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King's Breifs March 30, 2011

OPEN HOUSE

By Natascia Lypny


On Jan. 11 a group of male students toured a two-floor Preston Street property currently being leased by four third-year King’s students. So when Aaron Shenkman and Kait Wakefield returned to their home later that afternoon, they found their bedrooms technologically stripped, their laptops missing. “I had so many photos and scans of my artwork on my computer that I can never get back. I was really emotional about it,” said Wakefield.
Their roommates, Connor Rosine and Andrea van der Heijden, had been in the house at the time of the visit, but didn’t think to keep a watchful eye on the visitors. They had expected the landlord’s sister-in-law, who was showing the house instead of the landlord himself, to survey them. Instead, she remained at the door. That evening, the sister-in-law agreed to return to the house along with the four alleged thieves. Wakefield and Shenkman described guarding the men in their living room while they waited two hours for police to arrive.
The men adamantly denied their guilt and no proof was available as to their culpability.
While this was going on in the living room, the sister-in-law conducted another open house at their property. “We had no idea what was going on,” said Shenkman. He says that about 20 people appeared for the second showing. Wakefield and Shenkman, however, say that they didn’t read the Residential Tenancies Act. They did not receive it, although they are legally entitled to a copy when they signed their lease. “When we read through the Tenancies Act, we
realized there are so many issues besides this,” said Wakefield. They found out that once they had given notice that they were not going to live there next year, their landlord had the right to show the property without warning.
Then, after offering the alleged thieves $500 for the laptops to be returned, the landlord signed a lease with them. Wakefield insisted on compensation. But it became unclear as to who she should ask for it. Despite signing a lease bearing what they believed was their landlord’s name, they discovered it was in fact his mother who owned the property, who then stalled legal action by awaiting counsel and the official police report. “Since we cannot prove without a doubt these guys took our computers, if we took legal action there’s no guarantee we can get anything,” said Wakefield.
Eventually, Shenkman and Wakefield were offered a $500 reduction each on their final month’s rent: the maximum standard insurance deductible. Neither has tenant’s insurance.
While these rental property victims disagree on the fairness of this deal, they contest that a better understanding of their rights and obligations as tenants could have possibly averted the situation.

AS A MASTER OF FACT

By Charlotte Harrison

Starting in June, the King’s School of Journalism will be offering a 10-month Master of Journalism program in conjunction with the Dalhousie Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Kelly Toughill, director of the J-School, said that this program differs from all existing Master of Journalism programs in Canada because it requires a journalism background. “The four-year (undergraduate) program focuses on core skills, which are the most important skills—writing, research, and critical thinking. Those skills are the heart of journalism,” she said. “The master’s
will offer another skill-set and a better grounding in multimedia.”
Toughill explained that students in the master’s program will pick one of two streams. The investigative stream will teach “computer-assisted reporting and data-driven journalism”. In New Ventures, students will learn “how to launch your own journalism outlet,” said Toughill. “Essentially we’re teaching how to create your own job as a journalist.” Toughill said that technology is changing the nature of journalism, and King’s needs to be responsive to those changes. “We’re trying to give (students) skills for a really rapidly-evolving industry,” she says. “What we really want is to create the leaders. We’re training the leaders for where journalism is going—that’s our goal.”
While Toughill says that in future the program will have a “hard cap” of 20 students, they won’t take more than 15 this year. Applications have come from all over the world, she says: “We have applicants from Africa, we have applicants from the CBC, and we have applicants from BC and from North Carolina.”
Toughill said that the majority of the program will be taught by herself, Fred Vallance-Jones, and Tim Currie, all regulars in the Bachelor of Journalism Honours program. Toughill said the J-school will be hiring new teachers to fill in. The program will
be taught entirely through King’s with the exception of two half-credit entrepreneurship courses at Dalhousie. Rather than detracting from the four-year program, Toughill sees the master’s strengthening it. “I think it will enhance the reputation of King’s in a way that really benefits the four-year. The quality of instruction will be every bit as good,” she said. “Plus you’ll have some additional students, some of whom have some pretty significant journalism experience, around campus, as well as some additional faculty. I see all benefits.”

COUNCILLOR CUTS

By Evey Hornbeck

The student union council could be getting a makeover.
Council has agreed to allow the Constitutional Review Committee to propose a restructuring of council at the Apr. 6 union general meeting. Under this proposal, the number of councillors that sit will be reduced from 17 to 15. “I think it’s pretty clear to everyone on council this year that there are problems,” said Dave Lewis, the former communications vice-president. Lewis, who chaired the committee, cites a disconnect between council, the executive, and constituents as the problem.
The committee also considered how journalism representation will change when the first Master of Journalism students arrive in May. Council already includes councillors for the Bachelor of Journalism one-year program and the Journalism Honours. Adding a third rep would change the balance on council. The committee will likely propose having one councillor for the Master students and one to represent the combined interests of both the honours and the one-year journalism students.
In addition, the proposal suggests that the Day Students’ Society executive and the two representatives from Alexandra Hall and the Bays go from having two votes each to one, though they will all continue to sit on council. President Gabe Hoogers said this was part of a conscious decision to shift the focus away from where students live, and toward academics. The review committee conducted surveys with councillors from as far back as 2003. They received so much feedback that Lewis believes council reform will continue even after the general meeting votes on this proposal. “It’s a slow process,” said Lewis. “I think we’ll see more changes next year.”

By David J. Shuman

David is a second-year journalism student at King's, is engagement/news editor of The Watch, and a copy editor of The Pigeon. He writes on student politics, campus happenings, and school news. 

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