In Cowichan Valley schools, the number of young smokers is down and participation in smoking prevention programs is up-thanks to public health nurse Cathy Whitehead's choice of thesis topic.
In 1996, when Whitehead decided to add an MA in curriculum studies to the BSN she'd earned from UVic in 1989, her research uncovered some discomforting facts. Thirty-one per cent of high school students in the Cowichan Valley smoked-five per cent above the provincial average. Yet no in-school tobacco awareness programs were consistently implemented, despite repeated evidence that programs are most effective when introduced a year before most youngsters light up that first cigarette.
Whitehead and two fellow public health nurses, UVic grads Joy Scott and Pat Hocker, designed a program aimed at grades five and six. Calling it "Most Kids Don't," the program emphasizes the fact that the majority of students don't smoke. "We want to engage kids and improve their self-efficacy, not make them feel fearful. In the program, it's not the smokers who are bad, it's the tobacco companies. Our focus is on the short term effects that have meaning to kids, not death. We don't talk about dying from smoking, because some of these kids' parents smoke. We're very respectful of parents."
The program, taught district-wide by the nurses, appeals to youngsters' desire to fit in, look good (smoking stains teeth and fingers) and participate. Grade six students stage a mock trial of a tobacco company. Grade five students hear from high school students recruited to the program through a Public Service Alliance of Canada grant. "That way I bring the high school kids into the loop. Some who teach the final session to the grade five class are smokers. They've told me they want the younger kids to learn from their mistakes," says Whitehead, who is the recipient this year of a Registered Nurses Association of BC award for excellence in nursing practice, in part for her work with "Most Kids Don't."
Whitehead hopes the program will create a critical mass of students who arrive at middle school able to support each other in non-smoking culture. That shift already appears to be happening. At one of the valley's four high schools, the number of smokers is down to 14 per cent and of those, more than half want to quit.
At the height of the Cold War, library board member and professor Bob Wallace (VC '29) was the sole defender of a Victoria librarian fired for his political beliefs.
Forty-five years ago North America was in the grip of the Cold War and, in the prevailing mood of anti-communist hysteria, anyone suspected of holding leftist views might be persecuted as a communist sympathizer. It took a person of extraordinarily strong convictions to defend the democratic rights of someone so accused.
UVic's Bob Wallace is just such a person. This was recognized last November in a ceremony at the Greater Victoria Public Library at which the library formally apologized to John Marshall, a former employee who had been fired in 1954 because of his prior connections to a peace organization. Wallace was a member of the library board at the time, and his had been the only voice raised in Marshall's defence.
"He's the hero of 1954," said Marshall of Wallace that night.
Marshall had been hired as the library's bookmobile librarian but was fired shortly thereafter when the board learned that, as a young man, he had been a member of a youth peace organization suspected of being sympathetic to communism. They decided that his political beliefs made him a risk to the community.
"We fired a good librarian and a good man because of his personal beliefs, because he believed in peace, because he wanted to make the world a better place," said Neil Williams, chair of the current library board, delivering the library's apology.
"I spent considerable effort on the Marshall case," says Wallace, "and even called a special meeting of the board to get them to reconsider their decision. I just objected to the fact that they had fired him because he had supposed communist leanings. People have the right to say what they think deep down."
Marshall went on to a distinguished career and retired from a professorship in the library school at the University of Toronto.
Wallace has been associated with Victoria College and UVic
throughout most of his life. A Victoria College student from 1924-29,
Wallace returned to join the faculty, teaching mathematics from
1933-63. He was UVic's first dean of arts and science (1963-65), its
first vice-president (1969-71), acting president through the
turbulent 1968-69 period, and chancellor from 1973-78.
He has appeared in many high-profile TV dramas, but actor, theatrical impresario, and UVic theatre alumnus Jim Leard (BFA 70) is not about to leave for Hollywood. He'd much rather stay in Canada and help turn Victoria into a film and television capital.
"Victoria needs to become a place for production," says Leard, who has appeared in Millennium, Highlander, and The X-Files. He recently set up his own company to develop film and television projects in the city, and has several projects at the "ideas stage," including plans for a TV crime drama.
But Leard is not only interested in working for an adult audience. He's the artistic director of the successful Victoria-based Story Theatre Company, which has performed to over one million school children since he created it in 1981. The company is planning a tour of Florida next year.
Leard has also taught acting in local Victoria schools, the National Theatre School, and at UVic. And, he says, he'll never forget some of the instructors he had as a theatre student at the university.
"Barbara McIntyre guided me into children's theatre and Carl Hare was my mentor-we still keep in touch. One of the things they taught me was the 'do it yourself' attitude. It has helped me to keep going in a difficult profession," says Leard.
This ethos also kept many UVic student productions from falling apart. "I had a very small part in my first theatre department production [A View From the Bridge] and I also doubled as the floor manager-which meant I swept the stage before every performance."
Some productions reflected the political turbulence of the time. "In the late sixties," recalls Leard, "we staged a radical play called Tom Paine. There was a lot of interaction with the people who came to see the show and one actor had a verbal fight with a member of the audience during a performance."
In those days, UVic's theatre department was situated in huts on the edge of campus. "There weren't many facilities, but there was a great sense of adventure," he says. "We learned that acting has to be fun. If you can have a good time, then the audience will too."
This philosophy is still central to the university's theatre department and it's one of the reasons Leard has hired 25 UVic graduates for Story Theatre Company productions.
He's hoping his recruitment drive will continue: "I prefer to hire people from Victoria because this is where I want to live."
After surviving the turbulence of the 1960s, controversies of its own making, and at least one name change, the Martlet, the University of Victoria's student newspaper, is celebrating 50 years in print.
The paper was founded at the old Victoria College and now has a weekly readership of over 10,000. To mark its anniversary, the Martlet has published a special commemorative book, newspaper (r)evolution, with contributions from past editors.
"You can leave the Martlet but it never leaves you," says current editor Mary Vallis, referring to the affectionate responses she's had from previous writers and editors to the idea of marking the anniversary.
Many of these past Martleteers, who include Pierre Berton, W.P. Kinsella, Stephen Hume, and James MacKinnon, have fond memories of their time on the paper, and some still have links to UVic.
Hume, now a sessional instructor in UVic's writing department and a Vancouver Sun columnist, was editor in 1968. He remembers the paper as "a primitive operation put out entirely by volunteers on typewriters." There were no paid positions at the Martlet in those days, he adds.
It was also a period of political turbulence and worldwide student unrest. "We were an activist paper," says Hume, "and as well as covering debates at the university, we investigated social and environmental issues in the wider community."
MacKinnon, who co-edited the paper in 1992, is also a sessional instructor in the writing department at UVic, and former editor of Monday Magazine. His reign at the Martlet is remembered for one controversial Valentine's Day special issue.
"We decided to devote the entire paper to gay and lesbian issues for the first time ever," recalls MacKinnon. "The cover artist decided to go with close-up images of male and female genitalia with swirling pinks and purples. The whole thing was controversial, even within the Martlet ."
Almost as soon as it appeared on campus, somebody started collecting all the copies and emptying them into dumpsters. "We spent the day digging them out and redistributing them," says MacKinnon. By the time the controversy had died down, local and national media had covered the story.
For Vallis, experiences like these show why the Martlet has survived. "Looking over the archives, I've really noticed the progression of the paper. It's always changing and never stops," she says.
She wasn't surprised to find that many past issues seem dated now, with reviews of long-forgotten books and plays vying for space with ads for clunky hi-fi equipment.
But some of the old Martlets she looked at don't seem to make much sense now. "I don't know why," Vallis says, "but in the 1960s, the paper was renamed the Cougar Times Gazette and one of the old Martlets had pot drawings on the cover."
In one way though, adds Vallis, the Martlet has stayed close to its roots. "When Pierre Berton started the Microscope [the paper that later became the Martlet] he said that the role of student newspapers is social campaigning. We haven't abandoned that, and it's why the Martlet will still be around in another 50 years."
Newspaper (r)evolution is available at the Martlet office (721-8361).As the Torch went to press, the Martlet was embroiled in another dispute as former UVic president, Bruce Partridge, filed lawsuits claiming defamation stemming from allegations published by the Martlet.
They still haul their gear around in old gym bags, but in the course of their first varsity year the UVic women's rugby players have proved themselves vintage Vikes. The team has regularly pummelled the opposition and came tantalizingly close to making the CIAU national finals in November.
"The biggest difference is the feeling of pride-you're a Vike. I see that in how the players are conducting themselves," says coach Jennifer Vincent. "Plus, we've had outstanding support from the university."
With the varsity status and funding that women's rugby earned this year, Vincent receives an honorarium and team members have access to therapists and weight trainers, among other perks. And of course, this includes all-important field time: the team now warrants two practices each week on prime Wallace Field.
Vincent even contemplates hosting the CIAU tournament in 2000. Previously, such a scheme was unimaginable for the pre-varsity "Valkyries"; they focussed on nickel-and-dime realities. Having no university funding meant sewing up ripped jerseys rather than getting new ones, and breaking the bank with a trip to Vancouver to play.
Why this year for women's rugby? "We were looking at giving a well organized club team level two funding. They were very competitive in their league, there was a large talent pool and a great coach," says Wayne MacDonald, manager of UVic athletics and recreation.
Courtney Taaffe, who plays hooker for the Vikes, contemplates the new privileges. "We're recognized by the other sports. At varsity nights, other players now know that we exist! Before it was like, 'There's women's rugby at UVic?'"
Taaffe, out with a shoulder injury for the last five months, stands at the edge of Wallace Field, muddied with one of the rainiest Victoria winters ever and churned up by the divots of hundreds of cleats. She screams "Go Vikes go!" along with other sidelined players. She is grinning: "I haven't smiled this much in five months. I've got the okay: I can play again today."
The Vikes-with their on-field finesse and off-field enthusiasm-are doing their part to challenge perceptions that rugby is one of the last truly "male" sports. Women's club rugby surged in popularity in the early 1990s, and university teams are reaping the benefit. "It's the fastest growing female sport, period," says Taaffe.
As she completes her fourth year with the team, Taaffe is working hard to ensure there are Vikes coming up behind her-she coaches a Victoria high school girls' team. Three of her players sit clustered on the highest row of the aluminum stands, cheering the women they hope some day to join.
On Jan. 27, the UVic Alumni Association held its annual luncheon to honour the current year's scholarship and bursary winners. Recipients were joined by members of the alumni association board, several of the people in whose names the scholarships are presented, and representatives of the university.
Alumni association awards include: four UVic Alumni Association Undergraduate Scholarships; one UVic Alumni Association Graduate Award; distinguished alumni scholarships; the Dr. David F. Strong Scholarship in Pacific and Asian Studies; the Howard and Linda Petch Scholarship; the W.D. West Alumni Bursary Fund; the Alumni Association Visual Arts Graduate Bursary; the Peter L. Smith Bursary in Theatre History; the W.H Hickman Alumni Scholarship; and the Alumni Bursary for Mature Students.