Together yet significantly different

Re: “Can I get a side of English, please?” (Opinions, Oct. 12)

IN THE OCT. 21 edition, the Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa’s English student newspaper, published an opinion letter entitled, “Can I get a side of English, please?” The author, Jaclyn Lytle, complained that the university’s policy on bilingualism was greatly flawed and took issue with the university’s “bilingual agenda” and the lack of effort put into ensuring a strong English presence on the campus. Her position stemmed from her inability to understand the menu sign at the Quiznos in the cafeteria, because it was only written in French.

Francophones on campus and Ms. Lytle share a common goal: To hold the administration of the University of Ottawa accountable for its bilingualism policy, imperfect as it may be. They may share the same complaints; however, the shortfalls of French services and communications are far more severe than the occasional lapse in English-language signage.

This article is neither a passionate rebuttal to Ms. Lytle’s article, nor an inflammatory call to arms for the francophone community on campus. It is an informative and pragmatic reminder of the linguistic realities facing students studying at the University of Ottawa.

Every year, the Standing Committee on Francophone Affairs and Official Languages releases an annual report, in which it describes the status of bilingualism at the university. Between May 2010 and April 2011, it received 178 complaints, almost all of them critiquing the status of the French language on campus.

We believe that Ms. Lytle’s complaint has merit, and should be taken seriously. However, her issue also brings to light the significant difference between the quantity and nature of language-related complaints brought forward. While anglophones may complain about their inability to order a sandwich in their mother tongue, francophones must face services offered only in English by the university or by hired third parties, English-only computer software required for courses, nonexistent or poorly written French documents, and even vandalism defacing French language signs on campus.

The respect of both official languages must be considered when discussing the university’s lack of accountability toward its bilingualism policy. However, as highlighted in the Standing Committee’s annual report, we must not lose sight of the fact that the lack of compliance with the bilingualism policy has primarily impacted the university’s francophone students.

In light of the facts presented in this article, we suggest that Ms. Lytle is misguided in asserting that English is not afforded the same level of presence on campus. While we are sympathetic to her frustration, a closer examination of the linguistic realities at the University of Ottawa reveal that we must continue working toward assuring that French is not further marginalized at the University of Ottawa.

It is clear that the shortcomings of the university’s bilingualism policy are far more significant for francophones. Fundamental issues such as access to French-language courses and key services in French are regularly brought up in complaints. However, it is interesting to see that it has taken a complaint from an anglophone about French-only communication in the cafeteria to create such a widespread debate concerning the lack of accountability towards the University of Ottawa’s bilingualism policy.

Joseph Morin

For the Regroupement étudiant de common law en français (RÉCLEF)


To our SFUO: Drop the U-Pass referendum

I AM DISGUSTED with the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)’s handling of the U-Pass. The SFUO claims to be fighting for an affordable U-Pass for all students, even though the U-Pass comes at a huge discount for students.

What really bothers me, however, is that the SFUO seems to be placing students on some kind of pedestal, as if students are entitled to more than the average person. This kind of thinking reminds me of the whole one per cent versus the 99 per cent idea created by the Occupy movement, only in this case, the couple thousand students are the greedy one per cent, and the nearly one million residents of the city of Ottawa are the 99 per cent.

You may say that is a rather bold statement; however, a hard-working citizen who relies on OC Transpo to get to and from work would be on the hook for $1,128 in monthly bus passes annually ($94 a month). Students enjoy a U-Pass that costs $290 per year ($145 per semester, or $36.25 per month). That is a savings of $472 in an eight-month school year compared to everyone else in the city.

Despite these savings, the SFUO has the audacity to try and fight against a $70 ($35 per semester) increase, even though every other transit user in the city faces the exact same price increase!

What makes students so special that they should not be subject to a price increase? The U-Pass is already revenue-neutral, but now the SFUO is demanding that the city force the citizens of Ottawa to subsidize the added increase of the U-Pass. What planet is the SFUO living on? City Hall is left scratching their heads at the nonsense being spewed from the student federations, and I fear that the U-Pass may be in jeopardy.

I am a mature student who has a job, a child, and goes to school full time. My life is very busy, yet I am no different than the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the city, beyond the walls of the university.

Because I straddle both working life and student life, I see the drastic contrast between the two worlds. Universities may breed a culture of learning and creativity; however, they also shelter students from the harsh realities of life.

OC Transpo recently cut $20 million from its budget by eliminating routes. This has adversely affected thousands of people in Ottawa; this is by far a much larger pill to swallow than paying $70 more on an already discounted U-Pass! I will gladly take a $70-dollar hike in my U-Pass, as the amount I save in gas and maintenance during the school year more than makes up for the increase.

Perhaps the SFUO needs to live the life of a taxpayer to realize that they have something good before they go ahead and destroy it.

Andrew Moore   

Second-year biology student