Search underway for U of T’s next president

Public consultations first step in choosing Naylor’s successor

Search underway for U of T’s next president

The search for a succesor to U of T president David Naylor began this week with the first public consultations hosted at Simcoe Hall and the Arts and Administration Building at UTSC.

Naylor’s term will end December 31, 2013. This summer, a presidential search committee was appointed to set the criteria to guide the search for nominees to replace him.

Term lengths of U of T presidents vary; Robert Prichard served for two five-year terms while Naylor, who started his first term as U of T’s president on October 1, 2005, has completed one five-year term and will completed a second three-year term next year.

The search committee includes administrative and teaching staff, full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and other appointees.

This past week, the committee hosted “listening sessions” on all three campuses, with the Mississauga campus session scheduled Monday for Room 3130 in the  William G. Davis Building from 1–3 pm.

The sessions are opportunities for members of the university community to weigh in on the appointment of the university’s most senior-ranking position.

Governing council member David Wilson, chair of the search committee, explained that once all of the listening sessions and consultations have concluded — expected to be by October 5 — the next step involves creating a list of qualities being sought in the new president. The committee will make the list available to the public. The committee then accepts nominations of people who fit the listed requirements.

The committee will also approach qualified candidates who are not nominated by the public. Spencer Stuart, an executive recruitment firm, will help with generate the other list of candidates.

Once all of the nominations are in, Wilson said, the search committee will “review all the candidates and meet with some of them, and then end up making an assessment about who the best candidate is and propose that candidate to Governing Council.”

Wilson explained that the job of the president is also decided in part through the consultation process. “The job description should be updated each time because the world changes. We don’t have a description of the job of the president yet, but we will,” said Wilson. “The consultation process will help us describe the job of the president at this time in the history of the university. The consultation process precedes the detailed final description of the job of the president.”

Matters under consideration include strengths upon which the university should build over the next five to 10 years, the principal challenges that the university will face in that period, the implications of those strengths and challenges for the new president and the key traits the committee should look for in a new president.

The first of the listening sessions was held in Council Chambers at Simcoe Hall on Thursday, the designated event for St. George campus. Members from various areas of the U of T community were in attendance.



Speakers discussed their hopes and expectations about the credentials and background of the next president, as well as some of the issues they expected him or her to confront during their term.

One potential challenge was U of T’s reputation as a research university. Some speakers suggested that U of T needs to rebrand itself as not only an esteemed research institution, but also an excellent teaching institution.

“We need a president who is able to understand the unique dimensions, characteristics and ways of approaching both research and teaching and also be able to see how they link and join together in an institution like the University of Toronto,” said Carol Rolheiser, the director for the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation.

Professor Luc Tremblay from the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education pointed out another challenge in regards to research. He said at present, the federal government emphasizes “instant-gratification research,” and that U of T needs to continue to protect the academic freedom central to its reputation as an esteemed research institution.

“I hope that we all agree that academic freedom is a very important core principal to maintain,” said Tremblay. “As a researcher myself, I like to think that I can actually bury myself for five, 10, or 20 years in my lab and come up with some high-impact research knowing that someone is protecting my academic freedom, allowing me to investigate,” he added.

One spirited discussion questioned whether Naylor’s successor should have an academic background. Some felt that narrowing the criteria in this way could be unnecessarily limiting. Professor Shashi Kant of the Faculty of Forestry voiced concerns that choosing a president who was also a tenured professor may lead to rash decision-making without concern for consequences; such a person could make a string of bad decisions knowing that once their term as president is over they have a guaranteed job to go back to, according to Kant.

The popular opinion was that the new president must be an academic to fully understand and properly deal the issues involved.

“I believe that its essential that the new president be an academic; I think the complexities of the educational, governmental, and broader post-secondary environment is such that the individual needs a deep understanding of the academic culture,” said Rolheiser.

Some asked whether the university should seek to specifically hire a woman or visible minority. Some felt U of T lagged behind schools such as McGill, which has won praise for hiring a female president.

But as with the requirement that the next president be an academic, some felt that specifically seeking women or minorities would unnecessarily limit the potential candidates.

Many speakers said they hoped the next president would address the quality of off-campus student life.

Julie Mathien, president of the Huron-Sussex Residents Association, said “the standard of behavior of students is sometimes disturbing to surrounding communities,” singling out communities “where there is a concentration of frat houses.”

“We have students living in situations where there are twelve students to a house,” said Shaun Shepherd, president of the University of Toronto Student’s Union. While Shepherd acknowledged that this was primarily a municipal issue, he says the university has its role: “The Student Housing Office is still actively advertising houses or rooms that aren’t licensed for such conditions.”

Among the speakers there was also some desire to revisit the University of Toronto Act — legislation that defines the composition and powers of the Governing Council and its Executive Committee.

The Act was last amended in 1978, with some suggesting that the next president might address the aging legislation.

“The University of Toronto Act hasn’t been updated in quite some time,” said Shepherd. “There’s been a very strong move towards updating the satellite campuses but not enough time and attention focused towards updating the Governing Council.”

Shepherd also says the UTSU would like to see the University of Toronto Act amended with changes that would lead to more student attendance at the council meetings.

Approximately a dozen speakers contributed to the making of a lengthy list: the new president should be fiscally responsible, avoid cutting programs and departments, be on  good terms with neighboring businesses and residence associations, be able to challenge the provincial and federal governments on decisions that negatively affect the university, and deal with slipping admission standards.


Man arrested in connection with alleged Robarts sexual assault

Latest incident sparks concerns over safety on campus

Man arrested in connection with alleged Robarts sexual assault

Update (February 11, 2015): A previous version of this article referenced another sexual assault case that was withdrawn in November 2012 and did not go to trial. 

University of Toronto Community Campus Police arrested a man last Monday in connection with a series of alleged sexual assaults in Robarts library.

According to the official police report. Toronto resident George Williams, 50, stands accused of three counts of sexual assault that took place at Robarts between January 25, 2011 and his arrest on September 17.

Williams’ arrest concludes the latest in a series of rattling assaults reported in downtown Toronto this year.

Last week, the annual “Take Back the Night” rally was held in response to 10 reported sexual assault cases that have taken place in the Annex and Kensington Market. Ryerson University has reported four sexual assault cases during the first three weeks of this school year.

While the individual incidents within each area are believed to be linked, police do not believe that the Ryerson cases and the Annex cases are related.

The Robarts case is the third sexual assault case to take place involving the University of Toronto this last year. This past summer, Muhammad Umair Jafar, 21, a third-year student, was alleged to have sexually assaulted a 19 year-old first-year female student in an Emmanuel College basement washroom in an elaborate plot.

The victims knew their alleged attackers in all three cases, as do up to 85 per cent of sexual assault victims, according to U of T’s Ask First Campaign.

George Williams’ arrest is also the second high-profile criminal incident that has taken place at Robarts this year, after an incident in March involving a 23 year-old man claiming to have a gun and threatening to kill several students.

These recent incidents have raised concerns about safety on college campuses. In an interview with The Newspaper, manager of U of T’s campus police services Sam D’Angelo said his officers will continue to “do what we normally do” in response to the recent incidents.

Williams was scheduled to arrive in an Old City Hall courtroom last Tuesday. He was charged on three counts of sexual assault. Police believe that Williams has targeted other victims.

Anti-Munk author speaks on campus

Alain Denault’s visit comes as longstanding development seminar series distances itself from the Munk School

Anti-Munk author speaks on campus

On Friday, sociology professor and controversial author Alain Deneault visited University College to speak about his new book, Imperial Canada Inc. Deneault’s invitation to speak on campus is the latest in a series of vocal protestations against mining mogul and philanthropist Peter Munk’s presence on campus.

In 2010, Munk donated $35 million to the university to found the Munk School of Global Affairs. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school’s new building at 315 Bloor St. was held this week.

Since news of the endowment broke, the Munk School has been dogged by accusations of improper donor influence. Groups such as “Peter Munk Out of U of T” have hung a series of signs from the building at 315 Bloor. Last June, graduating student Michael Vipperman publicly renounced his degree on stage at Convocation Hall, “in protest over the ongoing commodification and bureaucratization of education at this University, best exemplified by the increasingly intimate relationship between the University and such venemous institutions as Barrick Gold.”

Deneault is best known as the author of Noir Canada, an academic text that claimed Barrick Gold’s alleged complicity in the deaths of fifty-two miners in Tanzania, and Banro Corporation’s fuelling of violent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Peter Munk is the founder and chair of Barrick Gold. Shortly after its publication, Barrick Gold sued the book’s publisher, Les Éditions Écosociété, and the book’s three authors, including Deneault, for more than $6 million. The suit effectively ended the sale of the book within Canada, and only a few hundred copies are in circulation. The Noir Canada case attracted international attention, winning sympathetic comments from public figures such as Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, and Yann Martel.

“We work with communities around the world that are impacted by Barrick Gold, and time and time again we see that Barrick lies about their community relations and that they are causing a lot of harm in these communities,” said Sakura Saunders, editor of

Jacob Nerenberg, a PhD student in anthropology at U of T who helped organize the event, has also been involved with the protests against Munk. Nerenberg says the main problem with the donor agreement signed with Munk to establish the school is that it effectively cedes decision-making power to the corporate sector, adding that he is concerned that Munk’s corporate interests could exert undue influence over questions explored — or not explored — at the Munk School.

Spokespeople for the Munk School of Global Affairs declined to comment on Deneault’s visit. In an email to The Varsity, the school said that the issues had been “resolved directly by the parties in a legal process, and it is inappropriate to comment.” The spokesperson also added that “the Munk School has no relationship with Denault” and that “he was invited by the Development Seminar Series, which is currently not affiliated with the Munk School.”

The Development Seminar Series co-sponsored the event with the Faculty of Arts & Science. Last year, the series chose to distance themselves from the Munk School.

“Development Seminar has been running at U of T for past decade, but will not be doing this through Munk School anymore,” said Tania Li, a member of the committee of conveners. “People were not comfortable being under the Munk umbrella because it doesn’t match our themes and concerns. At a big university like U of T, we need a diversity of groups to engage in healthy debate.”

Kim Luke, assistant dean and director of communications for the Faculty of Arts and Science told The Varsity that although the faculty does not play a role in selecting speakers, they did agree to provide partial financial support for the series. Luke says the faculty decided to support the series because it provides opportunities to explore different viewpoints and encourage civil debate.

In his speech on Friday, Deneault expressed his concerns over the growing influence of multinational mining corporations based in Canada.

According to Deneault, more than two-thirds of the mining companies in the world are listed in Canada, with about 60 per cent of those in Toronto. Tax breaks and legal flexibility encourage mining companies to set up shop in Canada. Deneault also railed against the growing number of corruption claims, pollution cases, and toxic corporate relationships with warlords, especially in South Africa.

In his closing statements Friday, Deneault called for Canadians to fight for an enquiry commission to investigate the affairs of mining companies.

“I know that what I’m proposing is a bit unrealistic and seems like a utopia, but I don’t think any democrat could go beyond my proposal.”

The Development Seminar will be hosting their second event on October 26, with professor Guy Standing as keynote speaker.

Congress rejects bill to allocate visas to high-value graduates

On Thursday, Democratic opposition led to the defeat of a Republican-backed bill that would have granted up to 55,000 green cards a year to masters and doctoral graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM fields. The bill would have mandated that students seeking a green card would have to receive a doctorate or masters degree from a reputable American university in STEM fields and agree to work for at least five years for the employer petitioning on his or her behalf. The company must also show there are no qualified Americans for the job. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), said that ™although this bill ostensibly seeks to increase STEM visas, it appears to have another, in my opinion, more sinister purpose: to reduce legal immigrant levels.∫ Democrats hope that Congress will be able to reach a consensus on a STEM visa bill this year.

With files from the Associated Press.

Pauline Marois scraps tuition fee hikes first day on the job

Newly elected Quebec premier Pauline Marois wasted no time in scrapping former Liberal government policies. Marois cancelled tuition fee increases and repealed a law restricting public demonstrations.

The Liberal plan to increase tuition fees sparked a four-month period of social unrest throughout the province last spring. This is a historic day, said Martine Desjardins, head of one of the province’s university student federations.

For Marois, cancelling tuition hikes and repealing the controversial law banning demonstrations is a step to restoring peace and re-establishing rights and freedoms.

Her next move will be to hold a summit on higher education. Everything will be on the table, said Marois, including the possibility of tuition-free universities.

With files from The Globe and Mail

Publisher backs down over $180 art text — with no art

Ontario College of Art and Design University students are fuming over a $180 mandatory art history textbook that contains no art. OCADU is attempting to make amends with art students who were assigned the textbook, which has white boxes in place of art, and directs readers to accompanying e-books. After more than 500 students signed an online petition protesting the textbook, OCADU decided to hold town hall meeting where students would be able to express their frustrations. The first of these meetings was held on Thursday by Kathryn Shailer, dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Since the first meeting, Shailer has committed to a buy-back agreement with the textbook publisher, Pearson Learning Solution. Shailer also promised students free print copies of the text with most of the missing images included. This quick action from the university is garnering a positive response from students and parents. Brent Ashley, the father of a new OCADU student, told the Toronto Star, ™as far as I’m concerned, this is a textbook example of how to respond to criticism. They’re stepping right up to it and coming up with real world solutions in a very short space of time.∫ OCADU has stated that the department will poll students before making any decisions about future texts.

With files from the Toronto Star.

OSAP changes to modernize student aid

Critics charge that McGuinty’s changes do not address growing concerns over debt

New OSAP regulations unveiled in September aim to reduce application delays and to encourage graduates to enter the not-for-profit sector, but critics charge the McGuinty government should be more concerned with the rising costs of tuition and student debt.

OSAP Express is a new system that allows students to receive funds by direct deposit and requires them to sign a loan agreement only once. Government savings are estimated at $150,000 a year.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Education (MCTU) also announced last week that students whose first post-graduation job is in the not-for-profit sector would be given a grace period of a year before their loan repayments come due. All other students will continue to have a six month grace period before loan repayments begin.

“The three main priorities [the government] has for post-secondary education are to ensure the high quality, accessibility, and affordability of Ontario institutions,” Alvin Tedjo, Director of Communications for the MTCU, said in an interview last week.

Tedjo said the extended grace period was meant to encourage recent graduates to pursue their interests in the not-for-profit sector by easing some of the financial difficulties they might face.

Though the McGuinty government has made a considerable effort to increase the availability of post-secondary education, little has been done to cut down on the ballooning costs many students face, or even to address student concerns about these costs.

Ontario currently has the highest average tuition rate among provinces, estimated at $7,513 a year including compulsory fees, and tuition rates in the province have gone up five per cent a year for the last three years, far above the 2.1 per cent inflation rate. A 30 per cent tuition rebate for students of middle and modest income, announced in January, will help alleviate some, but not all, of the burden.
With rising tuition rates comes worries about rising student debt.

OSAP recipients graduate with roughly $21,000 in government loans, Tedjo said, divided between the provincial and federal loans. High interest rates reinforce difficulties in making repayments: the usual loan repayment period is 9.5 years for OSAP recipients.

A Bank of Montreal study released in September found that more students (27 per cent) are concerned with paying for school than with finding a job after graduation (22 per cent) or achieving academic success (20 per cent).

Rising Canadian student debt has also raised concerns about the state of the Canada’s future economy.
“We need today’s students to become tomorrow’s big earners,” Rob Carrick wrote in a Globe and Mail article on student debt. “Someone has to pay the taxes that fund social programs for the aging baby boom generation.”

“You can’t be a fully functioning player in the economy if a big piece of every paycheque goes toward student debts,” wrote Carrick.

Student unions across Ontario have protested the McGuinty government’s approach to post-secondary education, demanding that more attention be paid to student debt.

“Students in Ontario pay the highest fees in the country, are taking on record levels of debt, and sit in the largest classes in Canada, but the government is refusing to tackle student debt,” said Sarah Jayne King, chairperson of CFS-O, in a media statement earlier this month. “Record high tuition fees continue to put college and university out of reach for many willing and qualified Ontarians.”

A recent think tank study on the costs of higher education singled out Ontario’s post-secondary system as one of the least affordable for low-income students. Though the tuition rebate should defray costs temporarily, unless stronger action is taken Ontario faces a growing crisis in post-secondary education.

Faculty of Medicine celebrates 125 years

Accomplishments include discovery of insulin, first open-heart surgery

Faculty of Medicine celebrates 125 years

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. The Faculty has undergone profound changes since its founding in 1887. In fact, the University’s first medical school began operating in 1843, but from 1853 to 1887 did not offer instruction; instead, it administered examinations and conferred medical degrees on students of three other medical schools located in Toronto. Teaching resumed in 1887 and has been continuous in the intervening century and a quarter.
The faculty’s history is a litany of discoveries and “first evers.” In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best led the team that discovered insulin, one of the signal scientific achievements of the last century. Outside the premises of the university, its graduates have contributed to enormous advances in medicine: Norman Bethune, trained at U of T, famously invented mobile blood transfusions, and revolutionized battlefield medicine in the bargain. Modern cardiac medicine would be impossible without Wilfred Gordon Bigelow, who pioneered open-heart surgery and designed the first electric pacemaker. In 1983, just four years before its centennial, a team of doctors from the Faculty of Medicine performed the first ever single lung transplant. Two years ago, Derek van der Kooy, a U of T researcher, demonstrated one of the first therapeutic applications of stem cell therapy, curing blindness in mice — stem cells were first identified at the University of Toronto in 1961.
The Faculty of Medicine has grown into a large institution, with more than 6,800 faculty providing training to almost 9,000 students. Seventy-six specialized programs are available to doctors training in the faculty, from otolaryngology to gastroenterology. But the faculty doesn’t just graduate MDs: it awards undergraduate degrees, PhDs, MScs, and conducts professional training. This year, its first-ever class of physician assistants graduated from the university. The faculty is partnered with nine fully affiliated teaching and research hospitals. Princess Margaret Hospital, Toronto General and Toronto Western are all members of the centrally administered University Health Network, specializing respectively in oncology, cardiology, and neurology and brain surgery. The faculty is home to major research centres and institutes, among them the Banting and Best Diabetes Centre, the Institute of Medical Science, and the recently endowed Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research.
In conjunction with the University of Toronto’s two billion dollar Boundless fundraising campaign, the faculty has just launched an ambitious, five hundred million dollar drive of its own. Said Catharine Whiteside, current dean, at the launch event: “Our campaign will enable us to continue to attract and retain the best academic talent in the world.” More than half of faculty’s goal has already been raised.