Soup to Nuts

Inside campus’s sustainable, socially conscious Harvest Noon Café

Soup to Nuts

Tucked away near the southwest corner of campus, down the quiet enclave that holds the Department of Earth Sciences and the Multi-Faith Centre, a small, unassuming building houses the Graduate Students’ Union. On the first floor, there is a small, pleasant pub and a neglected gymnasium. Climbing the stairs to the second floor, the mood completely changes.

The space opens to a bright café, illuminated by sunlight and decorated in a piecemeal fashion — a juxtaposition of mismatched wooden tables and chairs and inviting cushions, with drawings of vegetables adorning the walls.

A map of southern Ontario occupies a portion of a chalkboard wall. Lines radiate from Toronto to the farms outside of the city from which the café’s fresh produce arrives. It is an inviting space, welcoming patrons from the chill of winter.

A handwritten menu outlines the week’s features. The standard meal is the Bumper Crop, which offers a main of either black bean and butternut squash mash or hot beet borscht, both accompanied by a seasonal salad, home-baked bread, and hummus spread, all for around five dollars. If you can’t decide which main you’d like, you can get the Double Bumper.

Harvest Noon is one of U of T’s last well-kept secrets. The establishment celebrated its three-year anniversary just last week with a dessert potluck. Harvest Noon board member Jessica Denyer describes it as a “student and community run vegan co-op café,” mainly operated through volunteer work.

In addition to their main dishes, you can purchase salads, soups, fruit, baked goods, and fair-trade coffee and tea. These options cost anywhere from $2 to $7, depending on the combination. Take-out containers can be purchased for $0.50, though the atmosphere of the café is a significant part of the dining experience.

The fare is versatile; the hearty cornmeal soup, the baked bean potato mash, and the potato latkes have been popular menu items this year. Desserts at Harvest Noon are delightful and portable. Cakes and cobblers are the most common and are almost always gluten-free.

The food and the space are the product of dedicated staff. To consistently create satisfying and enjoyable meals with locally sourced produce in the middle of the Canadian winter seems like a challenging goal, but it is one that Harvest Noon consistently achieves. According to staff, the method is simple: planning, many test runs, and lots of grains and legumes.

“We have to test a recipe out, so, you know, we know that it wouldn’t fail,” explains staff member Chechi Liu. Some dishes need to be jazzed up, she says, because winter seasonal vegetables can lack colour.


Originally founded in 2011 by the student group Hot Yam!, Harvest Noon’s official name is the Toronto Sustainable Food Co-operative — a more informative, though less inviting, moniker. The café, as Denyer notes, “operate(s) from a broad environmental justice mandate,” which translates into a belief that there is no environmental justice without social justice.

As part of that mandate, the café aims to provide information and education to others. “A big part is education, events, and providing a space for groups,” Denyer explains.

The volunteers that run Harvest Noon are invaluable, and many start out as customers. Their contributions are essential; invested volunteers lighten the workload at the café, contributing to the relaxed atmosphere for staff and patrons.

“It’s a good working environment that provides students with different skills and a place to hang out,” Liu says.

Volunteer shifts last two hours and include a free meal. A team of almost 30 volunteers works with five staff members and the Board of Directors to oversee the operations.

The co-op is fuelled by a shared interest in vegan, healthy, and sustainable food options, all of which are largely unavailable across the St. George campus.

Liu acknowledges the challenges of engaging visitors with the café’s wider mission. Unsurprisingly, he noted that the people who learn the most are usually the ones who want to.

“It’s more done on a personal level, sort of felt by volunteers when they feel empowered to take the issue into their own hands,” he says, adding, “We sort of provide an environment to help with that.”

The challenges are clear. “Obviously I wish there were more passion and programming going on, but limited resources are a big hurdle,” says Liu. When asked if Harvest Noon would ever expand to a bigger space on campus, Liu was uncertain, saying it would mean a bigger investment on the co-op’s part.

For now, however, it seems that the space is serving Harvest Noon very well. Every day, the small café is filled by 1:00 pm, and the kitchen is usually out of at least one main by closing time at 2:00 pm.


Harvest Noon’s food comes primarily from the distributor 100 km Foods. The focus is on locally sourced food to optimize freshness, support local farmers, and reduce the co-op’s carbon footprint as much as possible.

“It feels really nice to have that immediate support and most of the produce is of amazing quality, and is stuff that you can rarely find in stores, which is a bit strange,” Liu says.

This support is part of a symbiotic relationship. Small-scale farms, dependent on seasonal growing, are unable to provide for the varied and specific needs of large-scale restaurants year-round. As much as places like Harvest Noon are dependent on local farmers, the local farmers rely on seasonal, rotating menus like the one found at the café.

Before choosing to work with 100 km Foods, Liu did his research. “I actually went and located all the different farms on Google Maps, and there’s a lot in the Niagara Region, vinegar from a Niagara vinery, a few in the west [of Ontario]… it’s quite a big variety,” explains Liu.

For some ingredients, extra-regional sourcing is necessary. These include wheat and legumes, which are grown in the prairies.

A benefit of locally sourced food is its diversity and quality. “Quality is an issue, just how standardized everything has to be in a lot of grocery stores. A lot of the things we get are not as sparklingly clean as you’d get in the stores,” Liu explains. He adds that a major cause of food waste is the tendency to discard food based on physical appearance alone.

With this approach comes more transparency. The produce used by Harvest Noon is all guaranteed to be organic and GMO-free, and often has a Local Food Plus certification. Local Food Plus certifications indicate a commitment to social consciousness in addition to environmentally friendly farming.

“They pay fair wages to their workers,” Liu explains, adding, “We try to get as much food as we can from them.”
The staff has plans to bring its sourcing even closer to home. When staff members can’t order an item locally, they stop by Kensington Market to buy “odds and ends.”

“We can’t say all our food is local, because some of our seasoning items aren’t as local as we can get. But we’re working on that. We’re considering harvesting Sumac,” Liu notes.


Community is important to Harvest Noon’s mission as a socially conscious café. The management of the café is collaborative and co-op oriented. It takes only five dollars or two volunteer shifts to become a member for life and join the ranks of over 1400 others. Membership gets you discounted menu items and participation rights in general meetings.

The space itself can be rented for group use, but the café also collaborates with campus groups. Recently, its neighbour, BikeChain, held an event focused on “healthy, nutritious, to-go food” for cyclists on extended trips.

One of Harvest Noon’s closest collaborative projects is with Dig In!, the campus agricultural network that is dedicated to small-scale, sustainable food production. Harvest Noon works with Dig In!’s local plots to grow herbs and preserve them by drying them for use throughout the winter.

Harvest Noon also works with local groups like the Toronto Seed Library (TSL), an initiative also founded by U of T grads. Its work is “collecting expired seed from stores, or actually even go directly into seed companies and get their expired seed,” says Liu.

Despite expiration dates on packaging, most of the seed in a package is often still viable — the TSL collects and redistributes these to the public for free.

Liu explains, “They call it a library because the idea is that you should get a seed and plant it, and return more seed in the next season.”


It is common to find many politically and socially conscious minds among the students at U of T. Yet, few on-campus food options can claim to be inexpensive, vegan, organic, healthy-minded, locally sourced, or sustainable. Harvest Noon is all those things, and consistently delicious too.

Though much of Harvest Noon’s charm comes from its relative anonymity and the unique experience it affords, ultimately, the café wants to increase its promotion and community engagement. Even with all of its wonderful offerings, Liu says, “Surprisingly, people still haven’t heard of us.”

In the future, the Harvest Noon staff would like to see increased programming, including workshops and events. They currently offer menu planning and bread-making opportunities, and Liu wants to increase preserving and pickling of fruits and vegetables in the off-season.

The café’s charm is certainly undeniable. Spending time immersed in the smells of squash mash and fresh-baked bread is a blissful retreat from the winds billowing outside on campus in the February cold.

   Try these fresh, locally sourced recipes to warm up this winter!

Recipes and photos by Malone Mullin

Warm Kale Salad
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 30 min



This salad features winter root vegetables grown in Ontario.

6 cups shredded kale, stems removed
1 butternut squash, peeled, gutted, and diced
1 large beet, scrubbed and diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mango chipotle or Raspberry vinaigrette

1. Heat oven to 375º F.
2. Toss squash and beet with oil in large bowl until lightly coated. Season with salt and pepper. Lay in single layer on baking sheet; cook for 30 minutes or until softened, turning once.
3. When cooked, roast walnuts in single layer for 2-4 minutes until lightly toasted.
4. Add slightly damp kale to large pot on medium-low heat. Blanch kale, stirring often, until cooked through; about 5 minutes. Blot with towel to remove excess water.
5. Add all ingredients in large salad bowl and toss with dressing of choice. Serves 4.

Black Bean Burger (with Vegan Mayo)
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 20 min

HI-DEF BURGARBlack beans are grown in Ontario and Michigan and are sold year-round. This burger is topped with kale sprouts fresh from farms in the GTA.

Burger Patty:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup grated carrot or zucchini
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup (approx.) breadcrumbs or pulverized crackers
1 flax egg (see below for directions)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oven to 425 F.
2. To make flax egg, whisk 3 tbsp ground flax with 1/2 cup warm water in a small dish.
3. Leave mixture in fridge for at least 20 minutes, or until it reaches an egg-like consistency.
4. Mash the beans in a large bowl with a fork. Leave some of the beans intact for texture.
5. Mix in onion, almond, carrot or zucchini, and seasonings. Add flax egg; stir to combine.
6. Add breadcrumbs until consistency of patty mixture is just wet enough to hold together.
7. Form into patties and place on greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and firm in the middle.

Vegan Mayo:
1 pound silken tofu
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp regular mustard
1/4 cup almond or soy milk
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Sriracha or chipotle hot sauce (optional)

1. Add ingredients to blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Strike looms

Significant issues remain between union and university as strike deadline approaches

Strike looms

On February 27, University of Toronto students could arrive to a school on strike, with picket lines dotting the campus, and all tutorials and about half of lectures cancelled.

A strike will be a reality if the university and the union representing some 7,000 teaching assistants, sessional lecturers, and other academic staff are unable to come to a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement — a prospect that seems increasingly likely according to union negotiators.

“There is a widespread feeling that we are not where we need to be in order to realistically get a contract, and there isn’t a plausible way to see getting there given the time, and given how much the employer has dragged its feet, and given how few dates we have left,” says Ryan Culpepper, chief negotiator for CUPE 3902 Unit 1, which has approximately 6,000 members, made up of mostly teaching assistants, but also including a number of other student academic staff.

Unit 1 members voted in favour of a strike mandate in November 2014.

“It is not going well,” Culpepper says in reference to the negotiations.

Erin Black, co-chief negotiator for Unit 3, which represents sessional lecturers and other non-student academic staff, and chair of the union local, echoes this sentiment.

“I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I do wonder logistically how that can be done in only three bargaining days because we have a number of things that are still outstanding,” says Black. “In terms of content of an agreement that would be acceptable to our membership, that is going to be also challenging to achieve.”

The results of a strike vote for Unit 3 were announced on January 27, with 92.1 per cent in favour of striking if no agreement is in place after the February 26 deadline.

Black says that Unit 3 is made up of around 1,000 members who collectively teach upwards of 700 courses.

Both Culpepper and Black say that only three more bargaining meetings are scheduled between the university and each unit, and that, so far, the university has been unwilling to add additional meetings.

When asked if the university is unwilling to add more negotiating dates, Angela Hildyard, U of T vice-president of human resources and equity, did not directly respond. “Please be assured that the University is actively involved in negotiations and is committed to reaching agreements with CUPE 3902 Units 1 and 3 that are responsive to the issues CUPE has raised, and that are responsible in light of the University’s challenging fiscal realities,” she says.

Although both Units 1 and 3 are currently mandated to strike, the possibility exists that the university could come to an agreement with one of the units while another takes to the picket lines.


Both Culpepper and Black say that the university is pushing for net-zero increase in the total dollar value of the deal. This means that any increase in compensation would likely have to be offset by a takeaway of equal value somewhere else in the contract.

Culpepper claims that university negotiators told Unit 1 that a “directive from the provincial government” states that, as a public employer, U of T is “not permitted to negotiate net financial increases of any kind with public employee groups.”

Unit 3 was allegedly told something similar. “[The university] said that they believe they are restricted in what they can do, money wise,” says Black, adding that university representatives have been pointing to the last provincial budget and to a 2012 mandate from former finance minister Dwight Duncan.

Neither of the negotiators feel this is accurate. Culpepper believes that there is no obligation to hold the line at zero because the majority of university funding does not come from the government.

Black says that the province has only limited additional funding, and that they have not interfered with institutions granting increases if they already have the money to do so. “Since U of T has posted a surplus in the last two years, it is certainly 3902’s perspective that they have money in the operating budget to grant increases,” she says.

When asked about a provincial directive and whether a net-zero increase is a hard line in negotiations, university representatives did not provide specific answers.

The University of Toronto is forecast to have a net income of $194.4 million in the 2014–2015 financial year, university administration said during last week’s Business Board meeting.

May Nazar, team leader for Issues Management and Media Relations at the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, was asked if any and what kind of directions the provincial government had given U of T. “Our 2014 Budget made it clear — we will not provide any new money for compensation increases,” she says.

“We have been clear with our partners that any additional compensation costs must be found within existing funding, while ensuring that service levels continue to meet public needs,” she adds.

Nazar says that the provincial government is providing assistance during the negotiation process, but adds that the agreement is ultimately up to the two parties.

“Ontario universities are autonomous institutions with responsibility for their own labour relations and human resource issues, including collective bargaining,” she says.


Significant issues remain to be negotiated, with the most prominent being pay, benefits, and job security.
Sessional lecturers have a variegated pay scale, but Black says the average is around $7,500 per course they teach, and that they have been on a pay freeze since August 2012.

Black also says that sessional lecturers are currently teaching some 750 classes at U of T and administer 35 per cent of undergraduate education at the university.

Sessional instructors also face uncertainty as to where their next job will come from. They operate on per-course contracts and are pushing for greater certainty in the hiring process.

“Sessional lecturers are frequently hired sometimes as little as two weeks or one week before a course actually starts,” says Black, who went on to say that this can have real impacts in the classroom. “This past year I didn’t get access to a Blackboard page until two days into a term, for example.”

Culpepper says the average yearly take-home pay of Unit 1 members is $15,000 a year, plus waiver of tuition fees. Any external awards or scholarships lower the funding or revoke the tuition waiver.

“I can tell you what would get us to an agreement,” he says, adding, “An increase to the overall minimum level of funding… right now we have been told that is impossible and there has been no increase since 2008. An increase to our benefit funds, at least to the level of long term sustainability… And some kind of tuition credit or tuition relief for unfunded members.”


If a strike happens, bargaining will continue and so will many classes, according to an information session held by CUPE 3902 to reach out to students last week.

Yolen Bollo-Kamara, president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), says that, while the UTSU has taken no official position, the union would like to see the university bargain in good faith.

“We hope that the University and CUPE 3902 are able to reach compromise and avert a strike,” she says.

“If there is a strike, I would encourage students to demand that the University prioritize reaching [a] compromise expeditiously and compensate students for any lost class hours,” she adds.

For her part, Hildyard says that the university will update all members of the U of T community of any future developments that impact students.

University forecasts net income of $194.4 million for 2014–2015

The biannual report was presented at a Business Board meeting on January 26

University forecasts net income of $194.4 million for 2014–2015

The University of Toronto is forecast to have a net income of $194.4 million for the 2014–2015 fiscal year, university administration said during last week’s Business Board meeting.

The prediction is based on projections from revenues and expenditures from the university’s operating, ancillary, capital, and restricted funds. It also takes into account the net assets from the beginning to the end of the year, as well as a remeasurement of the pension benefits.

The projection assumes a 7.3 per cent return on the university’s investments. However, even if the return were to be only 3.0 per cent, the university would still expect a net income of $174.2 million.

When asked by the board about the need for the remeasurement of pension benefits, which cost $277 million, Sheila Brown, the university’s chief financial officer, cited longer Canadian life expectancy as the reason to account for these changes in benefits.

“In the case of Canada, studies have been done and found out that we are living longer than we used to and in many cases, longer than we were predicted by actuaries to live,” Brown says, adding, “So a lot of changes have to be made to the longevity assumptions.”

Brown also mentioned that employees in the public sector are estimated to live longer than employees in the private sector.

Last year’s operating fund deficit of $14.5 million is expected to drop to $5.7 million. According to the report, the university’s operating fund had been budgeted to be balanced by the end of this fiscal year. However, the university has received $11.4 million less in government grants than expected.

Debt strategy

A review of the university’s debt also shows that the university’s current debt burden ratio, calculated as the principal plus interest divided by total expenditures, stands at 3.8 per cent — lower than the debt policy limit set at five per cent as part of the new debt strategy put in place in 2012. The ratio is used as an indicator of debt affordability; the lower the ratio, the more affordable the debt.

The current debt strategy was approved in 2012 to account for the need for debt financing while still maintaining appropriate “financial parameters” for the university. According to the debt strategy, the debt policy limit is calculated annually with a debt burden ratio of five per cent, taking into consideration a 0.8 viability ratio, defined as expendable resources divided by total debt.

A 0.8 viability ratio, should it have to do so by the end of the fiscal year, means that the university can pay off 80 per cent of the total outstanding debt.

The university is currently reporting a moderate debt burden ratio of 3.8 and a robust viability ratio of 1.17. Most of the university’s debt is external and 98.7 per cent of it is in debentures, issuing bonds.

These debentures pay out fixed interest rates biannually, with repayment of the principal scheduled for between 2031 and 2051.

A Long-Term Borrowing Pool (LTBP) was created by the university as funds to go towards repayment of the debentures principal. As of April 30, 2014, the LTBP had accumulated $162.2 million towards repaying the $710 million principal.

The review notes that, while the university’s debt burden is high compared to other Canadian universities, it is lower than the median among American universities with the same credit rating.

The debt strategy review was accompanied by a credit report from the credit ratings agency Moody’s. According to the report, the university’s current rating of Aa2 Stable reflects “[its] solid operating performance and operating cash flow generation despite continued operating pressures, a moderate debt burden and strong balance sheet.”

The report also cites pressures such as inflation and provincial regulations limiting annual increases in tuition fees to three per cent, as well as unfunded pension liabilities, as future credit challenges.

The board asked Brown whether the change of outlook of the provincial government’s credit rating would affect the university’s credit outlook. She referred to a report from Moody’s that identified the impact of the province’s negative outlook on institutions that were tied to it. The university was counted among those whose outlook would not be affected by the province’s performance. The board commented that this reflected “the diminishing dependence on the province.”

Boundless outlook

David Palmer, the university’s vice-president, advancement, also presented the annual report on the Boundless campaign at the meeting.

The fundraising campaign was launched in November 2011 with a goal of $2 billion by 2017.

Palmer described the number of alumni being engaged in programming, like the Spring Reunion, student mentorship, and philanthropic support as a “rising tide.” To date, the campaign has raised over $1.5 billion.

Riley McCullough to serve as vice president, university affairs

Revised Articles of Continuance, tabled motions also pass at Board of Directors meeting

Riley McCullough to serve as vice president, university affairs

Riley McCullough is the new University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) vice president, university affairs (VPUA). McCullough was one of two shortlisted candidates chosen from a total of six applications.

Pierre Harfouche, who held the office for five months, resigned at the end of last semester. He was the first candidate from a non-incumbent slate to win a UTSU election in close to a decade.

McCullough and fellow candidate Yadesha Satheaswaran, former president of the Equity Studies Students’ Union, presented their platforms to the Board of Directors last Friday. Afterwards, each presenter answered questions from the floor.

Following an in-camera deliberation and a vote by secret ballot, McCullough was declared the winner and a motion in favour of her appointment was passed.

From Sustainability Commissioner to VPUA

Yolen Bollo-Kamara, president of the UTSU, said that she is looking forward to working with McCullough and praised both candidates as “fantastic.”

McCullough was the UTSU’s sustainability commissioner before she applied for the VPUA position. She says that sustainability falls under the purview of the VPUA, so she is excited to continue the work she accomplished. “I’m looking forward to working with the board and fellow students on the important issues that play a direct role in their lives as students,” McCullough says.

McCullough highlighted lobbying the university to divest from fossil fuels as a key priority.

McCullough also says she wants to advocate for greater student involvement in developing and rolling out the Student Mental Health Strategy, and to work with students in each faculty to explore potential options for a fall reading week or break.

“I also hope to help ensure the approval of the student commons project… [and] to begin work with the administration on the new food services contract, ensuring that students’ voices are taken into account in this process,” she says.
Aware of her shortened term in office, McCullough says she aims to communicate with students to see what they want addressed. “Through increased outreach and consultation with our members, I will be able to gain further insight into the issues most important to students at each college, faculty and campus, and find opportunities to strengthen relationships and collaborate with their respective student societies or unions,” she says.

“At minimum, I will be able to compile information to effectively lobby the administration and lay groundwork that can be built upon by future executives,” she adds.

Other Agenda Items

In addition to choosing the new VPUA, the Board of Directors also passed a motion to file revised Articles of Continuance. The union needs the articles to transition from the Canada Corporations Act to the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act.

The articles were revised following a Notice of Deficiency issued to the union on December 1, 2014.

The UTSU received a Notice of Deficiency because the minimum number of directors on the board did not match Corporations Canada’s records, and the UTSU did not file the description of its classes of membership properly.
According to Sandra Hudson, UTSU executive director, 40 per cent of organizations that submit a transition request receive a Notice of Deficiency.

Bollo-Kamara says that the Articles of Continuance have been revised to state that the minimum number of directors is 35, and to clarify that the UTSU has one class of membership consisting of all UTSU members, as per the UTSU bylaws.
Also discussed at the Board of Directors meeting was the What’s Missing? campaign launched by the UTSU last Wednesday. The campaign kicked off with a townhall meeting in which students were invited to suggest ways in which the UTSU could improve as a union.

The townhall did not include discussion of the UTSU Board of Directors restructuring, an issue that continues to garner attention since the controversial proposal put forward by the UTSU was defeated at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in October. Bollo-Kamara says that the What’s Missing? initiative is related to the conversations surrounding the Board of Directors structure.

“We want to hear feedback from students at-large and from current Board members about how best we can serve and represent them. We hope this will inform policy discussions and allow more students to be involved in creating a representative structure for the Board of Directors and shaping the direction of their students’ union,” Bollo-Kamara says.

Motions on the move

The Board of Directors considered several motions tabled from the last Board of Directors meeting, which were in turn set to be discussed at the AGM, which was abruptly adjourned.

Five motions moved by Zach Morgenstern, one of two Victoria College directors, were passed. These included motions to mobilize the anti-war coalition, to hold a Drop Fees Day of Action, to monitor “weed-out” courses, to research a campaign for more accessible on-campus housing, and to improve communication.

Cameron Wathey, UTSU vice-president, internal and services, moved a motion to support international students, which also passed.

Motions that appeared on the order of business at the AGM but have yet to be discussed at a Board of Directors meeting have done so because all motions died on the floor at the adjournment of the AGM.

Bollo-Kamara says that such motions can be served or resubmitted at any time to the Board of Directors or to be voted on by the membership at the next AGM.

Video shows man threatening students at SCSU offices

Incident, posted online, appears to involve divestment poster materials

A video posted to YouTube on Monday, January 27 shows a man apparently entering the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) offices and demanding the removal of posters supporting the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

“I want this sign down right now because that’s a hate crime. If you don’t remove this sign… I will call the police and charge you guys with hate crime,” the unidentified man is heard saying in the video, which is filmed from a first-person perspective.

The BDS campaign asks the university to cease investment in companies that are allegedly complicit in war crimes in Palestine.

The SCSU approved a motion in April 2013 to lobby the university on behalf of the BDS campaign.
The video was posted by an account called equity472.

An open letter, addressed to the University of Toronto and the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM), is included in the video’s description.

The letter demands divestment from a list of companies and asks, “Why do our tuition dollars continue to fund ‘israel’s’ [sic] colonization and ethnic cleansing of Palestine?”

The letter is signed by “U of T Divest– Scarborough,” but there are no names attached.

The same letter can be found on a post from the Facebook group “Toronto Students for Justice in Palestine.”

It is unclear whether the letter has been sent to the university or to UTAM.

Don Campbell, UTSC media relations officer, says that the incident occurred in late December — inconsistent with the video listing that says it occurred November 6.

Campbell says that campus police responded immediately. “They stopped, investigated and formally trespassed the man,” Campbell says. “Since he’s been served notice, if he returns to our campus he will be arrested and charged with trespassing.”

SCSU president Tahsin Chowdhury declined to comment on the incident.

As of press time, the video has over 16,000 views on YouTube.

ASSU report highlights international student concerns

Global Voices Report looks at tuition fees, financial aid, other aspects of student life

ASSU report highlights international student concerns

The University of Toronto is colloquially referred to as “the Harvard of the North,” and attracts thousands of students from across the globe with its prestigious reputation. An Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) report, however, says that the university may not be doing enough to support its diverse population of international students.

The ASSU has released the Global Voices Report that seeks to identify issues of specific concern to international students and proposes solutions. Thirty-eight respondents participated in two focus groups over the past year.

One issue addressed by the report was international tuition fees. When survey participants were asked if they had faced any financial difficulties, the majority expressed that they felt international fees were too high. Tuition fees for international students range from $11,160 to $40,000 per year, with the sticker price for books reaching up to $1,400.

In comparison, domestic students face tuition fees from $6,040 and up, depending on the program of study.

“Contrary to popular belief, there are a large amount of international students who do not come from privileged, wealthy families. Their families may be taking out a loan, remortgaging their homes… to send their children to a good international university. This puts additional stress and strain on international students, coupled with the academic pressures and the stress of being away from home,” says Abdullah Shihipar, ASSU president.

The university says it recognizes this disparity, citing reliance on market prices. “Like most other Universities, the University of Toronto charges differential tuition rates for international and domestic students. Our international tuition fees are set in the context of an international education market and we are competitive with our peer institutions,” says Althea-Blackburn-Evans, U of T director of media relations.

Another issue addressed by the report was financial aid. Although undergraduate international students are eligible for general U of T admission scholarships, of which there are between 400 and 500, the Global Voices Report says that international students are dissatisfied with the accessibility to these types of services and appear to be generally unaware of what services the university offers.

The union is calling on the university to improve promotion of these resources, and is recommending that a distinct department be created to better address the needs of the international student community.

“We believe that such a department created by the Faculty of Arts and Science for international students should serve as a central hub for international students to find resources pertaining to them,” says Shihipar.

“The office would also be able to direct international students to other services and offices that would be of use to them (housing services, CIE, Health Services, etc.), answer frequently asked questions… so that international students are not left scrambling around for information,” he adds.

According to Blackburn-Evans, in 2012–2013, the university provided nearly $5 million in merit and need-based grants to approximately 1,600 international students.

She also cites a number of resources available to international students, including the Centre for International Experience, which offers a wide range of programs and services to help international students transition to U of T and Canada.

She also says the university has expanded eligibility for its work-study program to include international students.

International student enrollment set to rise

Influx predicted to coincide with higher tuition across Canada

International student enrollment set to rise

Despite their lack of representation on Governing Council and ever-rising tuition costs, international student enrolment at the University of Toronto is set to increase in the next few years.

According to Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of media relations at U of T, international student applications to U of T have nearly doubled to more than 18,000 since 2010.

The predicted influx comes as the university announced in March of last year that international student fees would increase by 9.2 per cent for the 2014–2015 school year.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) followed suit in December 2014 when their Board of Governors approved a fee increase of 10 per cent for incoming international students.

U of T and UBC are also the only two Canadian universities to host more than 10,000 international students.

According to Blackburn-Evans, the university continues to draw international students because of its strong world ranking. A survey by Emerging, a human resource consultancy based in Paris and cited by U of T, ranked the university thirteenth in Global Employability, ahead of institutions such as the London School of Economics, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and New York University.

“We feel that U of T’s strengths are unique, and our own institutional efforts and successes are worthy of distinct promotion,” says Blackburn-Evans.

In a June 2014 report, the Canadian International Council ranked Canada eighth behind the UK in second and Australia in fourth in its ability to attract international students.

The report, written by Bernard Simon from the Munk School of International Affairs, cites the “absence of a unified and coherent voice [in] promoting Canada abroad” and goes on to say that “Canada is the [world’s] only developed country without a national education ministry or a national education strategy.”

The university is looking evermore to “welcome the variety of perspectives, viewpoints and diversity that international students bring to the already diverse campuses,” Blackburn-Evans says.

The Canadian government is pushing hard to attract more foreign students and has a 2022 goal of doubling the number of international students and researchers to 450,000.

Part of the drive has included changes to make it easier for international students to work while studying in Canada. Rather than having to wait six months after enrollment, international students can immediately start working up to 20 hours during regular academic sessions and full-time during scheduled holidays.

While U of T has maintained consistently high rankings, other Canadian universities have not fared as well. A drop by nearly all Canadian universities in the highly watched Time’s top 200 Higher Education World Rankings is drawing concern about the quality of post-secondary education in the country. U of T remained at 20.

Some experts are pointing to the first decline in 15 years in the number of domestic students as a reason for the drop in the rankings of other major Canadian universities.

According to the Ontario Universities Application Centre, from last year, there were 2.9 per cent fewer Ontario high school students starting at Canadian universities, and the drop is expected to continue until at least 2020.

There were 3,373 international student first-year registrations at U of T in 2014, a 60 per cent increase from 2010. International students now make up over 20 per cent of the incoming first-year direct entry class.

Governing Council campaign period begins

Ten students vie for just two Faculty of Arts & Science seats

Governing Council campaign period begins

Elections for the University of Toronto’s Governing Council and Academic Board are underway, and the competition is fierce.

There are a total of 16 candidates running for just four full-time undergraduate spots in two constituencies — a decrease from last year’s 21 candidates.

Ten students are competing for two Faculty of Arts & Science representative seats, while six are vying for two professional faculty representative spots.

Four full-time undergraduate seats, two part-time undergraduate seats, and two graduate seats comprise the eight student spaces on Governing Council. With the two part-time undergraduate seats filled by acclamation by Susan Froom and Ray Khan, U of T students have four more decisions to make.

governingcouncilsidebarThe campaign period began on January 26, and many candidates have opted to create websites and Facebook pages to advertise their candidacy. This year, most candidates have focused their goals on improving overall student life by acquiring more funding for student clubs and academic opportunities and by fostering a better integration of student life across all three campuses at U of T.

“I think it’s somewhat ridiculous that there is a bus from the Mississauga-St. George shuttle but not one to Scarborough,” says Sasha Boutilier in his candidate statement. Boutilier is running to represent undergraduates in Arts & Science.

Boutilier currently serves as the co-president of AFTER (Applications For Tertiary Education Realized) UofT, a club that hosts academic panels and alumni exchanges. Boutilier believes that the university should make a greater effort to allow collaboration between various programs and opportunities hosted on each campus so that students will no longer be restricted in program choice solely by virtue of which campus they are at.

Boutilier is carrying out a joint campaign with Victoria Wicks. Together, Boutilier and Wicks wish to create a more equitable campus by tackling issues such as integration, fossil fuel divestment, and sexual violence. “I am particularly invested in social justice,” says Wicks, a member of the U of T Student Coalition Against Sexual Violence, adding, “As student governor, then, I plan to keep our administration active and accountable on these issues,” she adds.

Aditya Chawla, a fellow Arts & Science candidate, shares Boutilier’s goal for better student life. “I aim to make decisions that directly benefit undergraduate students as soon as possible,” he says, specifying his support for better funding for student clubs and academic and international opportunities.

Connor Anear, co-head of college at Trinity College, lists student society policies, the Student Commons, mental health initiatives, lobbying for international student seats on Governing Council and fossil fuel divestment, and inter-campus transit among his priorities.

Anear notes that there has been significant progress on these issues. “Thus, I think it’s important that we take advantage of the building momentum and follow through by creating the best possible solutions,” he says.

Susan Cui, who serves as president of UFOLD (Fly with Origami, Learn to Dream), a U of T origami club, names advocating for a decrease in tuition fee interest and lobbying for international student seats on Governing Council as her top two priorities.

“The University should not be making commercial bank line of credit level interests off its relatively impoverished students who are unable to pay the full amount of their tuition before November of each year,” she says in her candidate statement.

Dalal Badawi, an Arts & Science candidate, aims to improve connectivity between students and the Governing Council. “I…intend on creating a page that students can follow that will contain summaries of Governing Council meetings so that students can be well aware of all of the proceedings and decision making processes,” Badawi says in her candidate statement.

Marc Marlo Laurin, Kristian Koschany, Lawrence Zhang, and Ridwan Olow, the remaining four candidates for Arts & Science seats, have also dedicated themselves to making Governing Council’s process more transparent if elected.

Faizan Akbani and Mathias Memmel, hoping to represent students in the professional faculties, are running a campaign in tandem. “We believe that receiving notifications once a year about the Governing Council is unacceptable,” they say in a joint statement, continuing, “We wish to empower Pro-facs [sic] to be involved in the decision making process and increase accessibility of information.”

Avineet Randhawa, a second-year chemical engineering student, strongly advocates for an “integrated student experience” — a goal expressed by many of the candidates. “As much fun as faculty rivalries are, I would love to see and will advocate for more interfaculty involvement not only in university policy-making but also throughout campus in general,” he says.

Andrew Watt and Vikki Bekiaris, also running for the professional faculties seats, aim to further enhance the social and academic policies provided by the university and act as the means through which the student body can be accurately represented at the council.

Riaz Sayani-Mulji, a professional faculties candidate, has focused on student mental health and sexual violence as some of his main platform points.

Web-based and mail ballot voting will begin on February 9 and end on February 20. Preliminary election results are slated to be announced on February 24, and winners declared by February 27.

Governing Council, the university’s highest decision-making body, is composed of 50 members, including eight alumni and eight students.

Editor’s note: Victoria Wicks was formerly an associate comment editor with The Varsity. Aditya Chawla is a Varsity staff writer.