Music students asked to approve 80-fold increase in fees

Music students asked to approve 80-fold increase in fees

The Faculty of Music is asking its students to approve a steep $1,200 levy increase to help close a $1.5 million budget shortfall. Administrators say that without the increase, the faculty will be unable to meet “the typical yet extraordinary costs of providing international-quality professional training and research programs in music” and has warned of cutbacks in staff and course offerings.

“I cannot emphasize enough how critical a positive response to the referendum question is for our future sustainability,” said dean Don McLean in an open letter. “We are currently in a position where we cannot move forward with hires and cannot expand or enhance any of our program offerings without showing a more stable financial trajectory.”

Provincial policy prevents the faculty from abruptly raising tuition fees by amounts as large as that proposed. Consequently, McLean’s administration has been forced to ask students to approve the increase as a student society fee, which would then be siphoned to faculty bank accounts. The increase would mean a steep, 80-fold raise from the current fee of $15 (based on a fee of $7.5 per semester for the fall and winter semesters). This unusual approach requires students to vote on approving the increase before it can be charged.

The faculty held two open forums on January 17 and 24 to explain and discuss the situation with students.

The Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association declined to comment on the fee increase. McLean’s letter indicated that the association would remain neutral on the question of whether to approve the increase while it was hosting the referendum.

In his letter, McLean says emphatically that even with the proposed increase, students enrolled in U of T’s Music Faculty will be receiving a world-class education cheaper than at comparable institutions: music students at McGill pay nearly $9,000 a year, while for those at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, the figure is closer to $20,000.

The effects of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote were discussed at the student forums held in January. Administrators painted a grim picture for the faculty if the increase is not approved: there would be an inability to hire staff; class would grow in size and decrease in diversity of offerings, leaving only the most basic of courses intact ­— a bare minimum of theory, history, and ensemble; the faculty would be forced to accept enrollment in classes from anyone in the university, not only those specially admitted to the program through a rigorous procedure involving auditions.

Even if it is approved, the fee increase will only bring the faculty halfway to its goal. McLean has committed to seeking other ways to contain costs and increase revenues. “We are making progress,” wrote McLean in his letter. “I am confident that the combination of these ongoing efforts in conjunction with a winning referendum from our students will allow us to flourish.”

The administration’s chosen approach to solving the faculty’s financial woes has been met with a stable, if quiet response. “Only a relatively small percentage of the undergraduate student population was present,” said McLean, referring to the town hall events. “I am naturally concerned that the message gets out.”

“The dean’s proposal to raise the money through a three-year increase is, in my opinion, a sound proposal,” said Paolo Griffin, a fourth-year student at the faculty.

Griffin said that a major concern with the faculty in its current situation is that it is being forced to accept more students than it normally would to offset operational costs. “As a result of the influx of students,” says Griffin, “there are not enough teachers to go around, or at least, the teachers are being saddled with too many students.”

“In my opinion the tuition hike is a necessity if U of T’s Faculty of Music wishes to continue being among the top music schools in the country,” says Griffin.

One option raised by a student at one of the forums was a grandfathering or phasing-in option. According to the faculty, a phasing-in option is probable for the final question that will be posed by the referendum. Students will likely be voting on approval of a three-year contract to pay in increments per annum, until they reach the $1,200 target; so students would pay $600 the first year, $900 the second, and $1,200 the third year. But the grandfathering option may not be possible because current students may not be able to vote on decisions that only affect incoming students.

Another student proposed that instead of a levy, students could help relieve the faculty of its operating deficit by contributing any money earned at gigs and through fundraising events. The faculty responded, saying that students could make donations if they wish, but the faculty could not force students to give  up money earned from outside work like gigs. As for fundraising, the faculty hosts galas and performances, but the money raised through these means would not be nearly enough to cover the
amount needed.

One issue raised at the student forum concerned fourth-year students voting, because the consequences of either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote would not affect them. The faculty acknowledges these concerns, but says no students can be prevented from voting in the referendum in order for it to be considered legitimate.

“It may upset some to know that students who are not affected by the hike get to vote, but these same people also have to trust that these students won’t simply vote ‘yes’ for the sake of it,” says Griffin. “Every person will vote according to what he or she thinks is right, graduating or not. So while it’s understandable that students may be frustrated, I believe that we should be allowed to, since it is and was our school too.”

The faculty said should the levy pass, its priorities are to retrofit the MacMillan Theatre, fix practice rooms, finally gather enough money to run the McLaughlin Planetarium, and hopefully attract more donors, who are less likely to give if they see financial problems within the faculty.

“The upcoming student society referendum represents a significant turning point in the future of the faculty,” McLean concludes in his letter. “Its consequences, one way or the other, will be critical for our path forward together.”

Union stands firm as Victoria contemplates exit

Four divisions proceed with separation plans and gird for legal battle as prospect of UTSU disintegration looms

Union stands firm as Victoria contemplates exit

University of Toronto Students’ Union president Shaun Shepherd warned a growing number of student groups seeking “defederation” from the central union that there is “clear legal precedent to stop them,” even as logistical planning for referendums and eventual exits appeared well underway.

Shepherd’s statement came in the form of a letter sent February 22 to Trinity’s co-head of college Sam Greene. It is “structurally identical” to one sent to the Engineering Society in 2010, says president Rishi Maharaj.

The letter objects to Trinity “conducting on behalf of the UTSU a referendum related to its own membership and fees,” asks that the referendum effort be discontinued, and states that the UTSU will not conduct such a referendum, leaving no clear path forward for those attempting defederation.

Shepherd’s statement on the defederation movement came as Victoria University’s student leadership body VUSAC announced they too were considering an exit from the union. VUSAC’s move brings the total number of colleges and faculties considering the move to four, with the Engineering Society, Trinity, and St. Michael’s College announcing their plans before Reading Week.

VUSAC president Shoaib Alli said he was concerned by Shepherd’s language. “I don’t want to feel like I’ve been held hostage by the students’ union,” said Alli. Greene says it is “disingenuous” for Shepherd to send “what can only be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate us about taking action.”

“Why is it that they’re so interested in a legal battle about this?” asked Greene. “Why not just have the referendum? If they think their services are so good, and they think that what they provide to Trinity students is so strong and useful, why are they not prepared to defend that in an open democratic forum?”

College leaders involved in the so-called “defederation” movement are seeking what amounts to a financial exit from the UTSU, by having member fees re-routed to college- and faculty-level bodies rather than centralized union coffers.

The decision to explore an exit came after the union’s reticence to implement electoral reform proposals put forward by some college leaders in time for this year’s elections, in spite of the proposals being by the general membership approved at the UTSU’s Special General Meeting this month, and promises of reform made by UTSU president Shepherd.

Defederation leaders stress that their concerns are not limited to the single issue of electoral reform. “There is no longer any confidence that any internal reform is possible,” says Maharaj.

Maharaj was involved with the Engineering Society when the 2010 letter was sent. He says that the letter caused the Society to retreat from holding a referendum, because they were “scared” by the legal implications, and because they were hopeful the opposition slate Change could win the upcoming election.

Neither of those inhibiting factors exist today, says Maharaj. “We believe we’re proceeding on a strong legal footing,” he adds.

EngSoc have already retained the law firm Heenan Blaikie, from which it is receiving confidential legal advice. Trinity and Victoria have not yet retained counsel, but are in the process of speaking to various firms. Trinity will vote Monday on earmarking $10,000 for legal services.

“Because the UTSU has threatened legal action in the past and has cited specific issues, I think it is only responsible to have our own counsel to research those issues,” said Maharaj.

 

Practicalities of  Defederation

The UTSU provides a number of services for students at the St. George and Mississauga campuses, including health and dental insurance.There have been some concerns about access to union services if defederation proceeds.

Three student societies — EngSoc, VUSAC and the Trinity College Meeting — are in the process of putting together detailed reports addressing questions from concerned students and laying out a detailed blueprint of how such services would function outside the union’s central structure.

Trinity’s report was available online late Sunday afternoon. Representatives of the Engineering Society said their report would be ready as early as Monday. Victoria’s will be released in about a week.

Student leaders from Trinity, Victoria and Engineering argue that provisions will be in place to allow students to retain access to all of the services they currently receive from the UTSU. “They are going to receive the same or better services for the same or less money,” says Maharaj.

In conversations with The Varsity, representatives from the three divisions provided a detailed breakdown of all of the services offered by the UTSU. All three claimed that each service was either already replicated by an existing service of their own, or could be replicated at a comparable cost.

Both Maharaj and Greene have spoken with several insurance providers and expressed confidence that they could provide students comparable coverage at comparable cost.

“I have found in discussions with more than one service provider that costs don’t really decline further after 1,000 members,” said Maharaj.

In the case of the UTSU handbook given out during Frosh Week, the Engineering Society already provides an equivalent publication for their students. Trinity has previously gone without, and says it would be simple to print a replacement.

“They’ve already cut us off from this service,” said Jake Brockman, chair of the Trinity College Meeting, referring to an episode in 2011 where a spat led to Trinity not using UTSU-prepared frosh kits. Brockman explained that, like several other colleges, Trinity has not traditionally used the UTSU orientation package, which includes the handbook.

There remain significant logistical issues with regards to adopting services, particularly insurance. The societies are exploring the possibility of having a paid staff member to help with the opt-out process, answer questions, and handle other details involved in administering a health and dental plan.

“There’s nothing we’re concerned about,” said Brockman.

Beyond provision of services, the UTSU also defines its role as a unified advocate for the student body, representing some 44,000 students. Union executives have argued that there is strength in numbers, but all three student societies have suggested that there is little connection between the union and college life.

“There is no real relationship between Vic and the students’ union — there is nothing that exists at Vic that would be changed,” said Alli.

The societies are seeking a less political approach to student government, and all three claim that they are already better able to advocate on their members’ behalf with Simcoe Hall or Queen’s Park than UTSU.

“I don’t think engineering students would be losing anything, because they aren’t currently receiving anything from lobbying at the municipal, provincial or federal level,” said Maharaj.

 

Victoria Enters the Fray

VUSAC president Alli surprised many when he announced on February 15 that VUSAC is “formally” exploring all options, “including Vic leaving the UTSU.”

Alli will present his report on defederation at the VUSAC meeting on March 1, and has scheduled an annual general meeting for March 6 where he “expects the conversation to be dominated by discussion of UTSU.”

“I’m not sure there’s something he [Shepherd] could say to stop this,” says Alli. “Vic students’ confidence in UTSU is at an all-time low.”

Like Trinity and the Engineers, VUSAC is considering setting aside funds for legal fees, which Ali stresses he hopes will not have to be put to use. VUSAC currently has a surplus of $12,000–15,000 which could potentially be allocated for legal fees, Alli explains.

 

Full Steam Ahead

As of The Varsity’s press time, Trinity, Engineering, and Victoria are all on the path to hold referenda on an exit in late March of this year.

After initially backing an exit, St. Michael’s College has dialed back its involvement. The college is still considering defederation, but is now seeminlgy doing so on a slower timeline.

Significant legal questions remain, perhaps the largest one being whether the fight for independence will end in a courtroom battle. “It is obviously a very touchy subject, and there are a lot of legalities we have to look at,” said Corey Scott, UTSU vice-president, internal.

“Things are moving very quickly now,” said Maharaj.

Students, administrators tussle over independent future for transitional year program

Continued refusal to merge with the Faculty of Arts & Science means a flat-lined budget for 40-year-old program

Four years of negotiations over the future of the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) have reached an impasse, as a proposal that the program merge with the Faculty of Arts & Science met resistance from students.

“We have committed to a substantial addition to the TYP budget, if they become formally unified with the faculty they are in practice a part of. With such an administrative move, TYP  students would also have direct access to the excellent registrarial and support services provided through Woodsworth College,” said vice-provost, students, Jill Matus, in a statement delivered to a town hall on the future of the program.

The current argument remains, at its core, about the program’s $1.4 million budget.

Although there has been no decision to eliminate the program, reactions from student unions about the proposed changes have been loudly and strenuously opposed to the merger. One press release condemned the “slow suffocation” of the program, alleging that it was “forced to wind down as the University of Toronto starves the program for funding.”

“Having read the news release sent out by UTSU, I must say to the TYP  community that it is disheartening that so little attention is being paid to the facts in this matter,” said Provost Cheryl Misak. “There most certainly has been no decision to ‘eliminate’ TYP .”

While most divisions within the university receive some revenues, such as provincial grant money per student, Misak says the transitional year program receives “very little from the government per student,” and that most of its budget comes out of the university’s operating budget.

“Every year we use money from the university fund for operating expenses. We are entirely dependent on that,” says Thomas Mathien, the TYP’s associate director.

Program director Ahia Francis says the operating budget will remain flat if the program stays independent.

Without the increased budget that would come with the merger, Francis says the program will be unable to expand, and could face a long-term struggle to contain rising costs with inflation. The program has already been forced to downsize in recent years; while it once had 10 full-time faculty members, that number has been reduced to four. Four faculty members have retired and two positions have been downgraded to part-time status.

The program, which has been been an independent unit within the university for the past 40 years, offers a pathway into a degree program for adults lacking formal qualifications for admission. Designed for those who did not complete high school because of financial or family-related problems, each student in the program has access to an academic advisor, funding options, and other resources offered by the university. After one year of program coursework, students who pass become eligible for admission to the Faculty of Arts & Science.

“I was shaken to my core when I first heard about TYP  being under attack. TYP  has been life changing not only for myself but also for many in my community,” said Abinur Ahmed, an alumnus of the program. “To destroy such a successful program undermines the access and equity principals the University of Toronto claims to promote.”

“Those of us who come from marginalized communities are provided with an opportunity to access education despite our circumstances. TYP  makes available what is often systemically withheld from our communities ­— an opportunity,” adds Ahmed.

Misak says she remains hopeful that the TYP  will change their minds and create a “unified and stronger set of bridging programs for students in the Faculty of Arts & Science.” Negotiations between the faculty and the TYP  are ongoing.

Francis says he would like to see the provost assign a task force to survey submissions from the TYP  faculty and staff in order to come up with a new means of addressing the financing issues. Francis says the TYP  will continue to be active in its role to broaden the basis for admission and provide accessible education for all.

Of the TYP  entrants who get admitted into the Faculty of Arts &Science, on average half graduate with BAs. TYP  graduates have gone on to be employed with the Toronto District School Board, Ontario Ministry of Corrections, or have gone on to pursue graduate or professional studies.

Turf war over fate of U of T Back Campus

Plan to convert popular green space to Astroturf field hockey pitch met with strident opposition

Turf war over fate of U of T Back Campus

A plan to replace the natural grass on the University of Toronto’s Back Campus with artificial turf has been met with a growing chorus of opposition from students, staff, faculty, and even former Pan Am organizers.

As part of preparations to host the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games, the university announced plans to convert the backfield behind University College and Hart House to a field hockey pitch, composed of polypropylene or polyethylene synthetic turf. Members of the university community are speaking out against what they perceive to be an irresponsible course of action.

The University College Council voted overwhelmingly to register “strong concerns” about the $9.5 million project.

“We’re concerned on three different levels: sustainability, heritage, and student life,” said Suzanne Akbari, professor of English and Medieval Studies. “First, with regards to sustainability, a field hockey surface has to have a tremendous amount of water flushed through it. The drainage is going to go into storm drains, which already have a very high water table.”

“Particularly in the case of a heavy rainstorm, the runoff would overtax the aged storm structure in our water system, and it’s unclear exactly what chemicals, for instance, leach into the water when they run off the field,” adds professor Alan Ackerman.

Environmental considerations also extend to concerns about a possible “heat island” effect as a result of the development. Artificial turf surfaces heat up more intensely than other areas as temperatures rise, in contrast to surfaces of natural grass, which absorb heat and have a cooling effect on their surrounding environment.

“We found Varsity Stadium’s conversion from natural grass turned that northern area of campus into one of the hottest areas on campus,” explains John Danahy, co-director of the Faculty of Architecture’s Centre for Landscape Research. “This runs counter to all contemporary thinking about climate change adaptation in downtown urban conditions. As a professional landscape architect, I am unconvinced that the interests of the performance sports lobby should blindly outweigh all other stakeholders’ interests when the backfield is arguably one of the most core heritage landscapes on campus.”

“On a warming planet, it seems a synthetic surface is not the right way to go,” said Ackerman. “I really think the University of Toronto should be a leader in environmental issues and not a backslider.”

On February 20, the administration responded to the increasingly vocal criticism through a statement released by Scott Mabury, vice-president of university operations, and David Naylor, president of the university.

“There is, of course, a very reasonable basis for debate here,” the senior administrators conceded. “Some will argue for maintaining a natural grass playing field, both aesthetically and as a point of environmental principle.” The statement also asserts that “the actual environmental impact of this change borders on negligible.”

The release proceeded to address sustainability objections specifically: “Synthetic turf surfaces do heat up faster than natural grasses. However, overall heat radiation effects from this limited surface area are trivial in the context of the region, not least as compared to any number of projects involving paving of large surfaces in Toronto.”

Naylor and Mabury dismissed concerns about water management, suggesting that “storm water drainage layers are customarily built into newer-generation synthetic turf products; that is the case here.”

In advancing the case for the conversion of the backfield, the administration emphasized the increased accessibility the project entails for student athletes and the university community as a whole. “Over 10,000 students are engaged in intramural sports on the St. George campus alone, and that number is growing every year. The University’s physical activity spaces, however, are not expanding,” reads the statement.

The statement also sought to address concerns that the converted backfield could exclude members of the community who are not field-hockey players. “The fields will remain open for varied recreational uses,” Mabury and Naylor wrote. “More generally, every sport and recreation facility on U of T campuses is developed with our students in mind.”

Paul Henderson, a former member of the International Olympic Committee, and the individual who spearheaded Toronto’s 2015 Pan American Games bid, disagrees. “High-level field hockey pitches are unique; they cannot be used for any other sport,” he said. “At the end of the games, one of two things will happen. The field must be torn up to be used for intramural sports, or it will be used for field hockey and intramural sports cannot use the backfield. Everybody loses.”

Henderson offered an alternative which he argued could be acceptable to all parties concerned.

“On those fields, the university should have gotten two soccer venues. A high level soccer field can be grass, and it can be used for other sports, and the field hockey pitch should be at Downsview Airport,” he argued. At Downsview, he explained, the venue would be near a subway station, and all field hockey players from each of Toronto’s universities, as well as high school players, could conveniently access it for competition.

The administration has stated repeatedly, in the initial proposal for the project and in response to the controversy it has engendered, that the proposed venues would provide both hosting opportunities for high-level field hockey competition and increased activity space for varied recreational student use. The growing number of those opposing the artificial turf, however, remain unconvinced.

“It’s really shocking the way things have been misrepresented,” remarked Akbari. “I came to uc freshly out of grad school in 1995,” she said. “I enjoyed seeing the spontaneity of usage on the backfield, both by sports teams, rugby teams, and so on, but also people just playing casually and hanging around.” She went on to lament that “now people are not going to want to play Frisbee there, or soccer where you could fall down, or softball where you could wipe out sliding into a base. It’s going to become a sterile environment.”

University College, along with the campus green that surrounds it, is formally recognized as a National Historic Site by the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Construction is set to begin this July.

Jobless after law school? Back to class, for unlucky few

Without enough articling jobs for a growing population of law grads, a pilot program sends some back to school, stoking fears of a two-tiered system

Jobless after law school? Back to class, for unlucky few

A new pilot program introduced earlier this year by the Law Society of Upper Canada is being billed as a solution to declining availability of articling positions for new law school graduates. Yet, questions remain as to whether the new system will inadvertently create two tiers of graduates, and some say the fix does little to address the root of the problem: Ontario is producing more law school graduates than ever, leaving some with dim job prospects upon graduation.

Articling, which refers to the formal, year-long system of on-the-job training for new law school graduates, has traditionally been the surest path to getting hired at a firm. Yet, like so many other job markets in Ontario, a surplus of graduates pursuing a limited number of articling positions has left many empty-handed at a key moment in their careers.

“Qualified law graduates are barred from access to the profession if they cannot find a position,” wrote dean Lorne Sossin of Osgoode Hall Law School on his blog.  According to the Council of Ontario Universities’ law school applications statistics, between Ontario’s six law schools, there has been a 41 per cent increase in law school applicants, combined with a 27 per cent increase in registered law students, from 1997 to 2012.

With an abundance of law school graduates flooding the legal job market, some in the legal profession have questioned “whether articling was a valid regulatory barrier for entry to practice,” according to one post in Slaw magazine. The bar association created a task force to examine this question and proposed an alternative in the hope that graduates can acquire some work experience without having to find a year-long articling position at a firm.

In November, the task force announced their proposal: a pilot program featuring a four-month long Law Practice Program (LPP), coupled with a four-month co-op placement.  A detailed curriculum has not yet been released, but the task force promises that the largely academic solution will be focused on providing practical training in lieu of an articling position.

The decision was controversial from the moment it was first announced, with 20 out of 56 benchers with the Law Society voting against it. Some skeptics wonder if the new program is effectively a waiting room, keeping students in a holding pattern and sheltering them from a job market unable to absorb new graduates in such large numbers.

Others have expressed concern that the move will create a “two-tiered” system, whereby only students with very good grades or personal connections could earn coveted articling positions, while the rest will effectively be sent back to school for another year.

There will be heavier financial burden for those in the pilot program, who must pay tuition for an extra year, versus those who achieve articling positions and are instead earning a salary. Questions are being raised as to whether firms will harbour some bias against students in the pilot program, since articling positions are typically given to the students at the top of their class.

“There is legitimate anxiety accompanying the prospect of a ‘two-tier’ track to licensing,” wrote Dean Sossin on his blog. “One well-remunerated and well-regarded, the other leading to greater student debt, uncertain career prospects and stigma… I would argue that it is unacceptable for the Law Society to shut the door to those who cannot afford the cost of the pathways to practice.”

“Articling has really outlived its usefulness and it’s time to move on with a different process,” said Peter Wardle in an interivew with the Law Times. Wardle, a voting member of the Law Society who opposed the pilot project, believes that the time has come to dispose of the articling system altogether. “The time to make the hard decisions about articling is now,” says Wardle.

“One of the main reasons I chose to apply to law schools in the U.S. was to avoid articling altogether,” said prospective law student and recent U of T graduate Brandon Bailey. The U.S. allows students to go directly to their state bar exams post-graduation and jump right into vying for positions within firms. This is clearly more appealing, as the income difference between an articling and an associate lawyer position is substantial.

This program is the first of its kind in Canada, and as of yet, no other provinces or territories have deviated from the traditional articling system.  Student success in acquiring articling positions varies by school. U of T’s law school, widely regarded as the best in the country, says 90 per cent of its graduating students secure articling positions. Students from lower-ranked schools have a more difficult time, and a growing number of graduates are likely to encounter difficulties as their ranks continue to swell. Lakehead University recently announced the opening of a new law school, the seventh in the province.

The alternative to articling will be available for students graduating in the 2014–15 year. If the pilot program is found to be successful, it will be extended for up to an additional two years.

Ontario Tories call for post-secondary reforms

Student loans for high grades and funding dependent on job placement among changes floated by white paper

A new white paper from Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party, which calls for the abolishment of the Liberal’s 30 per cent tuition grant and proposes tying student loans to grades and funding to job placement rates, drew swift criticism from Liberal ministers and student unions, who say the policies would leave low- and middle-income families at a disadvantage.

The suggestion that loans be tied to student grades drew a particularly sharp rebuke. For Munib Sajjad, vice-president, university affairs at the University of Toronto Students’ Union (utsu), the proposal “is an offensive way of further disadvantaging low-income students, as unexpected circumstances, illnesses, and family emergencies affect low-income students more than their counterparts.”

“The whole idea smacks of a two-tier approach to post-secondary education,” said Brad Duguid, the newly-appointed Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities. Duguid says the proposal will disproportionately harm student-athletes, part-time workers, and Aboriginal students.

There was also debate about how best to address the future of a tuition grant introduced by the Liberals last year. Rob Leone, the PC critic for Training, Colleges and Universities, said the 30 per cent grant was “an abject failure” unavailable to the neediest, such as mature and part-time students.

The Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario (CFS-O) has also been critical of the grant’s narrow eligibility requirements in the past. The Liberals, meanwhile, have previously suggested that the eligibility guidelines could be revisited.

The CFS was also critical of several other measures within the 27-page Conservative proposal, identifying more stringent surveillance for OSAP funding and expanded online education as particularly troublesome. CFS national executive representative Toby Whitfield said the paper’s proposals amounted to an “attack on low- and middle-income income families.”

Leone said he was surprised by the reaction to the paper, and said it was “offensive” to suggest that scrapping the 30 per cent grant would disadvantage middle-income families. “I also came from a middle-class background. My father did not have a lot growing up. Ultimately, we understand the value of education and working hard. What we are doing is accounting for people with different expectations,” said Leone.

Alongside axing the tuition grant and tying student loans to good grades, the policy paper, one in a series entitled “Paths to Prosperity,” calls for a renewed focus on practical outcomes in higher education, emphasizing college and training facilities, and seeking to tie funding to job placement rates.

Leone said that the province’s resources should be funnelled to programs that are better at securing jobs for graduates, and expressed concern that many university programs were accepting too many students when prospects within the field remain bleak, citing journalism school and teachers’ colleges as two examples.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is focus our scarce resources into making sure students get good jobs and are able to afford a good lifestyle, where they can buy a car, get a house, have kids,” said Leone.

The Liberals are also seeking a renewed emphasis on colleges, one of few instances where the two major parties’ policies agree. Duguid says the skilled trades need to be promoted more intensively, adding that the ministry has begun developing plans to promote college education and facilitate more joint programs between universities and colleges.

“What I have trouble with,” said Duguid, “is [PC party leader Tim] Hudak making the choice for students to go into colleges or skilled trades. Who’s Tim Hudak to say that you should go into skilled trades? It is almost paternalistic.”

The CFS and UTSU have also expressed concern  about the Tories’ approach to online education, suggesting that having more expensive “elite” programs within bricks-and-mortar university campuses, while offering lower tuition rates for online learning would widen the inequality gap between wealthy and lower-income students.

Alongside these more controversial proposals, the Tories also called for lower student-to-faculty ratios and smaller class sizes, both of which are priority issues for student unions.

Faculty of Arts & Science embarks on new self-assessment

After a last-minute retreat over drastic changes in 2010, administrators are proceeding with caution, seeking input from all quarters

The Faculty of Arts & Science is again embarking on an “external review” to evaluate and adjust the academic and administrative structure of the university’s largest faculty.

The outcome of a previous review, which began in 2008, ended with the retraction of the most drastic measures that would have included the amalgamation of several language and literature departments, amidst vocal protests from students and faculty.

The new review, also known as a “self-study,” will be guided by terms of reference featuring extensive consultation and input from departments across the faculty. The input process, which has been ongoing for much of the previous year, will act as a “touchstone” for the process of considering and implementing any changes.

According to a memorandum from faculty Dean Meric Gertler earlier this year, Provost Cheryl Misak is expected to appoint a team of external reviewers to undertake the assessment. Priority topics include a progress report on the faculty’s long-term academic plan, its approach to undergraduate and graduate education, its research and support culture, and its relationship to other campuses and local, national, and international communities.

Assistant dean and director Helen Lasthiotakis explains that the external reviewers “will be professors from other universities that we consider peers. So there might be deans from other universities or faculty members.” The team will conduct site visits and eventually publish a report with their observations.

Katharine Ball, president of the Arts & Science Students’ Union (assu), confirmed that “the external reviewers will likely be on campus for 2–3 days at some point between the summer months and the fall semester.” She added that the assu would be “part of the consultations, but not a part of the organizing of the self-study.” (Disclosure: Katharine Ball sits on The Varsity’s Board of Directors.)

Munib Sajjad, vice-president, university affairs, told The Varsity that the utsu does not have a voting seat nor do they sit on the review committee, but that the central student union supported the assu in offering input to the review process, and would oppose unfair changes. “We’re waiting to see what actually transpires in this review. What’s the purpose of it? Why do they have to do another review? It’s very unclear right now,” said Sajjad. He adds that the utsu is hoping for a balanced outcome that will be “economically safe, as well as academically safe,” and encouraged students to pay close attention to the procedure and outcome. According to  Lasthotakis, the reviewers will welcome written input during their appraisal.

The self-study is a regularly-scheduled undertaking, and Lasthiotakis explains that “every faculty undergoes a review on a cyclical schedule.”

The last self-study occurred in March 2008, with the report it produced advising the faculty to “better define its relationships” with the seven colleges, utm and utsc, in regards to graduate and undergraduate programs, as well as addressing issues with inter-disciplinary programs and other administrative matters. One of the main recommendations, to create a joint graduate program across the three main campuses, was implemented last year.

Other changes arising indirectly from the 2008 self-study were dialed back after an outcry from students, staff, and faculty. Ball clarified that the bigger changes were not initiated by the external reviewers, but rather by the faculty administration, who devise the bulk of the changes using the external review as a blueprint.

“The plan for the School and Languages and Literature and the program fee were things that were later justified by the results of the last self- study, but in no way were the three external reviewers directly connected to these plans or a part of them,” said Ball. “The resulting academic plan after the last self-study was a project of the faculty and the Provost’s office.”

Lasthotakis emphasised that the external review is “different from the academic planning process that occurs internally in the university.” Gertler will present more details about the self-study to the Faculty Council on March 5. The final report is expected to be completed by May 2013.

President of Emory University under fire for racist remarks

Students at Emory University are protesting a column written by their university president James Wagner, in which he applauded the three-fifths compromise of 1757, which counted each slave as a fraction of a person for census-taking purposes. The column lauded the compromise as a lesson for today’s lawmakers on making hard choices.

In addition to facing student protests, Wagner has been censured by a faculty group, and has been accused of selectively cutting programs that are used by minority students.

Wagner has denied any racist intent and has apologized for the article, stating that he finds slavery “heinous” and asking for forgiveness for his “clumsiness and insensitivity.”

Wagner met with delegates from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Friday where he spoke about the fight for racial equality. Approximately 45 students marched outside the speech venue in protest.

The president of the Black Student Alliance at Emory, Jovana Jones, said she had forgiven Wagner.

With files from The New York Times