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January 11, 2021

THE VARSITY The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

Vol. CXLI, No. 13

Multiple campus police officers surround, question UTGSU executives putting up “Cops Off Campus” banner Officers suggest they are acting as “agents of the school,” accuse “aggressive” behaviour Isabel Armiento Graduate Bureau Chief

On December 16, five campus police officers attempted to discourage three members of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) team from erecting a “Cops Off Campus” banner at 16 Bancroft Avenue, the UTGSU’s main office at UTSG. The banner was put up as part of the union’s campaign to remove Campus Police and instead direct funding to “meaningful community care.” In a two-minute video of the interaction posted on the UTGSU’s Facebook page, the officers accused a UTGSU executive of being “aggressive,” asked the members what they were doing with the banner, and implied they were acting as “agents of the school.” Altercation with campus police officers The executives believe that an officer followed them from outside the Campus Police building — where they were recording the launch of their Police Off Campus campaign — to the UTGSU’s main office. Outside the office, Lwanga Musisi, University Governance Commissioner; Ben Hjorth, Executive Member-at-Large; and Andre Fast, Executive Director were hanging a banner that read “Cops off Campus” and “#Police-FreeSchools.” The video shows two campus police officers questioning the executives on what they were doing with the banner, leaving the executives to respond that they were within their rights to hang the banner on the UTGSU’s building. While the members were responding to the questions from the officers, one called them “aggres-

sive,” asking, “Why are you so aggressive, guys?” The officer repeatedly asked if the members planned to put up banners elsewhere, and another officer told the executives, “The only reason we’re here is that if the school does not want you to have that there, it’s our job as agents of the school to remove it.” However, the officer did not say if they were acting upon any specific directions from the school. “No sooner had we begun fastening the banner to the fence, than a Campus Police SUV pulled up,” the UTGSU wrote in an email to The Varsity. “We carried on our business, and out came a Campus Police officer who began to quiz us on the content of our banner.” “The officer asked to see our ID and called us aggressive for putting up the banner,” the UTGSU executives added. They further claim that, beyond the scope of the video, “Four additional campus police officers showed up in less than ten minutes… The five officers left after approximately 15 minutes after being told by their manager that we have a right to be there [putting up the banner].” In addition, one of the two officers in the video does not put on a mask until asked to do so by the UTGSU executives. The UTGSU executives added that the officer was “not respecting social distance guidelines and not wearing a mask,” and they claimed that their request that the officer put on a mask “was turned down several times until other officers came to the scene.” The UTGSU expressed frustration over the campus police officers’ response, writing, “Even over our repetitive attempts to de-escalate a seemingly escalating situa-

tion… the situation kept getting re-heated as the officer(s) kept accusing us wrongfully.” In response to The Varsity’s request for comment, a U of T spokesperson wrote, “Thank you for drawing our attention to this video. It is currently being reviewed by the relevant offices within the universityadministration [sic]. We are unable to provide further comment until this is complete.” Police Off Campus campaign The UTGSU erected the “Cops Off Campus” banner as part of its Police Off Campus campaign, which aims to “redirect funding away from the Campus Police and towards meaningful community care.” Many U of T students, faculty, staff, and organizations have expressed a similar desire to defund Campus Police. The UTGSU executive members wrote, “We believe it is a misconception that Campus Police make students safe and in fact the Campus Police have and continue to make many students of colour, in particular Black and Indigenous students unsafe.” They cited cases where campus police presence decreased safety for students, such as when UTM student Natalia Espinosa was handcuffed by campus police officers while seeking help at the Health & Counselling Centre. According to the UTGSU, campus police presence is threatening to marginalized students and is largely unnecessary. “Campus police services focus on minimal bylaw enforcement, opening offices when you have lost your keys, patrolling the hallways etc,” the UTGSU executive members wrote, adding that these tasks could easily be done by other employees at U of T.

Business & Labour

Business Board approves new pharmacy for U of T community

Comment Vic Zero campaigners on the need for climate action at Victoria College

Feature A student re�lects on the extra week of winter break

Arts & Culture A peek into U of T on the TikTok scene

Science How COVID-19 will shape public health in 2021

Sports The Raptors at a crossroads: predictions for the new season

6 7 10 13 16 19





2020 recapped: a history of COVID-19 at U of T

University reports 140 cases in the community, two outbreaks on campus since March Vol. CXLI, No. 13 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, ON M5S 1J6 (416) 946-7600 the.varsity




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COVID-19 cases in the U of T community Since March 14, there have been 140 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U of T community, with only two confirmed outbreaks on campus. From March 4 to the end of the winter 2020 semester, 19 cases of COVID-19 were reported, with 16 reported over the summer. The vast majority of cases were reported throughout the fall 2020 semester, with 105 confirmed cases in the U of T community. Beginning in summer 2020, U of T reports cases of COVID-19 in the U of T community and outbreaks on campus on its website. Cases of COVID-19 are those reported to the university from members of the community, who have not necessarily been on campus or had contact with other community members. Outbreaks on campus are announced with input from Toronto Public Health officials and recorded to the website. According to a spokesperson for the university, these are reported “in an effort to keep everyone informed.”

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Marta Anielska, Khatchig Anteblian Associate News Editors

Almost a year ago, on January 25, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 in Canada was confirmed in a Toronto man. Less than two months later, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and the first case of COVID-19 at U of T was confirmed on March 16. As 2020 came to a close, COVID-19 was permanently etched into the history of U of T, Canada, and the world. And as 2021 begins, the pandemic shows no signs of letting up in the near future as Ontario has seen a huge spike in recent days with cases and hospitalizations continuing to increase. With U of T moving into another semester affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Varsity broke down the history of how COVID-19 has affected U of T in 2020.


Hafsa Ahmed UTM Bureau Chief

Vacant Associate Senior Copy Editor

Lauren Alexander Deputy News Editor

Sarah Folk, Anastasiya Gordiychuk Associate B&L Editors Vacant Associate Design Editor Celene Czarnota, Rebeca Moya Associate Illustration Editors Caroline Bellamy, Nathan Ching Associate Photo Editors Abby Dollries, Olivia Digby-Pryce Associate Video Editors

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‘Reopening’ in fall 2020 On campus, U of T went into the fall semester with plans for some in-person activities and reopened residences. Plans for in-person courses varied by faculty, with the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS), the largest faculty, initially offering many courses with in-person or hybrid options. However, the decision to return to partial inperson learning was met with resistance from six unions that petitioned the university to move courses online during the summer, believing that the university’s reopening plans were unsafe. Ultimately, the majority of courses during the fall semester took place online after the first month. As almost all learning has transitioned online, the quality of online courses has also been questioned, with a recent survey revealing that most students found a decrease in the quality of

courses when they moved online. Financial and academic advocacy during the pandemic Over the summer, the University of Toronto Students’ Union, along with a number of other unions on campus put out a letter that demanded lowered tuition fees for the 2020–2021 school year due to COVID-19. International students also petitioned for lower fees. Despite such student activism, U of T did not lower tuition fees, claiming that students were receiving the same courses online as they would have in person. They did lower incidental fees, including club fees and gym fees, as many students were unable to access in-person university services. Returning to campus also brought extra difficulties for international students, who were required to quarantine for two weeks before classes started. U of T offered a free quarantine program in nearby hotels and residences for those who needed them, which was offered at a cost for the winter semester for students who had already quarantined through the school before. The year ahead Moving into the winter 2021 semester, the majority of courses will take place online again. In November, the FAS announced that courses would be moved online, a departure from the earlier plan of having a hybrid model. To adjust university life to pandemic times, precautions on campus have grown to include mandated masks and physical distancing in public spaces, as well as use of the UCheck app, which asks those coming to campus in person to report their symptoms to the university. The beginning of the winter 2021 semester has also been delayed by one week, with U of T President Meric Gertler asserting that an extra week may allow students to rest before the next semester begins.

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sissauga Students’ Union offices to close for two weeks, and four cases after a non-university-affiliated athletic activity in November.

Generally, the number of new cases decreased over the summer and then increased as the fall semester went on. The trend on campus roughly mirrors the amount of cases in Canada as a whole, which decreased over the summer and saw a huge increase as the second wave hit toward the end of the year. U of T confirmed two campus outbreaks since March 2020 on the dashboard: one during the week of November 7–13 and one during the week of December 19–25. Outbreaks are confirmed by U of T’s Occupational Health and Safety Office alongside Toronto Public Health and Peel Public Health, and they are recorded on the database every three to five days. The two incidents of COVID-19 spread on campus, which were reported directly to the U of T community, included two cases at UTM, which caused the University of Toronto Mis-


JANUARY 11, 2021


Same degree, same fee: CSSU campaigns to lower Computer Science, Bioinformatics, Data Science tuition

Formerly deregulated programs charge domestic students 87 per cent more than rest of FAS Marta Anielska Associate News Editor

Several U of T student unions, led by the Computer Science Students’ Union (CSSU), have started the Same Degree Same Fee Campaign in order to advocate for lowering the tuition of the computer science, bioinformatics and computational biology, and data science programs. While these programs are part of the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS), their former deregulation means that students in these programs pay higher fees than students in other FAS programs. The petition demands that since every program in the FAS receives the same degree, the formerly deregulated programs should pay the same lower fees as the other FAS programs. Organizers cite accessibility, fairness, and mental health as reasons for why the tuition should be lowered. In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson noted that many factors were considered when setting tuition and that fee differentiation was “integral” to tuition fee policies. Initial deregulation In Ontario, tuition fees are regulated by the provincial government, which usually caps the amount by which a university can annually increase tuition. For most regulated programs at U of T, that increase is capped at around five per cent per year. In 1998, the government decided to deregulate some programs. “High demand” programs, such as computer science, were among the deregulated programs. For that reason, tuition in deregulated programs rose at higher

levels than that of regulated programs until the 2003–2004 academic year, when a tuition freeze was introduced and the universities could no longer increase the fees as much as they wanted. Domestic tuition for computer science, bioinformatics, and data science students was $11,420 in 2020–2021, 87 per cent higher than the tuition for other programs in the FAS. Tuition can also vary based on year of study and when the student entered the program. For an international student who entered the program in 2019, tuition was $58,970 this year, an increase of approximately 5.4 per cent from the regular FAS international tuition. However, the international tuition increases every year, so that same student who entered the program in 2019 would be paying $61,330 in 2021–

In an interview with The Varsity, Evan Kanter, the CSSU’s director of external relations, argued that while the provincial government could impose restrictions on tuition, the university had the power to lower them. “The short answer is that tuition is higher in these programs because the university decides to charge higher tuition in these programs,” Kanter said. Kanter added that the

higher tuition made the programs less accessible, especially for students who fell through the cracks in financial aid, and that higher tuition fees contributed to the mental health crisis at U of T. The CSSU also noted that there is little evidence of a connection between tuition and the quality of student services, and that the university Student tuition fees vary by faculty due to regulations. has consistently tried HAYMOND YANG/THE VARSITY to both dismiss student concerns and oversell the impact of financial aid. “Our students 2022. earn the same degree as all other science students in the Faculty of Arts Campaigning Multiple student groups — including and Science. We should pay the same the CSSU, the University of Toronto fees,” the CSSU concluded in an email Students’ Union (UTSU), and the Arts to The Varsity. In addition, the CSSU conducted and Science Students’ Union — have published a petition to lower the fees, a survey and found that students felt calling them “a systemic barrier that that the existing financial aid system prevents marginalized students from did not help them reduce stress and entering [the computer science] field.” that the higher tuition was their pri-


mary concern. In the survey, one student wrote that they must remain a part-time student because they cannot afford to pay the full-time tuition fees for computer science. “The unfortunate reality is that financial aid programs are not sufficient,” added Kanter. Setting fees and student consultation In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson noted that program costs, growth, and students’ prospects after completing a program were among the factors that were considered when setting tuition. They also wrote that much of tuition goes directly toward paying program staff and funding student services. The spokesperson added that the university had a “productive” meeting with student unions in December about this issue and that the “dialogue remains open.” According to them, student leaders will have an opportunity to comment on the budget during the governance process. They also argued that students struggling with finances or mental health could turn to the university’s financial aid and mental health services.

However, in an email to The Varsity, the CSSU pointed out that it had recently received an email from Assistant Provost Archana Sridhar which suggested that no further meetings would take place. Moreover, the union wrote that the university’s statement that students could comment through the governing process was “meaningless” because changes to the tuition schedule rarely occur at that stage. UTSU Vice-President University & Public Affairs Tyler Riches added that the university made tuition advocacy more difficult by concealing budgetary information. “It makes it difficult for students to critically evaluate where they’re money is going,” Riches wrote. “We’re exploring our options… but it seems the University’s ‘bottom-up’ budget process prevents any meaningful student input.” Riches concluded that while it is important to lower students’ tuition, it is equally important for the provincial government to increase universities’ operating grants, which have made up a smaller share of funding in recent years.

New database aims to help instructors create meaningful assignments

Resource currently holds two dozen assignments, organizers hope it will continue to grow Sahir Dhalla Varsity Contributor

Assignments Across Disciplines (AAD) is a new database of assignments from every academic area of U of T that professors can access and learn from in order to improve their own assigned material. Students and other instructors can provide feedback on assignments submitted to the database, which instructors can then work from to create assignments that better serve students’ often diverse learning needs. The project is being led by Associate Professor Andrea L. Williams, who is also the director of Writing-Integrated Teaching (WIT), a program that focuses on embedding writing instruction in undergraduate courses, along with Assistant Professor Erin Vearncombe of WIT and three student research assistants. AAD is funded by a grant from U of T’s Learning & Education Advancement Fund.

Williams often works with instructors to improve their assignments, as students often find traditional assignments to be rather repetitive and dulling, which can lead to them not gaining much out of the experience. She wrote to The Varsity that, to continue aiding instructors, she has created AAD as a collection of assignments that acts as “an open-access digital resource designed to help instructors create assignments that help students learn.” According to a U of T spokesperson, as of now the database has only two dozen assignments, but the organizers hope that number will continue to grow. Williams and her team are connecting with students, instructors, and librarians to further expand it and increase its usage. The assignments in the database are peer-reviewed before being accepted and published. Current and former faculty members, graduate students, and administrators can volunteer to review assignments.

The database also hopes to encourage instructors to use innovative projects and activities that may be more helpful to students than traditional assignments. Williams believes that making well-designed assignments improves student engagement and can “mitigate some of the stresses that they face” as well. According to Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) President Ikran Jama, the database will “significantly benefit students as it allows instructors to use outstanding assignment examples to help inspire their own assignments and projects.” The ASSU has provided feedback on AAD and is helping to promote the program. Jama wrote in an email that the ASSU is “more than excited to be supporting such a new and impactful initiative.” If a student wishes to share an assignment they found particularly useful or enjoyable, they can submit it to the AAD website.

The Assignments Across Disciplines database will compile assignments from instructors across U of T. SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY





Bonnie Patterson resigns as lead reviewer of IHRP hiring controversy following concerns surrounding impartiality Former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Albert Cromwell serving as replacement

view. Samer Muscati, a former director of the IHRP, wrote in an email to The Varsity, “It seems that the university president is finally paying heed to legal scholars and the law school community… Hopefully this will now be a fairer process that will get us closer to the truth of what happened.”

Marta Anielska Associate News Editor

Following public concerns over her impartiality, Bonnie Patterson has resigned as the lead of inquiry into the hiring process of Valentina Azarova for the director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) position at U of T’s Faculty of Law. Allegedly, Azarova received an offer for the position that was then rescinded when a judge and donor interfered due to her criticism of Israel in relation to Palestine. The dean of the Faculty of Law and U of T’s Vice-President Human Resources Kelly Hannah-Moffat both denied the allegations of external influence. Following the resignation, U of T President Meric Gertler announced in December that former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Albert Cromwell will be replacing Patterson. The resignation has received praise as it follows concerns that Patterson’s appointment was inappropriate given her record on issues of academic freedom. However, some remain unconvinced that the review will provide any meaningful insight if it skirts around issues of academic freedom. Changes to the review process After Patterson was appointed as the lead reviewer, critics of the review raised concerns about her involvement in a similar scandal in 2001 while she was president of Trent University. There, Patterson allegedly denied reappointment to a professor who had criticized a decision made by the university. A report by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) about the matter concluded that Patterson had violated the professor’s academic freedom.

Academic freedom and CAUT censure Despite improvements, many remain concerned over the university’s attempts to frame the position of director for the IHRP as “non-academic,” and consequently, they are concerned at attempts to remove discussions of academic freedom from the greater dialogue. “Throughout this affair, I keep hearing the university president, the VP of Human Resources and the Dean either explicitly or implicitly try to portray what happened as not connected to academic freedom,” Muscati wrote. “But academic freedom is guaranteed in these types of staff positions regardless of whether one is faculty or a director.” U of T’s Faculty of Law has received a lot of criticism over the alleged rescinded offer of employment for Azarova. The CAUT, which has threatened U MICHAEL PHOON/THE VARSITY of T with censure if it does not rectify the situation in six months time, seems to agree. In a blog post, David RobinParticipation for faculty and staff remains vol- son, the executive director of the CAUT, outlined In a letter released on December 7, Gertler made it clear that while he and Patterson both untary, and the review is “non-disciplinary.” Its its policy on academic freedom, writing that both disagreed with the allegations levelled against her, primary goal is to determine whether university faculty and administrative positions must have she was stepping down to “protect the integrity of policy or practices were breached, including those academic freedom. CAUT’s policy “flatly rejects any distinction the review process.” To date, Patterson had made related to academic freedom “if applicable.” Gertler also reiterated his and the university’s between the protections for academic freedom initial contact with faculty members to arrange for commitment to conducting an independent and enjoyed by ordinary faculty members and that of interviews. Cromwell has been working on the review since transparent review. Previously, the review had faced those serving in administrative posts,” Robinson December and is expected to turn in a report to criticism for not being transparent enough and in- wrote in the post. Despite the changes to the review, the CAUT’s member organizations will still Gertler in a reasonable amount of time by or after dependent enough from the people involved. The news of the resignation and new appoint- have a vote in five months on whether to censure March 15. He has also been asked to offer advice ment was well received by some critics of the re- U of T, and the censure will only move forward if on any “matters” that may arise from the review. the majority votes to do so.

Reported counts of sexual violence at U of T decreased 64 per cent in 2019–2020 from previous year

SVPSC develops outreach and education, emphasizes variety of programming Khatchig Anteblian Associate News Editor

During a meeting of the University Affairs Board on November 24, U of T’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre (SVPSC) reported on the work that was done in the 18 month period from January 2019 to June 2020. The tri-campus centre was established following U of T’s action plan on preventing and responding to sexual violence in 2016. It offers services to people who are affected by sexual violence, ranging from providing referrals for counselling or medical services, to coordinating academic, workplace, or housing accommodations and offering help with legal matters. The centre also offers education, and is responsible for accepting reports relating to incidents of sexual violence under the university’s sexual violence and sexual harassment policy. The report shows that in the period of January 2019 to June 2020, reports of sexual violence decreased 64 per cent from the previous reporting period, going from 56 incidents to 36. The report also showed that, although engagement with the sexual violence preven-

tion education online module decreased significantly, the number of education initiatives held across all campuses, such as information fairs and workshops, has increased to an annual average of 102 from the previously reported 77. Requests for support from students, librarians, staff, and faculty have also increased, to an annual average of 331 requests, as opposed to the previous average of 253. Additionally, the centre has increased student involvement by hiring a team of workstudy students on each campus. “These student employees supported the development of centre programming, assisted with increasing student engagement within our centre activities, and facilitated peer-to-peer learning,” said Angela Treglia, the director of the SVPSC. One of the centre’s main initiatives to help develop a culture of consent on campus was the #checkinforconsent campaign, which included posters, promotional materials, and social media engagement. Over 800 promotional products were distributed to students in all three campuses and over 20,000 people were reached via social media. “When someone chooses to access services from us, they will be treated with dignity and

The University Affairs Board heard a report on the Sexual Violence Support & Prevention Centre at its November meeting. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

respect,” said Treglia. “In our first meeting with someone, we always begin by sharing our practices related to confidentiality and outlining our services.” Treglia said that this ensures that “individuals can make an informed choice as to what information they would like to share.” Treglia also said that the centre is focused on promoting education and providing services aimed at improving awareness and understanding of sexual violence. These duties are prescribed by a mandate in U of T’s sexual violence and sexual harassment policy that was approved by the governing council in December 2019 and went into effect in January 2020. Treglia highlighted the many services that the centre offered during the last reporting period, including self-care programming and panels, outreach booths at campus information fairs to raise awareness, and training and

workshops on topics including how to respond to disclosures of sexual violence, identifying and addressing racial and sexual harassment in the workplace, and building a culture of consent to prevent such incidents from happening in the first place. As with many other campus services, the SVPSC has now transitioned online in light of the pandemic and is offering its services virtually. Treglia noted the importance of understanding the disproportionate effect that sexual violence has on marginalized people. “Women of colour, specifically Black and Indigenous women, two-spirited folks, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBTQ2S+, disproportionately experience sexual violence in addition to other forms of violence simultaneously,” she said.


JANUARY 11, 2021


UTMSU launches Mental Health Peer Support Program

Student-led initiative partnering with Toronto organization Stella’s Place begins this term Hafsa Ahmed UTM Bureau Chief

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) is launching its Mental Health Peer Support Program this month. The program will hold weekly sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the winter 2021 academic term, starting on January 12.

The Mental Health Peer Support Program is open to all full-time and part-time undergraduate UTM students, which includes all UTMSU members and Mississauga Academy of Medicine students. The program, UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi shared, has set out to be “for students by the students,” and is in partnership with Stella’s Place, a Toronto-based organization focused on providing mental health services to individuals aged 16–29.

The new Mental Health Peer Support Program is open to all full- and part-time UTM students. COURTESY OF UTMSU

Creating a peer support program Yakubi wrote to The Varsity that the UTMSU Mental Health Peer Support Program was created in response to the increased need for mental health resources and support systems for students. She noted that “with the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for mental health resources are at an all-time high.” Yakubi also highlighted student outreach initiatives that have taken place in the past few years, which have called for improvement of mental health services at UTM. Specifically, she mentioned the incident in 2019 when UTM campus police handcuffed a student who was in mental distress, noting that the incident “has caused many students to no longer feel safe accessing resources at UTM.” With regard to the partnership, Yakubi wrote that the UTMSU will work “very closely” with Stella’s Place to ensure its peer supporters are “well equipped and trained.” She noted that the partnership has been “excellent” and that the UTMSU and Stella’s Place “meet weekly to ensure that the UTMSU Peer Support Program operates smoothly.” Stella’s Place highlights peer support as a core service within its organization. The process for creating the UTMSU Mental Health Peer Support Program involved hiring peer support workers during the fall 2020 semester. The UTMSU’s hiring committee reviewed, assessed, and approved or denied applications before sending recruited members to training, which involved three mandatory sessions before taking on the position. Peer support workers also attend follow-up

meetings, which Yabuki wrote are “to ensure that our volunteers are constantly learning ways in which they can best support the UTM community.” Similar programs at UTM The Health and Counselling Centre (HCC) at UTM has the Peers Supporting Peers Program. This program offers peer-led Wellness Workshops for UTM students, which are often facilitated by upper-year peer mentors and offered throughout the winter semester. Yakubi wrote that “the UTMSU Peer Support Program is still quite different from other services as it is peers supporting peers through their own lived experiences.” For example, a sign-up form for the program asks for the participant’s age to best match them with a compatible mentor. The HCC at UTM provides other mental health services as well, including access to the My Student Support Program, which allows students to virtually connect with a student support advisor and receive mental health counselling. This option is especially intended for UTM students who are currently outside of Canadian borders. The HCC itself offers “short-term, solution-focused counselling and therapy services.” Under COVID-19 precautions, the HCC is operating virtually, with appointments taking place over the phone or through video calls. Clinicians at the HCC can provide referrals to assist students in accessing community resources if complex or long-term care is required. Group counselling is also offered at the HCC, with sessions taking place throughout the winter 2021 semester.

UTSU Annual General Meeting 2020: Mental health, student fees, student commons Meeting receives no motions from members, focuses on questions to executives Marta Anielska and Khatchig Anteblian Varsity News Team

On December 22, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its annual general meeting. The meeting was open to all members of the union, and they were allowed to submit motions, though there were no member-submitted motions at the meeting. The meeting was held on Zoom and featured discussions on the UTSU’s finances in the 2019– 2020 fiscal year, mental health advocacy and the UTSU’s approach to the issue, and student fees and tuition advocacy. The UTSU also discussed the Student Commons building that has been in the works for over a decade, the opening of which has been delayed again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As required as part of the meeting, the audited financial statements were approved and the UTSU’s auditors for the new year were appointed and approved. The meeting featured the annual president’s address and an executive questionand-answer period. UTSU fees and the Student Commons The UTSU announced at the meeting that it is preparing to move its office space to the Student Commons over a decade since the plans for the student space were approved. “We’ve officially gained partial occupancy to the Student Commons,” said Dermot O’Halloran, Vice-President Operations. “All the furniture is moved in, the floors are epoxied, [and] the walls are in. We’re really close to starting our final renovations.” O’Halloran added that it should be open to students by this coming September, an additional delay from the previous expected opening date of April 2020. In an email to The Varsity, O’Halloran wrote that some of the factors contributing to the continued delays on opening the building were “the

need for an unexpected asbestos abatement of the building, the addition of an accessible elevator, and other change orders that weren’t anticipated when the original project was approved.” O’Halloran wrote that the UTSU is “currently finalizing the last stages of the project, which include [its] agreements with tenants, establishing [its] operating procedures, creating safety measures, and getting final renovations approved for once [its] main contractors leave the site.” Expressing concern about union spending during the pandemic, Lina Maragha, a former UTSU director, questioned the UTSU’s choice to hire more staff at this time. O’Halloran noted that the plan to hire new staff had been in place for more than a year so that the UTSU could comfortably transition to the commons. Maragha also asked why the UTSU did not decrease its student levy in light of the pandemic. O’Halloran responded that the executives had come to the conclusion that it would be “financially irresponsible” to reduce the fees, in particular citing the cost of moving into the Student Commons. He explained that the UTSU’s surplus is decreasing as it hires staff in anticipation of its move to the Student Commons. “Even without reducing those fees, we will still be running a not insignificant deficit for a while as we move into the building,” O’Halloran said. Mental health advocacy In response to questions about how the UTSU has dealt with mental health advocacy, UTSU President Muntaka Ahmed discussed how the union’s goal is to try to hold U of T accountable for mental health issues on campus. “The effort that I want to take is making sure that [the] administration realizes that stopgap solutions and band-aid solutions are not the right way to be proceeding with student mental health on campus,” said Ahmed. She acknowledged that the UTSU’s efforts

The UTSU’s annual general meeting discussed the union’s finances, mental health advocacy, and tuition advocacy. HANNAH CARTY/THE VARSITY

had been broadly “reactionary” after the death of a U of T student in November. During the year, Ahmed has met with mental wellness commissioners from student societies around campus to discuss what students can do to further lobby for mental health advocacy at U of T. “My goal is really to work with other student leaders to make sure that a voice is being heard on the administrative level; to make sure that [the] culture and community at U of T is being changed for the better,” said Ahmed. “The intention to make something tangible happen within the time that we’re allotted as executives is 100 per cent there,” said Ahmed. She added that the UTSU had been consulting with other student societies to develop a plan for lobbying the U of T administration on mental health issues. Moreover, she mentioned that the UTSU was previously working with Stella’s Place and the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health to establish a peer support program. Progress was halted due to COVID-19; however, O’Halloran said that the UTSU plans to continue work on the program in 2021. Vice-President University & Public Affairs Tyler Riches added that the executive would focus on the review of the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP) in the coming semester.

The UMLAP allows the university to place any student who may pose a threat to themselves or others on leave without academic penalty. The controversial policy went into effect in 2018, and Riches noted that one of the criticisms against it was that U of T did not properly consult with students while crafting the policy. To ensure that this does not happen again, the UTSU will put out a survey and reach out to student groups once it has more information on the administration’s policy revision plan. Tuition advocacy The UTSU has also teamed up with several other student unions, including the Arts and Science Students’ Union and the Computer Science Student Union, to launch the Same Degree Same Fee campaign. The goal of the campaign is to negotiate a lower tuition for several programs such as computer science, which were deregulated from 1998– 2003 and, consequently, now have higher fees than other Faculty of Arts & Science programs. Riches said that the UTSU is lobbying both the U of T administration and the provincial government to lower the fees. Students can sign a petition on Change.org to help, or they can fill out a survey on how the higher tuition has affected them.

Business & Labour

January 11, 2021 var.st/business biz@thevarsity.ca

Business Board approves U of T community pharmacy, provides COVID-19 financial update Employment accolades and stable credit outlook round off meeting Spencer Y. Ki Business Editor

COVID-19 financial update Professor Scott Mabury, U of T Vice-President Operations and Real Estate Partnerships, On November 25, U of T’s Business Board and Professor Kelly Hannah-Moffat, U of T convened for its second meeting of the aca- Vice-President Human Resources and Equity, demic year. The Business Board is the organ updated the board on the university’s financial of U of T’s Governing Council responsible for position as a result of COVID-19. Tuition income remained largely unchanged overseeing cost-effective resource allocation and approving all major university expendi- from pre-pandemic projections, as domestic enrolment only decreased by roughly eight per tures. The meeting updated members of the board cent while international enrolment increased by on the university’s financial state due to CO- roughly eight per cent. However, the university’s VID-19 and established an academic phar- ancillary revenue — which comes from sources macy to augment the Leslie Dan Faculty of such as residences, food services, and parking fees — was in “severe distress” due to a lack of inPharmacy. person activity on campus according to Mabury. While the board projected a $64 million net loss for the fiscal year in September, Mabury estimated that the university would more likely see a $100 million net loss with the pandemic’s second wave worsening projections. Mabury emphasized that such figures were conserNormally held in person, this meeting of the vative though, as the board was conducted remotely. university was fluidly adapting to a rapidlychanging situation.

Establishing an academic pharmacy Professor Cheryl Regehr, U of T Vice-President & Provost, raised a proposal to create an academic, not-for-profit pharmacy within U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. The establishment has already earmarked funds within the faculty’s operating reserves, and future budgetary projections estimate that the pharmacy would be financially self-sustaining once operational. According to the proposal document, the pharmacy would exist to drive experiential learning among pharmacy students as well as promote the faculty’s research. Pharmacy services would not be open to the public but would be accessible to U of T students, staff, and faculty. The proposal was unanimously approved by the Business Board without abstentions. The creation of a pharmacy was already approved by the Governing Council’s Academic Board in April and only required Business Board approval for incorporation. Final approval will now be considered by the Governing Council’s Executive Committee, whereupon the pharmacy is expected to launch in late 2021. Annual human resources and equity report Hannah-Moffat also delivered the annual report from the Office of the Vice-President Human Resources & Equity. She highlighted the office’s increasing digital modernization, partnerships with the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office and the Office of Safety & High Risk, and the creation of an Integrated Talent Manage-

2020 by the numbers: looking back at the year’s top Business & Labour news New buildings, new programs, new layoffs, new fears

Andrew Yang Ki Varsity Contributor

the goal of supporting global affairs students from the Caribbean Community.

ment — and that any recovery plan to the pandemic has to be equitable.

Starting with high hopes and ending in a pandemic and recession, 2020 has been a rollercoaster for business and labour news at U of T. Below are some financial highlights from the year.

March U of T’s deferred maintenance costs at alltime high The March meeting of the Business Board reported a record-high facility condition index (FCI) at U of T — representing the ratio between the cost to repair a building and to replace it outright — indicating an overwhelming need to address maintenance costs of campus buildings. With FCI scores only increasing with time, the board considered the $5.6 billion cost to replace all its buildings across the campuses.

September To rent or not to rent under COVID-19 — that is the question With less people moving into Toronto and more students attending university online due to COVID-19, rent in the city decreased during the summer. However, physical-distancing measures, scarce job opportunities, and the peril of living with strangers meant that many students had to think twice about renting and returning to campus.

January Six new capital construction projects in planning stages at UTSC The UTSC Campus Council announced plans for six new construction projects to be completed by the 2022–2023 academic year. Of particular note are a new student residence that will double UTSC’s residence capacity, a new Instructional Centre that will include classrooms and study areas, and the Indigenous House to provide a space for the Indigenous community.

Caribbean graduate students the focus of new Munk MGA scholarship Connie Carter, a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, endowed $100,000 to establish a new scholarship for the Master of Global Affairs program. The scholarship is named the Dr. Connie Carter Global Affairs Award and is awarded annually, with

August No post-pandemic patriarchy: new Rotman report calls for equitable recovery A report by the Rotman School of Management’s Institute for Gender and the Economy found that women bore the brunt of the COVID-19 recession, representing 63 per cent of total job losses as of March. The report claimed that the pandemic has only worsened existing issues — that women, two-spirit individuals, and gender-diverse people were already suffering from systemic barriers to societal advance-

October Breaking down the historic $250 million Temerty donation to the Faculty of Medicine The Temerty family gifted $250 million to the Faculty of Medicine in September, setting a record for the largest donation to a university in Canadian history. The primary goal of the donation was to promote the application of artificial intelligence in medicine, but numerous ancillary goals included promoting medical entrepreneurship and flexible COVID-19-related funding. In recognition, the faculty was renamed the Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

Miscellaneous items The board received a status report on outstanding debts. The university’s total debt policy limit for 2020–2021 is $1.85 billion according to the debt strategy last revised in 2012. The report considered debts accrued up until October 31, at which point $1.48 billion of this limit had already been allocated, leaving $363.5 million available. Additionally, the board received S&P Global Ratings’ credit report on the university, with U of T’s AA+ credit rating being affirmed. S&P’s analysts reported that U of T’s future credit outlook was stable, but it could be negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as any negative credit activity from the Province of Ontario. titioned the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) for a retroactive credit/no credit option for ECO230 — International Economic Institutions and Policy. Once a cornerstone of international relations programs, the course was removed from the FAS course calendar following review by the faculty and amid outcry from students of poor instruction, unfair grading, and the necessity of costly third-party tutoring services to succeed. December Opinion: Why the professional experience year fails — and how we can make it better Following a controversial overhaul to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) program, the Engineering Society elected Armin Ale to the new position of PEY negotiator to better facilitate talks between the faculty and the student body. Writing for The Varsity, Ale addressed what he saw as the failures of the new PEY program and proposed recommendations to improve it.


February “A springboard for Black success”: Faculty of Law launches new Black Future Lawyers program The Faculty of Law, in collaboration with the Black Law Students Association, launched the Black Future Lawyers (BFL) program to tackle underrepresentation in the field. BFL provides networking and mentorship opportunities for Black law students and will inaugurate a Black Student Application Process for September 2021 applicants to help break systemic barriers to entry for prospective students.

July U of T temporarily lays off scores of workers amidst COVID-19 pandemic Following a campus shutdown due to physicaldistancing guidelines, U of T laid off a total of 185 workers across its three campuses at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Although the university and federal government provided financial support through pay continuity, paid sick leave, and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, workers faced an uncertain future. The Varsity followed-up with some of the laid-off employees in December.

Confessions of a public-facing pandemic worker Working while studying is already difficult in normal circumstances, and COVID-19 only heightened the difficulties that students employed in public-facing positions face. Writing for The Varsity, one such student reflected on the fear and uncertainty they faced every day when heading into work during a pandemic.

ment Unit to streamline staff and faculty recruitment and retention. The report also called to attention the large number of employment-related accolades that the university has earned over the past year. U of T was named one of Canada’s top 100 employers, one of Canada’s top family-friendly employers, one of Canada’s greenest employers, one of Canada’s best diversity employers, one of Greater Toronto’s top employers, and one of the top employers for Canadians over 40. U of T also ranked in the top 10 on Forbes’ 2019 List of the Best Employers in Canada. Hannah-Moffat credited the Human Resources & Equity team for much of the success. “I have a team that has been working hard… to work remotely, to pivot, to be responsive, and to assist employees in a humane and compassionate way,” Hannah-Moffat said. “I get the benefit of reporting and showing you our annual report, but what you don’t see are the individuals who are behind this working daily and tirelessly to accomplish a tremendous amount… doing exceptional work under extraordinary circumstances.”

November The battle of ECO230: IR students unsuccessfully petition for retroactive CR/NCR option International relations students unsuccessfully pe-


January 11, 2021 var.st/comment comment@thevarsity.ca

Why it’s okay to take more than four years to graduate

Education is not one size fits all — students should advance at their own pace Halimah Kasmani Varsity Contributor

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with tragic and unprecedented changes in all sectors of life, including class delivery. For this reason, some students have opted to momentarily pause their studies. A large number of students resumed studies as normal; however, the massive changes in how uni-

The pressure students often put on themselves to graduate within four years is excessive and exacerbates stress. Students must work together to combat the internalized stigma surrounding graduating after the four-year mark, especially since, according to a 2019 study, a ‘late’ graduation doesn’t necessarily impair postgraduate success if the student also works full-time hours during university. In my grade 10 civics and careers class, we were asked to create plans for our postsecondary futures. Unsurprisingly, the majority of us had quite similar plans: attend our university of choice, earn an undergraduate degree within four years, and venture off into the world to find a job. For those of us who planned on pursuing graduate school, the pressure to graduate on time is even greater — who wants to be in school longer than necessary? Studies show that there are numerous factors that can predict how quickly a student will graduate from university, including their socioeconomic status, spending habits, and whether or not they have any loans or debt. Students often have little control over these factors, meaning that their circumstances can delay the rate at which they graduate despite their efforts. For example, students might feel pressured to graduate in shorter time frames to accumulate less debt. This does not take into account unpredictable scenarios in which a student must temporarily divert their focus from their studies to an emergency within their personal life.












versity is structured has resulted in students suffering from lower motivation and feelings of isolation. Efficient resources are required to combat declining mental health due to the pandemic, and many find these resources difficult to access at U of T. For many students, the mental burden of completing school online can feel insurmountable. The socioeconomic factors determining graduation within four years are now likely exacerbated with the pandemic. Academic success is now also contingent on whether or not a student has access to a stable internet connection and a quiet area to attend classes and study, something that low-income students are less likely to have. Lower employment rates also add an additional threat to students’ financial security. As a culmination of these factors, the prospects of graduating outside four years will likely be increased for numerous students as it becomes unavoidable. However, many students might still be attempting to graduate as fast as possible, not as a result of internalized stigma, but due to financial barriers preventing them from affording additional years of university. In such cases, having a rigid four-year plan is sensible, but in no way is it beneficial for the student beyond being more financially reasonable. It is unfortunate that so many students must put immense amounts of pressure on themselves because of the high cost of university. Despite knowing this, I often find myself thinking within the confines of my grade 10 classroom. While graduating within four years is an important option for some students, we must abandon the four-year mark as the ideal time to graduate. It is unnecessarily restrictive, and it must be understood that every student works differently and at different paces — education is not one size fits all. Halimah Kasmani is a first-year social

U of T’s communication with prospective students needs to be better Information about the university should be made more accessible, engaging

Valerie Yao Varsity Contributor

For many first-year students, the experience and burn out of applying to universities could still be fresh in their minds. Yet, as the new university chapters of life finally swing open, many could find their experiences differ from what they expected upon applying to U of T. I, while eagerly starting my university journey, found there were things that, had I known or better understood before applying to U of T, could have better prepared me emotionally for the new environment, easing my transition to university. While students are responsible for researching prior to submitting applications, U of T is also obliged to have better communication with prospective students and provide them with useful, diverse, and accessible information. This information should pertain to certain academic and student life matters to help ease students’ stress in the application season and assist them in making informed decisions. For instance, more information on how programs of study (POSt) work at U of T could reduce anxiety for students when transitioning from high school to university and is a great way to start improvements. U of T’s system has students apply to their program at the end of their first year. While this is briefly mentioned in U of T’s undergraduate viewbooks, how POSt works can remain confusing to students when applying since they may not come across specific POSt-related information until course selection in summer. Take, for example, U of T’s 2021–2022 Undergraduate Admission Bulletin. While requirements for each big admission category are listed, students may not be well informed about specific require-

ments of the particular programs they plan on pursuing. This can throw students in sudden stress as they may learn, after accepting their offers, that their programs are extremely competitive. Given this, the university should provide practical POSt-related information, such as links to Sidney Smith’s Program Toolkit and the Faculty of Arts & Science Academic Calendar, where each program’s specific requirements are outlined. This would ensure that applicants are making informed decisions by granting them a more holistic view about what to expect at U of T. Thus, providing more practical information could reduce the risk of students struggling to make sense of how the university works later on. It is wise to not only look at universities’ academic rigour when applying but also their social atmosphere. While U of T’s academic prestige is often promoted, the university should try to show more aspects of student life. Consider, for instance, information on commuting. First-year student Easha Khan wrote to The Varsity that she wishes she had more information about commuting before applying: “There isn’t much helpful information about the routes and resources students have.” While the viewbooks detail residence life, they could offer more insights into the commuter life to inform potential commuters about what will be available for them. The necessity for accessible information translates into UTSG’s college system as well. Although the college system is mentioned in the undergraduate viewbooks, the information there may not be functioning as the university intended — many students, due to time constraints and the unengaging format of the viewbooks, may not read everything detailed within them. Hence, as an innovative institution, U of T should further innovate ways to reach prospec-

U of T is obliged to provide practical and diverse information to prospective students. CC FLICKR

tive students. The university could provide valuable information on school dynamics by diversifying the media by which they communicate with prospective students. Considering how widespread social media is, U of T can present more information on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram where it would be convenient for applicants. For example, videos detailing student life from students’ perspectives may do better than prints on viewbooks to present a vivid account of school dynamics and atmosphere. Despite some of this information being available, the flaw in U of T’s communications with applicants is that its sites may be hard to navigate. First-year student Raphael Talukdar wrote to The Varsity, “Majority of the time, I have had difficulty finding information as they were scattered throughout multiple different

pages. I feel it would be better for UofT to present information that is condensed and easier to find.” U of T can compile links to useful resources — like The Varsity and student blogs — together as a package and offer it to prospective students. These beneficial resources would ordinarily be missed by applicants. As one of the most well-renowned universities in Canada, there is likely to be a large number of applicants hoping to attend the university. The least the university could do is ensure these students are provided with an adequate amount of information that is not only easy to access but also engaging. This would ensure their applicants are well informed and prepared to thrive at U of T. Valerie Yao is a first-year humanities student at University College.





Don’t underestimate the value of community

Taking advantage of resources, opportunities to form organic relationships


Giselle Dalili Varsity Contributor

The past few months have been a stressful time for students finishing high school worldwide as they all work tediously to submit essays and applications to the universities of their dreams. As students continue to apply, it stands to reason that they have pressing questions regarding what is truly necessary to know about universities, including the University of Toronto, before applying. After completing one semester of my undergraduate degree, I have noticed a shift in my perspective of U of T from before and after my transition to university. After moving into residence in the fall, COVID-19 case surges have inhibited me from seeing my family. This was especially disheartening during the holiday season. Although I have taken advantage of U of T’s many extracurricular events and resources to find like-minded students, forming and maintaining friendships within university has been quite challenging. To be fair, schools worldwide have been struggling with the same issue as they have to conform to this new online ecosystem. Nevertheless, I have felt isolated, and unfortunately, I know I am not the only student in this situation. A 2007 intercollegiate study found a positive correlation between university students developing new friendships and their adjustment

to the university environment. Despite the fact that university life will most likely return to its in-person norm within the coming years, the type of relationships — prominently friendships — a university facilitates will still be vital. A study performed by researchers at Northern Illinois University demonstrates the impact that fostering belonging and positive friendships among students can have on the transition to postsecondary education. The study found that positive changes in university belonging for firstyear students were accompanied by less internalizing of problematic behaviours as well as improved scholastic competence, self-worth, and other measures of self-perception. Unfortunately, many schools do not prioritize their students’ sense of belonging and social needs. High school students should consider the complexities that come with creating a network of social groups at university. Since a lot of schools provoke more competitive environments, creating a balanced social life can be more difficult. There are limited indicators that demonstrate how exactly a school performs socially, but blogs can be a very helpful resource. Many graduate and undergraduate students have blogs where they record their lives, including their socio-academic experiences. Although the reliability of this anecdotal evidence can be questionable, it can provide interested students with a sense of familiarity with student life at a specific school. At many larger schools, including U of T, these blogs are plentiful and come in video and written formats. This way, pro-

spective students receive a more wellrounded view of how students function and can possibly find like-minded student bloggers with similar fields of study. U of T Student Life is an official association that provides graduate and undergraduate students with programs and services under nine main categories: “Academic Success,” “Accessibility and Academic Accommodations,” “Clubs, Groups and Community Learning,” “Culture and Faith,” “Explore and Start a Career,” “Find a Place to Live On or Off Campus,” “Health and Wellness,” “International,” and “Leadership and Mentorship.” These resources are made easily accessible through Student Life’s “9 new things” email series. These biweekly emails contain nine upcoming seminars and events that students can take advantage of in order to improve the social, mental, professional, academic, and lifestyle aspects of their lives. Considering U of T’s highly competitive nature, the resources available to create a holistic learning environment have often been overlooked. U of T’s colleges host mental health, leadership, and social opportunities. Some colleges across all campuses also contain Living Learning Communities — resident-based groups that come together to discuss their similar interests in educational subjects like sustainability. U of T has a myriad of programs that build community before and during students’ first year. First-Year Learning Communities are groups that meet bi-weekly made up of first-year students registered in many of the same courses to participate in academic and social activi-

ties organized by upper-year students and faculty. First-Year Foundations Ones Programs feature courses for smaller bands of students in similar fields where they can gain specific opportunities such as guest speaker lectures. All of these organizations keep students engaged in their in-school networks. By incentivizing students to congregate in smaller groups with similar intrigues, U of T fosters less superficial communities. While the quality of these student networks varies between programs, this conclusion is in accordance with combined student experiences. By considering this information as well as one’s response to competitive environments, applying students can make informed decisions when it comes to U of T. While students tend to prioritize aspects of possible schools that benefit their outside-of-school success — such as their potential profit by investigating the salaries students in their field make after graduating and prospective school rankings — creating connections within a given school is necessary to feed those outside-of-school experiences. Those connections start with creating community. U of T does so by coordinating countless bodies that students can join that are based upon one’s interests and goals at university. Thus, more organic relationships can form. Giselle Dalili is a first-year social sciences student at New College.

Letters to the Editor Re: The pandemic has negatively impacted quality of postsecondary education “This seems fair - it is a global crisis after all. But I wonder - has it negatively impacted the quantity of university profits? Asking for roughly 500,000 friends......” — Paul Newland (from web)

ing over time to ignore judgements, educate and share where there is confusion, and walk through life confidently without apologizing for who I am. It feels good knowing that there is someone else out there with a similar upbringing who understands. Mersi Jasmin-jan” — Alyssa Atef (from web)

Re: Finding security in being Chinese-Iranian Canadian “As an Iranian-Canadian and someone who is heavily involved with the Iranian-Canadian community, this makes me so happy to read. Thank you for telling us your story, Jasmin!” — Amir Moazzami (from web)

Re: Finding security in being Chinese-Iranian Canadian “Great piece and I love the accompanying header art. I completely relate to this as I’m IranianCroatian-Canadian. It’s difficult feeling like you're never really enough of either culture to fit in. But at the end of the day, I’m grateful to have grown up with such a diverse background. And I’m learn-

Re: Opinion: Don’t dismiss the religious scientist in your lab just yet “Many faiths don’t practice literal interpretations. It’s completely possible to practice religion while still trusting in science.” — Garnet Shredder (from web)

Re: Opinion: We need more safe, affordable housing options “‘U of T must take action to make residence more affordable for more students’ -- sure, but how? The author doesn’t suggest any solution, e.g., a source of funding for this.” — Xiao Joseph Zhao (from web)

Re: Evolution: A photo series “I trust the Philosophy Department will untangle this article for all the disparate positions it holds. The final paragraph is certainly subject to challenge.” — Paul Newland (from web) Re: Biking from U of T to Niagara Falls “Love everything about this solo adventure!!!” — Sukanya Sharma (from web) Re: No, I’m not white-washed — I’m Punjabi “Great read! I’ve had similar experiences myself + it’s nice to see unity through all of this” — Daven Boparai (from web)


JANUARY 11, 2021

Op-ed: It’s time for Victoria College to be proactive about climate action

Op-ed: The UTSU needs to rethink how it advocates the administration Student engagement, reasonable demands, decisiveness during the pandemic

Sarit Radak Varsity Contributor


Aminah Attar, Sarah Eid, Jerico Raguindin, Neha Sarraf, Leila Tjiang Varsity Contributors

Advocating for changes within the Victoria College community and administration, the Vic Zero Committee, a committee of the Victoria College Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) Sustainability Commission, was founded on five guiding principles: engagement, transparency, social responsibility, social justice, and looking to the future. With these principles, the Vic Zero Sustainability Strategic Plan was created, functioning as a set of demands and outlining a formal sustainability framework that encourages changes for a more just, resilient, and equitable campus. Released in November 2020, the Vic Zero Sustainability Strategic Plan was brought forth from a simple question: when, if ever, is the Victoria University administration going to take serious climate action? From decreasing food waste to achieving carbon neutrality, the report promotes a holistic approach to sustainability that recommends tangible changes to Vic’s current practices. It also includes a necessary cultural shift away from the college’s role in contributing to climate injustices, such as the lack of transparency with its investments. Embedded within each of the report’s demands is the plea for better communication and cross-collaboration between students, faculty, and staff — a necessity when the decisions made by an institution such as Vic can have such far-reaching environmental implications, on both a spatial and temporal scale. Vic boasts a student body that is filled with advocacy-oriented individuals, constantly campaigning for changes to create a more inclusive and just community within the college, including the 2019 Renaming Ryerson Initiative — which saw the Ryerson Stream renamed the ‘Education Stream’ due to namesake Egerton Ryerson’s affiliation with the residential school system — and the numerous efforts of past VUSAC Sustainability Commissions. While Vic has responded with smallerscale sustainable changes, like replacing bulbs with LED lights and gradual building retro-

fits, it has yet to create a binding set of values to guide the actions necessary for a sustainable campus. Without a comprehensive policy on sustainability, there is a constant gap in communication about where Vic’s priorities lie, which undermines the urgency of the climate crisis. This ultimately forces students to take on the responsibility of generating possible solutions to rectify the college’s insufficient practices and begs the question of how dire the climate crisis must get before Vic hears its own and commits to decisive action. Following its publication and release, the Vic Zero Sustainability Strategic Plan has been steadily gathering student support from both individuals and groups within the Vic and wider U of T communities. Students can support the plan by signing the Vic Zero petition. With 132 individual endorsements and 14 endorsements from student groups — including the VUSAC, the University of Toronto Students’ Union, and the Arts and Science Students’ Union  the report will be presented to Vic’s governing body, the Board of Regents, and the president’s office with the hopes of fostering cooperation, conversation, and the implementation of the report’s demands. Simultaneously, its presentation intends to demonstrate the seriousness of Vic students’ intentions to ensure that the college, as a leading institution of higher education, takes accountability for our collective future. Aminah Attar is a third-year environmental studies and public policy student at Victoria College, the Vic Zero project founder, and the Board of Regents student representative. Sarah Eid is a third-year human biology, conservation biology, and physiology student at Victoria College and is a Vic Zero project lead. Jerico Raguindon is a second-year public policy and sociology student at Victoria College, a Vic Zero project lead, and the VUSAC Sustainability co-chair. Neha Sarraf is a second-year economics and environmental studies student at Victoria College and is a Vic Zero project lead. Leila Tjiang is a third-year environmental biology and geography student at Victoria College, a Vic Zero project lead, and the VUSAC sustainability commissioner.

One of the main roles of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is to advocate to the university administration on behalf of students. This year, more than ever, it is crucial that the UTSU convinces the administration to act based on student input. Discouraging the use of overloaded coursework, increasing academic forgiveness policies, and preventing the cost of education from rising are only some of the things that students desperately need. Fortunately, the recent extended winter break didn’t just give students more time to recover from a hectic fall semester; it also served as a prime example of how to convince the administration to listen to students. One of the factors that may have led to the extension of winter break was engagement of the student body. The almost 9,000 signatures that the “Extend Winter Break for UofT Students� petition gathered was an impressive show of support for the measure and proved that it was something that students truly wanted. Unfortunately, low student body engagement with the UTSU means that union executives don’t have a strong claim to be speaking on behalf of students. This can be seen in the union’s most recent by-election, which had a voter turnout of 1.5 per cent. Likewise, Muntaka Ahmed, the current UTSU president, was elected with just over 1,700 votes because only about 5,000 of approximately 38,000 eligible voters cast a ballot in the election. Because a candidate can ascend to the union’s highest office with the support of only a small fraction of the student body, elections cannot be viewed as a mandate of student support. This means that executives can’t simply approach the university with a strong mandate from students. Instead, UTSU executives need to engage with their constituents to find out what students really want, be more public about what they are advocating for, and use the union’s social media to keep students engaged in the process. The university won’t take the UTSU’s advocacy seriously until the union has a legitimate claim to be speaking on behalf of the students. In addition to student body engagement, the petition to extend winter break worked because it was reasonable. The job of university administrators is to balance the needs of students with those of other members of the university community. Whereas students are focused on

decreasing the cost of education, keeping the university accessible, and improving the student mental health crisis on campus, other members of the university — such as faculty and staff — are concerned about other issues, such as their health insurance and job security. When union executives approach the administration with radical demands that only benefit students, such as a substantial reduction of tuition, they could be dismissed as unrealistic and unreasonable because they don’t consider the needs of faculty and staff. Shifting to more realistic, feasible solutions that benefit the university community as a whole is the only way for the UTSU to create real change for the students whom it represents. Finally, the unusual circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have opened the door for more change. Nowadays, it seems as if every email from the university administration begins with some variation of the phrase, “during these difficult circumstances.� Although these words have become trite over the past few months, they reflect a new reality: pandemic-era education means that students are learning under particularly stressful conditions. In any other year, administrators could have used their confidence in the systems that they have built to push aside the problems that students bring up. This year, with class delivery methods continuously changing, administrators know that what they are delivering isn’t perfect. Because of this, they are more likely to accept change and are more sympathetic to students. One notable change came from the Faculty of Arts & Science, which changed its exam period to a more laid-back “final assessment period� for the fall 2020 semester. UTSU executives need to act quickly and decisively in order to take advantage of this moment if they want to bring about change. The extension of winter break by the university is not only a show of sympathy from a generally unsympathetic administration; it is also an excellent model for student advocacy at U of T. If the UTSU wants to break a years-long streak of failing to compel action from the university administration, it must engage the student body, be reasonable about what it asks for, and remind administrators that we’re all bearing the brunt of online education. Sarit Radak is a second-year molecular genetics student at University College. He served as the 2019–2020 life sciences director for the University of Toronto Students’ Union and currently serves on the Arts and Science Council as a full-time sciences student.






Mélina Lévesque Associate Comment Editor Over the holidays this December, I remember sitting at my desk with one of my cats nestled on my lap and the other spread out comfortably next to me, conveniently blocking my laptop screen with his tail and unusually large paws. Lit up on the shelf to my right and far out of immediate reach from my two cats was my seasonal Bath & Body Works candle, ‘Tis the Season. Though it was dark and cold outside, I was bathed in the warmth of the fire and fairy lights that my parents had put up inside our cottage at South Frontenac, Ontario. I opened the bedroom door to see Maman, Papa, and my brother hanging out around the fire, sitting closely together and sharing conversation over cups of coffee. The scene was set and my heart was full. As I allowed my mind to take yet another crisp mental picture, I was reminded once again of how much I would miss this when I went back to Toronto. I would miss the feeling of comfort when I join Papa for an early cup of coffee with the cats. The warmth that I felt when I snuggled next to Maman as she played with my hair. The smile that lit up my face when my brother and I sat around the dinner table, sharing stories and memories with Maman and Papa. Even though these nostalgic feelings hit me every time I have to say goodbye and head back to Toronto, this January felt different because of what my brother and I were going back to. This year, we returned to Toronto from South Frontenac early, spending the extra week that U of T added to winter break in our shared apartment in the city instead of at the cottage. In previous years, I would simply have taken the extended break for what it was — a time to relax, unwind, and refresh before the beginning of another semester. This time around, however, I couldn’t help but reflect on the year I was leaving behind and what the pandemic has given me, especially in terms of the people I love. An unexpected move It’s been months since my brother and I moved in together in September, and I can say with full confidence that he’s the best roommate I’ve ever had. There are still moments when he looks at me with a smile while making his morning coffee, and he says, “We’re actually living together.” This reality continues to hit me with happiness every time I get to give him a hug, and even during little moments, like when I find highlighted piles of grocery receipts posted on the fridge with the words “money you owe me” written across them. At the beginning of this year, we had no idea we would end up being roommates, but when the pandemic hit, our lives radically shifted. Both of my parents lost their

full-time jobs. Since August, Papa has continued working on an assembly line 40 hours a week making ventilators. As case numbers continue to rise to disturbing heights daily and further lockdown restrictions are imposed, he still doesn’t know whether or not he will be called back to his former full-time job as a flight simulator instructor. Thankfully, Maman was called back to her part-time job as an English instructor and is grappling with the challenging task of online teaching. But as I grapple with organizing upcoming graduate school applications and getting my thesis in order on top of financial uncertainty, I still see our futures as precarious. My brother and I moved in together because on top of everything else, his roommate pulled out of the lease in August. Even after postings and interviews with prospective subletters, nobody seemed to fit. One day in September, my brother called me. I asked him if he wanted me to come over. “Not if you don’t want to,” he said. Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting next to him on his futon with a packed duffle bag, a pillow, and a blanket. His small two-bedroom Koreatown apartment felt overwhelmingly large, empty, and silent as he told me how alone he felt. I sat there with my arms wrapped around him, holding him closely as he broke out into tears, and my heart broke. “I can’t imagine myself living here at all,” he said again and again. In that moment, I realized that he needed me more than ever, and I needed him as well. We decided that we would move in together. While we both felt overwhelmed by our decision at first, we were excited. Not only would we be in the comforting company of one another, but we would also be saving money on rent during a time when our family’s financial situation was still very fragile. The next thing I knew, we were setting up furniture in our new two-bedroom apartment at the end of September and arguing over where things would go, which is a battle that I’ve won several times. And through it all, we still give each other a hug every night before going to sleep. Realizations over this break While my brother and I have known each other for 19 years, moving in together after living apart for four years has taught us a surprising amount about one another, but has also reminded us that certain things don’t change. In the downtime that we’ve had over the holiday break, I’ve had time to reflect upon a few of these things. Our new discoveries during this extra week of break usually came in small packages. My brother recently realized how sensitive I can be to the sound of people

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typing. He has also remembered how I will light just about every candle that I can get my hands on. As for me, I’ve gained an appreciation for my brother’s excellent culinary skills and how he loves to add lemon to pretty much everything, which is a common trait in our family. Additionally, my requests to have morning coffee with him every day during this last week before university starts again has resulted in me learning that he enjoys almond milk in his coffee, but he isn’t exactly a morning person. I know that the beginning of another semester means things will change, but I still cherish the memories we’ve made together during the first week of 2021. We’ve spent the mornings chatting over a hot cup of joe and the evenings cooking late-night dinners. In reflection, moving in with my best friend has been one of the greatest lastminute blessings that this past year has brought me — one that I am thankful for every morning when I take my first sip of coffee in our kitchen and in the evening when I say goodnight to him. This week has also brought a new furry surprise, and we’ve been setting up our space for our two new roommates: our cats Mia and Marty. As the time with our family during the December holidays was coming to a close, I expressed to my brother how genuinely anxious I was feeling about getting through the winter semester with the pandemic. Considering the fact that my brother is allergic to cats, I was pleasantly surprised when he suggested that we make some room for our two family cats. It’s been a week since Mia and Marty have settled in, and we’ve enjoyed every second of their presence here. While Mia and Marty may be small, their fluffy presence has filled up our hearts with an overflowing amount of happiness. Having two furry friends to keep us company during the dark winter months has been extremely comforting. This extra week of break has been the perfect opportunity for my brother and I to get Mia and Marty acquainted with their new surroundings. Our cats spend their days balancing their time between sleeping, cuddling with us or each other, and staring out my bedroom window, watching streetcars and people go by. They have been a constant source of entertainment, not to mention the best type of distraction from the pandemic outside. Waking up in the morning and enjoy-

ing some coffee on our futon with our two fluffy friends by our side has been an unexpected yet wonderful highlight of the beginning of this year. Sharing peaceful moments like this every morning has been an important reminder to my brother and I that we hope to carry throughout these next few months: take it one step at a time. If there is any new year’s resolution that matters, it’s this one. Final reflections As we take our first steps into 2021, I naturally find myself looking back at the months leading up to January 1. With almost a year gone by since the news of COVID-19 first sent shockwaves of panic across the world, time seems to have passed by so quickly yet so unbelievably slowly. Days are counted by countdowns to the end of consecutive lockdown cycles, and weeks are calculated by hopeful progress reports. So here we are: a new year, new semester, and a continuing pandemic with hopes for change. I remember sitting on my family’s couch this New Year’s Eve, scrolling through my Instagram feed as I watched friends, family, and celebrities from all around the world raising a glass to the end of 2020. For my family, the repercussions of the year still remain even with a new calendar year. But I realized that while I could most definitely clench my fists at the blows that the year brought us, I didn’t want to. Although 2020 definitely dealt my family a hard deck of cards, It wouldn’t be fair of me to paint the past few months with a single brush. Both of my parents are employed again, and Maman is thankfully making enough to help support my brother and I through university. We are all in good health, and we are grateful for everything we have this year. In the sea of negativity that has swallowed the year of 2020, it has also been a time of profound reflection that has reminded us to hug our loved ones, count our blessings, take care of ourselves, and check in with those we love. This extra week of break has allowed me to fully reflect on my experiences and check in on myself and my relationships before tackling the challenging year ahead. Right now, my brother and I are hanging up some big and bold fairy lights on the brick wall of our living room, adding another layer of warmth to our new home. Marty and Mia are snuggled up on the futon underneath the string of lights, letting out a long sigh every now and then. The wall by our dining table is decorated with pictures of family holidays, precious moments, and nostalgic baby pictures that remind us of feelings of light and love. Sitting back on the futon to join the cats, I look over at my brother with a smile. Over the sound of Mia and Marty purring, comforting words come to mind: we’re going to get through this together.

Arts & Culture

January 11, 2021 var.st/arts arts@thevarsity.ca

U of T takes the plunge into TikTok

The university expands its reach through the most downloaded app of 2020 Mikaela Toone Associate Arts & Culture Editor

Illuminated by phosphorescent blues and deep into the first wave of the pandemic, I ‘liked’ my first TikTok. It featured Penny, a bashful-eyed brown dog, being voiced-over by her owner. Although I didn’t laugh, a stitch of comedy stirred behind glassy eyes, and I, along with hundreds of millions worldwide, spiralled into the app’s addicting algorithm. Capitalizing on TikTok’s popularity, U of T created three verified accounts in 2020: @uoft, @utsc, and @utm. A U of T spokesperson wrote to The Varsity that the school plans to use the app to “better connect with current and prospective students,” as well as to “share student stories, study tips and resources, and also highlight… ground-breaking research.” The @utsc account already brushed with virality when videos about fish-killing toxic chemicals in tires and utilizing McDonald’s cooking oil for 3D printing took off. The videos garnered 395,000 and 89,000 views, respectively. However, @utsc is not the only flourishing U of T TikTok account: the Centre for Ethics at U of T — @centreforethics on TikTok — has also gained thousands of followers and more than 80,000 likes with its videos. According to Amelia Eaton, a research assistant for the Centre for Ethics and a fourthyear student majoring in ethics, society and law, the goal of the account is to ”bring conversations about ethics to the public.” She added that “the app is still mostly a younger audience, who may not be in university, but are still concerned about climate change, racial justice, artificial intelligence, and other ethical issues.” Both Eaton and Centre for Ethics Director Markus Dubber acknowledge that complex academic ideas can be tough to squeeze into a 60-second video. Dubber wrote to The Varsity that “TikTok is great for quick hits that reach a different (generally younger, and less academic) audience, and points them in the direction of our other content,” content that includes more in-depth YouTube videos, podcasts, and events. Besides the official U of T accounts, others have taken to creating content about the

How to manage anxiety around pending grades

Here’s how to make the wait for final results a little easier

Seeing a string of “IPR”s can be disheartening. SAMANTHA YAO/THE VARSITY

Shankeri Vijayakumar Varsity Contributor

As courses and final assessments wrap up, it is normal to gravitate toward ACORN and repeatedly refresh your Academic History page to see your final grades. Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and impatience as we begin to constantly wonder about when the letters ‘IPR’ — meaning “in progress” — will transform into a letter grade.

While it can be tempting to constantly check ACORN and calculate your final grades based on how you think you did on your final assessments, you have to be mindful of not letting these thoughts consume you. It is important to focus on your well-being and to not be afraid to reach out for help. Try these strategies to help manage IPR grade anxiety as you wait to learn your final grades.

university. The videos under the “uoft” hashtag have more than 46 million views, collectively. Not far behind sits the “uoftears”' hashtag — a snarky nod at the perceived difficulty of the university — with almost 13 million views. Under these hashtags are a variety of videos, including a group of students thanking an emotional professor over Zoom for their class, students fretting over grade deflation and poor mental health, and aesthetically-pleasing study vlogs. As far as responding to these TikToks of students expressing concerns about the university, a spokesperson for U of T wrote in an email to The Varsity, “While we do not anticipate responding to any specific videos, we look forward to sharing resources for students on this channel, including mental health resources.” There is precedent for students using TikTok to advocate for change. As out-of-state students showed up to their New York University dorm rooms to quarantine, they were met with lessthan-desirable meals. Vegetarians received meat; some food had gone bad, and some students went hungry — incidents that all went viral on TikTok. The university apologized and assured students that the problems would be rectified. Despite TikTok’s potential for virality, overall it feels absurd and finite. Once you scroll past a video it is most likely impossible to find. One New York Times critic described the app as a “bottomless gumball machine, serving up ephemeral treats.” However, part of what makes TikTok so addicting is its diversity of — often bizarre — content. One moment you’ll be chortling at absurdist humour and the next you’ll watch an intimate dedication to someone’s deceased loved one. A number of blogs give their recommendations for how universities can succeed with their TikTok accounts. One suggests using a mascot, and another suggests participating in trends. Overall, they advise to embrace the bizarrity. I look forward to seeing how one of Canada’s oldest institutions embraces a decidedly Gen Z app. Limit how often you check your grades Repeatedly checking to see if your grades have been released can contribute to more feelings of uncertainty. Following strategies that help limit how often you check in on your grades can help you manage these feelings. One way to do this is by setting a particular time to log on to ACORN to check on your grades each day. Having a set time to check on your grades will allow you to structure your day productively and focus on your other tasks and responsibilities. Do other things If you feel the urge to repeatedly check ACORN, even after your scheduled log-on time, have a todo list of tasks to refer to. Having a list of tasks on hand will help take your mind off of wanting to repeatedly check in on your grades. Rather than work, you can also do things that make you happy. Watch that new TV show you have been meaning to watch, try baking, or pick up old hobbies. It can be easy to neglect self-care or enjoyable pastimes as you get caught up in the stress of waiting for your final grades. Maintaining a hobby and engaging in leisurely activities that you enjoy will allow you to relax and refocus your attention. Manage recurring thoughts about final grades Any feelings or anxieties that you have as you wait for your final grades are completely understandable and you should allow yourself to explore those feelings. However, having constant


thoughts about this can also be very distracting and should be managed in productive ways. You can reach out to your social support network and share what you are feeling about waiting to learn your final grades. Keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself can build up and contribute to more feelings of anxiety. Talking about them out loud can help you better understand what you are feeling and understand them from a different perspective. Another good idea is to write down your thoughts and feelings for a few minutes every day. Journaling is a great tool to better understand your thinking because it provides an outlet to identify recurring thoughts and practice positive self-talk. Reflect on your thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on hypotheticals and if there is evidence to back them up. This can help reframe your thought patterns into more productive thoughts that can help you cope with IPR grade anxiety in a more healthy way. Practice mindfulness If you have periods during which you are particularly worried, you can practice mindfulness. Set a timer, close your eyes, and focus on what is on your mind. Instead of letting your mind wander freely, observe your feelings and anxieties without passing judgment. Trying to control and overthink your worries may lead to you getting stuck in a negative thought process. Observing your thoughts and working to maintain your thought process in the present can help you let go of these worries.


JANUARY 11, 2021


Crow is now at home in St.Catharines, Ontario, JAKE ROGERS/THE VARSITY

How pets help us face a pandemic Three students reflect on how their cats and dogs have changed their lockdown experiences

Jake Rogers, Reese Halfyard, Janine AlHadidi Varsity Contributors

Loss of physical contact and steady routines, as well as heightened anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused many to seek out additional support systems. Whether through adoption or a renewed connection, pets are a significant form of companionship to help brave the pandemic. Below, three contributors reflect on how their pets have helped them navigate this tremulous time. Raising a pandemic puppy, by Jake Rogers In early February, I decided to adopt a dog — largely to fill the need for companionship and partly to ease my seasonal depression, which had been worsening for quite some time. I chose a breed, Samoyed, and a name, Crow. Adopting Crow was largely impulsive, but I did know what to expect as I had two dogs at home and understood that some lifestyle changes would be needed in order to accommodate my new roommate. So I began to save a bit more, stopped staying out as late, and carved my timetable around a walking schedule. However, I did not expect the state of emergency declaration from Doug Ford on March 17, not even a month and a half after I had brought Crow home. When I made the decision to adopt Crow, COVID-19 was a foreign threat that seemed somewhat controllable. There was no indication that a lockdown, let alone any form of ubiquitous restriction, would occur. When lockdown restrictions were imposed, I had to find solutions to the impending end of my lease in April and dwindling job prospects in Toronto; my answer to these issues was to go home to St. Catharines, Ontario. Crow had only recently become accustomed to her new surroundings, yet with all courses and subsequent exams now online, it seemed both safer and more economical to go home. Not to mention my parents’ two labradors, Cody and Cali, would provide some socialization for Crow. I didn’t know what to expect. Cody was 12 at the time and has no tolerance for outsiders trespassing on his territory. Cali turned eight in March but needed a playmate as

Nikki and Zelda are always nearby.


Cody had lost much of his mobility to hip dysplasia. I was also concerned that Crow might develop separation anxiety when we inevitably returned to Toronto. On all counts though, I could not be happier with my decision. Crow and Cali have formed quite the team. Cali occasionally appears nearly maternal, often training Crow to do simple tasks every puppy must learn in early adolescence, such as traversing stairs, playing safely but aggressively, and, unfortunately, begging. Cody has not exactly warmed to his new housemate, but he is happy to share his backyard as long as Crow doesn’t come too close, and Crow has learned that his bark is much worse than his bite. Perhaps most importantly, Crow has made our family better. St. Catharines is now home for Crow and she has become a family dog as much as she is mine. While I still fear the implications that may have when we return to Toronto, I’m glad she’s had the opportunity to spend time in a family dynamic with two dogs who have been friends in a time when it would have otherwise been impossible to meet other dogs. Now, just this week, she celebrated her first birthday in a home in which I never intended for her to live, but with a family I’m glad she now has. COVID-19 is ‘purr-fectly’ great with cats, by Reese Halfyard COVID-19 has not made it easy to be home all the time. The days can be long and boring, especially when winter set in. However, despite the newest lockdown implementation, I’m grateful to have the home and family I have. My two lovely cats, Nikki and Zelda, make being at home much better. I find that people underestimate how amazing it is to own cats. Every morning when I wake up, they greet me, mostly because they take up half my bed. When I cook breakfast, they stand on the counter and watch over me. Or when I run to grab the mail, they’re at the front door waiting for me to come back. Nikki is a large fluffy cat who loves each person she meets. When my family adopted her as a kitten, I knew she would end up being a gentle and lovely soul. Before the virus, Nikki would wait for me to leave for school for the day and be sitting at the door as soon as I came home. I

suppose it is quite weird for animals who have become accustomed to being alone during the day to suddenly always have company. For the past few weeks, Nikki has never left my side. Even while doing online tests or stressful assignments, she sits next to me. She offers a level of comfort and love that I never thought I needed. While this pandemic is stressful for us, it is equally as stressful for our animals. They lean on us for support, just as we lean on them. My other kitten, Zelda, is my sister’s favourite. She practically follows her around the house. Despite what some people may believe about cats, Zelda knows her own name — but weirdly only when my sister says it. My family has been home much more since the recent lockdown was implemented. In addition to this, we’ve recently moved houses, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment for the cats. This means getting used to the new litter box location and other surroundings. However, regardless of where we live, Nikki and Zelda help

reunite with my family. In a time of extreme isolation, my family members, including my dog, Kermie, have grounded me and helped me get through lockdown, constantly reminding me to appreciate the little things in life. Kermie, a sweet seven-year-old labradoodle, has played a major role in calming my anxiety, forcing me out of the house to go on walks and giving me a reason to wake up in the morning when getting out of bed was a struggle. Pets do more than just nap all day and cuddle with us when we can’t sleep at night. They are a form of casual magic and perpetual joy that help us with our day-to-day struggles, even more so during a time when seeing other people has become a source of distress and worry. During the beginning of the fall semester, I found myself overly committing to allnighters to complete my papers, and my dog ended up staying up with me for each one with droopy eyes and a soldier attitude. At least I always knew that I was not alone with my long

Pandemic puppies and kittens have helped people navigate isolation. JANINE ALHADIDI/THE VARSITY

make our house a home. Nonetheless, I would not have been able to make it through the pandemic without my cats. As cheesy as it may sound, they are a significant part of my life and make my family complete. I have a newfound appreciation for my animals and the form of escapism that they brought during this pandemic. How my dog grounded me during COVID-19, by Janine AlHadidi When the pandemic first hit in March, I was living in a small apartment with my roommate in downtown Toronto. The uncertainty of the months that followed felt like a recurring nightmare that would never end, and when the university announced that the rest of the semester would take place online, I panicked and frantically moved out to the suburbs to

papers. Moreover, during this semester, I have also found myself yearning for the serotonin rush of physical contact. My dog has given me the physical comfort I needed when the most physical contact any of us could get was elbowing one another from a distance. During such an isolating time, dogs have provided us with a non-judgemental support system that both physically and emotionally calms our nerves and gives us a reason to smile. When it comes to our health during COVID-19, many of us have forgotten to take a step back and focus on our mental health. Our pets push us to channel our focus onto something other than academic work or jobs and provide us with the type of unconditional love that we need now more than ever. I can safely say that loving my dog has been the fluffiest and happiest coping mechanism during such an uncertain time.






Losing touch: on the absence of physical contact during lockdown

For me, the hardest thing is not hugging my grandparents Jasmin Akbari Varsity Contributor

Human touch, a primal need that follows us all the way from infancy to adulthood, can soothe, signal safety, and foster collaborative relationships. It has even been suggested that touch strengthens our immune systems. Human touch

is so important that a lack of it is called touch starvation. Touch has been an important aspect of my life: I have always relied on it to convey my love, compassion, and trust to someone. To me, human touch is a form of communication that helps me connect with people. There is versatility in the human touch that is unlike any word,

facial expression, or gesture, and it can magnify how I am feeling to someone. One of the major adjustments we had to make due to COVID-19 is how we interact with people, most of which became digital. We are no longer able to shake hands, hug our friends, or kiss our significant others due to the fear that we might be spreading COVID-19. Before the pandemic, I was constantly surrounded by people through school, work, and social gatherings. The sudden changes put me out, and for a few weeks, I felt alone. I had been so used to hugging, holding hands, and receiving comforting pats on the shoulder that it was a part of my communication.

The Jane Austen Society is a love letter to classic literature U of T alum’s debut is a uniquely captivating historical fiction novel

Can Gultekin Varsity Contributor

We all have that one hobby, activity, or guilty pleasure — whatever it may be — that we use to escape the difficulties of reality and the constant challenges in our lives. For the main characters of The Jane Austen Society, it is their shared love for the collective works of Jane Austen. The novel is set in 1945, right after the end of World War II, and takes place in Chawton — a small and lovely village in the Hampshire district of England — where Austen wrote and revised six books. A group of dissimilar individuals comes together to form the Jane Austen Society with one goal in mind: preserving both Austen’s legacy and her home. The society consists of “a country doctor, an old maid, a schoolmarm, a bachelor farmer, a fey auctioneer, a conflict-averse solicitor, a scullery maid and one Hollywood movie star,” who all set aside their personal troubles and traumas that had followed the war. A shared love of Austen is the only thing they need to spark the forming of heartwarming friendships, leading to a good deal of heartfelt moments. It is important to note that to enjoy The Jane Austen Society, you do not have to be familiar with Austen’s works, but if you are, you can appreciate it all the better. Natalie Jenner, a U of T law and English

alum, made her debut with this novel, granting her a place in the spotlight. The book received recognition by winning Goodreads Choice Awards Best Debut Novel and Goodreads Choice Awards Best Historical Fiction. It was also a commercial success, ranking number one on the national bestseller list for three months straight. Thanks to clean prose and a fascinating theme and setting, Jenner has created a true page turner. She built up the side storylines without wasting any time, preventing the story from turning dull, and the connection of the side storylines to the main story has been done masterfully with engaging pacing. All in all, this piece of historical fiction resembles a love letter not only to Austen, but also to the world of literature itself, alluding to many of the greats like Charlotte Brontë and Virginia Woolf, bringing forward their contributions to society. Plenty of times, Jenner highlights the connections that all her characters have developed with the creations of Austen, even if they simply remain pieces of fiction. Jenner acknowledges the place that literature — and Austen particularly — has in our hearts, with the help of three-dimensional and complex characters the reader will love to cheer for. The Jane Austen Society is a unique and captivating piece of historical fiction with a dash of romance that Austen readers will already be familiar with and drawn to.

The book revolves around a diverse cast of characters, united in their love COURTESY OF ST MARTIN'S PRESS

It made me realize how little a text message and FaceTime can provide. They were great tools for communication, but it really was touch that made things different. It made things more real. As time passed, however, I realized that what I missed most was being with my grandparents. Since lockdown, I have realized how much I took my grandparents for granted. They have been my support system throughout my life, and through these very stressful and difficult times, our communication has changed. No longer having the physical experience where we can hug each other and be together has been difficult. How can I connect with them the same way I did before COVID-19? Do they even understand how I feel without physical touch? It is one thing to text and FaceTime, but it’s another thing to be there physically in the moment. There is a glass window that keeps us apart, and until we can be completely sure that everyone is safe, we cannot ignore that glass window. Over time, it has been increasingly difficult for me to not feel lonely and guilty over the lockdown. I constantly look back on what I should have done when I was with my grandparents. I regret not spending more time with them and not hugging them more. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them. I can only imagine how tightly I’ll hug them when all this is over. My experience has made me wonder about the experiences of others. I wonder about the elderly who cannot go out to see their grandchildren, the international students away from their families on campus, the patients in hospitals isolated from their friends and family, and the health care workers who have to risk their health to help others. In today’s climate, we lack something very important: the human touch. When I think about life, I think about being able to hug and to hold someone’s hand in my own. I think about the shared trust and compassion that comes with touch. However, the most important thing I have learned is that, at the moment, isolating yourself is possibly one of the greatest symbols of love and compassion you can demonstrate to others.


January 11, 2021 var.st/science science@thevarsity.ca

How will COVID-19 shape 2021?

Expect a year of vaccination challenges, continual case numbers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau estimates that all Canadians will be vaccinated by September, however, this date is subject to change. COURTESY OF HAKAN NURAL/UNSPLASH

Tahmeed Shafiq Science Editor

2020: year one of the pandemic Reports of the disease that would later be called COVID-19 first emerged from the city of Wuhan, China in late December 2019. According to data from John Hopkins University, by the end of the first week of 2021, the pandemic has claimed about 1.9 million lives and has infected around 89 million people. In Canada, there have been over 16,000 deaths and more than 640,000 known cases of infection. In October, the International Monetary Fund estimated that the total global economic cost of the pandemic would be over $35.5 trillion. The latest federal government report estimated that net expenditure fighting COVID-19 would total $322.3 billion by the end of March 2021.

Across the globe, 2020 was shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccine rollouts underway, when can we expect the pandemic to end? And once it’s over, what will it have cost us?

How many vaccines are available? Herculean efforts from researchers around the world ensured that vaccines were available within the year — four times faster than the previous fastest-developed vaccine for mumps. The Canadian government has approved two vaccines so far and has secured more doses per person than any other country. These doses were secured in deals with pharmaceutical companies. When all the contracts are summed up, the government has ordered almost nine doses for everyone who can safely take vaccines. This has sparked concern that vaccines will be in short supply elsewhere in the world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Who are the hardest hit in Canada? The pandemic has revealed deep structural divisions between those who can shelter at home and have access to health care, and those who don’t. An enormous percentage of Canadian deaths have come from residents and staff of long-term care homes — as many as 71 per cent according to tallied data from researchers at Ryerson University. Experts have criticized the availability of health care and data collection for Indigenous communities in Canada. In November 2020, Toronto city officials revealed that racialized people accounted for 79 per cent of all infections. Black people in particular made up almost a quarter of all known cases despite representing only 8.8 per cent of the city’s population.

When can I get a vaccine? The federal government is distributing vaccines to provinces and territories, which will then distribute them locally. This approach has resulted in differing vaccination timelines across the country and has been criticized by experts for causing delays. Ontario has developed a three-phase rollout scheme. The province is currently in Phase 1, which means vaccines are available only for some health care workers, long-term care home residents and staff, and Indigenous communities. They will be broadly available for all health care workers when Phase 2 begins and available for the general population during Phase 3. There are currently no concrete dates for when the next phases will begin. Meanwhile, British Columbia has already declared that it expects to begin vaccinating all health care workers, as well as vulnerable populations — such as people experiencing homelessness — from February to March.

Why are people talking about a new COVID-19 variant? Recently, three new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 have been discovered in three countries: the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Nigeria. The UK variant — shorthanded as the B.1.1.7 variant — has gained the most press attention, particularly due to modelling estimates that suggest it is between 40–70 per cent more transmissible than the dominant variant of the virus. Although this increased transmissibility is concerning, presently there is no evidence that the B.1.1.7 variant causes more serious symptoms or will require a different vaccine than the dominant variant. Mutations in the genetic material of a virus are to be expected, and there have already been over 4,000 known variants of SARS-CoV-2 that have not required vaccines to be adjusted. If vaccines do require tweaking, they can be modified fairly easily.

Will the pandemic end this year? It’s difficult to say. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is confident that the majority of Canadians will get vaccinated by the end of September 2021, uncertainty in logistics and important data, or a delay in Health Canada approving vaccines, could shift that goal post. Vaccines are being distributed slowly, and it isn’t clear yet whether a vaccinated person can still spread COVID-19. The pandemic is constantly evolving, and the best estimates from experts are always being reevaluated in light of new information. However, we can still map out some likely future scenarios. For people in Canada, the end of the pandemic will happen once enough of the population has been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Initially, experts believed that this could happen once vaccination levels reached 70 per cent. But as we learn more about the virus — and as transmissibility seems likely to increase with variants such as B.1.1.7 — this threshold might have to be raised. Even then, some provinces may achieve herd immunity before others due to the localized distribution

processes. The federal government expects to have enough vaccines to immunize everyone by the end of September, but it will be down to the provinces to distribute all those vaccines effectively and swiftly. Finally, a Canadian ‘end’ to the pandemic does not mean an end to the global crisis. Wealthy nations in the Global North have secured agreements for more than half of all the vaccines expected to be available this year. This leaves the rest of the world to divvy out the remainder or convince local manufacturers to give them priority access, something the government of India has already done. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that large parts of Africa and Asia and smaller parts of Europe, North America, and Oceania will not have widespread access to vaccines until 2022 or spring 2023. Until then, there will continue to be distribution challenges and rising case numbers. 2021 will be the start of a long road to recovery for the country and the world at large. Every vaccine injection saves potential lives. But when that road will end — and what effects of the pandemic will remain — are still unknown.





Hack your way to better new year’s resolutions with a little psychology

Research suggests goal setting increases performance — if done well

If you’re tired of failing your new year’s resolutions, science may have an answer.

Vivian Cheng Varsity Staff

It’s 2021: a new year, and, hopefully, a new chapter. Although gyms and trendy hotspots remain closed, you can still fulfill your new year’s resolutions at home. For many of us, new year’s resolutions either stick or don’t, with little in-between. But with a few evidence-based tips, you can increase your likelihood of success. Balance specificity with flexibility According to a 2006 article co-authored by Rotman School of Management Professor Gary Latham, setting specific and difficult goals is more effective than setting vague goals, such as to “do one’s best.” Latham and his colleague, University of Maryland professor Edwin Locke, have advanced the literature on goal setting theory over a number of years with the objective of analyzing the advantages of goal setting and the types of behaviours that help make it more effective. Latham’s article further explains that difficult goals result in greater effort and perseverance compared to easier goals. If a person is “committed to the goal, has the requisite ability to attain it, and does not have conflicting goals.” Goal difficulty and task performance go hand in hand. This linear relationship exists because setting goals motivates people to use their abilities, bring their abilities into their awareness, or attain new information. Moreover, “performance is a function of both ability and motivation,” and as such, complex tasks may motivate people to use their abilities to a greater degree. However, the plan developed to attain these goals should not be too specific. For example, instead of saying “I’d like to limit screen time to four hours a day by February,” one can say “I’d like to reduce screen time to between four and six hours a day this year.” Stanford Professor Baba Shiv argues that using numerical ranges, rather than a single number target or qualitative descriptions can encourage individuals and help them stay on track. These goals remain specific because they propose actual numbers and they are less likely to discourage individuals because they are not framed in an all-or-nothing manner. Break goals into smaller subgoals and prioritize them Focusing on subgoals tends to increase the amount of effort invested in the pursuit of a goal, according to a study from the International Association of Applied Psychology. This


process also requires individuals to rank their goals. Combining subgoals with superordinate goals — goals that require two or more social groups to cooperatively achieve — may increase the effectiveness of goal setting. Further, it helps to develop the skills required to reach your goal. Instead of focusing on the specific outcome, think about the skills required to reach that outcome. If you’re hoping to improve your GPA, for example, focus on learning how to write more persuasively or learning how to memorize details more effectively. Develop a passion and confidence When you develop a passion for your goal, you derive pleasure from taking steps to further it and treat your pursuit less like a chore. Studies show that passion not only brings a sense of momentum and purpose but also emotional fulfillment. If you have multiple new year’s resolutions, finding one that makes you happy can make it easier to fulfill your other resolutions. Shiv also noted that “for one to be successful, one needs to be motivated.” Self-confidence or task-specific confidence can enhance other variables that make it easier to achieve goals, such as personality traits, feedback, and autonomy. To increase one’s confidence in a task, it may be helpful to describe the tasks using metaphors like “completing a journey.” Framing goals as a challenge rather than a threat can make goal setting more effective. However, while self-confidence in task performance is good, confidence in one’s self-control can be detrimental to goal success. A study from Psychological Science shows that when individuals are satiated, they overestimate their ability to resist temptation during times of discomfort. Indeed, an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology affirms this point. While individuals may set goals, they need to persevere to achieve them. The difference between goal commitment and goal setting largely comes down to personality traits and self-esteem. Find an ‘accountabilibuddy,’ accept relapses According to a 2017 study, having peers who go to the gym promotes more frequent gym use. Group goal setting tends to be effective, but only when the group’s goals are compatible with an individual’s goals. So make sure your ‘accountabilibuddy’ has similar goals to you. An all-or-nothing approach tends to not be very effective. However, realizing that lapses are normal and planning for them can make your goal setting more sustainable.


JANUARY 11, 2021


The harms of flawed research — and how to prevent its publication Avoiding the language of retraction and democratizing feedback


Tahmeed Shafiq Science Editor

As the first wave of COVID-19 was passing through the United States in the spring of 2020, US President Donald Trump began to insist that an anti-malarial drug called hydroxychloroquine could be a treatment for COVID-19. His behaviour was not entirely unmotivated. There had been at least one study claiming that the drug could be useful in treating COVID-19, but many experts — including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — were unconvinced, citing a lack of rigorous evidence. Now that further studies have been conducted, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that hydroxychloroquine offers no benefit for COVID-19 patients and can even have dangerous consequences. The case of hydroxychloroquine is a rare phenomenon: a preliminary scientific finding that was so overhyped that it potentially put lives at risk. Trump’s touting of the drug could not have existed without the scientific discussion that first put it forth as a treatment option — he even tweeted a link to a paper claiming that hydroxychloroquine had treated COVID-19 in trials, which was later severely criticized. That poorly-designed study provides an excellent starting point to ask why flawed research, which can often have negative consequences in the broader world, is even published at all. Who makes sure that misleading, inaccurate, or fraudulent data doesn’t make an impact on important scientific discussions? Are the standards up to scratch, and if not, how do we ensure that published research findings are more reliable? Who sets the editorial standard? A study does not have to push for a dubious conclusion, like the success of hydroxychloroquine, to be considered flawed. A recent Canadian-European paper with a U of T co-author examined two retracted studies published earlier this year, one of which looked at COVID-19 patients who had received hydroxychloroquine and concluded that the drug had no positive impact. The other

sought to discover whether people with heart disease were more susceptible to severe COVID-19. Both papers were retracted because there were underlying concerns with the accuracy of the raw data used. According to the researchers who reviewed the situation, this concern could have been identified early on if the reporting had been more complete. They used three standardized checklists for evaluating completeness of reporting and found a clear lack of transparency that would have been clear to anyone using the checklists. This begs the question of how the study was reviewed in the first place. Scientific journals do not always publish their editorial processes, which can make it difficult to assess how flawed studies are published in the first place. Retracted papers are often thought to be connected to a lack of editorial oversight. The pandemic is accelerating concerns about the importance of vetting research before it is published. COVID-19 has led to an explosion of biomedical research, and much of it can sway public health measures. Any large research project is bound to produce some contradictory studies, and COVID-19 has triggered a global research endeavour. But the lack of clear and consistent scientific consensus has produced what the World Health Organization calls an ‘infodemic.’ Important information can get lost in the thicket, making the editorial task of curating the most impactful studies for publication more important. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of one of the top medical journals, The Lancet, described the editorial responsibility of journals to The New York Times as “both daunting and full of considerable responsibility, because if [journals] make a mistake in judgment about what [they] publish, that could have a dangerous impact on the course of the pandemic.” Yet it was The Lancet that published the retracted hydroxychloroquine study after criticisms of where the data was sourced from. This seems to suggest that an awareness of editorial responsibility is not enough — something else has to be changed to catch flawed research before it’s published.

The retraction problem Concerns about bad research are by no means new. They have long been seen as damaging to the public perception of science, but until recently, there was no publicly available data on the scale of the problem. In 2010, science journalists Adam Markus and Ivan Oransky created a blog of retracted scientific papers called Retraction Watch. Their data was released as a database in 2018 and yielded immediate results: a joint-analysis with Science revealed that the number of retracted papers grew tenfold from 2000–2014. Given the large volume of papers published annually, only about four in every 10,000 are retracted, but this still merits concern. In November 2019, a study published in Nature Communications examined the impact of mentorship on early-career scientists and concluded that women mentors did not have as much impact on the careers of women students as men mentors might. After tremendous backlash arguing that the researchers had measured mentorship impact crudely — by measuring coauthorship rather than skill teaching or career advice — the paper was withdrawn. Much of the criticism came from women scientists who said it reinforces existing underrepresentation and biases in the field, as their validity as researchers was already questioned by the men-dominated scientific community. It’s easy to see how a paper like this, from one of the biggest brands in research, could fuel existing sexism. So, despite their relative rarity, retracted papers can still be found in very respectable journals, by well-established authors, on important topics that carry broader social ramifications. Pandemic research is no exemption: Retraction Watch has tallied over 71 COVID-19 studies that were retracted for various reasons. Updating the editorial model There are potential solutions out there. Daniele Fanelli, who researches scientific misconduct at the London School of Economics, proposes that the language around retraction should be changed. There is a stigma to having your paper retracted, or even in receiving the less punitive “note of

concern” attached to it; rejigging the jargon of why papers are revisited could help researchers avoid public embarrassment. In Fanelli’s model, a paper is ‘retired’ when it’s outdated and can’t be revised, ‘cancelled’ when there’s an editorial error that bars publication, and ‘self-retracted’ when all authors request their paper be removed from circulation. The label of ‘retraction’ would be exclusively reserved for proven misconduct. Still, this model does not address the actual editorial standards by which papers are accepted. There is an argument that editorial standards don’t need improving because the average number of retractions per journal has held steady, but there are still many journals that don’t report as many retractions as they should. If editorial standards were higher, there would be more reported retractions per year. One way that standards could be raised is by opening up the peer review process to more experts. A 2019 paper from American researchers outlined a radical restructuring of the publishing process. The researchers proposed publishing all articles online first, as well as their peer reviews. Journals would only curate material after, using metrics like community feedback to assess which papers to publish. This isn’t too different from the way preprint servers currently work, where researchers can publicly share their work before submitting to a journal. Where this new publishing model truly innovates is in the incorporation of tight standards — all author-posted articles would have to pass a checklist of criteria that would be decided by the entire scientific community. In the cases of the retracted hydroxychloroquine study and the mentorship study, retraction only happened after the papers were criticized by a wide audience. Similarly, democratizing the publishing process might allow for a much larger pool of commentators to catch serious concerns early on. As a process carried out by humans, science is necessarily messy. There will always be cases of misconduct and accidental error. But rethinking the way we communicate scientific results could help ensure that flawed studies are not published and shared in the wider media.


January 11, 2021 var.st/sports sports@thevarsity.ca

Your guide to healthy new year’s resolutions Sleep, fresh air, exercise, self-care

Jessica Han Varsity Staff


The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to become a better and healthier you despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Your resolutions for 2021 don’t have to be those gobig-or-go-home resolutions. Instead, the simplest and smallest changes could help you create a more balanced lifestyle. Here are some easy wellness-focused resolutions that you — hopefully — won’t give up on after two weeks.









Get more sleep A lot of you may be sleep deprived due to one obvious reason: university. This is not good at all. Sleep is a critical part of staying both mentally and physically healthy. Many people also tend to look at their devices before going to bed, hindering their quality of sleep. A great new year’s resolution could be to create a sleeping schedule and reduce screen time before bed to improve your quality of sleep. Go outdoors The pandemic has kept people indoors and isolated, but that is quite easy to fix. Another super easy new year’s resolution is simply to get some fresh air by heading outdoors safely. Find a nice hiking trail or go for a relaxing bike ride because spending more time outdoors can reduce stress and improve your overall mood and health.

Buy some gym gear — and use it Due to COVID-19, it is practically impossible to work out at the gym with the proper weights and equipment. Fear not. A new year’s resolution could be to start working out at home. Regular physical activity is important for everyone as it can elevate one’s mood and prevent future health conditions. Just purchase a few dumbbells or fitness bands online from stores such as Amazon or SportChek and you’re good to go. Practice self-care Many of us often forget about practising self-care and taking time off for ourselves due to academics and work. However, self-care is vital for our well-being due to its many benefits. It reduces stress, keeps you relaxed, boosts your emotions, and just overall improves your mental health. An effective new year’s resolution could be to spend more time with yourself through simple self-care acts such as taking a nice long, hot bath.


How to destress for school

As the winter semester ramps up, here are some ways to cool down

Laura Ashwood Sports Editor

The winter semester is here — many of us may be feeling the beginnings of panic close our throats, redden our cheeks, and bring a slight tear to our eyes as we worry about assignments and exams to come. But don’t panic just yet! Here are some ways to mitigate your mental health woes during the upcoming semester. Find free time As school ramps up, it might be difficult to justify an unproductive moment. This guilt of procrastination has only worsened at the onset of lockdown orders in Toronto: when you are constantly in your room, next to your desk where all your readings lay waiting for you, it’s easy to feel like you have to be doing work all the time. But this can be unhealthy — you need a break! Studies suggest a link between overworking and serious health problems like diabetes down the line. To make your downtime guilt free, try

setting alarms for yourself as you work: every 30 minutes, take a five-minute break, for example. That way, if you work your TikTok breaks into your study schedule, you won’t feel like you’re wasting time.

With research pointing to the very real negative effects of loneliness on mental health, now is the time to reach for the phone, both for your health and the health of your

or a sibling could boost your mood and help you feel a little less alone this semester.

Make timelines Prevent feeling overwhelmed by making schedules and timelines for your upcoming assignments. By first laying out the deadline of your project and then writing out all the tasks you need to complete and the dates those should be done by, you can create a timeline for yourself of bite-sized chunks of work. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed when the deadline comes! Call your friends! We are living in a particularly isolating era, and with seasonal affective disorder in full swing, the onslaught of work that accompanies the start of a school semester may only worsen the period of depression.

friends. A quick phone call with a friend, your mother,


Fitness reads: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins Goggins’ tale is extraordinary in its relatability Steven Hu Varsity Contributor

Goggins’ story tells us that, in order to live the life you want, the only person who can help you is yourself. JOSIE KAO/THE VARSITY

There are many books on fitness and sports written by incredible athletes filled with Instagrammable motivational quotes to get your adrenaline rushing and galvanize you to chase your dreams, but Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by American ultramarathon runner David Goggins is not one of them. Instead, it tells a gritty story of a regular person who learns to embrace failure and pain as a way toward self-improvement. Goggins was dealt a bad hand in life. While Goggins was born into a relatively wealthy home, his father had alcohol use disorder and was physically and mentally abusive. To escape the violent home situation, Goggins’ mother took him to live in her hometown of Brazil, Indiana, where he experienced poverty and racism. His classmates called him slurs and even vandalized his car in high school with radically charged death threats. He struggled

academically in every subject and had low self-esteem as he never fit in at school. After graduating from high school, Goggins tried out for Air Force Special Operations but left during the swim phase due to his fear of water. When he was in his early twenties, Goggins was in a rut — working as a fumigator and obese at almost 300 pounds. He had no hope and felt that all of his critics were right. It was at that point that something needed to change. He began an incredible weight loss journey, losing 106 pounds in three months to enlist in the US Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) division to attempt SEAL training, one of the hardest selection courses in the world. Due to injuries, Goggins had to attempt the course three times before being successful. In 2005, after losing several of his friends in a botched SEAL mission, Goggins took up ultramarathon running to raise money for the families. Goggins eventually trained to be one of the top endurance athletes in the world.

Goggins’ tale is extraordinary in its relatability. Most of us can identify with the themes of each of his obstacles. Like you and me, he was a regular person with everyday problems. We can all relate to feeling insecure at school, fear controlling our lives, being treated unfairly, low self-esteem, or even a life where money couldn’t solve all our issues. Goggins had every reason to give up in life but never used these experiences as a reason to hold him back. Rather than blame the world and things he had no control over, he embraced the pain and used it as motivation to keep going. He realized that in order to change, he had to do all the work, as nobody was going to do it for him. The message of Can’t Hurt Me is not an empty promise that you will be successful if you follow a certain formula; rather, the message is that in order to live the life you want, the only person who can help you is yourself.


JANUARY 11, 2021


Skin game strong: skincare tips for your next workout Are you sweating or glowing? Laura Ashwood Sports Editor

Working out is undeniably healthy for your body, but is it healthy for your skin? Although sweat itself cannot cause acne and skin irritation, working out can cause a buildup of bacteria on the skin, leading to those issues. So, in order to keep your skin as great as your workouts, here are some skincare tips for pre-, post-, and mid-exercise. Take your makeup off before your sweat session As your face heats up, your pores enlargen, meaning that any makeup on your skin will have a higher chance of clogging your pores. So, before you head off to the gym, outdoors for a run, or to your living room for a YouTube workout, consider washing your face beforehand with a gentle cleanser, or using a gentle wipe. Protect yourself from the sun If you’re working out outside, it’s super important to protect your skin from the sun. Sun damage can have consequences as

mundane as sunburns and wrinkles, and as serious as cancerous moles. Sunscreen is the best way to preserve your skin health!

sugar or walnut scrubs, can oftentimes be too harsh and can aggravate your skin. Chemical

exfoliants can produce the same effect but in a gentler and more effective fashion.

Look for a lightweight formula that won’t break you out: look for products that label themselves as “non-comedogenic” — Neutrogena’s Clear Face Liquid-Lotion Sunblock SPF 55 — meaning that the product won’t clog your pores. Newer sunscreens use micronized zinc and titanium dioxide that are more cosmetically elegant. Wash your face! Once you’re done getting your sweat on, make sure to wash your face as soon as you can afterward to remove any built up bacteria from your pores. Use a gentle cleanser that won’t irritate your skin, like Cetaphil or CeraVe. Scrub-a-dub-dub An extra step you can take to prevent postworkout breakouts is to use a chemical exfoliant to really clear your pores out of bacteria and dead skin cells. Physical exfoliators, like


Who’s NHL drafted? Canada World Juniors players who are making it big

The young stars of Team Canada and abroad Avishai Sol Varsity Staff

No two World Junior Championship rosters are the same, and this year’s Team Canada is unique. Now, different doesn’t mean worse. Despite Canada’s tragic loss in the final to Team USA, Team Canada has some stellar players with futures in the NHL. This tournament is particularly exciting to watch because as young people, we can see ourselves in these players: they are under the age of 20, like many of us at U of T. The team also comprises the future of the NHL — watching the tournament is like glimpsing into the future of the pro league. So, what members of Team Canada should you look out for in the pro circuit? Canada’s best players The roster is studded with 20 first-round NHL picks. The talent is unquestionable.

roster, the coaches will definitely take note of his excellent performance at the World Juniors.

If you want to talk statistics, Philip Tomasino, Quinton Byfield, and Dylan Cozens were standouts throughout the tournament. All three scored a ton of points, dominating lesser competition scoring as part of the defensive front line. Cozens, signed with the Buffalo Sabres, was second in the entire tournament with 16 points, and Byfield, a prospect for the Los Angeles Kings, had a respectable seven points to his name. However, Tomasino, signed to the Nashville Predators in 2019 with an entry-level contract, is one to really keep an eye out for. The 19-year-old centre may be 17th in total points but he has played a key role throughout the tournament as a solid team player. As he works to get on the Predators



Our biggest competitors Some faces from other nations’ teams may also be of note as they potentially pop up in NHL games. The two best players for Russia are probably Vasili Podkolzin, who is already a Vancouver Canuck, and Rodion Amirov, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first round draft pick. A real threat to the big leagues, however, is the Russian goalie, Yaroslav Askarov. He was selected 11th overall in the NHL draft by the Nashville Predators and is considered a top goaltender. Although Canada’s players will surely be forces to be reckoned with in the NHL, the tournament showcased stars from abroad that will bring real talent to the league. Either way, keep an eye out for these names — you can say you knew who they were before they were NHL stars.

Crystal balls and basketballs: Toronto Raptors predictions for the 2020–2021 season

Two takes on the team’s chances of success Guiller Lorenzo Cenizal Varsity Contributor

The Boston Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors 126– 114 on the shoulders of Jayson Tatum’s 40-point effort. The Celtics were short handed, mind you, with Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker sidelined due to injury. The Raptors’ season record is 2-6 as of January 10 — ranking them 13th in the Eastern Conference. It’s time to panic, right? Well, it really depends on how you look at it. The season is early. The ball is round, and all the other clichés about early predictions still apply. However, based on the preconditions heading into this season, two rough but logical scenarios arise.

The Raptors are at a crossroads and the coming weeks will be telling. RG19989/CC WIKIMEDIA

Scenario one: trust the process I realize that “Trust the Process” is patented by Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers, but hear me out. This is the shortest turnaround in Raptors’ history: they lost former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and rim-protector Serge Ibaka — though admittedly his block numbers have fallen precipitously since his days in Oklahoma — and their former assistant coach Nate Bjorken, who is currently finding success as the head coach of the

Indiana Pacers. As a team that prides itself on high-effort and hard-nosed defense, there will be natural growing pains that come with the loss of stalwart defenders like Ibaka and Gasol. The latter provided the ever-underrated and intangible service of post and top-of-the-key playmaking for the Raptors. On top of this was the loss of Bjorken, one of Raptors coach Nick Nurse’s top lieutenants, as well as a short offseason to get acquainted. This is not to excuse a 2-6 start, but it wasn’t going to be particularly pretty. However, former NBA champion and reigning Coach of the Year Nurse has done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt. Adjustments need to and will be made — say, for example, playing and developing rookie Malachi Flynn, reducing Stanley Johnson’s minutes, letting Chris Boucher start over Aron Baynes, and further staggering the minutes of Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. The bright core of OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, with the help of VanVleet and the wily Lowry, should be enough to make a run at the middle bottom of the eight Eastern Conference seeds. This assumption is made with the knowledge that the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, 76ers, and Celtics are the cream of the crop.

So, despite the start of the season, it would not be far-fetched to posit that the overall talent in coaching and personnel will result in, at the very least, a semi-competitive team once they settle into the new norm. The question is: do they want to? Scenario two: back to the future On the inverse, with a poor start to the season and veteran guard Lowry in the last year of his contract, perhaps it may be time to cash in the chips, so to speak. It is probably wildly unpopular for me even to suggest it, but if the Raptors do choose to stray away from a semi-competitive, mediocre limbo, trading Lowry to a contender during the trade deadline for assets could be instrumental for a rebuild. This both clears salary for a big-ticket free agent in the coming offseason and allows the Raptors a potentially poor record for a reportedly good draft. What makes this season’s predictions so special is that, while you may disagree with my analysis and method, the Raptors are undoubtedly at a crossroads. The season thus far has been quite strange and will probably only get stranger. So, we’ll wait and see.




JANUARY 11, 2021

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January 11th, 2021  

January 11th, 2021