Changes in an intellectual elite 19601990: The Royal Society revisited

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  • Changes in an intellectual elite 1960-1990: The Royal Society revisited

    R. OGMUNDSON and J. MCLAUGHLJN university of Victoria*

    La Mosatque verticale de John Porter est encore aujourdhui une rbfbrence utile en ce quil permet de mesurer les changements qui se sont produits au sein de la sociBtb canadienne depuis sa publication. Cette communication traite plus particulihrement des changements survenus & lintbrieur de lblite intellectuelle telle que dbcrite par Porter, cest-&-dire, la Section 11 de la SociBtk royale. Les principaux rBsultats empiriques de 1Btude sont les suivants: 1Universitk de Toronto continue & dominer, linfluence btranghre est plus forte et la domination de lblite par les membres dorigine britannique a diminu6. En mbme temps, les donnbes ne sont pas sans soulever le spectre de la discrimination selon lorigine ethnique, le sexe et la religion dans les milieux de lenseignement superieur. LBlite pardt plus critique et plus active, certes, mais le gouffre qui separe les Blites intellectuelles anglophone et francophone semble aussi grand que jamais.

    Porters Vertical Mosaic remains a convenient benchmark by which to measure change in Canadian society. This paper focuses on changes in Porters anglophone intellectual elite, i.e. Section II of the Royal Society. The major empirical findings are that the University of Toronto continues to dominate, foreign influence has increased, and that domination of the elite by those of British origin has declined. Nonetheless, the data raise concerns about possible ethnic, gender, and religious discrimination in Canadian academia. While the elite appears to be more critical and more active, the separation between anglophone and francophone intellectual elites appears to be as great as ever.


    John Porters Vertical Mosaic remains a convenient benchmark against which to measure social change in Canadian society (Goyder, 1990; Rich, 1992). This book, one of the few ever to consider virtually all of the elites of

    * We are indebted to the provincial summer employment program for support which made the original research reported in this paper possible. We are also indebted to the helpful comments of anonymous reviewers. This manuscript waa received in February, 1993 and accepted in September, 1993.

    Canad. Rev. SOC. & Anth. 1 Rev. canad. Soc. & Anth. 31(1) 1994


    a given society, studied seven different institutional elites - business, labour, political, public service, mass media, religious and intellectual. There have been attempted replications of his work in only four cases - business, politi- cal, civil service and mass media (Clement, 1975; Olsen, 1980). Other stu- dies have used radically different methodologies (e.g., Williams, 1989) or have given only passing attention to specific institutions (e.g., Ogmundson and McLaughlin, 19921.l This leaves a significant deficiency in our knowl- edge about what has happened in Canadian society during the past two or three decades in the cases of the labour, religious, and intellectual elites. This paper begins to fill in the picture by taking a look at the Royal Society.


    When setting out to study the intellectual elite of Canadian society, Porter settled upon scrutiny of the Royal Society, especially Section 11 (English lit- erature and civilization) and Section I (French literature and civilization). In Porters view, this group was likely to give us an accurate impression of the Canadian intelligentsia. In his words: Fortunately, there exists an honorific organization called the Royal Society of Canada which contains all the leading savants and into which leading intellectuals might at some time expect to be elected. It is an exclusive and self-selecting group. To be a Fel- low of the Royal Society of Canada requires election by the already existing Fellows ... Many people have criticized my using the Royal Society as the basis of the intellectual elite, but my impression is that the criticism is much greater on the part of the non-Fellows than the Fellows. It seemed to me at the time, and with others with whom I discussed the matter, to be a per- fectly correct way of selecting the elite of the academic and intellectual com- munity (Porter, 1970: 165-6). Subsequently, the York School study of Ornstein et al. also selected its academic elite from the rolls of the Royal Society (see Williams, 1989: 74). In sum, it has become customary to desig- nate the Royal Society as the countrys intellectual elite.

    It can be argued that the three major empirical findings of Porter con- cerning the Royal Society (1965: ch. 16) were these:

    (1) A high degree of institutional domination - Section II was dominated by people affiliated with the University of Toronto and Oxford University. Section I was dominated by LaVal, the University of Montreal, and the Uni- versity of Paris;

    (2) Section 11 was also under a high degree of foreign influence, especially from the United Kingdom. Porter commented that this resulted in mobil- ity deprivation for Canadians and probably contributed to a failure to ar- ticulate values for anglophone Canadian society. Section I was characterized by strong indigenous (i.e. Quebecois) roots;

    (3) Section II of the Royal Society overwhelmingly consisted of people of British ethnic origins. In this case, Porter (1965: 501) made a special point of noting that: What is striking is the absence of Jews in the higher levels of the intellectual community. It is unlikely that there are so few in any other western society. Only four of 88 were females. Section I consisted overwhelmingly of individuals of French ancestry. There was no Acadian


    representation. In his more subjective discussions of this elite, Porter argued that the

    Canadian intelligentsia was too heavily weighted in favour of conservative traditionalists. He also complained about a lack of popular works, a lack of social criticism, and a lack of participation in the political process. He also argued that the contrasting sociological characteristics of the anglophone and francophone intellectual elites were directly related to what he con- sidered to be a dismal performance by the anglophones and a brilliant per- formance by the francophones in the performance of their social roles. For example, he noted that: The French intellectual elite is also native-born, a condition which helps it to articulate for French Canadian society a con- sistent set of values (Porter, 1965: 505).

    One would anticipate that there have been significant changes in the higher reaches of the Canadian intellectual community since Porter did his research in the early 1960s. In particular, one would probably anticipate a decline in domination by the University of Toronto/Oxford axis in Section 11, a decline in foreign influence, and a trend towards more representative ethnic origins in the elite. One would also anticipate an increase in the par- ticipation of females and Canadians of Jewish ancestry. As we shall see, only some of these expectations turn out to be correct.


    The Royal Society publishes a yearly calendar which lists the names of all its members and their present university affiliation. Almost all members of the Royal Society are listed in the Canadian Whos Who. This provides rea- sonably complete information on place of birth, location of first degree, and location of graduate degree. Consequently, these sources make it possible to investigate all three of our major themes. Patterns of institutional in- fluence can be measured by ascertaining the present and past university af- filiations of members of the elite. Foreign influence can be measured with indicators such as place of birth, location of first degree, and location of graduate degree. Ethnic grigins can be measured by examination of the last name and place of birth.

    Given that Porters use of the Royal Society as the intellectual elite has been criticized (e.g., Ogmundson, 19901, the analysis of the Royal Society has been supplemented by an analysis of information on academic author- ity figures such as university Presidents and Deans of Graduate Schools. Data on these figures were collected from the calendars of Canadian univer- sities. These calendars typically list names, first degrees, and final degrees of the individuals in question. Foreign influence can be measured by loca- tion of first degree and final degree. Ethnic origins can be measured by ex- amination of the last name.3


    Although its predominance has diminished, the University of Toronto re- mains the unchallenged institutional centre of Section 11 of the Royal




    1961 1987

    University of Toronto University of British Columbia McGill University York University Queen's University University of Alberta University of Western Ontario Dalhousie University University of Saskatchewan Others (less than 3.5%)

    N =

    43.0% 10.6 9.4 3.5 8.2 3.5 5.9 3.5 5.9 6.5


    31.0% 10.6 8.6 8.2 7.3 5.7 5.3 4.1 0.8



    * The original N was 104. The number affiliated with universities was 85 (81.7%) The original N was 303. The number affiliated with universities was 245 (80.9%)

    Society. The initial indicator of this domination is the finding that 31 per cent of Section 11 held appointments there. The closest competitor in this re- gard was the University of British Columbia at 10.6 per cent. (See Table I.) A similar finding emerges if one uses first degree as an indicator - 23.7 per cent of this elite had attained their first degree at the University of Toronto. Only two other Canadian universities were represented by more than 5 per cent in this category (University of British Columbia, 7.6%; McGill, 7.3%).4 This tendency is more apparent when the indicator of final degree is used. Some 18.6 per cent of the elite obtained their final degree at Toronto while no other Canadian university was represented by more than 2.3 per cent. The closest competitors in the final degree category were Harvard (9.5%), Oxford (7.4%), the London School of Economics (LSE) (7.4%), the Univer- sity of Chicago (5.6%) and Cambridge (5.2%).5 This pattern is especially pro- nounced in the case of those who took their first degree in Canada. Of these, 36.8 per cent obtained their first degree from Toronto. The closest competi- tors among the first degree category for the Canadian-born were the Uni- versity of British Columbia at 12.5 per cent and McGill at 10.4 per cent. (Thg University of Saskatchewan deserves honourable mention here at 7.6%.) Finally, 24.8 per cent of the Canadian-born members of Section 11 of the Royal Society received their final degree at Toronto. No other Canadian uni- versity had as many as 2.5 per cent. In the final degree category among the Canadian-born, the closest to Toronto was Harvard with 10.6 per cent. The only others at or above the 5 per cent level were Chicago and LSE at 6.8 per cent, Oxford at 6.2 per cent, and Columbia at 5.0 per cent.

    If membership in Section I1 is a valid indicator of intellectual authority, it would seem clear that the University of Toronto dominates the intellec- tual life of anglophone Canada. Or, as Porter (1965: 499) also noted in his original analysis, it may be that: '... the fact that a larger proportion of stu- dents and staff of the University of Toronto became fellows of the Royal Society may simply be a consequence of the selection procedures, making


    section II an offshoot of the humanities and social science departments of that university. Consequently, it is interesting to observe that our sup- plementary analysis of university authority positions confirms the pattern of institutional influence observed in the Royal Society - 25 per cent of uni- versity Presidents in Canada in 1988 had received their first degree from the University of Toronto. If one looks at final degree, a similar pattern is evident - 21.4 per cent of university Presidents attained their final degree at the University of Toronto. The role of all other anglophone Canadian uni- versities was negligible.

    One dimension of institutional authority that has changed is the role of Oxford which, along with Toronto, had ranked as one of the two dominant institutions of Canadian anglophone intellectuals. Over a quarter of the 1961 elite on whom data were available had obtained their final degree at Oxford. This pattern has changed. In 1987, only 7.4 per cent of Section 11 had final degrees from Oxford. That institution has not been replaced by any other as the focal point of external leadership. The leading university other than Toronto (18.6%) is Harvard, which, at 9.5 per cent of final degrees, is only slightly more prominent than several other institutions. As Berkowitz (1984a: 257-8) has noted in another context, the dominance

    of the University of Toronto in Canadian elites may well simply be a reflec- tion of its size relative to other institutions. Nonetheless, as Porter com- mented: The importance of the University of Toronto to the intellectual life of the nation makes nonsense of any claim that institutions of higher learn- ing are of purely provincial concern (Porter, 1965: 499). The degree of for- eign influence on the intellectual life of the country may also raise doubts about the assumption that an indigenous anglophone intellectual elite ex- ists. This is the matter to which we now turn.


    Porter found that the degree of foreign influence was high and that it was predominantly British. This was indicated by the substantial proportion of foreign born in the elite (27 of 881, by the fact that almost 20 per cent came to Canada as adults, and by the domination of British universities as a lo- cation for graduate study - almost one quarter at Oxford alone. Porter (1965: 498) noted: The proportion of foreign born was higher than with other elite groups, except the trade union leaders.

    The high degree of foreign influence over Canadian society generally, and over anglophone Canadian universities in particular, was a topic of great in- terest and controversy in Canadian academia during the 1970s. (For a sur- vey, see Hiller, 1979.) Given that the great Canadianization debates of the past have subsided, it would seem reasonable to anticipate that the trend in the anglophone Canadian intellectual elite would be towards an increased role for people with roots in Canada. One might also anticipate a shift in the locus of foreign influence from the United Kingdom to the United States.

    If one focuses on final degrees, our findings do indicate a shift in the locus of foreign influence from the United Kingdom to the United States. By 1987,




    1961 1987 ~~

    Foreign-born Foreien first deereeb


    30.7% 40.0% 17.0 27.4

    ~~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ ~~

    a The N was 88 in 1961 and 245 in 1987 In 1961, the N out of which percentages are calculated was 88; missing data was 1.1% ( N = 1).

    In 1987, the N out of which percentages are calculated was 245; missing data was 7.3% ( N = 18). In both cases, missing data are included in the total for which percentages were calculated. Ex- clusion of the missing data would increase foreign percentages in both cases and would increase the trend of greater foreign domination. 16 of 18 missing cases in 1987 reported a foreign final degree

    38.1 per cent of final degrees had been attained in the United States, as op- posed to 30.3 per cent in Canada, 27.7 per cent in the United Kingdom, and 3.9 per cent in other countries. On the other hand, the first degree indica- tor shows substantially greater influence from the United Kingdom than from the United States. In 1987, the first degree figures were 65.3 per cent Canadian, 18.4 per cent United Kingdom, 6.1 per cent United States, 2.9 per cent other and 7.3 per cent unknown. Somewhat surprisingly, our two meas- ures also indicate that the degree of foreign influence has actually increased over the quarter century from 1961 to 1987. (See Table 11.1 The proportion of foreign-born increased from 30.7 per cent to 40.0 per cent while the pro- portion of foreign first degrees increased from 17.0 per cent to 27.4 per cent. The proportion of foreign final degrees was 69.7 per cent. Thus, foreign in- fluence increased by measures of initial socialization and was overwhelm- ing in terms of measures of final socialization.

    These observations concerning foreign influence receive further support when one looks at patterns concerning university administrators. When one looks at first degrees, only 10.7 per cent of university Presidents had foreign first degrees. However, as we move beyond the symbolic figurehead position of the President, and move closer to the social locations where most deci- sions are made, the figures indicating foreign influence go up dramatically - 22.2 per cent of Vice-presidents Academic received their first degrees out- side the country as did a full 50 per cent of Deans of Graduate Studies. As might be expected, the figures increase when we use the indicator of final degree - about 60 per cent of university Presidents and Vice-presidents Aca- demic and almost 80 per cent of Deans of Graduate Studies received their final degree abroad.

    In sum, the degree of foreign influence over the anglophone Canadian ideological elite is so great that one might reasonably maintain that the Canadian case would seem to indicate that the existence of a country does not necessarily signal the existence of an indigenous intellectual elite. In a sense, it could be argued that anglophone Canada is institutionally in- complete. At the least, the data would seem to indicate that the degree of foreign influence over the anglophone intellectual elite remains substantial and is apparently increasing. Porters comments of a generation ago remain



    In the case of the ideological elite, external recruitment has a further important sociological implication, and that is the difficulty such an elite may have in articu- lating for the society a coherent sense of identity. National values and national purpose can probably be more clearly stated by those who have a sense of home- land derived from childhood experience and education within the society and its culture (Porter, 1965: 498).


    Another topic of interest to Canadian social scientists is the ethnic origin of elites in the vertical mosaic. Porter found that ethnic origins in this case were overwhelmingly British. Of the 88 persons on whom he was able to ob- tain data, a full 81 (92%) were apparently of British ancestry.

    By 1987, the British proportion had fallen to 72.3 per cent and the ethnic origins of Section I1 of the Royal Society were approximately proportionate with the ethnic origins of the anglophone Canadian population. (See Table 111.1 Data on the ethnic origins of university authority positions were simi- lar. For example, the proportion of university Presidents of British origin fell from 75 per cent in 1966 to 62.5 per cent in 1985. The finding in this case, then, is very similar to that concerning other Canadian elites in that the role of those of British origin is clearly in decline (see Ogmundson and McLaughlin, 1992).

    Our more detailed data, however, enable us to de-compose the findings in terms of Canadian-born versus foreign-born. It emerges that the propor- tion of those of British origin is somewhat higher among the Canadian-born than among the foreign-born. (See Table 111.) This might be taken to indi- cate that immigrant third ethnics are more acceptable to the gatekeepers of the Royal Society than native-born third ethnics. Given the small num- bers involved, and all the other factors that should be considered before dis- crimination is surmised (Berkowitz, 1984a; Sowell, 1984: ch. 11, one should perhaps hesitate to make any such inference. Nonetheless, this finding may be significant.

    Only 15 of the 303 members of Section II in 1987 were females. In terms of percentages, this is very similar to the four of 88 in 1961. The Jewish con- tingent rounded out at about 5 per cent. Although this proportion substan- tially exceeds that in the overall population, it is probably lower than that in other elites and lower than that which one might anticipate given an ac- quaintance with the Canadian academic scene. It is also much lower than that which one might anticipate from a knowledge of academia in the neigh- bouring United States or in the world generally, where 20 per cent of Nobel Prize winners have been J e ~ i s h . ~ As is the case with third ethnics born in Canada, one should probably hesitate to make inferences of actual discrimi- nation. Nonetheless these data raise concerns about the possibility of ethnic, gender, and religious discrimination in a significant Canadian institution.



    1961 1987

    Overall British French Other

    N =

    Canadian-born British French Other

    N =

    Foreign-born British French Other

    92.0% _- 8


    95.0% _ _ 5



    14.8 _-

    72.3% 3.7



    78.9% 4.1



    58.2% 3.1


    N = 27 98


    It will be remembered that Porters discussion of the Royal Society included the critical observation that Canadian intellectuals, especially anglophone ones, were characterized by conservatism and low political participation. The careful research of Pinard and Hamilton (1988; 1989) has subsequently indicated that these observations were correct only if one used the atypical cases of Great Britain and France as reference points by which to evaluate the Canadian case. More importantly, so far as the themes of this paper are concerned, their research has demonstrated a dramatic increase in the political participation of intellectuals in Quebec since the 1970s and in an- glophone Canada during the 1980s. Indeed, they note that the influence of intellectuals in Quebec politics has been so great as to be rather unique (Pinard and Hamilton, 1989: 296). The parties of choice have been distinc- tively anti-establishment - the Parti Qubbbcois and the New Democratic Party. Thus, Canadian intellectuals appear to have become adversarial and oppositional in the manner typical of post World War II Western societies (Aron, 1962; Shils, 1972; Gouldner, 1979). Beginning perhaps with The Ver- tical Mosaic itself, a powerful tradition of social criticism and political ac- tivism has developed. Works of radical analysis now abound. It is notable that a similar shiR to social criticism and political activism has taken place in other elements of the ideological system. This is probably most evident in the major churches - all of which have moved to the forefront of social change on a variety of issues (Baum, 1980; Hewitt, 1991). A similar change has taken place in the Canadian judiciary (Morton and Knopff, 1993). This is also apparent in the media where conservative columnists like Lubor Zink


    now fulfil the role - under controlled circumstances ... presented as curi- osities (Porter, 1965: 493) - that used to be filled by what Porter referred to as the utopians, the rebels, or the avant-garde (p. 493).


    Porter had found that institutional affiliations were dominated by Laval, the University of Montreal, and the University of Paris. Laval and Montreal continue to dominate, although the role of the University of Ottawa has be- come significant while the role of the University of Paris has declined. So far as foreign influence is concerned, Porter (1965: 505) made a point of noting that: there is no reliance on externally trained intellectuals, not even from continental France. In 1987,46 per cent of final degrees were taken outside Canada but the initial socialization of the elite is overwhelmingly Qubbbcois. (84.1% of first degrees). So far as ethnic origins were concerned, Porter (1965: 505) found virtually complete domination by those of Quebe- cois French origin. This pattern continues, although two members in 1987 were from New Brunswick. Perhaps most important, the contrast in the performance of the two elites continues to be striking. While there has been a continued failure to develop an ideological framework suitable for the con- tinuation of Canada, or even anglophone Canada, Quebecois intellectuals generally do brilliant work on behalf of their society. As Porter noted (1965: 5 0 5 4 , this may well be related to their indigenous social characteristics.


    No discussion of the Canadian intellectual elite is complete without some comment on the two solitudes which exist in this sphere. The Quebe- cois/Anglophone split is formally recognized in the organization of the Royal Society itself, and this organizational separation appears not to be mitigated by any pattern of informal interaction. Indeed, in contrast to the situation in virtually all other Canadian elites, there appears to be very little attempt to encourage national unity (e.g., Rocher, 1992). In effect, a separation has long since taken place in the intellectual elite of overall Canadian society. If one believes that ideas have consequences, and it should be noted that in- tellectual division preceded attempts at political and economic separation, this may go far towards explanation of the apparently inexorable drift towards national disunity. Given that intellectuals normally form the back- bone of nationalist movements (Pinard and Hamilton, 19881, the weakness of the Canadian anglophone elite and the lack of an integrated, bilingual national intellectual elite, probably go far towards explanation of the weak- ness of nationalism in Canada. This, in turn, is probably critical to explana- tion of the tendency towards division and the susceptibility to foreign domination that characterizes the Canadian case.


    This paper has attempted a partial replication of Porters study of an anglo- phone intellectual elite, i.e. Section 11 of the Royal Society. It has found con-


    tinuing, albeit reduced, institutional domination by the University of Toronto, along with a notable decline in the role of Oxford. It has also found that foreign influence has increased with possible negative implications for the mobility opportunities of Canadians born in Canada and for the elites performance of its social role of articulating and advancing the interests of Canadian society. While the domination of those of British ancestry has de- clined, the elite remains unrepresentative in terms of many of its ascribed social characteristics. In particular, a seemingly low representation of females, Jewish people, and Canadians born in Canada is evident. While Canadian intellectuals are now much more critical of the status quo than they were when Porter wrote, the separation between anglophone and fran- cophone intellectuals appears to be as great as ever. All this may help to ex- plain a number of the weaknesses which characterize Canadian society. NOTES

    For discussions and summaries, see Hunter (1986: ch. l2,13), Brym and Fox (1989: ch. 4), Helmes-Hayes (1990); Ogmundson (1990) and Rich (1991). Some recent discussions of Canadian intellectual life include those of Berkowitz (1984b), Brym and Fox (1989), Brym and Myles, (19891, and Nock (1992). Studies of intellectuaVeducationa1 elites else- where include Kadushin (19731, Brym (19801, and Lipset (1982). For related work, see Grayson and Grayson (1978). Following the example set by Hunter (1986: 156-71, name dictionaries were used to ascertain ethnic origins. The procedure was to go first to Smith (1973). If classification was not possible with Smith, three other dictionaries were consulted (Bradsley, 1967; MacLysaght, 1969; Reaney, 1976). Failing this, common sense was sometimes invoked. For example, a name ending in isky was classified as third ethnic. In some cases, place of birth was helpful. All of this work was done by James McLaughlin, the second author of this paper. The data were collected in the summer of 1988 and used the most recent calendar available from the Royal Society (i.e. 1987). As a reviewer asks us to note, this method probably overestimates the British origin proportion because of the widespread practice of anglicization of last names by Canadians of third ethnic ances- try. In terms of the conventional wisdom this measure is therefore conservative in the sense that it is likely to underestimate the degree of change over time. (For further dis- cussion, see Ogmundson and McLaughlin, 1992.) These data were collected by James McLaughlin in the summer of 1988. All the calen- dars for Canadian universities available in our university library were utilized. This gave us the total of 29. No trend studies were possible because the university only keeps the calendars for one year. All the measures were exactly the same as those for the Royal Society except that place of birth could not be used to ascertain foreign influence or ethnic origin. The other Canadian universities of note were Saskatchewan at 4.7%. Alberta at 3.7%, Western Ontario at 3.3% and Manitoba at 3.3%. All the remaining Canadian universi- ties together accounted for 11.4%. No others had as many as 3.3%. Foreign universities accounted for 27.4% of the first degrees (British, 18.4%; American, 6.1%; Other foreign, 2.9%). Missing data (i.e. first degree not reported) were 7.3%. These figures concern only those who reported a present university affiliation (N=245). No other Canadian university had more than 2.3% representation as measured by final degree among those with university affiliations in Section 11 of the Royal Society. No other foreign university had more than 5%. The other Canadian universities on this list are the University of Alberta at 6.9%; Mani-


    toba at 5.6%; and Western Ontario at 4.7%. All the rest had 3.5% or less. Other notable institutions were the University of London at 7.4%, the University of Chi. cago at 5.6%, Cambridge at 5.2%, Columbia at 3.9%, Princeton at 3.5%, and Yale at 3.0%. All other universities were represented by less than 2.3%. In this case, as in the case of other elites, the representation of French Canadians in the overall elite is quite proportionate if the figures for the two sections are combined. French Canadians are not only fully represented, they have a separate organization at their disposal. As the reviewer who provided this figure notes, this fact becomes especially meaningful when one realizes that only 0.3% of the world population is Jewish. It should be noted, however, that the habit of anglicization of last name may have resulted in an underesti- mation of Jewish participation in the Society. Also, we are indebted to W.J. Osborne for collecting the female and Jewish data.

    10 This comment assumes that location of first degree is a reasonably accurate measure of national origin. As a reviewer notes, many Canadian scholars take their final degree abroad. In terms of the Royal Society, our data indicate that about 60% of those with first degrees in Canada obtained their final degree outside Canada.





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