Music festival takes over Dalhousie student union building

One-night-only festival keeps bands on campus and encourages students to support their local music scene.

A mini, grassroots music festival temporarily turned the Dalhousie student union building into a glowing, smoke filled accumulation of heavy bass, heavy metal, and hearty jams. SUBfest 2015: 25 bands, seven rooms in Dal’s SUB, an event fully student organized and run. On Friday night, both Dalhousie students and the general public converged on the student union building to take part.

Why use the SUB building when we live in a city with the most bars per capita in Canada? Organizer Ali Bee Calladine said it’s about “bringing the community and culture of Halifax onto campus, instead of trying to push students out of the campus into the community.

Calladine said the festival stemmed from the idea of “taking over the SUB.” She said she thinks students should take more control over campus, starting with the student union building.

“I think it was just a lot of thinking about music festival culture, and that’s something that’s really sort of nice and special in Nova Scotia, there are a lot of really small music festivals…it takes a lot of students a long time to experience that, and we certainly don’t experience it in the winter time,” said Calladine.

“Beyond that there’s something cool about the idea of a grassroots music festival that isn’t trying to make money and isn’t trying to promote anything,” she said.

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Like your common summer music festival, once you paid the eight dollar door charge, you were free to roam from venue to venue as you pleased. There were volunteers in each room facilitating the shows, and hosting them in cases like the open mic room.

The festival took over the lobby of the SUB and the Grawood bar, as well as administrative offices, conference rooms, and hallways on all floors. Most rooms had DJs or bands playing, one was dedicated to the group DalJam (where students bring their own instruments and play together), and one was an open mic room.

From 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., all rooms were open. At 11:30 p.m. festival goers congregated in the Grawood to hear the headlining band, The Wayo. The R&B band originated out of the University of King’s College, and came from Montreal specifically for SUBfest. Other headliners included Harley Alexander, Dalhousie professor Tim Crofts, and Foggyswoggle.

Calladine said that she spent around 80 hours in meetings during the last month working out logistics. Alcohol licensing, booking bands, and acquiring control of the space took time and effort, but she said that the Dalhousie union staff members were helpful when it came to figuring out the details.

Dalhousie student, SUBfest co-organizer, and performing band member Alex Butler says he would love to see this event happen again next year. “We had a ton of people come out and volunteer, which is really what made it happen, we could not have done stuff like this without having a ton of people get here and be committed to the idea and put it together… It’s been exactly what we needed it to be,” says Butler.

Dalhousie group combatting the stigma around mental health issues

Marianne Xia, a third year student who suffers from panic and anxiety attacks, is starting a student-run society to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Marianne Xia, a third-year student at Dalhousie University who suffers from anxiety and panic disorder, is starting a student-run group called Anxiety and Panic Disorder Society.

The society was started about two weeks ago and since then Xia has recruited 37 members to the Facebook page. The goal is to form a charity to raise money to help those who suffer from anxiety and panic disorder.

Xia says she started the group because she feels that there is a lack of awareness and emotional support for those who suffer from anxiety. She feels that people don’t treat mental health issues the same as a physical injury or sickness.

“People sometimes think you’re pretending to be that way, they just don’t understand,” said Xia.

Xia suffers from panic and anxiety attacks. She says that it was brought on by being bullied for six years in primary school.

She says when she had panic attacks her parents and school teachers would tell her that she should stop feeling that way, and that she was fine because she showed no physical symptoms.

She says she had a very serious panic attack two summers ago while at work.

“I started thinking a lot; it was hard to breathe and then I felt like I was having a heart attack because my heart rate would instantly go up to 150 and I couldn’t breathe. I felt numb all the way to my chest and fingertips and I couldn’t stand any more. My fingers became really cramped and everyone thought it was a seizure.”

Xia had to be taken away in an ambulance. She says her employer paid the $400 ambulance bill, though she still felt that her attack wasn’t taken seriously.

Xia says that even in Canada there are few resources to help people cope with anxiety and panic. She mentions Canadian Mental Health Association and Anxiety Disorder Association. Xia hopes to have her own website by the end of March.

“I realize that lots of people don’t have access to counselling services so this is why I am setting up this society,” she said.

Access to counselling services is becoming more stretched within the Dalhousie campus and the Halifax Regional Municipality area.

There is a six-week long waiting list for Dalhousie counselling services. Dr. David Mensink, a registered psychologist with Dalhousie counselling services, feels that they are doing their best to provide quality service for students and reduce the waiting list that is already 80 students long.

Mental health services in Halifax are extremely stretched according to Mensink. With a six month waiting list for services in the city, the wait for the Dalhousie services no longer seems as long.

“They are so stretched that they are referring in to us so it’s not like the community is creating more options, it’s actually working in reverse. The community is giving us more work,” said Mensink. “If you had better community services then the waiting list here could be shorter.”

With such a long waiting period Xia’s new society could not come any sooner. They provide student run support groups for those students who require extra help coping with anxiety and panic disorder.

Xia’s society will be hosting a fundraising night at Boston Pizza on March 11. Ten per cent of food and drink sales from those who attend the night will be given to the society.

A view from the inside: Palestinian activist speaks about Israeli prisons

Mariam Barghouti lives in the West Bank. She’s been arrested three times and beaten by prison guards.

Mariam Barghouti is 21 years old. She studies English literature and philosophy, and is fluent in English and Arabic. While these traits might not sound different from many students in Halifax, that is where the similarities end.

Barghouti lives in the West Bank. She’s been arrested three times and beaten by prison guards. She’s also been published in the New York Times.

Speaking on Wednesday night in Halifax as part of a series of lectures for Israeli Apartheid Week, Barghouti described her personal experiences with Israeli prisons and the trying legal aspects of life as a Palestinian.

Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a student society at Dalhousie University, organized their first annual Israeli Apartheid Week and flew Barghouti to Halifax for her talk.

Israeli Apartheid Week is an international event, but this is its first year being hosted in Halifax. SAIA’s schedule for the week ranges from Barghouti’s talk on the Israeli prison system to an evening focusing on Palestinian art, music and poetry.

While Barghouti’s talk was highly critical of the Israeli prison system and of the difficulties that Palestinians face because of Israeli courts and legislation, her primary focus was on her personal reflections.

Barghouti attended her first protest at age 17, at an event asking for unity within the Palestinian government.

“When you’re 17 you don’t understand the consequences, you just have this idealistic perspective that you want to make the world a better place and that you’re so strong and you’re invisible, and then slowly the consequences begin hitting you,” she said.

Last April, Barghouti was arrested at a protest and charged with stone throwing, which she says was a fabricated charge. Barghouti was detained for seven days and says she spent much of that time being shackled and verbally harassed.

Barghouti asked the audience at Dalhousie’s Sir Charles Tupper building to close their eyes and imagine themselves in her shoes as she described the conditions in prison. Click on the link below to listen:


During Barghouti’s imprisonment, she composed a poem and memorized it, so that she would be able to write down the words upon her release.

“I like to think of myself as someone who knows how to utilize words. When I got out I read the poem and it was like me becoming a child again. I realized that that’s me regressing and that’s what the military system does: it takes inspired youth and drains them of any energy,” she said. Listen to her poem below:


Barghouti’s talk was met with thunderous applause and numerous questions from the audience.

Dina Lobo, a member of SAIA, emphasized the importance of Barghouti coming to speak at Israeli Apartheid Week.

“We needed a Palestinian voice, especially since she’s young. We have a lot of experts speaking, we have a lot of professors speaking, but it’s really important for a Palestinian to speak about her personal experiences,” said Lobo.

Reaction from Jewish groups

While SAIA’s events have been met with great enthusiasm from many of their attendees, Jewish groups on campus have criticized SAIA for its choice of name.

Arielle Branitsky, director of Jewish Student Life at Hillel of Atlantic Canada, said “calling yourself against Israel Apartheid is complicated for us, and it doesn’t say we want to have a peaceful conversation, it says we are against you and we want you to disappear.”

While the week’s events have been vocal in their condemnation of many Israeli actions, there has not been any conflict between SAIA and Dalhousie’s Jewish community.

“There have been events that we’ve sponsored, where members of Israel on Campus attended. Sometimes we get members who provide their side of the story at our events. As far as I know there hasn’t been any confrontation, any negative interaction. Of course we stand on different sides of the spectrum but at the end of the day it’s opinions,” said SAIA member Yazan Khader.

Yasmine Mucher, a member of Israel on Campus, reinforces this opinion.

“They have every right to their programming and we have every right to do ours and I don’t feel we need to counter what we’re doing, we both just need to keep doing what we’re doing to support our causes,” said Mucher.

Plans for TEDxDalhousie ‘generating buzz’ in community

Dalhousie University will be hosting TED talks event later this month. Kathleen Reid talks about planning, ticket sales and the itinerary for the event, which will soon be announcing speakers.

Dalhousie University will be hosting its own independently organized TED talks event later this month. Beginning at 3 p.m. on March 29, the speaker series event will take place in Nova Scotia for the fourth year.

Kathleen Reid is a co-coordinator of the event, and has high expectations for this year.

“I hope that it will bring a broader sense of community within our student body, and all the people that are involved in our community at Dal,”she said. “Just starting conversation about things that are important here.”

Demand for tickets already exceeding seating limit

Although speakers haven’t yet been announced, the event is already generating interest.

“We’ve gotten a great response on Facebook, I think there’s over 1000 people that say they’re attending the event,” Reid said.

This is slightly problematic, as the McInnes room of the Student Union Building has a maximum capacity of 400 people. “It’s good though, because it’s generating a lot of buzz,” said Reid.

Each TEDx independent event has a theme, and this year’s TEDxDalhousie is focused around the theme ‘People. Passions. Possibilities.’ Reid expects talks on a variety of topics people are enthusiastic about.

“At a university there’s so many different areas people are passionate about and it’s really cool to see the response we’ve gotten. We’ve gotten a lot of student applications, which is awesome because it’s a Dal event now, so it’ll be a really different roster of speakers.”

This theme sets a guideline for the itinerary of the day, which consists of three separate speaker sessions, with breaks between each. The event will also include dinner. Each session will have two or three speakers as well as an entertainer, which could be anything from music to spoken word poetry.

The tickets haven’t gone on sale yet, but will be available for $25 beginning at least two weeks before the event, according to Reid. They can be bought on the TedxDalhousie website or at the Student Union Building’s info desk on campus. The student union also plays a part in organizing the event, providing funding, resources and technological equipment for the event.

Bigger and better than previous years

This years TEDxDalhousie is set to be larger than last year’s TEDxNovaScotia event, which had the theme ‘Chances Worth Taking’. It is also more focused around Dalhousie’s community, although it is open to the public.

As for what attendees of TEDxDalhousie can expect from the event, Reid speaks to TED’s motto, ‘Ideas Worth Sharing.’

“I like the idea that everyone is passionate about something that they can talk about. The whole overarching idea that everyone has a Ted talk within them,” Reid said.

CS Day encourages students to consider a degree in computer science

The Dalhousie Computer Science department opens its doors to junior high and high school students for a full-day of workshops and speeches in hopes of encouraging them to consider a degree in computer sciences.

A large group of students from across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick gather at the Goldberg Computer Science Building with one question lingering in each of their minds: do I want to be a computer scientist?

“Anyone who signed up for the GEM Lab, we’re going to the Mona Campbell building, so you’ll be following me,” shouted a volunteer to the group. About a quarter of the group stands up and follows the volunteer, hoping that the lab would get them one step closer to the answer that brought them here today.

Students and their parents trying on Oculus Rifts, a virtual reality headset. (Photo: Teri Boates)
Students and their parents trying on Oculus Rifts, a virtual reality headset. (Photo: Teri Boates)

The Dalhousie Computer Science department held its annual Computer Science Day, or CS Day, on Feb.28. CS Day is a free event open to junior high and high school students who are interested in computer sciences. The event allows students to explore different aspects of a degree in computer science and gives their parents the opportunity to hear from alumni and academic advisers.

“CS Day is kind of our initiative to get in touch with the high school students,” said André Tremblay, a fourth-year computer science student and volunteer.

“We try to get them interested in computer science and show them what we do here as a degree, what we do in the program and see if that’s something that would interest them and give them a chance to ask us some questions.”

Upon registration, students were able to sign up for two out of the four available workshops including:

  • a visit to the GEM Lab which allowed students hands-on experience with interactive computers and devices
  • a session on network security
  • a scavenger hunt engaging students with smartphones and augmented reality
  • a robotics lab where students had the opportunity to learn how to fly a drone.

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“It gives them the opportunity to go into different research labs and see what [computer science students] actually do,” Michael Shepherd, the dean of computer science, said.

“Too many young people have the idea that in computer science you’re just a programmer. You sit in a cubicle and you push code all day and that’s absolutely not the case.”

Approximately 60 students and 25 parents registered for the event. Along with the workshops, attendees were able to hear speeches from alumni, professors and the dean. Attendees were also taken on a campus tour and ate at residence meal halls.

“We look at it as an opportunity to promote the field of computer science and our two degrees: computer science and informatics, and really help parents understand what its all about,” said Allison Kinecade, alumni communications officer in charge of enrollment and recruitment.

“It’s an opportunity to try out a couple sessions and see whether it may match a passion that they have.”

Kinecade said that the robotics session continues to be a favourite among the students, because of the variety of different robots made available each year. CS Day tries to offer at least one session involving human interaction every year, but this year students who registered to visit the GEM Lab were taken to the Mona Campbell Building to see many different demonstrations of human-computer interaction. This year was also the first year to feature a scavenger hunt.

“It’s definitely a growing field and it’s definitely interesting,” said Tremblay.

“The goal is just to encourage people to take a look at it, even if they don’t come to Dalhousie; to make them consider looking into it a bit more, or even consider it to be fun.”

Looming Dal strike resembles 2002 walkout

As the potential for a 2012 Dalhousie faculty strike looms, it has some people fearful that is will resemble the last strike at Atlantic Canada’s largest university.

The Dalhousie Faculty Association (DFA) is legally able to strike beginning Mar. 10 (Ian Froese photo).

By Ian Froese

As the potential for a 2012 Dalhousie faculty strike looms, it has some people fearful that is will resemble the last strike at Atlantic Canada’s largest university.

Mike Smit, currently a postdoctoral fellow at York University, wrote two posts on his Dalhousie student politics blog about the school’s last strike in 2002. He says he fully understands the concerns that current students are facing, as he experienced a strike firsthand a decade ago.

“The campus was a ghost town,” Smit recalled via Skype last week. “You’re not studying. You’re not at the library. You’re terrified about what will happen if it doesn’t work out. It’s frightening.”

In 2002, the Dalhousie Faculty Association strike halted classes for nearly a month, welcoming students back to the classroom on Apr. 1. In an effort to salvage the semester, in-class instruction was extended to Apr. 27. Most exams were held throughout April during regular class hours.

As an executive member of the Computer Science society, Smit made an effort to keep his faculty informed of where negotiations were heading.

Related Resources
History of strikes at Dal
Post-strike workload

“What students appreciated the most was information,” said Smit. “The first question they asked was, when is this damn thing going to be over? And second, what was this damn thing about?”

Now, the DFA is legally able to strike beginning Mar. 10, two weeks after the conciliator filed his report. This comes more than a week after conciliation between the DFA and Dal administration came to a close. They are expected to return to the negotiating table this week.

Marjorie Stone, McCulloch Chair in English, is hoping to avoid seeing her fifth Dalhousie strike. She was the official liaison between the faculty and student groups in 2002.

“It’s very stressful for students,” said Stone. “I’m hopeful that there will be a lot of information coming that will give guidance to students in how to get through the strike (if it happens).”

Smit isn’t convinced that the strike will be avoided.

“If I were a betting man I’d say the strike is going to happen,” said Smit, recommending students do some self-directed studying and find a reliable source of information about the strike negotiations. He conceded there will be a lot of biased and false information floating around, especially with the advent of social networking.

“To the individual student, you’re going to have to grin and bear it. There’s not much you can do.”

Related audio
Majorie Smith, McCulloch Chair in English, discusses what students should do if a strike occurs. 

Majorie Smith, McCulloch Chair in English, discusses what students should do if a strike occurs.