Eduvation Blog

Hypocrites, Intellectuals and Deplorables

Good morning, and TGIF!

As you might expect, the pandemic’s second wave is continuing to impact CdnPSE institutions, with ever-higher daily tallies – particularly driven by hospital and athletics outbreaks at uCalgary, Mount Royal, and Western.

Today, as promised, I’ll wrap up yesterday’s essay on covidiots with a look at political hypocrisy, “caution fatigue” and, on the other hand, the perils of “COVID shaming.”

But first – this weekend we mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, on the anniversary of the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal. Sexism and threats of gender-based violence remain all too prevalent for women in higher ed, and particularly in STEM fields.

Sadly, just this week another Engineering school in Montreal, École de Technologie Supérieure, was evacuated due to a threat on social media!


Nous nous Souvenons

CdnPSE will honour the memory of the 14 victims of the Montreal Massacre in various ways over the coming days, but here are some examples announced so far…

uAlberta’s Non-Academic Staff Association is holding its annual commemoration event online today at noon MST.  NASA

Dalhousie U’s Women in Engineering Society will hold an online vigil via MS Teams on Sunday at 1pm AST.  Dal

Memorial U will hold its annual vigil virtually this year, Sunday at 6pm NST, “to honour the memory of the women who lost their lives and reflect upon concrete actions that each of us can take as a shared responsibility to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence.”  MUN Gazette

Queen’s U mechanical engineering student Brielle Chanae Thorsen became the first Indigenous recipient of the Order of the White Rose this week. The $30,000 bursary was established in 2015 as a memorial to the victims and survivors of the mass shooting at École Polytechnique. “The winner is always a promising young female engineering student conducting world-changing graduate work – exactly the kind of woman the gunman was out to murder the night of his misogynistic rampage.”  Montreal Gazette

“We are so much stronger than those who hurt us… You don’t need to be confined to these boxes that society has created for you. As Indigenous people, we’ve been practising the sciences for millennia and I think it is a natural fit for many of our youth.”Brielle Chanae Thorsen, Queen’s U grad student


Simon Fraser U has held an annual vigil on Dec 6 for the past 30 years, and since 2009 the campus community has gathered at a memorial bench outside the Applied Sciences building. This year, they are invited to a virtual memorial, today at 12:30pm PST.  SFU

“We mark Dec 6 to remember the lives of 14 young women taken in violence and hate. Let us also remember that violence against women remains prevalent in our communities, and particularly so for women with disabilities, Indigenous, racialized and trans women. We must examine the systems and biases that permit this violence to continue and actively search for ways to make communities safe for all.”Joy Johnson, President, Simon Fraser University


Vancouver Island U Students’ Union is encouraging the campus community to attend the “End Violence Against Women Virtual Memorial” hosted by the Public Service Alliance of Canada on Sunday at 5pm PST.  PSAC-BC

Vancouver Island U Faculty Association’s Status of Women Committee is inviting submissions of 1-min videos to voice support for the UN’s “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence” campaign, which runs Nov 25 – Dec 10. The UN’s theme is “Orange the World.”  VIUFA

uWaterloo will host a pre-recorded online ceremony today at 10:30am EST, in partnership with the Canadian Federation of University Women Kitchener-Waterloo. Admission is free but preregistration is required.  Waterloo Region Record


COVID on Campus

Since yesterday, CdnPSE reported 42 more cases of COVID19 – dominated by campus outbreaks at uCalgary, Mount Royal, and Western…

uCalgary reports 8 members of the women’s basketball team have tested positive for COVID19.  CTV

Durham College reported a new case at the Oshawa campus Dec 3. (That brings the total this fall to 32 cases.)  DC

Loyalist College reported another case yesterday (bringing the total this fall to 7).  Loyalist

Mount Royal U reports 18 members of the Cougars men’s hockey program, including coaching staff, recently tested positive for COVID19. With new government restrictions, no MRU varsity programs will be training until at least January. MRU

Red River College reported 2 more cases on Wednesday (bringing the total to 27 since Oct 1).  RRC

SAIT reported another case last week (for a total of 19 in November alone).  SAIT

Western U’s University Hospital outbreak added 11 more COVID19 cases and 2 more deaths, bringing the total to 108 cases and 11 fatalities this fall. (Not including about 90 cases among students, both off-campus and in 3 campus residences.) The local health unit reports 16 more cases linked to the UH outbreak, too. All outpatient appointments and non-emergency surgeries, usually 75% of surgical volume, have been cancelled. The hospital CEO has threatened staff with termination if they do not follow PHO rules. With prevalence testing in >3,000 UH employees, the number of cases is expected to rise further.  London Free Press

They Should Know Better

Continuing my thread from yesterday, in which we explored the ways in which toxic masculinity and the youthful sense of invincibility contribute to the backlash and resistance against common-sense health restrictions in a pandemic – today we look at those who really should know better…

Hesitant to Impose Rules

Unlike all other Canadian provinces, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney argues that he won’t impose a province-wide mask mandate because it would create a “backlash” among rural Albertans, and inevitably “turn tens of thousands of people into lawbreakers.” He explained, “imagine you got a couple guys working in a big barn way up in the M.D. of Opportunity, hundreds of kilometres away from the closest COVID hot zone… do you really think those guys are going to put on a mask because I ask them, or tell them to? Do you think the RCMP is going to go out and write a ticket?” CMOH Deena Hinshaw has been recommending masks for months, and some municipalities have passed their own mask bylaws.  CTV

“Masks don’t close business, they don’t infringe on people’s freedom. They are a simple and low-cost way for every Albertan to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. But we know that several UCP MLAs promote anti-mask conspiracy theories, and clearly Kenney was too cowardly to stand up to them.”David Shepherd, Alberta NDP Health Critic


Breaking Their Own Rules

Why are there so many COVID hypocrites? The mayor of Austin TX, Steve Adler, hosted a small outdoor wedding and then took a private jet to vacation in Cabo San Lucas – and a day into his stay, he posted a Facebook video urging Austin residents to stay at home. The major of Denver CO, Michael Hancock, told residents not to travel for Thanksgiving, and then flew to Mississippi to see family. California governor Gavin Newsom attended a maskless dinner party with multiple households, against his own official safety recommendations. San Francisco mayor London Breed dined with 7 others while her city had banned groups larger than 6. “Any increase in cynicism about our political leaders right now can potentially be costly,” and fuel skepticism and backlash against PHO restrictions.  Huffington Post

Newsweek sums up “every mayor and governor accused of breaking COVID restrictions,” and adds Washington DC mayor Muriel Bowser (who travelled to Delaware to congratulate Joe Biden on his election win), San José mayor Sam Liccardo (who celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family), Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot (who got a haircut in April while salons were shutting down), and New York governor Andrew Cuomo (who brought his 89-year-old mother to Thanksgiving dinner). Apparently Republican governors don’t break their own rules as often, because they simply don’t make any.  Newsweek

Of course, hypocrisy is not limited to American politicians. Canadians who should know better are held to a higher standard, and also disappoint. For example…

The Health Minister of Newfoundland & Labrador, John Haggie, attended an in-person Liberal fundraiser the very same day health officials urged employers to cancel their holiday parties throughout the province. In the face of immediate criticism, he apologized yesterday.  Globe & Mail

The major outbreak of COVID19 at Western U’s University Hospital is rumoured to have been sparked by hospital staff ignoring precautions while on break. Although no evidence has surfaced, reports of a potluck holiday gathering prompted a written rebuke from the CEO, accompanied with the threat of termination for staff who failed to observe social distancing and PPE rules while on break. So far, 124 cases and 11 deaths have been attributed to the outbreak by the local health unit.  CTV

Public Intellectuals

Academics have spoken out both for and against public health measures…

Scientist Calls COVID a Hoax

Thomas Brennan, an assistant prof of physics at Ferris State U in Michigan, has tweeted numerous conspiracy theories over faked moon landings and atomic bombings in Japan, and argues that the COVID19 pandemic is a “leftist stunt designed to enslave humanity,” and “another Jewish revolution,” and that COVID symptoms are caused primarily by smartphones. He told a meeting of FSU faculty and staff that the pandemic’s severity is being exaggerated “by revolutionary leftists in the media and government” who will impose a “mandatory vaccine” with injectable micro- or nanotechnology. (He also cited prophecy from the book of Revelation.) FSU president David Eisler said the university was “shocked and outraged,” and that Brennan has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.  Newsweek

Countering Caution Fatigue

The longer the pandemic drags on, the more we struggle to comply with PHO guidelines and restrictions, says a Western U psychologist. Early on, anxiety triggered vigilance, but eventually “caution fatigue” set in, as many people tired of all the precautions. “The more people face their fears, the less anxiety they have.” They habituate, grow desensitized to the threat, and let their guard down. His recommendations to counter caution fatigue: manage your anxiety and depend upon facts not emotion, think beyond yourself and consider the impacts on others around you, and better manage stress through self-compassion, exercise, routine, social connections, and sleep. “Remember that this is a temporary normal” and “see the light at the end of the tunnel.”  The Conversation

Normalizing Behaviour

Our reactions to PHO guidelines, and our tendencies to follow or defy them, are rooted in behavioural psychology. uVic psychology prof Frederick Gouzet says that our adherence to PHO guidelines is driven by either reason or fear: the belief that the rules are necessary, or to avoid risks or penalties for breaking them. Ultimately the former is more effective: “Fear may work at the beginning, but at one point when you see the risk is not there or you’re not as affected… you stop doing it, because people don’t like being afraid.” Obviously it’s also crucial that messaging is consistent, and comes from a source that people trust. Normalizing behaviours like mask-wearing encourages compliance, like the campaigns to encourage seatbelt use 40 years ago.  The Martlet


Shaming & Shunning

Like smoking, drinking and driving, or wearing seatbelts, once public health behaviours become widespread and normalized, it becomes easy to judge those who reject or defy the norm…



So Extroverts are the Problem

A new study of >101,000 people in 55 countries concludes that those who scored highly for the personality traits of openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism were more likely to shelter in place when ordered or advised by officials, whereas extroverts were less likely to comply with PHO orders or advice. “Our findings suggest that as governments provisionally relax sheltering-in-place restrictions, some individuals will continue to engage in social distancing behaviors more than others.” (Yup, sounds about right.) “The results reaffirm the power of personality as a central driver of behavior, a force that is not simply eclipsed by governmental policy.”  American Psychologist

COVID Shaming the Victim

Finding someone to blame for a pandemic, and shunning those in quarantine, is an ancient tradition dating back to biblical times. “There is always someone who is shunned, someone who is shamed, someone who is made to feel marginalized, and that’s been an unfortunate consequence of quarantine for thousands of years,” says a Dalhousie U professor of International Development Studies, Robert Huish. In the Atlantic bubble, cars with license plates “from away” were vandalized, and a student in PEI was shamed on social media. He also anticipates some challenges to come, as COVID19 vaccines begin to roll out next year: those vaccinated early may feel immune to public health directives too, which could build “huge resentment, stigmatization, and all sorts of weird social complexities that we may not see coming.”  CBC


Now this is where public health policy, COVID19 spread, politics and higher education all start to intersect again. I reported yesterday on a Western U study that found compliance with PHO orders was worst among young, rural males with lower levels of education. The divide between left- and right-wing politics seems to follow “the diploma divide” too…


Prejudice Against the Ignorant

A political philosopher at Harvard, Michael Sandel, argues that “disdain for the less educated is the last acceptable prejudice,” and that furthermore the divide between those with and without PSE is “having a corrosive effect on American life – and hurting the Democratic Party.” Democrats believe that the antidote to globalism is upward mobility through higher education. But “meritocratic hubris,” and the “idea that a college degree is a precondition for dignified work and social esteem… fuels prejudice against less-educated members of society… and provokes political backlash.” (Those who Hillary Clinton famously called a “basket of deplorables” turned out in droves to vote against her.)  New York Times



Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend, be safe and stay well!



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