The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) held the 65th Annual Assembly like it used to do every year, in the course of the convention of the International Forum.
In attendance were the WUSC members who were made up of the Resident Committee, representatives from different organizations and institutions as well as former students who came from different states all over the country on the weekend of November 1 – 3, 2012 in Washington DC. The meeting was chaired by Chris (EatonFriends of the Selby Public Library, para 2).
Established in the 1920s by scholars and instructors dedicated to realizing social change following the end of World War I, The World University Service of Canada, WUSC is a prominent Canadian development agency, whose main emphases are on human development and worldwide acceptance through improving and highlighting challenges faced in the education sector. The scope of members, whether institutional or individual, is built around the aspect of exchanging information and a wide range of expertise (George, para 1).
“We believe in the potential of all people and we trust that with the right knowledge, skills and experience, people will find ways to provide for their families, build strong communities, and affect positive social change for future generations” (WUSC, para 1).
WUSC main focus is on exploiting its efforts on harnessing the ways in which education can make a positive impact to the world. As such it looks out for the marginalized groups in society to provide support in the areas of health, education, economic and social growth.
Improving the living standards of the vulnerable in society is achieved through volunteerism, leadership training of the youth and partnering with the government, other institutions and organizations (Mansbridge, para 1).
WUSC is built around a number of values; Integrity which focuses on being accountable for programs and projects runs under the institution. Inclusions where people are not marginalized because of their ethnicity, occupation or lifestyle but are wholly involved in the development acceptance, as their contributions are highly valued.
Reciprocity is responsible for improving the education and expertise of staff, affiliates and members who will in turn contribute to developmental issues in their communities. Sustainability focuses on result oriented approach to whatever programs and projects are put in place
Opening of the Meeting
The Chairman welcomed the members who were made up of students and staff all drawn from the local community, various institutions and the alumni program. Representatives of the volunteers were also present in the meeting. He thanked everyone who had attended for their contributions, including those who were remotely taking part through online social networking websites like Live-stream, Twitter and Face- book.
He also acknowledged the sponsors who made it possible for the forum to take place. He also asked everyone present to ensure they have the relevant copies of reports that would be submitted as the seminar progressed. These were available in both hard copy and on flash disks. These were among others, the materials provided to all participants (Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, para 1).
World AIDS Day
With World Aids day of December 1st around the corner, many members wanted to know what plans were in put in place by WUSC to commemorate the day and how they would reach out to various communities in their localities.
Courtney Young (a volunteer), asked WUSC to recall the need to eradicate HIV/AIDS. Stephen Lewis voiced his message: “AIDS must be restored to the international agenda.” A volunteer with Match International tweeted. “In the DRC, 48 women are raped every hour. Eastern Congo is the rape capital of the world.”
WUSC was helping to completely wipe out HIV and AIDS through Uniterra program. This program is sponsored by Institutions of learning and communities and has set up projects like Bike for AIDS in Malawi which collects money that is used to acquire bicycles and bicycle-ambulances which are then handed to health care workers.
They make it easier for them to reach patients deep in the rural settings. The Trent University Local Committee was distributing baked goodies to raise funds that were to be utilized to support HIV/AIDS programs. In Burkina Faso, natives were setting up groups that were tasked with enlightening the populace on issues about HIV and AIDS as well as holding blood donation campaigns in partnership with some organizations.
Uniterra Symposia Series 2012-2013
A detailed report by the director, through a collaborative venture, shows that the Uniterra Program, WUSC and CECI, had developed a number of projects that needed the input of youth drawn across the globe to take part in activities related to human development and poverty reduction.
The theme for this series “The Impacts of International Volunteering: Opportunities and Challenges” was cantered on strengthening International volunteerism. WUSC and CECI were still working on a youth strategy with aims on structuring an Action Plan; to be able to attain targets set at reaching developmental issues.
Many Institutional, alumni and organizational committees, both local and international had applied for funding and were still being vetted. The funds received were to be used in planning an event that would mark the International Development week to be commemorated in February.
A report on the volunteering activities was presented by a representative from the students’ body and another from the overseer of the public organizations and institutions on the different projects they were involved in as well as the financial statements that were drawn from charitable activities and submitted to the WUSC treasury.
The mission and objectives of WUSC and its partners are cantered on ensuring that the targeted groups are recipients of basic education and as such, WUSC endeavours to make sure that these students and scholars are strengthened in their various capacities. A report was given by the Education committee on their activities and it was availed in both hard and soft copy.
Management of the scholarship program was presented together with its challenges and achievement. A member of one of the student bodies wanted clarification on the status of the refugee sponsorship program.
A section of the report was read out to highlight the concerns that had been voiced on the status of the refugee scholarship program.
This was one of the areas which were tasked with providing specific information and updates on a number of projects on the ground. These included those supporting issues like HIV/AIDS, Water and Sanitation, Maternal Health, Childcare and Development. It was noted that 5 years ago, in Burkina Faso, the infant mortality rate was very high and so was the maternal mortality rate.
This was because of poor maternal and neonatal care especially in health centres. Specialized staff to handle such cases was also few and those who were there, were carrying out their services under such harsh conditions and lacked motivation to carry on so they ended up migrating to areas they knew they would be better compensated and the working environment would be an improved one.
The situation had greatly improved after a few volunteers and partners took part in a campaign to educate the masses there as well as provide more specialized machines and equipment to handle any complicated cases that arose. The hospitals and health care centres were also provided with more consumables. The best part was the staff who undertook short courses on specialized training in various disciplines.
Nominations to the Board of Directors
The 2012 Board members who had served the Institution with gusto were applauded by the audience after a call by the Secretary of the committee to recognize their good work. Those in attendance were requested to refer to their newsletters and for those online, to surf the website in order to view the list of nominees for the 2013 Board of Directors.
Any additions and suggestions were welcome and were to be directed to relevant members whose names and contacts were provided. Nominations preceded elections which were to be carried out in the Business International Forum to be attended by a selected panel, the next day. The chairman then prompted the secretary to give a brief speech on the considerations that had to be met by any individual if they had to stand for any position.
For the Local Committee appointments, the individual had to be a representative of at least five people who could be students, scholars, and staff of any institution or organization. If it was an institution, it had to be one of higher learning. The members had to have held a minimum of one activity from the ones listed and recommended by WUSC every 12 months. Institutions had to be members accepted by the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada and pay an agreed membership that was chargeable once a year.
For the Alumni committees, they had to be affiliates of WUSC as a volunteer, participant of former conferences, those who have been recipients of scholarships, refugees, members of any recognized Local Committee, members of staff of any institution and organization recognized by WUSC, sponsor of any program or even an expert or specialist on any relevant field endorsed by WUSC. All these contestants had to most importantly uphold the mission, vision and objectives of WUSC.
The Committee Chairman on the Awards sub-committee mentioned that the presentation of awards was going to be conducted during the dinner reception organized and to be hosted by the International Forum later that evening. The WUSC Alumni Award would go to a WUSC alumnus, voted on by the Alumni Committee members and the Local Committee Awards to members who have made remarkable impacts to development and international support with the help of any of the programs in place.
This award had been voted on by the general public. The Lewis Perinbam Award would be given to distinguished Canadians who have been devoted to WUSC’s mission and vision.
WUSC chairman announced the launch the National Research Seminar. This seminar was inaugurated by John Ralston Saul in 2003, and it avails a platform through which researchers share their discoveries with fellow researchers, scholars, students and international policy creators both at a local and international level.
It was to take place in the first week of January after the Christmas holidays. This year’s theme was to be cantered on youth and development in relation to innovation in sustainable development. Since it was to be a celebration of a decade of being in service, the chairman announced that any new researchers or scholars willing to participate were welcome to submit any publications and emphasized that fields of specialty to be explored were not limited.
Both local and international writers were invited and included those currently enrolled in Masters and PhD studies. The interested parties were reminded that the focus had to be on inspiring communities as well as encouraging other scholars or students to share their experiences, expertise and information.
The format and deadline for the paper to be presented was given. It was proposed that the number of scholars who would present their research findings be increased to five from the three who had been selected the previous time. The date for the next meeting would be communicated at a later date (Selby District Council, para 2).
Comparison between the Reports on the World University Service Of Canada Meeting and the Selby Town Hall Meeting
Mansbridge in her book states two types of democracy: namely, unitary and adversary. With the unitary form of democracy, the mutual well-being in any situation prevails over a situation where the well-being in question is contended upon by the concerned parties.
Adversary democracy implies that the interests that are contended upon prevail. Other differences are that with unitary democracy a common interest is shared. Each member is also given an equal opportunity to be heard and to participate in decision making or voicing their opinions in matters that need a consensus.
A face-to-face form of discussion between members is promoted. With the adversary kind of democracy, conflicting interests are in play and instead of sharing equal interests, the members concentrate more on being defensive for their interests. Here what counts is what the majority think or support and a consensus doesn’t have to be arrived at. There is no open and exposed way of carrying out decisions. Rather what is opted for is giving opinions in a secretive way like for example through secret balloting.
In the Selby Meeting, unitary processes that involve decisions based on a unanimous vote or contribution are in the majority. Discussions that are held face-to-face create good environments for such democratic decisions to be made and enforce harmony, individual development because it looks out for each person and result in the concerned parties holding high opinions of each other.
What the author advocates for is that; since all forms of assemblies have interests that are both common and those that are contradictory, then as far as drawing resolutions based on matters of common interests is concerned, unitary processes should be followed. When it comes to those that involve contradictory interests, adversary processes should come into play.
The common interests of such meetings many times feature more often than not. The reasons why many groups choose to hold meetings or assemblies in the form of conferences or seminars is because decisions that are arrived at after a face-to-face discussion and are unanimous, are more gratifying.
They also promote the sense of brotherhood and amicable attitudes that if one considers closely, are far more significant than official assurances made through members of justice prevailing without permitting open discussions. In the case of the Selby Town Hall meeting, participants who were not so prominent or considered significant had no problem whatsoever when any decisions were reached by a unitary process.
This was because many of them were not dominant figures and were not even given a platform to express their views. That sense of solidarity and brotherhood made them feel like they did not have to stand up and communicate their opinions to be heard, since everyone’s main aim was one and the same.
All the same, when they differed or disagreed on any matter, this very group of people were very reluctant to voice their opinions because they feared that this would threaten that harmonious team spirit that was already being enjoyed by all and sundry. Maybe they even felt that being few; yet having a different opinion would make them look stupid and irrational. So they complied, however grudgingly. Feeling like they had no choice in the matter.
With the meeting that was held by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC, para 1), such sentiments are not shared. Whenever an issue was raised, however small the group or individual was, and they felt the intensity to stand up and be heard, they did this boldly, in contrast to the happenings of the Selby meeting where such a move was probably considered daring.
Unlike the situation that is presented in the Selby Town meeting, where democracy was based on the assumption that all parties involved were in agreement with whatever decisions are being made, the case of WUSC where all parties concerned voice their opinion, the democracy is not based on the fact that any opinion voiced even if it is for the well-being of all concerned parties is accepted universally (Spine Surgery CME, para 1).
Those in the leadership positions in the WUSC setting are not really interested in having everyone present agreeing the decisions they are passing. Yes, they may welcome any opinions raised by members present, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that their decisions will waver based on them.
Consensus in the meeting does not mean that that is the group in the power position. It is however in all agreement with the author that no crowd or assembly will ever have entirely similar interests. They may support the same ideology but have different reasons for doing so. Even the extent of their support and conviction in standing by their preferences may vary.
As a result, as more issues materialise, these differences that at one point seemed insignificant, will begin to feature as major sources of contentions. In the ideal world, like the case of WUSC, it is therefore inconceivable that a perfect unitary democracy can exist. Issues like giving of awards in both scenarios or recognizing the contribution of certain individuals is a decision that is made by the majority.
All people participating in the meeting pass a vote that is unanimously agreed upon because such an achievement is one that is hailed by the general population. It is an achievement that can be clearly be measured through observing what milestones the individual or group in question have achieved and rewarding them for it.
The only issue that will probably bring conflict is when different nominees have to contend for the same award. In this case, much as the majority rule is still in play, if the awarding committee feels that based on a number of factors, one contender is better than another, the number of votes ceases to make sense and once again, adversary democracy sets in.
This may also apply when there is a tie in the number of votes. Looking at the entire aspect of democracy from a different angle we shall look at the kind of democracy that is based on representatives (World University Service of Canada).These are individuals sent to speak for or stand in for a particular group of individuals.
Sometimes not everyone can make it to such meetings, and even if they did, not all of them can talk. So in such cases, a representative steps in. It is assumed that these individuals are better placed and more articulate in voicing what they all feel. They are also better placed to cope with any form of disagreements that may arise.
Representatives in both cases are chosen because in comparison to the entire group they seem more disposed to face any situations of opposition as well as embarrassment in case they are unable to win an argument. At the end of the day, what counts is the fact that they being representatives are answerable to the groups they speak for and this restriction counts to keep them in check, by limiting them to thinking about the fact that their opinion is not a personal one but a communal one.
George, Scialabba: GeorgeScialabba.Net. Web.
Mansbridge, Jane. Beyond adversary democracy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Meetings Website of selbycc: Web.
Selby District Council: Web.
Spine Surgery CME: Foundation for Orthopaedic Research and Education. Web.