Profile: Marc Stokes, busker

December 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Busker Marc Stokes

Busker Marc Stokes on Granville Street (Photo by Erica J Wilk)

Busker Marc Stokes is seeing the bigger picture in what he does.

“It’s very difficult to stay in an argument with Marc Stokes,” said Anthony Madani. Madani, a hip hop performer and friend of Stokes’, is the creator of the group Musicians United Against Censorship, which is a collection of buskers, as well as musicians who felt censored by the police.

Due to noise complaints from residents, buskers were shut down by the police in spring 2010. Madani and Stokes both said they understand the concerns of the residents and Stokes added, “If you choose to live on the loudest part of Granville Street, I think it’s kind of a ridiculous statement to complain about noise down there.”

In May 2010, Musicians United Against Censorship, protested against the regulations for buskers by blocking Robson Street and making music.

Madani said that Stokes did a lot of organizing for this event and he “is incredibly passionate about his music and he loves performing and making music for people.”

Stokes is a rapper; he also plays the guitar and the saxophone. He got his musical education in elementary and high school and said his most important influences were the people at the Anza Club. There he met “a lot of people with open minds and open hearts, who are willing to teach and learn.”

David Morin is one of these people. He is singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer who is often on stage with Stokes. About Stokes he said, “Marc is very motivated […] He is just a very determined individual so it’s inspiring to work with him.”

The protest concert caught the attention of people from the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA). According to Madani, they liked seeing live music in the streets and how well people reacted to it.

DVBIA took Stokes as a contractor for bringing more music to the streets and, as a result of their work together and with city hall, laws were changed. Busking hours and decibel levels for amplification were extended and more busking areas were created.

Barbara Fairbrother is the event-planning coordinator of DVBIA, who was and is working with Stokes. She said, “I think Marc is very passionate about what he believes in. He is open-minded and willing to listen to different groups and their concerns and I think that’s what helps him work between so many different groups.”

Looking back, Morin sees a transition in the relationship between buskers and police. “First, they [the police] were really hard on us and when they got little bit more used to what was going on they seemed to loosen up on us,” said Morin.

Guitarist Bodhi Jones, who has been a busker for five years, says he never had problems with the police or the city. “As I recall, the bans on busking only started the day the Stokester showed up,” Jones said on the group’s Facebook page in May. “It seems to me that he just likes to talk a lot of shit.”

And, via email, Jones said, “Marc Stokes and his hip hop collective do not speak for me or any of the handful of professional buskers that I’m friends with.“

When confronted with Jones’ quotes, Stokes said, “I think what the concern was a lot of people thought a lot of this was coming from me. […] About what Bodhi said, well, I mean, I’m human and I’m always gonna make mistakes and errors. I don’t know if it is possible to satisfy everybody. But I will try.”

Stokes sees the bigger picture of how life in Vancouver could be someday. He wants the mindsets of people to change. “Maybe some day it doesn’t matter anymore if you drive a BMW. Maybe someday it matters if you’re happy or not.” Stokes said he is not afraid to take the small steps along the way. However, the power for the small and big steps lies in his passion for making music for people.

Stokes in Downtown Vancouver on July 1, 2010. (YouTube video by user woodwardsmile)

Stokes’ website:

SFU’s FD grade seen as necessary; Kwantlen has no plans to introduce it

December 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

It was a little more than a year-and-a-half ago that a senate sub-committee for Simon Fraser University implemented the FD grade, also known as failure for academic dishonesty, in an effort to strengthen the school’s policies on academic integrity and prevent cheating by use of the internet.

Today, SFU is still the only university in Canada that uses the FD grade, which stays on a student’s transcript for two years after graduation.

Kate Ross, SFU’s registrar and executive director, student enrollment explained the rest of the FD grade’s process.

“If no further acts of academic dishonesty have occurred [after two years], the registrar will automatically change the grade to F,” said Ross.

Although no statistics on how many students have been affected by this grade have been released yet, SFU students have been generally accepting of the grade’s purpose since its introduction. General studies student Jayna Bhindi believes that the FD grade is necessary for students who cheat.

“If I receive an FD, then not only does it mean that I plagiarized in that specific course, but it can also give the impression that I may have done the same thing in my previous classes and I was lucky enough to not have got caught, so whoever receives an FD receives it because that’s what they essentially deserve,” said Bhindi.

Silvia Duran, also a general studies student, agreed with Bhindi.

“[An FD] blatantly states the dishonesty that the student receiving the grade has practiced, and it not only shows future…schools, or even employers that you’ve failed, but you’ve failed for passing off somebody else’s work as your own,” said Duran.

A third student, Alvin Gutierrez, has some doubts about the grade.

“To me, there’s an inconsistency with the FD grade because what if a student simply forgets to put quotes around something someone said? I’m not sure how easy it would be to get out of that one,” said Gutierrez.

The question now is whether any other universities in Canada will follow suit and implement an FD grade of their own.

“We have certainly had inquires about [the FD grade], but to date I am not aware of anyone else introducing it in Canada,” said Ross.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s director, admissions and records, Zena Mitchell, said Kwantlen has no plan of introducing an FD grade at this time.

Cafeteria-protesting Friends 4 Food missing in action

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

It started with a bang and went out with a whimper.

Friends 4 Food, the Kwantlen club that attracted attention from local media and students for its vocal protest of Kwantlen’s new food service provider Sodexo, has quietly disappeared.

Friends 4 Food had clashed with both Kwantlen Polytechnic administrators and the Fraser Health Authority over serving free vegan stew in the Surrey campus courtyard.

Though still listed as an active club on the Kwantlen Student Association’s website, the group has not served any more meals on campus since early October. The Friends 4 Food website is no longer available online and their Facebook group hasn’t been updated since Oct. 4.

The disappearance of the group may be part of a wider trend: When it comes to extracurricular clubs on campus, Kwantlen students have been traditionally slow to get involved.

Nursing student Amy Lange organizes the Kwantlen chapter of University Christian Ministries. She says that her group would like to be more active on campus but that they’ve struggled against the commuter campus dynamic.

“[Kwantlen students] just come to school for school, they study, and they go home,” said Lange. “They’re not looking to get involved in any extracurricular school activities, so to run a club means you’re constantly trying to work against that.”

Kari Michaels, the founder of Kwantlen’s Animal Rights Collective, also understands the frustration of starting a club on campus.

“It’s pretty tough, especially if you aren’t as well connected. Having 10 people sign a form isn’t that difficult, but finding 10 people who will want to attend your meeting is another issue,” said Michaels.

“I think that’s where the real stumbling block comes with student clubs is. There’s a lot of people who want to support your ideas. It’s just getting the real committed people to get involved is a lot harder.”

There are 24 clubs and four recognized groups currently listed as active on the Kwantlen Student Association website.

The Kwantlen Student Association website lists another 23 clubs and recognized groups that are either inactive or have been dissolved. Among the defunct groups are the Anime Club, the Mahjong Club, the Muslim Student Association, the Young Liberals of Canada, and Campus for Christ.

How to Start an Official Kwantlen Club

If you’re tired of complaining about the nonexistent campus culture at Kwantlen you can follow these steps to become the master of your own social life and start your own club.

(1) Decide what kind of club you want to start. What interests you? Clubs fall into four categories: social, cultural, athletic or academic. Check out the KSA website for a list of all current clubs to make sure that your ideal club doesn’t already exist.

(2) There are a few basic requirements to start a club: You must be a Kwantlen student, your group must be open to any student who wants to join, and you must have a minimum of 10 members.

(3) Fill out the KSA clubs package forms and hand them in for approval. Your application will be evaluated and, if all goes well, your club will become official in one or two weeks.

(4) So you’re official: now what? As an official club you are able to book space on campus for your meetings or events, you can also request help from KSA staff and officials and apply for funding.

Meatless eating on campus still a struggle

December 14, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Vegetarian and vegan students at Kwantlen have some options when eating on campus, but still struggle to find nutritious and tasty meals that won’t break the bank.

“There’s not a lot surrounding Kwantlen to eat at. I generally bring in my own food,” said committed vegan Kari Michaels, a third-year philosophy student.

When she does buy food on campus, the GrassRoots Café is her venue of choice. Vegan menu items at the GrassRoots include wraps, with fillings such as rice, beans and veggies, and stir-fries.

“It’s pretty tough to be a vegan at Kwantlen. Luckily, the GrassRoots Café is really flexible. I’ve never actually gone to Sodexo to see their vegan options,” said Michaels.

A Sodexo representative reached by phone was quick to list many of the vegetarian and vegan choices available in the cafeterias and their willingness to adapt to each person’s dietary restrictions. Beyond the usual vegan and vegetarian-friendly sandwiches and salads, they offer hot entrées, including curries, stir-fries and pastas. Meatless options at Sodexo can also be cheaper, usually priced at a dollar less than the entrées with meat.

Vegetarian choices are now easily found on most local menus in Vancouver, a welcome respite from the days when often the only veggie-friendly items were salads.

Between four and 10 per cent of Canadians consider themselves to be vegetarian or vegan, according to multiple studies. That would suggest that between 680 and 1,700 of Kwantlen’s 17,000 students are either vegetarian or vegan.

There is no one simple definition of a vegetarian. Some vegetarians eat poultry or fish, some avoid all forms of animal flesh. Vegans consume no animal products, including dairy and eggs.

Michaels became a vegan partly for health reasons. “I had dairy and egg allergies so I didn’t have much choice. I was already vegetarian before making the switch to vegan,” she said.

She has since researched the conditions and methods used by modern dairy farms and was disgusted by what she found.

“But, now that I am vegan, the reasons I wouldn’t go back even if my allergies went away is just the innate cruelty in factory farming, the horrible practices involved in keeping cows pregnant . . . the whole industry around that would definitely keep me from going back to that.”

Michaels is philosophical about her limited dining options at Kwantlen.

“It’s hard to be vegan in Surrey and Kwantlen’s just a microcosm of that.”

Opinion: Lack of controversy around prayer room refreshing

December 14, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Kwantlen’s introduction of a dedicated prayer and meditation room earlier this semester was decidedly uncontroversial. Refreshingly so.

There were no public protests and no letters to the editors of the school papers complaining about the intrusion of religion into the public sphere.

The room was created in response to multiple requests from students and staff for a space to practise their respective faiths. Whether you chalk it up to typical Kwantlen apathy or an extremely enlightened outlook on faith and tolerance, the prayer room has continued to operate freely and without incident.

Compare that non-reaction to controversies generated about religious accommodations on other campuses across the country. Five years ago, McGill University in Montreal closed its prayer room and argued that a religious space didn’t belong at a secular university. Students responded by filing a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

Admittedly, the Kwantlen prayer room is nothing to write home about. It’s the size of a very small office or cubicle and the bare concrete floor is reminiscent of a prison cell. Several groups on campus have expressed concern that the spartan room is not large enough for group prayers or other religious meetings with more than two or three people.

In response, university administrators have promised to look for new space as it becomes available, with the aim of eventually opening prayer rooms on all four campuses.

Conflicts between the secular and religious sectors continue to make headlines all over Canada. The questions of how far religious freedoms extend and what place religion has in the public square, or more specifically at a public university, aren’t going to be resolved anytime soon, but they are ones we should think about carefully.

Because what better place to foster a reasoned and educated discussion about faith than at a university?

Beating the winter blues in time for the holidays

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

(Photo by Steven Maisey)

It’s no surprise people gain weight during winter, especially because of the holidays. But if your weight gain is accompanied by negative feelings you could be suffering from SAD, seasonal affective disorder.

Ashiq Shah, Kwantlen psychology instructor, explained that SAD, which two to three per cent of Canadians are reported to have, is “not depression which we see in psychiatric patients, but it is something which is related to changes in the seasons and how our body responds to that.”

“Many of us notice [that we are] sleeping more or gaining weight because we eat excessively, or even feeling lethargic because the days become shorter and the evenings are [longer].”

A main factor is the lack of sunlight. People who are affected by SAD feel their mood change as the sun hides away for longer periods of time, usually at the beginning of autumn. It’s when spring rolls around that they start to feel better.

“Since there is less light, there is less availability of an important hormone in our body, a neurotransmitter that is [called] serotonin,” Shah said. According to, serotonin is “involved in sleep, depression, memory, and other neurological processes.”

“When its level declines, there are mood swings so people feel gloomy and depressed,” said Shah. “This is a general body reaction to these seasonal changes. There are individual defences to that. This means that not everybody feels gloomy. There are some people who are more affected by that, depending on the level of their neurotransmitters or hormones in their body.”

Lethargy also causes weight gain, because people tend to exercise less and eat more.

“When you feel lethargic you are less active,” said Shah. “Mostly people are confined at home because there is less opportunity, or the weather is not suitable to go out or to be involved in activities. [If you're at] home, inside, than generally you are inclined to eat more and on top of that, when it is cold outside you feel you need more energy and therefore you eat more.”

How do you beat SAD?

Shah recommends exercising at least three to five days a week, if not daily. “Physical activity boosts the levels of serotonin, which is the key factor in SAD and also in depression.”

For severe cases of SAD, some patients are prescribed light.

“As the sunlight is less available the serotonin levels decline,” said Shah. “In the case of severe symptoms of SAD, a timed daily dose of intense light, daylight, is the recommended therapy. This is, however, controversial among the researchers. Some think it works [while] others think that its effect is like that of a placebo.”

Kwantlen emerges as leader in energy conservation

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Kwantlen is shooting well under par in a game it is becoming very good at.

According to an article in Metro, “Kwantlen’s campuses use 40 per cent less energy than the typical college and 66 per cent less energy than the average university in Canada.”

Recently, Kwantlen was awarded with a 2010 BC Hydro Power Smart Leadership Excellence award for its continuing success in energy management and conservation. This is the fifth time BC Hydro has recognized Kwantlen’s involvement in energy conservation and the third year in a row it has been acknowledged with the leadership excellence award.

Kwantlen was only one of 13 other organizations in B.C to be a recipient of the award in 2010. The award recognizes organizations that have been geared towards energy savings year-over-year and continue to strive towards more savings.

“It actually becomes kind of fun. It’s like when you get better and better at a video game… you know you want to go to the next level,” said Karen Hear, executive director of facilities management at Kwantlen.

Hearn says that a huge part of the success has come not only out of her contributions, but those of the entire Kwantlen team.

“I think because we’re taken an approach that ‘We is smarter than Me’ and tried to involve a great number of stakeholders, from our service suppliers to our maintenance contractors to our in-house personnel. Everything from security officers to janitors, involving them all… they’re part of it.”

According to Metro, Kwantlen’s energy saving efforts over the past 10 years are enough to power over 4,100 homes for a year, which has also resulted in the big savings on utility costs.

For Hearn, this is major part of the big picture.

“We really want to be conscious of, one, reducing our impact on the environment, but at the same time saving money,” she said.

“Basically our costs for utilities, that’s water, natural gas and electricity, in 2001 at that point our budget was about $1.4 million. We were about 850,000 square feet. We are now 1.1 million square feet, plus or minus a slight bit, and our utilities budget this year is about $1.43 million.”

Kwantlen has been innovative with the way it is going about conserving the amounts of energy. Recently, a new system was introduced to minimize the amount of kitchen exhaust. Instead of having the exhaust fans above the grills in kitchen going all the time, Hearn and her team came up with the idea to installation of variable speed drives that work like an accelerator in a car depending on the amount of smoke and heat in the air. Now, when the grill is being used a lot, the fan speeds up, but when it isn’t, it automatically slows down to a minimum speed.

“We have tried to be very creative that whenever we are doing a renovation or a system upgrade or new building construction, we try to take that opportunity to look at what are some very creative ways that we can minimize the amount of energy that is required in support of the facility,” said Hearn.

The next project that her and the facilities management department are focused on is what Hearn refers to as the Awareness Program, which will be aimed more at ensuring students are being guided to helping making Kwantlen more environmentally friendly and identifying what a student can do on an individual level to help.

More information on Kwantlen’s energy and environmental management and its action plans and records can be found at the college’s sustainability web site.

Kwantlen Creative Writer’s Guild provides haven for writers

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Kwantlen Creative Writer’s Guild provides a judgement-free environment for students at Kwantlen to present their writing in fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Shawn Mitz, president of the Kwantlen Creative Writer’s Guild, says “it’s an opportunity for all students at Kwantlen who are interested in creative writing to get some feedback on their work. And for people who are looking to become better writers, we provide an environment for them to display their work, get some positive feedback, socialize and get more acquainted with the writing community at Kwantlen.”

The group has meetings bi-weekly, depending on the members’ schedules. At the sessions, they go over peoples’ work, give feedback and let them know what they think of their writing.

“I think it provides a haven for some of the creative writing folks who are a little too hesitant to display their work in class. Often people feel they’re being judged because they’re being graded. We like to think that this is venue for people to present their work without being graded or judged,” Mitz said.

The guild has open mic nights where students who are interested in reading their fiction, non-fiction or poetry can sign up and read in front of an audience. Last time, they had their open mic night at the Grassroots Lounge on the Surrey campus.

“I think it allows for a larger sense of school pride. We look at schools like UBC and SFU and they’ve got these extremely large and well-established creative programs for all the different arts. So we want to make Kwantlen on par with some of the larger schools and create a better university experience,” said Mitz.

Every year, they publish an end-of-the-year journal filled with writing done by Kwantlen students. There is a writing contest, which is open to all Kwantlen students, who can submit poetry, fiction or nonfiction. For each category, there will be a first- and second-place winner. The winners receive a small prize and gain a spot in the journal.

“The main goal is to create a positive writing environment for any student who is interested in creative writing. They don’t have to be professional, they don’t have to be the most brilliant writer ever. We are just looking for people who feel they have a passion to write. We want to be able to foster that for any student,” Mitz said.

Scholarship fund-raising program aims to help change the world

December 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Dr. Charles Quist-Adade is a lot more than an average sociology professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He is also the founder of CANAFRE, the Canada-Africa Foundation for Rural Education and president of the Ghana Canada Association of British Columbia.

But it is how he is incorporating his students into his foundation which has taken drawn attention at Kwantlen.

Quist-Adade is a Ghanaian-Canadian who is heavily devoted to his community. In many of his courses, he provides students with an opportunity to make a change in society by raising funds for the Aklowa Scholarship Project. The goal of the project is to improve education in rural Ghana where more than 70 per cent of the youth live in village communities.

The scholarship provides primary school children who are in need with a backpack containing two sets of school uniforms, a pair of sandals, 24 exercise books, pens, pencils and a dictionary. The scholarships also pay for the child’s school fees and lunch for a year.

“It [the scholarship] is to help deprived students who cannot complete education because of lack of funds,” said Quist-Adade. “We give them kind of a lifeline to complete their education.”

Quist-Adade is from a rural community in Ghana and he knows how far each donation can go.

He received a diploma in journalism from the Ghana Institute of Journalism before being funded to study for his master’s degree and PhD in journalism and sociology in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“I thought that I should help realize the educational dreams of children in rural Ghana,” said Quist-Adade.

He allows his students to raise funds in any way they choose, with a target of $750 per group.

Jasman Virdi, a student in Quist-Adade’s social justice class, was part of a group that held a club night.

“In the end, we sold out. In total, we raised $1,080,” Virdi said.

Quist-Adade appreciates the effort put in by his students as he continues to improve education in his homeland.

“I want to thank my students for the enthusiasm, sacrifice and effort they put into fundraising,” said Quist-Adade. “By the time it is finished, I think we will have raised about $2,000.”

For more information on the foundation, or to donate, visit the project’s website.

Composting pilot project recommended as result of Kwantlen’s garbage audit

December 14, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Environmental protection technology students go through garbage at the Richmond campus. (Photo by Mike Ferko)

Kwantlen’s environmental protection technology students have drafted recommendations for how Kwantlen could better handle garbage, based on results of their 2010 waste audit.

On Oct. 19, a two-day garbage audit was conducted at the Richmond campus to gather information that would later determine whether a composting program would be beneficial.

According to Kelsey Hynes, a second-year EPT student, implementing a fully structured composting program is a lengthy process.

That’s why Hynes has recommended a three-year pilot project, which would start within the EPT program, to see how manageable composting is for a smaller group.

According to the draft, “Faculty should be trained to properly dispose compostable organic waste. Students should be aware of the composting disposal system. Education of the public is necessary for this to work, since there are so many items that can be composted.”

The report states that 73 per cent of material disposed in the cafeteria alone is compostable. It further proposes that the cafeteria use biodegradable cutlery, along with biodegradable plates and napkins.

The report suggests that Sodexo should contribute to a composting program by providing containers for food scraps, as that would help reduce the percentage of compostable waste found in the garbage.

A successful composting program would mean a reduction in the amount of waste entering the garbage stream. As well, “Compost can produce fertile soil which can be sold to those who need it,” according to the report.

The draft indicates that the cost to begin composting operations will be recovered, since the garbage company that currently picks up Kwantlen’s trash charges by mass and almost 40% of the overall garbage produced is compostable waste.

The task of implementing a fully functioning compost program isn’t going to happen over night.

Paul Richard, chair of the program, says that more research ought to be done.

“There’s always more research that could be done.”

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