December 1, 2010

'Uncultured' Logger Dismantles $5000 Sackville, NB Art Display

>It isn't very often that any news source out of well...Sackville...reports on what happens here besides something done by the University. However, it seems that a local logger who was  told he could take logs from the woods and unknowingly dismantled an art display is a big enough display of the difference between those who see stacked logs as stacked logs and those who see it as art to merit being reposted in papers throughout the country. Here's one version of the story:

Logger looking for firewood nearly dismantles artwork 
In eye of beholder, it was just fuel

SACKVILLE, N.B. — A New Brunswick logger is unrepentant after beginning to dismantle a woodpile that turned out to be a sculpture titled Deadwood Sleep.
Ron Fahey of Sackville said Monday he was granted permission in August from Mount Allison University to take the logs stacked in an area behind the president’s residence alongside a waterfowl park in the town.
"I got the OK to just take the wood and, to me, it was just a pile of wood. If that’s art then I’m in the wrong racket," he said.
"I guess I’m not cultured."
He said he was going to use it for firewood and had started to haul some of the wood away on Saturday when the town manager came rushing over to ask if he had permission to touch it.
Fahey, 59, realized the mistake and stopped working on the pile, though he’d already pulled several logs off.
Andrea Ward, grounds manager at Mount Allison University, said there was confusion over which pile of wood Fahey was to dismantle behind the historic Cranewood residence on the campus.
"Basically we said, ‘We don’t think the wood you’re looking at is on your property, but we do have some wood on our property if you’re interested,’ " she said.
The three-year-old artwork is by local sculptor Paul Griffin and is displayed on a town website that advertises the community as the cultural capital of Canada.
Griffin says the town commissioned the work for $5,000 and it has two large maples entwined on top of a two-metre-high stack of deadwood gathered from the forest.
"It’s right in the middle of a waterfowl park. That’s one logger that’s pretty hungry for a piece of wood," said the sculptor.
Nearby, there’s a stump covered in galvanized roofing nails, another portion of Griffin’s sculpture.
He said he plans to put the sculpture back together.
"I think I’ll have to have a sign put up, but part of the art is to work in harmony with nature surrounding it."
Griffin, who also works as a technician at the university’s fine arts department, said he was relieved the incident wasn’t a case of vandalism but rather the result of "an honest mistake."
"I’m from northern B.C. and I’ve been a logger. It strikes me as a bit humorous," he said.
"They’re maybe a little overzealous for wood. Maybe there’s a cold winter coming on."
‘I got the OK to just take the wood and, to me, it was just a pile of wood.
If that’s art then I’m in the wrong racket. I guess I’m not cultured.’

Academic Stress

As this is the time papers are due and exam study begins I wanted to find a good definition of stress...but the best (first) definition I could find was this non-definition:

If you were to ask a dozen people to define stress, or explain what causes stress for them, or how stress affects them, you would likely get 12 different answers to each of these requests. The reason for this is that there is no definition of stress that everyone agrees on, what is stressful for one person may be pleasurable or have little effect on others and we all react to stress differently.

Since there isn't an agreed upon definition I can make one up myself that will have as much merit as well established ideas, right? Right: this is how academia works.

From the past few weeks I've found in addition to the general feeling of pressure to perform, Academic Stress can be caused by a lack in confidence in your ability to do something demanded of you. In this respect going through University, particularly upper year courses (Frosh: Don't complain now, it only gets harder) increases not only your ability to deal with stress but also lowers it because (,assuming you complete the assignments and eventually graduate) it increases the amount and quality of work you are confident in your ability to complete. This assumes it eventually work stops increasing faster than your perceived ability level.

That thought aside, aside, it really feels good to turn in a paper to have it done with. There's always something else to work on but sometimes you need a break in order to have the mental focus to work effectively on whatever is next. For now here's a song you might enjoy (or might hate me for posting, depending on when your next assignment is due and how much of it you've finished) by Hey Rosetta! (which played in Sackville last year) that I find very fitting for the moment you click send or let go of your paper:

Mount Allison Students' Administrative Council (SAC) Newsletter (Honorary Degree Process and Student Health Insurance)

If you haven't seen it yet Mount Allison's Students' Administrative Council (SAC) their first Quarterly Newsletter, the Union Quarterly. In in, SAC President Samuel Gregg-Wallace outlined some of the key issues and initiatives for the SAC this year.

These include: The awarding of the first ever SAC Excellence in Teaching Award to Geography Professor Dr. Michael Fox. He also mentions his role as the President of the New Brunswick Student Alliance wherein his priorities are "establishing a multi-year funding agreement with universities to ensure stable tuition prices, eliminating interest on student loans, and expand the Timely Completion Benefit."

The four page newsletter includes sections on the process of awarding honorary degrees. SAC Vice President Vice President Nathan Walker writes about the controversy and what the SAC has done improve the degree granting process.

Following the controversy surrounding the awarding of an honorary degree to Heather Reisman at May’s Convocation ceremony, the SAC recognized the need for a close reevaluation of the role honorary degrees play at our university and the procedure by which they are awarded. In this particular instance, Ms. Reisman, CEO of Indigo Books and Music, was honored with a degree in recognition of her corporate success. At issue with some of the university’s faculty and students were her ties to the Heseg Foundation, which provides financial support for Israel’s “lone soldiers” – members of the Israeli Defense Forces who have no family ties to the country but wish to settle there.
While the SAC did not take a stance on the awarding of Ms. Reisman’s degree, the need for a discussion of the current honorary degrees policy was apparent. Subsequently, the SAC Executive Committee, Academic Affairs Committee, and the Students’ Administrative Council as a whole have undertaken a review of the principles and procedures surrounding these degrees and made a series of recommendations to Dr. Robert Campbell, University President and Chair of Senate. 
After careful consideration, we felt that the current criteria and rationale for the awarding of honorary degrees are appropriate, provided they are followed. These criteria are best summarized by assertion that “when granting an honorary degree, we are projecting our values and vision to our community.” However, the current procedures seemed to lack transparency and do not facilitate informed, engaged decision making by members of senate, and therefore need to be addressed. To this end, the SAC President, Vice-President Academic, and Student Senators submitted a number of proposed procedural changes to the members of Senate, including a request that information on proposed honorary degree recipients be distributed to Senators with enough time to conduct research and contemplate the university values each candidate reflects. Additionally, we requested a list of candidates previously approved by senate but on whom a degree had not yet been conferred, to ensure that the candidate continued to embody the university’s ideals.
At the recent November 18th Senate meeting, Dr. Campbell announced that these proposed changes, in addition to others put forward in our letter, would be implemented in the upcoming deliberation of honorary degree candidates in December. We are gratified to be working towards an improved process and look forward to further engagement with the university community in the near future. For more information about honorary degrees or the SAC’s letter to Senate, please contact Nathan Walker, Vice-President Academic at

This article still leaves many questions unanswered, particularly because, to date almost none of the details have been made public and all discussions, it seems, have been behind closed doors. It is unclear exactly how having a list of preapproved honorary degree candidates provided to the SAC can "ensure that the candidate continued to embody the university’s ideals." Is it supposed to imply that the SAC will have a say in who receives degrees. Will the SAC also be provided with names of future possible degree recipients. Will student opinion be taken into account besides the one student (out of eleven members) on the Honorary Degrees Committee? How is that student chosen? The webpage about Honorary Degrees is unclear about how the Committee functions and whether a majority vote is needed in order to provide the Senate with a select list of acceptable recipients. This makes it very unclear if the new recommendations will increase transparency as the SAC hopes.

However, in a situation like this it is quite possibly it is in the best interest of the University that the procedures and deliberations of the Committee and Senate are not made public and that transparency is not always necessary or appropriate. The ultimate recipients are important for the future of the University in terms of providing it with increased national recognition (Peter Mansbridge, 1999) and other positive benefits, and I believe that we ought to put enough faith in our representatives (or in case of students, representative) that they will make appropriate decisions on our behalf. However I, and undoubtedly those who opposed awarding Heather Reisman a degree hope that in fact the implementation of the new recommendations will allow for more informed decisions in the future.

Another piece of note is by Vice President Campus Life, noting that, what do you know, yes, a large majority of student 66.5% and 64.5%, respectively) do want mandatory, opt-out extended health and dental insurance. The plan is to have health and dental insurance for all students by September 2011.

Here is the newsletter (archived from the SAC website.

Mount Allison University Students' Administrative Council's Union Quarterly