Heroes of academe - Macleans.ca

Heroes of academe


Some professors at the University of Regina are upset about the school’s participation in a scholarship program that pays the tuition for students who had a parent die while on military duty. They think that Project Hero celebrates military intervention and glorifies the Afghan mission. Poli sci prof Jeffrey Webber has a better idea:

“Why stop at the question of dependents of Canadian Forces personnel? There’s all kinds of people who are killed in workplace accidents,” he said. As an alternative to the program, the group says there should be universal access to post-secondary education.

I’d very much like to see Professor Webber tell this woman how much her attendance at Algonquin is a glorification of her father’s death.

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Heroes of academe

  1. Wow, I'm speechless, save for a few choice words for the Prof, which I wouldn't want to produce here.

    Project Hero has my support!

  2. Agreed. I hope they change their tune – and fast!

  3. Potter, you're not rebutting their point. Why no scholarships for children of cops, firefighters, etc. that die in workplace accidents?

    • I'm going to go out on a limb and say that almost everyone probably thinks that's a fantastic idea.

    • Why rebut the point when you can propagate the instant outrage meme? Ann Coulter has used this very technique to sell books, why not use it to draw in readers?

      • The way he put words in the professor's mouth that weren't actually said – wasn't that so *honest*?

        • Well, when he says

          "Poli sci prof Jeffrey Webber has a better idea:", he IS being honest. He just may not have intended it.

    • Hey Andrew – was Juno beach a "workplace"? Were the 650 deaths at the Battle of Ortona "accidents"? What planet do you live on?

      • Yup.

    • Why no scholarships for children of cops, firefighters, etc. that die in workplace accidents?

      I thought there were such things. For example, this one for children of fire fighters who die in the line of duty.

    • Soldiers don't make very much money for such a high risk job. Police, firefighters – make very good money, pensions, insurance, etc. Perhaps that's the reason.

      • It was my understanding that wages and benefits for military personnel on tour were comparable to those of emergency services frontline staff. I hold this understanding based on the dozen or so military and frontline officers and firefighters I know.

        Is there somewhere I might be able to better compare what they make in a year?

    • Why not millions of dollars for everyone who wants them?… and no taxes.

      These things the government "gives" come from taxpayers. Military people die IN SERVICE TO THIS COUNTRY!!!!!!! (and her taxpayers).

      This professor seems to behave as if the government works in service for him.

  4. …because no one has started a fund for them, yet?

  5. His bio says it all, so hell, why not post it right here:

    "Jeffery Webber

    * Assistant Professor
    * PhD, University of Toronto; BA Hons, MA, McGill University

    Research Interests

    * Latin American Political Economy; Development Theory; International Political Economy; Marxism; Imperialism, Hegemony, Empire, and Globalization; Critical Race Theory; Social Movements; Comparative Politics (developing countries); and the Latin American Left.

    Current Classes

    * PSCI 100-001 – Winter 2010
    * PSCI490BB – Winter 2010
    * PSCI890BG – Winter 2010

    * Office: CL213
    * Email: jeffery.webber@uregina.ca
    * Phone: (306) 585-4202
    * Fax: (306) 585-4815

    Jeffery R. Webber began teaching at the University of Regina in the Fall of 2009. He spent the last several years splitting time between Canada, Europe, and various countries in Latin America. His main focus has been Bolivia, but he is now expanding his research into the rest of the Latin America. A revised version of his doctoral dissertation will be published as Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia (Brill Academic Publishers, 2010). In addition, he is currently at work on four major projects: a new book manuscript, Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia: Indigenous Liberation and Class Struggle under Evo Morales (Haymarket Books, 2010); a collective volume on the new Latin American Left, co-edited with historian Barry Carr (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); a Spanish-to-English translation of Stefan Gandler's major text, Marxismo Crítico en México, or, Critical Marxism in Mexico; and, finally, early research preparations for an eventual book manuscript, Canada in the Americas: Imperialism and Resistance in the Age of Neoliberalism, to be co-authored with Todd Gordon. Webber is also an active member on the editorial boards of Historical Materialism, Latin American Perspectives, and New Socialist."

    I guess he'd support the program if it offered scholarships for the sons and daughters of dead guerrillas, because that would glorify the international class struggle, which is, of course, different from actual war.

    • "I guess he'd support the program if it offered scholarships for the sons and daughters of dead guerrillas."
      That's a bit of a leap you've made there, friend. May I see your credentials?

  6. Bio for aforementioned prof (starting teaching 6 months ago): http://www.arts.uregina.ca/node/1202

    Me suspects he has particular political leanings…"Webber is also an active member on the editorial boards of Historical Materialism, Latin American Perspectives, and New Socialist."

    • Trust the word of a shameful U of R grad: the poli-sci faculty there is known for having some of the most hidebound old lefties you'll find on any North America campus. Webber's new, but there's a reason why he and the school have found each other.

  7. Losing a parent is a horrible thing, and puts extra hardship on children who go to university. So, why not offer the same deal to children of other dead public servants?
    How, or why, is being the child of a dead soldier any different or more deserving of support than that of a dead firefighter, dogcatcher, veterinarian, driver's license issuer……..?

    • Indeedy. I particularly liked the good Professor's characterization of battlefield deaths as "workplace accidents".

      If you cannot distinguish between what a soldier does and what a dogcatcher does, here are a couple of tips:
      1. Soldiers are shot at, blown up and generally exposed to violent injury, dismemberment and death as part of their fundamental duty.
      2. Dogcatchers sometimes get bitten.

      • …..all of which they know about when they sign up. They know the risks going in.
        But the point made in the article is that these deaths put inordinate hardship on the children and families left behind.

        Can this statement not apply to ANYONE?
        "““When a soldier is killed, life stops for his or her family. Plans change, goals may no longer be obtainable,” said CFB/ASU Petawawa Commander LCol Keith Rudderham. “Children don't just lose a parent, they lose a role model, a cheerleader, someone to push them towards higher learning. Some children also lose the financial ability to attend college or university.””

        Do the survivors of military deaths have a monopoly on misery as compared to anyone else?

        • Did anyone say that they have? The point is that soldiers die in the service of the nation and their dependants are deserving of our support. IN the event, soldier's families are very poorly served by our government, so these scholarships are of special value to them.

          How this is a bad thing is beyond me.

          • To be honest, I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, either.
            But I do find myself looking askew at some of this overt militarism and rah-rah glorification of the army lately.

  8. Mr. Potter, is the title of your article possibly a tad ironic?

  9. I'm fine with extending it to anyone who dies in service of the state

  10. I liked this blogger's comment from the original CBC article (and I'm not 100% sure of the answer or how it goes from province to province).

    How much tuition do the children of live UR professors pay?

    Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2010/

    • U of R professors' kids pay full tuition.

  11. Project Hero is currently running at several universities, and my understanding it was inspired by Rick Hillier. See http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2009/06/24/… for some background.

    It would appear that it's the Universities who cover the cost of the education (not the Forces), though the Forces have oversight as to whether or not the prospective student qualifies for the scholarship. http://www.mcgill.ca/studentaid/projecthero/.

    It's a university's prerogative to offer scholarships to whomever it pleases, and if this professor thinks the program should be extended, or an alternate program should be offered, then he needs to make his case with a costed-out proposal (just as any other scholarship program would have to do).

  12. We may all rail against another pointed-headed professor's outrageous affront to the children of our brave servicemen and servicewomen, but …

    He raises a valid, if unpopular, point: Why benefit one group of students with public assistance based on their deceased parents' vocation?

    This issue reminds me of another item that snuck by (sans debate) in December of 2009, when the federal public service amended personnel rules to "provide spouses or common-law partners of persons employed in the public service, members of the Canadian Forces and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police whose death is attributable to the performance of duties with an entitlement to be appointed in priority in an advertised external appointment process in order to provide them with access to public service employment."

    Apparently, in addition to survivor and insurance benefits, full-time federal jobs are now a death benefit. Most egregious is the fact that this new cookie increases inequity in federal hiring practices and advantages surviving spouses over more qualified candidates ("… an entitlement to be appointed in priority…".

    While the professor may indeed possess a tin ear regarding retail politics, the larger question he raises ("Whose grief is more deserving of public largess?") is worthy of civilized debate.

    • Please pardon my mid-afternoon grammar deficiencies.

    • I would argue that the assistance that comes from the university to pay for tuition and residence (as appropriate) isn't "public" money; it's money that the university has collected from the students as their tuition and ancillary fees, as well as alumni donations that have been given to the university, that haven't been earmarked for a particular purpose or cause.

      The (roughly) half- to two-thirds of the full cost of tuition that is paid through public funds would be paid regardless of whether or not the student is on (any) scholarship.

      • I'd really have no problem with DND ponying up for the scholarships. But, if your description is accurate, they are asking institutions to pony up the money and award it based on their suggested criteria.

        To refine my question further: Whose grief is more deserving of UNIVERSITY largesse – the child of a dead soldier or the child of a dead ___________ (insert public servant job title)?

        Certainly, faculty should be permitted a voice in debates about how scholarship funds are awarded. No?

        • But not in political terms. The professor objected on the grounds that this scholarship glorified the Afghan war,which is to suggest that he would have approved of the scholarship if the soldiers had died in some cause that was more worthy in his eyes.

          This is not debate – this is just posturing.

    • Sorry to burst your bubble son but they only get priority hiring if they are as qualified as the most qualified applicant. In other words if they are tied for the position they are giving the extra nudge. All things considered equal I think this is a small item.


  13. Webb thinks that dying for your country in a volunteer military force is the equivalent of a "workplace accident"?

    I can't write what I'm thinking here.

    • Uh. They do get paid you know. It's not really "volunteer" any more than somebody working at the bank is "volunteering" to be a bank teller.

      It's a career choice. A noble one, to be sure. But the point is valid there there are lots of noble career choices, why are we singling these ones out? If anything, it's a career choice that you've picked knowing there's a higher probability you'll leave your kids screwed if you die, so you should have prepared for that ahead of time. It would make more sense to provide the award to one of the many other noble career choices where death is unexpected.

    • I know, it's hard to believe people think like that.

  14. Andrew,

    I am glad that Ms. Ranger is able to go to College thanks to this scholarship but I would wager that she would rather have her father still with her.

    And indeed, what of other parents in any number of occupations which serve the public (or perhaps don't)? Do their children deserve an opportunity to attend post-secondary should they meet an untimely end at work?

    What I find the most off-putting (and I have served in the military – all be it in the reserves) is the surreptitious creation of a virtual caste system with the Warrior (and police) class elevated above all other.

    Professor Marxist-theory is entitled to his opinion and perhaps his suggestion of "universal access to post-secondary education" should be properly debated rather than used to brand him as some anti-military loon.

    • If you're working in service for your country, and that job is to deal with people who want to kill you as a proxy for this country… then your kids deserve an education if you die trying to defend this country…

      why is this unclear?

      I worked at a construction site where there were many deaths (it was a big project)… and after each incident which caused death the company (US construction company) and the union would each match a trust created from all the other workers…. One family of a well liked individual got a 22 million dollar cheque…

      so in a sense this system already works as a function of who employs (and works with) the deceased, and who they were working in service for.

      Why not full free access to all government services? Shouldn't we just take the money from those who have it and give it to those who want it? /sarc

  15. I assume the money is privately donated and can only distributed as the donors see fit. In some tenuous way I could kinda see the professor's objection, but given the immediate benefit it's clear the best choice is to take the money.

  16. A couple of things worth making clear:

    1. I am not one of the 16 signatories, and it is striking that Dr. Webber's letter was not circulated at large. 16 names is a tiny, tiny proportion of our faculty. It is also striking that the other fifteen brave signatories have not yet been revealed, and that the letter itself is nowhere to be found.

    2. While many universities do indeed offer free tuition as a taxable benefit for the children of faculty and staff, the University of Regina is not one of them.

  17. Let me get this straight. On one hand, a soldier is just another noble worker who risks injury in his work and on the other he is a mere child who is being sent off to be killed on behalf of imperialist, capitalist pigs. That about right professor?

    • Not only that, we're oppressing an identifiable group and exposing them to prejudice. Extreme Prejudice.

      and we're holding down an element of the indigenous left.

  18. I strongly agree that no Project Hero scholarships should be awarded for attendance at the University of Regina. No student should be forced to endure exposure to the anti-social knuckle draggers who signed that digusting letter.

    In any event, the U of R isn't exactly noteworthy for scholasitc excellence. Transfer additional benefits to the U of S or some other deserving institution where the children of dead soldiers will be able to get a reasonably high standard of education in a friendly environment.

    Lee Morrison

    • Lee,

      This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. Although small, the University of Regina has its share of academic excellence. Any person who has actually done any research or looked into the faculty at the Uof R would know this. But of course one rouge professor's newsworthy comment and we can paint them all with the same brush! And what a splendid idea: let's punish one institution for having a faculty member disagree with some ad hoc program. God forbid we question something–or worse yet, we disagree!

      Since you're clearly of the scholarly echelons, I can understand why you wouldn't want people disagreeing with you. And what better way to suppress disagreement and create clones, which we all know is what's really important – a non-critical public, than to yank funding and encourage people away from a perfectly respectable institution, with both high quality professors and graduates.

      You post is as asinine as anything I have ever read.

  19. I wrote this guy today with a "love-letter". Odious, vile excuse for a paedagog come to mind as a few choice phrases I used.
    I knew some of the soldiers who were killed and I felt the bile rise when I saw this jerk on TV last night.
    We could send him to Afgh to sing kumbaya around the fireplace before they cut his head off.