The real issues to be considered

Dear Editor,

Politicians, as a rule, react to public pressure and rarely take their own initiative to deal with issues in society unless they themselves have a passion for it. One can hardly expect politicians to take the lead where there is none.

While the white papers are officially meant to open dialogue, the stark reality is that they are more of a tool to determine the extent of public opinion—not so much to satisfy the needs of the people as it is to meet the bare minimum of protest. To think that universities will put 60% of their courses online is ludicrous. They expect us to protest; they’ll appease us and put it down to, say, 40%. The bidding always starts high.

In the time we have before the government legislates, it is absolutely necessary not to be distracted by such petty issues. In all these discussions I am terribly upset that many have neglected to observe the role of funding and the way research operates at this university. The University of Toronto receives more corporate funding than any other Canadian university by far, and I just can’t understand how this conversation has been lost to something as trivial as a debate over online courses. If the school was serious about online education, they would first consider it as a substitute for expensive textbooks—end of story.

In the past several years, there have been very serious concerns about academic freedom and academic integrity. I am talking about Big Pharma on campus, I am talking about the Toronto Affair with Dr. Healy, I am talking about an educational system designed to feed corporate demands at the expense of the public good. Add to this the growing student debt, the devaluation of our degrees, and the increasing concerns over the quality of education in the classroom, and you quickly forget about online education! For anyone who keeps an eye on the news, this is nothing new, and the coverage seems to increase with each passing month.

Why then the fuss with online courses? The concern with the interaction between professors and students is such a trivial matter, so insignificant in the broader picture, that if we don’t move beyond this and similar petty discussions, we really do risk the future of this country by ignoring that picture. The concern with online education should not be quarantined: it is a symptom of a thoroughly diseased culture of business and profit. The white papers mention next to nothing about research. That was not a mistake—the government is testing us to determine the extent of protest. If we miss this opportunity now, the damage will be severe.

Eli-Lilly is a pharmaceutical company that produces Prozac, among other drugs, and they happen to be very generous donors, among others. Eli-Lilly cares about education; it is in the interest of companies like Eli-Lilly to restrict it. Eli-Lilly takes academic freedom very seriously: it endangers its profits. No one will buy drugs that have been scientifically proven to be ineffective and frankly quite dangerous, and no one is going to be happy that they or their children and relatives have been tricked into paying for medication they don’t need, and that is actually risking their health. Big Pharma is Big Business, and it’s happening right here on campus, ladies and gentlemen. Educate yourselves online.


Phillip Niedzielski

Fifth Year, Arts and Science

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