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September 23, 2004

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Unfair hiring practices
I regularly turn to the SFU media pages for the heads-up on things at my alma mater. However, I take issue with your point of view outlined in your article (SFU News July 8) about the promising future for PhDs when senior faculty retire in the near future. I was appalled by the following statement about hiring practices: “The problem, however, is that the supply of young Canadians with doctorates is drying up, forcing Canadian universities to look outside of the country.”

This is ludicrous and untrue. Moreover, it is the fiction that universities use to cover up their unfair hiring practices. As a PhD candidate in English at UBC, I am fully aware that there are plenty of Canadian PhD graduates in my discipline and in others who would love nothing more than to be shortlisted for a job at home. The truth is that recent government changes in university hiring practices mean that universities no longer need to fill positions with Canadian doctorates first. In fact, the trend is to hire Americans and others in place of Canadians because foreign PhDs with big funding behind them are more attractive to Canadian institutions. In the departmental job talks that I have attended, few Canadian PhDs are shortlisted. I have been told that it is because no Canadians “looked good enough on paper” to vie with American or British colleagues. Balderdash.

The truth is, this so-called hiring trend reflects the ambiguity with which Canadian institutions estimate their own graduate students. It's as if we aren't good enough to teach in our own universities. I do wish that people would stop relaying the fiction that the pool of Canadian PhDs is drying-up. It's not.

Tracy Wyman-Marchand
Doctoral candidate , department of English
University of British Columbia

An invitation for Shaker
I write in response to Paul Shaker's Comment (SFU News Sept. 9). I support his preference for humane rather than mechanistic approaches to educational evaluation. I also support his inclusion of teachers in the formation of education policy. I too support “the belief that a range of orientations should join in public debate on the way to policy formation.”

Now for disagreement. Given his concern for inclusivity, and for the welcoming of “a range of orientations” in public debate on education, I wonder why he excludes religiously informed discourse. Why, in our multicultural society, is a religious group an interest group when groups such as the teachers' union or the Humanist association apparently are not? Why are some points of view given “a place at the table” when others are not?

Part of the answer is his experience in the U.S., where public education is under attack on various issues from so-called fundamentalist religious groups, which seek to create “a hierarchy of culture in which their perspective is dominant.” Fortunately, this is not the case in Canada. Then how, in Canada, can we legitimate freedom of speech for everyone except those with religiously informed perspectives? Rather than secularism - itself an ideology - I propose secularity, a state of affairs in which all groups are given a place at the table, and in which no group is given a place of privilege. I invite Paul Shaker and your readers to an event co-sponsored by SFU's institute for the humanities and the centre for cultural renewal in Ottawa - Citizenship and the Common Good: Secularism or the Inclusive Society? at Harbour Centre from 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 29. For more information call 291-5855.

Donald Grayston
Institute for the humanities

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