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HWW: Santanna Hernandez

Building communities, allies, and partnerships is an important part of post-secondary and life generally. We welcome you to get to know the members of our Selkirk College community!

Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of Selkirk College Students’ Union, Student of Social Work with an Indigenous Specialization

Why did you decide to join the students’ union?

Back in 2014 the Liberal government cut funding to adult basic education. For me this was so frustrating because I know I wouldn’t be here today without free access to adult basic education. At the time I did not know what to do about that frustration. Shortly after I started classes on the castlegar campus where the SCSU was running the campaign “Dont close the doors”, from then I was hooked. I found the place I was meant to be.

Why is a post-secondary education important to you?

Growing up as an Indigenous student, I was never really told post secondary was where I should be, or could be. Once I had my own children I knew I never wanted them to feel that way. I also knew that I wanted to provide them with ever opportunity to succeed. In order to be more secure financially I needed a better career path, which meant I needed that post secondary education. I always was fascinated with the medical industry so I knew post secondary would be a long journey and that I needed to learn to love the gifts it could give me.

If there is one thing you could change about academia, what would it be?

To me there is two changes that would need to happen together. The first being that post secondary should be free so it is accessible to all, but with that being said some huge systemic changes need to happen for marginalized groups to feel safe in this environment. As someone who was often the only Indigenous student in the room, there has always been a different expectation of me as a student. Either my sole purpose felt as though I was there to help educate non-indigenous people, or it seemed as though I was graded differently because a certain level of vulnerability was expected for me to seem genuine. This could be true of all minority groups in post secondary. Systemic change is a hard thing to achieve but is very necessary to allow academia to be accessible for anyone who wishes to strive for it.

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

My favourite thing about the Kootenay Region is the quality family life I have here. I’m minutes away from amazing camping and boating. My kids are able to grow up near their grandparents. We have a beautiful community who cares about one another in the best ways possible. 


The Fight Against Fees: A Look Back on a Year of Student Activism

Part One: Why We Fight

| Chantelle Spicer |Following years of governmental neglect, mismanagement, and under-funding in post-secondary, students across the province are organising to fight back against ever-increasing fees.

Decreased operational funding for post-secondary institutions has resulted in capitalist funding models that view students as consumers and undermines the values of a post-secondary education to our communities. This shift in how we view and publicly support education through funding is a violation of social contract that has existed in Canada since the Second World War, whereby working class families could rely on their ability to send their young people to post-secondary.

Instead, what families and young people are facing is institutional and public policy culture that requires individuals to shoulder all the costs of education. This results in students being deterred from entering post-secondary due to fear of debt, escalating drop out rates due to financial burden, or debt loads averaging $34,500 at graduation. On top of these costs are things we all share as a community – decreasing affordability or accessibility of housing, food insecurity, and lack of child care.

For many this means not even considering a post-secondary education as a reality in their lives or plans. Selkirk College Students’ Union Chair, Santanna Hernandez, did not believe that higher education was attainable for her as an Indigenous woman. Now, completing her Bachelors of Social Work with an Indigenous specialization, she recognizes that this is more than personal, but part of a larger conversation of accessibility nation-wide. 

“As someone who found post secondary inaccessible until my adult years, I want to ensure anyone who wants to access post secondary has the opportunity. We need to continue to fight so no one grows up like I did thinking it was out of reach.”

Students at Selkirk College attend the Board of Governors meeting for the vote on increasing domestic student tuition fees.

This neoliberal post-secondary structure has resulted in decreased accessibility to education for may working class students and communities already marginalized. It has also resulted in exploitation of whole demographics of students.

Phil Henderson, a student organiser at the University of Victoria recognizes the insidious impacts of this, stating: “this results in more homogenous and increasingly bourgeois student body – a phenomenon that is only deepened and exacerbated by the way in which institutions like UVic have chosen to target international students for such exorbitant increases because they lack the protected status afforded to domestic students. In this way, importantly, neoliberalization of education both relies on and reinforces processes of othering and of structural racism and xenophobia.”

Organisers with the Tuition Freeze Now campaign from Simon Fraser University speak to this further, stating: 

“We are students who find ourselves within institutions that exist to reproduce a complex social system. This system is based on the gendered exploitation of more than half the population and the dispossession of Indigenous peoples, and it sustains it through white supremacist violence..the world we find ourselves in is not organized for equity or fairness.”

Students rally together as part of the Tuition Freeze Now campaign during the SFU Board of Governors meeting

Though many reading this do not need an education on issues facing students, building a consciousness about the systemic issues facing students is important. Having an understanding that issues faced by students are shared and fought against is also important. In the face of growing inequality in our society and removed decision-making happening within institutional governance, knowing there are those out there fighting for rights to education can provide perspective or inspire further action.

During the 2018-1029 academic year, student groups at the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, Langara College, and our own Selkirk College students fought for a tuition freeze, one of the first steps towards acknowledging the cost of education and the need for affordability. This series will provide voices of student organisers on the frontlines of fighting for student rights as they move forward with intent towards affordable and accessible education. The shape of these campaigns played out uniquely according to the environment of each campus and directive of organisers, though all show dedication to providing a socialized system that allows our community members to pursue their goals through a quality post-secondary education.


HWW: Muditha Heenkenda

Building communities, allies, and partnerships is an important part of post-secondary and life generally. We welcome you to get to know the members of our Selkirk College community!

Muditha Heenkenda, Instructor,  Environment and Geomatics

What drove you to become a professor?

I would say I grew up with books – seeing my parents teaching mathematics, science, and arts because my both parents were teachers. As a little girl, I used to imitate them and tried to teach my younger brother. I think that is where I started my interest to be a teacher. After completing my Master of Geoinformation Science degree at the Wageningen University, the Netherlands, I was hired at the University of Twente, the Netherlands as a lecturer in Surveying and Photogrammetry. I loved it and found myself as a strong and successful teacher there. However, I decided to upgrade my knowledge and moved to Charles Darwin University, Australia to do a PhD. Once I have completed my studies, we moved to Canada. I was hired at Selkirk College shortly after landing to Canada and this is my first job in Canada. It turned out I must have been good at it as I am receiving lot of appreciation and I have received the SCOPE award last year. 

What inspires you to continue being a professor?

Students and the ever changing technology I am dealing with! I am learning from students every day, when they understand concepts and making nice maps – I am delighted and inspired. Then I don’t think about the time and effort put together to get updated with the new technology and incorporating them to the classroom. That is how I ended up developing two new courses addressing cutting edge remote sensing technology last year.     

If there is one thing you could change about academia, what would it be?

More scholarship opportunities & no cell phones in the classroom. Those two were the first thing came to my mind. I benefited from scholarships for higher education, if not, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have seen and of course experienced student’s financial struggles. Financial burdens should not serve as a limiting force for potential students. Therefore an increasing number of scholarships would be one of the solutions. I also benefitted not having a smart phone for 24/7 when I was studying. Introducing new technology to the classroom is something I agree more than 100%, but non-stop texting, chatting or blinking screens every now and then with new messages are not my favorites. I believe that the phone takes more attention than subject matters discussed in the class – I don’t need to be a mean teacher but I hope everyone teaching in the education system recently, no matter what the level is, agrees with me.

What do you see as the values of education in society today?

No matter the program of study, education improves personal lives and helps societies run smoothly – people are mindful, live longer and happier. Apart from the subject matters, education will develop soft skills of a person like critical thinking, decision making, team work, public speaking, attention to details etc. These are valuable skills for the life as well as for the workforce. As many economists agree today, the education is directly correlates with the economic growth and the stability of the society. 

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

As a skilled migrant, moving here from Calgary, I have definitely got used to slower, rural shape of life. I appreciate the fresh air, less traffic and the beautiful environment. I am not sure whether we are included to the community but we are surviving and trying to maintain good relationships with everyone. 


Student Advocates Seek Action on Sexualized Violence Policies

| Chantelle Spicer | On March 18, student advocates from across the country met in Ottawa to discuss an impending national framework to guide post-secondary institutions in their implementation of anti-violence policies. The framework will act as a comprehensive resource to guide post-secondary institutions’ actions in preventing and addressing gender-based violence on campus.

This work is part of the mandate given to Minister Maryam Monsef following her appointment as Minister of the newly created Department of Women and Gender Equality. The new Department replaces the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in Canada, of which Monsef is the former Chair. The work is being undertaken by an advisory council within the Department and includes members who have extensive experience in preventing and addressing gender-based violence in a post-secondary setting.

Thirty “listening and learning” sessions have or will take place throughout March and early April, along with open, online submissions, will make the consultation process, with input being specifically gathered from student-led organisations such as Silence is Violence from the University of Toronto, third-party organizations that exist in post-secondary institutions, as well as administrators and counsellors from across the country. The process is being funded by $5.5 million dollars over 5 years as part of the 2018 budget.

During the March 18 session, students who have experience in anti-violence advocacy had the opportunity to discuss the realities of the implementation of the legislated post-secondary policies, procedures, and educational campaigns.

Many students are skeptical of not only the implementation of policies on campuses, but also the ability of a national framework to improve the experiences of survivors.

Mira El Hussein of the student-led movement Silence is Violence states, “Consultations and frameworks are important, of course, but I’m personally concerned about the possibility that this framework will not include any form of accountability measures to hold these institutions responsible for their treatment of survivors.”

Hussein explains that as universities are implementing anti-sexualized violence policies, there are issues around the policies and procedures being  unclear, maintaining the institution’s interests above those of survivors, and are essentially brought in to tick off a checkbox as opposed to actually enact any meaningful, structural change. A recent report from Silence is Violence Again outlined all these issues and more.

“We have been doing the work. We have been consulting our communities. We have been fighting,” Hussein states. “I’m hard pressed to believe that a framework will come close to solving the problems of chronic underfunding of services, fundamental administrative neglect, and an unwillingness to listen to voices that so desperately need to be heard, like the voices of IBPOC survivors, 2SLGBTQ survivors, disabled survivors, survivors who are sex workers etc. With all that said, I’m looking forward to seeing the actual draft soon, I think that that will be a defining moment.”

Currently, the Selkirk College Students’ Union is analyzing the College’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Policy through criteria outlined by the national organistaion Students for Consent Culture (formerly Our Turn). This analysis could help direct education to be incorporated into student and residence orientation for the Fall 2019 semester. The College is scheduled to review the policy in January of 2020, providing plenty of time for consideration and incorporation of student concerns that may arise from the current review.

The College has undertaken some work to educate the campus community on the issues of violence and harassment. This includes the development of a hand guide and web content offering direction for those who have experienced violence.

Despite this, Rebekkah Ankenmann, Director at-Large at the SCSU, is concerned about the shortfalls in the policy and resources available for students.

“Being critical of institutional sexual violence policy is of utmost important as these are the policies that determined how we will be treated at our most vulnerable points. Allowing full power of this process to be put into the institution creates an imbalance towards the students. It is our education and lives that are going to be strongly impacted. Policy needs to be centred around making the survivor feel empowered to make the decisions that are right for them. Policy needs to leave the antiquated perspective of protecting the institution in the past.”

Connor Spencer, Outreach Coordinator for the SFCC, explains the importance of considering the unique need of rural campuses in this work.

“We need to make sure that rural campuses are not being left out of discussions about concrete ways we can address campus sexual violence – there needs to be a recognition that the realities for rural campuses looks different and therefore the solutions need to be different. Provinces need to commit more funding, regional committees that can do external investigations and oversight need to be set up, and confidentiality needs to be handled in a way that understands the needs of a smaller community.”

This work is part of a larger national conversation, particularly following the recent release of province-wide survey results undertaken by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Results showed that 63% of university students and 50% of college students reported they have experience some type of sexual harassment.

The draft National Framework is scheduled to be announced and presented in May.


Identifying Realities Faced by International Students in Post-Secondary

International students come to Canada for an opportunity to access one of the top ranked countries for higher education globally. Yet 16 years of flat or reduced core funding to universities and colleges has resulted in institutions being forced into a reliance on ever- increasing fees charged to international students.

Currently, British Columbia hosts almost one-third of all international students in the country. The province has experienced the largest increase in proportions of international students at institutions of any province: between 2004 and 2013 the proportion of international students increased by 6.7% (from 10.9% to 17.6%). Unprotected by a legislated cap, as domestic students are, international student fees at universities in BC have risen 538% since 1991.

It is clear that the value and impact of international students extends much farther than the campus at which they are studying. International students contribute to the local economy on things such as living expenses, arts and culture, and recreation. According to a report for Global Affairs Canada, it is calculated that in 2015 these expenditures totalled $3.12 billion in annual spending, contributing to over 26,000 jobs. This is a direct contribution of $1.77 billion to the provincial GDP and over $176 million in income taxes. With this data, it is easy to see the ways that the federal and provincial governments rely on international education as a crucial export to boost their respective economies; however, without regulation this is a highly unstable situation, which could collapse without warning.

Though important, it is not economies that this article is concerned with, but rather those impacted by the exploitive nature of international student fees – the students themselves – and the needs for better supports and protections.

Across the province, one of the biggest financial challenges facing international students is the inability to properly budget for a 4-year degree. In any given year, fees may increase by as much as 9-18% with increases based on whatever the institution deems required to balance its budget. This is an unsustainable model that often results in students struggling to stay in BC to finish their studies.

At Selkirk College, international student tuition fees were frozen during the 2017-18 academic year, though a recent Board of Governors decision will have incoming students will facing a 10% increase in May.

A secondary challenge to the current policy context is that there are no notice requirements for fee increases. Institutions are able to implement substantial fee increases with only a few weeks of notice, leaving students scrambling for resources from their home countries. Unlike domestic students, international students who fail to obtain the necessary resources face not only removal from their courses and programs, but also removal from the country – oftentimes tens of thousands of dollars in debt and no degree to show for it.

“The reality is that students are in search of a better life for themselves and families; Canada provides that opportunity, and so they risk everything,” states Yasmine Monrose. If Selkirk College wants to create and promote a healthy campus environment, they need to take this into consideration when planning and strategizing for the academic year.”

The stressors that international students face are similar to those faced by domestic students, ranging from access to safe and affordable housing to employment support to counselling. However, these issues are compounded by feelings of isolation and culture shock. Students and their allies are currently putting pressure on institutions to offer the support international students need, rather than focusing on increasing the numbers to meet financial need.

Monrose encourages the Selkirk community to do better for international students stating: “In essence, Selkirk College needs to be aware of the gravity of the issues facing international students. International students have very limited choices for assistance. As a result, they rely solely on the college for support in dealing with these issues. Therefore, the college needs to ensure that the activities held on campus are inclusive and expose students to various cultures that exist on campus.”

“As an Indian student, I know what issues I face,” says Ramanjeet Kaur in speaking about a event today that invites community members to learn about and discuss the realities international students face in our communities. “We want to address this openly so that everybody gets a better understanding and we can take action on issues.”

Kaur says challenges faced by international students include accommodation, employment, transportation and acceptance. Many of the issues are not unique to international learners, but due to the cultural differences, difficulties can become compounded. Students want to let those interested know a little bit more about themselves and how they navigate both challenges and opportunities.

Institutions are aware of the pressures international students face and the ongoing work that is required to alleviate this. At Selkirk College, a number of supports are offered that specifically target the need for inclusion. This includes assistance with immigration, accommodations, and employment supports. This spring a 2-year international student education plan will begin to be implemented, which will encourage more inclusive structures within curriculum. 

Rhonda Schmitz, the Director of Student Development, explains that Selkirk College is always seeking new ways to support international students.

The Selkirk College community will engage in meaningful dialogue with all employees and students to enhance our understanding and awareness of the rich rewards of inclusion and diversity and we plan sharing our learnings with interested community partners through a variety of communication strategies, such as presentations and social media.”

Research has shown that when institutions take these actions to embrace diversity and create socially supportive school contexts, this can improve the social inclusion and academic success of not just international students, but all students. The benefits of this will be seen in the long term: international students who feel better integrated and greater belonging in their community are much more likely to complete their studies, and are more likely to stay after graduation and become part of British Columbian society and labour force.

“In many ways, Canada is a very tolerant country, but the quickest way for that to break down is when people stop talking,” Janzen, an instructor in the Peace and Justice Studies department states. “Immigration and race are two topics on which people have very strong opinions, and yet at the same time, we seem to be very hesitant to talk about them, outside anonymous online forums. We need to develop safe spaces where we can come together to have important conversations, while at the same time, get to know each other.”

Selkirk College Students Union, along with partner unions in the BC Federation of Students, are currently campaigning on this issue through “Fairness for International Students,” which highlights the need for support and to raise awareness around those most exploited by the current system. The BCFS undertook extensive research to contribute to the campaign, which recommends amendments to the Tuition Fee Limit Policy to include regulations that provides protection for international students and a provincial educational plan that includes supports for international students to assist in their cultural, social, and academic integration.

Santanna Hernandez, Chairperson of the SCSU explains that it’s important for domestic students to stand up for fairness for international students.“What domestic students do not realize is that our education needs international students. Not only are we richer for getting to know these incredible people from around the world, but due to drastic under funding from the government many institutions are dependent on international students and therefore would not exist for domestic students to attend. This system needs to be fair for all students, as we all contribute to our educational and broader communities in many – and equal – ways.”

An event this evening seeks to provide community members an opportunity to discuss this nuanced and important topic more in depth. International students who are part of the Peace Studies 101 class will share their experience and those in attendance will be encouraged to bring forward questions. The event runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, March 29 at St.Rita’s Church in Castlegar (513 7th Avenue).


Educational Equity Through Free Menstrual Products

| Chantelle Spicer | Across the country, public institutions from libraries to high schools are beginning to offer free menstrual products, with many colleges and universities across the country beginning to contribute to the movement.

Currently, only a handful of post-secondary institutions offer free menstrual products including Centennial College, Mount St Vincent University, Carleton University, and University of Kings College. In the province, Langara College is currently considering how to implement the initiative.

Nancy Pollak, coordinator of the women’s studies program at Langara College, states taking action on this is important as “it does make a difference in women’s ability to participate in their communities wholeheartedly.”

The efforts of advocates at Centennial College have been made through the Free the Tampons campaign, which is dedicated to breaking down stigmas around menstruation and raising awareness around issues of equity for all who menstruate.

Shannon Brooks, Centennial’s associate vice-president of corporate services, said the initiative was proposed by a male staff member, who having taken for granted that using the restroom was an all-inclusive, complimentary service, was dismayed to learn that people who menstruate have to provide for their own supplies.

“It’s one of those things that it’s always been that way, so you don’t really think about it,” Brooks said. “To me, this is a way of changing expectations.”

Recent victories in menstrual-related equity have been celebrated within the British Columbia K-12 system when the New Westminster School Board voted to install coin-free dispensers in every girls’ and universal bathroom in every school in their district, becoming the first in Canada to adopt such a policy.  

The idea came from Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who pitched the initiative to the school board.

“We know that girls, if they can’t manage their periods properly, will remove themselves from activities, from extracurricular or athletic activities, also social activities, and in the worst case, they will actually miss school.”

In May, a survey was conducted by Plan International Canada, and found that one-third of women under the age of 25 in Canada have struggled to pay for menstrual products. This is particularly important in post-secondary considering the rates of student hunger and poverty generally.

“Tampons are pricey for any woman, but women who can hardly afford to buy food can’t afford to buy a $10 box of tampons, leaving them to choose between food or feeling comfortable when on their period,” states a Selkirk College student who wished to remain anonymous.

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HWW: Kim Pham

Building communities, allies, and partnerships is an important part of post-secondary and life generally. We welcome you to get to know the members of our Selkirk College community!

Kim Pham, Secretary, Selkirk College Students’ Union

Why did you decide to join the students’ union?

I decided to join Students Union primarily out of curiosity. After the Skills training in Kelowna, I felt that I belong to a dedicated group of people fighting for students’ rights. I love that idea because I have to fund my own education. This feeling motivates me and inspires me to be part of the students movement, as I know we are helping many students and their families.

Why is a post-secondary education important to you?

A post-secondary education is important to me because I want to have a better job. I am currently working in a fast food restaurant. The job is physically hard and precarious. It means I can be easily replaced. I believe everyone wants a job security where we can work at our best potential, rather than a job that we have to always worry about being replaced. In order to have a better job, I need knowledge and skills provided through education.

If there is one thing you could change about academia, what would it be?

 I would like to have a fairness for international students. As an international student myself, I want to have a capped tuition fee increase like domestic students have or at least to be able to budget for the fee. Similar to my workplace, not knowing how much my tuition will increase leaves me feeling precarious in something that is very important.

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

I like fresh air, beautiful landscapes and friendly people in the Kootenay regions. I have made many friends, so I feel included and close to my community. 


What to Read for Reading Week

| Chantelle Spicer | Spring Break within popular culture has often come to mean parties in the sun, probably too much drinking, and exotic locales, but the reality for many college and university students is a week of time dedicated to study, write papers, and get caught up on reading. This has become so much the trend that many institutions (Selkirk included) now call the week off “Reading Week.”

Hopefully, especially given the rise on awareness of student mental health, students are taking time away from their studies to do something they really enjoy.

For some, this may mean reading for the simple pleasure of story rather than the obligation of a syllabus. For others, it may be part of a New Years resolution to spend more time reading rather than scrolling social media. Regardless, studies show that reading improves one’s ability to empathize, writing skills, and reduces stress.

As we settle into reading week, here are five books that have delighted me over the past year

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

I first listened to this as an audiobook while doing housework, but often found myself stopping to listen to the subtle magic that is this story. After two chapters, I had to go out and get this book so I could curl up on the couch and dedicate myself to the story. This book weaves together relationships between author and reader (breaking the 4th wall is so fashionable now!), past and present, humour and sadness, fact and fiction, history and myth. It would be impossible to sum up a narrative that covers everything from Zen Buddhism to feminism in a way that would do justice to the intricacies of Ozeki’s storytelling. Lets just say, if you want reminders of the magic that exist in everyday life, go out and find this book (if you are into audiobooks, the author reads all her own work)! I just finished this book in November and I already can’t wait to sink into it again.

21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, Bob Joesph

Following a viral article for the CBC in 2016, this book explores the relationship that Indigenous peoples across Canada have with their land, governments, and the economy as defined by legislation. In an age of “reconciliation” (whatever that means to you), this is an important read for anyone seeking to know why and how social inequalities persist for Indigenous communities. Not only identifying problems with the Act, Joseph also explains why Indigenous self-determination would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around truth and reconciliation, and clearly demonstrates why learning about the Indian Act’s cruel, enduring legacy is essential for the country to move toward true reconciliation. Though it may seem a heavy topic, it is divided into sections that allow you to easily pick up and put down the book whenever you need to.

WishTree, Katherine Applegate

This is one of those books that is probably for kids, but appeals to adults who are still in touch with a solid sense of childlike wonderment. For those who are interested in a quick (you can probably finish this book in one bath or relaxing afternoon) , but impactful read, this one is for you. The story is based on the cultural phenomenon or understanding of “Wishing Trees,” which are individual trees that are used as places or objects of wishes or offerings depending on the local tradition. The story is narrated by the Tree itself, who observes its neighbourhood goings on, including a Muslim family moving in. This story has a marvellous animal and human cast. Helping Red in the quest for neighbourhood peace is a menagerie of animals that call the tree home and whose interactions add another layer to this story about the pleasures and difficulties of overcoming differences. The book is beautifully illustrated and sure to be enjoyed by almost any audience.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris

The only author who can make me laugh more than Sedaris is Douglas Adams – I mean laughing out loud on the bus with people looking at me askance. Similar to Ozeki, I highly suggest checking out his audiobooks as he reads all of them, sometimes recorded live on an authors tour, giving real depth and life to each story…which it should as each story is a sarcastically funny, brutally honest, and touching reflection of his life with his family, partner, the art of writing, or medical procedures (these come up quite a bit in his books!). With 26 stories to chose from, this book is great for a quick mental break when you need to gain some perspective and not take things so seriously. Luckily, he is a pretty prolific writer, so if you like this one there is plenty more to indulge in

The Sun and Her Flowers, Rupi Kaur

Poetry is pretty amazing – you don’t have to get invested in a whole story and yet it can still deeply impact you. There are so many poets out there, particularly female poets, who are subverting ideas of poetry imposed on us from high school English – Rupi Kaur is absolutely one of those folks. Following on the heels of her first collection, milk and honey, this book is a celebration of love and healing in all its forms. It is divided into five chapters: wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming.  Each poem is illustrated by the author and is rarely more than 10 lines long, meaning I spend most of my time savouring each line to keep myself from rushing through in my hunger for the next one. Highly suggested for anyone who thinks poetry is too daunting or unrelatable. (also highly suggested is watching her spoken word on youtube – poetry really comes alive when you give it a voice!)

Fifteen Dogs, Andre Alexis

You will never look at dogs the same way again! This is a humorous, elegantly written, and profound novel that explores the “gift” of human reasoning and language when they are bequeathed to a 15 dogs in a veterinary clinic by two Greek Gods in a wager. Sound ridiculous? It absolutely is, but in the best ways. This is a short read (only 160 pages), but very effectively examines what we see as universal truths about human nature by transferring consciousness and conscience to animals. Alexis masterfully dissects the discrepancies in the way humans think and feel, by posing large questions, such as: What is happiness? And what makes a life truly fulfilled? What is the role of love in a good life?

Happy Reading! Have suggestions for books or responses to these? Lets us know at sentineleditor@selkirkstudents.ca

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HWW: Lori Barkley

Building communities, allies, and partnerships is an important part of post-secondary and life generally. We welcome you to get to know the members of our Selkirk College community!

Lori Barkley, Instructor, Anthropology, Peace and Justice Studies

What drove you to become a professor?

A friend at the time suggested I apply to be a teaching assistant at SFU after I finished my undergrad. At the time, seminar sizes were smaller & the Sociology and Anthropology department at SFU didn’t have enough graduate students for all of the positions. I started as a seminar instructor the fall after I finished by degree from the University of Calgary (I was a visiting student @ SFU so have some idea of the challenges of transferring courses between provinces). I loved it & it turned out I must have been good at it, as they kept hiring me back. I taught seminars in both sociology and anthropology, and was a marker for ethnic relations as well. So I sort of fell into teaching. After my experiences teaching, I decided to apply to grad school so I could teach on a more regular basis, rather than the contract treadmill. I was hired at Selkirk shortly after finishing my graduate degree.

What inspires you to continue being a professor?

Students! I learn from my students each & every day. I also love seeing when things “click” for them & they become inspired. Without the meaningful interactions with students I would have been out of this profession long ago!

If there is one thing you could change about academia, what would it be?

Smaller class sizes & free tuition. Sorry I can’t pick just one. If my tuition was as expensive as it is now, I wouldn’t be where I am. My tuition tripled over the course of my degrees & it was a struggle. I’ve seen the student demographic change as a result & students have so many financial barriers to overcome that it makes obtaining an education more and more difficult. 

I benefitted from small class sizes & I have seen dramatic changes in that regard since my first university class in 1988. When class sizes increase the quality of education goes down, it is inevitable. There is only so much an instructor can do in terms of establishing connections, providing extensive feedback, & just being there for students. I think everyone teaching in the education system right now, no matter what the level, struggles with this.

What do you see as the values of education in society today?

No matter the program of study, education provides several things: the ability to think critically and process large amounts of information, multi-task, work for various people with just as varied expectations, meet deadlines, etc., these are all valuable skills for the workforce and life in general. I greatly value my education as it opened my eyes to seeing the world in a much more complex and nuanced way. I’m a better person in the world because of the outstanding education I received at my alma maters (University of Calgary & Simon Fraser University). My motto is the more I learn, the less I know. Education creates a thirst for knowledge that is never satiated, there is always more to question, experience, know, leading to another set of questions. It is a fantastic journey to become a better member of society.

What is your favourite thing about the Kootenay region?

As an anthropologist, of course I will say the people! Coming here from Vancouver, I have certainly gotten used to the slower pace of life, and the ability to spark conversations with strangers without being suspected of wanting something. When I first got here, the friendliness was what struck me the most. I also appreciate the fresh air & sheer beauty of this place. There are just so many interesting people here that all have these amazing stories.


An Open Student Letter to the Selkirk College Board of Governors

Dear Board Members:
Re: Proposed Tuition Fee Increases – Letter of Protest

As a mature student who has enjoyed Selkirk College credit and non-credit (Distance and ‘Bum-in-the-Seat’) courses for a number of years, I am writing to indicate my dismay by the Board’s planned consideration of a tuition fee increase.

I am a current student, I have an adult daughter who completed her education elsewhere in the province, and I have a son who is a Camosun Plumbing grad, and now a 2nd year Nursing student down on the Coast.

The bulk of my courses have been taken in recent decades while I ever so slowly make progress working towards a degree. I put aside my studies while I raised two children who now experience the same financial struggles I endured. Long, long ago, I was a working student forced out of full-time post-secondary by having to combine a job with part-time studies. I then sought full-time employment in order to retroactively pay for my studies. Lack of affordability interrupted my post-secondary education for longer than my child-raising years. I am a testament to what happens when tuition continues to rise. I tried to stay in school by working during term time, then eventually I had to forgo my studies and just work. With the cost of tuition, school became an ill-afforded luxury. In our family’s case, all three student members have relied on or currently study with the support of external funding, largely due to the fact that tuition in this province is too expensive for many students to afford school without assistance.

My daughter has been paying off her student loans for over ten years, and will continue for some time. Her graduate studies are on the back burner. She is terrified of returning to school for the same reason she didn’t continue her studies more than ten years ago – the prospect of increasing her debt load due to Canada’s relatively hefty tuition fees alarms her.

Last night my nursing student son in Victoria was “on the brink” as he told me he will probably have to find work due to a shortfall in the external funding that supplements his summer earnings. His alternative in finding funds to augment his student loans, will be to take out a loan from our credit union, ​IF t​ hey will approve this for him with his current student loan debt load. (He is a Camosun student counterpart to those here in the Selkirk Nursing program – all will end up with degrees from the University of Victoria). He combines his already heavy course load with two full days a week as an unpaid student nursing clinician in hospital practical sessions, which are mandatory for the school entire year. Despite an amazing scholarship from one of the “big banks”, he, a careful spender who knows how to budget, has already amassed student loan debt and is distracted by the thought of having to repay those loans. That he and his contemporaries are being forced to seek bank and credit union loans in order to support basic living and tuition costs is an unreasonable situation when the country needs medical and other student professionals to graduate debt- and worry-free.

How will our nursing and other professional students find the time to add low-paying or minimum-waged work shifts – precarious employment at that – to their class times, their study hours and their practical clinical obligations?

Financial pressures apply to most Selkirk students … and similarly to ​allstudents in Canada. Students mortgage their lives in order to educate themselves to be productive members of society. Whether they are here at home as student nationals, or whether they will return home, abroad, as Selkirk’s International student graduates, the economic strain for students is palpable.

To add to a student’s financial worries by increasing student debt or by making post-secondary education elusive by rising tuition fees is a disservice to the future of this country.

Constantly, I hear international students on their phones in the cafeteria and in the stairwells begging family members in India or other countries to please find ways to send more money so they can pay their fees before being forced to unenroll. I have received calls from International students imploring me to rent him or her a room for $200 or $250 because “Ma’am I have to pay $5000 tuition, I cannot afford regular (affordable in current terms) room rent.” They are asking their families and the local communities to effectively subsidise their education costs by by increasing their support, or by reducing their charges. Three, four, five students cram into local one bedroom apartments, or one room motel accommodations or single bedrooms in Selkirk’s generous neighbourhoods because they cannot afford to eat properly after struggling to pay tuition that is already expensive.

Students who suffer and worry about their finances cannot concentrate on their schoolwork. They, ​we,​ are desperate. Students simply cannot afford living expenses, ridiculously priced textbooks, and ​current ​tuition fees, let alone a rise in tuition fees.

Selkirk College is renowned for its philosophy regarding accessible education. We have brilliant, committed, compassionate faculty (​wellunderpaid by the way – which is actually a form of tuition subsidy​). We have supportive non-teaching staff, and kind administrators who make it their business to get to know individuals in order to support them throughout their studies. Even the cafeteria staff are full of encouragement as sleepy-eyed students drag themselves through the cash-desk for a decently-priced coffee or for amazing meals that are substantial enough to affordably share with a friend or two. We have janitorial and security staff who are kind and good-humoured to everyone who shares this incredible community, especially after-hours and on weekends when the over-crowded library and “the pit” are in constant use. The Selkirk community is all about access ​and retention. However, if the fees are increased, “we the people” will either not be able to afford to come or will have to leave …

Selkirk’s unique approach to not ​getting in the way ​of student success, but to proactively ensure achievement by cheer-leading from all corners, has to be part of the consideration when fees are discussed. To increase tuition fees flies in the face of all the accessible education programmes for which Selkirk is known. Even the local radio station announcers “wax on” about this beacon of hope, our treasured educational institution located in pockets throughout the region. This is unheard of outside the Kootenays.

The sports teams are called the ‘Saints’ with good reason. The name “selkirk” has its origins in Scotland, and in Gaelic means: “hall”(sel) of “church”(kirk). Selkirk has had a long-held, almost biblical, ​mission ​of protecting post-secondary options for those in need, or “hungry” for an education, i.e. those who would not otherwise have access to affordable studies. Selkirk is a blessing to this province and to the people in the region. As ethical guardians of accessibility we can’t have come this
far to now make an evil mess of what’s so wonderful about this school.

Please reject the notion of a tuition fee increase and instead work to find creative methods to approve a responsible balanced budget that reflects the financial reality of a student’s life. There ​are ​ways … Your board is made up of some very influential and creative professionals who have experience making things work out. Please actually consider something even more reasonable: reduce and/or eliminate fees in the future.

By sourcing funding in ways other than on the backs of vulnerable students who need to not worry about staying in school, (or staying in the country), Selkirk College will sustain its well-earned reputation as a unique and true facilitator of excellence in post-secondary education.

Students should be concerned only about attending to their studies, meeting the obligations of their programs, and honouring the inspirations of their committed faculty. By being successful in their goals to succeed – with an affordable education – students will continue to be patriotic ambassadors of Selkirk college, and that is hardly an unsaintly outcome.

How will students be expected to follow Selkirk’s motto, “​Best of all, inquire​”, if they are not able to afford to maintain studies here?

Let’s not “sell” out Selkirk …

Respectfully yours,
Sheila Perret
TESOL and MTED student 2018-19