September 13, 2021
THE VARSITY t o your g s The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880
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Vol. CXLII, No. II
Business & Labour Students develop campus safety app
Features It’s time to end U of T’s silence on Palestine
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Arts & Culture Looking ahead to TIFF this week
Science pa ge .
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Reflecting on a first year online
Sports Profiling tennis player Andrea Kuntjoro
U of T, UTSU “disappointed” with lack of on-campus voting Elections Canada originally cancelled Vote on Campus program in fall of 2020 Cedric Jiang and Marta Anielska Associate News Editor and Deputy News Editor
U of T and the UTSU have both expressed disappointment about Elections Canada’s announcement that it will not run the Vote on Campus program in the coming federal election, meaning that voting stations will not be available on campuses. The decision to cancel campus polling stations was initially made in the fall of 2020. Elections Canada defended the decision, explaining that the cancellation was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Liberals’ minority government. A U of T spokesperson wrote that the Vote on Campus program had been an “essential vehicle” of students’ civic participation and has made it easier for students to vote. They added that the university would provide resources to support students casting their ballots despite the program’s cancellation. UTSU President Alexa Ballis wrote to The Varsity that the cancellation of the Vote on Campus program would add barriers for students to voting in the coming election. She said that the program had raised voter turnout amongst students in the past. Reasoning and U of T’s response In an email to The Varsity, Elections Canada representative Dugald Maudsley noted that the decision not to have an
on-campus voting option was not a new one but rather an extension of last year’s decision. “Elections Canada faced two key challenges: the pandemic and the context of a minority government,” Maudsley wrote. He explained that the minority government made it difficult to provide university administrators with a clear timeline for when they would need to secure the required space and hire election officials, a process that normally takes six to eight months. Maudsley added that many universities’ decisions to mandate vaccination at oncampus voting sites would complicate Elections Canada’s goal to make voting as accessible and safe as possible. “As soon as the decision was taken, we worked with student organizations to make sure students were aware of their voting options,” Maudsley noted. He added that they encourage students to vote early if possible. A U of T spokesperson expressed the university’s disappointment at Elections Canada’s decision to cancel the on-campus voting program. “We believe the program served as an essential vehicle for student civic participation, particularly through the special ballot and advance voting opportunities which allowed students from other electoral districts across the country to cast their ballots more easily,” they wrote in an email to The Varsity.
The university concluded that, despite Elections Canada’s decision, it would still be holding several voting-related events, including a social action day and the Twitter campaign #UofTVotes. Student reactions In an email to The Varsity, Ballis wrote that students are already stressed about returning to campus and that meeting the application deadline for a special ballot makes their transition even more stressful. She added that students might be unable to meet the deadline and therefore might not be able to vote. “For students who don’t live in Toronto, it is added stress to ensure they apply for a special ballot by September 14th in order to vote and have their voices heard. This is further exacerbated by how it is already stressful as folks are navigating the return to campus,” wrote Ballis. An online petition titled “Elections Canada: Open Voting Booths and Special Balloting on Campus!” calls on Elections Canada to reconsider their decision and set up voting booths on campus again. The petition has garnered over 21,000 signatures. “Students and youth are an integral demographic to include in our democratic system. With already busy schedules and living situations often far from home, students need the Vote on Campus
program in order to have fair access to the democratic process,” reads the petition. Esmé Decker, a second-year undergraduate student from the University of British Columbia, is the petition’s organizer. They said the decision not to offer the on-campus voting program shocked them, since it successfully increased the turnout rate among young voters in both the 2015 and 2019 elections. “Every election that passes, the more the youth vote matters,because these are the people inheriting the world’s problems — especially time-sensitive ones like the climate crisis,” said Decker. “That gets worse by the season, not to mention by the year. So the youth vote is especially important for those issues.” Decker said they were surprised to learn that the program was cancelled long before the election was called. “It’s so surprising because then their claims about it being rushed, and [that] they don’t have time to put it together, if they’ve been thinking about it for a year or more — it just rubs me the wrong way,” said Decker. Decker said that they hope the petition shows Elections Canada that people value the option to vote on campus and gives people the opportunity to act on those values. “The [Vote on Campus] program for sure needs to be implemented for future elections, if not this one. It’s really great to see how much support there is for youth voting in this country,” said Decker.
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The Varsity’s guide to voting for your MP on September 20 Lauren Alexander News Editor
With on-campus voting booths disappearing and cases of the Delta variant going up, voting in the upcoming federal election may seem like a daunting task. To help you exercise your right to vote on Monday, September 20, here’s The Varsity’s breakdown of how to vote in this year’s Canadian federal election. Voter eligibility You can vote in this year’s federal election if you meet three criteria: you’re a Canadian citizen, you’re over 18 years of age, and you can prove your identity and address. You should have received an information card in the mail on or before September 10, letting you know where and when to vote. If you didn’t receive one, you can check your registration and register to vote online, or you can register to vote at your polling station on or before election day. There are a number of ways to prove your
identity and address, but the easiest is showing a driver’s license or other government-issued ID. Otherwise, you’ll have to show two pieces of ID or bring along someone who cleared these steps to vouch for you. Voting before election day You can vote before election day in a couple different ways. You can apply to vote by mail online or at your nearest Elections Canada office. This must be done before Tuesday, September 14 at 6:00 pm. If you choose this option, you have to vote by mail and can’t vote at the polls on or before election day. Early voting is also available at Elections Canada offices. Your ballot must be cast before Tuesday, September 14 at 6:00 pm. Offices are open weekdays from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, as well as during shortened weekend hours. Voting on election day Polls will be open on Monday, September 20 for 12 hours.
For those living near UTSG, your closest polling station is likely The Yorkville Royal Sonesta Hotel at 220 Bloor Street West in Toronto, across the street from the Royal Ontario Museum. For students at UTSC, the closest polling station is Highland Creek Public School at 1410 Military Trail in Scarborough. For those at UTM, the closest polling station is St. Mark Separate School at 3675 Sawmill Valley Drive in Mississauga. Voting abroad If you haven’t been able to return to Canada yet or are out of the country for any reason, you can still vote in the upcoming election. Voting can be done through a mail-in ballot. If you’re interested in voting by mail or voting in advance, you can apply for a special ballot by Tuesday, September 14 at 6:00 pm. For more information, check out The Varsity’s profiles of the MP candidates for the UTSG, UTSC, and UTM campus ridings. Go to elections.ca to learn more about voting in your riding. JULIEN BALBONTIN/THEVARSITY
Roundup of ongoing campus construction Eight major projects underway across the three campuses Drew-Anne Glennie Varsity Contributor
When students return to school this fall after a year or more away from U of T, they may be surprised by some changes in the landscape across all three campuses. The Varsity broke down all the current construction projects across the three campuses. Landmark Project The Landmark Project will turn Front Campus into a green walking space, along with revitalizing surrounding buildings and walkways. New seating areas and greenery will also be added to Back Campus. The project will also introduce an underground parking garage for 60 electric cars and more than 300 bikes, as well as a geothermal field under Front Campus. The project’s last update in July stated that construction was largely in the excavation and paving stage. In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson stated that “The aim is for the King’s College Circle quad to be accessible for the public again in the second half of 2023.” Robarts Common Robarts is working on a five-storey glass building connected to the ‘peacock’ by bridges. The project will add 1,200 study spaces for students, increasing the servicing capacity to 6,000 students at one time. The inside of Robarts is unaffected by this construction, save for prohibited access to the loading dock. The new extension is intended to open this year. Spadina-Sussex residence Demolition began on the new 23-storey Spadina-Sussex residence in late 2020, which spans from 698–704 Spadina Avenue and will provide housing for 511 students. The brick building will match the heritage building that makes up part of its three-storey podium. Construction also includes 10 townhouses, which will be available for faculty and renters, as well as retail spaces on the lower levels of the residence. This project is slated to be completed in 2024. Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus Construction is well underway on College Street for the first phase of the Schwartz Reisman Innovation Campus, replacing the
1954 Best building and taking up 250,000 square feet along College Street to house the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society as well as the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in its 12 storeys. Eventually, the neighbouring building will be demolished to add 500,000 more square feet to the Innovation Campus. According to the Schwartz Reisman Institute’s Twitter account, the building will be occupied by 2022–2023. FitzGerald building revitalization This heritage building — built in 1927 — is located between the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. Previously used for research and labs, it will be transformed into office space for the university’s president and central administration. Construction was ongoing as of May 2021. Originally anticipated to be completed in October 2020, it is unclear when the new opening date will be. UTM New Science Building The Centre for Medicinal Chemistry and the forensic science program, along with wet labs and a computing data centre, will have a new home at UTM. The New Science Building will span almost 170,000 square feet and is nestled
between the William G. Davis Building and the Terrence Donnelly Health Sciences Complex. The project is currently under construction. The latest estimated date of completion published online is 2024. UTSC Instructional Centre 2 (IC2) IC2 is poised to be the newest student hub at UTSC, at the northern end of the campus on the corner of Military Trail and Pan Am Drive in the place of a former parking lot. The five-storey building will include nearly 200,000 square feet of academic and social spaces for students. Several academic and student services departments will be based there. IC2’s opening date is slated for late 2023. UTSC’s Twitter account announced that construction was “about to begin” on June 4, 2021. New residence at UTSC This nine-storey residence building on Ellesmere Road in the northern part of the UTSC building, scheduled to open in fall 2023, will include 750 beds in single- and doubleoccupancy rooms. Alongside student spaces, dining, and a rooftop garden, it will also contain student housing and residence life offices. Construction started in November 2020.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
University—Rosedale candidates debate climate policy Event part of 100 Debates on the Environment initiative, co-hosted by UTSU executive Marta Anielska Deputy News Editor
of new jobs and the promotion of clean technology.
On September 8, federal election candidates for University—Rosedale gathered for a debate on climate change. The event was part of the 100 Debates on the Environment initiative organized by the nonprofit GreenPAC, which holds 100 debates on climate change across Canada over the course of two days. The debate was co-hosted by University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Vice-President, Public & University Affairs Catherine Lai. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland of the Liberal party, Nicole Robicheau of the New Democratic Party (NDP), and Tim Grant of the Green party attended the event. Steven Taylor, the Conservative candidate, was absent despite being invited. The candidates debated their immediate plans to combat the climate crisis, discussing issues such as reducing emissions, protecting the environment, and working with Indigenous peoples. They also discussed how to create a greener future through the creation
A great challenge In their introductory remarks, all three candidates noted the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of climate solutions to their platforms, with Freeland calling it “the existential challenge of our times.” Much of the discussion centered on immediate concerns like reducing emissions, protecting biodiversity, and banning plastics. Freeland addressed these issues by referring to the Liberal party’s goals, which she described as “ambitious, achievable, and fully costed.” They would include a hard cap on emissions from the oil and gas industry, aiming for a 40 to 45 per cent reduction on all emissions countrywide by 2030. Freeland added that the Liberal party is committed to protecting 25 per cent of Canada’s land and oceans by 2025. It has already increased the amount of protected ocean area to 14 per cent and it is also in the process of completely banning plastics.
Robicheau responded that the NDP plans on reducing emissions by 50 per cent, and that they would personally advocate to increase that number to 60 per cent. They also spoke of the importance of making improvements to the life cycle of plastics, in addition to banning single-use plastics. In his response, Grant said that the Green party is the only party with a platform that could actually achieve the Paris Agreement’s goals, and that the country actually needs to reduce its emissions by more than 60 per cent, given the slow progress made in the last decade. “We probably need more ambitious plans, because some are going to not achieve the targets that we want,” Grant concluded. He also said that the challenge in regulating single-use plastics is not only banning them but discontinuing Canada’s practice of dumping its garbage in other countries. Every candidate expressed a commitment to investing in Indigenous land and reconciling with Indigenous peoples. Robicheau and Grant also emphasized that
GreenPAC climate debate for University—Rosedale candidates. CORINNE LANGMUIR/THEVARSITY
Indigenous peoples’ voices need to be heard while developing climate policy. Paving the way forward The debate also featured discussions about ways of getting to a greener future, including incentives for green technology and creating new jobs. In response to a question on how they would approach the potential of green energy, Freeland stated that the Liberals would invest into clean energy. She added that clean energy industries produce great job opportunities for young Canadians. Robicheau emphasized that building the green infrastructure that will lead Canada into the future will also create new jobs. Grant agreed with these strategies, but
noted that a guaranteed livable income would be an important strategy in providing stability to Canadians while transitioning to a new economy. Furthermore, the candidates all noted that necessary steps such as retrofitting — the process of adding new technology to old infrastructure — could serve as a tremendous opportunity if done at a large scale. All candidates were adamant about the importance of youth participation in climate change initiatives going forward. Robicheau specifically stated that the NDP would decrease the voting age to 16, and Grant said the Green party would create a ‘youth corps’ that would help achieve the party’s environmental targets and restore Canada’s ecosystems.
U of T students join rally at Queen’s Park for climate action ahead of federal election Protestors demand end to fossil fuel sector expansion from the federal government
Alice Zhu, a PhD student at UTSC, was one of the event organizers. TAHMEED SHAFIQ/THEVARSITY
Tahmeed Shafiq Managing Editor
On September 8, U of T students joined members of the public in a rally at Queen’s Park to demand further action on climate change ahead of the snap federal election on September 20. The event was organized by Toronto350.org, the local division of the international environmental activism organization 350.org, and the People’s Climate Movement, an international coalition of organizations that advocate for climate justice. The rally was one of several organized across the country on the same day by 350.org. The rally also came ahead of an election where the climate crisis is a key concern for many voters and the consequences of the climate crisis are clearly visible. British Columbia is currently experiencing its worst wildfire season since 2018. In August, a landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the organization considered to be the world’s premier source for climate crisis modelling — also stated that
global temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. An increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius is considered by organizations like the IPCC to be the highest increase we can afford if we want to limit the consequences of a warming climate. “An issue that affects everyone” Alice Zhu, a PhD student in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, was one of the co-organizers of the event. In addition to being a climate activist, Zhu's research focuses on the environmental impacts of pollution. “Climate change is an issue that affects everyone, and it matters to our survival,” she said in an address to the crowd. “It does not matter if we build back the economy only to end up losing our planet.” “The latest IPCC report made it clear that we need to treat the climate crisis as a real emergency,” she added. “This year, Canada was ravaged by wildfires from coast to coast, and it will only get worse. There is no time to waste. We must put climate at the forefront of this election.”
Protesting for climate action means “everything” to Zhu, she said in an interview with The Varsity. “My livelihood, my future, my friends, and family… it all depends on what we do to tackle climate change.” That action does involve changing one’s own behaviour, Zhu said, but effective climate action is bigger than any one individual. “Government, the politicians… the big investors that back up the major polluters like banks — we should be shifting the burden of responsibility [onto] them, because a lot of us are doing what we can in our socioeconomic realities. Now it's up to the banks and the politicians to do their part.” Organizing for the first time Rivka Goetz is a fourth-year undergraduate majoring in critical studies in equity and solidarity at UTSG and a member of the campus environmental action group Leap UofT. She said that attending protests still matters to her, even though, as an international student, she cannot vote. She compared herself to other young people who attended the rally but were not old enough to vote, and so relied on others to make decisions that affected them. “If I were voting, climate would be a very important issue,” she said in an interview with The Varsity. “But
because I can't, I want to make my voice heard at rallies like this and through the work I do at Leap.” Serena Buiani, a student in a teaching Master’s program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, was another organizer of the event. But, unlike Zhu, this was her first time organizing a protest. After the August IPCC report, she realized that individual action was “simply not enough” to spur climate action. “I realized I had to join a movement,” she said. “I had to start actively demanding more from the government.” She intends to stay involved in
activism after the success of her first event. Buiani encouraged other U of T students who may be considering getting into activism to learn from her example. “I stepped out of my comfort zone because we have no time at this point. And the more of us there are, the stronger we are. So, really, just don't be afraid to take that first step.” A larger protest for climate action is currently planned to take place on September 24, two years after the international climate protests that were led by Greta Thunberg in 2019.
Protest crowd outside Queen’s Park. TAHMEED SHAFIQ/THEVARSITY
Sharon Lee Varsity Contributor
U of T discontinues use of Turnitin, Bb Collaborate
U of T recently decided to make some changes to the programs they use for online learning, including terminating their use of Turnitin, a plagiarism detection service, and Blackboard Collaborate (Bb Collaborate), a web conferencing tool. U of T will now use Ouriginal, a plagiarism detection service similar to Turnitin, which is integrated directly into Quercus. The change follows a report that found an increase in reported academic offences at U of T last year, which the report partially attributes to the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to online learning. Abandoning Turnitin U of T’s switch from Turnitin to Ouriginal took effect on September 1. According to ViceProvost Academic Programs Susan McCahan, the change occurred following the end of the university’s contract with Turnitin, which meant U of T could explore other options for plagiarism detection. “Ouriginal meets our pedagogical, functional, privacy and fiscal requirements,” McCahan stated, explaining that the software is “a similarity detection solution that combines text-matching, with writing-style analysis to promote academic integrity and help prevent plagiarism.” Ouriginal can also check for similarities between newly submitted work and previous work from the same academic course. According to an announcement from the Academic & Collaborative Technologies Group, community consultations with instructors indicated that the ability to check submitted work against previously submitted work was important, to prevent what they describe as “hand-me-down assignments.” According to the announcement, Ouriginal is able to compare new submissions with large bodies of old work — including, in some cases, work submitted anytime in the past 15 years. Since Ouriginal is accessed via Quercus, there will be no major changes to the way that instructors and students interact with assignment submissions. This means that work submitted over Quercus is analyzed by Ouriginal software without the student submitting the work directly through Ouriginal, similar to how Turnitin has worked in the past. The changes come amid an increase in reported academic offences committed by students, which, according to last year’s report on academic misconduct, rose by 35 per cent in the 2019–2020 academic year.
Changes come amid recent increase in academic offences, contract expiration
SHERENE ALMJAWER/ THEVARSITY
In a report on academic integrity, an advisory group noted that this increase may be related to the pandemic and the associated transition to online learning, which has resulted in U of T having to lean heavily on academic integrity software given the loss of in-person proctoring. Termination of Bb Collaborate Due to another supplier contract expiration, U of T will also stop using the webinar software Bb Collaborate for classes and meetings. Termination of its use took effect on August 31. Professors can still use alternate solutions for virtual courses, like Microsoft Teams and Zoom Education, while
the university completes a procurement process. Since the decision to terminate Bb Collaborate occurred close to the beginning of the fall term, some instructors found the change abrupt. Avi Hyman, U of T’s director of academic technology, sent an email apologizing to previous Bb Collaborate users for any potential miscommunication. “We have received some direct feedback about these changes from instructors, ranging from very positive feelings about the changes to some concern,” wrote McCahan. “To mitigate any concerns and to assist with the transition, we have put in place
additional support for instructors, including additional staffing, enhanced documentation, and training through the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation and divisional [Education Technology] offices.” In an email to The Varsity, Michael Dennison, a sessional instructor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, wrote that he chose to use Bb Collaborate because it was integrated with Quercus, but that it didn’t offer the same features as some other programs. He added that he believes the change will not have much effect on students, since there are other programs available.
UTSU switches to using Green Shield as insurance provider New provider brings virtual health consultations, new online claim system
Benefits from the UTSU’s previous provider will not be altered. SHANNA HUNTER/THEVARSITY
Carmina Cornacchia Varsity Contributor
The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has announced that, starting on September 1, undergraduate students’ health and dental insurance will be covered by Green Shield Canada, instead of the union’s previous provider, Desjardins. The benefits provided under Desjardins have not been altered under Green Shield, a point that Vice-President, Operations Fiona Reuter stressed
in an interview with The Varsity. However, with the pivot to Green Shield Canada, students can expect some new benefits, including the addition of remote health consultations through Dialogue, and a new system for online claims. Services provided by Green Shield The UTSU has explicitly confirmed that the switch will still let students access EmpowerMe, a service which points students to resources for mental health, as well as to health professionals
for support. The service is available at any time in-person or virtually. Additionally, a new option provided through Dialogue allows students to virtually consult with health professionals about any medical concerns they have, at all hours, in an “unlimited” capacity. Students residing outside of Canada have some restrictions on their use of the service. They can still access it outside of Canada; however specialist referrals and drug prescriptions are only available for those present in Canada. Students can submit claims by mail or online. Online claims will now be completed through Green Shield’s website instead of on the Studentcare app which was used by Desjardins, wrote Reuter in an email to The Varsity. Reasons behind the switch Reuter wrote that the purpose of UTSU’s pivot to another insurance provider was “to make the Health & Dental Plan more accessible and useful to students.” She cited several items that contributed to the choice to use Green Shield. One of the reasons was that the switch means the UTSU is able to provide a lower-cost plan that still preserves previous benefits, and can also add services like
EmpowerMe and Dialogue Virtual Care. Reuter added that the claims submission process is now much simpler, and students have a one-year window for claims beginning from the time a service is administered. Under Desjardins, students had just 90 days to submit claims, beginning on August 31, 2021. Green Shield also provides a “twenty-four month plan cost guarantee,” which, in an interview with The Varsity, Reuter noted as a key fixture of “stability” of the new insurance costs, since it keeps the price of students’ insurance at a flat rate for the year. Reuter also noted that this guarantee puts future UTSU executives on track to keep costs down. This year, the cost of the UTSU’s health and dental plan increased by $12.38 per student. However, according to an email from Reuter, this increase is unrelated to the switch to Green Shield, since it was based on a decision made last year by the 2020–2021 Board of Directors. She described this yearly increase as a “standard practice” caused by inflation, and pointed to a section of the UTSU Operations & Finance Policies which stipulates that the Board of Directors is permitted to increase the costs of the health plan and the dental plan by 10 per cent each year.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
Candidate profiles for Scarborough—Rouge Park
Clockwise from top left: Asad Rehman, Gary Anandasangaree, Zia Choudhary, Kingsley Kwok. COURTESY OF THE PEOPLE’S PARTY OF CANADA, THE LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA, THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA, KINGSLEY KWOK
Gary Anandasangaree, Liberal Party MP Candidate Gary Anandasangaree is the Liberal party MP
candidate for the Scarborough—Rouge Park riding. Anandasangaree is the incumbent MP for the Scarborough—Rouge Park riding and has held office since 2015. He is a strong advocate for refugee rights. Anandasangaree earned a JD law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and expanded his advocacy from there. He often represents the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Before he formed political roots as an MP, Anandasangaree managed his own law firm. In a prior interview with The Varsity,
Lauren Alexander, Marta Anielska, Lexey Burns News Editor, Deputy News Editor, UTM Bureau Chief
raised money to donate personal protective equipment to hospitals, retirement homes, and places of worship in his area.
Five candidates are running for the Mississauga—Erin Mills MP seat — the riding in which the UTM campus is located — in the upcoming federal election on September 20.
Kaukab Usman, New Democratic Party MP Candidate Kaukab Usman is the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for the Mississauga—Erin Mills riding. She currently resides in Erin Mills. Usman received her Master’s degree in English literature and continued on to earn a Master’s in educational leadership from Wayne State University. She founded the Center for Economic Integration of Immigrant Professionals (CEIIP) in 2018. Usman is Pakistani-Canadian. She actively volunteers at many organizations, including community kitchens, and is a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee of the City of Mississauga and the Peel Poverty Strategy Action Group. Usman also explained her position on healthcare. “Universal healthcare should have coverage for dental, pharmacare and mental health support. No one should be denied because of financial stability,” she wrote on her Twitter.
Lauren Alexander, Marta Anielska, Syeda Maheen Zulfiqar News Editor, Deputy News Editor, UTSC Bureau Chief
Four candidates are running for the Scarborough—Rouge Park MP seat — the riding in which the UTSC campus is located — in the upcoming federal election on September 20.
Iqra Khalid, Liberal Party MP Candidate Iqra Khalid is the Liberal candidate running for re-election as the MP for Mississauga— Erin Mills. Khalid, who grew up in Erin Mills, completed her undergraduate degree at York University and later attended Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Since she was first elected MP in 2015, Khalid has served as a member and is currently the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In 2018, the committee introduced its report Moving Forward in the Fight Against Human Trafficking in Canada. Khalid also sponsored petition E-609, which lobbied the Canadian government to aid people in Aleppo, Syria who had been impacted by the Syrian civil war. Khalid believes that “Vaccines are the most effective tool we have to protect our communities & end this pandemic.” James Nguyen, Conservative Party MP Candidate U of T alum James Nguyen is the Conservative candidate running for MP in the Mississauga— Erin Mills riding. Nguyen received his Honours BSc from U of T and his MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University. Nguyen’s work as an insurance and investment advisor has provided him with experience in estate planning, risk management, wealth preservation, and supply chain management. In his free time, Nguyen volunteers and fundraises for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Peel, the Mississauga Food Bank, and his local church. During the pandemic, he also
Ewan DeSilva, Green Party MP Candidate Ewan DeSilva, an analytical chemist with experience in environmental testing, is running for MP of the Mississauga—Erin Mills riding on the Green party ticket. “Much of my motivation is… to try to provide a better future [for my children] from an educational and financial perspective,” wrote DeSilva. In regard to student debt, DeSilva wrote that he would advocate for the student debt tuition and the elimination of undergraduate tuition. He would also require all university programs to include a co-op placement so students can gain work experience. He would promote student mental health by providing more counselling services, both in person and online. DeSilva also wrote about his extensive plans to combat climate change, including
Anandasangaree acknowledged the importance of student engagement in politics. He explained that students hold a valuable position in determining the results of an election. His current campaign’s focus has been on climate action, affordable housing, accessible childcare, and reconciliation. “I had to run in order to ensure we leave our world better off than how we found it,” wrote Anandasanfaree in an Instagram post, explaining his motivation for re-election. Zia Choudhary, Conservative Party MP Candidate Zia Choudhary is the Conservative MP candidate for the Scarborough—Rouge Park riding. In an email to The Varsity, Choudhary explained that his experience in the private sectors as a real estate broker and financial advisor and his political experience working with his father makes him “an ideal candidate.” He elaborated, “I have a good understanding on the issues on ground faced by our youth… I understand the need of the hour is to balance the economy and focus on affordability [and] at the same time create opportunities for youth so that they can inculcate themselves seamlessly into the workforce.” Choudhary asserted his belief that the future of Canada lies in its youth. He highlighted that his goal is “to improve funding for mental health services across the country especially for our youth and students.” On the subject of climate change, Choudhary wrote, “As Conservatives, we understand that actions are far more important than words and we aim to get started on infrastructure projects immediately putting your Carbon tax dollars to proper use on green initiatives.” Kingsley Kwok, New Democratic Party MP Candidate Kingsley Kwok, a respiratory therapist and former candidate for the New Democratic Party (NDP), is again running as the NDP candidate
for the Scarborough—Rouge Park riding. He is passionate about promoting a smooth and equitable pandemic recovery. If elected, Kwok will fight for safer working conditions, speak out against racism and Islamophobia, and lobby for better emergency leave benefits. He supports the NDP’s plan on student debt, which includes granting a five-year grace period on loans, forgiving up to $20,000 in student debt, and moving away from loans and toward student grants. He also wrote that mental health care should be provided to those who need it without cost and that the NDP’s pharmacare plan will help Canadians get the help they need. He also wrote that, with regard to climate change, the party would eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, establish carbon budgets, build green infrastructure, and begin large-scale building retrofitting for energy efficiency. Asad Rehman, People’s Party of Canada MP Candidate Asad Rehman is the People’s Party of Canada’s (PPC) candidate for Scarborough—Rouge Park. His website says that he holds an MBA, has worked in “advertising marketing customer services,” and immigrated to Canada 14 years ago. According to his website, Rehman would get rid of the national carbon tax and instead tax chemical companies and heavy polluters to address pollution and other environmental issues. He is also against the recent Ontario lockdowns. As a party, the PPC would remove vaccination and COVID-19 testing requirements for federal employees, as well as other measures meant to increase vaccination in Canada. Overall, Rehman supports the PPC platform, which includes decreasing the number of immigrants who enter Canada in order to address the housing crisis, as well as decreasing taxes in a number of sectors. The Varsity has reached out to Rehman for comment.
Candidate profiles for Mississauga—Erin Mills
Clockwise from top left: Kaukab Usman, James Nguyen, Iqra Khalid, Ewan DeSilva, Michael Bayer. COURTESY OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF CANADA, THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY OF CANADA, THE LIBERAL PARTY OF CANADA, THE GREEN PARTY OF CANADA, THE PEOPLES PARTY OF CANADA
promoting the use of biogas generators to dispose of organic waste, implementing tree planting days in schools, subsidizing rooftop solar panels, and eliminating the use of fossil fuel passenger vehicles over the course of the next five years. Michael Bayer, People’s Party of Canada MP Candidate According to his profile on the PPC party’s website, Michael Bayer has lived in Mississauga for over 20 years and attended York University. According to a profile by The Toronto Star, Bayer identified himself as a “Fiduciary wealth advisor and investigative journalist for Free Speech Media.” Bayer has not listed any policies specific
to the Mississauga—Erin Mills riding, but supports the national PPC platform. The PPC platform includes reducing immigration quotas in order to address the Canadian housing crisis, as well as removing funding from social housing projects. The party also supports reducing taxes, including income and business taxes. On his social media, Bayer expressed opposition to vaccine passports in Ontario and mask mandates at voting stations for the upcoming election, a position supported by the PPC. The Varsity has reached out to Khalid, Nguyen, Usman, and Bayer for comment.
Business & Labour
September 13, 2021 thevarsity.ca/section/business email@example.com
U of T Engineering students launch campus safety app Haven Founders on returning to a pre-pandemic world without pre-pandemic dangers Randa Higazy Varsity Contributor
Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault and harassment. A UTSU director of applied science & engineering, Nelson Lee, and his fellow computer engineering student Ethan Hugh have designed an app to help improve student safety on campus. The app, called Haven, is meant to help students feel safer by connecting them with their trusted contacts — also known as their “Angels” — and emergency services. The idea for Haven came to Lee after he struggled to find proactive tools for students to help them stay safe on campus. “I saw a friend of mine had posted on her Instagram of her sexual assault experience on campus, and for me that was pretty shocking,” he said. Lee explained that they brainstormed several ideas to improve student safety, such as legal clinics for survivors, but ultimately decided on a more proactive and preventative tool for students — an app that students can access from their phones. Analyzing data on campus safety Lee and Hugh highlighted the findings of the Government of Ontario's Student Voices on Sexual Violence Survey, conducted in 2018, which involved more than 160,000 students across the province. The survey measured how respondents perceived, understood, and responded to sexual violence. The postsecondary student survey found that 63.2 per cent of university students had experienced sexual harassment. Haven’s co-founders also conducted an internal
survey with over 250 respondents which they say corroborated this finding. Of the respondents, 83 per cent indicated that they felt unsafe outside their homes at night without friends or family. “Those numbers, along with our own internal survey, have showcased really how prevalent this issue is, and there isn’t a lot being done at the moment that really impacts [individuals] at a personal level in their day-to-day lives,” said Lee. Sexual violence and in-person learning Hugh, who serves as Haven’s chief technology officer, also added that remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected sexual assault and harrassment levels on university campuses. “We spoke with a few experts who worked at crisis centres and one of them mentioned that this year, because university was online, they experienced a lot less calls, which just goes to show how much it actually happens on university campuses.” Designed through the accredited NEST Hatchery Program, a U of T startup incubator, Haven allows its users to enable “emergency mode” where the app alerts your trusted contacts list with your status and location. It also allows you to call useful contacts like your Angels or emergency services and provides you with a script that includes the details required by emergency operators. The app also allows its users to set a ‘destination timer’ to inform your loved ones when you get home safely. Advice from up and coming entrepreneurs The incoming second-year engineering students also spoke to The Varsity about the rewarding experience of entrepreneurship. Unlike internships, where students may have one
Haven co-founders Nelson Lee (right) and Ethan Hugh (left) launched the app to improve student safety on campus. COURTESY OF NELSON LEE AND ETHAN HUGH/THEVARSITY
specific role, creating a business venture means wearing many hats. “We had to do everything ourselves, whether that’s developing the app, designing the user interface and experience, incorporating our company, going to the bank and setting up a bank account, [or] doing the marketing,” Lee told The Varsity. The app can be found in the App Store and Google Play Store as Haven - Safety Alert and Locator. The co-founders told The Varsity that they will also include QR codes for the app on posters around U of T. In addition to its speed and reliability, what distinguishes Haven from other safety apps is its founders’ emphasis on maintaining the privacy of its users. “We want to empower you, not take your freedom away,” wrote the co-founders.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence or harassment at U of T: Visit safety.utoronto.ca for a list of safety resources. Visit svpscentre.utoronto.ca for information, contact details, and hours of operation for the tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre. Centre staff can be reached by phone at 416-978-2266 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call Campus Police to make a report at 416-9782222 (for U of T St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-569-4333 (for U of T Mississauga) Call the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at 416323-6040 Call the Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Centre at 416-495-2555 Call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 866863-0511
Evaluating the importance of a degree beyond employability Professor Daniel Tysdal on pursuing passion Amy Theivendra Varsity Contributor
As a child, whenever I was asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I thought I would have it all figured out by the time I was an adult. Frankly, if I’m being honest, despite being in a STEM field, I’m still not sure what I want to do. Don’t tell my parents. Stereotypes versus reality I’ve always heard about degrees that are sometimes looked down upon for being ‘unemployable.’ These degrees usually consist of social sciences and humanities programs like English, sociology, or even political science — subjects I have always been passionate about. At university, it is common to hear STEM students bicker about how students in social sciences and humanities have it better off, joking that having to take a certain exam would make them transfer to a so-called easier program in social sciences or humanities. These comments always confused me: if a degree wasn’t employable, why would it exist? I have always been curious to learn about the careers of people and professionals in the departments that I was passionate about. One day, tired of looking for jobs, I ended up
on LinkedIn where I found many people doing amazing work in these so-called ‘unemployable’ fields. Their pages made it evident that the best way to find work and become successful, regardless of your degree, is to network, gain experience, and be persistent.
A career in the arts In an email to The Varsity, Daniel Tysdal, a professor in the Department of English at U of T, wrote about how stereotypes in the humanities affected him and his take on what an employable degree means. When asked about the stereotypes that surround English degrees, Tysdal explained, “When I lived in dorms as an undergrad, I exchanged some playful ribbing with my STEM roommates, but it was all harmless and fun. Now that you ask this question, though, I do wonder if I did face doubters and negativity, but I was just so addicted to the arts that I didn't even notice.” Tysdal also described his own take on what these stereotypes mean to him and explained that he felt that jabs towards arts students come from a place of insecurity. “The work we do in the Humanities and
creative arts really scares a lot of people. It's the kind of work--though necessary--that many people run from: intense introspection and self-questioning, a commitment to improving
not just writing and speaking but listening skills, nurturing an openness to and understanding of multiple perspectives, and so on,” wrote Tysdal. Pursuing passion Tysdal wrote about his passion toward his field of study. He said he considers reading and writing to be critical components for recovering from a mental health crisis, which made an English degree ideal for him. He was drawn to arts because of the community and the nature of the work — not by money and material possessions. When asked about what he feels is rewarding about his field, Tysdal stressed the importance of following one’s passion. “The practice is the prize. We live one precious life, and we live this life best when we follow our calling,” he wrote. To those questioning the worth of their degree: the things others say are temporary, but fulfillment in your career is long-lasting and worthwhile. Life is too short to not engage with the things we’re passionate about. ANANYA ANANTH/ THEVARSITY
September 13, 2021 thevarsity.ca/section/comment email@example.com
Forum: What is the most important issue for students in this upcoming federal election? We need to consider COVID-19 policy and postsecondary interests before casting our votes
Logan Liut and Daniel Yihan Mao Varsity Contributors
Welcome to The Forum, a Comment column in which two or more contributors present their points of view on a chosen topic. The goal of this column is to showcase the diversity of opinion within U of T’s student body and to provide a more complete picture of the debates going on within the U of T community. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently called for a snap federal election, which means Canadians will be going out to vote on September 20. With Elections Canada cancelling the Vote on Campus program — which will make it more difficult for students to vote — it is even more important for students to feel energized and motivated to cast their ballots. Below, two contributors discuss important issues that U of T students should consider before going out to vote. Defending our postsecondary interests One of the most important issues university students should be surveilling is each party’s postsecondary policies and the level of collaboration between the federal parties and their provincial counterparts on postsecondary issues. This is, without doubt, the most important and pressing issue for those in the university system — especially with the ongoing targeting of postsecondary institutions’ autonomy by conservatives. Another postsecondary issue that comes to mind is tuition affordability and student debt: which parties are promising short-term, realistic solutions to this crisis, and which parties are providing long-term solutions? The Green Party, in 2019, promised to “make college and university tuition free for all Canadian students.” The New Democratic Party (NDP) has made a similar commitment in its 2021 platform, saying that it will build “towards making postsecondary education part of [the] public education system.” This stance, combined with the party’s promise to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt and the Ontario NDP’s outspoken opposition to the Student Choice Initiative, makes the NDP one of the biggest — if not the biggest — contenders for student votes.
The Liberals are the wild card in these elections in terms of policy, especially since they have no policy book or platform that’s out yet, but I’m taking an educated guess based on their 2019 platform that they will not commit to free education. However, it is worth noting that in 2019, the Liberals committed to giving full-time and part-time students up to $1,200 in Canada Student Grants and allowing new graduates to delay repaying their loans until they reach a salary above $35,000. It seems that the federal Conservatives will toe the same line as their provincial counterparts, stressing the need for “free speech” on campus. Yet, in my opinion, the most important issues to monitor this election are the parties’ responses to provincial encroachments on academic autonomy and postsecondary funding. The Student Choice Initiative — an Ontario government policy led by Doug Ford that was struck down for the second time on August 4 — had the potential to be extremely destructive. Critical institutions for the defence of student rights — such as student unions and student press — are being attacked by conservative movements. Ontario’s premier wrote in a Progressive Conservative funding email that some student union initiatives were “crazy Marxist nonsense” and that he has addressed the “nonsense” by making student union fees optional. This lines up with other postsecondary cuts by the Ford administration, such as the attempted cancellation of the building of the Université de l’Ontario français in 2018. All in all, for U of T students, staff, and faculty, postsecondary policy is the most important issue this election. The increasing tension between universities, student unions, and Canadian conservatives — along with a provincial government that seems very keen on cuts to education — necessitates a strong counterbalance in the federal government. For those with student debt, policies around student debt forgiveness or repayment may be a strong deciding factor. Bundled with the unexpected insolvency of Laurentian University, it’s clear that it is a critical time right now for postsecondary policy in Ontario and across Canada. On September
20, Canadians and U of T students, staff, and faculty will go to the polls to decide the future of our university, all postsecondary institutions, and our nation. Here’s to hoping we make the right choice for our university and for us. Logan Liut is a first-year social sciences student at University College. Fighting COVID-19 at home and abroad With over 70 per cent of Canadians over 12 years old fully vaccinated, many are ready to leave the worst of the pandemic in the past. However, with the Delta variant spearheading yet another wave of infections, government policy for fighting COVID-19 might be just as pressing a matter as it was last year. Canada took longer to reach vaccination benchmarks compared to other developed countries, leaving people under COVID-19 restrictions and at risk for months longer. The Conservative Party of Canada, for instance, critical of the rate at which the government introduced relevant technologies, included in its platform that it would accelerate the approval of COVID-19 rapid tests that are already being successfully used for COVID-19 abroad. Having relied hitherto on purchases from Europe and the US, most major political parties now recognize the need for developing Canada’s domestic vaccine production capabilities. Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry François-Philippe Champagne declared the goal of achieving a monthly production of two million vaccines by 2022, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to work with both foreign and Canadian companies to achieve an annual production of 240 million vaccine doses. The Conservative Party emphasizes the importance of encouraging vaccine production by Canadian-based companies rather than by multinational corporations, whereas the New Democratic Party (NDP) advocates for the establishment of a Crown corporation to produce vaccines as an alternative to the private sector. Although being mindful of successes around the world in stopping COVID-19 is vital to implement effective policies more rapidly, fighting COVID-19 is ultimately not a race
between countries. Governments that are only concerned with stopping the pandemic within their own borders might achieve temporary stability, but only by enforcing a ‘fortress New Zealand’ isolation for years to come. Looking at how things went for New Zealand, such a strategy is unlikely to bode well. As a leading member of the global economy, Canada — and particularly an international hub like Toronto — can only truly regain a sense of normalcy once COVID-19 is brought under control around the world and borders are open once again. Alongside traditional factors such as economic stability, societal propriety, and openness to interactions with the outside world, a country’s capability and commitment to create an environment safe from COVID-19 domestically and abroad will likely play a role in determining its success in the 21st century. Back in June, the prime minister made a commitment to donate vaccines to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, and Canada’s contribution to the facility has reached 40 million doses. In July, the Minister of International Development Karina Gould and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand announced the “Give A Vax” campaign to raise international aid. The NDP’s manifesto similarly promised to campaign for waiving intellectual property rights to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines, and pledged 0.7 per cent of the party’s gross national income to international aid. How the incoming government responds to the pandemic will determine the global perception of Canada in the future. It’s important that the world retains confidence in Canada as a safe place for conducting commerce and travel, as well as assisting others in fighting the pandemic abroad, and that confidence will directly impact the favourability of future international agreements. This current generation of students will either benefit from the opportunities that the new government creates by addressing COVID-19 effectively — or suffer from the lack thereof. Daniel Yihan Mao is a first-year economics student at Victoria College.
Travelling to Canada from India is an impossible obstacle race Canada’s ban on direct air travel causes Indian students immense financial and mental burdens Devyani Chandra Varsity Contributor
In the past year, students have experienced hardships involving pandemic restrictions, online learning, and mental health. However, the pandemic has impacted international students most strongly — especially those from India, who juggled the impact of a lethal second wave of the Delta variant along with time zone differences in online learning. Additionally, the Canadian government issued a ban on all direct flights coming from India until September 21, thus creating more problems for students. Due to this ban, Indian students are forced to take long and arduous journeys through two or more countries, which makes the cost of travelling to Canada exorbitant. Furthermore, this complicated process has taken a toll on students’ already fragile mental health, leaving them with the hard decision of whether coming to Canada is
worth the journey’s tangible and intangible costs. It is a common stereotype that, since international students pay a massive tuition fee of approximately $60,000, they must be financially comfortable. However, many students cannot afford their tuition without scholarships, and because U of T is publically funded, the university does not provide financial aid to international students. Therefore, these students have to resort to taking large bank loans. Adding to the financial barriers posed by the pandemic, Indian students are even more vulnerable in their respective financial situations. The cost of travelling through two more countries has never been cheap, and students are now forced to pay over $5,000 for plane tickets that normally cost around $1,200. Due to Canada’s requirement that Indian travellers have to carry a negative molecular COVID-19 test result from a third country, organizing travel becomes even more difficult
since, in my experience, most airports in layover countries are not providing clear guidelines regarding on-site testing. This increases ambiguity around travel through these countries. Hence, students may have to stay in these countries for two or more days to acquire the test result. This aspect of the journey has introduced added costs that would not have been present in direct travel. Having travelled through the Maldives route, I had to pay extra to make sure I got my COVID-19 test results within a day. These charges have presented students like me with a financial nightmare that continues to be aggravated by U of T’s high tuition fees. The university’s online learning transition period, which only lasts until September 23, has been the main perpetrator of mental stress for Indian students. A recent survey by the Indian Students’ Society (ISS) revealed that, as of August 20, 65 per cent of students had not booked their flights to Toronto. Additionally, 58.1 per cent of the surveyed students believed that they would be unable to reach Toronto by September 23, or were unsure whether they would be able to do so. Students who are unable to reach Toronto before September 23 are evidently bound to miss their in-person lectures and may have to retake their courses. This is unfair to the international students who are unable to travel to Canada due to reasons beyond their control. On raising this concern with the university, surveyed students revealed that the university asked them to take courses offered online or at different campuses. This does not help students who are in programs that offer only one or two online courses. In addition to the limited transition period, students are concerned about the risks of their travel routes, from getting stuck in other countries to being exposed to COVID-19. When Serbia suddenly changed its quarantine regulations in July, 200 Indian students found themselves stranded at the Belgrade airport. Such regulation
changes keep occurring within many countries, which makes it difficult to finalize travel routes. Moreover, incoming first-year students face the additional problem of acquiring their visas in time due to the delayed application processing at the High Commission of Canada in India. This delay has made it nearly impossible for many first-year students to even begin looking for a suitable travel route. With no clarity about how to deal with the impending costs of their travel plans, Indian students are facing gratuitous barriers to pursue the education they have paid exorbitantly for. The situation is further intensified by the fact that international student visa holders are able to travel directly to the US and the UK. Moreover, many students are still experiencing problems obtaining visas and study permits. While students continue to desperately look for the safest route possible, the university’s response remains unsatisfactory, with no move yet to extend the transition period or provide further resources to its students. In an open letter dated August 30, the ISS made recommendations to the university that included the opening of emergency bursaries to support student travels, an extension of the online transition period, and the availability of additional mental health resources for Indian students. It is imperative for the university to enforce the transition period on all courses and faculties so that no student misses out on learning due to the flight ban. This university has always taken pride in the diversity of its student body. It is time that U of T shows its appreciation to a huge part of this diverse student body and steps up for them in their time of need. As we face the challenge of yet another strange semester, we should remember to leave no student behind. Devyani Chandra is a second-year economics and ethics, society and law student at Trinity College.
Change is needed in policing — including at the university level Making systemic changes is necessary for a better relationship with students Jasmin Akbari Varsity Contributor
Content warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault. In May 2019, York University student Ariana Markle filed a civil lawsuit against the University of Toronto Governing Council, the Toronto Police Services Board, and individual police officers and campus constables. This case is similar to other negative interactions students have had with the Campus Safety Special Constable Service, formerly known as the U of T Campus Police. A UTM student was once handcuffed by campus police during a mental health crisis, and UTSC students who reported sexual assault to campus police have had uncomfortable experiences. The use of policing in Canada goes back to the 16th century. Recently, Canadians have differed in their opinions on the use of law enforcement through the police. While police officers are needed to some degree, we must determine when exactly police officers are necessary and how police services can be refined. A power-based relationship Municipal and campus police officers in Toronto hold enormous responsibility and power, making their power dynamic with civilians unbalanced. When an officer is allowed to legally carry a gun, a taser, and other weapons, there is already a clear power difference between them and a civilian. Furthermore, the police force draws their power from legal bodies, which gives them the right to use force.
Because civilians feel additional societal pressure to abide by the law, police officers have the power to make unreasonable and unethical requests of them. Students who have little experience with police authority can fall victim to this abuse. Hence, the way that police officers react and act toward the public — especially toward Indigenous communities and other minoritized groups who experience higher levels of police brutality — reflects on our democracy. More than just a university affair The university’s campus police recently rebranded itself as the Campus Safety Special Constable Service, and advertised the accompanied visual changes as being more accessible and approachable to the public. However, Markle’s recent lawsuit against campus police officers — and other recent cases surrounding false arrest, intentional physical harm, and mental suffering — speak volumes about the many systemic issues present in policing on campus and the many changes necessary to improve on-campus safety for everyone. While the purpose of the municipal police is to help the public, that is often not the case for Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities in Canada. Misuse of police power goes beyond the university level: it is institutional and should be targeted at the systemic level. Prioritizing safer options At the first glance, defunding the police — at all levels, including the university level — may seem to result in fewer police officers, and therefore a lack of safety. However, that is not the case: defunding
U of T’s campus police has rebranded itself as the Campus Safety Special Constable Service. ALEXANDER ROBINSON/THEVARSITY
the police takes funding from police services and puts it toward social resources like mental health training and the implementation of safer options. One of these options could be a task force of people trained in mental health and the deescalation of psychiatric distress. In emergency calls related to individuals experiencing psychiatric distress, police officers have been found to be more likely to use lethal force. The police are not always best equipped to deal with certain cases, especially those involving mental health, so police officers should not be the initial responders. Instead, we should fund mental health support services and better train police officers in de-escalation. However, if the situation is escalating quickly, the police could provide backup if necessary. Police skepticism about mental health concerns is not uncommon, and the use of tactics such as harassing victims, downplaying the attack, and abusing their power could all be present in police interactions. Mental health support is better suited to help victims than police intervention in situations such as these. If our community is having issues with inappropriate police conduct in situations involving mental health, then poorer communities with fewer resources certainly are as well. Police officers, including campus police, must be trained in addressing and de-escalating emergency calls
associated with mental health. Furthermore, if we were to defund the police, we should redirect that funding to organizations better equipped to be initial responders to mental health crises. Jasmin Akbari is a second-year industrial relations and human resources, digital humanities, and writing & rhetoric student at Woodsworth College. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence or harassment at U of T: Visit safety.utoronto.ca for a list of safety resources. Visit svpscentre.utoronto.ca for information, contact details, and hours of operation for the tri-campus Sexual Violence Prevention & Support Centre. Centre staff can be reached by phone at 416-9782266 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call Campus Safety Special Constable Service to make a report at 416-978-2222 (for U of T St. George and U of T Scarborough) or 905-5694333 (for U of T Mississauga) Call the Women’s College Hospital Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre at 416-323-6040 Call the Scarborough Grace Sexual Assault Care Centre at 416-495-2555 Call the Assaulted Women’s Helpline at 866863-0511
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
Students are at risk of becoming increasingly politically disengaged Canadian politics needs to be made more accessible and relevant to students, including non-citizens Daniel Yihan Mao Varsity Contributor
In the 2019 federal election, only 53.9 per cent of voters between the ages of 18–24 years voted, which was considerably lower than the 70.6 per cent turnout rate for Canadians above 35 years old. Compared to previous generations, young people and students, in particular, are increasingly uninvolved in traditional politics, and the reality of Canadian politics is not encouraging them to participate. Students also seem to be gravitating toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields that do not provide much motivation to be politically engaged. Furthermore, an entire segment of the student population — international students — are unable to be a part of the political process in the first place.
will be making the jump into politics. The closest Canada came to a premiership with a scientific background was that of Arthur Meighen, who studied mathematics back in the 1920s. In 2019, only 7.4 per cent of Canada’s 338 MPs were confirmed to have earned a postgraduate STEM degree. The relative prominence of government in everyday life has diminished. Though students benefit from government-funded health care and education, many of them will join the 12 million Canadians currently working in the private sector. The immediate determinant of their quality of life will be the employer who pays their salary. Even if they’re taken hostage, a Canadian’s best hope will probably be the ‘kidnap and ransom insurance’ many
More STEM jobs may mean less political engagement The industries with the highest potential earnings and most opportunities naturally attract many young people, and in this regard, political engagement does not pay the way it used to. Prior to this generation, Canada’s most prosperous and prestigious sectors, such as civil service, were strongly intertwined with politics. Also, workers who were members of unions had to be politically active to maintain their wages, whose numbers remained higher in the mining sector than the private sector through the 1970s. However, opportunities for advancement in the private sector have risen dramatically in recent decades, especially in STEM fields. The 1945 salary of a federal MP and physician were, when adjusted for inflation, both worth the equivalent of about $180,000 today — but the former’s salary has stagnated, whereas the physician’s has risen to above $300,000. Pursuing a scientific career is not necessarily a barrier to political engagement — former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a chemist, and both China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, and his predecessor, Hu Jintao, earned engineering degrees — but it seems unlikely that many Canadian science students
top companies offer employees, seeing that Canada officially maintains a policy of nonnegotiation with terrorists. If the private sector is more responsible for one’s livelihood than the government, what motivation do Canada’s 12 million private sector workers have to be politically active? Students need motivation and opportunity to vote In recent years, political discourse has expanded to include issues relevant to many traditionally underrepresented demographics — but students are not among them. In 2019, neither of the two largest parties maintained a sufficiently comprehensive position on student finances — a very pressing issue for students,
considering one in six bankruptcies has to do with student debt. The Liberal party’s platform in 2021, however, included policies that waive student loan interest until 2023 and pause loan payments for parents with children under five. The Conservative party promises to increase support for underfunded universities and improve the affordability of Canadian real estate for this generation. Meanwhile, the New Democratic Party aims to integrate postsecondary education into the public education system while also assisting students in debt with up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness. Whether or not this increase in relevant policies will improve youth and student engagement will become clearer after September 20. Furthermore, while international students comprised 16.2 per cent of Canada’s postsecondary population in the 2018–2019 academic year — and are currently estimated to represent 21 per cent of U of T’s student body — they are excluded from Canadian political life. Canada has expanded political participation to women and minoritized groups over the course of the 20th century. However, Canada is one of the few countries that deprive certain individuals of these rights which they once had. For instance, unlike other Commonwealth countries, Canada revoked British subjects’ right to participate in the Canadian political process, with Nova Scotia holding the last Canadian provincial election in 2006 in which British subjects could participate. Students from Commonwealth countries in addition to other international students should be able to participate in Canadian politics. Eliminating citizenship as a requirement for political rights can allow politics to become a more inclusive subject on campus and in Canadian society as a whole. Canadian politics shaped the development of Canada — yet it struggles to find its place in today's world. Whatever course of action is taken, politics will only remain relevant if it can engage everyone in Canada. Daniel Yihan Mao is a first-year economics student at Victoria College.
Op-ed: Why the housing market matters in this election Rising house prices hurt young Canadians and keep away global talent Grace Xu Varsity Contributor
According to the Canadian Real Estate Agency, the average cost of a house in Canada, as of July, has surpassed $660,000. That is nearly quadruple the national average from 20 years ago of about $160,000. If these numbers do not alarm you, consider this: the average income of a Canadian between the ages of 25 and 34 has essentially remained unchanged at approximately $40,000 for the last two decades. Today, it would take at least 16 years for that individual to own a house as opposed to four years 20 years ago, and this does not take into account any other expenses. This is a pressing issue for many reasons, and during this election, students may want to keep a close eye on parties that are committed to cooling down and stabilizing the red-hot housing market in Canada. Ballooning house prices in Canada threaten our country in many ways, and are an affront to the economy and the country’s young demographic. Unaffordable housing can seriously hinder our country’s ability to retain its youth. A Statistics Canada report released earlier this year showed that young Canadians are leaving the large cities — namely Toronto and Montréal — where the cost of a house can top over a million dollars.
The problem is that if house prices continue to trend up in major Canadian cities, many young Canadians may decide to move to other large cities outside of Canada that promise good jobs and more affordable housing. Across the border in the United States, the average house costs about $290,000. The 6.7 million new jobs added to the American workforce during the month of June this year also completely eclipse Canada’s expensive housing market and the 230,700 jobs we added to our labour force during the same month. Furthermore, with such a red-hot housing market, it may be difficult for Canada to attract talent from across the globe. Canadian politicians must recognize that attracting talent requires affordable housing. Other countries have already recognized this. In Germany, for instance, although the legislation has since been overturned by its top court, lawmakers did implement a rent cap to prevent house prices from soaring. The Canadian federal government may want to take inspiration from its German counterpart, and consider putting a cap on house prices if it wants to win the hearts of the young and talented from around the world. These people may easily be tempted by other countries that offer more affordable housing and more job opportunities. If Canada fails to act on retaining its youth
and is unable to attract talent, it will suffer. This is an outcome that our country should avoid at all costs, but unless the government steps in to clamp down on the housing market, the prospects for our country may be grim. The New Democratic Party and the Green party are proposing to build new houses, but their policies are not necessarily targeting the root causes of an overheating housing market. The proposals may seem appealing, but the main issue affecting the market is not a supplyand-demand issue. Constructing more housing units would, in theory, increase the supply on the market and diffuse the cost of a house, but it does little to prevent the housing market from overheating, if housing speculation remains. Housing speculation is when a house is bought and sold for the purpose of capital gain. When real estate is no longer treated as a necessity but as an investment, the speculative rise in house prices unquestionably happens. This may explain why there was an estimate of 1.34 million empty and temporarily occupied houses nationwide back in 2016. The numbers are telling; some parties are addressing the voters but not the problem with their plans to construct more houses in hopes of cooling down Canada’s housing market. Another issue that may be fueling skyrocketing house prices is blind bidding.
Blind bidding is when a homebuyer submits an offer without knowing what other potential home-seekers are bidding. The strong desire to own a house, mixed with the fear that others may come with higher prices, can explain why the cost of a house can go up so easily. When you add wealthy foreign buyers into the equation, it is no surprise why some houses are bought hundreds of thousands of dollars above their listing price. Some parties are already taking some steps to address this issue. Justin Trudeau is finally looking to introduce new measures to criminalize blind bidding, after five years as prime minister. His party, along with the Conservatives, is proposing to ban foreign ownership for the next two years. As party leaders continue on their campaign trails, students should look beyond the politics for concrete measures to improve the housing market, including but not limited to putting an end to blind biddings, as well as curbing foreign investment in the housing market. After all, our future — and our country’s future — depends on the votes we cast. Grace Xu is a third-year biochemistry and French student at St. Michael’s College. She is serving on the 2021–2022 Arts & Science Council as a full-time sciences student.
U of T hasn’t been welcoming members — a new initiati
The perpsectives of Palestinian alumni sho Yasmeen Atassi, Salwa Iqbal, Racha Ghanem Varsity Contributors
Content warning: This article discusses instances of antiPalestinian harassment. There is no shortage of Palestinian existence at the University of Toronto. Whether through student or club advocacy, conversations about Palestine have persevered for years in student communities. But Palestinians and those interested in Palestine have felt a blatant lack of institutional support at the university. We are writing this open letter in response to an editorial by The Varsity that called upon U of T to affirm a commitment to free speech for Palestinian community members. We also echo a call by a fellow student, who argued that “We need to be able to talk about Palestine” without fear or apprehension and under the protection of the educational institution at which we study. We, student researchers for the Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS), believe discourse about Palestine is essential to a true survey of colonial and anti-colonial history. “Hearing Palestine,” a student and faculty initiative founded in fall of 2020 under the auspices of the IIS, aims to make space for that kind of discourse on campus. Hearing Palestine Hearing Palestine is a talk series that invites U of T alumni of Palestinian backgrounds to speak about their experiences on campus and in their careers. Two of the speakers who've spoken so far have been Diana Buttu, who was a legal advisor for the Palestine Liberation Organization from 2000–2005, and Dr. Abdel Razzaq Takriti, the University of Houston’s inaugural Arab American educational foundation chair in modern Arab history. Their reflections, which we’ve included in our letter, underscore that U of T has a long history of antiPalestinian racism. While this atmosphere has pushed students to work together toward liberation, in Takriti’s words, their time at U of T remained a time of hostile “structural constraints and pressures.” “There were only a handful of classrooms where we could talk and feel safe,” Takriti said. As Buttu put it, students “effectively came out very bruised.” Diana Buttu’s story, as told on “Hearing Palestine” In the late 1980s, Diana Buttu began her undergraduate studies in the Department of Middle East and Islamic Studies and the Department of Economics at the University of Toronto. At that time, Palestinians were rising up against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, in what would be called the first intifada (1987-1993). With the help of the late Professor James Graff (1937-2005), Buttu was introduced to a cohort of students of Palestinian backgrounds. The group was not large, consisting of around six or seven students. Still, they decided to speak against the institutional erasure of Palestinians on campus. They also advocated for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. As they did this advocacy work, they faced harassment and intimidation by active Israeli Zionist groups on campus. During a student club fair, their group put out tables in Sidney Smith Hall. Buttu recalls that Zionist students verbally attacked them, even calling the university police on them. But the group stood their ground and, against all odds, they succeeded in establishing the Middle East Forum and worked on a student publication called al-Mizan, which is Arabic for “balance.” They also ran events, including two where they hosted renowned American-Jewish anti-Zionist scholar Norman Finkelstein, and one with Hanan Ashrawi. In 1995, Diana Buttu returned to U of T as a graduate student in the Faculty of Law. By then, the Oslo Accords of 1993 and
human rights in a multitude of forms, from writing op-eds for major newspapers to hosting a podcast. During her time at U of T, she endured non-supportive faculty, daily aggressions, and systemic impediments. However, given her accomplishments, her story is also one of defiance and a commitment to social justice and change. Listening to Diana Buttu tell her story in 2021 showed us how — both then and now — simple student tasks like juggling coursework and studying for exams are made so much more difficult when you are also taking up the mantle of defending and humanizing yourself.
1995 had been signed, and Israeli settlements in the West Bank began expanding exponentially. The accords were meant to be part of a peace process, but freedom of expression on the subject of Palestine became even more restricted. During that time, Buttu felt that Zionism was becoming normalized on campus. She recounted that Israeli judges,who supported the expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories and other anti-Palestinian policies were invited to speak on campus. Buttu recalled that some faculty members expended much effort to include Israel in course offerings and syllabi. She does not remember Palestine being treated the same way. After graduating from U of T Law, Buttu became a Palestinian-Canadian intellectual and lawyer who specializes in international law and international human rights law. She has advocated for Palestinian
Abdel Razzaq Takriti’s story By the time Abdel Razzaq Takriti began his undergraduate studies at U of T in 1999, the conversations that were initiated about Palestine during the first intifada had succumbed to silence once more. His time at U of T was riddled with daily experiences of harassment. During his “Hearing Palestine” talk on March 4, 2021, he described in great detail what life was like for him as a Palestinian U of T student. He told one story about how he joined The Varsity, only to be assigned coverage of a Hebrew University and U of T “friendship event” at a hotel. An Israeli minister was in attendance. In his reporting, he mentioned that there was no Palestinian presence at the event, but he recalled the final article having a “celebratory” tone. It had been rewritten and published under his name without his consent. His attempts at shedding light on valid flaws were discredited as if to maintain a certain narrative. “Of course, afterwards, I resigned from The Varsity,” Takriti said. That was just one instance that made him feel unwelcome at U of T— harassment followed him in his dormitories, at extracurricular activities, and in classrooms. When people asked where he was from and he said that he was Palestinian, that was seen as a political statement. Because of that politicization, many other Palestinian students would publicly identify with where they grew up — Jordan, Lebanon, or Dubai, for example — instead of saying that they were Palestinian. Still, Takriti and other engaged students searched for university groups through which they could advocate. But the Arab Student Association (ASA) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) were only involved in cultural, social, and religious activities. While recounting that, Takriti emphasized that the apolitical nature of these associations should not be easily condemned, because it was a consequence of the pressures that the groups’ student leaders experienced. For example, the ASA faced attacks similar to the harassment that Buttu experienced during the annual Arab Week when they included mentions of Palestine during tabling at Sidney Smith Hall. But in the context of the second intifada in 2000–2005, 9/11, and the US invasion of Iraq, Takriti recalled that he joined a group of U of T
g to Palestinian community ive hopes to change that
ow that U of T has a long history of silence students that came together to push back against an upsurge of Islamophobia. Those students — mostly undergraduates — included Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and students from Africa and Asia, as well as allies from Jewish communities. This group sought to form a vibrant alternative intellectual and social space and embarked on wide-ranging social justice campaigns. They participated in hosting the al-Awda conference, a huge international event on Palestinians right to return to Palestine, and many of them became active in the Arab Students Collective (ASC). The ASC sponsored the first Israel Apartheid Week (IAW), which spread across the globe, becoming one of the largest worldwide solidarity events with Palestine.
The CAUT censure has gained widespread support. Despite this, we believe that the way speech about Palestine has been treated as an exception to free speech worldwide has been insufficiently integrated into the conversation. Advocating for academic freedom remains tokenistic if the reality of extensive policing of Palestine on the ground is not challenged. It’s true that students like Diana Buttu and Abdel Razzaq Takriti have, at times, succeeded in establishing student clubs and publications that created a space for Palestine. It’s also true that student organisations, such as the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) BDS Movement, have stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people. However, even our attempts at opening a space for discussion have been publicly undermined and defamed
Above all, we need to listen to Palestinian community members’ stories. Only then can we pinpoint what is to be rectified.
CAUT censure is a continuation of U of T’s history In September 2020, U of T allegedly rescinded an offer of employment to Dr. Valentina Azarova at the Law Faculty’s International Human Rights Program. Against all protocols, her name had been leaked, and ended up at a Zionist advocacy organisation, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). A financial donor, Justice David E. Spiro of the Tax Court of Canada, allegedly put pressure on the university’s administration to block her hiring. The university administration commissioned Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell to investigate this case. Following that investigation, Cromwell published a report — however, Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Executive Director David Robinson stated to The Varsity that CAUT council members felt that the report’s mandate was too confined. Although the report found conflicting reports of what happened, Cromwell did not have the authority to assess the “credibility or plausibility” of those reports. The donor, Spiro, was also a former member of the CIJA board of directors, and Justice Thomas Cromwell was a keynote speaker for their annual legal conference while he was conducting the investigation. The connection between the donor, the investigator, and the organization involved went largely unnoticed. Reflecting on U of T’s past, it's clear that none of these decisions emerged in a vacuum. The oral histories of Diana Buttu and Dr. Takriti give substance to the feelings of anti-Palestinian hostility that we believe many individuals, students, and scholars have experienced for decades. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council, the main body which protects the rights of academic staff in Canada, has ruled against the Cromwell report. Following this series of events, CAUT has decided to censure the university until the right course of action is taken, causing events and educational opportunities at the university to come to a standstill. Nevertheless, the university has decided to resume its search for a new director of the IHRP, despite the way educational opportunities are dwindling for its own students. It opposes the CAUT censure, and does not believe the Azarova case falls under the council’s jurisdiction because the position was administrative, not academic.
by Zionist organisations. In an attempt to highlight aspects of Palestinian culture, we included Ghassan Kanafani, an influential Palestinian advocate and writer, on our “Hearing Palestine” posters. For that, we were met with polarizing labels of terrorism and antisemitism. The pervasive erasure of Palestinians, the systemic silencing of student-led organisations, and the quotidian and explicit anti-Palestinian discrimination have subjected individual students to such pressure that the permanence of any project has been impossible. Coupled with the university's lack of institutional and faculty support, U of T has time and time again reverted to the unsupportive empty space described by our Palestinian-Canadian alumni and the hostile atmosphere we all know.
have remained largely Eurocentric despite the diversity of the student body. The administration should also break up its normalised relations with Israel by limiting the extensive fellowships and exchange programs it currently has with Israeli universities. This would help sever the intimate relationship between settler colonialism and the production of knowledge rooted in silencing the past and present. Finally, we call on the administration to stop donor pressure on the hiring of faculty and its influence on the unequal distribution of donor funds for different programs and syllabi. Above all, we need to listen to Palestinian community members’ stories. Only then can we pinpoint what is to be rectified. For example, from the narratives of Diana Buttu and Dr. Abdel Razzaq Takriti, we have come to understand how faculty support can affect and enable student-led activism. So “Hearing Palestine” responds to longstanding calls to improve the university experience for Palestinians and those interested in the history of Palestine. Following the Azarova case, the bombardments of Gaza, and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from entire neighborhoods in Jerusalem and elsewhere, we hope, as students, to transform this project into a centre for the critical study of Palestine. Given the lack of institutional support for Palestinians and Palestine throughout U of T’s history, the IIS’s involvement with “Hearing Palestine” is a promising guarantor for the permanence and evolution of this project. We hope that, over time, “Hearing Palestine” will augment the existence of Palestine in academic and scholarly discourse at U of T. We call on the university to recognize the reality we present to them by meeting us in the middle and investing in a more permanent commitment to Palestine on campus. Yasmeen Atassi, Racha Ghanem, and Salwa Iqbal are affiliated with the Institute of Islamic Studies.
The importance of listening and free speech U of T should be a safe space for Palestinian students to be unapologetically Palestinian. Students, staff, and faculty — especially untenured faculty — should be able to openly speak against countries that benefit from settler colonialism without fear of retribution. We should be able to struggle against an occupying state, and we should be able to hold our administration accountable for what we feel amounts to anti-Palestinian bias. To begin with, the administration should balance the resources it allocates to the study of Palestine, which are few compared to the study of Israel. Out of the 700 programs that U of T’s three campuses offer to undergraduate students, there is only one class being taught on Palestinian history: HIS370 — Modern Palestine. In our experience, course syllabi U of T alum Diana Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian human rights lawyer and advocate. CC FLICKR
Arts & Culture
September 13, 2021 thevarsity.ca/section/arts-and-culture email@example.com
What to expect when attending TIFF 2021 The festival will include a hybrid of inperson and digital screenings this year
Will Gotlib Varsity Contributor
Early September is usually an exciting time to be a filmgoer in Toronto, but last year’s largely digital Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) did not give much of a respite from the looming stress of lockdowns and safety protocols. Now, TIFF is on its way back to its pre-pandemic scale and scope as one of the city’s premier cultural events. TIFF 2021 integrates its pre-pandemic format with some of the successes from its 2020 iteration. Most of TIFF’s regular theatres are back in service, with the addition of the enormous Ontario Place Cinesphere. However, in-person venues have reduced seating to accommodate social distancing. Audiences can also catch films at various drive-ins and “open-air” seated theatres centred around Ontario Place, whose outdoor
settings might provide a little peace of mind with regards to COVID-19. Speaking of COVID-19, TIFF requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for attendance at any in-person events. Additionally, masks are still required. Movie theatres have apparently not been sites of high COVID-19 spread over the pandemic so far; given the safety measures and full vaccination requirement, the risks of attending TIFF don't seem astronomical. Nevertheless, if you want to catch some movies while staying as safe as possible, digital screenings are available for most of the festival’s lineup. Last year’s digital platform was polished and intuitive, with solid streaming quality. Tickets for online screenings must be bought in advance and provide a four-hour window for you to complete — not just start — the film. If you watch with even one or two other people and split the price of even the most expensive
$26 premium digital ticket, home viewings become a leading option in terms of both accessibility and price. The choice to present most of the festival’s films online in parallel to their in-person screenings may have led to several highly anticipated films skipping TIFF. This list includes The Last Duel, C’mon C’mon, and Halloween Kills. Last year, TIFF had similar circumstances amid scattered pandemic release delays, with most of the ‘big’ films still feeling like second-best. Nevertheless, TIFF 2021 has a wealth of very interesting smaller titles to choose from. The festival’s biggest film is undoubtedly the newest adaptation of the classic sci-fi epic Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Last Night in Soho is also playing, a foray into horror from British director Edgar Wright. Have I gotten you excited for these screenings? Don’t hold your breath — getting tickets
How Akira influenced the course of science fiction and modern culture The 1988 animated film is underappreciated for the effect it’s had on our media Anson Sathaseevan Varsity Contributor
July 16, 1988: In an instant, a flash of light engulfs half of Tokyo. It dissipates as quickly as it came, leaving in its wake a crater stretching out over several miles that punctuates the oncebusy city core. 30 years later, Neo-Tokyo is still reeling in the aftermath of a Third World War. Tensions are high; riots are ongoing as police violently fend off student protestors angered by rising taxes and unemployment. Elsewhere, swathes of Tokyo’s neighborhoods are dilapidated, catering to the vices of the local criminal underbelly and restless cyberpunk youth biker gangs. This setting is the backdrop of Akira, a film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo and based on his 1982 manga of the same name. The story followed Shotaro Kaneda — who leads a biker gang named “The Capsules” — and his childhood friend, Tetsuo Shima. When an accident during a night out becomes a catalyst for awakening latent supernatural abilities in Tetsuo, the duo unwittingly finds themselves in the crosshairs of a corrupt and mostly incompetent government. Its story even feels relevant today — Akira also alluded to preparations for a 2020 Olympic games in Neo-Tokyo that are the subject of in-story protest and riots. Whether this was a premonition or pure coincidence, it created an unlikely parallel to this year’s summer Olympics
in Tokyo, when health experts and locals argued that the world wasn’t ready for an event while fending off an ongoing pandemic. Outside of relatively niche discussion circles and die-hard fans, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with remote knowledge of the film’s existence. However, Akira exerted a revolutionary influence on art, filmography, video games, and music. Most people are probably familiar with at least one work which drew direct inspiration from Akira. The film itself was noteworthy in part because its production was an undertaking of unprecedented ambition. More than 150,000 animation cells were painstakingly drawn for the film. They resulted in a smoothness to the film’s animations, even by today’s standards: characters and vehicles glided seamlessly through scenes and settings. Action scenes were poised, punchy, and poignant. The film’s emphasis on lighting for its visuals was also significant. From fiery chalk-white explosions to computers and dingy neon signs that bathed their surroundings in an artificial fluorescent green, Akira’s lighting techniques helped guide the characters — and, by extension, the viewers — through the patchwork of landscapes constituting Neo-Tokyo. These visual effects were complemented by the film’s superb soundtrack, which featured Indonesian gamelan and traditional Japanese noh music.
The combination of impressive visuals and music created an immersive sensory experience. Thematically, the film was far more than a science fiction story laced with elements of cyberpunk. It was densely packed, touching on subjects ranging from corruption and anarchy to the ethics of scientific research, family, and transcendence. The film’s attention to these concepts, while significant for its time, seemed to barely scratch their surface. This likely had to do with the fact that the manga was more than 2,000 pages, and had to be drastically cut to feature only major scripted events from the plot’s beginning and end. Akira has become a cornerstone of the
for them is another matter. At publication time, all screenings of Dune and Last Night in Soho are sold out, and spots are unlikely to open unless additional screenings are added. The seating limitations also make securing these highdemand tickets more difficult. Thankfully, not everything has Dune’s blockbuster level of public awareness. Here are a few recommendations of lesser-sought films to get you started! Titane features in the Midnight Madness program, which is consistently filled with insane movies — usually horror- or action-oriented — about wildly weird subjects. This one stands out for having won the Palme D’or, the highest prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. It is director Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to her 2016 film, Raw — its title alluding to cannibalism — so it’s definitely going to be a harrowing experience that probably defies being synopsized. TIFF also quietly announced the world premiere screening of a new film by Steven Soderbergh, the prolific auteur best known for his Ocean’s trilogy, shortly before ticket sales opened. No information exists on the film — not even a name — which suggests that it was made entirely in secret. Tickets have dried up for now, but keep an eye on it! In Spanish director Juanjo Giménez’s OUT OF SYNC, a film sound designer’s life is upended when her hearing falls out of step with her vision. It’s a strong enough conceit to inspire curiosity, especially given the reflexive use of film in the story. Sometimes that’s all you need! The western drama The Power of the Dog is another of the biggest premieres at TIFF 2021, helmed by acclaimed director Jane Campion and featuring a heavy-hitting cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Jesse Plemons. Cumberbatch plays a harsh rancher whose family is thrown into turmoil. It has received very positive buzz so far and, at the time of this writing, there are still tickets available for its digital screening. All in all, a partially in-person year of TIFF is an exciting way to rediscover in-person events and the energy movies bring to the city throughout the week. You’ll soon become absorbed in the hustle and bustle of the new semester — until the rush begins, why not catch some movies? science fiction genre and animation. The film represented a paradigm shift in the progression of Japanese animation, and many subsequent works emulated its revolutionary production techniques or outright paid homage to it. This influence has extended to practically every crevice of modern culture. John Gaeta, for instance, has pointed to the film as having impacted the creation of the famous bullet time sequences from The Matrix. Cyberpunk 2077, Metal Gear Solid, South Park, Stranger Things, Kill Bill, Rick and Morty, The Dark Knight, streetwear brand Supreme, Steven Spielberg, and even Kanye West have also all referenced or cited Akira as a direct inspiration. Though at first notice, Akira seems like an outdated anime, its influence is noticeable in aspects of present-day pop culture. The anime serves as a source of inspiration for artists, proving that, more than 30 years after its release, the anime’s messages are still pertinent to our times.
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Food for thought: Reclaiming a lost love of cooking in recovery Sharing pictures of my cooking means that I can have my cake and eat it too — guilt free Sky Kapoor Arts & Culture Associate Editor
Content warning: This article discusses the writer’s experiences with eating disorders. I’ve never been a picky eater. Picky eaters need to be reminded to pay attention to their plates, to quit playing a game of Operation with their meals, or be urged to try new foods. I was never like that. I never forgot about my food. After all, it was such a significant part of my life. I would watch my mom cook in the kitchen while I sat on the countertop beside her, watch cooking videos on YouTube during my free time, or carry out failed mug cake experiments in our microwave. Growing up, I never thought twice about my eating habits. I was incredibly fortunate to be raised on a sustainable balance of healthy foods — never overindulging, but never restricting. Being hyper-aware of my diet was never on my radar. I had my favourite dessert after dinner and never said no to an extra slice of cake or pizza at a party. Of course, my path into adolescence came with the eventual spiral into social media that every teenager endures. Although I have always felt strongly that I shouldn’t compare myself to others, I foolishly bought into the “wellness” trend — a trend that dangerously meshed with a very unhealthy mentality toward food. We all know the one; fitness influencers make their living convincing young women to buy into diets and fads in hopes of looking just like them. More often than not, this is nothing more than a clever guise for promoting disordered eating habits. I still never forgot about food, but this time in a terrifying way. A plate of food in front of me felt impossible, like something I could never truly conquer or escape from. I had to plan each meal thoroughly, “saving” calories for when I couldn’t get out of eating, so that I wouldn’t feel miserable about going over my limit. But there was always shame.
I became an expert at casually refusing second helpings, expertly avoiding dessert, and spitting into napkins when nobody was looking. I found subtle ways to avoid eating without being questioned: I’d offer my lunch to friends at school, or claim that I’d already eaten if we were going out. In reality, I
The thing is, a lot of people with eating disorders are still secretly foodies. The inconsolable guilt of eating is all that stops us. And, like many who choose recovery, cooking quickly became one of my loves. Reclaiming something that I had battled with for so long was truly empowering. During my recovery,
One of the desserts the author made post-recovery. SKY KAPOOR/THEVARSITY
knew that there was a marginal uncertainty to my body’s reaction to everything I ate, and that fact alone made heat creep up my neck. I was lauded by calorie-tracking apps for staying under my dangerously low calorie limit for the day. The best part was: nobody knew. It was my little secret, just between me and my screen. Physically, I appeared as though I had normal eating habits, but I suffered mentally. The physical hunger pangs in the pit of my stomach were a given with the way I had been eating, but warring hydra heads wreaked havoc upon my mind as my emotional starvation worked to scream over my physical hunger. It eventually became easy, though, to pretend like no wars raged on in my mind.
I began experimenting with new recipes and ideas, indulging in foods I had long barred myself from eating. And man, did I miss peanut butter. As quickly as it had left, my infatuation with cooking took on a new light, and I was enjoying the culinary world once again. I even started baking — something that I absolutely loved, but wouldn’t have dared to do in the past. A while after my eating habits had settled into something more sustainable, I started sending pictures of my cooking to some of my close friends. It began innocently enough — just taking pictures of my meals and telling them the recipes. However, the more I did it, I realized that it was a subconscious way to hold myself accountable for
I listened to every song on UTSC’s back-toschool playlist so you don’t have to The verdict: life would be better off without this musical mess Tanisha Agarwal Varsity Contributor
When the description of a Spotify playlist promises to get me “pumped for the new school year,” I become suspicious right away. I’ve yet to find music that could make me excited about enduring another semester of online classes from the other side of the world. But with 82 songs on UTSC’s back to school playlist, I figured it couldn’t be too hard to deliver a satisfactory musical experience. And so I hit ‘play.’ Initially, its five-hour runtime didn’t seem daunting. Then I realized that two of the first three tracks were by Doja Cat. Once I soldiered through those, I found a Justin Bieber single that’s worth mentioning only because it confirmed my belief that he peaked in 2012. It ROSALIND LIANG/THEVARSITY
was a demoralizing beginning. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning. Up next was a half hour of K-pop. Given the genre’s popularity, I have nothing against the decision to include it — and I’m not just saying that because I’m terrified of being cancelled by stans on Twitter. However, I did wonder about the proportion of K-pop to other genres in the mix — counting by the number of songs, it made up about 20 per cent of the playlist. Is this the most appropriate ratio for a general interest playlist? Are K-pop fans that plentiful, or just that loud? As I listened more, I realized that the playlist was indeed organized by genre, with the K-pop odyssey mercifully giving way to hiphop. Although there were multiple songs in this section, in my humble opinion, its sound resembled a single rhapsody on cocaine, fame, and large-denomination dollar bills. There is good rap out in the world — but with a few exceptions by Kendrick Lamar and Tyler, the Creator, this playlist wasn’t it. If you find study motivation in Baby Keem’s “ORANGE SODA,” whose memorable lyrics include, “Bitch, sit on my face, I attack that,” maybe you’ll disagree. Following this was a selection of jaunty poprock and indie tunes that could play in the film version of a young adult novel. It featured music by Fall Out Boy and All Time Low, making it my favourite part of the playlist for nostalgia-related purposes. I took away points here because it reminded me of my middle school emo phase, but it’s not like I kept score.
the food I ate, and a crucial step in my recovery. Something about sending pictures of my food to people made me feel a responsibility to eat it — after all, what if they asked how it was? While it’s tempting to blame everything bad on social media, it’s important to know that it can also inspire and influence positively. I began sharing these little food creations on my Instagram story, just for fun. I was proud of the dishes I created, and experimenting with different techniques and flavours became very cathartic for me. Eventually, I made my own separate page for cooking. While it might look like an amateur food Instagram, it means a lot to me — it means recovery. My Instagram handle, @kitchenhater, is sort of an ode to that time in my life. Now, I wouldn’t dare toss away a packed lunch, especially not one that I’ve made myself. While I still can’t forget about food, it’s now in the way that you can’t forget about something you love. Sharing my meals means that now I can have my cake and eat it too — guilt-free. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder at U of T: Visit the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) website at nedic.ca for information on how you can help them. Call the toll-free NEDIC hotline at +1-866-633-4220 anywhere in the EST timezone or at 416-340-4156 in Toronto between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm. Contact Sheena’s Place, an organization that offers support to adults with eating disorders, at sheenasplace.org, or call 416-927-8900. Speak to your physician about the Eating Disorder Program at Toronto General Hospital. The program offers treatment of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders — but not obesity or binge eating. For more information, visit the University Health Network website, or call 416-340-3041.
Near the end of this interlude was “Nowhere Left to Run” by British boy band McFly, most of which I spent reeling from the shock that people are listening to McFly in 2021. Immediately after was “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, which was an especially odd choice for a backto-school playlist, given that its lyrics allude to shooting children with a gun. The rest of the selection could only be described as a potluck that wrought absolute hell on my poor Spotify recommendations algorithm. There was the English version of yet another K-pop track, this one titled “Cat & Dog,” which I’d best describe as a furry BDSM fantasy. Lorde and The Neighbourhood were tacked on near the end, presumably to appease the indie kids. Doja Cat made a comeback, two tracks away from Andy Grammer. At one point of the selection, Burnham’s “Bezos I” came and went like a fever dream, its purpose on the playlist a mystery. Was it meant to be motivational? Were we to see ourselves as CEO and entrepreneur Jeffrey? Or was this meant to be the perfect singalong for my race to finish my paper on the pitfalls of global consumerism by 11:59 pm? I may never know. There was gold to be found in the mud, however. “California” and “Midsummer Madness” from 88rising were the two best songs on the playlist, which I’ll admit doesn’t say much. Also, I went into this bracing myself for the inevitable Ed Sheeran number, but it never appeared. Small victories. Unfortunately, a few good songs do not make a halfway decent playlist. While there was a very limited effort to include a variety of genres to appeal to diverse tastes, the overall effect was one of confusion, not harmony. The verdict: one’s library study session and TPASC workout — indeed, one’s life — would be better off without this musical mess.
ARTS & CULTURE
Libraries at U of T that can satisfy your need for dark academia When Robarts fails to provide, check out the more underrated libraries on campus Emmanuel College Library Located on the third floor of Emmanuel College, this library includes antique lighting fixtures, high windows, wooden desks, and bookshelves. The vast dome-shaped windows overlook both Victoria College campus and Queen’s Park Crescent, creating the perfect study spot. One January morning, I was reading in Emmanuel College Library and it began to snow, creating an incredibly peaceful scene that I didn’t want to leave.
Alessia Tenaglia Varsity Contributor
There’s an inherent beauty in libraries. When you’re young, libraries are a place of wonder. Trips to these spaces were interludes which you’d leave in awe. While in the library, you could have anything you desired. When entering higher education, it’s easy to lose that appreciation — but for certain users of the social media
Early morning, trying to explore more of Knox College as a curious firstyear student. ALESSIA TENAGLIA/THEVARSITY
A fall morning at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library as a first-year student, accepting that I can only visit the archives on display and cannot study here.
One of my first times studying at Emmanuel College Library, right before heading to the last of my first semester classes. It was also one of the first snowfalls of December.
application TikTok, an emerging ‘dark academia’ aesthetic has revived their love for the once curiosity-inducing spaces. Described by The New York Times as “a subculture with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing, [and] learning,” dark academia is best described as a gothic and academic blend. Devoted to all things scholarly, its followers’ aim is to transform dark academia from a trend to a functional lifestyle. As an avid book lover and an individual drawn to dark academia, it is no surprise that I’m drawn to U of T’s lesserknown libraries. For me, libraries have always been the perfect place to be productive; however, historical libraries add the additional quality of architectural uniqueness. Witnessing these spaces urged me to consider how remarkable it is that U of T has preserved them for decades and centuries. Fellow dark academia fanatics are probably already familiar with U of T’s John P. Robarts Library. Pre-pandemic, it’s been our unfailing support, coming in clutch in mastering the studyto-social-life balance — however, its architecture doesn’t fit the style the trend promotes. So what do you do when your university’s main space is anything but inspirational? With 44 libraries across U of T’s three campuses, there are alternatives that are both functional and visually appealing.
Knox College Library Knox College Library, also known as Caven Library, has dramatic windows that overlook University College and Front Campus. The stained glass windows cast a glowing light within the space which brightens the room, making it a great place for completing coursework. Since many of my classes were located on that side of campus, I enjoyed spending my time there between classes.
A morning well spent at Caven Library. It was peaceful, quiet, and bright. ALESSIA TENAGLIA/THEVARSITY
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library was established in 1973 and is located within Robarts. This library specializes in rare and important materials, such as manuscript holdings and collections from several authors, including Shakespeare. These rare finds are put on display for faculty, staff, students, and the general public. With its red carpets, tall columns, and approximately five levels of shelving holding hundreds to thousands of books, it is a mustsee for all students. When I participated in my first campus tour, I was stunned by this space because of its towering ceiling. If you’re interested in immersing yourself in dark academiaesque spaces, it’s worthwhile to explore these settings. However, these libraries are more than a passing TikTok trend — they offer us the chance to explore our campus and be productive during a busy year.
September 13, 2021 thevarsity.ca/section/science firstname.lastname@example.org
COVID-19’s worrying impact on people with Down syndrome Studies show people with Down syndrome are more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 aware of the patient’s medical history and do not want their actions to have adverse effects. At the same time, some people fear getting the right treatment because they are unaware of how it could affect them, as was the case at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia, when a COVID-19 patient with DS refused to have oxygen tubes inserted to aid with her breathing. The nurses were eventually able to comfort her and convince her to have the tubes inserted by seeking external help from the children’s musical group The Wiggles.
Simran Kaur Varsity Contributor
When the SARS-CoV-2 virus first became a threat, Canada was one of the many countries that were quick to initiate a response to the increasing number of daily COVID-19 cases, especially during the first and second waves. As the third wave began, so did the vaccine rollout. Based on the greater risk of contracting the virus within some sections of the population and the severity of the disease, some population groups were given priority over others. Although COVID-19 is a threat to everyone, whether they are vaccinated or not, it is a bigger threat to those with pre-existing diseases and disabilities. Individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) such as cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and Down syndrome (DS) face an elevated risk of contracting the virus and being hospitalized. KHATCHIG ANTEBLIAN/THEVARSITY
Increased risk of infection According to a recently published report by U of T professor Yona Lunsky, there may be substantial differences between the COVID-19 positivity rates of those with and without IDDs. Lunsky’s study found that while the positivity rate in adults with IDDs was relatively high, at about 19 per 1000 adults with IDD, the rate was even higher for those with DS at about 21 per 1000 adults. This may be because people with IDD and DS are at a disadvantage when combating the virus because they have weaker immune systems. They are also more prone to having other respiratory and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease,
and cerebral palsy, which ultimately increases the risk of intensive care unit hospitalizations and deaths. Increased risk of complications Additionally, in many individuals, DS can cause immune dysregulation, which leaves them more exposed to other diseases. After individuals with DS test positive for COVID-19, on top of the risk of having severe COVID-19 symptoms, they also have to take precautions to prevent getting other diseases. Lunsky wrote in an email to The Varsity that people with DS are “more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia, they have a unique
profile of cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary disease,” adding that these health issues put them at greater risk of respiratory infections. For people with DS, the risk doesn’t end even when they are hospitalized. Lunsky also wrote that in many instances, individuals are unable to “[describe] their own symptoms, which could delay them going to hospital.” She further explained how “health care providers less familiar with Down syndrome may also have some biases or attitudes that can impact the treatment they provide.” In many cases, doctors, and healthcare professionals fear that they would not be able to take care of a patient because they are not
Priority vaccination Vaccinations for people with DS and other IDDs were a part of the second phase of vaccinations in Ontario, which began in April of 2021. Because of their additional risks associated with contracting the virus, people with DS were put under the high-risk category of people that began to receive vaccines starting on May 6, 2021. Although the rollout was already slow, people, especially those with existing disabilities, were still hesitant to receive the vaccine because they were unaware of the side effects. To combat vaccine misinformation and encourage everyone to get vaccinated, organizations such as the Down Syndrome Association of Toronto and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society are running campaigns to advocate for prioritization of people with DS and similar IDDs. Lunsky wrote that it is also important for the university community “to include [people with DS] when [we] encourage family and friends to get vaccinated. And also to remember that protecting ourselves also protects them.”
Booster shots highlight a global disparity in vaccine distribution Efforts should be made to prioritize countries struggling to vaccinate their populations Rushil Dave Varsity Contributor
Several developed countries around the world, including the United States, Israel, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, and other European Union countries, have announced that they would like to administer booster COVID-19 shots to the general population as early as this month. Some Canadian provinces, like Ontario and British Columbia, are open to the idea of a booster shot. The world has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, and emerging evidence is suggesting that the current dosing regimen may not be sufficient to combat the dangerous Delta variant. However, these plans for booster shots have been met with immense criticism from the World Health Organization (WHO) and medical specialists around the world. The WHO’s directorgeneral, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has been urging countries who have excess supplies of the vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots to healthy individuals who are fully vaccinated until at least the end of the year and donate those vaccines to countries still struggling to vaccinate their population. Here are several reasons why administering booster shots now may cause more harm than good. Unequal distribution of doses First of all, booster shot programs would reduce supply for countries already experiencing a shortage in doses and low vaccination rates. According to statistics from Our World In Data, as of September 8, 2021, just over 41 per cent of the global population have received at least one
dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and only about two per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. In Canada, approximately 68 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while in Nigeria, that number is at a mere 0.75 per cent. What is even more surprising is that lower-income countries such as South Africa are paying over twice as much as countries in the European Union for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Implementing booster shots already in highincome countries also has the potential to produce even more dangerous variants of concern in countries with low vaccination rates. These variants could be more infectious than the Delta variant or evade immunity, resulting in a greater number of breakthrough cases. Migration from these countries to wealthier countries would result in transmission of these new variants, which would almost certainly prolong the pandemic and trigger more waves of cases. This disparity in vaccine supply between richer and poorer countries, which would be exacerbated by programs like booster shots, mirrors what has been going on in Canada. Despite the country’s high vaccination rate as a whole, a study published by Iveniuk and Leon in April 2021 found that racialized communities and low-income neighbourhoods in Toronto, which have high COVID-19 rates, also have some of the lowest vaccination rates. A failed attempt at equity These data clearly reflect a serious global vaccine inequity that needs to be addressed. There have been a number of solutions proposed
to solve this problem. One well-known one is COVAX, an initiative put in place to maintain global vaccine equity. While it has succeeded in making vaccines more accessible, there have been a host of issues with it as well, namely that it uses the population size of a country as the primary determinant of how many vaccines it should receive. This does not take into account the integrity of a country’s healthcare system, how it has been impacted by the pandemic, and other relevant factors. This could be the reason why some countries with vaccine shortages do not experience outbreaks on the same level as other countries that face the same problem, although underreported cases could also be part of the reason. Furthermore, high-income countries were the main source of funding for COVAX, which gave those countries a great deal of power over distribution. This is leading to booster shot programs among weathly countries, as they are incontrol of when and how many doses they donate. Some practical policy steps can be made to correct where COVAX went wrong. Instead of population size, vaccine allocation should largely be based on public health metrics. These include the number of new COVID-19 cases reported by a country in a given period of time, otherwise known as the incidence rate; and their health system capacity, measured by the number of available ICU beds per 1,000 people. Countries with high incidence rates and low health system capacities should be given priority. Vaccination allocation policies should also take into account countries' abilities to launch successful vaccine campaigns. There have been
Global efforts around equitable vaccine distribution have been lacking. COURTESY OF MICHAEL MARAIS/UNSPLASH
reports of lower-income countries returning doses or burning them because they were not able to distribute them before they expired. Moving forward, who should decide the process of vaccine distribution and whether booster shots should be implemented now? Should it be governments of wealthy nations, or should it be done by a unified governing body like the WHO? While there seems to be no clear answer to this question, what is certain is that to ensure equitable and efficient vaccine distribution there needs to be global cooperation regarding vaccination programs.
Reflections of a first-year science student at U of T during the COVID-19 pandemic How the pandemic affected first-years’ sleep, well-being, community
Angel Hsieh Varsity Staff
Transitioning from high school to university can be a challenging process — a process that’s made even more difficult when the transition is online. I remember daydreaming about conducting chemistry experiments in a lab coat and dissecting mouse brains, before U of T announced its decision to go completely online following the COVID-19 lockdowns. What I initially considered a great disappointment turned out to be a unique first-year experience filled with lessons of resilience, patience, and growth. As someone who’s grown from a timid high school graduate to a confident university student, here are my personal reflections on the experiences of my peers and I as first-year online life science students at U of T. A lively mind needs an active routine A decrease in physical activity was definitely one of the most distinct characteristics of my time during online school. Out of curiosity, I turned to science literature and to my peers in order to gather information on how exercise fared during the pandemic. I conducted a short survey on a cohort of 23 science students going into their second year of study, asking about their lifestyle changes during their virtual first year. Less than 10 per cent of the group reported spending more time on physical activities during the school year compared to the time they typically spent on exercise before the pandemic. More than 95 per cent of respondents indicated that they had adopted a more sedentary lifestyle over the academic year. The results of the survey seem to be in agreement with other researchers’ findings. A recent Spanish study found there was “an increase in sitting time” and a “reduction in the amount of time spent on physical activity” among university students confined to their homes. The study also mentioned that, in the long term, a sedentary lifestyle and an inactive routine can
lead to bad health outcomes and even shorten life expectancy. To sleep or not to sleep One of the major things that the lockdown and online school schedules disrupted was sleep. Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule was especially difficult for students living in various time zones around the world and tuning into synchronous lectures at late hours of the night and early hours of the morning. One of the respondents, Tehnish Paramiswaran, commented that since they were in Malaysia, they felt like they were living a “night life” because all their classes were from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am. A part of the survey asked students to summarize the quality of their sleep during online learning. The majority of respondents indicated changes in their sleep patterns, with 64 per cent finding themselves sleeping more and 27 per cent noticing a decrease in their sleep times. Only two people reporting no change in their sleep schedules. These results are in accordance with a study conducted in Italy on the impact of COVID-19 on the sleep quality of university students and staff. Researchers observed “poor quality of sleep and poor sleep hygiene during COVID-19 lockdown” in both students and staff, although the impact was worse on students. In addition, the study noted that alongside disrupted sleep, the lockdown caused more emotional distress in students than in university staff. This observation is reflected in the responses of my fellow students. One respondent, Xinyue Zhu, wrote in an email, “While I had previously imagined first year to be filled with opportunities of meeting new friends and enjoying my independence away from home, my first year was instead full of confusion, anxiety, and isolation from my peers.” I also experienced feelings of loneliness and doubt during my supposedly fun-filled first year. Regardless, I realized the significance of maintaining my wellness — both physical and mental — in order to
academic success. Pulling all-nighters, overconsumption of coffee, and staring at screens all day may be useful in lastminute final preparations, but these practices are detrimental to individual well-being in the long term. Finding a sense of community The thriving academic community that I envisioned was more threedimensional than the one I experienced. Friendly conversations on a flat laptop screen with people over
Zoom simply could not replace the depth of in-person connection. I could sense a kind of intrinsic barrier for human interaction in the online learning space. My feelings were further confirmed by Theodora Tang, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, who wrote in an email about their first-year experience, saying that the solidarity they had with their peers could not be replicated over an internet connection. Despite the difficulty of engaging in discussions with my classmates, I challenged myself to unmute my microphone and turn on my camera during breakout discussions in online classes. On some occasions, I was the only one talking for the duration of the discussion. I soon realized that many of my classmates were simply waiting for someone to speak first before they would unmute themselves and join the conversation. The same situation occurred in study groups and group project meetings. I was often amazed by the insight and critical thinking skills of my peers. Although developing good individual study skills is important, I discovered that many precious learning opportunities come from teamwork. Online tutorials and practicals may sound unappealing — I thought so myself — but the small class sizes offered a chance to pose questions to my TAs and develop communication skills in a wide variety of subjects. A sense of community — or the closest manifestation of it — can arise from
taking the initiative to press that unmute button. To all the online instructors I’ve met so far It is funny to remember times when I imagined university professors as stern and prim scholars who cared about nothing but their research. I am very grateful and indebted to all the instructors who proved me wrong. I spoke with Professor Mayes-Tang from the Department of Mathematics, who shared her perspective on online teaching during the pandemic. Not only did the pedagogical and technical aspects of planning online classes have to undergo intensive makeovers, but instructors were also having a hard time fostering connections with students. Mayes-Tang noted that there was an absence of social interactions in the classroom, which affected students and professors alike. “The vast majority of faculty do care and we all show it in different ways, but it’s difficult for everyone,” she said. I was particularly touched by the determination, care, and effort that every instructor and faculty member dedicated to teaching over the course of the pandemic. I could feel the dedication of my instructors to impart knowledge and make a meaningful difference in my monumental transition from secondary to university education. Looking ahead To study science is to take part in the self-correcting process of finding evidence to support the explanations of phenomena in the physical world. There would be no breakthroughs by conforming to the status quo of research. The enchantment of science, to me, lies in the inconceivable possibilities waiting to be discovered. If you asked me to give advice to incoming students as a survivor of online university, I would say: never forget your passion for learning, persist through your struggles, and resist the temptation of that extra shot of espresso.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
“Face-to-face interaction”: Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering holds first in-person course since March 2020 Two-week field course shortened to one week with other COVID-19 safety measures
Professor Jennifer Drake instructing student on how to set up a weather station.
“There is going to be a big mental shift for people…. How do you learn? I think that's the key,” said Yip. “Everybody’s gonna learn how to learn.” When asked about the faculty’s plan about returning to campus in the fall semester, Yip said he is confident in the faculty’s ability to manage the in-person semester. He noted that numerous COVID-19 protocols have been in place for a long time, including enhanced cleaning, mask mandates, and capacity limits. “I think, you know, the faculties are prepared, the staff are prepared. We think students are keen to come back,” said Yip. Yip acknowledged that there are things that the faculty is unable to control, and that preparing to deal with unexpected situations is critical. He recalled a year ago when the faculty shifted online over one weekend after a global pandemic was declared. “All sorts of stuff can happen. And so you have to be prepared to deal with perturbations that show up,” said Yip.
Cedric Jiang Associate News Editor
During the week of August 14, the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering (FASE) held their first in-person course since March 13, 2020. The course, CME358 — Civil and Mineral Practicals, also known as CAMP, was held at U of T’s Survey Camp near Minden, ON after having been cancelled last year due to the pandemic. The faculty decided that alternative delivery methods are not feasible for the course because of its field-based nature. CAMP is a graduation requirement for both civil and mineral engineering students. CAMP is normally offered in August with the option of two consecutive two-week sessions. This year’s sessions were halved to one week each because of COVID-19 risk, and there were three sessions scheduled because of each session’s lowered student capacity. Students who need to take CAMP to graduate in June 2022 were given priority to register this year. Remaining spots were offered to incoming third-year students on a first-comefirst-served basis. COVID-19 precautions Organizers took numerous
Vidale said that having hands-on experience and actually seeing the processes and calculations unfold can be very helpful. “When you’re in a classroom, it’s easy to lose sight of exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that’s never the case when you’re physically seeing the process,” he said. Vidale also mentioned that the teaching team delivered material gradually, given students are back in person for the first time and because of the complexity of field-based knowledge. “They’ve done a great job of explaining things at the level that we can understand… not only because it’s the first time back, but because of the topics that we’re doing,” he said. Joseph Kamangu, a third-year civil engineering student, agreed that in-person classes like CAMP facilitated learning better than online ones by allowing more “face-to-face interaction.” He added that the course also allows students to develop hands-on practical skills, something he considers essential for engineers.
campsite before interacting with others if they arrived individually. “The department and all the [professors] that are running this camp have put in a lot of work to make sure they're following current protocols and make sure that everything is going as safely as they can, while still giving you guys a good learning experience,” said Felicia Liu, one of the teaching assistants of CAMP. Group activities were divided into cohorts of three to four students, and students were expected to work in the same cohort for most course activities. Masks were worn at all times except when eating and sleeping, and N95 masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes were supplied to students. A tent was used for outdoor dining and some classes in order to maintain social distancing and to improve air circulation. Student capacity in the living space was also reduced, with three to four students of the same cohort occupying each bunkhouse room designed to accommodate 16 people. “Everything is really taken care of for you,” said Desmond Hutchinson, a fourth-year civil engineering student, about the COVID-19 measures on the campsite.
Dean Christopher Yip discussing in-person learning and expectations for the fall term. CEDRIC JIANG/THEVARSITY
measures to ensure attendees’ health and safety, given the ongoing global pandemic and the risk presented by the fourth wave. All attendees were required to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to register for the course. Students were also required to take a COVID-19 rapid test before boarding the bus departing from UTSG, oro t take the test on the
In-person learning experience “It’s just better to be able to experience things in person,” said Matthew Vidale, a civil engineering undergraduate student currently in the Professional Experience Year Co-op Program. He added, “it’s hard to really convey a question you have and what confusion you’re having [online].”
Professor Jennifer Drake demonstrating how to use a lake surveyor. CEDRIC JIANG/THEVARSITY
“I am very much looking forward to getting back on campus,” said Kamangu when asked about how the experience at CAMP made him feel about returning to campus in the fall.
He said coming back may present more challenges as more variables are out of the faculty’s control. “This isn’t like a room had a fire, and you fix a room,” said Yip. “This is a situation where the timelines and current durations and
Professor Evan Bentz giving a tour of an old bunkhouse. CEDRIC JIANG/THEVARSITY
“A big shift” Christopher Yip, dean of the FASE, said it is critical to get back to in-person activities, as people, even if they’re used to it, are tired of doing things online. “I think one of the key things for this, at some level, is getting people used to doing stuff in person again. I think that's probably the most important thing,” said Yip.
parameters that affect how well something comes back are just constantly changing.” Still, Yip is optimistic about an in-person fall at U of T Engineering, saying the community is ready and excited to welcome everyone back. “We are all looking forward to seeing everybody come back. We want to make sure that the fall is as smooth as possible,” said Yip.
September 13, 2021 thevarsity.ca/section/sports email@example.com
Devajyoti Chakraborty Varsity Contributor
After a year away from competitive sports, we are all excited to see Varsity Blues athletes return to competitions this year. Sports have a unique ability to bring people together, and it will be nice to cheer on our fellow athletes from the stands again. Fans and athletes are awaiting the Varsity Blues’ return to the field, the court, the ice, and more this season. Recently, The Varsity talked to Andrea Kuntjoro, a Varsity athlete in the third year of her undergraduate degree who plays for the women’s tennis team, about how she felt about returning to competition in the upcoming academic year, as well as other parts of her daily life as an athlete. After such a long absence, it’s clear that Kuntjoro is ready to compete. The Varsity wishes her all the best in the upcoming season.
Athlete Profile: Andrea Kuntjoro Andrea Kuntjoro is ready to return to the court for Varsity Blues tennis
The Varsity: How are you feeling about playing competitively over the next year? Andrea Kuntjoro: I’m feeling slightly nervous as I have been away from people for so long. But I am also really excited to be competing in the nationals, which was supposed to happen during my first year. Overall, I’m really excited just to see everyone and start training again.
Discussing a return to competitions and more with a women’s tennis athlete. COURTESY OF VARSITY BLUES
Mental Moment: Box breathing How this deep breathing exercise can help you relax Jake Rogers Varsity Contributor
As COVID-19 public health restrictions begin to ease in Ontario, more people have begun to return to activities which have not been possible since March 2020. It’s reasonable to struggle with anxiety brought on by travel, social engagement, and a return to the office or the classroom. While the rigors of lockdown have already forced people to develop coping mechanisms for anxiety, adding to one’s list of wellness exercises can never hurt. A personal favourite of mine is box breathing — a deep breathing exercise which consists
of inhaling, pausing, exhaling, and then pausing again in intervals of four seconds. This recentering technique can combat the body’s fight or flight mechanism. The true effectiveness of this technique is found not only in the immediate stress relief it provides, but in its ability to improve one’s mood and its long-term effects, such as chronic stress and anxiety relief. While mental wellness activities such as yoga are effective, they can sometimes require extra equipment, such as yoga mats, and one may not have the time or space they require at any given moment. On the other hand, box breathing can be done anywhere, anytime —
Canada made the bet of a century. How will it play out?
JESSICA LAM/ THEVARSITY
A re-evaluation of single-game sports betting Mekhi Quarshie Varsity Contributor
On June 29, the Canadian federal government passed Bill C-218, thereby legalizing singlegame sports betting. Single-game sports betting essentially means placing a bet on the outcome of a single sporting event, such as a basketball game or a tennis match. This specific type of betting had been banned in Canada for a century under the Canadian Criminal Code in order to avoid match fixing.
Its sudden resurgence begs the question: was banning sports betting a bad idea in the first place? Or is the federal government now placing a bet with time, money, and community well-being on the line? Single-game sports betting has been illegal in Canada since the Criminal Code was enacted in 1892. Prior to Bill C-218, in order to place bets on sporting events, you had to bet on the outcome of at least two games and get all of your predictions correct in order to win — also known as a parlay.
TV: What is the typical day of a student athlete at U of T? AK: All of our matches take place over the weekend. For our usual match day, we are although it is more effective in a quiet place. If you’d like to use this technique, try these tips: keeping both feet firmly on the ground, breathe in through your nose and inhale for a slow count of four seconds. Hold your breath for another four seconds, before exhaling slowly for four seconds, and repeat these steps until you feel relaxed. Even if you do not require immediate stress relief on any given day, fully ingraining the mechanisms of this technique into your everyday routine could be beneficial for the moments when you find yourself feeling anxious. Box breathing is just one of several variations of deep breathing that you can employ subtly and effectively, and it has proven to be incredibly impactful in my day-to-day life. If it does not work for you, you can always try other variations that may be more suited for your needs. However, over time, closing the door on single-game sports betting has opened a door full of other opportunities. While Canadians couldn’t bet on single games domestically, illegal and offshore methods were still on the table. That means anytime you were to bet on the Blue Jays, the Raptors, or the Leafs — my condolences if you bet on the Leafs — you were doing so illegally. Recently, the Canadian Gaming Society reported that Canadians spend $14 billion a year betting on offshore sites. That number proves that there has always been a verifiable interest in single-game sports betting — there has just not always been a legal way to do it. While C-218 was passed in June, the law only came into effect on August 27. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission (OLG) moved quickly to regulate the industry — their online sports betting platform, PROLINE+, is currently the only legal online sports betting app in Ontario. On September 1, the OLG announced that it processed $1 million in bets after less than a week of operation. According to OLG’s website, almost 75 per cent of wagers accepted on Tuesday were on single games. The unprecedented participation is positive for the Canadian economy and Canadians’ well-being, because all the proceeds from PROLINE+ go toward provincial priorities that improve life for all Ontarians.
away from campus for the entire day as we play either in a different city or at UTSC. I remember that I wouldn’t really go out on Friday nights as much, because I knew I would have a long day on Saturday, so I would get up at 7:30 am, and sometimes I would get home at 10:30 pm. So they were really long days, and that meant I had to study a lot during the week. That made it stressful, but it made me better at time management. TV: What is the atmosphere like on the tennis team with fellow athletes and coaches? AK: I think the environment on my team is really good; everyone is really supportive, and everyone just watches each other and cheers everyone on. It’s so much fun, because even though the girls and boys are technically on separate teams, we’re all really supportive of one another and we became super close during my first year. So I’m really excited to see everyone. TV: Would you be able to describe some highlights from your first season with the team? AK: The highlight I can think of was competing in the Ontario University Athletics tournament and trying to qualify for the nationals. Our women’s team had not qualified for many years and we always used to lose to Western. It was super tight, it was like a tie break. Everyone was watching. We ended up winning, but it could have gone both ways because it was so close. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Box breathing is an exceptional addition to your wellness toolkit. JESSIE YANG/THEVARSITY
The OLG also has a Playsmart program that educates its users about safe gambling. The commission has taken a pastime that is usually frowned upon and has indirectly used it to better the quality of life of many Canadians, whether through the excitement of winning a bet or by improving community living. Moreover, sports betting has the chance of increasing the popularity of our national sports as well. Sports betting journalist Geoff Zochodne explained on Sportsnet that the Canadian Football League (CFL) could benefit greatly from the addition of single-game sports betting in terms of fan interest and revenue. With regard to the CFL’s popularity, the CFL averaged around 155,000 viewers per game in 2019, while the rival NFL had about 16.5 million in the same year. If sports betting could provide a little boost to the CFL’s popularity, it would be great for fans, Canadian athletes, and coaches alike. Even with these promising results, the risks of gambling are still as clear as ever. The Canadian Community Health Survey revealed that two per cent of Canadian citizens 15 years or older have gambling problems. While this number might seem relatively low, it’s the fear that it will increase that’s concerning. When it comes to sports betting, one could say that we are rolling the dice and hoping for the best outcome. However, given this latest news from OLG, the odds might be in our favour.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
only in sport and strength and conditioning. For students who are hunched over several screens at a desk or on their phones for hours on end, foam rolling can also provide relief from back pain and general muscle tightness, and it can be done at any point in the day.
hinder athletic performance is critical and it supports the prevention of injuries. Another study evaluated the effects of foam rolling before and after exercise. Results demonstrated that rolling before exercise allowed for improved sprint performance and flexibility. Rolling after a workout, on the other hand, limited the workout’s effects on future sprint and strength performance, and also reduced muscle pain. Ultimately, foam rolling can be used to warm up, cool down, or it can be used on its own to reduce muscle pain and improve recovery from exercise — it truly is a great part of your exercise tool kit, no matter where you fit it in. Foam rollers need not be a tool used
Foam rolling practices For improved performance and recovery, it is necessary to be consistent with these practices while also maintaining good habits related to diet, sleep, hydration, and so on. Here are some tips on how to incorporate foam rolling into a warm up or cool down. Try to roll for 30 seconds in each position mentioned below, and work on focused spots of tight muscles: Calves: Sit upright with your legs extended and the foam roller under one or both calves. In this seated position, lift yourself up with your hands so that your weight rests on your calves on top of the roller, and roll up and down your calves. Hamstrings: Sit in the same position you use for rolling out your calves, but place the roller under one or both hamstrings. Lift yourself up with your hands, and roll up and down your hamstrings from the back of your knees toward your glutes. Quads: Put yourself in a plank position on your forearms and place the roller under one or both quads while bracing your core. Roll down the roller until it is just above your knees, and then roll in the other direction toward your hip flexors. Upper Back: Lie on your back with the roller under the shoulder blades. Bending the knees and bracing your core, lift your hips up so that the back presses into the foam roller. Roll up and down between your shoulders and mid-back. Lats: Lie on your side with the roller under your lat — it should be slightly below the armpit. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and press your hips up to roll from your armpit down toward your mid-back, and then repeat. Whether you’re a speedster on the track or on the keyboard at the office, a foam roller can have benefits for you. Try incorporating it into your routine however you can, whether it’s before or after a workout or after a long day at work. You deserve to treat yourself! Happy rolling!
At the end of the day, how you spend your rest day is entirely up to you. Whether you’re sleeping in, biking, or stretching, you should
use it as a day to reset your mind and body so that you can come back from it even stronger.
How to use foam rollers, and what they can do for you Using foam rollers can increase blood flow, reduce inflammation KRISTAL MENGUC/THEVARSITY
Robyn Loves Varsity Contributor
Foam rolling has become common practice for athletes. Labelled as a form of “self-massage” — albeit one that’s often more painful than a typical massage — foam rolling is intended to treat or prevent muscle tightness and soreness from exercise and day-to-day strain. However, you don’t need to be an athlete to use a foam roller as a part of your exercise routine — they have benefits for everybody! The benefits Foam rollers are often available at the gym or can be purchased in sporting goods stores.
Different rollers are available with different firmness, sizes, and textures that may help target deeper layers of muscle. A foam roller used by placing one’s body weight on it to put pressure on a targeted group of muscles. Rolling up and down across the foam roller is supposed to reduce inflammation, increase blood flow, and reduce tissue tension in the muscles to improve recovery and performance. Research related to how foam rolling can impact athletic performance and recovery is limited. One study demonstrated that foam rolling reduced pain in the quadriceps and improved recovery in the days after exercise. Reducing pain and other factors which may
What is the best rest day routine? How to maximize your gains outside of the gym John Fitzpatrick Varsity Contributor
Rest days are an important part of any exercise routine. While some may think rest is the way of the slacker, it is quite the opposite. For people who exercise regularly, rest days can be critical for repairing damaged muscles, preventing injury, and improving performance. This brings up an important question: what is the best routine for a rest day? Use your rest day as a chance to hit snooze Sleep is critical to athletic performance. Roger Federer sleeps 12 hours a night, Usain Bolt gets 10, and most NBA players report scheduling naps on game days. Sleep is the time when your body repairs cells and tissues that have been broken down during your exercise and releases hormones to help the immune system fight off infections. This means that you don’t have to miss more training days. Conversely, a lack of sleep is associated with decreased stamina, slower reaction times, and poorer cognitive performance. Use your rest day as an opportunity to sleep in, hit the hay early, or squeeze in a nap so that you are reset and recharged for the rest of the week. Rest days do not have to be exclusively for lounging While you should attempt to take a break from your usual activities on rest days, less
strenuous exercise can be optimal for an active recovery and can help the tissues absorb blood lactate. Such exercise can include an easy bike ride, a walk in nature, a swim to help take pressure off your joints, and more! Yoga in particular can be a great rest day activity, as it develops body awareness, improves mobility, loosens tight muscles, and calms the mind. Even if you can’t bring yourself to fully depart from your usual routine, a change in intensity can suffice for rest. Personally, when I used to run competitively, my rest day would include a short, effortless jog for 25 minutes with some stretching and foam rolling. Compared to the 60- to 90-minute-long runs or interval training I was used to doing, this was enough to keep my body feeling refreshed week after week. Maintain proper nutrition As previously mentioned, your rest days are a chance for your body to focus on rebuilding and repairing tissues, which means they need the proper fuel to do so. During your rest day, use the extra time you get from skipping the gym to put an emphasis on eating well. If you’re strength training or performing exercises that are lower in intensity, your carbohydrate to protein ratio should be two to one. A three to one ratio is good for athletes that do more cardio. You should aim for well-rounded meals on a rest day. Besides protein for muscle repair, you also need omega-3 fats to reduce inflammation and carbohydrates for energy.
SEPTEMBER 13, 2021
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