Postcolonial Ways of Knowing: Decolonizing Augustana?
BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Augustana has held a string of recent events both on campus and online aimed at challenging colonial practices and thought in our every day lives. Although I haven’t been able to attend all of these events, I did get to take a front row seat during the recent events featuring visiting poet and activist Rita Wong. Many of these events incorporated Indigenous perspectives and provoked thought into alternative ways of knowing, especially around issues of ecological justice, climate change, and access to clean water.
I had the opportunity to assist in curating the exhibit currently in the library, near the basement stairs (it will be up until the end of February, so stop in and have a look if you haven’t seen it yet). This display features a collection of Rita Wong’s poetry along with quotations she pulled from various sources to include in her poetry collection, undercurrent. A couple of these quotes, featured in the poem “Fresh Ancient Ground” stood out to me:
“Since 1978, over 14 billion dollars have been taken out of our traditional territory. Yet my family still goes without running water.”– Melina Laboucan Massimo, Lubicon Cree woman
“When you can’t trust the water, it’s terrifying”– James Cameron visiting the tar sands
These stood out to me for a few reasons, but mostly because I am still shocked at how many Indigenous communities — even those very close to home, as Louise Omeasoo of Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis (outside of Wetaskiwin) pointed out in one of the events — are still without access to clean water. This inability to trust the water, and those who gate-keep it, most certainly is terrifying.
I’m an English major, and right now, a lot of the courses I’m taking are exploring some overlapping themes of imperialism, colonialism, and post-colonialism, as I’m sure many other students can relate to. Although postcolonial thought in Canada is what I’m most familiar with, I have been learning more and more about the impacts of colonialism on countries in Africa, the middle east, and Asia, and coming to see how 18th century British imperialism seems to be the root of a vast majority of global issues today.
These explorations into the after-effects of Colonialism have also driven me to think critically about my experiences in rural Alberta, and how Augustana, as a small university in rural Alberta, is working to combat and change some of these experiences. While I would like to acknowledge that there is still much room for growth and our campus is far from perfect in regards to a decolonized education system, I was also very pleased to see the lineup of interesting events on campus for the Winter 2023 semester involving Indigenous speakers along with the events curated for Black History Month. In addition, the turnout at many of these events has also been impressive. I know that for many of us, our participation grades rely on our attendance at these events, and while this may be an unpopular opinion, since we’re attending them outside of class time, I’m very excited that our professors are pushing us to attend these events and think critically about our experiences with the material. We all have room to grow, and hearing from activists and researchers working at getting to the heart of postcolonial issues is a great place to start.
For a full list of the University of Alberta’s events for Black History Month, use this link. In addition, look forward to a Black History Month feature coming in the next issue with information about past campus events and more. For a list of events on campus at Augustana and North Campus/online, click here. For more information about services available through the Indigenous Student Services offices, click here.
An Ode to Augustana’s Beloved Pool Tables
BY GURMEHAR BAJWA / MANAGING EDITOR
It is no secret we all love our hub of socialization, the two distinguished pool tables; blessed as they are to have witnessed ages of awkward interactions, spirited competition or stirrings of flirtations. I resonate on a spiritual level with the zip ties holding the pockets together; they have seen better days and so have we. At the verge of falling apart and needing to clear my head hitting colorful balls around, said zip ties provide me with the emotional strength to keep going. After all, they’ve been in university way longer than I have. These bad boys look like they’ve been around since the invention of the game itself, and have seen more action than a Vegas stripper and have more battle scars than a hardened war veteran.
Upon closer inspection, one may notice that these tables are not exactly regulation size, but that’s part of their charm. But as we all know, time takes its toll on even the sturdiest of objects. The felt on these tables is frayed, the cues are chipped, and the balls are, well, we’re not really sure what’s happened to the balls. But despite their worn-out appearance, these tables still manage to bring people together.
But the real beauty of these tables lies in their unpredictability. Sure, you may think you have the shot lined up perfectly, but the table has other ideas. It may cause the cue ball to veer off course, sending it careening into a pocket you didn’t even know existed. And who needs aiming when you’ve got luck and skill on your side? I asked some of the students who regularly play on this table if they’ve noticed anything peculiar about it. One student replied, “Yeah, sometimes the balls roll uphill.” Another commented, “I swear the table is haunted. Every time I’m about to make the 8-ball, it jumps out of the pocket.”
While we’re all hoping to graduate as soon as possible, we sure hope these tables don’t!
Mediums of Power: Addressing Media Bias in the Age of Social Media
BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
I spent this semester working on a research project, under Dr. Roxanne Harde’s supervision, related to media reporting on sexual assault and how social media plays into rape culture. The overlap of this project with working on reviving the student newspaper here at Augustana ended up being incredibly interesting, and I wanted to share a few thoughts I had about media bias and how we can hold our news sources accountable for the information they provide.
Of course, the type of news The Dagligtale covers is not high profile sexual assault cases, or even hard-hitting news for the most part. However, it is still our duty as reporters to be aware of the biases we carry and the impact of our word choices. Part of my research that was so shocking was the blatantly offensive and inappropriate statements made in the news media, but perhaps more worrying was the subtle biases and problematic ideologies portrayed in the media representations of these cases.
The events of the past few years have definitely contributed to readers’ more critical eyes and ears when it comes to their news, but these subtle messages are so dangerous because they can be hard to detect, even when meticulously analyzing a source. In addition, since social media has become such a huge part of our lives, it has also served as a platform to discuss and analyze our news publicly. I think this is a great development. In the years of print newspapers and the early internet, we didn’t have access to this platform, and the news could have a much greater influence from biased writers and editors without the immediate accountability of being called out on Twitter.
As I began this study, I worried I was being too critical of the news sources I was using. I figured that because the writers were professionals, they had to know better than I did what the proper decorum for writing about sensitive issues was. This made me question myself on some of my own ideas about what would be an inappropriate statement to make in a news publication, which eventually made me realize that these articles were not following some “proper” structure, and instead were just written with bias. I think this was an important realization to make, as I previously had taken a lot of my news at face value. I read articles for the content, not the reporter’s opinion. But separating that opinion actually takes some practice.
All of this is meant to say that the shift towards thinking critically about our news and the narratives we are given is a good thing. I know this newspaper doesn’t cover a ton of major, sensitive issues, but we can still be held accountable for the stories we produce. If you see something in The Dag that bothers you in the way it is written or feels off–or maybe something that is very well framed!–please talk about it. Bring it to the editors, first and foremost, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, but don’t be afraid to discuss what’s being said about your campus and your peers in this paper. Media bias can be in your face, but it can also be so subtle the writer of the article wouldn’t even recognize it. If you notice problematic language or framing, point it out and help us all do better at providing fair and unbiased news in the new year.
Thank you all for sticking with us this term as we get this paper back up and running, and a HUGE thank you to the writing team for all of your hard work this semester. Happy Holidays, and I look forward to writing to you all in 2023!
It’s That Time of the Year
BY GURMEHAR BAJWA / MANAGING EDITOR
We all want to read about Christmas and the holidays, I’m sure. But I unapologetically offer you yet another “How to Tackle Finals” piece; enjoy.
In my fourth (and still not final) year of my degree, I can confidently tell you – I have no clue how to tackle my finals before they tackle me first. After all these years in school, I have finally managed to theorise that the key is managing your time. But we all knew that; the actual problem is sticking to the management. I started this semester, as did a lot of you I’m sure, with an intricately planned and colour coded schedule complete with all the due dates. I stopped looking at that halfway through the semester, as did a lot of you I’m sure. Today, five days before my final exam, I’m telling myself how I won’t repeat yesterday’s mistakes (if the last 3 years are a reliable precedent, I absolutely will).
I have also realised there is a not-so-fine line between being delusionally cocky and having a sheer lack of confidence in oneself which is accompanied by self reprimanding for not “doing enough.” I teeter across that line every semester without fail, as do a lot of you I’m sure. The fact is that you have already gotten through the semester, you’re going to get through your finals, this time and the next. Just try sticking to that schedule you made, and if you didn’t, definitely make one – it truly makes all the difference.
Finally, take it one step at a time. I am guilty (as is my roommate; I have witnessed quite a few breakdowns) of hyper exaggerating situations which make me feel like I’m not in control anymore. For instance, I was struggling to finish a research proposal that was already overdue and that took me on a whole rollercoaster of emotions, ending with “I’m never getting into grad school and will probably die broke.” Joke’s on me, I’m broke anyway – as are a lot of you I’m sure. It is absolutely critical to remind yourself (or ask your roommate to remind you) that it is going to be okay. Finals are not the end of the world, they’re simply the end of a semester.
Embracing Change: A Student Perspective on Grad School Applications
BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
The end of the semester is hard on everyone, students and instructors alike. However, I have a special appreciation and level of respect for fourth year students this time of year. Regardless of what you thought you would be doing next year, now is the time to figure it all out.
Graduate school applications are opening and closing so quickly you can’t keep up, you’re gearing up for your second-to-last set of undergraduate finals, you’re lining up internships and apartments for after convocation. Your five year plan is messy–you don’t even know what side of the globe you’ll be on in one year from now, let alone five.
Even with all of this going on, you’re bubbling over with excitement. Applying to all of those schools has you thinking about what it will be like to move on. You’re wondering if you should shoot for somewhere warm, or if you’d rather stay close to home. Maybe you’re planning on moving back home (where your childhood dog is) for grad school. Your letters of intent have forced you to think about what you want to do and why, and you’ve never felt more passionate about your chosen field–or maybe, you’ve decided to change paths completely.
For me, I’m mostly just feeling exhausted. I’ve read and re-read my applications so many times that they would probably still make sense to me even if every word was wrong. I’ve researched every school I can think of, narrowed down my top choices, and sent away my applications, and now I’m wondering if I’ve made the right decisions. I’ve neglected three quarters of my classes for a month and a half because I’ve been too busy with ‘more important things.’ I’m really beginning to wonder if any of this is worth it. If I even want to go to grad school anymore.
Trust me, I do, and you probably still do too. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to still submit the application. You never know if you’ll change your mind, but wouldn’t you rather keep your options open?
Aside from all of the academic stress this time of year, Christmas is sneaking up on us F A S T, and it seems like there won’t be a chance for shopping until December 24th. We have reached the age where life is hitting us hard. Some fourth years are somehow trying to plan their wedding amidst all of this, and even aside from that, everyone has their personal battles going on with family, roommates, and partners.
I’ve painted a bleak picture so far, I know. But don’t abandon ship yet! This is your acknowledgement and your encouragement. You’re working so hard! And you’ve come so far. You’ve conquered at least three and a half years at Augustana, through online school, budget cuts, masking, the loss of our beloved book store… the list goes on. But you’re still here, showing up every day, working towards your dreams. That is something to be proud of!
Take some time for yourself, fourth years. Treat yourself to a special coffee, take a bubble bath instead of your usual five-minute shower one night, don’t set an alarm one weekend. You absolutely deserve it. Take that nap! Go easy on yourself, since no one else is right now. And then, when you feel a bit more refreshed and relaxed, tackle those last couple of applications, do another search for ‘what to do with a ____ degree,’ and write that paper you’ve been putting off.
Let yourself daydream about that school in California you’ve been thinking of applying to, and embrace an unknown future for a little while. Life has a way of sorting itself out, with or without our input. Enjoy your last few months at Augustana. Make enough memories for the next 50 years, and friendships that’ll last 100.
If you’ve read this far, you clearly were in need of a study break (take that nap).
Good luck, fourth years. Augustana is behind you every step of the way.
Finding Time to Say ‘Yes’
BY SHELBY PAULGAARD / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
As a fourth year student, I have found it so interesting–and sad–to look back at the past few years at Augustana and see how much has changed. Everyone who entered university in the last four years will have some sort of crazy story about how their schooling was impacted by Covid-19 to share one day, when it isn’t so fresh in our minds. Some of us started and will (hopefully!) end our degrees completely normally, but we lost a lot of ground in those middle years. Some of us started online, or took a year off to try and avoid it. Some of us switched from online to in person what felt like 50 times over the course of four years. As much as life feels ‘back to normal’ now, I think we are all still feeling the reverberations of the past few years.
With an increasing number of people getting sick on campus, with Covid or just the flu, I’m being taken back to the past two fall and winter seasons, when numbers shot up and we slunk back into lockdown. Thinking about it now makes me nervous. As much as I want to believe that we may finally be ‘back to normal,’ I’m having a hard time accepting it.
The burnout at this part of the semester is always bad, so maybe I am just overwhelmed by the work piling up as usual. But I think this year is different. After so much back and forth from real classrooms to breakout rooms, I don’t trust that we can make it a full academic year without our classes being yanked and our homework becoming a 24/7 condition. The stress of a normal academic and working schedule feels even more tiresome when you add the constant worry that your last year for any of it could be taken away at any time. Not to mention also finding time to apply to after-degrees, graduate schools, jobs for after school, and scholarships.
Despite all of this, it is hard to not appreciate the little joys of being on campus again: the sound of laughter filling the forum, squeezing a chair into a packed table at the library to study with friends, grabbing a coffee and a sandwich at Monica’s as a reward for writing a midterm (or for making it to your 8:30am class). All of these little things I never thought I’d miss remind me to be grateful for what we do have now, and to make the most of whatever it is we have to look forward to. I think we will all be struggling from the effects of the pandemic for a long, long time, but we might as well make the most of the bits of joy we get to have during these difficult few years.
Since Covid has been tamed enough to allow us to leave our houses again, I have been trying to say yes as much as I can. Yes, I will take a weekend trip to the mountains even when I should be studying. Yes, I will go out to dinner with friends, even if I have an assignment due at midnight. Yes, I will agree to edit the student newspaper, even though I constantly complain about being too busy. After all, who knows where we will all end up when we’re done at Augustana? These few years are the only years we get where we will all be in the same place at the same time. And if a pandemic is going to take it all away again, I don’t want to say I spent that fraction of time when we weren’t required to social distance, well, social distancing. As much as I’d like to dwell on the worry of how the rest of this year will turn out for us, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that regardless, I only have one year left. I could spend it worrying, or I could spend it saying yes for as long as I can. I hope this year can be full of all of the ‘Yes’ we’ve been missing out on for far too long.
Finding Hope in the Age of COVID
ERIC ANDERSSON / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Well, the 3-week term is behind us, and the 11-week term is now underway. Outside, the leaves are changing, and if you step outside at night you can feel the first nip of winter, which is of course just a prelude to the big November-February freeze. Students everywhere are now sitting down, looking at their already Hydra-esque “to do” list, and are wondering just what in the world they’ve gotten themselves into.
Yes, in many ways, 2020-21 is shaping up to be a typical school year. No one can deny, though, that a lot is different this year, too. Campus, usually a bustling of hub of activity during the 11-week, is empty now, almost cavernous. It might not be quite as weird for the first-years on campus right now (though I’m guessing it’s probably still pretty weird to see a school building so empty), but for the rest of us who either can’t be on campus because we live too far away, or who have been there and seen how unnaturally empty it is…it’s pretty overwhelming.
And it gets even more overwhelming when you think about why it’s this way.
COVID-19. The novel coronavirus that’s disrupted pretty much everyone’s lives, made a lot of our lives significantly worse, and has even ended a staggering number of lives. It’s been more than six months now since COVID-19 first shut down the province (taking in-person classes with it), and there’s still no sign of it going away. In fact, public health officials have warned that, now that schools are open, we could be heading straight for a staggering second wave.
With all this in mind, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s easy to feel like there’s no hope. It’s easy to feel like this pandemic, the worst public health crisis the world has faced in a century, will never end.
However, there are some reasons to hope. Every day that passes brings us closer to a viable vaccine; there are multiple different vaccines going through clinical trials right now. Social distancing regulations have done a great job slowing down the virus; go take a look at where the curve was headed late last April, when we hit our peak cases here in Alberta, and then take a look at how flat the curve has remained since then.
And then there’s the simple fact that, despite how much COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, we still have lives to lead. That, in and of itself, is a blessing. And, for the vast majority of you reading this right now, those lives will still have a future. The vast majority of us still have a career, graduate studies, or some other “next step” on the horizon.
I’m confident that, if we keep taking it one day at a time, and keep in mind the brighter, pandemic-free future that’s sure to be on the horizon, we can get through this. We may have more dark days ahead of us, but I also believe that every day that passes brings us closer to the light.
In the meantime, let’s all do our best to have a great year…or at least as great as circumstances will allow.
Grade Us Next Year…Please?
BY ERIC ANDERSSON
Well, this has been an interesting semester, hasn’t it?
I don’t think anyone could have predicted the crazy turn this term took last month, when the emerging COVID-19 pandemic forced universities around the world to shut their doors and move their classes online. It was a crazy time full of fear and anxiety, a time where nobody really knew what was going to happen.
Of course, we still don’t really know what’s going to happen; the way this pandemic has so radically changed our day-to-day lives is proof enough of that. It’s been more than a month now since in-person classes were canned, but we’re still getting news almost daily from the government, from the U of A, from the City of Camrose…these are crazy times we’re living in, that much is for sure.
But with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently speculating it could be weeks – even months – before the stringent health protocols in place around the country are lightened, it makes a person wonder…is this going to be how we do classes next year, too? Are we going to have to meet through video chat not just for the last remnants of this semester, but for all of next year as well?
I don’t think any of us want to see that happen. But with how quickly and unpredictably the COVID-19 situation has evolved, it’s a distinct possibility at this point. And if it does, I have just one thing to ask the administrators down at the U of A.
Please…please…give us back our grades.
As you surely already know, the U of A moved to a Credit/Non-Credit grading system for this semester. As a temporary measure, this is fine. Would I have preferred to have letter grades this semester? Yes, of course. But with the way the COVID-19 situation escalated so quickly, with how promptly our government and our university had to take action to flatten the curve, the CR/NC system was probably the best the U of A could do on such short notice.
However, I don’t believe the CR/NC system is sustainable long-term. For one thing, many students (including myself) are graduating next year; for those of us graduating, and especially for those of us who want to go on to another program after next year (like me!), having a year and a half of no grades on our transcript might be a problem. One semester isn’t so hard to overlook, but three? That’s a pretty big gap in our transcripts.
Another reason a return to letter grades is a must for next year is student performance. I know I found it much harder to stay motivated in my studies without a letter grade to work toward, and most of the people I’ve talked to in the past month feel the same way. When getting a C on a major essay means your chances at an A grade decrease dramatically, it motivates students to keep up with their studies and turn in the best work they can. When all they’ve got to do is show up, though, it tells students they don’t have to do their best work. They can coast, take the C, and still get a CR on their transcript.
Now, obviously, there are exceptions to this. The U of A has said they’ll work with professors to provide evidence of excellence in their field for students who are applying to highly competitive programs. That’s great. But going forward, we need some kind of a return to normalcy. And if we can’t gather with one another in class next year, well…in that case, I have just one request to make.
Please, please give us back our grades.