University administration remain tight-lipped on stabbing incident

Incident prompts concerns over professor, student safety

University administration remain tight-lipped on stabbing incident

The role of the university’s campus police has come under increased scrutiny after a violent assault against a professor at the St. George Campus. An individual was arrested and charged following a knife attack on a U of T senior lecturer last Wednesday, which caused cuts to the lecturer’s wrists, thighs, and face. The incident raised concerns about the protocols in place to ensure the safety of staff, faculty, and students.

After receiving disturbing emails, the lecturer alerted administration and campus police about the behavior, who allegedly failed to act to protect the professor.

Althea Blackburn-Evans, U of T director of media relations, said that campus police support the university’s academic mission by creating a safe and equitable environment for all members of the university campus.

Blackburn-Evans said that campus police work closely with municipal police in a variety of functions. “Campus police refer all incidents that may violate the Criminal Code to the local municipal Police Service. When requested Campus Police support the investigative efforts of Toronto Police,” she said.

University of Toronto Campus Police Special Constables are designated as Peace Officers through the Toronto Police Service Board. Special Constables are appointed peace officers as per the Ontario Police Services Act. Their powers include the ability to arrest, search, and seize, as well as to lay criminal charges.

Forensic Identification Specialists also work on the university’s three campuses. The specialists are trained to gather evidence and apprehend offenders. Any suspects apprehended by campus police are transferred to city police centers, where they are processed and held.

According to their annual report, campus police directly enforce the Criminal Code of Canada, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Trespass to Property Act of Ontario, Liquor License of Ontario and municipal by-laws. They have the added prerogative of enforcing the University of Toronto Student Code of Conduct.

Scott Prudham, president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA), declined comment on campus safety in light of the recent stabbing incident. “We are not prepared to comment at this time other than to say that maintaining a safe environment for faculty and librarians to do their work at the University is a concern for us and we do our part to ensure that” he said.

In 2001, University of Toronto professor David Buller was stabbed and killed while working in his office. The case remains unsolved.

App determines intensity of alcohol-withdrawal related tremors

Researchers at U of T integrate iOS technology to diagnose patients suffering from alcohol-withdrawal symptoms

App determines intensity of alcohol-withdrawal related tremors

U of T researchers recently developed an app targeting alcohol abuse, allowing physicians to measure the intensity of tremors in patients suffering from alcohol-withdrawal symptoms to prevent the prescription of addictive sedatives.

When chronic abusers of alcohol try to quit, they usually succumb to intense withdrawal, which in some cases leads them to the emergency room of a hospital where they are given benzodiazepines — sedatives used to treat alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, seizures, and insomnia.

Physicians are usually reluctant to prescribe this sedative as it is frequently abused and can be extremely dangerous when mixed with alcohol and opiates. An increasing number of people are now faking symptoms of alcohol withdrawal — specifically tremors in their hands and arms —to obtain these drugs.

To solve this problem, a team of researchers from U of T, including PhD candidate Narges Norouzi, Dr. Parham Aarabi of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Bjug Borgundvaag, professor at the Faculty of Medicine, have developed an iOS app that helps physicians discern real tremors from fake ones.

This is the world’s first app to measure tremor strength, which provides an objective conclusion on the correct medical direction to take when a patient is experiencing tremors. The app uses data from an Apple device’s built-in accelerometer to measure the frequency of tremors from each hand for 20 seconds.

With regard to the practical applications of the tool, Borgundvaag said, “We will be able to standardize the assessment of withdrawal and improve patient care, ensuring that patients get the correct dose of benzodiazepine for their degree of withdrawal.”

“We hope that being able to accurately assess withdrawal will lead not only to improved patient care, but shorter length of stays in the [emergency department],” he added.

The app could be used outside of the emergency room too, according to Borgundvaag.

“It may be a useful decision support tool for individuals seen in withdrawal management services (detox centers), or even jails, in helping decide which patients should be transferred to hospital for assessment and treatment,” He said, adding: “We hope to create an abbreviated tool which in preliminary testing takes less than one minute to administer. This tool will be heavily biased towards the tremor assessment, which should be more reliable now that we can actually measure it.”

“The band with the unprintable name”

Fucked Up on their controversial name, their latest album Glass Boys, and their upcoming Toronto show

“The band with the unprintable name”

The Varsity: Why the name “Fucked Up”?

Josh Zucker: It came from a song by the band NOTA and we thought it was a kind of gonzo name for the band and something that would protect us from selling out. And it had to some extent, it has stopped us from doing certain things.

TV: Do any of you get annoyed with your band name getting censored?
No, not at all. More than anything it’s kind of curious and interesting the way that different people deal with it. The band has been talked about in the New York Times a couple of times and they just call us the band with the unprintable name. It’s great to think about the NYTs’ editorial room and them discussing how they are going to deal with this issue of printing our name.

TV: You guys released Glass Boys in June. Could you describe the recording process and how it was different to your past albums?
The main difference is that we’ve been more comfortable than we ever have been in the studio. We gave ourselves more time to record and that gave us the flexibility to kind of mess around and experiment in the studio or rush to create something like we have in the past. For creative and practical reasons, we recorded at different studios at different times and we didn’t overhear each other playing or hear the full song until we got together to listen to them to discuss how we would perform it live.

TV: Does recording separately affect the recording process?
A little bit. When we are writing a song, we don’t think about how we are going to perform it live. We usually just go with what sounds good and write the individual parts and understand that we’ll have to figure out how to perform these songs live, but that’s considered a separate project.

TV: Would you say that Glass Boys is a more personal album in comparison to what you have released prior?
In a way it is. It is more of a reflective album. We have covered a lot of subject matter and it in many way it is more honest and reflective with things there than on our past albums. I don’t think it’s more personal, it’s more the record where the band talks about themselves and our experience as a band as opposed to people making music about general life experiences. This is more of a musician’s experience as a member of this band, Fucked Up.

TV: Did you feel under any additional pressure coming out of your hiatus and recording this album?
The hiatus was only committed to print. We didn’t really have a hiatus, it was just more something we talked about. If you look at our show list, we really didn’t stop performing. I think there was some pressure, but there always is pressure when you’re putting out a record. You just always want to do something and put out t the world, you want it to be exactly the way you want it to sound like. We care about the product, so there was more of a pressure in getting things right. Then there is the pressure in hoping that people will like it. But we don’t really let things get to us for future’s sake

TV: Being a hardcore group, you tend to attract audiences who enjoy moshing. How do you feel moshing, do you feel it adds something to the performance or takes away from it?
It’s hard to say. If we play show and people aren’t moving at all, then we feel like it’s not a good show or something has gone wrong. But on the other hand, and it’s not a punk band and people aren’t moshing but they are moving around and having a good time. The nature of our music kind of has to have people mosh and enjoy the show. You kind of come to see or join a mosh pit at shows like this. Growing up and going to punk shows, part of the excitement is seeing what people are going to do.

TV: You guys are hosting an all-ages show at the Horseshoe Tavern. What is your opinion on all-ages shows in Toronto?
We try to do all-ages stuff as much as possible, because we went to shows in Toronto long before we were 19 and sometimes we would have to sneak into shows. We’ll always try to do that.


Note-taking service under scrutiny

Students express concern with Accessibility Services program

Note-taking service under scrutiny

Some U of T students are expressing concern over a number of perceived issues with the university’s volunteer note-taking service, and are urging that the university change the structure of the program to improve its functionality.

Volunteer note taking is an Accessibility Services program that calls on student volunteers to submit class notes for distribution to students living with disabilities or suffering from injuries. Some students say the program does not provide students registered with Accessibility Services with proper resources, leaving them with incomplete or inadequate notes. 

Accessibility Services, which works to uphold the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and the University of Toronto’s Statement of Commitment regarding Persons with Disabilities, offers confidential services for all U of T students with disabilities.

According to the Accessibility Services website, the office collaborates with students and faculty to “provide effective, individualized confidential services” and to “assist in negotiated accommodation as required.”

Information posted on the Accessibility Services website for volunteer note-takers tells students to attend class regularly and take lecture notes, upload class notes to a secure website on a consistent basis, and inform Accessibility Services if any classes are dropped. 

Janna*, a student who used the service in her first year after sustaining an injury, said one major issue with the program was the level of completeness in the notes she received. “An issue that I have experienced is one where the note-takers fail to properly take notes… It can be frustrating when a volunteer lacks commitment or does not match the same learning style as yours.”

Kriya Siewrattan, president of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) outlined a number of concerns with the program. “The concerns about the volunteer note-taking program centre on not having volunteers sign up to provide notes, or volunteers who provide notes then stop halfway into the course, or volunteers who provide inadequate notes,” she said. 

Siewrattan added that another problem with volunteer note-taking is the potential lack of instructor co-operation. In some cases, she said, announcements to the class requesting volunteer note-takers are not made. 

Siewrattan called on the university to improve the program by increasing funding for Accessibility Services programs. “The volunteer note-taking program would be improved if Accessibility Services were given more funding by the university. There is currently one person who runs the note-taking program with a few work-study students assisting. At UTSC and UTM, the accessibility offices are given more resources to staff the volunteer note-taking program, which aids in the efficiency and effectiveness of the program,” she said.

Siewrattan also recommended that instructors undergo equity training to better understand the needs of students who are disabled or injured. 

Other students, like Rahul*, a third-year engineering student, offered their own solutions to the program’s perceived problems. “If you could make it a paid position, more people would step up,” Rahul said. 

Rahul added that providing quality parameters, or even having the professors or TAs look over the notes being provided, would greatly improve the program’s functionality and ensure that the notes being taken are adequate.

Currently, the incentive for volunteers is a certificate of appreciation. There are also no guidelines that encourage instructors to ensure the notes being given out are adequate. 

At UTM and UTSC, prospective volunteer note-taker notes are first required to submit sample notes to the student requesting notes, so that they can choose a note-taker with a similar learning style. 

Similar programs are also available at other universities, including York University, which requires that prospective volunteer note-takers have a B average, at minimum.

*Name changed at students’ request.

Crying out for change

U of T needs to make a public, principled commitment to eliminating sexual violence

Crying out for change

Earlier this month, several orientation leaders from Carleton University were photographed wearing tank tops that said “Fuck Safe Space.” The crude slogan was chosen to poke fun at recent attempts on the part of university administrations across the country to establish and protect safe spaces on campus in response to sexual assault and harassment. This scandal is one of the many recent incidents that have sparked concerns about sexual violence on Canada’s university campuses. 

Last year, three McGill University football players faced charges of forcible confinement and sexual assault with a weapon, while six related sexual assaults occurred at the University of British Columbia (UBC). UBC and St. Mary’s University also came under fire for their frosh chants, which encouraged non-consensual sex. Just last month, two University of Ottawa hockey players were indicted for sexual assault. 

It is unsurprising, then, that the Ontario Women’s Directorate reports that 15 to 25 per cent of college and university-aged women will experience some form of sexual assault during their academic career. Of course, no one is denying that men are victims of sexual violence too, but it is important to note sexual assault is a gender-based crime. Statistics Canada has reported that women represent 87 per cent of sexual assault victims, while 97 per cent of persons accused of sexual offences were male. This phenomenon can be traced back to various entrenched historical social norms, such as viewing women’s bodies as sexual objects, aggression as fundamental to masculine identity, women’s virginity as a prize, and so on.

I assume most students accept that sexual violence is a pervasive gender-based crime, because the statistics and anecdotes are easy enough to Google. In fact, I feel my peers have been increasingly aware and vocal, showing solidarity through rallies like SlutWalk and Take Back the Night. In particular, I applaud our student leaders for eliminating discriminatory frosh chants. Their actions represent an obvious recognition of the problem, and a dedication to solving it.

Such student-driven endeavors are necessary, but insufficient for ensuring social change. While students’ awareness is integral to solving problems of sexual violence, more should be done to make sure this movement does not lose momentum. Top-down administrative changes must occur in order to complement and bolster student activism. 

In particular, the university needs to make a public, principled commitment to eliminating sexual violence. It should not take a high profile sexual assault case to prompt us into hastily convening a working group on sexual harassment procedures, like in UBC or McGill. The administration needs to assert its leadership and act now.

Currently, U of T is rolling out a new bystander intervention program, while offering resources for sexual violence survivors through the Campus Safety Office, Sexual Harassment Office, and Ask First Campaign. While these programs are admirable, the university lacks an updated, formal policy that outlines standards of behavior regarding sexual violence.

The most relevant existing policy concerns sexual harassment exclusively, and was published in 1997. Its definition of sexual harassment is only a subset of sexual violence, and thus fails to explicitly address more diverse issues of stalking, molestation, voyeurism, cyber-violence, and rape. The university would benefit from a new policy that specifically acknowledges the broadness of sexual violence, to ensure that all victims understand they can receive due process. Indeed, the Ontario Government recommends such a plan in their 2013 university resource guide, Developing a Response to Sexual Violence. 

The new policy should also emphasize survivor rights. Given the persistent stigma around sexual violence, many survivors stay silent for fear of reprisal and disbelief. Indeed, Statistics Canada’s latest General Social Survey results show that 88 per cent of sexual assaults go unreported. As such, the policy should emphasize that survivors will be believed and treated with respect, confidentiality, and compassion; creating a safer space from which to pursue due legal process.

To promote accountability, the policy could also model itself after Yale University and mandate yearly reports, which summarize sexual violence complaints and their outcomes. The privacy of individuals involved should of course be respected, but the complaints procedure would be transparent otherwise. This practice would raise awareness of available complaint options, and publicly record the university’s progress in combatting sexual violence. 

While it is undeniably difficult to enforce such a policy, the university’s formal commitment has enormous symbolic significance already. Creating a sexual violence policy shows that the administration, much like our orientation leaders, is recognizing a problem and recognizing its responsibility to solve it. This action would show solidarity with the student movement and validate survivors’ experiences. This in turn would give students more confidence to continue agitating for change, because we would have the university’s formal authority to rely on.

As powerful as student activism can be, the administration holds significant institutional power over us — they make rules we have to follow. In the fight against sexual violence, then, the university has a responsibility to use its exclusive policy-making capabilities in order to fuel important social change.

Victoria Wicks is a second-year student at Trinity College studying political science and philosophy. 

“From regulatory issues, to discrimination, to cultural differences”

International students struggle with complex work regulations

“From regulatory issues, to discrimination, to cultural differences”

Even with recent changes that streamline the process, international students continue to struggle with complex work regulations. Unlike domestic students who do not need extra paperwork to work on or off campus, international students have always had to take an extra step to obtain the same work opportunities.

As of June 1, international students with a full-time registration status and valid study permit looking for off-campus work do not need to apply for a work permit. Instead, they need a Social Insurance Number (SIN), the application for which can be completed at any Service Canada office. 

An international student who wants to work in Canada usually needs to fulfill three requirements before he or she can apply for a SIN. The student must be a full-time student, with a valid study permit, and enrolled in a program that will last for more than six months. Additionally, international students can only work up to a maximum of 20 hours per week during the school year and full-time during scheduled breaks, although they can extend these hours by simultaneously working an on-campus job. 

According to a statement on the Government of Canada website, the recent changes “reduce the potential for fraud or misuse of the program while protecting Canada’s international reputation for high-quality education and improving services to genuine students.”

“Struggle to secure meaningful work”

Andrew Langille, a Toronto-based labour lawyer focused on youth employment, said that the employment picture for many international students is dismal. “From regulatory issues, to discrimination to cultural differences, it can be quite a struggle to secure meaningful work.”

Langille said that international students are increasingly exploited for their labour. “Often, Canadian employers discriminate against people from other countries and people simply won’t be granted an interview. International students in Toronto are increasingly being forced to work ‘off-the books’ in the manufacturing industry in the northern part of the GTA without being granted the usual protections that employees receive,” he said.

Maiko Mitsuhashi, a third-year international student, said that the job application process is often difficult to navigate for international students. “I think many international students are repelled from jobs because they are not familiar with the Canadian job application process and often have not been exposed to part-time work in high school, as was the case with me,” she said.

Langille agreed that it was important for international students to familiarize themselves with the Canadian labour market and workplace practices before beginning a job search. 

Eros Grinzato, secretary of the newly founded International Students Association (iNSA), and Marine Lefebvre and Mary Githumbi, iNSA co-presidents, said,that apart from the Centre for International Experience (CIE), U of T does little to accommodate its 10,276 international students.  

“This is, in fact, why we founded the iNSA: to help fellow international students and provide them with the much-needed services to allow them to smoothly settle down in Canada”, they said in a joint statement. 

Althea Blackburn-Evans, U of T director of media relations, said that the rapid rise in international students over the years has increased the need for additional, specialized services for international students.  

Apart from the CIE, Blackburn-Evans cited a number of other services that the university provides for international students, including immigration and transition advice, intercultural and learning strategies support, UHIP, orientation programs, peer mentorship, English communication classes, income tax clinics, and social and networking events. 

Benefits of international experience

Hailey Wang, a Rotman Commerce student who is a Canadian citizen of Chinese origin, said that, despite her citizenship, many employers still see her as foreign. Wang said that this perception has proven to be both beneficial and disadvantageous for job prospects. 

Wang said that international experience is often perceived as beneficial in the increasingly globalized economic environment. “Although I’m not actually international, most of my work experience do[es] come from abroad, and since applications don’t necessarily ask you about your nationality, employers tend to assume where I’m from and make decisions based on those assumptions,” she said. 

On the other hand, Wang said, some applications are rejected because of confusion over work eligibility. “Applications will always ask you if you work here legally, but even if you did work here legally, your perceived international status sends off the impression that you’re going to leave, and because of that, they’re less likely to hire you,” she added.

For her part, Mitsuhashi said that her international experience enhanced her job prospects. “When the interviewer asks me to explain my background, I like to explain how my experiences living in different places have affected myself and my skills. I believe that this is one of the skills that set[s] me apart from other job applicants and is a great opportunity to highlight my strengths,” she said.  

Wang echoed Mitsuhashi’s sentiment, saying that her work experience and living experiences in different places made her appear more “cultured” to employers. 

Defining international

Lefebvre said that the group’s definition of an “international student” is broad and that lumping all international students into one category can be problematic. “We like to think of international as identifying with more than one place,” said Lefebvre, adding: “You might be a Canadian but have gone to a school in a different country. Or maybe you lived abroad and only came to Canada for university.” 

Grinzato echoed Lefebvre’s sentiment saying, “There are actually many students here who don’t pay international student fees but are still international. This could be because they have lived all their life outside Canada, schooled abroad, but have a parent who’s Canadian or holds a work visa. It’s a loosely defined concept.”

U of T’s culture of silence breeds a culture of complicity

What U of T can learn from the US about campus sexual assault

U of T’s culture of silence breeds a culture of complicity

U of T claims that only two students were sexually assaulted at the St. George campus in 2013. Does that make any sense to you? It shouldn’t.

Consider this: the United States Department of Justice found that twenty per cent of female university students were sexually assaulted at least once while completing a four-year degree. According to Statistics Canada, 51 per cent of Canadian women have been sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, and those assaults are more likely to happen to young women at university. 

So does it make any sense that only two students were sexually assaulted at St. George out of a total of 51,203? Maybe U of T is singularly capable when it comes to protecting its students — or maybe U of T is hoping the problem will go away by simply pretending that it doesn’t exist. 

Last March, U of T students were assaulted between the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and the St. George subway station. One student, who requested that campus police investigate the incident, or at least occasionally patrol the area at night, was told that being a few feet away from OISE — and thus technically off campus — meant there was nothing campus police could do.

Just last week, we were reminded of campus police’s tragic ineffectiveness when a U of T professor was stabbed in his office — despite having reported his stalker to campus police.

When it comes to sexual assault though, it’s not just campus police who are failing to protect students. U of T administration hasn’t updated their sexual harassment policy since 1997, and it only applies if the assault happened on campus or the student was engaged in a university-related activity. The story of James Andrew Payne — who taught at the Faculty of Architecture for over a year after being arrested for sexual assault before the university became aware and began investigating — illustrates that the university is, to put it mildly, not exactly on top of things. 

There is a better way. The United States has finally realized that sexual assault is a massive problem on university campuses for many reasons, but the fact that we don’t talk about it makes it more likely to happen. Over the past several months the US government has crafted a star-studded publicity campaign led by Daniel Craig, Benicio Del Toro, and Barack Obama to encourage dialogue on the issue

Our culture of silence breeds a culture of complicity. Don’t believe me? Consider the fact that 60 per cent of men in university said they would commit sexual assault if they were certain they wouldn’t get caught. If that’s not something we need to talk about as a university, I don’t know what is. 

There are common sense reforms that U of T could implement: we only have to look to what the United States is in the middle of mandating for all post-secondary institutions. We could institute surveys to gauge how many students are actually sexually assaulted; after all, self-reporting is notoriously ineffective. We could establish a victim’s advocate that keeps information confidential and helps students navigate the labyrinthine systems of support that do exist at the university. Perhaps most importantly, we should not only talk about how potential victims can protect themselves, but also about how bystanders can make a difference — and hammer home what should happen to perpetrators. 

Working at The Varsity last year, I interviewed five students who were sexually assaulted while attending U of T. They all tried to go to campus police, or Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS), or some other university agency. They were all met with that toxic combination of indifference and incompetence that so many U of T students have faced. We never ended up running a story, but their stories stuck with me. Most of those students had some personal connection to the paper — they made me wonder how many students who don’t know someone at the paper are out there.

So, to return to the original question: does the number two make any sense? Of course it doesn’t. The fiction that only two students were sexually assaulted last year is emblematic of the larger problem. If U of T gets to claim that only two sexual assaults happened on campus last year, then the university gets to claim that there isn’t a problem with sexual assault on campus. 

Do you know a student who was sexually assaulted while at U of T? If you don’t, ask your female friends. They do. 

It’s often said that the first step in changing the discussion around sexual assault is to talk about it. So please, let’s start talking about it. 

Zane Schwartz is a fourth-year student who writes for The Globe and Mail and Maclean’s. He was The Varsity‘s news editor last year.

Correction: An earlier version of this article used the figure 57,795 as the current enrolment at U of T St. George. This figure is the current year’s enrolment whereas this article references last year’s total enrolment (2013-2014) which is 51,203. Additionally, the phrase “victim’s advocacy organization” has been replaced by the more accurate, “victim’s advocate” which is currently being used in the United States as part of the advocacy campaign mentioned in the article. All errors occurred during the editing process.

Arts & Science students sought after at the Hatchery

The entrepreneurship Hatchery offers numerous resources to enterprising undergrads

Arts & Science students sought after at the Hatchery

“I’ve already had two companies and failed,” are not the words that you’d expect to come out of the mouth of an undergraduate student. With the constant pressure to hand in essays, finish assignments, and get as close to that 4.0 GPA as you possibly can, starting businesses is not the first thing on a lot of U of T students’ minds. Yet what a lot of Arts & Science undergraduates have not realized is that in the eyes of investors, we are an abundant source of untapped potential. 

The Hatchery is hoping to help students not just see but also realize their potential. Founded two and a half years ago, the Hatchery is an initiative that provides resources for undergraduates who possess the spirit of entrepreneurship, aiming to build a strong community for business-minded students from all disciplines.

The Hatchery offers a weekly event, the Idea Market, where prospective student-entrepreneurs can meet to discuss ideas and share skills and experiences with their peers in a creative environment. The first Idea Market was held on September 17 at the Bahen Centre.

Affaf Zahid, a Hatchery Connector, admitted at the event that a large portion of the undergraduate student body remains unaware of the Hatchery’s existence.

“We are trying to make a point that this is accessible, because I am personally an English major and I didn’t know about the Hatchery until I started working here. Most people don’t,” Zahid explained. According to Zahid, a disconnect exists between the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and the Faculty of Arts & Science. She believes Arts & Science students are hesitant to get involved due to the Hatchery’s involvement with the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

U of T has many students, especially in programs such as the humanities, who would never consider building or contributing to a successful start-up, due to the mistaken belief that compared to engineering and computer science, their programs of study don’t prepare them for taking on startups. Yet Zahid explained how it is precisely the need for multidisciplinary teams that leads the Hatchery to not just welcome, but actively seek out Arts & Science students.

“We have had a lot of teams with people who were just engineers who had amazing ideas but just did not know how to articulate [them] properly,” said Zahid. Teams with students from a variety of disciplines set the students up for success with well rounded ideas, and better thought-out propositions.

Idea Markets are held every Wednesday at the Bahen Centre all year long, so as to help any and all students who have a bright idea mingle, connect, and form teams to kick start a business plan as soon as possible.