In the build-up to last week’s Annual General Meeting, it has been disappointing to see some students use the AGM as an opportunity to motivate a personal agenda at the expense of the entire UTSU membership. I have also witnessed members of our executive endure malicious personal attacks fueled by misinformation and political motivations. Posted on the UTSU Annual General Meeting’s Facebook event are a series of disrespectful comments made by a small group of students towards their peers. Why do these students perpetuate a divisive ‘us versus them’ mentality?I encourage UTSU members to challenge the rhetoric and grandstanding that took place on the floor of the AGM and in its lead-up because you are being misled. Student leaders who spoke at the AGM intentionally misrepresented their own awareness of the UTSU’s AGM procedures to disenfranchise their constituencies. For example, one of the student leaders speaking at the AGM has suggested that they have never received a response from UTSU executives as to how to bring forward agenda items for discussion at the AGM and those proposals were barred from reaching the AGM. These allegations are false and they only serve to disenfranchise the hundreds of students in attendance at the AGM. As a result of the false allegations, the UTSU audit and bylaw amendments were not discussed, including those that would enshrine the rights of PEY students in the Faculty of Engineering to vote in UTSU elections.We are fortunate at this university to have student representation at the college, faculty, and university-wide levels. However, many of the college council representatives have teamed up to form an ‘opposition’ to the students’ union. Whose interest does this serve? I would argue that student representatives have a common interest, and the tensions perpetuated by some college and faculty councils hurts the students we all collectively represent.It also hurts those of us that make the commitment to serve students. As an elected representative, my mental health has taken a heavy toll from trying to maintain these relationships. Rather than being able to focus on outreaching to UTSU members to participate in their Union, I have been forced to defend myself from aggressive and relentless attacks from other student representatives. In my efforts to openly address questions and concerns, I have been met with hostility from some of my colleagues at the college and faculty level. My efforts to do the job UTSU members elected me to do are being undermined by the political agenda of some student leaders.It saddens me to know that this is the reality of our relationship with our college councils. However, it does not have to be this way. Student leaders from our colleges and faculties can and must re-evaluate how they engage with their students’ union. If we want to move forward, the commitment cannot rest solely on the UTSU, though my executive team remains committed to working together. Our college and faculty council representatives must work in good faith with the UTSU to ensure issues are not lost in the absurdity of rhetorical speeches and ill-founded motions of non-confidence.There are a number of forums available for student representatives to engage with the UTSU. Unfortunately, they are seldom taken advantage of. First and foremost, each college and faculty council president has a seat on the UTSU Board of Directors. This empowers these individuals with a direct forum to engage the UTSU Board of Directors. Second, students in each college and faculty have elected representatives to listen to and bring forward their concerns. Third, the Union hosts a series of monthly commission meetings, where projects are shaped with input received from all general members.As president, I believe strongly in making sure our organization reflects the needs of its members. I am always glad to hear from students with genuine ideas and suggestions to shape our Union. I do not support the misrepresentation of our Union, nor do I condone personal attacks on my colleagues, who inspire me with their dedication to our members by working 16-hour days. To my colleagues at the college and faculty level, I believe we can work together to build a stronger University community. I hope you’ll take me up on the offer.
A call for student solidarity
An op-ed from the president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union
What does your university make?
Forget publish-or-die; in today’s university, the focus has shifted to patents and profits. JAMES MAIANGOWI ventures inside U of T’s budding innovation ecosystem.
Innovation isn’t always enough.In 1979, Xerox PARC, a Silicon Valley research and development centre, invited Steve Jobs over for a visit. Jobs was the rambunctious 24-year-old CEO of Apple, one of the hottest startups in the Valley, and PARC was one of the most innovative R&D centres in the world. The encounter augured well.
The path from turning research into a product is quite long. What we’d really like to ask is: can this go any faster? We would like to see interesting new products in our lifetime.”
professor of chemistry at U of T and founder of TechnoLABS
Report: obstacles remain for women in academia
Recognition and equal pay remain stumbling blocks with no easy solution
The Council of Canadian Academies issued a report last week detailing the challenges that continue to confront women working in academia.The CCA, an independent, not-for-profit organization that conducts assessments to inform public policy with experts from Canada and abroad, was asked to examine factors that continue to hinder research careers of women. The report, entitled “Strengthening Canada’s Research Capacity: The Gender Dimension,” was commissioned by the federal Ministry of Industry last fall, after 19 Canada Research Chair positions and nearly $10 million in funding were granted exclusively to male researchers.“It really stands out, and I said: ‘where are the women?’” remarked former Minister of Industry Tony Clement in the aftermath of the episode.The 252-page study found that a number of problems continued to limit the progress of women’s academic careers, and concluded that Canada is not fulfilling its commitments to gender equity particularly in the higher education sector.On the surface, some progress appears to have been made. In the 1960s, women made up only a small fraction of the student body at Canadian universities. By the late 1980s, the trend had reversed. There were more full-time undergraduate female students than male. During this time, women also made inroads as professors and instructors, breaking into fields that had traditionally been male-dominated.The CCA report, however, describes some troubling shortcomings. The findings include a slight but persistent salary gap between male and female professors, negative biases in recruitment and evaluation, tenure systems that can be unaccomodating to women who take time off for childcare, self-reported lower levels of self-confidence in physical sciences, computer science, engineering and mathematics, and a lack of female role models in some fields. The study also found that in general, the higher the rank or position, the less likely it was to be filled by a female researcher or administrator.“The issue itself is a multifaceted one that is affected by social, cultural, economic, institutional, and political factors and contexts,” said Dr. Lorna R. Marsden, president emeritus and professor at York University.Marsden chaired the panel of 15 Canadian and international experts from a number of different academic fields who ultimately produced the report. To conduct the study, the panel met over the course of 18 months and explored a range of disciplines. The study used a “life course model” that examined critical factors that might impact career paths, starting from early years through post-secondary education.According to the report, challenges begin early in a prospective researcher’s life: children are taught stereotypes that define acceptable roles, and might consequently lack knowledge about potential career paths. Those that defy stereotypes about acceptable careers might find that they lack role models and mentors as women. In many regards, the situation in Canada remains similar to other advanced nations.The panel noted that several past reports have focused on women’s progress in science, technology and engineering research careers because women have traditionally been underrepresented in these fields. The report also notes that little attention has been paid to women researchers in the humanities, social sciences, and education, where they comprise 58.6 per cent of doctoral students, and have made major contributions to the study of poverty, violence, popular culture and literature, among many other topics.“The face of academia is changing, and institutions can adapt to this new diversity or continue to lose talented researchers,” the report cautions.Solutions proposed in the report include offering more long-term contract positions to ensure job security and stability for women. Part-time positions and re-entry would also help transition new parents back into a career in academia. Allowing work from home, offering work time on grants, reduced workload options, providing child care and ensuring fairness when hiring committees are also floated as possible solutions to the issue.“The [old] model boxes in men as well as women. If we want to have excellent people who are good teachers, sensitive and supportive of their students, they need to be more than uni-dimensional. They need to have an outside life,” said Donna Lero from the University of Guelph,Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, told The Globe and Mail that “it is too early to speculate on what actions the government will take to address this important issue,” but noted the percentage of Canada research chairs held by women has doubled to 26 per cent since 2001.
SMC, CUPE resolve strike
Job security concerns alleviated, instructors return to the job
After five days of strike action, contract workers at St. Michael’s College have reached a tentative agreement with the university.“We are pleased to announce that early this morning, after a long session of mediation yesterday, USMC reached a tentative first collective agreement with CUPE 3902, Unit 4,” read a press release issued last Thursday.
The tentative agreement was reached Thursday at nearly 2 am. Contract workers, teaching assistants, and continuing education instructors, organized as CUPE 3902 Unit 4, returned immediately to teaching, marking, and other duties. The strike, which began the Friday prior, had impacted undergraduate studies in departments such as Book and Media Studies and Celtic Studies. The agreement was ratified unanimously the following day.“We’re very pleased to say that we have successfully negotiated a first collective agreement that is fair to our members, fair to St. Mike’s, and strengthens quality post-secondary education,” said Tadhg Morris, a member of Unit 4’s bargaining team and a Celtic Studies instructor at St. Mike’s.The primary issue relating to the strike had been job security. Under the previous system, instructors were required to re-apply for their position at the end of every year, no matter how long they had been teaching.“If you’ve been teaching the same course for years, it doesn’t make sense that you have to constantly re-apply as if it is a new position. We want a situation where the course you previously taught you can teach again. Then, if you refuse, it goes to a seniority process where the next person in line, with a certain amount of hours, gets the position,” said Bader in an interview with The Varsity last week.Gains in the collective agreement include consistent hiring language, hiring criteria, and paid training where necessary. The agreements, bargaining members say, have met the primary goals of the union, formalizing the hiring process of contract workers.“The bargaining team was creative and we were able to break the impasse and achieve a fair settlement, without any intervention from the province,” said Abe Nasirzadeh, chair of CUPE 3902.The provisions of the agreement will be implemented starting July 1, 2012 and will be in place until June 30, 2014. The agreement implemented for the next two years has given union members faith in the efficient system of bargaining.“I think we’ve demonstrated — not just to St. Mike’s and the University of Toronto, but also to the provincial government and others who are trying to interfere with free collective bargaining — that the system works. More to the point, the system works best when employers and employees sit down and negotiate agreements free of interference and the threat of legislation,” said Nasirzadeh.
Co-curricular transcript gets UAB hearing
Student life administrator fields questions, comments about new transcript
Assistant vice-president, student life programs Lucy Fromowitz advocated the implementation of co-curricular transcripts at a University Affairs Board (UAB) meeting at Simcoe Hall Tuesday, bringing the project one step closer to completion.The co-curricular transcript, intended to augment the current academic transcript, would list students’ extracurricular activities affiliated with the university, as well as skills gained as a result of their involvement.Fromowitz’s presentation, made on behalf of two guests, attracted considerable interest from other members of the Governing Council.“As the CEO of a Fortune 100 company we see the same kinds of resumes all the time,” said Council member Gary Mooney. “They show marks, but do they share the values of our culture? That would be very helpful.”Fellow Council member and student representative Aidan Fishman voiced his support for the transcript.“I was originally a bit sceptical of the co-curricular transcript, but as my concerns have been addressed, I think it will be a boon to the university.”The transcript will also allow students to hide their political leanings if they wish.“You’ll be able to mask being in a Young Liberal club if you’re applying to a firm that’s more conservative in nature,” said Fromowitz.However, several members raised concerns regarding the methods and viability of the transcript, asking if the increased costs and administrative work would be worth the benefits a transcript might bring.“As much as possible we’d like to piggyback on existing bodies,” Fromowitz responded. “We don’t want to make more work, or it will fall by the wayside.”The idea for a co-curricular transcript came from the Council on Student Experience, which held a series of student consultations in 2010 and identified a need for students to track and list their involvement while at university.While the broad strokes of the co-curricular transcript’s mandate are agreed upon, questions remain about the fine details of its structure.Questions were raised at the UAB meeting about what difference, if any, would be made between paid and volunteer extracurricular activities, and where teaching assistants, dons, and research assistants would fall on this spectrum.Participation in potentially contentious organizations was another issue discussed.Council member Andrew Szende asked Fromowitz if anti-establishment activities such as organizing protests or joining advocacy groups would be considered among the activities included on the transcript.For Council member Kimberly Ellis the answer is clear: “If it’s a process that could go on a resume, it should go on a co-curricular transcript.”While the transcript is currently being developed and designed, it may take several years before it is made available to students.Jill Matus, Vice-Provost of Students, noted during a separate presentation at the UAB that other Governing Council programs such as the On-Tap Initiative and the Email Project took two to three years to implement.Matus said the extensive consultations and research these programs required were responsible for the gap between their proposal and their implementation.“As we live in this community, what looks innocuous is actually complicated,” Matus said in a later interview. “We don’t as a rule tend to do top-down decisions.”Fromowitz indicated during her presentation that “extensive consultation, system selection, implementation, testing and training, and development” were the necessary next steps in creating the co-curricular transcript.Co-curricular transcript have been implemented at other Ontario universities such as Windsor and Guelph.
Kintore College quietly opens its doors
Independent women’s residence on Charles Street to offer “optional spiritual activities” from Opus Dei
Kintore College, a new women’s residence situated in the first four stories of a condominium on Charles Street, quietly opened its doors in September of this year.The residence has been in various stages of development since the idea for its establishment was conceived in the mid-1990s. A spokesperson for the University of Toronto, Laurie Stephens, explained that the residence was one of several independent living spaces near campus, and was unaffiliated with the university.Kintore instead exists under the purview of the non-profit association Promotion of Education and Values (PEV), which aims to promote women’s education. “In 1997 we purchased the property, which had a building on it already, from the United Church,” said Virginia Nanouris, project manager for PEV. At that time, the site housed the Lycée Française.“After doing some studies, it seemed the best way to go about it would be to demolish and rebuild,” Nanouris explains. Due to the relatively small size of PEV, it became necessary to find outside assistance to complete the project. Nanouris says of the somewhat peculiar arrangement that resulted, “We partnered with a developer, and negotiated that they would get the air rights if they built this facility for us free of charge.”The college is mostly separated from the apartments above it — it has its own entrance, security, and elevators.Unlike troubled attempts to build the Knightstone residence in recent years, Nanouris notes that while complex, the project was largely free of snags: “We met with most of the neighbours at the time, along with the developer, and people didn’t object to a student residence, especially because it’s already close to Jackman and Loretto [Victoria College buildings].”One difficulty was that the residence was not completed in time for September, leading to decreased enrollment. “We had many inquiries, but some of the students’ choices were affected by the fact that they couldn’t see the facilities beforehand,” said Crystal Mason, Kintore College’s director. Delays in finishing the residence space led to the students who opted to attend being housed in the Holiday Inn until mid-October. “We won’t have this problem next year,” Nanouris says.While Kintore College has ties to the Catholic Church (its website states that “optional spiritual activities are entrusted to Opus Dei,” and its facilities include a chapel which holds daily mass), Mason emphasizes that religion is not a matter of obligation for residents: “We’re open to absolutely everyone … there doesn’t have to be any particular religious affiliation.” Catholic activities are offered, but Mason says that the residence administration’s priority is to “foster a close-knit community.” She adds, “attendance is open to any female student attending a post-secondary institution.”Current residents include students at U of T, Ryerson, George Brown, and other educational institutions. “We have students from, I think, every continent,” says Mason.Nanouris and Mason also hope that the college will become a hub of community engagement. Lectures are offered (“Is Evolution Compatible with Creationism?” was letting out as I visited the facility, though not all lectures are religious), and there are also several mixed-purpose rooms available for students not attending Kintore to use. “Students always need more space — not just study space, but space where they can talk or discuss ideas. Education is not just in the classroom, but involves engagement with others,” Mason says.In spite of a decline in women’s-only residences in recent years, Nanouris believes there are benefits to a single-sex environment, and keeping an emphasis on women fostering the development of other women. “The residence is an extension of this idea. Women can thrive here without being self-conscious. They have their own private space.”“They have a lot of potential, and we want them to bring to bear their talents on society,” Nanouris goes on. “As women, we understand women, so we’re in a good position to help them do so.” The parent charity, PEV, as well as the college’s administration, are primarily female in membership. While acknowledging that Kintore may not be what everyone wants, Mason suggests, “it’s good to have another option.”In many ways, Kintore College provides a unique option. In addition to its small size and composition, it has a distinct ethos. Life for its students is highly structured around shared meals and activities. Perhaps most unusually, Kintore students are subject to curfews. When asked how this played out in a modern context, Mason noted that some students were dissuaded by the notion. However, she explained that the role of the curfew was more to do with the communal nature of the residence, saying, “we want to show care for our students and safety. Sometimes people can’t make it back for whatever reason, and that’s fine — it’s not an iron rod.” She also noted that this kind of structure helps students to better organize their lives, for instance, tacitly encouraging them to go to bed early in case of morning classes.
U of T radio station to sue former general manager
Lawsuit details alleged long-term embezzlement at CIUT 89.5
U of T’s campus radio station, CIUT-FM 89.5, has filed a lawsuit against former station manager Brian Burchell, seeking to retrieve more than $160,000 that were allegedly embezzled by Burchell in the lead up to his firing in October 2010.
The lawsuit accuses Burchell of professional malpractice, claiming his actions constituted a “breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion.” In the statement of claim filed against Burchell, University of Toronto Community Radio Inc. (UTCRI), the registered charity which operates CIUT-FM, is seeking damages of $162,193.68, in addition to standard damages resulting from legal fees and “other damages proven.”Burchell was hired by the station in July 2007. Among Burchell’s privileges as a manager at UTCRI was access to the station’s bank account, granted with the provision that Burchell would use the money “in the best interests of the UTCRI.”In May 2010, the UTCRI Board of Directors was forwarded a complaint from one of Burchell’s assistants that alleged that Burchell was misusing UTCRI funds. In response, the station conducted a forensic audit. It was not immediately clear what role, if any, university administrators had in the commissioning or execution of the audit. University of Toronto students pay $3.75 to the radio station each year as part of their compulsory ancillary fees.According to the lawsuit, the audit found that Burchell had, over a number of years, used money from the UTCRI accounts for his own personal expenses, including “alcohol, groceries, restaurants, parking fines, and personal travel.” Burchell was suspended with pay and given until October 15, 2010 to respond to the audit, which he allegedly failed to do. He was fired four days later.The lawsuit paperwork was signed by attorneys from high-powered Bay Street law firm Blake, Cassels, and Graydon LLP, and dated April 23, 2012, although copies of the filing have only recently begun to circulate.The cause of Burchell’s firing was reported by The Varsity at the time as an “unspecified issue,” although Gage Averil, then-president of the station’s Board of Directors, said in an interview that the “issue” had been related to Burchell’s unnamed corporation, 17092700 Ontario Inc. “We had a process of review over the last few months and decided to terminate the contract with a company that Brian Burchell runs that had management contracts for CIUT,” said Averill at the time.The Varsity was unable to contact Brian Burchell. Burchell is also the publisher of Gleaner Community Press.In a phone interview with The Varsity, Ken Stowar, the current president of the Board of Directors at CIUT-FM, said that Burchell’s lawyers had filed a statement of defence within the 20 day period mandated in the statement of claim. Stowar, who took over Burchell’s duties as station manager after his dismissal, also added that the UTCRI had filed a response to his defence. The case is currently pending before the courts.
Students win lawsuit against George Brown College
Domestic and international students won a class action suit against George Brown College for negligently misrepresenting the benefits of its International Business Management Program. The 2007 course calendar purported that students could complete industry designations and obtain the college’s graduate certificate.Justice Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court held that the course description was false, misleading, and a breach of the Ontario Consumer Protection Act since the college lacked agreements with any of the associations to award such accreditations. In ruling in the students’ favour, Belobaba considered that the sole reason for enrollment was to obtain such designations and that foreign students had paid nearly $11,000 in tuition by the time the descriptions were corrected. Belobaba stated that the disappointed students neither had the additional time nor money to independently pursue the designations. George Brown’s arguments that reasonable students would know that the program was only preparatory were rejected.Despite stating that the careless mistake should not be seen to impugn the otherwise highly regarded college, Belobaba awarded the students the difference between what they paid for and the program’s actual value. Exact damages are to be determined at a later date.With files from The Globe and Mail.