THE VARSITY March 11, 2019
The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880
Vol. CXXXIX, No. 20
Blues women’s volleyball team wins third OUA Championship crown in past five years Courtesy of STEVE BROOKS/WATERLOO WARRIORS
UTMSU election campaign starts today
Key issues could include space issues, health and dental plans Ilya Bañares Deputy News Editor
The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) elections are beginning today, a year after One UTM, an uncontested slate of executive candidates led by then Vice-President Campus Life Felipe Nagata, swept the positions. Vice-President External Atif Abdullah is running for president and heading the Students United slate. Independents are also running for executive spots, however The Varsity was unable to verify any of them, except for Luke Victor Warren, who is running for Vice-President Internal. The campaign will run until March 21 at 6:00 pm. Voting will take place in person from March 19–21.
Several key issues will dominate the campaign, including the Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI). The SCI, which was announced by Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities
Merrilee Fullerton on January 17, gives students the choice to opt out of certain, non-essential incidental fees. The UTMSU has publicly criticized the announcement as a “travesty for accessible education, student organizing and autonomy,” adding that the union “will not stand for this and will continue to fight for you to ensure that this government’s unilateral decision-making does not go unchecked.” Another key issue is the newly-ratified separation of the UTMSU from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). The two groups have worked closely with each other since they entered into an Associate Membership Agreement in 2008, but discussions started roughly a year ago to formally split. Representatives of both unions have endorsed the separation. At the UTMSU’s Annual General Meeting on November 29, Abdullah said that the UTMSU “understands the needs and the wants of the students at UTM better than a student union that is situated downtown.”
Tyler Biswurm, Vice-President Operations of the UTSU, read a statement from UTSU President Anne Boucher that echoed the sentiment. “It is in the best interests of UTM students to be fully represented by a students’ union that is on-site and is therefore in a better place to understand the needs of the students on the Mississauga campus,” read Biswurm. A main concern of the ratification will be how the UTMSU will take over administration for a health and dental plan, which was previously under the UTSU’s purview. Another key issue for UTM students involves the lack of space on campus, which was highlighted this year after the campus overenrolled students, causing a strain on resources. Recently, UTM Principal and U of T Vice-President Ulrich Krull suggested that the campus may continue over-enrolling international students to offset the potential loss of funding that will come from the provincial government’s plan to cut domestic tuition by 10 per cent.
What’s it like to work for U of T?
Column: A Chinese international student’s perspective on Chemi Lhamo’s election
Feature Unpacking the possibility of a loneliness epidemic
Proposing a revolution in how we view young adult fiction
In photos: What does a scientist look like?
2 | THE VARSITY | NEWS
This Weekend in Photos
THE VARSITY Vol. CXXXIX, No. 20 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, ON M5S 1J6 (416) 946-7600 thevarsity.ca
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SCSU holds the first-ever PowWow at UTSC. SHANNA HUNTER/ THE VARSITY
Mindfulness on Campus
UTSG UTSC UTM
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The 2019 International Women’s Day rally in Toronto began at OISE. DINA DONG/THE VARSITY
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Ecstatic Dance Meditation Tuesday, March 12 7:50–9:45 pm Location: Koffler House Price: $5 for students and faculty
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MARCH 11, 2019 | 3
U of T still awaiting final guidelines on Student Choice Initiative University Affairs Board passes fee increases for Student Life, KPE, Hart House Andy Takagi Associate News Editor
In anticipation of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh gave some of the first comments on the university’s progress on the issue at the University Affairs Board (UAB) meeting for March. The UAB also passed fee increases for Campus Life incidental fees, which include those for Student Life, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE), and Hart House. As the Senior Assessor, Welsh reported that the university is currently waiting on the provincial government to provide more details on the SCI before any determination of essential and non-essential fees can be made. The SCI is the provincial government’s plan to implement opt-out options for “nonessential” student fees, which could see many student clubs and services lose a significant portion of their funding. Welsh brought up the current loose guidelines given for determining which fees are essential, showing a slide from a presentation made by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU). The full presentation was obtained by The Varsity in early February and includes enforcement and rollout guidelines for the SCI. The slide, titled “The Ancillary Fee Clas-
sification Framework,” listed athletics and recreation, career services, health and counselling, academic support, student ID cards, transcripts and convocation processes, financial aid offices, walksafe programs, student buildings and centres, and student transit passes as essential. Health and dental plans will also remain essential fees, while those with outside coverage can continue to opt out, which is in line with the current system for U of T. Susan Froom, the UAB member representing part-time students, urged the university and Welsh to categorize as many fees as possible as essential. Froom also raised concerns about how the SCI could impact Student Life, which provides services that could be categorized as non-essential, such as the Multi-Faith Centre, the Family Care Office, and the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office. Welsh replied that the university and her office do not have enough information about the classification process to provide further information, and are awaiting the final details from the provincial government. Welsh also did not rule out the university centralizing or otherwise subsidizing impacted student societies when asked by another member of the UAB. In a statement to The Varsity, TCU Ministry Issues Coordinator Ciara Byrne wrote that
The Student Choice Initiative will allow students to opt out of certain non-essential incidental fees. STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY
Minister Merrilee Fullerton had heard concerns from “many post-secondary students” about mandatory fees and that guidelines for the SCI would be released to institutions “shortly.” The UAB also approved a 4.8 per cent increase for Student Life fees charged to fulltime UTSG students, who will pay $164.24, an increase of $7.52 from this year. All fee increases must continue to move through the governance process and be passed by Governing Council before taking effect. Senior Director of Student Experience David Newman also reported on Student Life, whose accessibility and Health & Wellness services would be considered essential. Newman explained that the administration would try to decrease reliance on student fees for Student Life programs and services, as addi-
tional staff had been hired this year. The UAB also passed a $4.82, or 2.55 per cent, increase for KPE co-curricular programs, services, and facilities. Full-time students would pay $193.82 for services like U of T Sports & Rec, the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, Athletic Centre, Varsity Centre, and the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic. Pending approval by Governing Council, students could see a fee increase for Hart House of $8.56, a 9.57 per cent increase totalling to $97.96. John Monahan, Warden of Hart House, reported to the board that Hart House was preparing for its centennial celebration and would use the funds for continuing renovations in the Arbor Room, replacing the pool skylight, and increasing security.
Students tackle barriers to addressing mental health issues at national Jack.org summit
Organization aims to give students resources to address problems at schools
Jack.org organizes an annual national summit for mental health advocates. ADAM A. LAM/THE VARSITY
Adam A. Lam Associate News Editor
More than 250 students from every Canadian province and territory attended the National Jack Summit in downtown Toronto from March 1–3 to discuss mental health supports for students. The National Jack Summit is a Canada-wide conference hosted by the charity Jack.org, which funds support and training for students to combat mental health challenges in their communities. The goals of the summit included educating students on developing techniques to help those facing mental health challenges, learning how resources and barriers to addressing mental health issues differ across the country, and creating very specific plans of action to bring back to their communities. Federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor delivered a welcome address for the event. She discussed her personal experiences when her brother
received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in the 1980s, her over two decades of experience as a social worker, and her work to expand services for mental health treatment as the federal health minister. She thanked students representing the charity for their advocacy work and dedication, and expressed excitement for their future plans in supporting others facing mental health issues.
Loss of son in first year of university led to founding of charity
Eric Windeler, a co-founder of Jack.org, spoke with The Varsity about the motivation behind the charity. He said that he and his wife founded the charity after the loss of their son, Jack Windeler, during his first year at Queen’s University in March 2010. “Unfortunately, we didn’t know, but he was struggling with his mental health… we lost Jack by suicide. We only found out from the call from… a police officer.”
The family realized that if they could lose a child to mental health challenges, “it can happen to anybody.” After running a two-year pilot project with Kids Help Phone, they learned that “young people were kind of being left out of this conversation” on mental health. Since then, Jack.org has become a national charity with 32 staff and almost 3,000 youth volunteers. Representatives of the charity train volunteers on “how to be responsible advocates” for good mental health. Volunteers are then empowered to identify barriers to addressing mental health issues in their communities, and design initiatives to break down these barriers to “good mental health and good mental health conversations.” This often involves providing educational sessions, connecting students to support services, and advocating on behalf of students.
University of Toronto represented at summit
Amy Wang, a network representative for Toronto and UTSC student, discussed how she became involved with Jack.org and the unique challenges that students at UTSC face. She spoke about how she struggled with mental health during her first and second years of university. She had a lot of family issues and academic struggles, but she “knew that it wasn’t just [her] feeling this way,” and wanted to make a difference on campus. These experiences pushed her toward mental health advocacy and Jack.org. “I wanted to let other people know that it’s okay to struggle, as long as you do get the help that you need,” she said. “I want to be able to make people feel that they’re all able to achieve what they set out [to do].” To Wang, barriers to mental health that are specific to UTSC relate to “transparency with academic policies, mental health policies, and even just navigating the academic landscape as something that's needed.” She recalled the difficulty of transitioning from high school to university and “would love to see more programs or supports in place” to help students overcome these barriers. On the advocacy front, another issue specific to U of T students resulted from the universitymandated leave of absence policy passed last year, said Wang. The policy can mandate students to halt their studies if their mental health “poses a dangerous, physical risk to themselves or others.” While Wang noted that “the intention behind it is to protect students,” she feels that “the policy still needs a lot of work to essentially communicate that we’re working with the students and not against them.” To Wang, advocacy to revise the policy to provide clearer guidance to students placed on leave would provide better support to students at U of T.
4 | THE VARSITY | NEWS
Norman Finkelstein speaks on rights of Palestinians in Gaza Strip Controversial scholar draws sold-out crowd at UTM Kate Reeve Features Editor
Controversial Israel-Palestine scholar Norman Finkelstein spoke at UTM on March 5 about the “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in the Gaza Strip. He spoke specifically on the question of whether Israeli soldiers have a right to self-defence when enforcing the “Gaza ghetto” — he argued that they do not under international law. “I look forward to hearing from those of you in the room who disagree with me on minor or major points,” he began, squinting out into the packed room. After completing his doctorate at Princeton University and authoring 12 books, Finkelstein is relatively well-known but has not taught in a North American university for over a decade due to the controversy around his scholarship. His work focuses on the Israel-Palestine conflict, centring his analysis from the Palestinian perspective. He is a polarizing figure — throughout his career, he has been accused of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and being a self-hating Jew. Both of Finkelstein’s parents were Holocaust survivors. He has alleged the existence of a ‘Holocaust industry’ that exists to exploit the legacy of the Holocaust for Israeli and financial interests. A frequent target of pro-Israel outlets and writers, Finkelstein has been pushed to the margins of academia. Finkelstein has spoken extensively about the
Gaza conflict, and he began his talk by saying, “In the spirit of solidarity with those who are in the midst of resisting, overwhelmingly non-violently, I think it is the most important thing to focus on.” He then provided a brief overview of the nearly year-long protests held by Gazans near the blockade wall — the barrier separating the Gaza Strip from Israel proper — and the Israeli response.
Background on the resistance in Gaza
On March 30, 2018, tens of thousands of Gazans began to assemble along the barrier between Gaza and Israel. Organizers frequently reiterated the peaceful nature of their protest, though some demonstrators did take violent action, such as throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. In response, the Israeli army deployed tanks and snipers. According to Amnesty International, various human rights groups and on-the-ground videos have clearly shown that these snipers “shot unarmed protesters, bystanders, journalists and medical staff approximately 150-400m from the fence, where they did not pose any threat.” The central issue behind the protests is a demand for Gazans’ right of return. Of Gaza’s nearly two million residents, over 70 per cent are refugees or descended from refugees of the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. Palestinians refer to this war as the ‘Nakba,’ or the catastrophe, and it displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Israel occupied the Gaza Strip in the 1967 SixDay War and withdrew from the area in 2005. Since
Finkelstein spoke at an event at UTM last week. MIGUEL DE ICAZA/CC WIKIMEDIA
2007, Gaza has been largely governed by Hamas, which Public Safety Canada describes as “a radical Islamist-nationalist terrorist organization.” Much of the international community views Gaza as still being under de facto military occupation by Israel, but Israel denies this. The unemployment rate in Gaza is the highest in the world. Despite not having any skyscrapers, it is one of the most densely-packed urban areas on Earth. The water is increasingly contaminated. Some predict that a cholera or typhus epidemic will soon break out. And the population of Gaza is overwhelming young — nearly half of all Gazans are under 18. According to the United Nations, the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020 due to deteriorating living conditions.
Finkelstein on the Gaza conflict
Finkelstein has focused his work on the Israel-Palestine conflict, analyzing the Palestinian perspective. ZUHAIRALI/CC WIKIMEDIA
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While Israel and most mainstream media outlets call the barrier between Israel and Gaza a “border fence” or “border wall,” Finkelstein rejects this vocabulary. In an interview with The Intercept last May, he argued that it simply isn’t accurate to call the barrier a border fence, as that presumes two sovereign states on either side. “Is it calling things by their proper names to say that the Palestinians in Gaza are trying to breach a border fence? No,” he said. “Palestinians in Gaza are trying to breach a concentration camp fence. They’re trying to breach a ghetto fence. They’re trying to breach a prison gate.” Finkelstein’s talk hinged on one central question: “Do the Israeli guards of the Gaza ghetto, do they have a right to self-defence?”
He paused and looked out into the audience, almost as if expecting a response. Finkelstein looked down at his notes, then back up. Again, he asked: “Do the guards of the Gaza ghetto, do they have a right to self-defence?” He argued that they do not. Finkelstein claimed that, according to international law, no state has the right to use force in a struggle against a group claiming self-determination. As such, Israel does not have the right to use force of any kind against Gazans on the border — even if protesters were to use violence en masse. In fact, Finkelstein told listeners, Gazans have the right to use force in their struggle for self-determination, but the overwhelming majority choose not to. To move forward, solidarity with protesting Gazans is key, said Finkelstein, especially as the March of Return protests approach their first anniversary. Despite the decades of oppression and increasingly tenuous living conditions, Finkelstein still has hope for the people of Gaza. Public discourse around Israel is changing, he said, albeit slowly. For one thing, North American Jewry — especially young Jews — feel increasingly distant from Israel. In addition, discussions of disproportionate Israeli influence on US policy are finally being had. For all his cynicism, Finklestein retains a measure of faith in human responses. “The fact of the matter is,” he said, “if you live in a relatively democratic society, enough of the truth manages to make it into the mainstream, such that Israel’s record being so ugly, the cause has become indefensible.”
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MARCH 11, 2019 | 5
“I carried on”: former Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin speaks at U of T
A c o l l e c t i o n o f c h o r e o g r a p h i c wo r ks
Only female Chief Justice discusses lack of female leadership, childhood admiration of Queen Elizabeth II
our 20th anniversary show
Beverley McLachlin spoke at Isabel Bader Theatre on her experience in law as a woman. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Stephanie Bai Varsity Staff
You can tell that the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin did not leave her lawyer days behind her on the Supreme Court bench. On February 28 at the Isabel Bader Theatre, the former Chief Justice and only woman to hold that role delivered her speech to a full house about the barriers that weigh women down on the career ladder to leadership. The event was hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy as part of the Women and Leadership series of the David Peterson Public Leadership Program. David and Shelley Peterson and former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci were in the crowd. Speaking from both her 17 years of experience as Chief Justice and the numerous statistical reports and studies she cited, McLachlin outlined her argument in a logical manner. First, she established the central question that her argument addressed. “[A New York Times Magazine] article… says that from the 1970s to the 1990s, women made serious progress in the workplace, achieving higher positions,” McLachlin said. “And then — there
are numerous studies showing this — the progress stalled… So why, and what can we do about it?” She then went on to highlight a popular counter-argument that women have an innate lack of drive or ability. She rebutted this claim with examples, including a study conducted by Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter that concluded that a lack of ambition or competency in women was not a self-imposed barrier to leadership. Finally, she brought attention to and provided solutions for the five fundamental barriers she would be examining that night: absence of role models, overt discrimination, subconscious bias, marriage and parenting, and pay inequity. When she addressed the lack of role models, McLachlin recounted her childhood fascination with Queen Elizabeth II. “As a little girl, I made my parents buy the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star every week, which offered extensive coverage of the royal wedding and coronation. And I would spend my weekend cutting out the photos and pasting them in my scrapbooks,” she said. “In hindsight, I came to the view that perhaps, I was craving some sort of role model… I think the fact that I was so mesmerized by this person, this young woman, attests
Thomas Rosica steps down from St. Michael’s College post amid extensive plagiarism allegations
Resignation of prominent priest from board of directors comes as evidence surfaces of plagiarism since 2008 Ann Marie Elpa Associate News Editor
A prominent priest in Toronto’s Catholic community has stepped down from the University of St. Michael’s College’s (USMC) board of directors after extensive plagiarism allegations surfaced against him on February 15. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Catholic media channel Salt + Light Television and a well-known spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Church, resigned from his board position after it was revealed that several columns and essays published under his name in news outlets such as the Toronto Sun, National Post, Windsor Star, and The Globe and Mail included copy plagiarized from other sources. Many of the plagiarized sources can be traced
back to other Catholic and secular journalists writing for publications such as The New York Times and America Magazine. The earliest of the articles dates back to 2008, when Rosica published a column for the Toronto Sun about Catholic martyrdom, which includes two unattributed paragraphs from the work of Associated Press reporter Brian Murphy. “I sincerely regret the situation that has arisen and the allegations of plagiarism. I can assure you these errors were never done intentionally,” said Rosica in a statement to The Varsity. “Nevertheless such actions are wrong. I have recognized the errors and publicly acknowledged them. I am truly sorry for what has transpired. It is best that I step down from the governing board so that my mistakes do not detract from the mission of the University.”
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to a deep longing that was inside me.” McLachlin also saw a need to reject discrimination in its overt and subconscious forms, which mires the careers of women. McLachlin herself experienced discrimination throughout her career. In 1968, when she was 23 years old, she was a married, Gold-Medal-winning law graduate from the University of Alberta seeking apprenticeship at a firm. When she interviewed at the first firm on her list, the interviewer asked her out of curiosity why she would want to work. After all, she was married. Nevertheless, McLachlin concluded that the barriers could be and must be removed. “Every time a woman is appointed or promoted to an important position, a powerful message is sent:
women can do this,” she said. “I will never forget the mothers and fathers bringing their little girls and sometimes their little boys forward to me… how proudly they would say, looking directly into the eyes of their little daughter, ‘This is our Chief Justice.’” When asked by The Varsity if she ever felt like she didn’t have the luxury to fail as a pioneer in her position, McLachlin said, “One fails at many small things… And I think that’s an important facet of leadership too. You have to be strong, you have to [get] through.” “Many times during my career I really felt inadequate and discouraged, but I never allowed myself to think that failure was an option. And I carried on.”
The governing body at USMC, run by the Catholic community of priests known as the Congregation of St. Basil (CSB), have taken the situation seriously. USMC has not been involved beyond the acceptance of Rosica’s resignation. Collegium chair Don McLeod tweeted on February 25, “Fr. [Father] Thomas Rosica, CSB made significant contributions while serving the St. Michael’s community as a member of its Collegium. Over the weekend, I received and have respectfully accepted his resignation from the Collegium.” Martyn Jones, a spokesperson for USMC, issued a statement to Catholic and self-described “#1 prolife news website” LifeSiteNews on February 19 in response to the greater university’s comment on the matter. “We are troubled to hear of the allegations against Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB. The University of St. Michael’s College holds its students and its academic community to the highest standards of accountability and academic integrity, and as a federated university in the University of Toronto, we follow the U of T’s Office of Student Academic Integrity and its Code of Behavior on Academic Matters.” Rosica has also played a significant role in other Canadian universities, having served as President and Vice-Chancellor of Assumption University in Windsor. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from St. Mark’s College at the University of Brit-
ish Columbia in May and an honorary degree from Regis College at U of T in November. Rosica also served as a media adviser for the Vatican in 2014 and played a significant role as a spokesperson during the St. Michael’s College School hazing incidents. David Mulroney, former President of USMC from 2015–2018, tweeted on February 18, “Failure to investigate suggests that major Catholic universities in Canada value ideological compatibility over academic rigor.” While it is unclear whether Rosica’s awards and degrees will be revoked, the Jesuits of Canada has withdrawn its bestowal of the Magis Award, given to an outstanding member of the Catholic community. “Plagiarism is a grave offense against intellectual honesty and the community of scholarship. At the same time, many of us know Fr. Tom personally, and celebrate his genuine service to the Church in Canada and around the world,” reads a statement from the Jesuits of Canada. “It is with great sorrow then that we have written to Father Rosica and withdrawn our invitation to him to receive the Magis Award on April 24, in the context of the Annual Provincial’s Dinner.” Rosica continues to serve as CEO of Salt + Light Television. The Vatican has not released a statement on the matter.
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What’s it like to work for U of T?
Forbes says U of T is Canada’s second-best employer, but how close is that to the truth? Tahmeed Shafiq Varsity Contributor
Forbes recently ranked U of T as the secondbest employer in Canada, “a mere fraction of a point” short of Google. One year ago, U of T was ranked 63rd. What’s changed between then and now to justify the 61-spot jump? And do the experiences of employees at U of T measure up?
Beyond the rankings
U of T employs over 20,000 people across all three campuses, including groundskeepers, graphic designers, and financial service analysts with the University of Toronto Asset Management corporation, and library technicians who support the library facilities that students and researchers rely on. The next highest-ranked Canadian postsecondary institution in Forbes’ employee satisfaction list is the fifth-place Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, followed by Montréal’s Concordia University in eighth place. But Forbes seems to be inconsistent in how it rates universities, since U of T is not the only workplace to have made big jumps. In 2017, Queen’s University took home the number one spot, yet it is now ranked well below U of T as the 17th best employer in Canada. The University of Guelph was sixth in 2016, but now finds itself 61st. This result may be due to the methodology employed: Forbes surveyed 8,000 Canadians working at companies with over 500 employees across the nation. There seems to be no guarantee of proportional distribution across companies, hence the dramatic shift in U of T’s position might be due to an underrepresentation of the university’s employees last year, or an overabundance of responses this year.
In the end, the real stakeholders are fleshand-blood employees, and it’s the policies that U of T has in place that truly determine how it compares as an employer. While there is ambiguity about Forbes’ data collection methods, its rankings provide a good opportunity to look at what U of T does for its tens of thousands of employees.
Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President Human Resources and Equity (HR&E) believes that U of T’s jump in the rankings is partly due to Forbes having a better understanding of the university’s employment standards. “They got a more fulsome understanding of all of the things going on, and our… continuous efforts to improve, and to ensure that we have meaningful benefits, meaningful programs, flexible work — all of the things that we’re doing every single year to make sure that we’re a good inclusive environment to work in.” Benefits make up a large part of what U of T offers its employees. Chief among these is the university’s tuition waiver scheme, which allows full-time staff to take courses at the undergraduate and master’s level on the university’s dime. U of T is not the only university to offer such a scheme, but its details are generous compared to peer institutions in Canada. Staff can take up to three fall or winter undergraduate courses, compared to staff at the University of Waterloo, for example, who can take a maximum of two courses using tuition waivers. Tuition waivers can also be applied to dependents of the staff. According to the tuition waiver request form for dependents, the proportion of tuition exempted depends on “the staff member employment date; percentage of employment; and the eligibility of the pro-
gram of study.” Kazi Arif, a University College Food Services employee since 2005, has taken advantage of this support: his son completed a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering at UTSG through a tuition waiver. Arif received the full amount of his son’s tuition.
Speaking to job benefits more broadly, Arif said, “U of T has a good pension plan. All other facilities are better than any other job.” Retirement packages differ by role, but for Professional & Managerial Staff, any employee with at least 15 years of service can receive a reduced workload in the year leading up to their retirement, while their pensions accrue at fulltime rates. “[The retirement scheme] allows us to have knowledge transferred with the employee who is departing and with somebody else who might be coming into the unit,” said Hannah-Moffat. Pension amounts also differ by role. The precise amount is a function of the number of years of service, the annual average of the highest 36 months of salaried work, and a maximum pension amount set by the government, currently held at $57,400. Pensions increase annually to account for inflation. For Professional & Managerial Staff who have worked at U of T for a year and who are over 35, enrolment in the pension plan is mandatory. The pension plan is conferrable onto an employee’s spouse and dependents in the event of their death. At the other end of the employee spectrum are people like Sarah Stiller, a library technician at Kelly Library. This is her first full-time job since she graduated from Seneca College. At this stage in her career, she has relatively few complaints about working at U of T; the
TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY
hours and pay are good, and while retiring at U of T isn’t an ambition, she said that the health plan is good for her needs. Positive feedback from different age groups of employees is a sign of a healthy workplace that delivers on the various needs of its staff, such as childcare and professional development. But with thousands of employees distributed across three campuses and 21 different bargaining units representing them, gleaning an overall pattern of employee satisfaction at U of T just isn’t possible without access to comprehensive survey data.
Surveys and equity in the workplace
HR&E conducts a number of surveys with faculty and staff to gain a picture of the U of T workplace environment. In 2014, the Speaking Up survey went out to faculty, staff, and librarians. The results went on to inform specific workplace issues that the university is looking to improve on — what HR&E calls its “areas of focus,” which include equity and diversity. According to Hannah-Moffat, the university makes a big commitment toward being a diverse and inclusive workplace. “Excellence is diversity and diversity is excellence. The two are just not separable.” There is particular stress placed on the representation of Black and Indigenous employees in the university. The latest HR&E Employment Equity Report, released in November, is an anonymized summation of a voluntary questionnaire that had been sent to all active employees. This year, 81 per cent, or 8,897 employees, responded. Only two per cent of faculty and librarians and six per cent of staff self-identified as Black, and only one per cent each of faculty and librarians and staff self-identified as Indigenous. Overall, 19 per cent of faculty and librarians and 33 per cent of staff indicated that they were people of colour. In response to this survey as well as a call to action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee, the university has committed $2.5 million to the hiring of 20 new staff and faculty members each who come from Indigenous backgrounds. Strategic recruitment practices by which the university actively reaches out to communities in search of excellent candidates are ongoing, according to Hannah-Moffat. The Varsity has learned that the Office of Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost Students, is currently conducting a Workplace Culture and Professional Development Review of the Division of Student Life at UTSG, following an external review of the division last year. Student Life incorporates services such as Academic Services, Hart House, and Health & Wellness. In a memo describing the review, Welsh wrote that the survey was motivated by the university’s “collective desire to foster an inclusive and diverse working environment.” It is being conducted by Toronto-based law firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP. Confidential interviews will occur throughout March as part of the survey. U of T did not respond to questions about whether the survey results would be made publicly available. However, in line with the university’s commitment to promoting diversity and equity, the survey results should be made available to Student Life employees, if not to the general public. Employees have the right to know what their peers say about their working environments. Students should also be informed about the working conditions of their university’s employees. After all, Welsh said that these employees’ “passion for [their] work and enriching the student experience is unmistakable.” Interview requests with Campus Police constables were denied by the university.
March 11, 2019 var.st/comment firstname.lastname@example.org
MAHAM ALI/THE VARSITY TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY
Fine, charge us a higher tuition — but support us, too U of T needs to address the shortcomings of the international student experience Neeharika Hemrajani Varsity Contributor
People often ask international students like me about our reason for coming to U of T, where we make up 21 per cent of the student body. For most, the answer remains rooted in U of T’s world-class reputation, the nature of its academic environment and, most importantly, the competitive quality of teaching one can expect to receive during their time here. But the subtext of this question is typically asking why we choose to pay such a high tuition rate. For me, the opportunity to study here was an achievement that opened up new doors away from my comfort zone. This was enough reason to accept the financial commitment that it places on my family for the next few years. However, it is clear to me now that for many international students, this is a price that seems to be more of a burden given the experience that they have been offered thus far. Some have taken to expressing these views online through humour, with one recent Facebook user contributing a meme to the group UofT memes for true lue teens, picturing President Meric Gertler flipping through pages on “how to make money from international students.” Following the Ford government’s proposed changes to postsecondary funding, The Varsity has reported on the ways in which this decision can lead to the university increasing international enrolment to compensate for the downturn in revenue. Currently, the price tag on a degree from U of T for international students is well over $50,000, just for tuition. Furthermore, international tuition is currently the biggest source of revenue for the university at 30 per cent — more than even the provincial government’s funding. Overall, conversations concerning increasing international enrolment revolve around financial exploitability. However, the term ‘exploitation’ does not effectively reflect my concerns with this drive to increase international enrolment. In Gertler’s interview with The Varsity, he brought up the need to match “peer institutions” in the US, some of which have higher international enrolment. U of T supposedly needs to increase its global character, as the classroom environment benefits from the presence of international students. While I agree with the benefit assessment, the comparison seems to suggest that status and competitiveness require quotas to be met. This is not the case. The competitive status of U of T is a reflection of its selectivity in recruiting students and the prestige of its academic offerings — not the number of international applicants. I have found this benefit most reflected through the presence of talented international students in my
classes and the increased quality of discourse, especially in debating peers who hold different worldviews to my own. To increase the quality of talent that U of T recruits abroad is a proper objective, but I fear that a drive to increase international enrolment is not intended to serve this end. There are only so many students this university can accommodate, and a drive to increase international enrolment might, in turn, lead to a decrease in domestic enrolment. An increase in international student enrolment correlates with an increase in the university’s operational budget, which is how the university is able to maintain the quality of experience it currently offers. Yet there is very little that the university does to support international students in their classrooms and integrate them into the broader community. While Gertler may point to the Centre for International Experience (CIE) as an example of this, my experience is that the CIE lacks the resources to help students like me with the challenge of finding their own sense of community at the university and in the wider city. Furthermore, the international student label often comes with the assumption of abundant financial security, which Gertler also highlighted. We are stereotypically portrayed as excessively wealthy and lacking in contribution to university life, which is not necessarily the case. A peer of mine from California said that “there is a consensus that international students bought their way into this school” — but they “worked just as hard as anyone else to be here.” I understand the need for international student fees to be higher than domestic fees, given that in the former case the province does not provide per student funding. But the 36 per cent increase in fees since 2015 is a cost that does not commensurately contribute toward an equal experience for international students. An increase in international tuition fees is not necessarily an increase in the value of education that this university offers. These fees do not take into account or address the difficulty and cost that international students face in moving and settling into another country and facing social barriers as a foreigner. U of T has the resources to impact and resolve these issues by funding initiatives that encourage student integration and support the transition into university for international students. Rivalling our peer institutions must begin with making access to this university accessible for those who deserve to be here. Neeharika Hemrajani is a first-year Humanities student at St. Michael’s College.
Before changing world politics, let’s change student politics
Reviewing the shortcomings of the International Relations Society Sarah Ingle & Anvesh Jain Varsity Contributors
Many first-year students who aspire to make the world a ‘better place’ flock to U of T’s International Relations (IR) program. Since its inception in 1976, the program offers students an interdisciplinary education in economics, history, and political science. It also provides them with the analytical tools to reckon with challenges faced by the international community. An official course union for the program followed soon thereafter, with the International Relations Society (IRS) appointing its first president for the 1979–1980 school year. However, it is no secret among IR students that the IRS has fallen into a state of neglect in recent years — to such a degree that many students in the program are unaware of its existence. The IR program includes at least 350 students across all years, who are well-distributed among the colleges at UTSG. Yet, historically, the IRS executive has been dominated by Trinity College students, often due to a lack of meaningful and equal outreach to all of the university’s colleges. It is true that the IR program is sponsored by and administratively housed at Trinity College, but it is nonetheless an Arts & Science program open to students of all colleges. The failure to engage with students from other colleges has resulted in IRS elections that, year after year, are poorly attended, often barely at, or below quorum, with uncontested executive elections. Furthermore, the IRS has demonstrated an inability to perform the basic responsibilities outlined in its constitution, such as hosting a social event before December and maintaining a functional website. It also falls short when it comes to innovating on the rote, poorly-attended events and initiatives described therein, including the mentorship program. Such failures have ultimately resulted in a cycle of disengagement and non-representativeness. IR students are left disillusioned with a program that is infamous for its lack of community and inadequate mechanisms for student feedback. This is not meant to accuse the students involved of maliciously abandoning their responsibilities or intentionally being exclusive. That isn’t the case. Student leaders across campus are often overextended, and amid their many academic and extracurricular commitments, they might drop the ball on some responsibilities. This is especially true if responsibilities are perceived as a lower priority due to the community seeming unresponsive or uninterested. It is a symptom of a deeper problem: the non-
representativeness and exclusiveness of the IRS relative to the full population of students it is intended to serve. In examining the state of the IRS as a case study for how well-intentioned student societies can fall into disrepair, it is also important that we acknowledge the potential of the IRS to serve as a positive model going forward. We live at a time when student unions face advanced scrutiny. Opponents raise real questions regarding unsatisfactory participation, misuse of funds, and electoral deception, among other concerns. Student societies are therefore in a position to prove critics wrong by getting back to the basics. For example, the IRS must rethink the way it communicates with IR students at all colleges as well as the greater U of T community. The IRS can do a better job of embracing all of its students by establishing college representatives for curious students to connect with, or by obtaining a student lounge as a welcoming community hub. Future executives must also proactively work with the program director to reevaluate the impact of certain mandatory courses, while looking to invite guest speakers, host career nights, and sponsor more meaningful programming that suits the interests of IR students. Beyond providing a platform for career development or engagement with alumni, it is the fundamental mission of student unions to establish avenues for participatory reform. Through oversight of their bylaws and the suppression of electoral competition, dysfunctional unions do all students a disservice. The underrepresentation of even one group of students in the faculty must always be a cause for wider concern. The IRS must advance the essential principles of representation, responsibility, community, opportunity, and reform. It has a mandate to advocate on behalf of all the students it represents, not just those in its immediate vicinity. How we as student leaders uphold our institutions, and whether we do so in an inclusive way, tangibly affects our peers as well as our own capability to create reform in other settings. Why wait until graduation to change the world when we can start making changes right here? Sarah Ingle is a third-year International Relations, Digital Humanities, and Political Science student at Trinity College. Anvesh Jain is a second-year International Relations student at Victoria College. Disclosure: Ingle and Jain are running as co-Presidential candidates for the 2019–2020 IRS Executive.
8 | THE VARSITY | COMMENT
Students walk down St. George Street during a snowstorm. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY
Convocation Hall is often the site of large first-year classes. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY
Convocation Hall is not a classroom
Mandatory first-year seminar courses will improve experience and performance Yasaman Mohaddes Varsity Contributor
In response to concern over increased enrolment, the Faculty of Arts & Science has made a proposal to require all incoming first-year students to take a foundational seminar course. This proposal is long overdue and should be implemented. Large class sizes are an unfortunate hallmark of the undergraduate U of T experience. I recall my first day at U of T, when I walked into Convocation Hall for an introductory sociology class with 1,500 fellow classmates — a crowd over three times as large as my entire high school. I later reviewed ACORN and realized that over half of my classes would be be at Convocation Hall — a ‘classroom’ that can hold over 1,000 students without any tables to put your notebook on. Not a single one of my first-year classes had less than 400 students. I felt completely lost, but this is normal at U of T.
These enormous first-year classes limit opportunities to interact with the professor and ask questions, especially since first years may not feel comfortable taking advantage of office hours. It should come as no surprise, with professors who cannot learn your name or recognize you, that many U of T students complain of feeling like ‘just a number’ in their first year — a crucial time to form an identity on campus. Huge class sizes also complicate the ability to make connections with peers, as these limited opportunities for in-class discussions and activities. It is also unlikely that you will sit next to or even see the same person twice over the course of a semester. Smaller class sizes provide faceto-face opportunities to build relationships with professors and peers to reduce the intimidation
factor and help smoothly transition to a university education. It allows you to feel as though there is a community that has your back, or at the very least, is going through this with you. While U of T currently offers first-year seminars through the First Year Foundation and College One programs, these programs are highly competitive and often unrelated to a student’s program of study. This can deter students from voluntarily enrolling. Victoria College is the only college that requires students to take a first-year seminar course. According to its website, participation allows students “to get to know fellow classmates and professors, engage in interactive academic discussions, and develop strong written, oral and teamwork skills.” All colleges should follow Victoria’s lead, since these experiences are essential for a meaningful and successful academic career. The university should also design a mandatory requirement that helps students complete their programs of study.
Better academic performance
My first-year experience almost caused me to leave U of T. It seemed unreasonable to pay one of the country’s highest tuition fees, only to sit down with 1,000 others and furiously copy down lecture slides, without any in-class engagement to help understand the material. I was told by many that it gets better after first year. So I stayed, and while it did get better, my average class size was still around 100–200 students in second year. It was not until my third year that I was in a class small enough that actual discussion was possible. It was refreshing: I had been trained since that first day to sit quietly and absorb every word my professor said, rather than actively participate in my own learning.
Indeed, large classes inhibit students from engaging in meaningful participation and engagement with the material through debate and discussion. But this is a vital way for students to practice their critical thinking skills and learn to consider new ideas. Large classes instead encourage a passive learning style by which students are not required to critically engage with the material, which is contrary to what is expected from them in their assignments and tests. In smaller classes, I was able to better absorb the material and recall discussions I had in class during tests and assignments because I could ask questions when they popped up and flesh out ideas. This drastically improved my grades and enjoyment of the class.
The right step forward
Third year is very late to finally experience a meaningful learning environment. This is especially true if you are a student who is thinking about going to graduate school and hopes that there is a professor out there who remembers you well enough to write you a reference letter. I understand that large class sizes are inevitable at the largest university in Canada. However, other universities with large student populations, such as the University of British Columbia, are able to ensure that almost half of first-year and second-year classes have less than 100 students. The faculty’s initiative in taking this much needed step toward mandatory first-year seminar courses is uplifting. It will invest in a more supportive learning environment and undoubtedly improve the quality of education that U of T undergraduates receive. Yasaman Mohaddes is a fourthyear Political Science and Sociology student at St. Michael’s College.
An open Robarts during a snowstorm — really, Cheryl Regehr?
UTSG’s acknowledgement of its untimely cancellation policy is a starting point Areej Rodrigo Varsity Staff
This semester, one issue has unified students on campus unlike any other: the failure of UTSG to cancel classes and close campus sufficiently early in cases of severe weather conditions, as compared to UTM, UTSC, and other schools in the region. UTSG has uniquely and consistently made poor decisions across three dates in January and February. Student backlash was very vocal: just take a look at the magnitude of replies to U of T’s tweet posted on the morning of February 12, which said that UTM and UTSC were closed as of 6:45 am, but that UTSG was to remain open. Among other frustrations and anxieties, they rightly criticized the university’s disregard for commuters, student safety, and accessibility. Aside from students directly calling UTSG out, the media — whether Narcity or Daily Hive — also picked up the issue. The Varsity documented student concerns in its coverage and criticized the university in an editorial. The attention and public outrage did not go to waste. At a Governing Council meeting held at UTM on February 28, the university acknowledged the recent criticism concerning its inclement weather policy. U of T Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr expressed a commitment to take into account new considerations when assessing campus closure during severe weather. The university also committed to ensuring that staff clear streets and entrances. This is a sign of real progress in terms of the responsiveness and sensitivity of the administration with regard to student safety, but it most importantly shows what the student voice is capable of. However, of curious note was Regehr’s emphasis that Robarts Library will be open 24 hours through severe weather, and that students are welcome to stay overnight. Student responses have rightly mocked
this solution for commuters during inclement weather through humorous banter online, such as on Facebook group UofT memes for true lue teens. There is even a Facebook event entitled “Campus wide sleepover at robarts zzz.” The humour is rooted in serious criticism: Robarts being open is not a viable solution in response to severe weather conditions. Students should not have to come to campus and then find shelter overnight when there is a snowstorm. Rather, the university should be decisive and close campus entirely so that students are not forced to attend and deal with an uncomfortable situation in the first place. The logistics of having hundreds or thousands of students stay overnight also raises questions. Regehr’s Robarts solution therefore seems somewhat dismissive of the concerns raised by students over the last several weeks. Nonetheless, while Governing Council’s response to inclement weather policy is certainly not perfect or comprehensive, an acknowledgement of the problem is a start. Students should recognize their power and continue to pressure the administration to take a look at their revision of the policy. Regehr’s commitment to new considerations remains vague, but I particularly hope that the process leads to the council’s realization that UTSG has just as many — if not more — commuters as UTM and UTSC. The next time there is a winter storm warning issued by Environment Canada that is reported to persist for more than eight hours, UTSG should have the prudence to close early enough so as not to force commuters to make the choice to attend or not in dangerous conditions. Otherwise, commuters may be stuck spending the night ‘studying’ at Robarts. Areej Rodrigo is a fourth-year English, Professional Writing and Communications, and Theatre and Performance student at St. Michael ’s College.
MARCH 11, 2019 | 9
Clearing the air: BDS, Chemi Lhamo, and the News-CommentEditorial divide
FIONA TUNG/THE VARSITY
Student presidency first, global advocacy second
An international Chinese UTSC student reviews Chemi Lhamo’s election Michael Phoon UTSC Affairs Columnist
During and after the 2019 Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) election, President-elect Chemi Lhamo was attacked by an online harassment campaign due to her pro-Tibetan independence activism. The backlash included questioning her integrity and viability as SCSU president-elect and a petition that called for the nullification of her election. There is no question that Lhamo’s election is legitimate and that harassment of this kind is abhorrent and unacceptable. However, the firestorm raises an important question about the extent to which advocates and activists who exert pressure on political systems from the outside to advance a particular cause can subsequently become holders of political power on the inside. This is especially the case when that particular cause is divisive for the electorate. Student union executives are expected to represent all students. They may also participate in advocacy, but only so long as the issue in question is in the ‘student interest,’ defined by overwhelming student support. For example, most can back the movement for more affordable tuition. But publicly embracing advocacy on a highly contentious and global issue is both unnecessary since the president is only mandated to address local student issues, and risky, as it might serve to polarize the campus and alienate certain groups on campus. This is why, for example, student unions tend to stay away from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Picking a side will inevitably alienate some students. Take also, for example, former University of Toronto Students’ Union VicePresident University Affairs Cassandra Williams, who was criticized for actively taking a stand against Professor Jordan Peterson and Students in Support of Free Speech in fall 2016, even though the campus was clearly split over the free speech issue. The issue with Lhamo is not her Tibetan identity in and of itself. It is the fact that a significant pro-Tibetan advocacy role preceded and continued to be a talking point in her presidential campaign. Through the campaign period, she has made clear how her identity as a stateless Tibetan refugee informs her pro-representation platform policy. In an interview with The Underground, she
said that the “skills that she had learned from her Tibetan community in Toronto could transfer to her professional positions at the union.” Lhamo had also chosen to conspicuously wear traditional Tibetan cultural clothing at The Underground’s debate, in which she had also discussed her past as a refugee. In effect, she chose to unnecessarily conflate her identity with her bid for the presidency. Lhamo of course has a right to speak about and express her Tibetan identity in her personal life and advocacy work. But being a public figure and running for public office requires that she frame her campaign in a way that appeals to the sensitivities of as many students as possible. She is required to have widespread trust and support from UTSC students as SCSU president-elect. Hence her decision to campaign as a Tibetan refugee and advocate, rather than on strictly her qualifications and ideas as a UTSC student or as the current VP Equity, reflects an intentional political calculation: that the significant international Chinese population at UTSC is not a relevant constituency for her presidency. Tibetan independence activism is particularly offensive to international Chinese students because preserving China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is of immense importance to their national identity — just as separatist movements are for any nation-state. These students may also have a legitimately different view of the Tibetan situation compared to Lhamo. Her advocacy for independence is too radical even for the Dalai Lama, who only supports autonomy. Such students may just want to complete their studies on a campus where the president does not unnecessarily take a stand on a contentious global issue that is so close to home. In sum, given her record, it can be difficult to believe that Lhamo will simply set aside her past advocacy work and fulfil the presidency impartially. Some therefore fear that Lhamo’s activism will inform her presidential decisions. She may very well use the SCSU platform to advocate for Tibetan independence. This raises the question of whether her ability to represent and serve the needs of all students, including international Chinese students, will be comprimised. It must be clarified, however, that the harassment campaign against Lhamo is not entirely the product of students from UTSC. My understanding is that many international Chinese students, like me,
accept the diversity of this campus and are not staunchly opposed to her presidency. It is offensive that all international Chinese students at U of T are now being negatively framed and associated with the harassment campaign. Some accuse us of being incompatible with Canadian values of democracy or free speech and collectively advancing the political agenda of the Chinese government. Lhamo herself has also accused the Chinese government of being responsible for the harassment without any evidence. Such rhetoric only reinforces anti-Chinese hate and exacerbates division. While Lhamo has responded that she does not plan to make Tibet a focus in her presidency, she must take action to redress her choices and statements as a candidate and now president-elect. Lhamo must make sure that she reaches out to and engages with international Chinese students — as a part of the general international student community — to reassure them that their feelings and needs are no less important to her than any other students’. Following an extremely dramatic and divisive election, the president-elect must first and foremost unite all students at UTSC. At the same time, the international Chinese students at UTSC who do oppose Lhamo’s presidency should understand that Lhamo’s election is legitimate and that they should correspondingly voice their outrage through legitimate means. This means engagement with the SCSU electoral process — not through harassment or groundless petitions to reverse her election victory. They should vote or run for leadership to ensure that their interests and needs are reflected in the SCSU. Unfortunately, international students are currently not able to hold executive office, which requires a restricted course load, because their student visas require a full course load. The SCSU under Lhamo could take an important step for inclusion by reforming this policy, as was suggested by the SCSYou slate in this year’s election. A diverse campus like UTSC is likely to yield diverse leaders who are passionate and advocate for their communities. But advocacy complicates the role of the presidency: the latter requires representing and uniting all students for a common interest, which may inevitably conflict with particular interest of the former. The sense of alienation that international Chinese students feel is real. Given our significant population at U of T, it is important that student leaders behave and speak in such a way that shows regard for us. Hopefully for Lhamo, global advocacy comes second to student presidency. Michael Phoon is a second-year Journalism student at UTSC. He is The Varsity’s UTSC Affairs Columnist.
The intersection of global conflict politics and the U of T community often occurs in highly contentious contexts. Subsequently, The Varsity’s editorial decisions are often subject to accusations of inaccuracy or bias that we feel are unwarranted and ultimately misserve the general readership. Earlier this semester, we published an opinion piece entitled “Who speaks for Palestine?” that revolved around a contributor’s alarm over the content of a guest speaker’s lecture on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The contributor advocated for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation. Following publication, Hillel U of T, a Jewish organization on campus, publicly accused the article of containing “misnomers and falsehoods about BDS and the reality on campus.” We welcome reasonable disagreement and debate on highly divisive issues in the Comment section. In fact, we published two anti-BDS letters in response to the pro-BDS article. But making an unsupported comment about the factual basis of our articles serves to misinform readers about already sensitive issues. It overlooks how different sides can use different evidence to reach different conclusions. Our coverage of the online harassment campaign against Scarborough Campus Students’ Union President-elect Chemi Lhamo was met with similar accusations of misinformation. When our opinion coverage condemned the campaign, defended Lhamo’s Tibetan activism, and supported her presidency, we were accused of being “one-sided” and “biased” because the pieces were not “objective” and did not reflect the views of international Chinese students. Accusations were made that the publication constituted a “character assassination” of China and that we supposedly have personal connections to Lhamo for “pushing her agenda.” It is important to understand that opinion pieces in the Comment section are not news coverage. The News and Comment sections operate independently. Expectations of impartial reporting should only exist for the News section. Comment is a space for contributors to comment on issues from any perspective or side that they choose, so long as their arguments are presented reasonably. Expecting balanced arguments or neutrality from Comment articles is, by definition, contradictory. That being said, context matters with regard to impartiality in News and diversity of opinion in Comment. The story of Lhamo is about the harassment campaign against her despite the legitimacy of her election, which our news coverage correspondingly focused on, and Comment contributors initially problematized. The story is not about the general history of the conflict in Tibet. But the choice of some readers to inter-
pret our coverage through this lens meant that they associated the ‘lack’ of a ‘China perspective’ as a deliberate stance on the conflict and thus reinforcing the Western tendency to negatively portray China. Comment is not obligated to false balance for the sake of appearing neutral. A column on the online harassment against Lhamo does not automatically warrant soliciting comments from international Chinese students or groups on campus — they do not carry the same weight for the story in question. In fact, such a strategy would instead imply that being an international Chinese student means being on the ‘opposite’ side and could wrongly associate them with the harassment campaign. Nonetheless, we reminded readers that if they disagree with our initial opinion coverage from their perspective as international Chinese students, they are always free to reach out and write an article accordingly. What we publish is ultimately a reflection of the interests of our contributors. Indeed, our UTSC Affairs Columnist wanted to provide an alternative perspective on the Lhamo story, and so that is the focus of his column this week. Making charges against our editorial process on social media without fully understanding it, however, is not conducive to healthy discussion and debate. Discussion on sensitive issues should not devolve into flame wars. Many unreasonable and misinformed comments on social media from all sides compelled us to intervene and moderate for hateful content. Publishing opinion pieces defending Lhamo is not an automatic endorsement of any position, and this is where the Comment-Editorial divide comes in. Whereas the Comment section is reserved for U of T community members, only editorials represent the opinion of The Varsity’s leadership. This year, the Editorial Board has not taken a position on the Lhamo story. We are obligated to make that known to readers who conflate individual contributors’ opinions with the paper’s as a whole and subsequently make accusations of bias. Some readers’ concerns were fair. They observed that our news coverage on the Lhamo story was obscured because it was only a subheading in a news article’s recap of the SCSU elections, rather than a full article on its own. This may have contributed to the perception that opinion preceded news coverage, which is typically avoided so the former is not mistaken for the latter. We welcome readers to write letters to the editor or reach out to our Public Editor to discuss possible shortcomings in our editorial process. We can always do better. But it is also important that readers abide by a certain level of media literacy. This means making informed and fair criticisms so that difficult discussions remain constructive. — Ibnul Chowdhury Comment Editor
10 | THE VARSITY | FEATURES
The loneliness curse Don’t fall into its vicious cycle Writer: Adam A. Lam Photographer: Shanna Hunter & Andy Takagi
hat is loneliness? A phone that never rings. An inbox of junk mail and newsletters. Messages from no one. A train going east, full of couples holding hands. Or maybe it’s going home alone and opening Instagram. Seeing happy people and lighting a joint to drift away from it all. Or in another’s life — a phone that won’t stop ringing. A double-digit badge on Messenger. A train going west and someone’s hand to hold; it all feels distant. Walking home alone, but with your ruminating thoughts. That your significant other could leave you, that they’re faking affection for you. Thoughts that your friends don’t really like you, that they're just putting up with you. Thoughts that nobody understands you, that nobody really wants to. A last vignette — cracking open a textbook. Losing myself in my studies. When I’m a famous professional, I won’t have to be alone. At the least, don’t think about isolation, just the relations in organic chemistry.
A student’s perspective
This last vignette is based on a story reported in The Guardian, when an anonymous fourth-year medical student sent in a letter about how she had drifted away from her friends since high school. “I comforted myself,” she wrote, “although I would never be the life of the party, I could still shine through my academic achievements.” “Solitary evenings with my head buried in books have left me hollow and when term finishes, I have few companions to turn to,” she continued. “I’ve never had a boyfriend, or even the prospect of one. I fear I’m becoming bitter.” According to Mariella Frostrup, The Guardian’s columnist who responds to such letters, the student isn’t alone in her state of loneliness. “There’s a stream of correspondence from 20-somethings struggling with the pressures of their studies coupled with a sense of isolation and near existential angst,” Frostrup wrote. “You might feel alone, but you’re already one of a large gang, even if it’s one in which none of its members particularly wants to be included.” Although the student hadn’t directly mentioned social media in her letter, Frostrup explained that social media can exacerbate one’s feelings of loneliness by making one’s friends seem less isolated than they really are, adding that it’s actually quite normal for an academic to work in isolation.
A precise definition of loneliness
“Loneliness is difficult to confess; difficult too to categorise, [and] it can run deep in the fabric of a person,” author Olivia Laing wrote. While loneliness manifests itself differently in different people, a more precise, academic definition in psychology describes it as “the painful feeling” of isolation that stems from a dissatisfaction with the perceived number and quality of one’s relationships. This explains why you can still feel lonely in a crowded room of people you know, or at least you think you know. “Simply putting lonely people in the same room as other people isn’t terribly effective,” explained University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo to The Christian Science Monitor. From a more positive perspective, it also explains why you can feel at ease in an empty room. Loneliness is as much a state of mind as it is a function of how many friends you have.
Two types of loneliness
Loneliness can be divided into two types: transient and chronic. Transient loneliness is a feeling that comes and goes — perhaps you learn that your previous significant other found someone really good for them, and although you want to feel happy for them, you also feel a little lonely. But the loneliness passes. Chronic loneliness, on the other hand, is the pervasive feeling of loneliness that exists during social activities, whether during conversations with friends and family, or while having sex with someone you love. There’s no definitive reason for why people feel chronic loneliness, as it varies from person to person, but some starting points include expecting relationships to be easy and always enjoyable when they take a lot of work; finding it difficult to trust others, thus making it difficult to be trusted in return; or not liking yourself and feeling that you don’t deserve affection. These reasons behind loneliness are not just based on others’ and my personal experiences. They are instead grounded in neuroscientific research.
A vicious cycle
As explained in The Wall Street Journal in 2015, Cacioppo found that the “electrical activity in the brains of lonely people occurred faster and was more extreme than that of non-lonely people when shown negative social cues.” Cacioppo and his colleagues believe that this increased electrical activity means
that “lonely people are constantly and s ing against social threats,” which may lea exacerbate loneliness. Loneliness can be a vicious cycle. In with The Christian Science Monitor, he p sensitivity to negative social cues resul is an adaptive trait for self-protection w separated from their social group. Yet the increased sensitivity for protec to re-integrate into a new social group, i drawal from social circles. This, explain tremely maladaptive.”
The effects of isolation on an ind society
But why is a withdrawal from your socia tive? For an individual, it can damage ph Street Journal reported that people with “ nections experience disrupted sleep patt systems, more inflammation and higher Journal adds that loneliness may also in early death, producing a similar risk profi and “smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” However, findings from UK Biobank, 480,000 subjects, provided evidence that be correlative rather than causative. Ac of London, the researchers found that co tion, income, smoking, drinking and exer lationship between social isolation and insignificant. This supports the idea tha of mind, based on one’s satisfaction wit relationships, as opposed to the number For society, it can contribute to p Loneliness can make one more susceptib Arthur Brooks in The New York Times. P can drive one to identify with a group political beliefs, coming together for re for a group that supports opposing views ness can contribute to extremism, which case in the Pittsburgh synagogue shootin All of this is part of the vicious cycle lonely can cause one to withdraw and re cial stimuli from society. In some cases, backlash against society in the form of ex
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ction makes it harder increasing one’s withned Cacioppo, is “ex-
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al circles so maladaphysical health. The Wall “less meaningful conterns, altered immune r levels of stress.” The ncrease the risk of an file to those of obesity
, a seven-year study of t the health risks may ccording to The Times ontrolling for “educarcise” rendered the remortality statistically at loneliness is a state th the quality of their of their connections. political polarization. ble to tribalism, wrote Put plainly, loneliness that holds particular easons such as hatred s. At its worst, lonelih may have been the ng. e of loneliness: feeling eact negatively to sothis could result in a xtremism, whether by
joining a hate group, a terrorist organization, or honing in on particular parts of society. Though research is conflicting, the elderly may seek reassurances of care by increasing their visits to family physicians despite having no physical health problems. In some regions, it may also strain the prison system, which, in Japan, has been a “haven for elderly women” who shoplift in search of prison communities, according to Bloomberg.
Causes of loneliness
Causes of loneliness may include “under-or unemployment, inadequate financial resources, and marital or family conflict,” as noted a 2008 study by University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins psychologists in the Journal of Gerontology. At the University of Toronto, an academically rigorous environment may contribute to feelings of loneliness due to overwork, familial strain, and financial burdens from attending university. Another cause could be substance abuse. Drinking or smoking excessively for stress relief can lead to social isolation, which can damage relationships and increase social withdrawal. For Dan Kieran, a contributor on Medium, a healthy mindset is crucial to avoiding problematic substance use. “If I want a drink because I’ve had a hard day and deserve a drink, or if something bad has happened and I want a drink to escape from it, then I don’t drink. Ever. That is my rule. I can only have a beer that is just a beer—because it tastes nice. I don’t tie anything else to it.” Keeping this in mind can help with responsible substance use — the idea that it’s not alcoholism until you graduate is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, not a rational justification. The debate continues over whether loneliness is truly an epidemic or if we’ve just gotten better at measuring it. Researchers from the United Kingdom reported in June that levels of loneliness in the region stood at about 10 per cent, and have done so since the 1930s. Increased understanding and awareness, however, has drawn more attention to the problem. While the status of loneliness as an epidemic remains to be seen, what researchers do know is that there are substantially fewer relationships between young people than there were in the past. We are in what The Atlantic calls a “sex recession,” where 10 per cent of university students are in long-term relationships, while roughly 60 per cent engage in hookup culture. This may have significant implications for the changing intensity of loneliness over time.
Solutions to loneliness
By far, the most effective solutions to loneliness lie in addressing the tendency to perceive social cues as negative while feeling isolated, which perpetuates the vicious cycle that further separates us from social groups. Cacioppo encourages people to reinterpret how they perceive social interactions. “You cannot connect if you isolate yourself — or if you only connect online where many people present a non-authentic self,” said Cacioppo. This means that, while browsing Instagram and Reddit may create a feeling of belonging and community, social media are by no means adequate substitutes for more authentic face-to-face interactions, where the added connection of meeting in person increases the quality of relationships. Cacioppo also recommends that people who feel lonely take the initiative to attend more social events, find other people with similar values and interests, and pause before assuming the worst in other people’s intentions. Preventative measures include educating students, as early as primary school, about relating to others, as CityLab reports will be the case in the United Kingdom in September 2020. This “social education” would inform children about the risks of loneliness, and provide advice on how to better form and manage relationships with others. However, concerns over whether a school-taught approach about relating to others is best for all individuals and social groups have arisen, as learning to relate to others through natural experiences may be more effective than through constructed ones in a classroom. Other possibilities include introducing voice assistants such as Alexa or Mabu as conversational partners. While complex conversations are still outside the capabilities of most artificial intelligence systems, simpler interactions such as reminding someone to take their medication and exercise can be both motivating and useful for reducing isolation. Until interfaces develop to the level seen in Her, however, connections with other people remain ideal for combating loneliness.
Staying in solitude, while casting aside loneliness
Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom defined the four “ultimate concerns of human existence” as death, losing freedom, lacking meaning in your work, and isolation — that “we are born alone and die alone.” But, where loneliness is a result of dissatisfac-
tion with the number and quality of relationships, there’s a distinct difference between isolation and loneliness. If loneliness is a phone that never rings, then isolation is a phone set to silent during an hour of productive work, with the intent to check messages during a break. If it’s seeing couples make out on an evening train, it’s feeling happy that passionate relationships can exist. Isolation is actually liking Instagram, which is my personal stance. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but I’m afraid that reports on how Instagram posts are a curated version of one’s life are so prevalent that few people now truly believe that social media accurately represents one’s life. But I like watching the highlights of my friends’ lives; it makes me feel happy for them. But isolation is also a leap of faith. It’s trusting that your friends do like you for who you are, and trusting that your significant other feels affection for you. Adjustment can come later, as may be required from time to time, but a default assumption of trust clears the way for more authentic expression. Isolation is indeed cracking open a textbook — just as it’s practicing for hours on a cello, or solving problems for hours in math and physics, or typing out this feature by myself. It’s a part of the job to be productive for long stretches of time on your own, especially in the creative and scientific arts. Writers like Rainer Maria Rilke and Henry David Thoreau would certainly have attested to this. But it’s crucial to understand that isolation isn’t loneliness. Great works spring from isolation, but not necessarily from lonely people. As Henry Miller reflected, long stretches in isolation can be counterbalanced by faith in one’s relationships, and that it can be broken up by the willingness to “Keep human! See people, go places, [and] drink if you feel like it.” While I don’t think that last part is necessarily productive for everybody, I do think that periods of isolation can be part of an overall fulfilling life — alongside satisfaction with the number and quality of relationships enjoyed outside of periods of productive isolation.
Arts & Culture
March 11, 2019 var.st/arts email@example.com
I went to a metal show and had the goddamn time of my life The tale of a noisy night at Coalition from an admitted metal misfit
A couple of guys, a couple of beers, and a whole lot of sound. Courtesy of ANDREW NORRIS
Jack O. Denton Editor-in-Chief
It seemed like the band moved swiftly from setting up on stage to producing orchestrated aural chaos. Eye contact with my friend was broken by the sound waves themselves. Conversation time, over: it was time to tune in and embrace the noise — we’d bought tickets, after all. There was no way in hell I was moving any further back in this crowd. March 7 saw three metal bands, ranging from horror punk to doom metal, play at the Coalition venue in Kensington Market to a writhing core group of fans from the scene — and me. Exes, High Priest, and Old Witch brought an energy to the rough-around-the-edges Coalition that had the flippers flopping in the pinball machines lining the back wall of the venue. Full disclosure: one of my roommates plays the drums in Exes, and, to be completely honest, that was
the only reason I went to the show. Heavy metal isn’t exactly my cup of tea — I’d be embarrassed to detail the ins and outs of my own tastes — but I had a dude to support. I was more than happy to sip on a can of Newkie Brown in front of a stage cranking noise at an eye-popping level of righteous barrage. Exes was the first up: four guys, six feet of hair, and a whole lot of sound. The Uxbridge-based group were a full-bodied presence on the Coalition platform, and brought such tightness to their performance that I almost forgot that their music was supposed to terrify me. Frontman and guitarist Jake Ballah’s raw talent and guttural vocals — which I think this is a very good thing in this genre — complemented what I can only assume were well-rehearsed and accordinglytimed head bangs that sent a whiplash of energy from the roots of his long hair to the back of the crowd. Much of Exes’ repertoire relies on
sampling from horror movies and sounds, and Ballah’s booted feet expertly navigated the foot pedals to bring in samples amid the instrumental anarchy. Aidan Garrard, my roommate, was visibly in the zone and out of control behind his kit, thrashing out heart-stomping beats with a cannibalistic ferocity belying his day job as a software developer and amateur vegan chef. I was impressed. I won’t pretend to be able to wax smartly on the musical nuances of the night, because when descriptors like “sludge” and “doom” start getting thrown around, I begin to realize just how out of my element I am. High Priest and Old Witch were strong follows to Exes, and it seemed to make excellent sense for all of these bands to share the venue for the night. These three bands felt an urgency to play at Coalition because the notorious venue will be closing this April, and it remains to be seen
whether it will find a new home. This comes on the heels of last month’s closure of staple local scene shop and underground venue Faith/ Void. There are fewer and fewer spaces for local underground heavy bands to reach an audience these days, which means there are fewer and fewer opportunities for geeks like me to get our socks blown off, whether we’re out there supporting a roommate or not. And that would be a real shame because I, for one, want to do this again. It may seem counterintuitive to a complete outsider to the scene, but metal and punk are far more welcoming and open than they seem. No one even commented on my friend who wore khakis — khakis! — to the show. Though there are exceptions as we move toward Nazi metal on the extreme end of the spectrum, the genres as a whole are overwhelmingly progressive, environmentally-conscious, and LGBTQ+-friendly spaces. There’s
even a subgroup of “straight edge” punks, many of whom keep vegan and abstain from all drug use, and sometimes even sex. But this is all probably a story for another article and another, more informed, writer. There’s a certain beauty in the aesthetic and aura of local metal and punk, which I’ve only been lightly exposed to through my roommate in the past year. Sometimes it manifests in anachronisms, such as the widespread use of cassette tapes for the distribution and consumption of local music. Sometimes it’s a conscious laissez-faire attitude in production: one time, my roommate spent hours designing a poster for his band, which he then photocopied a photocopy of before putting it up. That’s a poster that screams a massive ‘fuck you’ to anyone who thinks that the sound quality is a bit mangled, or that the venue is gritty, or that the toilets aren’t clean. The poster says we’re grunge, baby, and you better believe it.
MARCH 11, 2019 | 13
10 types of ‘coffee’ drinkers you’ll find on campus
KEITH CHENG/THE VARSITY
Regardless of which category you belong to, make sure you use a reusable cup! Ting He & Annie Hu Varsity Contributors
coffee and Junior Chicken? Who can say no?
“Rich with a Starbucks Gold Card” Getting Starbucks before class is part of this gal’s daily regime. She never leaves the house without her makeup on fleek and a fire ’fit. She remains a loyal Gold member and you will never catch her drinking beverages that are not from the famous coffee brand. On her Instagram and/or Snapchat, you can expect to see lots of Tumblr-y pictures of her holding a Starbucks cup featuring her professionally-done nails. “Poor but still has Starbucks Gold Card” This type of coffee drinker shows up to Starbucks equipped with a backward baseball cap, sweatpants, and a raging hangover. Although they may not be rich, they’re nonetheless a Gold member — not because they are frequent buyers, but because they’re on top of those Star Dashes. In other words, you will only see them in line when there is a Double-Star Day or Happy Hour of some sort going on. Otherwise, they’ll usually go for the cheaper option.
“McDonald’s Coffee and Stickers Collector” They are the most loyal customer of McDonald’s since the release of the $1 coffee. You will find them with an extra-large coffee almost every day — as long as the promotion still stands. In their wallet, you will also find a deck full of McCafé Rewards cards that collect stickers to redeem a free coffee after seven purchases. They wish that the $1 coffee would be offered all year long, because in their minds, McDonald’s is always the way to go for everything. Extra-large
“Blue Dragon’s Coffee After Working Out at AC” Lululemon high-rise leggings, a short crop-top hoodie, and a high ponytail. You guessed it: she just finished a workout at the Athletic Centre and is now ready to cross the street to study at Robarts. Before she leaves, she grabs a coffee at the Blue Dragon café for a boost of energy. She’s hardcore. By hardcore, I mean she actually has abs. “Keurig Kups” This girl invested in a Keurig machine at the beginning of the school year and pre-makes all her coffees at home. She knows how to save money and will most likely meal prep all of her lunches and dinners. Every one of her friends think she is extremely well-adjusted and puttogether and they go to her for advice, but in reality, she’s low-key a mess.
“Bubble Tea Squad” No matter the occasion — whether it be a Robarts study session or a 6:00 pm lecture in Con Hall, you can expect to find them and their squad enjoying a bubble tea from either Chatime, Coco, or The Alley. It’s like they never get tired of bubble tea. Half of their Instagram stories are of them drinking bubble tea with friends or doing the bubble tea straw challenge.
“Loyal Canadian Timmies” Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chatime — none of them hit the mark for this steadfast Canadian. This person is loyal to Tim Hortons, and they will either have a black or double-double
to start off their day. Only Tim Hortons coffee satisfies their taste buds while still being gentle on their wallet. Whenever Roll Up the Rim is around the corner, they may increase their visits to twice a day. While everyone else complains that Roll Up the Rim gets progressively harder to win each year, you don’t really hear them rant. Why? Because they go to Tim Hortons everyday anyways; Roll Up the Rim is merely a bonus. Real Canadian, eh?
“S’well Water Bottle” This is the healthy and fit girl who will drink gallons of water every day. She wakes up at 7:00 am to catch the sunrise and never misses breakfast before heading to lecture. Sometimes, she will make herself a smoothie in the morning to give herself an extra boost for the day. Oh, and if she has time she will either hit up the gym, meditate, or practice mindful yoga. Coffee? It’s bad for her anxiety.
“U of Tears” Needless to say, this is the true representation of U of Tears. This person is always at the library drowning in school work. They will almost never agree to going out on a Friday night because they just have too many deadlines. Naturally, they have no time to make themselves coffee. In fact, they struggle with basic hydration.
“Midnight Red Bull” This person has probably lost count of how many Red Bulls they’ve had over their four years at U of T. While some were already corrupted by all-nighters back in high school, most of them were not introduced to Red Bull until the Clubs Carnival during Orientation Week. Ever since, they’ve been solely dependent on it during midterm and final seasons. What is life without Red Bull? Can’t imagine it. They’ll probably fight you if you try taking their Red Bull away from them. Better not risk it — just let them fly away.
Why my best friend from college and I are not even friends on Facebook anymore Let’s talk about sex, the friend zone, and overdue apologies
Dear MG, I decided to address you formally, mainly because of privacy concerns, but also because a cozy “Hey buddy” probably won’t work for us given the length of time we’ve been verified by Facebook as strangers. I’ve known you since October 2010, the first day of college, when everything was still open to possibilities. A cohort of art students treaded on cigarette butts outside of the library, smiling at each other as we sought out a sense of belonging. Among those smiling faces, I took a long hard look at my face, as I looked at yours — a heart-shaped face circled by a coarse beard and wild hair — and thank god I used to dig that hippie-dippie sort of thing. There was a second of irregular heartthrobs that now aches for a lifetime. Being a racial minority and an international student in the conservative UK where xenophobia still flares, I found it hard to blend in, even at a liberal arts school. Not to mention, my lack of interest in shopping and money for
dining further excluded me from many social occasions. My friend zone had always been stylishly exclusive, by which I mean its membership included a total of two. And you made the cut. Yay! It is thanks to you that for a large part of my college life I succeeded in feeling like I truly belonged. I felt British. I felt in. I had a good-looking British guy who wasn’t ashamed of being my friend, who phased in and out with all kinds of girls but never fell out with me. I thrived on that and rejoiced. Even though there were moments when we could have turned that friendship into something else, for example, the night when you crashed in my dorm room, and we shared my single bed. You tossed around against my back while I faked snoring, but I made sure that nothing happened because I didn’t want to be phased out. There was never a day when I wasn’t grateful to you for having my back, and even with so much effort on my part not to distort our friendship, I guess it did evolve into something else. After the night of our sleepover, we became each other’s sexless innkeeper who always had a room available in each other’s hearts. In second year, we moved in together as housemates. You came to my room in the middle of the night, venting out frustration over being in the midst of three girlfriends. I retaliated the next day by perching on your bed and
lecturing you for hours on end on some pretentious crap I’d read. We went to classes together, drew penises in the snow collected on random cars, bought Nutella crepes from Christmas market stalls, and raced to town for buy-oneget-one-free Cornish pasties together. Being together, I felt safe. I felt at home. And in such togetherness, I omitted the possibility of change as we geared toward the end of college. One night, we went home and laid on the slope outside our house, looking at the night sky. I was stoned, and you were drunk. I complained about how now that the city council had finally fixed the street lamp, I could no longer see the stars. You offered to stone the lamp so it would be out again. And we laughed, one head against the other, hands in arms. It was cold and then there was warmth as you turned your head toward me and said, “A, between us, possibility is never off the table.” But like the night I turned you into the sexless innkeeper, I pretended to be too stoned to remember. A couple of weeks later, you got into a new relationship. Only this time, you didn’t phase out. But how would I know? I made fun of you in front of your girl like I was really your sister, like no matter what I did, nothing could break us. You were pissed off at me for my disregard and picked a fight with me for someone you’d picked up from the Mac room only months ago. I reacted badly and eventually developed an eating disorder.
By the time you cooled down and told me your concerns about my health problem, I was as enraged as I was mortified. I thought I did a good job hiding it, and even if I knew how to seek help, I certainly wouldn’t have asked for it from you. What I didn’t know was that beyond the anger and mortification, I was hurt. We went on without speaking to each other during the last month before our graduation. I moved out before the end of the tenancy and refused to pay you my last share of the water bill. Two years since then, the girl you picked up from the Mac room is still in the profile picture on your Facebook account from which I have long been removed. And yet, even now when I type M in the search bar on Facebook, your name is still the first one that pops up. It hurts knowing that these disconnected years have rendered me entirely irrelevant to you. But I hope you know that I’m really sorry and I am grateful to you for our great ride once upon a time. Regards, Ali Hendricks Varsity Contributor
14 | THE VARSITY | ARTS & CULTURE
An opportunistic argument about climate policies
Canada and the US are missing the point about climate change, focusing on ideology instead Kody McCann Varsity Contributor
We have entered an age in which climate policy has come to the forefront of political debate. The upcoming federal election will contrast the Liberal Party’s carbon levy and output-based pricing system against the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party’s plan to dismantle it. The PCs have not yet published their climate plan, although Leader Andrew Scheer promised to in the fall. Nonetheless, the PCs are very clear on their stance against carbon pricing in Canada. Recently, Scheer referred to repealing the carbon levy as “job number one” in a town hall in New Brunswick. Climate change policies arguably contributed to the downfall of the Ontario Liberal Party and will likely be used as a wedge issue by the United Conservative Party against the incumbent New Democratic Party government this May in Alberta. But while the ebb and flow of climate policies remain on the front page, the constant attacks carried out by conservative leaders in Canada and the United States on these policies remain ideologically hypocritical. A tenet of Canadian and American conservative ideology is the decentralization of power and the rejection of ‘big government.’ These aspects of conservative ideology,
whether masked as the colloquial states’ rights or federalism, are being opportunistically bent in different ways to fit the arguments used against climate policies. Here’s what’s going on:
Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan have each filed lawsuits against the federal government after it implemented a carbon pricing system to replace the purportedly inadequate provincial systems. The provincial governments argue that the implementation of the carbon levy and the output price-based system is unconstitutional. The Ontario government’s factum challenging the carbon levy and output-based pricing system presents its case as follows: “Greenhouse gas emissions are not a single, distinct, and indivisible matter which Parliament can regulate under its jurisdiction over matters of a national concern without fundamentally disturbing the balance of federalism.” In other words, a regulation on carbon emissions would be a governmental overreach, since regulating greenhouse gases would inevitably involve controlling other intermingled emissions. In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe recently said that “the imposition of carbon pricing on provinces whose
climate change plans do not fall in line with federal plans does not make sense according to our Canadian constitution, and fails to respect the sovereignty and autonomy of the provinces with respect to matters under their jurisdiction.” In another instance at the Saskatchewan factum, Ontario’s environment minister Rod Phillips said that “the provinces are fully capable of regulating greenhouse gas emissions themselves.” It is worth noting that Saskatchewan has a form of carbon pricing; the federal government is only implementing the backstop where it judges there to be insufficient pricing coverage.
California is an important player — an important part of this — but this is not a two-sided negotiation for a national standard.” These two arguments are conflicting. Canadian provincial and some US state leaders argue that the provinces and states should have jurisdiction over the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and should therefore be the ones to implement these regulations. Meanwhile, the Canadian government and acting head of the
EPA in the United States disagree, claiming federal jurisdiction over state environmental policy. Instead of coming up with solutions that will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impact of global climate change, politicians are opportunistically attacking climate policies based on ideology, completely and utterly missing the point. It’s not about provinces, states, or federalism — the world is at stake.
The United States
Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is currently fighting with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a department within California’s EPA, over regulations involving clean fuel standards. The EPA wants to standardize these regulations across the country, which, for this administration, entails weakening them, even though more than 10 states including New Mexico, Maine, and Massachusetts have used California’s regulations as a template. In an interview with Bloomberg, Wheeler argued that the “states should not have authority over CO2 emissions.
Climate change is real and we’re running out of resources. It is important that our governments practice what they preach when it comes to climate policies. THEO ARBEZ/THE VARSITY
Book Club: Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn
YA and other drugs
Ava Fathi Varsity Contributor
The Wrath & the Dawn is a 2015 young adult novel by Renée Ahdieh. It is an epic love story based on the Arabian Nights. Courtesy of GOODREADS
When I reluctantly tell people how much I love to read, I wait in dismay for the inevitable, nerve-wracking question: “Oh really? What’s your favourite book?” Several answers pass through my mind: Gabriel García Márquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude, Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. All respectable, critically acclaimed novels. All lies. The truth is that my favourite novels have always been, and perhaps always will be, young adult (YA) novels. Maybe it’s the dark, brooding bad boys. Maybe it’s the cheaper prices. Maybe YA novels are my last ditch effort to avoid the chaos and monotony of adulthood and hold onto the chaos and wonder of my childhood. Or perhaps — and this may shock you — YA books are genuinely good books. YA fiction is largely targeted to younger, female audiences. It is also the most ridiculed and disreputable genre in academic circles. Coincidence? I think not. There’s been a general pattern in ‘high society’ to sneer at anything young women enjoy: boy bands, the colour pink, Starbucks, and yes, YA fiction. Perhaps the stigma around YA novels isn’t gender-related at all. Maybe it’s enough that YA is catered to younger generations. “Breaking news: Millennials are ruining everything, even books!” Critics label YA novels as artless because they’re easy
to read and understand. Why must a novel be difficult to be considered valuable? Why must it be old? Or have a sad or vague ending? Many are quick to dismiss YA novels, even critically acclaimed ones, as unsophisticated. What the majority can’t see is just how intricate and creative these novels can be. Take Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn. Ahdieh reimagines one of the oldest and most beloved stories of all time: One Thousand and One Nights. Set in Khorasan, a real historical region in the Persian and later Islamic empire, The Wrath & the Dawn follows the main elements of the old fable. An evil king takes a new wife each night, only to slaughter her come sunrise. When her best friend becomes his latest victim, Shahrzad AlKhayzuran, The Wrath & the Dawn’s protagonist, vows to kill the king no matter what it takes. Shahrzad is the first to voluntarily marry the king. Being a master storyteller and literary scholar, she plans to captivate him with fairy tales, night after night, until she can exact her revenge. But wait! Ahdieh’s retelling has a twist! Not everything is as it seems in this palace of marble and death. The caliph, the great and malevolent King of Kings, is merely a boy of 18 years. Khalid, the name with which Shahrzad comes to know the caliph, does not meet her expectations at all. He loves stories, the colour blue, and the smell of lilacs in her hair. There are people in the palace who would defend him until their very last breath, not out of fear, but out of respect. He
has amber eyes, a jawline that could cut steel, and a tragic past. There may or may not be a curse involved. Ahdieh’s writing style is exquisite. She captivates and traps you in a world of sparkling cities, colourful bazaars, Persian delicacies, and patterned silk sashes. The world-building is absolutely fabulous, completely transporting you to a different time and place. The Wrath & the Dawn becomes a living, breathing being under Ahdieh’s careful hand, a tangible world you can almost touch. The romance is flawless, the characters enchanting, and the fantastical and magical elements are striking at every turn. The Wrath & the Dawn was also groundbreaking to me because it starred Middle Eastern characters. It will always hold a special place in my heart because I saw myself reflected in a protagonist for the first time in Shahrzad. That is another great thing about YA — it strives to truly represent its diverse, young, and impressionable audience. What I’m proposing is a revolution in how we view YA fiction. I want to be able to enjoy YA novels like The Wrath & the Dawn without my intelligence and appreciation for literature becoming a point of contention. YA demonstrates the worth and value in young voices, the leaders of tomorrow. It gives us a sense of agency in a world that continues to belittle our experiences and our voices. There’s no shame in loving a book like The Wrath & the Dawn, and we shouldn’t be made to feel like there is.
March 11, 2019 var.st/science firstname.lastname@example.org
What does a scientist look like? Seven U of T students discuss their passions and paths in science
“As a little girl, I saw a shooting star, and that made the night sky my favourite view. I thought a lot about what was up there and how cool it would be to go to space. This led to my studying physics and astronomy in undergrad and I have never looked back since then. I currently seek to understand the early universe and how it transitioned to the stars and galaxies we see today. Specifically, what happened in the [epoch] of re-ionization. The epoch of re-ionization is a period in the universe’s history over which the matter in the universe ionizes again. [My dad] taught me always to strive for more, that there could always be a way if there is a will. He taught me to never give up and to always ask questions. My curiosity in life and career comes from him.” — Margaret Ikape, first-year PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics, email
What does a scientist look like? For many, the answer involves white lab coats, goggles, and beakers. Yet the people who pursue science are just as diverse as the field itself. Scientists can be activists, athletes, artists, or all of the above. Science can happen indoors or outdoors, under the night sky, or on the internet. Read about the journeys of seven student researchers at U of T.
Julia Espinosa (right) and Madeline Pelgrim (left) work with dogs like Loki to determine animal behaviour.
“Initially I had my heart set on being a professional dancer and veterinarian (a very practical dual career). Science had been my academic focus for some time, but it took several years after completing my BSc for me to realize that I passionately loved research and applying the scientific method to various questions of animal behaviour and cognition. I had this epiphany while I was juggling three jobs as a lab manager, veterinary assistant, and dog trainer. Out of all of those, I found research to be fulfilling and exciting and it was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. I want to know how [dogs] perceive the world and how they process cues and information present in the environment. I am motivated by the hope that my research can possibly help change how people view dogs, give greater value to them through the recognition of their mental abilities and ultimately lead to greater wellbeing and better access rights in North America.”
“I have always been interested in science, but also equally interested in the arts. I went to an arts middle school and high school where half my day was spent doing art and not academics. I spend a lot of my time outside of school engaging in the arts. I still consider myself an artist as much as I consider myself a scientist. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I can [be] both. When I decided I wanted to go to university, I chose to study science since I liked it and was good at it. Moving into my later years of my undergrad I found that I was drawn to ecology courses, field courses, and also really liked the people I met in those classes. I am interested in the pollutants, that comes from roads, such as road salt, and how it impacts the animals that live in nearby streams. I also study other pollutants that come from roads, such as metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and small bits of car tires (tire dust).” — Rachel Giles, first-year Master’s in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, email
“There are definitely a lot of challenges throughout a PhD. I would say the biggest one for me were the mental challenges at the early stage of my PhD. How do I keep being confident in front of the language barrier, failure experiments, competitions, and where is my direction for the future? Having been through such a mental struggling stage, I am now clearer of myself, and ready for unknowns. I always want to help bring positive impacts to our future world. I like the discovery and innovation side of research studies and its potential impact on our better world. My research is to design advanced photo-responsive nanomaterials that can store solar energy into chemical energy by catalyzing the conversion of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide to useful chemicals and fuels. It is a promising solution to reduce the usage of fossil fuels and global warming caused by greenhouse gas.” — Yuchan Dong, fifth-year PhD in Materials Chemistry, email
“Julia Espinosa, the graduate student in my lab, has had the greatest influence on my career. She has been endlessly patient with me since we began working together in the fall of 2016, and has pushed me to advocate for myself and not be afraid to try something new. I would not be at this point in my career without her sage advice and constant confidence. Like many other students, I had a bit of a rough transition into University in my first year. Adjusting to life away from home (my hometown is a 10 hour drive from Toronto) and everything that comes with living on your own for the first time caused my academics to suffer. When I first applied to join my lab, I was confident that I would not be accepted because of my marks. I am very thankful for my Principal Investigator — Dr. Buchsbaum — and the lab manager at the time — Kay Otsubo — for taking a chance on me and overlooking my performance first-year.”
“As a child while it was true that I was always curious about nature and the world around us — Asking questions like why is the sky blue? How are clouds formed? etc. It was only when I got older and started to understand ‘what is science? what are scientists? How is science performed?’ that I gained a tremendous passion for it. This notion that with a few chemical reactions, chemists can ‘creatively’ and rationally generate a molecule which when administered to human can halt disease progression, pain and even extend life — was a very powerful catalyst for my interest in medicinal chemistry. My work mainly focuses on the development of novel smallmolecules that specifically target diseasecausing cellular components which have been shown to cause certain cancers. I think as with any budding student of science, whether in graduate studies, professional programs or even out in the workforce, the biggest challenge is to become comfortable with and know how to effectively deal with failure and hardship. As a scientist, at times we learn more from failed experiments than successful ones.”
— Madeline Pelgrim, fourth-year Bachelor’s in Psychology and Biology, email
— Yasir S. Raouf, third-year PhD in Organic and Biological Chemistry, email
— Julia Espinosa, second-year PhD in Cognitive Psychology, email
Ashima Kaura Associate Science Editor
“I’ve been both playing sports competitively and going to school since I was six years old. Honestly, if I didn’t play water polo I don’t know what I would be doing in the evenings — I think I would just be sitting on my phone doing nothing. I love to represent Canada, and it’s a really exciting opportunity to do so on an international stage. Looking forward to the future, it would be an honour to represent Canada at the Olympic Games. U of T has opened so many doors for me, with research and athletics. Initially I came to U of T and I wanted to do Genetics and Cell & Systems Biology — all that nitty gritty stuff. Then I took BIO230, and I was like this is not for me. I was trying to figure out a field where I could apply Life Science techniques, but without wet lab stuff. I had the opportunity to do an ROP [Research Opportunity Program] in Pascal Tyrrell’s lab — which is focused on medical imaging and statistics — and just fell in love with it.” — Rachael Jaffe, third-year Bachelor’s in Global Health, Statistics, and Economics, spoken
16 | THE VARSITY | SCIENCE
U of T team wins McMaster designathon
Science Around Town
Undergraduates design method to protect cameras on military aircraft Spencer Y. Ki Associate Science Editor
A team of U of T students won first place at the Mac Design League Designathon 2019 hosted at McMaster University in January, with a design for shielding cameras on surveillance aircraft. The team, dubbed “The Avengineers,” was composed of undergraduate students Nick Bajaikine, Kyle Damrell, Christopher Tong, and Mubtaseem Zaman, each enrolled in engineering programs. Over a period of 36 hours from January 19–20, they competed against 243 other students from across Ontario to solve real-world problems presented by industry sponsors of the event. McMaster’s designathon was originally created in response to the popularity of hackathons. Whereas hackathons focus on programming skills, the Mac Design League sought to create a multidisciplinary outlet for students to showcase their talents in mechanics and design. Featured challenges included designing EpiPens and lunar rovers. The victorious U of T team was tasked with designing a way to shield cameras attached to the bottom of military planes from being damaged in the event of landing-gear failure or ‘soft-crash’ landing. The challenge was posed by aerospace imaging firm L3 Wescam, an aerospace imaging firm
Nick Bajaikine, Kyle Damrell, Christopher Tong, and Mubtaseem Zaman won first place at the Mac Design League Designathon 2019. Courtesy of MUBTASEEM ZAMAN
which works with defence and military agencies around the world, posed the challenge to the team. “Intuitively, the idea that comes in [first] is to make a mechanism that pulls the camera inside the aircraft and keeps it safe, like an elevator mechanism,” said Zaman in an interview with The Varsity. Zaman explained that many of their opponents attempted solutions along these lines. However, the team eventually noticed that such a solution might not be easy to adapt to other planes. Zaman said that their next idea, which involved releasing the camera when it senses an impending crash landing was also scrapped, due to concerns that the camera might be lost or could injure someone if dropped. “Then I came up with an idea: how about I roll the camera around the body of the aircraft, to the top, before landing? So you can attach something like a roller-coaster rail around the body of the aircraft, and the camera will go up from the bottom on top to save itself.” Zaman added that this would not only save the camera in worst-case scenarios, but increase its functionality by allowing for surveillance photography from multiple angles.
This flexible design ultimately netted the team the top prize, as well as additional opportunities from competition sponsors. The team was invited to present their unique solution to company executives at L3 Wescam’s secure facility, and were each awarded a $300 gift card from sponsor 3D Printing Canada. Moving forward, the Avengineers want to bring similar opportunities to U of T for students to showcase their design and engineering skills. “I was so inspired that I decided to make a consulting club at U of T,” said Zaman. “There are a bunch of consulting clubs, [but] they are mostly business consulting clubs. What I am trying to do is to make an engineering design consulting club. Our plan is to ask for problems from different industries and voluntarily, as a student team, solve those problems.” Plans are also in early development for U of T’s own designathon, to be held next year. In the meantime, Zaman gave advice for budding designers on the fence about attending competitions: “Even if you don’t have the skills, don’t worry. Just go there. Just participate. You will learn a lot.”
The mathematics behind soccer
Abdullah Zafar studies team movement in soccer using vector fields Fatima Abdulla Varsity Staff
U of T student Abdullah Zafar studies the intersection of math and movement. Courtesy of FARZAD YOUSEFIAN
Emily Deibert Varsity Staff
Third-year U of T math and physics student Abdullah Zafar is collaborating with Sport Performance Analytics Inc. to study the mathematics behind team movements in soccer. Zafar, a soccer player himself, presented his research at the ASSU Undergraduate Research Conference in January, in a presentation entitled “Weaving the Fabric of Football: How Vector Fields and Fractal Dynamics Structure Patterns in Team Movement and Performance.” This project was brought to life after Zafar and Farzad Yousefian, founder and president of Sport Performance Analytics Inc, noticed a gap in how sports models were approached and analyzed. The pair sought to understand the underlying mechanics behind group movement and team dynamics on the field. To achieve this, the research team collected data from the Canadian women’s soccer team at the Summer Universiade. Zafar analyzed the overall patterns of individual player movements and explored their relation to player performance measures. While each player’s movement is individually determined, their overall movement on the field is influenced by other players’ positions. Zafar quantified movements of the latter type and analyzed them as a single unit. Using vector fields, Zafar measured team movement and found a correlation to physical metrics like player heart rate and distance played. He characterized these patterns of team movement as Brownian motion. Zafar’s findings could be used to assess ef-
ficiency and performance on the field, and develop strategies to impact the tactical side of team sports with practical training protocols. In an interview with The Varsity, Zafar explained that quantifying group movements by collecting variables such as speed, directionality, and steps per minute was the easier part of the process. However, painting a group picture in terms of a complete analysis was a challenge. The project has come a long way since last summer, and is being presented at various conferences. Moving forward, data collection will still be a major barrier, considering that performance data is like personal property to teams, and Zafar notes that getting access to it can be difficult. Were the research team to have access to league information, the sports teams need not worry about competition between them. In the long run, access to more information would allow the data to be more generalizable. Zafar said that this initial report serves only as a pilot study — a proof of principle that demonstrates that this field of research can be pursued. Currently, the team is breaking the project into more concise research questions that can address specific aspects of sports performance, including tactical and physiological perspectives. According to Zafar, another challenge is obtaining funding. Compared to health and wellness, sports medicine receives less funding. Shifting the perspective of the research to one of clinical importance could be the key to accessing funding in the future.
AI & Big Data Hear leaders in technology, business, and academia talk about the potential of artifical intelligence and big data in current global development challenges. Date: Monday, March 11 Time: 7:00–9:00 pm Location: Myhal Centre, 55 St George Street, Room 150 Admission: $20 deposit, refunded at event Math and the Dutch Masters Professor Piet Iedema, from the University of Amsterdam, will talk about the chemistry that leads to the degradation of old paintings and how polymer network models can be used to mitigate this. Date: Tuesday, March 12 Time: 12:00–1:00 pm Location: The Fields Institute, 222 College Street Admission: Free with registration Inclusivity in Tech Learn about the many career opportunities available for underrepresented groups in technology at this evening of discussion and networking. Date: Wednesday, March 13 Time: 5:30–8:00 pm Location: Goldring Student Centre, 150 Charles Street West Admission: Free with registration Science Communication 101 Join UTM PhD candidate Sasha Weiditch for a workshop on how to make science accessible to a general audience, and get hands-on experience during the event. Date: Thursday, March 14 Time: 12:00–2:00 pm Location: Kaneff Centre, 1833 Inner Circle, Room 2213 Admission: Free with registration International Health Film Series and Expo Learn about the effects of plastic waste on Pacific birds during a screening of the documentary Albatross as part of the fifth annual UTSC International Health Film Series and Expo. Date: Thursday, March 14 Time: 6:00–9:00 pm Location: Social Sciences Building, 1265 Military Trail, Room 130 Admission: Free
March 11, 2019 var.st/sports email@example.com
Blues women’s volleyball win Quigley Cup
Alina Dormann and Anna Feore lead Toronto to OUA championship
Blues women’s hockey take silver in McCaw Cup Final Guelph Gryphons earn 4–2 victory to win OUA Championship
The Blues upset nationally top-ranked Ryerson Rams to win the OUA Championship. Courtesy of STEVE BROOKS/WATERLOO WARRIORS
Daniel Samuel Sports Editor
Alina Dormann and Anna Feore did it again. For the third time in the past five seasons, the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team hoisted the Quigley Cup, winning the 2018–2019 Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship 3–0 in straight sets over the defending U SPORTS national champions, the Ryerson Rams. Despite the dominant play by Dormann and Feore, the championship win was a true team effort. The Blues entered the match victorious in eight straight contests, a streak dating back to January 27. Ryerson opened the first set with an 11–6 advantage over Toronto, as the Blues committed four attack errors. Blues second-year setter Hayley Goodwin assisted on five of Toronto’s six straight kills to close the gap to 14–12. Goodwin finished the match with 39 assists, while Dormann led all players
with 17 kills, and Feore tallied 10 kills and 3 blocks. Feore launched a kill that levelled the score at 15–15 and her block on the Rams’ following play saw the Blues take the lead. Ryerson was unable to reclaim the lead, and Toronto pulled away to win the set 25–20. Toronto jumped out to an early 7–3 lead in the second set before their momentum was stopped by a Rams timeout. Nevertheless, a barrage of kills from Feore and Dormann, and two service aces from Demetra Maragos propelled the Blues to a 12–5 lead before Ryerson called their second timeout of the set. Ryerson bounced back to level the score 15–15 after Dormann made consecutive attack errors and Rams thirdyear outside hitter Cailin Wark earned a kill. The Blues regained after Wark committed a service error. The Rams pulled to within one point at 21–20 following back-to-back kills by Theanna Vernon and Sara Piana, but the Blues earned three consecutive
points and Dormann finished off the set with a kill for a 25–21 set victory. The third and final set was a backand-forth affair as the Rams played tight, uninterested in being swept in straight sets. But Toronto broke away from Ryerson midway through the set, earning three consecutive points with a service ace from Maragos bookended by two kills from Anna Feore, forcing Ryerson to take a timeout. The Blues’ lead ballooned to 20–15, but the Rams fought back, pulling to within a single point at 21–20. Ultimately, Toronto proved to be too much for Ryerson as Brett Hagarty was unable to return Dormann’s serve, earning the Blues the OUA Championship and bragging rights over rival Rams. Next up, the Blues will contend for the U SPORTS national championship this weekend in Edmonton, Alberta. The Blues last won the national championship in 2016, capping an undefeated season and closing out Feore’s rookie one.
Asking the real questions about intermittent fasting
The Blues were unable to win the McCaw Cup on Saturday afternoon. Courtesy of SEYRAN MAMMADOV/THE VARSITY BLUES
Daniel Samuel Sports Editor
In their first McCaw Cup Final in a decade, the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team fell short of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title in a 4–2 loss against the Guelph Gryphons. Guelph hosted the final, after posting an OUA-best 16–4–2 record in the regular season. Kassie Roache opened scoring for the Blues, receiving a well-timed pass from Kiyono Cox and wiring a slap shot into the top corner to give the Blues a 1–0 lead. The Gryphons didn’t answer back until there were five minutes left in the opening period; Mallory Young tipped a pass to Claire Merrick, who shot past Blues netminder Erica Fryer to level the score at 1–1. Fryer was busy early and often in the first period as the Gryphons forced her to make seven saves. The
Laura Ashwood Varsity Staff
Is the popular diet worth the trouble?
SKYLAR CHEUNG/THE VARSITY
It seems like the past year has been riddled with vastly contradictory and — let’s face it — downright bizarre diet fads. With loud voices swearing by the demonization of carbs or fingers wagging at an imbalanced body pH — thanks, Tom Brady — knowing what to eat to stay healthy or to shed extra pounds has become more confusing than ever. Among the Instagram-famous diet fads is intermittent fasting, hailed by the likes of J. Lo and Terry Crews for its relative simplicity among the abundance of complicated diets: eat as much as you want, but quickly! According to Harvard Health Publishing, intermittent fasting works by “severely limiting calories during certain days of the week or during specified hours during the day. The theory is that this type of diet will help decrease appetite by slowing the body’s metabolism.” This can mean anything from eating only within a strict 8–10 hour window every day to following the 5:2 method, in which the dieter eats normally for five days of the week and severely restricts caloric intake for two days.
rookie was well poised between the pipes, making 14 saves by the end of the second period and allowing just one goal from the highest-scoring offense in the OUA. But the Gryphons outmatched the Blues in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away in a contest that had been otherwise level from the opening face-off. Katie Mikkelsen’s power-play goal 31 seconds in saw Toronto’s one-goal lead evaporate. Kristen Jay put the Gryphons ahead 3–2, with Merrick scoring a late goal to end any hopes of a Blues comeback. After a strong 60 minutes, the Gryphons lifted the McCaw Cup for the third time in the past four years. Despite the loss, the Blues season continues next week as they head to Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island for the chance to capture a national title at the USPORTS National Championships.
Extreme? Yes. But does it work? Possibly — if you can keep it up. JAMA Internal Medicine cited a whopping 38 per cent dropout rate among participants of an intermittent fasting study. There is also a “strong biological push to overeat following fasting periods,” according to Harvard Health Publishing, which calls into question the long-term sustainability of the diet. Restriction as an explicit facet of any kind of diet comes with its consequences: health care professionals have noted the potentially damaging mental side-effects of a diet focused only on what you can’t do, raising concerns that intermittent fasting may be a gateway to an eating disorder. Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association, told Mashable, “Not everybody who gets into this [fasting clture] is necessarily going to spiral into [an] eating disorder, but if you are at risk, this is a really triggering framing.” This could become an excuse to not eat at all, for example, in an era overwhelmingly saturated with expectations of physical perfection. The final word is still out on whether intermittent fasting is the golden ticket to a six-pack, so as the internet continues to battle it out, maybe just skip the fried stuff and hope for the best.
18 | THE VARSITY | SPORTS
Inside the huddle with U of T’s women’s flag football team
The Blues won the Alumni Cup on March 3
A Toronto player attempts to reattach her flag.
An up-close look at the University of Toronto women’s flag football team.
Fatima Abdulla Varsity Staff
It’s 23 degrees below zero with windchill. A steady breeze runs across the field and a layer of snow covers the U of T Back Campus. “Pick the daisies,” yells Ajla Bilajbegovic as she leads our team through warmups on Sunday morning. All 40 of us stretch our hamstrings slowly, jog halfway across the field and back, then sprint the same distance before heading to our individual coaches. The rule of no walking on the field, enforced by head coach and former Varsity Blues football player Michael Leslie, keeps us on our toes despite the chill. The weather may not be the best, but the University of Toronto Women’s Flag Football team (UTWFF) is. Over the March 2 weekend, UTWFF participated in its third tourney of the year, with 14 teams from across Ontario competing at U of T’s Back Campus Fields. Starting strong on day one with a 10–0 win against Humber College’s Cleats n’ Cleavage in the group stages and ending with their biggest 31–18 win against Endzones Over Friendzones from Queen’s University on day two in the finals, UTWFF worked their way undefeated to the top of their pool. Combining the results of the three tournaments that UTWFF has played in this year, the team tied for first with McMaster University’s Pool B team among the 18 contenders. Despite limited numbers over the weekend, the team was able to stay on top of their game thanks to a stout defense and an outstanding offensive line that provided ample time for young quarterback Chantelle Cheung to create wide holes for running back Gisselle Villagracia’s vital touchdown. Perhaps the most exciting play of the tournament was a pick six in the finals by Jasmine Romero, which became the game’s winning touchdown. The tournament also saw the return of alumni Julie Clores and Debbie Lee as referees, as well as Tiffany Russell, who presented the Alumni Cup to the winning team with Lee, an honour that the team has won for the fifth time in the eight years since the tournament was founded.
UTWFF was founded and developed in 2011 by Patrick Yan, Jakub Huskia, and later Corey Hafezi, who were all players on the Varsity Blues foot-
ball team at the time. Huskia introduced Yan to the St. Mike’s College Girls Football team, which served as the foundation for UTWFF, while Hafezi helped the team register as an accredited club. Rolli Ademosun, another Varsity Blues football player, soon became Yan’s right-hand man and got the team rolling. The club gained momentum when Yan reached out to Wilfrid Laurier University’s team to participate in their PowderPuff tournament. Yan’s roommate, Eddie Kagemena, stepped in to train the team. Most of the players were recruited from U of T’s intramural teams, although Yan admitted that he and Ademosun would also recruit from the Brunny, a student bar where Yan worked. He also explored other recruitment methods too — they would be “walking down the street and see someone who looked like a football player and invite them out.” In the end, word-of-mouth promotion would bring the team together. While coaches were originally trusted friends of Yan, as the club attracted more interest, the coaching staff grew. Once invitations to away tournaments started coming in, the team was properly established. Joe Cappiello is the current recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach for the Varsity Blues football team, as well as the former UTWFF coach between 2014 and 2016. He said, “The heart that the players I coached displayed over these seasons were what coaching is all about. Seeing a player play to their top potential and giving everything they have just to come out on top is something I can never repay to the players I coached on those teams. All I can say is thank you for the opportunity to coach such a special group.” With over eight years of hard work and dedication, the team reached a spot at the top of leaderboards, earning the title of triple crown champion after winning U of T’s annual tournament, the McMaster Invitational, and the Laurier Invitational in 2016.
The UTWFF relies on dedicated players who give their all. While team commitments include Sunday practices and fundraising for competitions, the players also devote incredible amounts of time and effort to both academic and professional pursuits — players come from all academic
and sporting backgrounds, from other varsity sports to grad and undergrad programs. Stephanie Hovdestad, a Varsity Blues rugby player and previous member of the U20 Rugby Team Ontario, noted that she had some obstacles in her way to becoming a running back because she had never played football before. Although she had to unlearn some of the rules of rugby to excel at flag football, and despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Hovdestad has adopted a leadership role. She hypes up the team, manages social media and outreach as an executive, and won second place on the second season of Dancing with the Varsity Blues. As for the positional coaches, current and former Varsity Blues football players volunteer their time to coach the players. Over the years, the team has seen players who have never played organized sports before as well
as experienced players who have been playing with teams for a long time. The excellent coaches have levelled the playing field by focusing on the individual strengths of each, regardless of their past experience.
Julie Van: the GOAT
Julie Van, a fifth-year PhD candidate at the Institute of Medical Science, began her flag football journey in 2010 with the original St Mike’s intramural team, and carried on when it transformed into the UTWFF. Frequently referred to as the Tom Brady of our little flag football family, her quarterback skills are the stuff of legend; players from other schools know her by reputation alone. Although she is known for her great abilities, Van had no football experience when she first joined and started out as a safety player. Her first chance to play as the quarterback came in 2013, and she never looked back. She largely credits Chris Li, offensive co-
ordinator; Jermaine Felix, summer coach for the U of T-based summer team Toronto Wildcats; and offensive linewomen Maria Asimakis and Tiffany Russell for her successful journey. Van noted that despite having a fairly inexperienced offense, UTWFF is still a hard team to beat. The turning point, she said, came in 2016, when the team had a “shift in culture” and learned to play to their best potential. As of the 2018–2019 season, Van contributes in a coaching capacity.
Supporting the team
The team relies on player fees and annual bake sales at Tequila Jack’s for funding. Due to the coming Ontario Student Assistance Program changes, some players may not be able to pay the player fees, which contribute to away tournament funding, field bookings, and equipment. If you’re interested in donating to support the team, we’ve created a GoFundMe page to fund a scholarship.
Toronto worked their way undefeated through the tournament to claim the Alumni Cup. Courtesy of the UOFT WOMEN'S FLAG FOOTBALL TEAM
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MARCH 11, 2019 | 19
University of Toronto cross-country skier Erich Schultze sets SkiErg world record
WEEKLY BOX SCORES
Schultze set the simulated six-kilometre world record in the men’s 19–29 age group MEN’S
Michelle Krasovitski Varsity Staff
The machine that Erich Schultze is standing in front of is called a SkiErg. Schultze, a law student from Boston, is about to attempt to set a world record for the fastest time to complete a simulated six-kilometre ski course in the men’s 19–29 age group. Visually, the SkiErg is an unremarkable machine: atop a fanned flywheel sit two metal rods in a V shape, both ends holding drive cords with strapless handles. It stands at seven feet tall, only slightly taller than Schultze himself. Eamon Kelly, a second-year undergraduate student and coach of the university’s ski team, explains that the SkiErg is a one-motion machine: it simulates a move called “doublepoling” which is a key component of cross-country skiing. The machine is also valuable to the team because it allows them to train when the weather outside is suited for wearing shorts. Because the city’s snowfalls are sporadic and quick to melt, the University of Toronto’s Nordic ski team relies on the SkiErg to supplement what they lack due to climate. At exactly 10:00 am on Saturday, February 24, Schultz pulls at the handles of the SkiErg and the world record attempt officially begins. The whirring of the machine’s wheel is loud, and the sound bounces from wall to wall in the small, cramped training room. Damian Langton, a newbie to the skiing team, records the attempt with his camera. If all goes well, this should last 20 minutes. Kelly, meanwhile, fills me in on the history of Nordic skiing teams in Ontario. He mentions that his team lost varsity status at U of T last year. Varsity status is important to a university sports team: not only does it help with funding, but it also makes it easier to recruit members. As of now, U of T’s Nordic ski team has eight active members — all of whom
3–1 (25–21, 25–20, 24–26, 25–20) (OUA Semifinals)
March 9 Queen’s Gaels
March 10 Windsor Lancers
Schultze completed the six-kilometre simulation in a world record time of 21 minutes. Courtesy of DAMIAN LANGTON
stand at different levels. Langton and Schultze, who is still working away at the machine, are new to the sport, while Kelly has been skiing since he was very young. Langton vouches for Kelly, stressing that the coach is supportive and encouraging to everyone, regardless of their level. Nordic ski teams are all but absent in Toronto. U of T is the only university in the city to uphold one — in the province of Ontario, there are only 10 university teams altogether. You would think that participating in a sport whose community is small and spread out would be discouraging, but all three members in the room assert that they receive nothing but support from other teams and alumni. In fact, Kelly tells me that there is an alumni ski event scheduled for the very next day. Schultze is nearing his last two kilometres on the SkiErg. He concentrates on a small screen in front of him, which tells him his split, or time per metre, which is his favourite metric to focus on. He was originally only a member of the rowing team, but he decided to take up skiing to stay active throughout the entire year. Skiing seemed like a natural choice because its motions are similar to those
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of rowing — the teams even train on similar SkiErgs. There are only 100 metres left for Schultze, so he speeds up and sprints to the finish. He completes six kilometres on the SkiErg in about 21 minutes — roughly 285 metres for every minute. Enough to set the new world record. It’s an exciting, albeit calm, moment. This cements the end of the skiing season for the team, a nice send-off until next September. Outside, the snow is packed thick and high, a result of the city expeiencing back-to-back snowstorms, but U of T’s Nordic ski team is closing up shop. Schultze, who broke this same record last year but was beaten later on in the year by a skier from Great Britain, likes to attempt records at the end of seasons to track his personal progress. The SkiErg is a relatively new machine, he explains. Records are in their infancy, only a handful of names deep. He expects his record to be broken within the coming years, but for now, it’s his. Schultze won’t be returning to the ski team next year, but Kelly and Langton will continue to grow a team that, despite experiencing some shakeups in the past year, has remained resilient and eager to compete.
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3–1 (22–25, 25–22, 25–20, 25–19) (OUA Bronze Medal Match)
U Sports Championship
March 8 Varsity Blues
3–1 (25–18, 11–25, 25–13, 25–23) (OUA Semifinals)
3–0 (25–20, 25–21, 25–21) (OUA Final)
March 9 Varsity Blues
U Sports Championship
HOCKEY WOMEN’S March 9 Guelph Gryphons
4–2 (OUA McCaw Cup Final)
U Sports Championship
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MARCH 11, 2019
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