NO VOTE NO VOICE – my thoughts on the Totem debate

I have to admit that I haven’t given the AMS elections as much as attention as I should have. But that definitely does not mean that I think they are not important – in fact, this year has again proven how important it is for us to hold our elected representatives accountable for how they behave and the decisions they make.

Even if I don’t have time to attend all the election events, I have read through the Ubyssey’s election supplement and some blogs, like UBC Insiders. Also, I went to Totem debates and plan to go to the other debates (Monday in Vanier or the CSI at 5, Tuesday in the SUB at 12).

So what do I think? — Instead of telling you each candidate’s platform I’ll just tell you how many ticks I gave and why. 1 tick = 1 idea/thing that I like about them.


Justin: 2 ticks – for knowing what he’s talking about. He obviously won’t waste any time learning how things work as he already seems very confident.

Spencer: 2 ticks – for being honest about not having the answer to something and asking the audience. All our representatives have to trust that their best bet is to talk to students.

AJ: 1 tick – for including international students in his platform.

Imran: 2 ticks – for mentioning the importance of reaching out to high schools to discuss drop-out rates.


Ryan: 1 tick – for mentioning that we need to look seriously at how we understand the concept of ‘education.’

VP External

Rory: 2 ticks – for supporting the building of relationships with other BC student unions and for being clear on the fact that if the  referendum passes students should actively demand more of their elected representatives. However, I felt very uncomfortable with his ‘suits suck’ campaigning. I myself am not a big fan of suits, but I believe that it is in no way OK to engage in the negative assigning of stereotypes to people who decide to wear suits. Also, I found it very disrespectful when he swore in the middle of the debate.

Mitch: 2 ticks – for having the experience and knowing very useful information. I’m not a fan of him giving the same answer to all the questions: ‘I have done the research…’ ‘My research shows…’

Katherine: 2 ticks – for including graduate and international students in her platform and for knowing how the AMS works. She seemed very prepared but not as approachable as the other two candidates.


Omar: 1.5 ticks – for having ‘poor and busy’ students as his top priority. He does seem very hard-headed and willing to do anything to get his way.

Jeremy: 3 ticks – for having already done a good job in the AMS executive, for wanting to work on projects that are tangible and not his personal agenda.

Michael: 2 ticks – for being against student apathy. However, he does seem very opportunistic…

Jeremichael: A LOT of ticks – normally I’m not amused by joke candidates. However, his statement really makes you think about how easy it is for candidates to say whatever students what to hear : “I have the expertise.. leadership… pro-active… promise.”

Before you vote take a moment to think of who just wants this position on their resume (regardless of how well spoken they may be) and who shows real passion and dedication to representing students.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What Promise in Which Place?

This is what the new Earth Systems Science Building (ESSB) will look like in a few years:

This is what the oppression of indigenous communities’ rights looked like in Guatemala in January, 2005 (including 1500 police and 300 military officials to fight 2000 indigenous farmers):


Not as much as you would like to think.

In 2007 UBC received a $5 million grant from Goldcorp for the ESSB, which will include a ‘Goldcorp Inc. Teaching and Learning Wing,’ and President Stephen Toope said that the University was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the participation of Goldcorp in the project.

As any informed Guatemalan, talking about Goldcorp is a little touchy for me. And so with all the news about SFU I decided to look into what links exist between UBC and Goldcorp, one of Canada’s largest multinational gold mining companies. It turns out that there are quite a few.

Apart from the ESSB; the Liu Institute for Global Issues, the National Centre for Business Law and the Mineral Deposit Research Unit.

All ‘supported’ by Goldcorp.

Why should I care?

Since 2005 Guatemala has seen the environmental and social effects of mining. All thanks to Goldcorp.

The communities of San Miguel Ixtahuacan and Sipacapa have been home to the Marlin mine, an open pit gold and silver mine. If you know a little bit about open pit mines you know what they do do their environment.

Total destruction of vast areas of what has been agricultural land for hundreds of years. Also, according to a national environmental NGO, the mine uses in one hour the amount of water that a local family uses in 22 years.

Constant explosions have cracked the walls of at least 150 brick houses in the area. The company argues that it is the residents’ fault because of the volume of their speakers when they listen to music and their maize grinders.

Total disregard for indigenous people’s rights, including the right to decide the use of their land, as was stated in our Peace Accords of 1996. The government and the mining company refused to consult local communities about this project. The communities responded by organizing their own consultations. Of 13 communities consulted 11 rejected the project, 1 abstained and only 1 supported it. The government has yet to recognize these consultations, further denying the people this right.

Contamination of water systems. To separate the gold from other rocks the material is ‘bathed’ in cyanide. Cyanide can have dangerous effects if released into the environment. One teaspoon of a 2% solution can kill a person. Just last month the Marlin Mine discharged cyanide-contaminated water into a local river (at night).

The disappearance of community leaders that rejected the mine. Also, increased conflict within families as they may include one of the 200 people benefitting from the mine (of about 60,000 residents).

In 2010 the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights of the Organization of American States, the Guatemalan Ministry of Environment, members of the European Parliament and hundreds of national and international NGOs have asked the Guatemalan government to order the immediate closure of the mine to ensure the life and integrity of the 18 communities affected by the irresponsible mining practices.

The mine is still open.

What does UBC have to do with this?

Our clothes from the bookstore have a little label that says ‘sweat-shop free.’

Our coffee at the Blue Chip Cookie is ‘fair-trade.’

Our to-go plates and cups at any UBC Food Services location are compostable.

As much as possible, our food is organic and our eggs are free-run.

But what about the places where we are formed, where we learn how to do great things ‘from here’ and where we spend most of our time?

If we aim to be responsible and aware and global (and all those other nice things that we hear so much), shouldn’t we seek partners that share our values as an institution?

I, for one, do not feel comfortable being part of Goldcorp’s ‘corporate responsibility.’ It is because of these grants, which apparently we (?) are ‘absolutely delighted’ to receive, that bills such as C-300, which would have made Canadian companies responsible for their projects in other countries, failed a few months ago.

The story of this mine is replicated all around the so-called ‘third world.’

As a ‘third-world’ student (and there’s quite a few of us at UBC) I ask what promise UBC is making.

What example is our administration setting for our ‘global leaders’ to follow? What is UBC telling me, and so many other students, by accepting money from a company that is creating social conflicts and disregarding human and environmental rights in my country?

Posted in International, Sustainability | 11 Comments

Last Minute Essays for Dummies

**IMPORTANT NOTE** —> the best tip for a last minute essay is to not leave it for the last minute!

That being said, I can’t think of an essay that I didn’t do just a few days before the due date this term. Yes, it was very irresponsible. But also inevitable if you have 15 essays due in one term!

As term papers approach, remembers that normal essays are NOT like term papers. Term papers are HARD and HUGE and worth a BIG percentage of your grade.

Before I share my tips: please don’t think I’m encouraging you to leave your paper for the last minute! In fact, it would probably be better for you if you didn’t keep reading and write your essay instead ;).

Vale’s tips for last minute essays (in no special order):

  1. Do all your research before you start writing.
  2. It’s great to write on an interesting/random topic, but if you only have a few hours it’s easier to write on something that you already know a lot about or know that there is a lot of information on.
  3. Make an outline! – I hate outlines, but they really really help, event if it’s only 5 lines saying: Intro (thesis = x), point 1 = y, point 2 =z, point 3 = e, conclusion.
  4. Give each part of your outline a set amount of words – for example, if your essay is 1500 words give each part 300 words, which is actually nothing and easier to imagine (1 or 2 paragraphs)
  5. Pay a lot of attention to your introduction, especially if you have no idea of what you’ll be writing about, write your thesis and underline/highlight it
  6. Write the paragraphs for the two/three main points in any order and then cut and paste them in the order that you presented them in the introduction
  7. Add sentences that connect the paragraphs
  8. Read all of it and write the conclusion
  9. Give yourself small things to look forward to (facebook breaks, dinner, a shower)
  10. snack! and lots of water/coffee
  11. Find a way to keep track of your progress – for my last essay I texted my roommate every 30 minutes with my word count
  12. Find out at what moment your are most productive and make the most out of it – in my first hour I’m usually thinking a lot about the thesis and outline so I usually have only about 300 words (the intro), my second hour is about 600 words and then the other 4 hours are about 100-150 words each.
  13. After writing the conclusion you’ll probably be brain-dead, rest while you get a smart friend to read over it and add his/her comments + fix all those horrible spelling mistakes. If you can, try to exchange essays with a classmate (it helps because they know what the class is about)
  14. Sleep!
  15. Read over it the next day before turning it in but don’t change your thesis, just fix minor mistakes ;)

…and now, I’m off to my last 4 papers!

Cheers :D

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Maybe. I don’t do math.

But yes, this is another level of exhausted.

All I have to say is that I have 14 days left and I have NO IDEA of how to do everything I have to do. I mean… I’m falling asleep as I write this… I’m falling asleep all the time! Yesterday I had lunch at Rhizome (mmm) and in the bus coming back everyone was sleeping, at 5!

How are you holding up?

tip: I try to keep myself happy with christmas decorating and home-made gifts for my friends :).

*expect a post on ideas of fun things to do for christmas*

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Student Evaluations of Teaching

Yes… I fill them out.

Question: Answering lots of questions about what you classes have been like this term is:
a) a great way to procrastinate
b) a good time to reflect about what you have learnt
c) a way of thanking inspiring professors
d) an easy way to let out the boiling anger that you have been cultivating towards that professor that you really really dislike
e) all of the above

Answer: e

I find that these evaluations really make me think about how professors teach, but most importantly, how I learn, and what I look for in a professor.

Some things that stood out from this term’s evaluations:

– No, I do not appreciate being treated like a 5-year-old

– Yes, I like having a variety of small papers and in-class essays instead of one huge final

– No, I do not like having a textbook that uses Canada and western culture as the center of the world

– Yes, I love it when professors show passion for what they teach

– No, I do not want to waste my time with a TA who doesn’t know what she/he is doing

– Yes, I enjoy being taught about the professor’s own research

Posted in Academics, Faculty | 1 Comment

Peace it Together

Last night I went to an inspiring discussion on how the arts can support societies in civil conflict.

I have to accept that I was there mainly to see Lila Downs, a Mexican artist that signs about indigenous identity and has a social justice focus in her songs.

I am super glad that I went.

The panel that presented consisted of women from different artistic areas presenting their work in using art as a medium for different actors to engage in beautiful conflict resolution.

I was absolutely impressed with one of the projects:  Peace it Together. This program uses film making as a way of bringing together and engaging Israeli, Palestinian and Canadian youth in discussions about how to create peace.

It is inspiring and beautiful.

Also, it made me realize that we are not only the future but also the present and we have to think creatively about how we can be engaged in our world and actively create spaces of peace rather than conflict.

Posted in International, Involvement / Leadership, Wellness | 1 Comment

Exam schedule out?

So I found this LINK but I’m not sure if it’s the real exam schedule…

It makes sense, but I just want to be really sure before I buy my ticket home. Does anyone know?

Posted in International | 3 Comments

On Terry, having a job, thinking Go Global and the ISA

Today I went to the TEDx Terry Talks and they were, of course, inspiring, thought-producing and definitely in line with the TED logo of ideas worth spreading. If you haven’t yet been introduced to the TED world you are missing out, take a look!

I could write a little something of each speaker… or… I could just scan my doodling during the day:

What do you think? I’m just glad I won’t be tested on it!

Apart from going to cool speaker events (yeah, I also went to see K’naan), I’ve started my super long training as a UBC Student Ambassador (AKA the people who give the campus tours). Not only do I get to hang out with some pretty awesome students, but I’m also learning cool little facts about UBC andddd getting paid for it!

Did you know that we have a building with waterless, odorless, composting bathrooms? You did if you took the campus tour ;)

I’ve also been pretty busy thinking about doing Go Global. I have been considering going to South Africa for a term. However, now that I’m more involved on campus I don’t know if I want to leave it all in the air and leave for a term… It just feels like four years aren’t enough to enjoy all the things that UBC has to offer! How can I choose between Co-op or exchange or getting super involved in something or taking all those courses that I want to take while still going to see the theater productions and the film festivals and the hidden corners of Vancouver? –> Too many choices! <—

Besides all this, the International Students Association has been a journey into the unknown! Granted, I haven’t been doing all my readings quite in time, but I’ve been learning real practical things, like how to make timelines (and stick to them) and put events together and keeping track of (20) too many different things going on at the same time.

To end with some self promotion… I really encourage all of you to go to our International Panel Discussion, where we will bring together students and UBC staff to discuss issues that affect international students. Join the conversation!

Posted in International, Involvement / Leadership | 5 Comments

Hello again UBC Farm

I love having a kitchen and I love shopping for food.

This morning I walked to the UBC Farm market and I got myself apples, cherries, plums, bread, squash flowers from the maya-in-exile garden, olives and lots of other yummy things.

(Note to self: never go to the farm market with more than $25 in the wallet)

I did notice something weird on my way though. Wesbrook Village (South Campus) is already selling apartments, but all the pictures in their adds are of old people. Cute old people, but still, old people.

Now, I don’t have anything against old people. But it seems a little strange that with all the housing shortage that there is for students that they would market their products to older people. I don’t know, what do you think?

In other news… I have a class with Aly this term :).

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Orientations are over!

This year I was lucky to be both a GALA group leader and an Imagine MUG leader, and they were both amazing experiences!

I would be lying if I said that it’s not about the shirts, I love my new I AM UBC purple shirts… but I would also be lying if I said it’s only (or even mostly) about the shirts. I love the fact that I got to help out new students as they begin this journey into UBC.

Orientations were fun and inspiring, but they don’t end here. Now it’s up to everyone to get excited about UBC, trying out new things, learning lots and especially making new friends.

I can’t wait. As I sat at the Pep Rally today I couldn’t help feeling like a first year all over again, all the excitement and the nervousness and the not knowing what’s going to happen… I’m definitely looking forward to all the WOW people that I will meet this year and I hope you are too.

See you around stranger !

Posted in Involvement / Leadership | Leave a comment