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Define ambiguous, and give an example........

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Remember back to last spring, just when university classes were ending, and students were finishing essays and studying for exams, when word came down that U of M was looking for huge tuition increases in as many as 10 professional schools, and U of W in two programs?

 The universities said that Advanced Education Minister Diane McGifford had given them signals that the government would be open to such requests, to ease the pressure on the Selinger government to increase operating grants.

 Ultimately, only dentistry and business at U of M got their money, and business had to settle for less than the faculty wanted, and has to wait until next September to kick in the higher fees. McGifford said that the requests came way too late in the school year to have meaningful consultation.

 Professors and students say that U of M is waiting for a signal again this year, and is ready to give it another try.

 So, of course being as helpful as we are to enhance communications between the stakeholders, we asked if McGifford will give universities a signal whether requests for substantially higher professional fees would receive a warm reception this year.

 Here’s the statement from McGifford that an aide to the minister emailed to me:

 "Funding requests from our institutions are received in a routine manner by COPSE (council on postsecondary education). Tuition is considered during the budgetary process and we are currently engaged in that process now. We’re committed to keeping college and university education affordable and accessible in Manitoba, and to ensuring that student success is based upon their ability and their passion to succeed, not on their ability to pay."

 You’re welcome, David. You’re welcome, Lloyd.

Moving right along.....

 One of the many news releases I received this week came with the subject line, "please proofread". Um, I think you sent out the draft.

 And segueing seamlessly....

 Quite the postsecondary education story by Jeff Pearlman on Sports Illustrated’s website, which I stumbled upon while surfing the web for work-related purposes. You’ll find it at

 It’s about faith-based Belmont University in Nashville firing its women’s soccer coach because she is a lesbian whose female partner is about to have a baby. Tennessee does not allow same-sex marriages, and thus, says Pearlman, the university concluded that the coach is becoming a parent outside of marriage and does not meet the university’s moral and ethical standards. Students are rallying in support of the coach.



 An incident last weekend took me back to my university days, when I made some extra cash by umpiring youth baseball in Etobicoke and took so much abuse that it was 36 years before I ever again took leave of my senses and again became an official in community sports.

 I was behind the plate, kid pitching was about 14 and could really bring the heat, batter tipped a pitch that got by the catcher’s mitt — remember, we’re talking baseball here, not softball — and under my chest protector, hammering into my ribs. I went down in a heap, grabbing my side, writhing on the ground and fearing I’d broken some ribs. And the parents gave the batter a standing ovation, cheering him by name for "getting" me.

 So this past weekend I’m refereeing 15-year-old girls at U of M indoor soccer complex. I manage to avoid getting hit most of the time, I read the play and try to stay out of the line of fire, duck with surprising agility for someone so old, but this was a recreational match in which ball control skills are often in short supply, and this time the player spun in my direction and unleashed a really vicious kick from five yards away coming straight at my face. I managed to turn my head and take the ball square in the back of my head, fell awkwardly, and between the bells ringing in my head could hear the parents in the bleachers above congratulating the girl by name for having drilled me.

At least, unlike those baseball parents in Etobicoke, they didn’t boo when I got back to my feet.

 And finally....glad someone at Trent University figured out that just because there’s an exam slot open on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m., doesn’t mean that it should be used. It got moved up, and we have child the younger on a flight home two days earlier now.





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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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