Editorial – Not Gonna Do It.

I’m not touching the Chartlottetown thing. There’s nothing I can add that hasn’t already been said by some pundit somewhere. About the only thing left is my own position, which is the obvious one. Free speech has limits, and the only time it’s acceptable to bring violence is when it’s to stop other violence from being enacted or incited, and even then as a last resort.

So instead, I’m commenting on something much lighter but perhaps equally concerning to an audience of university students: collegiate sports.

Most universities and colleges have sports teams of various sorts. Even if you don’t tend to follow sports, you still will tend to cheer for your team, and be slightly pleased when you here that teams from your university have won some sort of prestigious or challenging game. They’re also useful for a recruitment tool, having an excellent sports program is a draw for some types of students, another factor that students weigh in when they’re looking at their choice of a post-secondary institution.

AU has attempted to dip its toe into the sports world, forging partnerships with other colleges in creating a hockey tournament, and even creating an MBA in Hockey Management. But that still doesn’t give AU its own teams. With our own teams comes opportunities for merchandizing, or creating deeper connections with Athabasca students, where we have something from Athabasca to cheer for, or, if we’re on a team, to do something “for Athabasca University.” Admittedly, this is difficult to do at a distance university. We’re not on a campus, so an event that requires we gather together on a field or in an arena, whether to play or watch, isn’t going to be something many students could benefit from.

But there is another option.

E-sports, or electronic sports, are a rapidly growing segment of the sports market, with some tournaments now appearing on specialty sports channels, and the audiences growing each and every year. What is it? It’s video games. Typically, team based, with some form of strategy. And this form of sports is growing, with a very few expert players now making a living exclusively from participating in these events. They’re especially big at the collegiate level, because, let’s be honest, that’s the age demographic that typically has the time available to devote to the hours of practice that are required to compete at the top level.

But that competition also comes with access to scholarships and some prospect of fame for the sponsoring institution. Very recently, engadget announced that top teams in a coming “Collegiate Rocket League” tournament will net $50,000 in scholarships. Rocket League is a video game involving three players on each side using rocket-equipped cars to essentially play soccer. However, the nature of the game isn’t what’s important. There are a variety available. What’s important is that this is a sport that fits in perfectly with the distance nature of our institution. It’s something that AU students could do, something that would help to promote AU, be a bit of fun, and maybe gain some students some money in the process. With a little bit of marketing support from the institution (or maybe even from AUSU) this might be a winning idea to help AU stand out in the increasingly competitive field of online education.

After all, if you were looking at two distance education schools and one of them had stories about the school or student body supporting the team, even if you think treating videogames like sports is crazy, the notion that you’re looking at a school that has a well-developed culture of support between students, an area that the students can all unite behind, might be just that little bit of extra appeal to help make your decision.

It also serves another factor. Any university that has some sort of sports team is far more difficult to consider to be a simple degree mill (even though we have a degree in Hockey Management). And while the stigma of online education has largely diminished for AU, an organized, institutionalized sports team would help to bury it even further.

And yes, part of this comes from my own love of video games, I’m not going to deny it, but I don’t think the benefits I list are exaggerated. So if you’re interested in helping pursue or develop this idea for AU, get in touch with me at karl@voicemagazine.org, if enough people are interested, maybe we can make something happen.

In the meantime, this week, our feature continues to explore the people behind CASA this time talking to their officer of Governmental and Stakeholder relations. AUSU invests a significant amount of money to be part of this group, so it’s good that we have an idea of what that group is doing for us.

And speaking of money, this week’s Council Connection reports on AU approving it’s newest budget, which stands to have the organization see a deficit of close to a quarter-million dollars, and its plan to address this deficit, by raising the fees that students pay per credit.

But if that filthy lucre is a subject you’d rather not hear about, you can also check out Barb Godin’s latest article, this one on the lessons she’s learned from the men in her life. What originally started as an article for Father’s Day has become, I think, something much more profound and definitely worth a read, whether you’re a man or a woman.

Plus, I do want to draw your attention this week to the Creative Spark, where Marie Well looks at how humour can improve your creativity and help you think of out-of-the-box ideas to bring to your essays and studies. It’s an article that had me laughing while being a bit revolted at the same time, so obviously it’s something I needed to share with you.

We also have an installment of All the Music be Happenin’ Now that I think is definitely worth a read. If you haven’t been reading this series of articles, I suggest you at least give this one a try, and once you’ve done that, you can search our archives for the rest.

That plus news, advice, thoughts on open windows, developing your creative writing, events (well, one this week), reviews of the ubiquitous fast-food restaurants—we’ve all eaten at them, but have we ever stopped to really compare them—and more from the AU community all await.
Enjoy the read!

P.S. If you didn’t already know, The Voice Magazine has a Facebook page and a twitter feed if you’re into that kind of thing!

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