Produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Volume 68, Number 6
@theryersonian / www.ryersonian.ca
New details in Skinner murder Car description key to unsolved hit-and-run death of Rye grad By Tara Deschamps Ryersonian Staff
Courtesy Brandon Jordan, Ryerson Athletics
Ryerson men’s volleyball player and Mr. February, Uchenna Ofoha, strikes a pose for the team’s charity calendar to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. The calendar, released every other year, sells for $10. For more details on the revealing shoot, see page 10.
Toronto police released new details Friday about the death of a Ryerson graduate who was beaten, run over and left to die in 2009. Four years to the day after Christopher Skinner was killed, Det. Sgt. Stacy Gallant told reporters at a televised press conference that police are making “significant progress” in their investigation. Skinner, an openly gay student, studied graphic communications management at Ryerson between 2001 and 2006. He was known for hosting Glamour Bingo — a drag queen-themed residence event — each year. Many have suspected his death to be hatecrime related. Though they won’t release specific details, Gallant says police can now identify the make, model, colour scheme and year of the SUV whose occupants assaulted Skinner before deliberately running him over near Victoria and Adelaide Streets on Oct. 18, 2009. The incident happened as Skinner was walking home from the Entertainment District after celebrating his sister’s 19th birthday. Gallant says he believes these new details will help solve the case. “The investigative team is identifying through various databases potential owners of vehicles in 2009, which, in turn will lead us to the driver of this vehicle, those that were involved in the beating and any other passengers — male or female — that were in the vehicle that night,” said Gallant. “I am sure that this vehicle is still out there somewhere and we will find it.”
He says police released this information to the public because past appeals through the press have yielded new tips to help advance the case. Skinner’s parents and sister Taryn were at the press conference. Taryn Skinner told reporters, “I am tired of thinking that the person who is responsible has carried on for four years.” The Skinner family has raised $100,000 as a reward for anyone who comes forward with information that can help solve the case. Police have put forward another $50,000. Though police have already spoken to witnesses, they are hoping the money is enough to entice any of the people they believe were in the vehicle to come forward with their story. “I’m hoping this is going out directly to the people who were in the car,” Gallant said. “It’s been four years. I still want to touch their hearts and come to them and say ‘listen, you were in that car that night. Come forward now. It’s been four years. We’re still around and we’re still investigating it.’” He warned that anyone who was in the vehicle or has knowledge of what took place but has not come forward will be fully investigated and could be charged with accessory after the fact. Until a culprit is found and charges are laid, the Skinner family said they will keep waiting for justice to be served. “They are probably hoping that it will all be forgotten and that they can just slink away, but I think it’s important for them to know that it’s not forgotten,” Ellen Skinner, Christopher’s mother said, holding back tears. “It will never be forgotten in our household.”
Coming soon: Ryerson security services at your fingertips By Nicole Skripkariuk Ryersonian Staff
Students will soon be able to access Ryerson’s security services from anywhere with the touch of their smartphone or tablet. The university’s security and emergency services team is in the midst of launching a social media platform and mobile safety app they hope will be ready by the end of the semester. “We hope to expand the knowledge base of our community on our services and offer helpful tools to be safe,” said Tanya Fermin-Poppleton, man-
ager of security and emergency services. Information on campus safety will be available through Facebook and Twitter. The app will include existing information from the security and emergency services site and offer new features, such as a communications button to contact security and a map of the Walk Safe program boundaries on campus. The Digital Media Zone is partnering on the project and the app is almost ready to be released. The recent initiative is part of Ryerson’s efforts to increase accessibility to infor-
mation on security and connect students to safety services at their convenience. “It’s about quality of information and timeliness of information,” said president Sheldon Levy. Ryerson’s safety app follows the launch of Safe Campus, an app that assists campus security in decreasing incident response times during emergencies. Safe Campus will provide one-touch access to security services from anywhere on campus allowing users to communicate with security by phone or text message. Its new indoor positioning technology (IPS) provides cam-
pus security with the building name, floor, and room number of a caller in less than five seconds. Toronto-based Guardly Corp. issued the free app last year to 67 Canadian universities, including Ryerson. Students and faculty can download the app using a campus-registered email address. But Fermin-Poppleton said Ryerson is not working with Guardly Corp. on its project. “The app that is launched for Ryerson security and emergency services will be customized for our community use focused on Ryerson’s services.”
In February, York University launched a similar safety app to improve its service delivery. Safety initiatives co-ordinator Elize Ceschia said “the app is intended as an informational tool – allowing students, faculty, and staff to access safety related resources on campus.” York’s app connects users to resources such as maps, goSAFE and off-campus shuttle information, and the Sexual Assault Survivors Support Line. It allows users to make direct calls to campus security and 911. Please see APP, page 4
2 • The Ryersonian
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism
Ryerson University 80 Gould Street Toronto, Ontario M5B 2K3
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Does reading week help or hurt students? If you ask five Ryerson students how they spent their reading week, you’ll likely get the same five answers: sleeping. If you ask those same five Ryersonians how they’re feeling today, you’ll likely get a different answer: tired. At Ryerson, we get double the number of study breaks as most Canadian schools. So why aren’t we all feeling relaxed and refreshed right now? In 2008, Statistics Canada published a study on the sleep patterns of Canadians. Participants were tasked with recording the times they went to bed and woke up each day. They were also asked questions about their lifestyle, habits, and activities. The researchers found that certain groups of people got less sleep than everyone else. For the most part, the data confirmed the obvious: married couples with children had more sleepless nights, on average, than those without children. Single people slept a little bit longer than their married peers. People in the workforce didn’t get as much sleep as the unemployed.
they cut back on sleep when they needed more time to work. The study also found a connection between hours of sleep and the length of a responder’s daily commute. Those who took an hour or more to get to work or school slept an average of 22 minutes less than people with short commutes. The findings lined up with data from a U.S. study which revealed that time spent commuting cut into sleep more than work or leisure time. These numbers offer some insight into why study breaks do little to help students stay ahead of the game. We may or may not use our time off productively, but as soon as we return to a normal schedule we’re hit with the same pressures that left us feeling overworked and sleep-deprived in the first place. It’s especially a problem for students at a commuter school like Ryerson, many of whom spend upwards of two hours driving or taking the train to and from campus every day. We’re not saying reading
We’re not saying reading week has to go — but it’s not the cure-all to student sleep woes. But a couple of statistics in particular ought to strike a chord with post-secondary students: two of the factors that corresponded the strongest with a lack of sleep were high stress levels and long commutes. People who reported feeling stressed slept an average of 35 minutes less each night than the rest of the population. The effects of stress were so detrimental that the affected got less sleep than their stress-free peers even if they worked shorter hours. Merely the perception of being stressed for time caused responders to lose out on critical sleeping time. And nearly half of all participants in the study said
week has to go — but it’s not the cure-all to student sleep woes. Instead, schools need to address the root problems. Spread out midterms and exams to help students manage stress. (Don’t put them all in the same week — the one after reading week.) Give commuting students and staff incentives like free Metropasses and classes that start later in the day. If we don’t do something, we might as well just rename reading week to regret week. Because that’s all everyone will be feeling the following Monday, when they still can’t muster the strength to get out of bed.
Managing Editor Print
Arts & Life Editor
Managing Editor Broadcast
Sarah Murphy Stephanie Chan
Managing Editor Online
Editorial Page Editor
Managing Editor Live
Jessica Vitullo Robert Frankel
Kim Magi Sarah-Joyce Battersby
Nicholas Carafa Nicole Servinis
Photo Editors Josh Kolm Emma Jarratt
Lineup Editor Rebecca Mildon
Mitchell Cohen and Josh Kolm / Ryersonian Staff
Quebec charter threatens us all
By Maham Abedi Ryersonian Staff
When I first started wearing a hijab almost two years ago, I had one reservation. It wasn’t about the outfits in my closet I’d never get to wear again. It wasn’t about bearing the summer heat. It wasn’t even about never feeling the wind in my hair again. It was about the fear of discrimination. I was afraid that once I started wearing a hijab, I would be just that and nothing more. My hijab would be a mark of oppression and lack of education – neither of which is true. I was afraid that passersby would be uncomfortable sharing space with me. When I walked onto my Mississauga Transit bus every morning I expected the driver to be rude to me. I expected people to not hire me. I was even ready to lose friends. But none of those things happened. I wore a hijab because, for me, it felt like the right thing to do. And slowly, the fear drifted away too ... until about a month ago.
Last month the proposal for Quebec’s Charter of Values was introduced, a ban on “covert and conspicuous” religious symbols like turbans, large crucifixes, kippas and hijabs. Why? Because as Quebec’s Democratic Institutions Minister, Bernard Drainville, said in a YouTube video, “We all have a right to our beliefs. The state has no place interfering in the moral and religious beliefs of Quebecers.” I was under the impression that the state not interfer-
I’m worried Quebec’s politically charged attack on religious symbols has opened up a debate that threatens the very essence of what it means to be Canadian. For me, being Canadian means being free and unafraid to be whoever I am. I know my choice to wear a hijab is safe for now, but I can’t say it will be for long. Right now I can walk down the street without taunts and whispers, but I can’t say it will be the case in 10 years. This charter has opened
I was afraid that once I started wearing a hijab, I would be just that and nothing more. My hijab would be a mark of oppression and lack of education – neither of which is true. ing meant not proposing laws banning religious symbols. So Drainville’s video not only managed to offend every bit of me in less than four minutes — it also left me baffled. It’s had the same effect on Canadian politicians and residents. Most of us are asking, “What problem is this charter trying to solve?” We didn’t realize there was one, largely because there isn’t. It’s clear that Quebec’s minority government has ulterior political motives. I could write about the politics of this issue for pages and pages, but my concerns hit closer to home.
a Pandora’s box for me and millions of Canadians who wear religious symbols. Canada is my home, but hijab is my identity. Until now, these two parts of me lived together peacefully. It’s frightening that just a few kilometres east, for so many Canadians, that peace is being threatened. The two-year anniversary of the day I first wore my hijab is approaching. But unlike last year, I’ll be a little less happy about my decision. Not because my hijab has done me wrong or oppressed me, but because my nation has.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The Ryersonian • 3
Mohamed Omar / Ryersonian Staff
Students bust some stress with these therapy dogs, main attractions of Ryerson’s mental well-being week, at the Victoria Building on Tuesday.
Behold: adorable pooches bring Zen to Rye By Tara Deschamps Ryersonian Staff
Ryerson students who have been camped out in the library or preparing for midterms got a break on Tuesday when a few furry friends visited campus. Students lined up through the halls and stairways of the Victoria Building to pet an English setter named Kate and six other dogs. The therapy dogs were on hand to help students take their minds off their books, as part of Ryerson’s mental wellbeing week. “She walks in the room, her tail is wagging and people’s faces light up,” said Kate’s owner and Ryerson counsellor Bronwyn Dickson. “It’s really hard to be
really stressed out when you are there in the presence of an adorable dog.” The dogs, which are known to alleviate stress, could be back on campus as early as November. She says the school is hoping to offer regular therapy sessions during Ryerson’s busy exam and midterm periods, Dickson said. She said the Access Centre and security teamed up to bring the dogs to campus this week to help fight the stigma around these services. “We thought we could all come together and be there as representatives at these events so students would meet us and (become) more likely to connect with us at their time of need,” she said.
Plus, these aren’t just any dogs being used. Dickson said the certified therapy dogs from St. John Ambulance and Therapeutic Paws of Canada have been known to lower blood pressure, offer mental health benefits, reduce tension and trigger relaxation. According to Access Centre manager Marc Emond, before a dog can become certified for therapy use it must undergo special behavioural training to teach dogs to get along with others and keep a calm temperament. His Labrador mix named Keysha joined Kate at Ryerson and was eager to be petted and provide comfort to students. “We’re stressed and it’s hard to pass up the oppotunity to pet
a puppy,” said first-year psychology student Sam Snead, who cuddled up to Keysha. “You can’t be sad when you are petting a puppy.” Ryerson isn’t the first school to go to the dogs. Last year, so many students flocked to the University of Ottawa’s inaugural dog therapy event that the school turned the initiative into a weekly occurrence. The university’s student academic success services director, Murray Sang, said the excitement hasn’t died down. He said about 40 to 50 students are spending time with therapy dogs Sassy and Rusty Bear each week.
“Lots of students have been lining up to see the dogs every week,“ he said. “They find it pleasant and relaxing.” On the East Coast, Dalhousie University’s dog therapy sessions are also a hit. In an email to The Ryersonian, Dalhousie Students’ Union (DSU) president Lindsay Dowling said, “Since our first DSU Puppy Days, not only have students told us how the dogs have helped them cope with stress, we have garnered enough support to begin creating a peer health department.” Ryerson’s mental well-being week will also run events such as drop-in yoga, massage therapy and a tour of the Ryerson Image Centre until Oct. 25.
Class schedules now on Google Calendar Library struggling to keep up with demand for laptop loans By Calvin Dao and Jessica Vitullo Ryersonian Staff
Students no longer have to use RAMSS to check their class schedules. By Katrina Sieniuc Ryersonian Staff
Ryerson students can navigate their way to classes with ease now that their course timetables show up on the Google Calendar app. The Google timetable, courtesy of Ryerson’s Computing and Communications Services (CCS), conveniently displays the lectures, labs and tutorials associated with every student’s course-load, including the course code, section, instructor and room number for each class or event. “We want to encourage the use of (Google) Calendar and so decided to populate people’s individual calendars with their course info,” said Jim Buchanan,
CCS assistant director of client services. Although Google Calendar has been available to all students and faculty since Ryerson’s switch to Gmail last year, CCS just finished processing everyone’s information from RAMSS and adding it to the application. Avnish Patel, a Ryerson business student, said he came across his course schedule on his Google Calendar by chance and was pleasantly surprised to find it had synched with his phone. “It basically reminds me an hour before my class, so I no longer have to go into my Ryerson app they have for phones. I simply just look on my calendar on my phone,” he said.
Mohamed Omar / Ryersonian Staff
Google’s package of apps is a well-worn tool for Patel, who says the resources often help him manage collaborative assignments. “I think it’s great,” he said. “I use … Google (Drive) and all that stuff with my groups and projects, so for Ryerson to automatically group up with Google and give us all these services without having to make a separate email … it makes it really convenient.” Buchanan said building an email and calendar service as sophisticated as Google’s from scratch would have been a costly and complicated venture for the university. Ryerson also plans to roll out Google Groups and Google Sites within the next couple of months.
Loaned-out laptops are in high demand among Ryerson students who take advantage of the school’s mobile learning tools, results from a recent online survey suggest. More than 87 per cent of the survey’s respondents said laptops are the tool they most need for their academic endeavours. According to Weina Wang, Ryerson’s borrowing and lending services system librarian, the library is struggling to keep up with the demand. “Every day, one laptop is checked out twice every day for 365 days, including on the weekends and holidays,” Wang said. Library-loaned iPads were listed as the second most requested gadget. More than 1,500 students responded to the survey, which ran from Sept. 27 to Oct. 16. Students can borrow the laptops, which are part of Ryerson’s Mobile Learning Initiatives program, for four hours at a time — but the laptops’ popularity means they run out quickly.
“(A loan) allows students to take the laptop to go study anywhere they want and they can choose a quieter space, they can go somewhere with a comfortable chair,” Wang said. “It (offers) flexibility and also privacy.” According to a report released in April, Ryerson’s 2013-14 budget will face a one per cent reduction in base operating grants. This could leave the library with little opportunity to prioritize student access to laptops and iPads. In 2012-13, the library allocated 85 per cent of its budget, or more than $3 million, to electronic resources, such as subscriptions to academic journal databases and websites. Electronic resources swallowed 71 per cent of its budget in 2011-12. Wang hopes the survey’s results will help raise awareness about the need to expand the library’s pool of technological equipment. “Basically, the demand is really high and to be honest, even with the 120 (laptops) with high frequency of circulation, it really requires a lot of work for the staff here to maintain this program,” she said.
4 • The Ryersonian
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Premier Tours DMZ Premier Kathleen Wynne toured the Digital Media Zone Monday with president Sheldon Levy before making an announcement about open government.
Josh Kolm / Ryersonian Staff
Students can submit security concerns with app APP cont’d...
The app includes a flashlight and photo feature for users to take pictures and report safety concerns on campus. It’s also armed with a loud alarm users can activate in times of distress. The free app was a collaborative effort between students and faculty. It’s part of a broader York University campaign called Safer Together. Ceschia says the overall response from students is positive. So far, there have been 8,755 downloads of the app. “The use of technology is becoming more prevalent in every aspect of daily activity – from driving your car, to brewing your cup of coffee and managing finances. The use of technology in campus security is no different,” said Ceschia. Ryerson instructor Jaigris Hodson is the social media director at GCI Canada, a pub-
lic relations and communications company specializing in social media. She acknowledged the immediacy of social media, but also stressed that conventional methods of distributing information, such as non-electronic notices and news alerts, still play a role in making information accessible. “Twitter has been a great way for students to get information about Ryerson,” said Hodson, “In fact, breaking news often is heard first on a social network like Twitter and spreads more quickly there. That being said, social media outreach should always be combined with more conventional information distribution so everyone can have access to it.” “Social media is a great way to connect with most stu-
dents and campus community. It gives variety,” said FerminPoppleton. “We are always looking at expanding awareness of our services.” Walk. Bike. Fight. The following is a rundown of some services currently offered by Ryerson Security and Emergency Services. These services continue to play a vital role in preserving campus safety, even in an era of digital communication. Walk Safe Program Security officers are ready to escort you to any location on campus, plus the Dundas subway and many off-campus parking lots. The service is available 24 hours a day by calling security at 979-5040 or
pressing the yellow button on campus payphones. For external phones, dial ext. 5040. It’s an excellent option for excursions on campus following a late-night cram session at the library or celebratory drinks at the Ram in the Rye.
patrolling the campus since 1994.
Bike Patrol Unit
Rape Aggression Defence for Women – provides practical skills and tactics aimed at threat avoidance and assault resistance.
Watch for security officers donning high-visibility uniforms and helmets while cycling around campus on mountain bikes suitable for patrolling the urban streets. Officers assigned to the Bike Patrol Unit receive training in traffic safety, emergency handling skills, and bike patrol tactics. BPU officers help reduce incident response times day and night. These ecoconscious officers have been
R.A.D. Self-Defence Classes Ryerson’s security team offers free self-defence classes for men and women:
Resisting Aggression with Defence for Men – provides techniques aimed at diffusing situations and defending yourself in a confrontation. To register for an upcoming class, contact 416-979-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Caution: women’s classes fill up fast – register early.
More Ryerson mental health initiatives approved
By Emily Westover Ryersonian Staff
A second round of project approvals has been announced for the $27 million in funding for campus mental health services that was given by the province last March, and two of the new projects revolve around Ryerson. One of the Ryerson projects, University Virtual Ward, will help ease suicidal and hospitalized students’ transition from hospital to school. The project, which brings together partners from University of Toronto, York University, and Women’s College Hospital, will receive $440,000 in funding over two years. “Patients in a hospital have somebody to help with medication, somebody to help with
therapy, and a nurse checking in on them” said Dr. Su-Ting Teo, who is leading the project. “For many people, as soon as they’re discharged, they no longer have access to these services and sometimes they fall through the cracks.” Teo and her team are putting the funds towards hiring psychiatrists, social workers and mental health nurses to connect students to both school and medical resources. Speaking Your Language is another Ryerson-approved project, led by Ian Crookshank, director of student community life. The project, which is partnered with the University of Toronto and OCAD University, was granted just over $281,000 over two years and focuses on mental health support for international students.
“Many people no longer have access to these services and sometimes they fall through the cracks.” — Dr. Su-Ting Teo Crookshank plans to spend the funds on hiring a project manager, creating an awareness campaign, and potentially bringing in a counsellor to provide services in languages not already provided. “People from different backgrounds and cultures have a different understanding of mental health and we don’t necessarily offer the level of support needed” said Crookshank. “Students may need support in another language to fully
explain or articulate what it is they’re going through.” The most recent injection of cash from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) is part of their Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. It puts the total funding Ryerson has received for such projects at over $1 million in 2013. This comes as the Centre for Student Development and Counselling saw a 200 per cent increase in demand for appointments in recent years. A board of student representatives, school faculties and professionals in the mental health field review all proposals submitted to the MTCU. “The board looks for original, innovative ideas that don’t duplicate services that already
exist” said Emily Hedges, press secretary at the MTCU. A third Ryerson project, also partnered with OCAD University, puts health and wellness directors at Ryerson and OCAD together to work on creating a strategy for training mental health educators at each university. That project was granted just over $352,000 from the MTCU’s first round of proposals in March 2013. The money was first spent on hiring Andrea Yip as project co-ordinator. “When it comes to developing a mental health strategy at both schools, we’ve seen a lot of overlap in priorities. When we see those overlaps, that’s where we put our resources” said Yip.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The Ryersonian • 5
Graduates not falling for fall convocation By Katrina Sieniuc Ryersonian Staff
Thousands of Ryerson students graduated last week, but just more than half attended convocation. Just over 2,000 students were eligible to graduate last Thursday and Friday, but only 55 per cent RSVP’d to the four fall ceremonies, spanning two days. Last year, 62 per cent said they would attend. “It didn’t appeal to me too much,” said James Vukasinovic, a graduate from the business technology management program who did not attend his ceremony. Eligible students had to apply to graduate in August. But for students like Vukasinovic, it’s not enough time to plan around a work schedule. “It just wasn’t a possibility (to attend),” he said. “Work was just way too busy.” The time period for being given the green light for graduation, receiving convocation tickets and then finally the ceremony itself is short — three weeks at the most, said Ann Mackay, manager of the convocation and awards office.
Courtesy Gary Gould
Diplomas and flowers in hand, students at the Spring 2007 convocation file out of the Ryerson Theatre after their graduation ceremony.
“It’s cutthroat time,” she said. “I know students are always anxious and we start getting phone calls.” Vukasinovic said a friend actually had to remind him to apply to graduate, otherwise he would have forgotten about it.
Mackay said every year there are students who forget to apply for graduation. “And then it is way too late,” she said. She said convocation is Ryerson’s final moment to engage with students. “It’s just very important for
us to tell the students how proud we are of them,” she said. “As much as we’d like to think that students will come back on campus … we know that people get on with their lives, so we want to make it a special moment.” But for those who are already part of the job force, convocation
isn’t a priority. “I’m already working … so convocation was kind of an afterthought,” said Vukasinovic. Graduates who didn’t attend their ceremony can pick up diplomas this week or wait to receive them in the mail.
By Shazah Ayub Ryersonian Staff
write an application essay, and provide two reference letters. Jessa hopes her win can be a beacon of hope for newcomers. It’s an experience Jessa knows well.
hometown of Toronto and jumped right into life in Canada. Jessa was the captain of the varsity softball and basketball team and did volunteer work for the Jaffari Community Centre and the Young Muslims Athletic Association. Jessa’s parents have always motivated her to get involved with sports and extracurricular activities along with focusing on her education. “My family was extremely proud. They have always been supportive in all my endeavours and receiving the scholarship made them all very happy,” she added. Jessa says she is enjoying her life as a university studet and loves the diversity Ryerson offers. Jessa doesn’t know exactly what her future will hold, but says she does want to do something big one day. “I’ve always tried to be wellrounded and put my best effort into everything I do, and I hope to continue to do so in the future.”
Scholarship win fuels first-year’s dreams Think with Us Help develop Ryerson’s academic plan Ryerson’s success is due to your passion and commitment; its future depends on your continued support. As the university launches the consultation process to develop its next academic plan, we want to hear from you. Do you have an idea or vision of where Ryerson University will be in five years? What the university will be renowned for? What will be new? What will be different? We invite you to share your ideas with the community. • Visit academicplan.blog.ryerson.ca to compete the sentence:
“In five years, Ryerson will…” • Participate in the following town halls which are open to members of the Ryerson community October 28* VIC - 501
11 AM – 12 PM
*Students only; refreshments available Please email email@example.com if we need to make any accessibility accommodations to ensure your inclusion in this event.
Thanks for your support. Provost and Vice President Academic Mohamed Lachemi
Azra Jessa got a call this summer that many university students can only dream about: she had won the President’s National Entrance Scholarship, a $40,000 prize. She wasn’t sure it was real at first. “It took a while for the news to really sink in … I was elated. I couldn’t believe I’d actually won,” said the first-year computer science student. “It feels great to be rewarded ... It is also a motivation for me to continue maintaining my grades and continuing to work harder.” Ryerson awards the scholarship, valued at $40,000 over four years provided recipients keep their grades up, to a first-year student from each of the university’s six faculties. To qualify for the award, students must have an incoming grade average of at least 90 per cent, display leadership abilities,
Courtesy Azra Jessa
Though she was born in Toronto, she was mostly raised in the U.S. and Belgium. Her mother is from Pakistan and her father from India, but Jessa considers herself a Canadian at heart. At 15, she moved back to her
Students seeking study space can look to Vic By Daniel Melfi Ryersonian Staff
After last year’s successful pilot, Ryerson’s Pop-Up Study Space program is up and running again. Until Dec. 2, students can use empty classrooms in the Victoria Building for personal or group study when the rooms are not being used. Holding between 17 and 35 people, students are able to use the majority of rooms on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. While rooms are to be used on a drop-in basis only, students can check the availability of rooms through the library’s online “Book-A-Room” tool. “The idea for pop-up study space was posted on (Ryerson’s
official online forum) SoapBox and immediately we thought it was an amazing idea,” said Julia Hanigsberg, vice president of administration and finance at Ryerson. Last year, nearly 600 students voted in favour of more study space. “Having pop-up study space allows us to be very efficient with our use of space,” Hanigsberg said, adding it’s a resource that is “truly scarce at Ryerson.” The program is essentially the same as last year except “there are more rooms available and that offers more flexibility for students,” said Hanigsberg. In the Ted Rogers school of management (TRSM), a new Quiet Study Zone Initiative is in the process of being imple-
mented. The program was the idea of fourth-year business student Genele Rose, who believes students in TRSM need a place to study without distractions like noise. In the meantime, study space is being made available in a similar fashion to the Victoria Building with drop-in labs and pop-up study spaces in unused classrooms. Schedules for the availability of rooms are posted on doors as well as the website for the Ryerson Commerce Society. Although the situation of space at Ryerson is currently limited, president Sheldon Levy has said the problem should find a remedy through the Student Learning Centre, which is set to be completed by January 2015.
6 • The Ryersonian
The case for
Reporter Samantha Fernandes explores the unwitting benef
hree years ago, Ramona Pringle’s life seemed like one big downward spiral. She had just moved back to Toronto after living in New York City as a successful interactive producer on Frontline’s Digital Nation on PBS. Her mother was sick. Her boyfriend had just broken up with her. Sad and lonely, she found solace in the most unlikely of places — World of Warcraft. Taking on the alias “Tristanova,” Pringle fought monsters and collected gold online as a temporary escape. But behind the scenes, a more profound revelation was taking place — little aha moments that she says led her to realize truths about relationships, success and perseverance in the real world. Nowadays Pringle, a new media professor at Ryerson, is putting the final touches on a new interactive iPad documentary called Avatar Secrets, due out next year. The documentary, inspired by her own journey through World of Warcraft, is meant to hit back at misconceptions about the prominence of technology in our lives. The main message, she says, is summed up well in the trailer for Avatar Secrets — “We’re not addicted to technology, we’re addicted to each other.” Part of a gaming genre known as massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMOs, World of Warcraft has over seven million subscribers. Players control an avatar in a virtual world, fighting monsters, completing quests and interacting with other users, from a first-or third-person view. One of Pringle’s most significant moments came when she realized there are no bonus
A peek into the world of MMOs and online gaming.
Here are five of the most popular massive multiplayer online games around today. All figures are self reported by the company.
points for trying to complete the game by yourself. “We need each other, we need camaraderie, we need that connection,” she says. “And it’s something that’s missing in a lot of our lives.” To Pringle, this emphasized the positive social benefits of being plugged in to technology on a constant basis. “When the media tells us we’re addicted to technology or addicted to video games, it starts being concerning and depressing,” said Pringle. “If we can distil what that addictive allure is then maybe we can start applying some of that back to the real world.” But are we really addicted to technology? “We wouldn’t officially call it an addiction,” said Marlene Russell, a psychotherapist who heads her own practice in Toronto. “It looks like an addiction, it acts like an addiction.”
“They didn’t have a life outside of that, they neglected their hobbies, they weren’t enjoying life anymore,” said Russell. “And when they were offline they were anxious, depressed, needing to go back on.” The American Psychiatric Association has not listed Internet addiction as an official addiction, though it’s currently being reviewed. While it may not be officially listed, addictive behaviour related to the Internet and social media can be treated. “It is like all addictions in this way: it is about escape. It is escaping some kind of feeling, some kind of problem, something’s not there in their life,” said Russell. Eight participants are signed up for the group therapy treatment that starts in midOctober. Participants will be taught recovery strategies, as well as how to develop hobbies and a life outside of the Internet, social media or online games. “We’re in no way saying that people should stop their involvement in the net because they can’t, or in social networking — they can’t. It’s part of their world,” said Russell. “We just want a better life balance with Internet usage and real — Ramona Pringle life interaction or offline interaction.” But Danni Gresko, a third-year Russell’s practice started Canada’s first journalism student at Ryerson and a blogger for Internet addiction behaviour therapy group this RU Student Life, isn’t sure if someone her age past summer, when her team realized that many would be able to recognize if they even had a of their clients’ anxieties were linked to preoc- problem. cupation with the Internet. “It’s just so natural to check your phone all the time or go on the social media sites. I
“We’re not addicted to technology, we’re addicted to each other.”
World of Warcraft
League of Legends
Released: 2004 Model: Subscription 7.7 million active subscribed users
Released: 2009 Model: Free-to-play 70 million registered users 32 million active users
Re Mo 3.5 2.5
Notable: LoL became the most played PC game in the world last year, though a small controversy this spring emerged when the title was challenged by competitor DOTA2.
No cla sel thi on
Notable: WoW is still the world's most subscribed MMO, despite a massive 1.3-million drop in subscriber numbers in the first three months of the year.
ber 23, 2013
The Ryersonian • 7
fits of online gaming. Surprise! It’s not just a nerdy pastime.
Courtesy Ramona Pringle
don’t know if I’d even be able to recognize if it became a problem, to be honest,” she said. In a blog post for RU Student Life last year, Gresko recounted a day she had to go without a cellphone. “I felt so cut off from the world,” she wrote. Gresko admits to being on many social media channels, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare and Instagram. But as a student, Gresko acknowledges that these sites are useful for planning events and everyday communication with friends. She says that young people have to be connected. “I think I’m just like most other people my age,” said Gresko. “It’s just something that’s become an extension of what you do every day.” Ryerson media theory professor Marusya Bociurkiw also agrees that “addiction” may not be the appropriate word to describe society’s consumption of technology, and instead, prefers the term “binging” to describe her own use of media. She says that the idea that media is dangerous and addictive has been around for a long time and is a pattern that emerged long before the Internet. “There’s always been ideas circulating that media is dangerous,” said Bociurkiw in a phone interview. “When radio first emerged, people worried that people would get addicted to it. When television first emerged, there were concerns that it would facilitate the breakdown of the family.”
Guild Wars 2
Bociurkiw has done research on “binging” in relation to TV consumption, like watching Netflix series Orange is the New Black in one weekend, and thinks it’s similar to other types
years of gaming, he has not felt the lack in his social life. “I don’t think it’s an isolating experience at all, even though you’re most likely sitting in your room all alone with a headset on and you’re talking to people through a computer screen,” he says. Whitney was in Grade 10 at the peak of his World of Warcraftplaying, when he would play for six to eight hours every night. He admits that his parents were concerned about his use and that it was physically unhealthy, but the connec— Ryan Whitney tions and friendships he made were worth it. “I’ve met a lot of people through of media consumption, like gaming. She said games and I’ve made a lot of really good friends that people she interviewed found that they through games. Especially in MMOs and games would cut ties for a couple of days, but would like that because they’re very social. That’s sort emerge wanting to connect with others. of their selling point.” “That time in their bedrooms or a darkened The importance, however, of striking a balroom or whatever, just watching one episode ance between the digital world and real world, after another didn’t cut them off from the and learning from both, is a key component of world, it made them appreciate the world,” said Pringle’s journey in Avatar Secrets. It’s not that Bociurkiw. we have to stop using technology, but instead, But Bociurkiw is concerned about the learn how to best incorporate it into our lives. amount of work involved in maintaining a “We all have these hybrid lives,” says social life, like Gresko described. Pringle. “I think there’s a light-bulb moment — “We have to always be vigilant about hav- just like it happened for me — for a lot of people ing a good balance.” when they go, ‘Yeah, it’s true, it’s not about But as some gamers will argue, televi- technology, it’s not about the game, it’s about sion binging presents a different scenario from the friends I’ve made, it’s about the community, online games. it’s about the lessons that I learned.’ Ryan Whitney, vice-president of the “I think that where we are right now as a Association of Ryerson Role-Players and society is trying to figure out what that balance Gamers, has been playing MMOs like World of is and how we take the best from both worlds.” Warcraft for seven years. He says that in all his
“I don’t think it’s an isolating experience at all, even though you’re most likely sitting in your room all alone with a headset on.”
World of Tanks
eleased: 2012 odel: Purchased Disc Download 5 million copies sold 5 million active users
Released: 2001 Model: Free-to-play 200 million registered users 10 million active users
Released: 2010 Model: Free-to-play 60 million registered users Active users: N/A
otable: Guild Wars 2 aimed the title of fastest lling MMO of all time is summer on its ne-year anniversary.
Notable: The Guiness World Records officially lists Runescape as the world's most popular free MMO.
Notable: World of Tanks broke the Guiness record for most players online simultaneously on one MMO server in January of this year with 190,541 players.
8 • The Ryersonian
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Ryerson in images Ryerson’s photojournalism class shows us a view of Ryerson over the past few weeks.
Clockwise from top: Balloons light up a parking space during Nuit Blanche in Toronto. Liv Collatz ● Onlookers, human and canine, observe the opening of Ryerson University’s Social Justice Week. Matt Oxman ● Jessica Hartwick of the Ryerson women’s hockey team trips U Mass player Meghan Crosby. Erin Petrow ● Cecilia Greyson, sister of John Greyson, speaks at her brother and Tarek Loubani’s victory celebration following the pair’s release from an Egyptian prison. Bryan Sparrow ● Members of #BashBackTO chant in protest during the Rally for Men and Boys in Crisis in Queen’s Park. Samantha Lui ● Kristoffer Lottrup takes a swim at Ryerson University. Liv Collatz
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Clockwise from top left: Haley Rose looks through her glasses outside of Pitman Hall. Beza Getachew ● Brett Whitely and Jeff Adron of the Ryerson Rams men’s volleyball team jump for the ball in a game against the Western Mustangs. Leslie Walker ● Jaime D’Bruno shows off his soccer skills during the CIBC Human Foosball Challenge. Leslie Walker ● Neither rain nor shine could stop Hailey Chan from grabbing a sprinkled ice cream cone on her way to class. Angela Hoyos ● A woman rides her bike down Church Street past Ryerson University. Connor Brazeau ● Skateboarder Aaron Jones ollies over a chair on Lake Devo. Betty Wondimu ● A Ryerson student runs on the track at the Ryerson Athletics Centre. Olaf Nagtegaal
The Ryersonian • 9
10 • The Ryersonian
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Hockey shrine helps Ryerson recruit athletes By Jason St. Jacques Ryersonian Staff
If you’ve ever talked to a Leafs fan old enough to have fond memories of the team, you know Maple Leaf Gardens used to be nothing less than a hockey mecca. While the building no longer plays host to the pros, the MAC (as it’s referred to today), does play a huge part in recruiting players to Ryerson’s hockey teams. “I think the quality of the facility we have built rivals any NCAA Division 1, Division 2, or CIS school,” said Ivan Joseph, Ryerson’s director of athletics. “So if someone is on the fence about going to the U.S., they see what we are delivering here and are (just as impressed).” Graham Wise, head coach of the men’s hockey team, has played a big part in players’ decisions to come to Ryerson, including new goalie Adam Courchaine who posted a 3.72 GAA playing for the Boston Bruins’ AHL team two years ago. “The MAC has definitely contributed a lot into recruiting players, not only because of the great facility, but also because the rink is only a couple blocks
Emma Jarratt / Ryersonian Staff
The Mattamy Athletic Centre has been open for two years and is home to Ryerson athletics.
from campus,” said the eighthyear head coach. Wise also explained how attractive the building is when potential players are brought down for tours, and notes the MAC is where the tours both start and end. Neither Wise nor Joseph believe it’s the history that attracts players to Ryerson, as most current players were too
young to remember the recently renovated building’s glory days. Fourth-year volleyball player Lauren Sokolowski has seen a huge change with her team over the last couple years and agrees their new home court has played a huge part. The team is coming off its best season, and she says that it feels as if the MAC has given the team a fresh start.
This year, the women’s team acquired two quality players from other programs; one from York University and the other from Syracuse in New York. “I think it has created an atmosphere where sports and athletics are taken more seriously at Ryerson,” says Sokolowski, “It’s a top choice for athletes.” Emily Betteridge played volleyball in Syracuse but trans-
ferred to Ryerson not only for the program and coach, but for the facility. “I think the reason why people go to the States is because they put a lot of money into athletics,” said Betteridge, “and this facility shows that Ryerson wants to put money into its athletics department as well.” Betteridge says there’s something bigger at play. “The fact that we play in the Maple Leaf Gardens, it feels like you’re representing Toronto and not just Ryerson.” Joseph, who played a big part in the building’s transformation, has seen first-hand how his work has helped the school gain a better reputation, as well as serving the general student population better. “I don’t think there is anything that you can see and look at that I haven’t had a fingerprint on,” said Joseph. “I think it has engaged all of our numbers for our student athletes and our regular students. Intramural numbers are up, open recreation numbers are up, fitness class numbers are up, and our teams are winning more games.”
Men’s volleyball team takes it off — for charity By Kelsey Rolfe Ryersonian Staff
Ryerson’s men’s volleyball team is serving up sexy in its latest charity calendar. This year’s edition, which sells for $10, has players stripping down to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. “It’s going to benefit the team, and at the same time there’s value outside of that as well,” says head coach Mirek Porosa, who says his mandate is to encourage his players to think outside of sports, and “engage with the community.” Though participation is not mandatory, Porosa says all the players get involved. “It’s very important that the team is working together,” he says.
Outside hitter and Mr. January Brandon Jordan says he wasn’t nervous to shed his clothes for the camera. “My first year, I had such an embarrassing photo that I worked really hard this summer to make up for it,” he said. “All the guys would make fun of me for my first year photo and I didn’t even want to sell it. It was really embarrassing, so this year I was a lot more comfortable with it.” Porosa started the calendar in 2006 and it’s produced every other year. In past years, he estimates the team raised about $2,000. He expects them to match the amount this year. “It’s good. We make money, we reach our goals and targets,” says Porosa. “Not every issue is sold, but it’s all about (the team) being involved.”
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Courtesy Brandon Jordan, Ryerson Athletics
Ryerson men’s volleyball team hopes to raise $2,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Women get the short end of the stick By Emily Wrigglesworth Ryersonian Staff
When women’s hockey player Melissa Wronzberg laces up her skates for a game, it’s usually hours before her male counterparts, thanks to Ryerson’s scheduling, which gives men’s teams prime times on the rink and field. While the men’s hockey team usually plays games at 7 or 7:30 p.m., when more people are available to attend games, the women’s team gets stuck playing right in the middle of the day, usually 1 or 2 p.m. And it’s not just the women’s hockey team being shafted. The women’s volleyball and soccer teams both play regularly during the day, while the men hit the court and field hours later. According to Ontario University Athletics executive director Bryan Crawford,
women play before men because of their market value. Simply put, more people come out to watch men’s sports teams. Wronzberg says she is aware of the imbalance. “I presume the women play before because they’re hoping that people will come watch the end of the women’s game before they watch the men’s game,” she said. “It may work for basketball where they play one after another, but for hockey, there’s such a big gap between I don’t think that anyone ever would be that early.” She says that most of the female fanbase consists of excited parents and dedicated friends, provided they don’t have classes to be at. Ryan McKenna, a sports broadcaster with the Ryerson Rams, agrees many of the fans that come to women’s games
come near the end, and only to grab their seats for the men’s game right after. Although it is common for women’s teams to play before men’s teams, some female athletes find it detrimental to their play to have games so early. Earlier games means athletes are more likely to lose sleep and miss class, said Wronzberg. “I like having a few meals before my game. Earlier playing times throw me off a little because I have to make sure I wake up early enough so I can eat breakfast and lunch in pretty much two or three hours because preparing for a game, especially hockey, you need to have a lot of nutrition.” Nick Asquini, the varsity operations co-ordinator for Ryerson, says that although there is no plan to put the women’s games earlier, if that’s what the fans want, that’s what they’ll eventually get.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
This costume takes us back to the future again By Robby Frankel Ryersonian Staff
Where Venessa Koch is going, she won’t need roads. Because when the pavement runs out, the Ryerson theatre grad’s DeLorean costume (the iconic ’80s ride from the Back to the Future movies) impressively transforms into, well, a transformer. Confusing?Maybe. Amazing? Definitely. The costume, made of corrugated plastic, is a near-perfect replica of Doc Brown’s timetravelling car – but only when Koch is crouching. When she stands up, however, the show begins, as the human-sized DeLorean seamlessly turns into an Optimus Prime lookalike. Koch, who comes from a family of car junkies (she recalls her grandparents restoring an Austin-Healey) initially designed and built the costume for her final thesis project, scoring herself an A+. Since then, she has become something of a celebrity, showing off the costume at festivals and conventions around the city. When the Canadian Fan Expo hit the Metro Toronto Convention Centre last summer, Koch loaded up her costume for the opportunity of a lifetime. Doc Brown actor Christopher Lloyd was in attendance and taking pictures with fans.
“The funny thing is, I don’t even remember what or if he said anything to me,” Koch recalls, still blushing. “I’ve wanted to meet him for 16 years.” The idea for the costume doesn’t date back quite that far, however. Koch says her initial inspiration may have come from when she saw Warhorse at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre last year. The horse costume, built by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, left Koch in awe. The play was so good that Koch had to go see it twice. “After I saw that, I think I had an idea I wanted to build something like that for my project,” she says. This isn’t the first costume she’s built. Koch wore another Transformers costume to San Diego’s Comic Con in 2009. But this was different. “When I wore that costume, everyone would just ask me if I could transform,” she says. “So for this one I said, ‘Screw it,’ I’m making one that transforms.” Her ambition has paid off. Koch recently brought the costume to British Car Day, a festival that celebrates all sorts of real and fictional British vehicles, including DeLoreans. A production designer was so enamoured of Koch and her costume, that he got her a production assistant job. “It was amazing how building the costume really paid off like that,” she said. While she is still searching for a fulltime job in production and design, Koch is still hitting the streets with her costume, but with a couple of changes. “I want to fix it up a little bit. I don’t like the way one of the legs fits into the lower panels when I’m crouched.”
Courtesy Venessa Koch
See www.ryersonian.ca for the costume transformation.
Venessa Koch dressed in her costume.
The Friends of the Library, Trinity College
38th Annual Book Sale October 24 – 28, 2013
Thursday, October 24: 4 pm – 9 pm (Admission $5)
Friday, October 25: 10 am – 8pm Saturday, October 26: 10am – 8pm Sunday, October 27: noon – 8pm Monday, October 28: 10am – 8pm (no admission charge Fri – Mon)
cash · cheque · debit · Amex · Mastercard · Visa 6 Hoskin Avenue, upstairs in Seeley Hall Museum, St George Subway, or Wellesley Bus 94 to the door 416 · 978 · 6750 www.trinity.utoronto.ca/booksale
ARTS & LIFE
The Ryersonian • 11
Meat-ing in the middle By Natalie Chu Ryersonian Staff
Keren Chen wanted more than just the perfect steak. The third-year nutrition and food science student was looking for high-quality meat that would fuel her athletic needs, without breaking the bank. But instead of going to her local grocer, the 20-yearold started Urban Rancher in March, a meat distributing business that epitomizes farm-totable dining. The concept is simple: Urban Rancher buys a whole cow then sells the cuts piecemeal, usually serving 12 people per cow. Each share costs about $187.50 for 30 pounds of meat. The process starts with the farmer, located in Durham, to the butcher in Port Perry, and finally to Urban Rancher in Toronto. Chen, an avid cross-fit trainer says it all started when she and about seven other gym friends decided to purchase and share a local, grass-fed cow. The initial order was so successful, that Chen and another gym member, Brennan Direnfeld, decided to take it further. That included making the business official with the government of Ontario’s Summer Company program, which gives a students a $3,000 grant and entrepreneurial mentorship to start up. Chen heard about the opportunity through her academic adviser. “It was very last minute, but I think they saw a really good idea and something they hadn’t heard of before.” Her largest customers are still other members of the gym, Auxiliary Crossfit, in the city’s west end. All the meat is stored
in a small, white fridge there, where it becomes convenient for people to purchase the cuts postworkout. “We are surrounded by people that have a really high protein diet and that propelled us to find quality beef for cheaper,” says Chen. The main advantage to the process is how fresh the meat is kept, says Chen. Instead of storing the meat in a locker for months on end, Urban Rancher says it tries to get its product straight to the customer in a week. Chen, a full-time student, says she can spend more than 20 hours a week on the business if there are multiple orders. Her schedule can get busy, she says, especially co-ordinating all participants. Mastering the logistics has been the biggest learning curve for Chen. Most of the operations are still done through Skype, Gmail and a mobile purchasing app.
Despite a lack of elaborate ordering systems, the business is growing fast. According to Chen, they’ve tripled their orders within six months. They also bought a new freezer recently just to keep up with growth. Chen is hoping the introduction of new items including sausages, shepherd’s pie and beef jerky, will also help expand the business. Customers have also asked for a variety of meats, including chicken and lamb. “We hope to start a monthly subscription and be a one-stopshop for meat,” says Chen. Still, some of Chen’s friends and family remain skeptical about how far a girl with a passion for meat can take the business. “They think I’m nuts,” she says. “They see it as some small project on the side and I don’t think they know how much it can grow if I devote more time to it,” Chen adds. “I’m looking forward to showing them up,” she says.
Natalie Chu / Ryersonian Staff
Urban Rancher founders Keren Chen and Brennan Direnfeld.
Ryerson professor crowdfunds new breast cancer treatment technology By Abigale Subdhan Ryersonian Staff
A Ryerson physics professor is behind an online crowdfunding crusade to fund a technology that will advance the treatment of breast cancer. Michael Kolios and Gregory Czarnota, an oncologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, are using an Indiegogo campaign to spread the word and stimulate funding for three locations that will perform clinical studies on their brainchild project, WaveCheck. The device is a painless, non-surgical technique that can detect whether a patient is responding to chemotherapy less than four weeks into the treatment, instead of the usual four to six months. “The device uses ultrasound, the same type of ultrasound to image babies, in a special type of way to see cell death,” Kolios said. “In essence, it compares cell death to before and after (chemo)
treatments to see if there is a change and if the patient is responding.” The simple procedure turns the device red if the chemo treatment is not working and turns yellow if the patient is responding to treatment. Kolios and Czarnota conceived the idea for WaveCheck in 1994 while they were graduate students at the University of Toronto. In a class debate detailing whether ultrasounds machines could show the effects of heat on cells, Czarnota argued that ultrasounds could also determine cell death, specifically with chemotherapy drugs. While one student believed it was not possible, Czarnota and Kolios were determined that there was only one way to find out: research. The project is in its 19th year and nearly 100 women with locally advanced breast cancer have already used WaveCheck in clinical studies conducted at Sunnybrook.
In an effort to make WaveCheck available to women everywhere, the research duo has teamed with MaRS Innovation to raise $96,987 in seven weeks, from Oct. 9 to Nov. 27. The campaign’s overall goal is to raise $687,950 with other WaveCheck sponsors and partners. “This is for a disease that is very relatable; people get the need and the urgency. While chemotherapy can have beneficial effects, in terms of disease, it’s also very hard on the body,” said Elizabeth MonierWilliams, co-director of the WaveCheck campaign. The money raised will go into creating the first three clinical study locations in North America: Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont., and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. At publication time, $30,417 had been raised.
12 • The Ryersonian
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Miles from home, don’t sweat the small stuff By May Warren Ryersonian Staff
I like to think of myself as an adaptable, easy-going person. A person who is not stressed out by everyday things like changes in plans. A person who can roll with it. But during December 2010 I found myself in a situation that tested my last nerve. I was stuck the week before Christmas, along with 100,000 other people, at London Heathrow airport — one of the world’s busiest airports at one of the busiest times of the year. I had been working in Geneva and was heading home to visit my family in London, Ont. It was the first time I’d been home in a year. I was using welldeserved vacation days from a stressful job. I’d been looking forward to this day for months. Nothing could shake my good mood. So I thought. It started when my plane from Geneva aborted its landing at Heathrow in a sudden snow squall. Instead we landed with a bump at Luton Airport, a few hours outside of London. A lady from Miami started screaming at the flight attendant that she was going to sue the airline because she was going to miss her connection and not “make it on the yacht.” I traded a smug eye-roll with the girl in the seat next to me. Don’t sweat the small stuff. After all, what was the worst that could happen? I was confident that even if I did miss my flight the airline would just book me a room at a nice plush airport Hilton and I’d be on my way to Toronto the next day, sunny blue skies all the way. It didn’t exactly work out that way. I did miss my connecting flight — and the one after that, and the one after that. Things started to take on a surreal quality as one by one the status on nearly every flight on the board changed from delayed to cancelled. But I wasn’t bothered, not yet. I figured if anyone could get me off of the island, it would be my fellow countrymen. I managed to persuade British Airways to change my ticket to Air Canada, hoofed my way to Terminal 3, and threw my lot in with them. A wonderful woman put me on the standby list and told me to wait at the desk until right before the plane left in case anyone didn’t show up. So I waited. At around midnight, a beleaguered looking Air Canada employee emerged and passed out tiny paper cups full of juice and a letter from management. It informed us that due to the fact that the entire airport was shut down, the flight we’d been waiting for was cancelled. Indefinitely. They had run out of food vouchers. It was impossible to get a cab, and every hotel in the area was booked. Also, the subway was down. There were about five inches of snow on the ground. I started to have a full-on meltdown, uncontrollably sobbing and begging the employees to let me on a flight. Any flight. Anywhere.
I became that crazy person you stare at in airports. It was Christmas. I hadn’t seen my family in a year. I needed a shower. And I was alone. A girl on her way home to Ottawa rose to the occasion and talked me off the ledge — despite having known me for all of two hours. She was also travelling by herself. We immediately became best friends. We took turns watching each other’s luggage and swapping stories about how much we are looking forward to Christmas at home after being away for so long. Eventually we set up camp behind a couple of vending machines and vowed to try again in the morning. Later we met two other Canadian girls, also desperate to get back to the motherland. We started watching Home Alone on someone’s computer. People were camped out everywhere. It took 40 minutes to get to the bathroom, weaving through the maze of weary travellers and luggage. A group of Chinese travellers erected a makeshift fort out of aluminum foil, emergency blankets and cardboard. But despite our shared misery I started to think of the airport as a kind of extended international sleepover party. Everyone was missing someone. Everyone desperately wanted to be somewhere else. But we were all in the exact same situation and really, we all needed someone to talk to about it. I’d never made such fast bonds with any group of people. There were five flights to Canada each day — to Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. My strategy was to get out on any one of them and figure out the rest later. But at around 11 p.m. on our second day of waiting, the airport announced there was no more room on any flight to Canadian soil. I started losing it. Again. My hard-won vacation days were ticking by and I was facing the prospect of spending Christmas in an airport. I felt like I was trapped in a dream where no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get to where I was going. Again and again, my airport buddy and I would wait at the standby desk hoping to get on
/ Ryersonian Staff
Top: May Warren’s new-found Canadian friends pass time at Luton Airport by watching Home Alone. Bottom: One family erects a makeshift fort out of aluminum foil, emergency blankets and cardboard.
one of the few flights that were trickling out. When the subway eventually started running again, we stayed in a hotel room that we paid for out-of-pocket. On Christmas Eve, we found ourselves back at the Air Canada desk — along with what seemed like the entire displaced population of Canada. A middle-aged man (who had clearly been there only one night) elected himself cheerleader-in-chief.
“Come on everyone, we’re all in this together,” he yelled. Every time the workers called a name off the standby list, he bellowed it out and people repeated it into the crowd. The lucky person would make their way to the front, beaming, and everyone would clap and wish them well as if they had won the lottery. I meet an engineer who had been working in Germany and was trying to get home to his
/ Ryersonian Staff
In a seemingly bizarre moment for May Warren, the status of almost every flight changed to cancelled.
mother in Newfoundland. When I told him I’d been stuck for five days he looked at me with deep respect, like I was a veteran of a terrible battle he’d just arrived at. On the TVs inside the bar, all the news channels were covering us as their top story. The headlines in all the papers at the gift shop said stuff like “Heathrow turns into a refugee camp.” My friends messaged me on Facebook to say they’d looked for me in the crowd during the first story on the previous night’s edition of The National. I started to feel pretty tough and kind of special. I’d always wanted to be at the centre of a major international news event. Plus, they were starting to hand out sandwiches. Maybe things weren’t that bad. Suddenly, the flight attendant called out “anyone else for Toronto?” “ME,” I yelled. She grabbed my passport and told me I had five minutes to get on the plane. I looked back into the crowd to see people clapping and smiling and wishing me a merry Christmas. Despite the fact I was elated to be finally getting out of there, I felt a tiny twinge. There was maybe even something, just a tiny bit, fun about the whole thing.