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Petition Signers Invited to Discuss Diversity Issues with College President

Recently, an informal petition was circulated regarding a concern about lack of diversity in senior management at Selkirk College. The petition was started in response to the recent hiring of a Vice-President of Education in May.

The petition hoped to bring about an employment equity policy at Selkirk College and was to be presented to the Board of Governors last Tuesday, however the board chair, Sharel Wallace, said, “The Board has not received the petition. We have heard rumours of a petition, but no one has presented it to the Board.”

The Sentinel’s editor, Whitney Rothwell attended the public portion of the Board of Governors meeting and the petition was not presented during that time. 

When asked in an email about the petition, Lui Marinelli, President of the Selkirk College Faculty Association said “I honestly don’t know what exactly happened at the board meeting.” and adds that, “The SCFA supports equity hiring practices and the executive will be promoting this concept at labour management meetings. Currently there isn’t an equity hiring policy to help guide the college.”

In an interview last week, Angus Graeme, Selkirk College president, told the Sentinel, “under our governance model, the Board is not charged with hiring processes or the recruitment of anyone other than me, so they would look at it as a policy issue for me to deal with.” adding that it’s not a Board of Governor’s issue. Graeme also said that he prefers people come to his office to address this type of concern saying, “I’m pretty approachable. If it’s a concern and the group (petition signers) wants to come en masse into my office, by all means, I’m not afraid of that.”

The petition has since been taken offline.

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Nouns are Slowing Down our Speech, Study Finds

| by: Whitney Rothwell |

New research has found that nouns cause us to hesitate or pause when speaking more often than other articles of speech such as verbs. A study from University of Zurich says that we tend to hesitate and pause with sounds like “uh”, “like” and “um” mostly before nouns. The effect is much less frequent before verbs. 

Choosing whether to include, replace, or omit a noun, forces us to think a little more when uttering them.

Naturally when we speak, we unconsciously pronounce some words more slowly than others and add arbitrary sounds when we pause. Examining these slow-down effects can be integral in understanding how our brains process language.

To learn about how these effects work, researchers analyzed thousands of recordings of spontaneous speech from linguistically and culturally diverse populations around the world. The regions studied included the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Himalayas, the Kalahari desert, as well as English and Dutch speaking countries. 

The speed of speaking was measured in sounds per second and researchers noted whenever speakers made short pauses. The results show we have more difficulties when we have to plan before saying a specific word.

“We discovered that in this diverse sample of languages, there is a robust tendency for slow-down effects before nouns as compared to verbs,” explain research team leaders Balthazar Bickel and Frank Seifart. “The reason is that nouns are more difficult to plan because they’re usually only used when they represent new information.” 

When the information they represent is already known, nouns are replaced with pronouns (e.g., she, he, they) or omitted, as in the following examples: “My friend came back. She (my friend) took a seat” or “My friend came back and took a seat”.

It turns out that choosing whether to include, replace, or omit a noun, forces us to think a little more when uttering them. This replacement principle doesn’t apply to verbs, which are used regardless of whether they represent new or old information.

These findings shed light on how grammar evolves and how languages work in their natural environments. This is increasingly important in a digital age where language faces new frontiers and challenges, like communicating with artificial systems which may not slow down in speaking as humans naturally do. 

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Recent Hiring at Selkirk College Sparks Online Petition

| by: Whitney Rothwell |

An informal group of Selkirk College faculty, alumni, retirees and community members started a petition this week to highlight their concern regarding the lack of diversity in senior management positions at the College.  

“People were really interested in hearing from candidates who understood rural community college challenges” – Angus Graeme

Posted online as a Google document, the petition, addressed to the Board of Governors states, “We the undersigned employees, students, alumni, and retirees of Selkirk College, and community members, are concerned about the lack of diversity in senior management positions at the College.”

According to the top signatory of the petition, Lori Barkley, Instructor of Anthropology, and Peace and Justice Studies, the petition was started, ”when it came out just last week that the third VP hired was also what seems to be presenting as another white middle aged male”.

Barkley sees the petition as an opportunity to educate the administration in these issues and says, “I think the hope is that we would get an employment equity policy and that that policy would be followed in future hirings”. 

Angus Graeme, President and CEO of Selkirk College, comments, “It’s an evolving make-up of the team, and it’s not the easiest thing to go out and make sure all of those things (diversity concerns) are looked at when you’re trying to hire the best possible candidate with the best fit for the institution.” Graeme adds that the recent hiring committee, made up of employees and representatives from all three faculty unions, was gender-balanced and discussed diversity as a criteria for their search. 

“As employees, women and other minorities look and say ‘okay, clearly there’s no space for us in the upper echelons’.“ – Lori Barkley

“But, people were really interested in hearing from candidates who understood rural community college challenges, understood some of our challenges in the West Kootenay Boundary and were a good fit with the culture of the institution.” says Graeme.

When asked for his opinion on an employment equity policy based on hiring diversely when choosing between equally qualified candidates, Graeme stated that he thinks it’s a great idea. He notes that Selkirk is currently editing a final draft of an inclusivity policy and an inclusivity plan that includes intercultural competency training for all employees, changing demographics in instruction and support staff, and other equity strategies.

Barkley highlights the importance of having a diverse senior management, “As employees, women and other minorities look and say ‘okay, clearly there’s no space for us in the upper echelons’. Yes there are some deans, there are a few deans who are women, but the message is […] that your perspectives aren’t important enough to be at this level. You’re really counting on white males to step outside of their privilege to represent you.”

She also points out that, “People don’t often discriminate intentionally, they just don’t think about it”. Petition signatories hope that raising this issue at Tuesday’s board meeting will show the importance of considering how a lack of diversity can be perceived by faculty, students and the community.

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Beavers Help Clean Rivers and Mitigate Soil Loss

| Whitney Rothwell | Study finds Beavers could help clean polluted rivers.