Today's discussion:

Reform is coming for entitled universities—one way or another

The inability of many university voices to substantively respond to wonky policy arguments is evidence of an entitlement mentality and a bad sign for the sector’s capacity to defend itself in the face of a less hospitable political environment.  

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The Hub Staff

Sean Speer raises three arguments in favour of revisiting policies regarding subsidized tuition rates, and where Canada figures into this discussion on reforming universities. What do you think about the current political climate around Canadian universities?

11th December 2023 at 9:42 am

Much of this is our own fault for not paying attention to the people we hired. While most of us were busy making the economy and the country run, we left education to the left wing, as for the most part they are not much use in running an economy. As it turns out, they are not capable of running the education system either.

11th December 2023 at 8:55 am
Paul H.

Five years ago I returned to university to complete the Bachelor’s degree that I had started over 45 years previously. I was 70 years old and thought it would be a great idea to finish my Bachelors. I was retired and was looking for something to do during Canada’s bleak winters.

It had been almost 50 years since I had been on campus and I was shocked to learn that many of the other students attending the same courses that I was registered in were incapable of constructing a proper paragraph. They could not spell correctly and would submit 2000 word assignments as a single paragraph. Have you ever tried to read a 2000 word paragraph devoid of capital letters, indentations and proper punctuation.

I found attending university to be a valuable learning experience but not the one I anticipated.
Given my experience, I am not surprised by the latest headlines condemning the state of our universities.

11th December 2023 at 9:56 am
Michael F

I went back to university at the age of 27 as a mature student. U of T at that time had a pre-requisite course they called Pre-U to help mature students prepare for their education. It included a writing tune up and some basic study skills to help those who had been away from school for years. It certainly helped me. Sadly high schools these days aren’t equipping students with what they need for university.

11th December 2023 at 6:14 pm
A. Chezzi

Universities should be places where ideas can be explored, discussed, and debated freely. In our society today, sadly, civil discourse seems to have been lost. Our political leaders are no shining examples of civil debate.
Whether it is user pay or subsidies, universities are not to be used to indoctrinate students, as is happening in some States, especially Florida. There are as many problems with user pay as with subsidies. In a user pay situation, you either adhere to the culture of the powers that be or be sidelined or expelled. With subsidies, governments may try to influence or worse legislate what may or may not be said or done, as with Con attempts to legislate what is or what is not free speech. There is always a tricky balance for administrators to walk. In the case of McGill and the other university presidents, no group should be targeted and no group should feel unsafe, Israeli or Muslim. This should have been made abundantly clear but that doesn’t mean that debate about Israel or Hamas should be shutdown.

11th December 2023 at 9:22 am
Richard Courtemanche

I’ll believe it when I see it. The complete education system has to be exorcised and would need a lot of work to re-construct. Too many academics have been agents of the cultural Marxist revolution. The indoctrination of teachers and students. Too many bad years already have produced students without proper traditional learning and competence. The infiltration of sexual garbage and Islamism… the firing of good professors… censorship… absolutely insane. The same reproach for governments and Ministers of Education who let it happen. What a mess!

11th December 2023 at 9:58 am

That the tone deaf, verbal dodgery of the university professors on display for public viewing came from the United States is telling. Up north, there has been no such hearing catalyst for Canadians to understand the extent to which the problem exists among academia in our universities. They just carry on.

A greater proportion of their financial support coming from tax coffers frees them from the periodic glare of the cameras and the pesky notion of accountability that their peers south of the border are held to in return for the continuing support of private donors that their institutions count on.

Different systems, different outcomes. Depending on who cuts the cheques, money does talk. The pace of cultural change within government-funded Canadian post-secondary institutions will be glacial, if in fact there is any movement.

11th December 2023 at 9:41 am
Michael F

There was five hours of testimony. Did you watch it all? Or just the snippets that were served up to you?

11th December 2023 at 11:51 am

Oh come now, Michael. As you try defending the indefensible, did you watch it all?

I may not have sat through all five hours of that academic drudgery, but I did listen to competing perspectives and multiple analyses, including CNN’s Michael Smerconish – someone I admire for his objectivity – before drawing my own conclusions.

“Did you watch it all?” You’re going to have to do better than that, Michael, if you expect to catch me in some gotcha moment…

11th December 2023 at 1:39 pm
Michael F

Did I watch it all? No. But I did find it funny that the whole thing was absurd enough that it led off SNL on Saturday night with a parody of it. And that says a lot. I am trying to catch you in a ‘gotcha moment’, I am only pointing out that there was a lot of context missing from the uproar.

11th December 2023 at 3:08 pm
Rudyard Griffiths

I enjoyed Sean’s piece today. A key takeaway is that as universities face an increasingly difficult time defending their political neutrality on range of issues and debates, it becomes more difficult for proponents higher education of to marshal a credible defense against political meddling by government. Administrators hopefully are waking up to this contradiction and fathoming that the “juice isn’t worth the squeeze”. In sum, it is hard to see how universities don’t end up loosing public support, public funding and their intellectual independence if they continue to selectively take ideological stands on range of issues from climate to indigeneity to anti-racism while downplaying antisemitism , their responsibly to fashioning genuine public, non-political goods, and provide neutral places and spaces for free and open debate and discussion.

11th December 2023 at 9:12 am

Canadian Universities also receive donations and pander to politicians visits. I have yet to hear that any of the presidents would waffle if asked such a question. Universities are places where students learn about politics, health, literature, and more. It means to open the eyes of students to concepts such as equality, social ills, history that has led to today’s benefits and ills, and responsibility in relation to human actions. Ultimately they serve to inculcate critical thinking. This skill alone fosters the ability to look at all facets of an issue. Some students will glom on to bits of this education that supports their world view created by experience, parental influences and societal norms. This is where most issues come from.

11th December 2023 at 9:01 am
Peter Boys

The whole point of universities is to challenge students and to discuss and question uncomfortable subjects, as well as helping them to develop analytical skills and the ability to research objectively in their academic field. It’s not to brainwash them or tell them how to think, It’s doubly sad that Universities, Major Media News outlets and Leftist Politicians are pushing their woke agenda on many countries in the world. I graduated from an Agricultural college in England and all our lecturer’s made us do research and question any thing we thought was untrue or biased, plus helped us to develop self confidence and the needed skills for our field of employment. Skills that have allowed me to have a very successful series of jobs over the 53 years I have lived in Alberta, Canada

11th December 2023 at 6:26 pm

The problem with the universities is that Critical Theory, which is post-modern race neo-Marxism, has taken over both the minds of administrators as well as faculty members. In a post-truth world, statements can be made without any supporting evidence; to ask for evidence is an indication of racism. This is partially a result of the specialization that takes place at the universities, such that most students and professors are trained rather than educated. All students and professors should have basic knowledge of Western intellectual history, of science, of math, and of statistics. These would provide the tools to think analytically and critically, and to question the ideology of Critical Theiry that is being taught as truth, when it is anything but.

11th December 2023 at 10:06 pm
Michael F

Let’s unpack this bit of political theatre in the US.

1. There was five hours of testimony during the congresional hearing. Only one small snippet taken out of context, was blown up pointed to as unequivocal evidence that these universities promote anti-semitism on campus.

2. Elise Stefanik the Republican member who was doing the questioning has taken money and support from pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and NORPAC. She is also a Trump supporter who openly endorsed conspiracy theories around the 2020 election and pushed other conspriacy theories like the so-called great replacement theory.

The pro-Israel lobby is in overdrive mode to make sure the knives come out for anyone who dares question what is happening right now in Gaza and the West Bank as world opinion towards Israel and the IDF becomes more and more critical. Any voices of dissent in the US must be stopped by any means possible to keep the cash and weapons flowing.

11th December 2023 at 11:42 am
Greg McGinnis

I think universities, at least in the humanities, are losing mainstream credibility. This will undoubtedly have a long term negative effect on the willingness of governments and donors to support them, unless they weave back to the centre. I think this process will that a decade or two to work itself out. But suggestions like this, once unthinkable, will gain traction.

11th December 2023 at 10:10 am