U of T places twenty-fourth in Academic Ranking of World Universities

University places highest in Canada, beating out McGill and UBC

U of T places twenty-fourth in Academic Ranking of World Universities

The University of Toronto is back on top in the recently released Academic Ranking of World Universities. The university placed twenty-fourth overall — moving up four spots from last year — and was the highest-ranked university in Canada. 

This year, U of T’s top-ranked program was computer science, at number 10. Meanwhile, economics and business programs saw the biggest improvement in ranking, jumping from fourty-eighth last year to twenty-fourth this year.

U of T beat out the University of British Columbia (UBC), which ranked thirty-seventh; McGill University, which ranked sixty-seventh; and McMaster University, which ranked ninetieth. 

Although Canada had four universities in the top 100, most were American. Harvard University was ranked first for the twelfth year in a row, with Stanford University ranked second and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology taking third place.

The ranking is based on a number of criteria, including number of alumni and faculty that won Nobel Prizes and Field Medals, number of highly cited researchers, number of academic papers published in Nature and Science, number of papers indexed in other major citation indices, and per-capita academic performance at the institution. 

“To be recognized once again as one of the world’s leading universities is a testimony to the scholarship, creativity and innovation of our faculty, staff and students. This reflects not only their academic excellence but the impact of their research in Canada and throughout the world,” said U of T provost Cheryl Regehr in a statement.

Although the ranking primarily concentrated on graduate education, Althea Blackburn-Evans, U of T director of media relations, reaffirmed the university’s commitment to undergraduate education.

“The university is very much focussed on delivering an excellent undergraduate experience as well as maintaining and strengthening its position as a globally-recognized research leader.  Hand in hand with that research focus, U of T is Canada’s leading provider of graduate education.  Institutional decisions are focussed on maintaining and growing the quality of our programs at all levels.  Rankings are just one way those programs are measured,” she said.

Blackburn-Evans added that rankings offer the university one metric by which to measure its success. “All rankings are based on different criteria and need to be viewed critically; it’s important to understand what is being measured in any given ranking.  That said, these rankings and others are seen by potential students, faculty members and others around the world, so doing well — as the U of T has done consistently — is important,” she said.

U of T routinely places highly in global university rankings, including the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. The university is currently ranked seventeenth in the QS World University Rankings, while McGill University ranked twenty-first, and UBC came in fourty-ninth.

Accessible arts

Where to find quality arts in Toronto at a student-friendly price

Accessible arts

Living on a student budget can be frustrating in a big city, where there are so many shows, events, and international festivals tantalizingly nearby. Luckily, it doesn’t always take hour-long waits outside box offices or expert bargain hunting to see great performances at reasonable prices. 

Stars and movie-goers alike are currently flooding the downtwon streets for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This is a great way to kick off the school year while the workload is still light. Anyone under 25 can catch a regular screening for only $18, and attend a TIFF premiere for $30. That’s even cheaper than rush tickets, and without the hassle of a line-up. Throughout the year, the TIFF Bell Lightbox continues to host screenings, so if you miss the festival, you can still catch movies there for only $10.50 all year. However, they often have exhibitions running for free. 

If live performances are more your thing, the number one source for inexpensive show tickets in Toronto is HipTix. HipTix offers $5 tickets to students between 14 and 29 years of age, and encompasses a broad range of live performances. Tickets can be purchased online at their website: totix.ca. They can also be bought in person at the T.O.TIX Ticketing Outlet, which is open 12:00–6:30 pm Monday to Saturday, and located in Yonge-Dundas Square. HipTIX can be available up until 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to the start of the show, provided they don’t sell out. 

It’s also a good idea to occasionally stop by the booth for other deals. Discounts are offered on various live performances, including plays, dinner theatre, music, dance, and comedy skits such as Second City. These can make for a creative date or a fun outing. Partial discounts are even available for big name musicals such as last year’s hit, Les Miserables. Upcoming HipTIX plays include William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Molière’s Tartuffe, and many more. 

Many companies in Toronto also offer their own discounts year-round. The Canadian Opera Company puts on several productions throughout the year, which includes the upcoming seasons Falstaff and Madama Butterfly. They offer student tickets for between $22–$35. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers tickets for as little as $16 for those between the ages of 16 and 35, and the National Ballet of Canada offers rush tickets for their main season, as well as for their annual holiday hit, The Nutcracker, for $35. Standing room tickets are also available for select performances, for only $12.

Of course, you can always enjoy a stroll inside the city’s best museums, including the Textile Museum of Canada for $6, the Museum of Inuit Art for $3, and many more deals with your student I.D. The Bata Shoe museum has pay-what-you-can admission every Thursday from 5:00–8:00 pm. If that’s still out of your price range, every Tuesday, the Royal Ontario Museum is free to university students and the Art Gallery of Ontario also offers free admission every Wednesday from 6:00–8:30 pm. 

Behind bedroom doors

Inside the personal spaces of young adults in Toronto

Behind bedroom doors

Personal spaces are thought to reflect the lives of the individuals inhabiting them. Homes are divided between public spaces and private spaces, with the private space traditionally locked behind the bedroom door. The beginning of adulthood is a delicate time period, as people begin to acquire a strong sense of self. These spaces reflect this transition, and serve as a refuge amidst the trials and joys of personal development. More than simply a room, bedrooms represent growth and transition; they change as their owners change. The moments experienced within these rooms and the objects that reside within them reveal parts of their inhabitants.

In an exploration of personal space, we asked young adults living in Toronto to allow us behind their bedroom doors to document how they manipulate their space, and how these manipulations reflect events and transitions in their lives. 

Article and photos by Emily Scherzinger.

Brian Lee, 21


“[This] is the first room that is wholly my own, with roommates across the hall instead of across the room [like res]. I don’t clean it because I don’t have to clean it. I’ve spent hundreds of nights in my room, played hundreds of hours of video games, watched hundreds of hours of TV. It’s the first place that’s… my own — the only place where I am alone. My cat sleeps every night with me in my bed. It’s just Marley [my cat] and me. Three years and still no bed — only a mattress. It’s the messiest room in a dirty house. The furniture is falling apart, just like my life. Just kidding… but not really.”

Emma Taylor, 27

Emma Taylor

“I moved into this room after landing my first real-life career job in the city. Before graduating, I had only worked part-time minimum wage gigs and could only afford to live in slum housing, which had mice. During this time, I would still hang out in my room, listen to a record on this really cheap player my parents got for me for my nineteenth birthday, and it was all incredibly romantic. With my first paycheck, I splurged and got myself a new player. I am incredibly grateful to have a job I love, live in a lovely house with some really stellar roommates, and now have a really sweet sound system. Life is good, and it shows that the hard work I put in early on, eventually paid off.”

Erik Masson, 21

Erik Masson

“The worst thing that’s happened in this room is kind of hard to pinpoint [to] one event. I guess it’s sort of just a progression of me being an asshole. Someone I care about need[ed] to stay with me for a month, but being an only child, I’m reclusive and need alone time and other dumb nonsense. I don’t really know what to do about my frustration so rather than talk about it like a person I get moody and shitty. She eventually [left], which makes sense. I wanted to take her to the bus but I had to work. When I got home she was gone and she left a note with a picture of us with hearts and lots of lovely stuff. [It] made me sad, so I cried like a helpless [and] confused child, which might be a sign. I hope she doesn’t read this because she definitely left it to make me feel better.”

Haris Khan, 21

Haris Khan

“I was just sitting [on my bed] on my laptop… on Reddit or some nonsense like that. The streetcar goes by, and [the bookshelf] was unbalanced at the time because the books are at the top. The whole thing just fell on me when the streetcar went by, because this is an old house and the whole thing shakes when the streetcar goes by. Everything fell off… Even my bobblehead’s guitar broke. I had to clean it up afterwards — it was the worst thing ever. I just put the books right up top again. I wake up at night sometimes, scared the bookshelf is going to fall on me again. It’s a major fear in my life.”

Elena Gritzan, 22 

Elena Gritzan

“I got what was probably the most exciting Facebook message I’ve ever received while sitting on my bed. I used to joke that the writers of a local electronic music blog were my musical soulmates – I devoured their posts, went to their shows, and generally felt like I wanted to be them. They were also the first people I’d ever met that understood my old Halloween costume: a light-up jacket fashioned after the musician Born Gold. I’m pretty sure I jumped a foot when I got a message asking if I’d like to write for the blog! Now I hang out in the metaphorical blog office and write about how great dark synthesizers are. Sometimes while wearing the jacket.”

Ayla Shiblaq, 18 

Ayla Shiblaq

“We found this place on Kijiji, and… the people who own it are these really cool neo-hippie[s]. The family’s going off to Costa Rica for a year and a bit, and we’re essentially subletting. This is the only way we could come close to living on Queen [Street West] in a loft. It’s nice living here, but because we’re subletting, it doesn’t really feel like home. I come here and it kind of feels like a hotel, which at first had a really cool novelty to it, but now it kind of… doesn’t feel like home until my roommates are here. Living in a loft bed is fun — that’s the one place where I feel like I’m truly on my own, and you don’t really have that when you live with three other people. It has its perks — I like being separate, [but] having to go to the washroom at 4:00 am is literally the worst thing because you just don’t want to wake up your roommate.” 

Sarah Trottier, 24

Sarah Trottier

“I moved into this room and bought this bed after a break-up. It’s a trundle bed, so you can pull the bottom out and make it a queen-sized bed with another mattress. Since I got it, the only reason I’ve had to pull out the trundle is for various friends to crash on…after their respective breakups. Thus, it is the breakup trundle. I didn’t intend for this bed to become a refuge for broken hearts. I was hoping that people would come stay just to hang out and have fun pajama parties or whatever. I guess when you live north of Eglinton, the only reason people want to visit you is to get as far away from their exes as possible. Maybe one day someone will stay here to watch movies or play board games, rather than to stain my sheets with the tears of lost love.”

Adam Bradley, 27

Adam Bradley

“When I went to university in Newfoundland, the most dreaded professor in my program was the Dean of Sociology. I even dropped a class of his once because I found out he was teaching it. Years later in Toronto, through a weird continuum of coincidences, we developed a good friendship and he became probably the biggest fan of my art and weirdo poetry performance stuff. He was writing an essay for an academic sociology textbook about strange homes and he came to interview me about everything in [my] place. He analyzed…every trinket and cobweb and asked me about my thoughts on things. I read the manuscript and it was the most violently trippy experience I’ve probably had, having your entire identity broken down, processed and fed back to you like that. Messed me up for a bit. I got a copy of the book years later and his article was the first in the book. Thankfully he left out the part where he assessed that my back room smelled like ‘cat urine.’ The cold eye of science.”

Anna Beausoleil Shapiro, 21

Anna Beausoleil Shapiro

“My house has no living space, so my room has become the de facto living room. Everyone always ends up hanging out in my room. I like to think it’s an enjoyable room to be in — it certainly is for me. There’s lots of sitting space and lots of things to look at — things to get lost in. I have a Ralph Steadman poster of the tea party in Through the Looking Glass that always makes people zone out. Nothing bad has really happened to me in my bedroom because it is my palace. I’m untouchable here; this is my place of power. As familiar spaces go, this is as familiar as it gets. This is a space I have created from the bottom up. This is the place where I have the most control, more than anywhere else in the world.”

Matt Lacrette, 22

Matt Lacrette

“I had gotten two breeding sized snakes for a crazy deal from a friend. They were great snakes, but the only problem was that I had not had the snakes from a young age. This kind of made me feel like the snakes weren’t mine… but the female was pregnant. I took great care of her until one night at 4:00 am, I found 15 baby boas surrounding the mother. There were many different patterns, sizes, and personalities within the litter, but two stuck out: Lela and Strags. Lela [has an] amazing ladder pattern on her tail, and [Strags is] the slow yet lovable… runt of the litter. Having a pet from birth is an experience not a lot of people get to have, and now at two years old, they are four and a half feet and the friendliest snakes I’ve ever come across.”

Editor’s Note (March 5th, 2016): One participant was removed from this feature, at their request.

University, union extend deadline in contract negotiations

United Steelworkers Local 1998 represents about 7,000 university staff

University, union extend deadline in contract negotiations

University administration and the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1998, which represents about 7,000 U of T staff, are working to reach a deal on a new employee compensation agreement before Monday, September 15 at 12:01 am. The new deal will replace the previous employee compensation agreement signed in 2011. If no deal is reached, there is the possibility of a strike or lockout, but neither party has announced plans for such measures at this point.

Last Friday, September 5, the strike deadline was extended from Monday, September 8 to September 15.

“The [last] collective agreement expired June 30. The Labour Relations Act allows the previous agreement to remain in force until you get to a legal strike and lockout position,” said Stuart Deans, Toronto area coordinator for USW Local 1998. 

“If we are at 12:01 am and are making good progress; if we can see that we just need a few more hours or even a day to do it, we’ll extend that deadline on mutual agreement of the parties to get the thing done. But, if we are far apart and there is no chance that we can bridge that gap, then likely what that will lead to is a labour dispute and all of the facets that go with that,” Deans added.

Althea Blackburn-Evans, U of T director of  news and media relations, said that university administration is doing all it can to reach an agreement that responds to the needs of both parties. “The university continues to negotiate in good faith with USW with the goal of reaching a renewed collective agreement that is responsive to employee interests and is also responsible in light of the ongoing financial constraints within which the university operates,” she said.

 Blackburn-Evans’s sentiment was echoed by Deans. “Everybody goes into this process with the view of getting a deal that is both fair and responsible, and that is for both sides,” Deans said, adding: “If we had the power to bargain everything we want all of the time, there would be a tipping point as to whether or not there is an institution left at the end of the day. So there is recognition that both parties have to be responsible.”

“Austere proposals”

Details of the negotiations have not been released. However, USW economist Erin Weir accused the university of “making very austere proposals to our union, advocating a wage freeze.”

“Of course, that is sometimes the nature of bargaining: the administration will come in with a very extreme proposal and then we’ll negotiate from there. But certainly their starting point seems very draconian given the very positive state of the university’s finances,” Weir added. 

At a USW budget analysis event on August 20, Weir discussed the U of T budget. He said that, while the university predicts growth of expenses will surpass growth of revenues over the next several years, they are operating with an annual surplus above $100 million in the short-term. 

“Let’s say we accept all the university’s projections about how much revenues and expenses are on track to increase. What does that actually look like? Basically what you see is that…it takes six years to get to a deficit. So, yes, there is what the administration calls a structural challenge of projected expenses rising more than projected revenues, but we are starting with a pretty significant surplus… We are only actually talking about negotiating a three-year deal,” said Weir.

 Effect on students

University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) president Yolen Bollo-Kamara explained that the outcome of the negotiations would directly affect students. 

“The working conditions of staff are the learning conditions of students. For example, the outcome of various labour negotiations could have an affect on the size of our tutorials. It could also affect whether or not Career Centre staff are trained professionals or less secure part-time workers who are not equipped with the tools to provide students with what we need,” she said. 

According to Paul Tsang, president of USW Local 1998, there is a large degree of overlap between the student body and the USW membership. “U of T hires a lot of graduates, so these are the good jobs a lot of the students are going to get,” said Tsang, adding: “A lot of our workers are students. Probably a third of our casual [workers] are students: graduate students, TAs, research associates. So this is very much a student issue.”

Employee compensation and tuition fees

Although university administration did not specifically address the relationship between employee compensation and student tuition, both the UTSU and the USW said that there is no direct link between an increase in employee compensation and a rise in tuition fees. 

“Correlating these two variables in a budget with far more revenue sources and expenditures is an unhelpful oversimplification,” said Bollo-Kamara, adding: “I believe that the university is capable of prioritizing access to post-secondary education and optimal working conditions.”

“It’s not like we are swallowing up 98.6 per cent of student costs into our terms and conditions of employment, and then at some point we have to go back to [the students] and say you have to start paying more fees. That’s not the equation at all,” Deans said.

Unless the deadline is extended, the two parties have until Monday, September 15 at 12:01 am to reach a deal.

High textbook prices an issue of accessibility for some students

Alternatives explored by students, professors, administration

High textbook prices an issue of accessibility for some students

Students looking to save money at the start of the term will continue to be disappointed by soaring textbook prices. For students taking a full course load, the burden can sometimes make or break their financial stability, with textbook costs routinely exceeding $500.

Though the cost of textbooks at university is now considered a fact of student life, some sources suggest that there is an underlying cause explaining the rapid increase  of textbook prices.

According to The Economist, textbooks are immune to demand-based incentives to lower costs. Since instructors set class readings without budgetary restrictions, there is no incentive to choose a less expensive text than that which they see as most comprehensive. It is also common for professors to assign their own written works for their class readings.

According to statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices have increased at a rate three times that of inflation since 1970. Meanwhile, students continue to feel the weight of textbooks on their backs and in their bank accounts.

Kate* and Ada*, first-year nursing students at the University of Toronto, bought their first set of nursing textbooks last Thursday, and were unpleasantly surprised by the $400 bill at the bookstore.

“[T]hat’s not even including our medical materials,” Kate said. The additional cost of equipment leaves many students reaching deep into their pockets. The U of T Bookstore sells stethoscopes for between $17 and $35, scrubs are priced at $25, and tuition for nursing students is $8,100.

For the two nursing students, the expense of textbooks creates a significant dent in their student budgets.

“They don’t talk about how much books cost,” said Ada of entering the highly competitive program, adding: “[S]tudent loans won’t give you extra for your textbooks.”

Kate, who does not receive student loans, is concerned that her limited line of credit will not be enough to cover the compounding costs of her program, and working part-time might be the only viable option.

“You have to do so well in this program, but you have to get a job at the same time. How do you balance it [all]?” she added.

Many attempt to alleviate the burden by using unconventional avenues to acquire course materials.

One such service is Bookwiz, an online platform for inter-student textbook exchange founded and developed by U of T computer science student Leila Chan-Currie. According to Chan-Currie, her website acts as a facilitator to better connect students who are already engaging in an informal textbook exchange market.

Bookwiz is part of a larger movement towards a localized, decentralized sharing economy facilitated by the internet,” said Chan-Currie.

“It reduces demand on traditional bookstores the same way apps like Lyft are replacing taxis and Airbnb is replacing hotels,” she added.

Aidan Douglas, a third-year student, has long navigated the online exchange market, using Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange (TUSBE) to find deals.

“I can usually find my textbooks being sold by other students at a 50-60% lower price than that being offered by the U of T Bookstore,” said Douglas.

Exchanging between students, however, is not always convenient, especially when the prospective sellers do not have the correct edition.

“Last year, I unknowingly bought an international edition of the Astronomy textbook I was seeking, which I later found out was illegal to sell in Canada,” she said.

According to Althea Blackburn-Evans, U of T director of media relations, the university assists struggling students by providing a cost-effective textbook rental program, and maintaining a rich physical and electronic library which is available to all students.

“The university recognizes the cost benefits of alternatives to purchasing new textbooks for students,” Douglas said.

Douglas agreed that the ability to rent textbooks is a great way to access brand-new materials reliably without the high costs, but noted that rentals are only available to students with access to a credit card. 

Blackburn-Evans added that alternatives to the current model of assigning textbooks are on the radar of university administration. 

“The university continues to investigate the suitability of reduced cost options for textbooks such as open source and/or commercially available e-textbooks,” Blackburn-Evans said.

Indeed, some professors have espoused similar thinking, turning to online and library resources as replacements for traditional textbooks.

Natalie Sommers, a third-year music student, noted a class experience that did not use textbooks. 

“My teacher, Professor [Mark] Sallmen, posted all of the handouts and musical scores that we would be analyzing at the beginning of the semester [on Blackboard],” she said. 

She added that, even though it was cost-saving, to use Blackboard as an alternative to a cohesive textbook, it had disadvantages. 

“I ended up printing enough handouts out to form a textbook by the end of the year. Sometimes I would forget to check blackboard before class and found myself unprepared, as there were more handouts posted online,” Sommers said.

It remains unclear whether using Blackboard as a widespread alternative to textbook use is a suitable model to pursue in the future. 

*Names changed at students’ request.

Future of online voting uncertain

Committee cites concerns over cost, spoiled ballots, and voter turnout

Future of online voting uncertain

An investigation into the effectiveness of online voting in University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections may be on the cards, following concerns over the cost of online voting systems, the high number of spoiled ballots, and voter turnout.

Online voting was implemented for the first time last year in an October 2013 by-election, and again in its elections in March 2014. The UTSU Annual General Meeting (AGM) recommended that the Committee consider online voting in 2012–2013 following years of divisional lobbying. 

At a meeting on August 21, the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), a standing committee of the UTSU, touched on the issue of online voting. Naveed Ahmed, UTSU director for UTM, said that that the committee should consider reverting to a paper ballot system.

Yolen Bollo-Kamara, UTSU president, maintained that it would take a significant investigation before making the decision to change the voting system.

“We do not believe any of these arguments justify the removal of online voting,” said Connor Anear, Kaleem Hawa, and Tina Saban, student leaders at Trinity College, in a joint statement.

“The top priority at the UTSU should be transparency, because of the amount of student money they handle,” said Teresa Nguyen, president of the U of T Engineering Society (EngSoc). 

EngSoc produced a report in 2010 requesting the implementation of online voting in a bid to change the UTSU’s electoral practices, improve democracy, and increase transparency.

Bollo-Kamara said that the discussions were still in the early stages, and more investigation would be required before making any decisions.

“This was the first meeting of the committee, and was called primarily to set dates for the fall by-elections and initiate the hiring of a Chief Returning Officer (CRO). Any discussion at this point is very preliminary…The ERC will discuss further what such an investigation could look like, before undertaking any decisions,” said Bollo-Kamara.

“Now may be a good time to evaluate the outcomes of online voting after two elections,” Bollo-Kamara added.

Anear, Hawa, and Saban recognized the importance of conversations about online voting, but expressed concern at the timing. “We believe that revisiting the issue only one year after it was approved by students and implemented into the electoral process is premature and unnecessary,” the student leaders said. 

“I feel like they’re almost banking on how student organizations don’t have institutional memory when they are presenting this again, just because it really is the same conversation,” said Nguyen. 

“I’m a little taken aback with why [online voting] is even an item of discussion for the UTSU, because I believe they are aware that many students express frustration with how they handle their electoral reform,” she added.

In May 2013, Jill Matus, vice provost of students, issued a statement in response to the fee diversion referenda in which Trinity College, the EngSoc, and Victoria College voted in favour of diverting fees from the UTSU to their respective student councils. “[O]n-line elections are an essential feature of open, accessible and democratic operation,” the statement said. 

The statement indicated that, if online voting was not available for the 2014 elections, the clause in the “Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees,” with respect to the withholding of student society fees, would be applied. 

The UTSU reiterated that the discussion thus far centered around launching an investigation into the effectiveness of online voting, and not on removing it. “As there has been no discussion about removing online voting, [the statement] has not been considered. However, the union is accountable to our members, and should discussions of this nature continue, their interests will be our utmost priority,” Bollo-Kamara said.

At the conclusion of the UTSU elections in March last year, the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) recommended that online voting no longer be used. At the meeting of the ERC, Bollo-Kamara said that the CRO’s report should be considered carefully.

“At this point, I am solely interested in the prospect of further investigation into the voting system with the goal of increasing voter engagement in UTSU elections, and evaluating the pros and cons of the current system,” Bollo-Kamara said. 

Orientation cheers reviewed in wake of rape culture controversy

Some frosh week chants eliminated as part of review

Orientation cheers reviewed in wake of rape culture controversy

This year, in the wake of the frosh week chant controversy at St Mary’s University (SMU) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) last year, divisions across U of T altered their frosh week chants in a bid to crack down on offensive material. Interdivisional rivalry plays a large role in frosh week, with first-year students encouraged to take pride in their division and to engage in friendly competition. 

Although student governments are autonomous, many orientation coordinators consulted with their college administrations when looking at their chants. Tim Worgan, dean of students and residence at Innis College, worked with orientation coordinators at Innis College to review their cheers. 

“A couple of traditional verses were dropped, not because they were vulgar, but because the students decided they were no longer relevant,” Worgan said. 

Alex Huntress-Reeve and Nicole Thompson, Innis College orientation coordinators, said they supported the steps taken to end rape culture on campus. However, they made a distinction between rape culture and sexual expression. “These two things are separate and should not be lumped together,” Reeve and Thompson said in a joint statement. 

Reeve and Thompson reported that, this year, they removed some cheers from Innis College’s frosh week chant repertoire because they crossed the line. “We must always be conscious that this line is not taken to either extreme,” they said.

Prompted by last year’s controversies, Trinity College orientation coordinators also chose to discuss their cheers with the Trinity College dean of students, Jonathan Steels. According to orientation coordinator Marissa Martins, some of Trinity’s cheers were modified and removed after honest discussion of each of their intentions and origins. 

“Without compromising Trinity tradition, we decided, as a team, to veto some cheers that we thought might promote hatefulness rather than friendly rivalry, and sexual humour that might cross the line of being offensive,” Martins said.

Melinda Scott, dean of students at University College, said that it was important to remember that the goal of orientation week is to welcome new students to U of T. Scott emphasized that, no matter where cheers happen, they should be respectful. “[Make] sure the things that you do behind closed doors are the same things that you would do in public,” she said. 

Yolen Bollo-Kamara, president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, praised the effort to eliminate oppressive cheers, which she said could set the tone for the rest of the year. Bollo-Kamara also expressed hope that U of T’s school spirit will improve over the coming year. 

“I think that we can all do more to come together and really unite the campus as one U of T community,” she said, adding: “I hope that [U of T-wide cheers] will encourage intercollegiate and intercampus events and collaboration.”

Age profiles, enrolment growth top causes of deferred maintenance

Deferred maintenance costs at U of T top $500 million

Age profiles, enrolment growth top causes of deferred maintenance

According to a recent Sightlines study of deferred maintenance of Canadian universities, commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers, building age profiles and enrolment growth contribute most to deferred maintenance on Canadian campuses.

Last January, the University of Toronto released its deferred maintenance report for 2013. According to the report, the university faced a total deferred maintenance cost of $505 million last year.

“While this year’s figures have yet to be determined, research facilities, such as the Medical Science Building are complex to build, maintain, operate, and retrofit. They do, therefore, tend to contribute a larger share to the overall deferred maintenance … liability than less complex buildings, such as office buildings and residences,” said Ron Swail, assistant vice-president, facilities and services. 

Swail added that the increase in deferred maintenace liability largely stems from auditing procedures that produce more detailed reporting, inflated costs, newer campus buildings — including acquisition of older buildings — and the collective aging of the buildings.

The Sightlines database identified 1960–1975 as an era when a large number of new constructions occurred at universities to accommodate an influx of new students. The top five U of T buildings that require priority deferred maintenance attention were constructed during this era. Four of the buildings also contain significant asbestos fireproofing, a fibrous mineral that requires prompt repair and removal should the buildings deteriorate, in order to prevent health risks. 

 Much of Ontario’s deferred maintenance is caused by enrollment growth outpacing space available on campus. The report said that Ontario institutions have  experienced enrollment growth over 15 per cent,  while the increase in campus space is less than 10 per cent  over the same time period. This caused the wear and tear on campus spaces to increase and impacted future maintenance requirements. 

“The expansion of campus size does affect deferred maintenance liability. While a new building typically does not have deferred maintenance until after the seventh  year, older buildings newly acquired by the university often come with their own deferred maintenance,” added Swail. 

 Swail confirmed that the university will invest $14 million of internal funding, plus money from the Facilities Renewal Program, to combat deferred maintenance issues. Around $2.4 million will be invested in the St. George campus directly. 

“Beyond this direct funding, the issue of deferred maintenance will also be addressed through capital projects. Other building retrofits completed by departments will also contribute to the issue,” added Swail. 

However, according to Graeme Stewart, communications manager of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, a clear cause of deferred maintenance is the chronic provincial underfunding of universities. The total funding for public universities last year was just under $3.5 billion, but total  deferred maintenace debt was around $2.6 million. “We interpret these results to mean that the under-funding continues to impair the ability of our universities to renew and repair their facilities,” said Stewart.

The Sightlines report suggested setting capital priorities, replacing aging space with new modern facilities, keeping up with building life cycles, and matching new construction with future program needs. 

“We are using many of the strategies noted in the report,” said Swail, adding: “The university only builds what it needs and sets a rigorous system to validate new buildings. Our ongoing priority-setting addresses the criteria of priority repairs, major renovations, enforcement agency orders and academic priorities. Our design standards for new buildings also ensures lower maintenance needs and fewer capital renewals.”

Ontario recently pledged $500 million over 10 years to address the issue of deferred maintenance and increase post-secondary  enrollment by 15,000 students. “[Facilities Renewal Program] funding will increase significantly over the next few years,” said  Linda Mackay, manager of issues and media relations at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.  

“Major capital funding is project-specific, and the amount of funding received by any university would be based on the objectives of each capital program,” she added.