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October 4, 2021

THE VARSITY The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

Vol. CXLII, No. 5


Student Commons...

International students face fraud and phising scams

Comment Open letter for overdose response training at U of T


...almost there

The false advertising of a university degree













A look inside the ROM’s Great Whales exhibit

Unfinished Student Commons opens as study space Capacity limited to 355 students at a time Marta Anielska Deputy News Editor

Fourteen years after the project was first approved, the unfinished University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Student Commons is opening as a study space for students as of October 4. Though the building will not be completely renovated until September 2022 and many of the services planned for it are not yet offered, the UTSU hopes that the Student Commons will provide students with a space on campus this year. Services offered In an email to The Varsity, the UTSU’s VicePresident Operations Fiona Reuter wrote

that she considers the Student Commons “a physical representation of how [the UTSU is] growing in [its] capacity to serve students.” The building’s partial opening will provide students with several floors of seating space and meeting places to relax and study. For now, the commons’ capacity will be limited to 355 students, or 25 per cent of its full capacity. Masking and physical distancing will also be required. As the building is renovated to accommodate the needs of each service, the commons will also introduce a café, a welcome desk, and a variety of planned activities, as well as financial and wellness services. These services will include a collaboration with RBC On Campus to host financial literacy workshops. The centre will be entirely staffed by the

UTSU’s staff and students employed by the UTSU. The UTSU’s executive offices, which are currently located at Hart House Circle, will eventually be moved into the commons. For the building’s opening week, the UTSU hopes to collaborate with big businesses to run events. Connecting students to their campus In light of the shortage of student spaces on campus, the UTSU hopes that opening the commons will provide students with a place to spend their time. Reuter added that U of T’s size can sometimes feel overwhelming, and that it can consequently be difficult for students to feel connected to campus. “We hope the Student Commons will serve as a space for all students to feel welcome and engaged with student life at [U of T],” Reuter elaborated. She added that, given that the project has been in progress for so long, she’s grateful for all the work that past UTSU teams have done. She hopes students will like the final product the union has created.

Science What that study break coffee does to your brain

Sports Reviewing sports accessibility at U of T



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MASTHEAD Hannah Carty Editor-in-Chief

Aditi Putcha Creative Director

Someone brings up the MSA letter

“Call the question”


Someone forgets to unmute

Mention of the CFS

Mention of any non-MSA open letter

The meeting loses quorum before it’s over

Closed captioning is very incorrect

Mention of the bylaws

Former UTSU executives present

Mention of samosas (and/ or lack thereof)

Discussion of vaccinations

Tahmeed Shafiq Managing Editor

Stephanie Bai Managing Online Editor

Sarah Kronenfeld Senior Copy Editor

Lauren Alexander News Editor

Maya Morriswala Comment Editor

Sarah Folk Business & Labour Editor

Speaker cuts out

Mention of the Student Commons

The meeting starts late due to lack of quorum

Mention of the Same Degree, Same Fee campaign

Someone mentions OVO

Hands remain raised after a vote is over

Executives accused of being ineffective

Someone motions to amend a motion

“Can we get a seconder”

Mention of Green Shield

Jadine Ngan Features Editor

Alexa DiFrancesco Arts & Culture Editor

Khatchig Anteblian Science Editor

Angad Deol Sports Editor

William Xiao Design Editor


Makena Mwenda Design Editor

Caroline Bellamy Photo Editor

Andrea Zhao Illustration Editor

Abigail Dollries Video Editor

Aaron Hong Front End Web Developer

Andrew Hong Back End Web Developer

Nawa Tahir Deputy Senior Copy Editor Marta Anielska Deputy News Editor

Lexey Burns UTM Bureau Chief

Maheen Zulfiqar UTSC Bureau Chief

Padraic Berting Graduate Bureau Chief

Vacant Public Editor

The Varsity Mention of the tweets a UMLAP correction

Vacant Associate Senior Copy Editor Cedric Jiang Associate News Edtior

Shernise Mohammed-Ali Associate Comment Editor Alyanna Denise Chua Associate Features Editor Sky Kapoor Associate A&C Editor Angel Hsieh Associate Science Editor

Mekhi Quarshie Associate Sports Editor Janhavi Agarwal, Ana Pereira Associate B&L Editors Vacant Associate Design Editor Vacant Associate Illo Editor Vacant Associate Photo Editor

Lead Copy Editors Mona Liu, Safiya Patel, Grace Xu, Cherry Zhang Copy Editors Talha Anwar Chaudhry, Emily Burns, Linda Chen, Elise Cressatti, Lake, Oeishi Mukherjee, Kiri Stockwood, Yan Xu, Em Yu

BUSINESS OFFICE Parmis Mehdiyar Business Manager

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Ishir Wadwha Advertising Executive Mansi Premkumar Advertising Executive The Varsity is the University of Toronto’s largest student newspaper, publishing since 1880. It is printed by Master Web Inc. on recycled newsprint stock. Content © 2021 by The Varsity. All rights reserved. Any editorial inquiries and/or letters should be directed to the sections associated with them; emails listed above. The Varsity reserves the right to edit all submissions. Inquiries regarding ad sales can be made to ads@thevarsity. ca. ISSN: 0042-2789

UTGSU to hold town hall consultations on restructuring proposal Applied Psychology and Human Development Association formally joins UTGSU Padraic Berting Graduate Bureau Chief

The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) General Council met virtually on September 28. The board discussed progress on the union’s ongoing restructuring. The union is planning to hold a town hall to consult with graduate students about the restructuring proposal on October 14. The board also approved a request from the Applied Psychology and Human Development Association (APHDA) to formally join the UTGSU as a course union, and discussed the upcoming appointment of a new executiveat-large. Board restructuring updates At the July meeting, members of the executive committee proposed a dramatic restructuring of its board and executives, as well as

amendments to its bylaws. The motivation behind these changes is to make the union conform to the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. Internal Commissioner Sarah Alam said that the union is planning a town hall consultation session on October 14 to go over the details of the restructuring and get feedback from graduate students on the plan. In an interview with The Varsity, External Commissioner Justin Patrick encouraged members to attend this general meeting. He made a note of the UTGSU’s historical tendency for low engagement, as their voter turnout in the last election cycle was the lowest at U of T. In the spring elections, only 4.5 per cent of potential voters actually voted. Approvals and executive-at-large election The council also voted to recognize the APHDA’s request to formally join the UTGSU

The UTGSU building.


as a course union, as a division of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. This gives the association the ability to vote in meetings and request head grants. Lastly, the council held conversations about the upcoming appointment of a new executive-at-large appointment, which will occur at the next General Council meeting in October. The executive-at-large is tasked with assisting other members of the executive committee in working on campaigns and various events during the year. Any members of the council can run for executive-at-large.

OCTOBER 4, 2021


The UTSU building.


UTSU September meeting: Fall by-election, upcoming events Former vice-president, public & university affairs explains resignation Joy Chan Varsity Contributor

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its fifth Board of Directors meeting on September 26. The board heard discussions on the upcoming fall by-elections, which will include electing a new vice-president, public & university affairs (VP PUA), as well as planning for upcoming events and vaccination pop-ups. Vacancies and appointments Directors heard updates on the upcoming UTSU fall by-elections, which will be open for voting from October 16–18. In the by-elections, students will elect the next VP PUA, following the resignation of the former VP PUA Catherine Lai. Lai explained her decision to resign at the meeting, saying that health issues had led to her resignation. “When I took office five months ago, I pictured myself saying farewell here eight months down the line and maybe [in] 2022, and so it really, really, really saddens me to be having to do this year just as a school year

started,” said Lai. The board voted to accept her resignation during the meeting. Alexa Ballis, the UTSU president, revealed that the final selection of members for the First Year Council was made in the morning of the meeting, and that candidates would be informed of the results that evening. Currently, all colleges and first entry programs are represented on the council, which Ballis highlighted as being “really exciting.”

system works well for students at the law faculty, in that it has problems,” said Mancuso. They said that this criticism “is something that [they] should have been more attentive to,” but noted that not much can be done at this point, considering that the letter has already been published. They added that program-specific student governance organizations should be consulted in the future if the UTSU chooses to endorse something within their programs.

UTSU open letter Sterling Mancuso, the UTSU law director, brought up a recent open letter from the UTSU calling for greater accessibility during the fall semester. They shared that the law society had criticised the portion of the letter suggesting that the university adopt an accommodation system that is similar to the accommodation system used at the Faculty of Law. “It was pointed out to me that [the letter] sort of implies that we endorse the accommodation system of the law faculty or that we think it’s well done, and people reached out to me say that they don’t think that the accommodation

Inclusivity for commuters During the meeting’s question period, Halit Erdogan, a commuter student, brought to light concerns from commuter students about their ability to attend online programming — including online tutorials or lectures. “With the return of the in-person classes, commuter students have expressed that they [have been] facing difficulties in finding commuter-friendly spaces where they can attend online events,” they said. Ballis responded that the UTSU will be opening the Student Commons on October 4, and that the second and fifth floors of

the Commons will be open specifically for commuter students. Ballis shared that while not all available services will be made ready by October 4, the lunch and study areas of the building will be open. Upcoming events for students Reva Aggarwal, vice-president equity, shared information about the broad range of student events coming up in October. The UTSU will promote its calendar of events, including sign-up links, on its social media. Highlights in October include the Jewish Student Alliance’s holocaust survivor talk from 6:00–7:00 pm on October 7, a youth policy forum about the Rohingya refugee crisis on October 23, and an event for the Syrian Refugee Program held on the same day. Over the next few weeks, students can also expect to see vaccination clinic pop-ups on campus, which the UTSU is setting up in coordination with Rexall. The UTSU will hold their Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 8 from 5:00–9:00 pm. Vice-President Operations Fiona Reuter described the AGM as “probably the most important legal event that we host every year.”

UTMSU board discusses new bursaries, programs available Union discusses recently launched Whisk program Lexey Burns UTM Bureau Chief

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) held its first Board of Directors meeting of the academic year on September 24. Executives went over what they had been working on over the past month, as well as a number of new programs, including the Whisk Program, new bursaries, and a new free breakfast program. The UTMSU will also be holding its fall by-

election between September 27 and October 7, and students will be able to vote from October 5–7. Initiatives around campus Vice-President Campus Life Tarwah Afra provided the board with a recap of UTM’s fall orientation, which was held in a hybrid format and reached over 1,000 first-year students. Afra noted the success of the UTMSU’s SaugaFest event, which gave campus groups the chance to build in-person connections with students walking around campus. Moreover, Ryan Tomlinson, the UTMSU’s vice-president equity, provided an update on the first event of UTM’s Queer Orientation. According to Tomlinson, the event was well attended and more such events are being planned. Vice-President External Maëlis Barre spoke about the Whisk Program in their report. The Whisk Program is designed to help refugee students book COVID-19 vaccine appointments, help them receive a Social Identification Number, and provide them with other logistical supports. Furthermore, Barre discussed the recent federal election. They said that the union had helped students with voting, as it knew that the process was complicated, and stressed that it was important to encourage students to vote.

New bursaries and programs During his report, Tomlinson went over the various fall 2021 bursaries and grants that the UTMSU has lined up. This includes a needsbased bursary, an international students bursary, and a childcare bursary, all of which have applications due on October 15. “We are also implementing the racialized community involvement grant,” Tomlinson said. “[It’s] going to be coming out very soon, [so the] folks who do amazing work in racialized communities… also get rewarded for the work they do.” Furthermore, the union discussed a range of new services, including the International Students Round Table; the launch of UTMSU Health and Wellness; and the Mental Health Peer Support program. The UTMSU Health and Wellness program will provide students with virtual programming for physical and mental health, and it will rent out “duffel bag goodies” so students can work out without having to head to the gym. The peer support program will allow students to book appointments with peer support workers. President Mitra Yakubi also re-introduced Free Breakfast Wednesdays, which will now serve 100 students — as opposed to the prepandemic level of 400 students — so as to not overfill the presentation room. Through the program, students can get free breakfast on Wednesdays every two weeks. Yakubi added

that there’s now an extra need to sanitize the space and install plexi glass and hand sanitizer dispensers. Textbook exchange program The union also recently announced the launching of a textbook exchange program. The service allows students to exchange their old textbooks for new ones from other students. Students can also drop off their textbooks in person as long as they fill out a form beforehand to let staff know they’re coming in. Moreover, the union accepts textbooks that aren’t currently being used.




Review of Campus Safety role in student mental health crises ongoing during fall 2021 Panel seeks to understand Campus Safety procedures Jessie Schwalb Varsity Contributor

Following recommendations from the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Mental Health in 2019, U of T created a 10-member panel to undertake an inquiry into the role that campus policing and safety play in student mental health incidents. Spanning U of T’s three campuses, the review hopes to assess the mental health crisis response procedures and training of the Campus Safety Special Constable Service — formerly the Campus Police — as well as broader mental health supports. The review is currently underway and is accepting advice and information through an anonymized online consultation form, which is currently open. According to a U of T spokesperson, the panel expects to finish the review by late fall. Background The review comes in response to a report about student mental health that was completed in December 2019. The report criticized the university’s lack of after-hours mental health services, which the report’s creators noticed “results in police involvement when it might otherwise not be required.” Additionally, the report examined the controversial history of handcuffing students undergoing mental health crises — a topic high-

lighted by an incident in 2019 where Campus Safety handcuffed a student taken to a hospital during a mental health crisis. The report questioned whether Campus Safety is the correct service to transport students in these crises. The review aims to investigate the problems set out by the original report while answering a number of other wide-reaching concerns. The panel will look into whether Campus Safety Special Constables receive adequate training on de-escalation and how mental health issues interact with the experiences of minoritized students. It will also review which policies governing interactions between students in crisis and campus police require change, whether campus police get enough support for their own mental well-being, and if there are better alternatives for dealing with mental health crises than Campus Safety. The review will look at pilot programs designed to help students in these situations.

that there is not enough student representation on the review panel. “In addition to being

Concerns from student groups A number of student unions have voiced concerns about policing on campus. The University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) has been working on a larger Police Off Campus campaign, asking the university to divert funds away from Campus Safety to other campus programs. In an email to The Varsity, Justin Patrick, external commissioner for the UTGSU, wrote

Campus Safety vehicle.


UAB meeting reports 5,860 students have used U of T quarantine program since August 2020 Administrators give updates on return to campus, diversity initiatives

Lauren Alexander News Editor

The University Affairs Board (UAB) met on September 27 to hear updates on the return to campus, as well as to hear presentations on diversity and Indigenous-centric initiatives. The board also voted in favour of amendments to the University College Literary and Athletic Society’s (UC Lit) constitution. According to the amendments document, some older student societies require approval

Simcoe Hall.


from their membership as well as from the UAB if they want to make constitutional changes. The amendments were approved by the UC Lit during its Annual General Meeting on March 18. Returning to campus Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh gave a report on the ongoing return to on-campus learning. She went over the measures the

involved in consultation processes, campus students’ unions should be directly involved in writing the report as well since they represent students’ collective voice,” he added. “[The report] needs to call for tangible systemic and structural change. Without such changes, the Campus Safety rebrand will likely do little to change the relationship between Campus Safety and the U of T community,” wrote Patrick.

university has taken to make campus safer for in-person activities, including increased ventilation and a vaccination mandate. She also talked about the university’s quarantine program, which was started in fall of 2020 to help students quarantine before they arrive. According to Welsh, a total of 5,860 students have used the quarantine program since August 2020, including 2,738 that have participated since July 2021. “In-person activity is crucial to effective learning and students’ mental health,” said Welsh. She later added, “It has really been exciting to see life returning to campus this fall. I know I’ve enjoyed talking to some students and hearing how much they’ve appreciated the opportunity to engage in inperson learning and campus life.” One attendee asked for updates on a plan to introduce QR codes that community members will have to scan to access buildings. This plan has been proposed as a way of contact tracing in case of positive COVID-19 cases in the community. Welsh said that QR codes have been introduced in specific locations on campus, including the UTM and UTSC shuttle buses, and that the university is working on expanding the program. Welsh also answered a question about whether spaces where student groups can hold events will be opening up on campus. She said that the university will make spaces available as needed and that the University College Commuter Student Centre will be opening for students soon. She also noted the “hard work and dedication” of student groups and student life staff, particularly for orientation events. She brought attention to a series of orientation transition events targeted at Black students, including a Black Clubs Fair and specialized welcome events at all three U of T campuses.

These events were based on direct recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism Taskforce report. Equity, diversity, and inclusion report The board heard a presentation on equity, diversity, and inclusion from Vice-Provost, People Strategy, Equity & Culture Kelly Hannah-Moffat that focused on initiatives the university has undertaken to improve these areas in the last year. Hannah-Moffat pointed to a number of new toolkits the university created for staff, including one called the Wellness and Working from Home Toolkit and a guide entitled Returning to Campus During COVID-19: Keeping Accessibility in Mind. She also highlighted a number of task forces and initiatives aimed at addressing racism on campus, such as the Anti-Black Racism Taskforce, the Anti-Semitism Working Group, and the Anti-Islamophobia Working Group. Laying out the university’s goals for the year, Hannah-Moffat said that her team was planning on implementing the recommendations of the Anti-Black Racism Taskforce Report and the Scarborough Charter, “[advancing] the work of our Anti-Semitism and Anti-Islamophobia Working Groups,” and generally supporting equity work across the university. Indigenous initiatives report Hannah-Moffat also gave a presentation on initiatives from the university meant to support Indigenous students and staff. The presentation paid specific attention to the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Indigenous peoples in Canada. Hannah-Moffat specifically mentioned new Indigenous-centric spaces on campus, such as the artworks set up at Hart House. She also brought up three new Indigenous spaces across U of T’s campuses, including the Indigenous House at UTSC, the Indigenous Landscape Project at Taddle Creek at UTSG, and the Indigenous Centre at UTM. Looking forward to the rest of the year, she said that the university had a goal to hire more Indigenous staff and faculty.

OCTOBER 4, 2021


SCSU Vice-President Operations Andy Mai announces resignation September Board of Directors meeting focuses on reviewing frosh week Syeda Maheen Zulfiqar UTSC Bureau Chief

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) held its first Board of Directors meeting of the academic year on September 29. The board heard Andy Mai’s resignation from his position as vice-president operations and reviewed a report on the UTSC’s 2021 frosh week. Executive resignation Vice-President Operations Andy Mai also announced his resignation at the meeting. He explained that he had both academic and personal matters which conflicted with his work for the SCSU. “If I were to work on [the] SCSU… I should really put… all my efforts in [the] SCSU and

not to focus on other stuff,” Mai said. He will, however, remain in his current position until the SCSU finds someone to take over for him. Frosh report Michael Sobowale, the orientation coordinator for Frosh 2021, delivered the presentation about frosh week to the board. Sobowale highlighted that COVID-19 restrictions led to certain changes in orientation programming, such as splitting incoming students into three houses. Sobowale elaborated that, despite the fact that first-year students were divided into designated groups, orientation coordinators still had to reduce the number of first-years attending in person. Even though 377 first years registered for frosh, only 150 attended in-person events.

Aside from the effects of the changes made to ensure the health and safety of attendees, President Sarah Abdillahi noted that the event was a success and that she had “only heard positive and great feedback from all of the first years.” Orientation issues Sobowale also criticized the SCSU executives on behalf of orientation coordinators, saying that the SCSU failed to contribute to planning frosh. They praised Abdillahi for being the only SCSU executive to attend the weekly planning meetings and encouraged executives to “actively take part in frosh” in the future. Sobowale expressed particular disappointment in Vice-President Campus Life TJ Ho’s contributions to frosh planning. “The frosh event falls under the jurisdiction of the Vice-President Campus Life TJ Ho,” Sobowale explained. “It

was very unfortunate that Campus Life had little to no involvement with the SCSU’s frosh this year.” Sobowale claimed that Ho did not attend Frosh 2021 senior leaders’ meetings, nor did he participate in logistical meetings with the university and external partners. Though Sobowale mentioned that Executive Director Nicole Brayiannis and the president provided support to orientation coordinators, they suggested that executives should “try to get more involved with our orientation teams” in future years. In a statement to The Varsity, Ho wrote that he provided support to orientation leaders and gave them “creative freedom to customize the orientation experiences.” He added that since the planning of orientation was a collaborative effort, most decisions about orientation were made collectively.

Lead reviewer defends UMLAP despite concerns at town hall Consultation process continues on controversial UMLAP policy Cedric Jiang Associate News Editor

Content warning: This article discusses selfharm. U of T hosted a town hall on September 23 to consult with community members on the University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP). During the town hall, students came forward to ask questions and voice concerns about the controversial policy. The session was the third consultation session hosted this year as part of a larger consultation process, which was extended in May to the fall semester in the wake of student unions’ requests. The town hall was led by Professor Donald Ainslie, former principal of University College and chair of the Department of Philosophy, and Varsha Patel, assistant dean of student success and career support at UTSC. Background on UMLAP A revised UMLAP policy was approved by the Governing Council in 2018, following its initial draft in 2015. It is triggered if the university concludes that, due to mental health reasons, a student’s behaviour poses imminent harm to themselves or to others or if they are unable to engage in essential activities required to pursue education despite the accommodations that have been offered to them. The UMLAP allows U of T to put the student on leave without academic penalty until they demonstrate that they are fit to return. Many groups, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), have criticized the UMLAP since its inception. Some have said the policy stigmatizes mental health issues. Policy rationale questioned During the town hall, Ainslie said the UMLAP was created with the intention to provide a “non-punitive” option to deal with students showing threatening or disruptive behaviours. He explained that before the UMLAP’s passage, such behaviours were considered disciplinary matters under the jurisdiction of the Code of Student Conduct. “What was happening before the passage of this policy is that students were being [charged] through the Code of Student Conduct in cases where [their] behaviour was the result of [a] serious mental health crisis,” said Ainslie. “And I think everyone more or less recognized that discipline was not really the right approach here.” However, this explanation was questioned

by participants during the consultation. One participant argued that binding self-harming behaviours together with behaviour that harms others into one policy is questionable, as they are different in nature. They said students who may harm themselves need accommodations outside of disciplinary measures, and treating their behaviour as equivalent to behaviour that harms others creates barriers for students who might want to seek help. “So if we’re looking at students who are going to harm others, I think that’s completely separate from a student who is going to harm themselves,” they said. “And I think that’s where a lot of these barriers for students to reach out and seek help [are] coming from… they feel that if they do reach out to talk to somebody that they will be mandated out.” “Why did you lump everything together?” the participant asked. “And why didn’t you feel it was appropriate to separate them and put one into the Student Code of Conduct and find something that’s more accommodating for students who are going to harm themselves?” Ainslie acknowledged the participant’s concern about intertwining the cases of students who are harming themselves and students who are threatening others. He said that this concern has been raised multiple times in previous consultations and the university is looking into options to disentangle the situation. “We want the student who’s having selfharming thoughts to get help. If this policy is standing in the way, [then] that’s a serious concern, and we’ve heard that repeatedly in our consultations, and it’s something that we’re hoping to address in our review,” said Ainslie. Concern about mandate One participant questioned the ‘mandate’ part of the UMLAP during the meeting. They said that various student groups have expressed concerns that the leave should not be mandatory but rather designed in a way that affected students choose to take a leave voluntarily. They claimed such points have been made during multiple consultation sessions over time, and although U of T has provided justification each time, students are not yet convinced that the UMLAP should be mandatory. “It is very unclear why the university admin would want to do something which clearly the students have unanimously opposed for the longest time,” they said. “So [I was] wondering why, through multiple consultations and the same point coming in repeatedly, the admin fails to take notice of this.” Ainslie responded that U of T has recognized students’ concern about the mandatory nature


of the UMLAP and said the administration had included this as part of their consideration. However, he denied the description that the opposition against the UMLAP is “unanimous,” claiming that he had personally heard students saying mandatory leave is appropriate if a student is threatening others. “I’m just not going to accept your characterization of the feedback we’ve heard because I don’t think it’s unanimous as you suggest, although there’s been lots of criticism, and we’ve been hearing it and listening to it,” said Ainslie. The participant who originally raised the concern asked for proof that their objection is not unanimous, claiming they have been to multiple public consultation sessions and were not aware there were students who supported the mandatory policy. In response, Ainslie said the consultations with support groups were not done publicly and that he was not comfortable releasing meeting documents, as the support groups were not informed that such information might go public when the meeting took place. Ainslie continued to defend the mandate, saying the university has a responsibility to protect the safety of its community members. “I’m hearing that in cases where students are threatening harm to others, the university should act to protect the university community. And indeed, the university has a legal commitment to its employees [and] to keep them in a safe workplace environment,” he said. Ainslie also commented on concerns brought forward by the OHRC in an open letter to U of T in 2018. He said the policy has been “extensively rewritten” after receiving criticism from the commission, and that the revised version that was eventually passed has taken the concerns into account. “Yes, there was a period where the Ontario Human Rights Commission had concerns

about the policy,” said Ainslie, “but those concerns were addressed in the revised policy that was eventually passed in 2018.” Names of town hall attendees have been omitted to protect students’ privacy. If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call: • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566 • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866925-5454 • Connex Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600 • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-9295200 • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416978-8030 Warning signs of suicide include: • Talking about wanting to die • Looking for a way to end one’s life • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain • Talking about being a burden to others • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless • Sleeping too little or too much • Withdrawing or feeling isolated • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge • Displaying extreme mood swings The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Business & Labour

October 4, 2021

Incoming U of T international students, beware of fraud Cybersecurity concerns for students and how to avoid them Ana Pereira Associate Business & Labour Editor

Around a month ago, the Toronto Police Service alerted the university about new reports of attempted fraud against incoming international students. In light of these reports, the university is asking that students who are new to Toronto and to Canada make sure they are aware of common scams, which typically involve attackers contacting individuals through their phones, emails, or social media accounts in an attempt to get money or private information from them. Fraud and phishing scams at U of T According to Campus Security, there is usually a higher number of reported phishing attacks at the start of the academic year. However, despite the higher influx of international students coming to campus this year, it has received 24 reports of fraud and fraud-related incidents so far this year, compared to the 20 reports made in 2020 and the 30 reports in 2019. Fraud attempts that are targeted toward international students are commonly presented in the form of pay-for-scholarship scams spread through social media platforms, such as WhatsApp. Recently, the university as seen a small increase in reports of attackers impersonating officials from organizations such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, or foreign police services or embassies.

Campus Security receives several thousands of reports of phishing emails from the U of T community every year. These emails are usually directed to U of T email addresses as well as external addresses. The most common email fraud types are fake job offers and gift card scams. Student experiences with scams Gabriel Palmieri is a Master’s student in linguistics originally from the United States, and was a victim of a phishing scam when he came to U of T. He received an email on his U of T account asking for his UTORid password, warning that his account could be deleted. The disclosure of his UTORid gave the scammers access to his email and other U of T accounts. Eventually, the university temporarily suspended his accounts due to spam email coming from them. In an interview with The Varsity, Palmieri talked about the challenge that international students face when learning to navigate the new university system while also trying to coordinate their move to a different country. “I was naive, and I was too busy trying to figure out how to get to Canada in a reasonable manner,” he said.

types of frauds targeting international students through the Centre for International Experience, Residence Life and the Community Safety Office.” The Community Safety Office has published tips for international students on how to prevent fraud attacks. The Security Matters website advises students on how to protect themselves against phishing scams. The Security Planner, developed by Citizen lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, is another online resource that provides personalized recommendations and advice on cybersecurity matters such as

safely browsing the web, safeguarding online accounts, and protecting financial data. “Our main piece of advice is to use your best judgement, and to always seek advice before providing personal information or monetary items like cash, or cryptocurrency. It is fair to say, if an offer looks too good to be true then it probably is,” wrote the U of T spokesperson. If a student believes they have been a victim of fraud, they should contact Campus Security or the police. They can use U of T’s safety app, which provides reporting tools and other resources. Phishing scam messages can be reported through the “report message” function in U of T email inboxes and through reporting mechanisms within social media platforms. JESSICA LAM/THE VARSITY

Safeguarding students against scams Fraud and phishing scams can seem very realistic, and it may be difficult to identify them, especially for international students coming to Canada for the first time. According to a U of T spokesperson, “the university is increasing awareness of these

CUPE 3261 reports that U of T ’s contracting out caretaking services U of T permitted to contract out work under collective agreement Sarah Folk Business & Labour Editor

On September 6, 2021, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3261 (CUPE 3261), the university contracted out cleaning work for three more buildings on the St. George campus. According to the petition previously posted by CUPE 3261 last year, U of T made the decision on August 17, 2020 to contract out cleaning services for 18 buildings on the St. George campus out to a third party — a private, for-profit business not part of the union. Yet, because of the additional three buildings, CUPE 3261 is still asking for U of T to stop contracting out caretaking services. CUPE 3261 represents service employees at U of T who perform many essential services

for the university such as caretaking, food services, and groundskeeping. The pandemic has hit service workers hard; many of them were laid off at the start of the pandemic, and those still employed at U of T are concerned about the safety of working on campus. U of T wrote that contracting out cleaning work is part of the university’s long-term strategy as a public sector institution. “Our mission is to deliver world-class postsecondary education and conduct leading edge research, in a fiscally responsible manner,” a spokesperson for the university wrote. The petition Last year, U of T contracted out some caretaking services during the pandemic. Despite

CUPE 3261 has called on the university to stop contracting out cleaning work at UTSG. JOHANNA FORTES/THE VARSITY

the university’s claims last year that these efforts were temporary, CUPE 3261’s demands have largely remained the same. In a recent news post on its website, CUPE 3261 explains that the university had over a year to hire union employees and train them to perform specialized cleaning services, but instead has chosen to further contract out this work. The union is encouraging its members to take action and has provided a template for union members to email U of T administration protesting their decision to contract out work. The original petition claims that this decision was detrimental to the cleaning staff that is already employed at the university. “CUPE 3261 members working as caretakers will be reassigned to other work, however roughly 18 directly employed positions with decent wages and benefits are being cut indefinitely,” an update from last year reads. The petition also highlighted further implications of contracting out work. It claims that contracting out work, especially cleaning services, can jeopardize the health and safety of everyone who uses the facilities. Private cleaning companies may pay lower wages and cut corners to minimize cost. The petition also stresses that the contracting out of work can have adverse effects on racialized employees who are “over-represented in lower-paid and precarious jobs.” The push against privatization The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the broader union that CUPE 3261 is a part of, also discusses the dangers of contracting out work and privatization on its website, especially during the pandemic. According to the CUPE, some indicators that an employer may be considering contracting out work include financial struggles, layoffs, funding cuts to public services, and the enactment of emergency legislation. The CUPE website also lists ways that unions can protect themselves against their

employers contracting out work, such as spreading the word through social media, promoting the importance of public services, and building relationships with other unions and community members. Following the collective agreement According to the collective agreement that is laid out between U of T and the CUPE 3261, the university is permitted to contract out work, provided that it informs the union. In some cases, it may have to provide rationale as to why that work is being contracted out before it signs a new contract with a third party company. “Cleaning work in new buildings at the University of Toronto has been contracted out for well over 10 years. Since 2014, as natural attrition, including retirement, occurs, the University consults centrally and divisionally to determine whether cleaning work will be contracted out, and in which buildings,” wrote a spokesperson for the university. The university also stressed that cleaning and disinfection quality has been a high priority during the pandemic. It also stated that it is following the collective agreement that has been laid out between U of T and the CUPE 3261. “During the past 18 months of the pandemic, the requirements for cleaning and disinfection have intensified. No one is available to do this additional temporary work internally,” the U of T spokesperson wrote. The university also stated that its caretaking staff are being fully utilized and that no one in the caretaking department has been laid off because of the pandemic. “The health and safety of the U of T community and providing high quality service are our top priorities; the augmentation of our caretaking staff with unionized reputable contracted partners allows us to continue accomplishing these priorities,” the university wrote. CUPE 3261 did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

OCTOBER 4, 2021 7

Changing my career goals during a pandemic Using a global crisis as a chance to reflect Seher Singh Varsity Contributor

The pandemic saw companies letting go of workers and cutting down on hiring to cut costs. The fact that the economy is improving is creating a new trend in the labour market: people are returning to work with a renewed confidence in the job market, which could lead to workers quitting unsatisfying jobs. As we slowly return to the in-person working environments that existed before COVID-19, employees may return with a modified perspective of their jobs, either because they’re reevaluating their calling in life or because they simply see themselves as worthy of more. A changing labour landscape Andrew Agopsowicz, a senior economist at RBC Economics, commented on the current labour market’s recovery in a Financial Post article that pointed out how improving economic conditions and reduced levels of uncertainty have been providing people with more faith in the job market. “People are once again willing to quit if unsatisfied with their current positions — among the clearest signs that confidence in the labour market recovery is firming,” he wrote. The amelioration of the pandemic also brought about a desire for more in-person work. Service industries such as education, retail trade, and accommodation and food services experienced an increase of 279,000 jobs. Regardless of the circumstances, everyone should carefully evaluate how they are making ends meet and spending their time. I stand by the belief that we should never forgo the opportunities that a crisis like a pandemic can provide. The pandemic blurred the lines

between being a metaphorical and literal pause in our daily lives. It forced the world out of its routine and pushed people off their hamster wheels of habitual, repetitive choices, allowing them to re-evaluate the choices they make about their lives. Future career expectations For the longest time, I wanted to pursue a career in communications and media production — until my International Baccalaureate Economics class spawned my interest in the business sector. I cannot function without plans and detailed schedules, so I was reluctant to change my five-year plan of studying communications at the drop of a hat. I slowly explored the fields of marketing and sales through an internship, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I started to look more into business and investing, and seeing a rise in sustainable business practices made me hopeful that I would be able to find a cross section between business and ethics that I could see myself working in. I saw that the prospect of making a significant, positive impact in the world through an economic lens was achievable. Still, I could see a future for me in media communications, having enjoyed my heavy involvement in media teams and production throughout my secondary education. A decision I thought would be sorted out by my senior year in high school only became more complicated; indecision bled through my university applications as I haphazardly applied for both economics and communications programs. It was only during the pandemic that I made a concrete decision about what I wanted to study.


Plot twist: a pandemic A lot of our future is determined by very meticulously thought-out processes and decisions, but a surprising amount of it is also rooted in uncontrollable circumstances. Living through — bear with me — unprecedented socioeconomic times made my abstract interests more real. After witnessing an economic crisis in real time due to the pandemic, I developed an urge to understand the world through an economic lens. This epiphany only grew more concrete throughout March 2020, when I found that reading my dad’s copies of business owners’ biographies heightened my interest in running a business. At the same time, I saw my dad completely rethink the way his own company was operating. In these hard times, he found his footing on an improved, sustainable path that could only have been paved under these extraordinary circumstances. Seeing how businesses were able to adapt so quickly and effectively instilled faith in me that the economy is an ever-evolving spectacle in which I could also build a career.

Crisis evaluation The pandemic brought an immeasurable amount of pain and suffering to the world, but it also brought about revelations, new hobbies, and new ways of living. I still think I could have gone toward either of my original career directions: the world of film seems as captivating to me as that of finance. But if I hadn’t seen the world adjust to the conditions imposed by the pandemic, I could be pursuing a completely different career. Without those moments of chance, I could very well be cramming on colour theory instead of macroeconomic theory. We definitely don’t need another pandemic to make decisions about our career paths and learn to adapt. What we can take away from this pandemic is that we always need to be doing so, regardless of external circumstances. While any change can be time-consuming and tiresome for a number of reasons, we owe ourselves the chance to learn and grow as much as we can. As my dad has always told me, “Never forgo the opportunities a crisis can provide.”

Toronto-based Neuro Stream offers seed funding to neuroscience startups Promising neuroscience ventures will receive highly sought-after mentorship opportunities Joy Chan Varsity Contributor

The Rotman-affiliated Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), which runs seed-stage funding programs for science and technology companies, has recently announced its newest funding program, which is called the Neuro Stream. For the first cycle of the Neuro Stream, the CDL plans to accept an inaugural cohort of 20 startups working in industries such as neuroscience-related pharmaceuticals, treatments for neurodegenerative disorders, technology that monitors patients’ nervous systems, and collaborative technologies that work on connecting the brain and external devices. The CDL has 10 global locations which host a total of 16 funding streams, covering topics such as artificial intelligence, the blockchain, and outer space, but the Neuro Stream is based at its Toronto location. The Neuro Stream is best suited to growth ventures and pre-incorporation projects, explained Valerie Chiykowski, associate director of CDL Toronto in an email to The Varsity, but startups at all stages of development are eligible to apply. Four innovation areas The CDL drew up a map of current research in the field of neurology through conversation with neurotechnology experts including Shivon Zilis, director of operations and special projects in the office of the CEO for Neuralink; Mike

Tymianski, CEO of Nono Inc. and professor of neurosurgery at U of T; and Michelle Chernock, head of Neuroscience Medical for Novartis Canada. From this map, the group selected four areas of potential innovation: drug discovery and pharmaceuticals, neuromodulation, neuromonitoring and data utility, and brain-computer interfaces. The area of drug discovery and pharmaceuticals includes companies focusing on improvements in mental health and general brain-related health. Neuromodulation refers to the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Neuromonitoring and data utility is an area that includes companies which seek to collect and use data retrieved from observing brain activity. Finally, brain-computer interfaces are technologies that read brain impulses and can support damaged motor, cognitive, and sensory functions. Inside CDL Neuro Delivered over a term of nine months, the seedstage business incubator will lead neuroscience ventures from any of the established four innovation areas to grow their business through mentorship from successful entrepreneurs. The CDL’s mentorship program will consist of two components. The first component involves highly structured ‘Session Day’ events that will occur ev-

The Creative Destruction Lab is launching its Neuro Stream for entrepreneurs in the field of neuroscience. TOWFIQU BARBHUIYA/UNSPLASH

ery eight weeks. Founders will attend small group meetings where they will rotate between mentors who will provide them with feedback. Following the end of these rotations, the mentors’ feedback will be consolidated in a large moderated discussion in which founders can then refine their objectives. In the following eight weeks, founders will work to execute these objectives. The second component of the mentorship program consists of four-hour unstructured mentorship sessions that might include advisory meetings, facilitated introductions, pitch presentations, and more. The CDL’s major function is to provide the founders of new ventures with mentorship from experts in the field. Instead of investing or taking equity in these ventures directly, the CDL instead connects them with external financial opportunities, which have in the past included funding from corporate capital funds.

The CDL often introduces ventures to these financial opportunities. Achieving success During Session Days, venture founders may receive constructive criticism and useful advice that they could use to pivot their market or business models by mentors who have first-hand experience in their field. They are, therefore, expected to take advantage of the limited time they have with the industry experts mentoring them. The best way to do this, writes Chiykowski, is to have an understanding of each mentor’s career background and their specialised experience. Chiykowski’s advice for aspiring venture founders is twofold: be prepared and openminded. “Being open minded to new ideas for your business can lead to growth and development opportunities that may not have been otherwise possible without perspective from CDL mentors,” she wrote.


October 4, 2021

To end the pandemic, we must be sympathetic toward anti-vaxxers We can make anti-vax protestors on campus feel heard without normalizing their views Maeve Ellis Varsity Contributor

I was sitting in my dorm last week watching an online lecture when I first heard them. Initially, I thought the vague, faint roar came from a stadium of fans at a varsity sports game. When it started to sound more like chanting, my mind went to another frosh week parade. But by the time I turned off my camera and went over to open my window, I could tell it was angry. I could tell it was an anti-vaxxer protest. I wasn’t the only one who noticed. My U of T group chats flooded my phone with panicked texts. One girl was blocked from crossing University Avenue on her way back from class. Someone else took a photo of the protestors from a skyscraper. It makes sense to feel negatively about antivaxxers. In hard times like this pandemic, it is natural to look for scapegoats, and the antivaxxer riot at Queen’s Park have provided a convenient herd. But even though we may think we have every reason to condemn the anti-vaxxer mob, dehumanizing and hating them won’t end this pandemic any faster. Having sympathy and understanding for them, as nearly impossible as that sounds, is the only way we can convince them to get vaccinated and finish our march to the end of the pandemic finish line. When society blames individuals for high vaccine hesitancy rates, it evades responsibility for the structural issues that contribute to those rates. National polling done by Statistics Canada earlier this year showed that some racialized Canadians were more likely to report being reluctant to get the vaccine. Particularly, Black and Latin American Canadians were the least comfortable with getting the shot, with only 56.4 per cent and 65.6 per cent, respectively, reporting that they were somewhat or

Dehumanizing and hating antivaxxers won’t end this pandemic any faster.


very willing to receive the shot as compared to the national average of 76.9 per cent. But it is important to note that these communities have experienced medical mistreatment throughout history, and still face discrimination due to the systems and policies within Canadian medical institutions. The same survey showed a strong link between vaccine hesitancy and lower education levels. In total, around a quarter of Canadians are vaccine hesitant — too great of a number to just chalk up to individual failures. Society can’t brush off responsibility for its structural issues by just blaming individuals for not getting vaccinated. We also can’t end this pandemic without seeing the protestors as individuals with unique reasons for not wanting to get the shot. The protestors we see on Bloor Street are just

the tip of the needle of the Canadians we need to convince to get their inoculations. Beyond the screaming young men with “Make Canada Free Again” signs are people who are pregnant and unsure about the vaccine’s side effects on their babies, and elderly people led astray by Facebook algorithms while trying to browse family photos. Differences within the anti-vaxxer movement do exist. The polling firm Abacus Data has found immense distinctions between those who are “vaccine hesitant” and those who are “vaccine refusers.” The “hesitant” category is surprisingly moderate; 61 per cent describe themselves as centrists on the political spectrum. In the “vaccine refuser” category, on the other hand, 73 per cent say COVID-19 is exaggerated or a hoax, and 90 per cent describe themselves as hating “the government telling

[them] what to do.” Moreover, 40 per cent of vaccine refusers don’t trust their own doctors, compared with only 17 per cent of the vaccine hesitant. Only three per cent say they would get vaccinated if their friends and family said it was safe, compared with 24 per cent of the hesitant. With such a wide range of beliefs, how can we convince more people to get vaccinated without trying to understand their different reasons for not doing so? Furthermore, looking down on and ignoring the anti-vaxxers doesn’t mean they’ll go away; instead, that will worsen the problem. For instance, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went from being sympathetic toward anti-vaxxers to antagonistic, and this change in attitude may have contributed to the surge in support for the People’s Party of Canada we saw in this past federal election. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Union says, “We only have the right to vote every few years, but protests provide opportunities to express our views and grievances at any time.” These anti-vaccination protests are canaries in coal mines; without them, we wouldn’t know about this radicalization and the need to deal with it until it surfaced in a more nefarious way, like on election ballots or in the makeup of our parliament. The next time I’m sitting at my desk and hear the now-familiar anti-vaxxer rampage, I’ll remember that my gut reaction to look down on the protestors is part of what is keeping me stuck in my dorm room in the first place. Otherism and demonization won’t help end this pandemic; the most important cure we need for the anti-vaxxer movement is a big injection of understanding and sympathy for the people in it. Maeve Ellis is a first-year social sciences student at Victoria College.

More effective communication is needed between the administration and students A second-year student’s perspective on the move back to in-person learning Saige Severin Varsity Contributor

Now that the 2021–2022 academic year has begun, students have raised many questions about the transition from online to hybrid or in-person courses. Much of the communication from the administration to the student body happened over email and through the school’s social media accounts, with infrequent summer messages essentially telling us to “wait and see.” As a second-year student who took courses over the summer, I closely monitored all email communication from the school about the return to in-person classes. I found most of this information vague and occasionally outright confusing, not in the least because many of the important points about the university’s reopening came at the end of very dense, longwinded emails. An email from the Faculty of Arts & Science Dean Melanie Woodin on June 22 read, “When the term begins, students in Arts & Science will be permitted to attend their classes online for the first two weeks.” The use of the word “permitted” threw me for a loop when planning for courses. This email seemed to say that classes would be offered in person, and those who could not attend would have an equally

viable online option for the first two weeks. This was not the case. Courses were entirely online for many students regardless of their individual circumstances. In that same email, the dean claimed that after the first two weeks, “all classes that are identified as taking place in-person will proceed as in-person.” This was not my experience, nor the experience of another secondyear student, Laura Pollock. She read the same email I did and assumed that most of her classes would be in person after the initial twoweek period. A tutorial and a lecture of hers moved fully online instead. “It was very misleading,” she told me. Like Pollock, I have had several of my courses that were marked as “In Person” on ACORN moved online for the duration of the semester. I do not wish to argue for or against this decision to move online. There are circumstances for every professor and group of students that would influence their decision both ways. Instead, I am advocating for increased communication and less vagaries around course delivery. I wish I had known which courses would be online or in person when I signed up for them ­— not after several days of school had already passed. I also would have liked to see clearer communication in the emails U of T sent out


to students. The main changes that would be relevant to students’ daily lives should be placed at the top of the emails, not buried in the final few paragraphs after details about COVID-19 vaccination rates and other considerations. I respect Woodin’s attempt to justify her decisions, but I think that she should have stated those decisions in her emails before justifying them. This may sound like a small detail, but I believe it would greatly aid student recognition and understanding of the various changes being made. When asked what method of communication she would have preferred, Pollock suggested a tile on the Quercus homepage with all information related to COVID-19. A Quercus tile could be an ideal mode of communication

moving forward, containing updated, realtime COVID-19-related information in a single spot — similar to the university’s UTogether website, but in a place that students check more often. I understand the need for compassion and patience on both sides. The administration is in a difficult place where they need to balance health concerns with a return to normal school. I believe that more transparent, accessible information from them would go a long way toward alleviating student concerns in this time of general uncertainty. But whatever the school administration chooses to do, one thing is clear: change is necessary. Saige Severin is a second-year neuroscience and English student at Woodsworth College.

OCTOBER 4, 2021


Re-offering the law school position to Azarova does not automatically solve the question of academic freedom The university should acknowledge any mistakes and keep itself accountable Shernise Mohammed-Ali Associate Comment Editor

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) recently reported that it will pause the censure that it had imposed on U of T since April. The CAUT arrived at this long-awaited decision after U of T re-offered the position of director of the Faculty of Law’s International Human Rights Program to Dr. Valentina Azarova, though the scholar declined the offer. Azarova, a human rights lawyer and academic, was allegedly offered the position last fall, but U of T rescinded her offer. This decision was allegedly made following concerns from a sitting tax judge — who is also a donor to the university — that Azarova’s academic writings on Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories would supposedly tarnish the university’s reputation. The alleged decision to rescind the job offer due to her previous work was a grievous infringement of academic freedom and, as such, sparked outrage among academics in Canada. Subsequently, the CAUT imposed a censure on U of T and asked its 72,000 members to boycott the institution by not accepting university appointments or attending speaking engagements. Amidst growing criticism following the CAUT’s censure, the university commissioned Thomas A. Cromwell, a retired Supreme Court justice,

to conduct an independent investigation. Cromwell’s report confirmed that the donor opposed Azarova’s appointment because she is allegedly a “major anti-Israel activist.” However, the report did not conclude that the donor’s interference resulted in Azarova’s job offer being withdrawn. Both the findings in Cromwell’s report and the hiring scandal in its entirety have raised questions about the power that financial donors have over institutions such as U of T and the intellectual freedom granted to those institutions’ faculty members. Azarova’s work encompasses various issues. Aside from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, she also examined the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the legal responsibilities of Israel’s diplomatic and trade partners. More recently, she has investigated migrant rights, structural violence at international borders, and the use of European Union funds by war criminals. Some may argue that by writing on Israel’s occupation of Palestine, Azarova has expressed an anti-Israel bias. However, Itamar Mann, an Israeli human rights lawyer and professor, maintains that Azarova’s opinion on Israel and Palestine is “very mainstream under international law: that settlements are illegal, that the occupation cannot continue indefinitely.” Thus, the judge that opposed Azarova’s appointment within the law school may have found fault not with her specific views on Israel’s occupation of Palestine,

but rather with the very fact that she wrote about Israel and Palestine. U of T has noted that the position offered to Azarova was managerial and not academic, meaning that it does not have the same academic freedom protections that academic faculty do. Nevertheless, the alleged withdrawal of the job offer does constitute what could only be described as a calamitous dereliction of academic freedom. Thus, the notion that the issue is now resolved simply because Azarova has been re-offered the position grossly oversimplifies the events that transpired. According to the CAUT, “academic freedom includes the right, without restriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom to teach and discuss; freedom to carry out research and disseminate and publish the result thereof… Academic freedom always entails freedom from institutional censorship.” Academic freedom fosters thoughtful discussions and allows academics to further the boundaries of what we know without fear of retribution. A lack of true academic freedom undermines the intellectual inquiry that lies at the very core of higher education. The hiring scandal happened because people are often discouraged from writing about controversial subjects. Azarova was allegedly ostracized simply because she previously wrote on the topic of Israel and Palestine. As such, this matter will never truly be resolved until the university acknowledges any misconduct

and takes responsibility for any mistakes it has made. Only then will the university make amends to Azarova for the unjustified denigration of her reputation and previous work. Moving forward, U of T needs to ensure that such a breach of academic freedom does not occur again and that financial donors are not able to manipulate its hiring processes because of their own political considerations. In light of these concerns, a U of T spokesperson clarified that U of T’s Provostial Guidelines on donations have been modified to ensure “institutional autonomy and confidentiality in all hiring decisions.” Furthermore, according to the spokesperson, all hiring staff have undergone training to better understand the guidelines for donor relations, and an advisory group is currently developing academic freedom protections for managerial staff. It is worth noting that the true strength of higher education lies in its ability to stimulate open and often contentious dialogue at the forefront of debates within the academic community. With that being said, a threat to academic freedom is a threat to the very fabric of higher education. By understanding how to maintain academic freedom, we can ensure that thought-provoking dialogue remains possible at U of T. Shernise Mohammed-Ali is a third-year neuroscience, psychology, and English student at Victoria College. She is the associate comment editor at The Varsity.


Open letter: The University of Toronto must take action now to prevent overdose deaths Amid an overdose and toxic drug supply crisis, U of T needs proper response measures

Indhu Rammohan, Jann Houston, Tenzin Butsang, Harsh Naik, Andrea Bowra, Nigel Lake Varsity Contributors

Dear President Gertler, Canada is experiencing an unprecedented overdose crisis, primarily due to the unregulated toxic drug supply. Toronto has one of the highest overdose mortality rates in the country, reporting 530 opioid overdose deaths in 2020 — an 81 per cent increase from the previous year. One of the most immediate ways to prevent a fatal opioidrelated overdose is by administering naloxone, a fast-acting opioid antagonist. Naloxone can save lives, but it must be on hand, and the person administering the medication must know how to administer it properly and must be able to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose. In the midst of a national overdose crisis — and in the absence of decriminalization, legalization, or

harm reduction-oriented drug policies that would ensure a safer regulated drug supply — low-barrier harm reduction measures, such as naloxone distribution and overdose prevention training, are crucial for minimizing the risk of fatal overdoses. At present, the University of Toronto does not require its emergency, security, or residence staff to carry naloxone or be trained in overdose response measures, nor does it offer overdose response training to students on a regular basis or provide naloxone kits anywhere on campus. Among the major universities in Ontario, the University of Toronto remains the only institution without overdose response measures in place to prevent overdose deaths on campus. As an anchor institution located in a city disproportionately affected by overdose mortality, the University of Toronto has an obligation to its students, as well as the broader community in which it operates, to implement a robust harm reduction-focused approach to drug safety. The

lack of action thus far is indefensible. We know that students want the University of Toronto to take overdose prevention and response seriously. In the absence of any naloxone training efforts on campus, our student group organized the first of several comprehensive on-campus and online overdose response training sessions, which began in 2019. These training sessions have been attended by hundreds of students from a broad range of disciplines, each of whom recognized the importance of being able to respond to an overdose emergency. Several groups on campus have also approached us about organizing overdose response training for their members. Over a hundred students and faculty have also signed our petition urging clinical programs at the university to implement harm reduction education and overdose response training as part of their formal curriculum. Signatories included students and faculty from the medicine, nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work, and information faculties, as well as the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education and the Faculty of Arts & Science. In their feedback, they recognized the need for widely available training on campus and expressed disappointment in the lack of leadership demonstrated by the school in meeting a very basic need. The fact that we, a student-led group, have come to bear the responsibility for securing funding, hiring facilitators, and obtaining naloxone kits in order for the student body to receive this life-saving training is an egregious failure of the university administration who continue to ignore this issue. We are ill-equipped to meet this need for the entire campus community; moreover, we do not feel it should be our responsibility given the resources the University of Toronto has at its disposal. Training frontline university staff and making naloxone kits available on campus is a necessary first step that the university must take in the collective fight against the overdose crisis that is devastating our city. While we are firmly committed to an abolitionist framework and future, we recognize that addressing the immediate need of preventing overdose deaths on campus requires all frontline campus responders to be adequately equipped in the event of an overdose. We, the University of Toronto Chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, along with the groups listed below, are calling on you, President Meric Gertler, as the leader of this university, to work with your administration to implement the following measures immediately:


Mandate overdose response training for all first responder staff on campus, including residence staff, emergency first responders, campus police, and campus security; 2. Equip these groups with naloxone kits and training resources; 3. Ensure that the Health & Wellness Centre provides easily accessible naloxone kits and regular, recurring overdose response training sessions for students and staff, preferably facilitated by a harm reduction worker. Lives are at stake. You must take action now. Signed, University of Toronto Chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy Amnesty International University of Toronto Scarborough Black Medical Students’ Association Black Social Work Student Association Graduate Nurses’ Student Society Graduate Student Association, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work Health Students Fight Back at U of T Medicine Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation Graduate Students Union Justice Rehab Nursing Undergraduate Society OISE International Students’ Association Ontario Public Interest Research Group Toronto Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Student Association Public Health Students’ Association The Empowerment Council: Systemic Advocates in Mental Health and Addiction University of Toronto Emergency Medicine Interest Group University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine AntiOppression Educators Group University of Toronto International Health Programs Student Organization University of Toronto Medical Society University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union University of Toronto Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Student Association University of Toronto Physical Therapy Student Council University of Toronto Psychiatry Interest Group University of Toronto Scarborough Campus Students’ Union University of Toronto Students’ Union




The story of education in five scams Alyanna Denise Chua Associate Features Editor

My feelings toward postsecondary education are quite complicated. I already loved learning when I was in high school, but university has filled me with a frenzied passion for learning and research that I didn’t know I possessed. I find myself reading anthropology books for leisure, and I’m thrilled every time I learn or unlearn something new. Being in dialogue with creative and radical ideas is intoxicating, and it makes me happy. But on the other side of this happiness — this excitement of trying to know the world more fully — sits my growing suspicion that postsecondary education is, in many ways, a scam. It’s a system that promises people one thing but does another. I slowly came to this realization while writing my previous article on the tolls international fees have on students. I started wondering whether high tuition fees truly support what I believe are the primary purposes of public education — to produce knowledge and to educate people for the public good. I wondered if sticking premium price tags on education actually benefits the public. It took me a lot of time to bring myself to ask these questions. I sincerely used to think that education functions purely as a force for the collective good, unadulterated by the relentless profit-making machinery that dominates the majority of society. I was naive, which is why I ignored all the signs that higher education pointed exactly in the wrong direction. So I write today from a place of deep concern. As someone who finds fulfillment in learning and who strongly values education, I’m concerned that public higher education has lost its way from its public-serving mission. In five different ways, it has mutated

into a self-interested business that produces services designed for a privileged clientele. I wonder how long this scam will go on for — how long will it take until it snaps and the entire enterprise falls apart? As I see it, scams must eventually arrive at a breaking point, and public higher education is on the edge of this fissure. I’m writing this article because I don’t want education to simply fall apart one day. 1. The tuition boom Over the past 17 years, the tuition fee of U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) has risen by 46 per cent for domestic students, and by 431 per cent for international students. This isn’t unique — tuition fees in Canada have been outpacing inflation for decades now. Contrary to popular belief, new campus facilities and rising faculty salaries are not the main reasons for this sudden jump. A major reason that tuition fees are skyrocketing is state cutbacks to public education. To understand why, we need to go back in time. In the 1980s, the Thatcher and Reagan governments in the UK and US applied neoliberal policies that reduced the power of the state, which led to drastic cuts in public services, including publicly funded higher education. Canada followed suit in the 1990s, reducing public spending on higher education by $13 billion in comparison to the prior decade. Public funding for higher education continues to drop. In 2000, for example, government grants for general operations comprised 26.4 per cent of U of T’s budget. This year, they comprise only 18.1 per cent. Out of all the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental organization focused on building better policies, Canada currently allocates

one of the lowest amounts of public funds toward higher education. To try to cope with these cutbacks, public universities have inflated tuition fees for the newly formed class of student consumers. In 2021, U of T, as a “publicly funded” institution, only received $723 million in government grants for general operations, while accruing almost $2 billion from student fees. As tuition fees increased, public pressure for more financial aid did too. Each year, U of T’s financial aid budget has consistently increased, ballooning to $291 million in 2021 — equivalent to 14 per cent of tuition fee payments. U of T claims that increasing financial aid is meant to offset rising tuition fees, but all I see is a vicious cycle emerging: the need to raise funds for financial aid spurs further tuition increases, which in turn spurs the need for more financial aid, and so on. The same cycle is emerging at other universities across Canada. Erika Shaker, a director at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told Global News that, in some cases, this cycle is essentially a “student-aid program by students for students.” Many students find that financial aid is not enough to compensate for the tuition boom — and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the consequences of withdrawing public funds from public higher education. 2. Knowledge for profit Sociology professors Claire Polster and Janice Newson have written that public higher education was built on the principles of public collaboration, openness, and free exchange of ideas — principles that are integral to the public interest. But I worry that neoliberalism and market competition have shifted the educational tradition into one that is now more secretive.

In addition to charging high tuition fees, public universities have also commercialized research in order to recuperate state cutbacks. So, instead of making research widely available, some universities have increasingly engaged with intellectual property (IP) practices, which tightly control access to research findings but maximize their revenue in return. In this manner, public universities act more like businesses and less like public-serving institutions. The academic publishing industry restricts research from the general public in favour of revenue as well. With annual subscriptions to scientific journals generally amounting to around $6,000 and access to one-off articles often costing between $25 to $60, accessing scholarly research without a university affiliation is nearly impossible. Even with a university affiliation, accessing research can be challenging: universities in lower-income countries may not be able to afford expensive paywalls, which exacerbates information gaps between high-income and lowincome countries. This is all happening while peer review is done for free, and scholarly journals like Elsevier raked in $3.2 billion in 2018. To recuperate from state cutbacks, public universities have also forged close ties with philanthropists and private corporations to get donations, ushering in new cracks for conflicts of interest to emerge. For example, the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ ongoing censure of U of T — currently on pause, but not totally lifted — was caused by alleged donor interference in faculty hiring, while U of T’s recent partnership with pharma giant Novo Nordisk reveals how the products of publicly funded institutions sometimes go to private profiteers.

Rising tuition fees, donor interference, administrative bloat — welcome to the neoliberalization of higher education

Public universities are operating increasingly like businesses, while research, information, and knowledge are made less and less accessible to the public. To me, this is far from public service. 3. The supremacy of audits In the 1990s, a string of scandals rocked trust in the public sector. Barings Bank, which was Great Britain’s oldest investment bank at the time, collapsed; the public’s trust in medical professionals wavered after Dr. Harold Shipman was revealed to have murdered hundreds of his patients; and child sexual abuses within the Catholic church received widespread media coverage. As it understandably lost its confidence in public institutions, the public demanded increased efficiency, transparency, and accountability from the public sector. Perhaps, given the neoliberal climate of our time, it comes as no surprise that “accountability” in the context of public universities has also followed principles of neoliberalism and market competition. Ushering in a new era of detailed auditing, quality assurance (QA) measures, and administrative bloats, “accountability” has, thus far, manifested itself as a Byzantine accounting bureaucracy. It’s now common practice for universities to measure and standardize various facets of education, such as students’ learning experience, faculty performance, and research impact, in terms of quantifiable indicators. This is because manufacturing paper trails is integral to making structures visible for audit. Aside from increasing the administrative burden on faculty members, researchers find that this system has stifled creativity and innovation, as audits are often assessed based on economic metrics. Measuring accountability in this limited sense overlooks

universities’ more complex contributions to society, such as contributions to justice, equality, and environmental sustainability. It also largely renders invisible the crucial peer review, mentoring, and care work that faculty perform — the last of which is disproportionately shouldered by women faculty. Researchers cannot find evidence that QA measures have actually improved the quality of education by any objective criteria, either. Instead, as anthropologist Jodie-Lee Trembath argued, universities have improved their efficiency — and efficiency and quality are two different things. Efficiency is no longer merely a means to provide a high quality education. Under audit culture, it has now become an end goal in and of itself — and a futile one at that, as efficiency is an infinite ‘cat and mouse game’ where the next step after efficiency is more efficiency. This is why historical theorist Chris Lorenz wrote that under the neoliberal model, “Efficient, therefore, is never efficient enough.” Moreover, audits aren’t a reliable means to ensure honesty and proper management. Between 2001 and 2002, large corporations such as Enron and WorldCom were subject to rigorous financial audits by prestigious auditing firms, but they were still able to commit the largest fraud scandals in history. To be clear, I don’t think that audits are intrinsically harmful or pointless. In fact, I believe they’re important tools for holding institutions accountable. But I’m concerned that the cornerstones of education have been lost to a fetish for quantitative measurement. Faculty instruction is the epicenter of an educational institution, yet universities continue to funnel funds elsewhere. 4. Precarity The neoliberal model favours cheap, flexible labour — so, like

other most jobs, faculty jobs have become more precarious. A study done in 2016–2017 found that more than half of university instructors in Canada are on shortterm contracts. Today in Ontario, this number reaches 60 per cent. It’s easy to see why. Contract faculty are typically paid only a third of the salary that their tenure or tenure-track counterparts make, as their contracts do not include a research component. Still, they are expected to uphold the same standards of instruction. Labour scholar Adrianna Kezar calls this “the gig academy,” and just like in the gig economy, the gig academy widens racial and gender inequalities as women and racialized minorities are disproportionately represented in contract faculty hires. Aside from being underpaid, contract faculty are constantly on the edge of unemployment. Because they teach courses on a semester- or year-long basis, some contract faculty describe having to essentially reapply for their jobs every semester or every year. This process becomes a major source of stress and worsened mental health. Furthermore, university graduates face the same level of instability. Students are entering an increasingly unstable job market, as wages have not kept up with the rising cost of education. Many also enter the workforce burdened with student debt. According to the National Graduates Survey, in 2015, half of all Canadian graduates finished school with a median of $17,500 in loans. Instability and precarity have become the definitive characteristics of our contemporary era, and we need to look no further than postsecondary education to see that in action. 5. We can’t opt out Perhaps these problems in higher

education won’t be resolved as long as students keep providing large swaths of capital to universities and academics keep accepting contracts. But I think it’s impossible to opt out of participating in these systems without destroying our life prospects. You can’t be an academic without going to a college or university, and your chances of employment significantly decrease without a postsecondary diploma. As author Jia Tolentino wrote, “I have felt so many times that the choice of this era is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional.” This is exactly how I feel about learning under this corporatized model of education — either I wreck my chances at having a stable livelihood, or I contribute to a wrecked system I don’t agree with. I enjoy learning and researching. I’ve daydreamed about going to graduate school, conducting fieldwork, and studying issues I care about — but I don’t know how to reconcile my love for learning with the exploitation and corporatization deeply embedded in academia today. I cannot pretend to be able to anticipate what’s to come. I can only see the small cracks in this scammy system turning into gaping chasms, and I’m not alone in this. At some point while writing this article, I opened Google Search and typed in “scammy synonyms” because I’d wanted to find another word for “scammy.” When the results appeared, I noticed a few entries under the “People also ask” section. The first was, “What is another word for a scammer?” The second entry was far more interesting. It read, “What is another name for diploma?” Clearly, I am not the only one who sees something seriously broken with our education system.


Arts & Culture

October 4, 2021

On National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Beans’’ message is a lesson for all Canadians Beans Creator Tracey Deer discusses her coming-of-age film with Innis College Deer was born in Kahnawake, a Mohawk community located in Montréal. When she was 12, Kanesatake, a community near Deer’s, sought to protect disputed land, which included burial grounds, from a golf course expansion project proposed by the town of Oka, Québec. Through the lens of a protagonist who struggles with her place within the world she was born in, the film tackles Deer’s inner conflict while coming to terms with these events. To mark Canada’s first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Deer joined Innis College for a virtual viewing of Beans, which won the 2021 Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture. Following Beans’ broadcast, Deer participated in a discussion about finding the strength to create her film, holding Canada accountable for violence against Indigenous peoples, and creating a safer future for Indigenous youth.

Alexa DiFrancesco Arts & Culture Editor

Filmmaker Tracey Deer began conceptualizing her film, Beans, as a preteen, with the intention of showing Canadian audiences the hardships she was facing at that moment — the reality of an Indigenous child during the Oka Crisis of 1990.

Creating a challenging film At the time of Beans’ release, Deer was already a seasoned director — earlier that year, she’d received an emerging talent award at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, the filmmaker explained that Beans was a more difficult film to create — one whose script took her eight years to write. “This has always been the project I was most afraid of,” Deer admitted in the discussion. “Everything for me stems back to [the summer of the Oka Crisis] — so much of my own self worth and my own identity.”

She added that being able to tell the story of Beans was a “big chapter” in her healing process, because “[Indigenous peoples] carry our trauma and that’s really heavy.” Taking accountability as settlers Arguably the most striking creative choice that Deer made regarding Beans was to include grim archival footage of the Oka Crisis. The footage, Deer explained, would prevent nonIndigenous audiences from denying the severity of that crisis. “I think people get very uncomfortable and I think it’s really natural when you’re uncomfortable to find a way out,” the filmmaker explained. “I didn’t want people to be able to say, ‘Oh, I’m sure that didn't happen. Oh, I bet this is fictionalized.’ ” Though the intent of her film wasn’t to place blame on Canadians as individuals, Deer highlighted the importance of holding the Canadian government accountable for their actions. “It was their armed forces that came and surrounded our community… it was their government officials and those policies, those actions, that attitude,” she described. “You and I know that this is still happening across this country, and that damage is still being done to our young people.” Protecting Indigenous youth Towards the end of Beans’ discussion, Deer was asked what the term ‘reconciliation’ meant to her on a day that was meant to honour the


Indigenous populations in Canada. Her answer focused on one word: ‘friends.’ “If we had more friends that summer… would that have happened? Would our friends have allowed those people to throw rocks at us, to send those tanks to our home?” “As you get older… as an Indigenous person, you get stronger and stronger, and tougher and tougher, and [your] skin gets thicker and thicker, because [it has] to,” Deer explained. “I don’t want the next generation to have to navigate all of that anger and all of that rage and have to develop such thick skin.” “I want them to put their energy into things that make them happy, [things] that make them excited.”

Great Whales: Up Close and Personal is a whale of a time The newest exhibit at the ROM is making waves in whale education Sky Kapoor Associate Arts & Culture Editor

The first time I visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), I was about six or seven. At that point in time, I was exclusively obsessed with seeing dinosaurs, since I’d received a new National Geographic book on the subject. I can’t remember the experience of visiting the museum, but I do remember the sheer awe I felt while looking up at the colossal prehistoric skeletons. When I had the opportunity to visit the ROM again this summer, nearly 14 years later, I wasn’t sure that the museum would strike me differently than on my previous viewings. Of course I was excited, but when you’ve been to a museum once, you’ve seen all there is to see, right? Wrong. The ROM is constantly updating its collection of artefacts. As such, that same childish sense of bewilderment I thought I’d lost was rejuvenated at the ROM’s newest exhibit — Great Whales: Up Close and Personal. Upon diving into the exhibit, which was enveloped in a dim blue light, I was greeted by the unfathomably large skeleton of a sperm whale. I hadn’t expected to be rendered speechless so early into the exhibit, but in that moment — and for the majority of the time I spent exploring the exhibit — the only word I could utter was a bewildered “wow.” The name ‘great whales’ refers to the enormity of these species of whales, some of the largest creatures alive today. The exhibit tells the stories of three unique ocean giants: the rare North Atlantic right whale, the deepdiving sperm whale, and the massive blue whale — a creature which the ROM has featured before in a similar 2017 exhibition. Walking by the whale skeletons, organs, and artefacts within the exhibit was incredibly humbling. Despite their power and enormity,

whales are still incredibly vulnerable, and their beauty was only heightened by the incredible stories the exhibit displayed alongside their bodies. The exhibit brings new experiences and sparks long-forgotten curiosities about the deep blue world beneath us. Despite the fact that some interactive features have been closed for safety reasons, the exhibit is certainly one to behold. The largest skeleton featured in the exhibit belongs to a blue whale named Blue, who was one of three whales whose bodies washed upon Mi’kmaw homelands in Newfoundland. Although their deaths were tragic, the whales washing ashore gave researchers the opportunity to study these creatures. The skeleton of Blue alone is massive, spanning 25 metres long, and taking up the full height of the exhibition hall. Much of the feat that is the Great Whales exhibit is a product of research collected by members of the ROM team. Most notably, Jacqueline Miller, a mammalogy technician at the ROM, travelled to Canada’s East Coast to salvage the incredible blue whale heart and the skeleton of a North Atlantic right whale, both of which are now preserved and featured within the exhibit. Throughout the exhibit, visitors can listen to recordings of Miller recounting her experiences working with these creatures, which makes for a truly immersive experience. One of the many notable parts of the exhibit includes the model of a sperm whale brain. With the largest brains of any animal, sperm whales are incredibly intelligent. Their brains have more grooves and folds than human brains, suggesting higher complexity. Such intelligent creatures have complex systems of communication, but they rely on a lack of noise pollution to be effective — another reason we need to be mindful of our impact upon the world. Not only does Great Whales attempt to preserve the stories of each whale species,

The skeleton of a North Atlantic right whale, a critically endangered Canadian species. SKY KAPOOR/THEVARSITY

it also aims to highlight the relationships between Indigenous communities and whales. Indigenous communities operate off of the idea that sustainability is incredibly important in saving whale communities, maintaining that “humans must never take more than nature can replenish.” Human action has undoubtedly impacted the lives of whales, but we can still make efforts to save them. As our climate changes, negative impacts on whale populations will only increase, and both individual conviction and large-scale efforts by government and conservation organizations

are needed to reverse this change. Great Whales achieves what all scientific exhibits should aim to do: offer an immersive experience that will awaken one’s inner child. I was able to appreciate the ‘wow factor’ of the exhibit while also learning about the complexity and importance of cetaceans and why we should work to save them. Seeing giant skeletons and artefacts from the whales alongside videos and informative graphics that told me about their lives was an unforgettable experience. Just like after my first visit to the ROM 14 years ago, I left in a state of wonder.

OCTOBER 4, 2021 13

Women of colour aren’t safe from the police — in both Pakistan and Canada Reflecting on my interactions with law enforcement as a Pakistani woman RANIA PHILIPS/THEVARSITY

Nawa Tahir Deputy Senior Copy Editor

Content warning: This article contains discussions of sexual harassment and violence against women, as well as explicit descriptions of murder. The police cannot be trusted. This is one of the first rules that I learned in life. If I were to survive as a woman living in Pakistan, it was essential that I knew this fact. It was essential that I memorized it. Needless to say, I haven’t always easily survived in the country I spent 18 years in. When I was nine years old, my parents sat me down to have a conversation with me. They talked about how unsafe the world is, and how I should never be alone anywhere. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, because they didn’t tell me what could happen. They just warned me that something would. Now, I am 20 years old and I fully understand what they meant. My teen years were a steep learning curve of finding out that being a woman means that one could experience the worst horrors imaginable, and no one would really care. A month ago, a woman I knew personally was murdered by her family for being in

a relationship. It was a very public incident; everyone in the area knew what truly happened. She had run out of her home, screaming for help, after her parents forced her to eat mouse poison. But no one came to her help. Her family dragged her back to her home and strangled her to death. She was buried in the local graveyard during the night. Some neighbours later called the police and alerted them of the murder that had taken place. A couple of policemen visited her home, did some interrogations, and no one heard from them again. The police refused to file a First Information Report against the culprits. Either the culprits had bribed the police, or — as expected — the police officers didn’t really value a woman’s life. Although this incident happened two years after I first moved to Toronto, I wasn’t surprised when I heard about it. I knew that a woman cannot easily get justice in Pakistan, especially since the police force is often an accomplice to the crimes happening against women. That is where I come from. When I got into U of T, my parents were relieved that I would be going to a ‘safer’ place. They genuinely believed that if something would happen to me here, I could go to the police. I

really trusted their delusions; I thought I had entered a safe haven when I landed in Toronto. My bubble first broke at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in December 2019. I was going through the security checks in a line of people. A police officer near the security desk called me to the side and asked me to open up my bag. I wasn’t very scared, because I had made myself believe that I was safe. I asked the officer why he had called me specifically. His answer was that it was routine procedure; still, I pried into why I was the only one being called for this check. The man gave me a look, and I knew what it meant. I looked back at the line and didn’t see any other person of colour there. I told myself to not overthink what had happened, and I showed him the contents of my bag. I had been trying to forget about that incident for months when I first heard about the murder of Ejaz Choudry, the 62-year-old Pakistani man who was killed by Toronto police last year while he was going through a mental health crisis at his home. Choudry shares too many similarities with me: Pakistani, mental health issues, brown person, Pakistani, mental health, brown, Pakistani.

It is an endless spiral. Every time I pass by a police officer now, I think of Choudry. I think of my skin colour. I think of my gender. I think of my nationality, the colour of my passport, my mental health diagnosis, my antidepressants, and all the times I have been sexually harassed. Now I don’t gaslight myself about what happened to me at Pearson. I recognize that my first instinct — the very bad gut feeling that you get the instant a bad situation starts to escalate — was right. It has only taken two years for my bubble to burst — but now it is shattered. I know that it was the colour of my skin that prompted that extra security check. Pakistani women are condemned everywhere: for being women in Pakistan, and for being women of colour in Canada. We don’t get justice anywhere. I have always been the victim, but to the police here, I am a threat — something they need to eliminate. So how can I ever ask them for help? If I went to them when something happened to me, it would be so easy for them to tell me that I’m lying. Being a Pakistani woman means that you cannot ignore the imminent threat to your safety at any time, no matter where you are. Something is always about to happen. I am always just one dark alley away from being the victim again. But when that day comes, I won’t be looked at as a victim by law enforcement — I will still be the threat that they have to eliminate. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence or harassment at U of T: • Visit for a list of safety resources. • Visit 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 • 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 905-569-4333 (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 866-863-0511

How eating only ice cream for two months straight taught me I’m not invincible A bittersweet reflection about working at a coffee and ice cream shop Marta Anielska Deputy News Editor

Prior to this summer, I’d never thought I fell into the category of textbook, cliché young people who believe they’re invincible. More specifically, when the owner of a local ice cream and coffee shop offered me a job in June, it didn’t even register that eating ice cream and drinking coffee for dinner four nights a week for two months might cause me problems. Similarly, I didn’t think about how taking the job would mean that for the rest of the summer, I would be working four strenuous jobs while completing an introductory French class. These facts, lined up one by one, spelled out impending doom for both my physical and mental health. However, at the time, I was thrilled. My job meant I had an excuse to leave the house and interact with people that weren’t my family. The free coffee and ice cream were just the cherry on top. For the first few weeks, my expectations actually came to fruition. I loved spending time with my coworkers. And, as a coffee snob, I revelled in the opportunity to make different types of drinks and quickly developed strong opinions on the inherent superiority of regular milk to its oat and almond counterparts. Then, of course, there was the ice cream. My store had an abundance of fancy ice cream, gelato, and sorbet flavours including standouts like watermelon, Ferrero Rocher, and lemon. I

spent the time between serving customers eating cup after cup of ice cream while chatting with my coworkers. I was having such a good time that, at one point, there was even talk of me working at a new Toronto location during the school year. My job served as a reprieve from the guilt-ridden stress I was feeling from my other responsibilities. Though I wasn’t literally failing French, I wasn’t studying enough to really feel like I was doing well. The same was true of my effort towards my other jobs. I didn’t want to acknowledge that spending 30 hours a week at the shop was contributing to the fact that I felt more overwhelmed than I ever had before. But, inevitably, the happiness I had simulated by starting the job came crashing down and I was forced to accept some pretty inconvenient truths. I’ll be the first to admit that I learned these truths a little late. This seems to be the case now more than usual given the plethora of thinkpieces spawned by the great epiphany catalyst commonly known as the COVID-19 pandemic. But let’s get something straight: I have never learned anything through thoughtful self-reflection and I sure as hell wasn’t going to start because of the pandemic. To use a tired metaphor, I’m more like a shark. I need to keep moving or else I’ll drown. That being said, I challenge any animal to continue moving when its diet consists mostly of dairy products with the occasional cookie or croissant to round things out.

Soon enough, my unsustainable lifestyle took its toll. I slept all the time but could never shake off the cloud of exhaustion that enveloped me. My digestive system was completely thrown off. I’ll spare you the grisly details, but I remember feeling distinctly surprised that I always had a stomachache yet never seemed to have an appetite. The deterioration of my physical health also forced me to acknowledge the deterioration of my mental well-being. It’s hard even now to figure out whether my symptoms were caused by my diet or my anxiety. It was probably the unholy combination of the two. Regardless, every task, no matter how small, felt like staring up at the misty, out-of-reach peak of a mountain. I could feel the boundaries I had so carefully crafted through relentless scheduling dissolving around me. Perhaps the ultimate sign of my unhappiness was that I stopped drinking coffee when I came into work. Instead, I would have a nice cup of tea to calm my nerves — truly blasphemous. Though I continued to eat ice cream — mostly because I was too inept to pack a lunch — it became a reluctant exercise, something I could do to take my mind off my racing heart and shaking hands. The end to this story was bittersweet, as most are. I was sad to say goodbye to my coworkers, who I had really connected with during my time there. But I also acknowledged — for maybe the first time in my entire life — that I had simply taken on too much. I physically don’t have the time to do everything I would

The writer discusses how eating only ice cream for two months impacted their physical and mental health. COURTESY OF JULIAN WISHAHI/CC FLICKR

like to, and I have to accept that. I’m happy to report that I didn’t end up getting a second job once I moved to Toronto. In an ironic twist of fate, my roommates only drink oat milk, so there’s really no point for me to buy the real stuff. Oat milk is an okay substitute, I guess. Also, despite the fact that there are two gelato places on my new street, I’ve only given in to the temptation and gotten a cup once. Even then, I ate a few bites and immediately felt I’d had enough. This might feel like the underwhelming conclusion to an underwhelming story, but I’d like to believe it marks some small form of progress. I can only hope that, one day, I’ll reach a point where I can do things that make me happy without further overwhelming myself in the process.




I’ve been rejected from hundreds of jobs — here’s what I did about it Learning to accept my flaws felt like climbing a mountain Isabella McKay Varsity Contributor

When I travelled to Hong Kong after my second year of university, I loved visiting Victoria Peak, a mountaintop located at the highest point of the city. I went to the peak three times. I enjoyed climbing into the jungles near it to see the nature that surrounded me. I loved watching the sunset fall over the city and viewing Hong Kong’s lights at night. I enjoyed being immersed in the lush mountains and I enjoyed standing on their summits. It’s not easy to reach the peak of any mountain. This is a lesson that my professional life has taught me well. Two years before visiting Hong Kong, I started applying for jobs. Since then, I’ve been rejected about 400 times from companies I’ve dreamed of working for. After completing my first year at U of T, I was rejected for every summer job I was interested in. Though I wanted to be a journalist, I also applied for more casual positions, such as a store clerk. I got none of them. Rejections were normal for freshmen, I figured. So I wrote articles for my blog and enjoyed my summer. Entering second year, I was determined to bounce back. On campus, I applied for workstudy positions and club executive positions. I attended recruitment and networking events on Career Learning Network. Finally, I signed up for a summer research exchange information session, during which the host encouraged students to apply for research

at participating universities abroad. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I applied. And that’s how I ended up at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studying international law. It was there that I started researching communication technologies and globalization. It was also there that I learned to climb a mountain. I returned to Canada with a new passion. I transferred into U of T’s book and media studies major. I became an assistant project coordinator at the Faculty of Arts and Science. I interviewed for and achieved marketing and communications positions at innovative school clubs. But as I walked through campus, I was amazed to overhear other students speaking about interviews they’d gotten at leading technology companies. I repeated to myself that I could one day interview for these companies, too. And I did. I initially thought very little of my successes: surely bigger companies only contacted me because they didn’t have more qualified applicants. But then online forums reminded me that these companies received hundreds of thousands of applications, and only chose a few of the best candidates to interview. So I started to believe in myself. This change in attitude came right when COVID-19 hit our world, and most companies had already hired or stopped hiring summer interns. Without a full-time corporate summer


internship, I became frustrated that other students seemed to easily be offered great jobs when I failed to earn one. So I implemented a new plan. Yes, this meant tailoring my résumé to better fit my most exciting experiences and most impressive achievements. But I also spent less time applying to jobs and more time attending interview practices at university, so I could understand the weaknesses in my applications. I learned to interview as myself, not as the person I imagined each company’s ideal candidate was. In my senior year, I ended up doing research

with the government and marketing for a wellknown hospital. In my last month of classes, I managed to secure a full-time post-graduation marketing position at a leading global technology company. But this isn’t a success story — rather, it’s a story about learning how to climb a mountain. While I climbed, it seemed like I was facing a storm of rejections — but along the way, I realized that the storm had always been under my control. So this is what I’ve learned: once you hit the summit of your mountain, you should build a ladder, because, in the end, you are your only limit.

Though I want to hook up, it’s just me and my hand tonight Let’s talk about the pressure of losing your virginity during your first year of university


Charlie Morocz Varsity Contributor

big_Ben4158: “hey ;)” This was the message request I was staring at on Instagram. I should have deleted it immediately — big_Ben4158 could have been a classic serial killer, or may own an uncomfortably large collection of Beanie Babies. Upon reading the message, it was clear to me that deletion would have been the appropriate course of action under most circumstances. These were not most circumstances. It was 3:12 am. My sleep-deprived brain

contained the higher function of a sea sponge and no survival instincts. To boot, I had experienced close to no human interaction for almost two years. Having watched every romantic comedy Netflix offered and having defiled every cylindrical object in my possession, I was at my wits’ end. It felt like I was giving the personification of loneliness an endless piggyback ride. Plus, I was the capital V. You know the one: ‘Virgin.’ Not the “never had sex before” type of virgin; I was the “never been kissed or held hands with someone else” type of virgin. But there were positive aspects to my

situation. I was no longer “that weird theatre kid with the ugly orange hair” Charlie. I was now University Charlie, and University Charlie was confident, extroverted, and was not going to finish their freshman year a virgin. In my mind, virginity was like Super Glue — it stuck the label of ‘loser’ to me. All my friends had lost their virginities a long time ago. What was wrong with me? Now you understand why I took this opportunity. I started with some research on my potential hookup and found out his real name — let’s say he was called Ben N. Syder. According to his bio, he was a “fun-loving guy ;)” who clearly used winky faces as a motif; his profile contained a picture of headless abs that had been shoved through Instagram’s Mayfair filter about 69 times too many. He wasn’t the most enticing, but I was less concerned about the ‘who’ and more about the ‘what’ of turning in my V-card. It was time to strike. My next move? Send something subtle, yet smooth. I didn’t want to seem too intense. chmorocz: “Hiya there!! I’m Charlie, what’s your name? :)” Did I actually send that? What the hell was wrong with me? Was I an idiot? Goddamn it. big_Ben4158: “ben lol. doing smthn tonight?” I retrieved my phone from the crater I threw it in upon feeling my phone vibrate. Then, I contemplated my options. I decided on a message that was both short and sweet. chmorocz: “nope, hbu?” big_Ben4158: “not much. maybe trying to ‘slam the ham’ if you know what I mean ;))” It was then that I had a moment of clarity. Its message was beautiful — I needed to respect myself. I was above heeding the booty call of a stranger who wanted to, quote, “slam the ham.” I deleted the conversation, did my skincare routine, and went to bed.

This is what I wish I could say. Instead, I found myself stumbling down Spadina Avenue to catch a streetcar to big_ Ben4158’s house. My friends’ constant pestering about “When are you going to… you know?” had not gotten old — it had gotten Paleozoic. I was tearing up that V-card tonight. As I crossed the street, a thought hit me: Does he have condoms? This made me pause. My new extroversion did not extend to microbial friends. My pause was short — a driver laid it thick and heavy on their horn since I was stopped midway through the crosswalk — but it was a pause nonetheless. Embarrassed, I scurried onto the streetcar. Then I remembered the condoms in my wallet. I had meekly snatched them from the Office of Residence and Student Life when I thought the staff hadn’t been looking, only to knock the bowl over. Cringing at my entire existence passed the time well; I was getting off — the streetcar, that is — before I knew it. The walk towards big_ Ben4158’s house was nerve-wracking. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of his front door. Here, I was expecting the Pokémon theme song to play as I evolved into an adult. Instead, I took a deep breath, prepared to knock, and… flopped onto my bed. That entire plan, just to bail at the end. Inspiring. In hindsight, my night wasn’t a complete waste of time. I realized that I didn’t need to lose my virginity to get validated. Having shame about an imaginary construct like virginity was not a good use of my energy. Virgin or not, wear your label with pride. Maybe that was the night’s lesson. Or maybe I’m trying to justify the Stage IV case of blue balls I had. Regardless, the end result was the same. It’s like P!nk was foreshadowing my adventure with the line, “It’s just you and your hand tonight.”

OCTOBER 4, 2021 15

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings made me feel seen like never before A Chinese-Canadian student reflects on the importance of positive representation in media Ines Wong Varsity Contributor

There’s a scene in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings which — despite being only 30 seconds long and relatively insignificant when compared with the huge plot points or climactic events — I latched onto during my first viewing of the movie. Here’s how it goes. Shang-Chi walks through a part of San Francisco. As he walks by, various other Chinese-American people open their stores for a new day. Cardboard cartons of fruits are stocked up at the front of a Chinese grocer and piled on top of one another. Shang-Chi walks past a restaurant that’s tucked inside a refurbished garage; on top of the door, a bright white sign with Chinese characters shines, and the translated English words “GOURMET DIM SUM AND CAFE” are written underneath the characters. He gets to his friend Katy’s place and takes off his shoes. Katy’s inside, wearing slippers. Katy’s younger brother, Ruihua, tries to pass off his chores to Shang-Chi, but Katy’s mother catches him, insisting that they’re Ruihua’s chores to finish. The scene continues for longer, but what stood out to me was how relatable every detail felt to me. Though I’ve grown up in a Chinese diaspora in Canada and not the US, everything in those scenes made me feel seen. The cardboard fruit cartons and the white gourmet dim sum sign felt like exact replicas of the Chinese plazas in my hometown. The sight of Shang-Chi taking off his shoes before entering the house and seeing Katy wear slippers reminded me of the things I do every day at home. The conversation in which Katy’s mother wants Ruihua to do his

own chores sounded like it came straight out of a conversation between my mother and younger sibling. Similar scenes filled the rest of the film, particularly during its first act, which was set in America. In that same scene in Katy’s house, her family asks the kind of questions that many other Chinese diaspora audiences have heard from their own parents: “When will you settle down? When will you get a real job?” And later, despite the fact that Katy and Shang-Chi’s relationship is entirely platonic, her grandmother asks Shang-Chi, “When are [you and Katy] going to be married?” These are questions that I’ve heard my friends’ parents ask them. They’re questions similar to ones my own parents have asked, such as, “Have you found a boy yet?” Seeing this conversation take place — in a superhero film, no less — was incredibly validating. It made my ChineseCanadian friends and I feel seen in ways that we’ve rarely ever felt in other Western media. The way the character Katy Chen was written felt extremely relatable. Though she was given a Chinese name that her family used when speaking with her, she stuck by her English name in public — even when in Macau or Ta Lo — because it was what she was used to using. Though she understood Mandarin, she would respond to Chinese speakers in English because, as she said, “My Chinese isn’t very good.” Everything about her character felt authentic to the Chinese diaspora experience. I have a Chinese name, but I rarely use it with people outside of my family. My Chinese is godawful, and I’m likely to respond in English while my parents speak to me in Chinese. Seeing this experience represented so well on screen in a Western superhero film was amazing; several

times, I found myself getting emotional in the theatre because it was the first time I felt well represented. To add onto that, the film’s fight scenes made me feel seen, albeit in a different way. I trained in Chinese martial arts until I was 13 years old; not much, but enough to recognize the Wing Chun forms on screen when I saw them. I also grew up watching my grandmother go through her Tai Chi forms every day, and I remember walking into the living room every so often and seeing parts of the wuxia films my dad watched while he ate his lunch. Seeing the beautiful wuxia-inspired fight choreography in Shang-Chi made it feel — in the words of another one of my Chinese-Canadian friends — “right.” It took me back to watching the films of my childhood, and made me feel properly represented in another way. And there were so many other details. The food looked like it came straight out of my dinner table and onto the screen. The mythical creatures of Ta Lo — especially Morris and the Great Protector — were all directly inspired from Chinese mythology and reminded me of the statues that decorated the many dim sum places I’ve been to. The costumes. The architecture. The scene where Shang-Chi tries to get Katy to pronounce his Chinese name correctly. The sheer amount of Mandarin spoken in the film, though the translations in the subtitles missed the nuances. The shrines to the dead, lit with incense and with platters of fruit given as offering, which reminded me of the cemetery I go to when I visit my late grandfather. All these details and more in a Western film sent out a message to me that I’ve rarely ever gotten in Western media: You are seen. You are heard. You are valid. There’s something this film offered to me that many others did not. Both Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell were amazing steps forward

in Chinese representation — and I’ll give credit to Kung Fu Panda as well — but what ShangChi and the Legend of the Ten Rings showed us was that we could be the main characters in worlds of superheroes, too. Many films from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China don’t offer us the hybridity that this film did — the blend between Western and Chinese cultures that many of us in the diaspora experience every day. It made me feel seen not just as a Chinese woman, or as someone living in the Western world, but specifically as a Chinese Canadian. There’s much, much more that I could talk about that’s not in this article. I haven’t spoken about the plot or the amazing performances of the actors — especially Hong Kong legend Tony Leung Chiu Wai, who my Hong-Kongborn parents were extremely excited to see. I haven’t mentioned the problematic comic origins of Shang-Chi. I haven’t spoken of some of the criticisms I do have of the film, which will be for another time. But I will leave you with the following scene. It was nighttime. On the benches near the University of St. Michael’s College, I sat with two other Chinese-Canadian friends after seeing Shang-Chi. We spoke, our faces animated, and I asked them, “When was the last time you felt so well represented?” They stopped. They thought, then one of them said, “I don’t know.” The other: “Never. I’ve never had this before.” I thought back to Crazy Rich Asians. It was good, but as much as I loved seeing an all-Asian cast grounded in Chinese culture, I couldn’t relate to the lavish lifestyle shown in that film. I thought back to the scene with Katy’s family in Shang-Chi. “Me neither,” I said. “I’ve never had this before,” my friend repeated. “But seeing it represent us so well made me feel good.” My thoughts turned to the film again. I’m generally not a crier when it comes to films, but I almost teared up three times during Shang-Chi because I felt seen — felt properly represented — for the first time. “Yeah,” I agreed. “It felt really good.”



October 4, 2021

Putting the ‘sci’ in sci-fi Exploring some of the scientific theories behind movies and television Chloe Bantle Varsity Contributor

Science fiction is a genre rich with wonderful stories, action-packed adventures, and worlds beyond our own. Everyone can agree that sci-fi stories are fictional, but they aren’t necessarily impossible. Their use of theoretical physics to explain tropes like time travel and hyperspace goes to show that attention is paid to real science while constructing these fantastical stories. The question is, how much of the science in sci-fi is real, and how much of it is the result of creative liberty? Conquering time The physics underlying time travel isn’t always explicitly stated in the books, shows, or even novels that portray it; many of them just assume time travel is possible and get on with the story. Take Doctor Who, where time travel is made possible through the TARDIS. The TARDIS, the infamous bigger-onthe-inside blue police box, is powered by what’s called the ‘Eye of Harmony,’ a star that is forever collapsing into a black hole and can travel anywhere in time and space. It navigates an extradimensional tunnel known as the ‘Time Vortex,’ travelling between different points in time and space in much the same way that hyperspace in Star Wars allows for travel between different points in the Galactic Empire. Despite being fictional, Doctor Who has had an impact on actual physicists’ time travel theories. Physicists Benjamin K. Tippet and David Tsang have written a paper explaining how a mechanism like the TARDIS might be able to travel through time.

Their paper calls upon Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which states that time and space are combined to make up a four-dimensional spacetime. Tippet and Tsang propose the creation of a ‘bubble’ of spacetime that could travel freely backwards and forwards through time. Although such a bubble would violate certain universal laws of physics, Tippet and Tsang helpfully suggest a hypothetical kind of matter that the bubble could be built from that just doesn’t follow these rules. Splice and combine enough of those bubbles together, and you could create a tunnel removed from the regular flow of time like the one found in most of Doctor Who’s opening credits. It’s not a theory we’ll ever see tested, but it does demonstrate how theoretical physics can be mapped onto fictional scenarios. Jumping through the multiverse The show Loki employs the unique version of time travel found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rather than employing the butterfly effect, where the time traveller’s actions in the past affect the present, or the loop effect, where the time traveller is already part of past events, time travel in Loki creates a branching timeline: the actions of time travellers in the past have no effect on their original timeline. Loki’s version of time travel does hold merit in the scientific community. A physics professor from the California Institute of Technology provided a similar explanation of time travel to the one Loki established, where a branching timeline is actually a branching universe. This concept of branching timelines ties into the ‘many

Your brain on coffee The neuroscience behind what caffeine does to your brain


Ashiana Sunderji Varsity Contributor

Psychoactive drugs can affect your behaviour, emotions, cognizance, interpretations, and observations of your environment. What you might not expect is that the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug is caffeine. When described as a neurologically altering substance, the cup of coffee you drank this morning seems a lot more intense than you might expect from an automatic component of your daily routine. Consuming psychoactive drugs might even be a habit that you depend on to get you through the day.

Caffeine and neuroscience Adenosine is a neurotransmitter — a chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain. It naturally accumulates in your brain throughout the day by binding to adenosine receptors. The product of this binding is exhaustion, the feeling that hits right before you promise yourself to get more sleep so that you can function better the next day — or the feeling that compels you to make that next cup of coffee or splurge at your local coffee shop. After you drink coffee, the psychoactive effects of caffeine kick in, blocking adenosine receptors


worlds theory’ of quantum mechanics. While Loki and Doctor Who both employ a degree of actual science, they are also both based on the assumption that time travel is possible. They use time travel as a plot device, taking creative liberties to make it possible — but when it comes to showing how it works, they try their hand at creating an explanation that’s more scientific than magical. Taking speed to the limit — literally Spaceships are a staple of sciencefiction stories, and none more so than the ships in Star Wars and Star Trek. Almost everyone recognizes the names Millenium Falcon and USS Enterprise. They each take their own approach to traversing galaxies. Star Trek’s warp speed precedes Star Wars’ hyperspace. It creates an engine known as the warp drive, which uses a reaction between matter and antimatter to reach and so they can’t bind to adenosine and produce exhaustion. Caffeine simultaneously increases the concentration of the neurotransmitter dopamine, enhancing our focus and attention. Our brains must also maintain a balance between the concentration of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that helps amplify signals being relayed within the brain, and the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). A surplus in glutamate contributes to anxiety and restlessness — essentially having an energizing effect — while GABA counterbalances this by calming nerve transmissions. Caffeine inhibits GABA release and is said to increase the extracellular concentration of glutamate, exciting nerve transmissions and keeping us on edge. Long-term effects on the brain Surprisingly, if administered at the right dosage, caffeine can have positive effects for various mental health disorders. One study found that caffeine enhanced a rat’s cognition and attention abilities. This same improvement was seen among children with ADHD who consumed caffeine. Another study — conducted over 10 years — found a lower risk of depression for women who consumed more coffee throughout the day.

exceed the speed of light. Each speed increase is called a ‘warp factor,’ and the engines go from warp factor one — the speed of light — to warp factor 10 — infinite speed. Everything in between is a multiple of the speed of light. The warp drive operates by pushing spaceships through a wormhole — a part of space that has curved in on itself, connecting two different parts of the universe. Moreover, according to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, nothing can reach the speed of light; it is the universal speed limit. Therefore, the warp drive of the USS Enterprise would not, in our universe, be able to reach the speeds it does in Star Trek. A shortcut through space Star Wars, on the other hand, utilizes a different concept to make travel incredibly fast over a much shorter distance: the dimension of Neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s generally involve a disruption to the bloodbrain barrier that results in inflammatory changes that ultimately lead to the breakdown of neurons. In animal models for neurodegenerative disorders, caffeine seems to protect the blood brain barrier. Ultimately, caffeine should be consumed in moderation to have a positive effect. If the dosage is too much, the consequences can include sleep disturbances, psychosis, and anxiety. Additionally, the later in the day that you consume caffeine, the more likely it is that it will affect you when you are trying to get sleep. Generally, our commitments take place during the day, and regardless of how late we get to sleep, we will have to be awake, alert, and functioning in the daytime. If caffeine keeps us up at night, we will probably turn to it again once our exhaustion builds up on the following day. This creates a cycle in which we become dependent on caffeine to stay awake, even though it is also the substance keeping us from getting the rest we need to feel naturally alert and cognizant. Should we ditch coffee? The thought of not drinking coffee might be scary for some people, but if you enjoy coffee, you may not have to worry about it. As with

hyperspace. The ships in Star Wars reach light speed in order to clear the barrier separating real space from hyperspace, where they must follow specific paths to reach their destination or risk a hyperspace collision. Although hyperspace and warp travel seem very similar on the surface, they are fundamentally different in practice — warp-driven spaceships travel directly between destinations, while ships jumping into hyperspace take a shortcut through another dimension. Regardless of genre, artists take creative liberties, but they still use reality as their foundation. Sci-fi isn’t solely about fighting aliens, flying around in a spaceship, and breaking the laws of physics. Sometimes, it provides insight into scientific theories in a way that more people can understand. After all, it wouldn’t be right to call the genre ‘science fiction’ if there wasn’t a little bit of truth within each fable. everything, moderation is key. As long as you aren’t consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day — the rough equivalent of four cups of coffee — you should be okay. However, if you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, headaches, muscle tremors, and other overstimulation symptoms, you might want to make some adjustments in your routine. While the Mayo Clinic recommends brewing tea for a short amount of time to reduce its caffeine concentration, or simply switching to beverages without caffeine, they also dive into some routine adjustments that can be made to your lifestyle to reduce your intake and ultimate dependence on caffeine. The list includes keeping track of your caffeine consumption, reducing your intake at a gradual rate — with emphasis on avoiding caffeine as a late afternoon or evening habit — and checking your medication ingredients for caffeine to make sure that you aren’t consuming more than you think. You can also try to wake up earlier, exercise, and spend time outside so that you feel more inclined to sleep at night and are capable of running on natural alertness throughout the day. If you keep in mind what you are doing to the natural processes in your body the next time you turn to brew your third cup of coffee, it might be incentive enough for you to change your habits.

OCTOBER 4, 2021


How unsustainable fishing practices are jeopardizing ocean health The connection between rising seafood consumption and overfishing Angel Hsieh Associate Science Editor

The demand for trendy sushi restaurant menu items, coupled with steadily rising seafood consumption in general, has become a threat to marine ecosystem conservation efforts. To accommodate the growing demand for fish, many endangered fish species are labelled under generic, misleading names so that they can be sold in the market. Moreover, overfishing decreases the ocean’s ability to withstand the various impacts of climate change. The Varsity set out to investigate overexploitation by the fishing industry in marine ecosystems. Overfishing has gone global Ecosystem overfishing (EOF) is described as an unsustainable fishing practice which threatens not only specific fish populations, but the larger marine ecosystems as well. A recent study highlighted how being overly focused on target populations without considering the larger ecosystem is a problematic approach to fishery management. The researchers who did the study described a way to effectively detect ecosystem overfishing based on widely available satellite data. They constructed measurement indices based on the ratios between the populations of fish and the percentage of those populations being fished. For high-income nations, these indices are much more efficient than piecing together data on fish species, population by population. Since the monitoring and enforcement of fisheries is lacking in many low-income nations, easy indicators of EOF are both pragmatic and valuable. According to the results of the study, “the occurrence of EOF in [large marine ecosystems] is consistently detected across all indicators.” Tropical regions have been the marine ecosystems worst affected by EOF, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the implications of climate change. Rising ocean temperatures prompt fish populations to migrate to higher latitudes. Without shifting associated fisheries to accommodate the migration trends, more pressure is exerted on the tropical marine ecosystems. Based on these observations, it seems likely that a global abundance of EOF is happening right now. The ocean’s health crisis The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pointed out that one-third of fish stock worldwide is experiencing depletion due to “overfishing and habitat destruction.” Marine organisms are already impacted by climate-induced changes in the ocean. With all the additional stress from overfishing, the ocean is undergoing a health crisis, which includes a loss of biodiversity. Overfishing has already done damage to ecosystems by restructuring their food chains.

Essentially, fish species at the top of food chains are being disproportionately fished out of the ecosystem. The absence of these valuable species leads to gradual effects trickling down the marine food chain. Such unsustainable fishing practices result in a serial depletion of marine ecosystems, which is also known as “trophic cascade.” Having healthy fish stock is critical to the overall functioning of ocean ecosystems, as well as certain planetary functions. For instance, the ocean is known to play an indispensable role in regulating carbon in the atmosphere. Therefore, revitalizing the ocean’s biodiversity by ending overfishing will also strengthen the ocean’s overall health and the Earth’s response to climate change. The Canadian tragedy of the Atlantic cod The problem of overfishing is also deeply rooted in Canada’s past and present, as can be seen in the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery. For almost 500 years, the Newfoundland North Atlantic cod stock was deemed one of the largest sources of fish in the world. However, after two billion individual cod were lost to years of unregulated fishing, only one per cent of the historical population was left. The Canadian government issued the 1992 Cod Moratorium subsequent to the collapse of the cod population in order to put an end to cod fishing in the hopes of preserving the population. Almost 30 years after the 1992 Cod Moratorium, the question of whether the Newfoundland cod population will recover still remains unanswered. Scientists are concerned about the possibility that the Newfoundland cod population will never recover under the current management of the federal Fishery Department. The federal government’s cod population rebuilding plans, released last December, prompted both scientists and fish harvesters to call on Ottawa for revisions. According to a CBC report, the longanticipated plan “ignores the latest science [and] sets no timelines,” which puts the future of Newfoundland fishery in jeopardy. Back to the sushi menu US researchers have revealed the prevalence of mislabelled seafood in places like grocery stores, fish markets, and even sushi restaurants. In a sample used in the case study, seven species of rockfish were sold under the generic name of “Pacific red snapper” on the menus of sushi restaurants across California and Washington. Shockingly, the researchers found that 56 per cent of the rockfish samples they identified were “species listed as overfished by the [US] National Marine Fisheries Service.” In a separate trial, using DNA forensics, they were also able to identify 11 different species from three taxonomic families of fish in 77 fish

fillet samples labeled “Pacific red snapper.” When food providers can sell all rockfish under one common label, it impedes consumers from making informed choices. The ambiguity that leads to food providers mislabelling fish species arises in the process of mixed-species fisheries selling all their products under one generic name. For example, the generic label ‘salmon’ includes multiple endangered species. This phenomenon is commonly seen in seafood markets, and these mislabelled fish end up listed under ambiguous menu item descriptions in sushi restaurants. Seafood retailers commonly relabel less expensive species of fish to appear to be more expensive or of higher quality. Such misnaming and substitution is illegal if the seafood is transported across states or the US international border. The challenge is that laws about labelling seafood are not under US federal jurisdiction. Although the US and Canada have placed numerous restrictions and regulations on rockfish fisheries, there is a period from the time of catch to the final point of sale when fish are not consistently identified, which makes them hard to regulate. No matter how educated consumers are on the subject of sustainable seafood consumption, once information about the fish they’re consuming reaches the marketplace, it’s inaccurate — so consumers are not able to make informed decisions. Hence, pushing governmental action to eliminate

Disrupting ecosystems leads to bigger environmental problems. COURTESY OF CHEASPEAKE BAY PROGRAM/CC FLICKR

misleading vernacular names in seafood markets is a significant step toward preventing the depletion of fish stock. Meanwhile, consumers rely on organizations such as the

World Wildlife Fund to collaborate with seafood retailers and offer environmentally sound choices that sustain ocean health in the long term.


October 4, 2021

Sports inclusivity at U of T for students with disabilities What it means to be inclusive, and how we can improve Simran Randhawa Varsity Contributor

In early September this year, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games concluded with Canada winning 21 medals. Despite COVID-19 having led to the postponement of the games and making training nearly impossible, a recordbreaking 4,403 athletes participated in the Paralympics. The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons, said that the Paralympics are needed now more than ever to place disability at the forefront of the inclusion discourse, and it seems that, with the Paralympics’ astonishing 4.25 billion viewers, such inclusion may be very possible.

different ways to communicate during practices, such as “wearing the FM system, standing closer to [Bangyay], [and] trying to not move too far into the gym where it echoes.” In addition, during the games, Bangyay’s team would be in a “huddle situation,” which allowed everyone to hear each other. When she was on the court and her coaches needed her attention, they would shout for her, and she’d approach them to hear further instructions. Bangyay hopes that similar accommodations can be made again when she joins sports at U of T. Not only did her accommodations help Bangyay participate in sports at the same level as her peers, but they also show that they can be straightforward. Of course, accommodations

with students with intellectual disabilities, so they “try to consider… the space that [they’re] playing in… just in case someone needs certain accommodations.” Working alongside Special Olympic athletes, motionball organizes two main events: the Marathon of Sports and the #NoGoodWay campaign. The former focuses on half-to-full days of sporting events in which teams of 10 join to play different adapted sports. motionball organizes its sporting events so that participants of all levels can easily understand the rules through repetition and demonstration. Instructions are given both verbally and in writing, and if volunteers find any participants struggling during the game, they make sure to assist. motionball hopes to create a space where students feel comfortable asking questions or asking for assistance by ensuring that its volunteers “never assume anybody’s ability level or knowledge level.” “[motionball] at U of T… actually started four years ago,” says Ellard. In this short time, Ellard has found that motionball at U of T has done well at accommodating those with intellectual or physical disabilities.

Accessibility in sports is important now more than ever. SHANNAH HUNTER, TOM KUHN, STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

Though the Paralympic Games are over, individuals living with physical or intellectual disabilities continue to fight for inclusion in sports. U of T students also have to struggle for inclusion in sports, so The Varsity researched sports opportunities for students with disabilities at the university. What it means to make accommodations in sports Marissa Juanita Bangyay, a first-year student in life sciences and an individual living with hearing loss, has found success in athletics. Bangyay grew up playing various sports, including soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and swimming. In high school, she played on the girls’ basketball team, and she hopes to try out for the women’s Varsity basketball team in the coming years. When she joined her high school team, she informed her coaches of her hearing impairment and her coaches made accommodations for her right away. Although Bangyay uses hearing aids, she stated that her team implemented

vary according to the types of disabilities a student has, and some accommodations require more work than others; however, they’re possible to implement, and that’s what matters here. motionball U of T Sports opportunities for students with disabilities don’t stop at the Varsity Blues. The national nonprofit organization motionball, founded in 2002 by three brothers — Paul, Mark, and Sean Etherington — works to involve Canadian youth in the Special Olympics, which is a sporting event catered to students with intellectual disabilities. By hosting “inclusive sport and social events,” motionball creates a supportive environment that celebrates differences through interactive and meaningful experiences. Chloe Ellard, a fourth-year student in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE), is the co-event director of motionball U of T, an entirely-volunteer led club that is hosted at 33 other universities. Ellard said that motionball works primarily

Ellard is becoming more aware of the accessibility needs of students with disabilities through her academic program. “In third year, we take a course called Adapted Physical Activity, which is learning all about how to make sport inclusive for people with disabilities, [and] how to make sport more enjoyable, more accessible.” Courses like this one are mandatory for KPE students, ensuring that KPE students are constantly learning how to interact with different people in such environments. U of T’s accessibility policies It can be challenging to navigate U of T websites in search of information about accommodations for sports players, but the university does offer some options. Sports policies, along with additional resources including U of T’s Statement of Commitment Regarding Persons with Disabilities, can be found on UTSC’s websites. UTSC’s Department of Athletics and Recreation lists “[creating] a community that is inclusive of all persons” as one of its many charitable commitments.

The Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre supports this goal by making the centre itself fully accessible, and it has recently provided a stateof-the-art wheelchair accessibility facility at their Tennis Centre. Moreover, UTSC Athletics and Recreation also lists the programs it has put in place to promote inclusivity on its website, such as fitness classes designed for all abilities, instructional courses, and opportunities like recreational sports and college intramural teams. With sports ranging from yoga and archery to table tennis and basketball, it’s fair to say that UTSC is committed to making sports accessible for all students. Furthermore, at UTSG, the KPE’s website has several resources related to sports and athletics. In addition, they offer student outreach programs in conjunction with Sports and Recreation’s Diversity and Equity Team, a group of UTSG students promoting diversity and inclusion alongside physical and mental health, and MoveU, a tri-campus initiative that promotes healthy living through social interaction. KPE’s First-Year Welcome Guide also includes a brief statement on their commitment to creating an inclusive environment and removing structural barriers, including ableism. Though it is short, and very few resources in the guide explicitly mention or link the sports opportunities at U of T, it does imply that the faculty is devoted to making space for students with disabilities. Additionally, in the past, KPE has held sports events primarily for students with disabilities, such as Para sport, in 2016, which was held in collaboration with the faculty’s Equity Movement in the hopes of promoting inclusivity. The event included adapted bocce ball, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, and blindfolded soccer. Tracy Schmitt, a fourway amputee and Paralympic bronze medalist in alpine skiing, was a speaker at the event. She spoke about encouraging students to help sports become more accessible. By holding such events, KPE educates the attendees and gives those who are disabled a platform to be heard, seen, and represented. UTSG students can also use Hart House’s website to find information on the types of accessibility support, such as elevators to all floors of the building. The future of inclusion There are many sports opportunities at U of T for students with disabilities, and there are many students with disabilities who are interested and determined to participate in them. “I wouldn’t say it was more difficult to engage in sports and athletics,” says Bangyay. “I knew that I would be able to keep up with the team and my coaches because we all have that love for basketball.” A player’s attitude about their disabilities in an athletics context, of course, may vary according to the disabilities they live with, but that doesn’t dismiss the fact that everyone has passions and should have the opportunities to refine them. And sometimes, as Bangyay points out, “it’s just about having fun playing adapted games.” A lot can be done to create sports opportunities for people living with disabilities. U of T is off to a great start — but it can do more, from building more accessible gyms to having more sports clubs catered and marketed to those with disabilities. We must continue to provide opportunities in sports for those with disabilities and build representation. “You shouldn’t be defined based [on] your disability,” Ellard said. “You should be defined based [on] your ability.” Disclosure: Simran Randhawa is a member of The Varsity’s Board of Directors.

OCTOBER 4, 2021

The Toronto Raptors are ready to claw their way back into the NBA A quick look at your favorite team before the season starts


Mekhi Quarshie Associate Sports Editor

Folks, it’s that time of the year! The weather is getting colder, midterm exams are just around the corner, and the NBA season is starting on October 19. The Raptors went through a myriad of changes this off-season in an attempt to return the team to its former glory. Of course, there’s nothing worse than going into an NBA season excited for your team just to see them tank, which begs the question: what should fans expect from the Toronto Raptors this upcoming NBA season? If the history of the Toronto Raptors was a story arc, the 2019 NBA championship would be its climax, and everything else since then would be categorized as ‘falling action.’ In 2020, they got knocked out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, and then they failed to make the playoffs the following season. This year’s

NBA draft seemed to provide a sliver of hope to Raptors fans. Having been given the number four pick in this year’s draft, the Raptors were destined to get a box office player. Analysts, fans, and journalists alike expected the Raptors to draft Gonzaga University star Jalen Suggs at the number four spot. However, to everyone’s surprise, the Raptors glossed over Suggs, and instead picked Florida State power forward Scottie Barnes. Barnes’ résumé is more impressive than most college athletes. In the 2020–2021 Atlantic Coast Conference season, Barnes was named the Freshman of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, all while averaging 10.3 points per game. As brilliant of a college career as Barnes had, his accomplishments are dwarfed compared to Suggs’. The athletic point guard averaged 14.4 points per game, had a career high of 27 points in one game, and scored a three-point buzzer

beater against the University of California, Los Angeles in the Final Four. In basketball terms, the rookie quite literally has ice in his veins, and in terms of sheer offensive talent, every basketball fan knows that Suggs comes out on top. This leads to the most painful question for Raptors fans: why did the Raptors choose Barnes over Suggs? The answer to this question becomes clear when you look at the bigger picture of what the Raptors are planning to do with their team. Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri commented in a press conference that the Raptors “don’t have to go with the wave of what the NBA is doing. [It’s] such a copycat league... and for now our opportunities are building around the young players that we have and letting them grow.” It’s clear that while Suggs is the better player now, the Raptors believe that Barnes will be a better fit for the team in the long run. This, coupled

Push-pull exercises: A breakdown Examining a growing trend in fitness culture

Push-pull exercises are a growing phenomenon in fitness.


Rushil Dave Varsity Staff

“What’s your go-to routine at the gym?” When asked this question, gym connoisseurs and body builders seem to have one answer: “it has to be the push-pull workout.” This might seem unexpected — many people often think that the best routine is the traditional method,

which targets the chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs on multiple days. However, is the traditional routine really the best way to lift? While it can be beneficial to organize your gym routine this way, it clearly requires a hefty time commitment. With the semester in full swing, students simply cannot meet that requirement, and this may discourage them from even setting foot in the gym.

The push-pull routine does not share the pitfalls of a traditional workout, and is known as the golden standard in fitness. Simply put, it is a style of training that targets upper body muscles based on whether they are used in a pushing or pulling actions. Healthline provides some great examples of push-pull routines. Here are some common exercises, categorized based on whether they involve pushing or pulling.


with the fact that Barnes is a defensive threat, justifies the Raptors’ seemingly shocking decision. With regard to veteran players, the Raptors also traded Kyle Lowry for Goran Dragić and Precious Achiuwa on August 6. The feisty point guard will be missed, but he had to go for the team to improve. Not only does the addition of Dragić and Achiuwa add stability to their bench, but the release of Lowry allows the Raptors to play a less Lowry-dependent basketball. With leaders like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby, other players should be able to grow around the type of basketball that the Raptors play. While it’s impossible to predict a team’s performance in an upcoming season — the Phoenix Suns’ performance last season is an example — one shouldn’t expect too much from the Raptors this season. The team is still in their developmental phase — and develop they shall, considering the improvements they’ve brought about in their star players. This season is more about the Raptors gaining solid footing than anything. Coach Nick Nurse needs to play around with his roster and see which players mesh, what formation works, and how to ruffle the feathers of teams that are better than them. Considering their performance in the 2020– 2021 NBA season, making the playoffs would be an accomplishment for our Raptors. However, their performance this upcoming season depends on a few key factors. Firstly, the new blood has to mesh well with the old team. The faster Barnes can work his way into the starting lineup and start performing, the better the Raptors will be. Secondly, one of the older players must step in to fill the void of power that Lowry created when he left. Whether it’s Siakam, VanVleet, or someone else, one of the veteran players needs to act as the bonafide leader for the team. Thirdly, the Raptors need to try their best to stay away from injuries, as that was one of the main reasons for their disappointing performance last season. So, in short, if you’re looking for another championship season, you’ll probably be let down — but that doesn’t make the Raptors any less interesting to watch. They’re a group of scrappy, underestimated, competitive basketball players trying to mesh together in time to bring a second Larry O’Brien trophy to the city. If that’s not prime NBA basketball, then I don’t know what is. In bench press, you are exerting force to push the bar above your chest, so chest exercises like bench press fall under “push.” In the bicep curl, you are pulling the weight to your body, so bicep exercises should be called “pull.” Other muscle groups that can “push” include shoulders and triceps, while other muscle groups that can “pull” include back and forearms. In a typical push-pull workout cycle, you dedicate one day to a “push” workout, and another day to a “pull” workout. A lower body workout typically follows the “pull” workout, and the cycle is completed by a rest day. With this setup, you can train your entire body for a maximum of two times a week, since one cycle can easily be completed in four days. Compared to a traditional workout, in which a full cycle may not even be completed within a week, the push-pull routine is much more efficient and consumes significantly less time. Another benefit of the push-pull routine is its superior recovery time compared to a traditional workout. If you follow the push-pull regimen, you will be giving your muscles at least three days to recuperate before you strain them again, whereas with a traditional workout, you may train the same body parts multiple days in a row. This may result in overtraining of certain muscle groups over others, which, if done over a long period of time, could result in muscle imbalance. The push-pull routine eliminates this discrepancy by allowing you to work out both your biceps and your upper back, for example, on the same day. Consistency and simplicity are both key in fitness endeavours, and it is clear that the pushpull routine checks off both of those boxes. Making it your go-to workout will certainly do wonders for your body in no time.




OCTOBER 4, 2021

Profile for The Varsity

October 4th, 2021  

October 4th, 2021  


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