If you missed it last week, UTM held its “Living Library”, an event that features special guests whom students can “borrow” for a half-hour conversation about that person’s life story.
This time, the event featured alumni who gave students advice for their undergraduate careers and beyond.
Well, if there was anything I would tell current students to do, it’d probably be to ask more questions.
The advice may sound cliché, but it takes on a new relevance if you think about access to information these days. There are an increasing number of obstacles coming in the way of finding things out, as long as someone doesn’t want you to know them.
Earlier this year, we ran a story on a Professor Francisco Luis’ departure from UTM “for unknown reasons”. Only a hint of what may have happened was given to us when we inquired about it; as Jane Stirling, UTM’s marketing and communications director, said, the issue “was addressed in the courts and Mr. Luis is no longer associated with the university”.
Um, say that again? Courts were involved?
Perhaps even more disconcerting is what impact it may have had on his students—all we heard at the time was, “Students were provided with appropriate supports as needed.”
What kind of supports were needed? How do we know that students were indeed helped, rather than the university just saying that they were?
Imagine that there are other profs at UTM in a similar situation to Luis’. How would we even know what to watch out for if we don’t know what happened? Doesn’t the university, as a publicly funded institution, owe us this information as members of its community?
That’s just one example.
Another more recent one can be found in the leading news story this week regarding the reports of cockroaches at the UTMSU Food Centre.
Following our initial story about the discovery of the roaches in last week’s issue, a number of conflicting reports circulated about whether or not there were cockroaches there. UTMSU Food Centre coordinator Erik Hernandez-Oberding had posted about the roaches on Facebook and later told us that he had seen them himself.
However, UTMSU president Ebi Agbeyegbe referred to Facebook reports of the cockroaches as “unverified”. But there was enough weight to the reports that pest control services were called and the food centre was relocated to a room in the Student Centre.
So we asked some follow up questions. If you look closely at the answers, you might get some idea about what may have happened.
Agbeyegbe tells us, “The preliminary report I have received from UTMSU staff is that there is no pest infestation at the food centre.”
But wait—he says there is no “infestation” at the food centre. Who said anything about cockroaches “infesting” the centre? I thought we were just talking about a couple of roaches.
Again, Agbeyegbe says, “We do not believe that any recent donation was a source of any infestation.” Neither do I. But what I want to know is whether a couple of roaches were in fact seen coming out of a donation box, as Hernandez-Oberding says.
It may not matter to you whether or not the roaches were ever there, but what you should think about is how difficult it is for us to even find out the truth about a couple of pests.
Not to mention the fact that we’ll never know what someone doesn’t want us to find out unless we ask questions—the right questions—and analyse every word of the answer so we can filter out the agendas of everyone we speak to.
The more resistance you face when asking questions, the more you should wonder if there’s something you should know.