Is our vocabulary really that limited?

In the last two weeks I have heard the following words be used in a derogatory fashion: “Jew”, “gay”, and “retard”.   Worse, all three were being applied to a specific person in response to specific behaviour.  Even worse, all three words were uttered by people who have higher education.  Perhaps we need to offer a special course to all first year students?  We could title it, “Expanding your vocabulary beyond four letter and other inappropriate words”.  The “Jew” and “gay” comments were in relatively private settings (less than 100 people), the “retard” comment was on the twitter sphere by the queen of shallowness, Ann Coulter.  If you have missed the news around this, she is referring to Obama.

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I’ve never understood how she gets the airtime that she does or why anyone would waste $10 on one of her books.  If you want to see her “wisdom” up against Bill Maher, watch this.

While many tweeters put her in her place very quickly, the best response was made by John Franklin Stephens.  Kudos to him for taking the high road rather than stooping to her level.  His letter to Coulter is definitely worth reading and should provide a ray of hope that there are still kind and generous people in this world.  Its unfortunate that they don’t get the same airtime as the loud bullies like Coulter.  (Click the image below for the full letter).

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Accounting unification: Full steam ahead

I had a fantastic week!  The CICA annual general meeting was in Kelowna at the beginning of the week and I was able to connect with some wonderful people.  The picture below is from that meeting.  Notice the CPA Canada signs that are more prominent than the CICA signs?

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Then I woke up this morning to read a BC CGA blog on unification.  I know the two authors well and respect them.  They raise some reasonable points and in my opinion some unreasonable points.  My music choice while I write this?  The truly Canadian Tragically Hip singing “Scared” (lyrics here).

 Reasonable points

  • Ultimately the CPA designation hinges on government legislation: Yep, that’s absolutely true.  Given Premier Clark’s decision this week for BC legislature to NOT sit in the house this fall, its virtually impossible for the necessary legislation to be passed before the provincial government election in May 2013.  Obviously no one can predict when the legislation will pass given the possibility of a new government.  All current cabinet members and their opposition counterparts are aware of the CPA unification issue.  In my opinion the only uncertainty is when, not if.
  • “In B.C. nearly two-thirds of the province’s professional accounting students are taking CGA.”  While I don’t have the exact figures in front of me, I suspect that’s true.  Of course what is less clear is the average period to complete (or not) the CGA designation.  For instance, currently UBC Okanagan has roughly 8,300 students who complete their degree more less on the traditional 4-5 year plan.  I can double my number of student registrations by dragging out their education eight or ten years.  I’m not sure that would be a selling point though.

Unreasonable (or incorrect) points

  • “In Ontario, home to 50 per cent of Canada’s professional accountants, the merger is not happening.”  This is incorrect.  The latest position of the Ontario CAs states clearly that they are committed to national unification.  As I’ve said before, CMA Ontario and CGA Ontario are not at the table currently.  That’s too bad but unification can still happen nationally.  Yes, Ontario has a lot of accountants and Canada’s only professional major league baseball team but no, they’re not the centre of the universe.  If the Leafs ever become contenders I’ll revise my view.
  • There is great uncertainty around transition for students.  This is also incorrect.  Certainly the transition timeframes may need to be adjusted while legislation is pending, but there is some excellent, accurate, detailed transition information available here: http://cpaone.ca/candidates/transition.html
  • “Frankly, we feel the other programs are adapting to become more like us.”  Really?  If that was true why did you remove yourselves from the provincial unification discussions?  That makes no sense.  Now on that topic, I think you should clarify why you withdrew from the unification talks.  And the real reasons, not the hand waving ones.
  • The monopoly/anti-competiton line … “benefits of competition and the advantages inherent to choice”.  This falls flat on its face and any commerce/business/management student will see the holes.  Virtually every profession in Canada has ONE oversight body nationally or provincially: physicians, lawyers, veterinarians etc.  There’s no monopoly or lack of competition.  This is VERY different from the Bell/Astral controversy but I suspect that most readers already see that.

Conclusion

If you’re a current university student graduating in the near future, concentrate on your studies.  Don’t waste a ton of energy thinking about the unification.  You’ve chosen a great career and whether you end up with a CPA, a CPA.CA, a CPA.CMA or something else, accounting is a wonderful profession.  You will have plenty of opportunity to help people make great decisions using accounting information.  Uncertainty is embedded in accounting, it shouldn’t frighten us.  Trust me when I say that there are great people sinking tons of time into making sure the CPA unification is successful.  There are individuals who live and breathe this; who don’t sleep until the merger is closer to fruition than it was yesterday.

I have two closing thoughts.  The first from the Great One (#99), “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  I’m excited that we’re taking this shot and I wish the BC CGAs were willing to shoot the puck around with us.  Second, as Gord Downie sings,

Okay, you made me scared, you did what you set out to do
I’m not prepared, you really had me going there for a minute or two

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Alcohol on Campus

As I promised in an earlier post, I am writing about alcohol use/abuse by students (and I suppose others) on campus.  Its been over a month since I said I would write about this so why now?  There have been a number of unfortunate events coinciding with the start of the new academic year including at my own institution.  For instance, a student from Calgary apparently died of alcohol abuse at Acadia last week, at least two students died at Queen’s University over the past year as a result of alcohol related issues, and most recently there was a major bar fight and stabbing on the sleepy UBC Okanagan campus just two days ago.  On a more public scale but off-campus, it doesn’t take much detective work to realize that the Vancouver riots were fuelled by alcohol.  Generally there are two views on this: (1) its just kids growing up, we all went through it, or (2) this totally inappropriate for any institution of higher learning.  I will self-declare as being fully, 100%, in the second category.  There may be a line where we cross into “no-fun territory” or “the constitution gives me the right to drink on my own time” etc, but we’re no where close to that now.

First question that must be asked: Are we satisfied with the current situation or do we consider it acceptable?  Let me spin that question around just a bit, do kids need to get completely inebriated once or twice or every weekend to “grow up”?  In my opinion, no.  100% no.  The type of thinking that considers that a feasible or viable option must be expelled from our society.  Do I need to hit my thumb with a hammer every day so that I comprehend pain and “grow up”?  Of course not.  If we define “growing up” as becoming mature thinkers capable of contributing positively to society and tackling some of the great issues in the world, I fail to see how binge drinking can even be considered a necessary condition.

Second question: What can we do to avoid these tragedies?  First we need to educate the students on the issues with binge drinking.  I’m not talking about sitting 500 frosh down and lecturing them, we’re educators for crying out loud, surely we can find a way to help students learn about the issues and ramifications of alcohol abuse that doesn’t involve their repeated first-hand experience.  Second, we MUST provide alternative activities for students that don’t involve alcohol.  I suspect, although I don’t have evidence, that many students drink because their peers drink, its THE thing to do an a Friday night, and there’s no great alternatives.  Let’s take the lead on this, be innovative and help these students out.  Third, universities must help create a sense of unity and community within the student body.  Students must learn tolerance and respect and treat each other, staff and faculty as family.  My family is in no way perfect, I verbally fought with my siblings and parents but we didn’t stab each other or cut each other with broken beer bottles.

Finally, if you are a faculty member as I am, take the lead.  Ask your Dean, Provost, and President what your campus is doing to ensure the campus is a safe and healthy learning environment for everyone.  Don’t accept hand waving answers.  And share your initiatives and proposals.  We’re all in this together.  I’m sure there is some great research and reading on this, its on my list for the winter break.  If you know of anything please post as a comment and I’ll start building my reading list.

That’s my rant for today.  To the parents affected by the events I mentioned in this post, my deepest condolences and I apologize for not doing more to protect your kids.