U of T Divest event disrupted by Jewish Defense League

Organizers urge U of T administration to step up safety on campus

U of T Divest event disrupted by Jewish Defense League

An event advertised  under the name “Palestinian Popular Resistance: Building the Student Movement,” hosted by U of T Divest, the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union ad-hoc committee on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) received criticism from several Jewish community groups, one of which interrupted the event entirely on January 12.

The event, held at the George Ignatieff Theatre, featured speakers Noura Erakat (via Skype), a human rights lawyer and assistant professor at George Mason University, and Nada Elia, an Iraqi-born Palestinian who works with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

“Our event highlighted the ongoing human rights crisis facing the Palestinian people in Palestine and Israel,” said Omar Sirri, a spokesperson for U of T Divest. “The persistent violations of international law by the Israeli state have led to renewed forms of popular resistance by Palestinians. Our event sought to educate the campus community about the dire conditions facing Palestinians.”

Support is only growing for our campaign calling on the University of Toronto to divest from companies profiting from violations of international law and war crimes against Palestinians. The success of our event is a testament to that,” Sirri said.

Various Jewish organizations ended up criticizing the event. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) put out a press release, stating that such events are “offensive and strike a deep nerve within our community.” CIJA also disputed the claim that the BDS movement was gaining momentum, citing the rejection of an ad-hoc BDS committee by the UTSU’s Board of Directors over the summer of 2015.

Hillel U of T, the local chapter of the world’s largest Jewish campus organization, sent a complaint to the vice provost’s office regarding the event.

“We were disgusted by the name and by the content of the event,” said Hillel U of T co-president Rachel Benezrah. “The recent wave of violence being perpetrated against innocent Israeli civilians is being labeled as legitimate ‘popular resistance’ acts by Palestinian leadership. Hillel felt that it was important to make our position known to the University of Toronto administration.”

Most notably, members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) were present at the event and there was a heavy police presence outside the venue. The group advertised the event on their website and Facebook page, in which they characterized the event as a “call to murder Jews.”

After the event began, it did not take long for JDL members to heckle the speakers.

“Okay, this is outrageous!” shouted Meir Weinstein, the national director for JDL Canada. “This is incitement to murder Jews!” he yelled. Other JDL members vocally criticized the speakers as being anti-Semites during the event.

JDL members continued to shout throughout Erakat’s address. The organizers implemented a three-strikes policy, where an attendee would be asked to leave after three outbursts. Despite this policy, none of the JDL members who had accumulated three strikes left, nor were they forcibly removed by campus police.

Anticipating disruptive behaviour, the organizers had a room at OISE ready as an alternative location. Halfway through the event, the other attendees were asked to leave the theatre and were notified to head down to OISE 5170, where the event continued without further disruptions.

The JDL did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment. On Facebook, however, Weinstein declared their protest a success. “The pro terrorism meeting at U of T had to be moved. JDL was successful. They moved to OISE on Bloor Street and the room was to small and not setup [sic] for video. Most people left.”

Sirri, however, said that the JDL’s violent efforts failed. “The JDL’s violent disruption is yet another attempt by this hate group to shut down any discussion of the plight of the Palestinian people… The JDL’s failed attempt to shut our event down is just a microcosm of the Zionist disrupion, aggression, violence, and attempts at erasure that Palestinians face daily,” he said.

Sirri also took issue with the claim that the event represented an incitement to anti-Semitic violence. “Our work to affirm Palestinian human rights promotes life, an end to violence and an end to all forms of discrimination. This can only be done by addressing the root causes of the conflict, namely the brutal system of occupation, apartheid, and settler colonialism advanced by the Israeli state. Any suggestion otherwise is a racist, bigoted attempt to discredit the work of activists supporting Palestinian human rights,” he said.

What is the Jewish Defense League?

The JDL is a far-right pro-Israel Jewish organization. The group was founded in 1968 by American-Israeli rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City, who also served on the Israeli Knesset.

In the past four decades, members of the JDL in the US were connected to various bombings of Soviet diplomatic offices, the assassination of Arab-American activist Alex Odeh, and conspiracies to murder suspected Neo-Nazis and Nazi collaborators. In 2001, the FBI classified the group as a right-wing terrorist group.

The Israeli political party that was founded by Kahane was also banned in Israel, as its members were connected in the killing of 29 Palestinians.

Many pro-Palestine activists consider the JDL a hate group and mainstream Jewish organizations have largely repudiated the group.

Benezrah told The Varsity that Hillel urged the administration to make sure campus police was present at the event and distanced her group from the JDL. “Hillel and JDL did not communicate in any way prior or during this event,” said Benezrah. CIJA has also previously rebuked the JDL, saying that “the Jewish community doesn’t need the Jewish Defense League.”

The JDL are no strangers to the university. In October 2014, another event held by U of T Divest was disrupted by the group. That event was also moved to a different location after the disruptions.

After that event, Sirri noted that U of T Divest was better prepared for this year’s event. “[We’re] able to learn from these experiences and adjust accordingly,” he said.

Calls on the administration

Prior to the event, the university’s Office of the Vice President, Human Resources & Equity sent a letter to the JDL, urging the group to comply with the law and the university’s policies.

“If members of your organization fail to comply with university policies, the university may issue a Notice of Trespass or general ban on members of the JDL, as well as pursuing whatever legal remedies it deems appropriate,” read a portion of the letter.

Sirri called upon the university administration to ensure the safety and security of students and faulty. 

“The question really is: To what extent is the University Administration committed to ensuring the safety and security of students and faculty engaging in academic debate?

If the University Administration claims to stand against all forms of oppression and violence, then it clearly must do more to address acts of intimidation and threats of violence — which itself is a form of
violence — against members of the campus community,” Sirri said.

Althea Blackburn-Evans, the university’s director of news & media relations, said that the university was disappointed in the conduct of some of the attendees and would be looking into the matter.

“We recognize that there are strong views on our campuses and those views may be disconcerting or even offensive to some. It is our clearly and frequently-articulated expectation that discussion and debate on such issues take place in a civil and respectful environment,” said Blackburn-Evans.

It’s getting hot in here

A look at the progress and pitfalls of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference

It’s getting hot in here

At the tail end of 2015, the world’s leaders met in Paris to discuss the growing issue of global climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The conference, also known as the twenty-first “Conference of the Parties” to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, successfully ended with the creation of the Paris Agreement.

The agreement binds 55 parties, which account for 55 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. It aims to hold global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, worldwide. With China and India continuing to rapidly industrialize, and the continuation of high per capita carbon emissions in the West, this agreement sets some ambitious targets.

While the conference was arguably successful in setting measurable goals, critics have called the targets unrealistic. Citing the failures of 1997’s Kyoto Protocol, and the slow adoption of green technology worldwide, many experts have their doubts about whether this new agreement will succeed where other agreements have failed.

Recently, a group of University of Toronto students were selected as delegates for the conference. Larissa Parker, a fourth-year U of T student studying ethics, society and law, environmental studies, and political science, was one such delegate.

“Overall, I believe that the meeting was a success,” said Parker. “It is impossible to ignore the fact that this was really the first time that a vast majority of countries agreed on a binding agreement and collectively responded to the urgency of tackling climate change in an organized and respectful manner.”

The agreement has also been criticized for imposing restrictions on countries that are becoming increasingly industrialized. These countries need energy to power their industrialization, and are pointing towards the historical abuse of fossil fuels by high-income countries as a pathway for success.

When asked about the fairness of the declarations made by the agreement to low-income countries, Parker pointed out that the declarations are, in some respects, fair. Parker also noted that the warming target of 1.5 degrees Celsius was “a huge victory for the developing world, and particularly small island states who passionately argued that two degrees was not enough to save their nations from natural disasters such as floods and droughts.”

The conference discussed the possibility of global partnerships, whereby more industrialized countries would work to alleviate the effect of climate change in less industrialized countries. One of the proposals is to compensate lower-income countries for the economic losses they may incur due to the destruction of their natural ecosystems, with funding coming from countries that have polluted the most.

“Many states like the US and Canada however, were uncomfortable with ‘liability and compensation,’” Parker said. This led to a “footnote in the agreement specifying that loss and damage would not involve liability or compensation.”

Even with all of the high hopes for this agreement, critics around the world still question whether these targets are attainable. “Although the agreement is the most ambitious and cooperative text to tackle climate change that the world has ever seen, it is clear that the targets that each country has put forward, when added up together, do not reach 1.5 or even two degrees. In fact, with the current targets, the world is looking at around three degrees of warming,” Parker said.

George Elliott Clarke named Canada’s poet laureate

U of T professor on race, political inspiration, and upcoming initiatives

George Elliott Clarke named Canada’s poet laureate

George Elliott Clarke, University of Toronto professor, has been appointed the new Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate.

The acclaimed poet became the seventh person and the first African-Canadian to hold the position in its 14-year history. “This is a great honour, a great privilege,” Clarke told The Varsity. “There are 35 million Canadians and counting; and now, I have a special role… to try to encapsulate the collective dreams and ideals and hopes of 35 million Canadians.”

Clarke adds, “I know we’re not supposed to think of it as… representing the people in some way, but I do.”

The selection was made by a committee, based on the recommendation of parliamentary librarian Sonia L’Heureux and others. A public statement by Geoff Regan, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and George Furrey, the Speaker of the Senate, announced the new poet laureate on January 5.

Previously, the 55-year old Clarke served as Toronto’s poet laureate since his appointment in 2012.  His successor, author Anne Michaels, was announced last December.

According to the Library of Parliament, the role of the parliamentary poet laureate is to “encourage and promote the importance of literature, culture, and language in Canadian society.” The position was created to “draw Canadians’ attention to poetry, both spoken and written, and its role in our lives.”

“George Elliott Clarke has been a true ambassador of the work of Canadian poets,” said Furey in a public statement. “His contribution to Canada’s cultural fabric is exceptional.”

“His talent as poet, playwright, and literary critic is undeniable,” said Regan. “He is an immensely versatile and engaging writer and will bring great honour to the position.”

Biography

From Windsor, Nova Scotia, Clarke is a seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq Amerindian heritage. His lineage traces back to a group of Chesapeake Bay slaves, freed by the British during the war of 1812 and sought refuge in Nova Scotia.

Clarke received his bachelors of arts in English from the University of Waterloo in 1984, his master of arts from Dalhousie in 1989, and his PhD from Queen’s University in 1993. He went on to teach English and Canadian studies at Duke University from 1994 to 1999. He was also the visiting Seagrams chair in Canadian studies at McGill from 1998 to 1999.

Clarke worked as a parliamentary aide at the House of Commons for MP and civil rights activist Howard McCurdy from 1987 to 1991. He was also a social worker and legislative researcher at Queen’s Park between 1982 and 1983. He was appointed as the inaugural E.J. Pratt professor of Canadian literature at U of T in 2003, where he taught Canadian and African diasporic literature. 

Poetic Past

Clarke’s work delves into many topics, including race, social justice, and governance. He writes poetry, prose fiction, and opera.

“As a black youth in the 1960s and 1970s in Halifax, I was very aware of lots of movements of various peoples to get more equality and get more justice and that had a huge impact on me,” Clarke said.

He coined the term ‘Africadian’ to refer to black culture from the maritimes. Clarke believes the difference between black culture in Atlantic Canada and the rest of the country is the “long history of distinct settlement” that has brought a culture that is “distinct and unique.”

“So Africadians [or] Black Nova Scotians, had no choice but to grow up or survive as a distinct culture from the rest of Nova Scotia because our communities were positioned outside of larger white villages and towns,” Clarke said. “And that was done on purpose, so that the black populations had to work for cheap wages for white employers in nearby towns.”

In 2002, he was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for his work Execution Poems. The poems are based around two of Clarke’s ancestors who were executed for murder in 1949.

He has received honorary degrees from Dalhousie, The University of Waterloo, Saint Mary’s University, the University of Windsor, the Royal Military College, and the University of New Brunswick for recognition of his work. Clarke was named the William Lyon Mackenzie King visiting professor of Canadian studies at Harvard University in 2013.

Clarke’s upcoming novel, The Motorcyclist, is based on the diary of Charles Fletcher, a Nova Scotian who went from being a janitor to becoming Harvard’s first black professor. Clarke found Fletcher’s story during his time at Harvard.

From having his poetry as part of the official Magna Carta exhibit, to writing a poem for Toronto City Hall, Clarke said of being Toronto’s poet laureate that “it was a great experience, I truly enjoyed trying to represent the people of Toronto at various events and the poems that I wrote for City Council, that I read to City Council every April, I got to address City Council.”

Race in Canada

One of the recurring themes in Clarke’s poetry is race, extending to experiences of being black in Canada. “Questions of police maltreatment in Canada have a long history, going back decades, even centuries,” Clarke said, noting the police brutality that Indigenous peoples also experience. “The continued activists and scholars who are activists, calling to attention of deficiencies in the justice apparatus of the nation is a good thing.” Students at many North American universities, including U of T have taken to the streets, holding protests on their campuses. Black students and students of colour have been protesting against institutional racism and pressuring university administration to rectify issues such as a lack of diversity training, and for a commitment to employing a diverse faculty.

“Speaking as a professor, anything that makes students feel more comfortable in fulfilling their studies… has to be a good thing,” Clarke said. “If that means more equity training, then possibly that is what it should be.”

In February of last year, Clarke publicly supported for the students of Mount Allison University, who had protested against the racial discrimination they experienced at their campus.

A multicultural Canada

One of Elliott’s heroes is Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Clarke wrote a play in 2007 called Trudeau: Long March/Shining Path, that focused on the personality of the former prime minister.

In a 2010 interview, Clarke referred to “the Trudeau who appeals to me is the person who represents multiculturalism and projects these values to Canada and the world,” adding, “we don’t see diversity as strange or unusual, or dangerous, which partly a legacy of Pierre Trudeau.” Clarke goes on to say that, “if you had the experience of traveling, as he did in 1948 and ’49, deliberately so that you can experience different cultures and different ways human beings have organized themselves to live. You can’t come away with the provincial attitude, that ‘only our way of life is the very best’ and ‘only our way of doing things count as being right and civilized and humane.’”

As the parliamentary poet laureate of Justin Trudeau’s government, Clarke emphasized the importance of Canadians supporting Canada’s multiculturalism. “I think all of us are promoting multiculturalism, including all the opposition parties,” Clarke said. “This prime minister, like all the prime ministers before him, including Mr. Harper, need to respond conditions as they are right now… regardless of the directives of the past or the ideals of the past, the past as a guide, but it cannot let it dictate solutions to current issues. In other words, the current prime minister must be free to conduct government in the best interest of Canadians and voters.”

Canada in Poems

For the next two years as parliamentary poet laureate, Clarke has a line up of initiatives for his tenure. Among his plans is the creation of a database of Canadian poetry in celebration of the 150-year anniversary of the confederation of the country.

“By July 1, 2017, I would like there to be a program to be in place, whereby Canadians will have sent to the Library of Parliament or their respected MPs, lists of poets and poems that they believe represent their particular neighbourhood, city, province,” Clarke said. “Almost any particular poet could be represented by poems in different parts of the country, which I think helps make it a national project, a national treasury of Canadian poetry in both official languages, which is what I’m looking for.”

Ontario gives $18.3 million for development of JLabs incubator

U of T, Jlabs to support biotech startups

Ontario gives $18.3 million for development of JLabs incubator

The collaboration between Johnson & Johnson Innovation incubation (Jlabs) and the University of Toronto to build biotech startups, is coming to fruition. After receiving $18.3 million out of the $19.4 million that the Ontario government agreed to invest in the project, U of T has commenced the process of fitting a floor in the MaRS west tower. Jlabs primarily focuses on supporting early-stage companies by offering resources that range from core research facilities to opportunities for venture capital funding.

“Our role is sublicensing the space to Jlabs, signing the space license agreements for each company looking for space,” said Scott Mabury, vice president, university operations at U of T.

Mabury outlined the plans for construction, stating that the university plans on using the thirteenth floor leased to them by MaRS, to construct a space for Jlabs.  He also explained the conditions of the funding, mentioning that the space will consist of 40,000 square feet, to be used in creating labs, meeting rooms, offices, and other collaborative spaces. The funding will also be used for instruments and equipment.

“The agreement is for five years,” said Mabury, adding that, “after five years, there will be a peer review, like how we review divisions and departments here at U of T, led by the province that will assess the progress to date, how many companies have been created, mentored and what the potential is for the next five years.” It is Mabury’s hope that they will be able to sustain “ten years of robust activity.”

U of T students who run startups will use the space. “We currently already have nine campus-led accelerators, entities that work with students across the boards in entrepreneurships, engineering, around the creation of the companies and around mentoring and advising entrepreneurships,” Mabury said. He estimates that there are probably already around 200 companies in these accelerators, which places increased pressure on the project.

The remaining $1.1 million will support the operation of the lab. According to Mabury this money will not go to the university — instead it will go directly to MaRS innovation.

“This particular investment was made through the Strategic Partnerships Stream of the Jobs and Prosperity Fund — a stream designed to encourage open innovation technology partnerships that will allow companies, research institutions, suppliers, investors and customers to work together and establish industry-driven strategies,” said officials at the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, in an email to The Varsity.

Correction (February 8, 2016, 8:38 pm): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Ontario government gave $18.3 million for the development of the MaRS west tower. The funds are in support of the JLabs incubator. The Varsity regrets the error.

Ontario to update university funding model

Recommended changes centre around student outcomes, support differentiation

Ontario to update university funding model

The government of Ontario is developing a new funding strategy for the distribution of operating grants to universities across the province, in an effort to achieve a more “sustainable, transparent, and student-centered” model.

A report was released in December 2015, which outlines the recommendations made to the provincial government after former deputy minister Sue Herbert led a consultation with students, faculty, employers, and post-secondary leaders that began in March 2015.

The report recommends that the new funding formula be guided by student outcomes, support differentiation among institutions, inferred by validated data, and allow for institutions to plan long-term.  The current funding model has been in place since 1967.

“This model distributes different proportions of funding based on a few different categories, such as enrolment basis, quality and performance and of course, ‘special purposes’” said Zak Pageta spokesperson for Reza Moridi, the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. The current model is largely based on enrolment; grants are provided to institutions to support both historical and new enrolments.

In a 2013 report, Ontario acknowledged the need to change cost structures in order “to protect the gains of the last ten years, and to ensure that Ontario’s postsecondary education continues to enjoy a productive and promising future.” Ontario universities recieved $3.5 billion in grants from the provincial government, which account for 40 per cent of their operating revenues — their greatest source of revenue followed by domestic and international tuition fees. Operating grants have increased by 80 percent since the academic year 2002–2003.” 

“For the 2014/15 academic year, the University of Toronto received more than $654 million in operating funding, which was a 69 per cent increase over 2002/03 levels,” said Paget. “It is time to fund universities in a way that reflects the twenty-first century learning environment,” added Paget.

Student outcomes and data collection

The recommendation proposes that funding should be focused on improving student outcomes and experience and only be earned through a university’s successful performance. A model of measuring and assessing learning outcomes would be a condition of funding that becomes phased in over time.   

As a starting point, the report states that the focus should be on undergraduate student success as well as factors such as employment outcomes, graduation, learning outcomes, time-to-completion, and labour market preparedness. Currently, some funds are allotted based on an institution’s performance but they are “too small to reinforce a culture of continuous improvement.” A lack of data hampers the government’s ability to measure student outcomes. To address this, the report suggests the creation of central data collection by the government that is transparent and readily available to the public. Additionally, generating comprehensive data would help students understand what they have learned and help the government understand what skills are being cultivated by the institutions they support. The report advises that funding give equal weight to teaching and research by supporting experiential learning and research opportunities for undergraduate students. Stakeholders expressed that the new funding model should also recognize the role of sessional and non-academic staff in its efforts to support quality learning.

Supporting differentiation between universities

Although many universities within the province share similar needs, the report claims that there are greater benefits to recognizing the distinctions between universities through a differentiated funding policy.  The report states that if each university has a unique mission and is supported through differentiated funding, the new model could provide long-term stability and help universities focus on their strengths. During consultation, stakeholders expressed that resources are needed to support institutions that excel in specific disciplines as well as support regional and linguistic diversity in the province.

The ministry’s role and next steps

While universities will remain autonomous, the consultation suggested that the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities should, have a greater role, and should work with universities to understand program costs, monitor institutional financial health, and have a greater role in enrolment planning as the needs of province changes. As the funding model is set to change, however, the amount of funding given to universities will remain the same. “The government signalled in its consultation document that funding is expected to remain stable,” said Paget. As a new funding model is developed, Ontario will review the report and continue to work with university stakeholders. 

“The results will be carefully considered in the development of the final funding formula model, which will involve detailed design work that is based on clear goals and objectives that are shared by government and our sector partners,” said Paget.

SCSU, APUS rally for UTSC shuttle bus

Two unions provide a free day of bus service as part of their campaign

SCSU, APUS rally for UTSC shuttle bus

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) and the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) are lobbying the University of Toronto administration to provide a permanent shuttle bus service between UTSC and the St. George campus. The two unions pooled their resources to run a free shuttle service on January 13.

The bus made three round trips between the two campuses. “We had a really great turnout,” said Yasmin Rajabi, SCSU vice president, external. “Our buses were at capacity going to the St. George Campus. Many students actually could not get on the bus due to such high demand.” Rajabi told The Varsity that because of the growing number of students at the Scarborough campus, many UTSC students have resorted to studying or taking classes at the St. George campus due to a lack of space at UTSC. She also noted that UTSC students pay for services available at the St. George campus, such as Hart House and academic resources. “We pay some of the highest tuition fees in Canada, and deserve a basic service like a shuttle bus in return,” said Rajabi.

A shuttle between UTSC and UTSG ran more than a decade ago, but the service was discontinued due to low demand. Currently, such a service only exists between UTM and the St. George campus. The shuttle bus is free of charge for UTM students, who fund the service with an annual fee; each ride costs $6 for non-UTM students.

Although U of T’s Governing Council discussed the prospect of reviving the UTSC shuttle in 2013 and 2014, UTSC chief administrative officer Andrew Arifuzzaman told The Varsity that the university has no plans to re-implement a shuttle service for UTSC. He explained that the shuttle between UTM and the St. George is viable because UTM is in the City of Mississauga, which is not connected to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). The UTSG-UTM shuttle service has the ability to take members of the public on the bus, which means there is a “business case” for the service. 

“The university should be more creative in developing business cases,” said Rajabi, noting that York University provides a shuttle service funded by the university’s operating budget between the Keele and Glendon campuses, both of which are within the City of Toronto. “The University of Toronto can look to York University as a leader in providing this essential service.”

Arifuzzaman also pointed out the prevalence of traffic congestion along the Don Valley Parkway and said that a shuttle bus would be “not much faster than what you currently have around bus connections.”

“During our shuttle bus campaign event we actually timed the buses for the very same reason,” said Rajabi. According to Rajabi, the trip between the two campus took 30 minutes during non-peak hours and a maximum of one hour during rush hour.  “The TTC alternative… is a significantly longer ride. Students have stated countless times that the commute between the campuses is very mentally and physically draining. I encourage administrators to take the TTC between campuses to better understand the reality of students, TAs, and faculty,” Rajabi said.

Arifuzzaman explained that the university would continue to work with the TTC to improve public transit in the area. He pointed out the 198 U of T Scarborough Rocket, which is an express bus route launched last year that travels between Kennedy Station and UTSC. “…[T]hat, for us, has seen a significant improvement from what was previously here,” said Arifuzzaman. “We continue to work with the TTC to see if there are any further improvement that we can make on that bus line to reduce the number of stops that exist between the campus and the subway station. And we’re also very active in the City of Toronto in trying to advocate for additional bus routes.”

U of T senior research fellow named Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30

Claudio Guarnieri on his win in enterprise technology

U of T senior research fellow named Forbes’ Top 30 Under 30

Every year, Forbes magazine recognizes 600 individuals under the age of 30 who are changing the world at the forefront of their sector. In the latest installment of the Top 30 Under 30, Claudio Guarnieri, senior research fellow at the University of Toronto, earned a spot in the Enterprise Technology sector.

Aside from his position at the Citizen Lab at U of T, Guarnieri is the creator of open-source malware analysis tools Cuckoo Sandbox, Viper, and malwr.com. This year marks Guarnieri’s second nomination for the award, having been previously nominated in the law and policy sector. Guarnieri told The Varsity that he was surprised to win in the field of enterprise technology, as his work does not relate directly to enterprise. He views the win, however, as recognition from mainstream media for the work of the Citizen Lab and its impact beyond its direct sphere of influence. Guarnieri is a graduate from the University of Milan and is a remote senior research fellow with the Citizen Lab, housed at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

The Citizen Lab uses interdisciplinary research and skills to make international information publicly available, with recent reports focusing on Iraq information controls, China’s Great Cannon, and Vimeo blocks in Indonesia. “I focus on investigating and reporting on targeted digital attacks against activists, dissidents, and journalists around the world. The Citizen Lab is [an] inter-disciplinary laboratory that bridges technical research with political analysis,” said Guarnieri on his work.  “[The Citizen Lab] is a very unique place where people with very diverse backgrounds come together to produce some of the most outstanding and revealing research projects in technical and internet policy communities.” Guarnieri works in this capacity alongside Morgan Marquis-Boire, John Scott Railton, and Bill Marczak to spearhead initiatives that expose information about the commercial spyware market.

Citizen Lab director Ron Deibert said that “Claudio is an extraordinary researcher and a very gifted malware analyst with a strong commitment to human rights. This mix of characteristics is exactly what we aim to attract at the Citizen Lab.” When asked what the future holds for him, Guarnieri said that he intends to “keep fighting the fight, exposing oppression and oppressors, and making it more costly for them to hinder social change through digital means.”

The rigorous selection process for the Top 30 Under 30 begins with open online nominations on both social media and the Forbes website, in which over 15,000 individuals were nominated this year. Of the nominees, 600 earn top spots in the competition’s 20 different categories. Upon making it to the final round, contestants are interviewed by a judging panel comprised of Forbes reporters and experts in various fields, including Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sarah Jessica Parker, who make the final decision.

Victoria College dean postpones traditional Gardiner Gala

Students express long-standing frustration with administration

Victoria College dean postpones traditional Gardiner Gala

The Gardiner Gala, an annual event held at Victoria College to celebrate the relationship between the college and the Gardiner Museum, was postponed last week, which caught Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) off guard.

For the past three years, VUSAC has planned the event in cooperation with the Office of the Dean of Students at Victoria College. This year, however, VUSAC lost touch with the Dean’s Office during the month of December.

The office was responsible for communicating and handling contracts with the Gardiner. VUSAC nonetheless continued to plan the event. “There was a break in communication between parties when we needed to maintain that. If there had been a plan about what had to be done things would have worked out differently, but there seemed to be a breakdown in communication,” said Stuart Norton, VUSAC’s Scarlet & Gold Commissioner.

On January 4, following the winter break, the Dean’s Office assured VUSAC the event would still occur on January 14. The next day, however, VUSAC received an email from the Dean’s Office stating the event had to be postponed. “VUSAC representatives did not know why the event was postponed and felt they were not given enough notice or clarification. That wasn’t seen as appropriate,” said VUSAC co-president Benjamin Atkins.

VUSAC released a statement on Facebook — without agreement from the Dean’s Office who wanted to approve the statement beforehand — explaining the situation to students. “The dean helps with monetary contributions and supports us, but we are not the same. We are accountable to students and I’m concerned with creating space to ask questions,” said Norton, who did not want to censor the situation.

Within the week, VUSAC met with the dean, who confirmed the office was late ordering catering and that they did not want to agree to the package that the Gardiner offered, which would cost $40 per person. The office decided to postpone the event, but were also willing to provide an alternative semi-formal event for students at the Goldring Student Centre. “The Dean’s Office is covering the cost of an alternative event on Thursday, which is very kind of them, and we’ll still be holding the Gardiner Gala sometime this semester,” said Norton. “The initial reaction from students was anger, frustration and disappointment,” said Atkins. “VUSAC is grateful that the dean is covering a new event but students were left bewildered.”

“I think the future for us, we have to make sure we are not cut off from the Dean’s Office,” added Norton. “We’re trying to rework how we work together and how the two organizations can come together to provide programming for students.”

Issues with the dean’s office

“This event fits into a larger narrative of the Dean’s Office as being overinvolved in student affairs and not committed to student interests,” said Auni Ahsan, a third-year Victoria College student. “We have this body that doesn’t consult students but puts policy in place that makes it difficult for students to hold events here. When you look at the Dean’s Office, it is an ivory tower that is not transparent about where money is going,” Ahsan added. “Last year they built another wall that made the only accessible washroom available only by elevator. Did they consult students about it? No.”

When Jenna*, a Victoria College student, was sexually assaulted on campus last year, she felt mistreated by associates of the Dean’s Office. “I had to (painstakingly) repeat what had happened at least five times that night before going to the hospital, despite being overwhelmed and wanting nothing more than to go to bed…I felt there was more attention paid to spreading ‘awareness’ about what had happened (even that night) than was paid to making sure I was okay.” A few days after the incident, Jenna saw a post about the assault on Facebook, and although she was aware of the importance of warning the student body, she was not notified about the post beforehand. “There are issues with confidentiality, issues with taking responsibility, and issues with actually listening to and having respect for the students under their purview. I understand that mistakes are made and information leaks sometimes, but I could have had been given an apology.”

“I think what occurred with the Gardiner Gala and my experiences reflect an overall inadequacy at the Dean’s Office,” added Jenna.

The Office of the Dean at Victoria College declined to comment.

*Name changed at student’s request.