part of the advertising. There is also advertising in international venues.  Cutting advertising costs can also influence retention of current students, staff, and faculty. Advertising current initiatives costs money and this varies from the reports, advertisements about homecoming events, and more. If we break it down by faculty and department, money is often spent to showcase the great work that is taking place on the campus. It’s important to promote staff, student and faculty work. Slashing the advertising costs doesn’t just influence potential students, but also current students, staff, and faculty. I am sure that my colleagues in communications can weigh in and say more. Likewise, all the advertising that Career Services offices do is important.

Now, the upper administration travel costs is a sore spot at most universities. I think that the we could probably review some of this and see if more conference calls, webinars, Skyping or other technological use could defray costs. However, this is not always easy to do. Students might not realize that on top of running the respective units the upper admin also attend local, regional, and national deans meetings, provost, college presidents meetings, and then there are articulation and planning meetings. Add to this possible recruitment meetings and you can see how many of these upper admin types do have to travel lots. But, perhaps they don’t have to travel not as much as they currently do. I’m a bit more realistic with this point—even if I don’t completely agree

Funny enough I was reminded of this the other day when I was booking my accommodations for the Canadian Political Science Association meeting in Edmonton, AB. I was thinking about the protests and I booked the second most inexpensive arrangements. I’m not paying for this trip, but the Provost’s office is and in some way I was thinking that students are paying for this. (They are not). But, I’ll be in the dorms in my single room—with my own bathroom.

Rebuttal to Margaret Wente

Wouldn’t it be great if the Globe and Mail ran a regular column that responded to Margaret Wente? They don’t and I’m not a journalist, but I will respond here to her article published on March 8th. The Globe does not like people linking directly to their articles, so I’ll just note the title, “A Legacy of Success.”

In Margaret Wente’s world, women are white and have lots of class, education, and other privilege. I’m not sure where she lives, but it is not the reality that I see on campus at the University of Victoria or one that I am completely familiar with in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties in Southern California. My reality or familiarity with women’s realities varies. See here I use the plural as we cannot use the singular, since it doesn’t speak to the varied ways that women live their lives in the West.

It is no doubt that the 20th and 21st centuries have held some of the largest gains for women in the West. We do have more women completing school and attending college. However, our social mores and social policies have not changed quite as quickly to aid families with these changes. We still see women doing more care work in and outside of the home. We see that the economic Gender Gap between women and men has increased. And, this is only looking at women and men and not disaggregating the numbers for different racial and ethnic groups, as the gap is wider. Women might live longer, but more apt to work in the Pink Collar Ghetto. Thanks to this we see that the feminization of poverty continues. More women are poor or vulnerable.

We might have some of the most educated women in the West ever–according to Wente, however, if the economic Gender Gap is increasing and so few women are leaders of Fortune 500 companies one might surmise that there is more work to be done. Right? Then, if we look to the criminal justice system. We see that Aboriginal women constitute some 20-25% of the incarcerated federally, yet Aboriginal people as whole constitute only 4% of the population in Canada. Thus, Aboriginal women are over-represented in prisons in Canada. If we were to look at racialized or women of color in the US, we would also see that they are over-represented in prisons. Angela Davis and Julia Sudbury have each spoken to the problems of racism and the Prison Industrial Complex. The struggle is not over.  Continue reading