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Freedom of Expression Committee

Letter to UofO Pres. Gilles Patry, from Pamela Wu, 5 June 2007

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Pamela Wu
University of Ottawa Student

Subject: Keeping SCI1101 at Ottawa U
To: Gilles Patry,

Dear Mr. Patry,

I am merely an Honours Biology student, and though I am a pretty good one, having a record clean of B's, I don't make any claims to being distinguished with any degrees besides my GED from your friendly neighbor, Lisgar Collegiate Institute. I thank you for reading this letter, and I hope you will find my thoughts interesting enough to be considered.

One pf the problems of having government subsidized post-secondary institutions is that the quality of education between each school gets to be roughly the same, give or take a few more hardball professors. Thus, any university wanting to distinguish itself must either rely on their history, as McGill does, their rave reviews in popular magazines, as Guelph and Mount Allison, among other factors. For the students that you want to attract, that is, ambitious, professional or grad-school bound A students, most of people whom I know who fall into this category go to the University of Ottawa because it gives them more money and it is "not Carleton."

I am very interested in evolution, in fact, I plan to do an honours thesis on it and possibly gain some research points for your university. If there is one thing I have learned in Dr. Kassen's Intro. to Organismal Biology class it is that a population, in order to survive and proliferate in a heterogeneous environment, must find itself a niche. It seems to me that a niche like "offers more money" is not as stable as a reputation for being a nesting ground for radical thought and a place where an idealistic student can go to learn about changing the world. First of all, few people except those who debase themselves for humourous effect like to trumpet the fact that they went to a university to save money. Secondly, "entering a haven of free-thought" is not only more romantic, but sits higher in Maslow's hierarchy of needs, so that even if they like saving money, they will have more school pride, and eventually the atmosphere may be sufficiently shifted so that people go to Ottawa because they can't imagine a place where they could possibly learn more about the world they live in. It is very easy to sign a corporate contract and offer more scholarship money; in fact, it is so easy that any other university could do it. It is really the difference between building more muscle and growing a third arm.

In light of this, I would like to point out that spirited professors and unions of students who are devoted to learning and social change are really as rare as any beneficial mutation in nature, and I think it is in the University's best interest to foster it instead of not allowing it to proliferate. Or at the very least, the university could try not trying so hard to shut it down and just see where it goes. I didn't use to think much of it, but it's hard not to be impressed by Rancourt's determination.

Thank you very much for your time,

~ Pamela Wu.

back to: Letters to Patry in 2007