The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Is Anyone Else Hungry Besides Me?

Gurgle gurgle

That’s my stomach again

There’s $16 in my chequing

Gurgle gurgle

There’s $400 due on my MasterCard

Maybe I’ll just eat later

Gurgle gurgle

I wonder if there are people who forget about food. If there are people in this world that are not thinking about what they will eat next or when or where it will come from. Who are these people? I don’t know, but I know the people who are thinking about when, where, what, and how they are going to eat next. These people are food insecure– they do not have access to affordable food that is culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate, and there is not enough agency or policies in place to ensure that they do.  In Canada, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, food insecurity is an alarming issue. Approximately 3.9 million Canadians experience food insecurity or 1 in 3 Canadians according to Food Secure Canada. In Toronto, often cited as Canada’s poverty capital, 1 in 6 children experience poverty, which includes being food insecure. These statistics are at least doubled for Canada’s indigenous population and minority communities. These questions and statistics are especially important to consider on a days like yesterday, World Food Day.

On October 16 1945, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was formally instituted in Quebec City and so every October 16 World Food Day is celebrated. The issues of food security are so grand that for even localizing them to Canada will bring up a plethora of research that has been done and is currently underway. Along with this, there are several initiatives all over Canada and the world to end hunger. Looking specifically at Toronto, which was the first city to create a council for food policy 25 years ago due to rising rates of hunger and the need to institutionalize food banks. Toronto has taken several initiatives to combat food insecurity within its borders such as the creation of FoodShare and a poverty reduction strategy to be discussed at City Hall this coming week.

FoodShare has been working for the last 25 years to create equitable access to good healthy food, through empowerment and community development. FoodShare has developed many programs that work with other services to try and reduce hunger within Toronto. One service that FoodShare has been operating since their beginnings is the FoodLink hotline (416-392-6655) which connects callers to the food programs in their neighborhood including food banks, drop-in meal programs, and information on how to find community gardens, markets, and kitchens. FoodShare is also involved in bringing good food to schools with their Good Food Cafe, which turns school cafeterias into providers of fresh and nutritious meals that are made in-house daily. Having volunteered with the Good Food Cafe I have been able to experience what can happen when the healthy choice is the only choice. The girls at St. Joseph’s High School showed me that kids will eat good food when they are given the option, but if it is not even an option how can they take it. Along with this, FoodShare operates Student Nutrition programs which provide children with healthy snacks and breakfast everyday at school to promote learning and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. FoodShare is a Toronto initiative but it has many partners throughout the city including school boards, Toronto Public Health, and Ryerson.

Beyond the work Ryerson does with FoodShare, which includes working with Good Food Cafe, developing community garden initiatives, and working with the Good Food Box program, we have our own services to combat food insecurity on campus. The Good Food Centre, a Ryerson equity service centre, works to provide food to Ryerson community members. In 1993 Ryerson began operating the Student Feedback program which operated as a food bank on campus, eventually becoming the Good Food Centre and expanding to operate as more than just a food bank but as a service hub for community members. Along with the food bank, the Good Food Centre also facilitates the community gardens on campus which supplements the fresh produce available at the centre as well as provides students with education and skills on how to grow their own food. The Good Food Centre is also a pick up location for Good Food Boxes, which is a program run by FoodShare that provides Ontario grown fresh produce (whenever possible) for a nominal fee. Ryerson has even more initiatives beyond the Good Food Centre in the form of the Centre for Studies in Food Security.

Ryerson’s Centre for Studies in Food Security works to provide education and manages projects to fight and understand hunger. In collaboration with the School of Nutrition and the Chang School the Centre offers the Certificate in Food Security which involves courses in food policy, gender and food, indigenous food systems, and urban agriculture. The Centre’s projects include work in urban design, food studies, as well as indigenous food security and international work with scholars from Brazil, Africa, and the Caribbean.

This discussion of food security and what is being done about it could go on for pages as it has been going on for years. This crisis is of global proportions and it can be difficult to see it when you do not know what you are looking at or for, but I can assure you it is right in front of you. Your classmates, teachers, friends, family, strangers on the street, they could too easily be food insecure even in a country like Canada and we must understand what that means. Not having money for food will greatly impact not only your physical health but emotional health as well. The stress in combination with a lack of proper nutrition opens your body up to disease and it’s lethal. The food security crisis did not happen over night and it was created by humans, therefore, it will take more than a night to solve but it must be solved by humans. This issue is one that should not be thought of only one day a year, food insecurity is on the mind of its victims everyday and therefore should be on ours as well.

Eat Think Vote: The Politics of Hunger

ETV3

On September 23rd, The Good Food Centre and Rye’s Homegrown put on Eat Think Vote:  The Politics of Hunger as part of DisOrientation 2015.  The topic of the event was food security and framing it as an issue for the upcoming federal election.  Despite being one of the wealthiest countries, food insecurity has remained high and stagnant over the past decade.

Michael Kushnir, the Vice President of Services with CESAR, described food as “central to every community on earth” yet 4 million Canadians lack access to sufficient and healthy food.  This includes 1.5 million children who are disproportionately affected by food insecurity.  This works out to 1/10 Canadians and 1/6 children being food insecure.  Post secondary students are also disproportionately affected by food insecurity.  In the 2013/2014 school year, 2500 Ryerson students accessed food banks, which have become a staple on university campuses.  With food insecurity being such a prevalent issue in Canada, why has the issue been absent since an election was called?  Eat Think Vote set out to make food insecurity an election issue… as it should be.

The upcoming federal election is being called one of the most important elections, and will greatly affect the path Canada takes and its future.  Eat Think Vote included discussions by two of the candidates running in the Toronto Centre riding on the issue of food insecurity.  While the Conservative and Liberal parties were not in attendance, Linda McQuaig of the NDP party and Colin Biggin of the Green Party shared their personal and party views on food insecurity.  As this is such an important issue to take into consideration when casting your vote in October, here are the platforms on food insecurity presented at Eat Think Vote:

Colin Biggin- Green Party:

ETV2
Biggin described how the food many Canadians eat comes from places like California as opposed to the surrounding areas.  While this works for economists, it’s not working for us.  Canada is not as self sustainable as we should be and should strive to be considering the cost of oil and the droughts in areas we get our food from.  Biggin discussed the current situation of farmers in Canada; many are unable to sustain themselves on farming alone, are being pushed out by industrial farms and have no one to carry on their work once they retire.  Biggin’s discussed the Green Party wanting to support younger farmers, small farms as opposed to industrial size and support helping people onto the land such as immigrants.  He noted the Green Party opposes the temporary worker program and would like to see participants in that program be able to immigrate here fully and paid good wages.

Biggin also connected the issues of food insecurity and with other issues in the Green Party’s platform.  He discussed the need for families to be able to afford food.  The Green Party plans to respond to this issue through a number of policies including a guaranteed income which would allow people to afford food.  This would be done through an amalgamation of several social programs and a top up program.

A question from the audience lead to a discussion of Northern, remote and Indigenous communities.  Biggin would like to see food in those communities made more affordable by encouraging more businesses to go into that area (there is currently one) and by subsidizing transportation costs.  Biggin also mentioned that a national school nutrition program is included in the Green Party’s platform.

Linda McQuaig- NDP Party:

ETV1

McQuaig began her presentation on food security by describing how striking it is that one of the essential basics to our well-being is invisible as an election issue.  She described her career as an author and journalist, focusing on income inequality, and drew many connections between inequality and food insecurity.

McQuaig showed concern about the increasing inequality in Canada and how food insecurity is a big part of this inequality.  She went on to say that a reliance on food banks is not a secure way to access food and that the quality of food in food banks is not healthy.  She also endorsed a school nutrition program policy as food is key to children’s health and ability to learn.  She went on to discuss how seniors are greatly affected by food insecurity.

McQuaig presented a variety of NDP platform policies that would decrease food insecurity in Canada by addressing inequality.  These policies include putting $400 million dollars towards the Guaranteed Income Supplement which would lift 200 000 seniors out of poverty.  Second, the NDP plans to implement a $15 federal minimum wage which would lift 100 000 people out of poverty.  She claimed this would set a national standard and put pressure on the provinces to raise their minimum wages.  Third, the NDP plans to introduce a national childcare program at a maximum of $15 per day.  This would alleviate poverty in allowing women to work and earn an income as opposed to staying home due to not being able to afford childcare.  The NDP would also create a universal drug program, invest in affordable housing and restore the 36 billion dollars that has been cut from public health care.  The NDP plan to pay for these programs by raising corporate taxes which would result in an extra 7 billion dollars per year.

McQuaig went on to discuss her concerns about the environment.  She believes Canada has been an obstructionist in world talks on climate change and thinks we should be a key player in these talks.  She has concerns about preserving water ways, farmer’s land, fisheries, and feels we need to address the issue of climate change for any type of a sustainable future.

A question from the audience raised the concern of post-secondary students and growing food insecurity in the face of rising tuition fees.  McQuaig and the NDP recognize the problem and would consider earmark funding to provinces specifically for reducing tuition and reducing the student debt burden.  In this discussion, she raised the point of post secondary institutions resorting to private philanthropy in the face of reduced funds resulting in the rich having influence in shaping post-secondary education.

To my fellow post-secondary students, we have a voice and a vote.  Two out of four parties in Toronto came out to a student-led and mostly student-attended event to say that food security should be an election issue and provided policy ideas to decrease food insecurity.  On October 19th, go out and vote!

Welcome Back!

 

Welcome_Back_021It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Well, maybe not.  Whether you gleefully ran through Staples buying your school supplies or hit the snooze button several times last week, we would like to welcome you back for the 2015/2016 school year!  We would also like to extend a warm welcome to all of the first year students joining us!  We are thrilled you chose to join the Faculty of Community Services here at Ryerson, and wish you the best of luck over the next four years.  We would also like to welcome back staff, faculty and administration in the Faculty of Community Services, as well as across Ryerson.

After a long summer, the Faculty of Community Services Blog team is happy to be back!  With new and returning bloggers, we know this is going to be an exciting year of writing, creativity and keeping you up to date with what’s happening at Ryerson and outside of Ryerson.  All of our writers are students in one of the nine Faculty of Community Services programs: Child and Youth Care, Disability Studies, Early Childhood Studies, Midwifery, Nursing, Nutrition, Occupational and Public Health, Social Work and, Urban and Regional Planning.  We write about a wide range of topics including activities, events, and issues at Ryerson and in the community.  We post multiple times a week about topics that are current and useful for all Ryerson community members.

We are looking forward to getting started and invite you to join us for another year of student blogging.  Stay tuned!  For Faculty of Community Services updates, follow the Ryerson Faculty Community Services on Twitter: @RyersonFCS.

-The Faculty of Community Services Blog Team

Some thoughts on graduating

a photograph of graduation caps against a blue sky

I am a little sad, a little happy and a lot groggy. I finished my degree.

In the Disability Studies program students complete a year long research project and they present it to their cohort and faculty. Our cohort’s presentations took place recently. There were really insightful moments, topics and so many heartfelt presentations demonstrating that the personal truly is political.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be finished. The build up to the presentations, the nervousness, the anticipation, then an eighteen minute presentation and it’s over.

I recently watched a documentary on the large number of graduates from university programs in Canada who are currently working in dead-end service positions. The documentary claimed there were several factors contributing to this phenomenon. One, baby boomers are not retiring and there are less positions opening up, or new grads are competing against them for the same position. Two, recent graduates are given little to no training in university to prepare them for resume writing or job interviewing and there are no co-op experiences. Three, Canada does not have an education ministry which means there are no statistics kept on what types of degrees universities are producing versus the types of skills that the labour market actually needs.

One women in the documentary who graduated with a history degree said that she felt she would be working in an office wearing heels and a power suit by now. For those of us in the Disability Studies program we have somewhat of an advantage. We are all working in our chosen field. However, I also have an earlier degree that didn’t translate into a job. I have a religious studies degree. You may well question what the hell I was thinking. How would religious studies translate into a job? Well, I wasn’t thinking about a job. I thought about what I wanted to know, what interested me, what I was passionate about. I was privileged to have been able to work my way through that degree with very little debt.

Sign reads Education is a right

Two degrees later, and about to enter my masters in the fall I think the overwhelming factor contributing to graduates working dead end jobs is not the boomers, or the lack of training or the lack of an education ministry. (Although, we do need one! I mean, seriously Ontario how many teachers can we produce?) What we need is free education. The woman in the documentary wasn’t working in a dead-end service because she liked it, rather because she was thousands of dollars in debt from her education. We are stifling the creativity of graduates because they are in hock. If we stop people from learning what they are passionate about and future generations focus on employment, what does that mean for the arts, for culture, for philosophy, for music?

Free education will not create generations of entitled citizens. Take a look at the Nordic countries. Education is free, their economies are booming and they consistently rank high in the happiest countries in which to live. Take a lesson, Canada.

Job Hunting Tips

Photograph of a woman looking at the career section of a news paper

Looking for a job can sometimes be as much work as having a full time job. There are a few tips and suggestions which can make this process a little less painful.

First, apply for everything. Even if the position is one in which you aren’t completely sure that you qualify for. It’s great practice to tailor your resume and cover letter which will make it easier to do in the future. Also, you never know who else is applying and perhaps you are more skilled than you think. I have noticed that sometimes organizations create a wish list for a job description and will accept other skills if they feel the person is a fit with their organization.

Try not to get discouraged if you don’t receive feedback from your resumes. There are many other people who are also looking for work and you never know how many people have applied for the same position. I recently had an interview, months after sending in my resume, it was a small organization and had received hundreds of resumes. This can make it time consuming for the organization to sort through and get back to applicants. If it is a job that you are particularly interested in, you could always follow up with an email.

Once you have heard back and are scheduled for an interview, PREPARE. Don’t get too stressed about the preparation, but ensure that you know about the organization. Spend time going over their website and get to know their history and mission. See if you can find any other information about the company online.

Think about questions that could be asked of you in the interview. While it seems easy to talk about yourself, it isn’t always that easy if you are feeling nervous. There are many sites online which can offer you sample interview questions and suggested answers. It can be helpful to review the questions, but instead really think about how you would answer those question and practice if necessary.Here are a few of questions which I have noticed in many of my recent interviews.

  1. What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
  2. What is your greatest strength/weakness?
  3. How do you react to stress/conflict?
  4. Why are you interested in working for this organization/leaving where you work now?

It is also a good idea to think of questions that you would like the answer too. Remember that interviews are a two way street and you need to learn if you are interested in the job. Here are a couple of questions worth asking.

  1. What would the day to day responsibilities of the position look like?
  2. What is the organizational structure?

Don’t be afraid to ask the more difficult questions as they may impact your decision.

  1. How flexible is the pay range?
  2. How much room is their in the organization for upward mobility?

Try to view the process as a learning experience and even if you say something you regret in an interview don’t judge yourself too harshly. The worst that can happen is you won’t hear back.

Why Freeze the Peas?

freezethefees

Students fighting against a tuition freeze in post-secondary education… I never thought I would see the day.  The Ryerson Student’s Union has been campaigning for a freeze in tuition for the upcoming 2015/2016 school year.  A counter-campaign has been organized that supports Ryerson raising the price of tuition for next year.  The campaign is called Freeze the Peas, a play on words of the RSU’s Freeze the Fees Campaign.  This counter-campaign argues that high tuition fees reflect the prestige of a post-secondary institution and ultimately which school’s graduates will get jobs.  I think the Freeze the Peas campaign needs to look deeper into why they are so adamant that Ryerson not freeze or lower tuition.

In Ontario, we are at the point where a post-secondary education is not accessible.  The students that are attending universities and colleges across Ontario are doing so because they can afford it.  Amongst those that have paid the high tuition fee, many struggle to pay for school, rent, food, etc.  The Good Food Room, the RSU’s student book bank, has seen an influx in students who access the service as tuition fees rise.  Drew Silverthorn, who works in the Good Food Room, discussed the issue in one of my classes before the RSU’s rally on March 30th.  He had recently seen Laverne Cox speak in Toronto and commented on her analysis of tuition fees.  She discussed who is not present in post-secondary education due to financial inaccessibility; those people are mostly racialized and LGBTQ.  The Freeze the Peas campaign needs to think about who isn’t present at Ryerson and why they wouldn’t want them here.

The core of the Freeze the Peas campaign is fear.  The majority of students that make up the Freeze the Peas campaign come from programs that are male dominated.  This campaign isn’t about ensuring the university has a prestigious reputation that will result in grads being hired, it’s about securing their privileged position as a student in post-secondary education.  Despite several students struggling, we hold a very privileged position in being students.  There are many people who should be in post-secondary education but are not because of the financial costs.

I think that making education accessible to all scares the Freeze the Peas campaign because it would mean change.  Accessible education would mean that students would be accepted to Ryerson and other post-secondary schools based on merit as opposed to just the current pool of applicants who can afford it.  The number of applicants to all programs would increase as a significant barrier to post-secondary education would be removed.  While several students who are currently attending post-secondary institutions would be accepted based on merit, the current deciding factor in whether or not one can pursue higher education is money.  I think the Freeze the Peas campaign, whether conscious of it or not, know that money means security.  There may be other people out there who are just as qualified, and perhaps more, to be at Ryerson.

Freeze the Peas needs to reflect on the real reasons for why they want tuition fees to increase. If the world took away the privileges of money, whiteness, being heterosexual, being cisgender, being able-bodied and being male, all of our classrooms, especially ones that are made up of predominantly white, male, straight, cis, able-bodied and middle-upper class students, would look very different.

The School-Home Pull

coachcanada

When I started at Ryerson three years ago, it was my first time living away from home.  I moved from my mother’s home in Niagara Falls to my own apartment in downtown Toronto.  I’ve made Toronto my home and I still go back to Niagara to visit but I find wherever I am, I experience the school-home pull.  I wonder if other students experience this pull as well.

When I’m in Toronto and going to school, I’m really happy.  I love the social work program and I’ve made friends in the program that I see outside of school.  I have a nicely decorated bachelor apartment and I really enjoy living in downtown Toronto.  There’s always something to do and being able to walk everywhere is great!  I’m doing my placement at a great agency and volunteering at places I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to in my hometown.

Despite loving Toronto and building a life there, I still feel pulls to home.  I always look forward to going home over the holidays and reading week.  I spend two months of the summer holiday in Niagara.  My family still lives in Niagara and I am fortunate to have a great group of friends I went to high school with that I still see when I’m home.  There are still specific places I like going to in the Niagara region such as Mossimo’s in Fonthill.  I’m always excited to go home and know it won’t be a boring week on the couch with nothing to do.

I’m really happy when I arrive in Niagara and enjoy spending time with family and friends but when I’m in Niagara, I start feeling a pull to school and Toronto.  For example, I’m currently home for reading week but had to miss the march on February 14th for missing and murdered Indigenous women.  I find I’m missing things, usually social justice related, that I really want to go to.  Near the end of the winter break, I took a trip to Toronto and stayed for 14 hours (including sleep) just so I would be able to attend an event.  When I visit Niagara, I’m missing my volunteer shift at Holland Bloorview which I love going to.  I’m also missing out on things my friends who live in Toronto year-round invite me to.

Fortunately, Niagara Falls and Toronto are close enough that I get the best of both.  I just hope the cost of bus tickets doesn’t go up.

Photo from: kevinsbusrail.com /Taken by Kevin Lo

Inaccessibility at Ryerson

With the AODA deadline for accessibility fast approaching, ensuring accessibility should be on the minds of designers, urban planners and well, everyone. This is sadly not the case. For example, Ryerson is a leading university, and yet, accessibility still not on the forefront of planning. If you have been downtown lately you will have noticed the new student centre which is being built. What you may not have noticed, are the stairs. The front of the building is stairs. No ramp, no stramp, but stairs. The ramp, disability and accessibility are hidden at the back of the building.

photograph of the contruction of Ryerson's new student centre

Think about how this could have been done differently. Think about how ensuring universal access could have highlighted the forward thinking that should be bred in a university setting. Think about the design potential. Think about the implications of not including access in a student centre.

 

photograph of a stramp

Ever been to a dance studio on campus? If you are a wheelchair user you haven’t. They aren’t accessible.

Even this student blog is an example of inaccessibility on campus. This blog is hosted on the blogging platform, WordPress. It is considered one of the most accessible platforms but only if the blogger uses the accessibility features. For example, all images should be described for screen readers. On WordPress this is easily done. Simply use the alt text. I have even written a blog on making your blog accessible and yet this blog isn’t. To be fair student bloggers are not asked to ensure accessibility or instructed in the accessibility features of the platform.

A university should push boundaries and limits. It should make students and the public think about issues with its programs, buildings and policies. It should be inclusive of all people and bodies. Inaccessibility on any university campus implies that disabled people don’t attend university. They aren’t dancers, they don’t read blogs, and they are more than happy to be forced to the back in order to enter a student centre. Is this the university that you want to attend? We students pay thousands of dollars to attend this institution and we should demand that everyone be given equal access.

The Power of Blogging

Image reads "CESAR: Continuing education student's' association of Ryerson Local 105 Canadian Federation of Students"

It can be easy to think of the internet as a black hole into which your writing is lost. You stand at the edge of the abyss tossing in paper (or word documents) never to be seen again. I had thought this. I was surprised recently when I discovered that not only had my work been read but that it actually brought about change (sort of).

Several posts ago I wrote about CESAR’s health and dental plan opt-out policy which forces many female part time to students to pay for plan because they work part time or contract jobs which don’t provide alternative coverage. The health plan covers only basic needs and does not cover the cost of birth control. So in effect, many female part time students at Ryerson are being forced to pay for a service and then forced to pay for their birth control on top of that. I had made several calls to the CESAR office to explain how this policy was sexist and classist. I asked if I could pay more and opt-up to the full time student plan which covers birth control. I was continually told that this was not possible. When I informed the office that I was allowed to opt-out last year without alternative coverage I was told that there were staffing issues last year and it shouldn’t have been allowed. In my last call I spoke with a sympathetic woman who said that she had never considered my points before and would raise them to the office but that I was still not allowed to opt-out or opt-up.

So I wrote a blog and let my frustration go. I decided to just accept that there are systemic barriers in university structures for part-time students. Then a couple of days ago I received an email stating that my opt-out cheque was in and I could pick it up to at the Student Centre. As I was on campus I went to pick up my cheque, fully believing that a mistake had been made. It hadn’t. I was allowed to opt-out despite not having alternative coverage.

Wanting to understand what turned the tide, what made the difference, I called CESAR to ask why I was allowed to op-out. No answer. In fact, I have called and left three separate messages over a week period with no response. I no longer feel like I should just accept the systemic barriers to part-time education. If all it takes is a blog post and a couple of phone calls.