February 15, 2021
THE VARSITY The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880
Vol. CXLI, No. 18
Eight months after Black students took a stand, Trinity College’s task force releases its final report on anti-racism. Read on p. 2. CRCSS recommends making mandatory UTGSU BDS caucus fee refundable
Decision follows years of protest; non-compliance may lead to withholding of union fees Isabel Armiento Graduate Bureau Chief
On February 4, U of T’s Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS) ruled that the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) should stop giving mandatory student fees to its Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Caucus, recommending that the fee be made refundable. The BDS movement aims to apply economic pressure on Israel to change its policies toward Palestine, including the occupation of its territories. Critics of the movement characterize it as antiSemitic, though the movement disputes that characterization. The UTGSU is the only student union in Canada that requires all students to pay membership fees to a BDS caucus. Following a review of the caucus, the CRCSS panel found that the BDS Caucus had broken the UTGSU’s own Anti-Discrimination Policy on the grounds of discrimination based on nationality. The CRCSS panel outlined five recommendations for the UTGSU regarding its BDS Caucus, one of them being that graduate students should no longer be required to pay a compulsory fee to the BDS Caucus. The UTGSU must provide a summary of how it intends to implement these recommendations by March 1. If the union does not comply, its fees could be withheld. The UTGSU executive wrote in an email to The Varsity, “We are in receipt of the CRCSS letter and we are reviewing their decision. The UTGSU General Council will discuss this issue at our meeting on February 16, 2021.” The BDS Caucus began as an ad hoc committee and was endorsed by over 125 faculty members in 2016. In 2019, the UTGSU voted to make the committee permanent. BDS has also found support from other student unions at U of T, such as
the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, which recently voted to reaffirm its support for the movement. History of complaints about BDS According to the CRCSS ruling, several complaints about the UTGSU’s BDS Committee and subsequent caucus have been made over the past few years. Complaints regarding the BDS Caucus were seen before the UTGSU Board of Appeal in March 2017, January 2018, November 2018, and May 2019 — some of which were made by Chaim Katz, a fourth-year biomedical engineering PhD student. Katz wrote to The Varsity, “I have been fortunate to work with many dedicated and committed students to address this problem internally within the GSU over the years. However, since the GSU Board of Appeal refused to engage with the issue of discrimination, I was eventually forced to bring this issue to the CRCSS.” A complaint is taken to the CRCSS when the student society’s internal complaint process is exhausted. In the case of Katz’s complaint, the CRCSS panel ruled that the UTGSU complaint process had been exhausted. Much recent backlash against the UTGSU’s BDS Caucus has been predicated on the allegation that the caucus is anti-Semitic. The CRCSS ruling comes at a time when U of T and the UTGSU are under scrutiny over alleged anti-Semitism, which led to U of T recently implementing a working group to combat anti-Semitism. This ruling also closely follows an impeachment attempt against a UTGSU executive amid allegations of anti-Semitism. Original complaint The complaint against the BDS Caucus was put forward in February 2020 by Katz. He presented the following question to the CRCSS panel: “Can a
student society at the University of Toronto embark on a campaign of economic and academic warfare against people of a certain nationality, and forcibly conscript its members to the campaign by way of their membership fees?” According to the letter from the CRCSS, Katz alleged that the BDS Caucus “discriminates based on nationality and fosters anti-Semitism.” His complaint drew attention to the BDS Caucus’ history of boycotting Israeli universities, companies, and cultural institutions on the basis of nationality. However, the UTGSU executive team denied the allegation that BDS boycotts were based on nationality, writing that “BDS only advocates for divestment from companies, organisations and institutions that are directly complicit, or profit from, violations of Palestinian human rights.” The team added, “Individuals cannot, and should not, be targeted due to their nationality.” After deliberation, the panel concluded that some BDS activities and events were discriminatory against Israeli nationality. The ruling cited one such event, called “The Politics of the Academic Boycott,” in which the BDS called for a boycott of Israeli universities. Katz wrote in an email to The Varsity that “Jewish students have felt excluded from the GSU for a variety of reasons, one of them being the BDS Caucus.” “All graduate students benefit when the union is held accountable, stays true to its own rules and ceases discriminating against a segment of its membership,” he added. Findings of the panel The panel was composed of three student members drawn from a pool selected by U of T student societies and one student member from a campus affairs committee. Two students on the panel were replaced due to a conflict of interest. Another quit due to pandemic-related delays in the investigative
process as well as changes to the UTGSU executive. The panel recommended that the UTGSU revise Policy G5.7, which outlines the mandate of the BDS Caucus, within the year so that it aligns with UTGSU bylaws and policy, including its discrimination policy. Other recommendations include making the BDS Caucus fee refundable for graduate students and revising the UTGSU anti-discrimination policy in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. The CRCSS panel clarifies that this ruling is not meant to suggest that the UTGSU dissolve the BDS Caucus, but rather that the union revise its mandate. The CRCSS panel also took issues with the UTGSU’s policies G5.7.2 and G22.214.171.124, which respectively state that the BDS caucus is “open to all graduate students who identify as supportive of the mandate of the Caucus” and that “the Caucus may reserve the right to restrict attendance at their meetings or events to any other member of the Union, as decided by the will of the constituent members of the Caucus.” The panel found that these clauses were inconsistent with U of T policy, which states that all student societies that charge non-academic incidental fees must be “open, accessible, and democratic.”The panel recommended that the policy be revised so that all UTGSU members can participate in the caucus. “For years, Hillel UofT has proudly supported voices within the UTGSU trying to bring about systemic change,” Rob Nagus, Senior Director of Hillel UofT, a Jewish student organization, wrote to The Varsity. “We encourage the UTGSU to work with us and to undertake crucial training on antisemitism, which Hillel has offered to provide,” he added. The UTGSU BDS Caucus did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.
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Trinity College task force releases final report on antiBlack racism, inclusion, eight months after announcement Vol. CXLI, No. 18 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, ON M5S 1J6 (416) 946-7600 the.varsity
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Recommendations include reviewing admissions practices, collecting race-based data
Rachel E. Chen Trinity College Correspondent
On February 5, the Trinity College Task Force on Anti-Black Racism and Inclusion released its final report to the college community. The report outlines 44 recommendations that prioritize issues of inclusivity and accessibility for students across the college’s governance structure, faculty training, student culture, and physical environment. Trinity College Provost Mayo Moran announced the task force’s formation last June amid protests against anti-Black racism after the death of George Floyd. During that time, Black students came forward with criticism about the college’s exclusionary culture toward its racialized members and called for the administration to address anti-Black racism — as expressed in a Varsity op-ed by Martha Taylor, Lydia Angarso, and Shantel Watson. Taylor, Angarso, and Watson, who sat on the task force, had also formed the Trinity Anti-Racism Collective that summer and penned an open letter signed by fellow students and alumni calling on the college to take action. Structure of the task force The task force’s investigation ran from October until December and identified four priority issues regarding the college’s admissions process, student culture, recruitment practices, diversity and equity training, and culture at college events and its physical environment. Co-chaired by Associate Director Community Wellness Ramata Tarawally and Assistant Provost Jonathan Steels, the task force was made up of 22 students, alumni, faculty, and staff from the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Faculty of Divinity. The task force was further divided into four working groups to prioritize issues raised in the AntiRacism Collective’s open letter, and conducted four hour-long student focus groups prioritizing the voices of self-identifying Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) students at three out of its four meetings in November, with one meeting for all Trinity students. The task force and its associated working groups are meant to generate a set of core recommendations to be implemented at the college, but are not responsible for implementing these changes. Report findings For the college as a whole, the report recommends that Trinity College “collect and purposefully use race-based data,” and invest in and create recruitment and mentorship programs that directly target Black and racialized students in tandem with increased financial support and eliminating barriers to
residence readmittance. The report also noted a “lack of racial diversity in staff, faculty, governance, and leadership groups, which negatively impacts the sense of belonging experienced by Black and BIPOC constituents of the College.” It recommended that efforts be made to diversify the governance structures at the college. The report recommended reviewing the application process, creating a “diversity and inclusion statement,” and creating a mentorship program directed toward BIPOC students. Finally, it also made recommendations geared toward student life and government, identifying a “longstanding code of silence” within student life under which “anti-Black racism and forms of discrimination have thrived under the existing systems of student governance.” Namely, the report highlighted the influence of Episkopon on the college’s culture. Episkopon is a quasi-secret society long criticized for its problematic and elitist culture, particularly against racialized and LGBTQ+ students at the college, although the women’s branch disbanded in the summer of 2020. Episkopon is also connected to ‘Social Trin,’ the name for a group of popular students who held influence over different facets of college life. The report concludes that “Episkopon and ‘Social Trin’ were identified as deeply problematic elements of student culture, which propagate anti-Black racism, discrimination, and exclusion.” Student responses, calls for accountability In response to the task force report, Mariam Mahboob, Equity Committee Member at Large and task force student group participant, wrote to The Varsity, “Hearing these voices and sentiments be reiterated by the administration was important because, in the past, these topics had been very taboo to discuss – whether it was amongst higher-up positions or in the student body.” However, students also expressed concerns that the report was heavily focused on student governance, with not enough attention paid to the college administration. “There is no [mention] of a Diversity Officer or Equity person who can externally investigate equity concerns related to the administration,” wrote Mahboob. “In fact, any form of regulation or ‘checks and balances’ system on the administration is significantly lacking in this document.” “While the Task Force’s report calls for greater student change, many of us believe that student governance has demonstrated its ability to deliver on that change, while the college itself has been much slower,” added Equity Committee Deputy Chair Tourang Movahedi. This past year, Trinity’s student governance body, the Trinity College Meeting (TCM), has approved motions to degender the overall heads positions
and year heads positions. It has also implemented a First-Year Committee to encourage a diverse body of students to participate in student government and amended the position of equity committee chair from appointed to elected. “The power and influence they have over the affairs of Trinity College are insurmountable compared to that of any student collective, yet they are quick to shirk responsibility in the face of iniquity,” wrote Chair of the Equity Committee Dylan Alfi to The Varsity. “Members of College expressed a wish for more administrative accountability in addition to the student governance accountability which was so heavily emphasized in the Task Force’s report.” Reflecting on the work behind the task force, Alfi added that “the Equity Committee implores that we all honor the work Black women at Trinity College have done in paving the way for positive change.” Next steps According to the report, progress on the implementation of these recommendations will be regularly reported to the Trinity community and its regulatory bodies. Following the release of the report, the college announced that it has hired an independent expert to review next practices for its student government, which will take place over the course of the winter semester. Moran expressed that she is “eager to implement the recommendations as quickly as possible” and that an implementation plan is in the works. Assistant Provost Jonathan Steels was quoted in an article on Trinity College’s website, “We want to find out what is working and what the challenges are, so that moving forward, we can better support students and the student governance process to empower all student voices.” The task force webpage also notes that the college has “undertaken a comprehensive [diversity and equity] training program for staff and faculty.” It has also adjusted its admissions processes and student support networks, and created a special bursary and dedicated mentorship program for racialized students. A working group of college faculty is also currently examining “how to strengthen the inclusiveness of Trinity College’s academic programs, among other actions.” TCM Head of Non-Resident Affairs Cindy Lui wrote to The Varsity that the heads are soliciting feedback from students on the report through surveys, and that the upcoming meeting will also be a good avenue for student feedback. Trinity College did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment. The Varsity was unable to acquire comment from task force members Yohan Dumpala, Mailey Jean Michel, and Shantel Watson at the time of publication.
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Progress on the implementation of these recommendations will be regularly reported to the Trinity community and its regulatory bodies.
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The Varsity expresses regret for the errors in the following articles: "Trinity College Meeting passes amendment to degender overall heads positions": This article has been updated to credit Mariam Mahboob and
Ingrid Cui as the individuals who motioned the amendment, and also to correctly attribute a quote to Mahboob that was initially misattributed to Cui. "U of T team finds the world's oldest water — once
again": A previous version of the photograph accompanying this article was identified as inaccurately representing the research discussed and the safety protocols of the researchers involved. It has been replaced with a more appropriate photograph.
FEBRUARY 15, 2021
U of T professor chairs Black Scientists’ Task Force striving for equitable vaccine rollout for Black community Intersection between historical inequities, misinformation used to encourage investigation
Marta Anielska Associate News Editor
The City of Toronto has created the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity as part of the TO Supports: Targeted Equity Action Plan. The task force will be chaired by Akwatu Khenti, an assistant professor at U of T, and will include members of the scientific and medical community. The Black community in Toronto has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with a greater number of cases relative to the population. The task force is collaborating with community partners to review the Black community’s major concerns and answer questions regarding COVID-19 and vaccination, given the community’s experiences of racism and corresponding mistrust of the health care system. The initiative will aim to make effective recommendations to the city based on a series of events, the first of which was a town hall meeting that took place on February 13. The meeting was structured as a question and answer session with Black medical professionals, and it addressed a wide range of topics, including vaccine development, historical racism in health care, and misinformation. The task force will deliver its report to the city by April 30, which will be used to improve the vaccine rollout. Past and present inequities The task force was created in response to data from the city that showed that Black people are disproportionately impacted by the virus, accounting for about 26 per cent of cases. There are many factors that contribute to the intensity of this impact, including the fact that Black individuals are more likely to be frontline workers, and to have poor housing, food insecurity, and worse access to health care.
At the same time, Black people display the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy, at 34 per cent. For Black communities, mistrust of the health care system is associated with experiences of systemic racism, both past and present. In an email to The Varsity, Dr. Isaac Odame, a U of T professor and member of the task force, explained that, consequently, any prioritization of racialized people in the vaccine rollout is “contrary to their past and present experiences of race-based inequities within the health system.” He added that the community needs more assurance that the vaccine is specifically safe for Black individuals. The task force aims to provide this assurance by leveraging the fact that, according to a report by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Covid Collaborative, among others, Black people are two times more likely to trust health information coming from Black professionals than white individuals.
Task force strategy The task force will address vaccine hesitancy in the Black community by holding multifaceted and dialogue-driven events with Black leaders, groups, and individuals. It will review the feedback from these events to offer recommendations to the city on vaccine rollout. In an email to The Varsity, the City of Toronto added that the primary goal of this program is to reduce hospitalization risks and provide balanced information to Black communities by building long-term relationships with community members. Surveys and data analytics will be used to gauge shifting acceptance rates and address inequities in Toronto’s health care system that reach beyond COVID-19. Odame participated as a panel member at the task force’s first town hall. He wrote to The Varsity that his expertise on sickle cell disease, which predominantly affects people of African descent, will be useful in identifying the intersectionalities between race, health, and poor access to health care. Other panelists included Dr. Zainab Abdurrah-
man, an adjunct professor from McMaster University, and former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes. They encouraged attendees to ask questions about the vaccine, and argued that vaccine hesitancy in the Black community is a healthy skepticism given historical inequities in health care. They acknowledged the atrocities committed by the health care system against Black people as valid reasons for hesitation. Instances of medical abuse such as the Tuskegee Study were discussed, wherein 600 Black men were inadequately treated for syphilis without their informed consent. Discussion surrounding the actual science behind the vaccine involved its effects on Black people specifically and the rapid approval relative to past vaccines. Odame emphasized that 10 per cent of trial participants in the Moderna and Pfizer trials had been Black. Caesar-Chavannes said that, while she had initially been skeptical of a trial process that appeared rushed, listening to experts had helped her gain confidence in the safety of the vaccine. “Getting off [the] fence and onto the side where I said, ‘Okay… I will join this task force,’ is because I really did my research; I did my homework when it came to understanding,’ ” Caesar-Chavannes said. “And then listening to this group of experts has been really eye opening.” Caesar-Chavannes emphasized the importance of informed consent in the vaccine rollout. She encouraged attendees to ask questions and seek answers so they would be confident that they understood what getting the vaccine meant. The event ended on a positive note, with some panelists revealing that they had already been vaccinated and encouraging members to get to a place where they would be comfortable making the decision of whether or not to do so themselves. They also encouraged attendees to come to the next town hall meeting, which will take place on February 20 and focus on the science behind vaccines.
First-year law students petition for anti-racist action after assistant dean’s remark about Black cops AD Faherty expresses regret, students call for equity training, further discussion
Carmina Cornacchia Lead Copy Editor
A group of first-year students in U of T’s Faculty of Law wrote a letter to Dean Jutta Brunnée addressing systemic racism within the faculty and providing a list of actions and recommendations for the faculty to undertake. The letter came out in response to a remark made by the assistant dean of the Faculty of Law, Sara Faherty, during a joint professionalism seminar for first-year law students held on Zoom in January called “Critical Race Theory: Racism in Society and the Justice Sector.” According to the letter, U of T’s director of the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO), Jodie Glean, in discussing intersectionality in the Black Lives Matter movement, asked participants to give examples, to which Faherty wrote using the chat function, “how about african american cops’ roles?” According to the letter, students in attendance followed up on Faherty’s comment; however,
their queries were left unrecognized by Faherty by the close of the presentation. The letter notes that the comment “[redirected] questions of police brutality away from systemic white supremacy.” The letter continues that the comment represents an example of “whataboutism,” which refers to raising a different accusation in response to a difficult question, a concept which Glean had spoken about earlier in the presentation. Additionally, according to the letter, the comment is not an example of “intersectionality.” A U of T spokesperson wrote to The Varsity, “Assistant Dean Faherty expresses her regret for the comment and its impact on those in attendance.” Petition formation The petition was created by first-year law students, with the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) contributing by providing support during the review process and exchanges with the Faculty of Law administration regarding the petition. Additionally, some of the first-year students who contributed in writing the letter were members of the BLSA. Although the letter cites this instance as an example, it emphasizes that this was not an isolated comment, but that it is part of wider patterns in the faculty that need to be improved. In the spirit of this wider acknowledgement, the end of the petition included a list of suggestions
for the Faculty of Law. The calls to action included an apology from Faherty regarding the comment, implementation of effective “equity training” for faculty members, acknowledgement of the oppression that the law inflicts on minoritized communities in all areas of the curriculum, and incorporation of the types of discussions that occurred in the Joint Professionalism Trainings into regular class time to emphasize their central importance. Alisha Krishna, a first-year law student, said in an interview with The Varsity that “it’s not about… calling out one person or criticizing them specifically; it’s really starting a conversation about the culture, both in the faculty and at large.” Krishna added that “it’s about the conversation that happens afterward.” Meaza Damte, another first-year student in the Faculty of Law, reflected similarly in an article for Ultra Vires. They spoke of the lost opportunity for the comment: “What could have been a teachable moment took a turn for the worse, but it did not have to. What should have been a safe space for discussion, learning, unlearning, and growth quickly became one of outrage and resentment.” Krishna confirmed that the petition was sent to the dean and that “she’s been open to dialogue, and we’re really appreciative of her openmindedness.” They added that, “We didn’t see any commitment from the [administration], especially with things like faculty training. But we
The Jackman Law Building.
remain optimistic.” Faculty response In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson issued a statement regarding the petition. “Unfortunately, neither Assistant Dean Faherty nor Ms. Jodie Glean saw the comments and questions from students in the chat function until after the session.” The statement also indicated that there were exchanges being made between the Faculty of Law and the ARCDO to address the situation, as well as how to proceed. The statement ended with the assertion that there would be “extended opportunities to clarify, explore and discuss” in the future. The statement did not include any specifics regarding the faculty’s intentions to act on the four broader requests made in the petition, except for the call for an apology. However, it is unclear whether the statement includes an apology to Glean too, as requested in the petition.
UTSU, UTGSU propose new credit-based system for all major unions’ health care reimbursements UTMSU, SCSU, APUS express opposition, OVPS reportedly desires unanimity for approval
Jessica Han Associate News Editor
The five major student unions at U of T are divided about a new proposal to move all major unions’ health and dental refunds and reimbursements to a credit-based system. The plan was originally proposed by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) to the Office of the Vice-Provost Students (OVPS). Supporters argue that the plan will make it easier and more convenient for users to get their money back — especially as it would no longer require a Canadian bank account or address. The OVPS subsequently proposed the change to a number of student groups across U of T’s three campuses. This includes the three other major unions: the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), the Association of Parttime Undergraduate Students (APUS), and the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU). According to the UTSU, the plan would most likely need unanimous support from all the unions to be implemented. At a meeting that took place around the end of January regarding the proposal between representatives of the student unions and the OVPS, the three other unions opposed the change. Opponents cite concerns that the proposed system may add confusion, prevent direct reimbursement, and lacks adequate consultation. Proposal to switch The current system currently requires students to set up a Desjardins account with their direct deposit information to submit claims. It also requires students to obtain a Canadian bank account and have a Canadian address in order to receive their refunds. The new system would have refunds processed directly into students’ ACORN accounts rather than their bank accounts.
Students who wish to opt out of the health plan under the current system also have to have a Canadian bank account to which the funds can be wired. In an email to The Varsity, UTSU Vice-President Operations Dermot O’Halloran expressed that the proposed credit-based system would “quite simply make it easier for students to get their money back from refunds and reimbursements.” O’Halloran noted that many students do not have a Canadian residential address, so the current system may pose a barrier for those seeking refunds, especially during COVID-19. Specifically, O’Halloran wrote that international students may find the current system to be “a bit of a nightmare,” as it may be difficult to create a Canadian bank account, which prevents students from receiving refunds or even submitting claims in the first place. “Hundreds of students cannot get reimbursed right now for seeking online mental health care from Canadian providers using our plan,” summarized O’Halloran. The proposed system would also eliminate difficulties with the slow rate of data transfer between the University of Toronto and the two health brokers: Studentcare and Greenshield. According to the UTSU, this proposed system is a “standard feature” at many Canadian postsecondary institutions. “I was so frustrated that the other student unions working with Greenshield Canada dismissed the proposal so flippantly,” O’Halloran expressed. Opposing the proposal Although the UTSU and UTGSU have shown support for the new system, the UTMSU, SCSU, and APUS have not. In an email to The Varsity, UTMSU President Mitra Yakubi explained why she opposes the change. “Although the Proposed Credit System through ACORN may be enticing in the short-term, it may create a lot of confusion for students down the line,”
According to the UTSU, the plan would likely need unanimous support from unions. RYAN CHOW/THEVARSITY
she wrote. Yakubi believes that, if not implemented correctly, opting out of the current health and dental plan and using another system would lead to longer wait times and cause distress for students. She wrote that the new opt-out system would “eliminate any and all forms of interactions that currently exist” within the current plan. The UTMSU also had concerns about the new system leading to less communication between students and the union. The UTMSU is also concerned about students who have outstanding funds on their ACORN accounts. Under the proposed system, the refund deposited into a student’s ACORN account would be applied to pay the remaining outstanding charges on their account, so the student would not directly receive the refund. Yakubi raised an issue regarding this credit system, writing that the UTMSU is “unsure if these credited amounts will affect students and their
[Ontario Student Assistance Program] amounts,” and that the union needs to further examine this issue. The UTMSU also felt that the proposal was “rushed” and lacked adequate time consultations with members and affiliated groups to assess the proposed system. Despite opposing the proposal of the creditbased health and dental system, the UTMSU is still open to exploring “other options to create a more efficient opt-out process in the future.” In an email to The Varsity, Interim Executive Director of APUS Julian Oliveira wrote, “Without proper consultation and the time to discuss this matter with our membership, we cannot support the proposed credit system at this time.” The APUS is still “looking into the possibilities of the proposal while taking the concerns of our sister unions UTMSU and SCSU very seriously.”
TTC board votes to replace Line 3 Scarborough RT, subway line closure to be implemented in 2023 SCSU president advocates for UTSC students’ transportation needs at meeting
Alexa DiFrancesco UTSC Bureau Chief
On February 10, the TTC board voted to replace the subway transit Line 3 Scarborough Rapid Transit (SRT) with new express buses. The change, which is anticipated to be completed in 2023, was brought on because of increasing infrastructure failures in the existing subway line. In 2019, it was estimated that the SRT hosted approximately 35,000 passengers per day. In 2015, a study by StudentMoveTO showed that 64 per cent of UTSC students used public transportation to get to campus. Additional details about replacement services
are expected to be released later this year. TTC staff will consider implementing express buses on a yet-to-be-determined route between Kennedy and Scarborough Centre stations. Staff will also be reexamining existing bus routes to service Lawrence East, Ellesmere, and Midland stations. Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) President Sarah Mohamed also advocated for certain changes at a recent TTC board meeting, including a dedicated bus lane and more electric busses. Replacement options The TTC’s decision came after last week’s release of a report that recommended shutting down the 6.4-kilometre SRT, which opened in 1985 and was
The TTC is actively considering other commuting options for UTSC students. AALIYA MULLA/THEVARSITY
designed to operate for only 25 years. TTC officials were also directed to assess two options for providing bus service beginning in 2023. The first replacement option would cost $357 million, and it would have new buses coming to service when the SRT expires in 2023. The change would not impact the existing bus network. The second option would cost $374 million and use buses from the existing spare bus ratio until new buses would be purchased between 2027 and 2029. This option would reduce the number of buses available in case of subway line failures or other events impacting TTC service. TTC Senior Communications Specialist Stuart Green wrote to The Varsity that all the company’s recommendations were based on “the diminishing reliability of the [rapid transit] vehicles which are already 10 years past their best before date.” Green added that “spending more than half a billion dollars” — the $522.4 million cost required to keep the SRT operating — was “not prudent.” “It is better to invest in new buses that will live beyond the subway’s anticipated opening in 2030,” Green wrote. “We also have to consider accessibility needs in 2025… Using bus service guarantees a more reliable and a fully accessible service for customers.” Green also addressed that the TTC has recognized how UTSC students are affected by the SRT shutdown, noting that replacement services could increase time commuting to campus. “That’s why the consultations this summer will be so important – it’s an opportunity for all users of the Line now to give their input on what service should look like in 2023.” Despite the line shutdown, Green explained that the TTC is actively considering alternative transportation routes for UTSC commuters. “We already
have a quasi-express bus-only-lanes service from Kennedy Station to UTSC that will provide options in terms of getting from the subway to the campus,” he wrote. “We also continue to talk to the city about ways we can improve surface transit in the east end during this replacement service and beyond.” The TTC was previously working to keep the subway line operating until 2026 to correspond with the opening of the Scarborough Subway extension. The extension’s opening has since been pushed back to 2030. How the change might affect UTSC students Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) President Sarah Mohamed spoke on behalf of the SCSU at the board meeting, encouraging TTC board members to install a dedicated bus lane, purchase additional electric buses, and ask the Ontario government to fund transfers between Go Transit and the TTC. Mohamed said that all options would give UTSC students more transit alternatives. In an email to The Varsity, Mohamed wrote that the SRT “is one of the ways students, faculty members, families, [and] essential workers get where they need to go within Scarborough.” Mohamed also wrote that, while the SCSU recognized that the SRT is outdated and will be removed, “It is already difficult travelling in Scarborough in comparison to other neighbourhoods because of the long bus wait times.” “It is clear as day that the TTC has prioritized every other neighbourhood and community except for Scarborough and that is not okay,” Mohamed wrote. “The fact that the students of UTSC have to ask and beg for better transit in Scarborough is not okay.”
FEBRUARY 15, 2021
UTM set to launch 10-year strategic sustainability plan Goals include carbon-neutral campus by 2050, waste management strategy
Carbon emissions and fossil fuel divestment Regarding divestment from fossil fuels, Azhari wrote, “Outside the mandate of the 10-year sustainability strategic plan, the University of Toronto is making steady progress on its commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of its investments while contributing to the broader fight against climate change through research, teaching and sustainable operations.” In 2018, U of T joined the University Climate Change Coalition, which committed the institution, alongside other leading research universities in North America, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own campuses and in their communities. While U of T set its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent by 2030 from the baseline level in 1990, the UTM campus uses its own baseline of 2005 emission levels in the strategic plan. The plan aims to achieve a carbon neutral campus by 2050 and switch 50 per cent of campus fleet to “alternative fuel options” in the next 10 years. An aerial photo of the UTM campus.
COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Hafsa Ahmed UTM Bureau Chief
After its completion and ongoing consultation sessions with the community, UTM has finally set out to launch its 10-year sustainability plan. Over the course of the past year, the Principal’s Sustainability Advisory Committee (PSAC) has consulted with students, staff, and faculty to devise specific goals. The strategic plan was finalized and approved in December, and details 26 goals, consisting of both short-term and long-term projects that aim to enhance environmental sustainability of UTM campus operations until 2030. Details of the plan Some specific goals outlined in the plan include reducing single-occupancy vehicles commuting to campus by 10 per cent by 2027 and creating a comprehensive waste management strategy by 2022. In the next few years, UTM also hopes to launch a communications strategy that will encourage community members to reduce waste, reuse items, and divert material from landfills.
The plan includes academic-related sustainability goals, such as implementing the Green Labs Program to help reduce the environmental impact of research activities on campus by 2024, and creating the Graduate Student Sustainability Funding Competition, which will include a sustainability-specific research grant by 2023. UTM has also committed to having 30 per cent of all students graduate with a certificate or minor in sustainability. Other specific initiatives include increasing teleworking by 25 per cent and introducing an entirely plant-based eating option on campus. In an email to The Varsity, Ahmed Azhari, Director Utilities and Sustainability in Facilities Management & Planning, wrote that the next step in implementing the plan is creating internal working groups focused on different goals. “The groups are domain-specific and focus on discussion or activity around a specific subject area,” he wrote, noting that all working groups are organized and led by the Sustainability Office. Considering factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Azhari wrote that the PSAC will re-
evaluate the plan annually to “ensure its continued validity and viability.” “The plan will function as a living document… some of its goals and targets remain qualitative in nature. Effective evaluation will require accordingly a holistic overview of the plan’s social, ecological, and economic dimensions.” The aim of this iterative process, he explained, is to allow UTM to adapt to the new best sustainability practices, financial landscape changes, and the prospect of emerging innovative technologies. Additionally, Azhari highlighted the role that UTM students would have in the 10-year plan. The plan hopes to “encourage widespread campus engagement, fostering a culture of sustainability with students, through promoting sustainability events, programs, and outreach initiatives on campus.” The plan dictates that UTM will make annual evaluation results publicly available online. The plan will provide an annual report, written at the end of each fiscal year on April 30, to “commemorate achievements, provide status updates, and highlight lessons learned.”
Student feedback While some student groups see the sustainability plan as a step in the right direction, they still hope to see more action from the university on environmental issues. Environmental student group Zero Waste UTM wrote in an email to The Varsity that while the plan seeks to foster engagement with students in the UTM community, it is not clear enough in its waste management strategy. The group added that educating students on recycling and composting guidelines in the area should be a priority. Zero Waste UTM also wrote that the plan does not specifically address some existing concerns that students have brought forward in the past, such as the calls for U of T to divest from fossil fuels. “Multiple students and student groups have come together to request the wider UofT community divest from fossil fuels, such as with the UTERN EWG Coalition divestment letter,” the group explained. “To be part of a university that values sustainability is amazing, and we must work together to enact as much positive change as possible,” wrote Zero Waste UTM. “However, we must hold them accountable to these plans, and ensure that future students are educated on it as well.”
Campaigns for Governing Council elections are now in motion Voting ends February 19, results will be announced February 23
Jessica Han Associate News Editor
The U of T Governing Council has begun elections, with a multitude of students competing for merely eight seats. The web-based voting period started on February 8, and it will continue to run until February 19 at 5:00 pm. Election results will be announced on February 23 at 10:00 am. The Governing Council runs and manages the university, handling academic, financial, business, and policy affairs. Examples of governing tasks include proposing new academic units and programs, altering policies on admissions, and adjusting students’ tuition fees. The council reserves two seats for graduate students, four seats for full-time undergraduate students, and two seats for part-time undergraduate students, from U of T’s three campuses. The Governing Council has 50 members in total, 30 of whom are elected administrative staff, teaching staff, students, and alumni. The four seats for undergraduate students are split into two constituencies, with constituency I representing students from the Faculty of Arts & Science and constituency II representing students from other faculties. Out of the full-time undergraduate students, 32 are campaigning for the two con-
stituency I seats; 10 are campaigning for the two constituency II seats. The graduate student seats are similarly partitioned into two constituencies, with constituency I representing students in the humanities and social sciences, and constituency II representing those in the physical and life sciences. Seven graduate students are vying for the constituency I seat. Meanwhile, one graduate student has already filled the constituency II seat, meaning that an election for the science division is not required. Finally, two students have already filled the two available part-time undergraduate seats. Seats for a number of teaching and administrative staff are also going to be filled following the upcoming election. With only eight seats out of a total of 50, students make up a relatively small portion of the Governing Council. Some critics have suggested that additional student seats may enable students to create more lasting change. Various committees that report to the Governing Council are also carrying out elections during this same time. Committees include the Academic Board, the UTM Campus Council and its bodies, and the UTSC Campus Council and its bodies, where other students and teaching and administrative staff are campaigning for seats.
The Governing Council chambers in Simcoe Hall. NATHAN CHAN/THEVARSITY
Business & Labour The debt trap: how student loans can prevent you from being hired
And resources you can access to improve your credit score
February 15, 2021 vrsty.ca/business email@example.com
Fittedfast: fourth-year student founds ‘Uber Eats for clothes’
U of T’s entrepreneurship resources helped bring clothes to your doorstep Joy Chan Varsity Staff
A business seemingly made for the new COVID-19 economy, Keturah Osinde’s Fittedfast aspires to be the “UberEATS for clothes.” Osinde, a fourth-year urban studies and ethics, society, and law student, is passionate about how cities develop and adapt to new situations and stresses. She founded the company to support local businesses in the face of encroaching industry giants by bridging the gap between online and in-store shopping. The Varsity interviewed Osinde to get the story on Fittedfast’s origins and future.
Nikki Putric Varsity Contributor
Canada is one year into a pandemic recession that’s hitting students and marginalized groups particularly hard, and the end is not yet in sight. It’s preventing many graduates and young people from finding employment. It has also hindered their ability to save for tuition and pay off existing student loan debt. While the federal government has provided some debt relief for students, many people with student loans will fall deeper into dire straits before the economy returns to normal. But what’s less widely known is that these two issues are connected: student loan debt can also prevent students from securing a job. Accumulated debt — such as due to a late or missed Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) payment — a poor credit score, or a maxed-out credit card can negatively impact your chances of getting hired. Knowing what employers are looking for in your financial history — and how to refurbish your credit if there are blemishes on your record — can be key in not letting debt control your life. Credit checked careers An increasing number of employers, including the Government of Canada and many in the financial services sector, are interested in a potential new hire’s credit history. Requesting credit reports — or ‘financial inquiries,’ as they are often referred to by employers — has now become a common practice. Under Ontario’s Consumer Reporting Act, employers have “permissible purpose” to request an applicant’s credit report. However, employers are only permitted to request a candidate’s credit history if they present a conditional offer of employment contingent on a credit check and have obtained informed and signed consent. Pre-employment credit checks must be done in good faith, be relevant to the position a candidate is applying for, comply with all privacy laws, and must not be used in a discriminatory manner. Companies that request a candidate’s credit history are not only interested in verifying an applicant’s identity, address, and employment history, but also in reviewing total levels of debt, the type of debt incurred, payment history, and any delinquent accounts that may have been recorded on the credit report. Recruiters are looking to maximize talent and minimize risk. Some hiring managers view a poor credit history as a sign of disorganization, mismanagement, or a failure to honour contractual agreements. Employers also recognize that personal financial stress could interfere with an employee’s performance and productivity. Excessive debt can also be interpreted as a form of financial distress that can lead to employee theft or fraud, including the misappropriation of cash or credit, the theft of merchandise, payroll fraud, and internal data breaches.
Generation debt A new study by Ontario debt relief consultancy Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc., found that 20.4 per cent of all insolvent debtors in 2020 possessed some student debt. This figure has been steadily growing, increasing from 19 per cent in 2019, 17.6 per cent in 2018, and 15.1 per cent in 2017. Additionally, the study found that a growing number of young borrowers, particularly those aged 18–19, are taking out high interest, high fee, and high-risk payday loans. Similarly, a 2019 study by Credit Karma that examined the credit reports of more than 170,000 Canadian Credit Karma members found that average student loan debt among Toronto residents was nearly $21,000 — the highest average in all of Ontario. Regarding University of Toronto graduates specifically, the average alumni default rate in 2018– 2019 on federal and provincial government student loans was 2.2 per cent. However, the rate was higher in certain programs. For example, graduates of U of T’s forestry program experienced a default rate of 9.1 per cent, graduates of the fine and applied arts program experienced a 3.9 per cent default rate, and graduates of other Faculty of Arts & Science programs experienced a default rate of 3.7 per cent. These numbers are only expected to worsen due to COVID-19. How do I fix my credit? The bottom line is that today’s employers are thinking about their bottom line when evaluating a new graduate’s employment candidacy. Be prepared for a credit check, make sure you know your credit history, and make sure that the information on your credit report is accurate. You can contact Equifax or TransUnion — Canada’s two major credit bureaus — to request a free credit report. The Government of Canada recommends that you check your credit history with more than one credit bureau as each may have different information and methods of tracking your credit. If you’ve defaulted on your OSAP debt, you may be eligible to apply for the Ontario Student Loan Rehabilitation Program. If your Canada Student Loan payments exceed your means, you may qualify for the Government of Canada’s Repayment Assistance Plan. Pandemic or not, how you manage your student debt is important to prospective employers, regardless of whether it’s a government loan or a personal bank loan. If you’re struggling with payments, be forthright about your credit history with a prospective employer and explain that you’re taking steps to rebuild your credit. Your potential employer will appreciate your good old-fashioned honesty and make note of it.
The Hub for help Despite being a UTSG student, Osinde grew Fittedfast in The Hub, UTSC’s entrepreneurship incubator. Aspiring entrepreneurs don’t need a finished product or a business plan to join the program; instead, students and recent graduates only need to come with an idea for their business. An idea is exactly what Osinde had when she approached the incubator. “I had come into the hub with just an idea,” she wrote. “A concept of this elaborate network of businesses that people can shop from online with delivery.” Osinde gave much credit to The Hub’s coordinators — in particular, The Hub’s director, Gray Gaffam — who she says supported her and her peers with a wide range of resources that were adapted to a virtual setting. “They had many [Zoom] sessions available for students to partake in that provided ample information and resources on how to succeed,” Osinde shared. Through The Hub’s annual pitch competition, the Fittedfast team also won $2,000 for its idea. “The Hub has also allowed me to see all the other innovative businesses that [are] pushing through the pandemic storm,” she continued. “Its [sic] incredible to see all the talented young people creating things that may very well change the world one day.” A focus on local business Much like its inspiration, Uber Eats, Fittedfast connects users with multiple local clothing stores via a single website. Users shop through the unified online storefront, and all deliveries are then handled by Fittedfast. Customers are charged $10 for delivery, and Fittedfast receives a five per cent pick-up fee from the businesses. Fittedfast’s research revealed that customers are accustomed to paying $11–14 for delivery that takes three to five days on average. With its current one- to four-day delivery model at a flat rate of $10, Fitted-
fast ships local products faster and cheaper, Osinde asserted. “We wanted to provide the best value for our service,” she wrote. Fittedfast also addresses sustainability and fast fashion — two big issues in the clothing industry. Osinde shared that the local business model hopes to allow Fittedfast to have greater control over the ethical sourcing of the clothing it delivers. Over 60 per cent of Fittedfast’s merchants have a sustainable approach to manufacturing their products. Brave Soles — a brand that makes its shoes out of recycled tire materials — is one such example. Pandemic problems In consideration of COVID-19 safety measures, Osinde reported that “Fittedfast adheres to all social distancing rules, especially with regard to drop-off.” Customers are able to engage in contactless deliveries by alerting Fittedfast of their preferred drop-off time by email or text. Fittedfast is also in the process of integrating a live view of delivery, which will allow customers to track the status of their order. During Fittedfast’s pre-pandemic development, Osinde met with potential merchants in person. With the onset of the pandemic, Osinde has found it difficult to receive responses from merchants through cold calls. Reformulating her approach in the early days of the pandemic, Osinde decided to contact local businesses with an offer to feature their stories in Fittedfast’s blog, T.O. Local. At that time, Fittedfast didn’t have a functioning platform, except a blog on an amateur website, but it allowed Osinde to connect with merchants and gain exposure. “This had a significantly better response because I learned the valuable lesson that you can get people to learn a lot about you by literally allowing them to talk about themselves first!” she wrote. Fittedfuture When asked for her advice to future generations of U of T businesspeople, Osinde advised fellow student entrepreneurs to “start now.” “Many of us suffer from procrastination and [are] looking for the perfect ‘time’ to do or start something,” Osinde wrote. “Truth is, there’s never a good time -- you create your opportunities and you create your reality… The real difference between those that succeed and those that do not is that the former had the bravery to take action.” As for what’s next for Fittedfast, Osinde is focused on getting 100 businesses signed up on the platform by the end of March.
Keturah Osinde, a fourth-year UTSG student, is the founder and CEO of Fittedfast. COURTESY OF FITTEDFAST
February 15, 2021 vrsty.ca/comment firstname.lastname@example.org
Op-ed: Students are missing from U of T’s budget process The admin must do better consultation for its multi-billion dollar operations
Tyler Riches Varsity Contributor
Over the course of my term at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), I’ve learned about and interacted with many of the structures for decision-making at the University of Toronto, and have walked facefirst into the realization that these governance structures are not designed to meaningfully involve students. The most stark example of this is tuition, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen courses delivered in an online format. Whether through advocating for lower tuition for online classes or through lobbying for tuition relief for computer science, bioinformatics, and data science students, I’ve discovered that U of T’s budget process is lacking a critical step: consulting students. In April, after the shift to online learning, the UTSU published a statement calling on the university to reduce ancillary fees for summer 2020, and “reduce both domestic and international course fees due to online delivery.” The demand to lower tuition for online classes was reaffirmed in UTSU statements in May and July. The university refused to lower tuition, citing the cost of digital infrastructure and arguing that students would still receive a high-quality education as their academic programs continue to be delivered remotely. But we knew better, and students knew better. In response, the UTSU administered a survey in August to collect feedback from students on their experiences in online classes. In October, we published a report highlighting the results of the survey, offering recommendations for administrators and instructors, and concluding that the “quality of education at the University of Toronto has suffered as a result of the shift to online learning.” That same month, student leaders from UTSG published a joint statement criticizing the university’s COVID-19 response, and
once again called for — among other things — the reduction of tuition for online classes. As I wrote in an op-ed in August, the university can’t justify keeping tuition fees the same when its educational experience has changed significantly. But U of T refused to entertain discussions of lowering tuition during a pandemic despite widespread student support for the idea. This is at a time when the university’s 2020–2021 operating budget stands at $2.99 billion, and the year-end financial projections show increases in net income and net assets. Lowering tuition is more complicated than these numbers alone, but it’s telling that the university didn’t seriously explore tuition relief when students called for it, even though its budget indicated that it was able to do so. In mid-December, I attended a meeting with the student governors and key administrators responsible for the university and Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) budgets, along with student leaders from the Arts and Science Students’ Union, Computer Science Students’ Union, and Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Students’ Union. We were lobbying for a reduction in tuition for the computer science, bioinformatics, and data science programs as part of our Same Degree, Same Fee campaign; these programs were historically deregulated, and tuition rose until they were subsequently re-regulated, leaving fees higher than other regulated FAS programs. At this meeting, administrators explained U of T’s budget process to us. The process begins in the summer, and starting in the fall semester, each division will craft its own five-year plan, which is then reviewed before being consolidated by the central U of T administration starting in Januar y.
Then, in February, the draft budget begins to make its way through the university’s governance cycle, receiving a final stamp of approval by the Governing Council at the beginning of April. This yearlong process was described to us as “bottom-up,” in that it begins at the department-level and ends at Governing Council. But nowhere in this “bottom-up” process is effort made to consult with students or student societies. Without public access to this budget information, we’re unable to offer solutions and unable to corroborate their claims. The UTSU has since filed Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act requests to get this information, but needless to say, this isn’t the most accessible way to engage with the budget process. After our meeting in December, the student leaders organizing the Same Degree, Same Fee campaign sent a follow-up email requesting another meeting to discuss how best to implement a tuition reduction for the 2021–2022 budget. We were told by the assistant provost that it was too late in the process for changes to be made to the budget. The only opportunity left for us to speak on the 2021–2022 U of T budget was the upcoming governance process. In theory, students are represented at Governing Council. U of T students elect eight student governors to represent us in Simcoe Hall, and students can request speaking rights at meetings. In practice, however, this means nothing. Our eight student governors are easily outvoted by the other 42 members of the Governing Council, and representatives from student unions are only given a few minutes each to address the governors.
Most of the important decisions for the budget have been made by the time the draft comes to the Governing Council. This begs the question: if students are being told that January is too late to impact the budget, what’s the point of us participating in the process in April through the only means of formal representation we have? It’s seemingly apparent that the university’s budget process fails to engage students in any meaningful way, and this needs to be addressed. Students pay tens of thousands of dollars to this institution and should have a bigger role in determining where that money goes, particularly with the pandemic and the financial difficulties it’s caused. Firstly, each academic division should develop its own process to consult with students and student leaders when crafting its budget. When divisional budgets are sent to the central U of T administration for consolidation, student unions should have an opportunity to make pre-budget submissions with recommendations, similar to municipal, provincial, and federal budget consultations. Before the budget is finalized, students should have an opportunity to engage with administrators in a town hall to learn more about the budget and ask questions. Finally, divisional budget information needs to be easier for the U of T community to access. If tuition can’t be reduced without service reductions, the onus is on the administration to be transparent and show us the numbers that would explain why. Students are the largest stakeholder at U of T, and should have a greater say in the governance and finances of this university. Budgets are a reflection of an institution’s priorities, and as of late, students haven’t been adequately reflected in the priorities of the University of Toronto. Tyler Riches is a third-year human geography, urban studies, and women & gender studies student at University College. They are the vice-president public & university affairs of the UTSU.
Public Editor: The digital conundrum — discerning the boundaries of free speech
What speech should or should not be allowed? necessary c on t e x t to make an informed judgement and acknowledge the complex nature of the issue at stake while careFIONA TUNG/THEVARSITY fully exercising conscience. At The Varsity, answers to difficult scenarios that, for instance, concern publishing or declining a pitch are informed by the Equity Guide and The Varsity’s Operating Policy. The Equity Guide is an extensive document comprising the detailed equity-related editorial and stylistic guidelines that our journalists and editors follow. Last month, I received a complaint from a contributor regarding the free speech section of the guide, Padmaja Rengamannar upon having two of their pitches declined. Public Editor The first pitch delineated their arguments against the non-physical connotations that are Free speech has now being attached to the notion of safety. They been a contested top- intended to argue “that ‘safety’ must only be conic for a long time both sidered in a physical sense (i.e. kinetic threats to at The Varsity and around one’s person and property)” and that no form of the world. Today, social media speech can be deemed unsafe simply because of platforms such as Twitter ban the ideas it conveys. The second pitch sought to world leaders from using their ser- debate the free speech section, which the first vices, the Indian government actively pitch was judged to be in violation of. sought to block Twitter accounts for “foThe contributor felt that The Varsity did not menting hatred and inciting violence,” and protect section eight of its governing policies “by following the Myanmar coup, Facebook — “the preventing participation based on ‘political and country’s primary source of information” — was philosophical beliefs,’ ” and that the publication blocked due to growing instability in the country. “has a clear ideological bias - which it imputes The challenge of deciding what ideas should and into policies such as the Equity Guide and denies should not be given oxygen is not foreign to the dissenting voices the ability to engage with such practice of journalism. However, the emergence of biases on an equal footing.” The editor’s decisions digital journalism has given birth to new sets of for both pitches were made “in accordance with ethical challenges surrounding free speech that re- the guide” and after careful consultation with the quire nuanced answers. Such answers provide the editor-in-chief.
I contacted Ibnul Chowdhury, Editor-inChief of The Varsity, regarding this issue, and he explained that should any pitch conflict with the guide, The Varsity is not obligated to provide a platform for views that can cause harm to readers. Regarding the contributor’s second pitch, which sought to debate the guide’s free speech section in a letter to the editor, Chowdhury expressed, “The letters to the editor forum is not a forum to debate or question policy or practices that we have… If we published a letter denying equity or saying something like ‘racism doesn’t exist’ — which is obviously not only not true but it can cause harm to readers and undermine our reputation.” Understanding the two parties on their own terms is fairly clear — it is well within the rights of the contributor to freely express their ideas and contest policies. Likewise, the editor has the right to decline a pitch at their discretion based on their “responsibility to produce responsible and nonharmful journalism for the U of T community.” However, the issue here is that there are conflicting interests, and finding the point of intersection at which they coincide is rather intricate. Here lies the digital conundrum: what speech should or should not be allowed? This is a subjective decision to be made by the editors. Are we doing a good job? Yes and no. The Varsity has strived to make a collaborative effort to practice ethical and democratic journalism, alongside its readers and contributors. It has welcomed critical and healthy debate in the letters to the editor forum, where readers can respond to articles published by The Varsity. However, how well it discerns the boundaries of free speech remains a disputed subject, as detailed in previous public editor columns. What I mean by the digital conundrum is that the advent of digital journalism has encouraged the spread of unfettered speech. Some of this speech is misleading, hateful, and unwelcoming, thus tightening the practice of ethical journalism around free speech. In a conversation with Jeffrey Dvorkin, the for-
mer ombudsman of National Public Radio and program director of journalism at UTSC, I shared my concerns about the limits of free speech. “I think the editor is right to make a choice and to say this doesn’t suit us. On the other hand, if at the university these ideas have no place for discussion, does that mean that ideas that may make people feel uncomfortable are now forbidden to be discussed?” asked Dvorkin. The answers are not black and white, and these challenges call for better collaboration between our contributors and editors, who should push the boundaries of discussing a potential pitch a little further before completely declining it. Dvorkin added, “The role of a newspaper or any medium is to give people the skills and occasionally the sharper logics to help them deal with all this craziness that’s out there.” Sooner or later, we will all have to face the challenges of the real world, and as a campus newspaper, the onus is on us to have these difficult conversations and equip ourselves with the skills that will help us make sense of challenging ideas. That being said, this is no easy task. It needs to be thoughtfully carried out such that the public interest is served while maintaining fairness and abiding by the principles of ethical journalism. The Equity Guide is not up for public debate as it puts The Varsity’s reputation and credibility at stake. Instead, readers and contributors are encouraged to submit their responses in the feedback form, which is meticulously monitored in order to revise the guide every academic year. As your new public editor, I strive to bridge the gap between the readers and the newsroom. I warmly invite you to share any of your thoughts and concerns about The Varsity. If you have questions or concerns regarding the Equity Guide, or simply want to have a conversation about journalism, please reach out to me via email. I’d be more than happy to help! Padmaja Rengamannar is Public Editor at The Varsity and can be reached at email@example.com.
Op-ed: The SCSU calls for accessible and equitable education now Lubaba Gemma Varsity Contributor
Vice-President of Academic and University Affairs on advocating for #EducationforAll
The return to school has been drastically different this year. Whether the pandemic racks your brain daily, you’re confused about making concrete plans for the future, or the weight of the world’s inequities are sinking in, the fact is, we are all hurting. Accessible education is essential to a just recovery, and ongoing support for students should be a priority. The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) has brought forward the Education For All campaign, which highlights the challenges that students often face. We hope to create a reality where, regardless of whether they pay international or domestic tuition, students have affordable and accessible education that is specific to the COVID-19 climate. Students have continuously advocated for tuition relief since their learning is simply not reflective of the exorbitant prices they are being charged. Moreover, one of U of T’s own epidemiologists gave the university’s reopening plans less than satisfactory remarks. This is why we are currently calling for a cancellation of all proposed increases to international tuition fees and the implementation of a two-year freeze on all interest on public student loans for current students and recent graduates. We are asking for real, tangible change. This is why we are also advocating for changes such as the prioritization of non-repayable grants instead of loans when it comes to funding. This would ensure less students are leaving school with exorbitant
loans to pay back or working full or part time to get ahead of loan repayments. We know and appreciate that remote learning has increased access immensely, but it should not have taken a pandemic for the university administration to consider those who are disabled and what their needs are. Now, what administrators fail to recognize are the discrepancies between the quality of in-person teaching and online learning. Because students are suddenly expected to utilize all 24 hours in a day, the quality of online learning has become especially rigorous, with the university seeming to negate the precarity of home situations and dismiss that students are still learning to cope with the stress of the pandemic. For many Black, Indigenous, racialized, lowincome, working, and chronically ill folks, as well as those who are disabled, the news is broadcasting the realities of our lives and the direct impact oppressive systems have on us and our communities. Many of us cannot afford the luxury of tuning out or distancing ourselves. This is why we are also advocating for the university to provide public access to the internet and the creation of bursary programs that can allow students to purchase necessary technology and equipment. We want to ensure students are supported if they need to continue their education remotely. Now is not the time to be short of empathy. Movements often start with low-level changes — representation, diversity committees, and task forces — to create strategies to understand issues that students are already familiar with and con-
tinue to live through daily. These committees and task forces provide opportunities for students to confirm what they already know: institutions are rooted in ideologies that stifle our imagination and critical thinking, and stand to uphold the existing structures and systems in place that have been designed to serve a select few at the detriment of others. Students are asking for more than representation. In a time when our academic and political leaders are advocating for systemic and institutional change, students are taking barriers to education into their own hands at speeds unlike before. With numerous student unions bringing forward campaigns like Education For All and #AllOutS30, we continue to fight for access to education in a way that is inclusive for everyone, especially those left in vulnerable and precarious situations. We want access that does not tokenize the voices of a few to represent many, but one that fights for accessible education and creates a platform for all. This change starts with leveraging opportunities for students who are disproportionately affected by social inequities and institutional racism. It starts by turning loans into grants. It starts by acting on the discrepancies in the quality of education that students have been calling out for many years now. It starts by reevaluating how we adopt online learning. It starts by listening to what students really need: education for all. Lubaba Gemma is a fifth-year health policy and psychology student at UTSC.
FEBRUARY 15, 2021
On climate, U of T must take more institutional responsibility than its students Admin must rely less on community initiatives, more on green food policy, divestment
Katie Kinross Varsity Contributor
Questions of who holds the most power to fight the inevitable climate crisis have recently become more urgent than ever. With an endowment of around $2.5 billion as of spring 2020, U of T has the funds to make ample change from within. Some of this funding has gone toward university-based sustainable initiatives, but U of T has failed to take more serious climate action — such as divesting from fossil fuels. Considering the university’s recent increase in income, U of T must consider how this money could be used in the climate fight. Perhaps one of the most significant measures could be implementing adequate vegan and vegetarian options in dining halls and cafeterias around campus. One of U of T’s greatest strengths as an institution is its size, and promoting vegan diets, or even offering more diverse food options, could have a significant impact. Researchers at Oxford University have found vegan diets to be the “single biggest way” to reduce one’s environmental impact, as it can reduce carbon footprint in relation to food by up to 73 per cent. Right now, students are the ones pushing for a shift to offer more vegan food options, not U of T, as groups like U of T’s Veg Club promote vegan and vegetarian diets and options on campus. If the university were to encourage this behaviour instead, the impact would be significant, if for no other reason than the university’s large outreach. Moreover, U of T currently holds stocks in “the 200 fossil fuel companies around the world with the largest reserves of coal, oil, and gas” according to student-run club Toronto350. The club has been a prominent force in the fight for divestment, and another stu-
dent-run organization, Leap UofT, has kept up the same work. While students are using the limited resources they have to push for divestment, the university’s response has not been as substantial as it could be and instead favours initiatives that have students still doing the heavy lifting. This push and pull between such a powerful institution and the students who lack the necessary power brings into question a much
larger discussion on the climate crisis. In every part of the fight, even off campus, a recurring theme is communities that are the most affected by repercussions of the crisis pushing the hardest for action while the top billionaires and corporations who contribute to the crisis the most idly stand by. For example, Indigenous communities, who are arguably the most affected by the climate crisis within Canada, have contributed greatly
to the fight against it, with one organization, Indigenous Climate Action, spending over $250,000 on community support, programs, and gatherings to give back to the environment. Another important consideration in this discussion is the attribution of responsibility. By pushing for student-focused organizations and initiatives in the fight against the climate crisis, the university is abdicating its own role. A great analogy to this is the “climate clock” in New York City. This political art piece, which displays a countdown of the time we have left to achieve zero emissions before the damage is irreparable, is notably located in a lower-income part of the city. The clock’s target audience is not only tourists and viewers on social media, but more specifically working-class people in America, those who are simultaneously the most vulnerable to the crisis, the lowest contributors, and who lack the resources to help. This puts guilt on individuals who are incapable of creating lasting change in comparison to more powerful institutions, such as the billionaires who contribute the most to the crisis. As postsecondary students, our finances and outreach are limited to begin with, so while these student-focused efforts should undoubtedly continue, they should not be the only action; institutional efforts should be made to produce the greatest net outcome. We as students can only be as successful in the climate fight as our institutions. The university must recognize that it has the greatest burden to carry. Katie Kinross is a second-year political science, English, and equity studies student at Trinity College.
Op-ed: Cultural clubs must acknowledge divisions back home, albeit neutrally Reflecting on the UTSC’s Indian Students Association recent controversy
Nidhil Vohra Varsity Contributor
The Instagram account of UTSC’s Indian Students Association (ISA) posted a celebratory message for India’s Republic Day on January 26. This was not well received by some of its followers, who saw this as an act of ignorance toward the ongoing farmers’ protests in India. The association should have provided awareness and information on the ongoing protests before making this post to avoid alienating those it is meant to represent. The protests are a result of a set of new agriculture laws passed by the Indian Parliament, which could potentially do more harm than good to the farmers’ incomes, and could prove detrimental for about 60 per cent of the country, which is involved in the agriculture sector. Farmers make up a majority of the Indian population, and many people were disappointed over the fact that the ISA did not play a part in raising awareness. Following the outcry, the ISA turned comments off on the Instagram post, citing “bullying and harassment,” and later issued another statement. The second statement recognized the protests and expressed the importance of the matter. Ethnic and cultural clubs play a vital role in creating awareness amongst their members about certain issues. With a large and active follower count, should these clubs be more involved in social commentary and advocacy? Last year The Varsity published an opinion piece criticizing Indian student societies for not playing an active role against the anti-Muslim violence in India. This came after a similar situation like the ISA finds itself in right now, where the organization at UTSG did not post about
a pertinent issue while continuing to promote the club’s events. The opposition received by the associations in both scenarios was completely valid. It is not an expectation from the ISA to post in support of a side involved in the protests, but what is expected by its members is a statement that addresses the issue. There might be the presence of certain students on campus who hold opposing views about a specific issue, and thus an organization like the ISA should not pick a side in an ongoing conflict. However, merely posting about the protests and acknowledging the situation in India with a neutral standpoint from the ISA would have been well received. Associations on campus need to tread carefully when dealing with issues of political and religious origin. Their members might be from different demographics and are not expected to hold a unilateral point of view while looking at matters of said origins. That being said, the world finds itself in turmoil right now, plagued with social, political, and religious matters. The clubs on campus owe it to their members and teams to spread information about these issues and discuss why they are of importance. Catering to a large demographic, they need to ensure that their comments are coming from an unbiased outlook. On the original Republic Day post, the ISA commented “Jai Hind” — though it appears to have since been removed from the post — which can be translated to “Victory to India.” This was interpreted by some people as displaying the association’s support for the current right-wing government ruling the country. To avoid instances like these and also ensure that they are doing good by the people that they are supposed to represent, clubs and associations should definitely move toward being more vocal about issues in their communities. However, this
vocality should come from an impartial point of view without any hints toward partisanship or blatant opposition for a specific religion, ethnicity, or community. Through its events, the ISA has been making efforts to represent the Indian students at UTSC and cater to the cultural and social expectations of the community. Its public statement did its part in letting the audience know about the political situation of the nation, by highlighting that the issue is urgent and noting that India right now is a divided country. By not picking a side, it maintained neutrality, thus continuing to represent India and Indian students without being biased in its approach. However, it was too little too late. It is important
for these organizations to not wait until the backlash to address political tensions. Being silent until the issue no longer remains urgent is not the right strategy as is evident by the community backlash. Therefore, student organizations such as the ISA must recognize the sensitive and significant positions they occupy and must utilize this to shed light on critical political issues. As representative bodies, they must acknowledge the lows if they celebrate the highs. This is not the time to pretend to be asleep, for the protests may stop but the wake-up calls won’t. Nidhil Vohrais a first-year social sciences student at St. Michael’s College. They are a social media director at the Indian Students’ Society at UTSG.
“Constantly on edge”:
nursing students on the demands of working through a pandemic
New change allowing students to treat COVID-19 positive patients raises concerns about va Giselle Dalili Varsity Contributor
At 6:00 am, Caterina Bordignon, a secondyear nursing student at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, sits in a near empty subway on her way to the hospital. Two metres from her, she sees only other frontline workers. When she arrives at her clinical community placement, after filling out her online screening and passing the security check, she feels countless pairs of eyes assessing her as she washes her hands. She dresses herself in her face masks, yellow scrubs, face shield, and blue gloves. “Every time I enter and exit a patient room, I remove my gown and gloves and wash my hands,” Bordignon wrote to The Varsity. “It’s an endless exercise of putting on and remov-
ing PPE (personal protective equipment).” Breaks are taken in shifts so that people can properly distance in the lunchroom. “We are constantly on edge,” she wrote. An innocent cough by a patient causes a wave of anxiety throughout the halls. After her 12-hour shift, Bordignon says goodbye to her patients, knowing that given all of her PPE, they would not recognize her in the future. She changes out of her scrubs, puts them into a separate bag, and heads to the subway along with the other essential workers before doing it all again the next day. Bordignon’s experience with clinical placements is similar to other U of T nursing students. From their first year on, nursing students study diligently while doing clinic a l placements —
eight- to 12-hour shifts at hospitals — that the university allocates. However, for the first time in recent memory, their education is calling them to the frontlines of a pandemic.
How the pandemic impacted their education When COVID-19 first swept the globe, nursing students’ clinical placements came to an abrupt end in March 2020 when hospitals cancelled on-site student training. However, when the fall 2020 semester came around, U of T was able to provide nursing students with placements again. Students recounted feeling grateful for this experience. “A big component of nursing school is that placement [and] really doing stuff hands-on,” Bordignon said in an interview with The Varsity. “And so when [the opportunity] was taken away, I felt like the quality [of our education] just really went down because how can you simulate that from home and online?” She noted that being at her placement this year has been rewarding, as many nurses and clinicians have come up to tell her how happy they are to see nursing students again. “Back in March 2020, when everything changed, students being pulled from clinical was another reminder of the profound differences in healthcare settings,” Bordignon wrote. “I think that the return of students has re-established a small sense of normalcy within all this chaos.” Julia Schafrick, a first-year nursing student, added, “I think U of T has done a really good job of making sure we all get a placement… That’s a huge win.” However, receiving placements is a double-edged sword owing to the current shortage of vaccines in Ontario. Many frontline workers, including student nurses, have not yet received their first dose of In-person placements have been both a blessing and a stressor. the COVID-19 vaccine. MICHELLE FORNASIER/THEVARSITY At first, students under-
stood the timeline of the vaccination program and the delays in communication from U of T. “I’m just super grateful to be there,” Schafrick said. However, as the school year progressed, some students expressed that they wanted more action from the university. “I would hope to see U of T advocating for us a little bit more in terms of… ensuring that we all get the vaccine,” Schafrick said. “[Its] focus has been on ensuring that we all get to be in the hospital and be in placement, which is awesome, and we need that. We also all need to get vaccinated.” “We are working in direct patient care and [vaccination] needs to happen,” Schafrick continued. On December 7, a major development in the nursing program occurred when Nadine Janes, the faculty’s undergraduate program director, emailed students that “effective this January Winter term 2021, all Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing Undergraduate BScN students within clinical practicums will be able to provide care not only to persons under investigation for COVID-19, but also for patients diagnosed with COVID-19.” Janes added that the faculty lifted the previous restriction that prevented students from providing direct care to patients diagnosed with COVID-19 because there has been “growth in our knowledge about COVID-19 transmission, assessment and treatment and growth in supply of PPE for students use.” However, according to the Faculty of Nursing’s Winter 2021 FAQ for Students page, students still cannot observe or participate in “aerosolized procedures with COVID-19 patients.” Bordignon was dissatisfied with this explanation. “[In the fall] they were even very wary about us even having patients who had been tested, but the test results have not come back yet,” she wrote. “And then all of a sudden we get this email [that said we] can deal with [COVID-19] patients.” Bordignon also mentioned that she did not hear of any times when the university consulted students. This was magnified by the larger issue looming over nursing students’ heads: if they were to directly treat patients with COVID-19, when would they be vaccinated? The vaccine question U of T’s sudden decision to allow students to care for COVID-19 patients at their placements was exacerbated this winter semester when students were stripped of their ability to choose which placement they want to work at. “[Pre-COVID-19] we would rank the placements,” Bordignon wrote. “I was also able to rank my placements for Fall 2020, but I was not able to in Winter 2021.
accination, burnout She mentioned that being consulted about the decision would have gone a long way. “I’m ultimately the one that has to go to this placement.” Working directly with COVID-19 patients in these institutions has left students with a looming fear for their health and the health of those they come into close contact with. This fear is amplified for those who have clinical placements in institutions that do not immediately swab all patients for COVID-19. When asked if U of T was aware that some students were placed in these institutions, Linda Johnston, Dean of the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, wrote to The Varsity, “Decisions around swabbing patients for Covid-19 are determined by the Infection Prevention and Control unit or IPAC and the individual clinical placement provider.” Schafrick commented that knowing if you are coming into contact with COVID-19 positive patients at least provides a sense of security. “Within my shift, I usually know who might be positive and who might not be positive,” she said. “It doesn’t really change how I’m providing care to them… but there’s still a comfort level in knowing.” Being vaccinated would also alleviate some of the concerns about being a frontline worker. Although students acknowledge that U of T is not inherently responsible for students remaining unvaccinated, the lack of communication from the university has been disheartening to some students. “We haven’t heard anything from U of T about the vaccine at all,” Schafrick said. According to Johnston, “U of T is working with [the] government and our affiliated hospitals to support the vaccine rollout.” She also claimed that many nursing students at U of T have already been vaccinated, depending on their clinical placements. Johnston directed students to speak to clinical placement providers as well to help register them for vaccines. Schafrick hopes that regardless of the university’s actions thus far, it will do more. “Something I wish U of T would have gotten more involved in is just making sure that all of the nursing students are getting vaccinated because it’s up to the different hospitals to administer the vaccine,” she said. “And so there’s people in my placement who I’m working with who have gotten the vaccine, and I didn’t get the vaccine because thereʼs a shortage.” “I’m kind of worried that I’m going to go through this placement and not end up having gotten it,” Schafrick continued. The consequences of caring for COVID-19 patients while unvaccinated can be signifi-
cant. “Everybody is coming home to a different scenario,” Bordignon said. Some students live with high-risk family or friends. In Bordignon’s case, she lives with someone who is over 80 years old. “So that’s a consideration for me,” she said. “I don’t necessarily want to go to [a COVID-19] patient’s room because what if I bring that home to somebody that is very vulnerable?” However, since Bordignon works in a clinical community placement that’s not a hospital, she hasn’t received the vaccine yet. “I wish the university would coordinate a little bit better and figure out who’s getting the vaccine,” she said. Advocating on her behalf would also be an asset, given the confusion she faces about how to access a vaccine. “I’m not really sure how I can get the vaccine except through placement,” Bordignon added. “And since it’s not being offered by this placement, where am I supposed to get it?” Online instruction for a hands-on program In addition to nursing students’ fears for themselves and their families’ safety, many are experiencing unprecedentedly high levels of vulnerability and isolation. This is a consequence of online learning, as it has prevented them from growing a network of students and faculty this year. “I just don’t have the relationships with the other students that I would normally have,” Schafrick said. Due to the pandemic, she explained, “We weren’t really talking to other people.” Community is then vital for their mental health, especially for people new to nursing,
such as students. “In nursing especially, it’s really important to have those personal connections with the other students because we see stuff that normal students are not seeing,” Schafrick said. “You might have a patient [who] dies. You might be caring for someone who has an opioid addiction, for example. You’re dealing with stuff that’s heavy. And so you need those relationships with other people to process that stuff.” Bordignon agreed, noting that, “I think that in nursing, you really rely on the rest of your cohort as you’re going through the experience together.” Some students also find that their online academic experience cannot compare to prepandemic times. Although they understand that the faculty is doing its best to compensate so quickly for the hands-on education that nursing programs usually require, there have been difficulties coordinating the synchronous schedules of classes with clinical placements. “I feel like there’s not really any coordination with the students of when [their placement is] and how [U of T] coordinates synchronous lectures,” Bordignon said. There can sometimes be an overlap between classes and placements. Johnston commented that one option provided is for students to attend synchronous sessions every other week and to watch recordings of synchronous sessions on the alternate weeks to adjust for time conflicts. In addition, some hands-on educational experiences cannot be replicated during the pandemic. Schafrick noted that there has
been more responsibility thrust onto institutions that students are completing clinical placements at to teach them certain skills. While she still appreciates that U of T has taught them the most essential skills in the in-person labs that they attend each week, given certain physical distancing restrictions, some lessons cannot be taught in class. “For example, normally we would have a whole lab about IV administration… We didn’t get to have that,” Schafrick said. “Our clinical instructor at the hospital was using the hospital materials to kind of teach us the basics of that.” Overall, though, Schafrick finds that these in-person labs and placements can also be a silver lining to her days. “We get the opportunity to leave our house and go to placement. Not everybody gets to do that,” she said. “As stressful as it might be, that is kind of a gift right now for me because I am going crazy in the house… I do get that opportunity to be with the other students who are there and be with my clinical instructor, which I feel is great.” Through all of the havoc of this past year, nursing students are still focusing on the positives. “I think as we keep going with this online stuff, things are going to get better in terms of organization, in terms of communication,” Schafrick said. As recent as February 3, the nursing faculty held a midterm check-in Zoom call with students. Bordignon noted that although the nursing program has become especially demanding, it will prepare her for the future. “We’re going to go into a pandemic, so I guess it’s good that we get some experience as a nursing student and then we’ll be ready to hit the ground running.”
Arts & Culture
February 15, 2021 vrsty.ca/arts firstname.lastname@example.org
Music in a changing world: insights from Toronto, U of T musicians From online performances during a pandemic to the fight for social justice
Mikaela Toone Associate Arts & Culture Editor
It’s easy to lament the COVID-19 pandemic as the dark ages of Toronto’s music scene. Live music is a distant memory: 11 venues have closed, others are teetering on the brink of shutting down, and in-person teaching and collaboration are gone for the moment. Nonetheless, Toronto’s musicians and aspiring professional musicians here at U of T are persisting — even challenging the white and cisgender-heteronormative structures of the industry. The Varsity heard from two members of the Toronto music community and two members of U of T’s music faculty to find out about how they’ve adapted to the new COVID-19 reality. A virtual venue Ceréna is a solo recording artist from the city who has been active in the industry since 2012, though she noted that her time has been spent mostly in “trying to appease to the white, cis-het industry.” “It almost killed me,” she wrote. In 2019, she came out as transgender and then changed her name the following year. She is set to release her first album as Ceréna later this year. Ceréna wrote to The Varsity that, at the beginning of the pandemic, she felt “very sad because here I was thinking that the best years of my life were going to be spent in lockdown.” However, that changed when Ceréna helped to found a nightclub for the LGBTQ+ community: Club Quarantine. Club Quarantine, hosted on Zoom, sees hundreds of virtual partygoers gather to connect with other members of the LGBTQ+ community from social isolation and watch artists as popular as Charli XCX, who performed a 30-minute set on March 25. “Building a global community of people who are just like you has been incredibly healing… it’s
also been very inspiring to connect with the queer underground scenes from all over the world,” Ceréna wrote. LGBTQ+ venues, such as the hugely popular Crews and Tangos, were already struggling prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 “was the nail in the coffin” for those venues, Ceréna explained. Ceréna noted that LGBTQ+ talent in the city is thriving, and she’s excited to see the community create in-person spaces when it’s safe to do so. However, she added that those “in charge of this city” don’t care about “preserving the culture and creating space to support the people that make this city so special. I really love this city, this is my home… but we need a revolution.” Creating and reflecting Cat Montgomery, also known by her stage name Cat and The Queen (CATQ), is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter. She misses performing at live venues; however, she wrote to The Varsity that she’s taking the pandemic as “an opportunity to get real [and experience]… what life is like out of a service industry job - like what life is like if I spent less and had the time to work on art and music.” Like many other musicians, CATQ has embraced online platforms to share her work. Every Sunday, she hosts a morning show on IGTV. “I’m releasing my third album February 26th - and I created it up north, in a cabin in the woods - it’s low fi - and it feels like every song on the album is a snapshot, tracking my experience during this wavy, chaotic, paradigm shifting time,” CATQ explained. CATQ is also taking this time to care for herself by “walking by the toronto waterfront,” “[engaging] in active addiction recovery,” and connecting with loved ones. She wrote about the future of Toronto’s music scene: “Honestly I hope there is live music on every corner and people are fucking in the streets.”
Music education online While students at the Faculty of Music may not be as impacted by venue closures as Ceréna and CATQ, this past year’s online reality had significant ramifications for them. With in-person learning, collaboration, and concerts no longer a possibility, music students had to adapt to maintain the level of creativity and innovation required of them. Emily Tam is a fourth-year student in the music education program at U of T. Despite the fact that the Faculty of Music is fully online, Tam wrote that there are still ways to collaborate with other musicians. For an upcoming performance with another musician, Tam wrote that “although we can’t record and perform in-person, we are individually recording our parts and with some audio and visual editing, it is going to sound and look like we are performing together… it usually involves a lot of trial, error, and practice!” Tam believes that despite the fact that “the act of making music has changed, music making has continued through different forms and functions throughout the pandemic.” In addition to her studies, Tam is also the president of the Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA) and maintains that “students at the Faculty of Music are still creating music during lockdown.” Alongside the newly formed Faculty of Music Anti-Racism Alliance (FoMARA), the FMUA will be highlighting racialized musicians on its social media accounts leading up to March. At that point, the faculty’s Benefit Concert Series will commence, and performances by racialized musicians will be posted on Instagram and Facebook every Monday. The Benefit Concert is an annual event for the Faculty of Music and has previously been a one-off performance; this year, however, organizers opted for an online series. All proceeds from the Benefit Concert Series will go toward the Faculty of Music’s Black and Indigenous Musical Excellence scholarship.
Calls to action It is not only the pandemic that changed music students’ experience this past year. Calls for racial justice in the faculty have arisen following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, and the subsequent protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Inspired by this movement, 170 U of T students and faculty signed a letter demanding the Faculty of Music head institute anti-racist changes. The FoMARA emerged from this letter. When The Varsity heard from the FoMARA at the beginning of the academic year, it was committed to continuing to dismantle the racism and Western bias permeating through the program and providing a space for student voices to be heard. Anika Venkatesh, Vice-President of Events on the FoMARA and second-year student studying Classical Voice Performance, gave The Varsity an update on the club’s progress. “In the classroom, I’ve definitely seen a shift in how some professors are teaching, centralizing the music of [Black, Indigenous, and people of colour] composers and trying to incorporate different kinds of music to teach various concepts,” Venkatesh wrote. However, Venkatesh noted that this is more of an individual shift, and that “curriculum changes we would like to see implemented are based upon a more holistic approach to incorporate anti-racist practices and discussion across all departments within the music faculty.” Despite the fact that the pandemic forced the club into a virtual existence, Venkatesh explained how that “has allowed for a very broad reach for our club.” They wrote, “Launching this club during COVID has been a really interesting experience, and we’ve been able to achieve a lot more than I think any of us imagined initially.”
Poetry against colonialism: El Jones reads writings on inequities, slavery at UTSC library How polite is Canada, really? The poet and activist is UTSC’s writer in residence.
COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
Munza Erum Varsity Contributor
On February 1, poet, activist, and journalist El Jones gave a reading at an event hosted by the UTSC Library. Students had the opportunity to listen to some of her moving pieces, which discuss the hardships of marginalized communities in prison and the long-lasting effects of colonialism in Canada. Jones has performed all over Canada and is a contributor at the Huffington Post. She is UTSC’s current writer in residence and contributes to student events and classes. She was named Halifax Poet Laureate from 2013–2015 and currently hosts the Black Power radio show on CKDUF-FM. Her book, Live from the Afrikan Resistance! is a collection of poetry about the struggle in the African Nova Scotia community. She was also appointed to the Halifax police board to help define the process of defunding the police. She has done significant work on prison
justice with east coast prisons and Elizbeth Fry Societies. She has also handled a national campaign that successfully prevented the deportation of refugee Abdoul Abdi. “Canada is so Polite” In this piece, Jones debunks Canadians’ wellknown notion of being “too polite.” She talks about the history of violence against Indigenous peoples and different minoritized groups, which Canada seems to ignore when discussing ‘politeness.’ Jones unmutes the silence surrounding the conversation of colonialism and its persisting effects. “And let’s not mention the Shelburne race riots, or cross burnings, or Africville or 2,000 missing and murdered Indigenous women, but there’s no genocide… It’s rude to raise your voice in Canada. So let’s just smile.” “White Jurors” In the following piece, Jones analyzes and emphasizes how marginalized community
groups such as Indigenous and Black peoples are mistreated in Canada by officers, by court systems, and in prisons. “The life of Colton Boushie, worth less than the alleged theft of an ATV? / what was he doing was all day debated on TV / shots to the head while he was lying there asleep / and so the Indigenous youth was the only one found guilty. / And there were comments that he deserved in the secret Facebook group for the RCMP and a group of Saskatchewan farmers. / Of course, they all agreed.” “Dear Benedict” Through this poem, Jones asks for reparations from the actor Benedict Cumberbatch. Her grandmother, a Cumberbatch from Barbados, was enslaved by the Cumberbatch family. “Oh, how can that be when she didn’t look Scottish, well you see that ‘ish’ went down like this. My great, great, great, great, great grandmother was snatched from Africa and bought by your great, great, great, great, great grandfather to cut
the sugar cane, and he gave her his name.” Reflecting on colonialism in Canada El Jones’ pieces were poignant and made me reflect on how Canada has only begun to acknowledge the past colonialist laws and policies that still affect Indigenous peoples today. It was only recently, in 2019, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, acknowledging the deaths and disappearances as “a race-based genocide.” However, colonial sentiments still persist, even with these acknowledgments. Jones herself has been booed off stage while performing live. Structural inequities also remain: in 2020, 30 per cent of Canadian prison inmates were Indigenous, even though they made up only five per cent of the Canadian population. The issues that Jones discusses remain as relevant as ever. That we acknowledge our past with our words — but not with our actions — shows just how impolite Canada really is.
FEBRUARY 15, 2021
Stirring up tradition: HOMEMADE celebrates Toronto cuisine U of T alum’s new food documentary web series premiering on February 14 Sarah Kronenfeld Associate Senior Copy Editor
Scattered and isolated by the pandemic, many of us are finding ourselves thinking about family traditions more than ever. We look for stories, heirlooms, old family recipes — anything that will help us feel connected to our families and our culture. But our food media doesn’t always talk about the connective power of home cooking. Ivana Strajin, a Rotman graduate and one of The Varsity’s 2011–2012 advertising executives, created a new cooking series, HOMEMADE, which features various home chefs in Toronto cooking their own family recipes in an attempt to highlight the importance of familial culinary traditions. Her debut as a documentary producer showcases eight home cooks of diverse backgrounds. The recipes are all multigenerational, and each chef tells stories about the dishes as they cook them. The series has been in the works for a long time and is premiering after a virtual watch party on February 14. “Before my wedding, [in] the summer of 2018… I was kind of thinking about how [I could] keep my culture alive through food,” said Strajin in an interview with The Varsity. Her family’s food has always been very important to her, but she used to rely on older family members to preserve their recipes. Embarking upon this new stage of her life, she felt like she had taken that for granted. “That was when I had the real moment of, okay, I really need to start paying attention… There are so many stories attached with these recipes.” She shot the series in the summer of 2019. Since then, it has appeared at film festivals, and this is the first time it will be widely available for public viewing. It comes at a particularly relevant time; because of the pandemic, it’s more difficult than ever to hold on to family traditions. “I think that [the] desire to connect through food is something that… more people can relate to than ever before,” said Strajin. For Strajin, HOMEMADE is a passion project.
She has many important family memories that revolve around home cooking. “[Serbian food] is kind of what I grew up eating… I was born in Serbia, in Belgrade, and we immigrated in the early ’90s. I was pretty young,” said Strajin, “but my parents continued to cook Serbian food.” When she grew up and moved out, cooking Serbian food became an ideal way for her to connect back to those childhood memories and celebrate her family and heritage. But when she turned to popular food media, she found that it was missing the personal taste that she associated with cooking. “Being in Canada, so many people come from all different kinds of backgrounds, and I didn’t necessarily feel like we got to see too much diversity in Canadian and US food media, specifically… It just felt like there were so many cultures not represented.” So, for her own series, she made a special effort to celebrate the diversity of Toronto’s culinary roots. For Strajin, one of the best parts about filming was hearing the chefs tell stories about the dishes they were cooking — about the origins of the recipes and their childhoods spent making and eating them — as if they were serving up heartwarming and nostalgic stories alongside their dishes. Episodes are shot interview-style so that the chefs can relax in their own kitchens, intimately discussing the history that goes into the dishes they’re cooking. The episodes range from six to 11 minutes long and cover recipes that range from cookies to entrées that take four hours to prepare. Although Strajin encourages home cooks watching the series to try out the recipes at home, she noted that the series was not designed with instruction as its main purpose. “Food, obviously, has a purpose of feeding us to keep us alive… but I do kind of think it is nice to stop for a moment and really treasure… home-cooked recipes that have been passed on for generations — just really treasure [their] origins.” HOMEMADE will be available for streaming on Dunn Vision as of February 14.
After a year of lockdowns, Toronto movie theatres rely on creative solutions to stay afloat
These stalwarts of community identity hope that cinema magic will be soon rediscovered Jaclyn Pahl Varsity Contributor
The Fox, Paradise Theatre, and The Revue are finding new ways to engage with community. RYAN CHOW/THEVARSITY
The warm darkness of the theatre, the incandescent glow of the screen, the entrancing pull of its images — it seems a lifetime ago when you could go to the cinema and disappear into the lives of strangers for an evening. COVID-19’s seismic impact on the film industry leaves independent theatres in an especially vulnerable economic position. With their main source of income compromised by necessary government lockdowns, Toronto’s cinemas are having to find creative ways to stay afloat. They hope that when it is safe to do so, their magic can be rediscovered. At the beginning of the pandemic, The Fox, a beloved community cinema in The Beaches, rallied community support by selling naming rights to seats, which quickly sold out. The theatre also began selling takeout popcorn, candy, wine, and beer every Saturday. Similarly, Paradise Theatre on Bloor Street has been promoting its sister shops, a takeout restaurant and an online bottle shop. The Revue, a heritage site and Toronto’s oldest standing in-use movie theatre, sells front-door concessions every Friday and Saturday. The concessions include popcorn — a local favourite — beer, cider, and candy. “We just finished a very successful seat sale in December, but for those who missed out and would still like to help support the cinema, they can make a donation to the cinema through our website,” wrote David Ball, chairman of the Revue Film Society, in
an email to The Varsity. Some theatres have moved beyond selling food and merchandise. Instead, they’ve found ways to engage with the public culturally. The Fox now offers virtual screenings throughout the week, for which patrons can purchase tickets on their website. The Revue also hosts virtual events, and The Royal, a local cultural landmark in Little Italy, is gearing up for a future of online gatherings. “In the near future we will be offering the venue to web cast events from our stage, use the theatre for creating live to internet events and virtual gatherings,” wrote Dan Peel, an owner of Theatre D, the company that owns The Royal. While not preferable to in-person screenings, virtual gatherings offer an opportunity for theatres to expand their memberships outside the city. Online screenings also provide patrons a way of viewing films that are obscure and otherwise difficult to locate online. While some cinemas opt to hold online screenings, others generate revenue by contributing to the production process of the films they might someday screen. Before the pandemic, The Royal screened independent art films, as well as recent releases and second-run features. During the day the theatre functioned as a rehearsal space and as a studio for rent. The theatre also houses one of the country’s most sophisticated post-production facilities. “We have still been able to operate as a post production facility, mixing sound for films by day albeit [a] reduced volume of work due to a slow down generally in independent film production in the province,” wrote Peel. Cinemas are long-standing stalwarts of community identity, adding cultural vibrancy to Toronto’s local scene. It is comforting to know that they are continuing to find ways to thrive amid these disruptions. However, with no imminent end to the pandemic on the horizon, it is important for us to keep local independent art spaces functioning so that, in the better days ahead, we can all crowd into movie theatres once again.
ARTS & CULTURE
Savouring the sweetness of staying single
Let’s talk about sex, baked goods, and singlehood during Valentine’s Sky Kapoor Arts & Culture Columnist
I like to convince myself that the pillars of institutionalized romance have crumbled a little. Needless to say, my job never lets me delude myself for long. I work in a bakery. As soon as February 1 creeps around, it’s in with the pinks and reds, the cinnamon hearts, and the chocolate-covered strawberries. I’m solely writing love letters on pastry for the foreseeable future — it’s debatable which is sweeter. While pseudo-empowering anthems ironically play on the store speakers those days, the first few weeks of February never fail to remind me that one thing is certain: people don’t like to be alone. Based on the frequency of posts about how freeing independence is, you’d think that societal desire for romantic relationships has diminished as time has frittered away. Alas, it’s done anything but, and saccharine displays continue to litter social media time and time again. Sure, nobody wants to feel lonely. But being alone? Completely different.
I used to be the same way — entering relationships because I thought I had to. Simply existing in the world is an enduring proof of human codependence. After all, relationships really have biologically kept us going for quite a while. Even in our most individual moments, when we’re celebrating accomplishments of our own, there’s a collective prompt to find someone to share them with, and it shows. People treat you differently when you’re single, and more so when your intentions are to remain that way. Not all people, and not all the time, for the record. It’s not palpable, nor is it exactly unkind; rather, it is subtle — a steady, unrelenting stream of pity. Though we’ve learned to put our aversions aside, backhanded compliments arise frequently: “How are you still single?” they ask, with an emphasis on the ‘you’ — or, perhaps, on the ‘still.’ The questions are ironically coupled with offers to set you up because “you and my coworker just have so much in common,” and “trust me, you’ll love them.” They probably don’t mean it, though. Instead, the collective seems to think that mar-
riage and kids are the syrupy-sweet hallmark of growing up: a fail-safe plan to make us feel accomplished. Maybe we didn’t nab that dream job, but at least we found the love of our lives. That one seems more realistic, right? Growing up, I spent my time with my nose in the most complex books I could understand. I found myself in that strange place between childhood and teenage years — trying to be myself as much as possible, while also trying to not stand out to any absurd degree. Even still, I had big dreams, and I planned on achieving every single one of them. Not one of those dreams ever entertained the idea of having another person with me — a partner, a lover, or anything of that sort. I never dreamt of a big wedding or having a family and kids to come home to at the end of the day. Of course, this led me to battle years of skepticism from friends, family, past partners, and even failed conquests who claimed that they knew my future goals better than I do. I’ve heard it when meeting new people, while minding my business at work, and in the middle of entirely unrelated con-
versations. As soon as I mention that marriage and kids aren’t a part of my time continuum, I’m faced with a chorus of “you’ll change your mind when you’re older.” Maybe I will. I’m only 19. But how do you know that you won’t change yours? Human beings are naturally skeptical — and I understand why people might be skeptical of my decision. I suppose there’s irony in the fact that I lack desire to contribute to humanity. But somehow, the onus is always on those who don’t want marriage and kids. Although these criticisms are only the tip of a very frigid iceberg, I’m the one who appears cold. I try to take those comments with a spoonful of sugar. Historically, many cultures expected marriage and motherhood to be the epitome of a woman’s life. It’s a huge world, and navigating it on your own can be daunting. I get it. But honestly? I’ve never felt less encumbered than when I’m single. I have no worries if I do end up changing my mind. From my friendships, I’ve found that forging relationships isn’t hard. I have friends who have children and friends who are engaged, even in their early twenties. As for myself, I’m not on some long schlep to find ‘the one.’ While I’m fully aware that the two can co-exist, I plan on experiencing life first and worrying about potential conquests if I get to that bridge. Do I have qualms about wanting to stay single? Not in the slightest. I think it’s worth it. It’s high time that we allow those pillars of institutionalized romance to crumble beneath our fingers a little, like those pastry crusts. The reward is just as sweet.
U of T has an archaic porn stash — yes, you read that right On the Bonham Centre’s Sexual Representation Collection’s digitization efforts
Sky Kapoor Arts & Culture Columnist
Nestled in the lower levels of beautiful University College, in the Brian Pronger Reading Room, is a massive porn stash. Yes, you read that right. It seems as though the college’s motto — “To shed light on that which is obscure” — rings true. “Parum claris lucem dare” indeed. Okay, it’s not exactly a ‘stash.’ Not in the way that you might think, anyway. The Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies’ Sexual Representation Collection forms an essential part of sexual diversity studies at the University of Toronto, aiding in both recovery and preservation of pornographic artifacts with its archives. From film to unique ephemera, the collection boasts roughly 10,000 pieces of sexual media
from as early as 1907, putting it in first place for the largest archival collection of pornography in Canada. With an emphasis on feminist, kink, and queer pornography, the collection is widely representative of the history behind sex media and sex work. Needless to say, this is more than just an archaic porn collection. Over the past year, valiant efforts have been made to digitize this collection in light of preservation and increasing accessibility to researchers. In a recent event titled “Fast Forwarding Porn: Digitization and Its Discontents,” faculty and students, who work with the collection, discussed the process and challenges of digitizing porn. You might be wondering, where exactly is the Bonham Centre getting all of this porn? Often, this genre of media conveniently slips through the cracks of history, and aside from Barney Stinson, not many people take inventory of their pornography. Nevertheless, the content is frequently uncovered by civilians and donors, alongside the centre’s efforts to dig up old media, much like any historical artifact. So, why exactly are we archiving pornography? At first glance, it might seem odd to try to immortalize such a genre of media, but historical knowledge is best understood through primary sources. As the Bonham Centre is trying to prove, sexual diversity studies is no different. It’s especially important to make attempts to maintain history that amplifies LGBTQ+ and feminist voices, but alas, the adult film industry leaves a thin paper trail. Presenters in the event noted that while traditional libraries and archives don’t exactly embrace the long-term legacies of adult film, those specializing in sexual diversity studies experience a special kind of work: a methodologically complicated and confined effort. Pornography often gets a bad reputation, but the Bonham Centre looks past this stigma to zealously preserve history first. Don’t get it twisted, though. Archiving and digitizing pornography isn’t all glamourous work.
The process of archiving and the technology around it is easily fetishized, but truly, the process is tedious, requiring both time and troubleshooting. Dealing with media formats that include VHS and 35 millimeter film often means that frames are damaged. And, despite their quality, these tapes quite often max out at eight hours of content each. If this isn’t enough, it surely doesn’t help that VCRs are nearly obsolete, which proves quickly that digitizing older forms of media isn’t as simple as it may appear. Building archives is a job that asks several thorned questions: what do we want to save? And how exactly will we do it? Theoretically speaking, archives exist on the internet to some extent, but for one thing, the rapid evolution of the web means that preservation will become trickier as time progresses, and for another thing, pornography has existed long before the internet. Archiving pornography isn’t just about pornography, though. Scholars at the Bonham Centre’s event noted that the implications of streaming and sharing files globally, as well as digitizing older formats of film are topics that aren’t as prioritized by universities. The Bonham Centre’s project raises questions about digital infrastructure gaps that exist in Canada, and can be a helpful example in different conversations about the limitations and longterm issues that arise when thinking about the digital world. Despite its unique demeanour, adult film is a genre of artifacts that is often overlooked. A mixture of digital and print media, the Bonham Centre’s collection is a monument of the rich history behind sexual diversity studies. We’ve known for years now that human history is dependent on representation, and that includes all forms of media — even porn. While digitization doesn’t solve all historical problems, it’s certainly a step that ensures the preservation of sex media and sex work, while also prompt-
ing us to think about the gaps that we have yet to bridge in the digital world. The totality of our time isn’t corroborated through just one form of media, and we’re only just beginning to understand the implications that come with this. As our vantage point shifts and evolves, we see multiple timelines embedded within history, rather than a fixed chronology. While history is not neutral or synonymous with truth, it is composed of countless intertwined voices. It is the sounds of these voices that build up the picture that we have of the past. Perhaps, with the process of archiving, we can amplify the cacophony. If you’re interested in learning more, the Bonham Centre is holding a virtual event, “Sex in the Archives,” on February 22 at 4:00 pm where panelists will touch on the preservation of the history of sex work, sexual representation, and sex education.
February 15, 2021 vrsty.ca/science email@example.com
Virtual health care in the time of COVID-19 U of T researchers examine the challenges of teaching, diagnosing the virus online
Shankeri Vijayakumar Varsity Contributor
COVID-19 has put an enormous strain on the health care sector as wards and intensive care units fill up with patients. But the impacts of the pandemic have also spread to other parts of the health care system, including family physicians. As part of the shift online, family physicians were encouraged to transition their practices to a virtual environment. This presented challenges in effectively conducting clinical care for patients, teaching for students, and assessing COVID-19. Two sets of U of T researchers recently published papers in the journal Canadian Family Physician to address these challenges. The first team of researchers outlined a method for creating a virtual teaching clinic using the videoconferencing platform Zoom. A second team outlined the challenges with conducting COVID-19 assessments virtually. A method for conducting virtual teaching clinics A trio of researchers at U of T and Dalhousie University, including Dr. Sharon Domb, an assistant professor at the Department of Family & Community Medicine, described a method for creating a virtual teaching clinic using the Zoom for Healthcare or Zoom for Education application. Zoom for Healthcare is a specific package of the Zoom software for health care professionals that is designed to integrate with medical devices. By using the existing features of the videoconferencing platform and relying solely on the physician as the host of the meeting to facilitate the clinic, this system was designed to be easy to learn and to use by medical residents, students, and patients. In an interview with The Varsity, Domb explained how, with a new group of medical students starting in July 2020, they needed to know how to best teach and supervise new students virtually. “That really created the impetus for us to say [that] we’ve got to figure out a way to do all of this with videos so that we can, as closely as possible, replicate the environment that we’ve got in the office,” explained Domb. The virtual teaching clinic model includes three types of rooms. The first one serves as the clinic waiting room. The second type hosts the main teaching session, and the third type serves as the actual clinical space where students can interact with patients in multiple breakout rooms.
The supervising physician can navigate from the main session to the different breakout rooms to observe the interaction between learners and patients. “The real-time supervision was important to be able to provide good feedback,” said Domb. Learners are also able to navigate between the main session and their respective breakout room. The navigation ability and the designated virtual rooms enable supervisors and learners to facilitate small group discussions. The design of this model also allows patients to maintain their privacy when seeking care virtually. When patients enter the waiting room in Zoom, they are unable to see or learn information about the other individuals present. Supervisors are able to accept them into the main session one at a time and direct them into breakout rooms. Zoom for Healthcare also provides patients with accessibility requirements with other means to attend virtual clinics. “There were options that made it accessible to patients who didn’t have the technology,” explained Domb. Patients can access the clinic using the free version of Zoom, with a computer, mobile device, or a landline telephone. Zoom for Healthcare also allows for patients to be called from the application.
written at the beginning of the pandemic to highlight then-recent findings on the limits of assessment tools in identifying the severity of COVID-19 and, particularly, whether patients needed hospital admission. The presence of pneumonia was identified as critical in differentiating between mild and moderate cases of COVID-19. It is recommended that patients with moderate or severe COVID-19 be hospitalized, so for physicians, it was important to be able to spot pneumonia. “So [on] the whole, really deciding [whether] pneumonia [was] present… for at least at the initial phase of this illness, becomes a critical decision point,” explained McIsaac. The researchers first looked at whether the characteristics of COVID-19 pneumonia among hospitalized adults could inform virtual assessments. These include, but are not limited to, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It was initially proposed that these symptoms could be used in virtual assessments. However, the symptoms of mild and severe pneumonia overlap quite a bit. While assessing patients virtually, physicians may not have access to chest imaging that would help distinguish between mild and severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Measuring oxygen levels in the blood has also
vital signs and clear findings on chest examinations could reduce the likelihood of pneumonia such that chest imaging might not be needed. However, the U of T team showed that this would only apply to younger adults. For older adults whose vital signs appear normal, chest imaging would still be warranted given their elevated risk for pneumonia and heightened fatality rates. The American Thoracic Society and Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines recommend the use of a particular metrix, the Pneumonia Severity Index/Patient Outcomes Research Team score, to identify the severity of pneumonia in adults. However, this may not be applicable in the case of adults with community-acquired pneumonia associated with COVID-19, since low-risk adults with COVID-19 would not be receiving specific treatment. Data on this score is designed to reflect what could be expected if adults had taken antibiotic treatment.
Is there a way for COVID-19 to be diagnosed virtually? Ultimately, it’s not clear whether a virtual clinic can easily diagnose COVID-19 without identifying the presence and severity of pneumonia, according to the researchers. Furthermore, the fact remains that a virtual care environment comes with certain barriers, since some elements and practices of an in-person clinical setting cannot be replicated or transferred to a virtual clinic setting. A video call between a physician and a patient certainly eliminates some barriers that a phone call would present. Both parties are able to see each other to build a rapport, and health care providers can instruct and correct patients as they conduct and report any self-tests. However, when self-tests and virtual tools come up short, and more rigorous assessment tools like medical imaging is needed, an in-person clinical setting is required to make decisions with certainty. Nevertheless, a virtual clinic model can create more opportunities for Family physicians have shifted their practice online, creating new challenges is delivering health care. patients to receive accesJUDY YUE/THEVARSITY sible care with a health care provider. The developChallenges with virtually assessing COV- been proposed for virtual assessments, but the ment of virtual health care models might help ID-19 researchers’ review of the evidence concluded make the system more accessible in the future. As family physicians were encouraged to pro- that this measurement has a limited role in dif- But when rigorous tools are needed to make divide virtual care for patients with COVID-19, ferentiating between mild and moderate pneu- agnoses with a degree of certainty, an in-person a second paper from researchers at U of T and monia. clinical environment will be hard to avoid unMount Sinai Hospital outlined the challenges McIsaac explained that by the time a patient’s til virtual diagnosis tools advance beyond their family physicians may encounter when virtually oxygen saturation begins declining, the pneu- current capacities. assessing patients. monia could already be advanced and severe. In an interview with The Varsity, Dr. Warren Clinical signs and symptoms alone may not Disclosure: Shankeri Vijayakumar is the comMcIsaac, an author of the paper and associate be enough to rule out pneumonia without im- munity outreach and sustainability director of the professor at the Department of Family & Com- aging. Guidelines from the American College Woodsworth College Students’ Association’s Board munity Medicine, explained that this paper was of Chest Physicians have suggested that normal of Directors.
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Bullying in schools may have shifted to cyberspace in recent years, but research suggests that cyberbullying can still cause symptoms of PTSD.
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PTSD symptoms manifest for bullying victims, U of T-affiliated study shows Research explores across traditional, cyber forms of school phenomenon Sahir Dhalla Lead Copy Editor
Bullying in schools has rapidly changed over the past few years, shifting from simple traditional bullying to more complex and subtle methods of cyberbullying, but both methods have tremendous impacts later in life. A new study from a pair of researchers at the University of Toronto and the Memorial University of Newfoundland looks at one particular issue that many adolescents develop due to bullying victimization: symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental disorder that can follow a traumatic event. Its symptoms can include recurring nightmares and intrusive flashbacks to the trauma. Previous research had established that bullying was associated with PTSD among adolescents. However, the development of these symptoms over time has not been well understood, and the researchers aimed to fill this gap in the literature by surveying 510 Canadian students in grades seven and 10. Faye Mishna, a professor at the FactorInwentash Faculty of Social Work and the Department of Psychology, was the author of this study. In an interview with The Varsity she explained her approach, saying she found it to be “really important to get the views of the kids, the parents, and the teachers because they’re all very involved, and they might have different perspectives.” Traditional bullying and cyberbullying Traditional bullying is physical, whereas cyberbullying happens online over social media or messages. However, there are many differences and similarities between these two methods that were not as apparent before the study. A key thing the researchers discovered was that there is always a power imbalance, as well as an intent to hurt. When it comes to traditional bullying, the power dynamic exists because one person is usually larger or more popular than the other, whereas in cyberbullying, the imbalance may come from how tech-savvy one is over the other. Mishna also mentioned that the way bullying is repeated is quite different in cyberbullying. “For example, if somebody sent out a cyberbullying message about me, they might only just send one to one person. And we know that… people can be sending it all over. So that’s one way [that cyberbullying] is different.” However, a way that these two forms of
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bullying are similar is in the consistent effects and prevalence of PTSD symptoms in victims. The effects over time also remain similar, with symptoms of PTSD being greater with more experiences of either traditional or cyberbullying. However, bullying was not found to have lasting PTSD symptoms, and they found that symptoms wear off over time. Relationships in bullying Common wisdom might say that the effects of physical bullying are temporary, as physical injuries that are inflicted can heal over time. But this ignores the fact that bullying victims don’t just get injured — they get injured by someone with the intent to injure them. Within this context of a relationship, the bullying is not just physically harmful but emotionally harmful as well. Mishna also noted that there are different social expectations for enduring bullying depending on the victim’s gender, and that these expectations may prevent full appreciation of the emotional pain bullying causes. For boys, physical bullying might be seen as par for the course and might even be downplayed since physical injuries can heal. But that ignores the emotional pain of bullying, Mishna explained. Among girls, cyberbullying can be chalked up to adolescent ‘nastiness’ over popularity or relationships. “Those aren’t so much statements just about boys and girls; it’s about what the expectations are, and what we let people get away with,” Mishna explained. The sharing of private pictures is another example of socially-accepted bullying, Mishna said. If a girl shares a photograph with a boy who then shares it with others, the girl might still be told that “she should know better.” “But they [don’t] say, ‘She should have known better, and he shouldn’t have sent it,’ right?” Mishan said. “It’s problematic for both girls and boys. Girls get blamed. Boys are taught that it’s okay.” However, despite these issues with cyberbullying, Mishan disagrees that taking away social media is the way to solve it. “Social media is not the cause of it… [but] it really makes it apparent.” Instead, since cyberbullying does happen among peers and is not as anonymous as previously believed, Mishna believes that regulating these issues is the school’s responsibility. “It might happen outside,” she said, “but it’s affecting the relationships in the class.”
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FEBRUARY 15, 2021
“Everything has unintended consequences”: UTEA hold webinar on the environmental cost of electronics Professor Miriam Diamond discusses the challenges of recycling e-waste Natasha Djuric Varsity Contributor
From online classes to Netflix, it seems like we need technology more than ever. But our dependency on electronics extends beyond growing monthly subscription fees, and it might be time to reconsider what we’re paying for. On January 28, the University of Toronto Environmental Action (UTEA) club held a webinar on how our devices affect the environment, and what we can do individually and collectively to help reduce our carbon footprint. The webinar included Miriam Diamond, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences who researches the impacts of chemical pollutants. Right off the bat, UTEA First-Year Representative Mai-Yin Johnston made one thing clear: we have a lot of devices. From televisions and laptops to smartphones and smartwatches — which are all considered information and communication technologies (ICT) devices — it’s no surprise that a quick poll of the room found most attendees have anywhere from five to 15 of these devices in their home. A UTEA second-year representative, Aden Fisher, elaborated on the hidden costs of ICT devices. For example, he noted that the production process for thin silicon wafers for microchips requires purifying silicon from quartz, which expends 160 times more energy than producing more common industrialgrade silicon. Shockingly, the greenhouse gases that go into producing a MacBook Pro are equivalent to the amount emitted by driving over 1,000 kilometres — the distance from Toronto to New Brunswick — in a Honda Civic.
“We often hear that… transportation is a huge contributor to climate change, that we should drive less and take public transport or bike or walk, but… you don’t often hear people telling you not to buy a new iPhone,” Fisher said. What happens to e-waste? There’s also the issue of electronic waste or e-waste, Fisher argued. Global industries produce an enormous amount of e-waste each year, much of which is not properly recycled. According to a 2019 United Nations report, the world is set to produce over 120 million tonnes of e-waste annually by 2050, and presently, only 20 per cent of ICT devices produced worldwide end up being sent to a facility that properly recycles them. The other 80 per cent have a darker fate. According to Fischer, it may be sent to landfills or low-income countries that lack the health and safety regulations needed to protect workers from disassembling these devices. The components are often burned to salvage material, which can lead to exposure to harmful chemicals like lead. These compounds can interfere with the body’s hormones, compromising the immune system and impairing childhood brain development. The chemicals may even affect larger communities if they contaminate groundwater. These issues are close to home too. Primary research in Diamond’s lab found that some e-waste workers in Ontario are regularly exposed to flame retardants through dust ingestion and inhalation. While some are known to be toxic, many do not have occupational limits on how much workers can be exposed to them. Diamond emphasized that electronic
According to Diamond’s research, some Ontario e-waste workers are regularly exposed to flame retardants through dust ingestion and inhalation. COURTESY OF U OF T ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION/THE VARSITY
recycling is an inefficient and dirty process, and that keeping devices for as long as possible is critical. However, that can be a challenge because of planned obsolescence: the practice of designing products that will deliberately become unusable. In the tech world, that means software updates our older devices cannot manage, brand-specific hardware that is difficult to repair, and batteries that are not replaceable by the user. Solutions big and small That doesn’t mean we’re powerless, though. UTEA First-Year Representative Sam Lakerdas-Gayle mentioned the “Right to Repair” bill, which compels brands to offer the tools, parts, and repair manuals that consumers or electronic repair shops need to fix devices and prevent them from entering landfills. The bill has passed in many European countries and is being considered in the US and Canada. Lakerdas-Gayle suggested companies like Fairphone — which builds phones from responsibly sourced materials that last longer and can be repaired — as alternatives to other other phone builders. Nonetheless, Diamond emphasized that this issue must be solved at a societal level. She encouraged
students to “engage with an organization like Environmental Defense,” noting that when campaigns become big and gain traction, politicians listen. Ultimately, Diamond sums up that we need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the process producing and recycling pieces of technology. “Everything has unintended consequences,” Diamond said. “It’s a matter of us making wise choices, [and] using the technology for societal advantage and power rather than the technology using us to profit from.” According to UTEA Co-President Grace Ma, the club has discovered the mobilizing potential of technology for itself over the past year. UTEA members are currently working with the Queen’s University environmental organization, Queen’s Backing Action on Climate Change, to develop a national virtual conference on environmental issues. The conference will aim to help clubs and organizations develop the skills and interdisciplinary knowledge they need to have a bigger impact. The UTEA has also found new motivation to develop social infrastructure through Discord, allowing members to help sign up on projects of interest and keep the conversation going.
What the physical sciences mean to me Two students reflect on their academic inspirations
Ungku Zoë Anysa, Rushil Dave
In January, we asked three life science students at U of T to reflect on the personal significance their studies hold for them. Continuing with the theme, two more students offer their stories of wonder and passion from the perspective of the physical sciences, which is an umbrella term for studies of non-living matter, such as physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology. Ungku Zoë Anysa: the stuff of stuff Did you know that when plastic billiard balls were first made in place of ivory ones, they often exploded? Or that spider silk is five times stronger than steel? What I love about materials science is that it is everywhere, in everything, and in every field: from heattech clothing, to military-grade bulletproof glass, to superconductors in MRI machines. My personal favourite would have to be biomimetic materials, ma-
terials inspired by nature to mimic properties such as the extreme resistance to water — or superhydrophobicity — found on butterfly wings. Superhydrophobic surfaces — try saying that three times fast — are used to make self-cleaning surfaces. My decision to switch from biological physics to materials science in second year was solidified, pun intended, after reading Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik. In this quirky book, the British materials scientist deciphered one photograph and all the material objects in it. Each chapter discussed each item’s history and brought new meaning to everyday material objects I encountered. For the past two years, I have learned about the structures, properties, and functions of materials that exist and how to synthesize and characterize them. That journey has inspired me to become involved in the material science community, including being the president of the Materials Chemistry Student Union. My program allows me to take courses in the Faculty of Arts & Science as well as engineering,
so I’m often asked about the difference between my program, materials science, and the associated department in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the Department of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE). I have found that my courses from the Department of Chemistry provide me with the building blocks needed to understand why materials behave the way they do at the atomic level, whereas my MSE courses utilize those foundational principles to innovate materials and to discover new ones. Rushil Dave: the quest to discover how things work When I built a medieval castle for my grade four science project, I didn’t care about how we know what we know, simply because it required too much effort. It might’ve landed me a better mark if I had tried to do so. Nevertheless, this project ignited my passion for attempting to understand how the world around us works, which I believe to be the essence of physics
and chemistry. Learning about chemistry and quantum physics further spurred me toward this abstract idea because the substance of these subjects seemed so far from reality as we experience it. We can’t ‘touch’ individual atoms or ‘see’ the passage of time, and the fact that these things are the way they are further broadens the mysteries of the world as we know it. I quickly realized that my will to learn about the world wasn’t enough to see my dreams come to fruition. I needed to gain some practical experience to see for myself how processes work. Thus, after many failures in UTSC’s science wing, I became a chemistry research assistant to do exactly that. It is my constant failure combined with my unwavering determination to solve the mysteries of the world that make the physical sciences so significant to me. How do we know when we don’t know something? The answer may seem simple at first glance: “you can’t explain it.” However, how do we know we can’t explain something until we try?
An electron-scanning microscope reveals how the structure of a butterfly’s wing prevents it from getting wet. UNGKU ZOE ANYSA/THEVARSITY
Biomimetic materials take their inspiration from animals, like this red-spotted purple admiral butterfly. UNGKU ZOE ANYSA/THEVARSITY
February 15, 2021 vrsty.ca/sports firstname.lastname@example.org
Super Bowl LV recap: Tom Brady has only gone and done it again In conversation with Varsity Blues football head coach Greg Marshall Kartik Rudra Varsity Contributor
When Tom Brady’s tenure with the New England Patriots came to an end last season, fans raised questions about whether his elite playing days were behind him and if he could still recreate his magic with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Well, after a season defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have our answer: absolutely. Brady delivered against the odds, helping guide his Buccaneers to a 31–9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs and winning MVP at Super Bowl LV. Speaking to The Varsity, Varsity Blues football team head coach Greg Marshall said that “you should never bet against [Brady].” “He just has so much experience. And… the thing that he does that all great players do is he makes the people around him better as well.” The Buccaneers played a near-perfect game on both ends of the field. The offense took advantage of the opportunities they had — thanks in part to poor discipline from the Chiefs defense, which Marshall labelled as “dumb penalties” — that led to them losing their poise. The old Patriots duo of Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski led the charge on offense, connecting for two touchdowns, with wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Leonard Fournette also scoring a touchdown each. Brady finished the game, completing 21 of his 29 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Buccaneers’ defense stole the show, thanks to Todd Bowles’ defensive masterclass, neutralizing the potent Kansas City
offense led by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Continuous pressure from the Buccaneers defensive line on an already-depleted Chiefs offensive line led to Mahomes being overwhelmed in the pocket all night. Mahomes was pressured 29 times — the most out of any quarterback to ever play in the Super Bowl. Marshall noted that the shuffling around of players within the offensive line didn’t help and that the Buccaneers “won the game on the line of scrimmage.” “An offensive line… is a unit or group that plays [together] more probably than anyone on the field,” Marshall said. According to Marshall, when left tackle Eric Fisher went down for Kansas City in their game against Buffalo, it affected the whole unit. “[The Chiefs] were asking those five guys to block an outstanding defensive effort from Tampa Bay, and they just couldn’t do it.” As for the Buccaneers secondary, their coverage made it difficult for Mahomes to find his favourite targets in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, forcing him to hold onto the ball longer and placing him under greater pressure in the pocket. Mahomes finished the game completing only 26 of his 49 passes, for 270 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times. So, what’s the move going forward for both teams? The Chiefs’ story is far from over. They have constructed a team that is elite in every aspect and have shown that they are able to remain perennial contenders. However, Marshall believes that they need to improve their offensive and defensive lines going forward, as Sunday night displayed the team’s clear Achilles heel. As for the Buccaneers? They’ve made it clear that they have no plans for this season
to be a one-off. A big part of this will be to re-sign key free agents this offseason such as wide receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker
Lavonte David. In talking to reporters following the game, Brady had one message for the league: “We’re coming back.”
U of T’s Draeshawn Reimer talks online training and keeping up motivation In conversation with a fitness and performance coach
Aileen Zaraineh Varsity Contributor
Draeshawn Reimer, one of U of T’s strength training coaches, is finding innovative ways to inspire the University of Toronto community to achieve higher levels of engagement in healthy physical activity and sports through digital platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, and Zoom. In an interview with The Varsity, Reimer reflected on what it has been like to go from training in person to on screen. In the summer of 2019, Reimer started working with the University of Toronto as a fitness and performance coach. As such, he develops and facilitates fitness and performance programs for varsity teams to ensure they stay injury-free and are able to perform at their peak during sporting events. His favourite part about being a fitness and performance coach is working with people to build the strength and capacities they need to face the physical demands of their lives. He also recognizes the opportunity to learn from and teach every person he works with. It was a little cold in the fall, but there were still many Varsity Blues athletes coming out to participate. So he thinks
athletes will bundle up if need be if they’re able to train in person again. Reimer works with athletes and students in Japan, Dubai, and Vancouver, so the virtual
aspect has definitely proven to be an effective tool, and one that he thinks he will continue using. During these trying times, strength coaches
have shown tremendous resilience, and Reimer explained that they continue to show up for each other and themselves. In terms of advice for the athletes he trains and for other strength coaches training over Zoom, he recommends recognizing why you’re doing something and digging as deep as you can to understand what fuels your fire day in and day out. By doing this, you understand that everything you’re doing has a purpose. He also suggested surrounding yourself with people who build you up rather than tear you down, and to make sure that your cup is ‘overflowing’ — as in, keeping yourself healthy and well so that you can help others around you do the same. He recommends investing in yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally before you give to anyone else. When your cup is ‘overflowing,’ people can look to you Coach Reimer began at U of T as a fitness and performance coach. for emotional support, withCOURTESY OF VARSITY BLUES ATHLETICS out it draining you.
FEBRUARY 15, 2021
The five best stretches for improving flexibility
Testing UTrain: Boot Camp
A quick list to try in between Zoom university
Angad Deol Associate Sports Editor
along the way. Feels good, right?
Online classes are hard on not only your eyes but also your muscles! If you’ve felt the excruciating aches and pains of sitting in front of your computer today, you’re not alone. In this article, I’ll share five great stretches that you can try out in between those long hours of lectures and tutorials to help increase your mobility and provide some much needed relief. Neck semicircles This stretch is quite simple, but it addresses some muscles that you may otherwise neglect: the trapezius and your neck’s flexors and extensors. To do this quick stretch, all you have to do is stand or sit in a posture that feels comfortable for you. Next, bring your chin close to your chest and move your neck from shoulder to shoulder at a slow pace. Downward dog This classic stretch is one that you’re probably familiar with, and it is absolutely great for flexibility. To do a downward dog stretch, you should be starting on your hands and knees — with your arms a shoulder’s width apart. Then, descend your head into your arms as you slowly raise your hips. Hold for as long as you’re comfortable and release —
Ankle rolls No, this is not the excruciating injury you get when you think you can play basketball in Vans. Here’s a great stretch that is extremely simple to follow. Sit and lift up your foot onto your lap and slowly roll your ankle in a clockwise circle before going counterclockwise. It’s as easy as it sounds!
you’ll have done a great downward dog. This stretch is great for your calves, hip, and hamstrings. Standing hamstring stretch In this stretch, you’re basically trying to fold yourself — not too complicated right? To get started, you should stand up, place your feet at a hip’s width, keep your arms stationary, and bend your knees just a little. Now, bend forward at the hips, bringing your head to the ground, and grab your calves with your hands until you feel ready to stop — 45 seconds to two minutes is a good interval. Finally, stand up again, bending your knees
Frog stretch You know, I thought after the Shrek workout article in the last issue that swamp creatures and fitness would never crossover again — yet here we are. Just like the aforementioned downward dog, this one starts on your hands and knees, except now you want to stretch your knees further than shoulder width apart, resting the inner part of your feet on the ground. Pull your hips toward your heels and make sure you keep your hands adjacent to your arms. Once you’re in position, you should look quite literally like a frog. Hold for 30 seconds and you’re ready to go! This one’s good for your hip and groin region, parts of your body that can be ignored as you watch your lectures at two-times speed to convince yourself you’re being extra productive.
What the Health: What is cupping? The Varsity’s health hotline NA
Laura Ashwood Sports Editor
Ever seen someone walking around with big purple circles all over their shoulders or back and been deeply, deeply confused? Don’t worry — it’s nothing scary. That’s cupping, and it’s not just some fad! Cupping is an ancient type of alternative medicine that can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, China, Korea, Tibet, Latin America, and more places. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world even writes of how ancient Egyptians were using cupping back in 1550 BCE! The material that the cup is made out of depends on the region, and cups could have been made out of anything from animal horns to bamboo. So, what does cupping do? In Chinese medicine, cupping follows the Daoist model of holism, which is the philosophy that sys-
tems and the people and things within them must be viewed holistically, not just as a series of individual parts. The idea is that because humans are extensions of the universe, they are impacted by imbalances around them and in nature, which can be corrected through cupping. The more physiotherapeutic implementations exist to help with muscle pain, inflammation, and blood flow, and provide a deep-tissue massage and relaxation, among other things. There are two types of cupping therapy: dry and wet. Both kinds involve the therapist putting a flammable substance — like herbs or alcohol — in a cup and lighting it. When the fire starts dying down, they will place the cup upside down onto the area of treatment. Some new methods of cupping forgo the fire, using rubber pumps instead.
Alex Waddell Varsity Staff
“We could all use a little more SELF LOVE.” This was the email we received from U of T Sport & Recreation last week in honour of its special day-long event titled “Love of Self Day” on February 12. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, U of T Sport & Rec invited students to join for a day of virtual classes to do something positive and end our week on a high note. Whereas U of T Sport & Rec usually hosts three to four classes per day, on February 12, it hosted a class every hour from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. It was the same structure, format, and Zoom link as usual, just with more class offerings so that people could find one that fit their schedule. I decided to try out Boot Camp at 9:00 am because I had a bit more energy this week and had not yet tried Boot Camp. In all honesty, I hadn’t tried it yet because I was a bit anxious about an intense workout in the morning as I am not usually a morning person. Inspired by “Love of Self Day,” I decided to push myself and try it out because I knew the extra movement before work would put me in a good mood for the rest of the day. Sheela from Hart House welcomed us as I finished my first coffee to “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga, so I was already feeling energized. She got right into the workout, and the high-energy music was great throughout the 45-minute class. I often found myself dancing rather than doing the instructed moves. The class is a high-intensity workout, and I can attest to that: we jumped right in with a warmup to “TiK ToK” by Kesha before moving into a circuit of elbow-to-knee crunches and jumping jacks. We did planks and lifts to “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, runner’s lunges to “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado, c-crunches to “What About Us” by Pink, standing oblique crunches to “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, and more. We ended with a stretch to “Circus” by Britney Spears. Overall, while I still think morning workouts may not be for me, I loved this one — especially the playlist — and had lots of energy to start my day after Boot Camp. I would definitely take this class again!
Do the workouts really work?
The cup creates a vacuum as it cools that causes your skin to rise into it and reddens the blood vessels, which leaves those purple circles after the treatment. Wet cupping is different, with an additional step in the process where, after the therapist removes the cups, they use a scalpel to make tiny cuts in the areas of suction. Then, they put the cups back on to draw a small amount of blood. “Needle cupping” also exists, which involves the therapist placing acupuncture needles in the skin and cups over it. If you are interested in cupping as a form of medicine, make sure to ask your doctor if it’s safe for you to do! Send in your health and f itness questions to email@example.com for a chance to be anonymously featured!
This high-intensity morning workout put a great bounce in my step!
FEBRUARY 15, 2021