equal time: University Panics and Problems

January 13, 2016

When I was in university years ago, it was a real lesson in life and it grounded me with values that I have honed for decades.

Before Christmas, when I waiting (for hours and hours and hours) for the ocean water to calm so I could cross on the ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver, I chatted on and off with a young man from Galiano Islands who is attending the University of British Columbia.

We talked about many meaningful things including Justin Trudeau’s recent election as Prime Minister which we agreed was a nice turn of events after suffering the result of Stephen Harper’s far-too-conservative policies for too long. This said, both of us voted for Elizabeth May, the Green Party head and parliamentary conscience, in this and the last election.

The young man was taking time out from completing a university paper and studying for an exam when we were in conversation. The rhythm of being in university never changes.

The following is a column piece I wrote when I went back briefly to university after I obtained my B.A. with a major in history:

The South Voice

November 2, 1983

equal time: University Panics and Problems

by Tanya Lester

For one panic-ridden day, last week, I really started to wonder whether I should have written that glowing column a few weeks back about the joys of going back to university.

You see, I’m taking a university night course in history after several years of being away from the Ivory Towers. As a result, I spent last Monday shifting from one exercise in futility to another.

I shuffled papers, pulled out my hair, read a bit, shuffled more papers, pulled out more hair, read with more confusion, and so on and so on. In other words, I spent one full and very exhausting day agonizing over what I should present as my research proposal. I wore myself out and I accomplished absolutely nothing. Zilch.

But I know one reason why I was feeling such frustration. I wanted to do something on women in Manitoba history. It is so difficult to find books or papers or journal articles on many aspects of a subject like this. Even professors, who have adequate knowledge on women’s issues are few and far between. Because there are so few of them, these professors are often very difficult to track down.

Sexist education is to blame for this. In high school, we were never taught anything about women in history or geography or English or anywhere. Nobody realized that women, who make up 51 percent of the population, were important enough to be talked about in classes. Although Manitoba women struggled and were the first in Canada and North America to win the vote, for instance, what teacher ever told us about it?

And the same type of sexist education continues to be taught in university. It’s not surprising . The professors who teach at university came through the same sexist elementary and high school system that the rest of us did.

Even women professors who can inspire women students (the “If she did it, then, so can I” sort of thing) are still very much in the minority on university staffs. They often get paid less, too.

Then, there’s the sexual harassment. The old story about the woman student who is told that she will not get a good grade unless she puts up with a male professor’s ‘pawing’ or complies with his wish to sleep with her is still a reality.

This is why I think a particular conference that is coming to us this weekend, at the University of Manitoba, is so important. It is called “Sexual Harassment and Sexist Teaching on Campus”…


More on Tanya at teareading.wordpress.com







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