The feminist touch

We’ve all been there: You’re sitting at your computer, bottle of lube beside you, pants hung up on the towel rack, hand poised at the go, when suddenly you click onto a pornographic website and realize, “Wait a minute, this pornography isn’t female friendly! Isn’t there some way that I could find feminist porn without having to put my pants back on?”

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to be clothed for this, but if you are looking for a more public way to express your desire for a feminist outlet for your masturbatory needs, then you should check out the 2010 Feminist Porn Awards, created by the Toronto sex store Good for Her.

Chanelle Gallant, manager of Good for Her, created the awards in 2006 as a response to the growing voice of female-created and -produced pornography, a section of the industry that some felt was more attuned to the sexual desires of the women watching.

“Previously women were always involved, but no one was recognizing them,” says Alison Lee, the current manager at Good for Her and organizer of the Feminist Porn Awards. With some of the more notable issues present in traditional porn, it was a challenge to find more female-friendly fare. As Lee explains, “Some of the things in the mainstream media made it hard to carry DVDs [in the store], such as the racism and the exploitation, and the less positive aspects [of the industry].”
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Nominated films need to meet at least one of the listed criteria: a women must be part of the production, writing, etc., of the film; real female pleasure is depicted; and, according to the website, “it expands the boundaries of sexual representation on film and challenges stereotypes that are often found in mainstream porn.”

Awards range from Hottest Straight Movie to The Golden Beaver Award for Canadian Content, along with the standard categories like Movie of the Year. Previous Movie of the Year winners include Champion by Shine Louise Huston (2009)—to quote from the movie description, “Does the combination of tough butches, ne’er do well bois and femmes in heat sound like a match made in heaven?” (Why, yes it does, thank you!) Winners get a large glass buttplug award, and everyone else gets to bask in a very public display of pornography. It’s win-win, really.

One of the inherent issues with labelling an event “feminist” is the automatic assumption among some that the awards are for women only. Not true, according to Lee: “We don’t have any rules that say that you can’t be a male director to enter movies. Male directors have won awards in the past, but not a lot of men enter, usually because they assume it’s only for women. We have a few male nominees this year, and we’ve nominated male performers in the past.” For those involved, the event is meant not to just highlight women’s achievements, but to focus on women’s pleasure as well.
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The debate over whether porn can be feminist or not is a touchy one—from the anti-porn views of Andrea Dworkin to the sex-positive writings of Susie Bright, there’s no real agreement in the current overarching feminist narrative on the potential for pornography to empower women. But when it comes to the FPAs and the works nominated there, the answer is a resounding yes, yes, yesssssssssss, oh GOD, yessssssssssssssss.

According to Lee, “I think that what we’re saying is that porn can be feminist, and that showing sexuality isn’t inherently sexist. There’s a lot of joyful opportunity to be had just by enjoying it. The turn-on factor is not sexist—what is, is the unfair labour practices and the way performers are treated, and how women are depicted as objects, as being stupid, or as being useless except for their sexual capacity.”

Guests this year include award-winning author, writer, and adult filmmaker Tristan Taormino, director Shine Louise Huston, burlesque performer CoCo La Crème, and adult performers Nica Noelle and April Flores. The awards themselves will be presented on April 9 at Berkeley Church (315 Queen St. E.). Tickets are $20 at the door. For more information, visit goodforher.com.

Merde!

UTSC lecturers are rallying against the cancellation of most foreign language courses starting next semester. A UTSC spokesperson said the final decision has not been made. Instructors, meanwhile, are recruiting student support through a Facebook group. Supporters are circulating a petition on campus. Dean and VP academic Rick Halpern has invited students to a discussion on Monday, March 29, from 12 to 1 p.m. at AA 160.

Lecturers say their department heads told them that all Arabic, Tamil, Japanese, Sanskrit, and Latin courses will be cancelled. Beginner and intermediate French courses will be suspended in 2011-2012, as will Spanish courses.

“[Administrators are] assessing how well the language courses match the overall academic programs,” said UTSC spokesperson Laura Matthews. She said no final decisions have been made to cancel courses.

Eric Spigel, who teaches Japanese, said that humanities department chair Bill Bowen called professors individually into his office to give them the “shocking news” on Monday, March 15. “He said, ‘There is no easy way to say this, [most] language courses will be terminated immediately,’” said Spigel.

“The timing is suspicious,” Spigel added, noting that the news comes near the end of the winter semester, a busy time for both students and professors. He also said there were no previous warnings and that it is now too late for sessional lecturers to find new summer jobs.

Hindi and Mandarin are the only foreign language courses on the summer 2010 course timetable. For Mandarin, the courses taught by sessional instructors have been cancelled for the summer. Timetables for 2010-2011 fall and winter courses have not yet been released.

A Facebook group called “Save Language Courses @ UTSC,” created by Spanish professor Isolde Dyson, has 802 members as of press time. Students and professors have started circulating a petition on campus to keep offering language courses.

Aisha Khaja, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s VP academics, said she didn’t know courses would be cancelled. “I have been aware that the department of humanities has been doing an external review,” said Khaja in an email to The Varsity. “However, at the Programs and Curriculum Committee, in which I serve as a member, this item of discussion never came up.”

‘Not a priority’

In an email response to a student, UTSC dean and VP academic Rick Halpern said recent external reviews showed that most language courses are not closely related to any academic program and that most students only take one or two introductory language courses.

“Since language teaching is not currently on the list of academic priorities of UTSC, we have decided to review our language offerings to find a way that these can be closely tied to one or more academic programs,” wrote Halpern. The email also said language expansion at UTSC was a pilot project and that language teaching costs must be assessed against “other pressing academic needs.”

“The letter is utter bullshit,” said Tamara Al-Kasey, a Spanish professor who has resigned her post as former languages coordinator. “There have been absolutely no external reviews on the language courses,” she said, adding that sparing only Hindi and Mandarin because of their affiliation with Global Asian Studies does not make sense because Tamil, Japanese, Sanskrit are Asian languages as well.

Al-Kasey said she never knew foreign languages at UTSC were pilot projects. She wrote on Facebook that she resigned as languages coordinator after she was not consulted about the language restructuring.

Neither Halpern nor John Scherk, the vice-dean academic, could be reached for comment.

‘So much for world-class’

Students told The Varsity they were disappointed. Shobiya Sivanathan, a third-year biology and psychology major, is taking a Tamil course and planned on taking more. “This is the first time that I am actually learning the language,” she said, after previous efforts failed. “There are so many Tamil students in UTSC and [taking Tamil courses] is a way of getting into our culture.”

“So much for world-class,” said fourth-year student Anne Hardy-Henry, referring to the campaign for the recently passed Pan Am sports facility levy, which boasted, “You deserve world class.” Lecturers received notification of language courses cancelations on March 15, in the midst of campaigning for the Pan Am athletic facility levy. “What happened to world-class education?” asked Hardy-Henry.

A year in review at The Varsity

It’s news to no one, but newspapers continue to suffer changes both cyclical (the recession, which continues for industries that are reliant on ads for revenue) and structural (the increasing importance of online media, though no one has figured out how to make more than a buck from online advertising). The Varsity is only partly sheltered from this storm.

Just over a month ago, The Varsity Board of Directors launched into the unenviable task of restructuring the corporation in response to the recession—two years too late. “Why such a delayed response?” you may very reasonably ask.

In part, it has to do with The Varsity’s position as a student organization. Like any student group, we have institutionalized high turnover: the vast majority of jobs at the paper are one-year contracts and the expectation is that each role will be filled by someone new every year. Add to this that, as student jobs, most Varsity editors do not make much money, meaning that any cut in salaries is substantial, and may significantly change how an editor expects to shelter and feed herself. These features make it very difficult to negotiate a salary cut mid-year without disrupting the quantity and quality of content.

Printing, our other large expense, is equally difficult to slash mid-year because we set our publishing schedule in March. That schedule, as well as our distribution numbers, become a promise to advertisers. Advertising, for those who do not know, remains our greatest source of revenue. Last year, The Varsity tried to solve this problem by reducing page counts. An eight-page issue, for example, was fairly common.

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In my opinion, The Varsity has a duty to print as much content as it possibly can. To paraphrase The Varsity’s statement of policies, our mandate is to offer comprehensive, fair, and accurate coverage; promote the study of journalism; offer all U of T students the opportunity to participate in the paper’s production; provide a forum for members of the community to exchange information and opinion; and protect the paper’s editorial autonomy from undue external influence. For a university of U of T’s size, fulfilling at least three of these objectives requires that we print more than eight pages twice a week.

Printing and salaries are our two greatest expenses; all others are really drops in the bucket. As no restructuring in regards to printing or human resources happened last year, The Varsity was essentially set on a debt course. Yet despite an even worse ad-selling environment and increased printing costs this year, we’ve managed to lose only so much as we did last year.

The cause for the delayed response was the following. The Varsity’s Board of Directors fell by the wayside several years ago, and it has been a long struggle to bring the board back to compliance. The Board of Directors is absolutely essential for oversight of the corporation and for providing the proper reporting measures for the paper to keep track of its own financial health. Many of us at The Varsity have worked extremely hard this year to bring together a fully constituted, active board composed of student representatives. In the midst of end-of-term assignments and essays, this board has launched into a comprehensive restructuring and budgeting process where-
in we consulted with the current masthead; our primary creditor; the company that sells our ad space nationally; and the office of the vice-provost, students. In this process, we have tried to balance three priorities.

One: Maintaining weekly page counts at a level comparable to what they have been this year, in order to fulfill the mandate noted above.

Two: To pay off our debt within a reasonable timeframe based on sensible projections and expectations.

Three: To continue providing good student jobs to the editors without whom the paper’s quality would suffer.

Our budget for next year is based on a very conservative projection that, ad sales will not improve, despite the uptick in the economy. We have cut costs across the board, though we have tried to minimize the cuts to student jobs. Based on our projections and conversations with business partners, if the paper follows the regimen set out in this budget, The Varsity will be out of debt in two to three years.

As part of this restructuring plan, The Varsity is becoming a weekly. By printing once a week, we can maintain comparable page counts to this year while also cutting printing costs. We are also devoting more editorial resources to online content, which is the best way to break news. As a weekly, our strategy going forward is to develop thevarsity.ca as its own publication, and to emphasize what online does best, and vice versa for print.

• • •

Nobody likes a recession, and nobody likes restructuring a company. The sombre tone of this letter distracts from the fact that it has been a great year for The Varsity editorially. There will always be haters and political hacks, but that aside, the healthy back-and-forth of opinion in these pages this year is evidence enough that The Varsity is doing well. Comparing this year to the one before, traffic for thevarsity.ca is up by 40 per cent. None of this would have been possible without the extremely dedicated group of editors and staff who put together the paper and the website, and the over 275 people who contributed. On a personal note, recession be damned, this past year has been the best of my life. Thank you all for the amazing ride.

Sincerely,

Jade Colbert

Editor-in-Chief,

The Varsity, 2009-2010

A CFS retrospective

Since U of T joined the Canadian Federation of Students in 2003, the lobby group has played a large role in the U of T Students’ Union and drawn staunch supporters as well as harsh critics. As the school year wraps up, The Varsity looks back at the CFS’s involvement in U of T student affairs and some of the CFS’ general activities that affect the U of T community.

UTMSU rep denied seating at CFS meeting

On Jan. 18, UTM student paper The Medium reported that the UTMSU executive prevented student Stephanie Marotta from attending the CFS semi-annual meeting. VP external Henry Ssali selected Marotta to attend the meeting as a student delegate, but his decision was overruled by the executive committee. (Ssali and Marotta ran for UTMSU on the UTM Renew slate, which lost all exec positions. They plan to appeal this week.)

According to the UTMSU, there were concerns about Marotta’s involvement with The Medium as an associate news editor, though she told Ssali she would not be covering the meeting for the paper and would be attending as a student delegate. The Medium reported that as a white female, Marotta does not belong to a constituency group, and the UTMSU would not receive a $75 subsidy that is meant to encourage a diverse delegation. Constituency groups include aboriginal students, francophone students, mature students, and LGBTQ students.

Ssali called an emergency meeting for Jan. 15 to appeal the executive’s decision, but the meeting was cancelled by speaker Walied Khogali on grounds that emergency meetings are to be called with at least 72-hour notice by either the president or the executive committee. Marotta did not attend the CFS meeting.

Bodia Macharia and the Graduate Students’ Union

On Feb. 4, The Varsity reported that Bodia Macharia, an executive-at-large for U of T’s Graduate Students’ Union, accused union employee Rose Da Costa of repeated disrespectful behaviour at the CFS annual general meeting. Da Costa denied the claims.

Macharia said that Da Costa attempted to prevent her from communicating with two delegates from Quebec and treated her in an “infantilizing” way. Lex Gill, one of the student delegates, told The Varsity that she witnessed Da Costa attempt to stop Macharia from sitting with her and has confirmed Macharia’s version of events. According to representatives from the University of Windsor Students’ Association, Da Costa acted as a CFS anti-harassment officer on at least one occasion.

At a later CFS-O meeting, Macharia was accused of harassing Rodney Diverlus, a member of CFS Local 24 (Ryerson). According to Macharia, CFS anti-harassment officer Julie Delaney approached her after a conversation with Diverlus, saying that Diverlus claimed he felt harassed and unsafe. Initially, the GSU executive planned to issue an apology letter to Diverlus without Macharia’s consent. While the GSU did not end up sending the letter, members within the council have told The Varsity that the incident contributed to the tense relationship between Macharia and the rest of the executive.

Diverlus has since been elected the RSU’s VP equity (a new position whose creation he lobbied for). He was spotted with Stronger Together campaigners at Sidney Smith hall during the elections two weeks ago.

UTSU elections

Last week, the Stronger Together slate, comprised largely of UTSU incumbents, won a decisive victory in the spring elections. Stronger Together candidates have close ties to the CFS and student union execs from CFS member unions have been seen campaigning at each other’s campus elections. This year, Stronger Together campaigners included execs from the Ryerson Students’ Union (VP finance and president-elect Toby Whitfield, VP equity-elect Rodney Diverlus) and the York Federation of Students (VP campaigns Darshika Selvasivam), known respectively as Local 24 and Local 68 of the CFS.

Sandy Hudson elected CFS-O chair

UTSU president Sandy Hudson will be the CFS-Ontario chair for the 2010-2011 year. Hudson, who previously served as the CFS-O Women’s Commissioner and the CFS-O Students of Colour Representative, was elected at the CFS-O meeting in Markham.

Proposal for Ontario-wide credit transfer system

In a March 18 report to the Post-Secondary Education Secretariat, the CFS proposed the creation of a new province-wide credit transfer system. The group estimates that students in Ontario spend over $40 million as a result of the current credit transfer system. According to Shelley Melanson, the current CFS-O chair, a cohesive credit transfer system would also encourage students with incomplete post-secondary education to return to school.

CFS Taskforce on Racism report

The CFS Task Force on Campus Racism released a final report on their findings for 2009-2010 year on March 22. To combat a “culture of racism” at Canadian universities, the group made over 50 recommendations, including creating more safe space policies and a mandatory equity-based course in each department, and more diversity in recruiting by campus media, amongst others.

The report made specific mention of the blackface incident at U of T, where a number of students dressed up as members of the Jamaican Bobsled Team, and the ensuing town hall organized by the Black Students’ Association.

UTSU president Sandy Hudson was one of nine members of the task force, which also included U of T Aboriginal Studies professor Lee Maracle.

Canadian Content: Something’s rotten in our home and native land

It’s important to be patient when it comes to politics. As Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently pointed out, democracy is a muddy affair, but it eventually produces results. Still, looking back on the columns I’ve written this year, most of them end on a sour note, or more occasionally, with a tone of defiant (and usually misplaced) optimism. Though it’s fair to say I have a taste for all things political, I find almost all the news coming out of Ottawa these days unpalatable.

Parliament, that ancient institution, that powerful symbol of peace, order, and good government, is almost entirely dysfunctional. Maintaining optimism in the face of this simple, virtually incontestable fact has been a challenging exercise. Crosby’s goal helped for a couple of days, but just as getting drunk temporarily relieves the anguish of a break up, the Olympics provided a few weeks’ shelter from the juvenile rhetorical melee of Question Period. Ultimately, I found myself right back where I’d been in January (except I had a splitting headache). Reality has a nasty way of creeping back in.

It hasn’t been like this forever, though. Even during Paul Martin’s short-lived and tumultuous tenure, there were major developments on economic and social issues: the right of same-sex couples to marry was recognized under the law; Ottawa tranfered major investments in health care; and Canada removed itself from participation in the apocalyptic American “Star Wars” adventure.

I don’t wish to suggest that the Martin era was an idyllic liberal Camelot. Like its predecessor government, it was riddled with scandals and used legislative loopholes to stifle dissent, cancel opposition days, and avoid confidence votes (something few Liberals today will acknowledge, even as they moralize and weep for the sanctity of Parliament).

These trends continue under the current regime, albeit with a much more sinister undertone. With each passing session, Canada has spiralled further into an effective minority dictatorship. When the House becomes inconvenient, it can be disposed of on a prime ministerial whim. In the subsequent legislative purgatory, “President” Harper rules by decree.

If this seems like hyperbole, consider the amount of executive power the Conservative leader currently wields. He muzzles his cabinet. Even his most senior ministers must seek the approval of his office before they speak. Cancerous rogue MPs like Bill Casey (who rejected a budget because it shafted his constituents) are cut from the government’s flesh altogether. Serious decisions like shutting down Parliament or refusing executive orders from a majority of MPs fall to Harper alone.

If only it ended there. The concentration of executive power (and its rampant abuse) in the Prime Minister’s Office is only the tip of the iceberg. The small, regionally specific Reform Party base from which the Conservative Party was built needs the same constant reassurance demanded by a jealous lover. For example, when funding was cut for KAIROS (a widely respected faith-based ecumenical NGO), Development Minister Bev Oda announced it was because the organization “wasn’t meeting government priorities.” Weeks later, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney revised the pretext for the move at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, saying, “We have defunded organizations…like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott [of Israel].”

There were accolades within the reactionary Conservative base. Ezra Levant wrote, “It is sometimes difficult to support the federal Conservatives, usually when they are not being very conservative. But stories like this one remind me why I like this government.” Minister Kenney later wrote in the Toronto Star that the cuts had nothing to do with the organization’s stance on Israel. With brazen insincerity, the Harper Conservatives arbitrarily cut funding for a major NGO and then lied about it, all in an effort to stroke the sensibilities of a narrow portion of their base.

But the Conservative strategy goes deeper than this. Fundamentally, it seeks to realign political discourse, shifting Canada along with it. One only has to watch a few minutes of Question Period to see how far the Conservatives have taken this strategy. Take the issue of Afghan detainees. Isn’t it perfectly reasonable to ask, given the testimony that’s been presented, about the nature of detainee transfers by our troops? Apparently not. If only the opposition cared as much for the welfare of our soldiers than for Taliban prisoners! Polls have revealed that many Canadians aren’t concerned about the abuse of Afghan prisoners. By sticking to their guns, the Conservatives have successfully re-shaped the debate into one about patriotism. Torture be damned!

What about the government’s “law and order” agenda, most of which has nothing to do with either? Crime rates have been dropping steadily for 10 years, and yet the legislation the Conservatives brag about the most concerns “getting tough on crime.” Forget that such an approach has led to crowded jails and soaring crime rates south of the border. Yet a new study shows that a majority of Canadians are, once again, in favour of the death penalty and support harsher punishments for convicts.

On each issue, the government crafts a simple, “common sense” position and then repeats it ad nauseam. Those who care about the abuse of Afghan detainees hate the troops. Those who care about judicial autonomy are “soft on pedophiles.” The list goes on. Prorogation during an inquiry of critical public importance is “recalibration” and shutting down Parliament to avoid a confidence vote is “patriotic.” Yet with each issue, the framework in which reasonable discussion can occur shrinks further. Meanwhile, the opposition parties shriek beneath the fray of Question Period, struggling to be heard.

Six student unions hold referenda to leave CFS

The Canadian Federation of Students could lose 30 per cent of student membership, with over 150,000 students in 13 student unions across the country fighting to hold defederation referendums.

The CFS has sanctioned referenda for two member unions: the Post-Graduate Student Society at McGill and the Alberta College of Art and Design Student Association. Four other student unions plan to hold referenda without CFS approval.

According to Adrian Kaats, a McGill student who recently resigned as CFS-Q chair, problems have surfaced with the CFS about referendum voting procedures.

“The CFS, likely after reading our referendum exit report which explained that it took three days of voting to reach quorum (five per cent), insists that we only have two days of voting,” Kaats wrote in an email to The Varsity. “Our Council and ROC (Referendum Oversight Committee) members will not accept this unilateral decision by CFS to hold a referendum that will almost certainly fail.”

Dave Molenhuis, treasurer for CFS national, told The Varsity he needed to speak with his superior before responding to queries about legal proceedings. As of press time, a CFS representative was not available to comment.

The CFS is applying its new bylaw changes passed in its November 2009 annual general meeting, which forbids more than two referenda from taking place in a three-month period.

“Since they also have six months when no referendums are allowed to take place, only 4 referendums can take place per year, if they are perfectly timed,” wrote Kaats.

McGill plans to hold the referendum from March 29 to April 1. The McGill student union had gone to court for a safeguard and interlocutory injunction, with only the latter granted. At a hearing in May, the union will ask that a judge enforce the results of their referendum.

The Alberta College of Art and Design Student Association will vote from March 30 to April 1.

Other student unions are preparing to take legal action to continue the defederation process.

The Central Student Association of Guelph went to court on March 23 for the second time and won each of its court injunctions. The union expects to hold a referendum in mid-April.

In the case of the Carleton University Students’ Association, CFS claims that a counter-petition, created by students to remove their names from the original petition, has made that petition void.

The Concordia Student Union and Concordia’s Graduate Student Association are also facing obstacles in their referendum efforts. CFS has issued CSU a notice of outstanding fees amounting to a million dollars, and told the GSA it owes $200,000. According to a CFS bylaw, a union can’t hold a referendum unless it has paid all membership fees.

CSU president Amine Dabchy disputes the alleged debt. The CSU has passed a motion to go ahead with the referendum from March 23 to March 25. In response, CFS sent the CSU chair a letter saying that the results of the planned referendum vote will not be accepted.

Likewise, the GSA plans to hold a referendum in the first week of April.

The University of Regina Students’ Union were denied referendum dates by the CFS, but will continue with its referendum on April 1.

Other schools seeking to hold referenda include the Society of Graduate Students at University of Western Ontario, Trent Central Student Association, Glendon College Student Union, Dawson Students Union, University of Victoria Student Society, Graduate Students’ Association at the University of Calgary.

With files from Abdi Aidid

Reviewing the reviews

Glowing

“Inspiration aside, some of the performances were actually good.
Like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this guy is performing this in the front room of a frat house’ good.”
Kelli Korducki, Candles are for Burning’s Sam Shepard Trio, June 8

“This is the Coens’ funniest movie to date (yes, even funnier than Lebowski), so rich and subtle in its observational humour and background gags that it recalls Jacques Tati.”
Will Sloan, A Serious Man, September 21

“This dialogue-driven short is brilliant in both concept and execution.”
Jessica Lee, David Eng’s The Audience at the Hart House Film Board’s Student Film Screening,
November 16

“[M]y biggest regret regarding The Bob is that by the time you
read this review, the show will have already closed.”

Andrew Rusk, Victoria College’s The Bob, November 23

“The voice of Amanda Indovina as the young Maria was often overpowered in Act I, but a simple microphone adjustment during intermission allowed for her to steal the show in Act II; her incredible vocal range and multi-dimensional personality was impossible to miss.”
Jessica Tomlinson, SMC’s West Side Story, November 30

“If there is one movie you watch this holiday season, let it be Avatar. And please: if you can, go see it in IMAX. I can’t think of a better way to spend $17.50.”
Tom Cardoso, Avatar,

December 18

“Some people write memoirs. Junusz Dukszta commissions portraits. Call me crazy, but I think his method results in a more compelling narrative.”

Leonicka Valcius, UTAC’s Portrait of a Patron, January 25

“The cast performed terrifically and could easily be watched over and over again—despite being students, they’re true professionals, and all likely to succeed
as dramatic artists.”—Christine Jeyarajah, UCDP’s Body and Soul, January 28

“Although it took them a few minutes to hit their stride, this choir really showcased what a cappella music is all about, from beautiful harmonies to remarkable timing and a pitch-perfect conductor.”

Riley Watson, Onoscatopoeia at Acappellooza, February 4

“Despite not having as large a budget as many of Toronto’s operatic productions, Candide’s atmosphere and palpable energy at the MacMillan Theatre was extremely satisfying.”
Elias Cristante, Faculty of Music’s Candide, February 10

“At the conclusion of the third hour of The Laramie Project, your heart is breaking, you’re trying to hide your tears from your seatmates as the light comes on, and the chorus of voices and tragedy continues to haunt you as you exit the theater.”
Emily Kellogg, VCDS’s The Laramie Project, February 12

“Music this smart has never sounded so sexy.”—Nick Mckinlay, Four Tet’s There Is Love In You, February 11

“The most talented guitarist I’ve seen live in a long time, Saulnier rounded out the night by busting a series of wicked solos that would have done any guitar god proud, be it Doug Martsch or Slash.”—Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy, PS I Love You at
Canadian Music Week, March 15

Scathing

“The more you like Simply Saucer’s records, the more prudent it is to cherish the hard copy and never, ever see the band perform live.”
Alex Molotkow, Simply Saucer at NXNE, July 6

“With dialogue, acting, and even zombie carnage lame across the board, somebody needs to finally shoot this franchise in the head.”
Will Sloan, George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead, September 21

“Monuments + Bits suffers from problems symptomatic of what makes the exhibit so unique; since it is the work of three different architects, each with their own discourse, it lacks a coherent message.”—Becky McCleery, Khoury Levit Fong at the Arthur Gallery, October 22

“The most embarrassing moment, however, had to be FW veteran Pat Mcdonagh’s gimicky cake-hats and her inconspicuous inspiration from Baskin-Robbins ice cream. Fashion is an artistic sell-out by nature, but this brought it to a new low.”

Cailin Smart, LG Fashion Week, October 26

“The play lacked strong directorial vision—the pacing was awkward, the acting uneven and the three-hours in the theatre felt more like three days.”—Joan Wamiti, VCDS’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, November 2

“The Ireland backdrop does provide a nice change of scenery and some surprisingly stunning shots of the countryside. However, the horribly foreseeable story and questionable dialogue leave much to be desired.”—Josh Staav, Leap Year, January 10

“Akin to Marlon Brando’s Stanley, Cusack so embodied Rob Gordon he is inextricable from the character. For any actor, playing him would have been a challenge. David Light, though, is way off the mark.”—Elizabeth Kagedan, Hart House Theatre’s High Fidelity, January 25

“Though I was often on the edge of my seat, and at some points jumping right out of it, the plot slowly became repetitive and ultimately predictable. The only unforeseen scenes were the ones that lead to confusion on my part, often due to poor delivery from the actors.”
Jessica Tomlinson, The Edge of Reason, February 1

“After this high, an all-time low: Give Us The Daggers was just awful. At this point in the evening, they must have assumed that everyone was too drunk or tired to care, because they mostly sleep-walked through their performance.”—Alex Ross, Give Us The Daggers at the Silver Dollar Room, February 25

“I struggled for something entertaining to look at and ended up settling on the disturbingly shiny bald head of a fellow audience member, whose intermittent seat-shifting forced the reflection of the light to shift from time to time.”—Elizabeth Haq, Hart House Theatre’s Robertson Davies: The Peeled I, March 8

“The six minutes of Sandwiches and Salad on a Sunday Afternoon (Sean Grounds), in which a dude devours a gratuitously gory sandwich, would be enjoyable if you were stoned while watching it. Grounds’ other film, the nine-minute Gotta Poo would only be watchable while stoned and drunk….”—Moe Abbas, U of T Film Fest, March 18

“Plastic Beach seems to offer what the title implies: transparent garbage.”—Ariel Lewis, Freshly Pressed, Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, March 22

York investigates student elections

York University admin are investigating the recent student elections. University president Mamdouh Shoukri has formally requested that ombudsman John McCamus look into results from the York Federation of Students elections. In a March 19 statement, Shoukri said that admin will review possible infractions after receiving “a significant number of complaints” from students.

Shoukri’s statement comes after 16 of 21 candidates on the “New York” slate were disqualified for alleged misconduct, which according to the CRO’s report included distributing copies of the Excalibur student newspaper without prior permission. Since then, members of the slate have been quoted as saying the CRO’s action was unfairly harsh. The elections committee, acknowledging that disqualifications are to be a last-resort action, eventually overturned the decision.

“We are aware that unapproved campaign material is a violation of the elections procedure code,” New York presidential candidate Fraser Stevens said in a video posted on the Excalibur website. “However, a free newspaper is a free newspaper. Everyone has access.”

“I feel it’s a very telling sign,” Stevens told The Varsity. “If students and administration are questioning the integrity of this election then obviously an investigation is appropriate.”

Shoukri said in the statement, “Transparency, fairness and integrity in the election process, as well as the possibility of orderly and democratic change, must be ensured for the benefit of all of our students.”

The disqualifications fueled already lingering discussion about the details of CRO Casey Chu Cheong’s appointment, which many students said was ill-advised. Cheong, like UTSU CRO Dave Blocker, was selected in a closed interview session by the incumbents, who ended up winning a resounding victory. This is his second year as CRO. In the statement, Shoukri mentioned that the ombudsman will look into claims that the CRO was neither impartial nor independent.

Shoukri, who came under a lot of fire last year for not adequately responding to student demands during the strike, issued the statement a little over a week after disqualifications, The ombudsman is to submit his report no later than June 30.

With files from Shonith Rajendran