Jan Wong; Quest University (Hour 3)


Jan Wong: was a well-respected reporter with The Globe and Mail for more than 20 years, but that all changed with one sentence in one story. We rebroadcast her conversation with Michael, in which she discusses what happened to her, and a little-acknowledged condition: workplace depression. Jan's book is called Out of the Blue.

21 Chairs Around a Table: Quest is a small, secular, private, not-for-profit university in British Columbia that values curiosity over job-training. In this documentary, producer Karin Wells explores why its students seem so much more engaged than students at larger campuses.

For more information and music in this hour ...

Jan Wong

Jan Wong was one of the pit bulls of Canadian print journalism...she cut her teeth on tough stories and tight deadlines.

She worked as a reporter for almost 30 years - most of them for The Globe and Mail. It was a job she says was the best she ever had. She was relentless about pursuing a story and she was, by her own account, obsessed with her work.

Everything else came second - children's birthdays, family illness, everything.

Until, five and a half years ago, when one story stopped her short.

In September of 2006, Kimveer Gill walked onto the campus of Montreal's Dawson College, and began shooting at students - killing one and wounding nineteen others before turning his gun on himself.

Jan Wong was sent to cover the event. When her story, Get Under the Desk, ran on the front page of the Globe's Saturday edition, it sparked such a controversy that the paper received a slew of angry letters and she received death threats.

At issue was her observation about three shootings that had taken place in Quebec. She wrote, quote, "the perpetrator was not pure laine, the argot for a 'pure' francophone. Elsewhere, to talk of racial 'purity' is repugnant. Not in Quebec." Unquote.

Prime Minister Harper and Quebec Premier Charest sent letters-to-the-editor admonishing her and the House of Commons passed a motion demanding she apologize to the people of Quebec.

It was not the first time one of her stories had been controversial. Her column, Lunch with Jan Wong, was sometimes so caustic it annoyed both readers and subject alike.

But in this case, the vitriol and her own sense that her employer was not supporting her, pushed her over the edge and into a clinical depression. 

All of which is chronicled in her latest, book - Out of the Blue; A Memoir of Workplace Depression, Recovery, Redemption, and, Yes, Happiness.  She describes her descent into despair, her battles with her employer and disability insurance provider, and her eventual firing by The Globe and Mail.

Jan Wong spoke with Michael Enright in April of this year.

21 Chairs Around a Table

quest.jpgLast fall, Macleans magazine released its annual ranking of universities in Canada.
The usual suspects, the University of Toronto, McGill and UBC were right up there. But when Macleans published its annual survey of student engagement, those big institutions sank to the bottom.

The winning school, for the second year, was a tiny university on the west coast. Quest University , in Squamish, B.C., is a tiny, not-for-profit PRIVATE secular university, the only one of its kind in Canada.

It was started by former U of T and UBC president David Strangway, in a bid to rejuvenate the classic liberal arts education and it has a curriculum like no other university in the country.

Quest doesn't get money from any level of government. A benevolent businessman donated the land and a substantial endowment to kick things off. Students pay $27,000 a year in tuition.

The critics have been vocal.

Canada doesn't need private universities. Quest is hiring too many foreign faculty.
But it's hard to find a happier bunch of students.

Quest University is now run by the iconoclastic David Helfand.

Helfand loves neutron stars. He's president of the American Astronomical Association.
And he maintains that Quest University is the most exciting thing he has ever done.

Karin Wells' documentary 21 Chairs Around a Table was first broadcast last April.

Music used in Hour Three

Beethoven's Bagatelle for Piano, arranged and performed by James Gelfand

All Blues, by Miles Davis, performed by Jay Sewall and Ken Whiteley

When You're Smiling/ Sheik of Araby (Medley) by Gary Koliger, Ted Borowiecki, and Kenny Malone

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