CRO issues demerit points to Voice candidate for unapproved poster with error

ZiJian Yang receives three points for poster which listed "elimination of winter" as a platform point

CRO issues demerit points to Voice candidate for unapproved poster with error

Alex Flor, Chief Returning Officer (CRO) of the University of Toronto Student’s Union elections, has assigned U of T Voice candidate ZiJian Yang three demerit points for an alleged violation of Elections Procedure Code. Yang is alleged to have posted an unauthorized poster on Facebook that listed “Advocate for the elimination of winter” as a platform point.

The post was deemed a violation for both “misrepresentation of facts” and use of “unapproved materials.” In the decision, the CRO stated that the poster featured “unapproved content which goes beyond the powers of the vice-president, university affairs.” All campaign material must be approved by the CRO.

Yang explained that, “instead of just winter, the poster was supposed to say winter residence fees.” “It was really our fault at the end of the day,” he continued, “the rules should apply equally to all parties regardless of where they are from, and if that’s what happened in this case then I have no complaints.”

Yang received two demerit points for unapproved material and one demerit point for misrepresentation of fact. A maximum of fifteen and three demerit points are allowed respectively for those offences. An executive candidate who receives more than 35 points is disqualified from the election.

U of T Voice posters vandalized

Voice executive and Candi Chin-Sang's posters defaced in separate incidents

U of T Voice posters vandalized

Several posters promoting U of T Voice candidates in the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) spring elections have been defaced. The posters, on display in the Gerald Larkin Building at Trinity College, have had some of their platform points altered and features drawn on the candidates’ faces with a black marker.

photo1“We’ve spent a lot of time developing our team’s materials,” said Yollen Bolo-Kamara, Voice’s presidential candidate, “so it’s unfortunate that the materials we developed were vandalized. We believe that the way to show your support for or against ideas is at the ballot box, rather than preventing other students from sharing their ideas with the campus community.”

In a separate incident, some of former U of T voice director candidate Candi Chin-Sang’s campaign materials have been defaced, after she dropped out of the election and endorsed Team Unite.

“People should stop vandalizing posters. Everyone has the right to campaign — people spend money on these posters, the UTSU spends money on these posters, and it’s not fair,” said Pierre Harfouche, vice-president, university affairs candidate for Team Unite.

As of press time, the person responsible remains unknown. Munib Sajjad, president of UTSU, and Sandy Hudson, executive director of UTSU, were in the Larkin Building documenting evidence of the incident. The Chief Returning Officer, Alex Flor, declined to comment on the incident.

CRO assigns 29 demerit points to Team Unite members following interview with The Varsity

Cites four offenses allegedly committed by some candidates

CRO assigns 29 demerit points to Team Unite members following interview with The Varsity

Last night, Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Alex Flor assigned a total of 29 demerit points to five members of Team Unite for alleged violations of the Elections Procedure Code (EPC) following an interview with The Varsity.

Ye Huang, Team Unite’s candidate for president, and Nicky Bhatty, the team’s candidate for VP external were each assigned 10 demerit points. Five for “failure to follow grievance procedure,” 3 for “intentional misrepresentation of facts,” 1 for “misrepresentation of fact,”  and 1 for “unapproved material.”

Pierre Harfouche, candidate for VP university affairs; Baliqis Hashiru, candidate for VP equity; and Anna Yin, candidate for VP internal and services were each assigned 3 demerit points, one each for “intentional misrepresentation of facts,” “misrepresentation of fact,”  and “unapproved material.”

An executive candidate who receives more than 35 demerit points is automatically disqualified.

In the decision Flor stated that demerit points for failure to follow the grievance procedure and intentional misrepresentation of facts were assigned because the candidates contacted The Varsity and provided information which she says “was false and was descriptive of an unresolved situation.” The information in question related to claims that she had blocked Unite from releasing campaign materials and had been unavailable for much of the day.

She went on to state that the demerit points for misrepresentation of facts and unapproved material were assigned for  “using The Varsity to spread platform information that had yet to receive approval by the Chief Returning Officer.”

Flor added that “these violations are serious as they undermine members’ faith in the elections,” but added that the number of points assigned was in light of the fact that the alleged violations took place on the first day of campaigning.

When asked for comment, Munib Sajjad, current UTSU president and Chair of the Elections and Referenda Committee, responded on behalf of Flor, saying: “The Chief Returning Officer is unable to respond at this time due to other duties.”

Sajjad explained the thought process behind the demerit points. “[Varsity reporter Theodore] Yan informed the CRO at 17:22 that he was told by Team Unite that their campaign materials were not approved. As provided for in CRO Ruling 001, the CRO found that this constituted a breach of the elections rules of fair play,” he said. “Additionally, the grievance procedure was not followed, as the CRO was not made aware there was a dispute with the conditional approval of campaign materials sent to members of ‘Team Unite.'”

“Demerit points are meant to discourage behaviour that is in violation of campaign rule detrimental to the electoral process, or the electorate,” he continued.

According to Vip Vigneswaran, campaign manager for Unite, the CRO suggested to Team Unite that Huang and Bhatty appeal the ruling. Bhatty plans to appeal the ruling, while Huang does not.

“I’m going to be emailing the CRO, or whoever I need to email, to appeal the decision, just to understand why it was that I got 10 demerit points in comparison to the rest of my team,” said Bhatty, adding: “While talking to the CRO today, she suggested to both Ye and I that we lobby for an appeal, simply because some of the sources she may have received aren’t necessarily too trusted.”

“It was an unfortunate situation,” Bhatty continued. “We’re working to either resolve it or continue on with our campaign.”

Last night, the CRO also released a statement addressed to UTSU members. This statement lists a number of points from an article published last night in The Varsity which she believes are inaccurate. The Varsity has not issued any corrections to that article.

Cameron Wathey, candidate for VP, internal on Team U of T Voice, commented on the campaign material approval process for his own slate. “We want to be clear that Team Voice did not receive approvals for all of our campaign materials, which meant the launch of our website and whole platform was delayed,” Wathey said, adding: “For example, we had indicated on our website that members of our team had helped “phase out flat fees in arts and science” and the CRO informed us that this claim was a misrepresentation because flat fees would still apply at a threshold of 4.0 credits.”

Wathey said Team U of T Voice would leave it up to Team Unite to appeal the demerit point rulings. Wathey went on to add: “We believe there are two issues here — one is whether or not demerit points are warranted for a specific offense, which is up to the CRO and the ERC, and the second is whether or not the Elections Procedure Code is upheld and applied fairly to all candidates.”

CRO rejects Team Unite’s platform

Slate unable to launch website, put up posters

CRO rejects Team Unite’s platform

The 2014 UTSU election is off to a rocky start. Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Alex Flor has blocked Team Unite from putting up posters, or posting its website — citing concerns over one part of their platform.

“There were initially some concerns that the CRO had that were brought to our attention,” said Vip Vigneswaran, campaign manager for Unite. “Namely, the issue was that our platform states that students annually pay $345.48 to the union.”

According to Vigneswaran, the CRO called this statement a misrepresentation, and rejected the platform as a result. Unite was therefore only allowed to publish its social media profile pictures and cover photos. It is not allowed to publish its website, or any other materials advertising its platform. Vigneswaran explained the conflict: “She says that it’s false that students pay $345 to the union annually. She says that only $17 per semester are paid to the union.”

The difference between the two sums, he said, is that much of the $345 goes to the health and dental insurance plans funded by the UTSU. Ye Huang, Unite’s candidate for president, said this makes the platform true. “We give UTSU $345.48 to deploy. So they collect this amount of money from us, and then they use it,” said Huang. He said that this number is the result of simply adding the four line items on the Repository Of Student Information’s (ROSI) invoice that reference the UTSU.

According to ROSI members of the UTSU pay $124.34 for dental insurance, $14.90 for the student commons, $68.24 for a fee labeled “UTSU”, and $138 for health insurance.

The four line items total $345.48 annually.

The CRO stated that if Unite were to publish this statement, it would receive demerit points, said Huang. As of press time, approximately 10 hours after campaigning began, Flor had requested that Unite make further revisions to its platform, which it has submitted. Unite are still not permitted to publish it. Vigneswaran says that this request came after multiple attempts to reach the CRO. “We brought it to the attention of the DROs [Deputy Returning Officer]; the DROs are the only representatives of the CRO on campus right now,” said Vigneswaran, “but they don’t have the power or the authority to approve campaign materials.”

In the interim, Flor made a statement to The Varsity: “At this point, almost all candidates have had inaccuracies in their submitted campaign materials, and prior to gaining approval to use the materials for campaigning, these inaccuracies need to be resolved,” she said. “In regards to the statement made by Unite that students pay $345.49 [sic] to UTSU, I have requested a change due to the fact that the statement as phrased on the campaign material is misleading.”

“I think next time when they recruit a CRO,” said Huang, “they should recruit someone who is available for the whole day, every day during the campaign and voting period, rather than hiring someone with a second job.”

The CRO is responsible for administering the election. She is responsible for scrutinizing vote counting, approving campaign materials and expenses, and assigning demerit points for conduct during the campaign.

Through the eyes of the artist at the Artist Project

Two hundred and fifty artists showcased in weekend-long exhibition

Through the eyes of the artist at the Artist Project

I have had both the pleasure and the dismay of growing up as the daughter of an artist.  While others learned the rules of basketball or how to play the piano, my mother taught me to notice the aesthetic differences between acrylic and oil paint. At the time, I was disappointed — surely, none of the paint fumes helped. But as an adult, I can’t help but be grateful, as my upbringing has provided me the opportunity to see the world as mediated through the eyes of artists. One such experience was The Artist Project held at the Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre last weekend, February 20–23.

Concluding its seventh year, The Artist Project was a four-day event that featured the artwork of over 250 artists from Canada and abroad. Exhibiting everything from large-scale installations to hand drawn sketches, the show is as much about buying art as it is about enjoying it. Tickets ran from $10-$15 allowing visitors to see a variety of artists for  about less than the price of a regular movie ticket.

This is not the craft show that your grandmother drags you to, nor is it the often disappointing and always cold Nuit Blanche.  The Artist Project strikes the perfect balance of folk and whimsical on one hand, and contemporary and experimental on the other.  While there are a few too many overzealous photographers with images of the Toronto skyline or puddles on Queen Street, most of the art is original and thought provoking.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the work of John Loerchner and Laura Mendes of the Labspace Studio, responsible for the entrance installation.  Entitled I’m Only Human, the piece uses 100 golden letter-shaped balloons to spell out the phrases “I would do anything to change the past, I will forever be sorry” and “I sincerely sincerely sincerely apologize, I know I let you down.” At first glance, the phrases appear to be nothing more than often said and sightly sad apologizes.  Though it may have been obvious to some, it took reading the artists’ explanation of the piece for me to realize that these were quotes taken directly from recent press coverage on Mayor Rob Ford. Read in context, the meaning of these words change.  “The large-scale installation explored our human connection through the universal lens of remorse and through the language of loaded language of regret,” reads the accompanying explanation of the piece.

Less political but equally as creative is the work of Tonya Corkey.  Her collection, titled See You in the Future examines the processes of human memory by combining discarded materials.  Corkey’s collection uses lint (yes, the type that collects in your dryer) to recreate portraits from old and forgotten photographs: “These materials reflect the idea of decaying memory,” says the artist.  The striking portraits, ranging from goofy to serious, are made more interesting when you think about the materials used to create them.

Contested UTSU election begins

Two full slates, one independent to vie for executive positions

Contested UTSU election begins

The campaign period for the 2014 University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections has officially begun as of 9:00 am this morning. It will feature an incumbent slate facing off against the first opposition slate in two years. The incumbent slate is running under the name “the U of T Voice,” and includes two members of the current UTSU executive, as well as three new candidates.  The opposition slate is titled “Team Unite” and is headed by presidential candidate Ye Huang.

Yolen Bollo–Kamara is the presidential candidate for the U of T Voice. This year she served as the UTSU  vice-president equity, and last year she was appointed to the role of VP-campus life. She has held executive positions at Amnesty International U of T, and the Black Students’ Association. Last year, Bollo-Kamara promised to host a mental health awareness campaign and create an accessibility fund for U of T clubs.

She stressed that her slate wants to focus on different issues than the current executive. Bollo-Kamara emphasized lobbying U of T to implement a fall reading week, and engaging students with the upcoming municipal and provincial elections as main platform points for her slate. “This team, we’ve called ourselves ‘The Voice,’ and we have all been involved in different capacities across campus, and we have a team that essentially represents the entire campus,” said Bollo-Kamara. Last year’s elections saw only one slate, and record low voter turnout.

Ye Huang and his Team Unite are running on the goal of uniting U of T’s students, which they believe are in “a crisis of dissolving.” “We want to bring people together, both students and the different societies and clubs,” said Huang. When asked what experience he had to bring to the position of president, Huang cited membership in several clubs across campus, including the Chinese Student and Scholars Association and the Chinese Debate association. He is also the president of the Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity at U of T.

Other candidates that make up the Team Unite slate include Anna Yin for VP-internal, Pierre Harfouche for VP-university affairs, Baliqis Olaitan Hashiru for VP-equity, and Nicky Bhatty for VP-external. Huang says the slate formed after he reached out to Yin, a friend of his who he knew wanted to change the transparency of the UTSU financial operations, and who he felt was qualified because of her background as a commerce student. From there, other members of the slate, such as Hashiru, heard about the slate from friends and made the connection.

Luis Moreno is running as an independent candidate for the role of VP-external. Moreno attended the Scarborough campus for two years and held the position of social science director during his time there. He has since moved to the St. George Campus, and feels his experience working on at the Scarborough campus in addition to his volunteer experience working for political campaigns outside of the university will qualify him for the position. Unwilling to specify which parties he worked for, Moreno cited working as both a general and social media volunteer as experience that would serve him well in the position.

When Team Unite and Moreno were asked if they felt not being as well known on campus as the members of the incumbent slate would hurt them, their outlook was positive. “As much as it is worrisome in some ways, it can also be an advantage,” explained Yin. “People won’t associate us with the issues the current executives have been dealing with. Ultimately if people believe in us, they’ll vote for us. They’ll vote based on the different slates platforms, not who they are.”

Cameron Wathey is running for his current position as VP-internal. Last year, Wathey ran on the promises of policy town halls, a new and improved UTSU website, and a better homecoming — all of which he feels he has achieved in his time with the UTSU. Going forward he hopes to improve OHIP for international students, put a cap on international student fees and improve relations between the UTSU and both its board of directors and the various college student societies.

Other members on the team include Najiba Ali Sardar, for VP-equity, Grayce Slobodian for VP-external, and ZiJian Yang for VP-university affairs. Sardar is a third year student who has spent her time at U of T involved with the South Asian Aliance, and a working as both a frosh leader and a first-year mentor at Woodsworth college. Sardar stressed the slates commitment to a fresh look at ideas: instead of pursuing the pedestrianizing of St. George, they will instead be pushing for a crosswalk between Hart House and Queens Park. If elected Sardar would focus on feminism on campus and labour rights, specifically where they pertain to unpaid internships.

Slobodian is a second year student who acted as VP-campus life at the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) this year. She wants to prioritize affordable transit and campus polling stations for municipal and provincial elections. Yang is a fourth-year student currently serving as the Woodsworth director on the UTSU board of directors. In the past he has also served as the events executive for the Chinese undergraduate association. He hopes to review the academic appeal process and continue to advocate for a policy that allows students to drop credits without penalty.

The election comes near the end of a turbulent year, with key questions about the membership and structure of the UTSU still hotly debated across campus. As the Student Societies Summit winds down, both Engineering and Trinity College students want to leave the union. The UTMSU’s drammatic exit from the summit on February 10 adds another dimension to the election. The entire St. George Roundtable, with the exception of Woodsworth college — although Woodsworth president Rhys Smith personally supports it — signed a letter stating that groups who have been asked to leave the union should be allowed to. It also stated that a system similar to the one that has been established between the UTSU and the UTMSU — where student fees paid to the UTSU are largely remitted to the UTMSU, although Mississauga students retain the right to vote in UTSU elections — should be available to any division that requests it.

This Thursday, March 6 at 6:00 pm in Bahen 1130 an All Candidates Debate will be held for both slates to discuss their platforms.

Decertification referendum finally approaches

GSU schedules vote to leave Candian Federation of Students

Decertification referendum finally approaches

Student union politics, long marred by in-fighting and litigation, has faced few issues more contentious than decertification.

Members of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) began in earnest a campaign to decertify from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) this September, after submitting petitions to the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) and CFS, requesting a referendum of the GSU’s general membership. After months of deliberation, the referendum is tentatively scheduled for later this month.

According to CFS bylaws, referendum petitions require an audit process in order to confirm signature validity and the GSU membership of signatories.

The CFS offered to internally verify student membership through a one-way searchable list. U of T’s administration rebuffed this suggestion, citing student privacy concerns stemming from their interpretation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). U of T then suggested that a third party auditor verify the list for the federation.

Finding an auditing firm that satisfied the GSU, U of T administration, and the CFS/CFS-O was challenging, according to GSU external commissioner Brad Evoy.

Following a four month back-and-forth, the parties selected Deloitte Canada, a firm that provides financial advisory services.

One referendum will decide the GSU’s membership in both the CFS-O and the CFS. While the results of the Deloitte audit are still pending, the CFS and CFS-O have scheduled preliminary dates and campaign periods for the referendum this March. Voting is scheduled to take place in the last week of March.

Evoy is confident that the Deloitte audit will confirm the petition’s validity and that the referendum will proceed unimpeded. Should the GSU vote to separate, Evoy believes the parting of ways “will be on amicable terms.”

 

Stalled attempts

However, a smooth exit is not always easy from the CFS. For example, the decertification initiative of Dawson College, a CEGEP in downtown Montreal, is currently stalled. The CFS has “refused” to set a date for their proposed referendum, according to Dawson Student Union (DSU) chairperson Sarah Drouin.

CFS internal coordinator Brent Farrington disagreed with this characterization. He claims the CFS is waiting on the DSU: “We are now in the process of petition verification and are waiting for Dawson to provide the exam period and holiday timetables necessary to set a referendum date.”

Reflecting on the challenges faced by the DSU, former GSU external commissioner Ashleigh Ingle is adamant that the will of students is being quashed.

“The CFS is beyond being disconnected from their members; they are afraid of them. It is my opinion that the CFS would hemorrhage members if they just allowed students to hold [decertification] votes,” she noted. “They make it as expensive, as irritating and as litigious as possible. Their hope is that, buttressed by our dues, they can make themselves a force … that students won’t be bothered to fight.”

Alastair Woods, CFS-O chairperson, believes that Ingle’s comments belie the reality of the situation.

“Just this week, students at Collège Boréal in Sudbury voted 98.75 per cent in favour of joining the CFS in a referendum that saw a 33 per cent voter turnout. Ingle is entitled to her opinion, but that opinion is not shared by students across the province who have worked together to achieve tangible victories such as changes to flat fees and tuition fee billing alongside stronger protections for unpaid interns and co-op students,” he said.

Other causes of stalled decertification attempts stem from legal action.

The Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Concordia Graduate Student’s Association (GSA), and the McGill Post-Graduate Student’s Society (PGSS) have been involved in lawsuits to decertify from as early as 2010.

For former GSA president Robert Sonin, the origins of the litigation are clear: “the CFS’s continued refusal to recognize the referendum results of its constituent members.”

“Following our 2010 referendum, the GSA membership voted 75 per cent in favour of leaving the CFS and, as a result, the GSA no longer regards itself as a member of the CFS. Despite this, the CFS has refused to acknowledge the [2010] referendum and so the matter was taken to court.”

Farrington acknowledges that the GSA petition was verified by the CFS and that referendum dates were set, but contends that under the CFS bylaws, the GSA referendum could not be considered valid — as the Association failed to remit outstanding membership dues to the CFS in advance of the vote. Using this regulatory framework, the CFS claims the GSA referendum was inappropriately held and believes that their decertification is illegitimate.

The CSU organized a referendum similar to that held by the GSA. The results were, once again, both overwhelmingly in favour of decertification and ultimately rejected by the CFS.

The students’ unions and the CFS differ in their interpretations of both cases. On the one hand, the GSA and the CSU see themselves as no longer being CFS members and have accordingly stopped paying membership fees. The CFS, who sees the decertification results as illegitimate, still expects payment of membership fees and has thus countersued the two student unions for outstanding membership fees.

Ultimately, the two legal cases involving the GSA and the CSU were combined under the same legal counsel in January 2013.

The PGSS at McGill has faced similar legal proceedings with the CFS following an April 2010 referendum that saw 86 per cent of voters in favour of decertification. While the reasons for CFS refusal to accept decertification in this are different, litigation remains the ultimate result.

 

Proud supporters

Not all CFS constituent unions are dissatisfied with the federation’s leadership.

Gayle McFadden is the vice president of campaigns and advocacy at the York Federation of Student (YFS).

“The YFS is a proud local of the Canadian Federation of Students. In fact, I ran and won the most recent YFS elections on a platform of working together with students across the province and across the country through the CFS” said McFadden.

Ryerson Student Union (RSU) director of communications and outreach Gilary Massa, similarly spoke positively of the federation.

“We believe that working together with students across the province and across the country through the CFS is important and necessary.”

She continued, “the RSU has not made any attempt to decertify from the Canadian Federation of Students. Nor do we have an interest in doing so. We are active members of the organization, and believe that students at Ryerson benefit greatly from our affiliation with the CFS.”

 

Departures

At least two student unions have successfully decertified from the CFS. The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) settled out-of-court in December 2011. This settlement followed a three-year legal battle after which the SFSS paid an undisclosed settlement.

The University of Victoria Students Society (UVSS)  decertified from the CFS subsequent to a successful referendum in 2011. The Canadian Federation of Students’ British Columbia Chapter (CFS-BC) did not recognize these results as constituting a decertification of the UVSS from CFS-BC, however.

In response, the UVSS scheduled a March 2012 referendum on decertification from the CFS-BC. The CFS-BC rescinded the UVSS’ membership before this referendum could proceed, citing outstanding membership fees of approximately $160,000.

As of press-time, none of these funds had been remitted to the CFS-BC. The UVSS denies that fees are outstanding. Reached by phone, the CFS-BC claimed that, from their perspective, the funds remain outstanding, though they are not in a position to say whether they will litigate in the future.

Toronto350 campaign neglects to consider U of T’s current dependence on fossil fuels

Divestment is not the right way to start a conversation about U of T’s relationship with climate change

Toronto350 campaign neglects to consider  U of T’s current dependence on fossil fuels

The U of T Asset Management Corporation currently holds $9.8 million worth of shares in Royal Dutch Shell and $7.8 million worth in British Petroleum. Toronto350, an environmental activist organization, is calling on U of T to divest from the oil industry. I disagree.

The issue of divestment revolves around a few competing obligations for the university. We want to be a world leader in combatting climate change. At the same time, our university has a moral and legally binding fiduciary duty towards U of T staff and donors to maximize returns on investment made with their pension funds and donations. Furthermore, U of T is an academic institution and it should not be taking political stances. Toronto350 addresses these two concerns in its excellent brief, with copious amounts of supporting evidence. Nevertheless, I find their arguments unconvincing.

Anticipating future regulation of carbon emissions, Toronto350 argues that divestment from the oil industry is financially beneficial to the fund. I am unconvinced of this position; as developing countries across the world increase their demands for fossil fuels, impending regulation of the industry seems unlikely. I will concede the debate on financial viability. Even though divestment doesn’t help, given the abundance of available options, it is unlikely to hurt the fund either. More importantly, exceptions to fiduciary duty can and have been made before.

No matter the financial consequences, divestment is morally and legally justified if companies cause social injuries. In 2007, U of T divested from the tobacco industry on these grounds. Toronto350 is claiming the same ground this time. However, the case is not nearly as strong for the oil industry. In the US, tobacco companies were successfully sued for indemnities in the mid 1990s and they were forced to put health warnings on their packages as early as the 1960s. Despite all this, the first campaign to have the university divest from tobacco actually failed in 1991, because the responsible committee didn’t believe the definition of social injury had been met.

In contrast, it may well be true that climate change is causing recent severe weather events. No one has proven in court that they were harmed as a result or that oil companies should be held responsible for climate change. Therefore, a case for social injuries cannot be made. Indeed, a similar divestment campaign was rejected last year at McGill for this exact reason.

One might wonder whether pedantically sticking to the definition of social injuries is meaningful. It probably isn’t. Definitions and procedures can always be changed. However, in this case, this definition is protecting us from straying too far away from our core missions as an academic institution. Indeed, this definition delineates the level of activism we are willing to engage in; it tells activist organizations that an academic institution will not take any political stance unless there is overwhelming consensus on the issue.

That consensus is simply not there. As an institution, U of T is not taking the strong stance necessary for divestment. When divestment succeeded in 2007, tobacco products had already been banned indoors. In contrast, while we pride ourselves on keeping our carbon footprint per student well below the average of large institutions, fossil fuel is still vital to the functioning of our university. As students, while we are all conscious of the negative effects of global warming, few are outright condemning the use of traditional energy. Indeed, it would simply be hypocritical of us to condemn oil companies while using their products on a daily basis.

Divestment is an act of sanction that should follow a stance our university has already taken. It cannot lead the debate and precede that stance. I do not wish to defend the oil industry or argue against climate change. However, in working towards a greener world, we should not neglect our other principles and missions. Divestment from oil is not wrong. However, it should take place only after we agree to take a much stronger stand on climate change than we currently do.

 

Li Pan is a second-year student at Trinity College studying mathematics and economics.