Look who gets Oprah, a nap room & free tuition

What students are talking about today (March 4th)

Bill Ebbesen/Wikimedia Commons

1. Harvard University has bagged billionaire superwoman Oprah Winfrey as its 362nd commencement speaker, according to The Crimson student newspaper. “Oprah’s journey from her grandmother’s Mississippi farm to becoming one of the world’s most admired women is one of the great American success stories,” university President Drew Faust wrote in a press release. That sure beats the speakers at my commencement from the University of Guelph, who included Pamela Wallin, a woman whose journey started in Saskatchewan and who went on to become host Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Canadian edition before racking up many frequent flyer points as an unelected Conservative senator.

2. Also at Harvard, a 24-hour campus library is considering a napping room for students who can’t quite pull all-nighters and would instead like to rest for a few hours between exams. The room would be accessible to students who present ID. Blankets and pillows would be provided, reports USA Today. I could see this working, so long as it’s not pitch black in there. That would just be creepy.

3. The United States House of Representatives has passed federal legislation called the Violence Against Women Act that would require colleges to include reports of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in their annual crime statistics. Whatever the added cost for reporting, this seems like valuable information for students and officials to know. Maybe we should consider such a law?

4. Brad Duguid, Ontario’s higher education minister, told The Toronto Star that tuition—which averages $7,100 per year in the province—may rise less than five per cent this year for the first time in years. Contrast that to Quebec where the proposal for a three per cent annual rise to their $2,200 tuition led many thousands to march in the streets last week. Meanwhile, in Germany, the Free State of Bavaria is planning to phase out tuition fees altogether. It’s the centre-right Christian Social-Free Democrat coalition government that both introduced the fees in 2007—$670 per semester—and is now dropping them in favour of higher taxes. University World News says this is an embarrassment for the new federal German Education Minister of the CSU’s sister party the Christian Democratic Union, who predicted all 16 states German would adopt or keep fees.

5. Student politics can be really boring, but it sure isn’t right now at the University of Toronto where Trinity College, Victoria College and engineering students have unanimously approved a plan for referenda to sever financial ties with the University of Toronto Students’ Union. This comes after reformers from those local governments were rebuffed in their attempts at electoral reform in time for this year’s elections. Shaun Shepherd, the outgoing UTSU president, has called the move a “distraction” and suggested it would be illegal, reports The Varsity. In an indication of just how little faith would-be reformers have in the UTSU, all four people vying for its executive positions will run unopposed, including presidential candidate Munib Sajjad, a current vice-president.

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