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October 31, 2005

Free lecture on terrorism and U.S. desperation - Kwantlen Chronicle

International politics is about to become a lot more clear for students at Kwantlen University College.

Gwynne Dyer, journalist and military annalist, is returning to Kwantlen to deliver a free lecture titled Back to the Great Game.

Dyer will speak about an overblown fear of terrorism since 9/11, how – in reaction to China’s booming economy – the neo-conservatives running the United States of America are desperate to preserve its superpower status and of what this means for the United Nations and international law.

Seldom is there an event that can fill the conference centres at Kwantlen, but Dyer, who holds a Ph.D. in war studies from the University of London, does just that.

Students and non-students alike packed the hall at Kwantlen’s Richmond campus last year to hear Dyer lecture about the state of international politics.

Last year’s lecture was held just around the time Dyer released Future: Tense, his book telling of the coming world order. This year, Dyer has released a new book, With Every Mistake, which looks at the post-9/11 world and how media owners are moulding the agenda of the press.

Born in Newfoundland in 1943, Dyer entered the Canadian navy at age 17, later serving in both the American and British navies. He has taught war studies at both the Canadian Forces College in Toronto and at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England, and worked as a broadcast and freelance journalist.

With a syndicated column appearing regularly in nearly 200 newspapers, published in a dozen languages in more than 40 countries, Dyer is a world renowned personality.

To give an example of the acclaim Dyer has received, an episode from his 1980, seven-part television series, War – made in collaboration with fellow writer/producer Tina Viljoen – was nominated for an Academy Award.

Dyer’s articles on international affairs, dating back to 1997, are available on his website, GwynneDyer.net.

The lecture is being held on Monday, Nov. 21, in the conference centres at the Richmond and Surrey campuses, from 10:30 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m., respectively. Anyone wanting to attend can book seats by sending an email, specifying one campus or the other, to Sue Doucette at Sue.Doucette@Kwantlen.ca.

Gaming relief for stressing students - Kwantlen Chronicle

Day in and day out, some Kwantlen students force themselves to carry an academic load that is far too heavy for their own well-being, crushing morale and squashing even the strongest resolve, eventually leading to a not-so-scholarly burial, in a grade-point-average sort of way.

If this sounds like you, stop and be glad, for I have an answer that may help you to decompress from the mass of homework stacking up around your grave: online video games.

I’ve been an addicted gamer for years, so trust me, I have some expertise in this field that can help you.

I’m not suggesting for you to follow in my footsteps and develop your own gaming addiction – I nearly missed deadline for this article because of my own – so letting it come to that might not be in your best interests. I don’t want to get you addicted; I want to use my problem to help you with yours.

First, in attempt to practice responsible journalism, I offer you this advice: If you think you’re succumbing to a gamerism problem, check out some of the online addiction resources at the Canadian government webpage www.healthservices.gov.bc.ca/mhd.

With my disclaimer out of the way, I can tell you how to find some mind-numbing cyber games that’ll help you lessen the pain of your studies.

If you want the real good stuff it’s best to pay the big bucks, but if you’re not too picky you can find what you’ll need for free.

It’s not always as easy as clicking a link. You might need to install a plug-in for your web browser or even download an application to use as the game’s interface. Don’t worry too much about this, though; the game’s website should guide you through the process easily enough. Once you’ve gotten passed this little hurdle it’s smooth, sweet gaming.

Perhaps the most addictive online game I’ve come across is poker.

There are many websites specializing in poker. Virtually all of them have real-money games, limited free games and require a download of some sort or another. Choosing one from the bunch can be time-consuming, considering all the installing and uninstalling of software. What we’re really after is a game that isn’t going to limit us to only a few thousand practice dollars for all time, otherwise, when the play bucks run out, the temptation to pull out the credit card and charge into the real thing might be more than we can bear, and that probably wouldn’t end in a happy, decompressing experience.

Go straight to www.interpoker.net. There are limits to the amount of practice money you can get per hour, but at least you won’t have to go and recreate a user account each time your bank roll runs out. Download the software, sign up as a user and play to your heart’s content.

Poker aside, all some people will need is a simple classic like Pac Man, first released by Midway Games about 25 years ago. It doesn’t take much to set up, it’s not complex and it’s a quick cure for the shakes when a big craving hits unexpectedly. Best of all, it can be played on almost any computer and it’s found all over the net. One of the easiest ways to play the game is via the Java applet launched at www.pacman.freeonlinegames.com.

If you remember playing Pac Man when it first stormed the video-game scene in 1980, you’ll probably get a thrill out of revisiting Q*bert, developed by Gottlieb.

Q*bert is an orange, alien-looking head with skinny little legs and a sucker for a nose. It bounces around a three-dimensional game board avoiding falling objects and springing snakes. For a quick fix visit the online-game portal at www.yahoo.com.

Game portals are a great place to look when trying to get an easy, cheap fix, so long as you can stand the advertisements. Other than the two mentioned above, Yahoo and Free Online Games, one of the best portals I’ve found is the Electronic Arts site www.pogo.com.

Pogo has a variety of live multiplayer games, such as chess or billiards, and single player ones, such as Word Womp, where you have to unscramble letters to form words. Pogo can even help you ease any building tension with its Knock Out Kings Web Boxing.

Those who like the strategy of chess will probably also take an interest in a couple other games. There’s Klaus Teuber’s Settlers of Catan, at www.catan.jsettlers.com. In this one you play live with other players in a race to dominate an island by trading resources to set up towns and roads.

A similar game of expansion, and my personal favourite, is the online adaptation of the strategy game Risk. There may be no better free online game in existence. You’ll need to download the small program from the stockade at www.missionrisk.com. Once you have this baby set up you’ll be hooked and pulling late nights far too often.

If downloading isn’t too big a hassle for you, try to get a couple of the more popular games available at www.pcworld.com, such as DopeWars 2.2 or the Quake III demo.

DopeWars is an addictive simulation of the drug trade. Through what is mostly a static, graphic interface, you can buy low and sell high on the road to making millions, just like a stock trader.

If you need more action buzzing across your screen, take the plunge and download Quake. It’s a first-person shooter where you blast through a three-dimensional world, doing away with your opponents using futuristic weapons.

If you’re more like me and love reading fat fantasy novels, go download a multi-user-dimension client like MudMagic (www.mudmagic.com) and get right into the world of fantasy, text-based style.

Once you’ve downloaded it, you can create a character with different magical and warring abilities at any of a number of MUDs. Two of the more popular ones are found at www.achaea.com and www.lusternia.com.

Careful though, you may never leave your computer again.

October 24, 2005

Board all-mighty - Kwantlen Chronicle

Sweeping changes were made recently to the Kwantlen Student Association bylaws that will affect how every student’s KSA-membership fees are managed.

Perhaps the most notable change, as learned by The Chronicle after comparing the old bylaws with the new, is the deletion of Article 16, which spelled out the powers of and restrictions on the ombudsperson, the KSA official in charge of investigating internal complaints.

The deletion means that the rules binding the ombudsperson to follow the mandate of the membership are no longer effective, and that the nature of the position is now open for definition by the board. Without a clear definition to adhere to, accountability will be a concern for some students, considering the board itself is a body that the ombudsperson could be asked to investigate.

Another important change is that there’s only a single voting body where there were previously two. The executive board and the council existed as separate authorities, now these have been combined to form what’s known just as “the board.”

As it was set up before, the council was the highest authority representing the membership, and the executive board managed the operations of the KSA. The council served as the overall guiding arm, while the executive was the detailing hand.

If council was concerned that a decision made by the executive board needed to be overruled, it could pass a resolution to block the executive’s action.

The executive board was made up of five directors: operations, finance, external affairs, academic affairs, and events and student life.

In addition to being on the executive board, KSA executives were a minority on the council. On the other hand, campus officers – directors, representatives and officials – made up a majority of at least 20 members.

In the new bylaws, the executive director positions have been changed to president, treasurer and vice-presidents of external affairs, internal affairs, and events and student life, all five of which now make up a majority on the board.

A more drastic change is that campus officials and representatives have been renamed members at large, while their voting privileges have not been re-established on the board.

As before, the four campus directors – one each from Langley, Surrey, Newton and Richmond – still have a vote on the board, though they now make up a minority.

Considering all of this, the campus councils have gone from having 20-something votes and being in a majority, to having only four votes and being in a minority. In effect, the balance of power in the KSA has been largely concentrated into the five executive positions, which can now vote together to pass even the most controversial resolutions without the scrutiny of the council.

Also of interest to students will be how the new bylaws limit the powers of a general meeting of the members.

For example, under the old bylaws the students at a general meeting held the authority to remove a member from the KSA. Under the new bylaws, the board is now the only unit to have this right, which it previously didn’t have. The executive members of the board could, if they wanted to, vote to remove any dissenting voice from the KSA, including other elected board members who could potentially be replaced by more agreeable appointees.

Another example of more powers being allocated to the board is found when looking at adjustments made to the requirements of notification and time limitations.

In particular, with regards to a referendum, the minimum number of notification posters required at each campus has gone down from 25 to eight. The minimum number of days to have these posted before the referendum has gone down from 14 days to seven.

In theory, a board can offer prolonged and highly visible notice of an event that it wants the students to know about or the minimum for one that it does not. In this sense, the new bylaws make it easier for the board to influence the results of the democratic process.

As a final highlight, changes have been made to the definition of honorary member.

Formerly, an honorary member was neither permitted the right to vote nor the right to run for office. Under the new legislation, however, anyone from anywhere can be bestowed the full benefits of KSA membership without being a student at Kwantlen, and even without being a student at all.

Considering adjustments were also made to the minimum number of students needed to validate the proceedings of a general meeting of the membership, down to 50 from 250, the new definition could pose a concern for student members if they find themselves outnumbered by honorary members.

October 11, 2005

KSA internal investigation - Kwantlen Chronicle

The way the Kwantlen Student Association bylaws were changed wasn’t the only controversy from the Sept. 29 KSA meeting. An internal investigation is underway regarding prizes that were handed out.

Mariana Nakhla said she “and four other members” of the executive board of the KSA are conducting the investigation. Nakhla, director of academic affairs for the KSA and member of the Reduce All Fees Party, said, “I can’t say anything else about that.”

According to a KSA attendance sheet, 256 students signed in, said Nakhla. Each student signed in was eligible to win prizes in a raffle-style giveaway. The advertisement campaign for the raffle was focused on the Surrey campus, said Nakhla. “We did give away some advertisement in Richmond, though.”

The prizes, which were paid for with student fees, included two iPod shuffles, three iPod nanos, three 27-inch TVs, five DVD players and a grand-prize $8,000 vacation to anywhere in the world for the winner, who must invite a minimum of three friends to accompany her or him.

It’s not clear which aspect of the giveaway the executive is investigating. The Chronicle will update students in a future article when more information is available.

Bylaws passed with no consideration - Kwantlen Chronicle

Steve Lee, KSA Richmond campus director, and Johnny Woo, KSA Richmond campus representative, share their concerns about the handling of the association's special general meeting.

Controversy has erupted after the Kwantlen Student Association passed a new set of bylaws at its special general meeting on Sept. 29.

The main purpose of the meeting – which was run by Aaron Takhar, director of finance, chairperson of the KSA board and member of the Reduce All Fees Party – was to hold a vote asking students whether or not to adopt a newly adjusted set of KSA bylaws.

"We have a new set of bylaws that we are presenting, and to approve these we can get straight onto the prizes," announced Takhar at the meeting.

Takhar introduced the bylaws as the only item on the agenda. Kulvir Gill, Richmond campus staff representative and member of the Reduce All Fees Party, moved that the changes to the bylaws be accepted, and Raman Mann seconded the motion.

According to a video of the meeting supplied to The Chronicle by Steven Lee, KSA Richmond campus director, the bylaws were approved at the meeting without debate. The video shows one student saying, “I would like to know, before we take a vote, what this is about.” As well, Laura Anderson, KSA Langley campus representative, also requested discussion.

Discussion was cut off, though, when Takhar said: “Before we get to what this is about, we have a lot of people who came for one reason, which is to win prizes, so why don’t we take a show of hands here?”

Takhar declared the motion to approve the new bylaws passed, announced the winners of the prizes and adjourned the meeting.

The video also shows Takhar claimed that the new bylaws had been available for students to read for three weeks prior to the meeting, but that’s being disputed by Anderson and others.

Anderson said she spoke with Takhar on Sept. 21 and asked to read the proposed changes to the bylaws, but “he said ‘they wouldn’t be ready [to view] for about another week,’” perhaps until only a couple days before the special general meeting. What took place at the meeting was “an absolute example of the incredible corruption” in the KSA, said Anderson.

Johnny Woo, KSA Richmond campus council representative, and Steven Lee, KSA Richmond campus director, also said the bylaws were not made available as Takhar had claimed.

Woo says he and Lee had asked to see the bylaws numerous times, by email and in person, including once about a week before the meeting, but were told the document wasn’t yet available.

“I asked Kulvir [Gill], I talked to Aaron [Takhar], we emailed them, and either it’s no response or ‘hey, you’ll find out soon enough,’” said Woo.

Rob Evans, student representative to the board of governors, which is a non-voting position on the KSA council, was critical of the role that prizes played in the process. “Unfortunately, the prizes were used for more than just getting people out to the meeting,” he said. “They were then used to facilitate the voting on the bylaws.”

“There was no dialogue” and no chance for the students to realistically consider the bylaws, he said.

“The bylaws are clearly invalid,” said Evans. “There was somewhere around $20,000 spent with no results.”

That’s not the view of the KSA executive. The bylaws are considered approved, according to Nakhla. “We’ve changed [the bylaws). We’ve changed the system – the whole hierarchy,” she said.

Despite attempts before the deadline, the Chronicle was unable to get comment from Takhar or other members of the executive, including Joey Atwal, KSA director of events, who did not return calls, and Jaivin Khatri, KSA director of external affairs, who said he was too busy studying for midterms for even a short interview.

Gill also refused an interview with the Chronicle.

“I’m not giving an article to the Chronicle,” said Gill, who wasn’t happy about a previous Chronicle article.

As for a reaction to what the changes will mean, Lee said: “They’ve basically given the president and the executive board all the power. Even general meetings don’t really have any power any more under this system.”

Lee said that students should also be concerned that “the ombuds section is gone” from the bylaws, referring to the internal body that is normally in place to investigate complaints.

To offer some perspective, Lee points to the student association at Simon Fraser University as an example of how things should be running.

SFU’s student association had a special general meeting Sept. 28, said Lee. “Their bylaw changes had been posted online and in the student society offices for about a month beforehand,” he explained.

The Chronicle will publish an article look at the new bylaws and what they mean for students in our next edition.

October 03, 2005

Vancouver's Vision looks to Kwantlen - Kwantlen Chronicle

Heather Harrison made the team.

“I’m really excited and honoured,” said Harrison, a Kwantlen philosophy instructor, after being selected to represent Vision Vancouver as one of its candidates for Vancouver city council in the Nov. 19 civic elections.

Harrison’s first official action as a candidate was to attend a press conference last Monday where Jim Green, current city councillor and the mayoral candidate for Vision Vancouver, announced his team of five candidates that was selected by committee from a list of 30 nominees.

Joining Harrison and Green on the Vision Vancouver team is Hydro engineer George Chow, microbiologist Heather Deal and current city councillors Tim Stevenson and Raymond Louie.

As for what’s going to be on the forefront of Harrison’s mind this election, she would like the controversy surrounding the Woodward’s building in the Downtown Eastside, a suggested site for social housing, to become one of the hotly debated topics.

“I think once people understand what it’s really about, what it’s doing for the community, what it’s doing for Vancouver, how it’s been organized and how it’s brought a lot of people together – developers and business and academia and neighbourhood activists – I think you just can’t help but to get behind it,” Harrison said.

Another big issue for Harrison is transportation, especially to and from the University of British Columbia.

“All of our transportation to UBC is our buses sitting in gridlock twice a day,” Harrison said. “It’s terrible and they sit there and they belt out smelly fumes.”

Some of Harrison’s suggestions include rerouting, controlling traffic lights and possibly even dedicating lanes. “We need to be thinking creatively about how we can help the buses get out there more effectively,” she said.

Harrison also said that environmental problems are one of her biggest motivators.

“I think that time is running out on global warming,” Harrison warned, highlighting the devastation around the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“Environmentalists tell us that these sorts of events are going to become increasingly common,” Harrison said, “and you look at the costs of the damage . . . and you realize that investing in the environment now is going to be so much cheaper in the long run.

“I really think that we’re not just on a short timeline with respect to the negative consequences, but on a short timeline with respect to how we can avert long term costs for a very small amount at this point . . . That’s ultimately what I am most concerned about.”

For now, however, Harrison needs to focus on the election and feels Vancouver is looking for a party that can get things done. “Jim and Tim and Raymond and [Mayor Larry Campbell] just got so much done for the city in the last two years with the RAV line, the Olympics and Woodward’s,” she said. The 2010 Winter Games “is going to make for the most sustainable Olympics we’ve ever seen anywhere.”

As busy as Harrison will be during the election, she doesn’t think it’s going to be an issue with respect to her teaching schedule.

It’s basically like having two full-time jobs for the next six weeks, Harrison said, but “I’m such an organized person.”

Harrison prepared for the term as though she is going to be elected, she explained, because if she is and she hadn’t planned for it, then it’ll be too late when the time comes to balance out her duties.

“I’ve gotten my courses completely organized,” Harrison said. All of her lectures are prepared, all of her assignments are done and all of her exams are written.

Other than marking – which is a big task, though one that has a great deal of flexibility with respect to when it’s done – Harrison said she has to come in to lecture, which for her is more like a welcome hobby. It’s something that “completely reenergizes me.”

Next term may be a bit of a different story, though. Harrison has been assigned a full-time schedule of courses, but if all goes as she hopes it does, there are quality instructors that can be called to fill in.