All sound and fury—for nothing

They’ve heard it over and over again, and it’s one broken record they’ll be glad to hear the end of as the season draws to a close.

Following Saturday’s loss to the Western Mustangs, an eerie silence surrounded the Varsity Blues. Considering all the fanfare and hype that the game, played in front of 5,350 at TD Waterhouse, has engendered over the last few weeks, one couldn’t help but wonder, “Who died?”

No one, unless you’re counting the dead horse that media types have been beating ad nauseum in recent weeks. By Monday there were no more questions pertaining to the now-historic losing streak of 48 consecutive games, no more excessive coverage and redundant articles. Who would have thought that talking about a broken record would have turned into such a broken record itself?

Now with loss number 48 officially in the history books, the vultures can officially move on to their next story and the team can begin concentrating on football once again.

“Much adversity has been placed on the team from many sources,” said Blues player and Ticats draft pick Michael Goncalves. “The media, injuries, and negative talk have all been issues, but when I read the newspaper or watch the news, any negative media about the team only fuels me to play harder for the guys next to me, because we’re all playing the sport we love.”

Goncalves, one of the most senior players on the team, is a leader on a young Blues squad. Despite his arguments to the contrary, the streak must have weighed on both players and coach this season. With weekly reminders from every self-respecting journalist this side of the Edmonton Sun, how could they forget?

The season’s closer against Queen’s this Saturday is expected to be a quiet, low-key affair—a far cry from previous games. This development is not unlike what happened during Barry Bond’s march towards 758 home runs. Once he passed that magic number, the media vanished faster than a tiger in a Siegfried and Roy act. Like Bond’s record-setting feat, the Blues would also like a caveat placed on the infamous number 48.

“An asterisk should be placed beside the losing streak record because it doesn’t tell the whole story. We have come out each and everyday, giving 110 per cent,” Goncalves said.

“I have made great friends over my five years at U of T, and have grown as a player. There are too many positive things that have happened for this losing streak to defi ne our team.”

While an asterisk is not a likely option, Goncalves and his teammates should take solace. Today’s newspapers will be used to line tomorrow’s litter boxes, to the huge relief of the team as they try to bury this stinker of a season in the past.

Ontario, the morning after

In Trinity-Spadina, the provincial riding that encompasses most of U of T’s downtown campus, Rosario Marchese of the NDP has won a 41 per cent majority. This riding was one of only five that voted in favour of electoral reform.

The riding of Toronto-Centre, which encompasses St. Michael’s and Victoria Colleges, elected George Smitherman (Liberal). UTM’s Mississauga-Erindale riding voted in favour of the status quo. The riding also elected a Liberal MPP, Harinder Takhar, as did UTSC’s Pickering-Scarborough East riding, who voted Wayne Arthurs into provincial. UTSC’s riding, meanwhile, was also the most vehemently opposed to MMP, with 63.5 per cent of voters choosing against reform. Voter turnout across the province worsened since the last 2003 election, dropping from 56.9 per cent to 52.8. In Trinity-Spadina, however, turnout improved very slightly, from 52 per cent to 52.6.

While there is no objective way to determine if youth voter turnout has increased from last year, polling stations ran out of ballots twice at Ryerson University, a sign young adults are taking an increased interest in politics.

McGuinty’s party won a second consecutive Liberal majority government, a feat last achieved 70 years ago by Mitchell Hepburn. John Tory and Frank De Jong, leaders of the Progressive Conservative and Green parties, respectively, lost their own ridings and currently do not hold a seat in provincial parliament. De Jong, leader of the Ontario Greens since 1993, has never won a parliamentary seat, but Tory’s defeat sent ripples through the PC party and the blue leader has announced that if his party asks him to, he will resign.

Analysts have suggested that Tory’s plan to extend public funding of religious schools, a promise he withdrew when it proved unpopular, may have cost the PC party around three percent of the popular vote.

Though the Greens did not win any ridings, they saw a large popular vote increase, to 8.0 per cent from 2.8 per cent in 2003.

The NDP won three more seats, growing their MPP faction from seven to 10 and increasing their share of the popular vote by about two per cent.

The referendum to switch to a Mixed Member Proportional electoral system failed. Had the referendum won 60 per cent of the popular vote and 64 out of 107 ridings, Ontario would have adopted a new provincial voting system that attempts to balance regional concerns with the popular vote. The MMP referendum achieved only 36.9 per cent of votes and won a majority in only five ridings.

Jen Hassum, chairperson of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students, said that younger voters who overwhelmingly supported the reform were outvoted by the older population.

“Recent polling showed that 67 per cent of voters under the age of 35 supported the new voting system,” said Hassum. “Tonight’s projected defeat of Mixed Member Proportional reinforces a massive generational divide in Ontario,” she announced on election night.

Hassum noted that though Ontario’s tuition fees are among Canada’s highest, provincial funding for postsecondary education is the lowest in the country.

Dr. Peter George, chair of the Council of Ontario Universities and president of McMaster University, echoed Hassum’s remarks. He said he felt lack of public information and awareness on the referendum contributed to the overwhelming support for the existing system.

“I think discussions around referenda of that kind often are quite complex and it’s very difficult to get the real proposed improvements of the new system to the public,” George said. “The default position in such situations is always to vote in favor of the status quo,” he added.

CFS-O, COU, and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance have voiced hopes that pressure on the Liberals will force their majority government to take up issues of post-secondary education. OUSA approved of the Liberals’ “great strides” in funding post-secondary education and student aid during their past four-year mandate.

Detailed breakdown of the voter turnout at the different polling stations across campus are expected to be available within a couple of weeks.

Varsity Blues badger Brock

The next challenge to the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team will come this Saturday, when they face off against the four-time defending OUA champion, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.

The game will be the teams’ first meeting of the season, as the Blues deal with an unknown quantity.

Blues head coach Karen Hughes isn’t sure what to expect. “[It’s] really hard to know because we haven’t seen them yet, but usually with Laurier, it’ll be about us trying to be a good skating team,” she said. “Good puck control will be key against them.”

The Blues look like they’re up to the task after a solid game against the Brock Badgers on Saturday night. Coach Hughes said the team had some good things to build on, and the final score—4- 1 in the Blues’ favour—certainly confirmed that view, bringing the Blues to a perfect 3-0 this season.

The team came out firing in the first period, but the sharp play of Beth Clause, second-year Badgers goaltender, kept the score close. Despite outshooting the Badgers 17 to 9, the Blues scored only one goal in the initial frame—a low glove-side power-play tally by Emily Milito from defenceman Kelly Setter on a two-on-one—when a hooking penalty to Brock’sMaggie Young gave the Blues their third chance with the man advantage.

Special teams continued to come through for the Blues, who killed off all six penalties against them. They were able to cycle the puck, get shots through from the point and maintain pressure in the offensive zone on most of their power-play opportunities.

The Blues would once again capitalize on a Brock penalty in the second period, on a hooking call against Ann Lavallee late in the frame. The Badgers’ aggressiveness on the penalty kill confined the Blues to their own zone for most of the two minutes but wound up costing them when a turnover inside Toronto’s blueline led to an odd-man rush that eventually ended in a goal by Annie Del Guidice, assisted by Milito and Brenly Jorgensen.

U of T broke the game wide open in the third period with two evenstrength goals at 3:34 and 6:11. After some aggressive forechecking deep in the Badgers’ zone, Blues forward Emily Patry came up with the puck in the corner and found an open Karolina Urban in front of the net. Urban fired the puck past the goaltender to make it 3- 0 and Lindsay Hill picked up the second assist on the goal. Laura Foster capped off the Blues’ scoring when shetapped the puck past a sliding Clause on a feed from Darby Smith and Lyndsey Ryan.

Brock called a time-out shortly after the fourth goal, and whatever head coach Todd Erskine said must have helped, because the Badgers responded with their first goal of the game just over a minute later. Lavallee made a pass to Kelly Walker just inside U of T’s blueline and after a move to get past the Blues defender, Walker walked in alone on the opposing goal and fired the puck high glove side to ruin goaltender Stephanie Lockert’s shutout bid.

The comeback attempt would end there. Though Brock would get a couple of chances late in the game, Lockert shut the door. Del Guidice, who led the Blues in scoring last year, was named player of the game.

Law designs unveiled

Rotman is not U of T’s only professional school with plans for a new building. The Law faculty is planning to build a major structure on its current site facing Queen’s Park to create more space to house faculty and accommodate students. The faculty has no plans to expand its enrolment.

The new structure will add 100,000 square feet of classrooms, lecture halls, and faculty offices at an estimated cost of $60 million. Plans also call for the building to be more accessible for students with disabilities. The law school had shortlisted six designs was and now has narrowed the field to three Canadabased firms.

On Thursday, Oct. 11, the finalists presented detailed models of their designs at Flavelle House, one of the law school’s two current locations. About 70 people attended the event, including prominent faculty members of the law school, the Dean of music, students, alumni, and representatives of the city of Toronto and the ROM.

“One of the things I wanted to do was to invite an educated conversation with our students who are very much a part of this,” said Mayo Moran, dean of Law. All three proposals are designed to enhance the beauty of Philosopher’s Walk, a scenic footpath that runs through the downtown campus.

“Space can make your spirit soar or your spirit suffer,” said Moran at the presentation, adding that students at the law school today are often taught in classrooms that are underground and uninspiring. “We have amazing students and it makes a difference to study and inhabit spaces that are beautiful and inspiring and for my faculty and my students I want them to be in spaces that inspire them to do their best.”

The three project designs can be viewed at Flavelle House on 78 Queen’s Park Crescent West. The final design will be selected in the spring

The fantastic four

On Saturday, the Varsity women’s tennis team won its fourth straight gold medal against Université du Montreal 4-3. The win capped off a season where the Blues went 5-2 and won a thrilling semi-final match against York 4-3 on Friday, after a third doubles match in which Aisha Bhimla and Maia Kirk won 8-7 to boost the Blues into the finals.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Blues coach Nabil Tadros. “I am really happy for the new players, that’s where the real excitement is. This is something they will talk about for the rest of their lives.”

The Blues were led by the strong play of their number one, Natalia Lech, who extended her twoyear unbeaten streak, winning in straight sets in the finals. “I just played my game. I did what I had to do and came through,” she said.

The Blues were able to take the doubles point with two demanding 8-2 wins. This was due to great serving and smart baseline action, forcing errors on Montreal’s part.

“Our doubles have great chemistry,” said Blues player Roxana Soica, “everyone here gets along so well that it creates a no-pressure atmosphere and you can just play without worry.”

The Blues were not as strong in the singles matches, but managed to hold off Montreal for the 4-3 victory. The highlight of the singles matches was Roxana Soica’s straight sets 7-5, 7-5 victory, coming back from 5-2 and 5-3 deficits in the first and second sets, respectively.

“I just had to play, and not think. I adjusted to the way the game was going and played my slice shots. You just can’t give up,” explained Soica.

“This just shows the type of pressure player Roxana is. She has a great competitive edge and being down 5-2 is nothing for her,” said Tadros.

Throughout the afternoon the Blues played tough and made the shots they had to, frustrating a Montreal squad with their precise use of the width and length of the court.

“It isn’t enough for a player to be able to play the court up and down. They must be able to move side to side and that is where our players were able to play their shots to capitalize,” said Tadros. This victory shows the strength and power of the women’s tennis program at U of T. With four straight OUA championships, the women have become strong opponents to OUA teams. They now hold the record for the most number of consecutive gold medal wins in OUA championship history, beating York’s record. Though they lost two matches this year, their ability to win close matches and capitalize in important situations, like against Montreal on Saturday, show how good the team and the tennis program have been.

“Each year we have new players. This year we were fortunate enough to get players like Aisha Bhimla, Maia Kirk, and Roxana Soica. They are all top players and they bring something special to our team,” Tadros said. “School comes first. For the ladies on this team to play so strongly and be into their studies shows just the kind of people they are,” he remarked.

Saturday was far from cloudy for women’s tennis—it was golden.

Massive monolith makes Massey master…angry

The Rotman School of Management’s planned new building on St. George Street is not sitting well with its neighbour, Massey College. While the move will relocate the Classics department, CIUT radio, the Sexual Education and Peer Counseling Centre, and the adjacent parking lot, students of Massey College with have to put up with numerous annoyances in their backyard—the new structure will be built directly to the west of the picturesque college.

John Fraser, the master of Massey College, evinced displeasure over the prospect of the proposed 10 to 13-storey tower casting a shadow over the main courtyard where students spend much of their spare time. “It will just be gruesome if they get that height,” he told the Globe & Mail. “The only positive thing to say about this is it will block our view of Robarts.”

Fraser is optimistic that Rotman’s plans will fall through. “Many projects get approval but don’t get done,” he said.

While this has certainly been the case in the past, as with the 46-storey condominium proposed by the ROM in 2005 that was cancelled due to fierce community opposition, it seems unlikely that Massey will win this battle. Roger Martin, Rotman’s dean, has relentlessly pursued the goal of positioning Rotman as one of the best in the world. The plans call for the tower to be completed by 2011, and by 2015 Rotman hopes to increase its faculty and student body by 50 per cent.

Fraser is also concerned about noise pollution that construction will bring. The college is home to 60 graduate students, who had similar thoughts. “The reality is, is that with any project of this kind there are both positives and negatives,” said James Harrington, a U of T student. “In this case it seems that U of T believes the positive implications of a brand new building for the business school far outweigh the negative ones such as casting a shadow over our quad or generating a lot of noise.”

Money can’t buy you love

Another $200 million for nothing. Well, $195,229,045 to be exact, but you get the idea. This was the amount the New York Yankees spent on player salaries in 2007, only to fail in their quest to live up to the Steinbrenner Doctrine—win the World Series or else.

The recent 3-1 series loss in the American League Division Series to the Cleveland Indians stretches the Yankees’ championship drought to seven years. At some point during that time, I became what I thought I’d never become: a frustrated Yankee fan.

People say that liking the Yankees is akin to cheering for Microsoft, and if that’s true, then the past seven years have been one giant iPod commercial with dashed playoff hopes taking the place of annoying music.

During the glory days of the late ’90s, all I heard from jealous Yankee haters was the tired and factually incorrect cliché that “money buys championships.” However, the Yankees have seen trying times since their unraveling in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. They have been unable to fill the gaps left by clutch performers like Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, and Scott Brosius, despite a run of unprecedented spending that seemed to all but guarantee a championship at some point.

But they have failed to win one, making the Yankees the latest and most conclusive proof that money does not buy championships, it merely stands in for wise personnel decisions, and gives the illusion of impending success that rarely ever materializes.

For seven years, the Yankees have been playing their own style of moneyball—essentially throwing in as much cash as they can at the wall and hoping it sticks.

It’s no shocker that the Yankees’ core players during the glory days were mostly home-grown talent, and the act of bringing in increasingly bigger names for increasingly higher salaries (Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez) has done nothing but raise the team’s expectations to unreasonable levels. Winning a championship should be an ideal, not a necessity.

But it’s not just the Yankees who are guilty of thoughtless spending. Examples can be found in European soccer, where London’s Chelsea Football Club have in recent years transformed themselves from an average, mid-table finisher to one of the biggest clubs in Europe, setting transfer records in the process. Yet they have failed to win the UEFA Champions League, the trophy designated as the ultimate goal by team owner and Russian oil magnate Roman Abramovich.

For further proof, look to Real Madrid and their collection of “Galacticos,” a team of international all-stars who failed to even win the domestic league title before they were broken up.

This problem even exists at a local level. In the years before the NHL leveled the playing field with a salary cap, it was our beloved Maple Leafs who spent carelessly. The Leafs’ payroll was up there with other big-market teams like the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche, yet among these teams, it was only the Leafs who came away with nothing to show for it. Despite a payroll that placed the Leafs consistently among the top spenders in the league, we’ve remain cup-less since 1967. But I’m sure no Torontonian needs a reminder of that.

For the Leafs, trade deadline quick-fixes became the norm. The team would acquire a bunch of aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Brian Leetch, Phil Housley, Doug Gilmour, the list goes on) at mid-season and be promptly eliminated from the playoffs by a younger team that had been put together more cohesively.

In each of these cases, teams have favoured a high-priced free agent over a role player who would better fit the team’s needs. The problem only gets worse with time, as said free agent’s value decreases considerably each year, leading to a Jason Giambi-type situation where a player is owed tens of millions despite a complete inability to perform at a professional level.

Regardless of the cause—be it a 40-year championship drought (the Leafs), a meddling and unreasonable Boss (the Yankees) or just plain stupidity (see Baltimore Orioles or New York Rangers for more on this)—an unlimited budget inevitably leads to poor decision making as a way to appease the fans, the owner, or both.

Is the Yankee dynasty really over? I’d rather wait until they miss the playoffs to make that call. But through the mismanagement of the nearly $1.3 billion the team has spent on player salaries over the last seven years, proves that reckless spending is definitely not the cure for the championship blues.

Home page on the range

If you remember your spaghetti westerns, the greatest threat to a cowboy isn’t a shootout— it’s the settlements slowly encroaching on the frontier and his way of life. So it goes in the world of IT at U of T.

Stefan Zukotynski doesn’t look like a cowboy. He wears glasses and the list of research interests on his web site includes “plasma assisted chemical vapour deposition of thin film amorphous semiconductors.” Stefan Zukotynski is definitively un-cowboy-like in every way, except in his relation to the Learning Management System known as CCNet.

In software development, “cowboy coding” is used to describe a distinctly individualistic, go-it-alone methodology. CCNet—decidedly unflashy and functional—had “cowboy” written all over it. Before moving to U of T’S Central Networking Services at its height, the server containing a large portion of the university’s grades was kept under Zukotynski’s desk. “It was really organic,” says Zukotynski, “there was never any marketing push or anything like that.”

In the 2004-05 school year, 1,856 courses at U of T used CCNet and 150, mostly confined to the Faculty of Medicine, used Blackboard. But as of October, according to the Arts & Science Vice- Dean Students Suzanne Stevenson, the edge has shifted to Blackboard (58 per cent of A&S courses, as opposed to CCNet’s 40 per cent).

When Zukotynski got frustrated trying to develop a course page using WebCT (since bought out by Blackboard) in 2002, he enlisted the aid of a student, Keyvan Mohajer, who further developed the software after graduation, extending usage to other professors. CCNet was born.

Zukotynski argues that in contrast to Blackboard, CCNet was easy for professors to learn. “We have to make it very easy, extremely user friendly, so that an average instructor can start using it quickly.”

In June 2007 the university told Zukotynski— and all U of T instructors—that CCNet would not be receiving university support this year. When they came back to Zukotynski in August, because Blackboard could not yet carry all the university’s courses, he shot back with, for the first time, a licensing fee: the same amount Blackboard was getting per course. “That, I think, scared them out of their minds.” No riding into the sunset just yet.

His is a compelling story, but according to Marden Paul, the university’s director of strategic computing, CCNet is a cowboy competing with at least half a dozen other LMSs for university resources. Frontier life at U of T is fast disappearing. Settlement encroaches.

U of T’s IT frontier could be said to run along the very unassuming Galbraith Road, with the Galbraith Building on one side and Simcoe Hall on the other. In fact, the geographic midpoint between Zukotynski’s office and the office of Marden Paul could very easily be the parking attendant booth.

As overseer of how all the disparate parts of the school’s IT connect—not just LMS, but also things like the online library and classroom podiums— you’d expect Paul to have a different perspective than Zukotynski’s. And he does, but it’s due to the experience of one who has gone to the frontier and come back, realizing that a person can’t live the cowboy lifestyle— and stay sane—forever.

When Paul talks about his experiences coding (for a large clothing company, and then United Way), there’s a certain swagger in his voice, an individualism that was present in Zukotynski’s story as well. But his employers’ dependence on Paul came back to haunt him. Until about 2002, he kept an old DOS PC at his U of T desk in case the company called, needing some new code. This arrangement, Paul is the first to admit, was more than a bit silly—and pretty risky for his former employer.

Like companies in a capitalist economy, like universities, it is the nature of software programs to expand and multiply. There comes a point where there can be no wild west anymore, because there’s no land to roam on. In Paul’s telling, the numerous email systems (at least 128) once used at the university is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons.

In his 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Garrett Hardin borrowed an example from William Forster Lloyd to illustrate the existence of “no technical solution problems.” In a pasture open to all, every herdsman will be motivated to add an animal to his herd because he shares the cost of the ensuing environmental degradation with everyone else using the commons, while sharing the profit of that extra animal with only himself. This human behaviour leads to ruin for all.

Ironically, information technology— or, more accurately, the proliferation of IT core systems, such as email, calendars, and LMS in the face of limited university resources—can be described as a no technical solution problem.

“This allocation is not malicious or intentional, it’s just what happens over time because the core service is essentially not as good as the one I can do locally, and that makes a lot of sense until time passes,” says Paul. When a user chooses a program, that user enjoys the freedom and individualism of a homegrown LMS, while dividing the negative aspects of decentralized core services with everyone else in the university. As an aggregate, this can lead to a misallocation of the university’s resources: the cost of Blackboard is paid many times over in the cost of several cowboy LMSs.