The UW Chevron

online version of uwaterloo's independent press

Category: Issue 1

I am not afraid

Author: Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

I blundered through my first year; in fact I enjoyed it so much I decided to give it another go. I come to you now as freshman 2.0, new and improved. My faculties have been dusted off, my program updated, and I return feeling better than ever. Fall 2014, here I come. I am not afraid.

Let me explain my first encounter with the big fish called the University of Waterloo. It managed to swallow me up and spit me out shortly after, covered in the slime of disappointment. I left a bad taste (and a hefty tuition) in the institutions mouth. Now to clear things up, I didn’t exactly fail any of my classes; I was forced to withdraw by a series of unfortunate events.

What began as a fantastic year, where I was eager, full of excitement and ambitious, quickly took a turn for the worse. I had begun the first year sprinting, diving into extracurriculars, exploring volunteering opportunities and even going to lectures beyond my scope of understanding. You can call it the naiveté of youth or just simply stupidity. Either way I was having a great time. I stayed relatively on top of my work load and followed through with assignments towards midterms. Then midterms arrived.

Midterms came and went. I frantically tried to salvage some dropping marks and then I crashed. Not figuratively, I literally crashed into another vehicle. So there I was having to deal with an accident, the unforeseen consequences of insurance and my faltering studies. I was beginning to sink deeper into the ocean of burdens and a weight was strapped onto my feet.

If this were a movie, I would have had a cinematic montage of recovery. Unfortunately each day went by as slowly as the rest and I kept sinking. Luckily, instead of just reacting, I acted of my own accord. Immediately after I crashed, I had warned my undergraduate advisor that this would greatly affect my studies. His concern and helpfulness guided me to a brighter ending of this story.

I went from advisor to advisor, explaining my situation, weighing my options, and dropping a few classes. Coupled with an accident, family and relationship struggles served to knock the final nails into my coffin. I was lowered into a six foot hole with a thud and I thought I was done for. I was going to be a dropout; somebody who tried and failed. I thought my world was ending and I envisioned a cynical old man who always talked about who he could have been.

Then, I was offered a way out: withdraw from your course load and begin anew. I was on track to fail a majority of my classes, so I jumped at the offer. My advisor walked me through the process, explained the required paperwork and even personally vouched for me.

My first request was denied; I required proof. I found myself in the registrar’s office gripping course override forms and an accident report. Shortly after, I received an email saying my withdrawal was completed successfully. I was out.

I would remain a student in the records and would have to apply for re-admission come July. Things finally began to relax for me and the weight was shedding. Unfortunately, I was going to miss a year, but I wasn’t too upset. Many people do not begin post-secondary education until they’re 19 and the experience has made me more realistic about my goals.

I took the time off to reorganize myself, work full time, and fix my car. The point is there’s always a second chance if you search for one. If I had remained silent about my situation and had not reached out to the many resources available at the University, I might not have had the opportunity to return.

I look forward to being back, to meet new faces and to offer a perspective for those who are in the same situation. If you’re a first year, you’re most likely feeling a combination of anxiety and hope; hope that you will succeed and the anxiety of possible failure of not meeting your expectations. Life will be hard on you, university will be hard on you, and people might be hard on you, but you don’t have to be hard on yourself. I sincerely hope that every incoming student enjoys their time here this year and if there’s one thing left to say it’s: do not be afraid.

What is our provincial government doing for students?

Author: Amy Rose Gofton

Last June 12th, while many of the students on this campus were away and in a summer frame of mind, the provincial election culminated into a Liberal Majority government. During the campaign, Kathleen Wynne promised that, if re-elected, her party would keep the 30%-off tuition grant in place. Three months later, it appears that the Liberals will keep their word. As they should. The 30%-off tuition grant was, after all, a Liberal initiative back in 2012. During the campaign, the Conservatives claimed they would cancel the grant if elected. Regardless of whether or not we as students believe the grant is accessible enough, or provides enough monetary relief, having it in place is better than not having it at all.

In 2013 the Liberals pledged to cap rising tuition rates at a 3% increase per year. With the Liberals re-elected, the 3% increase will remain. If, instead, we had elected an NDP government, perhaps Andrea Horwath would have followed through with her pledge to freeze tuition rates at current levels and to eliminate the provincial portion of interest on student loans, but there is no reason to ponder what might have been. The question that needs to be asked now is what plans does the Liberal government have in store for Ontario post-secondary education in the future?

In a document on the website of the Ontario Liberals titled “Building a Stronger Post Secondary System”, a number of initiatives and promises are presented. Starting Fall 2015, any student taking a 70 percent course load or less will have to be charged on a per-credit basis, rather than a flat rate. The document also explains that plans are in the works to expand campuses in underserved areas and provide space for an additional 60,000 postsecondary students. The Liberals plan to work with municipalities, colleges and universities across the province to implement expansions. The government has put out a call for proposals to expand and create new campuses. The deadline for proposals is the 26th of September, 2014.

On July 3rd, the Speech From Throne was read to open the 41st parliament. The speech included direct references to investing in education and skills training, to ensuring more students receive postsecondary education, to building new campuses and to increasing access to French-language programs. The speech describes “public investments to develop the talent and skills of our people . . . not [as] a luxury,” but as an investment in the future. The actual budget, to the dismay of many interest groups, contains no new funding for improved access or affordability of post-secondary education. However, the government still claims that by 2025 Ontario will boast a postsecondary attainment rate of above 70%.

In the three months since the June election, the Liberals have talked, minimally about ways to help students, but they have little to show in terms of action. According to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives printed in the July/August Issue of the CCPA Monitor, Ontario students are still paying, on average, the highest tuition rates in this country. It takes 2.7 times the hours of work to pay for an average Ontario tuition today than it did in 1975. While the Liberals may have pride in their plan to create more spaces and larger campuses for students, it matters little if the affordability and the quality of our education system continues to go downhill.

Justin Trudeau visits UW

Author: Amy Rose Gofton

On Wednesday, September 10th at 2 pm, Justin Trudeau was on campus in the SLC to give a speech and host a Q&A session. Students packed the Great Hall, pulling up chairs and politely cramming in as close to the stage as allowed. Cameras were set up and cell phones came out to take video and pictures.

Trudeau began his speech by sharing his views on young people’s involvement in politics. He stated that students are not disinterested, as is often said, and used the packed Great Hall as a representation of student interest in politics. He referred to university students as the “Class of 2015” voters, since many of us will be voting in a federal election for the very first time. Trudeau also spoke about the environment and the economy, telling students they must pressure political leaders into thinking long-term rather than short term. He also touched on the need to minimize divisions in politics in order to govern the whole. He rejected partisan politics and the playing of regions and demographics off each-other in order to get votes, while subtly accusing the Conservatives of doing so.

A Q&A session followed the short speech. UW students who raised their hands and were picked were able to freely ask any question they wished—a practice which is quickly disappearing in an age where many political appearances are scripted right down to the number of hands that will be shaken. Students questioned Justin Trudeau on everything from the gap between rich and poor, childcare, tuition rates, terrorism, government surveillance, pipelines and electoral reform.

Trudeau rejected the idea of eliminating or minimizing tuition rates, saying instead the student loan and bursary system needs to be overhauled. He rejected the option of electoral reform through a Proportional Representation system, voicing support for Preferential Balloting instead, saying it would reduce partisanship. Trudeau also voiced support for a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine, a statement which caused the crowd of the students to clap and cheer.

When asked a question about the legalization of marijuana, Trudeau paused and sat down for a moment before answering. The current methods of control are not “protecting our kids,” he said, stating that in Canada it is relatively easy for minors to obtain the drug. Trudeau implied that through legalization and control marijuana could more easily be kept out of the hands of minors. Incidentally, buttons reading Legalize It, issued by the Young Liberals of Canada, were given out at the event.

Near the end of the Q&A, Trudeau accused the Conservatives of mismanaging the economy, saying that “Conservatives always go into a deficit” and “provide spectacularly bad government.” For someone who consistently rejects partisan politics, Justin Trudeau managed to slip an awful lot of jabs at the Conservatives into his speech, as well as the Q&A.

Construction delays leave students out in the cold

Author: Thomas Little

Construction delays at a new high-rise apartment complex in Waterloo has left up to 500 students searching for alternative accommodations.

The building is “One Columbia” (located at 1 Columbia Street West). It is owned by Schembri Property Management and it will be one of the tallest buildings in the Waterloo Region. That is, when it is completed. Unfortunately for students who had signed leases to move in this September, construction delays left hundreds of students with nowhere to stay for the start of the new term (for some, their first term away at university).

The situation, as well as Schembri’s alleged mishandling of it, has angered the prospective tenants; even though construction will be indefinitely delayed, students who chose to simply sign leases for other rental units have found themselves “locked in”, with Schembri withholding their rental deposits. Another complaint is that despite presumably knowing that construction would not be finished for the start of term, the prospective tenants were only notified at the beginning of September, giving them little time to react.

Schembri initially gave the lease-holders two options: either find temporary alternative accommodations or switch your lease to another Schembri property. After several days, Schembri also proposed a third option: stay in one of three hotels and take a shuttle bus to campus. This was a popular option, since as one student explained, “it was immediate and a guaranteed place to stay.” The lease transfer option proved unpopular, mostly because the option given was for 75 Columbia, which is unfurnished.

On Thursday the 4th, a meeting was held by Feds’ Off-Campus Housing service to discuss the options and advise students. But this has still left students frustrated and confused, and significantly, split into two main groups. Talk on a Facebook group for the 1 Columbia tenants indicated, as one student noted, that “a lot of people were so outraged by the delay that they signed new leases with Domus [or] KW4Rent”. They argue that Schembri, by not providing the accommodations agreed to at the time agreed to in the rental contract, has invalidated the rental agreement, and many would rather leave the situation behind than stay in a hotel waiting for the construction to finish. Despite this, Schembri has not offered to officially terminate the contracts and continues to hold deposits (of $1,450 per tenant).

As of the date of publication, Schembri’s website still lists 1 Columbia as “Ready for Occupancy September 2014”.

What is the Chevron?

The Editorial Collective

Hello, reader! What you have in your hands is the first issue for this term of the Chevron, the University of Waterloo’s independent student newspaper.

The Chevron was once the University of Waterloo’s official student newspaper and was published alongside EngiNews (now the Iron Warrior) and MathNews. In 1976, after a bitter dispute with the Federation of Students, the Chevron staff were locked out of their office. There was a backlash against Feds and multiple “underground” versions of the Chevron were published before the Chevron was restored.

In 1978, after the Chevron had continued to be critical of Feds, a referendum was organized by Feds executives to decide on the official campus newspaper: the Chevron or the new Imprint. The Imprint had been started by the UW Journalism Club and was originally funded completely from advertising, but after gaining official status, it would also receive a levy fee from students through Feds.

Until 2010, the Imprint was the only newspaper on campus aimed at a general student audience (as opposed to the faculty-specific MathNews and the Iron Warrior). In that year, the Chevron was re-launched by a group of students concerned with the Imprint’s level of journalistic integrity and with the actions of the Federation of Students, particularly its perceived indifference to the interests and desires of ordinary students.

This new Chevron, dubbed the “Chevron revival”, made a significant impact on campus by acting as a critical, independent voice on campus affairs. Unfortunately, it ceased publication after one year, with its final issue being published in February 2011.

Today, the Chevron is published by another group of students interested in reviving its traditions of critical and educated journalism, while maintaining a strong focus on what actually matters to students. If the idea of contributing to such a project interests you, we welcome submissions to our editorial email. We also welcome written responses to any or all of our articles. Because we are committed to defending the interests of students, we would also appreciate any article ideas or suggestions you might have about how we can do this.

We wish you the best of luck with your classes and a good Fall 2014 term.