In defence of white male students

Derek Warwick’s posters mocked his university’s president

In defence of white male studentsIn an interview not long ago about the future of post-secondary education, University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera found herself defending an unlikely category of students: white males. “I’m going to be an advocate for young white men, because I can be,” said Samarasekera, a metallurgical engineer originally from Sri Lanka. “No one is going to question me when I say we have a problem.”

That “problem” is well known. Recent StatsCan numbers show the proportion of male vs. female university grads has dropped precipitously over the years: 58 per cent of grads aged 25 to 34 are now women. “The presidents of the major universities are very concerned we are not attracting young men in the numbers we should,” says Samarasekera, who worries about a loss of gender diversity in the future ranks of CEOs and judges. That was cause for concern when men outnumbered women, she argues—why not now? “We’ll wake up in 20 years and we will not have the benefit of enough male talent.”

The remarks didn’t sit well with some at the U of A. Derek Warwick, a women’s studies major, decided to respond—he and his friends plastered 300 posters mocking Samarasekera around campus. One, borrowing a motif from the 1958 flick Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, depicted a towering female student menacing the campus, with the tagline, “Women are attacking campus!”

Warwick was threatened with penalties ranging from probation to expulsion for distributing “malicious material.” “Either they didn’t like the message or they missed the satire,” he says. The U of A has since relented, and Warwick got a good deal of local attention—as well as a meeting with Samarasekera. The U of A president is standing by her comments. But she also called Warwick’s posters “clever.”