Archive for February, 2012

Moving Past Slackivism

February 25, 2012 4 comments

Follow up post on my previous entry Really Giving to Charity

How many of you have done any of the following things:

  • Change your Facebook profile picture to a cartoon character
  • Post statuses such as I like it on the chair or I am the 1% who believe in…blah blah blah…
  • Participate in Earth Hour
  • Wear pink to show one’s commitment to anti-bullying, breast cancer etc…

If so, then you are part of a not-so-small group called slackivists. Slackivism describes the actions one does in support of a cause that has little or no practical effect except for his or her self-satisfaction. Usually there is very little effort required as in the case of updating Facebook statuses or sharing photos that trigger strong emotional responses from other people. Hence we get:

slacker + activism = slackivism

As Jessica LaGrone mentioned, the problem with slackivism is that people portray themselves as someone who cares about a cause when actually they haven’t contributed anything at all. When you see a friend click attending for a “turn off your lights during Earth Hour” fb event, you think oh that person cares about the environment and sustainability.  By liking a page or re-posting a status, people go to sleep every night with a soothed conscience thinking they did something good for the world so they don’t do anything else that actually benefits the causes. They think I’m an activist on screen so that I don’t have to make the effort to be one in real life.

In December 2010, many people changed their profile picture to a cartoon character. Here’s the accompanying caption:

Change your profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. There should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children.

The message in the caption was clear: you can stop violence simply by changing your picture. There was no mention of any links to visit or people to contact or charities to donate to if one wanted to actively get involved with that cause. Yes that campaign was successful at raising awareness, but there’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right things. Even if I may not have the ability to make a large impact, I can use my influence to get other people to be sustainable, donate to charity, volunteer at community centers etc… and not something silly such as changing a picture or turning off their lights at 8pm on March 31.

Categories: Global, Life

Really Giving to Charity

February 21, 2012 4 comments

When we give to charity, do we always make a positive change or sometimes further perpetuate a problem? Let’s say you donate money/food to starving children in Africa. What happens when all that is used up? Likely those children will require even more donations and become dependent on wealthier countries. However, what if that money was used to address why are children starving? Once you fix that problem, they won’t require donations from others anymore. As the saying goes, give a man a fish and he won’t be hungry for one night, but teach him to fish and he won’t be hungry for life.

The most recent fundraiser I helped out with was a hot chocolate sale. The logistics were simple: it ran for five hours every day for five days and there were four people running the booth at any given time. Therefore the total effort put into selling hot chocolate was 100 hours (4 ppl x 5 hours x 5 days). I don’t know how much money was raised, but I assume it was around $500. When you do the math, each volunteer raised only $5 per hour. If you think about it, instead of organizing and running the hot chocolate sale, what if the same people spent the same amount of time working at a minimum wage job ($10/hour) then donating that paycheck? We would have $1000 instead of $500 to give to charity.

Furthermore are there times when it’s better to withhold small charitable donations until the future when one can make a larger impact? For example, my friend (going to law school) currently doesn’t give to charity. However he made a pledge that once he becomes a lawyer and reaches a yearly salary of $250k, he will donate $10k every single year. If he had spent his time and money on small charitable causes, he may not have been able to focus getting into law school and potentially earn the salary required to make much larger donations in the future.

There are numerous charitable organizations, but we can’t donate to them all. It’s important to look at the bigger picture because our good intentions don’t always lead to the most favourable outcomes. Charity is more than just being nice. It’s about solving problems.

Categories: Global, Life

UBC Exam Scheduling

February 7, 2012 4 comments

A few candidates running for the UBC AMS elections lobbied to have administration release the exam schedule earlier, specifically before the course add/drop deadline. They cited the need to better plan family affairs and student control of their schedule. While there’s no harm in releasing the schedule earlier, it shouldn’t be released before the course add/drop deadline.

Have you considered why UBC releases the schedule relatively late? In comparison, SFU students know their exam schedule when they register for courses so there must be some reason for this big difference right?

It’d be great if someone can confirm/refute this, but I think UBC releases the exam schedule relatively late because it uses an algorithm to determine the most favourable exam schedule for the greatest number of students (by favourable I mean no exam hardships, clashes etc…). Students should be signing up for courses that they want to take as opposed to taking courses that fit a convenient exam schedule. Some important dates to take note of…

  • UBC course add/drop deadline: January 16
  • UBC exam schedule released: February 3
  • UBC exam period: April 11 to April 25

Hypothetical situation 1: Let’s say students knew before registering, that Bioc 302 and Fren 112 exams were at the same time on the same day, but (for some random reason) 100 students wanted to take both courses. Since the schedule was released early, UBC is going to have to process 100 separate applications of exam conflict forms. However if UBC had known in advance that many students were going to take both courses, it could have scheduled the exams to avoid this conflict because student timetables are finalized after the add/drop deadline.

Hypothetical situation 2: Let’s say you had to make early travel/family/surgery arrangements so on Jan 10 you book plane tickets for April 20 since you know that’s the last day of your exams. However two days later, you realize that you had to take a prerequisite (say Psyc 100) and that exam is on April 24. Now you go shit, even though I waited until the exam schedule is released before booking travel plans, I didn’t realize my timetable would change.

Even if the schedule is released earlier, students can’t make travel plans until after Jan 16 when they know their timetable is 100% finalized. Although there is a greater control of travel plans if the exam schedule is released earlier, students will lose a lot of freedom (or perceive a loss of freedom) when registering for courses. There are very few things (if at all anything) that should compromise what a student wants to study at UBC. The final exam schedule is not one of them.

Categories: Education, UBC