Dunbat, which functions as an ice rink during winter, consists of an ensemble of wooden boxes and ledges: two mini-ramps, half-pipes to laymen, though smaller and less vertical than the kind ridden by Tony Hawk; some metal flat-bars — rails standing about a foot off the ground; countless beer cans; a teeming crew of skaters. Those who frequent the park are associated by either a real camaraderie or, at least, the common passion for the art of skateboarding. Skaters meet and warm up on the rectangular prism-shaped wooden ledge and smooth flat concrete before turning to the harsher expanse of urban playground in Toronto’s downtown core. Once there, they can film their interactions with that familiar landscape and share them with the larger skateboarding community… To read the rest of Nicholas Carlson’s article about Toronto’s skater culture, click here.
Dunbat in pictures
Academic misconduct through the years
The Tribunal of Governing Council is where the most serious cases of academic misconduct eventually end up. Punishments range from a reduced grade in a course to outright expulsion. The Tribunal posts anonymized details of the cases online. The Varsity looked at the past five years and found some remarkable cases.Case 588: Student digitally manipulated thesis photosIn July of 2007, a student successfully defended his engineering master’s thesis before a panel of professors. After his results could not be replicated, the professor raised concerns about the validity of the circuit board’s design, which the student defended via email. Further investigation revealed that the student had used decoys in the design and had included digitally manipulated photographs in the final paper. Cases 596, 597, 598: Three students purchased the same ™unique∫ essayIn the winter of 2010, it was found that three students with previous histories of academic misconduct, including the digital manipulation of airplane ticket photos to defer an exam and the sharing of answers during a midterm examination, committed plagiarism. The three submitted similar essays with analogous titles for a course they were collectively enrolled in. The three students had purchased their essays separately from The Essay Place, an essay production company which claimed to adhere to a strict anti-duplication code, assuring the three that each of their essays was unique.
Case 617: Student took course three times, hired imposter for examThe student enrolled in a year-long math course during the 2008-2009 academic year from which he eventualy withdrew after scoring poorly on the term test. He was granted a late withdrawal after enrolling in the course during the subsequent academic year. The student enrolled in the same course for a third time in September of 2010, and placed advertisements on Internet classifieds websites that read as follows: “Looking for a asian [sic] (Chinese, Korean) guy who graduated from or currently attending to U of T who is good at math.” When questioned by the university, the student claimed that he needed a tutor, given his previous performance. During the first term evaluation, it was found that he had indeed paid someone else to impersonate him and write the test. Case 628: Medical excuse debunked as doctor has never seen studentDuring early January of 2011, the student petitioned to defer an already-delayed exam that was originally scheduled for April of 2010, under the basis of illness, for which he provided a medical certificate as well as a letter confirming a medical consultation. The student was made aware of the university’s suspicion regarding the documentation’s validity. Shortly after, a voicemail from an individual claiming to be the doctor’s assistant contacted the university, asserting that the student had indeed visited the clinic and was suffering from influenza. After the doctor confirmed never having seen the student, the student admitted to having purchased the medical certificate from an online service. Case 631: Student plagarizes course resourcesIn the spring semester of 2011, a student was found to have committed two instances of consecutive plagiarism — the first occurred when she copied large portions of the reference material provided by the professor for the course’s assignment. The second was discovered when the student’s essay had similar data and explanations to one of her peers’ papers, which the student admitted to copying without her peer’s permission or knowledge. Case 632: Student damages test paper to hide markOn October of 2010, a student wrote and received a low mark on a midterm for her course. Unsatisfied with the results, she emailed the professor, citing an inconsistency between the mark that she received on the test paper and that which was posted online, to which the professor responded by telling the student to submit the paper to the TA once more. When producing the document, the student claimed it was in poor condition due to her roommate having spilled liquid on it. The TA did not believe the student, which subsequently prompted her admittance to having written additional text and marks, as well as damaging the document so as not to be discovered. Case 655: Student resets computer clock to submit paper four months late The student primarily submitted an assignment according to the course’s deadline in February of 2011. In mid-April however, the student emailed his professor claiming to have uploaded the incorrect document in February, and his account was now updated to contain the correct one. The last save was indicated to have occurred in February, as stated by the student. However, analysis of the file indicated that the document had been last saved in April of 2012. The student admitted to have updated the document in April and reset his computer’s clock to make the date appear
as February. Case 663: Student’s mark improves 40 per cent on tests, imposter detected In the winter term of 2011, the student enrolled in a half-year course that contained homework assignments, labs, an early assessment test, a midterm and a final. The student scored below 40 per cent on the early assessment and lab components, and failed to submit any homework. Marks for the midterm and final, however, were both above 80 per cent. During the aforementioned examinations, the student was noted to be wearing a niqab, while no such garment had been seen by the professor or TAs in either class or labs. Forensic analysis of the student’s writing revealed that the handwriting on the final and midterm was in fact distinct from that of the early assessment and labs. Case 676: Student uses Wikipedia for essay In the spring semester of 2011, as part of a major essay for her course, the student was found to have plagiarized large portions of the paper, with sources stemming from sites like Wikipedia. In various instances, the student was found to have fabricated sources. Case 702: Student uses job at hospital to obtain three medical excusesIn early September of 2009, the student requested the late withdrawal of a year long course with documents from a church pastor and a hospital counselling associate to support her claims. The request was accepted and two years later in late August of 2011, she similarly requested to delay the final examination of another year-long course. As before, the student provided medical documentation, declaring an illness as cause of the deferra. In January of 2012, the student provided an additional medical note signed by a different doctor to defer examinations once more. In February, the student opted to defer her exam again, claiming her father had suffered an illness with supporting documentation. All of the above were discovered to be falsified and made possible by the fact that the student was employed at a hospital.
Start-ups compete for your textbook dollars
U of T Bookstore rolls out rent to buy program, lowers prices on most new textbooks
The U of T Bookstore is introducing a buyout option for its rental program this year. The new option allows students who are not certain whether they want to rent or buy a textbook to initially rent it, and then buy it if they decide they would prefer to own it.“With our buyout option a student can save the money up front by renting and if they change their mind come back any time before the due date with their rented book, pay the difference between the rental and purchase price and buy the book,” explains Chad Saunders, vice-president of retail at the University of Toronto Press, adding: “So the worst case scenario is that they buy it but pay for some of it later.” Additionally the Bookstore is lowering the prices of the majority of new textbooks to make them approximately equal to prices on Amazon.ca, the largest online retailer of textbooks.Presumably, these initiatives are in response to increasing pressure in the market from online book exchange websites, through which students at U of T and other schools in Toronto can buy and sell used textbooks. A typical transaction involves a student placing an advertisement for a book she or he wants to sell, which other students can search for on the site. The prospective buyer then contacts the seller using information listed on the ad to arrange a meeting to complete the sale. Effectively, the service works similarly to classifieds sites like Craigslist or Kijiji, but specifically for textbooks.CourseTexts (coursetexts.ca) is one of these services. Rajaie AlKorani, the website’s co-creator, states that “The U [of] T Bookstore’s main focus is to make money, not to give students good deals on their books. CourseTexts’ focus is to give students the upper hand when buying books since it lets them choose to purchase their textbooks from a large number of people, rather than a single company/organization.”Perhaps the most well known of these websites is the Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange (tusbe.com), which in past years was the only such service of any appreciable size. However, when it went down for three months this summer, other websites like CourseTexts, Bookwiz (bookwiz.leila.cc) and Torbok (torbok.com) began appearing to take its place. tusbe has since relaunched, and with over 20,000 listings, has reclaimed its place as the largest of the exchange services. However, its younger competitors have no intentions of bowing out. Al Korani and Leila Chan Currie of Bookwiz both point out that one must create an account to view sellers’ contact information on TUSBE, while their respective sites have no such requirement. Bookwiz is also linked to Coursewiz (coursewiz.leila.cc), a database of courses and professors at U of T used by thousands of students. Textbooks listed on Bookwiz place a link on the corresponding Coursewiz page, creating an additional advertisement for the seller.“I’d like to say that I don’t think the current fragmentation of online exchanges serves students very well,” notes Currie, speaking to the competition in a market monopolized by tusbe just a few months ago. Currie emailed the other major websites — proposing a shared, open source database for used books so that the same results could be used anywhere, with whichever interface students preferred. “Unfortunately only Torbok emailed me back, saying they weren’t interested in the extra work,” said Currie.The result of all this activity, at any rate, is that students have more options than ever when choosing where to buy their textbooks. The Bookstore, as always, offers the convenience of being able to purchase all one’s books in a single place — now at more competitive prices, and with the option of effectively leasing them without the effort of having to peruse listings and contact sellers. Enterprising students can seek to save money by using one of the now myriad book exchange websites, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Becoming familiar with the sites’ functions is at any rate useful because one can eventually sell one’s textbooks to recoup some cost. Currie points out that: “If you buy a used book online one year, you’re very likely to be able to sell it to someone else for the exact same price the next year.” As with any purchase, being an informed consumer is critical, particularly when it comes to spending hundreds of dollars on books some students may simply never open.
White people more likely to be positively portrayed in television advertisements
UTM finds black and Asian people are often shown in negative light
White people are over-represented in Canadian television advertisements, and they are more likely to be presented in a positive light than black or Asian people, according to a new study from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). The study, which attempted to trace the connections between different racial groups and the products they are coupled with in Canadian television advertisements, found that although white people compose 80 per cent of Canada’s population, 87 per cent of the more than 1,000 characters analyzed from 244 prime time television advertisements were white.Professor Shyon Baumann, primary author of the study and chair of UTM’s Department of Sociology says this is the first study that focuses on advertising and uses quantitative data to find connections. He believes television advertising is a particularly interesting medium through which to look at how people of different races are portrayed, as the brevity of television commercials leaves little time for nuance or character development.Baumann, along with phd student Loretta Ho, studied the appearance of 1,000 white, black, and east and southeast Asian people in advertisements, noting their appearances and the contexts in which they appeared. Other races such as First Nations and Hispanic were insufficiently represented in advertisements to be included in the study.White people were most often matched with healthy foods — like eggs or milk — whereas black and Asian people are disproportionately featured in ads for fast food. The cultural trends white people were associated with include nostalgia, nature, and nuclear family. These cultural trends showed white people to be bearers of tradition in quality food, with higher socioeconomic status, and better rounded family lives.White people were generally portrayed as wealthy, whereas black and Asian people were typically shown as having low socio-economic status or a less traditional family structure. Those Asian people who were shown as wealthy appeared caricaturized with negative overtones — robotic and focused on success, with minimal mention of family in the advertisements.When asked why he thinks advertisers chose white people over many other racial groups, Baumann said “I think they don’t [consider]…diversity when it comes to casting or conceptualizing commercials, they do what is convenient and portray…white people because it’s easier [without worrying about the] implications of race for the brand identity they are developing.”Baumann and Ho also indicate that white people are depicted in a wider variety of situations and experiences than other ethnic groups. This makes them seem like better rounded individuals, allowing the viewer to see them as whole person. Baumann is concerned that the similarity of situations in which non-white actors are portrayed has negative sociological effects so that eventually: “the society’s expectations of the race are constrained.”
Introducing Cheryl Regehr
The university’s new provost discusses everything from student fees to fee diversion
The provost is the second-most-important person in the university’s administration — overseeing all financial and academic matters as well as mediating high-profile student conflicts. After the president, the provost is the most visible administrative figure when it comes to student issues. On September 2, Cheryl Regehr became provost for an 18-month term, succeeding Cheryl Misak. Regehr just concluded her term as vice-provost academic, and previously served as dean of the Faculty of Social Work. Prior to joining U of T’s teaching staff in 1999, Regehr had an impressive career in the fields of emergency mental health, law, and social work — the latter is where she currently conducts academic research. She held a number of high-profile positions, including director of the Crisis Response Team at Pearson International Airport. She hopes her experience both inside and outside of the university will help her guide the school. The Varsity sat down with Regehr to discuss her plans for the next 18 months.
The Varsity: Basically the idea behind this interview is to let students know about the new provost: who you are, what your priorities are, what you hope to accomplish. I also want to talk to you about few of the things Professor Misak was working on — how you plan to tackle those. So just to start, what are some of the priorities you have over the next 18 months?
CR: Yeah, so I mean one of the things that I’m really committed to is student engagement, both in the university and outside the university and in our community. So we have some fabulous opportunities for student engagement now. Many programs have practicums or have some kind of learning opp. through lots of co-curricular activities for students, and then we also have service learning courses. One of the things that I want to continue to work on building with people is enhancing the number of opportunities we have like that for students to get out of the university and tackle some of the real problems our society and our societies face. TV: You have extensive background in terms of the academic side of the university, but I was wondering if you could comment a bit on your plans for the operational side, the student side, because those are areas that you haven’t been as focused on as a dean, or as
CR: Being a dean is a great thing, and being a dean of a single-department faculty is a great thing because it’s really a kind of close-to-the-ground deanship. In that particular role, I was heavily engaged with students and the student societies, and I was engaged with the operations, the budget, and the building, and everything else. TV: In terms of the operations, if I could just clarify. U of T obviously has a number of new buildings that are going up; there’s the Faculty of Architecture, the Faculty of Law, the Innovation Complex at UTM. What kind of experience do you have overseeing such large capital projects?
CR: We work as a team, so we have people who have huge expertise in overseeing capital projects. I have been involved in the committees that are looking at new buildings coming on line, from the perspective of: How does this fit with the academic mission? And so, I’ve been doing that as vice-provost academic programs. So that experience, plus really relying on the team and what everybody has to bring to the table. I’m confident we’ll be able to manage
TV: As you know, the provost often works directly with the students’ union and various other student groups. One of the things that’s going on right now is the mediation over the fee diversion question and the delay of the student commons project. How do you plan to try and resolve this ongoing issue between the several students’ unions?
CR: An important thing is bringing people to the table and getting people to be able to talk about it. Right now, there is some planning underway about a student societies summit and that planning is being discussed with various people at this point. Once that gets established, that information will be coming out very shortly. TV: If I may though…in June there was a meeting between the student societies and the student union mediated by Professor Langille at the direction of the provost, and they met for seven hours and there was no change in bargaining position. So how would a student society summit be different from mediation session?
CR: Right now, the details are being worked out, so I don’t want to put them out there because there are various people who want to be involved in the process of setting
TV: Okay. And the student commons has been delayed for 12 months. Is the goal to try and resolve this within the next 12 months? Is that the timeline?
CR: The timeline is to try and resolve it as quickly as possible. TV: What do you see as a potential middle ground between the union’s position on one hand — which is: “We absolutely do not want the student societies to leave,” and the student societies’ position on the other hand — which is: “We want nothing except to leave.”
CR: Well, I wouldn’t want to presuppose the outcome of this, so I won’t talk to a middle-ground right now. I’ll say wait and see how people work on this collaboratively, what they come up with. I’m open to a wide range of outcomes. TV: As you know, the senior administration is in the midst of a large transition; we’ve got a new president, of course a new provost, a new dean of Arts and Science; for university stakeholders that are concerned about stability, what would you say in the midst of the transition? How are things going?
CR: I think that this is a really smooth transition. In Professor Gertler we have someone who knows the university very, very well; so that makes for a very nice transition. Similarly, I have been around the university and I know a lot of the stakeholders and the faculty colleagues. I’ve started working with a number of the students already. We just have very strong leadership at all levels of the institution, and that strong leadership at these various levels of the institution continues. And so as we look at transitioning into the senior leadership roles, I think there’s going to be a great deal of stability. TV: There has often been friction between the students’ union and the office of the provost. How would you, as someone with a background in mediation, how would you go about setting a new tone, or trying to change what I would say has been over a decade of difficult relations?
CR: Well I feel really hopeful about my ability to work with student leadership and student leadership’s ability to work with me. I have great faith in a collaborative relationship, I’ve had the chance to meet with some student leaders already around this. I think what’s important is that we’re all interested in the same goal, and our goal is to create a wonderful learning environment for students. And so we need to find ways of being able to find solutions together — and I feel if we come to the table from that perspective, saying: “How can we work together to find solutions to these challenges that we face?” I’m hopeful and excited about what we can do together. TV: Specifically, as I’m sure you’re aware, the undergraduate students union, Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), and some of the other unions have had concerns about some of the fees that have been charged to students, and have argued that some of them are not in compliance with the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities’ policies on ancillary fees. Have you had a chance to meet with the student unions yet?CR:Not on this issue, no. The university last year underwent a review of student fees and looked at compliance with MTCU around that. I have confidence that the people who led that review did so in a way that was rigorous. If there are continuing concerns, then we’ll go back and look at that again. It was quite an extensive process that was undertaken last year. TV: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, what is something students might not know about you? CR: My parents were Special Needs foster parents for the Children’s Aid society of Toronto. And I was in a home that was committed to ensuring the care and success of children that came with many kinds of challenges. As a social worker I was involved in areas of emergency mental health and in forensic mental health. I think that what has been absolutely wonderful for me in coming back and doing a PhD is being able to integrate life experiences, professional experiences and academic experiences. TV: Do you have a favourite spot on campus?CR: I quite love philosopher’s walk. It’s a gorgeous spot.
TV: What do you wish more students knew about? What is underutilized here at U of T?CR: I wish that more students knew about the breadth of extracurricular activities that are available. I think students are aware of the breadth of research that happens here and the kind of reputation that we have internationally and nationally. I hope students are aware of the tremendous respect that this university has outside of the university and that they realize that their university degree from the University of Toronto is meaningful and is respected. This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
Nationwide drive to leave CFS launched
Former GSU executive spearheads coast-to-coast campaign
A news release circulated late Tuesday night has ignited a confused and heated debate among followers of student politics nationwide. Petitions are being circulated by students in 15 Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) locals across the country to remove their unions from the federation, according to a news release. U of T’s Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) is one of the unions potentially facing a decertification vote if the campaign proves successful.The CFS is a controversial umbrella organization that represents U of T undergraduates and graduates at the provincial and national levels. The presence of the CFS at U of T has been controversial for over a decade. Most recently, students from the Faculty of Engineering and Trinity College have cited the CFS as cause for concern in their attempts to sever financial ties from the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU).
The GSU’s official stance on the petition, posted on its website echoes some of these concerns: “Given the issues the Union has had with the Federation over the last number of years, we understand the actions taken by some members and view their concerns as legitimate. However, the [GSU] has no formal position that would answer the question of whether or not the Union should remain as members of the Canadian Federation of Students, nationally or provincially.” Despite the lack of formal involvement, a number of former GSU executives led by 2012–2013 civics and environment commissioner Ashleigh Ingle have been distributing petitions across campus this week. The petition calls for a decertification referendum this year.The release stated that “over 15 student associations are currently taking part” in decertification petitions, naming York, Ryerson, and U of T as large schools with CFS-certified unions that would see such efforts. The CFS has over 80 member unions across Canada, if all 15 schools were to leave, it would mark the largest mass exodus ever.It remains unclear whether petitions are being circulated to decertify the UTSU and Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS), the two other major U of T-wide student unions. Under the CFS’s national bylaws, a petition to decertify a member union from the Federation requires the signatures of 20 per cent of that union’s membership.“CFS petitions have to be run by what they refer to as ‘individual members,” Ingle said in an interview with The Varsity. According to both Ingle and representatives of the union, the GSU has played no part in the petition process to this point. Ingle confirmed that the GSU was not notified in advance of the petition campaign’s start.
“Reforms” failed at May general meeting
Ingle says the GSU petition is in part a result of the defeat of several GSU-sponsored motions at CFS general meetings last November and this May. At the November meeting she ran for CFS national chair unsuccessfully. Ingle contests that the November motions were quite “simple and straightforward,” and included posting minutes online, recording votes, and providing a more detailed budget that would include the salaries paid to CFS staff among other provisions. The GSU offered some similar motions at the May general meeting, including some specifically related to amending bylaws governing decertification.Ingle cited what she described as the federation’s “top-down structure,” as a source of concern. Some of the proposed motions attempted to involve students on campus directly in the decision making process around which activist campaigns to support, and how to support them.CFS-Ontario chairperson Alastair Woods emphasized that the CFS and CFS-O are democratic institutions, and that those who were dissatisfied with the federation’s policies had many opportunities to air their grievances and attempt to affect change through the groups’ regular procedures. He said he was shocked when he first learned about the mass move to leave.Since the press release was issued an immediate and occasionally vicious online conflict has erupted on social media sites and the comment section of various news and blogging services. Students who claim to be involved on both sides have taken increasingly hostile stances, accusing each other of, among other things, not having the best interests of students in mind. Ingle alleges that the reception to the motions proposed by members of the GSU at the November general meeting was similarly aggressive and accusatory.Brent Farrington, internal coordinator for the CFS, could not confirm whether such a reaction had indeed occurred at the November meeting. He did, however, stress that the CFS does not assume that motions or proposals come from “a place of ill-will.”
15 campaigns most ever attempted
Ingle suggests that labelling federation members who advocate for reform or decertification ‘right-wingers’ and questioning their personal motives, as has been done online and alleged to have taken place after the November and May general meetings, is a common tactic used to dismiss calls for reform. However she argues that the size of the current decertification movement — the largest ever if 15 campuses go ahead with the attempt — proves that grievances are structural not personal.Representatives of the CFS disagreed that there had been conflict at general meetings. “Our general meetings are bringing a lot of people together to come to some consensus,” said Farrington. “And while there may be disagreements on what that means, I don’t think that you can say that it’s inherent that people are coming from a malicious point of view.” Woods echoed Farrington, describing the most recent Ontario general meeting as very productive and positive.Kate Marocci, chair of CFS-British Columbia (CFS-BC), challenged Ingle’s claims about the importance of the size of this attempt, claiming that membership petitions and votes are not particularly unusual: “Over the last 30 years this has happened quite frequently and it’s not extraordinary.” Marocci further questioned the motives of those behind the movement: “The members listed on that news release have been in attendance to general meetings and had the ability to participate in the democratic process, and in fact ran for positions on the national executive, and lost. One is left to wonder if perhaps this is the motive behind it.”Ingle explained that the decision to coordinate the organization of the petitions such that most were being run at the same time was partly out of the fear that the CFS would be able to successfully defeat any one attempt. “Generally the tactic is to send CFS staffers from across the country to your local, bombard people with their presence and shut down your campaign that way,” she said. “So certainly part of the reason is strategic.”
No official CFS position on petitions
Farrington said that the federation was not aware of the decertification petitions until the press release was issued, adding that the federation had received calls from member unions and associations seeking further information about the petitions, implying that those unions had not been notified of petition drives.The CFS does not have an official response to the petitions, Farrington said, because “We’re not sure why they want to leave the organization.”“They’ve issued some very broad statements, things like democracy and financial issues, disagreement with services,” he continued. “But those aren’t specifics, we haven’t heard the specifics, so it’s hard for us to formulate an official response.”Marocci echoed Farrington, saying: “The news release doesn’t have a lot of information. It seems to me that it’s been created and circulated as a tactic to create a buzz, a discussion.”
Plans for the future
Alex McGowan — who is running a petition at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia — says decertification, if successful, will not necessarily mean the end of Kwantlen’s presence on a national advocacy level, and that a replacement organization could arise. “It would be a united organization of students that lobbies, comes up with policy, lobbies for lower tuition fees, that kind of thing,” he said. “Officially, on paper, the structure probably wouldn’t be that different [from the CFS]. It would be really the actions that speak.”Ingle had a more concrete plan of action: “Any future organizing that we try to do, we would be trying to minimize the dependence on students’ money and maximize their ability to make decisions for themselves,” she says, suggesting that plans were in place to hold an organizing or founding conference for such an organization in 2014.Farrington admits that the loss of member unions, if it were to occur, would diminish the CFS’s ability to advocate on a national level: “We’re a membership-based organization, so obviously the loss of members results in our message being not as strong as it was the day that we had more members.”
Following the bylaws
Both Ingle and McGowan are looking to surpass the 20 per cent threshold that would trigger a vote on decertification. “It is important to overshoot this number since the CFS can collect signatures on a “counter-petition” that will remove names from the original petition,” Ingle said in her initial email containing the press release.McGowan says he is aiming for 5,000 signatures, in excess of a requirement of closer to 4,000. “In our experience the CFS has challenged petitions and written off a lot of names, so we just want to be safe and get a number that’s significantly higher than what we actually need,” he said.The coordination between the various decertification efforts could, however, end up harming efforts to decertify. The CFS’s national bylaws governing decertification allow for no more than two decertification votes in any three month period, meaning that if multiple petitions were to be successful, the resultant votes could be delayed for some time.Ingle hopes to have reached the threshold by September 13. “All that we can do right now is follow the CFS bylaws as strictly as possible, submit our petitions, and then we’ll do whatever we have to do to get a referendum vote, legitimately and legally after that point,” she said.
Orientation Week executives aim to limit alcohol abuse
Policy dictates a largely dry Orientation Week, but gaps remain
U of T maintains a strict policy regarding alcohol consumption during Orientation Week, yet frosh executives from divisions across U of T acknowledge that nothing can completely eliminate the possibility of incoming students drinking. Orientation Week is typically “dry” meaning that alcohol use is not permitted, even for those who are of age.Frosh leaders and executives at most U of T orientations are required to sign a contract stating they will not consume any alcohol while they are on duty at events.
Most Orientation Week events are dry; however there are many events throughout the week that are not sanctioned by Frosh Weeks but that many frosh go to—such as fraternity parties or club nights, that offer students the opportunity to drink.Generally speaking, those orientation-sanctioned events that are “wet,” meaning that alcohol can be served, take place off campus — such as the utsu Club Night at Guvernment Night Club or the Boat Cruise held by Woodsworth College which offers of-age students access to a cash bar.Brett Carson, a first-year student who just went through Frosh Week at St. Michael’s College, says that while he does not feel pressured to drink, “it is not particularly frowned upon.” Culturally, Frosh Week is often portrayed as a time for heavy drinking and practically there are often after-parties on residence where students of all ages can access alcohol. In preparation for incoming students, The Office of Student Life puts all frosh leaders through Joint Orientation Leader Training—which includes numerous discussions surrounding alcohol consumption, basic safety, and how to create non-judgemental environments for first-years.U of T puts many staff through alcohol safety training, the official policy states: “Student training sessions such as event planning for residence don training, leadership training and orientation coordinator and leader training should all include information about alcohol, server intervention, harm reduction and safety awareness.”Nevertheless, stopping frosh — let alone leaders from consuming alcohol can be difficult, regardless of policy. Alexandra Berceanu, orientation coordinator for the Faculty of Architecture — which only holds dry events explains: “events which have alcohol are not hosted by us, but are part of Frosh Week and cannot be excluded as such.”Trinity College does hold some “wet” events during Frosh Week including two on campus parties — the Toga Party and the Melinda Seaman Party — where alcohol is served.Mikhail Amyn, Trinity College Frosh Week co-chair says that: “just because alcohol is being served does not mean you are being pressured to drink.”Amyn explains that orientation executives aim to foster an inclusive environment for students who choose not to drink, despite the presence of alcohol at “wet” events. At Trinity frosh events, a designated sober patrol team is responsible for helping to supervise.
UTSU Insider Pass duplicates free discounts
Campus leaders say pass creates two-tiered system
Many discounts offered by the Insider Pass, which is being sold by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) for $20, are already available to students at no cost. The Insider Pass is promoted as giving students “first access to orientation activities, events, discounts, and the student survival kit.” However, students can access several of the discounts through existing programs. The UTSU maintains that the pass will save students money and encourage involvement with the student union over the year, while other student leaders on campus are extremely critical — characterizing the program as one that lures vulnerable first year students into purchasing additional services they either do not need, or can already receive at no extra cost.
Students charged–for discounts available for free
The pass, which is only available to students on the St. George campus, will give the purchaser a $10 discount at The Body Shop with purchases of at least $20 and a 25 per cent discount on Greyhound bus tickets within Canada. However, both companies offer students the same discounts with the presentation of valid student ID, such as a TCard. Westjet and Microsoft also offer discounts through the Insider Pass, although the amount of each is not specified. U of T students have access to a 90 per cent discount on some Microsoft products and discounts on flights from WestJet through the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which is available free of charge to all UTSU students through already-paid student fees.
The Insider Pass cost $15 before August 1, and now costs $20
A statement from the UTSU website reads: “The ISIC is issued to full-time students and can be obtained at the UTSU office at no cost to you.” The ISIC website lists the UTSU as a location where students can pick up an ISIC card, and the 2013–2014 agenda distributed by the UTSU encourages students to pick up their free ISIC card in the students’ unions office.Munib Sajjad, president of the UTSU, admitted that many of the discounts are available to students with an ISIC card, saying: “The discounts that are not available with the ISIC are all discounts that pertain to UTSU-specific events, in addition to discounts that are currently being worked out with local businesses who have offered to be a part of the program.” However, he was unwilling to provide a full list of discounts as they “are currently being worked out with local businesses.” Sajjad mentioned yoga studios and theatres near campus as places students could save, although he did not specify how much, or which specific businesses.The ISIC offers students discounts at 109 stores in Toronto ranging from 10 per cent off at Ten Thousand Villages and Fedex Office to 50 per cent off at Henri’s Optical. Other discounts include bookstores, restaurants, pharmacies, and hair salons, a full list of all discounts is available at the ISIC’s website. The ISIC is also a means of identity for students travelling worldwide, providing reduced prices on airfare as well as historical sites, museums, and other tourist attractions around the world. The Insider Pass’ website names six discounts including unspecified reduced prices for the UTSU’s semi formal and their Montreal Reading Week Trip.
Campus leaders criticize
“As the distributors of ISIC Cards, there is no excuse for UTSU’s disturbing strategy of profiting off uninformed incoming students. This degree of manipulation is alarmingly unethical,” said Benjamin Crase, Trinity’s co-Head of College. While any UTSU member can buy the pass, Sajjad says that it is primarily advertised for first-year students.Crase is also concerned about the contents of the survival kit, which include a water bottle, laundry bag, and clubs’ directory as well as other unspecified items. He is concerned that all of these items may be found within UTSU frosh kits. Some students, however, will not receive UTSU-assembled kits, depending on which division they are in.Sajjad vigorously defends the program, saying: “the value of the discounts that are passed on to students are much more than the cost of the pass.” In regards to the contents of the survival kit being remnenants of frosh kits Sajjad says: “There are three items in Orientation kits: the clubs directory, the agenda and the water bottle. The items in the kit are not made from excess items that go into orientation kits.” Other benefits of the pass include a “line by-pass” at the annual end-of-frosh-week-party held at the Guvernment nightclub, as well as a chance to arrive at that party in a limousine. Preferential access to other UTSU events, including a chance to meet musical artist Lupe Fiasco and unspecified discounts on UTSU’s semi-formal and Montreal Reading Week trip, are also offered. Students who purchase the pass are entered into a draw for a variety of prizes, including a Blackberry Playbook and a $200 gift card to the U of T Bookstore.
Brad Evoy, internal commissioner of the Graduate Students’ Union has similar concerns about the pass, saying that: “They are undoubtably creating a two-tiered system which the Graduate Students’ Union does not support and would not instigate for ourselves.” Evoy is also concerned about the use of advertising by the UTSU that he feels could mislead first year students into feeling that the card was necessary to participate in orientation.The UTSU has been heavily promoting the pass over the past few weeks, with posters and leaflets distributed across campus, a full page advertisement in The Newspaper, and a dedicated section on their orientation website. Several news organizations were contacted by the Union asking them to write articles promoting the pass, but declined. Mauricio Curbelo, president of the University of Toronto Engineering Society, feels that the website from which the pass can be bought makes it unclear whether or not the pass is necessary to participate in orientation, saying that it is ultimately: “misleading first-year students into believing the pass is necessary in order to participate.”Curbelo feels that offering a separate set of year-long events and discounts will create two tiers of membership in the UTSU; since all students already pay $68.24 dollars a year to the student union, Curbelo finds it unclear why an additional twenty dollars is being asked of first-year students for limited additional services. The sixty-eight dollar figure cited by Curbelo, is the total yearly levy collected for the UTSU, approximately half of which must be passed on to specific services and organizations. The union’s society fee is $34.96 per year. Sajjad did not specify how much money had been raised so far, or where the money would be used.Not all campus leaders are critical of the pass, though. Walied Khogali, executive director of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) said that the UTMSU were asked to participate and were only unable to because it was too short notice. Reached by phone, Khogali said “We’re a little jealous to be honest with you, it seems like a great idea and the UTSU St. George clearly has done a lot of great work on it.”