January 10th, 2022

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THE VARSITY

COVID-19 cases in the U of T community

Vol. CXLII, No. 13

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COVID-19 cases spike in Ontario, at U of T

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The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

January 10, 2022

UTM

UTSG

Winter 2020 Summer 2020

Fall 2020

Summer 2021

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57 cases from December 18–24 2021.

Winter 2021

Lauren Alexander News Editor

As the Omicron variant surges, reported cases of COVID-19 among the U of T community have risen significantly. The university has also reported a number of outbreaks across its three campuses, reporting nine campus outbreaks and 67 confirmed cases on campus between December 20 and January 2. The university tracks the number of community members — including those who have not been on campus — who have reported a positive test result to the Occupational Health & Safety Office on its COVID-19 dashboard. It also gives reports of the number of outbreaks on campus each week. In an email to The Varsity, a spokesperson for the university wrote that the dashboard is

the university’s “primary form of advising our community of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks,” and is updated twice weekly. On January 3, a notice added to the dashboard announced that “due to changes in eligibility for testing driven by increasing COVID-19 cases related to the Omicron variant, case counts in this report are likely an underestimate of the number of individuals with COVID-19.” Despite this, the number of cases reported within the community have increased to the highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic, with 112 cases reported within the community between January 3 and January 5. In contrast, a total of 556 cases were reported in the community from the start of the pandemic — March 2020 — until December 24, 2021. Students at Chestnut Residence were informed of an outbreak in January. In an email to residents at Chestnut Residence, the university recorded one positive case and four probable cases. While the email noted that the university did not have immediate concerns about safety for residents and staff, all common spaces were closed down. Nelson Lee, a resident at Chestnut and engineering director for the University of Toronto Students’ Union, wrote in an email to The Varsity that he knew a number of students at Chestnut who were in quarantine after receiving positive tests at Chestnut,

and claimed that there were a number of additional positive cases that students were not informed of. “All U of T students are asked to monitor their health for COVID‐19 symptoms daily and complete a self‐ assessment before coming to campus or leaving their residence room,” wrote the university spokesperson. Students are further asked to report any symptoms of COVID-19 to Campus Health and Wellness or Health and Counselling Centre, and any positive test results to the Occupational Health Nurse. U of T has opted to move classes back online for the first few weeks of the winter semester rather than having a completely in-person semester. Some campus residences have also been asking students to consider moving back in later in the semester and providing a weekly payment to those who delay their move-in date.


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U of T residences ask students to delay return to end of January Students will receive a financial rebate package for delaying their return Marta Anielska Deputy News Editor

In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases in Toronto and at the university, St. Michael’s College and Victoria College have both asked students to delay their return to residence until the end of January if possible. Both colleges will be offering a financial rebate package to students who delay their return. They will also be implementing additional safety protocols and restrictions until at least the end of the month. Students must contact the college if they plan to delay their return to campus. Students at St. Michael’s College will additionally have their key cards deactivated, and they will have to receive a new card from the porter’s desk upon their return. Students will receive $350 to compensate for their room and meal plan for every full week that they delay their return for, until January 30. As a result, students who don’t return for the month of January

will receive $1,150 in total. Neither college expects to extend the offer past January, however, that might change based on evolving circumstances. Financial adjustments will be made in February once the colleges can account for every student’s return. Additionally, the colleges will continue to have dons and run services and programs online. Enhanced protocols to combat COVID-19 will include limiting meal services to take out; closing common rooms, student lounges, and music practice spaces; pausing in-person events; and implementing a “no guest” policy for students outside of the college. An isolation period of 10 days will also be mandatory for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, has been symptomatic, or has been identified as a close contact with someone who has tested positive or been symptomatic. Both colleges encouraged students who have already received two doses of the vaccine to get a third dose, and they asked students to take a

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rapid antigen test as close to their return date as possible. They added that students who wish to delay their return but have left essential items at their respective college should contact university officials who will help them retrieve their belongings.

Travel barriers continue for international students over winter break Some students made the decision to remain in Canada instead of returning home Elizabeth Shechtman Associate News Editor

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many travel restrictions put in place that have affected international students at U of T. Those entering Canada from January 15 onward are asked to show proof of full vaccination and a negative COVID-19 PCR test. Additionally, Canadians are asked to avoid non-essential travel. With the current restrictions and regulations, many international students face difficulties with their studies due to uncertainty about their ability to travel home for the break or to come back afterward. The government of Canada originally implemented a ban on incoming travel from 10 African countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, and Egypt. Although the ban was set to expire on January 31, it was lifted on December 18 at 11:59 pm. This happened before the current restrictions placed by the Ontario government, but no further details have been released since it was lifted.

Starting January 15, any person entering Canada must have a negative pre-entry COVID-19 test result and be fully vaccinated. A shortage of COVID-19 tests and cancelled flights have also made it increasingly difficult to travel as the Omicron variant continues to spread. The Varsity has found that international students have been expressing a consistent uncertainty around travel restrictions because of the pandemic. Luise Hellwig, a representative for U of T’s International Students’ Advocacy Network (ISAN), spoke about these difficulties in an email to The Varsity. “The travel restrictions intensify uncertainty about international students’ ability to go home over the breaks… and under which circumstances they will be able to return to Canada,” she wrote. Hellwig added that some students make the difficult decision to not return home because quarantine measures in their home countries are strict, which makes the entire process not worth it. Going home for such a short amount of time, given the precautions that must be taken throughout, becomes too challenging.

Hellwig wrote, “This uncertainty and being away from home for a long time can take a toll on academic performance, especially with all the other stressors already present during busy times of the semester such as finals season.” The travel restrictions have made the overall process of returning to Canada more difficult than usual. These restrictions “increase the prices and impede the availability of flights to Canada in some countries,” according to Hellwig. “Last year, only people vaccinated with [BioNTech], Moderna, [AstraZeneca] or Johnson & Johnson were considered vaccinated travellers while entering Canada, which posed some additional challenges to students from countries that had administered different vaccines.” Hellwig stated that she had not heard of anyone who was unable to continue their studies due to the restrictions or travel bans, but she wrote that “U of T’s announcements about its pandemic measures always only offer clarity for a short period of time without providing a broad overview of support options available to students should they be unable to return to Canada.”

Profile: Omar Gharbiyeh, UTSU’s newly appointed vice-president, public and university affairs Newest UTSU executive discusses advocating for students, leaving the CFS Elizabeth Shechtman Associate News Editor

During the UTSU’s December board meeting, Omar Gharbiyeh was announced as the new vice-president, public and university affairs. This position had remained vacant since September 2021, when the previous office holder resigned. Gharbiyeh was appointed to the position after a by-election in the fall was unsuccessful due to a lack of candidates. Gharbiyeh is the third student to ever hold this position following its creation in 2020. He is a returning student who took some time off from his studies at U of T and studied at the University of Havana. Upon returning to U of T to continue his studies, he became involved with several Palestinian non-governmental organizations, including Palestinian House, a

Toronto-based community centre. In an email to The Varsity, Gharbiyeh wrote that his prior experience working with students and advocating for their interests has helped him put his “passion and skills to use for the purpose of social justice.” He plans to continue multiple advocacy efforts while holding the position for the current term. Gharbiyeh wrote that his priorities include “ensuring that the [U of T] administration becomes proactive in planning for contingencies that arise from the pandemic.” He hopes that U of T will publish a clear and predictable strategy that both students and faculty can rely on. He also plans to focus on student finances. His plans include fighting the Ontario Student Assistance Program cuts by the Ford government, increasing “work-integrated learning opportunities,” and advocating for a reduction in

tuition fees while classes remain online. Lastly, he will focus on the health, safety, and wellness of the student body. This will consist of continuing to support the UTSU’s own initiatives such as the upcoming Peer Support Network. When it comes to the UTSU’s efforts to leave the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which it has been working on for multiple years, Gharbiyeh wrote that “the CFS’ bylaws make this process impossible under pandemic conditions because it necessitates a significant in-person presence.” “I understand what it’s like to feel unheard, and I know that we’ve all been struggling together with so many issues these past few years,” Gharbiyeh wrote. “I can’t overstate how honoured I am to be given the chance to work towards some real progress in rectifying these concerns and helping students feel heard.”


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JANUARY 10, 2022

Students face financial difficulties, frustrations after winter study abroad cancellation Some participate in virtual exchanges, coping with large time differences Marta Anielska Deputy News Editor

In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant, U of T has cancelled its study abroad programs for the winter 2022 semester. As a result, many students have found themselves facing logistical difficulties related to their finances, travel plans, and living situations. While some students have taken advantage of virtual exchange offerings, students are still frustrated by what they view as a watered-down experience. Logistical challenges Students planning to study abroad in the winter semester faced many logistical challenges after U of T cancelled their trips, primarily related to their finances and academics. In an email to The Varsity, Kyra Nankivell, a thirdyear industrial engineering student, wrote that since there was no way to be reimbursed for the approximately $8,000 she had spent to prepare for the exchange, she tried to recover what she could. She had also sublet her place in Toronto and was left without feasible housing for in-person classes in the winter. Blake Gigiolio, a third-year computer science student, also had to scramble to enroll in classes for the next semester while he was facing similar struggles. He added that although the university told students to enroll in U of T classes for the winter semester in July, in case their exchanges were cancelled, his winter semester had not been completely planned out. Students also lost the funding offered by the study abroad program to help them pay for the experience, leaving students like Tanja Velickovic, a master’s student in European and Russian affairs, to shoulder many non-refundable fees. This was especially frustrating for Velickovic since the university had given them the green light to book non-refundable services back in October. In response to these concerns, a U of T spokesperson noted that students were advised

Emergency grants are available to students coping with financial burdens. COURTESY OF STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM/UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

to remain enrolled in their classes as to not face academic issues if their study abroad experience were cancelled. Moreover, they wrote that U of T’s emergency funding remains available to students experiencing financial strain. Cause for frustration In interviews with The Varsity, students expressed frustration, both at the cancellation and the way the university had handled the situation. Nankivell wrote that she “felt betrayed” because she hoped the university would do everything in its power to deliver the experience it had sold her. She added that after hours of trying to figure out how to incorporate an exchange into her degree, and even changing programs to have the opportunity to go, she felt that the cancellation was sudden and announced in an “impersonal email.” Velickovic was actually in Ottawa trying to get

her visa from the Austrian Embassy when the announcement was made. For her, it was “heartbreaking” — and also frustrating, because international study is mandatory for her program. Other students expressed very similar frustrations. Neha Verma, a third-year international business student at UTSC, added that it came as quite a shock, since the country wasn’t even in lockdown yet. Virtual exchange Some study abroad programs were able to offer students the opportunity to participate in the experience virtually, as was the case for Verma. Verma stayed in the program to maintain the internship aspect of it, which was difficult to adapt to an online format since her role largely was supposed to take place in person. To make it work, Verma will have to take master’s level courses — since none of the courses she was originally taking are offered online — and

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cope with the time difference between Canada and Singapore. She added that her major concern is that she will miss out on the networking opportunities that the National University of Singapore community would have offered. “I could reach out to them on LinkedIn or something, but it’s not the same as… randomly hanging out with people,” Verma explained in an interview with The Varsity. “That is one of my major points of stress — that I’m not getting as much out of it as I had hoped to get.” Nankivell also decided to continue her exchange online and will have to cope with the time difference, working from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am, without attending any U of T courses. However, she wrote that she has not yet dropped her courses out of fear that U of T will discontinue the virtual exchange as well. Mika Wee, a fourth-year criminology student, added that students in their program were offered a virtual exchange option, only to have it cancelled as well. “They gave a false misleading option only to take it away from the students again… it was really disheartening to see how upset the students got,” Wee added, referring to other students who were in their program. Future of learning abroad In Nankivell’s opinion, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the study abroad program to lose its selling point, since the university has “failed to generate or implement creative solutions [that] allow students to safely travel abroad without the university taking on undue risk.” She also noted that Canada was the only country to cancel its exchange with the National University of Singapore, which would have been her host university. On the other hand, Verma said that the pandemic has made her realize that a lot of the experiences that people thought had to take place in person could actually be done online. This includes not only study abroad programs but also attending foreign universities, as she herself does as an international student. Additionally, the U of T spokesperson mentioned efforts that the university has made to collaborate with partner universities to move coursework and professional experiences online. The pandemic has also resulted in an expansion of the university’s Global Classrooms initiative, which aims to embed international experiences into existing U of T courses.

Major board restructuring proposal approved at UTGSU 2021 AGM Motions pass to investigate increasing mental health coverage, create Indigenous student bursary Padraic Berting Graduate Bureau Chief

On December 7, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) met virtually for its Annual General Meeting (AGM), where attendees approved a major restructuring of the UTGSU’s board of directors. The attendees also approved the audited financial statements for 2020–2021 and a number of motions submitted by members prior to the meeting, which included a new bursary for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit graduate students, as well as other emergency grants. A motion for the UTGSU to look for ways to increase mental health coverage under the health care plan was also approved at the meeting. Executives also delivered mid-year reports on their activities from the last semester. UTGSU board restructuring approval Over the course of this academic year, the UTGSU executive committee has been discussing approving a major overhaul of its board and bylaws in order to comply with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. This includes changing the General Council model to a standard Board of Directors that’s much smaller in size, reshaping the Executive Committee to have a clear president and vice-president structure, and giving monthly honorariums of $500 to board members and $1400 to executives. Hired legal counsel Matthew Joseph gave a brief overview motivating the changes and mentioned that, currently, the “UTGSU, unfortunately, doesn’t follow any typical standard principles of the common law and how it affects directors, meaning that you don’t have

an electoral system that clearly and directly elects your directors.” There was some conversation by members who expressed concerns over the semantics of the large bylaw changes, but most spoke in favour of the changes. Amy Conwell, director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902, spoke in favour, applauding the plan’s “thoroughness.” “I haven’t seen this level of work go into supporting an organization and becoming better in a long time,” she said. Ultimately, the entire restructuring passed. Financial audit Finance Commissioner June Li gave a discussion of the UTGSU’s financial audit for the fiscal year ending on August 31, 2021. Li said that the union passed the audit with “flying colours.” One attendee raised a question on the inclusion of $25,000 for a settlement in the financial audit. June mentioned that the settlement was with a former executive director and that while she was unaware of the specific rationale behind the settlement, its documentation was cleared by the independent financial auditor. After some more minor discussion, the members approved the financial audit. Member-submitted motions A number of member-submitted motions were discussed at the meeting. The first motion called for the UTGSU to investigate options to increase mental health coverage under the UTGSU health and dental plan, and for it to present its findings to the Board of Directors by March at the latest. The motivator for the motion noted that, currently, the

UTGSU health and dental plan only offers $500, which likely only covers two or three sessions from external providers. They mentioned that the University of Toronto Students’ Union, for example, covers 15 visits at $100 for each session, for a total of $1,500. The motion passed. The second motion called for the UTGSU to create a new bursary for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit graduate students with a total value of $15,000 to $20,000, to be split among a minimum of four students. Riley Yesno put forward the motion and motivated it. The motion passed. Two further motions, both of which passed at the AGM, led to the UTGSU donating $25,000 to the UofT Emergency Food Bank and creating an emergency grant allocation for $250,000. A motion put forward by the UTGSU’s former internal commissioner, Lynne Alexandrova, called for the official accommodations provided through U of T’s Accessibility Services to be implemented into the UTGSU, so members can get accessibility accommodations for union activities. Many members at the meeting appreciated the sentiment of the motion but felt like it existed outside the purview of the UTGSU; thus, it failed to pass. Executive reports UTGSU executives delivered reports on their work over the previous semester. Academics and Fundings Commissioner, Divisions 1 and 2 Dhanela Sivaparan highlighted various initiatives in her portfolio, such as the extension of the graduate student COVID-19 fee waiver, with consultation from the School for Graduate Studies. Additionally, she discussed working on a lobbying document with external student organizations to address

federal and provincial student debt. Academics and Funding Commissioner, Divisions 3 and 4 Danielle Karakas discussed working directly with students in her division, as well as working on food security and “working toward getting a robust system that will offer food to financially insecure students.” Civics and Environment Commissioner AnNoûra Compaoré discussed various elements of her portfolio, emphasizing provincial election engagement for the upcoming 2022 election. She mentioned the various committees she sits on, such as the Community Liaison committee, which discusses fees, and projects and the impacts they will have on students. External Commissioner Justin Patrick discussed the work that the union has done to connect to external partners and bodies. He mentioned that the UTGSU is now a part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals learning group, as well as the Canadian Coalition for Youth, Peace & Security. Internal Commissioner Sarah Alam mentioned the work she’s done on the bylaw amendment and restructuring model for the union. Additionally, she mentioned her advocacy on student family housing. University Governance Commissioner Lwanga Musisi discussed attending and organizing meetings with university administration, as well as working with university decision-making bodies like the Governing Council, the academic board, university affairs, and others. Finance Commissioner June Li discussed her work involving the financial activities of the UTGSU, as well as her work on the basic funding initiative.


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U of T unions continue to ask for more transparency Many demand more support, safety measures from the university Padraic Berting Graduate Bureau Chief

Labour unions have expressed concern over what U of T’s cancellation of in-person classes until January 31 will mean for the future of in-person instruction during the winter semester. Though they have praised the university for making the decision to cancel in-person exams and move classes online for the month of January in response to the spread of the Omicron variant, they seek clarification from the university on whether it will implement safer precautions going forward. The University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902 (CUPE 3902) have both

published statements containing a number of demands for the university’s decision-making process for the winter semester. UTFA statement The UTFA, which represents faculty and librarians on employment matters, expressed its concerns in a statement demanding that the university clarify how the changes in the meaning of “full vaccination,” now that booster shots are being given, would impact health and safety standards at U of T. It also requested the university provide N95 masks to faculty, librarians, staff, and students. In an email to The Varsity, UTFA President Terezia Zorić wrote that while the university has

been in contact with the association, it has not yet meaningfully responded to the UTFA’s concerns. “Our members overwhelmingly want to return to in-person teaching and other work but only when it is safe enough to do so,” Zorić explained. She added that many are “frustrated and disappointed” in the university’s lack of transparency regarding its decision-making. CUPE 3902 open letter CUPE 3902, which represents contract academic workers at U of T, released a separate open letter that was co-signed by 10 student and labour unions, including United Steel Workers Local 1998 and the University of Toronto Students’ Union. The letter, titled “Defy Expectations: A Fair and Safe U of T in 2022,” called on U of T to put in place many of the same precautions addressed by UTFA. In an interview with The Varsity, Amy Conwell, CUPE 3902’s chair, stressed that the union wants to ensure a safe and high quality education to students. She added that she was disappointed with U of T’s lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

UTSC student team analyzes transit alternatives in light of Line 3 shutdown Anika Munir, Neil Patel, Rajpreet Sidhu bring forward three alternatives Syeda Maheen Zulfiqar UTSC Bureau Chief

In February 2021, the TTC board voted to cease the operation of the Line 3 Scarborough Rapid Transit as of 2023; Line 3 connects with Line 2, which travels to Scarborough. The Scarborough Subway Extension, which is currently under construction, will, in effect, replace Line 3. The extension will expand Line 2’s subway service by an approximated eight kilometers and is anticipated to open by 2029 to 2030. While the line continues to be constructed, the TTC is looking for viable transit alternatives to Line 3, analyzing a number of alternatives that mostly rely on buses as a replacement. A report from three UTSC students analyzed three alternative forms of transit in response to the line’s closure, concluding that integrating with the GO system would be a better alternative to using buses. The closure The decision to close Line 3 was largely informed by the huge financial costs of running it — an estimated $522.4 million. In addition to the financial burden it imposes and the decidedly long construction time for its replacement, the halting of Line 3’s operations comes with an acknowledgement of its

already stretched-out operation period. The line, having been constructed and opened in 1985, was designed for a foreseeable 25 years of operation, and is therefore 11 years past its intended life cycle. The TTC has engaged in two large overhauls — one in 2015, and the other in 2018 — of the line, in an effort to maintain its activity until the completion of the Line 2 extension. However, the estimated time of completion having been pushed to nearly 2030 has made this quite difficult. With the end of Line 3 imminent, the TTC is in the process of analyzing three options for the period between the closure of Line 3 and the completion of the Line 2 extension. The first option is a hybrid of the continued operation of Line 3 and bus services, which would go on until 2030. The second option is a bus replacement service from 2023 to 2030, with new buses. The third and final option is a bus replacement service, but with the introduction of new buses in 2027–2030. UTSC research team As part of a competition organized by the Geography City Studies Association (GCSA), UTSC students Anika Munir, double majoring in public policy and city studies with a minor in public law; Neil Patel, majoring in city studies and human geography; and Rajpreet Sidhu, a recent

UTSC graduate with a degree in human geography and international development studies, collaborated and formulated three alternatives to the three options currently being explored by the TTC. The team, after being selected by the GCSA, took part in the University of Toronto Transportation Alumni Network’s “New Frontiers in Transportation” competition. In their official report, the UTSC team made note of the greater risk of the TTC’s first option, but recommended further research into the other options. Each member of the team researched one alternative, with Sidhu’s research focusing on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Munir’s focusing on dedicated bus lanes, and Patel’s on integration with the GO system. They then organized their findings into a chart that compared the timeline, financial impacts, environmental impacts, socioeconomic impacts, and economic impacts of each alternative. Their results indicate that the best alternative is integration with the GO system. Compared to the seven to 10 years estimated to implement the BRT and the two to three years estimated for the dedicated bus lanes, it would take only about a month or two to integrate with the GO system. Moreover, it would require very little construction, thereby limiting any financial and

Investigative Journalism Bureau begins Black Journalism Fellowship

In a statement, a U of T spokesperson reiterated that the university acknowledges the challenges of the current situation and that it has maintained regular contact with all trade unions throughout the pandemic. They added that U of T will remain flexible and responsive to changing circumstances. Broader circumstances Provincial labour organizations, such as the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), have also put out statements expressing concern for their members. The OCUFA has cited an “absence of provincial leadership” and expressed a need for universities to collaborate with workers on a case-by-case basis. In an interview with The Varsity, OCUFA President Sue Wurtele emphasized her organization’s commitment to helping individual faculty associations based on their specific contexts. A sense of fatigue and exhaustion also remains consistent across unions. When asked about faculty morale, Wurtele replied, “Well, do you want to record my deep sigh?” environmental impacts greatly. Patel, whose research focused on integration with the GO system, explained how he found that the TTC has previously adopted a variation of an integration approach. He said, “In the past, the idea was the TTC and GO system would kind of seamlessly integrate their transited corporations because they had a discounted Presto price if you were to use GO with TTC or TTC and GO.” This system was removed under Doug Ford’s administration in early 2020. Patel said, “That deincentivized a lot of low income and a lot of working class residents, which is a majority of what Scarborough is made up of.” He added, “If we integrate with the GO system, we’re going to reduce cost, because we’re not starting from scratch, we’re using a system that already exists and we’re just improving it.” Sidhu said that the larger issue is that Scarborough residents are expected to use buses as they wait for the extension to be completed, and that this is certainly something that should have been prevented. She said, “We’re arguing that there’s been a huge mishap and this issue could have been prevented. [So] what is the TTC going to propose that can actually move 35,000 people daily across Scarborough?” Echoing Sidhu’s point, Munir asserted the team’s intention to work on a “real-time” issue. Though there has been significant outcry on the closure itself, Munir has not come across discussion surrounding what Scarborough residents want. With this in mind, Munir said, “​​I’m really happy that we can propose these alternatives and give them a chance, and we hope that they will do better transit in Scarborough.”

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Fellowship aims to “make space for a range of voices and experiences” Lexey Burns UTM Bureau Chief

With the help of several sponsors, U of T’s Investigative Journalism Bureau (IJB) has partnered with the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) to create the Black Journalism Fellowship, which will provide Black journalists with the opportunity to contribute a series of articles on “topics of critical public importance.” The IJB is part of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and brings people from across journalism and academic organisations to work on investigative journalism stories. This is the fourth fellowship that the CJF has created to support Black journalists in collaboration

with other organizations. The collaboration with the IJB intends to bring Black journalists to the IJB to work for six months on an ongoing investigative journalism project with the guidance of experienced bureau editors and senior reporters. CJF has also partnered with organizations such as CBC and CTV News to provide other types of fellowship opportunities. One Black journalist with one to 10 years of prior experience will be chosen to write, produce, and contribute to an article or series during the period of their fellowship at the IJB. In an email to The Varsity, Natalie Turvey, the CJF’s president and executive director, confirmed that “freelance or contract work over a calendar year” counts toward the years of experience required to apply. The CJF-IJB fellow will receive a full-time stipend for their work.

Turvey wrote in an email to The Varsity that the partnership with the IJB is meant to “develop emerging investigative talent and make space for a range of voices and experiences from Canada’s diverse communities.” The fellowship is sponsored by several organizations, including Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, and the Jay and Barbara Hennick Family Foundation, a Canadian centre for promoting joint business and law scholarship and education. When asked why the fellowship is supported by these particular sponsors, Turvey responded,

“Both Unifor and The Jay and Barbara Hennick Family Foundation saw the value in supporting this fellowship opportunity to foster the next generation of Black investigative journalists.” Turvey wrote that the fellowships are being offered “as a way to ensure that the perspectives and experiences of Black Canadians are reflected in Canada’s major media and represent the populations they serve.” Applications will be accepted until January 14, and the applicant chosen to receive the fellowship will be recognized at the CJF Awards in June.


thevarsity.ca/section/news

JANUARY 10, 2022

Construction moving forward on Spadina-Sussex project Progress being made on innovative residential complex

Tarek Tahan Varsity Contributor

Construction for a 23-storey residential complex on the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue, which was started in December 2021, is expected to be completed in fall 2024. Both the real estate agency working with the university on the project and the university itself have expressed excitement about the completion of the new student residence. Features of the housing complex The residence will be composed of 60 per cent dorm rooms with semi-private washrooms that will be shared between neighbours, and 40 per cent four-bedroom suites. Of the dorm rooms, 23 rooms and adjoining washrooms will be designed for accessibility, and so will 84 suite-style bedrooms and washrooms. Amenities available to resident students and faculty will include religious spaces, a fitness room, a dining hall, and the Robert Street playing field, which is located nearby. Site planning and approval process The Daniels Corporation, the real estate developer partnering with U of T on the project, began laying out the schematic designs for

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the project back in 2013. Progress slowed in 2017, however, after the Toronto City Council declared the Ten Editions bookstore, which is located on the same street, a heritage site. After negotiations between the university and the City Council, both sides eventually agreed to reduce the original residence size and incorporate the bookstore into it. However, the bookstore eventually shut down. The Planning and Budget Committee of U of T’s Governing Council voted to recommend project approval on September 17, 2019, which came a month later on October 24. The committee also voted to recommend funding in part through the Daniels Corporation. Construction began in December 2021. Construction motivations Student unions have acknowledged the lack of affordable housing in Toronto, which students say is a growing issue. Governing Council Chair Brian Lawson said that construction was initiated because of the vibrancy of the project, calling it “beautiful” and “architecturally noteworthy.” U of T President Meric Gertler said that the project aims to “provide future students with a beautiful, innovative and sustainable home on campus.”

Spadina-Sussex residential project. YIDA CHEN/THEVARSITY

Rates of non-academic offences on campus remain low University Affairs Board hears presentation on non-academic discipline entry to unauthorized possession of a firearm. The report presented to the board provided an overview of all the total cases and types of offences and categorized them by faculty, college, and campus.

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Faiz Jan Varsity Contributor

On November 23, U of T’s Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh presented a summary of non-academic discipline cases at the university

during the 2020–2021 academic year to the University Affairs Board. Her presentation indicated a limited change in the number of offences from the previous year. The Code of Student Conduct prohibits various offences, ranging from unauthorized

Report results The report shows that there were a total of six non-academic offence cases during the 2020–2021 period, involving nine infractions in total — rates quite similar to those seen in the previous year but half as high as the year before the onset of the pandemic. These new cases include six ‘offences against persons,’ a category that refers to anything that puts others at risk, including sexual harassment and assault. This number has tripled from the previous year. However, the rates of disruption offences, which were the biggest category last year, decreased. There was one offence that

involved the destruction of university property. Three non-academic offence cases were reported at the School of Graduate Studies. There was a notable lack of cases at UTM, which saw offences balloon last year. New College, Trinity College, and the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Engineering each reported one case. In certain circumstances, the Code of Student Conduct outlines certain “interim measures” and “interim conditions” that can be applied where cases are more severe and when actions may be needed to protect the broader student population. The 2020–2021 year also saw only one case resolved within six months and three resolved within 12 months. In the previous year, no cases were resolved within six months, and five cases were resolved in 12 months. The universityhad attributed this increase in resolution time to the pandemic.

The Breakdown: How U of T will carry out its Scarborough Charter commitments Charter addresses anti-Black racism, Black inclusion at Canadian postsecondary institutions Elizabeth Shechtman Associate News Editor

On October 1 and 2, 2020, Canadian universities and colleges came together to discuss how to create programs that are more inclusive of Black students and to develop concrete actions for change in higher education. These meetings eventually resulted in the Scarborough Charter. The Varsity broke down what the charter means for U of T and when you can expect to see changes happen because of it. The charter The charter — meant to address anti-Black racism and Black inclusion in Canadian postsecondary institutions through principles, actions, and accountability mechanisms — was signed on November 18, 2021 by over 40 institutions,

including U of T. By signing the charter, these institutions made a commitment to eliminating barriers for Black scholars, students, faculty, staff, and other community members. The Scarborough Charter is the first national action plan to do this. In one section of the Scarborough Charter, its creators wrote that “the Charter drafting exercise was truly a collaborative effort on a national scale, with input from various members of the higher education sector and other partners.” From March to June of 2021, non-partner institutions had the opportunity to provide feedback on the charter as well. Charter contents The charter has five sections, each dedicated to the overall “commitments to action” by applying changes at the structural and governance

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level. These include implementing change in core areas such as research, teaching, and learning, as well as community engagement. “The sections are not meant to be addressed sequentially but are meant to be worked on in an integrated manner, based on institutional plans and the work plan of the Inter-Institutional Forum,” UTSC Vice-President and Principal Wisdom Tettey wrote in a statement to The Varsity. The Charter states that its “principles-based commitments to an action apply to governance

in decision-making processes and structures at all levels of the institution, to research, to teaching and learning, and to community engagement.” Tettey further clarified that accountability measures would begin with a meeting of all the institutions who signed in February, to set out timelines and priorities for carrying out the goals of the charter. Tettey added that data is an important step for taking “meaningful action,” and the university is planning a partnership with Statistics Canada to “engage with this need.”


Business & Labour

January 10, 2022 thevarsity.ca/section/business biz@thevarsity.ca

Rotman Commerce students can make a difference with the Black North Initiative

A student’s perspective Chima recalls that Hall spoke of his own experiences and background during the course. “He really taught us the message that if you want to pursue entrepreneurship, all it takes for anyone to do that is to have the drive and the ambition to really work towards their passion,” Chima said.

The class format The course was structured in two parts, starting with examining case studies and learning from the journeys of successful Black entrepreneurs. Later, it progressed to also look at the experiences of immigrants and non-Black persons of colour. The course not only gave students insight into these journeys but it also facilitated discussion between the students themselves. “Getting to dive into those questions and have a holistic discussion about [each] entrepreneur’s journey [from the cases] was great,” Chima explained. The second part of the course gave students an opportunity to directly get involved with the

What can Rotman and U of T do? “When it comes to really establishing social impact, it’s something that requires consistent effort over a long period of time,” Chima said, when asked about the efforts made by the university to facilitate these kinds of courses and spread awareness.

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Black North Initiative by working with some of the organization’s 16 committees. After the course ended, students were put into groups and were able to continue working with the committees for a number of months. Chima spoke about the impact of the course on her own academic and personal journey. “It definitely is a class unlike any other I’ve seen in Rotman Commerce personally, because it truly allows you to have a direct hands-on impact in our community, and for me, as a Black [woman] living in Canada, it meant a lot to be able to do something to uplift the Black community,” she said.

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Making a difference starts with community involvement. In partnership with Rotman Commerce, Wes Hall, executive chairman and founder of Kingsdale Advisors and founder and chair of the Black North Initiative, ran an independent study course centered on Black entrepreneurship in the spring 2021 semester. The Black North Initiative was started by Hall shortly after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was created to end systematic anti-Black racism against Black Canadians using a business-first approach. Hall’s connections with Neel Joshi — director of the Rotman Office of Student Engagement — and Ann Armstrong — academic director of the Intercultural Skills Lab — helped develop and deliver the course at Rotman. The Varsity spoke to Rotman Commerce alum Deborah Chima about her experience with the Black North Initiative and Hall’s independent study course.

In January 2021, Wes Hall was named on Maclean’s power list of “50 Canadians who are breaking ground, leading the debate and shaping how we think and live.” Chima found out about the course through the Black Rotman Commerce group’s newsletter. “Before that class, I hadn’t actually put a thought into how different the entrepreneurial experiences, or journey, per se, is going to be for a Black Canadian or a Black American,” she said After reading the course description, Chima wanted to learn about the different structural barriers that Black Canadians pursuing entrepreneurship have to face. She wanted to learn about how these systematic barriers come into play and how to work as a community to overcome them.

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Lovisa Hansen Tiberg Varsity Contributor

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Course alum Deborah Chima on getting involved in the community

“We need to continue creating these types of classes, and we need to continue generating more awareness for these classes. It’s a step in the right direction, and I think we’ve got to make that consistent going forward,” said Chima. After graduating from Rotman, Chima is now working at a consulting company that works directly with the Black North executive leadership team.

Think pink: Analyzing the history and future of the pink tax The influence of the pink tax and what measures can be employed against it Hannah Guo Varsity Contributor

Picture going to the pharmacy for a usual grocery trip to pick up some shaving cream and encountering two products from the same brand, where the only visible difference is their colour. One is pink, costing $2.49, while the other is blue, costing $1.69. When I encountered this, I justified it unconsciously, thinking it wasn’t common and it was a reasonable action for companies to price identical products differently. However, this pricing difference is known as the pink tax, and it’s a widely occurring phenomenon that encourages ­— and sometimes forces — women to pay more for many generally used products. What is the pink tax? The pink tax is not an actual tax, but a genderdiscriminatory yet legal pricing practice. Decades of gender-based colour coding has ingrained a distinction between pink products for women and blue products for men. This discriminatory marketing campaign has induced the pink tax and many other sorts of pricing biases. From a study reported by the New York City Department of Consumers Affairs, across the 35 product categories that they surveyed, women

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paid higher prices 42 per cent of the time, while men paid higher prices 18 per cent of the time. Furthermore, the study showed that when it comes to children’s clothing, girls’ clothes cost four per cent more than boys’ clothes on average, and the pricing gap for toys and accessories can be up to seven per cent. Along with the higher price, women only make 83 cents on each dollar that a man earns in the same position. Women face the ironic situation of earning less but paying more. Therefore, their purchasing power is weakened in the economic market. The pink tax in Canada Research from Parsehub in 2016 showed that women pay an average of 43 per cent more on hygiene products compared to men. However, the pattern has worsened over the last five years. In 2021, Parsehub found that women in Canada now pay over 50 per cent more on unisex hygiene products than men. Ontario attempted to introduce a bill to stop gender-based price discrimination back in 2005. It aimed to prohibit discriminatory pricing practices since it is against the Human Rights Code. However, the bill was eventually referred to the standing committee and no further action has been documented.

Can we do anything about this? The short answer is yes. In 2016, a bill called “The Pink Tax Repeal Act” was introduced in the United States, calling to outlaw the pink tax on both consumer goods and services. Although it failed to go through Congress, the act put the pink tax under the legislative spotlight and spread awareness about it. The state of New York placed a ban on the pink tax in 2020 by requiring the providers to present price standards and lists. Furthermore, marketers can work with legislators and educate consumers on relevant matters. For instance, in 2018, the European Wax Center launched a campaign named “AxThePinkTax” to draw attention to it and bring awareness to citizens. On the individual level, we can support companies who use gender-neutral pricing and stay aware of potential pricing gaps when we shop for products like razors and shaving cream. Currently, there is no ongoing action against the pink tax. With the pandemic, womens’ unemployment rate skyrocketed to 12.8 per cent between February and April 2020, while mens’ unemployment rate rose to only 9.9 per cent. This has further impacted women’s purchasing power within the economy. As the pandemic and lockdown measures persist, the pink tax issue is more urgent than ever.


Comment

January 10, 2022 thevarsity.ca/section/comment comment@thevarsity.ca

Emily Faubert Varsity Staff

UMLAP gives U of T undeserved power

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The policy extends U of T's wide reach with vague wording

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I’m in the 10th year of my four-year diploma, set to finally graduate this spring. When I came to university, I was not prepared for what was to come. A lifetime of unmanaged neurodivergence reared its head in the new pressure-filled environment, and I voluntarily removed myself from school before returning with accommodations. It was not an easy decision to make — and it was one that I’m glad the university had no part in. I read through The Varsity’s recent coverage of the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP), and while I can see how this policy can be applied beneficially in some cases, its wording implies a trust in U of T that many students no longer have. The university has recently wielded its power for ideological reasons inappropriately — I’m thinking of the recent law school scandal, in response to which the Canadian Association of University Teachers has only just lifted its censure. This scandal showed the university prioritizing the interests of donors within the institution’s functionings. If the priority of an institution is making money in order to stay operational, then mental health and the student population in general cannot also be the primary focus of the university. This policy makes that extremely clear, exchanging any wording that would imply a duty to the health of its students for a non-binding document that allows the university to decide what is best for a student. The policy states that “the University will generally have pursued and sought the Student’s participation.” However, the word “generally” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. This wording theoretically allows the university

to take action without requiring it to pursue student participation beforehand. Yes, this allows for quick removal if someone is an immediate harm, but the policy also gives the university a wide reach with little need to validate the threat it perceives, as pointed out in a letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). The UMLAP asks for trust with the hope it won’t be abused, but there is arguably no real reason to grant that trust in the first place. In a response to the OHRC’s letter, U of T’s acting vice-president and provost, Trevor Young, wrote that students who were put on leave were “assigned a Case Manager and Student Support Team, which includes a licensed psychiatrist.” The policy itself shows no requirement to provide a psychiatrist, instead providing a large list of people that could be involved, including Campus Safety.

One of the thresholds that allows the university to activate this policy is the vague phrase “harm that involves substantial impairment of the educational experience of fellow students,” with no benchmark for “substantial” or clear definition of “educational experience.” The vague wording of this document is the real issue. As I read through the policy, I was able to think of tons of scenarios that permitted removing students, even if the university had no intention of using the UMLAP that way. My own case of leaving school was voluntary and not mandated by the university, but my worry is that U of T could have used the UMLAP if it wanted to. I want to draw attention to another huge issue with the UMLAP — the university’s ability to remove a student’s access to counselling services.

U of T must take phishing scams seriously Phishing scam emails are flooding student inboxes, but U of T remains apathetic

WENDY ZHANG/THEVARSITY

James Jiang Comment Columnist

I have a twin sister. Normally, she’s a mechanical engineering student at U of T. But a few months ago, for a couple of days, she went from being a U of T student to a hiring agent for a steel manufacturing company. From her U of T Outlook email address, a message was sent out to hundreds of other U of T students: “Can you handle the position of account receivables agent for Tarwada International Steel Manufacturing LLC, who can handle its account from its customers in Canada / USA?” What happened? And why was she sending emails on behalf of Tarwada? It’s because U of T has done a pathetic job in preventing and raising awareness about scam emails. The way the vast majority of these email scams work is simple: scammers send an email

that appears to be from a reputable source — for example, some company, or even U of T itself — and entice users to click on a link that steals sensitive information. This stolen information is used to open new accounts and invade a victim’s current accounts. Scammers are capable of doing so by exploiting the technical, social, and psychological vulnerabilities of their victims. My sister’s unwitting employment began when she received an email in her U of T mailbox. It alerted her that U of T’s email system had been updated and that she had to change her login information through a provided link. My sister — tired from exams and schoolwork — clicked on the suspicious link and entered her information. She fell prey to the scam. Then, in a matter of hours, she was locked out of her account and unknowingly became a recruiter for a steel company, which was obviously another scam.

My sister is somewhat at fault for her gullibility, but the real onus falls on U of T. Week by week, a constant stream of these scams funnel into U of T mailboxes — and the vast majority of students can testify to this. It isn’t just my sister that’s been on the receiving end: a recent Varsity article talked about how 40,000 U of T students were targeted by phishing emails. U of T’s efforts to address this problem have been mediocre. Its plan consists mainly of issuing warnings, posting on social media, and sharing educational information. For example, in response to the aforementioned phishing campaign, the university released a notice warning students and giving them information on what to do if they were a victim. However, this notice was published in a blog in some cobweb-filled corner of U of T’s website — it wasn’t even sent to students’ Outlook emails. Moreover, the fact that so many scams still

I can understand this in some circumstances — if a student is a threat to others or we don’t want them to be on campus — but counselling services can be provided online or by phone, and depriving someone of help when they need it the most is absolutely inappropriate. Having this restriction in the policy shows an enormous disregard for students’ mental health, or at least a misunderstanding of it, and should have been a red flag when the policy was drafted. Certainly, the university ought to have ways of quickly removing students who may harm themselves or others. However, the UMLAP is a vague process that allows the university to pretty much do anything, which is a nightmare policy out of a dystopian novel. This policy implies that students trust the university with their mental health, but puts zero responsibility on the university to promote greater mental health. The UMLAP needs work. I hope that the review and consultations currently being done on the UMLAP result in a rewritten policy. U of T must continue consulting its students and publishing reports on the usage of this policy so that the community knows it isn’t being wielded inappropriately. The policy’s vague wording theoretically allows for a unique solution for each student, but the UMLAP requires a trust that the university has no reason to expect of its community. With its recent history of being swayed by donor interests, I do not believe that the university has my mental health interests as its top priority, and no student in an institution that must turn a profit should. Students will always come second, and this careless policy illustrates that perfectly. Emily Faubert is a fourth-year journalism and philosophy student at UTSC. flood inboxes is evidence of U of T’s inadequate scam email prevention. Of course, it’s necessary to note that completely blocking out scam emails is impossible. Some emails inevitably slip through the cracks: even the strongest firewalls and security systems have blind spots. Asking U of T to completely eradicate scam emails is unrealistic. However, it’s a different story when so many scam and phishing emails are slipping through the cracks. While it’s a step in the right direction that U of T is doing something at all, awareness remains inadequate and scam emails continue to flood inboxes. Essentially, the measures taken by U of T have been far from impactful. According to cybersecurity experts, prevention of these phishing scams comes in the form of a two-step action plan: implementing better technical solutions — including detection and protection technology — and improving cyber security awareness. U of T needs to engage in this plan. The only way to decrease victim numbers is to consolidate the university’s online network security and commit to meaningful scam awareness measures. Right now, however, U of T’s efforts are disappointing. While the university sits back and twiddles its thumbs — and as U of T Student Life greedily promotes that special U of T Bookstore sale — it is forgetting to protect its students. While the university sends out completely useless “9 new things that you might not know” emails to students, a mass of scam emails are also being sent out. While U of T remains apathetic, there are mentally exhausted and over-trusting students like my twin sister frustratedly trying to regain access to their Outlook emails. Students’ Outlook emails shouldn’t constantly be blitzed by scams. U of T must take action to address the root problem of inadequate cyber security and start taking these scam emails seriously. No U of T student should ever need to worry about unknowingly becoming a recruiter for an obscure steel manufacturing company. James Jiang is a second-year political science and writing & rhetoric student at Trinity College.


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Wet’suwet’en land sovereignty and fighting the climate crisis go hand in hand With floods devastating BC, continued RCMP occupation sets a dangerous precedent Piper Hays Varsity Contributor

The day I found out that the highways connecting the Lower Mainland of British Columbia to the rest of Canada had been swept away by catastrophic floods, I also received a notification alerting me that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was once again occupying Wet’suwet’en territory in northern BC. The Wet’suwet’en people are not just defending their sacred lands from encroaching corporations and dangerous government overreach; Indigenous leaders have been warning us of the dire consequences of pipelines and other climate-unconscious industries for years. This is not the first time that the RCMP has occupied this territory. In the last few years, the RCMP has launched three occupations of Wet’suwet’en territory, arresting people protesting against the Coastal GasLink pipeline. These occupations are not only heinous misuses of power against Indigenous land protectors, but also show BC Premier John Horgan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s malicious apathy toward the rapidly approaching climate crisis. British Columbia is no stranger to climate emergencies: every year, forest fires ravage the dry interior of the province, turning the sky brown and setting off air quality warnings. However, BC suffered an even larger variety of climate crises in 2021 than in past years. The heat dome in June killed nearly 600 people in British Columbia at a time when deaths by COVID-19 and drug overdose were also on the rise. This past year also had the third worst forest fire season on record, and we experienced torrential, flood-inducing rain and atmospheric rivers that even led to a waterspout developing by the Vancouver International Airport.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the effects the current flooding has had on my home province. Highways have been swept away, cutting off supply routes by road to Metro Vancouver, and causing shortages in everything from gas to groceries. At one point, the quickest route to the interior of BC by land was through Washington state. Entire townships were forced to evacuate as their wastewater pumps failed. The flood has caused property damage, mass homelessness, and the destruction of both livestock and crops. The province is still in a state of emergency, with rainfall levels at over 300 per cent of the normal levels since September. However, despite the growing supply and infrastructure crises developing in the south of the province — especially the interior — the premier, prime minister, and RCMP seem to only be focused on the north, where land defenders are trying to protect Wet’suwet’en territory. Only four days after the flooding began, Wet’suwet’en land defenders once again saw their lands occupied by the RCMP, intent on clearing them off their traditional lands for Coastal GasLink’s pipeline, an order approved the same day the floods began. Premier Horgan has a history of sending the RCMP to do his dirty work: aside from the Wet’suwet’en occupations, the RCMP has a history of using excessive force to deal with the Fairy Creek blockade, which is being led by Indigenous leaders to protect one of BC’s last old growth forests, which is at risk of being logged. Worse yet, the silenced Indigenous leaders seem to be the only ones who care about the climate crisis at hand, and they come from some of the communities hit hardest by the current weather crises and supply shortages. Under normal circumstances, I would be angry

British Columbia experienced both raging forest fires and intense flooding in 2021. JADINE NGAN/THEVARSITY

— in this situation, I’m furious. As the cost of the flood reaches an estimated $7.5 billion in infrastructure damages and economic losses, I ask why the BC and federal governments are so intent on not only spending money to fight the Wet’suwet’en both in court and on their traditional lands, but also professing the pipeline’s necessity when it is clearly a hindrance. This is the ultimate display of politicians’ lack of care for the climate crisis. Empty words of condolence mean nothing when the government is content to protect pipelines over people, especially after Indigenous groups have repeatedly warned them for decades that our way of life is not sustainable only to have their protests steamrolled by the newest natural gas corporation. One argument I often hear is that something has to pay for fixing the climate: Trudeau himself has professed that money gleaned from the pipelines running through BC will be used to fix the climate crisis. However, it looks like we’re already paying for the pipeline, in more ways than one. The Trans-Mountain pipeline has contributed to a $11.9 billion loss and hasn’t yet repaid a single cent of it amid a myriad of delays, and that’s ignoring the environmental

damages it will inevitably cause. The Coastal GasLink pipeline is slated to cost more than $6.6 billion, with $42 million per year in maintenance after its completion. Meanwhile, the flood has already caused at least $450 million in damages. So why are we spending so much money to fix a problem that has already been siphoning our tax dollars for years? The handling of this climate crisis sets a dangerous precedent. If self-professed ‘environmentally conscious’ leaders like Horgan and Trudeau — and even normally outspoken and now conspicuously silent ones like BC MP Jagmeet Singh — get out of this unscathed, other Canadian and international leaders will feel welcome to take the same apathetic path. Right now, Toronto is relatively safe from climate disaster, but this won’t last forever. We have to hold our leaders accountable now, even when the problems feel distant. If there’s anything that BC has shown us, it’s that the climate crisis is here now — and if our leaders don’t care, we have to make enough noise until they do. Piper Hays is a first-year humanities student at Victoria College.

U of T’s pandemic decisions need to consider international students Late announcements negatively impact international students the most Luise Hellwig Varsity Contributor

U of T often does not take the needs of its international students into consideration. While the university takes pride in the prestige that the large international student population brings, very few administrative decisions are made with us in mind, which has led to significant challenges. Many in staff positions among college and faculty structures have tried to alleviate these challenges, but the root cause for most problems international students face lies with the senior administration’s conduct over the past pandemic years. A recent example of this was the university’s decision to cancel all in-person exams starting on December 16, 2021 and to move course instruction online until January 31, 2022. This decision was announced on December 15, 2021 — almost three weeks after the Omicron variant was first detected and two weeks after the Canadian government had officially banned foreign nationals from ten African countries from entering the country. The fact that the universityʼs decision was made so late reveals a significant disregard for international studentsʼ needs. The discovery of the new variant increased the chance of further travel bans over the holidays and winter break. This put international students in an extremely uncertain situation as

they were forced to make a decision on whether to stay in Toronto for the break or risk going home, potentially unable to return to Canada in time for the winter semester. This was especially true for students from countries the Canadian government had previously imposed prolonged strict travel bans on, such as India, since they could no longer be sure whether they would be allowed to re-enter the country. Meanwhile, U of T remained silent, offering no support to its international students worrying about the Omicron travel bans prior to the December 15 statement. Of course, U of T has to make decisions that are informed by provincial and federal guidelines, which means that it can take time for the university to make announcements to the student body. However, instead of leaving students alone in these uncertain situations, the senior administration should be more transparent about its plans of action for different scenarios and communicate with students in a more timely manner. For example, if the university had informed international students of the online instruction accommodations available — should they be forced to miss the beginning of the winter semester due to travel restrictions — it would have eased a lot of stress for international students. A better handling of the situation would have required both a more proactive approach to the pandemic and a greater understanding of student — especially international student — conditions. While different plans of action may

have been discussed and put in place internally, a more proactive approach also involves more transparency in order to be effective. If the student body is not aware of the possible changes that could happen at U of T when new COVID-19 variants surface, preparation falls short and negatively impacts the end result. Speaking of preparation, it was to be expected that case numbers would increase again with colder temperatures toward the end of the semester, which is already a stressful time because of midterms, final assignments, and exams. Hence, many students were so busy during that time that it was difficult to find the mental and emotional capacity to make decisions with potentially far-reaching consequences. Furthermore, there was likely added academic stress, especially for first- and second-year international students with less experience leaving and entering Canada. Another factor that affects all students whose families don’t live in Toronto, but especially international students, is that flights become more expensive toward the end of the year. The Faculty of Arts & Science notoriously releases its exam schedule late in the semester, which barely leaves time to properly plan travel under normal circumstances if you don’t want to pay an exorbitant amount of money to go home over the winter break. The sudden cancellation of inperson exams this fall semester meant missed chances to return or spend more time at home for many students because of the high prices of

travelling, assuming a flexibility most international students don’t have. While the move to online instruction for the first three weeks of the winter semester is certainly helpful for international students who might have had to miss the start of the semester otherwise, the change was announced so late that most people had already made their travel plans. Additionally, why didn’t the university administration just push back the start of the winter semester as it did in 2021? A decision such as this would have made it easier for international students to return home from countries with long and strict quarantine requirements, such as China. U of T had over 13,000 Chinese international students in the 2020–2021 academic year, and international students in general make up more than 20 per cent of the student body. Our financial contributions to U of T’s annual budget exceed those of the provincial government. Regardless, international students deserve to be considered properly in the administration's decision-making. We need a comprehensive, transparent, and timely overview of the plans of action for different scenarios, and the support and accommodations available to all students. Luise Hellwig is a fourth-year human geography and political science student at University College. She is one of the administrative coordinators for the International Studentsʼ Advocacy Network at U of T.


thevarsity.ca/section/comment

JANUARY 10, 2022

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U of T should offer non-credit French courses Learning Canada’s co-official language can lead to previously inaccessible career opportunities Anthonie Fan Varsity Contributor

Walking down Yonge Street a couple of weeks ago, I found myself surrounded by yellow cabs and NYPD vehicles — yet another filming crew pretending that the 6ix is interchangeable with the Big Apple. However, there is one clear difference between Toronto and New York: while the US has no official language, Canada’s Official Languages Act stipulates two co-official languages of the land, English and French. Nevertheless, as an international student at U of T, I find it hard to honour the equal dignity of the two languages. U of T does have an English language learning program for students who struggle with the language, but the university does not provide anything similar for the other official language of Canada. Both current Governor General Mary Simon’s and Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau’s inability to speak French has sparked controversy. Even Ontario Premier Doug Ford lacks proficiency in French, which has been the subject of memes on the internet. Hence, a strong command of both English and French seems to be expected, if not strictly required, for leadership roles in this country. Many parents across Ontario send their kids to French immersion schools or make them learn French at school. However, many international students have never gotten opportunities to learn French. Thus, the government incentivizes aspiring Canadians to learn both English and French. By mastering both official

languages, international students can pave their way to better jobs and immigration benefits, if they wish. However, U of T fails to provide us with appropriate resources to learn the French language in non-academic settings. The French department does perform its job well in that it provides French courses for beginners, like FSL100 — French for Beginners. However, these courses are designed for academic purposes. As the co-official language of the land and the mother tongue of vibrant francophone communities across Canada, French should mean more than credits to U of T and its students. Introductory French courses being 100-level and counting toward GPA may deter students with a full course load or a suboptimal cumulative GPA from taking them. As a former student in FSL102 — Introductory French, I know that the course does not allow auditing — students going to lectures without enrolling in the course formally. As a result, students’ options to learn French are further limited. Furthermore, I did not have much opportunity to speak and write in French in that course. The academic nature of the course may make it hard for students aiming for day-to-day proficiency to take away what they need. Personally, I would love the opportunity to learn French, both as a way to know the country better and to help my future plans. However, a proper academic course feels like a major commitment and not all too helpful. One might point out that there are many ways to learn French by myself. They are not wrong. I have tried Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and CBC’s

Canada has two co-official languages: English and French. AVILA SANCHEZ/THEVARSITY

Mauril, but the former two do not provide help with Canadian French. Since we are in Canada, it would be asinine not to make use of the country’s rich linguistic diversity, which allows residents to practice different languages in their everyday lives. As an avid language learner, I can attest that learning a language is much more fun when you make friends in the process and do not have to worry about your grades. I would suggest that U of T launch a French language program for students who do not wish to pursue an academic course in it. The program could be structured similarly to the current one offered to students who aren’t native speakers of English. McGill University, an anglophone university in Montréal, currently offers non-credit French programs and activities through its French Language Centre and student unions. However, given that Toronto, unlike Montréal, is not a francophone city, the local student body is less likely

to be familiar with linguistic resources for French learners. The university, on the other hand, has sufficient academic resources and experience to deliver French language programs. Therefore, U of T should still take on the responsibility of establishing non-credit French programs. In June 2021, the federal government tabled Bill C-32, in an endeavour to deliver on Canada’s promise to be a multicultural society with two official languages of “substantive equality.” For students wishing to work in the government or other public sector positions, learning French may be a matter of great importance. Especially for incoming international students, U of T should stress the importance of the French language and provide students with the necessary resources to gain proficiency in the language, even if just for the sake of their careers. Anthonie Fan is a second-year ethics, society, and law student at Trinity College.


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FEATURES

Is r/UofT up for the challenge? Now more than ever, U of T’s community desperately needs a place to connect Maeve Ellis Varsity Contributor

Our university is the biggest in Canada. It maintains three campuses in three cities, runs over 700 undergraduate programs, and had approximately 95,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in it for the 2020– 21 school year, many of whom are now learning remotely from all across the world. Especially now that classes have moved online again, cultivating casual friendships — like with the person sitting next to you in tutorial — seems unlikely. So what does a meaningful sense of community look like at U of T? Our only hope of stringing together this colossal institution is the one thing that has also kept the world running during pandemic lockdowns: online platforms. Reddit, a discussion board-based social media site, is popular on campuses across North America, but something about it seems to especially click with our school. The Reddit forum — or subreddit — dedicated to U of T has approximately 79,000 subscribers. That may make it Canada’s largest university subreddit; in comparison, UBC’s subreddit has 63,100 subscribers and McGill’s has 39,800. Each day, around 65 people post questions or rants on r/UofT, and those posts are met with over 150 comments on average. The subreddit is moderated by a five-person group that oversees its content and bans rule-breaking users. On the surface, r/UofT merely seems like a space for mundane or meme-related material, but the platform’s impact and power should not be underestimated. “The U of T subreddit is essentially the only U of T-specific place where people can congregate online,” Jane*,

a member of the subreddit’s moderating team, told The Varsity, “There is no other resource on the internet that is even comparable.” The sense of connection that it offers is all the more crucial now: since the first wave of pandemic lockdowns in March 2020, r/UofT’s subscriber count has grown by 77 per cent. This platform, entirely out of the U of T administration’s control, is our best shot at keeping this sprawling institution’s community intact. Whether it can live up to the task without becoming a toxic, negative cesspool like much of the rest of the internet remains to be seen. “Come for the cats, stay for the empathy” r/UofT is currently many students’ go-to place for asking practical school-related questions, such as “What’s the easiest bird course?” or “How do I navigate Quercus?” In response to posts like these, other students promptly spring into the comments section with personalized answers. A survey conducted for this article indicates that users are often first drawn to the site for pragmatic matters or entertainment. Out of 689 responses from subreddit users, 44 per cent said they mostly use r/UofT for “information about courses/professors” or “general information.” In comparison, 38 per cent of respondents were drawn to the forum by “unserious, fun, or funny stuff.” According to Bree McEwan, an associate professor who studies online cultures at U of T’s Department of Sociology, forum users may initially seek out an online network for frivolous purposes, and then eventually remain for deeper reasons. She points to Reddit’s motto, “Come for the cats, stay for the empathy.” According to her research, people often seek out online groups to find information, as well — “but then, the longer they hang out there,

and the more coherent the community is that they find there, the more likely they are to stay [and] feel like they’re part of a community.” That seems to be the case on r/UofT. Some users clearly rely on the platform as an emotional outlet or use it to establish community ties. Interspersed between questions about practical topics, you can find posts from lonely students desperately looking for friends, or others seeking a school-wide discussion on the latest administration blunders. Of the survey respondents, 17 per cent said they mostly use the subreddit for purposes like “connecting with people online,” “social advice,” or “venting/talking about problems with the school.” The very same socialization that has been yanked away by lockdowns and hindered by our school’s stringent academic culture is rampant in this chat room. Maybe we should reexamine U of T’s reputation as being made up of lonely students when the first thing many do when returning to their dorm rooms is crack open their laptops to join a lively online chat. From open-ended discussion starters about online classes in January — “Why do students have to put up with this?” — to calls to arms — “They would rather screw us over than have grade inflation” — the sheer volume and variety of the posts that tens of thousands of students bond and debate over is staggering. They are usually met with dozens, sometimes hundreds, or even thousands of replies. The pandemic has increased the number of students using r/UofT to grasp at any semblance of community. According to Jane, since March 2020, “there definitely has been an uptick [in] these sorts of requests like, ‘I’m lonely,’ ‘I want friends’ or ‘is anyone here looking for friends.’ ”

However, there is a downside when an online community like this serves as an outlet for student emotions. Just as student emotions may turn negative, so too can the tone of the chat board’s discussions. The disproportionately struggling students attracted to venting on the platform — and the depressing, sometimes angry, vitriol they tend to post — can make for a miserable environment. To read through posts from unhappy students is to read about a U of T from a hellish alternative universe. A post by the user u/ somuchregret, solemnly titled “To high school students and guidance counsellors,” says, “Do not enrol in this university. Do not let your students enrol in this university… I’m writing this out of some sense of duty.” Last November, the user u/FatOrangutan007 posted, “I don’t understand anything in class anymore. Idk what to do.” Another, by u/CogitoErgoProduct, is titled, “Why the hell am I here?” This negativity is perhaps the biggest deterrent to other students partaking in what should be a positive space. Cody Stipelman, a first-year humanities student, told The Varsity, “90 per cent of what I see on the U of T subreddit is people who seem like they’re always suffering and just miserable.” People who are thriving post about their successes on Instagram or LinkedIn. Those who are struggling to survive vent about it in desperate 3:00 am rants on r/UofT. The proliferation of negative content on this forum delivers a loud and clear message that many students are managing horribly with the pandemic, online school, and university in general. Why is the subreddit so popular? There are many possible reasons as to why r/UofT has become the online home for our


features@thevarsity.ca

ANDREA ZHAO/THEVARSITY

to a post, “you feel like you’re walking into a room where there’s a conversation already transpiring, and you can participate.” school’s sprawling community and also the platform of choice for hordes of miserable students to voice their grievances. Perhaps we’re seeing evidence of a preference for truly student-run online spaces, as opposed to school-run outlets. When the average student’s day is spent following along in tightly run Zoom classes, or biting their tongues to avoid conflicts in hierarchical relationships with professors, it is easy to understand the yearning for a space where they feel free. According to McEwan, spaces like these enable students to “recapture some aspects of community that are important for feeling like you’re not socially isolated — for feeling like you’re integrated [into] the university.” While conducting research for this article, I started a subreddit thread asking users why they were drawn to the site. A user, u/RookieScientist, replied, “students want a ‘private’ community… the minute professors and staff get on here it changes the environment imo.” Survey data confirms just how student-heavy the platform is. In another poll I created, the most populous group of users was students, who amounted to 86 per cent of the 724 respondents. The smallest group was professors lurking on the subreddit, who made up 3.5 per cent of respondents. As a whole, Reddit is structured to minimize people’s importance as individuals and emphasize that they are only small pieces of a larger group. Brett Caraway, a professor at the Faculty of Information, told The Varsity that platforms like Facebook and Instagram are structured to highlight individuals, as demonstrated by all the biographical detail that goes into setting up profiles on those sites. On the other hand, bulletin board systems like Reddit are community-driven. Since comments are threaded in response

Anonymity Reddit also encourages community ties by striking the perfect balance with its level of anonymity. The goofy usernames that people use are tied to rigid and transparent identities on the website, but are still completely separate from the real person behind the screen. This allows users to recognize and make friends with other online identities, while still being able to express themselves openly without fear of reprisal in real life. William*, one of r/UofT’s moderators, has hopped on the subreddit almost every day for the four years he has been moderating it. He agrees that the ability to recognize other usernames can help form friendships: “just [from] posting regularly… I see the same people over and over.” The comfort of anonymity may explain the reams of posts about seeking mental health support. One of many posts about mental health, from November 11 of last year, reads “I’m a second year at UTSG with no friends or social life and it’s been affecting my mental health as well as my academic standing. I fear that my mind might break down sooner or later. Does anyone have similar experiences to me or have tips on how to improve my situation?” It is hard to imagine that whoever wrote this would be as comfortable with providing this information to others in a classroom or at the family dinner table. However, even as anonymity makes it easier for struggling students to express their feelings, it has a flip side: nasty online trolls also feel more free to make themselves heard. William has personally been targeted by cyberbullies on the subreddit. He told The Varsity that certain users keep engaging in harassment, and sometimes go after specific people. “[It] seems like a weird hobby, man.”

Both the moderators interviewed for this article asked to be identified only by their first names because they had concerns about harassment and privacy. Stepping up to the challenge Now that classes are online for all of January — and perhaps longer — figuring out how to improve the way we connect online has never been more vital. School-run platforms, like virtual orientation events, restrain students from being themselves. Individualistic social media platforms, like Instagram, fail to provide a meaningful sense of community. We need a virtual forum on which to connect, and r/UofT is our best shot at this. The question is, what can help the subreddit step up to the challenge? Perhaps moderators, including the two that The Varsity spoke with, could take the initiative to steer it in a healthier, more positive direction. They are already upfront about how they block specific, egregiously harmful content. Jane said that most decisions to remove content are “very black and white, in the sense that ‘oh, this person used a racial slur.’ ” William added that subreddit users have criticized the moderator team for not removing certain posts. “The thing I try and tell people is that if there’s 100 bad posts that shouldn’t be on the subreddit… we remove 99 of those posts, but users will only see that one post [that isn’t removed].” It is tempting to consider top-down solutions to deal with this messy, unrestrained, free-for-all platform. But the base-level fact remains: isn’t free discussion what draws people to the subreddit in the first place? Any solution to steer it in a more positive direction should not hinder this fundamental feature. To William, telling people not to post as much negative content crosses a line. “Who am I to tell these people they aren’t allowed to have those feelings or voices?” Instead, there is one solution that would

be more in line with the ground-up manner the subreddit was built with: encourage more of the school community to take an active part, so it is more representative of the wider student body. Lorie Berberian, a first-year social sciences student, told The Varsity that she would be more open to using the space if there was a greater variety of people logging in — for example, she suggested that hearing professors’ perspectives could be helpful. William also believes that the subreddit does not represent the full university population: “it’s the people who feel very negatively who are going to be more vocal… the people who aren’t having problems, people doing well in most of their classes, aren’t rushing out to go talk about it.” Vanessa Ho, a second-year student studying animal biology, called the subreddit’s atmosphere a “double-edged blade.” Ho added, “On one hand, students need to be able to express themselves and it’s easier to do it anonymously online. But on the other hand, when you’re on a web page that has nothing but [struggling] students talking about how suicidal, sad, and awful their lives are, that’s going to drag you down too.” Ho has taken a first step to fix this by making encouraging posts to balance out the current unhappy usership. r/UofT is likely to be embedded into our school fabric for a long time to come. Maybe it will entrap a small number of users in a pit of negativity, or connect tens of thousands to a virtual community during future lockdowns; we can’t assume we know the voids it will fill and the purposes it will serve in the future. But, no matter what influence it has on the school, it is bound to be a growing one. Jane said it best: “the only trend that I can really honestly predict is that our user base will grow.” *Names changed due to privacy and harassment concerns.


Arts & Culture

January 10, 2022 thevarsity.ca/section/arts-and-culture arts@thevarsity.ca

Hallelujah! Handel’s Drag Messiah proved opera isn’t a drag OperaQ’s online performance features performances by U of T voice students Hannah Carty Editor-in-Chief

Bees wearing eyeliner? A sad clown? Zombies? You may not expect to see any of these elements in the typical performance of composer George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, but then again, Handel’s Drag Messiah is trying to be anything but typical. Handel’s Drag Messiah was put on by OperaQ, an independent queer opera company in Toronto. It was sponsored by U of T’s Student Initiative Fund and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and was available virtually until January 2. The Varsity sat down with co-founders and co-directors Camille Rogers and Ryan McDonald to discuss the production. Rogers and McDonald are both current doctoral students in music at U of T, where they met and began conceptualizing the idea for OperaQ. Their first performance was Dido & Belinda, in 2019. “OperaQ really just came from a desire for us to want to be ourselves on stage and to see different stories, different narratives portrayed on the operatic stage,” said Rogers. The idea for a drag version of the Messiah had been brewing for almost a year. Handel’s Messiah is a very popular oratorio that is typically performed each year around Christmas, meaning most singers come into contact with it at some point. “Messiah is always going to happen,” said Rogers, “but it’s like, how can we make it a little more interesting? A little more inclusive?” So, the founders started coming up with

preliminary ideas, such as the possibility of having a drag pageant with elements of the Messiah. They had initially hoped to host an in-person performance — which they still hope to do at some point in the future — but settled on a scaled-down, COVID-19-friendly version. Their final pre-recorded performance, filmed by videographer Taylor Long, consisted of six different arias from the Messiah, all performed by U of T voice students in drag. “I think opera and drag go together so well because they’re both so over the top and just about the pageantry and the spectacle,” said Rogers. “There is nothing realist about opera or about drag. It’s all over the top, just totally out there.” As for the performers, Rogers and McDonald wanted to work with undergraduate voice students at U of T. “We knew they would have almost virtually no experience getting to really be a queer, trans person onstage and have that celebrated,” said McDonald. They also made sure that all the performers were completely comfortable with what they were doing, something they noted is not always common for professional singers or performers. “We want everything we do to be really artist-led, because something we see in the opera industry is sort of top down hierarchical models — like, the director tells you what to do, and you do it,” explained Rogers. “And so we always really want to do the opposite of that and really have the artists involved in the creative process.” The performance was hosted by Toronto drag performer Gay Jesus, who also helped the individual performers come up with their own unique drag persona for each number. All the performers

went through multiple rounds of consultations, going over elements such as their musical choices, wardrobe, and makeup. Many of the performers also selected pieces that are not typically performed by their voice type. For example, Rogers, a mezzosoprano, performed a number typically sung by a bass. Their number featured the lyrics “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised.” When creating their character, they realized the lyrics are about “raising people from the dead. And I was like, ‘Well, I have to be a zombie then.’ ” “I will say that there was no one who was short of creative ideas,” said McDonald. “If anything, we had too many ideas and too many numbers, which I think we knew would happen.” Up next for OperaQ is the all-digital production Medusa’s Children, an original composition commissioned by the company. McDonald described it as “a mythical mystical queer explosion of epic proportions.” “It is truly a project people are not going to want to miss,” he added.

My missed connection with an IUD By ‘dating around,’ I learned which form of birth control matches me Madeline Szabo Arts & Culture Columnist

My IUD romanced me through its one-sentence description on Planned Parenthood’s website. Instead of roses, it promised me 99 per cent effectiveness in preventing pregnancy. In lieu of a dinner, it pulled me with the promise that I would forget about it for three to 10 years. After one of our first dates — a five-minute phone call with my doctor — I was immediately ready for the longest committed relationship of my life. My IUD, whom I’ve lovingly named Jelly, is made of striking copper. Never have I laid witness to a lover so gorgeous. Without hormones, Jelly would never dare to cause my skin to break out. Another bonus was that it would never change my mood — it vowed on multiple sexual health websites not to cause depression. I could not wait for my blissed-out, five-year love affair to begin. Unfortunately for my lovesick uterus, no relationship is without its problems. Just as the affair began, I desperately raced to catch the subway to my doctor’s office. My hands were sweating through Jelly’s paper packaging. Sofia Coppola herself could not have directed an opening scene so stirring. Upon arriving at the office, I could tell something was not right. My desperate search found every door locked. In a hallway — lit poorly, only by floodlights — I allowed the bad news to sink in: the doctor and I had misunderstood each other when arranging our rendezvous. My date had ghosted me. Despite my disappointment, these circumstances did not deter me. I remembered that some of the greatest romances begin with a missed connection. Our make-up date was scheduled for a

week out. Jelly waited for me steadfastly, and I made him a cozy spot drowning under the spare change in my junk drawer. I spent our time apart productively — by this, I mean obsessively googling everything about my soon-to-be-love. My background research led me down disturbing passages. Jelly’s former lovers, many of whom I found on TikTok, teared up at remembering their experiences. Its reviews when googling were abysmal. Few of Jelly’s exes had been safe from the worst menstrual pain of their lives. Despite this setback, I stayed loyal. I was determined to be different from its past loves. Jelly seemed to have a different plan for our romance. When our next date came, I hid tears as a kind secretary with an enormous engagement ring told me the appointment had once again been scheduled for a different time. There is a certain kind of heartbreak to a relationship ending before it has even properly started, and I was determined not to experience that. I dutifully scheduled another appointment. When the time came that we could finally be together, I had one final test: to pee in a cup. You see, Jelly needed to ensure that I was not pregnant, which I assumed meant that he wanted to make sure he had me all to himself. What a gentleman! Unfortunately, the butterflies in my stomach were flying too much for any pee to come out. Calming my nerves, I figured that drinking a half litre of water would solve my problem. If not, then I’d prove my devotion by swallowing a whole litre of water. Once the jar of pee was eventually in my hand, I knew that there were no obstacles our love could not conquer. But when I saw my gynecologist’s stirrups, I knew this was not true. My pelvic floor became so tense that it acted as an impenetrable

wall. I was left dumbfounded about how Jelly and I would ever consummate our love; though I took deep breaths through my nose and seemingly down past my pelvis, I couldn’t offer a doctor a peek inside my body. After far too many attempts to make the relationship work, my doctor told me to sit up. “You know you

don’t have to do this?” she said, as patiently and kindly as any good lover’s friend. “What other choice do I have?” I asked. Being a good wingwoman, my doctor set me up on a date with another possible suitor: the birth control pill. Everyone falls in love differently, and we fall in love for many different reasons. Many of us needing birth control fall madly for the IUD, but later find that another lover is more suitable to our needs. My birth control pill calls me once a day. I admire how attentive it is and find it attractive how it boasts of being 91 per cent effective. With all the birth control options available today, there’s no need to be a hopeless romantic. Your love story awaits you — it could be a needle, a patch, or condoms. My advice is to consider that, no matter how unorthodox,

Handel’s Drag Messiah was put on by independent queer opera company OperaQ. COURTESY OF RYAN MCDONALD/OPERAQ

any available option could be your one true love — that is, unless you believe that the pull-out method is meant for you. That’s not love; that’s an irresponsible Tinder hookup. Finding your match can be challenging. But, as many know, the best part of dating around is learning about yourself and your preferences in the process. Besides, as someone who found their love after trial and tribulation, I can honestly say that the most uncomfortable part of my experience wasn’t the series of awkward first dates — it’s my ex still living in my junk drawer until it can find its feet.

ROSALING LIANG

/THEVARSITY


thevarsity.ca/section/arts-and-culture

JANUARY 10, 2022

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Blue-Skinned Gods review: The extent of a child god’s self-confidence UTSC professor SJ Sindu writes a remarkable deconstruction of faith and godhood Whitney Buluma Varsity Staff

Blue-Skinned Gods is the second novel written by author and UTSC creative writing professor SJ Sindu. The book follows the child god Kalki, the final human incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and the tests he must face to reach maturity. Kalki’s birth was prophesied by the Hindu text Sri Kalki Purana, which states he must endure three trials to mature. Sindu’s novel starts before Kalki’s 10th birthday, which is when he is expected to complete the first trial. By completing the three trials, Kalki is supposed to prove himself worthy of his godhood and embark on a global healing tour to connect with his devotees. However, Kalki must also face the unofficial tests that come with growing up: learning to think for himself; falling in love; grappling with the nuances of ethnicity, gender, cultural ownership, and sexuality; and figuring out his capacity for self-determination. To enrich the plot of Blue-Skinned Gods, Sindu drew from her upbringing in Sri Lanka and immigration to the US. In an interview with NPR, Sindu mentioned that her Hindu background led her to explore how faith intersects with identity and “the lies we tell to ourselves.” Sindu’s perspective about growing up is most prominently seen in the beginning of her novel, as most of its chapters are told from Kalki’s childhood perspective. This narration makes it easier for readers to become immersed in the goingson at the ashram where Kalki is raised. Initially a closed system, the ashram occupies the majority of Kalki’s time for much of his childhood. The protagonist only encounters the outside world when people — such as terminally ill children, journalists, and those suffering from substance

abuse — come to the ashram seeking favours from him. In a sense, readers are raised alongside Kalki. Many can relate to his struggles with faith. Interwoven in these childhood chapters are instances where an adult Kalki reflects on his upbringing and doles out hints that complicate his more naive childhood narration. At its core, Blue-Skinned Gods is a story about a father and his son. Kalki greatly wants to please his father by fulfilling his destiny. Thus, almost all of the protagonist’s actions are either a subversion of or a reaction to his father’s expectations. This dynamic is the novel’s greatest strength; Sindu carefully peels the layers of this fraught relationship to reveal deeper insights about parenthood and control. Ironically, however, this strong father-son bond focus also contributes to one of the novel’s weaknesses: the character of Kalki comes off as a product of his father and the others around him, rather than as his own person. His different personae — infallible god, curious child, troubled teen — clash against one another, unable to cohere into a single identity, and leave him with only a slippery essence. As a result, the extent to which Kalki is liable for his actions and the actions committed in his name is questionable. While these complexities raise fascinating moral questions that are rightly left unresolved, I think these questions are also underexplored in the novel. As for the structure of Blue-Skinned Gods, the novel is divided into four books, each of which are permeated by loss and exploitation. Book one is named after Kalki’s cousin, Lakshman. Lakshman is my favourite character; while initially presented as Kalki’s sidekick, a lesser reflection of the child god, his character is fleshed out as the story moves forward.

Author SJ Sindu is a creative writing

Book two is one of the central professor at UTSC. COURTESY OF SARAH BODRI named after Kalki’s fatensions of the novel: ther, referred to as Ayya. His what is Kalki’s true raison commanding presence looms over d’être? How can a child god — the novel’s entirety, acting as a nexus for each born imbued with power and wisdom and of the story’s events. purpose — possibly grow up? Book three is named after Kalki’s mother, reBlue-Skinned Gods considers the repercusferred to as Amma. By hints at Amma’s personal sions of faith and godhood, meditating on the life, SJ Sindu skillfully uses omission to com- purpose of mythmaking. By exploring the communicate feelings of longing, repression, and modification and exotification of religion, the self-discovery. novel asks tough questions about the value of Finally, book four is named after Kalki faith. However, Blue-Skinned Gods cannot offer himself, who, after being shaped by all the definitive answers about the utility of godhood. people mentioned in the previous books, Instead, readers are encouraged to decide that must attempt to shape himself. Here arises for themselves. are also difficult to maintain because we focus on the goal instead of taking actionable steps toward our outcome. For example, we’ll keep our “I should read more often” mentality instead of placing a book on our pillows as a reminder. We’re not enamoured by reading at any one particular moment because it’ll mean interrupting our Gossip Girl marathons.

New year, new you? When writing s resolutions, focu on your habits

By creating resolutions based on a sporadic approach, you’re destined to write the same ones each year. KHUSHI SHARMA/THEVARSITY

Aissatou Odia Barry Varsity Contributor

This year, I didn’t celebrate New Year’s Eve with a party. Instead, I participated in one of the holiday’s other traditions: setting aside time for selfreflection. I sat at my brother’s desk and wrote down goals for 2022 in my journal. While reading over what I’d just written with so much hope, I came to a realization: my goals were the same as the ones I’d written for 2021. Back then, I promised myself to start exercising. One year later, I was stealing posture exercises from YouTube. I was discouraged by my apparent lack of progress. The most irritating part of my frustration was that I didn’t know where to place the blame — was I just undisciplined, or are New Year’s resolutions nothing more than a blatant lie? A history of New Year’s resolutions New Year’s resolutions are thought to have first

been used by the Babylonians in around 2,000 BCE. Their customs consisted of a 12-day religious festival, during which they made promises to earn the favour of their gods at the beginning of the new year. During that time, they also vowed to pay their debts and return the farming equipment they had borrowed. As the years passed, yearly resolutions continued in a variety of locations. For instance, during the middle ages, some knights took ‘peacock vows,’ where they renewed their commitment to chivalry toward the end of each Christmas season. However — with all due respect to New Year’s resolutions enthusiasts — a new year does not equate to a fresh start. When midnight passes, we do not become blank slates. Instead, we carry our fears, habits, aspirations and coping mechanisms with us into the new year, whether we acknowledge them or not. This doesn’t mean that intentions to become better versions of ourselves are naive. It just

means that we shouldn’t expect to receive everything we desire solely based on our intentions. Instead, we should examine our current selves to note behaviors and beliefs that could be hindering us from achieving our goals. Why do we fail at keeping resolutions? On average, people give up their resolutions in the first couple of months of the new year. This is because they have false hope syndrome, which is defined as a tendency to set unrealistic goals by miscalculating the amount of time and energy it would take to achieve them. In basic terms, most of us fall into the trap of expecting shortcuts. The instant gratification we’re used to — whether from hitting the snooze button on our alarms, buying products we don’t need, or eating junk food instead of balanced meals — makes the long efforts of establishing a new lifestyle seem unnecessary. But nothing ever comes from miracle solutions, with the poor exception of diarrhea. Resolutions

How can we make resolutions maintainable? Let’s be honest — New Year’s resolutions are often naive at best and delusional at worst. In Atomic Habits, writer James Clear explains that the secret to establishing good habits is to build a system of small but consistent gestures that will make you one per cent better each day. In other words, be realistic and start small. The secret is to make space in your daily routine for these tiny habits to exist. Humans love to obsess over the results of our efforts. However, we often fail to understand that we must strive for better habits regardless of their result. Don’t exercise because you want to have a smaller waist — exercise because wellness is your right, even if you’re not a suburban mom of two. Think about it: what happens after you’ve reached your goal? Do you put those newly developed habits back to sleep? Our resolutions must be attached to lifelong improvements, not a set date on a calendar. After all, there’s no deadline for self-growth. Ultimately, New Year’s resolutions can only work with focus. Every day, we must make decisions that align with our goals. Don’t base your approach on sporadic motivation — if you do, you’ll be like me and set the same resolutions every year. On that note, I wish you the best for this year. I hope that you’ll establish small habits that’ll make you happy. I hope you’ll revisit your resolutions not only with hope, but with strategy. In the meantime, I’ll be dusting off my yoga mat and reminding myself not to snooze my life away.


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THE VARSITY

arts@thevarsity.ca

ARTS & CULTURE

Abstinence is bliss? How a seemingly antiquated custom prompts deeper thought about sexuality

There’s freedom to have as much sex as you want, but there’s also freedom not to. COURTESY OF KYLER KWOCK/CC FLICKR

Sky Kapoor Associate Arts & Culture Editor

We were walking to New College when one of my friends first told me that he was waiting until marriage to have sex. The way he spoke was almost blasé, with a sort of certainty that I hadn’t seen before. Initially, I didn’t believe him — I’d never heard anyone speak so surely about the topic. He’d very quickly become one of my closest friends, and yet this value somehow hadn’t come up during our hours-long conversations or coffee runs. “I thought you weren’t religious?” I asked him. “I’m not. I just think it’s a good value to hold.” I thought about when I had lost my virginity. It wasn’t necessarily catastrophic or meaningful, but rather unremarkable. My high school was very lax in terms of swaying students from sexual promiscuity — I lost my virginity at 18 because I was convinced that I couldn’t go to university as a virgin. Even this was deemed “too late” at my high school; most people I knew had lost it years earlier. I’d hear coteries of young teenagers in the halls during lunch, gossiping about their latest sexual endeavours.

I bombarded him, then, with questions about the logistics of his decision: does it pertain to all sex, or just penetrative? What makes some sex okay, but not other types? Do you still seek pleasure? Do you still masturbate? What if you never get married? At some point, while he patiently answered all my invasive questions, I came to a realization: for someone who considers themselves widely educated in terms of sexual health, I know very little about waiting until marriage. I wasn’t raised religiously or with a “no sex before marriage” spiel from my family, nor was there any sort of stigma around the act from friends — but I’d never stopped to think about whether or not I really wanted to have sex at the time. I couldn’t help but wonder if I still would’ve elected to lose my virginity at 18 if I didn’t feel pressured to avoid the “adult virgin” label. I was so deep in my own world that I had neglected to consider another side of the sexual world, a place where people prided themselves on being virgins: abstinence. Voluntary celibacy might sound like a waking nightmare to someone who has already been

sexually active — why on Earth would anyone want to wait until marriage to have sex? Sex is good, for sure, but from a sociocultural perspective, there’s a panoply of novel ideas currently emerging that may force you to think about your sex life. Indeed, there’s been a shift in openness about sex, especially around hookups, which are becoming more ingrained in our culture. Media often portrays sex as this amazing, ecstacy-inducing act — and while it can be, studies show that hookup culture can negatively affect your mental health if it causes post-coital regret or unsurety. In the case of my 18-year-old self, while the act of losing my virginity was unremarkable, the lonely hollowness I felt afterward was not. I went home and took a shower, standing under the scalding water like I could wash away the experience. I knew I hadn’t done a bad thing, but the significance of the event hadn’t really dawned on me — it was just a random Tuesday in the grand scheme of things. While I won’t divulge the dirty details of my first time, I reiterate that it wasn’t extraordinary.

Instead, I just felt confused and strange, unsure if my decision was one that I had made for myself or that society had subconsciously made for me. Media shows how pervasive hookup culture can be, which can make it easy — especially as a woman — to fall into the idea that having casual sex equates to liberation, even if that isn’t something you personally endorse. At the time I lost my virginity, this idea hung heavy over my head. The prospect of losing my independence was petrifying, so getting my first time done and over with felt like a gateway to freedom. Of course, there’s benefits to having sex — we wouldn’t be so obsessed with it if there weren’t. A healthy sexual life can benefit our health by activating neurotransmitters and mood-boosting hormones. As well, having sex allows you to learn about your likes and dislikes. As such, it becomes beyond difficult to abstain from sex once you start having it, which is why I’m so impressed by those who do. Despite my mixed feelings surrounding losing my virginity, I haven’t been diligently abstinent since then. I’ve learned how to genuinely take control of my own sexual experiences, making decisions only where I feel comfortable. As for learning more about abstinence, long, involuntary periods of lockdown-endorsed celibacy have actually led me to notice that little bits of intimacy seem brighter and more meaningful when you’re not only focusing on sex. What I’d give to hold a hand right now is unmatched. Abstinence or periods of celibacy can also strengthen emotional bonds — if that’s your thing — and build up a rapport of trust and companionship between you and your partner. It’s refreshing to take a step back and consider the other side of the sexual world, especially since I was so immersed in sexual promiscuity from a young age. Though it seems obvious, it’s good to remember that there’s freedom to have as much sex as you want, and there’s also freedom not to. Ultimately, the choice should be yours — free from external influence.

An NFT is a unique data unit hidden in collectable digital files. PASCAL BERNARDON/UNSPLASH

What if Wikipedia pages became NFTs? We need to think about what we want the internet to become Faiz Jan Varsity Contributor

It’s hard to imagine that there could be a U of T student who hasn’t heard of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). It seems like everyone knows a ‘business bro’ who flexes their collections of artistic tokens. But say you’re not familiar with upcoming technology, and you’re asking yourself this question: what are NFTs? You might know them as over-glorified trading cards. If you ask someone familiar with them, you’ll likely get some broad, uninspired response along the lines of their definition: “A unique digital identifier that cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided, that is recorded in a blockchain, and that is used to certify authenticity and ownership.” While these broad definitions have some value, the truth is, NFTs are far more complex. Basically, an NFT is a unique data unit hidden in collectable digital files. That data unit is then

stored on a digital ledger which establishes proof of ownership through blockchain technology. Blockchain systems are also the foundation behind cryptocurrency, and are often a controversial topic because of their energy usage and environmental impact. Any kind of reproduced digital file can become an NFT so people can identify its original copy. This includes photography, art, music, videos, tweets, or memes. With NFTs, buyers pay for a file and proof that they own its original copy. In my opinion, NFTs could make or break the internet in the next few decades. In a conversation with a friend of mine, I started spitballing possibilities for the application of NFTs in the future. The biggest question that came to my mind — and the same one I pose to you now — was: What if Wikipedia pages became NFTs? Imagine that Wikipedia decided to sell its pages to buyers in the form of NFTs. Buyers could potentially purchase domains and therefore control

what goes on in them. Wikipedia could also sell individual sections of its pages — or perhaps entire pages — and give their buyers the right to change them, enforce rules for them, and require users to spend money to access them. I think of the internet as a place to share ideas, be creative, learn and explore without cost. With the implementation of NFTs, I think that it could gradually shift to become a market economy. At first, this change could be good. It could foster a generation of inspiration and development, allowing people to easily earn money for their contributions. But monopolies and oligopolies could also begin to develop, as corporations could purchase NFTs to gain further control over the internet. As these companies would grow, they could establish barriers to stop competitors from entering the market by establishing deals with technology giants to curtail remaining net neutrality efforts. Some companies could even purchase NFTs to spread disinformation on sites like Wikipedia to persuade consumers to buy their products.

But widespread use of NFTs might not be entirely bad for the internet. Public libraries could grow in usage because they offer free content, as opposed to online pages which could require a purchase to access information. Scientific researchers could use the internet to sell NFTs of their papers that could fund their independent research without having to find a journal that is willing to publish it, or to go through all of the steps of the regular publication process. Those needing sources of additional income could invest in NFTs which grow in value over time, and would be able to pay for their expenses by later selling them. This would create a new avenue of investment. Additionally, creatives and influencers could sell their products and trends. This dystopian internet is a pessimistic look at the future, but when I think about the current direction of the internet, it isn’t hard for me to imagine. While such a future may be a long time from now — or may never arrive — it helps to consider potential extremes before the public witnesses an even more dramatic rise in the use of NFTs. Before that happens, we should ask ourselves: what do we want the future of our internet to look like?


Science

January 10, 2022 thevarsity.ca/section/science science@thevarsity.ca

The man who almost destroyed the world The world came together to prevent disaster once. Can we do it again?

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Khatchig Anteblian Science Editor

What does it mean to be influential? What does a person have to do to leave a lasting legacy? There have been many exceptional people throughout history that have carved their spot in humanity’s memory — from cunning politicians like Julius Caesar to brilliant scientists like Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. However, every once in a while, there comes a person so remarkable that their influence and legacy carry on long after their name is uttered for the last time. One such person happened to be a scientist in the early twentieth century: Thomas Midgley Jr. His story is a cautionary tale, but also a story of hope. It is a story that showcases that humans are capable of coming together to solve problems and prevent a large disaster. Perhaps we could take a lesson or two from those who came before us to apply to the challenges of the climate crisis facing us today. The invention of the climate crisis At the turn of the twentieth century, as the Industrial Revolution continued to spread over the world, its negative environmental effects began to show. A lot of them were caused by the carbon emissions from factories as more and more of our everyday products were being mass produced. A lot of it also came from cars, which would become ubiquitous in urban areas. One thing that many people didn’t realize, however, was that the products they were using — and not just the production of those products — were contributing to large emissions of greenhouse gases. One man, however, has had more impact on the environment than any other single organism in Earth’s history: Thomas Midgley Jr., a chemical engineer and inventor in the early twentieth century. His inventions went on to become one of the primary causes of the depletion of the ozone layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. Midgley was a highly celebrated mechanical and chemical engineer in the 1920s and 1930s.

He is best known for introducing a compound called tetraethyl lead (TEL) as an additive for gasoline to prevent engine knocking in cars — the premature ignition of fuel outside of an engine’s regular cycle. Leaded gasoline was considered a huge breakthrough, and in 1922, the American Chemical Society awarded Midgley the William H. Nichols Medal for it. Another one of Midgley’s big contributions was synthesizing one of the first chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a series of molecules that are composed only of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, in various combinations. CFCs were created as safer alternatives to the toxic compounds that were being used at the time as refrigerants in air conditioners and refrigerators. For his creations, Midgley was awarded the 1937 Perkin medal by the American Chemical Society. Suffering from success As groundbreaking as Midgley’s discoveries seemed at the time — even gaining him medals and prestige in the scientific community — they all ended up causing harm in one way or another. As leaded gasoline became commonplace in 1923, factory workers started getting fatal lead poisoning, which led to a moratorium on TEL production until 1926. The moratorium was lifted and production continued when scientists at the time reached the consensus that only exposure to high concentrations of TEL were toxic and that it wasn’t harmful to the atmosphere. However, later studies showed that exposure to lead, even at low levels through the atmosphere, could lead to a decrease in children’s cognitive abilities. Lead exposure could also lead to physical health effects such as reproductive dysfunction and toxicity to the kidneys and blood. Midgley’s other invention, CFCs, were so useful that they became ubiquitous in many industrial and consumer products. In addition to being used as refrigerants, they were also used as propellants for aerosol spray cans such as hairspray products and asthma inhalers, and even in the making of styrofoam. As a result

of their many use cases, tons of CFCs were being pumped into the atmosphere every year. The ozone layer, as its name suggests, is primarily composed of ozone molecules, which is a molecule made of three oxygen atoms. When a CFC reaches the ozone layer, it is broken down by radiation from the sun, leaving chlorine atoms to bond with the ozone to create oxygen and chlorine monoxide. This creates a chain reaction where loose oxygen atoms bump out the chlorine atoms, which frees them to bond with more ozone molecules and weaken the ozone layer in the process. While there was evidence circulating in the 1970s that CFCs could be harmful to the atmosphere, by the time people realized the magnitude of the threat in 1985, there was already a giant hole in the ozone over Antarctica. If they didn’t take steps to fix the problem very soon, the ozone layer was going to be depleted enough that its protection against ultraviolet (UV) rays from space would have been weakened, which would have led to extreme UV radiation. UV radiation causes skin cancer in humans and is also harmful to plants and animals. Disaster was on the horizon and all hope seemed to be lost, but in an unprecedented move, the world’s countries came together to ban CFCs and many other chemicals that were contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer in an agreement called the Montreal Protocol. Saving the world, one signature at a time The Montreal Protocol is a global agreement, finalized in 1987, to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of ozone-depleting substances. It is the first climate agreement to be ratified by every single country in the world, and the most successful environmental agreement in history. A large part of the agreement’s success was the result of a widespread campaign led by scientists and environmental activists to effectively communicate the scale of the threat and its effects to the public. One of the leading

scientists in the campaign to save the ozone was atmospheric scientist Susan Solomon. She and her colleagues went on two expeditions to Antarctica, in 1986 and 1987, to observe the hole in the ozone and gather data. Their observations showed high levels of chlorine monoxide being released into the atmosphere by the breakdown of CFCs, confirming theories that had been circulating since the 70s. If not for the effort of countless scientists and environmental activists, we would have already seen large-scale depletion of the ozone layer, a disaster from which recovery might have been impossible. Current United Nations estimates say that the ozone in northern latitudes will recover by the 2030s, and the damage in the southern hemisphere over Antarctica is on track to heal by the 2050s. What have we learned? The story of the ozone layer shows us that given enough determination and cooperation, it is possible to overcome a situation that is thought to be hopeless. Even though we’ve successfully avoided the ozone disaster, we still have the climate crisis threatening life on Earth as we know it. While stories like this provide hope, they aren’t enough to solve the problem. In time, we’ll see if we will be able to follow in the footsteps of those that came before us. Midgley had one more invention that would prove to be the most disastrous — at least for him. In 1940, he contracted polio, which left him bedridden, so he created a system of pulleys and harnesses to help him get in and out of bed. One day, he accidentally got tangled in the ropes and was strangled to death. Midgley’s life took up a tiny fraction of human history, and yet his impact on the Earth will last much longer than that. He was unfortunate enough to die by his own invention, but we don’t have to let humanity meet the same fate. Will we learn a lesson from his story and the story of those that came together to prevent the disaster he caused, or will we let humanity die by its own hands?


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THE VARSITY

science@thevarsity.ca

SCIENCE

Real-life Pokémon cards showcase unique animal abilities From panther chameleons to dragon slugs, SciCards visually represent animal abilities Sky Kapoor Associate Arts & Culture Editor

If you played with Pokémon cards as a kid, you’ll be thrilled to get your hands on the new BMC SciCards. Michie Wu and Shehryar Saharan, two biomedical communications (BMC) students from UTM, have created beautiful, dynamic trading cards featuring animals with unique real-life abilities. The BMC SciCards were a collaborative extracurricular project for Wu and Saharan, which they described in an interview with The Varsity as a “fun spin-off of Pokémon cards.” The goal for these cards, as described by both Wu and Saharan, was to “communicate the science or special abilities of real animals,” while also being a way to connect with incoming students to their master’s program at UTM — biomedical communications, which is affectionately known as BMC to its students. The two-year program is one of a kind, and focuses on scientific visualization using various media, including traditional and digital methods of creating art. “We started this all on our own. We were just talking and we were thinking of ways to collaborate together,” Wu said. The pair noted that they were lacking collaborative projects in the first year of their program due to its online nature, and wanted to explore different ways to get eager incoming students acquainted with BMC. The result of their brainstorming was a series of cards by Wu, Saharan, and a few other

BMC students that showcase interesting animals rendered in each artist’s unique style, with descriptions of their most notable features and abilities on the back of the cards. “We had a lot of online meetings,” said Wu. “We’d have weekly meetings that were scheduled with each other just for SciCards.” For his SciCard, Saharan chose to draw and represent the panther chameleon, a beautiful,

complex creature whose skin has the ability to change colour. Saharan said that he’d always wondered how the chameleon can change the colour of its skin and was pleasantly surprised when he started researching it. “It turns out it has multiple skin layers that expand and retract, and there’s pigment that’s released. So there’s a combination of really interesting scientific mechanisms that happen at the microscopic

The cards combine the students’ scientific background with their artistic abilities. COURTESY OF BIOMEDICAL COMMUNICATION DEPARTMENT/UTM

scale that allow it to change colour within seconds,” he explained. Saharan’s piece was drawn traditionally using a method called “carbon dust.” Then, he scanned the drawing into a digital program to add alterations as desired. This flexibility between both traditional and digital mediums allows for artists to develop their own unique, hybrid style. Wu chose to represent a similarly beautiful animal, the blue dragon sea slug. “What it does is it ingests these tiny, tiny organisms that live within it. And these organisms live within its fingers, basically, like appendages that are off its main body,” she explained. She added that the organisms shoot out of the slug’s fingers as a defence mechanism. Wu and Saharan often get to exercise both their scientific backgrounds and their artistic skills in BMC. When they can’t find scientific diagrams that comprehensively explain certain mechanisms, they can take advantage of their skills and create visuals that explain these processes in a succinct manner. As for the SciCards, Wu and Saharan hope for this to be an annual endeavour. They hope that incoming students will participate in the project and make their own cards, to grow the project year by year. Saharan hopes to see a larger collection of BMC SciCards in the coming years. “We’ve already got the first set printed, and it’s going to go into the incoming welcome package for next year’s students, so hopefully it gets them interested in the project.” said Wu.

Hot take: Cold showers are better Looking at the science behind the benefits of cold showers

Mehrshad Babaei Associate Science Editor

Do you remember the time you made a grave error? You stepped inside the shower before you turned the water on. That initial burst — always chillingly cold — hit you hard. The cringe was unfathomable. The only thing more bone-chilling you can think of is looking at your final grades. That day a part of you died — the part of you that believes anything is possible, the part that says “Maybe I’ll graduate with a good GPA.” You changed, and now you’ve come to put your hand in first, or simply wait a little before taking a step in and embracing the warm or even steaming-hot shower. Tales that talk about miracle waters slowing or counteracting the aging process are as old as time. People have always looked for ways

to maintain their health: in the past, maybe by trying to bathe in mythical, rejuvenating springs, and these days, by taking time off social media and reading books in candlelit bathtubs with bath bombs. “Are you talking about a fountain of youth? And what does that have to do with cold showers?” you ask. It would be ridiculous to suggest cold showers restore youth, even though I did feel like a lost child in a blizzard screaming for help when I tried them initially. In fact, you may believe it’s preposterous to even think a cold shower is any good at all, let alone talk about it. However, I’m here to say cold showers can be your fountain of youth, minus the immortality, and well, minus the looking forward to basking in it. There’s no denying that warm showers are more comfortable, but that doesn’t mean they’re better, at least as far as science is concerned. Times have changed, and so have our antiaging strategies, but we’ve come to find out that — besides being vital for the survival of all living organisms on Earth — water is kind of cool, especially when it’s cool. One cold shower please, decaffeinated If you’re looking for a substitute for the everincreasing amounts of coffee you’ve been having every week, look no further. A research article reviewing 16 studies concluded cold water immersion has many effects on the body, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. In trials where participants were immersed in it for five minutes or less, cold water — that is, water at a temperature lower than 15 degrees Celsius — was shown to induce a ‘cold shock’ response, activating the sympathetic nervous system and increasing alertness. Whether you’re waking up from a poor night’s sleep, or trying to stay awake after pulling an all-nighter, a cold shower will

send a shiver down your spine that would make a wet cat jealous. If the prospect of no longer being dependent on caffeine is not enough, you may be intrigued to hear that cold showers can boost your immune system as well. A randomized study of more than 3,000 people in the Netherlands sought to find the effects on sickness, quality of life, and work productivity of routinely taking cold showers. The researchers found that those who regularly took cold showers, even for as little as 30 seconds, were 29 per cent less likely than a control group to call in sick for work. In fact, combined with regular physical activity, their results showed a 54 per cent reduction of absence as a result of sickness compared to individuals who don’t partake in either. Although there was no reduction in illness days taken, the researchers concluded the cold shower routine “resulted in a statistical reduction of self-reported sickness absence.” Furthermore, while the vast majority of participants reported variable levels of discomfort, 91 per cent reported the desire to continue with their cold shower routine, and 64 per cent actually did, which the authors note as “the most indicative of any health or work benefit.” Additionally, the researchers found that the most commonly reported benefit was “an increase in perceived energy levels,” including many comparisons to the effect of caffeine. The researchers highlight this study as the first to show that a routine cold shower has a beneficial effect on health. The cold companion As painful as they may be, cold showers are believed to potentially boost one’s mood as well. In addition to increasing alertness, the activation of the sympathetic nervous system from a cold shower may increase levels of hormones and neurotransmitters like endorphins

JENNIFER AYOW/THEVARSITY

and noradrenaline, which relieve pain, help with physiological function, and reduce depressive symptoms. A preliminary study has noted that, because of the high density of cold receptors in the skin, the cold water could result in an “overwhelming amount of electrical impulses” sent to the brain, potentially achieving an “antidepressive effect.” Ultimately, a nice, warm shower is admittedly a more pleasant experience. In fact, for the longest time, I only ever showered with steaming hot water. But ever since taking up a cold shower routine recently, even during these colder months, I feel better and it feels totally normal. While a lot more research needs to be done, the positive outcomes — as far as we’ve come to understand — warrant that at the very least, you give it a try. It’s time to quit hot showers, cold turkey.


thevarsity.ca/section/science

JANUARY 10, 2022

17

So your resolution is to read more. But where do you start? Four popular science books to kickstart a new reading habit Tahmeed Shafiq Managing Editor

Making eco-friendly glitter for guilt-free glamour UK researchers have developed methods to create biodegradable glitter Researchers say biodegradable glitter is mostly indistinguishable from more harmful alternatives. COURTESY OF SHARON MCCUTCHEON/CC UNSPLASH

Angel Hsieh Associate Science Editor

From eyeshadows to trendy lipsticks, many cosmetic products use glitter to give you a sparkle and create glamorous looks. Most glitter, however, is composed of tiny pieces of metallised plastic films, classed as microplastics, which pose threats of pollution to terrestrial and aquatic environments. This plastic debris is easily ingested by wildlife, causing increased risks of congestion in their organs and respiratory systems. Moreover, urban microplastic contaminations can be propagated in the atmosphere by wind. Unless we want to get rid of glitter completely — which doesn’t seem likely or even possible — the wide use of glitter in everyday products calls for the development of eco-friendly alternatives. The science of sparkles The base material of human-made glitter actually has the same chemical composition as plastic water bottles. Thin sheets of petroleumbased polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are cut into pieces that can be as tiny as 50 by 75 thousandths of a millimeter — smaller than the thickness of paper — to make clear glitter. In order to fabricate glitter that has a metallic glow, PET sheets must be metallised, a process that involves aluminum being deposited on both sides of the plastic film. The colour-changing effect of glitter arises from the refractive indexes of multi-layered polymers rather than any intrinsic property. Another issue with petroleum-based glitter is that it is made out of fossil fuels, which are a finite resource. However, it is still generally used as a disposable product, such as when it is mixed in animal feed to track animals via trails of sparkly feces. For the sake of environmental protection, demands for easily biodegradable glitter are growing ever more significant. Plant-based alternative to microplastics The scientific community has long been interested in the idea of using cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) derived from plant polymers to produce coloured films, which could act as a sustainable base for light-refracting pigments. In 2021, a team of UK researchers from the University of Cambridge optimized existing methodologies of producing CNC films. The experiment shows promising prospects for the

large-scale commercialization of eco-friendly glitter. A large sheet of light-refracting CNC film was produced from aqueous CNC via a technique known as roll-to-roll (R2R) coating, which is much like the process where aluminum is deposited onto PET sheets. R2R coating involves applying fluid CNC onto an unwinding roll of a flexible foundation that is subsequently rewound onto an adjacent roll. The process is similar to a 35 millimetre film tape rolling out of its canister, capturing an image, and winding around the roller on the other side. There are several criteria that CNC films must fulfill to be used for the industrial manufacturing of glitter. First, the liquid CNC crystal must already have a special structure on the thin sheet films to produce colouration. The CNC fluid has to have sufficient viscosity to evenly coat the rolled foundation without forming droplets. Manufacturers must avoid anything that could cause shrinkage in the applied CNC fluid coating at all costs in the process of drying it. CNC self-assembly is a critical step that happens after R2R coating, during the brief time window before the applied fluid coating completely evaporates. Self-assembly is a scientific term describing the spontaneous formation of an organized structure from local interactions between its components. After this, the CNC sheets are ready to be further processed into sparkly microparticles. Industrial relevance of the R2R technique CNC sheets undergo heat, grinding, then sorting by size to produce tiny particles that can be used as glitter. The grinding process does not fracture CNC films randomly but produces smooth particles with sharp edges. The heat treatment also stabilizes the microparticles so they do not dissolve or break down any further. The finished product is flake-like particles that refract different colours depending on the angle of light source, giving the glitter its characteristic metallic glow. CNC glitter has a shelf life of at least a year where these microparticles can retain their optical response without fading or disintegrating, even if the microparticles are immersed in water. Furthermore, the researchers found that the visual quality of the eco-friendly glitter is comparable to regular petroleum-based glitter. So, you do not have to fear losing your signature makeup look. As long as you make the eco-friendly choice, glamour is guaranteed!

Within the first two weeks of January, readers the world over realize with a shudder that they actually have to follow through on their New Year’s resolutions to read more books. A simple promise to yourself becomes a challenge. Which books should you read? In what order? What if you make the wrong choice and waste valuable reading time on a book that underdelivers? That’s where I come in. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most interesting popular science books out there, guaranteed to inspire and dazzle you, ranging from classics you’ve probably heard of but never read to underrated volumes that you should already be reading. Two classics There are a few books that any popular science reading list should have, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is chief among them. Although it does have a reputation for being inaccessible if you don’t have a background in astronomy or physics, it can be a very rewarding read if you take your time with it. That being said, many ordinary notions of space and time just don’t apply to the interesting astrophysics that Hawking tries to describe, like black holes and the Big Bang. Extreme temperatures, pressures, and gravitation create strange conditions we can’t observe on Earth, so it can take a while to imagine what’s being described. Hawking does a good job with what he’s given, but I admit there are moments where he clearly moves too fast. It’s a solid introduction to some very interesting theories about how our universe emerged, but I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to start with something more readable. Carl Sagan’s Cosmos fits that description. It’s another classic of the genre from a master expositor of science, rich in poetic reflection and scientific detail. The much-loved PBS television series of the same name was created alongside this slim volume. I recommend watching that in addition to reading the book so you can get the full experience of hearing Sagan read his words in his signature warm voice. He brings an irresistible charm to the text that makes every chapter — or episode — resonate. And two lesser-known books Cosmos and A Brief History of Time are both about astrophysics and astronomy — the big stuff of physics. At the other end of the spectrum is quantum physics, the world of the very

small. Molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles like electrons and quarks are all described by quantum mechanics, and they behave according to very different rules than larger massive objects like stars and planets. John Gribbin first explained quantum mechanics for a general audience in In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat. He’s written a number of books about quantum mechanics since then, but the original is still one of the best out there. It’s a lively story about how young generations of physicists bucked the trend of their predecessors to lay the foundations for quantum mechanics in the early decades of the twentieth century. Older luminaries like Einstein were famously opposed to some of the probabilitybased theories being put forward, but the new kids persevered to give us the physics that has led to all modern electronics. David Albert’s Quantum Mechanics and Experience is not as well known, but it supplements Gribbin’s book very well. The Columbia philosopher of physics casts doubt on many of the ideas Gribbin presents as straightforward, suggesting that while the mathematics behind quantum theory is indisputable, we don’t really understand what it all means. He quickly goes through some common misunderstandings to reach a big problem in modern physics: how to interpret quantum mechanics. There are many ways scientists have interpreted the same experimental results, which all imply different things about our universe. For example, many experiments have shown that we can’t definitively calculate some measurable properties of subatomic particles, like their position and velocity, based solely on previous measurements. One interpretation of this says these properties don’t exist in any fixed way until we measure them. Another says that there exist entirely different universes parallel to ours where we could measure these properties differently. Whichever theory you find most appealing, the fact is that modern physicists still don’t know how to interpret results that are almost a hundred years old — ancient history by today’s standards. Albert does a stellar job of explaining that conundrum. Even if none of these books seem interesting to you, there are still lots of science titles I didn’t cover. From fungi to fermions, there’s bound to be something up your alley in a bookstore or campus library. May I suggest Gerstein’s popular science collection? Whatever book you choose, I wish you happy reading!

These books are sure to keep you entertained and enlightened. JOSIE KAO/THEVARSITY


Sports

January 10, 2022 thevarsity.ca/section/sports sports@thevarsity.ca

Toronto FC’s transformation this off-season Analyzing the team’s changes heading into the 2022 season Audrey Miatello Associate Sports Editor

In 2017, Toronto FC (TFC) won multiple trophies, shattered league records, and amazed fans not only in Toronto but also around the league. After such success, few would have imagined that only four years later, TFC would finish in second-last place in MLS’s Eastern Conference. In response to their disappointing 2021 season, the club began making substantial changes almost immediately. Front office and coaching staff changes The day after TFC’s loss in the Canadian Championship, the club reported that Ali Curtis would not continue as the club’s general manager and senior vicepresident of soccer operations. The day after that,

TFC revealed that Javier Pérez would not remain the team’s head coach in 2022. Then, just one day later, the club stated that Bob Bradley had been hired as the team’s new head coach and sporting director. Bradley comes into his coaching role at the club with an impressive résumé. He has been a head coach for more than 20 years, and has coached teams in the United States, Egypt, Norway, France, and England. In MLS, he has been named the Coach of the Year three times, and boasts an impressive 182 MLS wins — the thirdmost wins of any MLS coach. Bradley’s leadership and expertise will be vital as TFC heads into the 2022 season. Roster changes TFC’s roster has also undergone substantial changes during the off-season so far. In early December, the club revealed that they would not be re-signing two of their centre backs, Omar Gonzalez and Eriq Zavaleta. In the 2021 season, Gonzalez started 26 games and scored three goals. Zavaleta had been with the team since 2015 and, during this time, played over 100 games. However, in the 2021 season, TFC conceded 66 goals over 34 games, the secondworst amount in the league. In light of their defensive struggles, TFC signed Shane O’Neill, a centre back who formerly played for the Seattle Sounders. The Seattle Sounders had an impressive 2021 season, finishing second in the Western Conference and allowing only 33 goals. O’Neill was an important part of the club’s defensive success, as he played 27 games and started 19 of them. While O’Neill will provide necessary reinforcements in their defense, TFC must also

focus on signing new full backs. After spending an impressive eight years at the club, left back Justin Morrow retired last season. As well, sources have reported that the talented right back Richie Lareya will be joining the club Nottingham Forest in England. With the departure of these two skilled full backs, TFC will have to find replacements for them before the 2022 season commences. Toward the end of November, rumours began circulating that striker Josmer Volmy Altidore could be leaving Toronto. Since he joined in 2015, Altidore has been a key part of TFC’s success, as he scored 15 goals in the 2017 regular season and another two in the playoffs that year. In November, TFC Captain Michael Bradley said in an interview with Tim & Friends that Altidore is “one of the best, if not the best, players to ever play for this club.” TFC has not yet confirmed whether Altidore will be leaving the team. Journalist Fabrizio Romano tweeted in early January that the Italian superstar Lorenzo Insigne would be joining TFC for five and a half years. Insigne will reportedly make around 13 million USD each season, which would make him the highest-paid player in MLS history. Insigne is a left winger who currently plays for and captains the Serie A team SSC Napoli. During the 11 seasons he has spent with the club, he has scored 89 goals and contributed 70 assists, making him an integral part of the team. He has also played for the Italian national team since 2012. This signing is significant for both Toronto FC and the MLS, and sources like The Sports Network have already started calling it “one of the biggest signings in MLS history.” However, Insigne will only begin playing with TFC in July, after half of the team’s regular season is over. TFC will need to find a way to start the season strong without the talented winger. So far, TFC’s off-season has clearly been focused on bringing new leadership, perspectives, and talent into the club. Heading into the 2022 season, the future is wide open for this team — and the only place they have left to go is up.

TFC is looking to get back to their glory days.

COURTESY OF STEVE HARRIS/CC WIKIMEDIA

How smart is it to use smart drugs? A brief overview of nootropics

Nootropics are a hot topic in the wellness sphere. COURTESY OF UNKNOWN/CC WIKIMEDIA

Whitney Buluma Varsity Staff

Derived from the Greek words ‘noes,’ meaning “mind,” and ‘tropein,’ meaning “towards,” ‘nootropics’ — also known as smart drugs — were first conceived by Romanian psychologist and chemist Corneliu Giurgea in 1972. In medical settings, they are used to treat cognitive symptoms of psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Some nootropics include prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD, including methylphenidate, sold as Ritalin or Concerta, and mixed amphetamine salts, sold as Adderall. However, nootropics can also include more common stimulants such as caffeine. Smart drugs are sometimes used by healthy individuals either to cope with hectic school and work conditions or for self-improvement through the practice of ‘biohacking.’ Biohacking involves a do-it-yourself approach to managing and enhancing one’s biology outside the realm of

conventional medicine. The term encompasses a wide variety of strategies, including intermittent fasting, tracking sleep, using biochemicals, implanted cybernetic devices, ‘dopamine fasting’ — not doing anything that brings you immediate pleasure — and at-home gene editing. Biohackers range from people who just want to increase their biological functioning to those who believe in transhumanism — essentially weaponizing science to transcend their limitations and achieve a superior ‘post-human’ existence, creating the next step in human evolution. What do nootropics do? On the use of nootropics, two overarching questions remain: is the use of smart drugs effective and safe? The scientific evidence on the efficacy of cognition-enhancing drugs on healthy individuals is largely inconclusive. A meta-analysis found that stimulant medication consistently increased processing accuracy — how quickly people make accurate judgements — but had no proven effects

on planning accuracy, planning time, or decision making. ADHD medications had a strong motivational effect: users relied on perceived improvements in drive, energy, and mood to enhance work performance. However, these medications can cause severe addiction in healthy people without ADHD. Initially used for the sleep-deprived, or those with narcolepsy, modafinil shows more pronounced and consistent improvements in simple cognitive areas such as vigilance and attentiveness. However, Modafinil does not consistently improve markers of higher cognitive areas. Its side effects include vision disorders, gastrointestinal issues, and drowsiness. Evidence shows that some Alzheimer’s medications have no observable effect on cognition and may negatively affect reaction time and memory. Ginkgo biloba, a nootropic tree native to China, does not improve the cognition of older or younger people, although it also has not been shown to have adverse side effects. Cognition-enhancing drugs do not appear to have a statistically significant effect on academic performance, and have a reputation largely based on anecdotal evidence. Although students often subjectively feel they will do better after taking the drugs, there is little indication that performance objectively improves. Thus, it has not been definitively proven that nootropics make people smarter. Since cognition-enhancing drugs are often bought without consulting a medical professional, their interaction with other substances that individuals may be consuming, such as prescription medications, could lead to adverse effects. The American Medical Association discourages the use of nootropics by healthy individuals because their effects vary widely across individuals, depend on the dosage, and are modest at best. Many of the substances misleadingly marketed as improving cognitive performance have not undergone rigorous tests for safety and efficacy.

Promising research on cognitive-enhancing drugs is taking place, including within the Psychedelic Studies Research Program at UTM. However, Giurgea’s dream of humanity “directly, openly and consciously [taking] part in evolution” is still largely in the realm of science fiction. How are nootropics used? Recent surveys in Canada and the USA suggest that university students are increasingly using cognition-enhancing drugs for non-medical reasons, with a prevalence rate between 11 per cent to 25 per cent. Most student usage is sporadic, usually due to high-stakes situations like exams and major assignments. Students also use cognition enhancers to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance, leaving time for leisure and personal projects. U of T does not address smart drugs specifically within the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters; whether using them constitutes an academic offence is case-specific. In the workplace, reports suggest that some healthy adults may be taking small doses of psychedelics to increase their cognitive abilities, boost productivity, sharpen focus, and improve creativity. Based on anecdotal evidence, this practice of microdosing may have generally positive effects on sleep and stress, but there is limited research on its short- and long-term effects. The current high interest in nootropics raises questions about the stressors that drive people to take them — heavy course loads, highpressure work environments, or a culture that valorizes productivity and exponential growth over rest and holistic wellness. As the quest for self-improvement continues, we must endeavour to approach cognitive enhancement in a cautious and reflective manner, so please consult a medical professional before thinking about starting nootropics.


thevarsity.ca/section/sports

JANUARY 10, 2022

Celebrity boxing: Gimmick or game-changer? Looking behind the curtain of the phenomenon in a draw but opportunists world over won, as they realized the potential of the previously untapped industry of celebrity boxing. As of today, the popular video-sharing service Triller has its own Celebrity Boxing League, and the world has seen popular content creators, celebrities, and even professional athletes generously devour a piece of this pie. The revenue is largely made from pay-per-view passes and brand deals, and although only one of the two fighters gets the trophy, both get a pay cheque. In a nutshell, the amount of money involved in this industry is massive, with a match involving well-known celebrities — for example, the fight between Ben Askren and Jake Paul — raking in upwards of 75 million USD in pay-per-views alone. Although celebrities leave no stone unturned — at least according to their social media channels — in training for their fights, the money they make from a fight is far greater than what most professional boxers would make. This points to a rather sad truth: while celebrity boxing has boosted boxing’s reputation as a sport, the reason celebrity boxing is a hit with the masses is because of the stars and not the sport itself. “The rise of celebrity boxing has blurred the line between sports and entertainment,” claims Adam

Nidhil Vohra Varsity Contributor

Boxing is a sport with generational relevance. From the record billion people that watched Muhammad Ali knock out George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle to Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s fight — the best-selling pay-perview fight in history — the sport has been able to attract an ample viewership for a long time. In recent history, however, boxing’s audience has been exponentially increased by ‘celebrity boxing.’ Although the phenomenon of stars entering the ring has been present since 1994, it has seen unprecedented growth in recent years. This growth can undeniably be attributed to popular YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul battling it out in the Manchester Arena in 2018. Prior to Logan Paul, KSI had already fought YouTuber and amateur boxer Joe Weller in an event amassing an audience in the millions. KSI used that platform to call out Logan Paul. Months of hype, diss tracks from both parties, and YouTube videos boiled down into the then largest non-professional boxing event of all time with an estimated one million people watching via pay-per-view. The fight ended

Friscia in The Slate, and rightly so. In the past, boxing was revered as a sport where you leave everything in the ring and not in the media. The hype for the fights wasn’t created by unimpressive diss tracks or clickbait YouTube videos but rather by the personae of the fighters involved and the belt that they were fighting for. However, now the sport,

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Tie up those laces and relieve some stress!

The overworked university student is no stranger to feelings of stress and anxiety. We often spend taxing hours falling into sedentary slumps of perpetual studying. What’s more, all the time sitting hunched over our desks leaves us feeling too exhausted to do much else. These emotions of being overwhelmed were at an all-time high for me during the exam season last semester. I desperately needed a mental release from my studies! While scrolling on social media to escape my work, I found myself looking for something more fulfilling. I decided I’d tie up my laces and head out AR EV for a quick run. H /T Twenty minutes into my run, I began to realize AO ZH A E how incredible I was suddenly feeling. It was R ND

although increasing in viewership, has been tainted by the cheap stunts of promotion. Purists claim that the sport is increasingly looking like its distant cousin, professional wrestling — think WWE, not the Olympics. Although we can’t know whether the boxing world will completely imbibe the theatrics of professional wrestling, opportunist YouTube stars will continue to imbibe the world of celebrity boxing if there is money in it.

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Mental Moment: Running Jayda Ayriss Varsity Contributor

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instantaneously gratifying to just breathe heavily and enjoy the world around me. This overjoyed feeling meshed well with my thoughts, flooding my mind, and washing over my stress. An enlightened mindset gave me the clarity I needed to see my to-do list from a much more positive place. Treating myself to that 30-minute run had quite effectively uplifted my mental health, making the rest of my day so much better. And while you may be skeptical about this one, I encourage you too, to spend your next study break on a 30-minute run. Not too sure where to start? Here’s my guide for you: 1. Peel yourself from your desk and go get changed. 2. Pop in your headphones and find your favourite playlist or podcast. If you prefer running without sound, feel free to skip this step! Enjoy listening to the birds and chatter of Toronto’s hustle and bustle. 3. Tie up some supportive sneakers or running shoes. 4. Head out the front door.

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5. Devote 30 minutes outside to a run, or to any movement, really. 6. And don’t worry about all your to-do tasks — they’ll still be there when you get back! Yes, it’s that simple! During your run, pay attention to how great you feel. And when you return to your desk, here’s what you can expect to notice: your mind will feel refreshed and much less foggy than before. Your body will feel invigorated from the change of stillness to movement. The monster pile of tasks waiting for you will have seemingly lost its intimidation value. You may even find that your next study session flows better now that your mood and memory retention has been boosted! Running is a form of exercise that really gives a big bang for your buck! It’s affordable, and yet so physically and mentally effective at making you feel good. But it is certainly not the only form of exercise that creates these wonderful effects. Exercise in all shapes and sizes is good for you! For me, it’s running that makes me feel great, but you may find that bike rides or long walks do the trick. Whatever physical activity that you choose to do, there’s no doubt your mind and body will thank you for the break away from your long, arduous, desk-bound days.

How to meet your protein intake goals Exploring some vegetarian and vegan food options Nimit Vediya Varsity Staff

Anyone who is looking to gain muscle mass needs to take in large amounts of protein. As a benchmark, even if you’re not trying to actively build muscle, some nutritionists recommend eating at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For people who consume meat, it’s not very hard to do, as meat products tend to have large quantities of protein in them. However, for people who are vegan or vegetarian, such as myself, it can be extremely hard to meet this goal. In this article, I will highlight a list of plant-based, protein-rich foods and supplements that vegetarians and vegans can refer to! Protein shakes are one of the first supplements people may think of, as they can contain 20 or more grams of protein per scoop. While some powders are made from whey, there are also alternative products made from almonds and soy for vegans. Many types of beans, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, and black beans, are also a very good source of protein. Chickpeas, for example, contain over seven

grams of protein per half cup. If you like the taste, lentils are another alternative you can try. However, it is important to acknowledge that beans are high in carbohydrates, so these foods may not be for those trying to stick to a high protein and low carbohydrate diet. To stick to this sort of diet, some foods that may help are tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Seitan, for example, can contain up to 21 grams of protein for every third of a cup, with only four grams of carbohydrates. Tofu and tempeh are typically made from soy, mycoproteins are fungus-based, and seitan is made from wheat gluten and spices, all of which may be viable options for vegans. All in all, there are a variety of foods that vegetarians and vegans can consume to achieve their protein intake goals. In my experience, it’s best to stick with one source of protein and then mix it up occasionally to minimize meal preparation time. I would encourage you to try out all of these foods and then determine what combination works best for you and your health journey.

ELHAM NUMAN/THEVARSITY


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