Issue 24, April 8, 2024

Page 1

That’s all, folks!

April 8, 2024 Vol. CXLIV, No. 24

The Varsity would like to acknowledge that our office is built on the traditional territory of several First Nations, including the Huron-Wendat, the Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit. Journalists have historically harmed Indigenous communities by overlooking their stories, contributing to stereotypes, and telling their stories without their input. Therefore, we make this acknowledgement as a starting point for our responsibility to tell those stories more accurately, critically, and in accordance with the wishes of Indigenous Peoples.

James Jiang, Jasmine Noone, Jeanine Varney, Jennifer Lee, Jishna Sunkara, Julie Han, Kaiyo Freyder, Kate Caracci, Kate Wang, Kevin Li, Kyanna Velasquez, Kyleeanne Wood, Lina Obeidat, Lina Tupak-Karim, Lucas Garcia Vidal, Madison Truong, Malaika Mitra, Manreet Brar, Margad Sukhbaatar, Maryam Khan, Mashiyat Ahmed, Max Zhang, Medha Barath, Medha Surajpal, Mehakpreet Saggu, Momena Sheikh, Nandini Shrotriya, Nichelle Budhrani, Nicolas Albornoz, Nidhil Vohra, Nilima Paul, Nina Uzunović, Noora Zahedi, Nora Zolfaghari, Olivia Cerello, Ozair Chaudhry, Parmin Sedigh, Patria Rosal, Philip Harker, Raymond Wong, Regan Boyles, Ridhi Balani, Rubin Beshi, Saira Mehnaj, Salina Khan, Shonita Srinivasan, Sofia Moniz, Sophie Esther Ramsey, Stella Luke, Suchir Madhira, Sulaiman Hashim Khan, Sunny Wan, Taban Isfahaninejad, Taylor Simsovic-Peters, Theo O'Connell, Thomas Law, Urooba Shaikh, Valerie Yao, Vicky Huang, Yixuan Guo, Zainab Afaq, Zoe Peddle-Stevenson, Zuhal Olomi

Sitting down to write this letter is intimidating like nothing else — I’ve been putting it off for longer than I care to document in print. I’ve reread past letters over and over and over again, trying to figure out where to start. I really don’t know how this one is going to live up to them.

The problem is, I’ve been at The Varsity for too long to know how to say goodbye to it. I’ve been writing since I was a first-year who was just excited to contribute to something with more readership and organization than my high school paper. By now, I’ve been coming to weekend production for the past three and a half years, and I’ve watched three different volumes of masthead come and go. There’s so much I’m going to miss that I don’t know where to start.

One of the worst parts is that I know this letter won’t be as funny, witty, and perfect as I want it to be. I want it to be perfect: it feels like the least I can give this place.

It’s not going to be perfect, though, because nothing is perfect: this letter will be messy, sappy, and very human, just like the paper itself.

When I joined masthead, that was one of the first things I learned: you can trace back anything good about this paper to the passion and care of the people making it. That’s not an original revelation — it’s something I’ve learned from everyone around me, and it’s the scaffolding off of which I’ve built my understanding of this place.

It’s a lesson that’s been drummed into me over the years with every thoughtfully-worded comment from an editor, every late-night production conversation, every pineapple bun and cup of chamomile tea I’ve received to trick me into going home or getting some rest. I’ve had to learn it multiple times over, with every Varsity volume I’ve worked alongside. Ultimately, that’s what I’m saying goodbye to this year: everyone who made this place what it was.

Before I get too sidetracked with abstractions, I want to thank everyone who’s helped make this volume. To our news team, Jessie, Selia, and Maeve, for giving us the information — and con-

text — we need to understand everything happening on campus. To Georgia, for pulling apart the jargon to explain how this university and this City run. To Eleanor, for taking such care of the opinions people trust us enough to publish. To Alice, for a year of incredibly compelling features, and for leading the team to make two gorgeous magazines and a beautiful handbook.

To Milena, for reminding us about all of the art — and the artists — around campus that we forget to look for and appreciate during finals season. To Salma, for not only updating us on what’s happening in labs across campus, but giving us something new to talk about at the dinner table every week. To Kunal, for finding a place to spotlight the sports people care about on campus, not just the ones with headline games — and for patiently explaining every single sports term to me.

Thank you to Ajeetha and Kyla in copy — the mitochondria of the paper and the reason we have words to put out every week. To Jessica and Zeynep, for giving us the pictures we need to complete every thousand words. To Arthur, Kaisa, and Olivia in design, for putting everything together at the end of the day into something beautiful. To Olya, for pushing our video section to new heights every week. I am truly so proud of all of you.

Thank you to my management team — Caro line, Mekhi, Shernise, and Andrea. Without your hard work, your sound advice, and your sup port, I don’t know how I would have got ten through this year. Thank you to Nawa — the other half of my copy telepathy bond — and Jadine — my favourite EIC to right-hand man — for supporting The Varsity from beyond the figurative grave, and for lending me an occasional brain cell.

Thank you to every volume of masthead I’ve had the privilege of working with over the past few years, and every volume whose shoulders we’ve been able to build on to get to this point: there’s not enough space in this letter to write how grateful I am to all of you.

Thank you to Adam, Megan, Diem, and Tahmeed

for originally taking me under their wings, showing me the ropes, and teaching me what this place could be.

Thank you, of course, to everyone who trusted us enough to put your thoughts in this paper — I don’t know how I could possibly express what that means to me, but I appreciate it anew every weekend when I read all of your articles.

And thank you to every associate and staff member for all of your work — you guys are going to be The Varsity’s future, and I can’t wait to see what that future will look like. I think it’ll be a good one. This year, I’m handing off leadership of The Varsity to Eleanor and her management team — and I’m secure in the knowledge that they’ll do an excellent job of taking care of it. Eleanor has fought hard every weekend to preserve the voices of everyone who’s contributed to our paper, and to represent them fairly and responsibly. I know that her Varsity will be one you can be proud to contribute to.

So that’s that. It may not be the most storied and eloquent of letters, but it hits the important parts of what makes this paper great.

I know I won’t be able to completely let go of the idea of perfection — to stop taking this too seriously. I’ve had a problem with it long before 2 THE VARSITY NEWS T HE VA RSI T Y 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, ON M5S 1J6 (416) 946-7600 Vol. CXLIV, No. 24 MASTHEAD Cover Jessica Lam : thevarsitynewspaper @TheVarsity the.varsity the.varsity The Varsity Sarah Artemia Kronenfeld Editor-in-Chief Caroline Bellamy Creative Director Andrea Zhao Managing Editor, External Shernise Mohammed-Ali Managing Editor, Internal Mekhi Quarshie Managing Online Editor Ajeetha Vithiyananthan Senior Copy Editor Kyla Cassandra Cortez Deputy Senior Copy Editor Jessie Schwalb News Editor Selia Sanchez Deputy News Editor Maeve Ellis Assistant News Editor Eleanor Yuneun Park Comment Editor Georgia Kelly Business & Labour Editor Alice Boyle Features Editor Milena Pappalardo Arts & Culture Editor Salma Ragheb Science Editor Kunal Dadlani Sports Editor Arthur Dennyson Hamdani Design Editor Kaisa Kasekamp Design Editor Zeynep Poyanli Photo Editor Jessica Lam Illustration Editor Olya Fedossenko Video Editor Aaron Hong Front End Web Developer Andrew Hong Back End Web Developer Kamilla Bekbossynova UTM Bureau Chief James Bullanoff UTSC Bureau Chief Emma Livingstone Graduate Bureau Chief Vacant Public Editor Ozair Anwar Chaudhry, Lina Tupak-Karim, Isabella Reny, Madison Truong Associate Senior Copy Editors Devin Botar, Muzna Erum, Eshnika Singh Associate News Editors Divine Angubua, Isabella Liu Associate Comment Editors Caitlin Adams Associate Features Editor Alyssa Ukani, Vicky Huang Associate A&C Editor Medha Surajpal, Jeanine Varney Associate Science Editors Ahmad Khan, Caroline Ho, Jake Takeuchi Associate Sports Editor Nina Uzunović, Victoria Man Associate B&L Editors Catherine Doan, Kevin Li Associate Design Editors Biew Biew Sakulwannadee Zoe Peddle-Stevenson Associate Illo Editor Albert Xie, Valerie Yao Associate Photo Editors Julie Han, Genevieve Sugrue Associate Video Editors Salina Khan Social Media Manager BUSINESS OFFICE Ishir Wadhwa Business Manager Rania Sadik Business Associate Eva Tsai Advertising Executive T HE V Emily Shen Associate Web Developer Lead Copy Editors: Daniela Cernaz, Ikjot Grewal, Anuraag Kumar Nair, Alex Lee, Cindy Liang, Theo O'Connell, Margad Sukhbaatar, Despina Zakynthinou, Nora Zolfaghari 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 © 2024 by The Varsity A l rights reser ved Any editoria inquiries and/or et ters shou d be d rected to the sections associated w th them; emails isted above The Varsity reser ves the right to edit a l subm ssions Inquiries regarding ad sales can be made to ads@thevarsit y ca ISSN: 0042-2789 Copy Editors: Caitlyn Hundey, Suchir Madhira, Patria Rosal Nicolas Albornoz Designers Saira Mehnaj, Loise Yaneza & Emilie Tong,
Departing words from Artie Kronenfeld, 2023–2024 Editor-in-Chief Sarah Artemia Kronenfield Editor-in-Chief Addie Jennings, Ahmad Khan, Albert Xie, Alex Lee, Alyssa Ukani, Alyssa
Go, Avery Murrell, Ayesha Firoz, Biew Biew Sakulwannadee,
Karunaratne, Brianna Cvitak,
Doan, Charmaine Yu, Cheryl Nong, Chris Zdravko,
Liang, Daniela Cernaz, Darya
Despina Zakynthinou, Devin Botar,
Dora Skenderi, Elena Osipyan, Elise Corbin, Elizabeth Li, Elizabeth Xu, Emily
Taking it seriously The Varsity thanks all of our staff for all their hard work this year!
Villar, Anuraag Kumar
Ashiana Sunderji, Ashley Jeong, Athen
Caitlin Adams, Caroline
Carter Vis, Catherine
Divine Angubua,
Carlucci, Emma Dobrovnik, Eshnika Singh, Evelyn Bolton, Franchesca Fu, Genvieve Sugrue, George Yonemori, Hannah Katherine, Harry Khachatrian, Ikjot Grewal, Isabella Liu, Isabella Reny, Jake Takeuchi,

The Varsity — ask anyone who’s had the misfortune of ever trying to discuss emotional topics with me. I take everything far too seriously, weigh it far too heavily, and think on it for far too long.

The Varsity’s taught me to get better at that and helped me appreciate the beauty of a story for itself, even if I haven’t polished it up the way I’d like to. But The Varsity is also the first place where all that thought has felt justified. My work here is, to me, some of the most important work I’ve ever done.

In the end, as trite as it seems, that’s because of all of you. Without someone caring enough to read

the paper every week, we wouldn’t have a paper to write. I feel uniquely privileged to be able to help build a reputable source of news in an actual local environment, where I know we can make a real and palpable difference.

The Varsity has a long and storied reputation for being self-serious — trust me, I’ve read through our archives — and I don’t think it’s one we’re going to buck anytime soon. It’s hard not to get tunnel vision when you’re plugged in 24/7 so you can know everything that’s happening on campus; when you’re spending 15 to 30 hours a weekend alone in the same asbestos-filled box behind Ro-

barts, arguing over the same semicolon. It’s hard not to, when you’re in charge of a space that, at its best, is one of the most immediate spaces people can use to talk about the problems they face on campus every day.

This paper is a passion project for everyone here, and that’s why we come in every week to create the paper that we want to have at our school.

To the people who read it: I’ve felt lucky this year that I’ve actually had the chance to talk with you guys more directly than ever before. It’s been a privilege — and I’m honoured more than you know every time someone says they read The Varsity

Mohammadamir Ghasemian

Thank you for caring.

Ultimately, remember that you’re the reason we’re all here. It’s because of you that we take this silly little paper so seriously. So I have one favour to ask of you — please keep talking to The Varsity, so that we can keep making this a better paper. We can only serve our community better when you tell us how.

So write in. I know The Varsity will want to listen. It’s that kind of place.

Moghaddam wins



2024–2025 UTGSU president Election sees 7.6 per cent voter turnout, results to be ratified by BOD

On March 30, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) announced that graduate students at U of T had elected a new group of executives and directors as their representatives for the 2024–2025 academic year.

Students elected Mohammadamir Ghasemian Moghaddam as president with 806 votes. The other elected members of the executive committee include Ameer Ali as vice-president (VP) academics divisions 1 and 2, Julian Nickel as VP academics divisions 3 and 4, Farshad Murtada as VP finance, Jady Liang as VP external, and Friedemann Krannich as VP internal. Nickel, Murtada, Liang, and Krannich all ran unopposed for their positions.

1,556 of 20,341 eligible voters cast their ballots, resulting in a 7.6 per cent voter turnout — almost two percentage points higher than last year’s 5.7 per cent turnout.

The results of the election will remain unofficial until the Board of Directors (BOD) decides whether to ratify them. The BOD plans to hold an online vote by April 8 on whether to ratify these results.

Directors and referenda

The electorate also elected twelve directors to the BOD, out of 28 available director positions. Students elected Kanika Lawton as director for division 1, filling one of the seven seats allocated to humanities students. For the social sciences, voters elected Abdul Hamed Shekib

Accessibility Services struggling to find volunteer note-takers for UTM courses

Courses with volunteer note-takers also suffering from incomplete or low-quality notes

Students registered with Accessibility Services (AS) require volunteer note-takers to provide them with notes that they cannot attain on their own. Based on a March 8 announcement from the volunteer note-taker program, over 200 courses at UTM currently lack note-takers, which has led AS to seek volunteer course auditors to take notes in addition to regular volunteer note-takers.

According to students and the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), many courses with registered volunteer note-takers have ended up with incomplete and/or low-quality notes, proving to be an issue for these students who rely on the program to have a complete set of notes for their courses.

What’s the volunteer note-taker program?

U of T’s volunteer note-taker programs — which run on each campus — aim to provide notes to students who are registered with AS. The AS oversees accommodations for students with a variety of disabilities, including sensory disabilities like hearing loss, physical and ongoing medical conditions, mental health conditions, neurological disabilities, and temporary disabilities such as a broken arm.

Students registered with AS provide medical documentation to demonstrate their disability, and although they’re still expected to attend class regularly and take notes to the best of their ability, they may face circumstances in which they cannot take adequate notes or cannot attend class. Volunteer note-takers can help them receive a complete set of notes for a course.

Volunteer note-takers submit their notes to a “note-taker database.” The UTM note-taker training on Quercus encourages multiple volunteers to submit notes for a single course so that students receiving them have the option to select the notes that best correspond to their note-taking style preferences. Having multiple notetakers for a course also ensures that students still receive notes even

if one note-taker is unable to attend a given class.

Volunteer note-takers who provide at least 80 per cent of the course notes for at least two halfcredit courses or one full-credit course during an academic year are eligible to receive a Co-Curricular Record (CCR) notation on their transcript.

The current training for volunteer note-takers involves watching five training videos on note-taking, reviewing documents and videos that outline four different note-taking methods, and reviewing articles — all of which U of T provides on the Quercus page. Volunteer note-takers must watch these training videos and receive a 100 per cent on the “note-taking training quiz” in order to be eligible to receive a CCR notation.

“Hit or miss”

On March 8, the UTM AS Note-taker Training Program Quercus page posted an announcement emphasizing the need for volunteer note-takers in 230 winter term courses at UTM alone.

The program, which usually only accepts notes from students registered in a course for credit, is now also accepting course auditors to make up for the lack of volunteer note-takers. Volunteer course auditors attend the lectures of a course they’re not registered for to take and provide notes to students who require them. Those auditors can receive CCR recognition.

A student The Varsity talked to about the announcement also noted receiving low-quality or incomplete notes through the database. Manahil (Mani) Khan — a second-year UTM student specializing in molecular biology and minoring in chemistry — described the notes provided by volunteer note-takers as “hit or miss.” In an interview with The Varsity, Khan said that she registered for the notetaker service for two courses during the summer semester and for four courses she took during the fall semester.

Khan said she only used the notes provided for two of those six courses. She told The Varsity that the notes for the rest of the courses were of poor quality. Many of the notes consisted of annotations

Mohamed, Willis Opondo, and Hai Tran — less than half of the seats for the division. Out of the 15 candidates running for division 3, Grisha Taroyan, Joscelyn van der Veen, Petra Duff, Amir Hossein Mohammad Zadeh, Griffin Schwartz, Dominic Shillingford, and Fateme Eskandary received the most votes as physical sciences directors in division 3. Voters approved Siti Hazirah Binte Mohamad — the only candidate running for division 4 — as the sole life sciences director.

The BOD will appoint members to the UTM and UTSC director positions in September.

The ballot also included two referenda questions, which asked students to vote yes or no on whether to increase the levy for the U of T Sexual Education Centre and institute a new levy for Regenesis Toronto.

on lecture slides without adequate explanations of what happened during the lecture. In one of her courses, the note-taker stopped providing notes close to the second term test, and Khan ended up having to ask her peers for notes. Many of the notes that Khan received were submitted very late, weeks after a lecture.

In a statement to The Varsity, Heather Kelly — executive director, Student Life Programs & Services — wrote that students are encouraged to contact Accessibility Services about the quality or content of notes they’ve received.

If there are no note-takers for a course, the university provides students with a list of alternatives that include receiving a Livescribe pen — which includes a built-in microphone to record as well as a camera that takes pictures of notes as they’re written — recording the lecture using their own device with permission from the instructor, or accessing archived notes from previous years.

Computerized note-taking is a similar but separate program in which a paid note-taker is hired to take notes on behalf of a student. This accommodation is only available for students who are “unable to take notes themselves due to disabilityrelated reasons,” according to Kelly.

Making the system better

At the UTMSU’s annual general meeting, UTMSU President Gulfy Bekbossynova advocated for paid

Students voted in favour of increasing the U of T Sexual Education Centre levy from $0.31 to $0.50 per semester for part-time students and from $0.62 to $1.00 per semester for fulltime students.

The electorate also voted in favour of instituting a new levy for environmental club Regenesis Toronto that will amount to $7.23 per semester for full-time students and $3.62 per semester for part-time students. This marks the third referendum in which Regenesis chapters across the three campuses have successfully secured levies — first in the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union’s 2023 elections, and more recently in the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s 2024 elections.

note-taker positions to replace the current volunteer positions.

She said that the issue with the note quality stems down to a certain “culture” of individuals that view these volunteer positions as positions they take solely for the purpose of taking them or for a CCR notation, and that creating a paid note-taker position would prevent this.

Other than receiving a CCR notation, UTM AS says volunteer note-takers may also receive a professional — non-academic — reference letter upon request and enhance their organizational and note-taking skills. The AS website states that not only does the note-taker program help students receiving notes, but it helps the notetaker as well; past volunteers have stated that being a notetaker encouraged them to attend classes, be more attentive, participate in class discussions, and take comprehensive notes.

Khan’s suggestion to improve the volunteer note-taker position is to have stricter deadlines as to when the note-taker must submit their notes to the database. Currently, note-takers are responsible for submitting notes within 48 hours of each class.

If you’re currently enrolled in a course, regularly attend classes, and take detailed notes, you can register as a volunteer note-taker online. If you have any questions about the UTM program, you can contact APRIL 8, 2024 3
UTMSU President advocates for paid note-taker positions. ZEYNEP POYANLI/THEVARSITY
Check out our news section online for more coverage, including our annual year-end reviews of the UTGSU!
After 30 hours, student protesters


Simcoe, with promise of meeting Gertler

UTSU exec criticizes decision to refuse food, supplies for protesters going into Simcoe

Twenty-six hours into a sit-in protest staged by students outside of U of T President Meric Gertler’s office, university administrators offered a deal; leave by 6:00 pm, and you can have a meeting with Gertler. The 17 protesting students accepted the offer.

The group of students — operating under the name UofT Occupy for Palestine (O4P) — entered Simcoe Hall on April 1, demanding that U of T divest from companies that provide military goods to the Israeli government, end all partnerships with universities operating in or supporting settlements outside of the internationally recognized Israeli border, and publicly disclose all companies in which the university invests — or, otherwise, that Gertler publicly clarifies the university’s stance on their demands.

Following an April 3 meeting with Gertler, the groups slammed the university on Instagram for providing “non-answers” and failing to “meaningfully respond to [O4P’s] demands.” The group awaits a more detailed response to the group’s demands that the university promised to provide by April 8.

A timeline of the protest

After entering on April 1, 26 protesters sat along the hallway outside of Gertler’s office, declaring they were “occupying” the second floor of Simcoe Hall. Holding signs and with a Palestinian flag hanging out the windows, the protesters chanted slogans like “Not a penny, not a dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes” and “Free, free Palestine.”

Later in the afternoon, a few of the activists met with three university administrators: ViceProvost, Students Sandy Welsh; Assistant VicePresident, Office of the President & Chief of Protocol Bryn MacPherson; and Vice-President & Provost Trevor Young. The three administrators agreed to take the group’s demands back to the senior admin and told students U of T would respond sometime within the next week.

After the meeting, 17 students decided to stay in Simcoe Hall overnight, stating that they would not leave until U of T outlined a plan for meeting their demands or until Gertler met with them personally and directly addressed their demands.

O4P also held a rally outside Simcoe Hall at 4:30 pm. Other student groups including Climate Justice UofT and Tkaronto Students for Palestine made posts calling on students to join the rally. At the peak of the protest, around 5:30 pm, around 50 attendees had gathered around the steps of Simcoe Hall.

Around 2:20 pm on April 2, Welsh exited Gertler’s office and told the students that she expected them to leave the building by 6:00 pm when Simcoe Hall closes. After the students deliberated, they told Welsh that they would leave if they could guarantee a meeting with President Gertler.

In response, Welsh and MacPherson drafted a physical letter offering an in-person meeting between Gertler and four representatives of the group at 3:00 pm on April 3. Welsh told the protesters that this meeting would be contingent on the protesters leaving before the 6:00 pm deadline.

After conferring, the student protesters agreed to Welsh and MacPherson’s proposal.

Throughout the protest, Campus Safety prohibited food or other supplies from entering the building for students participating in the protest. Officers told students that, if they left, they couldn’t reenter. Campus Safety officers repeatedly turned the lights on and off early in the morning, and students shared photographic evidence of Campus Safety taking pictures of students during the night while they slept.

Officers also refused multiple requests to send supplies to The Varsity reporter covering the protest, and refused to allow new reporters to enter the building, or to reenter if they were to leave.

In a post on O4P’s Instagram, it called for a rally at 5:00 pm to support the protesters. At the peak of the rally, over 80 people had gathered outside Simcoe Hall to support the protesters. When the students inside exited Simcoe Hall, a cheer went up among the crowd.

“U of T, your hands are red”

This protest occupation came as the violence in the wake of October 7 entered its seventh month. In recent days, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has continued bombing and military operations in Gaza. Israeli operations have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza and occupied territories in the West Bank since October 7, when militant group Hamas launched an attack killing over 1,100 people in Israel and taking 240 people captive.

At one point in the first few hours of the protest, students chanted “15,000 children dead.”

In its 2022 annual report, the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM) — the organization that determines how to invest U of T’s money — reported that it managed two investment pools totalling approximately $7.7 billion.

UTAM’s responsible investing policy states that the corporation will take environmental, social, and governance factors “into account” when making investment decisions. These social factors include businesses’ impacts on human rights, their “activities in conflict zones,” and “controversial weapons.” In 2021, U of T committed to divest its portfolios from fossil fuels.

Aviral Dhamija, a fourth-year double-majoring in philosophy and international relations and a member of O4P, told The Varsity that the group’s demands specifically focus on the military. “We’re targeting divestment, especially just from any companies providing military goods or services, because this military clearly does not respect the boundaries of international law,” they said.

In December 2023, South Africa’s government submitted a case accusing the Israeli government of committing genocide against Palestinians. The court has not yet ruled on whether the Israeli government’s actions constitute genocide. On January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to take measures to prevent acts that would constitute genocide under international law.

The ICJ additionally ordered the Israeli government on March 28 to increase the provision of humanitarian aid and water to prevent famine, noting the “prolonged and widespread deprivation of food and other basic necessities to which the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been subjected.”

On April 1, Dhamija noted the many protests and vigils held by activist groups across U of T in the past few months. “They’re ignoring everyone,” they said. “And if that’s the case, then we have to make ourselves heard. We have to take

it to them. We have to make ourselves unavoidable.”

Cutting ties with Israeli universities

O4P has also called on U of T to end partnerships with institutions that “operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or sustain the apartheid policies, occupation and illegal settlement of these territories,” according to its Instagram statement.

Dhamija specified that the group wants U of T to break ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which operates buildings on land outside of Israel’s borders recognized under international law. They also pointed to Technion University, noting that researchers at the university have played instrumental roles in developing military technologies such as drones and bulldozers used by the IDF. Technion maintains partnerships with Israeli arms companies supplying surveillance equipment and missiles to the military.

Currently, U of T operates exchange programs with both universities. In 2023, U of T and Technion launched a collaboration focused on developing artificial intelligence for use in medicine. U of T and Hebrew University began an international fundraising campaign for their joint Research and Innovation Alliance in 2021. The program includes joint research in sciences and humanities and an entrepreneurship exchange program.

“That connection itself needs to be reevaluated,” said Dhamija. “Do we want to be sending our students, our postdocs, our faculty to a university that is currently… supporting what is happening to the people of Gaza?”

U of T philosophy and comparative literature professor Rebecca Comay is a member of the national organization Faculty for Palestine and the anti-Zionist Jewish Faculty Network, the latter of which formed at U of T in 2022. In a Zoom interview with The Varsity, she said that she and some members of Faculty for Palestine whom she spoke with support the students’ demands.

She noted that if U of T cuts ties with these universities, that shouldn’t mean that U of T professors can’t collaborate with colleagues at those universities. “Individual faculty members who want to work with Israeli academics in a non-institutional way… [wouldn’t be] affected by this institutional uncoupling,” she said.

Support from the outside

On April 2, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) posted a story on its Instagram page expressing support for the protesters and urging people to “come show [their] support.”

The UTSU executive team sent a statement to Gertler expressing their support for O4P and its three demands. The union urged Gertler to meet with the students. “We want to remind you of the urgency of the situation in Gaza and of the importance of divestment from weapons and the occupation at this time,” they wrote.

UTSU Vice-President Public and University Affairs Aidan Thompson told The Varsity that Campus Safety restricting the protesters’ access to food was “completely unacceptable.”

“They are not attacking people, they are peacefully protesting, and sending, effectively, campus police there to respond is not acceptable,” said Thompson. “[U of T] should be responding to their demands, and actually responding to the needs of students rather than trying to police their way out.”

Multiple other groups at the university and beyond, including Health Workers Alliance for Palestine — a national group of healthcare workers; the Canadian Unit of Public Employees Local 3902, which represents contract academic workers across U of T; and student group Climate Justice UofT have also expressed support for the protesters.

The meeting

Exiting Simcoe Hall on April 2, Dhamija told The Varsity that they felt “cautioned elation.”

They said that they hope that U of T would take immediate and concrete steps — like ceasing to renew research partnerships with Israeli universities that provide support to the Israeli military, an action that they suggested Gertler could propose as an agenda item at the April 11 University Affairs Board meeting — that will “place public pressure on other Canadian universities that often look to U of T for guidance.”

Dhamija said that, if the university does not take steps to address the protesters’ demands, O4P would leverage the support it has received from various groups across the university to continue pushing for change. “If that means that we go back to the streets, then so be it,” they said. “Those connections exist, and they’re not going anywhere.”

After the April 3 meeting, the group posted a statement on Instagram. O4P wrote that the four representatives chosen discussed “U of T’s total inactivity” with Gertler and “were met with nonanswers.”

The group claimed that Gertler confirmed that U of T invests in companies that provide the IDF with military goods and services. They also claimed that Gertler denied knowing that every university in Gaza had been destroyed.

According to O4P, Gertler refused to commit to investigating Campus Safety’s actions during the protest, holding a follow-up meeting with the group, or addressing why U of T has not divested from military companies supplying the IDF.

However, the group succeeded in gaining a commitment from President Gertler to reestablish the Anti-Islamophobia Working Group. O4P asked for people to sign a petition supporting the group’s demands. As of April 7, the petition has approximately 1,850 signatures from U of T students, staff, faculty, and alumni, and approximately 800 signatures from individuals not affiliated with the university. 4 THE VARSITY NEWS
Jessie Schwalb
News Editor
Students held a banner in front of the Simcoe Hall staircase. JESSIE SCHWALB/THEVARSITY

Trimming boundaries at the Hart House Barbershop

Monthly program designed to improve Black student belonging at U of T

On March 25, I attended the Hart House Barbershop operated by the Black Futures program — a programming series offered by Hart House meant to create “open dialogue and spaces for Black individuals to heal and thrive,” according to Hart House’s website.

The monthly Barbershop appears to have started as part of the Black Hair Fair during orientation week at U of T in 2022. It provides services for afro-textured hair including hair or beard trims, fades, hair-line or beard line-ups, and braiding services. The program is completely free of charge.

The setup: Lacklustre Black spaces on campus

Many know Canada as the end of the US’ Underground Railway, with a narrative that Canada marked the ‘Promised Land’ for Black people while it was running — although slavery also existed in Canada. Black people have a long history in Toronto and make up 9.6 per cent of people in the city, according to the 2021 Toronto census.

U of T does not currently publicly report on how many of its students are Black. However, multiple articles published in The Varsity by Black students discuss the lack of other Black students on campus.

According to the 2022 employment equity census, nearly seven per cent of U of T faculty identified as Black. This lack of representation manifests in the lack of Black barbershops, salons, and beauty stores around or close to the University of Toronto. Most of them are a distance away from the campus — for instance, the Curl Lounge at 623 Kingston Road and Crown and Glory at 32 Berwick Avenue.

Many still see Black hair as unprofessional. As Doyin Adeyemi wrote in her article earlier this year, “Although no explicit standard has

told me to do so, I know there are ‘safe’ hair choices that make certain spaces easier.” It is a conversation that almost all afro-texturedhaired people have to have with themselves: how do I style my hair when I go into certain spaces and how will the other people in these spaces — where I will be a minority — perceive me and my hair?

However, the creation of the Barbershop has led Black students to not only garner hair services that they previously had trouble finding on campus but also to gain a sense of community which some say they lacked before.

Creating the barbershop

Janine Raftopoulos, manager of marketing and communications at Hart House, told me that Hart House created the event to foster a space for Black and racialized students, to attract Black male students to academic spaces who may be disengaged and underrepresented in them.

When asked if she was happy with the program, Raftopoulos noted that Hart House conducted a survey on the event. The survey found that the Barbershop serves as the primary social hub for many Black students on campus, facilitating their engagement with one another. She says this was the ultimate goal: to get folks to know they belong.

Music flooded through the open doors of the Committee Room on the second floor of Hart House when I arrived. The room was small but filled with a handful of students, predominantly Black students. In the one barber chair sat Elijah Gyansa — a fourth-year majoring in global health and immunology and a two-year frequenter of the Barbershop — who was getting his bi-weekly trim when I walked in.

“It’s amazing to come here and have somebody that looks like me taking care of my hair and understanding it,” said Gyansa. “It creates a natural space for students to come together without any barriers.”

He said that the lack of barriers opens up the conversation where the students can talk about the hardships they have faced. He said that the Barbershop, along with other such programs and events, “is vital for Black students because it creates a sense of belonging” and that, “without this, I wouldn’t have made as many friends.”

My last question for Gyansa asked about his experiences as a Black student with afrotextured hair on campus. “I think my academic career has been unfortunately similar to other Black students. It is hard to move forward when people do not look like you — you feel the need to exceed expectations… Unfortunately, sometimes we [only] see Black students in arts or sports. But we’re more than that. We exist outside of that.”

The barbershop will start up again in the next academic school year.

SCSU approves changing presidential line of succession in case of vacancy

At Winter General Meeting, audit shows 1265 Bistro broke even without subsidy in 2022–2023

On March 25, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) kicked off its Winter General Meeting (WGM) with updates on the past year’s work and proposed changes impacting the union’s future leadership.

The WGM is the union’s second of two yearly membership meetings to provide a comprehensive look at the union’s advocacy, an opportunity to change bylaws, and a forum to discuss the union’s direction.

Approximately 100 students crowded the 1265 Bistro stage, voted to change bylaws about who receives the interim president role if the president steps down, and approved the 2022–2023 audited financial statement.

A $500k surplus

During the meeting, an independent auditor from Yale PGC went over the SCSU’s audited financial statements from the 2022–2023 fiscal year. The SCSU earned just under $500,000 in net income in 2022–2023, about a five per cent decrease from 2021–2022.

The SCSU’s revenues increased by around 16 per cent from 2021–2022 to 2022–2023, from around $6.9 million to $8 million. Its expenses increased by around 17 per cent in the same period, from around $6.5 million to $7.6 million.

In an interview with The Varsity, SCSU VicePresident (VP) Operations Akaash Palaparthy said that the “SCSU, categorically, is in a better financial position than it’s ever been before.”

The union’s wages and benefits expenses

increased by around 60 per cent, from about $575,000 in 2021–2022 to about $924,000 in 2022–2023. The union’s repairs and maintenance fees increased by 90 per cent, from about $43,000 in 2021–2022, to just under $82,000 in

being a part of our events. So we have to increase the programming, we’ve had to increase the [services],” Palaparthy said. “With increased engagement, our revenues go up, our expenses also grow.”

2022–2023. The union’s health and dental plan disbursement, professional fees, and general and administrative expenses also went up.

“More students than ever before have started using the services. They’ve started using the health and dental plan, we have more people


The union ended the 2023 fiscal year with around $10.9 million in total assets, which is almost $1.1 million more than its total assets at the end of the 2022 fiscal year.

“We have enough for maintenance, for students and our upkeep, expansion, capital projects, and events. Everything’s very solid,” said Palaparthy.

Interim president

Students also passed a motion changing who would receive the interim president role in situations where the president steps down. Before, the VP academics and university affairs (AUA) would take on the interim president role. Now, the VP operations will take on the role instead.

Current SCSU President Amrith David took on the interim president role during his time as VP AUA after Michael Sobowale resigned, citing personal circumstances in 2023.

The VP AUA is responsible for supporting students in academic integrity petitions and appeals cases, sitting on almost every academic committee, and organizing the undergraduate research symposium. David mentioned to The Varsity during the March board of directors (BOD) meeting that juggling VP AUA and interim president roles was “a lot.”

“We hope that the future president doesn’t leave midway… but in the case that does happen, now you’re able to have the VP operations… work on the president’s portfolio,” said David.

The SCSU will have its April BOD meeting on April 8, where executives will decide whether to approve the unofficial results of the Spring General Elections. APRIL 8, 2024 5
also marks the first year that the 1265 Bistro, the restaurant run by the SCSU in the basement of the Student Centre, has broken even without the use of a subsidy. It managed to rake in $64,000 in net revenue without the subsidy. The Hart House program aims to create open dialogue and spaces for Black students. COURTESY OF HART HOUSE JESSICA LAM AND MICHAEL PHOON/THEVARSITY

Hidden hunger: The silent epidemic of graduate student food


The UTGSU’s initiatives to combat food insecurity tied to low grad funding

Almost 60 people utilize the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) food bank every week, with the majority of the individuals being graduate students — that’s according to UTSU VP Finance and Operations Samir Mechel.

Despite constituting a smaller portion of the total student population, the high rates at which U of T graduate students utilize the UTSU food bank reflect the broader issue of food insecurity among them. Other universities — such as Queen’s, according to a recent analysis by Global News — are also witnessing a rise in food insecurity among its graduate student populations.

Furthermore, food centres run by all tri-campus undergraduate student unions have witnessed a significant uptick in demand for food. A recent study by BMC Public Health, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, also found that 56.8 per cent of all Canadian students experienced moderate or high food insecurity as of 2021. The UTSC Feeding City Lab found that marginalized students, especially BIPOC, international, and low-income students, tend to experience greater levels of food insecurity.

With rising concerns about the prevalence of graduate student food insecurity, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union is working on

a variety of new initiatives in the coming months aimed at not only understanding the extent of the issue but also finding feasible ways to address it.

How did we get here?

National organizations such as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council provide grants and funding to graduate students, with masters students receiving up to $17,500 and PhD students receiving up to $21,000 through such organizations. Such funding packages aim to help mitigate financial burdens for graduate students by covering basic expenses such as food and reducing the need to take on additional jobs, instead allowing students to focus on their studies and research.

However, the amounts granted have not increased since 2003, while the Ontario Consumer Price Index — a measure of how much the price of an average basket of goods has increased in the province — shot up to 158.4, as of June 2023. This reflects an increase of almost 20 points since June 2020.

In an interview with CBC News, Nancy Forde, a professor at Simon Fraser University, said that it’s difficult for graduate students to live with the current funds they receive, noting that many have to use food banks to survive. She further raised

UTMSU CRO report responds to allegations of electoral misconduct in elections

ForUTM team raised allegations against elections office in early March

or distributed. The Election and Referenda Committee — which consists of the current UTMSU president and five other members — chooses CRO candidates that the Board of Directors then votes to approve.

concerns about how low funding amounts could harm Canadian academic research as the cost of living increases, forcing more students to leave academia and research.

In May 2023, hundreds of U of T students and staff participated in a walkout at the St. George campus to protest low pay. The participants called on the federal government to provide more funding for scholarships, fellowships, and grants for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

Moving forward

Nicholas Fast, a PhD candidate in the Department of History, introduced a petition last year encouraging federal government support in increasing funding to reflect the current financial realities of living in the city.

In an article for Ultra Vires, U of T’s Faculty of Law paper, Vivienne Stern, a U of T law student, argues that U of T should compile data on the demographics of people who are accessing food banks on campus. One way this can be done is through surveys and voluntary disclosures. Stern also argues that it is essential that the university also pursue partnerships with local community organizations to fund and support food security initiatives.

The UTGSU has also considered various solutions. In an email to The Varsity, Mohammadamir (Amir) Ghasemian Moghaddam — vice president, academics for divisions 3 and 4 — wrote that the union is “currently evaluating several initiatives, including a food bank, communal kitchens, and affordable food options, to address this critical issue.” He wrote that the union has also built partnerships with charities, municipal and provincial food banks, farmers, and food preparation companies, as well as staffed student spaces that can be used in the future.

While such initiatives are still under development, the UTGSU also plans to launch a survey to collect data on the extent of food insecurity by summer 2024.

Meanwhile, the UTSU Food Bank accepts food donations and also provides summer 2024 volunteer opportunities, with recruitment beginning in April. Many local food banks that students frequent also often require volunteers.

The UTSU operates the food bank every week on Fridays in Room 136 of the UTSU Student Commons from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Students hoping to access the food bank’s services can book an appointment slot on the UTSU official site.

Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Greg Owens released a report during the Board of Directors meeting on March 28, detailing the proceedings of the recent University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) spring executive elections. The report included situations where candidates violated campaigning rules and demerit points the Elections Office issued to campaigners during the elections.

The report comes after a former manager of the ForUTM slate levelled multiple allegations of electoral misconduct against the UTMSU and its Elections Office. He claimed that the election office exerted excessive control over campaign activities and that the union’s current executives meddled in the election.

“They have full authority” Elliot Fabian-Fine, a third-year student who formerly served as the campaign co-chair of ForUTM, claimed that the Elections Office exerted strict control over campaign activities.

“They have full authority over how we campaign and what we can say to students. We need approval on everything from the Elections Office and they are not an independent third party. They were hired by the UTMSU themselves,” Fabian-Fine wrote in a statement he posted on Instagram on March 10.

According to the union’s Elections Procedure Code (EPC), all campaign tactics, materials, and advertisements must receive approval from the CRO before they can be posted

Fabian-Fine found the president’s involvement in the CRO hiring process concerning because he alleged that UTMSU President Gulfy Bekbolatova “hand-pick[ed]” this year’s candidates. He claimed that she approached Ehab James — the candidate in the ForUTM group running for president — to run on the EmpowerUTM slate.

In an interview with The Varsity , Bekbolatova said that incoming UTMSU President Joelle Salsa approached her to manage Salsa’s campaign because they had previously collaborated on protests, walkouts, and a vigil for Palestine.

Bekbolatova acknowledged talking with James about joining the EmpowerUTM slate, but she said that it didn’t materialize because he ultimately decided to run for president with ForUTM. Bekbolatova emphasized that Salsa leads the EmpowerUTM slate. “It is Joelle’s team,” she said.

In the 2023 spring UTMSU elections, Maëlis Barre — the UTMSU president at the time — managed Bekbolatova’s slate’s campaign.

Fabian-Fine also raised concerns about discrepancies in how the Elections Office disseminated information throughout the election. He claimed that on March 4, the CRO confirmed the format of the UTMSU’s all-candidates forum with the slates in advance, and that the CRO then reiterated the confirmation multiple times. However, he said that, when the ForUTM slate arrived at the debate, members learned that it would take a

different format than the elections office had previously communicated.

Fabian-Fine also mentioned that, during the campaign period, the elections office didn’t share information about new poster locations with ForUTM until they already featured EmpowerUTM’s posters.

He claims that the UTMSU set aside designated billboards intended for all candidates. On March 4, the CRO sent an email confirming these boards were missing and told the ForUTM slate that he would update them when the elections office resolved the issue.

However, Fabian-Fine claimed that the elections office didn’t tell ForUTM when the boards went up. On March 6, the office informed ForUTM of the new location, but Fabian-Fine claims that when the slate visited the site, they found the other slate’s posters already displayed.

Owens declined opportunities to comment on these claims beyond what he outlined in his CRO report.

The report

On March 28, the UTMSU Elections Office released a CRO report detailing what happened during the elections.

According to the report, the office told all candidates about the location of poster boards on campus in advance. The CRO confirmed

that poster boards originally scheduled for the Instructional Centre/Building were absent ahead of the campaign period. The report states that the CRO followed up with the UTM Events Coordinator to address the issue. He wrote that the poster boards went up and that “all candidates were notified at the same time.”

The CRO received over 40 complaints alleging broken electoral rules. His report stated that the majority of claims lacked sufficient evidence to support them. In total, Owens issued a total of 40 demerit points. He issued James 10 demerit points for using unapproved material in campaign tactics. The violation occurred on March 5, when James replied to a Reddit post encouraging students to cast ballots for particular candidates.

Each ForUTM candidate — James, Albert Pan, Simran Kaur Rattanpal, Majo Romero, and Layla Zarroug — also received 10 demerit points for distributing campaign materials within the designated “No Campaign Zone” of a polling station on March 12. The violations occurred when an individual, identified as a volunteer with ForUTM, directed students to vote and distributed campaign flyers within the restricted area. Although the EPC recommended 15 demerit points for such an offence, the CRO reduced the demerit points to 10 each, citing the volunteer’s lack of knowledge about the rule. 6 THE VARSITY NEWS
Kamilla Bekbossynova UTM Bureau Chief JAYLIN KIM/THEVARSITY The CRO identified several campaign violations and issued demerit points to several candidates. HAYDEN MAK/THEVARSITY

Looking back at the UTSU’s 2023–2024 term

UTSU delivered on plans to create Student Senate, café

In the 2023–2024 term, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) instituted a rideshare program, became a homeowner, approved a policy manual for its Student Senate, and announced plans to create a pedestrian scramble at the St. George and Hoskins intersection and a café in the Student Commons.

As Shehab Mansour prepares to take office as the union’s 2024–2025 president, The Varsity is here to break down the UTSU’s accomplishments under President Elizabeth Shechtman’s leadership.

Shechtman’s tenure

In an interview with The Varsity before the 2023–2024 UTSU elections, Shechtman said her campaign focused on growing the Student Aid Program — which provides bursaries to students in need of financial support — as well as expanding mental health resources provided by the UTSU.

She also hoped to continue the UTSU’s work to add a café and mutual aid library to the Student Commons.

During its December Board of Directors (BOD) meeting, UTSU executives discussed plans to expand the union’s Student Aid Program. To solve the program’s lack of funding, Vice President (VP) Operations and Finance Samir Mechel proposed raising the program’s levy by two dollars per student — which students approved through a referendum in the spring 2024 elections.

At a September BOD meeting, the UTSU discussed a policy submission asking the federal government to establish a four-year PostSecondary Mental Health Infrastructure Fund.

During its February BOD meeting, VP, Public and University Affairs (PUA) Aidan Thompson announced that the UTSU had requested that the federal government allocate 500 million dollars towards funding student mental health support.

In terms of expanding the Student Commons, the UTSU created its Little Library in April 2023,

The UTMSU’s year in


allowing students to donate and borrow textbooks to alleviate the costs of course materials.

In a March BOD meeting, the UTSU board approved plans to allocate $600,000 toward constructing a café in the Student Commons, with construction scheduled to finish by September.

For the upcoming academic year, Shechtman was elected as the UTSU’s VP finance and operations. In a statement to The Varsity, she wrote that she hopes to “build upon the legacy established during my presidency by maintaining existing projects and introducing new initiatives.”

In the 2024–2025 school year, Shechtman plans to launch an online platform for the Little Library, collaborate with REES — a trauma-informed organization that connects online incident reporting to resources and support — and introduce a platform for student clubs to streamline the club registration process.

Controversies and conundrums

After downsizing the BOD and adding a Student Senate to its bylaws during its 2022 Annual

Summing up the union’s financial adjustments, advocacy efforts

During the 2023–2024 academic term, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) undertook various initiatives, including enhancing public transit services, lobbying for its campaigns like Education for All, and implementing a Safe and Inclusive Academic Space.

As Joelle Salsa prepares to lead the UTMSU as 2024–2025 UTMSU president, The Varsity’s here to examine the union’s activities over the past year.

Student fees

On October 17, the UTM Campus Council approved two new UTMSU levies, both amounting to five dollars per session for full-time students and $2.50 per session fee for part-time students.

One levy supports a student sustainability group UTM Regenesis, while the other supports Housing Our University Students Equitably Canada — an organization focused on building affordable student housing. The union had originally determined that the referenda for the levies didn’t pass because more students abstained from voting than had

voted in favour, but it later requested the increase after consulting legal counsel over the summer.

The UTMSU Board of Directors also passed a motion in January raising overall membership fees, U-Pass fees, health and dental fees, and other charges for students. This year, full-time students will see a $34.85 increase, while part-time students will face a $32.63 rise per session. Fees were adjusted based on the Ontario Consumer Price Index (CPI) from December 2022 and December 2023, with the student society membership fee increase reflecting the CPI from December 2021 to December 2022.


UTMSU executives announced their decision to apply for funding from the Capacity Building Fund to expand their food bank’s programming. Vice President (VP) Equity Ruth Alemayehu stated that the union aimed to use the funds to purchase additional appliances like microwaves or stoves.

VP External Okikioladuni (Kiki) Ayoola launched the Transit Advisory Committee, which advises the City of Mississauga on enhancing public transit services. The UTMSU executives further discussed

their campaigns during Lobby Week, including Education For All, Consent is Mandatory, and Housing Advocacy, aimed at promoting free tuition, improving sexual assault and harassment policies, and increasing affordable housing, respectively.

In a 2023 interview with The Varsity, before she was elected as UTMSU President, Gulfy Bekbolatova said she would prioritize the UTMSU’s Education for All campaign, which emphasizes education as a fundamental human right. She also said she intended to advocate for more non-academic scholarships and awards, expand bursaries to support financially disadvantaged students, and increase the availability of co-op opportunities and paid experiences.

The Varsity found no evidence of progress toward these goals, and Bekbolatova did not respond to a request for comment.

Major controversies

In November, the UTMSU conducted a referendum asking students to approve a levy for a Student Centre expansion. The majority of students voted against the expansion fee. TransparentUTMSU, a group of anonymous student volunteers, criticized

The SCSU’s 2023–2024 year in review

A look back at how SCSU transformed this year

In the 2023–2024 term, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) increased wages for 1265 Bistro staff and employees; held collaborative vigils, protests, and released a statement on the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine; and advocated for free and accessible education.

It also held a debate for the first contested union election in two years, and discussed and advocated for transit initiatives, such as a Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) and a potential UTSC shuttle bus.

While Hunain Sindhu prepares to take office as the union’s 2024–2025 president, The Varsity looks back at SCSU’s accomplishments under President Amrith David’s leadership.

David’s last run

In an interview with The Varsity, David highlighted SCSU’s work in engagement and advocacy. “I think we’ve expanded our services, our events, and campaigns in ways that the teams in the past really have not been able to do,” said David.

During the September Board of Directors (BOD) meeting, the SCSU set wages for Bistro staff and part-time workers to one dollar above the minimum wage, at $17.55.

David also mentioned the importance of hosting town halls, walkouts, and protests around ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine. SCSU hosted a “Shut it Down for Palestine” day of action protest on November 9, 2023, which more than 400 students attended. The union also collaborated on a vigil for people killed in Gaza on November 15.

“This year, we took it on ourselves to make sure that we are providing the necessary resources for students that aren't getting those resources from the university… we were filling the gaps that the university should have been doing themselves,” he said.

SCSU also passed motions during its December 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM), something it couldn’t do last year because the union failed to get enough attendees to reach quorum. At the 2023 AGM, Regenesis UTSC — an environmental activism club — submitted a motion to lower the proportion of eligible SCSU voters that must vote on a referendum for it to pass from 10 per cent to three per cent. The union kept the required turnout at 10 per cent.

The union advocated for free and accessible education as part of its Fight the Fees campaign, joining the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) — a national organization established to lobby the federal and provincial governments on behalf of

General Meeting, the UTSU received criticism from U of T’s Engineering Society (EngSoc). Members of EngSoc publicly condemned the UTSU for violating a 2015 agreement that guaranteed engineering students at least three elected representatives on the BOD — seats that the UTSU removed after the board downsized.

At the UTSU’s 2023 AGM, the executives attempted to abolish the Student Senate, promising that they would replace it with another student advisory group. A group of students, mostly in engineering, spoke out against the motion to strike the Senate. Ultimately, the motion failed.

During the 2023 AGM and the UTSU candidates’ debate, members of the student body also criticized the UTSU’s Instagram statement responding to the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza, with recently-elected VP PUA Avreet Jagdev calling the statement “two-sided.” In response, Mechel wrote to The Varsity that the union did not feel it could sufficiently explain the context for the violence in an Instagram post.

the UTMSU for a perceived lack of organization during the referendum.

The UTMSU also faced backlash for its statement expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza amid the conflict with Israel. The statement, released shortly after militant group Hamas initially attacked Israel, sparked mixed reactions within the campus community. While some praised the UTMSU for taking a stance on a global issue, others criticized it for not explicitly addressing Israeli casualties and for the statement’s wording advocating for Palestinian’s “right to resist an apartheid regime.”

In response to the UTMSU’s statement, UTM Principal and VP Alexandra Gillespie released a statement expressing concerns that the union expressed a “position that does not represent the views of its full membership.” Soon after, UTM students organized a walkout calling for a ceasefire and an end to the dehumanization of Palestinians.

At the 2023 UTMSU Annual General Meeting, students passed a motion for the union to affirm its support for the Palestinian people and their ongoing struggle against the occupation of Gaza by officially taking a “pro-Palestine stance.” One student proposed an amendment to extend the proPalestine stance to all UTMSU-funded clubs and services. The motion passed with the amendment. The UTMSU has not yet clarified how this will specifically affect club funding.

students — to organize a protest as part of the CFS’ Day of Action calling on provincial governments to fund free education.

“We did a lot of events this year. And as seen through their engagement with students, I think we did a really good job,” said David.


Abdulrahman Diab, before starting his term as vice president (VP) campus life, resigned in April due to personal reasons. Denise Nmashie — the previous VP equity — resigned in December, citing her changing academic goals.

David told The Varsity that because Victoria Mata was able to take on the VP campus life role in May, the union didn’t have to contend with much adjustment. For David, “the big switch was with the equity [position].”

“Vyshnavi [Kanagarajamuthaly] was able to still take on the work that Denise left behind and continue the work, continue the advocacy… I would say there wasn’t a huge shift in the work that we’re doing,” he said.

Unfinished business

Before the 2023–2024 SCSU elections, David wrote in an email to The Varsity that he would work to implement a U-Pass at UTSC, which would grant students unlimited fare-free rides on local

transit systems.

During the March BOD meeting, executives went over transit advocacy they’d accomplished before the end of their terms. The executives highlighted transit plans they’d drawn up that they hope to present to TTC and municipal officials, which included heated bus enclosures, a shuttle bus to Kennedy station, and a pedestrian scramble at Ellesmere and Military Trail. While the U-Pass never came to UTSC, the work continues for the next set of union representatives.

“Coming in for the new team, their goal is to take on that work — not start from scratch — and continue the work,” said David.

Khadidja Roble, SCSU VP external, told The Varsity she was proud of the progress she made on the U-Pass. “I think the U-Pass was an idea that SCSU had for a very long time… I was able to take part in that progress.”

SCSU’s new impact

IMPACT UTSC won all executive positions in the spring general elections, with a voter turnout of approximately 12 per cent. In an email to The Varsity, Akaash Palparthy wrote that he was particularly proud of the “highest ever election turnout, showcasing increased and strengthened civic engagement.” The last time the SCSU had a voter turnout higher than 12 per cent was in 2020, when it managed to receive a voter turnout of approximately 13.9 per cent.

The SCSU will decide whether to approve the unofficial election results during its April 8 BOD meeting. APRIL 8, 2024 7

Editorial: U of T is leading in research rankings, but lagging in worker treatment

U of T needs to make treatment of contract workers an academic priority

Canada’s top-ranking university won’t stay topranked for long without anyone to actually do the work.

This past March, for a moment, it looked like this would happen — that the university would grind to a halt. Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Locals 3261 and 3902 voted to accept tentative agreements negotiated with the U of T administration, which came in moments before a strike deadline. Involved in the negotiations were representatives of CUPE 3902 units 1 and 5, which collectively represent almost 7,000 academic workers on campus.

Although U of T avoided the strike, it first repeatedly delayed negotiation with CUPE. When Teaching Assistants (TAs) and contract lecturers notified the university that they planned to negotiate a new contract, U of T stood them up for two and a half months after their deadline to respond. When it did come to the table, union leaders accused the university of not matching the union’s “energy, preparedness, or sense of urgency.”

Students felt the impact of these tactics, too. The lack of transparency around the progress of negotiations left students in the dark about whether instructors would continue running winter classes and grading assignments.

Meanwhile, the university has a notable track record of leveraging its international reputation as a research institution and boasting of its high rankings in Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings. U of T’s clout rhetoric lays the foundation of its “Boundless” and “Defy Gravity” research fundraising campaigns.

But the lion’s share of actual academic workers at U of T are teaching and research assistants, sessional lecturers, and post-doctoral researchers. These academic workers are often in contract positions of relative precarity. U of T’s fundraising campaigns sweep the realities of academic work under the rug, but academic workers are critical to its research output. They are essential to maintaining the international reputation that the university boasts so highly of.

This strike threat made at least one thing certain: until U of T starts respecting the academic workers that support its research output, it has no right to call itself a leading research institution. If U of T truly wants to call itself that, it needs to allocate more funds to contract academic workers. Its fundraising campaigns would be a good place to start.

On the rhetoric of “Boundless” and “Defy Gravity”

In the past decade, U of T has had two large fundraising campaigns, both with the goals of obtaining large donations to cement U of T’s place as a leading academic and research institution. In 2011, U of T established its “Boundless,” campaign with the aim of obtaining funds for research. By 2018, Boundless had obtained $2.641 billion, a record high in the country.

In 2021, the university launched the Defy Gravity Campaign, whose rhetoric, like Boundless, was chock full of lofty goals about improving the university, all tied back to alumni donations. As of June 2023, the Defy Gravity campaign had reached $1.6 billion in donations, as part of its larger goal of eventually raising four billion dollars.

However, while U of T attempts to elevate its status as “a respected leader in research, an engine for economic prosperity, and an institution poised to take on the many global challenges that lie ahead” through the fundraising campaigns, when the campaigns describe how U of T will use their funds, neither contain mention of supporting the academic workers that actually make this happen.

Some of the campaigns’ funding is funnelled into student aid. The university talks in its

Boundless campaign report about supporting “research initiatives” and specific researchers already at the top of the research ladder — but it doesn’t elaborate about how or whether this funding actually diffuses to the academic workers who are working in their research labs. Tenured professors and research chairs are less likely to be concerned about affording their grocery bills.

Before they reached that status, though, all those researchers were probably post-docs. Some were sessional lecturers, most were research assistants, and before that, maybe a TA.

Neither Boundless nor Defy Gravity has campaigned with the intention of raising funds to support contract academic workers. We, The Varsity’s editorial board, ask: why not?

Jamming the flow of the academic pipeline

It is, therefore, quite odd to consider the slew of stories we’ve seen over the past few years detailing sessional professors who are let go for seemingly no reason, or TAs who cannot afford to even live in the same city where they work. The likelihood of finding secure academic employment at our university seems to be dwindling by the day.

By failing to respect the rights of workers still climbing the academia ladder, U of T is ignoring the pipeline that plays a critical role in ensuring the university remains a leading research institution for decades to come.

Precariously-employed faculty members have reported that the university’s policies make it essentially impossible for part-time and limited-term faculty to be considered for tenure by requiring candidates with full-time teaching loads who are ineligibility for research grants to have research productivity on par with their tenure-track peers.

Furthermore, U of T only publishes employment statistics on the number and workload of appointed faculty members, not sessional in structors or adjunct faculty, making it exception ally difficult to hold the university accountable for its practices of hiring, promoting, and letting go of precariously employed academic workers.

The most recent agreement U of T successful ly negotiated with CUPE3902 teaching assis tants and course instructors is reassuring to see. What troubles us, however, is how long it took the university to get there. For years, these workers have reported struggling to af ford basic living costs, weathering threats to their health care coverage, the massive setbacks on wages imposed by the now-void Bill 124, and the impacts of inflation in food and housing prices.

The fewer full-time, tenure-track faculty there are, the more that we students will rely on precariously employed academic workers to get the education we pay for. For some of us, contract lecturers, postdoc students, and other precariously employed individuals teach our entire course load. How are they supposed to deliver

quality instruction if they are juggling multiple part-time jobs and worrying about how they are going to afford rent? How can we hope to find research supervisors and get reference letters if the people who taught us cannot be certain they will have a job six months from now?

U of T’s track record of delaying negotiations

And it’s not a lack of effort on workers’ part that causes this lack of labour protections. When labour unions organize, the university has historically stuck to the same time-tested tactic: delaying and deflecting. Just like a student who always asks for last-minute extensions on assignments, this is not the first time the university has postponed talks with CUPE, or presented the union with laughable benefits, far from the proposed asks that workers so desperately need.

On October 26, 2023, CUPE 3902 sent a bargaining notice to U of T, letting the university know that it would like to renegotiate its members’ prior collective bargaining agreement before the agreement expired at the end of the year. The university, in responding, waited 82 days to start the first talk with CUPE 3902, on January 15. This was a breach of provincial statutory obligations and directly contributed to the fact that the university reached agreements with CUPE at the latest minute possible.

The recent developments between CUPE 3902 and the University are simply the latest events in a longer saga of dilatory bargaining practices by the university. In 2014, when TAs from CUPE 3902 expressed dissatisfaction about their job benefits, the university ignored them for eight months. This so angered TAs at the time — rightfully so — that one interviewed TA said that U of T had “spat in [their] faces.”

In 2015, TAs from CUPE 3902 unit one went on strike after rejecting a tentative agreement that

steadily eroding over the last decade, especially in Ontario, it makes all the more sense that U of T should leverage its alternative sources of funding toward compensating its contract staff. Even U of T, which consistently boasts a perfect credit score and strong financial status, has struggled to stretch its budget to cover its operating expenses.

Funding from the provincial government goes directly towards U of T’s operating budget, which in turn is how the university pays its staff. Over the years, we’ve seen the university grow increasingly worried in response to the province’s funding cuts, while other Ontario universities have declared insolvency or warned of imminent bankruptcy. It is extremely worrying to see workers bearing the brunt of this.

After all, it is these academic workers who will one day be prized researchers, educators, and leaders advancing their field of study. From where we as students stand, though, the prospect of pursuing research and academic work through the university is looking very discouraging right about now. And not because we aren’t interested — but because it just might not be worth living off ramen noodles for the rest of our lives.

In other words, maintaining U of T’s reputation as a “leading research institution” requires more than just the work that people at the top of the ladder are doing. U of T’s future fundraising campaigns should include compensation for contract workers as one of its objectives.

This is not just a matter of workers’ rights: we believe CUPE 3902 unit 1’s successful new labour negotiation with the university has given U of T a competitive advantage in attracting highquality TA candidates. We also believe U of T would be incentivized to bargain in better faith if it considers how its labour practices can work

ity. But you must know that the people who can vincial funding dwindles and you start looking to cut costs and find alternate revenue, academic workers must stay on your priority list. Because, otherwise, U of T’s research truly won’t be boundless — once you start pushing the limits

Editorial April 8, 2024
It’s on U of T to treat its academic workers better. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY
The Varsity’s Editorial Board


of T’s grade-obsessed culture is harming student mental health
How grades are losing sight of their purpose while harming student well-being

I grew up in a very academically competitive school where grades were the not-so-hidden comparators that pitted classmates against one another. But when I entered the workforce with a summer internship, I realized how uncorrelated grades are with one’s real-world capability.

At U of T, the culture around grades fosters unhealthy, unnecessary competition that I believe is one of the biggest contributors to poor student mental health. Researchers from the University of Southern California found that the pressures of competition increase college students’ rates of anxiety by 70 per cent and depression by 40 per cent. China’s Ministry of Education and South China Normal University further expanded on this work, establishing a link between competitive attitudes, anxiety, and poor sleep quality.

Competition can impact physical health as well. A researcher from the Utrecht University School of Economics in the Netherlands found that Olympic silver medalists have significantly lower average lifespans than both gold and bronze medalists. The paper indicates that the severity of this lifespan decrease is of a similar degree as the difference found between people with less than 12 years of education compared to those who attended college. The stress of perceived “failure” — of not achieving the coveted heights of a gold medal or, say, some bar of academic success like a 4.0 GPA — can drastically impact mental and physical health.

Not only is grade culture unhealthy for students, but grades are also poor measures of grasp of knowledge: the elevation of which is the fundamental purpose of a university. My introductory personal anecdote about this is backed up by research. A 2018 study concluded that “grades are a convenient metric for ranking student performance on standardized tests, but they are highly inadequate for assessing students’ overall capabilities because of their uni-dimensional nature,” and further suggested that schools should “[develop] more robust multi-dimensional measures of student learning.”

Despite their arbitrary and inaccurate nature in assessing education, I think it’s safe to say

that grades dominate U of T’s student culture and consciousness. From comics in our own newspaper to articles in The Boundary satire magazine, it seems that grades are always on the minds of U of T students.

This should come as no surprise. As a large public university, U of T is efficiently structured so that students are not admitted to a major upon matriculation: a quality that would promote exploration if not for the selective requirements to get into many majors. A previous writer has criticized this process, dubbed POSt, where students apply for programs at the end of their first year. There are some open enrolment majors, but many popular majors have competitive grade requirements that pit students against one another for limited seats.

The very popular computer science and Rotman Commerce programs are at the most extreme end of the spectrum, whose major and specialist programs are almost fully admitted using admission streams right out of high school. The computer science stream system was initially introduced to decrease competition but unintentionally increases it for those who aren’t admitted to the stream out of high school. This system drives adverse competition for the extremely limited secondyear seating that is supplemented by an uncertain number of dropped-out spots.

compel their engagement with course material in the absence of positive incentive.”

Jow provides anecdotal evidence, saying that “many professors exacerbate the situation [of grades functioning as poor indicators of learning] with arbitrary grading practices. As a student, I’ve experienced more than one professor proudly proclaim to me that they never award grades higher than a 90 per cent.”

When grades dictate the right to study what you want, even after being admitted to university, they will inevitably become the focus of one’s efforts, no matter their accuracy or educational value.

In my opinion, the intention behind grades, especially at U of T, has diverged from its original purpose. Grades have become the end goal, not the guardrails of learning they were intended to be. With the somewhat arbitrary grading practices outlined in Jow’s article, coupled with the importance of grades in determining student futures through admission to POSt, grades become a goal separate from learning. When grades dictate the right to study what you want, even after being admitted to university, they will inevitably become the focus of students’ efforts, no matter their accuracy or educational value.

How can U of T help?

With this understandable heavy emphasis on grades comes the educator’s perspective on how to dole them out. TA and course instructor Dylan Jow wrote for The Varsity about U of T grading culture and the purpose of grades at large, describing the function of grades as “primarily intended to assess learning,” but saying that “Instructors often use the implicit threat of giving students a bad grade to

U of T is a well-regarded research university that produces capable graduates, and grades may be in service of that. As such, I understand that U of T cannot tear down POSt and make every program open enrollment, nor can they abolish grades for student well-being, but it can do better by reducing unnecessary stress and providing better for its students. In its mission statement, U of T dedicates itself to “recognizing the growing demand for refreshing, updating and retooling one’s knowledge and skills.” The extreme competition of POSt is a failure to recognize intellectual demand.

Anecdotally, I have heard many worries about the high requirements for admission to certain

majors, with computer science and Rotman Commerce being the most infamous. However, I could not find any concrete statistics — neither on the information pages for the majors, their respective websites, or in U of T’s data.

The computer science admissions page provides a general figure that 50 per cent of students who meet the application requirements for a CS program are admitted — but that includes applicants to specialists, majors, and minors, with no mention of the proportion admitted to each program or their average grades. U of T should be more transparent with these statistics, to be honest with the students that they admit as to their chances of studying what they want.

If demands for programs such as computer science are increasing and are as competitive as word of mouth says, U of T should expand with it. The extreme competition is a sign that U of T is not adapting with demand. If it were, POSt would not be as competitive or stressful for students.

U of T can also alleviate GPA fears through new grading policies. To address some of the criticisms outlined in Jow’s article about subjective grades, U of T should be more transparent and objective in its grading criteria, requiring instructors to publish rubrics or other set metrics to ensure consistency and fairness.

U of T can also encourage exploration by adopting a more flexible grading schema for non-program classes. Universities like Brown provide options for taking courses for satisfactory/no credit — essentially unlimited CR/NCR, and not marking failed courses on transcripts — not to mention their policy of not computing overall GPAs. If U of T adopted similarly flexible policies, it would be able to improve student well-being and continue to fulfill its commitment to exploration and interdisciplinary study.

Grades are a big stressor at U of T and harm student mental health. Some of this stress is unavoidable, but it can be lessened, and I hope to see U of T making more policy changes that put student well-being first.

Max Zhang is a first-year student at Woodsworth College, studying computer science. He is the Mental Health columnist for The Varsity ’s Comment section

Comment April 8, 2024

Israel’s assault on Gaza shows how colonialism and the climate



We must hold colonial powers accountable for their contributions to the climate crisis
Urooba Shaikh Comment Columnist

Something that has always bothered me about climate action by large corporations, institutions, and global leaders is that it seems to focus on encouraging individual action by the common people: we’ve added more bins for you to throw your garbage in, we’ve banned plastic straws, we’ve told you to bring your own reusable water bottle.

Don’t get me wrong, reducing waste and consumption this way is important, and we should all do our part to support this. However, this encouragement comes with a complete lack of acknowledgement of the systemic conditions perpetuated by global powers that created the climate crisis in the first place.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change particularly pointed to the link between colonialism and climate change in its Summary for Policymakers from 2022, saying that regions that are highly vulnerability to climate hazards are those that have development constraints that are “influenced by historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, especially for many Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”

The most current example of this connection is Israel’s bombardment of Gaza that began on October 7, part of a much longer history of violence that a United Nations expert has described as illegal occupation and “indistinguishable from a settler-colonial situation.” As Israel’s assault enters its seventh month, I find it more important than ever to acknowledge that colonial endeavours and the climate crisis are inextricably linked.

Stats from Gaza

In January, researcher Benjamin Neimark and colleagues from the Queen Mary University of London published a research paper titled, “A Multitemporal Snapshot of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Israel-Gaza Conflict.” The paper, called a “first-ofits-kind analysis” by The Guardian, outlines the long-term consequences of military operations on the climate, using carbon emissions from Israel’s latest invasion of Gaza as a starting point for addressing the gaps in this area of climate research.

The paper presents some staggering statistics: it found that projected emissions from only the first 60 days since October 7 totalled 281,315 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and were greater than the annual emissions of 20 individual countries. The majority of these emissions, 280,602 tonnes, were from bombs and artillery, cargo flights, and tanks and vehicles deployed by the Israeli Defence Forces and were equivalent to burning at least 150,000 tonnes of coal. These numbers point to the devastating effects colonial military operations have on the environment.

Israel’s history of colonial climate damage

According to the United Nations Development Programme’s 2010 Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Programme of Action for the Palestinian Authority, “So pervasive are the effects of the Israeli occupation on the climate vulnerability of Palestinian communities that the occupation — in and of itself — is considered here a ‘risk.’”

The creation of the state of Israel has resulted in the fragmentation of internationally recognized Palestinian territory, which consists of the Gaza Strip bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the West Bank along the Jordan River, and thus split governance of Palestine. Palestinian governments

Open Letter to RBC President David McKay

I am winding down my relationship with RBC. Here’s why.

Dear Mr. McKay,

When I was a young boy in the 1970s, my mother took me to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in Owen Sound, Ontario to help me open my own account. She taught me about what banks do and why having a savings and chequing account and sound credit are important. She taught me to monitor my monthly spending and to verify my savings. I came to enjoy seeing my paper bankbook updated after depositing money I earned from delivering papers and cutting lawns in my neighbourhood.

Later, as a teenager, I switched my account to the Royal branch at Sauble Beach, where we lived. My first “real” job was as a summer employee with the LCBO, and I deposited my wages at RBC so that I could draw on them during the winter months while I was an undergraduate student at McMaster University. RBC issued me my first debit and credit cards.

Though I moved to British Columbia and then to California to complete my graduate studies, I maintained the RBC account.

Soon after, I was hired by the faculty at U of T, and I again moved my account, this time to Toronto. My home branch, in recent years, has been the Bloor West Village location at the corner of Bloor Street and Windermere Avenue. RBC has been an important and continuous institutional presence in my life.

I have decided to change that.

A few months ago, I diverted my monthly direct salary deposit to Meridian Credit Union. I have been migrating my online savings account, some investment holdings, and my monthly bill payments over to Meridian as well. My main Visa card is now issued by Meridian. All of this is part of my plan to wind down my relationship with RBC.

Why? Fossil fuels and the climate emergency.

According to the Banking on Climate Chaos 2023 report, RBC ranks fifth in the world in fossil fuel sector financing since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, behind only JP Morgan Chase, CITI, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. RBC was first in the world in 2022. These are dubious distinctions.

No doubt the way this ranking is calculated is open to discussion. Perhaps one ought to differentiate between direct equity holdings and loans, for example. Or perhaps one ought to take into account that numerous companies involved in fossil fuel extraction and distribution are also among the leaders when it comes to investing in renewable energy. I know that; so do you. But

I also know that the world is deep in a climate emergency and that time is running out to avoid the worst consequences.

I won’t tell you that fossil fuel investments are a bad bet — though they are — because I won’t presume to tell you how to make money. I will assume you are quite familiar with the risk of so-called “stranded assets” if RBC’s investments in future fossil fuel extraction become non-viable because of rising extraction costs, carbon taxes, outright regulatory restrictions, and improving competitive market conditions for renewables.

So, I won’t tell you how to make money, but I

Israel’s emissions in the 60 days since October 7 were greater than annual emissions of 20 countries.

lack substantial decision-making power over land use, making it nearly impossible for them to create policies that address the climate crisis. Furthermore, Israel’s control over water supply, agricultural land, and expansion of settlements force Palestinians to adopt unsustainable practices such as using raw sewage for irrigation and drilling wells for survival.

Additionally, Neimark and his colleagues’ paper outlines the emissions resulting from occupation infrastructure. Israel’s Iron Wall, a barrier completed in 2021 to control the movement of goods and people across the Israel-Gaza border, consists of a 20-foot high metal fence, concrete barriers, razor wire, and surveillance technology such as cameras and sensors. They estimated the total carbon emissions traceable to the wall’s construction to be 274,232 tonnes.

Long-term costs

Colonial endeavours don’t just have immediate impacts on climate, but also carry long-term repercussions because of the conditions they create.

According to satellite images analyzed by the UN, at least 35 per cent of Gaza’s buildings have been damaged or destroyed by Israel’s latest assault. Neimark and colleagues’ research calculated that total carbon emissions for reconstructing these buildings will be about 30 million tonnes, which is equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of New Zealand.

Israel’s bombing of Gaza has also destroyed solar panels that are a major energy source, and

will make future clean energy efforts difficult. Furthermore, Israel’s complete blockade of fuel led to the shutdown of all wastewater treatment plants in October, resulting in 130,000 cubic metres of untreated sewage being released into the Mediterranean Sea every day. Needless to say, the costs of Israel’s assault on Gaza will contribute to the climate crisis for years to come.

What do we need to do?

U of T, an institution that has committed itself to divesting from fossil fuels, must also commit to divesting from Israeli occupation without separating it from the climate crisis as a solely ‘political’ issue. As activists from the climate movement Fridays for Future Sweden said, “We have always been political, because we have always been a movement for justice… Advocating for climate justice fundamentally comes from a place of caring about people and their human rights.”

We cannot talk about the climate crisis without discussing the colonial violence that has created it. As a glaring example of this violence occurs before our eyes, it’s time we start holding colonial powers accountable for their significant contributions to the climate crisis, rather than continuously placing the onus of climate action on individuals.

Urooba Shaikh is a third-year student at UTSC studying molecular biology, immunology, and disease, public law, and psychology. She is a Climate Crisis columnist for The Varsity’s Comment section.

will tell you that it is time for financial institutions like RBC to use their influence and do more than just talk about ethics when it comes to investing. It is time for RBC to start saying no to financing fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

As you know, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and stay there for varying periods of time. Carbon dioxide itself remains for between 300 and 1,000 years. Thus, most of the carbon dioxide emitted during the industrial age is still in the atmosphere today. That legacy effect means the faster we get to net zero emissions, the better.

Merely levelling off emissions rates will not suffice. I, therefore, ask you: how can an investment be considered ethical or even consistent with principles of fiduciary responsibility when that investment sustains activities that, in turn, pose an existential threat to future generations? Indeed, it is increasingly evident that the current generation faces an imminent threat as well!

Climate science is no longer largely deductive — it is based more and more on observed experience. The world is changing quickly and for the worse. Moreover, the effects look to be most severe for those in the world who are most vulnerable. This makes investments in the fossil fuel sector ethically wrong not only because

they sustain practices that are rapidly changing the world’s climate in ways that are harmful but also because the effects of those practices are grotesquely unjust.

Why am I shifting to Meridian? Well, for starters, Meridian is not on the Banking on Climate Chaos list. Moreover, Meridian has made stronger commitments to sustainable investing than RBC, and as a credit union, Meridian is, at least in principle, more democratically accessible to clients like me, who are also members.

My mother died in 2021. I can’t tell her of my decision. And yet, even though my parents also did much of their banking with RBC, I am inclined to think she would have agreed with me. And she likely would have followed suit. Perhaps if enough people make the same decision I am making, you will take notice and do what is right. 10 THE VARSITY COMMENT
Signed, Scott Prudham Scott Prudham is a professor in the Department of Geography & Planning.
Banks like RBC must use their influence and do more than just talk about ethics. BRENNAN KARUNARATNE/THEVARSITY COURTESY OF RAMEZ HABBOUB CC WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

We should make welfare of Indigenous women and girls a priority

The increasing number of murdered Indigenous women demands immediate attention

Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence, gendered and racist violence, and the murder of Indigenous women and girls.

The symbol for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls’ (MMIWG) movement is a red hand painted on the lower half of the face. The bloody palm that imprints on the mouth specifically represents the Indigenous women’s voices that have been silenced against speaking up about acts of sexual and gendered violence perpetrated against their communities.

This image has gained popularity over the years as more people have started to recognize MMIWG cases. Despite an increase in public recognition, however, government officials have not yet tackled many of the MMIWG cases. Their current system for addressing cases is ineffective and brings about a horrific continuation of Indigenous women and girls experiencing sexual and gendered violence.

The story of Tina Fontaine

Femicide is defined as the killing of women and girls, most often by an intimate partner, a family member, or someone they know, and typically by men. Like all violence against women, the many causes of femicide are rooted in gender inequality, gender expectations, and systemic gender based discrimination — it is a prominent issue, with 1,125 total cases occurring in Canada between 2011–2021 alone.

Femicide has disproportionately affected Indigenous women, especially because many cases of violence against Indigenous women and girls go undocumented. In Canada, one Indigenous woman or girl faces sexual assault every 48 hours. Additionally, six in 10 Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while almost half have experienced sexual assault. Despite these alarming statistics, many of these violent crimes go undocumented.

Among the gruelling cases that have been reported, one that has sparked more attention in recent years is that of Tina Fontaine, a 15-yearold girl from the Sagkeeng Anicinabe Nation in Manitoba.

According to a Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth special report, in July 2014, Tina was at one point in the care of Child and Family Services (CFS) due to “being dragged by an older male down Selkirk Avenue by her arm.” Even though this was brought to authorities’ attention, “no… support occurred at the time.”

Later that month, a missing person’s report was filed for Tina and in August, she was seen

Cormier.” Cormier was charged with seconddegree murder for Tina’s death but pleaded not guilty.

Tina Fontaine is one of the many girls whose stories are among those of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Her devastating death kick-started the Government of Canada’s formation of the National Inquiry into the MMIWG movement.

The case of Tina Fontaine is unfortunately not the only one, as many Indigenous women and girls lost their lives to gendered violence before Tina and long after. However, officials fail to treat these incidents with the utmost importance. Out

being driven in a vehicle by a man named Raymond Cormier who was stopped by the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS). Even though her name appeared on a missing person report, the WPS let her go. Hours later, an unconscious Tina was found near the University of Winnipeg in an alleyway. Paramedics took her to the Health Sciences Center and she was discharged. Eight days later, though, they found her lifeless body wrapped in a plastic bag in Winnipeg’s Red River.

It is important to note that while in the hospital after being found in the alleyway, Tina had informed her CFS worker that “she had been associating with a 62-year-old male, Raymond

of 6,849 police-reported woman homicide cases in Canada between 1980 and 2014, 16 per cent were Indigenous women. Since 1991, the number of murdered non-Indigenous women has declined, but the number of murdered Indigenous women has increased. In 1980, nine per cent of woman homicide victims were Indigenous, and by 2014, the rate increased to 21 per cent of woman homicide victims being Indigenous.

What can we do to help change the statistic?

Many of these deaths could be avoided if the Canadian government had shown more consideration for the welfare of Indigenous

distance on the road. Thus, well-designed signage, coupled with physical deterrents, can significantly reduce traffic violations and improve road safety. By implementing these measures on King Street, the city can create a safer environment that encourages compliance with traffic regulations.

women. Many Indigenous nations face poverty, and many members of Indigenous communities have to travel far distances for work and school. They may also be at greater risk by being isolated as people in Indigenous communities sometimes have to leave their homes and families for education

Many acts of violence are driven by historical and systemic racism, and even when the murderers of Indigenous women and girls are found, they are oftentimes not held accountable — in a StatsCan study conducted on data collected between 2009 and 2021, police were 27 per cent less likely to recommend a charge of first-degree murder when a victim was Indigenous.

The government should first prioritize providing funds to help bring Indigenous communities out of poverty or to build institutional support within these communities, so that Indigenous women can access resources that could potentially be lifesaving. However, the most pressing matter for the government to deal with is the police’s gross negligence when reports of women and girls in an unsafe situation are not taken seriously.

I believe every missing persons case is of the highest importance, but the harsh reality for Indigenous women in Canada seems to reflect that the government has not prioritized their safety. The Canadian government has announced $50 million in investments for healing and health supports for family members and survivors, but the difference between how the cases of sexual violence of MMIWG and other groups of women in Canada are addressed is disproportionate, and this investment may not be enough moving forward.

The red hand symbolizes the voices that were silenced, and it serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing injustice that must be rectified and prevented in addressing the inhumane acts of violence that are deliberately carried out on Indigenous women and girls.

Vesa Lunji is a first-year student at University College studying life sciences.

We need streetcars

Among Toronto’s many iconic symbols, none perhaps are as quintessentially Torontonian as its streetcars. However, a closer examination reveals a system struggling to keep up with the demands of a modern, bustling city. The streetcar system is plagued by delays and detours. The question is, then, why are streetcars so inefficient?

The King Street dilemma

The first electric streetcar made its debut in Toronto in 1892 on Church Street, heralding a new era of mobility that would shape the city’s landscape until the present day. Fast-forward to the modern day, on King Street, it is shameful to see what was once a symbol of efficient urban transportation become a source of frustration for commuters, including myself.

King Street is one of Toronto’s busiest streets, with about 84,000 commuters on an average weekday. Despite this transit artery’s popularity, travel times of the 504 King streetcar’s travel time from Bathurst to Jarvis frequently topped one hour from May to November of 2023. This is unacceptable for a route with presumed transit priority.

It is no surprise that drivers are a major problem — just take a look at this Toronto Star article that counted 31 drivers breaking traffic laws at King and Yonge in under an hour. Another Toronto Star article writes: “According to one recent University of Toronto study, there are roughly

6,800 illegal turns and through movements made on the transit priority corridor per day — but less than 0.3 per cent of the infractions are ticketed by Toronto police.” Single cars often attempt illegal turns and get stuck in an intersection, preventing streetcars from running properly along their assigned route.

Despite designated lanes, streetcars frequently find themselves at the mercy of errant vehicles blocking their tracks. Time and again, we witness streetcars at a standstill — powerless against the cars that impede upon their domain.

The way forward

Let me be clear: Toronto’s streetcars are failing because of decision-makers and decades of neglectful transit policy. In 2019, the TTC released a report claiming it needed $33.5 billion in capital investment over the next 15 years to stay afloat. At that point, according to Toronto Star transportation reporter Ben Spurr, it didn’t have funding for $27.3 billion of those costs.

Amid its downfalls, there remains hope for Toronto’s streetcars. My preferred solution lies in reimagining the way we use streetcar infrastructure.

Clear signage and physical barriers have proven to be game-changers in numerous urban areas. A 2013 study titled Reducing Conflicts Between Motor Vehicles and Pedestrians: the Separate and Combined Effects of Pavement Markings and a Sign Prompt found that something as simple as pavement markings reduced the possibility of collisions and increased yielding

Case studies from cities in England like Birmingham show streetcar systems that barely interact with mixed transit modes — some don’t even run on roads at all. Providing exclusive lanes for streetcars not only improves their reliability and efficiency but also encourages a modal shift, enticing more people to choose public transit over private vehicles. If streetcars don’t get stuck in traffic, people will be more inclined to take the quicker way.

Furthermore, restricting car access to King Street aligns with emerging trends in urban design and transportation planning aimed at prioritizing pedestrian-friendly spaces by reducing reliance on private vehicles, especially within city centers. Barcelona’s “Superblock” project has implemented car-free zones in key downtown areas, leading to improvements in air quality, pedestrian safety, and overall aesthetics of the city.

While Toronto’s streetcars remain an enduring symbol of the city’s identity, their inefficiency highlights the pressing need for investment and modernization. Despite their historical significance, the current streetcar system remains ill-equipped due to historical underfunding and maintenance neglect to successfully meet the demands of a rapidly growing city.

Chronic delays, detours, and disruptions undermine streetcars’ reliability and effectiveness as a mode of public transit. Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to modernize infrastructure, improve operational efficiency, and prioritize streetcar-friendly policies. By revitalizing and investing in the streetcar network, Toronto can not only preserve a beloved part of its heritage but also ensure that it remains a viable and sustainable transportation option for years to come.

Emily Carlucci is a third-year student at Trinity College studying political science and English. She is the Urban Planning columnist for The Varsity’s Comment section. APRIL 8, 2024 11
city’s demands Bringing new meaning to the term ‘track record’
Vesa Lunji Varsity Contributor
fall short of
Emily Carlucci Comment Columnist
Police were 27 per cent less likely to recommend a first-degree murder charge when the victim was Indigenous.
Streetcar inefficiency highlights the pressing need for investment and modernization. ASHLEY JEONG/THEVARSITY
I report on university governance all the time. Why is it so hard to report on the CFS?

Looking into U of T’s relationship with this rarely-discussed national organization

“We, the management of this organization that are trusted with stewarding this space… we offer an apology,” Brandon Rhéal Amyot — the then-chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) — told the student union representatives gathered in an Etobicoke hotel conference room in November for the CFS’ 2023 National General Meeting (NGM).

I had come to the CFS NGM as a reporter, having learned from documents left by my news editor forbearers that The Varsity used to attend and report on the NGM regularly. When I entered this meeting, I knew little about the CFS besides that people I talked with generally seemed to hate it and that almost every U of T student on campus belonged to it.

Despite having worked at The Varsity for twoand-a-half years, I couldn’t even initially determine what exactly Amyot hoped to apologize for. I only learned later that they were apologizing for disorganization at the meeting and alleged microaggressions against Black and Indigenous students.

I believe myself to be a relatively well-informed member of the campus community: I follow and vote in student union elections, can rattle off enrolment numbers, and continually rant about U of T’s policies and governance decisions — much to my friends’ chagrin. However, over months of reporting, I learned that part of the reason the CFS remained a mystery was because of a shift away from the organization by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), a lack of coverage by news outlets — including my own — and a greater apathy around student politics.

After leaving the NGM, I read reports, delved into The Varsity’s past coverage, and spoke to student union executives who sat in that hotel conference room. Some of those executives called for U of T students to engage more with the CFS. Others said that their unions should leave it entirely.

Regardless of how one believes students should engage with the CFS, one thing remained clear throughout my research: without oversight and attention from individuals and organizations, governance bodies such as the CFS that are meant to represent students — and continue to rake in our money — will remain in subpar condition, failing to address issues that matter to students.

A successful, vibrant student movement has the potential to impact the policies that shape students’ experiences during our years on campus. Currently, the CFS has little impact on most U of T students’ day-to-day lives. But the history I uncovered shows that inspired students have the tools to ensure that changes — and that change has always begun with a basic awareness of both national and local organizations.

What the F is the CFS?

In 1981, the Association of Student Councils (AOSC) and the National Union of Students (NUS) merged to form the CFS, joining the political advocacy spearheaded by the NUS with the services provided by the AOSC. The fledgling organization focused on cutbacks in postsecondary education funding and other issues that restricted students’ access to education, including sexual harassment, fees, and international crises.

The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) and the U of T Student Administrative Council (SAC) — the precursor to the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) — both attended the founding meeting, with the UTGSU joining that year.

Other U of T unions gradually joined the club: the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), the Association of Part-time University Students (APUS), and the SAC ran a joint referendum to join the CFS in 2002. However, the university at first declined to collect the unions’ CFS fees, as it does for other unions as part of students’ ancillary fees, citing a “systematic advantage given to the ‘YES’ side” in the referendum to join the CFS.

U of T then reversed course and began collecting the APUS’ CFS fees in 2004 and the SCSU and UTSU’s CFS fees in 2005. The University of Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) split fully from the UTSU in 2018 but remained part of the CFS — essentially grandfathered into the federation.

Today, the CFS represents 530,000 students from 63 student unions across Canada. It provides various services and continues its quest for free and accessible postsecondary education. Almost a fifth of those students attend U of T.

In an email to The Varsity, APUS President Jaime Kearns noted that the APUS uses materials from many campaigns promoted by CFS, including the Free Education for All, and Amnesty International’s No More Stolen Sisters campaigns — the latter of which focuses on addressing disproportionate rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and trans and Two-Spirit people. Both APUS and the SCSU participated in the federation’s 2023 National Day of Action, protesting for increased postsecondary education funding.

The CFS aims to connect student unions to “pool their resources and to work in partnership,” according to its website. Student unions have historically been split on how effective they’ve been. In an email to The Varsity, SCSU Vice-President (VP) External Khadidja Roble wrote that she “still valued meeting other student leaders and gaining connections with student unions across the country.”

In contrast, UTSU VP Public and University Affairs Aidan Thompson told The Varsity that the UTSU doesn’t see the CFS NGM as a learning experience. During the 2023 meeting, he said he “definitely got some perspective on the ways in which the Federation has fractured over the years, so that was interesting.”

A brief history: Should I stay or should I go?

Over the past few decades, the CFS has faced much criticism. In 2021, the UTSU published a 131-page report on the CFS–UTSU relationship that explicitly supported the union leaving the CFS, capping off years of tension between the CFS and some of its members.

The outcome I hope U of T avoids is apathy. If students pay money to and make up a fifth of this organization, I believe we should either make it better or get out.

In 2013, a UTGSU student who had previously served on the union’s executive committee collected enough signatures to trigger a referendum on whether the UTGSU should stay in the CFS. Although 66 per cent of those who cast their ballots voted against remaining in the CFS, the referendum was seven votes short of reaching the necessary turnout set by the CFS.

Under advice from a law firm, the CFS declined to share the full forensic report on the hidden bank account in 2017. Mathias Memmel, the UTSU VP internal at the time, floated the idea that the CFS had used the money to support candidates in individual student unions’ elections.

Although the CFS has repeatedly denied involvement in local student union elections, a BC student union accused the organization in 2017 of helping pro-CFS student union candidates create campaign materials. This included the unsuccessful Change UofT slate that ran in the 2015 UTSU elections.

This time was a heyday for The Varsity’s coverage of CFS. From September 1, 2014 to April 30, 2017, we published 85 articles mentioning the CFS. Student union candidates discussed stances on CFS in their platforms, and in 2016, UTSU students launched a campaign to run a referendum on whether they should stay or go.

However, the CFS requires that individuals collect the necessary number of signatures within six months. After six months, the petition reset before advocates could collect enough signatures, and the movement lost momentum. “Although other petitions had been organized in subsequent years, none got too far off the ground, with boundaries systemic to the CFS’ processes on decertification being a significant hindrance,” reads the UTSU’s 2021 report.

The news cycle moved on. Since the beginning of the 2021–2022 school year, only 12 Varsity articles have even mentioned the CFS.

In an interview with The Varsity, UTMSU President Gulfy Bekbolatova also highlighted the federation’s “great” campaign materials and spaces for international students. She noted that the UTMSU also uses the federation’s ethical purchasing network, which helps student unions buy ethically-sourced materials for events.

APUS members can also take advantage of the federation’s International Student Identity Card (ISIC) — a travel discount card available for free to all students who are members of a CFS union that the federation claims is recognized in more than 80 countries. APUS also purchases health insurance for its members through the National Student Health Network, which aims to lower costs for students by coordinating the purchase of health coverage.

Students pay a hefty price for the privilege of belonging to the CFS. For the 2023–2024 school year alone, UTSU, UTMSU, and UTGSU students paid a total of $1,292,909 in fees — more than a fourth of the total membership fees collected by the CFS this year. For 2021–2022 — the year in which the APUS and the SCSU released their most recent budgets — the two unions collected $352,615 in fees for CFS.

Many U of T students have invested their time and effort in the CFS. Since 2018, three U of T students — Maëlis Barre, Nicole Brayiannis, and Trina James — have held National Executive at-large officer positions, the three highest positions in the union: two from the SCSU, and one from the UTMSU. This doesn’t mention the other U of T students who have taken on other leadership roles in both the CFS and its Ontario branch, CFS-Ontario (CFS-O).

Claiming that the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) hired by the CFS to administer the referendum made unreasonable decisions that lowered voter turnout, the UTGSU argued it had left the federation. In response, the CFS sued the UTGSU.

In 2016, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a ruling that the UTGSU remained legally in the CFS due to a lack of evidence showing the CRO’s decisions intended to give CFS an advantage. The judge noted that the requirement that students only cast their votes through paper ballots was “antiquated and impractical.”

The UTGSU isn’t the only student union to have been sued by the CFS after running a referendum that didn’t meet the federation’s requirements. The federation has sued at least eight other student unions who attempted to secede from the federation but allegedly did not meet the CFS’ bylaws for leaving, which the UTSU called in its report “needlessly burdensome.”

In some cases, the “litigious” — as Thompson described it — CFS has successfully legally protected student unions. In 2019, CFS-O and the York Federation of Students won a case striking down the Student Choice Initiative — a policy implemented by the Ford government that allowed students to opt out of incidental fees necessary for student unions and campus groups to function.

The union isn’t without scandal. In 2014, CFS executives received a letter alerting them to a hidden bank account held by the federation that included $263,052.80 worth of unauthorized deposits. The account was originally created to pay off debt from a CFS subsidiary. Five individuals, including two former employees, appear to have received unauthorized money from it.

The lack of coverage doesn’t mean the CFS didn’t change, make accomplishments, or experience scandals in those three-and-a-half years. The CFS regularly submits to the fed eral government, advocating that its priori ties be included in the federal budget. It has revamped its Consent is Mandatory campaign and advocated against the deportation of international students targeted in an admissions letter scam.

The CFS chairperson — the highest officer in the organization — stepped down in September 2023 without any acknowledgement from news organiza tions. At the 2023 CFS NGM, delegates walked out of a meeting cit ing a decolonization audit that the organization had put off for a year, after it had committed to complete the audit in light of harm ful statements made during the 2022 NGM.

The CFS continues to collect and spend students’ money.

The organization spent $436,074 and $408,500 on its 2022 and 2023 NGMs, respectively.

It spent $316,261 in le gal costs from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2023. The majority of those funds come from students’ pockets.

Does anyone care?

The collective memory held by university students is amnesic. Most students at U of T finish their undergraduate degrees in somewhere between four and six years. With the constant turnover, few retain the knowledge of these times past.

When I surveyed 31 U of T students, mostly from UTSG, approximately 21 out of


them had never heard of the CFS. Only seven had heard of the organization and knew what it was.

“The vast majority of students wouldn’t know much about the CFS, aside from the astronomical fees that they pay each year,” Thompson told The Varsity. This in part reflects the journalistic liminal space in which the CFS exists.

Although the CFS is a national organization, its internal politics remain largely irrelevant to anyone besides postsecondary students, and most professional news outlets don’t often cover it. The Globe and Mail, the most widely circulated Canadian newspaper as of 2022, only published six stories since September 1, 2021 that mention the CFS.

Although many different university and college unions are involved in the CFS, and the decisions made by the CFS guide those unions’ advocacy and services, most student newspapers only seem to report on it when it directly intersects with their university.

The Varsity attends nearly every Board of Directors meeting held by four of the five U of T student unions. These include the UTSU, UTMSU, SCSU, and UTGSU. But the CFS doesn’t always show up on our radar. The last time The Varsity reported on a CFS NGM was 2018, and that reporting came amid the UTSU executive endorsing defederation.

In fact, I could not find any coverage of the CFS’ 2020, 2021, or 2022 NGMs by any newspapers. When I talked to six current and former student journalists who belong to the Canadian University Press (CUP) — a national organization that aims to unite student papers — only two had heard of it and knew what it was.

Ontario Institutes for Studies in Education Graduate Students’ Association President Justin Patrick noted the lack of reporting on national and international student organizations in a 2023 article he wrote for The Varsity. He argued for increased collaboration between student newspapers. He also proposed possibly creating a multi-campus student paper reporting on national affairs impacting students, but that also falls outside the normal single-campus purview that most student papers focus on.

Some infrastructure for collaboration already exists — for instance, the CUP hosts a Slack server where student journalists can communicate and share stories they’ve published.

“I think it would be good if there was more reporting on [the CFS] coming out of the pandemic and getting more of an inside view on what's happening with this organization because the only way that it will ever change is if there’s accountability,” said Thompson.

The CFS operating policy prohibits non-student journalists from reporting on the federation’s NGM, allowing only one journalist from each student-led campus publication and two representatives from the CUP. Given that only student journalists can report on the NGMs, the CFS could also make it easier for them to do so.

I reached out to the CFS repeatedly about attending the 2023 NGM. Although CFS executive members warmly welcomed me on occasions when they answered my emails, I often had to rely on individuals within U of T student unions to share information about meetings. The CFS didn’t post publicly about when the NGM would occur.

More structurally, the CFS only allows journalists to report on the opening and closing plenaries, missing the discussion that happens in committee meetings where delegates tweak motions and determine what they will recommend the entire group to vote on. This leaves journalists and the public with an incomplete understanding of how the federation decides its direction — a direction that impacts the campaigns student unions engage in on a local level.

What happens next? You decide.

Although I’d like to believe student journalists drive the conversations on campus, I’m not so naive. In a world marked by Bill C-18, newspapers play a decreasing role in students’ lives. If newspapers are no longer driving the conversation, people will have to take matters into their own hands.

Students and student organizations have three options: accepting the status quo, where they are marginally involved with and get minimal

benefit from national student movements; independently taking steps to involve themselves; or disentangling themselves altogether.

I am far from the first to decry low voter turnout and engagement or to lecture students about needing to become more involved. But I see value in reevaluating how and whether we, as students, should devote resources to this organization and taking steps to draw closer to the ideal scenario each of us envisions.

The SCSU, UTMSU, and APUS remain in favour of becoming more involved with the CFS. Bekbolatova told The Varsity that she sees the value in the CFS becoming more active on campus and receiving direct input and ideas. She said that the UTMSU reaches out to the CFS, inviting it to outreach at UTM, and hopes to get more students involved in the CFS spaces.

Roble echoed this idea, writing that she hopes to “see a greater presence across our campuses and more opportunities for general students to get involved in the work of the organization.”

As Patrick notes in a 2020 Varsity article, strong student movements in other continents have secured tangible wins for students. “I think there’s always value in an organization that unites people and that unites students, because students are very powerful,” Bekbolatova said.

Individual students do not qualify as members of the CFS and cannot vote at national general meetings. However, students can become involved in CFS Caucuses and Constituency groups even if they are not union executives.

The UTSU remains in favour of becoming less involved, for all of the reasons mentioned in its 2021 report.

“From a pure practicality perspective, the UTSU will not be leaving the Canadian Federation of Students this year,” Thompson said, citing the many barriers to defederation. However, he noted that the union’s evaluation of the CFS, as laid out in the 2021 report, stands.

“There are no services that we really take advantage of,” he said. “They have no credibility whatsoever in a lot of lobbying conversations, they’re not particularly effective when they conduct their lobby weeks, they are blacklisted by

multiple parties because they’re not viewed as credible. And their organizing is lacklustre at best and woefully ineffective. So what benefits?”

The UTSU has chosen to become more involved with another student organization, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, which focuses more on lobbying. However, the union will have to decide after this year whether to formally join the organization.

Thompson told The Varsity that the UTSU will continue to focus on how to support U of T students “rather than fight major battles at a federal level,” such as trying to reform the CFS. However, he encouraged students to look into the organization and determine their own views, given the importance of students becoming involved in federal politics.

If you read this piece and decide that the CFS is beyond reform or doesn’t serve you, defederation is difficult but possible — the UTGSU got incredibly close — and defederation can only come from students. Student unions cannot prompt it.

The outcome I hope U of T avoids is apathy. If students pay money to and make up a fifth of this organization, I believe we should either make it better or get out.

One thing that I can promise you is that looking into student history can be highly enjoyable. The Varsity archives include some of the wildest shit I’ve ever read in my life, including a fair bit of scandal. Think of the best drama series you’ve watched or read, and I bet you that something crazier happened at U of T at some point in its almost 200-year history. Attending the 2023 CFS NGM was an incredibly interesting and honestly entertaining experience, and I feel lucky to have had that opportunity.

So take a moment to investigate the CFS. You can involve yourself in its campaigns through your student union; you can attend workshops and events, and ask your student representatives how they hope to coordinate advocacy on a broader scale; or, if you prefer, you can start petitions and gear up for a new campaign to leave it. And if you get nothing else from it, you can try ranting about the CFS at your next party.

Business & Labour

Explainer: Breaking down U of T’s budget for 2024–2025

Here is how U of T will tackle spending on student aid, labour, construction

U of T’s planning and budget committee has faced an onslaught of external challenges this past year: new labour agreements for staff increasing compensation for staff, Ontario’s surprise announcement to continue its tuition freeze for in-province students, the federal government’s decision to cap international student visas, rising costs of living for university staff, persistently inflating costs in general, and a growing backlog of building maintenance requests.

And yet, none of these challenges have managed to disrupt the budget committee’s perennial declaration that U of T remains in a “strong financial position.” The university’s planning and budget committee set next year’s balanced budget at $3.52 billion in total, up 4.9 per cent from this past academic year. The budget also includes guidelines for longer-term budget planning beyond the year ahead. The Governing Council voted to pass the budget at its April 4 meeting.

Here are some of the budget’s highlights.

Labour developments and government regulations cut deep

Beginning last summer, the U of T’s Faculty Association and various trade unions have secured retroactive pay increases to correct for the limits imposed by Ontario’s Bill 124. This bill attempted to limit all public sector workers’ wage increases to one per cent per year, before a court declared it unconstitutional in 2022.

More recently, successful negotiations from CUPE3902 units 1 and 5, along with CUPE3261 have increased members’ salaries, wages, and benefits. “It will take several years to fully absorb

16 years that Ontario will increase the number of dollars-per-student it allocates U of T in its operating grant. However, since average costs in Canada have inflated by about 42 per cent since 2008, Ontario’s increased operating grant will still represent far less real purchasing power than it has historically.

“[The Ontario government] has never offered up an explicit rationale” for why it has frozen U of T’s operating grant for the last three years, Gertler further noted. “But they have encouraged us to take full advantage of other opportunities… primarily the international student enrolment growth that we have seen,” he said, emphasizing that U of T has been more responsible in supporting this growth of international students compared to other universities in Canada.

“Only 20 per cent of our revenue now comes from operating grants, so we are the lowest publicly funded university in Canada,” said Young, at the Academic Board meeting on March 7.

Improved student enrolment is a big priority for the university

The planning and budget committee has projected U of T’s revenue growth to slow down significantly over the next four years, in contrast to a previous decade of more significant revenue growth. This is primarily due to student enrolment and tuition rates — 67 per cent of U of T's revenue comes from student tuition. Consequently, meeting enrolment targets is a big priority for the university, although this has recently been challenging.

For the second year in a row, the budget notes, the number of new undergraduate students that U of T enrolled fell below the expected number — falling 2.3 per cent below the uni-

Meanwhile, domestic tuition has made up a smaller proportion of the university’s revenue since the 2016–2017 academic year, which places even more importance on international student tuition.

To combat slowing revenue growth from student tuition, the university hopes to increase the number of students enrolling at U of T while also increasing tuition for specific programs. The budget calls for non-Ontario domestic tuition fees for undergraduates to increase by five per cent, and tuition fees for specific M aster of Applied Science programs to increase by 7.5 per cent — programs that are not affected by the ongoing tuition freeze.

Over the next five years, the university also aims to expand domestic student enrolment by 2,500 students, and international student enrolment by 1,200 students — despite new restrictions following the federal government’s study visa cap.

U of T’s enrolment of international students who require new student visas is now restricted to 5,320 spots — the same number it enrolled in direct-entry undergraduate programs this past fall. Crucially, though, the Academic Board noted that this restriction does not apply to non-resident students currently studying in Canadian high schools, or enrolling in graduate programs after an undergraduate program at a Canadian university. The Academic Board confirmed the university has the spots to “meet existing enrolment needs.”

At current tuition fee levels, the planned fiveyear increase in international student intake alone would increase the university's revenue by $72 million by the 2028–2029 academic year. On the other hand, the planned five-year increase of 2,500 spots for domestic students would increase U of T’s revenue by approxi-

came into power, and made it more restrictive for students to qualify for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Whereas 64 per cent of Ontario students at U of T received OSAP in 2019–2020, only 52 per cent received OSAP in 2022–2023, the budget committee reported at the March 7 meeting earlier this year.

Gertler clarified at the April 4 meeting why U of T continues to advocate against the tuition freeze while maintaining student affordability as a priority. Indeed, the province has represented the freeze as a move to make higher education more affordable. “On an intuitive level, that seems to make sense,” he acknowledged.

However, Gertler noted that the tuition freeze does not differentiate between families who actually need financial aid, and those who are perfectly prepared to pay higher tuition rates. Furthermore, he asserted the tuition freeze takes resources away from U of T’s own student aid programs, which do differentiate students based on financial needs.

Capital projects

U of T is planning to invest $4.1 billion over the next five years into capital expansion — which mostly encompasses constructing and expanding university-owned buildings. This amount includes $101 million from this current year’s revenues.

Some of the new buildings U of T is planning to construct include a data sciences and commerce building at the St. George campus, a literature, arts, media and performance building at the Scarborough campus, and a computation, robotics and new media building at the Mississauga campus.

There are also ongoing housing projects at St. George, which include the Oak House Residence at Sussex-Spadina, which should open sometime in the upcoming academic year, Spadina, which purports to be “the largest university housing development of its kind” in

firm the specific amount it will allocate to the university in its operating grant. If the operating grant is higher than the budget’s conservative assumption, the budget notes, “the additional revenue would be allocated to divisions through the University’s budget model to support their

April 8, 2024
The Governing Council voted to pass the budget at its April 4 meeting.

2023–2024 in Student Photos

U of T photographers share the favourite photos they’ve captured this school year

How would my life have turned out? What is that version of me doing right now? The vastness of the sea reminds me of how small we really are.

Photo April 8, 2024
Taken at the American University of Beirut campus in Lebanon, this is a photo of my cousin and I taking in the beauty of our surroundings. In another life, this would have been the campus I attended and the views I would see daily. Would I have taken it for granted, as we tend to do when we lose our excitement about things? Walking around in Athens during the peak of the July heat wave was exhausting, and I guess for this stray cat as well. It was just lounging around, looking at the passing tourists, at ease in the hubbub of a busy European city. I liked the textures and colors on the wall; the cracks, the plants, the paint chips. It looks like it’s seen a lot come and go over the years. Callum Baker with a swarm of kids wanting his autograph and selfies in Goldring after a postgame against Harvard University. NEIL PATEL/THEVARSITY Cityscape of the Toronto skyline from Trillium Park. RAYMOND WONG/THEVARSITY Defensive Line player Jackson Mayer focusing and tuning in just before the big game. KATE WANG/THEVARSITY Street performer near Bonsecours Market in Montréal. AVERYN NGAN/THEVARSITY An infinity mirror that reflects the endless uncertainty that consumes our minds, all while having to consider the realities of life. ISABEL KHUDR/THEVARSITY

Arts & Culture

Love on the brain: An interview with Professor Mark Miller What can cognitive science teach us about how to better love one another?

Professor Mark Miller is a cognitive scientist and philosopher working on the groundbreaking frontiers of predictive processing research. His work’s evolving, highly conceptual nature means his lectures are a constantly unfolding synthesis of inspirations.

There is never a moment of stillness — physically or mentally — as he speaks; in his lectures, he joyously careens around the room like a spinning top, connecting insights from Daoist meditation and psychology research to horror movies, internet phenomena, and silly anecdotes about his newborn daughter.

However, my interview with him for The Varsity was an unusually still conversation, where he sat cross-legged atop a desk like a guru about to enter a deep meditative trance. Our interview, which I originally set up for the Love and Sex issue in February, touched on the relationship between developments in cognitive science and what they indicate about love and intimacy.

The Varsity: Some interesting cognitive science research suggests that when people fall in love, their representations of themselves and their romantic partners blur together. This seems to conceptualize love as a process of ‘becoming’ the beloved. What are the implications of this idea?

Mark Miller: My research is on predictive processing, an emerging cognitive framework that suggests the brain and body work together as a prediction engine. This means they take everything they know about the world to make good predictions about what happens next, and the differences between the predictions and real-world signals are then used to better adapt their model of the world. So one of the things that we do as predictive systems is try to reduce the volatility in our environment.

If you’re in a relationship, you’re not alone in a prediction system. We might’ve evolved to couple with others to create dyads acting as a single system, thus reducing volatility. I hear something beautiful in the way you describe love as a com-

ing together of two systems who care about each other so much that the volatility that you face is actually the volatility that I face. I think romantic love is the process of our models teaming up in that important confluence.

We know that sex and intimacy bring people together in a powerful way. If intimacy helps us step into a position of vulnerability, where we become more available to be seen, that’s inherently a situation where you drop some social protective mechanisms. Ideally, we’re not talking about one-night stands, which I think are completely caustic. Onenight stands, especially repeated ones, enforce your belief that other humans are just opportunities to self-gratify, which I suspect is synonymous with psychopathy.

TV: Would you agree that empathy seems to be the core trait underpinning these relationships of mutual care?

MM: I did my master’s research on empathy, to update some of the ways we think about [it]. We often separate cognition from emotion; we understand empathy as mimicking each other’s emotions to think better about the person. I don’t think this is the best description of what empathy is. When you start appreciating that emotion, cognition, and behavioural nervous dynamics are deeply entangled, you get a different view of what empathy is: shared emotion turns out to be shared perception and cognition.

A better way of thinking about empathy is not me as a detective collecting clues about you. But maybe empathy is a quick-and-dirty evolved way for me to step into your reality. We’re potentially living in very different realities, and empathy dynamics help us work together as a team.

TV: Your work emphasizes the importance of ‘belief hygiene,’ the idea that the beliefs we surround ourselves with tangibly impact how we experience the world. Today, young people are having fewer relationships than ever. I wonder if this is symptomatic of a larger digital culture characterized by disinformation and distrust. How do you think that affects our abilities to form meaningful, loving relationships?

MM: Given our framework, it becomes obvious that what we believe really, really matters. As you generate your experience based on the networks of beliefs you’ve installed over your lifetime, what you believe shapes your experience of reality. If you appreciate that fact, it becomes fundamental to select good mentors and information that are conducive to a healthy worldview.

Something that’s shown up in our research, relative to this, is around establishing non-zero sum activities as central to your aims. If you’re unfamiliar with zero sum, it’s a socially antagonistic game where if I win, you don’t, or vice versa. Over the long run, you get into a scarcity mindset, where you believe you’ll only get what you want by taking it from someone else. If we can’t team up, we regularly fail to manage the volatility in our environment — especially today, when volatility is peaking with uncertainty about who we are, our politicians, and our news. The only way to survive this massive uncertainty is through teaming up with other systems we trust.

TV: You’ve put forth a strong indictment of hookup culture, which dating apps have charged into a huge phenomenon. Though we recognize how dehumanizing these apps can be, they’re still a big part of social rituals, especially on college campuses. What do you think is a good way to move forward in a society that’s heavily reliant on these apps, while maintaining your hopefulness, integrity, and empathy for others?

MM: Social media sets us up to see other people as storefronts rather than whole human beings, which are much more challenging, mysterious, beautiful, and important things. Going on reels, where you’re pinged with five-second clips about love, is a horrible, ridiculous idea. And if you’re going to sources like Instagram to figure out what a relationship looks like, real sex and love are going to become punishing for you.

We’re ruining our natural abilities to tune into what real relationships are. They’re gonna be hard, awkward, and challenging, but also intimate, beautiful, and soft. If we’re not tuned into that, the only place that we’re going to feel satisfied is back online.

There’s a larger story here about the hedonic treadmill. The neuroscientist Peter Sterling says that when our culture restricts opportunities for meaningful, beneficial, wholesome engagements with others and the world, we’re left with the goal of maximizing our few hard-coded rewards, like sex and food. Today, many places we used to seek meaningful experiences are being removed. Concurrently, things like porn addiction, fast food consumption, and hookup culture are on the rise. So then your question becomes a bigger one: what do we do about the meaning crisis that we’re in?

It might not be as easy as just saying we can just ‘stop’ hookup culture. If our society keeps perpetuating a loss of meaning, then our natural inclination is to maximize easy rewards in order to feel something, even if it’s temporary. Part of the solution there is finding more nonzero sum things to care about. Nonzero sum aims are endlessly interesting. Personally, I say my academic career is my hobby, while my central interest is becoming a good human being! For me, that means learning to be wise, joyful, and of good service to people in my life. If you set goals like that, there will always be meaningful things, no matter what situation you’re in.

TV: What about good influences — has any art struck you as capturing something intrinsic and real about the experience of love? If an alien came down to earth and you were tasked with explaining human love to it, what would you show it?

MM: Love is so dynamic and unfolding that I don’t think any set image does it justice. Maybe the Sufi poets got it, maybe Rumi. But really, if an alien

came down and asked, ‘What is this love thing?’, I would try to fall in love with that alien. Spend some time exploring each other, trusting each other, and caring for each other’s needs as much as our own. I would invite it into my life. Maybe the best way to teach what love is is to be in love.

TV: Okay, now what’s the deal with sex? It’s popularly said that humans are the only organisms that pursue sexual pleasure for pleasure’s sake, as opposed to a reproductive purpose. What about sex strikes you as an inherently human thing, and what might the predictive processing framework have to say about it?

MM: The special thing humans can do is create reasonably volatile situations where we learn a lot, transform deeply, and find new opportunities to reduce error. Being ‘on the edge’ is valuable and fun for our kind of system! The appeal of things like risky play and horror movies is something our research is really interested in.

I think sex might be just like that in an important way — maybe death and sex share something there. They’re both scary as hell. Nobody teaches you how to do them well. We’re not getting good information from anybody who matters about how to do them.

So maybe sex can be thought of as you and your partner jointly creating this risky space, breaking your own models, and exploring alternative ones in a safe yet scary environment. Risky play is a ‘safe scary’ environment where you become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

TV: I feel like the idea of ‘safe scary’ is relevant to dating as a whole, because it’s learning to be vulnerable, acquire new information, and ultimately, form a fuller picture of the world and people in it.

I’d like to end by asking: what advice might you have for young people who are having problems forming romantic and sexual connections?

MM: It might not be what you’re expecting, and that’s okay. I believe the first step is practicing kindness and love with yourself. Then extend that to your network, letting romantic and sexual escapades grow from a foundation of self-compassion and care for others. Prioritize wholesome and inspiring interactions that serve the greater good.

I would say, start by taking time every day to love yourself in a contemplative, meditative way. Sit down and start honestly loving your body, loving yourself, and then extend that circle of care to your friends, family, strangers, and beyond. Let that authentic care underpin all your relationships. That is a really strong, ethical, and virtuous foundation, I think, to reevaluate what relationships and sexuality are all about.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

April 8, 2024
Mark Miller’s research explores the way belief can construct reality. COURTESY OF MARK MILLER Professor Mark Miller. COURTESY OF MARK MILLER

AI in healthcare: Where it is and where it’s going

U of T researchers are developing AI models to tackle lung transplantation, artery disease, and more

Apart from giving us both amusing and concerning responses — sometimes simultaneously — ChatGPT has jolted us awake from our artificial intelligence-ignorant slumbers. We’re now aware of how powerful large language models, like ChatGPT, can be — but what about artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare?

U of T scientists have been innovating using AI in their research for several years and have created models that may help improve lung transplantation outcomes by predicting outcomes in patients following bypass surgery, among more applications.

Lung transplant decision-making made easier

Researchers at U of T, the University Health Network (UHN), and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence recently developed an AI model to aid transplant surgeons and personnel in making decisions about lung transplants.

The development of this model was advanced by an earlier innovation by UHN scientists called the ex-vivo lung perfusion system (EVLP). The EVLP allows scientists to maintain a lung in normal physiological conditions by providing it with the right temperature and nutrients while keeping it breathing using a ventilator. This increases the amount of time a lung can be preserved outside of the body.

However, isolating the lung in the EVLP system has another benefit, too. “[Studying an organ on its own] gives us access to data that really doesn’t have any parallel in the rest of medicine. We know that any signal we see… came from the lung; we know that any data coming off the ventilator is only being driven by the lung itself,” said Andrew T. Sage, Assistant Scientist with the Toronto Lung Transplant Program at the Toronto General

Hospital Research Institute, in an interview with The Varsity

The EVLP provides a range of data points, including, but not limited to, pressure, acidity, and images of the lung.

Sage and colleagues trained an AI model — InsighTx, pronounced “insight” — on these data points gathered from transplants performed at Toronto General Hospital. They were then able to “categorize lungs that are ultimately unsuitable [for transfer], lungs that are really likely to do well, and lungs that [require physicians to] proceed with caution,” continued Sage in the interview.

InsighTx has provided a more quantitative way of assessing whether a lung is suitable for an organ transfer and improves physician confidence. While InsighTx isn’t yet in the clinic, it’s well on its way. Currently, the InsighTx team is formally assessing its use in-clinic. They’re working with clinicians to study how the model’s use may change organ utilization and patient outcomes.

As for the future of lung transplants, “you’ll see really significant advances in organ transport, as well as organ transplant… very soon,” said Sage. Currently, the EVLP functions as a mobile cart.

But in the future, Sage said, we might start to see “smart carts” — “a generation of these ex-vivo carts, [where] everything that you’re doing is being analyzed and [the cart is] telling the surgeon what they’re seeing, as well as what they expect to see in the future,” Sage explained.

Predicting patient outcomes before and after surgery

Scientists at U of T, Unity Health Toronto, and UHN, alongside researchers from Ireland and Saudi Arabia, recently developed an AI model that predicts how an infrainguinal bypass patient will fare. Patients who suffer from severe infrainguinal peripheral arterial disease — where a narrowing of blood vessels in the legs impairs blood circulation — may require a bypass of their blood vessels, by creating a detour for the blood to get around an obstacle, to alleviate this narrowing. This procedure, called an infrainguinal bypass, has a high risk of complications and physicians lack predictive tools to assess their patients’ risks. The model predicts patient outcomes after this bypass surgery to allow physicians to assess and manage their patients’ risks prior to the operation

— and choose a different treatment path if needed. It can also alert physicians of high-risk patients following the bypass.

The future: “Smart carts,” drones, AI assistants, and concerns

A 2022 survey of Canadian vascular surgeons found that a majority of physicians were excited about AI’s use in surgery, but 50 per cent said they had a poor knowledge of AI. Closing this gap means better AI education for clinicians, including those at U of T.

“We [at the Temerty Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research and Education in Medicine (TCAIREM)] work closely with educators and clinicians,” said Muhammad Mamdani, Director of T-CAIREM and co-author of the infrainguinal bypass study in an interview with The Varsity. “There are now a couple of sessions on AI in the medical school curriculum,” they added.

While researchers can look at what data a model is using more or less heavily to generate its output, the exact mechanism the model is using may not be clear to them. This is important in a research context but less so in the clinic, explained Mamdani. “We do things in healthcare all the time that we don’t understand. To get a head CT, for example, I don't need to know how the CT machine works. But I need to know what the output is,” continued Mamdani in the interview.

Mamdani sees AI advancing healthcare in four main ways: automating administrative tasks, “[making] clinical decisions better and faster,” more accurately predicting patient outcomes, and helping patients with less complex medical problems — though physicians would have to step in when needed.

AI is already in the clinic and it will soon be even more widespread. Toronto scientists are playing a big role in what may become the next revolution in medicine.

Finding your purpose in the nonhuman

What A Psalm for the Wild-Built and Vampyroteuthis Infernalis

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers is one of those novels that you settle in with after a long day, hot cup of tea in hand. It follows a monk, Sibling Dex, who lives in a singular city on the lone continent of a colonized alien moon. Half of the continent is composed of the city and small satellite villages, and the other half is left to wilderness. The ocean remains mostly unexplored.

This world is a comfortable one — everyone’s needs are provided for, most people live easy lives, and humanity has escaped the shadow of the “Factory Age” of robots. However, this utopia was only achieved because hundreds of years prior, robots developed consciousness and decided to leave human society for the wilderness.

Unsatisfied with their life, Dex leaves their post at the monastery and chooses to wander from village to village instead, lending an ear to villagers’ woes while mixing them the perfect tea blend. Dex wakes each morning feeling like something is out of place, and they don’t know what they could possibly do to find their purpose in life. Then, Dex meets a robot: Splendid Speckled Mosscap. Mosscap follows Dex as they venture farther into the wilderness, asking one fundamental question: what do humans need?

In many robot-human tales, robots are programmed and mechanical, and they think numerically. Psalm shows us what might happen if robots were curious. Mosscap spends its days observing flora and fauna, feeling content wandering the continent instead of settling on one thing. At one point, Dex questions how Mosscap could be so fluid while made of machine parts,

and Mosscap points out that the machine parts are “how [robots] function, not how [robots] perceive.” In this world, robots no longer only fulfill the purpose for which they are constructed, and so they must find their own.

Learning from the vampire squid that existing is enough

In Vampyroteuthis Infernalis, Vilém Flusser also explores the purpose of human existence, this time through one of the most mysterious animals of his time: Vampyroteuthis infernalis, or the vampire squid. The book greets us with speculation on the phylogenetics of the titular species, filled with ostensibly scientific information.

Yet there’s something strange about this book.

Flusser blends scientific description with philosophy and fiction to create a chimera of a work, one that questions what it means to be human as much as it asks what it means to be a vampire squid. Although many of the scientific facts he presents are grounded in reality, his analysis of these facts extends into imagination, which is why I approached this book as science fiction.

Flusser was fascinated by the extreme environment in which vampire squids live. Vampire squids can survive under minimum oxygen levels at depths of between 600 to 1,200 metres in the ocean, leading them to develop several ingenious adaptive features. They don’t hunt prey but instead have filaments attached to their legs with mucus that picks up detritus from the ocean to consume.

With these scientific facts in hand, Flusser extends the environment alien to us into a philosophy of the vampire squid’s interaction with the world. To him, humans and vampire squids exist

in different worlds — ours a “habitable surface” and the vampire squids’ a “habitable hole.”

Despite this, Flusser concludes, “Nevertheless, we can meet.” Vampire squids’ passive method of food consumption inspires Flusser, as he says that the animal “embraces the world with the intention of incorpo rating it.” From the squid’s behaviour, Flusser draws out a metaphor, imply ing that passively exist ing in the world is enough of an existence.

Flusser writes that “the encounter between the two Earths would be the absorp tion of the human Earth by the vampyroteuthian one.” What does it mean that Flusser thinks the “vampyroteu thian” way of life can overcome our own method of existence — one where we are driven to find purpose in what we do? Maybe, it is that humans aren’t so exceptional that we need a purpose in life to continue existing as we do.

Psalm and Vampyroteuthis on purpose

I arrived at Psalm and Vampyroteuthis during an opportune moment in my life. Everything was going right, yet I wondered: what if I had done things differently? What if I had tried harder to reach my goals when I was younger?

For Flusser, these questions are both complex and silly. Our purpose can be to simply exist as beings. In Psalm, Mosscap quashes Dex’s yearning for purpose by pointing out that “[they’re] an animal. And animals have no purpose. Nothing has a purpose. The world simply is.”

for science fiction. When the impossible seems possible, real life is made small and bitter. I used to wonder how scientists could find value in the minutiae, spending years researching one mechanism of one reaction in a plant and feeling satisfied. We often place research into a larger picture, trying to rationalize each small project through its utility for our development as a species.

Science has a purpose — but did it start this way? Did the first person who observed a frog’s tympanum vibrating know that they were viewing a crucial part of the frog’s anatomy, or did they just enjoy the sound it produced? I will never know the answer to that question, but I do know that it is enough to simply accept the knowledge. It is enough to simply exist, to embrace the world as it is — like the vampire squid.

Science April 8, 2024
Malaika AI models have the potential to become extremely useful tools in clinic. COURTESY OF UNIERSITY HEALTH NETWORK

A natural alternative to film development Understanding sustainable practices in analogue


After decades of being pushed out by digital technology, analogue film has been rescued by a culture of reuse that favours recycling and repurposing traditional machinery. With artistic intrigue overpowering technological advancement, there has recently been continuous development in the field of experimental film. In particular, the field has moved toward appreciating the physical capabilities of the medium, which has opened a door to expressing the physicality of the natural world through film development.

Conscious creation: What is used to develop film?

Film development can never be fully eco-friendly, but there are alternatives to traditional methods that can mitigate environmental risk by reducing the consumption of harmful chemicals in favour of natural elements.

Traditionally, film is composed of silver halide, and once it’s exposed to light via a camera — when you take a picture — the silver is activated, or ionized. To achieve a negative — an inverted photo that can later be used to create a finished image — a developing agent turns the activated silver particles black, a process called oxidation that takes place in the dark. A ‘fixer’ is then applied to remove the unexposed silver halide from the negative, which would otherwise darken the finished image over time due to its light sensitivity.

Film developing agents are often primarily composed of phenols, which are organic compounds commonly found in plants, wine, and coffee. Film developers made from wine and coffee produce the same effect as the traditional chemical approaches to black and white film — a technique known as eco-hand-processing.

Film developers can achieve a more prominent grain and greater contrast when they have chemically basic bases. Developers from cof-

fee, grass, potatoes, and wine are all different types of bases that enhance this creative process, technically defined as caffenol, grassenol, kartoffel, and wineol, respectively.

Their nuance is obvious in their finished product, and artists can rest with the knowledge that they can be disposed of easily down the drain, compared to their chemical counterparts that cannot be easily recycled because of their high toxicity.

Phytograms are another means photographers can use the natural world in film development. By relying on the internal chemistry of plants to create chemical traces on film, the use of phytograms avoids toxic procedures. In this method, however, no camera is used — it’s all about sunlight. Phytogram photographers immerse plant matter, including leaves, flowers, or grass, in a developer made of vitamin C powder and sodium carbonate, then place them on the gelatin on the film. To reveal the physical structure of the plants — such as the veins in the leaves or the division of flower petals — the film must be left in sunlight for the gelatin to swell according to the individual internal chemistry of the plants.

Both phytograms and eco hand-processing use readily-available, low-cost, and low-toxicity items to produce film, making the practice more friendly to the planet and accessible to those who wish to experiment in this niche field of art.

Community connection

In her book Experimental Film and Photochemical Practices, Kim Knowles describes the phenomenon of the radicant — a plant whose roots extend outward with purpose, whether to climb, to creep, or to crawl, ever-searching for direction — as a symbol of the precarious identity and adaptability of the film community.

At the centre of photochemical film culture sits education and community, composed of those who seek to share knowledge that embraces unconventional approaches to film

that align equally with political engagement and ecological awareness. Artist-run film labs and independent filmmakers have kept analogue film alive outside of commercial film labs, spreading a model of skill-sharing rather than profit — an approach that encourages artists to be conscious of how their work impacts the environment and society.

Doing the ‘wrong’ thing has historically unearthed an abundance of possibility for innovation in experimental film. Innovations, such as eco hand-processing and phytograms, have emerged from creative rule breaking.

Toronto itself is a hub of learning and exploration for film. The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) is a local memberdriven non-profit organization that offers residencies, workshops including those on eco hand-processing, rental equipment, and

affordable access to other resources with the mission of supporting independent filmmakers and artists.

Francisca Duran — an experimental ChileanCanadian filmmaker based in Kensington Market who evokes raw visuals in her work with the phytogram technique — and Philip Hoffman — a contemporary Canadian filmmaker and artistic director of the Independent Imaging Retreat (or Film Farm), which leads programs in the particularities of hand-processing analogue film — are among Toronto’s key figures in experimental film.

They, and many other local artists, are known to grace postsecondary school lecture halls to spread their knowledge. Through the work of artists like them, amid the overwhelming technology of the digital age and the ever-changing state of the planet, analogue film persists. 18 THE VARSITY SCIENCE
Film still from It Matters What (2019) by Francisca Duran. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANCISCA DURAN Film still from Compendium (2024) by Francisca Duran. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANCISCA DURAN Film still from It Matters What (2019) by Francisca Duran. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANCISCA DURAN Film still from Compendium (2024) by Francisca Duran. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANCISCA DURAN Film still from Compendium (2024) by Francisca Duran. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRANCISCA DURAN

Unlocking the healing potential of dental stem cells

Stem cells revolutionizing dentistry with potential treatments in enhanced oral health
Santhija Jegatheeswaran Varsity Contributor

In recent years, the field of regenerative medicine has witnessed remarkable advancements in the use of dental stem cells. The discovery of these tiny but potent cells nestled within our teeth has sparked excitement among researchers and medical professionals alike, offering new avenues for treating a myriad of diseases and injuries.

A journey through stem cell history

Stem cells are cells that have the unique ability to develop into various specialized cell types in the body. This capacity for differentiation is what makes them invaluable in regenerative medicine.

The history of stem cell research traces back to the mid-twentieth century. In the 1960s, Canadian scientists James Till and Ernest McCulloch conducted experiments demonstrating the existence of stem cells in bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside bones that can produce blood cells, after introducing new cells into the bone marrow of irradiated mice. This work laid the foundation for further exploration into the therapeutic potential of stem cells.

Since then, researchers have identified stem cells in various tissues throughout the body, including in dental pulp, the soft tissue inside teeth. Dental stem cells have garnered particular interest due to their easy accessibility and regenerative capabilities.

Within the dental pulp, researchers have identified several types of stem cells, each with its own unique properties and potential applications.

Dental pulp stem cells

Dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) are stem cells found in the centre of teeth. They have unique abilities to grow and transform into different types of cells, like those found in teeth, nerves, bones, muscles, and even certain organs.

These cells can help in repairing damaged teeth and treating various diseases.

DPSCs are isolated from dental pulp tissue, typically obtained from third molars, also known as wisdom teeth, that are often extracted and discarded. The isolation process does not involve invasive surgical procedures and poses no harm to the donor.

DPSCs have the ability to repair damaged or diseased dental tissues. They can become tooth-building cells called odontoblasts — cells that form dentin, the hard tissue beneath the enamel — and osteoblasts — cells that build jaw bone. This could revolutionize dental treatments by enabling the regeneration of natural tooth structures, reducing the need for fillings, crowns, and other restorative procedures.

DPSCs may even be able to help treat several medical conditions.

overactive — such as inflammatory or autoimmune diseases, or neuroinflammation in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease — DPSCs can help calm down the immune system by releasing molecules that reduce viral replication and reduce inflammation produced by the immune system.

Additionally, DPSCs have also shown promise in repairing damaged heart tissue and improving blood flow in conditions like heart attacks and leg artery blockages, including by stimulating formation and repair of blood vessels.

Dental pulp stem cells have unique abilities to grow and transform into different types of cells, like those found in teeth, nerves, bones, muscles, and even certain organs. These cells can help in repairing damaged teeth and treating various diseases.

In nerve-related conditions, such as nerve trauma or neurodegenerative diseases, patients may experience a loss or damage of neurons that need replacement or repair. DPSCs can help as they possess the ability to differentiate into neuronlike cells. Surprisingly, they can also secrete neurotrophic factors, which are biomolecules that support the growth, survival, and function of neurons and promote neuronal repair.

In conditions where the immune system is

Stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth

In 2003, researchers discovered a variety of stem cells in shed baby teeth, which are scientifically known as human exfoliated deciduous teeth. These cells have the remarkable ability to transform into various cell types like bone, nerve, and liver cells and can specialize into other types of stem cells. When transplanted into living organisms, stem cells from human exfoliated deciduous teeth (SHEDs) show potential in repairing bone defects and forming new dental tissue.

SHEDs also possess immune-regulating properties according to studies in mice, and they could be beneficial for treating diseases like lupus by balancing the immune response. This means that we may be able to treat lupus, which is a genetic disorder characterized by

the inflammation of different tissues, with stem cells used to repair damaged nerves and slow progression. This treatment’s success is proportional to a patient’s age and duration of condition.

Immature dental pulp stem cells

In recent studies, researchers have identified a special type of dental stem cells known as Immature Dental Pulp Stem Cells (IDPSC), also found in the dental pulp of baby teeth. These cells express certain markers that indicate they are at an early stage of development and are markers in embryonic stem cells.

One exciting discovery is that when researchers transplanted cell sheets made from undifferentiated IDPSC into rabbits with damaged corneas — the outermost layer of the eye — they observed the regeneration of the outer layer of the cornea. This finding suggests potential applications in treating corneal injuries and reconstruction.

Moreover, experiments involving the transplantation of IDPSC into immunocompromised mice and dogs have demonstrated promising results. The transplanted IDPSC were able to integrate well into various tissues and significantly improve conditions such as muscular dystrophy in dogs, without triggering immune rejection.

Harnessing the healing power of dental stem cells

The versatility of dental stem cells holds immense promise for regenerative medicine. Researchers are exploring a wide range of potential applications, including dental regeneration, bone regeneration, and neurological disorders. As research continues to advance, we may soon see these tiny but mighty cells transform the landscape of healthcare, offering new hope for patients suffering from a wide range of conditions. From repairing damaged teeth to restoring neurological function, the possibilities seem to be truly endless. APRIL 8, 2024 19

Be like a Swiftie

Soccer was the first sport I fell in love with. But it wasn’t playing or watching the sport that snatched my heart. Rather, it was the thrill of collecting trading cards. It was a weekly tradition where my brother and I, full of energy, would tear apart these small aluminum packets, eager to see which players we could add to our collection.

Through the cards, I learnt more about each player and their respective qualities. Wayne Rooney? Well, he was the best card, so he had to be the best player. Petr Čech? Easily the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.

After that, I started watching and playing — and learnt whether the information I had gathered from the cards was correct. John Terry? Yeah, he wasn’t that good. Gareth Bale? Sure, he was a good player, but I became an Arsenal fan, and he played for Tottenham Hotspurs.

After soccer, it was cricket. Then came basketball, and baseball, and so on. All this is to

say that while I am the Sports Editor, I’m far from a sports expert. There is still so much about sports I don’t know and am still learning.

My sports coverage at U of T has shown me just how big the sports world is. From the Humans vs Zombies Nerf Club to the Triathlon Club and the U of T Formula Racing Team, the definition of an athlete at U of T is manifold. Editing and reading all the work published in the Sports section this past volume has taught me so much about sports and I’m excited to see what else I can learn in the future.

The profiles are something that I’m particularly proud of. From the beginning, I’ve pushed for us to write and publish more profiles, aiming to use them as a way to highlight sports that have typically been underrepresented in The Varsity. MMA fighters, tennis players, rowers, hockey players, and figure skaters are among the various athletes, from various sports that we’ve covered. We’ve published the stories of so many athletes, unique in their own right, and their experiences and memories have been phenomenal.

Meet The Varsity ’s 2023–2024 Athletes of the Year

The Varsity presents its fourth annual men’s and women’s athlete of the year award

For the fourth consecutive year, The Varsity has selected its men’s and women’s athlete of the year. Several Varsity Blues teams achieved great success this season, yet both the athletes selected here helped their teams break new ground while also achieving great individual seasons.

Men’s athlete of the year: Callum Baker Callum Baker is an essential player on the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team, who won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division and advanced into the OUA semifinals for the first time since the 1996–1997 season. In the semifinals, the Blues fell to the eventual OUA champions — the Queen’s Golden Gaels — in a double-overtime thriller.

Regardless, Baker still counts the season as a success, holding their victory in the OUA West division highly. “I believe it’s probably the hardest division in the OUA and to win [so] that was really big for our program,” he said.

After a slow start to the season, the team persevered and, in Baker’s perspective, exceeded expec tations. Though he will be graduating and leaving the Blues behind, he is con fident the Blues can be just as good next season, with guards Noah Ngamba and Iñaki Alvarez being key players.

During the summer, Baker played in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) with the Brampton Honey Badgers. His time with the Honey Badgers taught him many valuable lessons about basketball — and his performance with the Blues this past season demonstrates perfectly that.

Baker earned the OUA’s scoring title after leading the OUA in points per game during the regular season. His 23.4 points per game was also the third-highest in U SPORTS. For his achievements, he was named OUA first-team all-star and the OUA player of the year, becoming only the third Blue to win that award. He was also named a U SPORTS first-team all-Canadian — the first Blues men’s basketball player to earn that achievement since Eddy Meguerian in the 1996–1997 season.

Baker credits his family, teammates, and coaches for his remarkable individual success this past season. “They helped me reach new heights that I never thought I’d be able to reach,” he said. He also hopes his success can motivate players to join U of T. “For guys that come to U of T, [maybe] they can… [see that] someone else was able to get an MVP, and [believe that] ‘maybe I can do the same thing,’” he explained.

I want to thank my associate Ahmad Khan for his seemingly endless knowledge about combat sports, sharing some incredible stories and perspectives from a sport that our section has rarely covered. To my other two associates, Jake Takeuchi and Caroline Ho, thank you for your incredible articles and your energetic banter, creating a joyful and vibrant work environment.

So, just like any Swiftie over the last NFL

experience away from his family and in the NCAA was rough, and at one point, he was ready to give up on basketball. With the Blues, that changed. “My teammates every day they just believed in me and they shared good energy,” he said. “Just being in a positive environment, it really just taught me how to love basketball again.”

For his future, Baker had previously shared that he had ambitions to study law, yet those plans are currently on hold. Baker plans to play with the Honey Badgers in the CEBL again this summer before trying to make it as a professional player in a European basketball league. Beyond that, Baker isn’t sure where he will go. But for now, he’s just enjoying the ride.

Women’s athlete of the year: Taylor Trussler

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team hoped to end the season off with a gold medal at the U SPORTS Championship final but fell short in a 3–1 loss to the Concordia Stingers.

“You can’t win them all I guess. [But] it’s [still] a pretty good way to end off my career. I think silver in nationals is pretty special regardless,” reflected Blues captain Taylor Trussler.

season, I have been learning about new sports this past year. Like the trading cards that first introduced me to soccer, I hope our coverage has introduced you to so many interesting, new sports. And I hope it encourages you to go out, try and play, or watch a new sport, and make your own stories. —

to the OUA finals in her first year was one example. Winning the whole thing the next year was even better. Winning the McCaw Cup a second time in 2023 was the cherry on top.

Leading her team to two OUA titles and her best showing at nationals this past season, having been eliminated in the quarter-finals in both the 2019–2020 and 2022–2023 seasons, Trussler fully displayed her leadership skills. But it was a team effort that allowed her to reach the highest of highs as a Varsity Blue.

“It was an honour to be the captain, but I couldn’t have done it all without everyone else,” said Trussler. The two-time all-star told The Varsity that having her teammates trust and believe in what she was saying and doing, allowed her to be the best leader she could be, setting an example for the younger players. Now, with Trussler departing from the team, she has high hopes for what they will achieve.

“They’ve had one year under their belt and now they know what to expect. They know what it takes,” said Trussler. By taking what they have learned this year from a season that saw them end with silver medals in both the provincial and national tournaments, Trussler has faith that the more seasoned Blues can help the players in their first years, and together find the same success that she did.

Overall, Baker told us he’s immensely grateful for the last two years he’s spent with the team. As he shared with us in a prior interview, his

Looking back on her career, special is the perfect way to describe it. Trussler has won two OUA titles, made it to nationals three times, and been named an all-rookie and a two-time all-star. She also led the team in regular season goals and points in the 2021–2022 season, as well as leading the team in postseason points in the 2022–2023 season, and both postseason points and goals in the 2019–2020 season. Through all the success she’s had, there have been plenty of memo rable moments to look back on.

“The memories just got better every year,” said Trussler. Getting

Trussler is eyeing Europe as the next destination to take her hockey career. With her agent, she is looking to find a team that will be a good fit for a player like her. “That’s still the plan, just haven’t landed anywhere yet,” said Trussler. Whichever team has the good luck of becoming Trussler’s new home will have a seasoned veteran with a lot of winning experience gracing their locker room.

As graduating students, both Baker and Trussler will leave the Varsity Blues and U of T this year — and The Varsity is excited to see what they achieve next.

Sports April 8, 2024
Kunal Dadlani Sports Editor Vol. CXLIV
144 Sports Editor Kunal Dadlani Sports Editor
A letter from Kunal Dadlani, the Vol.
Trussler has won two OUA titles, made it to nationals three times, and been named an all-rookie and a two-time all-star.
23.4 points per
game was also the third-highest
Kunal isn’t a sports expert. ZEYNEP POYANLI/THEVARSITY

Nick Grima’s path to the Indy Fuel

The Varsity Blues defenseman recently signed a contract with the Indy Fuel in the ECHL

On March 5, Varsity Blues defenseman Nick Grima officially signed his contract with the Indy Fuel of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), fulfilling his longtime goal of playing professional hockey.

However, his journey to the league didn’t come easily. In an interview with The Varsity, Grima detailed the obstacles he encountered and overcame throughout his time at U of T and how they have shaped him today.

Early days

Like most Canadians, Grima’s love for hockey was largely fostered by the culture surrounding him. The fourth-year kinesiology student credits his parents for deepening his interest in hockey.

Specifically, as his father was an athletic therapist for several junior teams, Grima fondly recalls his time spent on and around the rink when he was younger. “My mom would bring me from school or daycare… and go watch the game[s] and wait for my dad after. Being around the rink kind of grew my passion,” he explained.

be a defenseman,” he said. “I was also a little bit bigger of a kid, maybe not as fast, so I don’t know if I had much to waste.”

Grima continued playing with various Great er Toronto Hockey League teams, including the Vaughan Kings, Toronto Marlboros, and Toronto Titans. Yet, at age 15, he decided to leave home and later began playing in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). “That’s when it really became a goal [to] play professionally at some point,” he stated.

Across five years in the OHL, Grima played for the Peterbor ough Petes, Sarnia Sting, and North Bay Battalion. With an initial goal of playing in the NHL, Grima went undrafted and had to put his dream on hold, electing to focus on his edu cation at U of T while keep ing up his game with the Varsity Blues.

tuition, books, and compulsory fees toward an undergraduate degree for each season the player plays in the OHL.

Despite only playing with the Blues for two full years because of the pandemic, Grima made a clear impact on the team. He led their defensemen in every offensive category, minutes played and plus-minus this season, earning a careerhigh 25 points. Despite his success, Grima remembers his time spent travelling and bonding with teammates most fondly, particularly overnight trips to Quebec or Lakehead. “Those [trips] were really good times that really brought our team to-

“I got to do a course [about early development] working with U of T’s daycare, which was pretty cool… being in environments where you [can try] things out [is] pretty awesome,” he said.

Nevertheless, multiple factors were involved in deciding whether to continue his education or his playing career. “It was kind of tough because I didn’t really understand what I wanted to do yet,” he recalled. He had applied to Ontario Institute for Studies in Education for teacher’s college, which would enable him to “stay at home [and] play another two years [in a] comfortable environment.”

The decision

After his parents enrolled him in figure skating lessons, Grima progressed quickly to playing house league at the age of five where he began trying out different positions. “At 10 years old is when I kind of figured out that I wanted to

“Even though [my original goal] didn’t happen… I still had pro hockey on my mind, but I was able to utilize [the OHL schooling package],” he added. The scholarship provides

Other than hockey, Grima has plans to pursue a career in teaching or coaching in the future, crediting his time at U of T for sparking his interest in various academic disciplines. Although he was originally planning to pursue the sports therapy side of his program, he recalls thoroughly enjoying his experience taking the teaching and coaching courses that he heard about from upper-year students on the team.

Ultimately, Grima decided to take the leap and continue playing. “At the end of the day [I thought] about what I really want to do [and] what’s been my goal since when I was young,” he explained. “I don’t think it’s fair to me, my family, and the people that helped me [to not go] all in, whether it’s school or hockey. I thought it would be time to take the chance and see how things go.”

Grima, though, still emphasizes how his time at U of T has shaped him. “[Going to U of T played] a big part in who I am today. The decision I made [led to] me still wanting to continue my education even after my undergrad, which is something that I honestly didn’t think I wanted to do… [There are] countless things that are being put towards you and [supporting you] to succeed educationally and performance-wise.”

Dreaming of Paris: Blues swimmers on their Olympic aspirations

30 Varsity Blues swimmers are preparing to compete at the Canadian Olympic trials

The Varsity Blues swimming team’s season came to a triumphant close on March 9, when they won both the men’s and women’s U SPORTS Championships. The team competed hard at the national swim meet. Yet before the competition even began, several swimmers already had a bigger and more challenging goal in mind — qualifying for the upcoming Paris Olympics.

“We are a Varsity [Blues] team, [so] our [main] goal is obviously [in] Varsity athletics, but our team has… swimmers who compete both on junior national teams and senior national teams,” fourthyear swimmer Mahaylia Datars said. “So the goal is still always to cultivate that and get people onto those Canadian national teams.”

As a result, for 30 swimmers on the team, their training hasn’t stopped as they prepare for the Canadian Olympic Trials, which will be hosted between May 13 and 19 in Montréal.

Training to qualify

Going into this Blues season, competing at the Olympics has been a key goal for the team, and the team has been training throughout the season to achieve that goal. “The training that we’ve had [and] the energy is different during an Olympic year.

I can feel it from the team,” Ainsley McMurray, a masters student and swimmer, said.

“The athletes are used to several big [swim] meets in the season,” Byron MacDonald, the head coach of the Blues swim team, added. Their train-

ing schedule is organized in five-week blocks and adjusted to match these competitions. The team trains at different intensities throughout the season, ensuring they hit their peak at the right time for the right competitions.

While training for the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championships in February — where the Blues also won the men’s and women’s championships — the team didn’t train to hit their peak because they weren’t done with their competitions. “The day after that meet, [it] wasn’t like there [was] a big celebration or anything. It’s like another day at the office, we come home, we rest, [and] we start training right away,” MacDonald said.

For the three weeks between the OUA Championships and U SPORTS Championships, the team trained at various intensities to ensure they could perform at their best at U SPORTS — and they evidently did.

Yet, now the challenge is ensuring that the 30 swimmers competing at the Olympics trials can reach their max performance again in just a short, two-month window. “[The] feeling in the coaching staff… is that we can come right out of [U SPORTS]… and do a ‘mini-season’ for two months, where we’ll have five weeks of really good work, and then two weeks were we can come down and try to get those big performances again,” MacDonald said.

With this intense training schedule, some Blues swimmers have participated in training camps in Fort Lauderdale, Florida or Niagara, Ontario, to prepare for the trials. “We’re doing everything we can to put [us] in the best possible position,” second-

year swimmer Benjamin Loewen said regarding the training camps.

Dreams and realities

Qualifying for the Olympics is a dream for many swimmers on the team, and the Blues have a history of producing Olympic swimmers. “[MacDonald] very much promotes putting an extra focus on Canadian trials, [because] he wants to see swimmers make the national team,” Loewen added. MacDonald is a former Olympian, having swam with Team Canada at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The most prominent recent example of a Blues swimmer succeeding internationally is Kylie Masse, who swam for Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Masse won the bronze medal in the 100-metre backstroke in Rio while still a Varsity Blues athlete. She would leave the Blues to begin training with the Canadian national team program in 2019.

Additionally, in more recent history, third-year swimmer Gabriel Mastromatteo competed with Team Canada at the Tokyo Olympics, where he raced in the 4x100 metre medley relay. Mastromatteo is the only current team member with

Grima’s story highlights the importance of taking an all-or-nothing approach when faced with opportunities and learning from every experience to succeed beyond athletics. “Sport comes to an end for everyone, and that was one thing my parents always told me… [It’s important to] find something that you enjoy and [to educate] yourself.”

Olympic experience, yet several other swimmers — including McMurray — have competed with Team Canada at other international swimming events. Regardless, the swimmers also recognize the reality of the situation — qualifying for the Olympics is extremely difficult. “Even if you win the meet, win the Olympic trials, it doesn’t matter unless you make the time that’s set by the World Aquatics Federation,” MacDonald explained. “And if you don’t [match] that time, [it] doesn’t matter if you win our trials, you’re not going.”

MacDonald estimates that around five to 10 swimmers on the Blues team will be able to make the Olympic team, and that a smaller handful may be capable of winning a medal. When you’re racing against swimmers from all over the country, with varying experience levels, qualification is not easy.

Yet, the hope remains, and as McMurray stated: “If you have a lane, you have a chance.”

With a victorious sweep at the U SPORTS Championship, the swim team has already achieved one of their big goals of the season. And while their goal of qualifying for the Olympics is an even bigger challenge, the team has the determination to succeed. APRIL 8, 2024 21
Grima is the latest Varsity Blue to sign with an ECHL team. SEYRAN MAMMADOV CC VARSITY BLUES MEDIA
Kunal Dadlani Sports Editor Several Blues are trying to become Olympians this summer. SEYRAN MAMMADOV CC VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

they shrilled. “That’s my praxis.”

“I organize happiness and profits for my investors,”

A student in the audience asked Akler-Bishop why they exploit their workers as a self-proclaimed Marxist. Vehemently denying the accusation, AklerBishop explained that while the humanities taught them critical thinking and postmodern theory, -ap plying this knowledge isn’t their greatest concern.

“Times are tough for the working class,” says Akler-Bishop. “That's why we offer fun menu items like ‘Trotsky Toffee’ and ‘Lenin Pound Cake’ for the low price of $19.17 each!”

Sucks: Vampirism as a Metaphor for Late-Stage Capitalism.’ The paper won many accolades and was featured in the prestigious publication Fight Back! News. Now, Akler-Bishop is the owner of The Commune.

Ryan Akler-Bishop — who graduated from the Cinema Studies program in 2021 — ended the night with a reading of their thesis, ‘Goldman

“Well, at least I’m putting my skills in undergrad to good use,” Sanders told the audience. “In an unforeseen symbiosis, the cultivation of my literary prowess has engendered a concomitant refinement of my gustatory discernment, epitomized by the mastery of the coffee-making process. What even is coffee? Are we coffee?” And these aren’t the only skills Sanders gets to show off at work. As a philosophy student, she now finds herself fantastic at winning arguments, a skill she — and her boss — have found has many uses, such as throwing out “poor-looking” people and “individuals who perturb the tranquility of -soci etal harmony by their actions, herein referred to as ‘troublemakers’”

Another speaker, passionate about finance, was Sofia Sanders. Sanders was a Philosophy student while at U of T, majoring in Bioethics and History. Graduating with dreams of taking on questions of medical ethics and biometric surveillance, Sanders finds plenty of time to ponder these questions on her daily five-minute break at The Commune.

Somehow, some way, thy knowledge shall -some how be of practical use.”

“There’s a common misconception that -humani ties degrees are useless,” says Innis College director Charlie Keil, “our hope is to show students that they are capable of entering the heteronormative, neoliberal workforce.”

Last week, Innis College held an alumni panel for humanities graduates. The event featured -speak ers from programs such as Philosophy, -Renais sance Studies, and Cinema Studies.

First to speak was Lance Lot. He graduated from the Renaissance Studies department in 2022 with a perfect GPA and plenty of research under his belt. Currently, Lot works as a barista at The Commune, a swanky cafe located in central Ossington. “Mine own boss maketh me talk like a medieval peasant,” he recalled. “That gent threateneth to whip me if 't I break charact'r. Now i can't stop talking liketh this!” Lot ended his speech with a positive note for the matriculating class: “Hark not to what oth'rs say.

Your blue cars bring tears to our eyes, your graceful line vanishes off the board. Where have you gone in our time of need? How could they not have taken better care of you? The pain in our hearts as you derailed our love made our minutes turned to 40. An hour turned into two. Red paint shrinks roads to one lane. Buses pass the stations you once stopped at, but they can never replace your gentle ride. Not a lot of people knew about you before tragedy struck, but to us and the rest of the Scarborough community, you were someone we relied on. Underappreciated, but we loved you for who you were. After all the times snow and ice froze you in your tracks, and all the mechanical delays, we knew you’d always come back. But we suppose The stations you once stopped at are now closed off. Turnstiles no more. Lawrence East, Ellesmere, Midland, STC, McCowan. Your names live on in spirit. Gone but never forgotten. thing of others. They might even tear you down — but whatever the future holds, our love will

it was frustrating, we realized that you were trying to speak to us. You were the most important friend to listen to in times of transit.

to do. Many buses have replaced you, but we will always remember how you took us home. We don’t think we’ve fig songs we were listening to on our headphones or what our friends were saying to us. Although SOMETHING RANDOM 23
Open Letter: Dear Line 3
you derail our love?
J & OMG I’m Super Shy The real Scarbs manss &
fissue stan
How could
Mastering the art of creative living Humanities career panel gives students a glimpse of their future Science secret agent & Verbose artsy?

The Farcity also reached out to confessed tax evader 3 am F1 ad?!, who declined to comment: although she’s a confessed tax evader, she is working on a life sciences thesis sucking the life out of her and recovering from wisdom tooth -sur gery. Get well soon, and continue your legacy of avoiding taxes, 3 am F1 ad!?

Popo, who has exactly 4 dollars in her savings account and spent the entirety of her first Farcity salary on a pair of Miu Miu sunglasses, mentioned that she saw tax evasion as a way of saving money. “I LOOOOOOVE tax evasion. I am an international student — I am Ms. Worldwide, why should I pay money to Canada? I could get another pair of Miu Miu sunglasses instead!” Well, unnecessarily expensive eyewear seems a common passion among our tax evaders! Quotes channel libel and misinformation champion, who admitted to sending Popo “world before and after we evade taxes” memes on Instagram, told The Farcity that she believes she has done nothing wrong: “I’m literally just a girl. Shakira Shakira.” We love besties who don’t know how to file their taxes and feed into each other’s delusions — at least they’ll have each other in jail! A Science-loving Farcity ghost, arising from the shrouded depths of the asbestos-filled second floor, exclaimed: “I don’t do taxes. I don’t consciously do it. I swear to God, I don’t know how to pay Farcity taxes. Actual Caro line, how do you actually show your Farcity income?”

Our only question is — who is going to accept our truth?

Now we find ourselves sitting here, at the office, confronting our loss of meaning caused by the discarding of the Fishue.

We must confess that what we truly feel is pity. What all of you lack is imagination, as you are stuck in your anthropocentric, ignorant ways of only highlighting human life. We worry for our future generations that do not stop to -appreci ate the vibrancy of aquatic life, the life of species existing hundreds of millions of years before us.

We yearn to elevate the voices that our “I’m not racist” CD denies by articles documenting their struggle, and —-- of course — their-- exquisite visuals and design. Just imagine the -ever-ex panding gills, the beautiful anal fin, their spines that are so emo, and their smooth and shiny scales reflecting the sunlight.

If only our “OMG my socks arrived in the mail”

Us designers suffer under the management of fish deniers, who oppress vital life forces that are capable of cooperation, pleasure, have great memories and are excellent communicators.

Our mediocre Creative Director (CD) has, however, like a true member of the bourgeoisie, shut down the ideas of the opposing class of workers —-- the designers.

142, all the way to volume 144 issue 8, a -spec ter has been haunting the Varsity’s office —-- the specter of a Fishue. A full issue filled with fish content - from the Paedocypris progenetica to the whale sharks, inclusive to all aquatic life.

From back in the days of the Varsity volume


CD knew how much mental anguish this has caused. Fish play a significant and diverse role in our society. With complex mental, behavioral, and emotional capabilities, fish are the third most common pet in Canada, and second most -pop ular research model in experiments. And yet, our CD only sees a gaping mouth and a glassy stare, but does not realize that she may be looking in the mirror.

Letter to the Creative Director: A Newspaper Deprived of Fish
you really call yourself creative?
I’m Super Shy & Miss(ed) six alarms
fissue stan & Sit down and watch this video
top Farcity tax evaders If you’re working with the government,look away! Popo avid “drunk cigs don’t count” defender ARTHUR DENNYSON HAMDANI/THEVARSITY 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 306 Toronto, ON M5S 1J6 (416) 946-7600 Vol. CXLII, No. wait, which one is it again? The Farcity is the University of Toronto’s largest cult, in operation since before your conception. It is printed by children with crooked glasses. All seats reserved by nepotism babies. Any editorial inquiries and/or letters should be directed to your mum. The Farcity reserves the rights to censor your opinions. Inquiries regarding sales can be directed to ISTG: 420-69 thefarcityscnewspaper @TheFarcity the.farcity the.farcity The Farcity BUSINESS OFFICE Parmis we miss you :( $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ Business Associate $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ $$ Advertising Executive ishir didn't hire this one :( Advertising Executive The Bourgeois There isn't a Sarah at The Varsity Per cent?? More like %%%%%%%%%!!!!!!! OMG my socks came in the mail Head chef of The Farcity Bitchen LIVE LAUGH LOVE girl 3am F1 ad?! never watched bee movie Canary in the lightbulb mine POOKIE KEN CAN name one song by Olivia Rodrigo IRON GODDESS CAN speak for herself MEOW MEOW ARF MEOW stalking enthusiast Toaster girlie CFS paparazzi Too nice cant think of one Khadija’s personal water bottle opener Gave-it-her-all-biking-in-hell Sub heading alliteration editor No legal middle name grah That's what she said Closeted marxist Bizzrizz & Slaybour Editor Born to scrounge, forced to edit Bigger sword than the Toike What even are photocaps Try not to get sued challenge Source sheet enthusiast Editorial shapeshifter 13 year old girl Proud father of Aldrich OMG I'm Super Shy #1 Fissue Stan �� Miss(ed) six alarms Sit down and watch this music video Popo Muiccia Prada Procreate genius ff Varsity Dinosaur Friendly local tiktok star <3 From end to end OMG HE CAME TO THE OFFICE?!?!?! ������ ������ �� didn't come to the office :( Smells good News stole her from copy Big J The real Scarbs mansss Graduating Soon? Union of Children Bureau Chief We flopped here Please yell at the hiring committee THE FARCITY water bottle collector, converted grandma, future yapper, most cancellable person alive Words the ghost that haunts campus, sticker girlie, CBC gorl News Henchfolks Your roman empire, LinkedIN Bed Opinionated much? Vancouver enjoyer better time management than alice Science secret agent, Verbose artsy? Architecture activist, Can someone let me in Is Salma here? Resident TEDx -Photog rapher, Second biggest Swiftie Mini sports dudes Not-so-baby-anymore -as sociate, My dad called Associate money editors �� 10 second cropper, Ok I'm done, Big nick energy Associate Copy Paste Editors blowing our minds, senior illo associate Speed drawers eats spicy noodles for fun, guys can you come up to film TWAT Green screens fix everything TikTok Queen Mekhi's right hand woman


Following a bacteria infestation of Farcity office pipes editors suffer from dehydration and forced manual labour

Farcity prophecy comes true: Editors forced to fetch water from Robarts

President Mertler lives in a palace in Rosedale.

The Farcity met with Mertler at an -under ground foot massage parlour on the corner of Spadina and Dundas, where he insisted that he had “No comment,” before adding “If I did have a comment, it would be that you and your pathetic tabloid wouldn't appreciate the beauty of a wooden tower if I hit you over the head with one. You make me sick.”

In recognition of this bold vision, UofT’s VP for Campus Development, Bletchley O’Satan, was granted the prestigious Genghis Khan Award for Sustainable Governance.

After the resounding success of this project, Simcoe Hall announced in October that it would be following up by installing 26 more underground parking complexes around campus, optimistically declaring that “In 6 years time, every square foot of wretched grass and -pave ment on this campus will sit tightly above thousands and thousands of layers of parked cars.”

This policy stands in the footsteps of -gi ants, merely the latest environmental link in the long green chain being forged by UofT. Back in 2020, Simcoe Hall undertook its “Landmark Project” renovation of King’s College Circle, the primary goal of which was to cultivate a -“green er, more walkable and accessible campus” and also to build an enormous underground parking garage.

A leaked excerpt from a draft of the presi dent’s speech reads: “Wooden towers are without a doubt the greatest weapon at our disposal in the struggle against global climate crisis. When students come to me, frothing at the mouth with hysteri cal ramblings about banking decisions, invest ment portfolios, and research-funding policies, I can’t help but laugh as the thought crosses my mind of their pathetic stone dormitories be ing leveled to make way for hundreds of new wooden towers.”

More recently, an exclusive source reached out to The Farcity to inform us that at the up coming April 11th meeting of the Governing Council University Affairs Board, UofT’s Presi dent Geric Mertler plans to submit a proposal for the construction of 18 more such wooden towers.

In May of 2018, the University of Toronto ad ministration at Simcoe Hall announced plans for the construction of a 200 foot tall wooden tower on Devonshire Street, overlooking the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport. This project comes as part of U of T’s on going efforts to cultivate a more sustainable future, through the reduction of its carbon foot print and the use of regenerative building mate rials. The illustrious tower, once completed, will join the likes of the Great Library of Alexandria, The Globe Theatre of Shakespearean England, the White House before 1814, and the Spire of Notre Dame,as one of the most impressive, sustainable lumber constructions of all history.

See you at the next luncheon

Mertler undertakes plans for 18 more wooden towers — to Stop Climate Change

The Ghost that Haunts Campus
Birthday Meric Gertler!!!
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