The things we miss...
April 5, 2021
Vol. CXLI, No. 24 April 5, 2021 The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880
To small victories
Departing words from Ibnul Chowdhury, 2020–2021 Editor-in-Chief Vol. CXLI, No. 24 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, ON M5S 1J6 (416) 946-7600 the.varsity
Ibnul Chowdhury firstname.lastname@example.org Editor-in-Chief Nathalie Whitten email@example.com Creative Director Silas Le Blanc firstname.lastname@example.org Managing Online Editor Megan Brearley email@example.com Senior Copy Editor Hannah Carty firstname.lastname@example.org News Editor Nadine Waiganjo email@example.com Comment Editor Spencer Y. Ki firstname.lastname@example.org Business & Labour Editor Stephanie Bai email@example.com Features Editor Ori Gilboa firstname.lastname@example.org Arts & Culture Editor Tahmeed Shafiq email@example.com Science Editor Laura Ashwood firstname.lastname@example.org Sports Editor William Xiao Design Editor
Aditi Putcha email@example.com Design Editor Samantha Yao firstname.lastname@example.org Photo Editor Fiona Tung email@example.com Illustration Editor Dina Dong firstname.lastname@example.org Video Editor Munachi Ernest-Eze email@example.com Front End Web Developer Andrew Hong firstname.lastname@example.org Back End Web Developer Zack Radisic email@example.com Magazine Web Developer Maya Morriswala firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Senior Copy Editor Lauren Alexander email@example.com Deputy News Editor Hafsa Ahmed firstname.lastname@example.org UTM Bureau Chief Alexa DiFrancesco email@example.com UTSC Bureau Chief Isabel Armiento firstname.lastname@example.org Graduate Bureau Chief Padmaja Rengamannar Public Editor
Angad Deol Talha Anwar Chaudhry, Associate Sports Editor Sarah Kronenfeld, Nawa Tahir Associate Senior Copy Editors Sarah Folk, Anastasiya Gordiychuk Associate B&L Editors Marta Anielska, Khatchig Anteblian, Makena Mwenda, Jessica Han Victoria Santana Associate News Editors Associate Design Editors Mélyna Lévesque, Rebeca Moya, Shernise Mohammed-Ali Celene Czarnota Associate Comment Editors Associate Illustration Editors Joshua Chong, Caroline Bellamy, Jadine Ngan Nathan Ching Associate Features Editors Associate Photo Editors Elena Fouldis, Abby Dollries Mikaela Toone Associate Video Editor Associate A&C Editors Aanya Bahl, Valeria Khudiakova Associate Science Editors Lead Copy Editors: Marta Anielska, Khatchig Anteblian, Carmina Cornacchia, Sahir Dhalla, Nancy Dutra, Robert Guglielmin, Ananya Gupta, Christina Lam, Jade Goh McMillen, Aaliyah Mulla, Duaa Nasir, Safiya Patel, Julia Da Silva, Grace Xu, Malka Younas, Cherry Zhang Copy Editors: Caleb Chan, Esther Choi, Melissa D’Amico, Dana Hamze, Zarmina Jabarkhil, Morgan Lee, Naim Lim, Rebecca Skoll, Kiri Stockwood, Yan Xu
Joy Fan Business Manager
Parmis Mehdiyar email@example.com Advertising Executive Angelina Ouyang firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Executive The Varsity is the University of Toronto’s largest student newspaper, publishing since 1880. It is printed by Master Web Inc. on recycled newsprint stock. Content © 2020 by The Varsity. All rights reserved. Any editorial inquiries and/or letters should be directed to the sections associated with them; emails listed above. The Varsity reserves the right to edit all submissions.
Ibnul Chowdhury Editor-in-Chief
Following a successful levy campaign in spring 2018, The Varsity was poised to enter a new era of growth. Initially, it did — new money helped Volume 139 pay editors fairer and hire new positions, among other important developments. Then came the first storm: the Student Choice Initiative (SCI). Opt outs necessitated critical cuts to Volume 140 and undermined the previous year’s expansions. And though the SCI was struck down later that year, we were soon hit with another, more menacing crisis. The pandemic turned life upside down, including our own little world at The Varsity. Without in-person activities, our connections to readers and the dynamic campus life that underlines our work have faced serious challenges. With our operations moved online, the hallways of our office — which are so central to our staff ’s sense of community and belonging — have been ruled by absence and silence. Zoom calls and Slack chats, while having served as valuable substitutes, can only go so far to compensate for the losses. And yet, despite the overwhelming difficulties with which we found ourselves dealing all year, I am more hopeful than ever about the state and fate of this newspaper. That optimism is owed to the people who — in the guiding words of my exemplary predecessors, Josie, Jack, Jacob, Alex — are at the heart of this paper, who pressed on through thick and thin, knowing that they are intimately involved in telling the rough drafts of U of T’s history. Each member of our team has pushed boundaries, against all odds — proving that no crisis can take us down. Hannah and Lauren’s news team, with the support of bureau chiefs Hafsa, Alexa, and Isabel, executed stellar in-depth coverage of the pandemic’s impact on all corners of the university community. Nadine accentuated focus on growing mental health and accessibility concerns in our opinion pages, while Ori highlighted unique personal and club experiences of disconnection. With Stephanie’s incredible features team, we’ve maintained our award-winning reputation. Spencer wonderfully fulfilled the business section’s expanded labour mandate at a time when workers need crucial attention, while Tahmeed brought refreshing balance and personality to our science coverage. Special shoutouts belong to Sports Editor Laura for delivering important wellness and fitness content
in a year without games, and to Megan and Maya, the invisible heroes who defended our high accuracy standards. Meanwhile, against a year of despair, Nathalie’s creative leadership brought life and spirit to our words — with elegant design from Will and Aditi, beautiful cover illustrations by Fiona, and the cutest of pet photo essays from Samantha’s team. With print circulation reduced due to the pandemic, The Varsity struggled to cope with the heightened pressure on online outreach and engagement this year. Nonetheless, our digital team — Silas, Munachi, Andrew, Zack, and Rahul — made great strides in enhancing our website and delivering digital-exclusive products. Dina, Joy, Adam, and Andy made us incredibly proud when they represented the paper and hosted an amazing digital NASH conference. Our Business Office, composed of Joy, Parmis, and Angelina, met our print ad dilemma head on — innovating new online ad strategies that will prepare us for the future. All of these people — in addition to our 600 contributors, 152 of whom are staff — tirelessly and resiliently delivered important work. They made an impossible year possible. And while their big picture achievements will certainly take the front seat in my memory of the volume, I also recognize that what often inspired me to keep going in the thick of it were the smaller victories of the day. It’s the new contributor sharing their first Varsity content on social media, a comment or email of appreciation for a job well done, that sigh of relief after a high-stakes article finally makes its way to the audience, and that big error that’s caught prior to publication. These private wins and lowkey triumphs, which often go forgotten as we move from one tumultuous week to the next, bring me back to what we’re all doing here in the first place — to the idea that it’s all worth it in the end. Over the past two years, equity has been central to our organization’s focus — not only in terms of the quality and range of our coverage of marginalized communities, but how we go about building meaningful relationships and improving representation within our own organization. I am pleased with the groundwork we have laid, including our equity guide, staff demographic survey collection, and compensation for special issues like Black History Month. But there is always more to do — and I am excited to see how Volume 142 builds on these foundational steps to make this newspaper more accessible and
The outgoing EIC reviews the past year and shares hopes for the year ahead. NATHAN CHAN/THEVARSITY
empowering for all students. And I can imagine no better person to lead the next chapter than Hannah, our next editor-in-chief. Hannah brings years of rich news experience and calm, trustworthy judgement to the table. Her vision to reinvigorate The Varsity’s internal sense of community and the paper’s place within the wider U of T community is of utmost importance as we head toward a post-pandemic world. We’ve had enough crises for a while — I wish her nothing but normalcy. Before closing this letter, I would be remiss not to thank Nathalie, Silas, and Kathryn. At times of panic and pressure, they offered helpful reassurance and necessary pushback — ensuring that the decisions we made together were far better than the ones I would have made alone. To the readers: thank you. I hope that we have kept you informed as we worked to keep campus institutions accountable through the pandemic. To our contributors: I hope that we have served as a reliable platform for your voice. Our pages will always belong to you. To the next generation of The Varsity: go on, capture, and relish those big moments. But also remember to pause at times and appreciate the little things that keep you going. Here’s to small victories. — Ibnul Chowdhury Editor-in-Chief, Volume CXLI
The masthead thanks all of our staff and contributors! Varsity Staff: Ellithia Adams, Janhavi Agarwal, Amena Ahmed, Jasmin Akbari Akbari, Janine Alhadidi, Ananya Ananth, Adriana Areco, Rachel Banh, Toryanse Blanchard, Jonathan Blumenthal, Mia Carnevale, Gabriel Carter Carter, Guiller Lorenzo Cenizal, Eloisa Cervantes, Joy Chan, Ayra Chantiqa Putri Wibowo, Rachel E. Chen, Linda Chen, Cindy Chen, Vivian Cheng, Amanda Cheung, Sidney Choi, Ryan Chow, Carmina Cornacchia, Melissa Cusack Striepe, Julia Da Silva, Alex Denhart, Sahir Dhalla, Anita Ding, Joseph Donato, Nancy Dutra, Ehsan Etesami, Hannah Fleisch, Razaan Ganatra, Robert Guglielmin, Ananya Gupta, Kate Haberl, Mohammad Haddadnia, Evelyn Hayes, Isobel Heintzman, Charlotte Hood, Drishti Jalan, Cedric Jiang, Holly Johnstone, Karen Kan, Sky Kapoor, Mary Katharine Kennedy, Zach Koh, Vanessa Lai, Christina Lam, Jessica Lam, Alex Levesque, Yi Xuan Li, Rosalind Liang, Mona Liu, William Lloyd, Jennifer Lou, Ambika Maharaj, Hayden Mak Long Hei, Kathryn Mannie, Krisha Mansukhani, Anita Mazumdar-Moscato, Isabella Mckay, Jade Goh McMillen, Kristal Menguc, Oeshi Mukherjee, Aaliyah Mulla, Duaa Nasir, Veronika Nayir, Aline Nayir, Joel Ndongmi, Safiya Patel, Ana Pereira, Michael Phoon, Teresa Pian, Shreya Prakash, Sapolnach Prompiengchai, Jareeat Purnava, Diya Ratti, Savannah Ribeiro, Rebecca Rocco, Farheen Sikandar, Sierra Simopoulos, Avishai Sol, Kiri Stockwood, Ashiana Sunderji, Isabella Tan, Rahul Tarak, Lisa Toi, Rosemary Twomey, Sonia Uppal, Milidae Uy, Alex Waddell, Teresa Wang, Eva Wissting, Grace Xu, Yan Xu, Jessie Yang, Malka Younas, Candice (Lee) Zhang, Cherry Zhang, Andrea Zhao, Imane Zouhar Varsity Contributors: Fatima Abdulla, Rihan Abu Affan, Samarth Agarwal, Safa Ahmad, Momina Ahmed, Abi Akinlade, Anna Aksenovich, Noor Al Kaabi, Khadija Alam, Pamela Alamilla, Armin Ale, David Allens, Bana Almughrabi, Jerusha Alvares, TJ Amaro Amaro, Lydia Angarso, Ungku Zoe Anysa, Ceara Arellano, Reshma Aser, Yasmeen Atassi, Oliver Atherton, Margaret Atkinson, Aminah Attar Attar, Asdghig Ayntabli, Jennifer Ayow, Ilya Banares, Chloe Bantle, Alessia Baptista, Alicia Battaglia, Shyloe Beals, Koen Bertens, Caroline Biel, Joshua Bienstock, Emily Bosenius, Angela Bosenius, Eliana Bravos, Anna Brisco Brisco, Abigail Brown, Angela Cai, Oana Calin, Miranda Carroll, Isabella Cesari, Caleb Chan, Siu Ching Chan, Rebecca Chan, Eva Chang, Aditya Chawla, Elizabeth Chen, Theodore Cheung, Esther Choi, Megan Chong, Meghna Choudry, Mayesha Chowdhury, Jessica Cluett, Martin Concagh, Aleksa Cosovic, Ciera Couto, Sarah Cummings, Emmy Curtis, Arushi Dahiya, Giselle Dalili, Sabrina Daniele, Mohamed Dasu, Rushil Dave, Vanshika Dhawan, Sasha Dhesi, Benjamin Ding, Christina Ditlof, Natasha Djuric, Liam Donovan, Paul Downes, Arissa Du, Javiera Gutierrez Duran, Sarah Eid, Adam El Masri, Yassine Elbaradie, Layan Elfaki, Alex Erickson, Muzna Erum, Andre Fajardo, Karen Fang, Alisina Fatemi, Alison Feise, Ililli Fekadu Terefe, Annie Feng, Eva Cappucine Ferguson, Ari Finsson, Michelle Fornasier, Johanna Fortes, Vera Frantseva, Jennifer Furman, Mai Ge, Lubaba Gemma, Nicole Giebler, Drew-Anne Glennie, Will Gotlib, Chiara Greco, Can Gultekin, Divya Gupta, Vinicio Corral Gutiérrez, Kate Haberl, Rana Haider, Reese Halfyard, David Halim, Keltie Hamilton, Dana Hamze, Irene Han, James Hannay, Zaky Hassan, Padideh Hassanpour, Mick Hauptunsplash, Laura Hernadez, Amira Higazy, Lilian Ho, Belinda Hoang, Matthew Hoffman, Ashley Howard, Angel Hsieh Hsieh, Steven Hu, Tony Hu, Rachel Hughes, Sarina Ianelli, Asif Aisha Ibrahim, Rehnuma Islam, Liya Izmukhan, Zarmina Jabarkhil, Jarryd Jager, Atbin Jahandideh, Mahika Jain, Fatima Jamil, Sasha Jennings, Hyerin Jeong, Rhea Jerath, Lateef Johar, Kelly Anne Johnson, Jla Starr Johnson, Gagandeep Joshal, Olivia Kairu, Sayilaja Kalaimohan, Cindy Njoki Kamau, Ryu Won Kang, Josie Kao, Chloe Kapanen, Firdous Kareemuddin, Mehran Karimzade, Azadeh Kashani, Halimah Kasmani, Rachel Keir, Erin Kelly, Elisha Kelman, Maria (Ayesha) Khan, Ali Khan, Khaleda Khan, Easha Khan, Andrew Yang Ki, Chloe Kim, Imani King, Katherine Kinross, Lily Knaggs, Srivindhya Kolluru, Michelle Krasovitski, Jey Kumarasamy, Andrea Kuntjoro, Yoon-Ji Kweon, Janus Kwong, Jacky Lai, Zara Lal, Adam A. Lam, Corinne Langmuir, Benjamin Lappalainen, Nicola Lawford, Yerin Lee, Seoyeon Lee, Marissa Lee, Channy Lee, Morgan Lee, Amie Leung, Natasha Lewis, No Li, Steve Li, Isabel Lim, Naim Lim, Mona Liu, Matthew Lo, Elaine Lok, Gigi Lone, Gladys Lou, Claire Luc, Ingrid Ma, Richenne Macaranas, Maggie MacInnis, Violet Mackintosh, Sara Maclure, Vurjeet Madan, Yehia Mahdi, Ashley Manou, Emily Marshall, Peter Mason, Don McCarthy, Jesse McDouggall, Ciara McGarry, Henry McGowan, Hayley McKay, Jaime McLaughlin, Aamyneh Mecklai, Chaerim Meera, Kellsy Ann Meneses, Audrey Miatello, Rebecca Michaels, Sofia Michaels, Ivan Miliukov, Kaitlyn Min, Shruti Misra, Furqan Mohamed, Meera Mohindra, Anira Mohsen, John Montefiore, Leah Mpinga, Amaial Mullick, Oviya Muralidharan, Ashley Mutasa, Malaika Nasir, Sumaiya Nathani, Noora Zahedi Neysiani, Bao Li Ng, Margaret Ng, Natalie Ng, William Nguyen, Gina Nicoll, Hannah Nie, Caroline Noel, Amna Noor, Prisha Nuckchady, Huda Obaid, Emma Paidra, Valentina Palacio, Jack Pankratz, Grace Park, Mukti Patel, Justin Patrick, Guilherme Patury, Jaclyn Paul, Quinn Pauli, Sierra Peca, Lucia Pham, Rania Phillips, Varsha Pillai, Amanda Pompilii, Eden Prosser, Elisa Pugliese, Bathari Bayu Putri, Nikki Putric, Casey Qian, Sarit Radak, Jerico Raguindin, Basmah Ramadan, Destiny Mae Ramos-Alleyne, Anjali Rao, Evelia Raphael, Lucas Ratigan, Roshni Ravi, Jacqueline Renee, Padmaja Rengamannar, Madeleine Reyno, Kuorosh Rezaei, Justin Rhoden, Tyler Riches, Sarah Richter, Maia Roberts, John Robinson, Jake Rogers Rogers, Chan-Min Roh, Jacob Kates Rose, Kartik Rudra, Lwanga Rudra, Tamara Saadi, Yana Sadeghi, Saman Saeed, Paranjay Sahanii, Javokhirmirzo Saidov, Anushka Saini, Emily Sakaguchi, Fahed Sakr, Kashaf Salaheen, Jesraaj Sandher, Akshita Sangha, Kiara Sankhe, Daniel Santiago, Neha Sarraf, Emily Saso, Anson Sathaseevan, Dellannia Segreti, Saige Severin, Talia Shafir, Kavya Shah, Hana Sharifi, Shaina Sharma, Keah Sharma, Salma Sheikh-Mohamed, Ibrahim Shodeko, Thomas Siddall, Umama Siddiqi, Ana Brant Silva, Suramya Singh, Arjun Singh, Rebecca Skoll, Chris Slade, Gavin Smith, Elizabeth Snugovsky, Anna Sokolova, Cleo Sood, Deep Soor, Sophia Spiteri, Oscar Starschild, Sheldon Stern, Nathan Stone, Nicole Szabo, Andy Takagi, Florence Tang, Mizuka Tang, Adrian Tanjala, Martha Taylor, Lindsey Thurston, Leila Tjiang, Dana Tors, Ava Truthwaite, Vinayak Tuteja, Asma Unwala, Sila Usta, Nimit Vediya, Shankeri Vijayakumar, Nidhil Vohra, Michelle Wang, Winnie Wang, Hannah Wang, Rex Wang, Shantel Watson, Amelia Waud, Skylar Whitney, Niki Wickramasinghe, Sarah Williams, Charmain Wong, Grace Wu, Kevin Xiao, Kathy Xu, Sher Yao, Valeria Yao, Radmila Yarovaya, Chinmayi Yathiraju, Evangeline Yeung, Brandon Yu, Tony Yu, Judy Yue, Madison Zacharias, Maarya Zafar, Angelica Zahajko, Fatima Zaidi, Francesco Zangari, Aileen Zara, Amy Zhang, Meg Jianing Zhang, Allison Zhao, Zilun Zhao, Hao Zheng, Jennifer Zhong, Elaine Zhou, Sana Zuberi
APRIL 5, 2021
“A huge mistrust”: UMLAP town halls receive concerns about mental health disclosures Joshua Chong Associate Features Editor
UTSU survey finds half of respondents less likely to seek help due to fear of policy
On March 23 and 31, U of T hosted town halls for community members to provide feedback on the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP) as part of the policy’s three-year review. Participants expressed concerns that the policy discourages students from seeking mental health support. The town halls are part of a wider consultation process that was scheduled to end in May but was extended until the fall after requests by several student unions. They were hosted by lead reviewer Professor Donald Ainslie and Assistant Dean of Student Success and Career Support Varsha Patel, who is a member of the review team. Of the 85 individuals who took part in the town halls, a majority were students, but several faculty members and other staff were also present. The UMLAP was approved by the Governing Council in June 2018. The controversial policy allows the university to place students on leave if they pose a potential threat to themselves or others, or if they are unable to fulfill essential tasks required to pursue an education due to mental health-related issues. Data on UMLAP usage Ainslie opened each of the town halls with a presentation on the policy. He explained that the UMLAP has been invoked a total of nine times from 2018–2020 — eight times in the 2018–2019 academic year and once in 2019–2020. Five of the nine students have since returned to their studies, including one who returned in the 2020–2021 academic year. Six of the cases were “urgent situations” in which a student’s behaviour posed a “significant risk of harm to others.” Ainslie said that when a situation is designated as ‘urgent,’ “it allows the university to remove the student from campus and protect the university community.” Ainslie also noted that, in the 2019–2020 academic year, division heads requested the viceprovost students to invoke the policy seven times, though authorization was only granted for one case. Data on the number of UMLAP requests from division heads was not tracked in 2018–
2019. In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson said that division heads have requested that the UMLAP be invoked three times so far in the 2020–2021 academic year. All three requests were granted by the vice-provost students. This brings the number of times the UMLAP has been invoked since its approval in June 2018 to a total of 12. Full data for the 2020–2021 academic year will not be released until the fall. The spokesperson also wrote, “One issue Prof. Ainslie and his team will be considering includes the question of how best to track race-, disability-, and other equity-related data on the use of the Policy, given the small numbers involved. The review team has already met with the university’s Equity Directors to hear their thoughts on the Policy.”
UTSU survey on perception of the UMLAP On March 23, University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Vice-President Public & University Affairs Tyler Riches presented the preliminary findings from the UTSU’s survey of its members regarding their perceptions of the policy at the town hall. Of the 135 survey respondents, 47 per cent had a negative impression of the UMLAP, and 38.1 per cent had neither a positive nor negative impression of the policy. However, 49.8 per cent of respondents indicated they were less willing to seek mental health support from the university due to the possibility of the policy being invoked. “There are actual real tangible concerns with the language and with the structure of the policy itself that we believe needs to be addressed,” said Riches. In an email to The Varsity, they wrote that the UTSU is planning to analyze the survey data and craft a set of recommendations. The UTSU hopes to receive feedback on these recommendations from its membership before submitting its findings to the UMLAP Review Team and university administration in the early fall. The UTSU was also one of the unions that asked the university for the recent extension to the UMLAP review process. In an email to The Varsity, Riches welcomed the change, writing that “extending the timeline for the policy review into the fall semester will allow for more students to
UTM will offer both in-person and remote options in fall 2021 Campus’ vaccine clinic administers 20,000 doses
An aerial photo of the UTM campus.
COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
participate in the consultation process and get informed about the policy.” However, Riches wrote that they want to see the university promote these town halls more effectively. “It’s likely that most students aren’t even aware that this process is happening.” Additionally, they noted that the session should be held “in a neutral and impartial way, without bias towards the administration and the current iteration of UMLAP.”
Concerns about the UMLAP deterring students from seeking help Other town hall participants also expressed concern that the UMLAP deters students from seeking mental health support from the university. “The threat of this policy [being used against them] really disincentivizes students from disclosing mental health struggles or concerns both within and outside of the university,” said one participant. “There’s a huge mistrust between students and the institution.” “The threat of being put on mandated leave if I come forth to the university about my mental
health is likely to make me avoid coming to the university about my mental health at all costs,” said You-Jin Kim, a second-year student at UTSC. In response, Ainslie said that the policy is only invoked in extremely rare cases “when all the normal ways in which we accommodate students with health challenges aren’t working for one reason or another.” When asked about how the UMLAP would affect existing financial assistance, Ainslie acknowledged that it is different for each case. He indicated that the university may offer tuition remission or connect the student with an Ontario Student Assistance Program advisor to help students manage their financial needs while on leave. Some participants also raised concerns that a mandatory leave of absence would affect students’ housing arrangements. Director of the Office of the Vice-Provost Students and Student Policy Advisor Melinda Scott, who answered questions in the town hall chat, wrote that students who are placed on leave will each be assigned a case manager. Scott added that the case manager will “work with them to ensure they have safe, supportive housing.”
Hafsa Ahmed UTM Bureau Chief
UTM has announced that classes in fall 2021 are anticipated to be a combination of in-person and online options as the vaccination effort continues to grow in Ontario and at the THP (Trillium Health Partners) UTM RAWC (Recreation, Athletics & Wellness Centre) clinic. For all U of T students, U of T President Meric Gertler has announced an intention to return to in-person learning in the fall, though he has not made a commitment to continue offering remote options.
pus safety, including improvements in classroom ventilation and comprehensive protocols for cleaning and sanitation. The campus will also continue mask-wearing policies and will implement “innovative strategies for physical distancing.” For students looking at the prospect of commuting to in-person classes in the fall, Dean of Student Affairs Mark Overton wrote in an email to The Varsity that the return of shuttle bus services will likely be determined in June, alongside the release of the fall 2021 course schedule. “Most students who come to campus will likely continue to opt to do so by public transit or private vehicle,” he wrote.
Course delivery and commuting In a letter addressed to the UTM community, Vice-President & Principal Alexandra Gillespie wrote that UTM plans to teach students “wherever they are” this fall. UTM is considering multiple scenarios and will prepare to offer a combination of in-person and remote course delivery in September. “The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, librarians and local communities remains our top priority,” wrote Gillespie in an email to The Varsity. She also said the campus will continue to work closely with Peel Public Health and local health care providers on a “collaborative and scientifically informed response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” For fall 2021, Gillespie wrote that UTM will continue implementing measures for cam-
Vaccination efforts at UTM Gillespie also wrote in her letter that she is “encouraged by Ontario’s progress with vaccinations.” She continued, “I hope that we can gather together in September for in-person teaching, learning and research on UTM’s beautiful campus.” As of April 1, UTM reached the milestone of delivering 20,000 vaccinations through the clinic on campus. The THP UTM RAWC clinic’s capacity is anticipated to reach 4,000 COVID-19 vaccinations per day in subsequent phases depending on vaccine supply, and is currently booking appointments for people aged 60 years and up in accordance with provincial guidelines. The clinic plans to administer over 500,000 vaccine doses in total.
2021 Ontario budget shows decrease in postsecondary funding, expansion of OSAP eligibility
CFS–Ontario, OCUFA call for more financial assistance Jessica Han Associate News Editor
On March 24, the Ontario Ministry of Finance released the Ontario 2021 budget, which focuses on the province’s action plan to tackle COVID-19 in the upcoming fiscal year, alongside mental health spending, tuition caps, and funding for postsecondary institutions. Funding for the postsecondary education sector decreased in the 2020–2021 year from the previous year, but it is expected to consistently increase for the next three years. The budget has faced criticism, including from the Canadian Federation of Students– Ontario (CFS–O), for a lack of adequate funding to post-secondary education. Tuition caps, funding postsecondary institutions In the 2019–2020 academic year, the province implemented a 10 per cent decrease in tuition fees for Ontario students who were enrolled in a funding-eligible program at a publicly funded university or college. The government also froze tuition for the 2020–2021 year. With the goal of increasing the number of people working in long-term care and fixing long-standing challenges, Ontario is also implementing a publicly-funded and tuitionfree personal support workers (PSW ) training program for 6,000 new students. Furthermore, approximately 2,200 current students will be eligible for a new $2,000 tuition grant, which is meant to help PSW students complete their studies. The students will also receive a stipend for the clinical placement area of their training. Lastly, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) eligibility and funding will
be expanded for micro-credential programs, which provide students with additional skills and qualifications. In terms of funding postsecondary institutions, the provincial government will provide a base operating grant fund of $3.6 billion to Ontario’s 21 publicly funded universities in the 2021–2022 school year. Another $1.4 billion will be given to Ontario’s 24 publicly funded colleges. This funding will assist in several general operating expenses, such as program delivery, student services, and staffing. An additional $106.4 million is to be provided for colleges and universities to aid in addressing COVID-19 financial impacts in the 2020–2021 school year, as mentioned by Scott Clark, Press Secretary of the Minister of Colleges and Universities, in an email to The Varsity. Clark also pointed out that $466 million will be given to publicly assisted postsecondary institutions over the course of three years, and this funding has already begun in 2020–2021. The funding is to help “address the need for critical maintenance, repairs, upgrades and renewals.” Criticisms of postsecondary budget In an email to The Varsity, Kayla Weiler, a national executive representative of the CFS–O, wrote that she believes the province and Doug Ford’s government have “missed the mark and left students behind.” As an example, Weiler noted that the Ford government and Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano had cut a significant amount from OSAP. “Students are already facing some of the highest tuition rates in the country and the lowest per-capita student funding,” Weiler
The Ontario 2021 budget was released on March 24.
ASIF AISHA IBRAHIM/THEVARSITY
wrote, pointing out that OSAP funding decreased from $10.5 billion in 2019–2020 to $10.3 billion in the 2020–2021 year. “Students shouldn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying rent or attending a post-secondary institution,” Weiler concluded. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) put out a statement on the budget on March 24, criticizing it for failing to support universities and pointing to the large role of university research during COVID-19. “Under the Ford government, per-student funding for universities will drop even further, as institutions will be expected to increase enrolment over the next three years without any additional money,” reads the statement. The statement mentioned the provincial government’s choice to expand OSAP eligibility for students studying at Indigenous institutes and for micro-credential programs, but expressed regret that the move was not matched with additional OSAP funding.
Mental health and substance use disorder spending In the coming year, Ontario will be providing additional funding of $175 million to assist with mental health and substance use disorders, which is part of an overall 10-year investment of $3.8 billion. Alongside the funding, the plan has several mental health projects either in construction or in planning. In southwestern Ontario, there will be renovations to the Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s Tayfour site to allow consolidation of mental health services. On the eastern side, the Carlington Community Health Centre will undergo construction to consolidate various programs into a new facility — one of which is the mental health program. The province will also issue funding to help postsecondary students during the pandemic. An extra $7 million has been allocated in 2020–2021 to expand the accessibility of mental health and substance use disorder services. This $7 million funding builds on a bigger investment of $19.25 million broadcasted in October 2020. The funding is meant to help the needs of students through on-campus and virtual services.
UTGSU March council meeting approves levy fee increases, retroactive executive payments
Annual increases to health, dental plan fees passed with additional benefits
Isabel Armiento Graduate Bureau Chief
The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) General Council met on March 30 to approve levy fee increases for the 2022 fiscal year. The executives also provided updates to the health and dental plans, and retroactive payments to one current executive and one past executive. Executive reports University Governance Commissioner Lwanga
Musisi spoke about his recent efforts to work with the university to revise the university-mandated leave of absence policy. Finance Commissioner An-Noûra Compaoré reported that she has been working on the spring 2021 conference bursary, and Academics and Funding Commissioner Divisions 3 & 4 June Li updated the council on her work for the UTGSU’s basic funding initiative. Civics and Environment Commissioner Danielle Karakas reported that she has been advocating for affordable student housing, and she has been working toward officializing a partnership
The executives also provided retroactive payments to one current executive and one past executive. GABRIEL CARTER/THEVARSITY
between the UTGSU and the UofT Emergency Food Bank. As the chair of the Equity and Advocacy committee, External Commissioner Jacqui Spencer reported that the committee “strongly suggested” that the UTGSU hire an equity officer. Spencer added that the committee has pushed for the UTGSU executives to participate in antisemitism training, and that she coordinated the training for the executive team. Other executives did not give reports orally at the council meeting, but submitted written reports instead. Academics and Funding Commissioner Divisions 1 & 2 Dhanela Sivaparan wrote that she has helped graduate students seek extended tuition relief due to COVID-19. Levy fee increases The council then passed a motion approving a 0.7 per cent cost of living increase of the UTGSU levy fee, paid by student members, for the 2022 fiscal year. This fee, which will increase to $64.65, will be collected in two equal sessional amounts. The increase was passed as an omnibus motion and will apply to four levy groups: Bikechain, the Sexual Education Centre, and the Canadian Federation of Students on both the federal and provincial levels. The council also approved a four per cent fee increase to the UTGSU health plan. This fee will be collected in two equal sessional amounts. According to UTGSU Health Plan Administrator Shain Abdulla, this increase will offer students access to more benefits, which will come into effect on September 1. These benefits will include enhanced student travel insurance for COVID-19, the addition of occupational therapy,
and a new mental health tool called “Empower Me.” The council also passed a motion to increase the dental plan fees by three per cent, which will increase the fee to $255.10 for the year. Executive honorarium retroactive payment The council members passed two motions about retroactively paying executives, which were both vocally supported by several council members. The first motion dictated that the full finance commissioner honorarium from May 1 to November 15 be paid to Musisi for taking on the duties of the finance commissioner during that time. The passing of this motion rectifies past controversy about the executives voting to backpay Musisi without consulting the council. “[Musisi] as finance commissioner went above and beyond,” said Li. “I think it’s time that we properly compensate [him].” The next motion dedicated that former Executive Member-at-Large Mateja Perovic receive finance commissioner honorarium for April 2020, when she took on the duties of finance commissioner. Council member Juliana Adema spoke in support of this motion. “In the spirit of paying people for their work, I think that [Perovic] should be given the finance commissioner honorarium for that month that she did those jobs,” Adema said. The council then discussed an item regarding member misconduct in camera, meaning nonmembers were excluded from the discussion. In an email to The Varsity, the executives later wrote that “a reprimand was brought forward for a member and they will be reprimanded according to UTGSU Bylaw.”
APRIL 5, 2021
IHRP controversy report concludes external pressure did not influence hiring decision Changes recommended to record decisions, create policy on third-party inquiries
Marta Anielska Associate News Editor
On March 15, former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Albert Cromwell released the report on his independent review into the controversy surrounding the hiring of Valentina Azarova as the director of the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at U of T’s Faculty of Law. The controversy began in September, after Azarova alleged that the faculty rescinded a job offer following external influence by a judge who was concerned about her potential appointment due to her writings on Palestine. Cromwell concluded that he “would not draw the inference” that external influence affected the dean’s decision to discontinue Azarova’s candidacy given the facts at hand. The report confirms that alum and donor Judge David Spiro of the federal tax court did approach an assistant vice-president after being asked by a member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs to find out the state of Azarova’s candidacy. However, Cromwell noted that though the dean of the Faculty of Law at that time, Edward Iacobucci, knew of Spiro’s inquiry, he considered it “irrelevant” to his decision. Since the release of the report, U of T professors and other current and former members of the IHRP community have been vocal about what they see as a discrepancy between the facts and the conclusion. Report findings Cromwell’s report established a timeline for the events that occurred during the hiring process of the director of the IHRP and later resulted in the Azarova hiring story. According to Cromwell, Spiro “indicated” in a conversation with the assistant vice-president that the appointment of Azarova would be “controversial and could cause reputational harm to the University.” Cromwell could not determine whether the assistant vice-president approached Iacobucci, though a later email implies that she did. He also confirmed that the dean eventually found out about the controversy through the assistant dean of alumni and development. Iacobucci denied that his inquiry into the hir-
ing process and his ultimate decision to discontinue Azarova’s candidacy was influenced by the concerns Spiro raised. Ultimately, Cromwell concluded that the primary factors in discontinuing her candidacy were residence and timing complications. On September 3, the assistant dean, who had been heavily involved in the hiring process, was informed by German legal counsel that the university’s plan to hire Azarova as an independent contractor until she could obtain a work permit could be interpreted as “illegal.” In his reasoning for concluding that external influence did not play a role in the dean’s decision, Cromwell explained that such an inference could not be supported by some of the facts and that the “willingness to draw the inference gives no weight to the Dean’s insistence that external influence played no role in his decision.” Based on his findings, Cromwell made several recommendations as to how the university can avoid such controversy in the future. These recommendations include that key decisions should be recorded, a policy should be created that explicitly outlines how to deal with third-party inquiries on recruitment, and the role of the selection committee should be outlined more clearly. University reactions In response to Cromwell’s findings, U of T President Meric Gertler released a statement reaffirming the university’s dedication to strengthen its policy and protocols in accordance with the recommendations made. Gertler accepted the recommendations made for protecting confidentiality and agreed to examine forms of protection for staff in non-academic positions that might require them to take unpopular stances. Moreover, he stated that he had already written to Azarova to apologize for the breach of confidentiality. In an email to The Varsity, Gertler added that the university would focus on creating a protocol for handling third-party inquiry into the recruitment process and “reaffirm that attempts by anyone… to block, prevent or disqualify an applicant in a hiring process on the basis of the candidate’s religious or political views, scholarly or other public work or social activism must be firmly rejected.”
The Jackman Law Building.
The new dean of the Faculty of Law, Jutta Brunnée, added that she looks forward to promoting reconciliation by engaging with the community, and that the IHRP will begin to search for a new candidate after having more conversations with members of the Faculty of Law community. Community criticisms Several relevant university stakeholders were unsatisfied with the conclusion of the report. In an email to The Varsity, Vincent Wong, a former IHRP research assistant who resigned due to the controversy, wrote that Cromwell’s report confused external influence as the primary factor with external influence as one of the factors of the dean’s decision to discontinue the candidacy. “It is very reminiscent of a lot of human rights cases in which, for instance, sexism or racism cannot be pointed to as the primary factor motivating a decision… but all the contextual factors point to discriminatory treatment,” Wong explained. He added that Cromwell seemed very willing to accept the dean’s denial of external influence despite the “contextual factors.” Wong wrote that the report is a prime example of how rhetoric could be used to come to any conclusion, and that many of the people who had decision-making powers in the university’s handling of the situation were white men. “The consequences speak for themselves: Dr. Azarova has still lost her job, I as a person of colour have lost my job in order to faithfully bring details of this incident to light, Palestinian rights and international law with respect to the Israel/
Palestine situation are now demonstrably a taboo subject in the law school, and the white men who are at the heart of this impropriety have thus far escaped any sort of accountability.” In a Toronto Star article, Shree Paradkar argued that if the review is to be believed, then the barriers that led to Azarova’s candidacy, such as questions of whether she would need to be present during summers, no longer apply. Paradkar argued that the university could, and should, still hire Azarova. That same piece quoted Denise Reaume, a professor in the Faculty of Law, as claiming that since the position of director still needs to be filled and since the university has until September to do so, there is a lot of time for Azarova to obtain a work permit. In an article for iPolitics, Alan Freeman raised concerns about the report’s lack of investigation into how Azarova’s name was leaked in the first place. Wong expressed a similar sentiment, writing that “The bottom line is that a breach occurred, an attempt to interfere took place, and the appointment of a highly qualified person was derailed.” With respect to the censure of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) — who had previously threatened U of T with censure — Gertler released a letter he sent the organization that claimed, “In view of Mr. Cromwell’s findings… there is no factual foundation to support your motion and it should not move ahead.” Wong, on the other hand, hopes that the CAUT will continue putting pressure on the university “until redress is done for those harmed, but particularly [for Azarova].”
UTSC launches first Scarborough Hero Awards in partnership with community organizations To be given to individuals, businesses that have helped during pandemic
Alexa DiFrancesco UTSC Bureau Chief
UTSC has partnered with Centennial College, the Scarborough Health Network (SHN), and the Toronto Zoo to create the first-ever Scarborough Hero Awards to honour exceptional community groups, businesses, and individuals who have made a difference in the community during the pandemic. The Scarborough Hero Awards winners were scheduled to be announced on April 17 at an inperson event at the Toronto Zoo. However, since Ontario was moved into a province-wide lockdown that started on April 3 and limited outdoor public events to five people or less, no alternative plans have been announced. Citizens were able to nominate individuals, businesses, or groups in Scarborough until April 4.
Nomination and selection process The awards are categorized into seven categories: community action/service; health, honouring frontline health workers; education; environmental; good neighbour; outstanding youth leader; and outstanding organization/business leader. The nominations will be condensed to five nominees per category by a panel. U of T Vice-President and UTSC Principal Wisdom Tettey is part of the panel currently deciding the recipients. Other panel members include representatives from Centennial College, SHN, and the Toronto Zoo. Once the nominations have been narrowed down, a jury panel consisting of Scarborough City Councillors will determine the final winners for each category. The Scarborough Business Association, Scarborough Community Renewal Organization, and the Rotary Club of Scarborough will also assist in determining winners for business and community categories.
U of T Vice-President and UTSC Principal Wisdom Tettey.
COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO SCARBOROUGH
Support of UTSC, City of Toronto In a statement on the SHN’s website, Tettey wrote on behalf of UTSC, “As an institution that is proud of our amazing community and values our many partnerships in it, we are honoured to be part of this laudable community initiative and call on everyone to help give our local heroes their due recognition and to celebrate them by sending in nominations.” Tettey also added that the “heroic work and impactful acts of generosity by these neighbours may not
always be visible, and yet they are enriching, uplifting, and changing lives for the better every day.” City of Toronto Mayor John Tory wrote that he was “proud to see Scarborough coming together to recognize local individuals who are making a difference.” Tory added, “During the pandemic we have seen our city and its residents come together to support each other during these difficult times. All of those everyday heroes deserve to be celebrated and acknowledged.”
Contract cheating: shedding light on ghostwriting companies Perspectives from U of T admin, @chungessays
UTSU SGM 2021: Elections code amended to increase participation Discussion includes tuition advocacy, UMLAP, executive team transition
Khatchig Anteblian Associate News Editor
On March 27, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held a special general meeting. The union held the meeting on Zoom, which featured discussions on amendments to UTSU bylaws and the Election Procedure Code (EPC), transitioning to the new executive team for the coming year, as well as the UTSU’s advocacy on tuition and the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP).
Marta Anielska and Khatchig Anteblian Associate News Editors
In recent years, essay mills and assignmentproviding services have become a growing concern for U of T and educational institutions at large. While there is no indication that there has been an increase in U of T students using these services, ghostwriting — or paying someone else to write an assignment — is a form of plagiarism that is more difficult to detect than most. The Varsity investigated how these essay mills operate and how the university has responded to them. More broadly, companies provide a wide range of academic services to students, and it remains difficult to detect them when used. A look at data behind contract cheating In the university’s most recent report on academic integrity, released every November for the previous academic year, the data shows an increase in academic offence cases in the 2019–2020 academic year. The total number of closed cases where sanctions were imposed was 2,140 — 2.3 per cent of U of T’s student population — an increase from the average of about 1,636 cases each year from 2015–2019. Since 2015, the most common type of offence has been plagiarism. There were 1,124 cases in 2019–2020; however, it is unclear exactly how many of these cases are of purchased essays or assignments. U of T’s website for summaries of cases decided by the Academic Integrity Tribunal since 1999 only lists 187 cases with the tag “Plagiarism and/or purchased essay.” A U of T spokesperson wrote that “there is no indication of an increase in the number of cases of cheating by purchasing essays at U of T.” With the difficulty of tracing these cases, however, it is hard to say exactly how much it happens. Purchased essays may be harder to trace than other forms of plagiarism since websites like Turnitin only track material taken from existing sources, not new material purchased by a student. The spokesperson also noted that many essay-writing companies blackmail students by threatening to expose them to their university unless they make additional payments. “The University strongly encourages students to ask for an extension or other assistance rather than considering engaging in this behaviour,” the spokesperson wrote. In a later email to The Varsity, a university spokesperson added that the university supports the Academic Integrity Council of Ontario’s subcommittee on contract cheating,
which has developed an action plan to combat it. The plan includes raising awareness about contract cheating among university administration, faculty, staff, students, and relevant provincial and national education stakeholders; developing strategies to reduce contract cheating; and advocating for legislation to prosecute contract cheating services. A firsthand account of an essay-writing company In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson wrote that the purchasing of essays or assignments is one of the most egregious offences under the university’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. But even if students don’t seek out services, the services will frequently seek them out. Many essay-writing companies create Instagram accounts to follow students that appear to have connections to the universities they seek clients from. The Varsity reached out to @chungessays who, through an anonymous email used for the company’s services, replied to several questions. The writer explained that they decided to employ their skills by writing students’ essays for them after dropping out of university. They do not have a set price for their work and claim to be flexible in accordance with their client’s budget. While they do not ask for their clients’ personal information — such as their university — they wrote that they are “pretty sure [they] get some from [the] University of Toronto.” They also noted that they do receive more Canadian dollars than US dollars, indicating that they have more clients in Canada. When asked whether any of their clients have ever gotten caught for buying their services, the company insisted that this had never happened. They claimed they are very careful because they value their clients’ academic success and their own career. Instagram accounts for essay-writing services often follow many more similar accounts, not all of which exclusively cater to essay writing. Other service providers will write poems, do your math homework, or complete physics assignments. The U of T spokesperson noted that any student caught using one of these services will be referred to the University Tribunal. While this in itself is not outside of the ordinary, the university wrote that the sanctions against such actions “reflect the seriousness of the behaviour, and can result in multi-year suspensions.”
Bylaw and EPC amendments UTSU Vice-President Operations Dermot O’Halloran highlighted amendments to the EPC, initially enacted for the recent 2021 elections, which were made permanent at the meeting. The changes include allowing candidates to run for elections using their preferred names, and lowering the number of nominations that a candidate would need to run in a UTSU election from 25 to 20 for director candidates, and from 100 to 50 for executive candidates. “All of the amendments that we propose this year were to make the elections more accessible and to increase turnout,” O’Halloran said. However, voter turnout in the 2021 UTSU elections remained the same as last year. Additionally, from now on, election campaign expenses will be fully reimbursed as long as the candidate receives five per cent of the votes. Campaign expense limits have also been cut in half to $ 100 for director candidates. Aside from clarifications and corrections, the UTSU has amended its bylaw on policies to simplify governance and establish clear policy definitions. O’Halloran said that the changes were made “so that [the UTSU] can continue to build a policy manual that is sensible and intuitive for incoming executive and board members.” The UTSU also made amendments to bylaws regarding finances. This was motivated by the changes that had to be made and reversed because of the Student Choice Initiative. UTSU President Muntaka Ahmed addressed the changes, mentioning that they’re
aimed to be accessible to all members and to establish a framework allowing for members to more easily make changes to governance policy as necessary. “[The changes are] to make sure that our governance is consolidated in a space where it’s accessible to members… and a lot of it still remains relevant for years to come,” said Ahmed. Tuition advocacy and the UMLAP Vice-President Public & University Affairs Tyler Riches spoke about the UTSU’s work regarding the UMLAP. The UTSU, along with other unions and student groups across the three campuses, wrote a letter to the university to extend the consultation period to ensure that more students are aware of the consultations and are able to participate. “Many students are busy with final assignments these days and might not be aware that this review is even happening or what the policy is,” said Riches, adding that the extension was granted by the university. Riches also highlighted the UTSU’s work on tuition advocacy, noting that the union has been advocating to cancel the university’s proposal to increase international tuition, to equalize tuition in deregulated programs like computer science, and to increase mental health funding. “The budget goes to government council on April 6, and we’re hoping to really make a lastminute push to try and get some of these recommendations implemented,” said Riches. Transitioning to a new executive team Ahmed spoke about the current work being done at the UTSU regarding the transition to the new executive team. The UTSU is working with its full-time staff to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU and are ready to move to the student commons. Ahmed also mentioned that the UTSU is working on a long-term strategic plan to grow in capacity as the union moves to the student commons. “The strategic plan hopes to touch on the gaps within the UTSU as well as our strengths right now, and how within a five- to 10-year scope, we are going to be building in capacity,” she said.
The UTSU is working to ensure that the new members are properly acclimated to the UTSU. JULIA MALOWANY/THEVARSITY
APRIL 5, 2021
SCSU WGM 2021: Motion to revoke BDS endorsement fails after contentious debate
Motions for equity training, sustainability committee pass
Boutique renting, reimagined.
The meeting featured a discussion on the BDS movement. MICHAEL PHOON/THEVARSITY
Alexa DiFrancesco UTSC Bureau Chief
On March 25, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) held its winter general meeting (WGM) over Zoom. The main item that the members debated was a motion for the SCSU to no longer endorse the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which failed after a lengthy discussion. Other items included the implementation of a sustainability committee, equity and diversity training for SCSU board members, and raising SCSU executives’ eligible course load from 1.0 full course equivalent (FCE) to 1.5 to accommodate international students. Discussion of BDS motion UTSC Jewish Student Life ( JSL) Co-President Maxwell Fine put forward a motion that the SCSU “no longer endorse the [BDS] brand” or “boycott racialised and anti-oppressive student organizations… that fall under groups boycotted by BDS.” The BDS movement is an attempt to economically pressure Israel to change its policies toward Palestine, including occupation of its territories. Critics of the movement characterize it as antisemitic, though proponents distinguish between the state of Israel and discrimination against Jewish people. It also called for the SCSU Policy and By-laws Committee and vice-president equity to review all future motions to ensure that they are not in violation of the SCSU’s equity policies. The motion also suggested that the SCSU present similar amendments to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) and University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) for adoption. A UTSC student spoke against the motion, claiming that “the solution is attempting yet again to silence Palestinian suffrage through imposing a blatant Zionist agenda.” Fine then clarified the motion’s intent, responding, “The oppression [of] Palestinians by the Israeli state is horrible, and we should stand with them. [The] motion doesn’t say we’re against that… we don’t need to support BDS to boycott Israel.” SCSU President Sarah Abdillahi spoke against the motion, claiming that the clause that suggests the SCSU present amendments to the CFS and UTGSU was irrelevant. “The SCSU cannot be mandated to present any formal recommendations or amendments to the [UTGSU]… [It has its] own constitution [and its] own internal procedure,” Abdillahi explained. One student, who identified as Jewish, said “I feel that by passing this motion you are saying that the emotions of Jewish students at Scarborough, who by the way, [are a] very small minority, will be forever ignored when it comes to everything.” Ultimately, Fine’s motion failed to pass. SCSU equity training motion The JSL also submitted a motion that called for SCSU executives to “undergo equity and diversity training by a resource of the choosing of racialized and persecuted minority student groups, such as Jewish students” within 45 days if a group submits a request for training to the vice-president equity. SCSU Vice-President Academics and University Affairs Lubaba Gemma requested to remove the clause that read that the SCSU would not be able to
decide on the organization doing the training. “[The] SCSU board and the executive team undergo a variety of equity and anti-oppression training throughout our terms. Often, the trading material would have been developed over the course of many years of research,” Gemma said. “The SCSU should reserve [its] right and authority in selecting organizations to be trained on based on that research, as we have in the past.” Abdillahi requested that the 45-day timeframe requirement be amended to three months, claiming that 45 days to research an organization might end with an unsatisfactory result. Abdillahi also listed cost as a factor for why the SCSU needed more time for training. “Since [the SCSU] is spending student fees on these trainings, we have to make sure that each and every one of the board members are present, and the staff members are present, and that they’re attending these trainings that we are paying for, and it requires a high level of coordination between everybody,” Abdillahi said. When Fine argued that the SCSU did not need to conduct much research “when they are given organization names by the people who requested it,” Abdillahi cited assignments, family duties, and the pandemic as reasons why the SCSU would not be able to conduct this research sooner. Both amendments and the motion passed.
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Sustainability committee Abdillahi motivated a motion to implement a sustainability committee at the SCSU, consisting of the president, vice-president campus life, vice-president equity, vice-president operations, two directors appointed by the SCSU board, two at-large students as voting members, and two non-voting members. Director of Physical & Environmental Sciences Michael Clement also suggested adding a representative from the U of T tri-campus student group, University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network (UTERN). “At least have a UTERN member there to guide the SCSU to make actual concrete goals, make actual changes, not just fancy lettering, fancy words,” Clement suggested. Clement’s amendments passed, and Abdillahi’s motion passed unanimously. Electoral equity for international students Abdillahi also introduced a motion to raise the number of credits SCSU executives can take per semester from 1.0 to 1.5 FCEs. While motivating the motion, Abdillahi claimed that there are numerous student unions that did not include the restriction in their bylaws, calling the restriction “very inequitable.” “International students… according to their student visa status, are obligated to take three or more courses to maintain their student status in Canada,” Abdillahi mentioned. “[This clause] is also very limiting for those [student executives] who have to maintain their full-time student status, and not be in… situations related to either [the Ontario Student Assistance Program] restrictions or financial positions.” Gemma also spoke in favour of the motion, adding, “It’s really vital that we do have those voices represented on the executive committee of the SCSU, particularly to identify the lived experiences of international students.” The motion passed unanimously.
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Business & Labour
April 5, 2021 vrsty.ca/business email@example.com
The Explainer: CUPE 3902’s bargaining, ratification of new collective agreement Chair, Unit 1 Vice-Chair on negotiation process, achieving better working conditions
Sarah Folk Associate Business & Labour Editor
On April 1, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 3902 Unit 1 membership voted to ratify its bargaining team’s proposed tentative agreement with U of T, making it the new collective agreement between the unit and the university until 2023. It’s replacing the unit’s prior collective agreement, which expired on December 31, 2020. The ratification averted a potential strike of the contract academic workers that CUPE 3902 represents — including teaching assistants and course instructors — and is the result of hours of bargaining between CUPE 3902 and U of T. The negotiations began in November and concluded with the signing of the tentative agreement on March 26. The Varsity spoke with Chair of CUPE 3902 Amy Conwell, a PhD candidate in U of T’s Centre for Medieval Studies; and Vice-Chair of Unit 1 Kyle Shaw-Müller, a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology, to discuss the bargaining process. A collaborative process The creation of a tentative agreement “is quite a process,” according to ShawMüller. Elected representatives of each division in CUPE 3902 worked together to revise the current collective agreement during the early stages of bargaining in November. Conwell explained that the union rep-
resentatives took on the brunt of the work by reading the lengthy expired agreement to identify problem areas. The representatives developed a survey and sent it to the union members to gain their insights in developing the union’s platform. “We presented it to the membership in October; they adopted it, so then we had a mandate from them to make gains based on the platform,” she said. “Then, we developed proposals, and we brought those proposals to the university.”
Problems and solutions Some important problem areas that the union identified — and subsequently included in the union’s platform — were pregnancy and parental leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, and compassionate leave. Under the old agreement, union members had one accessible option for pregnancy and parental leave — “taking leave from whatever amount of time remains in your contract and getting paid per month while not being at work,” Conwell explained. “Unless you happen to go on leave right at the beginning of your contract, you don’t have the full amount of possible leave time available to you,” she said. “You might end up taking only two months of leave, [but] what you’re supposed to be able to access is four months of leave.” One of the major changes was amending this to ensure four months of leave for all union members regardless of when they go on leave. Another major change to the collective agreement was to improve the hiring cri-
teria for contract academic workers. “For decades, our hiring criteria sort of piled up on each other to make for a weird selection of often vague and easy-to-abuse criteria, like suitability, mastery, and proficiency,” explained Shaw-Müller. The hiring process was streamlined to rely on three specific criteria instead: previous experience, the need to acquire experience, and academic qualifications. Job action option On March 21, CUPE 3902 entered a position in which it was legally allowed to strike. Strikes are regulated in Ontario, and any potential job action requires a mandate from the union membership and the filing of a ‘no board’ notice with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Even then, union leaders have to wait 17 days after the filing of the notice to call a strike. CUPE 3902 last went on strike in 2015, following a tentative agreement that members did not choose to send to a unit-wide ratification vote. The job action lasted a month and saw contract academic workers withdraw from their activities, causing academic disruption. A bargaining deadline of March 25 was set with the university. Conwell explained, “[CUPE 3902 leadership] didn’t think it made sense to call the strike on [March] 21 or even before [March] 25 because we want to go talk to our members first and be as democratic and open with them as possible,” Conwell explained. To demonstrate the union’s willing-
CUPE 3902 ratified its new collective agreement with the university on April 1. EHSAN ETASAMI/THEVARSITY
ness to strike, CUPE 3902 hosted a “Prepare to Strike” Day on March 24 that consisted of sign making and other activities run by picket captains at locations around Toronto. “The folks who helped prepare, the folks who came, and even the folks who were just following the actions online were really energized and excited about that and felt a lot of faith in what we could do together as a union and collective of workers,” added Conwell. Meaningful changes Before voting on the ratification closed, Conwell said, “I think [Unit 1 members] would be really excited to have a new collective agreement in hand, especially one with such sweeping and significant gains that will, I think, impact them in ways that are hard to even realize when we look at the language of the document.” Shaw-Müller added, “We were able to think critically about our working conditions in a way that I think many prior bargaining teams hadn’t had the chance to do.”
The impact of this agreement will benefit parties outside of CUPE 3902. “We were consulting not only with our members but also with other bodies on campus, such as the faculty association and student unions,” said Conwell. “As part of those consultations, particularly with student unions, we proposed things that we thought would directly benefit the student learning experience.” “For example, it’s really important that people coming into the classroom have a training that’s appropriate, which means not only training in good pedagogy… but also training in cultural competency, decolonizing the classroom, and antioppression in the classroom,” she continued. CUPE 3902 Unit 1’s new collective agreement expires on December 31, 2023, and its full text will be available on the collective bargaining website maintained by the university’s Division of Human Resources & Equity. On its collective bargaining updates website, U of T “thanks the negotiating teams for their hard work, commitment and dedication throughout the collective bargain-
The Hub at UTSC hosts “Celebrating Leaders, Black Women in Business” panel
On equity challenges, advice for young entrepreneurs Anastasiya Gordiychuk Associate Business & Labour Editor
On March 10, UTSC hosted a panel of Black women in high-level business positions to discuss the importance of Black representation in business and address questions about white privilege. “Celebrating Leaders, Black Women in Business” was organized as part of U of T’s Entrepreneurship Week, which saw various businessrelated events take place from March 8–11. The panel included Naki Osutei, Associate Vice-President of the Social Impact for the Global Corporate Citizenship department at TD Bank; Fennella Bruce, a founder of FKB Media Solutions and a veteran news producer; and Daphne Magna, a founder of Tough Convos, a safe space for people to learn about the Black community and anti-Black racism. The Hub at UTSC — the campus’ startup incubator — hosted the panel with support from sponsors, including the BRIDGE — an academic space created by the UTSC Department of Management — and the UTSC Library. Sarah Shujah, a UTSC liaison librarian and entrepreneurship librarian, moderated the panel.
Diversity in corporations During the event, a member of the audience asked panellists for their thoughts on programs that only hire racialized people, how successful these programs are, and why these initiatives often receive backlash. Osutei emphasized that people who “operate with a scarcity mindset” will always complain about these programs. “It’s important for companies who embark on that to be unapologetic in that position,” she said. “We are doing this because we are correcting an injustice that has been perpetuated for hundreds of years, and it’s going to take a long time for us to correct it.” Bruce recounted a personal experience from a time when she competed for the same position as a white man. “He flatly said to me, ‘You're probably going to get it because you tick both boxes — you’re Black, and you’re a woman,’ ” she shared. “Not that I can write, not that I have a journalism grade, [and] not that I was highly skilled for this position.” She elaborated that these initiatives wouldn’t be able to correct systemic oppression immediately. “Now, everybody wants to hire somebody Black,” she said. “It’s going to take a process because for a lot of different areas…
racialized people have left those industries because they were so oppressed.” Magna said that she strongly believes such initiatives need to be considered in context. She explained that power dynamics are different everywhere, and understanding them is crucial to create solutions that work. The panellists also addressed questions about white privilege. They shared that people often claim not to be in a position of privilege because they aren’t rich but that this attitude is the result of a lack of understanding or ignorance. “We’re talking about another privilege: it’s the privilege of not being racially profiled. It’s the privilege of not having to talk to your son about what he does late at night,” Magna said. “It’s a whole other set of privileges that are specific to being a particular shade.” Osutei explained why some people are afraid of diversity and inclusion, and why this, too, can be attributed to the scarcity mindset. “If you have lived with privilege, when you start to see equity happening for others, it feels like you are now being oppressed,” she said. “So it’s easy for someone who has that mindset to then tokenize people when we are trying to address the inequity.
Naki Osutei, Fennella Bruce, and Daphne Magna are Black, women industry leaders. COURTESY OF THE HUB
Words of encouragement The panel ended with advice from each panellist. All of them highlighted the importance of believing in yourself. Magna highlighted her belief that lifelong learning is essential to success. “You really have to step outside of what the typical education system can do for you and… go get your hands dirty,” she said. “Your education and your growth as an individual shouldn’t have a timeframe and doesn’t have to fit somebody else’s schedule.” Osutei acknowledged that, for many young people, underrepresentation in their field could be a defining reason why they decide not to pursue something they are passionate about.
But she encouraged everyone not to give up on their dreams. “If you are passionate about something, and you have the capacity for it, but you don’t see anybody there — it might be you that people need to see,” she said. Bruce closed with another piece of advice: avoid being demoralized by criticism. “I want to tell my younger self to believe in myself and not be swayed by other people,” she said. “[If ] you’re solid in what you’re trying to pursue, go for it… go all the way forward, and don’t let someone else shoot you down.” Disclaimer: Anastasiya Gordiychuk will serve as Scarborough Campus Students’ Union director of arts, culture & media for the 2021–2022 academic year.
APRIL 5, 2021
Ontario Sunshine List 2020: 4,818 U of T employees earned over $100,000 Average salaries unchanged during pandemic recession
Spencer Y. Ki Business & Labour Editor
On March 19, Ontario released its annual public sector salary disclosure — commonly known as the ‘Sunshine List’— detailing the names, employers, positions, and salaries of all Ontario public employees who earned wages of $100,000 and more in 2020. The University of Toronto directly employs 4,728 entrants on the list. They are joined by 26 employees of the University of St. Michael’s College, 21 employees of Trinity College, and 42 employees of Victoria University — colleges which are federated with U of T but are incorporated separately. Additionally, one U of T-affiliated entrant has their principal employer listed as the Hospital for Sick Children. U of T’s top earner was Daren Smith, President and Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM), who earned $692,238.96 in salary. Smith’s former salary of $800,749.46
pegged him as 2019’s fifth highest-earning Ontario public employee, but higher-ranked employees across the Hospital & Boards of Public Health sector have pushed him into 19th place this year. U of T President Meric Gertler is the university’s 18th highest-paid employee — and Ontario’s 168th overall — with a salary of $438,892.04. Gertler’s salary remains unchanged from 2019. The top earners among the federated colleges were St. Mike’s President and ViceChancellor David Sylvester at $338,538.42, Trinity College Dean of Arts and Vice-Provost Michael Ratcliffe at $271,917.94, and Victoria College Bursar Raymond Desouza at $227,817.84. Across U of T-affiliated entrants, mean salary was $160,793.02, median salary was $143,744.19, and standard deviation of the salaries was $59,146.09. These statistics remain functionally unchanged from 2019, when 4,422 U of T-affiliated employees were on the list.
U of T researchers design Canada’s first digital currency
Out of your pocket, into the cloud: your loonies are here to stay Ana Pereira Varsity Staff
The world of traditional finance is increasingly embracing the use of digital currencies, raising the question of whether the future of money is completely digital. The surge in popularity of Bitcoin and other aspiring ‘mega-stablecoins’ — such as Facebook’s Diem, formerly known as Libra — suggests that this is a possibility, prompting central banks around the world to design digital currencies of their own. The Bank of Canada (BoC) is at the forefront of the research on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and recently announced that it is designing a contingency plan for a Central Bank Digital Loonie (CBDL). To that end, the BoC solicited academic proposals to research and submit a CBDC design, and a team of U of T and York researchers was one of the top three finalists selected. The team included Andreas Veneris, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Andreas Park, an associate professor of finance at UTM and the Rotman School of Management. They sat down with The Varsity to discuss how your loonies might soon be transferred out of your pocket and onto the cloud. Crash course to CBDCs The BoC has been contemplating the design of a CBDC as a protective measure against technologies that challenge bank-based payments and monetary policy transmission mechanisms.
“Very briefly, that is either if the use of cash goes away… or if a different private or international cryptocurrency… becomes a major means of payment that threatens to take over,” Park said. “A CBDC [is] a digital representation of cash, which just lives on a digital ledger,” he explained. Although the blockchain technology that underpins CBDCs bears similarities to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, it is different in nature. “The [CBDL] would be equivalent to the Canadian dollar, and it will be very unlikely that there will be any flat price fluctuations,” he continued. “There is no speculation… one [digital] Canadian dollar is backed by the reserves in the [BoC]… Bitcoin is backed by those people who are willing to pay… to buy it,” clarified Veneris. “It’s completely different.” The future of money As the U of T and York team proposed, users would obtain a CBDL e-wallet from an app store for use on their smartphones, tablets, and computers. They would need to register the wallet online or through a provincial government service with the Narrow Bank, a separate legal institution that manages CBDL transfers. E-wallets would be offered through Google, Samsung, and Apple devices or through government websites. CBDL transfers would be enabled by a PIN or biometric permissions — similar to credit card merchant terminals today — and by using quick reference (QR) code, near-field communication, or Interac-
Electronic transactions are already ubiquitous in everyday life. TUA ULAMAC/CC FLICKR
style emailing and text messaging. When asked about the future of money, Veneris and Park both believe that digital currencies will dominate the financial realm. “The future of money is… going to be entirely digital,” said Park. “It’s going to live on a common infrastructure of some form. You will have the ability to transfer money back and forth instantaneously… You will have the ability to do programmable money, so you can use your money shifted to particular investments to use it in the Internet of Things payment methods.” Ethical implications If the future of money really is digital, there is growing concern over digital currencies being harmful for underprivileged people with little to no access to CBDC technology. It may also pose privacy issues to users.
“When [the BoC] announced the competition, inclusion [was] a particularly important aspect of the design,” said Veneris. The research proposal highlights the importance of creating a CBDL that promotes financial inclusion and welfare while safeguarding Canada’s socioeconomic sovereignty in the Internet of Things era. Additionally, one of the BoC’s objectives is to ensure that bank notes remain available to people who wish to use them. When it comes to privacy issues, the BoC’s centralized platform promises to establish digital cash with a user-authentication protocol that safeguards users’ privacy and data. “The last thing you want is, through this digital medium, [for] the several banks, the government, let alone the private corporations, [to] become a surveillance state,” argued Veneris.
April 5, 2021 vrsty.ca/comment firstname.lastname@example.org
A call to properly centre equity in journalism — at The Varsity and beyond A critique of the media’s obsession with ‘objectivity’ ceived at a standard of objectivity that is impossible to fully attain.
The Editorial Board
This past year has been a tumultuous one, to say the least. From the mental health crisis exacerbated by COVID-19, to the systemic racism that has resulted in the death of Black and Asian lives, The Varsity has followed stories of inequity in the U of T community. In the process, we have continued to reflect on the concept of objectivity — particularly how journalism’s obsession with it can render the practice complicit in the very problems it strives to report on. Breaking down objectivity Objectivity has been a subject of great debate in the field of journalism. For some, it is the field’s very foundation, one that makes it possible to determine whether or not a publication is ‘trustworthy.’ Unfortunately, in practice, as Wesley Lowery wrote In The New York Times, value is instead placed on the reader’s perception of objectivity, rather than the reality of practising objective journalism. The distinction might seem minute, but the consequences are vast. Valuing the perception of objectivity asks the journalist to always imagine a reader who is unbiased and unswayed by any opinion or culture, and to make their writing and content appealing to them. As Pacinthe Mattar wrote in The Walrus, objectivity means having distance from the subject that journalists are reporting on. Especially in the realm of journalism that is focused on equity-related issues, this is a distance that is primarily afforded to white journalists. It should come as no surprise then that, historically, white men have dominated newsrooms. Striving to always maintain the traditional ideal of objectivity results in an arena of discourse in which particular lives and lived experiences are suddenly up for debate if they don’t fit the definition of the neutral, supposedly undebatable, truth of whiteness. If this past year has taught us anything, it is that such rhetoric is not only misleading but extremely dangerous.
In the context of Canada as a whole, there has been an expansive history of silencing Black and brown voices, and presenting the white Canadian voice as the truth by default. It is a reckoning that Canadian journalism has had to face for years. This history of sidelining racialized perspectives has contributed to the ongoing genocide of Indigenous peoples, the lack of historical knowledge surrounding Black people, and the overall reckoning the nation is currently having with systemic racism. U of T has been complicit in more ways than one — a recent example being its consistent disregard toward community calls to defund and abolish Campus Police. However, a new and better path is possible and has been suggested for some time. In the early 1900s, Walter Lippman and Charles Manz criticized The New York Times for its coverage of the Russian Revolution. By reporting the revolution through the eyes of individuals who wished to quell ‘Red Peril’ uprisings and supported a call for Allied intervention, the publication supposedly reported on what it wished to see instead of what actually was. Lippman’s solution to this was to suggest a scientific approach to journalism. To define true objectivity as a “unity of method, rather than aim; the unity of disciplined experiment.” Lippman went on to clarify that this meant striving for “a common intellectual method and a common area of valid fact.” This unity of method meant that journalists would not imagine the neutral, unbiased reader, but instead dedicate themselves to the facts and be cognizant and critique how these facts affect people’s lives. In the publication of content that questions people’s lived experiences under oppressive systems, we cater ourselves to this imaginary objective white reader. In holding ourselves true to their imaginary judgement instead of our own, we do not critically question who defines the truth, what is objective, and how it impacts our reporting. We abandon the ability to hold ourselves to a unity of method and instead focus on being per-
What does this mean for us? The Varsity’s Code of Journalistic Ethics makes clear that reporters, despite the biases that they inevitably carry, should strive toward objectivity, and should produce balanced and impartial work. On the opinions’ side of journalism, the code also calls for a diversity of viewpoints. In general, these familiar principles are worth pursuing for any serious media organization. However, they must be balanced with other principles that are often less prioritized, such as harm reduction and equity. Indeed, our code also calls on journalists to consider how publishing material can have a real impact on readers and society at large. To clarify these principles, we published an equity guide last year — a comprehensive document that informs our stylistic and editorial policies with the goal of including, empowering, and fairly representing equity-seeking communities in the U of T community. The guide reminds journalists that complete neutrality is not possible because there are always power dynamics at play. Journalists must reflect on who is being excluded from the story, as well as why and how this exclusion is occuring. That is why, as opposed to impartiality, fairness and accuracy are the most important traditional principles a journalist should uphold. A journalist risks losing their critical lens and the truth of the matter and giving credence to false balances if they force themselves to take a centrist approach to every story. A fair and accurate journalist should be able to denounce white supremacy and climate crisis denial. Reporting and opinion writing alike must reflect these understandings — lest the white neutral reader be prioritized at the expense of everyone else. It is important, however, to make a distinction. The Varsity continues to value an optics of independence and impartiality
when it comes to general matters in the U of T community. Aside from views expressed through an editorial, individual masthead members will never express opinion on student politics or a university policy. But when it comes to fundamental matters of human rights, like anti-racism, journalists should be free and encouraged to take a stand through their writing and editorial process. There is no valid ‘both sides’ to harm or hatred. This could mean no longer considering the police as a neutral source, critiquing medical research that ignores demographics such as racialized groups, and stepping away from language that defines people by social constructs such as ‘criminal’ or ‘mentally ill.’ We call on other publications to also reconsider their understanding of objectivity. Here at The Varsity, we remain committed to growing and developing our equity standards, including an annual review of last year’s equity guide — readers are encouraged to submit feedback — publishing an annual demographic survey of staff members, producing equity-focused issues with compensation to marginalized contributors, and consulting members from marginalized communities to build meaningful relationships and inform better practices. We hope that Volume 142 does not rest complacent, and reinforces and builds on these foundational steps taken over the past two volumes. Journalism, like any other industry, is constantly in flux. We are always learning different ways to share the truth, our voices, and our experiences. We must also reflect on the changes around us and ensure our publications reflect the values of the people working behind them. This reflection, as we’ve come to learn and we hope our readership will come to learn, does not hinder our ability to do ‘good journalism.’ In fact, it allows us to do and be better. The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email email@example.com
An obsession with objectivity can lead to the ignoring of multiple experiences and perspectives around us. COURTESY OF MAURO MORA
April 5, 2021 vrsty.ca/photo firstname.lastname@example.org
Pets of U of T: My four cats!
How my family ended up with a whole clowder
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cats, loves to be around dogs, and naps excessively. Whenever I pass by Walmart — where he chases all the pigeons — I call it Eddie’s homeland. Our fourth cat was found by my aunt who couldn’t take her into her home, so she sent the cat to us. We couldn’t find the owner, and from what we gathered, the cat was outside for a while — she was so small! However, she was also quite round. It turned out that she was pregnant. I still remember when she gave birth on my first day of class in grade 11. She went into labour under my bedside table, but we moved her into a box under my desk. She was carrying four kittens inside her tiny body! We sent all the kittens to new homes, but no one wanted the mom, so we decided to keep her and name her after a Sailor Moon character: Luna! And that’s how I ended up with four cats! Max, as our oldest cat, took the alpha role. He loves to jump and attack. The other boys, Milo and Eddie, try to fight back, but Max just sits on top of them. Luna will sometimes wait at the bottom of the stairs and slap Milo and Max as they come down. Eddie and Luna have a special relationship — Luna never fights Eddie! Luna was once missing, but we thought she was probably just sleeping inside a closet. Eddie kept meowing at the door to our backyard, so we let him out, and he came back with Luna! ie
I’m Richenne, a first-year student in the Master of Education, Developmental Psychology & Education program. I have four cats: Eddie, Max, Milo, and Luna. With the pandemic and my family having tested positive for COVID-19, I’ve been isolated in my room and unable to see anyone. Eddie was always right there keeping me company, and I think that’s why we are so close! My family had Max and Milo first — we got each of them from different friends. We had had them for about five years when the third cat came into my family’s life in a more interesting way. When I was in grade 10, my parents and I were walking back to our car from shopping at Walmart, and we noticed that an employee was chasing something. My mom quickly noticed it was a cat! My heroic mother saw that the Walmart employee had given up, and she knew she would regret not saving the cat from the brutal winter we were having that year. She saw the cat under the car, got on her hands and knees, and grabbed him. As she walked to the car — I remember it so vividly — the cat was trying its best to get out of her clutch, but my mom refused to let him go. When she got inside the car and my dad started driving off, the cat calmed down and sat nicely on her lap. For a few weeks, we contacted multiple buildings that surrounded the Walmart and took him to the vet to check if there was a microchip. There was none, so we decided to keep him, and I named him Eddie! Now, he is my son and the sweetest cat ever. He has never hissed at my other two
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Do you know your student rights at U of T? Reviewing knowledge, enforcement gaps in academia, student life Writer: Drew-Anne Glennie, Eliana Bravos, Jacob Kates Rose Illustrator: Fiona Tung
Content warning: this article contains mentions of sexual assault. Are my official academic records private? How would I be disciplined if I broke the Student Code? Where should I go if I face discrimination on campus? There are many questions about student rights at the University of Toronto and so few answers. This state of affairs incentivized us to begin the Student Rights at U of T team, which began as part of a service learning class project. Together, we’ve done the deep dive for you on student rights and their enforcement at U of T. It is unclear how faculty is trained on student rights since their training procedures are not public. In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson wrote that new faculty members are introduced to “the wide range of resources available to support students, and guidance regarding how best to connect students with these resources.” They highlighted a comprehensive training workshop that “teaches participants to support a disclosure of sexual violence.” In addition, “training guidance and resources regarding accommodation, assessment, and antidiscrimination issues are provided through many other offices.” In March 2021, we surveyed U of T students to learn more about their understanding of student rights and their experiences with the enforcement of those rights. The survey was largely based on ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, with some opportunities for longform responses. We sent this survey to campus groups that we believed had an interest in the topic, such as student governance, equity groups, and more. We also posted the survey in U of T forums like those for finding off-campus housing. We then asked these respondents to pass on the survey to other students they associate with. While we recognize that this survey operates on a limited scale of respondents, the takeaways we saw from the results provide a small glimpse into how well some students understand their student rights at U of T. Over the course of approximately one week, 138 students shared their experiences. Of these respondents, 64.5 per cent did not feel that they knew what their rights as a U of T student were while 81.8 per cent reported not knowing where to go to learn more about them. Most strikingly, 93.5 per cent of them answered that they did not know what to do if their rights were violated.
A rundown of student rights Some of the rights protected by U of T are fairly straightforward and intuitive. The rights of U of T students are enshrined in the Governing Council’s policies, as well as legislation like the Ontario Human Rights Code. You have the right to exercise free speech and association without disruption as an organization or an individual, which also means that your right to protest is limited to avenues that do not disrupt or impede access to others’ expression. Many student rights, however, may be more surprising. For instance, your instructor does not have the right to modify assignments or their relative weight without the class’ consent after the syllabus has been handed out. If an instructor has ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect you committed an academic offense, the onus is on you to convince people up the chain of command that you did not do it. In terms of other academia-related rights, only you can access or release your academic records, save for reference letters, unless disclosure is required legally or for the university’s functioning. As long as it is authenticable, you can change your name or gender on your official academic record, which will then be used on your transcript and diploma. In general at U of T, you also have the right to conditions of health and safety at the university, including for your property. Accordingly, you do not have the right to bear a firearm on campus, and while you are no longer allowed to smoke cannabis or tobacco on campus, you have the right to get assistance accessing cessation support from the university to help you stop smoking. For U of T services, you have the right to access Campus Police Services’ annual reports and to access Housing Services to help find affordable and adequate off-campus accommodations. A preliminary draft listing the full slate of student rights is available here. We are currently working with the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) to have a completed version of the charter of rights available on the union’s website. But even with this extensive outline of rights, their application is an entirely different story. How can you ensure that they will be enforced? And how well have they been enforced in the past? On paper versus in practice On paper, U of T students have a wealth of academic, non-academic,
and equity-related rights. In practice, it is a different story. Under the Code, discrimination and harassment are prohibited in employment, housing, services, unions, and vocational associations and contracts. In addition, under the Governing Council policy, if you face discrimination or harassment, you have the right to report the incident to the Race Relations Office and not face any sort of reprisal. However, results of the survey on students’ understanding of their rights painted a startling picture of the realities of widespread marginalization at U of T. Of all racialized
respondents, 30.9 per cent experienced at least one form of racism at U of T while 20 per cent of those who identified as LGBTQ+ reported discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or both. Respondents also noted issues regarding their protection and treatment by U of T services and administration. For instance, Campus Police Services must treat you respectfully and with dignity, but of the few respondents who had experience with campus police, nearly 30 per cent reported being treated unfairly. In terms of the sexual harassment or
violence support system at U of T, you also have the right to not experience sexual harassment or violence and to seek justice from the university if it occurs. If you are accused of sexual harassment, sexual violence, an academic offense, or a Code of Student Conduct offense, you have various rights including that to representation and to appeal a decision. As a victim or an accused perpetrator of sexual violence, you have the right to get
support from the university. Yet, 12 out of the 15 respondents who experienced sexual violence or harassment did not feel that their right to support and justice from the university was respected. Other equity-related and accommodation rights at U of T also lacked enforcement. For instance, you have the right to not be penalized for missing assessments due to
religious observances as long as you communicate your obligations to your instructors. Survey results showed that some religious students reported that they were denied their right to make up missed coursework for religious observance reasons. Another accommodation U of T must provide is related to disabilities. They must cover the cost of accommodating people with permanent and temporary disabilities in the most appropriate, dignified, and confidential way up until the university can prove it is causing undue hardship — a very hard standard to meet in Ontario. Undue hardship qualifies as when severe negative effects outweigh the benefit of providing accommodation, considering financial costs, outside funding, and health and safety risks. The Code mandates that students with disabilities “have the same rights to equal opportunities
from seeking the accommodations they are entitled to. Even after successfully navigating complicated services, students still faced issues having their accommodations respected. According to the survey results, 25 per cent of respondents who had requested an accommodation and submitted medical documentation reported that their request was refused, while 44 per cent experienced professors implying or stating outright that they would not approve accommodation requests regardless of medical documentation. Of the respondents who had submitted accommodation requests, 37 per cent have been pressured by faculty members to disclose private medical information, which is in violation of the Code. In general, 51.7 per cent of respondents who identified as disabled reported that they faced discrimination at U of T. Moreover, respondents to our survey made it clear that they feel the university is failing to adequately address the mental health crisis at U of T, as 58.1 per cent of respondents who
submitted accommodation requests for mental health related disabilities report having had their request denied. under the Code, whether their disabilities are visible or not.” However, many students who identify as disabled or who are registered with accessibility services noted issues in accessing the services that the university offers. A student wrote that student service office websites directed them to dead links or that phone calls were not returned, which discouraged them
Questions and unclear policies There are some areas where U of T students may struggle to fully understand policies about their rights. First, the policy on freedom of speech on campuses remains a confusing one to navigate. U of T’s 1992 Statement on Protection of Freedom of Speech reads: “Values of mutual respect and civility may, on occasion, be superseded by the need to protect lawful freedom
of speech,” immediately after listing, as reasons for limiting speech, the grounds of discrimination protected by the Code. ‘Values of mutual respect and civility,’ or the kind of occasion where this would be relevant, are not defined in this statement. U of T’s 1994 Statement on Prohibited Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment resists defining the particular circumstances that might count as harassment in some cases because “of the difficulty of anticipating the range of possible conflicts and determining in advance the proper balance.” This raises questions over what circumstances marginalized students are protected from and can seek redress for. If a professor made a comment implying that men are naturally better at STEM, could a student who identifies as a woman report that as discrimination? What about if a peer asserted that they thought that racialized people are disproportionately incarcerated because of community socialization? It is uncertain if either of those circumstances constitutes ‘the creation of a poisoned environment’ — a tenet of identifying discrimination under the Code. Secondly, another concern about the maintenance of student rights at U of T revolves around datedness of certain policies. The Statement on Prohibited Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment — last updated on March 31, 1994 — lists protected classes that are no longer consistent with the updated Code, and many of the offices it lists no longer exist under the same name at the university. Prior to this February, the Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities had not been updated since 2004, despite the major changes to Ontario’s human rights system that came into effect in June 2008. In fact, out of the 160 Governing Council policy documents published on the council’s website, only 48 have been updated in the past 10 years. The “Sexual Harassment: Policy and Procedures” document — last updated in 1997 — is another fraught example of out-of-date policies. Although a U of T spokesperson confirmed that this policy is no longer operational, it remains on the Governing Council’s website for procedures related to sexual violence or harassment. There is another policy, made effective in 2020, that offers starkly different processes for sexual harassment complaints. According to this policy, a non-criminal option before a formal investigation is only permissible if both parties agree, and they are not required to meet face to face. Only this policy — not “Sexual Harassment: Policy and Procedures” — is listed on the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre website. However, these policies’ publicly unexplained, conflicting co-existence may make it unclear to students which will be used when dealing with sexual harassment. Finally, there are also timeline issues
with some processes. For most rights violations, you are supposed to contact the relevant administrative officer, registrar, professor, or as a last resort, the Office of the Ombudsperson. However, U of T does not offer front-facing timeline expectations for students when making complaints through these internal procedures, muddling the process further and potentially undercutting procedural accountability. How can we do better? Evidently, the state of student rights policy at U of T creates a system that would be difficult to navigate for most students even if they actively sought it out, which sometimes leads to gaps in meaningfully enforcing it. But it’s important to note that it doesn’t have to be this way. McGill University, for instance, has had an official Charter of Student Rights since 1984, which exists in tandem with its own Code of Student Conduct. McGill’s charter is unique because it outlines what rights its students have, whereas U of T’s code of conduct is written entirely in restrictions on student behaviour. Trent University and McMaster University are hybrids, falling somewhere between U of T and McGill’s examples, as they have charters that show both restrictions in student rights, like U of T, and that highlight rights students are entitled to, like McGill. Unlike the UTSU, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has a commissioner of student rights research and advocacy, a position created last year by SSMU’s vicepresident university affairs. Currently, Adrienne Tessier, a third-year student at McGill’s Faculty of Law, is filling this position. “At a micro level, I respond to student inquiries and can answer their questions about university policies. I can act as a referral service to other offices within the community as well,” Tessier explained in an email to The Varsity. “At a macro level, I am able to design surveys about student rights and complete reports to inform student advocacy.” One of her most recent projects involved surveying students about McGill’s University Student Assessment Policy, a document intended to protect students from excessive workloads and to ensure nondiscriminatory treatment that McGill is currently revising. Tessier also runs the Know Your Rights campaign for students twice a year. “I hope that I am able to provide students with some sense of support and order in an often confusing, overwhelming academic institution,” she wrote. The sentiments that she expressed ring true for U of T’s situation as well, and they provide a useful model for what our student community and university should strive for. After all, when it comes to student rights at U of T — which can sometimes go unenforced — increased support and transparency are exactly what we need.
Arts & Culture
April 5, 2021 vrsty.ca/arts email@example.com
“In Sync//Out of Touch”: Victoria College Environmental Fashion Show goes virtual This year’s theme reflects our times, harkens back to the past
Sustainable fashion pivots to a home environment. COURTESY OF FATIMA HUSSAIN EDITED BY CINDY LY
Savannah Ribeiro Varsity Staff
The Victoria College Environmental Fashion Show (VEFS) held its first virtual show over YouTube livestream on March 28. VEFS, as a club, “uses re-purposed and vintage fashion as a medium to promote social responsibility and individual expression on campus.” The show itself is meant to “develop a culture of sustainability” among community members, and was developed out of a sense of alarm over the waste created by the fashion industry. The club modified its focus for this year, augmenting the original goals of the show to include sustainable fashion from home.
The show Organizers wrote to The Varsity that this year’s theme, “In Sync//Out of Touch,” was inspired by fashion’s cyclical nature. They noted that many popular elements in today’s fashion zeitgeist are inspired by the 1990s. “Going forward in fashion often means going back in time, so, in a sense, being ‘in sync’ with fashion and being ‘out of touch’ with the times do not necessarily stand on dialectics,” they wrote. The show this year was accompanied by a 1980s synthesizer-infused soundtrack, and opening graphics featured clips from the 1982 film Tron. The stream itself was textured, with filters that gave an impression of graininess and editing techniques that felt reminiscent of old film. Interspersed amongst the retro themes were elements
of modernity, including Mac toolbars framing the models. Film and photo were manipulated to give a dislocated, out-of-time feel. The backgrounds behind the models included real-world settings, cartoon graphics, and short animated clips à la TikTok. One of the interesting things about the editing was that you were never 100 per cent certain if the backgrounds were digitally created or filmed in a real space. Among the opening designs was an outfit with a jacket, a black-and-white grid-patterned tube top, and a pair of ripped black jean shorts. Another ensemble contrasted a blue-and-white striped corset over a black dress. Some designs featured bright colours and patterns — for example, a lime-and-green design, with wide legged pants and ribbed-stitch sweater. A different design featured ripped, high-waisted blue jeans, a sequined leopard print top, and a black PVC jacket. Another piece, reminiscent of the late 1990s, con-
sisted of a handkerchief blue top and leather skirt. Overall, what seemed to unify all the pieces were the callbacks to the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Afterward Following the show, the organizers held a questionand-answer period with the show’s designers and models. I asked designers how their thrifting experience was affected by the seemingly never-ending cyclical lockdowns during the year. Designer Emilie Tamtik replied that “quarantine and lockdowns have really encouraged creatives to think outside the box as well as use materials you already have at home.” Designer Zara Mian agreed and said that places like Plato’s Closet would “catalog all their items… and then you could go buy them online and pick it up in person.” Mian noted that this could be very limiting because you cannot tactilely interact with the clothing before purchasing it. Like the show itself, collaboration and meetings preparing for it were held online. The club noted in an email to The Varsity that it was up to designers and models to choose a method of communication. It said that photoshoots were a hybrid of screenshotted video calls and models taking photos of themselves. The club mentioned that “it will definitely be a relief once designers can actually interact with models during fittings and photoshoots again.” Mian explained there are normally multiple interactions between models and designers. Measurements and alterations are integral parts of a design process. However, this year they “[had] to really trust that what [they] created is going to fit, it’s going to look good” without any in-person adjustments. The final question that I had for the club was regarding sustainability — specifically, about the sustainability lessons they had learned through the lens of COVID-19. “The pandemic has really helped us identify the essential parts of our life and more specifically, our wardrobes,” they wrote. They noted that searching for pieces had to be “really intentional” and that “it wasn’t feasible to make multiple trips to the thrift store for the clothes.” It also meant that wasted materials were reduced. The club “[hopes] that everyone can learn to adapt some sustainable fashion habits into their lives.”
An ode to the basement party A reflection on its paradoxical charm
Angad Deol Associate Sports Editor
During this disconnected year, I often reflect on a lot of aspects of pre-COVID-19 life: window shopping at the mall on a busy Saturday or waiting in a line at the Robarts Library Starbucks that stretches all the way into the study room. Most of all, I miss the feeling of ice-cold concrete in someone’s basement while bass-boosted hip hop plays on a Bluetooth speaker. The basement party is a cultural time-share. We’ve all been there and either loved the vibe or wanted to leave immediately — or went back and forth on those feelings as the night raged on. I’ve been to my fair share of basement parties — mostly against my own will after being dragged by my friends — and I did enjoy them for the most part. I liken basement parties to the Canadian health care system; they are painfully average, but I’ll still take part regardless. Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, basement parties were synonymous with high school and university life – it was like déjà vu no matter which party you were at. There was always a pile of Nikes and Vans at the front door, meaning it would take you ages to find your pair at the end of the night. Every floor was a sticky mess made up of cheap liquor and soda. The music was always just loud enough to make any conversation nearly impossible. If you’ve never been to a basement party, this mixture must sound atrocious to you, but you’re
mistaken. I miss basement parties every single day. I can’t wait for a vaccine to pierce my arm so I can go back to the smelly, hell-like stupor that happens in those basements. In a co-dependent way, I’ve come to appreciate how basement parties act as a cultural melting pot. Nowhere else will you hear top-40 pop transition into Bhangra music that will transition into dancehall or any other cultural concoction of music. Basement parties bring everyone together; they bridge the great divide of modern times. The dingy, sunken cushions of the unsettlingly hot couch on the main floor of the party provides a stage for intellectual discussion that you can’t find anywhere else. Where else will you find a guy who watches too much Joe Rogan debating with someone who’s dozing off after drinking far too much and arguing over the most inconsequential cultural topics? While getting a breath of smoke-filled air on the porch, you get a beautiful view of brandname cars — all of which are being paid for with suffocating long-term loans. What I’m trying to say is, you won’t find a better picture of North American culture than at a basement party. Once all of the restrictions are lifted, and we can finally erase the physical distance between each other, I look forward to basking in the embrace of the basement party. It’ll be nice to see what my peers have been up to, but most of all, I can’t wait to soak up the dim lights of the unfinished basements across my hometown.
Basement parties are an unorthodox cultural melting pot, and one of many losses due to COVID-19. MEAGAN TAYLOR/CC FLICKR
APRIL 5, 2021
Northrop Frye Centre event unveils the fabric of crime Featuring dress and textile historian Alison Matthews David
Sky Kapoor Arts & Culture Columnist
If you’re like me, you’re probably guilty of the obligatory ‘fit check’ before you go out the door. Maybe you turn around in the mirror a little to check out your jeans or fluff up your hair before making your exit. If committing a crime is on your radar for the
Fashion and crime intersect in fascinating ways. JULIAN BALOGH/CC FLICKR
day, it might be a good idea to check twice. The study of forensics encompasses nearly every aspect of our lives. In a criminal setting, every action we make is a self-portrait. Forensic scientists often make use of traces left on or by clothing in their investigations, showing us how we’re always leaving our mark — even the way we cuff our sleeves shows our hand. The Northrop Frye Centre held an event recently featuring the work of Alison Matthews David, discussing exactly this notion — the intersection of fashion and crime. The fabric of crime Using clothing and accessories in criminal investigations stretches back further in history than you might imagine. Even the etymology of the word ‘clue’ has connotations to textiles — a ‘clew’ is a ball of yarn that leads someone out of a labyrinth, which is a very fitting connection indeed. A modern-day Sherlock Holmes might find that your trusty pair of Doc Martens leaves a telltale imprint, even if they are vintage and the treads are worn down. Historically speaking, detectives would use clothing indicators as clues, following threads of reasoning to solve a puzzle. During the mid-nineteenth century, more organized investigations began to take place, and deductive logic led detectives to the resolutions of their cases.
Matthews David’s research has led her across the world in search of the connections between dress and crime. One of the most notable parts of her research, as she recounted in her lecture, led her to the Sherlock Holmes museum in Lucens, Switzerland. The museum contains a diorama curated by the son of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that recreates the world contained within 221B Baker Street. In criminology, fashion is often disregarded — despite being a direct implication in numerous crimes. Matthews David’s studies intend to fill the gaps left by poor stitching. Matthews David’s research evidently extends to tales of true crime as well. In nineteenth-century Paris, police-run morgues would suspend clothing above the corpses to aid in their recognition and identification. Some people were identified by their clothing alone. Talk about drop-dead gorgeous. A thread in a case Even before the era of COVID-19, we relied on cloth for protection. But it turns out that protection isn’t the only use for our clothes — they can also be used in grisly crimes. Of the many cases Matthews David recounted in her lecture, a case from 1869 stands out. According to her research, the police discovered a putrefying dismembered leg submerged in a well in Paris. The forensic scientist’s investigation concluded that the leg was severed by someone of skill — not necessarily at the level of a medical professional, but it was certainly distinctive.
It was clothing evidence that ended up being the most vital clue in this investigation. The legs were wrapped in a piece of black cotton fabric and tied in a very specific knot known as the rabbit ear knot, a style that was very distinctive of working-class tailors in the 1800s. This led the investigator onto the trail of a tailor in the area, and then to a seamstress whose recognition of her unique stitching in the cloth led them to the culprit. Artifact and user From the sole of a shoe to a uniquely coloured thread, our fashion choices undoubtedly show our individuality. Clothing is not only for utility, but for self-expression. Though the thought may not pass our minds often, criminal investigations are all-encompassing — even something as seemingly trivial as our style can change the game. The implications of fashion in crime run deeper than criminology likes to let on, and Matthews David’s work is vital to changing that perception. Identifying markers are everywhere. Every action we make is a self-portrait, and our clothing choices are no different. Although the thought of being implicated for the way you tie your shoes can be unsettling, it’s not a bad thing that we choose to express ourselves through dress. It shows our personality, and at the very least, makes us look good as hell. After all, who’s to say a street gang can’t look criminally gorgeous?
Stories of daybreak: Silhouettes Dance Company to premiere first-ever virtual show
Former member talks with U of T group on changing rhythms under lockdown Elena Foulidis Associate Arts & Culture Editor
The Silhouettes Dance Company, a performancebased and student-run U of T troupe, will premiere its 18th annual showcase, “Daybreak,” this week. The performance will occur on April 10 at 7:00 pm on the company’s YouTube channel. The show will feature a variety of dance styles, including contemporary, jazz, ballet, hip hop, and tap. “Daybreak is the moment when the first light appears on the horizon, ending the night. It is a cycle of nature, a moment of awakening, and it also embodies ideas of transition, borderline, hope, mystery,” noted this year’s artistic directors (ADs), Nancy Wu and Justine Gauthier. “Our 14 pieces this year tell stories of what daybreak feels like and means to us, and we invite you to join us in our live premiere.” Taking a leap into a virtual dance studio I was with Silhouettes during the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 school years. At this time, Olivia Hsuen was one of the ADs, along with Abby Ryding and Cade Greer, in each respective year. When the pandemic hit last March, our year-end show — “TERRA: Life on Earth,” scheduled at the Betty Oliphant Theatre — was cancelled. The ADs tried to coordinate the filming of an emergency show, but suddenly, “covid-19 was on our doorsteps and then we had to make what felt like the hardest decision ever: let go of everything,” Hsuen wrote. This school year, Wu and Gauthier have been working on Silhouettes’ first ever virtual show while running the company entirely online. Dance usually involves in-person, physical contact and a sufficiently large rehearsal space, so dancing in a virtual studio has posed new challenges. One difficulty, for example, is that rehearsing on Zoom sometimes puts the audio and video out of sync, and timing and musicality are central to dance. This quick change of scene is a departure from previous rehearsal spaces: a sunny studio above a bakery in Kensington Market; a Burlesque school overtop of the infamous McDonald’s at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue, open until all hours of
the night; and a converted nineteenth century, redbrick, Romanesque church with stained-glass windows in Cabbagetown, to name a few. Over the summer, the directors ruled out the possibility of a regular in-person theatre performance and of our bi-annual shows in nightclubs, but did not rule out filming pieces in person. Their plan would accommodate best-and worst-case scenarios. Currently, most Silhouettes pieces are being filmed virtually, but some small groups are filming outdoors together as restrictions started to ease. The choreographers instruct their dancers on how to film at home on their own. They talk about camera orientation and setting — calibrated to indoor or outdoor environments — and what to wear on camera. Each choreographer has been compiling footage and experimenting with different editing techniques to merge the videos together. The ADs wrote that, in the choreography, “there are no lifts, no physical contact between the dancers, [and] no formations.” However, they say, “We think everyone was able to think outside the box and find alternative creative ways to fulfill their vision.” “Daybreak” — the show must go on Hsuen, who has choreographed two pieces this year, has had to adapt a concept she has been thinking about for years — even before the pandemic. “It looked very different in my head. I imagined a massive group, lots of contact, and a lot of conceptbased choreography that relied on people being in one space to make it effective.” She wrote to The Varsity, “Going to Zoom to choreograph was a big learning curve for me. I tend to like to make choreography that relies on contact or I like to show up in person and kind of mould the dancers like clay.” Hsuen’s piece, “Awake,” is set to the song “Me and Your Mama” by Childish Gambino. She explains that this song “was crafted with such passion and interesting rhythmic passages [that] it pretty much choreographed itself.” It was also inspired by her grandmother: “The concept of ‘Awake’ is that nature is waking up and thriving, and when I think of nature I think of my grandma and the cherry blossom tree in her backyard. If it was possible to dedicate
saving nature to anyone, it would be her.” Wu and Gauthier highlight that, while every piece has its own unique story, many of the dances in “Daybreak” reflect on the ups and downs of this strange year. Wu’s instrumental hip hop piece, called “Thule” — meaning ‘distant place’ — is about the “struggle of trying to shift myself within the confined space that I find myself in.” She explores the distraction in stillness, and conversely, how someone’s mindset stays with them as they move around. “The choreography itself changes from fluid moments to really harsh, rigid moments.” Some of the soundtrack comes from “All We Know” by The Chainsmokers. Gauthier’s contemporary and modern dance performance, set to the FKA Twigs song “Home With You,” is about missing her friends. “I was reflecting on how much I missed seeing people and being out in the world, and I think the song… really internalizes that need for human companionship that I think a lot of us are missing during this time.” Building human connection through dance Despite the challenges, Gauthier wrote that “those little moments of human connection have really made the whole thing worth it.”The company members have stayed connected, participating in online social events like game nights and movie nights, and holding two open classes. Luckily, they also held an in-person photoshoot in September, before Toronto went back into lockdown. Wu added that “Everyone got exercise and took time to meet new people… The first years [went] into their first year [in] quarantine and all their classes are online, so they already have a lack of opportunities to meet their peers.” For Hsuen, joining Silhouettes after being in a rut during her first year meant finding “like-minded people who all came together in one goal.” She reflects, “I’m thankful for the lifelong friends I never thought I’d make, but now can’t imagine life without.” More information on “Daybreak” will be shared on the Silhouettes Dance Company’s Instagram page, and individual dance videos will be available online following the premiere.
The student-run dance company embodies ideas of transition, hope, mystery, and more. ELENA FOULIDIS/THEVARSITY
ARTS & CULTURE
I’m obsessed with em dashes and love metaphors. I challenged myself to stop using them On self-sabotaging my writing for fun
KRISTAL MENGUC/ THEVARSITY
Sky Kapoor Arts & Culture Columnist
During my time at The Varsity, I’ve very quickly realized my propensity for elaborate writing. My work is easily identifiable by a consistent and very convoluted style. I can’t imagine writing any other way. Until now. With this propensity comes a habit infinitely worse than nail-biting or bad posture. That’s amateur shit. My vices make those habits look like Mega Bloks and Play-Doh. No, I’m talking about something much, much worse: the use of the em dash. My reliance on the dash has likened itself to an
addiction, something I can’t help but crawl back to. Editing sessions primarily consist of em dash removal, making replacements with the stalwart colon or taken-for-granted comma. To be completely honest, you’ll see a lot of those types of punctuation here because I’m a masochist, I guess. Nobody really asked for it, but here it is: an article free from my overused writing habits. What have I gotten myself into? As a self-proclaimed em dash enthusiast, I can safely say that even a throng of writers and grammar police could not solve my compulsion. Is there such a thing as em dashes anonymous? If so, sign me up. Why such a strong case for the em dash? Though I’m no Emily Dickinson, I find that the dramatism of the em dash is just unmatched. A taut tongue in
an unsheltered mouth yearns for a break, and the em dash provides just that: a place to pause and reflect. Sure, a colon, ellipsis, or perhaps even the aforementioned comma could yield a similar effect. But man, it’s just not the same. To write with em dashes is to clear the noise within my head. As an individual who often struggles to make sense of the writhing, pulsating garbage of my brain, the em dash is pure comfort. The knowledge that I can freely guide an unbloomed sentence into any possible direction for a second? Absolute bliss. I’ve never once written a sentence that I didn’t want to extend at least a little bit. But alas, I’m a writer in every sense of the word, so I need to grow past my incessant inability to leave perfectly short
Islamic art: U of T community reflects on its remarkable worldliness and diversity Museums have an active role to play in representation properly in museums, the difference between fine arts and crafts, and the connections the art has with local communities. I was so intrigued by the event that I reached out to members of the U of T community for their insights on the diversity of Islamic art and its place in museums.
Joël Ndongmi Arts & Culture Columnist
Today, Islamic art is defined as works of art that were and are produced in Islamic nations or nations where Islam is the dominant religion of the rulers. It tends to focus on representing a subject’s essence as opposed to its physical shape, and it encompasses textiles, ceramic, calligraphy, and countless other forms. On February 27, the Islamic Art & Material Cultural Collaborative, a research network of scholars from U of T, the Aga Khan Museum, and the Royal Ontario Museum, hosted a webinar featuring museum curators and directors titled “The Museum’s Role in Amplifying and Sustaining Craft and Making.” The speakers touched on a number of different topics, including how to portray Islamic art
The diversity of Islamic art Arafat Razzaque, an assistant professor of Islamic history at U of T, talked about the diversity of the Islamic world itself. He said that “we have to remind ourselves that Islamic societies historically were incredibly diverse,” noting the Middle East, South Asia, and India as places where Islamic art flourished. In some ways, due to its vast localities, it invites us to reconsider and explore how religion, culture, and locality impact art. Razzaque gives the Great Mosque of Djenné as an example of the adaptability of Islamic art: the mosque is “the largest mud building in the world” and does not conform to traditional understandings of what a mosque should look like. However, it fits with the traditional iconography of Mali. Safiya Patel, a first-year student in life sciences and English, elaborated on how diverse the concepts that Islamic art draws from are. “What I find very interesting is that everything is not only religious; it’s not all related to God or religious leaders… It has so many different elements. It has Greek and Roman elements, and also from Saudi Arabia.” This diversity of concepts, she added, is accompanied by “so much meaning behind every little thing.”
Islamic art in museums According to Patel, while it’s probably not possible to integrate all of Islamic art in museums — “you can’t put a whole mosque inside a museum,” she says tactfully — she does acknowledge that there are multiple alternative ways to integrate it into these institutions. Leslee Michelsen, a curator at the Shangri La museum of Islamic Art, Culture and Design and one of the speakers at the event, noted that art history and museums are “deeply Eurocentric.” To properly incorporate Islamic art into them, curators need to step back from the hierarchy of media that places paintings and sculptures above textiles, ceramics, and metalworks. The former are “not culturally significant in the same way” to Islamic creators, and so curators must give equal due to other media. Properly integrating it in museums also provides a sense of culture. For Sahir Dhalla, a first-year student studying neuroscience and philosophy, his fascination surrounding this art is related to his heritage. Dhalla maintains that there are few places to view Islamic art here in Toronto: “It’s just really important to me personally to learn because there’s not much representation of that kind of art over here. So we sort of just hold on, and it’s important to hold on and learn about the history.” Pushing the boundaries Islamic art is constantly evolving and incorporating new artistic practices thanks to new artists bringing in new perspectives. Such an example is artist Faig Ahmed. Michelsen mentioned how his work is breaking barriers, par-
sentences alone. After all, we all know that size doesn’t matter; it’s how you use it. It’d be easier, I suppose, if this was the only poor habit I had acquired as a writer. But I’ve also grabbed onto the most low-hanging fruit and decided my weapon of choice would be love metaphors. Yes, everything is akin to falling in love, as if I have even the slightest inclination of what that entails. Spoiler alert: I don’t. The amount of times I have had to restrain myself from referring to the em dash as “my beloved” says a lot. I’d write a goddamned love letter to the em dash if I could, but I told myself I’d cut back. Is this at all original? Not in the slightest. Maybe the reason I feel the need to write this way involves the unrealistic expectations society defines. Nope. Too rich for my blood. Why throw a grenade into the writing style I’ve so tastefully developed over the years? For one thing, it’s kind of fun. And this article right here is the reality check I’ve been waiting for. Though I’m kneedeep in my ways, surely I can still change, right? Probably not, but I’m just being honest here. The em dash is something I innately understand, and love metaphors are something I pretend to understand. They make for a writing style that is uniquely mine, one that can be identified from a mile away. After all, The Varsity isn’t one shared consciousness. We have excellent formal news writers, captivating features writers, passionate arts and culture reviewers, informative science writers, compelling comment writers. And whatever this is. Whether you’re a reader, casual writer, staff, or an editor, there’s something for everyone here. When I first encountered the newspaper, I wasn’t sure if my dry humour or ill references would mesh with it. But even I was welcomed with open arms. It’s safe to say that the multitude of writing styles that are showcased within The Varsity are what make this newspaper so representative of the University of Toronto. It’s also safe to say that an article like this is a very real consequence of giving someone like me free reign and column space.
ticularly regarding how Islamic art can be seen and interacted with in museums. Beyond the traditional visual experience, Ahmed also asks visitors to touch his tapestry. This reaches beyond the Western conception of art as a refined abstraction, as his work engages us to challenge our notions of art. Michelsen elaborated on the compelling “graphic nature of his work,” emphasizing that “there’s so much depth and so much dimension,” when encountering his works. The interactive element adds another dimension that visitors don’t often get to encounter. Due to the nature of Ahmed’s works, visitors feel his work is “less threatening, or less intimidating.” Michelsen added that visitors often feel an added connection to the artwork, one that paintings cannot necessarily achieve. Emphasizing the importance of discussions on the place and power of Islamic art, Michelsen said, “We tell richer and fuller stories when we engage in the full spectrum of visual and material culture.” Disclosure: Dhalla and Patel are staff members for The Varsity.
Students and faculty weigh in on how to properly represent Islamic art in museums. GARY TODD/CC FLICKR
April 5, 2021 vrsty.ca/science firstname.lastname@example.org
Pigeonholes: For the final time, what’s up with the arts-science divide?
Program stereotypes, breadth requirements, and what we learned from our columns Valeria Khudiakova and Alexa DiFrancesco Associate Science Editor and UTSC Bureau Chief
Pigeonholes is a collaborative inter-sectional column from the Arts & Culture and Science sections, exploring issues across academic boundaries. For the f inal entry in the column, Valeria Khudiakova and Alexa DiFrancesco reflect on the journey that brought them here. We’ve spent the last six months on a journey to step outside our comfort zones and write about the other side of the arts-science divide. For Valeria, that’s meant looking at our changing relationship to physical space while stuck indoors and the power of revolutionary art from marginalized communities. For Alexa, it meant diving into the psychology of how we experience time and trying to watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos for the first time. For our final entry, we sat down to share our thoughts on the whole process. Why do we get pigeonholed into our disciplines? Valeria Khudiakova: Do you think there is an art-science divide in wider society? Why or why not? Alexa DiFrancesco: From my experience, people who studied STEM are respected more than people who studied the arts, whether it be from those already in the workforce or from teachers or classmates. I’m not inclined to understand science or math; I’ve found that I’ve had more respect for people who do. I don’t know if that’s because the artistic side comes naturally to me though, so the STEM counterpart seems harder. What about you? VK: I agree. Early on, I was pigeonholed into choosing either one or the other. I was good at languages and history. I was also good at math, but I’ve always been more encouraged to pursue the arts and the social sciences, and I didn’t want to ignore the STEM side of me. There was a lot of indecisiveness because I felt like I had to choose. AD: I feel like people think of art as a hobby as opposed to a way of earning an income — it’s not viewed to be as ‘stable’ as a job in STEM. VK: It’s generally true that you’ll earn more money if you have a degree, but no undergraduate degree leads to a job necessarily. AD: I know you were talking about how you personally felt like you had to choose between arts and science. At U of T, you can double major with one major in arts and one in science, and then decide if you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BSc). That still feels like a divide because you’re choosing what your undergraduate experience is categorized under, even though your time was divided between two diverse subject matters. I wish there was a way of showing both disciplines on your transcript rather than choosing one. I feel like that’s all employers are going to see: the BA, the BSc, or the Bachelor of Commerce. VK: How has your view of both your native discipline and those foreign to you been challenged by the column? AD: I’ve appreciated my abilities and discipline more. I can write an arts article in a maximum of three hours. I wrote what I wanted to read, and readers would understand my perspective without me trying. That being said, writing for science is the hardest thing. I remember viewing it as a set of facts that I had to copy down and summarize. I did that at first, and the feedback that I got made me realize that I had to apply my own perspective to it. It took me back to high school where I had to interpret different sets of facts and data — part of the reason I went to university for arts was to escape that.
VK: For me, there was a lot of impostor syndrome because a lot of science writing is just stating facts or breaking facts down into something that’s more understandable for the audience. This column has helped me to appreciate all the different facets of my own discipline. A lot of schools classify psychology as an arts subject while, at U of T, it’s actually a life science. I find that really weird because I’m not the biggest fan of biology; writing about biology is different from studying it. I feel like there is an artistic side to psychology and a more scientific side. But my discipline is unified by scientific thinking; writing for this column has helped me appreciate that. Has this column changed us? VK: After your time as a columnist, are you planning on changing anything about what you choose to learn about, or will you stick to your discipline? AD: I’ll be sticking to my discipline. At UTSC, there’s a second-year course called ENGB52 — Literature and Science; it examines scientific theories within different pieces of literature. I tried taking that course, expecting to be enlightened by the time it finished. I dropped out a month in because I couldn’t handle reading scientific language. In theory, I do want to appreciate science — I appreciate people who appreciate science; I think they’re the smartest people alive. But I personally cannot do it, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m focusing on my degree on top of re-learning a foreign subject. I don’t think I have the time or energy to give science the credit it deserves. VK: I’m also sticking to my discipline because I get the best of both worlds. If I choose the more artsy part of it, I’ll have to do another cognitive or biological psychology course next year to fill that requirement. I’m still happy with what I’m studying; I’m taking NEW241 — Introduction to Critical Disability Studies, which has allowed me to reflect on different social justice issues, which I feel is an important part of our writing. It unfortunately plays a lesser role in scientific writing because a lot of it is focused on factual reporting. There’s a lot of equity-related issues
in STEM that I feel like The Varsity has been great at addressing, but I’d like to see more on that. VK: Do you think U of T is doing a good job at encouraging disciplinary mingling with policies like breadth requirements? AD: They help by ensuring that students are exposed to different disciplines. I’ve fulfilled the mathematics one by taking statistics courses. I’ve also fulfilled the natural science criteria through an environmental course. As an English student, I can’t fulfill all breadth requirements within an English-degree umbrella. If you’re in a different field that allows you to get away with stuffing all your breath requirements in the container of your subject matter, then they’re not as beneficial. VK: I’ve changed programs six times. I was a math and physics double major who was also dabbling in chemistry. MAT137 — Calculus with Proofs really broke me though, so I dropped the program. PHY152 — Foundations of Physics II was also going too fast for me. AD: I feel like even if students experience a bad class that would tank their GPA, how many people would have the courage to try a new subject? I think more students would remember that they need a certain amount of credits in their major to graduate by their anticipated time. VK: In my first year, I took English and German to fulfill the ‘Creative and Cultural Representations’ breadth requirement. I ended up specializing in psychology, so a lot of those courses were for the ‘Thought, Belief and Behaviour’ criteria or ‘Living Things and their Environment’ breadth requirements. By changing programs, I had all of them covered. The only courses that I took for breadth were in disability studies and women and gender studies. They challenged the way that I saw my own discipline because a lot of psychology research is very ableist and essentialist. AD: You could ask me for one piece of information from breadth classes, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you less than a year later. I admire how you were able to use the knowledge you’ve gained from them to better understand yourself and what you’re passionate about.
Could U of T do more to encourage interdisciplinary learning? VK: What is U of T doing right, and how can they improve? AD: A cool discovery I made is that U of T has certificates; I’m looking to complete one in global affairs with my double major. I like certificates because they consist of two credits. That makes it really easy for students to learn about a different subject matter while still getting credit for it when applying to jobs. VK: That’s really cool. I’ve heard about the certificates, but I’ve never really looked into getting one because I didn’t know what complements my degree. Another option can be to get a citation. If you take two credits in a language at the 300-plus level, you can get one. I only have half a credit in German, but if I took GER100 — Introduction to German and another German course, I’d be getting a citation. But that doesn’t mean that I can read research and communicate in that language. AD: Final question: what made you apply to this column? VK: I was looking for an opportunity to engage in something that’s more artistic. There was a lot of guidance with this column that allowed me to dabble in arts writing while not committing to it — I’m not even on the arts & culture mailing list. AD: I wanted to experiment too. I wanted to mix artistic expression with scientific facts. That’s my favourite kind of writing: data woven with artistic prose and personal opinion. Before this column, I only considered writing to be artistic prose because that’s what I’d read in novels or online journalism. I’ve learned what makes a good writer isn’t expressing feelings in a flowery way. Sharing information is a skill in itself; it’s proving to people why they should care about what surrounds them, and that’s so overlooked. In that sense, artistic writers get more credit than scientific writers. They’re both artistic — just different kinds of artistic. VK: Arts and science writing are unified by the overarching goal of communication. That’s an art. AD: Right now, we’re expressing ourselves in a way we hope will make sense on paper. Even this interview is an art. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Opinion: We can’t wish for a return to normal when normal was never good enough
COVID-19 has emphasized the role of social inequities in spreading disease
Gagandeep Johal Varsity Contributor
I often hear friends and family say, “I can’t wait until we go back to normal.” Although I understand the sentiment behind this very popular phrase being used at the moment, it has me thinking, “What was normal to begin with?” This past year has been challenging to say the least, but it has also forced me to reflect on the state of our society prior to the pandemic. On the surface, one could say that COVID-19 has forced everyone to change the manner in which they go about their daily lives. However, this pandemic has not only elicited lifestyle changes. It has also further reinforced what many scholars and academics have been expressing for so long: the need to directly address the social conditions that determine health outcomes. I am a Master of Public Health
(MPH) student at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a member of the Infectious Disease Working Group, a coalition of MPH graduates and students working to explain COVID-19-related research. In the past year, my colleagues and I have seen far too many examples of how social inequities can increase vulnerability to COVID-19. When we wish for things to go back to normal, we have to recognize that for many people, ‘normal’ was never good enough. Why social determinants of health matter Not everything that impacts our health is biological. So-called social determinants of health — comprising all the environmental and socioeconomic factors that shape the way we live, like income and education — play a large role in our overall health. Upstream public health policies directly aim at
these factors and try to improve them, as opposed to downstream policies, which aim to mitigate social determinants without necessarily fixing them. Throughout the pandemic, many academics and health care professionals have continued to push for upstream solutions when developing policies and methods of deterring the spread of COVID-19. The argument for upstream solutions was already well-established. Even in the 1990s, researchers were aware of the crucial need to shift focus from individualistic causes of disease to the overarching social determinants of health in order to attain health reform to its fullest capacity. Epidemiologist Arjumand Siddiqi has exhibited through her work the various ways in which health inequities have continued to grow — despite the existence of various public health promotion programs. Writing in the Toronto Star, she called this a consequence of the failure to address the social conditions that make people vulnerable to disease. The clear boundary lines of disease One social determinant that we see consistently in the spread of COVID-19 is socioeconomic status. The connection between income and disease burden has been both well-studied and documented. And yet, there has been a lack of efforts made to protect individuals with a low-income background from the risk of COVID-19, illustrating the numerous ways in which we continue to fail in establishing effective interventions and policies. Research continues to illustrate the differential manner through which COVID-19 impacts lowincome communities that were already struggling with inequities prior to the pandemic. In Toronto, the most impacted neighbourhoods include Humbermede, Humber Summit, and Scarborough Village. Many of the most impacted neighborhoods also happen to be designated Neighborhood Improvement Areas. Evidently, this
pandemic continues to highlight the ways in which our current system fails to counter the effects of health inequities. It continues to showcase the ways in which income contributes to the differential spread of disease. It is no shock that those most impacted by COVID-19 are individuals from a lower income background. Research has shown trends of a growing association between socioeconomic status and premature mortality — trends that will continue with Canada’s increasing wealth disparity. We need a new normal Inequities exist not only in the spread of COVID-19 but also in terms of who can truly adhere to the public health guidelines. For many individuals living in multigenerational homes, those experiencing homelessness, those living in communities with boiling water advisories, and those in various other situations that prevent them from being able to protect themselves and their family members, being able to follow certain public health guidelines is a privilege. For example, one can only wash their hands and abide by these guidelines if they are privileged with access to clean water, which many Indigenous communities have not had during this pandemic. In the end, I don’t think we have the option of ever going back to ‘normal’ because it is clear that the normal that existed prior to this pandemic was never good enough to begin with. Although I don’t wish to chastise anyone for wishing so, I do hope that — with the information and knowledge surrounding the impact of COVID-19 — people begin to ask questions about how we let this happen. How did we know that social inequities drive disease spread yet fail those who were already anticipated to be the most affected? How can we facilitate effective change going forward?
Opinion: For first-years, online labs have been underwhelming Online labs fail to teach skills effectively, lack peer-to-peer learning
Sahir Dhalla Lead Copy Editor
Before coming to university, the part that I, and many other students entering the sciences had perhaps looked forward to the most were the labs. We would have access to highgrade equipment and new technologies, and we would be carrying out experiments at a far higher level than we ever did in high school. It all seemed incredibly exciting! And then the pandemic happened. Suddenly, our practicals were all shifted online, carried out through videos rather than with test tubes and in pajamas rather than lab coats. This year, first-years in lab-intensive courses have had to adapt not only to the increased pressures of university life, but also to an entirely new delivery format for their labs — and with the online environment have come a number of issues. Missed educational opportunities? Mariah Johnson, a first-year life science student, pointed out that labs are a big draw for first-year students entering university. “[Labs are] a big part [of doing a science degree], so I was excited to have some sort of interactive component of school,” she said in an interview with The Varsity. Liana De Luna, another first-year student, also mentioned how much she was looking forward to doing labs with better equipment and more interesting topics than the ones she did in high school. “Chemistry and Biology labs in highschool were always so fascinating and so much fun for me, but the budget for equipment at my highschool was not very high,” she wrote in an email to The Varsity. “Therefore, when I went on tours and heard
about the types of labs that first year students would be able to do… I was very excited to graduate high school.” But with the online format, students don’t always get that interactive component. Johnson remarked that it was “difficult watching someone else do [labs] instead of having the hands-on experience,” and students were worried about the impact this could have on their futures. There are a lot of lab techniques that we will need in the future. It’s one thing to do these labs in a computer simulation but another one entirely to do it physically. “There’s a lot more things that you need to be aware of that a computer [usually] takes care of,” Sebastian Vinasco-Lasso, a first-year student taking biology courses, said in an interview with The Varsity. No in-person lab work means no in-person lab partners Alongside the educational aspect, there is also a major social aspect to labs. The online labs, particularly the asynchronous ones, have felt incredibly isolating, and many students often end up having to find their own way through them. In person, you could always ask your lab group or teaching assistants (TA) for help, but online, we have had to teach ourselves these skills. Some courses, such as BIO120 — Adaptation and Biodiversity and BIO130 — Molecular and Cell Biology, were able to combat these issues well. They conducted synchronous sessions as part of their labs, allowing students to connect with TAs and clear up issues or questions they had. These courses also had lab groups or partners instead of students working individually, which can help a lot. Other courses, however, have not been so proactive. A lot of the issues and challenges
Online labs transfer few valuable skills and often have technical difficulties. AALIYAH MULLA/THEVARSITY
centred around the labs in CHM135 — Chemistry: Physical Principles and CHM136 — Introductory Organic Chemistry. These labs were conducted asynchronously through pre-recorded videos that we had to interpret for results, and these have not been very friendly to us. While there were synchronous sessions, they were only there to prepare us for when we watched the videos, rather than to help us carry out the lab itself. Ayanna Sharma, a student currently taking CHM136, said in an interview with The Varsity that she has had to email the lab coordinators everytime because of some issues, either with the marking or the labs themselves. A developing story With these issues and others, the excitement students carried when entering first year seems
to have dissipated. We felt as though the labs became “just another task,” and we were doing them simply for the sake of it. “I don’t feel like I’m enjoying it… as much as I could be,” Sharma said. “I do enjoy chemistry… but I just feel like with the labs, it’s just another thing to cross off the list.” However, coming together as a community and understanding that everyone is going through this has helped students alleviate some of that disappointment. Overall, this year has somehow been both overwhelming and underwhelming for firstyear students. University life is a whole other world we have gotten to explore — albeit in a limited capacity online — and while we have not yet seen it all, we will get the opportunity to do so soon, so our excitement is simply on hold until then.
APRIL 5, 2021
Claire Kremen on how agriculture and biodiversity can work together UTSC GSA event features MacArthur Genius Grant fellow
Sahir Dhalla Lead Copy Editor
On March 18, the New Frontiers Seminar Series (NFSS), hosted by the Graduate Students’ Association at UTSC, held a talk on how agricultural landscapes could be redesigned to help regenerate biodiversity and vital ecological processes. The talk was presented by Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist and 2007 MacArthur Genius Grant fellow who is currently the president’s excellence chair in biodiversity at the University of British Columbia. At the start of her talk, Kremen stressed the abundant shortcomings of the current global food systems in promoting health of both individuals and the environment. We see large amounts of hunger, which affects as many as 800 million people in the world, but we also produce far more than we currently need. Agriculture and food production are some of the main contributors to the biodiversity crisis that the global community faces with their immense water usage, habitat destruction, and emission of greenhouse gases. What should we change? Kremen highlighted a paradox that exists in farmland management. She pointed out that, while farmlands currently have a detrimental effect on biodiversity, biodiversity actually has a small but noticeable positive output on agriculture. Using that knowledge, we must focus on changing the negative effect of farmland management to a more positive one, which would result in better agriculture, biodiversity, and sus-
improve the social systems that produce agriculture in addition to improving farming practices themselves. So this transformation considers “not only practices and the science of agroecology, but also the social movements” that contribute to a more sustainable agriculture industry and promote farmer agency.
Conservation biologist Claire Kremen presented the talk. TAHMEED SHAFIQ/THEVARSITY
tainability. Three key opportunities were highlighted during the talk, ranging from smaller tweaks to the farmland systems to full transformations of how things are done. The first of these is ‘ecological intensification,’ which focuses on enhancing crop yields while reducing inputs. Some important practices highlighted that support ecological intensification include hedgerows and flower strips, which prevent farm runoffs and attract beneficial in-
sects. A second tweak that she suggested is implementing the use of diversified farming systems, which focus on methods and tools that can harness ecological diversity at a plot or landscape scale. Practices that improve this include polycultures, which grow more than one crop species at a time to imitate natural biodiversity and continuously replenish the soil. The final solution Kremen pointed out is ‘agroecological transformation,’ which tries to
Benefits of these practices During the talk, Kremen spoke about some cases and tests that labs had run using various tweaks and transformations to see whether they had significant benefits. One case that her lab carried out was growing hedgerows at the edges of Californian crop fields. The team discovered that not only was there a massive reduction in the pollution caused by the fields, but there was also a significant increase in the biodiversity of bees and birds. This increase in biodiversity also led to an increase in profits, as the bees increased pollination while birds acted as natural pesticides. Accordingly, farmers no longer had to buy pesticides and other forms of pest control. South American silvopastures showed similar results. By integrating crops with forage plants for livestock, the pastures not only experienced an increase in yields, but they were able to survive and keep producing during droughts and heat spikes, which conventional fields were unable to do. Overall, the data collected from these cases and many others have shown that modifying agricultural practices to support biodiversity is a major benefit to crop yields and stability, as well as other environmental factors.
Covering a year of COVID-19
A letter from the science editor Tahmeed Shafiq Science Editor
This is a strange time to be a science communicator. I’m hardly the first to say this. You can do a quick Google search and find many articles in which professional journalists outline the stresses their job has put on them in the last 15 months: the glut of research they’ve had to sift through, the difficulty of tracing a clear narrative through the shifting tides of scientific consensus, and the higher stakes they feel to make sure that public opinion on the safety of masks, physical distancing, and vaccines can save lives in the short term. It feels like there’s a new responsibility to communicate scientific expertise in an accessible and engaging way. As Science Editor, I’ve felt this responsibility over the past year. And I’m so proud of how our small team of writers has done their part to add to the conversation. We’ve covered COVID-19 from all angles: from the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to the safety of U of T’s fall 2020 reopening plans. We’ve answered your questions on the safety of vaccines and called for more attention about who is most affected by the pandemic. As always, it’s been the most marginalized people in our society who have borne the most hardship. We’ve tried to inform our student community as timely and responsibly as we can during a public health crisis. Alongside the rest of the Varsity team, we’ve tried to highlight how our community is responding and what our students are experiencing. In a strange year when we all worked from home, our writers, designers, and editors all persevered to produce a diverse and high-quality range of COVID-19 coverage. I couldn’t ask for a better team. And we aren’t the only ones doing so. Across all three campuses, U of T’s scientific expertise is flowing out toward the public, aiming to inform, warn, and educate. U of T science communicators — from research teams like the COVID-19 Canada Open
Data Working Group and the Infectious Disease Working Group to student organizations like The Strand newspaper at Victoria College — are doing exceptional work. Professors, podcasters, and students have given enormous amounts of time and energy to this work. There are far too many individuals to name them all, but if you know someone who is trying to communicate vital information about the pandemic, please acknowledge and appreciate their efforts. It’s always very appreciated. Science beyond COVID-19 Of course, COVID-19 hasn’t been the only noteworthy subject the science section has covered this year. We’ve published dozens of articles and tens of thousands of words on every subject from astronomy to anatomy. I can’t give you an exhaustive list, but I can try for a representative sample. Most recently, first-time writer Elisha Kelman did a deep dive into the ethics of U of T’s strategic partnership with Huawei for research. In March, Christina Lam recapped the long history that took insulin from a U of T lab and made it a life-saving drug. Zaky Hassan wrote powerfully about what it means to be a Black student in a lab for our Black History Month issue. We’ve looked at the case for drug decriminalization, the best ways to learn to code, and the impacts of meditation on your brain. And, of course, I have to mention Pigeonholes, The Varsity’s first inter-sectional column in which writers from the arts and science sections swapped places to write about topics unfamiliar to them. One of my goals with the science section this year has been to showcase the diversity of science writing. I really hope you’ve found that in our pages this year. And on a personal note There have been many surprises for me this year as I stepped into the role, but perhaps the most welcome was how reading all of your articles has
reconnected me to science. I entered university with a sure goal to study theoretical physics, but I quickly found myself in an environment that felt over-competitive and unsupportive. I think all STEM students at U of T know what I’m talking about. For me, watching my peers excel where I struggled created deep insecurities about my place in this institution, and I slowly withdrew from friend circles that had formed around shared math and physics courses. I avoided the Physics Student Union room. I took fewer and fewer STEM classes and focused on my philosophy major instead. I was even too anxious to watch the science YouTube videos that helped me settle on physics as a major. Now, I see that everyone probably felt the same way. But, at the time, all I could see was other people’s successes; all I could fixate on was what
For Volume 141 science writers, covering COVID-19 has been a high stakes job.
they were saying about how well they understood this or that problem set — behaviour that I now understand was just posturing. Reading all of your articles helped me remember why I was so passionate about science in the first place. It’s been a personal delight working with you all this year — you’ve taught me so much. I couldn’t have gotten to the finish line without the support of my colleagues and my fantastic associate editors, Aanya Bahl and Valeria Khudiakova. But I’m particularly grateful to you, as readers and writers, for making this time worthwhile. Cheers. — Tahmeed Shafiq Science Editor, Volume CXLI
April 5, 2021 vrsty.ca/sports email@example.com
In conversation with a kombucha-brewing Varsity Blues hockey player How second-year Brendan Bornstein started his own brand
Miranda Carroll Varsity Contributor
Brendan Bornstein, a second-year Varsity Blues hockey player, started brewing and selling kombucha tea earlier this semester. Since then, his brand, Brendan’s Boocha, has had great success. This week, I got the chance to have an email conversation with Bornstein about what it’s like to be a student athlete and a small business owner, how the pandemic has allowed him to explore new interests, and where he sees himself and his brand going in the future. The Varsity: Give me a quick day in the life. What is your routine looking like without a hockey season? Brendan Bornstein: My routine has definitely changed a lot. Typically, my day starts at around 8:00 am, and I make some coffee and drink a kombucha. Then, I do my morning workout followed by breakfast. After that, I settle in at my desk and start working on my schoolwork for the day, which generally consumes the rest of my morning and most of the afternoon. Once I’m done, I practise yoga and meditate to unwind! After yoga, I make dinner and start working on whatever needs to be done with the kombucha business, which could be brewing, branding, social media, or business operations. TV: I know that you have recently started selling kombucha. What inspired you to get into it? BB: Gut health is always something that I have struggled with, and kombucha was a health product that I found worked well for me. I started brewing it for myself this year; however, my passion for kombucha and health and wellness stems back to my teenage years. I found that I was going through store-bought kombucha quickly, and with no hockey season and a little extra time on my hands, I figured I would give brewing my own kombucha a try! After experimenting with a few batches and fla-
vours, I was very pleased with my product and decided to give some to my friends to try — and the feedback I got was tremendous. I was asked to make more for them, and that is when Brendan’s Boocha was born. TV: Do you think your experience as a hockey player has given you insight into running a small business? If so, have you noticed any transferable skills between sports and entrepreneurship? BB: I definitely think my experience as a hockey player has helped me when it comes to running my small business. Being a part of a team since such a young age has taught me the importance of working well with others, as well as contributing as much as you can to the common goal of the team or, in this case, a company. Work ethic and time management skills are also some things I have learned about through my years as a hockey player, and I have been able to incorporate them into all aspects of my life. Working hard in a team environment is extremely helpful and transferable from the sports world into the business world, and I am grateful for all of the life skills I have learned from being a hockey player. TV: I am sure that making and selling kombucha is pretty time consuming. How do you see yourself balancing school, hockey, and running a small business when hockey hopefully starts up again next year? BB: Yes, starting my own small business has definitely been very time consuming. In order to balance school, hockey, and running a small business, time management is going to be vital for me. But I have always needed to work on time management as a student athlete, so this is not something new for me. I believe I have prepared myself well to manage everything I have going on since I am a passionate person and truly love what I am building. I enjoy when I am busy with things that I am pas-
Brendan has big plans for him and Brendan’s Boocha. COURTESY OF LARRY HENG
sionate about. I have big plans for the summer: I am hopefully adding some more team members to my business to help growth and expansion as we progress. TV: Where do you see yourself going in the future in regard to playing hockey and making kombucha? BB: I have big plans for myself as well as Brendan’s Boocha. My plan is to pursue hockey professionally while continuing to grow Brendan’s Boocha. I would like my company to grow into a health and wellness lifestyle brand bigger than just kombucha. I am also working on getting my yoga teacher certification, and I plan on incorporating different kinds of yoga and guided meditations into my brand. I am passionate about hockey and health and wellness, and I want to do everything in my power to be able to do both to the best of my ability for as long as possible.
Opinion: Athletes shouldn’t be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine Professional sports can wait
Losing high-risk lives is something we can’t take back. ASIF AISHA IBRAHIM/THEVARSITY
Emmy Curtis Varsity Contributor
It cancelled the Olympic Games. It took away some athletes’ last opportunity to qualify for and play the sport they love. It cleared out buildings, fields, and arenas that were once full of thousands of energetic and vibrant fans, leaving
nothing but empty seats. The pandemic has affected the world of sport, without question. This debate is about where professional sports athletes should stand on the waitlist for the COVID-19 vaccine. It has not been an easy decision. With the 2020 Summer Olympics rolling right around the corner, should athletes be first in line for the vaccine?
The answer is that athletes shouldn’t expect to jump to the start of the line. Although professional sports are focused around large groups of people and boost our communities and local economies in many ways, athletes are generally very fit and healthy individuals who are already required to follow strong COVID-19 regulations. Ultimately, they do not fall under the “high-
TV: On a less serious note, who would win in a fight: Wayne Gretzky or GT Dave? BB: Wayne Gretzky, of course, come on now! TV: If you could watch hockey with one kombucha brewer, dead or alive, who would it be and why? BB: Probably Daina Trout of Health-Ade. Her story is interesting and very similar to my own in how we got into selling kombucha. I would love to pick her brain. TV: If you could brew kombucha with one hockey player, dead or alive, who would it be and why? BB: Georges Laraque! He currently owns Rise Kombucha as well as his own vegan restaurant in Montréal, and I would love to get his perspective on transitioning from hockey into the world of health and wellness! This interview has been edited for length and clarity. risk” category — a category that includes vulnerable groups, such as essential workers, people with underlying health conditions, members of Indigenous communities, and older adults. Athletes shouldn’t feel the need to be prioritized in vaccine distribution. Since leagues like the NHL, NBA, and National Collegiate Athletic Association have outlined strong COVID-19 rules and regulations for their players, staff, and teams, and since athletes are not high risk, it makes sense that the at-risk public should be at the front of the line — ahead of our teams. That being said, where exactly do athletes fall on the list for the COVID-19 vaccine? Professional athletes should not expect to get the vaccine until ‘priority groups’ such as teachers, police officers, and grocery store workers have received their doses — meaning that they should not receive the vaccine until the general public can. For professional sports, this will mean more of exactly what they are doing now — limiting the number of fans allowed in buildings and following all mask and physical distancing guidelines. As far as the Olympic Games are concerned, the bubble technique has proven effective at preventing COVID-19 from disrupting games and may be an equally effective technique for the Olympics. We are all craving a good sports game. We have all been waiting for the chance to watch an in-person match for the last year, seeking that social dynamic, and hoping for the opportunity to rep our jerseys again. That moment will come. We, as fans, must remember that sport will remain sport, our teams will remain our teams, and the games we love will remain the games we love — but losing high-risk lives is something we can’t take back.
APRIL 5, 2021 was once the best F1 driver on the planet. However, driving with an inferior car for Aston Martin will likely place greater pressure on Vettel to find success. Nevertheless, the middle-of-the-pack for constructors and drivers is shaping up to be an entertaining battle going forward.
Storylines as the 2021 championship gets underway
Kartik Rudra Varsity Contributor
The 2021 Formula One (F1) Championship began on March 28 with the Bahrain Grand Prix, which saw seven-time World Drivers’ Champion and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton take the checkered flag. With that in mind, here are some storylines and predictions as the season gets underway. Can anyone stop Hamilton? The first question that pops into mind is whether anyone will be able to stop Hamilton from winning his eighth championship. He is the most gifted driver in the competition and has the major advantage of driving one of the best, if not the best, car in the competition.
One contender is Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing. Verstappen narrowly missed winning the Bahrain Grand Prix by 0.7 seconds, despite having the faster car. Mistakes played a role, with Verstappen oversteering on lap 53 of the race, which prevented further challenges against Hamilton. While the expectation exists for Hamilton to become the champion, Verstappen will not make it a cakewalk. Familiar drivers, new teams Within the so-called ‘midfield,’ numerous drivers changed teams before the 2021 season. Changes included Daniel Ricciardo, who signed for McLaren; Carlos Sainz, who joined Ferrari; and Sebastian Vettel, who joined Aston Martin. For drivers such as Vettel, a new team presents a chance for him to show why he
Canadians in the competition There are two Canadians participating this season, with Lance Stroll driving for Aston Martin and Nicholas Latifi driving for Williams Racing. Stroll will be looking to build off of a solid 2020 season, which saw him tie for 10th place, winning one pole position at the Turkish Grand Prix and having two podium finishes at the Italian Grand Prix and Sakhir Grand Prix, while his team finished fourth in the Constructors Championship. For this season, Stroll believes that he can finish in the top five and that his team can finish in the top three for constructors. Certainly, one can hope that Stroll will string together strong performances and podium finishes this season. Latifi, on the other hand, is coming off a 21st-placed rookie season while driving with Williams. Latifi said that his goals for this season are to improve his qualifying for races, as he believes it will make his race days much easier. It is probably best to temper expectations for Latifi this season. With a full season on the menu following a COVID-19-riddled 2020 season, F1 is on track to serve up many more exciting races to come.
Reviewing the sports section in a year without games A letter from the editors
Laura Ashwood and Angad Deol Sports Editor and Associate Sports Editor
On the anatomy of a COVID-19 sports section This year was a challenge for the sports section: the cancellation of Ontario University Athletics sports threw a wrench into what used to be consistent content in the form of exciting game recaps and university-athletic news. Just as athletes have had to mourn their seasons’ abrupt endings, we ardent Blues fans at The Varsity have had to lament the indefinite suspension of our school’s games and our game coverage. We had to get creative. Instead of diving deep into statistics and plays, we decided instead to dive into the stories of the athletes who populate not only the Varsity Blues rosters, but also the classrooms that we used to sit in. Players from football teams, soccer teams, basketball teams, and more were profiled in depth this year. As an editor, I realized through these pieces that
athletics extend beyond the field: the cultural and emotional impact that sport has — not only on its players but its fans — is not something that disappears overnight, and it gives us hope for a sport-filled future. This year, we were also met with the pandemic’s accompanying mental health crisis, and we were faced with covering not only how to maintain physical health but mental wellness as well. This type of content was, and is, more important and relevant than ever before. Covering everything from mindfulness, to yoga, stress management techniques, and the intersection of physical and mental health, we placed an emphasis on becoming a source of reliable and helpful information for students who were struggling to find coping mechanisms amidst a jam-packed semester and pandemic isolation. Although we covered news and professional sport as well, we hope that our section this year provided you with faith in the resilience of university athletics, a newfound appreciation for our very own student
COVID-19 sports coverage wasn’t easy.
athletes, and excitement for a future full of games at the Varsity Centre. Thank you so much for letting us write for you! — Laura Ashwood Sports Editor, Volume CXLI On this year’s intersection of politics and sports The past year has been turbulent to say the least — and the world of sports definitely served as a window into the cultural bubble that was 2020. COVID-19 itself greatly influenced sports both on and off the field — but so did politics, with the Black Lives Matter movement’s intersection with sports being perhaps the most identifiable example. In the wake of the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, among an unfortunate and tragically long list, as well as the unjust shooting of Jacob Blake, athletes spoke out and took action both on and off the court. Part of my Sikh upbringing was to always speak up for those who are oppressed and require assistance — and I felt it was necessary to cover these protests for The Varsity, not just because they were huge stories in sports, but because these stories have had massive implications for our cultural fabric. Recently, I was also able to discuss another important topic in the world of sports — the appropriation of Indigenous cultures. Learning about how long these beautiful cultures have been used for profit — which has been going into the pockets of people who feel nothing but contempt for the struggles of Indigenous peoples — made me deeply upset. Politics and sports are not mutually exclusive. They have been connected for decades. In the future, I believe it is of the utmost importance that The Varsity continues to cover the intersection of politics and sports — through all the difficult conversations and tragedies. The afflicted communities deserve to have their voices heard on all platforms, and I hope to continue elevating their voices as a member of The Varsity. — Angad Deol Associate Sports Editor, Volume CXLI
Intermittent fasting — does this fad really work? Reviewing the eating strategy
Looking ahead to the Formula One season
Namit Vedya Varsity Contributor
In the world of health, there is no shortage of eating strategies — whether it be going keto, vegan, or even Mediterranean. Although some of these don’t really work, others can be promising and have been adopted by the public. Consider intermittent fasting, which is characterized by eating in cycles that are split between eating and fasting. One way this can be done is by only consuming food during eight hours of the day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. Some people even choose to do cycles of four and 20 hours, while others tend to eat for five days and fast for two. When we examine human history, we can actually see that intermittent fasting makes sense. When we were hunter-gatherers, we could not eat whenever we wanted, so fasting would be a pretty common practice. Moreover, many religions today make fasting a regular practice. Fasting can also be linked to elevated growth hormones, greater insulin sensitivity, changes in gene expression, and increased cellular repair. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce chances for heart disease, reduce risk of cancer, and even has anti-aging capabilities. With all these health benefits, intermittent fasting has become a very popular way to lose weight. Some studies have backed this claim, but as new evidence comes in, we keep learning more. Although many are in favour, fasting is highly contested since it’s hard to be completely sure of its efficacy. Like all eating patterns, fasting will not work for everybody. For beginners, it would be wise to talk to a health care professional about whether intermittent fasting is the best course of action for you. People who have had eating disorders or are underweight should be especially cautious, and we should be wary of the psychological detriments of an eating pattern centred on restriction. In addition, if you have certain preexisting conditions such as diabetes, intermittent fasting may not be for you. All in all, intermittent fasting is an eating strategy that has lots of apparent advantages, but the method is also disputed. As such, it is best to talk to your doctor before starting it.
It is still March 2020, fight me
THE FARCITY The purest, most truthful source of news since MySpace went BONK
U of T goes online forever!
All hail Shringle: the creature, the myth, the legend
What more could students and professors ask for? Google Chrome dinosaur who wants more screen time Farcity Contributor
Meet The Varsity’s overlord Senior orphan killer On behalf of The Farcity Editorial Board Canada Research Chair in Shringelore
Of the creatures that lurk within 21 Sussex Avenue — campus police officers, sleep-deprived student journalists, ambitious student club leaders — the building’s longest resident and The Varsity’s home deity is lesser known — and we at The Varsity want to change that. Welcome our god, Shringle into your life! Your home! Part turtle, penguin, monkey, and giraffe, he has reigned over content production longer than any editor-in-chief or lowly writer and we couldn’t be happier. Masthead members have argued over his prowess in the past — is he a monster? Or is he a misunderstood creature who didn’t ask to be this way and deserves to be loved and accepted? Over the years, his strange little smile has wedged itself into the hearts and nightmares of many and remained for decades. One editor took him on a date to Ikea; others (current masthead included) have revered him as a god. The Volume 136 held a party in his honour, titled “Shringle’s Revenge,” featuring a photo of him sitting on a case of beer, clutching a foam sword where he fought student politicians who refused to source their op-eds. Yet, despite his prominence and worship, his existence raises many questions. We at The Varsity do not know who created him, what their intention was, or how long he has roamed our offices. For the last decade or so, Varsity mastheads have been left with little to no institutional memory of his being — only his physical presence in the office and little tidbits we’ve snatched and hidden away. However, I present this for institutional memory on our overlord: an article that no one will see and whose factuality will almost certainly be doubted because of its very nature. Going into this investigation on his holiness and grand power, I knew very little. I was in the office with his grace, sewing a hole in his third arm last year when a worshipper from The Varsity’s 2011–
2012 masthead recognized him, stretching our estimates of his age to roughly a decade. Since the time of his creation, a rumour has also trickled down that he was once named “Animal Monster” (a slight that surely will not go unpunished in the afterlife). While it is difficult to trace the etymology of his holiness’ current name, ‘Shringle’ (Ancestry.com gave me nothing), ‘Animal Monster’ seems to be a name that has closer ties to his creation and being. Under this cruel name, the earliest reference to Shringle in our archives is in an event listing written by a former Varsity editor-in-chief and published on November 11, 2008, making Shringle at least 12 years old. The listing is for “a DJ dance party featuring U of T alum ANIMAL MONSTER” and clarifies that there’s a “(stuffed likeness pictured here).” While the picture never made it through the website redesign, our saviour Shringle can be seen in the archived print issue, lovingly smiling out from the arms of a worshipper, looking the same as he did last month when I found him hiding behind a computer in the empty office and last year when I sewed him back into repair. The referenced musical project, ANIMAL MONSTER, shows up in a couple of other event listings from that time but has dropped off the map in more recent years. The question for our lord Shringle then is the causality of his previous name and potential ties to the artist. Perhaps the being we have deified is a piece of budget band merch from a U of T alum who had ties to The Varsity at the time; perhaps there are more like him out there, waiting to be accepted, loved, and worshipped. Or, perhaps — as has been prophesied — he was born from the wall asbestos and lives to remind us of our values of journalistic integrity, factuality, and Twitter discourse. Amid this debate, we must persevere; we must strike down those who defy him; we must call out heretics when we see them and vote them out of our elections. And when we need him most, I am certain that he will be there, aiding in times of great journalistic need and valiantly defending us from Reddit trolls.
In winter 2020, the University of Toronto launched its first ever streaming service, “Zoom/BB Collab University,” for only $8,000 a year! U of T is providing unparalleled access to live and recorded lecture streaming. “The fee even covers a gym membership that I can’t use — but it’s the thought that counts!” said one student, tears of happiness streaming down their face. The professors are adjusting quite well to it, taking only 10 minutes of each class to figure out how to share their screen. Even professors who prefer to use analog projectors in class can now do that from home with a camera set up to show a piece of paper. Whether or not all the notes are visible is always a fun game of chance! Some professors have also expressed great joy in the opportunity to deliver lectures on topics they are most passionate about twice, when they forget to unmute themselves for an hour while students look on in silence, too respectful to remind them. One professor even said, “It really helps me to solidify my content for next year’s lectures!” Professors also revel in the chance to start lectures on the hour instead of at U of T time because “students don’t need a break or time to walk between classes anyways!” Students also share their fears of internet or power outages during exams, claiming it pushes them to finish exams and assignments faster than ever. “My productivity has spiked at home,” says another student. “My cat sitting on my keyboard during lecture really helps me focus,” another shares. Others claim that “Zoom/BB Collab University” has done wonders for their mental health and that they wish they could graduate on a Minecraft server. Will there ever be a need to hold university in person again? “Of course not!” said U of T President Geric Mertler. “There are too many benefits to U of T online!”
Outgoing masthead members steal The Farcity’s design computers Amidst the pandemic that has shaken the globe, many have had to make do with home working environments however possible. At The Farcity, this meant that those who were involved in the latter stages of print production — namely the creative director, design editors, and senior copy editors — took home design computers from the office to continue working remotely.
However, as this year’s masthead has been transitioning out of their tenure at The Farcity, incoming and outcoming management came to a startling realization: several of the editors who had taken home The Farcity’s 10-year-old computers had disappeared without returning them. A source close to the editors in question told The Farcity that they overheard several editors discussing the matter only days before the plot was discovered, claiming the computers were to make up for alleged “unlivable wages” and “long,
About our new website…
Addressing the The Farcity rebrand for better content Pubic Relations Manager Farcity Contributor
Have you clicked on var.st and been bamboozled by a raunchy and seemingly illegal website? Boozle no more and prepared to be bammed by our latest change. The Farcity has started a new section, The Farcititty, only available on the dark web. What will it provide? What did Pandora find in the box? Only Pandora knows. If it’s your first time, we recommend viewing our new section, Home. Alone. With a VPN of course. Warning, it’s dangerousaly addicktive, featuring a better Macaulay Culkin and, surprisingly, not set in New York. Why did we make this change? Like every great achievement in history, there is a heart-wrenching origin story behind this monumental change. Student Journalism is dying, and we had to face the facts. In an interview with the editor-in-chief in his ivory tower penthouse office, I asked him about the expansion. He talked about bitcoin and the dark web being the most profitable market, but the focus was on saving Journalism. “We need this money to save Journalism. Without it, we wouldn’t have The Farcity,” he passionately said, tearing up while resting on his gold-crested chair watching over the city skyline. The waterworks eventually stained his rosecoloured satin chair, which he apologized for and said, “These tears, they’re for Student — Student Journalism.” Check out The Farcititty on var.st. To support the work of Student Journalism, visit The Farcity. We also accept wire transfers to support Journalism.
Down with Con Hall, power to online UofT!
Print production remains uncertain in these uncertain times Senior orphan killer Canada Research Chair in Shringelore
Vol. 420 No. 389
stressful, sleepless nights.” A statement to The Farcity from one of the thieves, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution, reads, “Why would you want it back? It takes 55 minutes to boot up and crashes every other hour. Let us have this.” When asked what her opinion on the matter was, incoming Editor-in-Chief Cannah Harty said, “Whatever, it’s not a big deal. We’re rolling in dough — anyway, where’d I put my goldinfused champagne.”
Until The Farcity’s insurance claim comes in or the parties responsible for the crime — and our former friends — recompense, you can find The Farcity where you always have: online and in outdated copies under the trash that has been thrown into our newsstands. (Who reads print anyway?) Disclosure: According to The Farcity’s IP tracking efforts, this article was written from one of the stolen computers.
THE FARCITY Vol. who knows, No. THE END we have no office; we have been cast out by the cold, harsh pandemic :‘( Zoom, ON M5S 1J6
FOOLS IN SWEATPANTS Shameless region hopper Weeb-in-Chief Can’t download a PDF Local Produce Seller
Koala le Bland Extremely Online
Senior orphan killer Canada Research Chair in Shringelore
Jamie Hope in disguise firstname.lastname@example.org ‘Photos of Buildings Section’ Editor The Blank Muted Screen email@example.com Propaganda Editor He Who Homogenizes General Secretary of the Party
Perpetually sleep-deprived Many words long article editor
Top 0.1% of Phoebe Bridgers fans firstname.lastname@example.org Editor of Cool Things Ibnul’s weeb piñata email@example.com Giant Monster Connoisseur Omg they were roommates Testing Utrain: Do the workouts really work? 4D Chess Grandmaster The Imposter
The Time Traveller Architecture Student Representative
Mother of Meatball Omnipresent Bird in the Sky
The purest cinnamon roll Professional Skribblio Champion
товарищ Pictures but moving
Acting kinda sus Munachi FC
The Fixer Scarborough Webber
Zack on the beat Cocaine farmer
Soundcloud Rapper Trying a Real Job™ firstname.lastname@example.org The Sacrificial Lamb of the #quotes channel Secretly runs a utsu stan account less important news editor No respect for Comment/News Divide token utm student
Let’s talk about frequently oversharing her personal life in 600 words email@example.com token utsc student The Mike transfer student student union wrangler
100% Independent from our nonsense firstname.lastname@example.org Serving the people outside the ivory tower
Ominous Zoom Square, Comp sci diversity hire, Union Organizer Overworked Night Owls
Bit of a boomer Associate Sports Editor
Union buster, SCSU spy Neoliberals Wage Slaves master of hot rakes, other comp sci diversity hire, Graphic design is my first-year burden, Associate News Editors Graphic design is my passion Hot takes generator #1, Associate Design Editors Hot takes generator #2 Associate Comment Editors RGB, CMYK Trinpostor, Associate Illustration Editors Freelancing Queen Associate Features Editors putting the ‘art’ in photogrartphy, Only artist in arts section, Started a new position on Got Connections LinkedIn Associate A&C Editors APES or APEs? Brains and beasts, Ms Worldwide Zoom Editor Associate Science Editors Associate Video Editor
Letter to the Editor: THIS EMAIL DOES NOT FIND ME FUCKING WELL
“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU,” writes concerned student Silence Dofuckall Farcity Contributor
HEY, YOU — PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE VARSITY. DESPITE YOUR NEEDLESSLY FREQUENT TRIPS TO MY SPAM FOLDER, YOUR EXCESSIVE EMAILS NEVER HAVE — AND NEVER WILL — FIND ME FUCKING WELL. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? HAVE YOU BEEN ON A UNIVERSITY-MANDATED LEAVE OF ABSENCE FROM REALITY FOR THE PAST ONE YEAR, TWO WEEKS, FIVE DAYS, SEVEN HOURS, AND NINE MINUTES THAT WE’VE BEEN IN SOUL-DESTROYING LOCKDOWN? OF COURSE YOUR EMAIL DOES NOT FIND ME WELL. WHO THE SHITE IS WELL RIGHT NOW? “oH, iT’s jUsT a sOcIaL nIcEtY,” MY ASS. YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE IS JUST A SOCIAL NICETY? BRANDED MASKS — THAT DO FUCK ALL TO BLOCK COVID. MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES — THAT HAVE WAITLISTS UNTIL 2030. WHATEVER EMOTION GERIC MERTLER TRIES TO CONVEY IN EVERY ‘NEXT SEMESTER WILL TOTALLY BE IN PERSON, GUYS’ EMAIL. I SWEAR YOU FUCKWITS PROBABLY BELIEVE THE MEGACORPORATIONS
Clearly the work of a psychopath.
HE WHO HOMOGENIZES/THEFARCITY
ARE ACTUALLY ‘ALL IN THIS TOGETHER’ WITH YOU DURING THESE ‘UNPRECEDENTED TIMES.’ YOU ASSHATS CLAIM TO BE OUR “NEWSPAPER OF RECORD?” GROW A SPINE AND START YOUR EMAILS WITH THE TRUTH. “READ THIS FUCKING EMAIL SO OUR NEWSPA-
who are you? why are you reading this? print is dead. didn't you get the memo? jeez.
OFFICE OF CAPITALISM
Finally in Toronto email@example.com Reader of print (M)essaging (G)ood (A)dvertisers firstname.lastname@example.org attendee of many interviews help I haven't seen another human being in three months, my cat is my only friend and she thinks I’m weird. are you sure you are real??? I’m not. Nothing is real. We are but pixels in a computer run by a simulation and we will never escape and will always be contained within these four walls. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN. RUN.
Silence Dofuckall is an AbC candidate in the Department of Anger. They previously served as the small voice inside of every student on The Varsity’s listserv before being replaced by Resigned Indifference.
Farcity news editors arrested for “making news” when there wasn’t enough to fill five pages
Allegations include arson, defamation, attending student union meetings in disguise Secretly runs a utsu stan account less important news editor
The editors of The Farcity’s news section were arrested this week after allegations that they began “making news” when there wasn’t enough to fill five pages of the newspaper. The editors are currently in police custody awaiting trial for a slew of charges, including arson, fake identities, libel, slander, and defamation. The allegations put a number of articles from the year into question, including reports that U of T President Geric Mertler was caught doing cannonballs in the Hart House pool and an investigation into a U of T secret society that seems to have been created by the news editors themselves. “The news section is five pages. What’s that, like 10,000 words?” said the news editor, who has asked to remain anonymous. “What am I supposed to do? Wait around for interesting things to happen?” As it turns out, they certainly did not “wait around
for interesting things to happen.” Tactics undertaken by the so-called news editors included wearing disguises to student union meetings, attempting to break into and burn down the unfinished Student Commons building, and waiting outside the homes of U of T faculty members, all with the goal of creating stories that they could later report on. “The Student Commons opening is a disaster for us. Nothing is more thrilling for me than writing an article every month confirming that the building is still closed,” said Deputy News Editor Aauren Lexander. “Sometimes, if there is no news, you have to make some.” Executives for the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) described an incident in which the editors attended a meeting of its board of directors in disguise, heckling the group with the intention of creating an uproar. Those who attended the meeting in question described the incident as “bizarre,” saying that the heckling ranged from criticisms of proposed UTSU
Here rest the souls of our copy volunteers… they are still alive… just resting.
PER CAN CONTINUE EXISTING AS A PUBLIC RESOURCE,” WOULD BE APPRECIATED.
You can’t see her, but rest assured Aauren Lexander is in that cop car in a Value Village wig. JENNIFER SU/THEVARSITY
bylaw amendments to personal attacks on individual members of the UTSU executive. “Yeah, we all knew it was them. The disguises were really bad,” said one member of the UTSU’s board of directors who was present at the meeting. “Honestly, it was pretty mean stuff. I’m glad someone finally stopped them.” When asked about the incident, Lexander did not refute the allegations but said that her intention was “just to stir things up” and that “if you care so much about student politics, how about you try covering the meetings.” In an interview with The Farcity, the Farcity editor-in-chief said, “I’m leaving in a month. I don’t care.” The arrests are a reminder of the harsh realities of student journalism in recent years. According to some members of The Farcity’s masthead, the news editor was often seen wandering around campus muttering under her breath about campus task forces that don’t exist and staring forlornly at Simcoe Hall, the building where the governing council meets in normal times. “There’s a dangerous journalist-to-felon pipeline going on these days,” said Jake Name, a U of T expert who we interviewed for this article because he’s a U of T expert. “These journalists get so addicted to the news that they essentially become it.” When asked how prison life is treating them, Lexander said that jail is “not much different from working in the office,” and that there is “less asbestos here.”
WANTED: Local journalist, 22, seeks therapist with specialization in student unions Jamie Hope in disguise ‘Photos of Buildings Section’ Editor
able about the workings of student unions. I am a student journalist in pain. Please. Please.
Hello. I hope this ad finds you well. I write in to The Farcity not because I want to but because I need to. I am seeking a licensed mental health professional who is extremely knowledge-
Qualifications would include: • Knowing the difference between bylaws and policy • Reading every issue of The Farcity cover-tocover
Experience dealing with individuals cancelled via Facebook It would be preferable if the therapist takes TBucks. If you or someone you know fits this description, you will find me sitting on the second floor of Robarts looking out the window with tears streaming down my face.
APRIL 5, 2021
Editorial Manifesto: THE PROCLAMATION OF A REVOLUTIONARY PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC FARCITY The revolution will not be published in print The Political Bureau of the General Secretariat of the Central Committee of The Farcity Revolutionary Vanguard Front
A spectre is haunting The Farcity — the spectre of communism. All the powers of the old U of T have entered into a Boundless alliance to exorcise this spectre: food truck and dining hall, UTSU and Episkopon, True and Blue. Where is the U of T student that has not decried The Farcity as leftist propaganda ripped straight from Pravda? Where is the resigned fourth-year who has not long dismissed the publication as controlled by a latte-sipping cabal of woke ultra-anarcho-intersectional-feminist postmodern-Marxists? Two things result from this fact: I. Communism is already acknowledged by all university powers to dominate The Farcity. II. It is high time that the revolutionary Farcity should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish its views, its aims, its tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself. To this end, we — the Political Bureau of the
General Secretariat of the Central Committee of The Farcity Revolutionary Vanguard Front — have assembled in quorum to proclaim the end of the ‘impartiality’ charade and declare to all the proletarian nature of our publication. We now can reveal that the history of all hitherto existing Farcity publishing is the history of class struggle. Yet there have been lumpenproletariat and bourgeois elements at the university that have been too unenlightened to fully embrace our noble goals. To conceal our newspaper’s ultimate aspiration of a classless, stateless society we have historically been forced to publish ‘false flag’ articles advocating counter-revolutionary thought. “For economic growth, students should vote Conservative” — capitalist extenuation. “Erin O’Toole: a prime minister for youth?” — neocolonialist rationalization. “Calls to defund Campus Police lack evidence” — bourgeois bootlicking. While all of the above have been fabrications written by only the most trusted untruth commissars of the people’s paper, we have historically attempted to solicit genuine neoliberal apologetics in an attempt to enhance the veracity of
Amidst this global pandemic
Are there brighter days ahead? I’ll let you decide Soundcloud Rapper Trying a Real Job™ The Sacrificial Lamb of the #quotes channel
This global pandemic has thrust upon us a whole new vernacular of language that we will accept as professional before African American Vernacular English — because nothing is more professional than sipping on a quarantini in your sweatpants at a 9:00 am lecture. With our language evolving faster than COVID-19 itself, I can no longer wish for things to go back to normal in these unprecedented times. Now more than ever, I can only expect a new normal. Our social abilities have practically reset. I nearly downloaded Tinder because I was bored and wanted to meet nice new friends who had no ulterior motives. My emotional range is from ‘lol’ to ‘oh.’ The few times when I have talked to someone in person, I have wanted to slap myself for sounding awkward and dumb since I cannot edit my speech like I can my emails. In the midst of this public health crisis and in an attempt to flatten the curve, I have lost any friends that I might have made in my first year at U of T. I realize that what started off as humour has become depressing; I don’t know if you can tell, but physical distancing has done wonders for my mental health. Every day, I sit alone in my room wondering if I have crossed the mind of someone outside of my bubble. Every day, I open social media and am reminded that the Earth is dying and that, while there are a lot of great people, there are also a lot of not-so-great people: the covidiots, the Zoom bombers, the COVID partiers, and the influencers who live in an alternate reality where COVID-19 does not exist. Oh, and do not get me started on the people who jump the line. Shoutout to capitalism for making sure that our VIPs get shots in arms before essential workers. In these trying times, we have learned so much. I learned about variants when I was learning about variance. You no longer have to lament the end of your teenage years because maskne keeps your face looking — well — youthful. Dolly Parton is our living lord and
saviour who happens to be a country singer. A super-spreader is not a type of butter that spreads easily on toast — science has yet to solve that problem. Contact tracing is not stalking acquaintances on your Snap Map. I dream of the day when we reach herd immunity — when I can go to my favourite Mexican restaurant and eat my favourite enchiladas piping hot on a plate instead of lukewarm in a takeout container. I dream of the day when I can meet the coworkers I have gotten to know over the past year in person; I dream of knowing how tall and intimidating they actually are. In this moment of history, we here at The Farcity cannot wait until we can put a look of concern and occasional outrage on your tired, hungover faces. We cannot wait to walk into our ivory tower that overlooks you plebeians weighed down by backpacks and grocery bags as you trudge to your lectures on the opposite side of campus. I still remember when I received U of T President Geric Mertler’s email back in July 2020 about “[moving] from crisis-response to a ‘new normal,’ ” and I couldn’t help but laugh at U of T’s optimism. Apparently, the university’s unearned confidence in the Canadian government and citizenry never really waned, as we received another one of President Mertler’s emails last month: “We are optimistic that most courses, student services and co-curricular activities will be able to proceed in person.” We saw how that turned out last year, so I’m not sure what to think. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an arduous and difficult journey for us all. The plot keeps throwing us curve balls that ultimately render us incapable of optimism. However, I can guarantee that our future is looking bright and that things are looking up — at least for me, who lives in Texas and has just received the vaccine (never been so proud to be an American). Amidst this coronavirus, I know that nothing annoys people more than someone bragging about getting the vaccine, but then again, there is not much to feel good about these days, so let me have this.
our deception: “No, The Varsity doesn’t silence conservative (or other unpopular) opinions.” While the appeal attracted some few ungood oldthinkers, the sheer radiance of undeniable truth that characterizes dialectical materialism ultimately overpowered the mental resistance of even the staunchest supporter of hegemonic imperialism. Today, we are proud to affirm that there is not a single dissenter among the ranks of hundreds of Farcity contributors — we are all legion in our single-minded devotion to campus socialism. Accordingly, we clearly, completely, and utterly denounce so-called ‘impartial’ writings as symbols of the reactionary neo-aristocracy that
shall not survive the dictatorship of the proletariat. Starting today, The Farcity shall unequivocally, resolutely, and revolutionarily be dedicated to the expansion of the global revolution. WRITERS OF THE FARCITY UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT ANOTHER 1.5 POINTS OFF YOUR GPA! The Farcity Revolutionary Vanguard Front’s political bureau of the general secretariat of the central committee is a commune whose members take turns to act as a sort of executive-officer-for-the-semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email email@example.com.
U of T will not rescind climate alumni award given to oil tycoon
“B-b-but, he checked off the ‘pro-environment!’ box!” cries selection committee member Shameless region hopper Weeb-in-Chief
The U of T administration is under continuous fire for refusing to rescind a climate award to a notorious tycoon of a major oil company. The award celebrates efforts by U of T alumni who “enhance the fight against the global threat of climate change in meaningful ways.” A petition with over 40,000 signatures had previously made its way to U of T President Geric Mertler calling for the climate award to be revoked, noting that the tycoon has publicly expressed views contrary to the spirit of the award — including posting daily selfies on social media with t-shirts that say, “I global warming!” The administration has defended its decision, noting that the award was given out “in a manner that was consistent” with the guidelines defined by the application process. “B-b-but, he checked off the ‘pro-environment!’ box in the application!” a member of the award’s selection committee cried. “His commitment seemed pretty trustworthy. There was nothing else we could do.” When The Farcity pressed on why the award’s vetting process was not more thorough — such as taking literally two seconds to Google the tycoon’s
name and social media — the member did not provide any further comment. Mertler noted that the climate award was designed to be a more “feasible” alternative to other actions, such as fossil fuel divestment. “We really wanted to find a symbolic and non-committal way to show the university community that we care about the environment.” “We hoped to get the activists to finally shut up for a bit. But it didn’t quite work out in the way we hoped,” Mertler acknowledged. The tycoon denies all allegations of disinformation and climate denial. “I’m the least climate denying person you have ever met,” he told The Farcity. “The Marxists running campus don’t allow for diverse viewpoints on reality/science. It’s a shame what U of T has devolved into since I left.” When asked what he plans to do with the award, he talked about using it to market his company’s ethical image to future investors. He hopes this can help him edge out his competitors, who are also trashing the planet but not doing anything to cover it up or make it look pretty like he is. In his closing remarks to The Farcity, he shouted out his OG POSt for teaching him such ingenious ways of doing business. “Love ya, Rotman Commerce!”
Another day, another $50,000.
COURTESY OF TYCOON