Below the threshold

In my first year, everyone was heading somewhere. Living off by-the-slice pizza and skipping psych lectures was just a temporary plan. We knew we were going to travel, write a novel, get a job with a conscience. Three years later, plans have changed.

Some of my classmates are still applying for that unpaid summer internship at the United Nations, but most know that come spring, they will be living with their parents and working overtime to pay off student loans. It’s tough to watch, because I know there is another way. I also know that the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is fighting against it.

Income-contingent loan repayment (ICR) is a bit of a mouthful, and it can mean a lot of different things. Here’s the gist: as a student, you borrow money from the government to cover tuition and living costs. Instead of starting payments on your loans shortly after you graduate, you begin to pay once your income rises above a specified threshold.

Ideally, the threshold is set high enough so that you don’t have to pay for your education until you receive its financial benefits. If you never receive those benefits, you never start repayments, and your loans are eventually forgiven. This reduces the financial risk of attending university, making it more accessible to low-income students. ICR is already used in the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere, and it was recommended by the Rae Review on higher education reform.

The CFS has some good points about the weaknesses of ICR—for instance, interest rates mean that students who pay their loans back slowly often end up paying more than rich students who can pay up immediately, though everyone seems to forget that the same thing happens under the current system. Instead of suggesting refinements to address this problem, the CFS opposes ICR completely.

Our student unions are fighting yesterday’s battle. They argue that the cost of post-secondary education should be borne by society as a whole, not by individual students. They would criticize any loan-based system. But loans are here to stay, and with OSAP consolidation dates bearing down on them and interest piling up on pricey bank loans, today’s students need a system that can cope with the ever-increasing tuition that we can’t get rid of.

Governments love ICR, though not necessarily for the right reasons: it provides an excuse to raise tuition and cut funding. That’s why we desperately need a student movement that will fight for the things we can actually get: interest subsidies, loan forgiveness, reasonable income thresholds, controlled tuition, and grant programs.

With the right ICR system, this year’s graduating class would have more cash and more prospects. They could save up and travel, or save up and take that internship, instead of saving up to write another cheque. When they are ready to settle down, the lucky ones with good incomes would start to pay for the education that gave them all of these opportunities to begin with. In the end, we would all be richer for it.

Schizophrenia: of sanity and split minds

One of the most disabling mental disorders has the unfortunate circumstance of being one of the least understood. Schizophrenia is a mental illness defined by its symptoms, as genetic or environmental causes have not yet been conclusively found. For this reason, there is a maddening debate over a literally maddening disease: what causes schizophrenia?

Symptoms mirroring those seen in schizophrenics have been documented in literature as far back as 2000 BC, but no definite description of the disease was made until 1893. German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin made the first step by highlighting the difference between what he called early dementia and manic depression. He believed these early dementias to be diseases of the brain, in contrast to dementias that strike later in life, such as Alzheimer’s.

It wasn’t until 1908 that the term schizophrenia was coined by Eugen Bleuler. He noticed that some patients suffering from the disorder could improve, rather than declining steadily as the case of most dementias. He decided to name the disease after the apparent separation in thinking, personality, memory, and perception. The name comes from Greek roots meaning “split” and “mind,” and has been the source of some confusion.

Schizophrenia is often confused for dissociative identity disorder, better known among the public as split or multiple personalities. A wide range of symptoms and its unpredictable course do not help public recognition and understanding of the disease. Symptoms include auditory hallucinations, disorganized thinking, delusions, catatonic states, and an atypical lack of emotional response to events and people. When asked what schizophrenics might suffer from, a typical response from most people would involve hallucinations or hearing voices telling them to perform certain actions. Frustratingly, not all patients experience these symptoms, and pigeonholing schizophrenia into strict symptomatic categories reflects a poor understanding. How, then, can we describe schizophrenia? Doctor David Braff offered a succinct definition during an interview on the television show, Health Matters:

“Schizophrenia is a fragmentation of consciousness and the inability to navigate effectively in the world and relate to others,” said Braff.

Schizophrenia can be particularly devastating considering that it strikes during adolescence or early adulthood. Patients may not be aware that the symptoms they are experiencing are due to a mental disorder, as one of the hallmarks of the disease, disordered thinking, makes it difficult to function properly. “If you believe there is nothing wrong with you and it’s the outside world, why would you take medication?” Observations from friends or family members regarding strange behaviours, and self-reported symptoms from sufferers often make up the diagnosis. Researchers have not yet found a biological cause for schizophrenia, so tests are run to discount other potential sources of the experienced symptoms before a diagnosis is made.

Having a concrete cause for this debilitating mental disorder would enable researchers to develop targeted treatments. So far, the evidence points towards both genetics and environment as causative agents. This frustrating complication is common with many diseases. Studies between identical twins—useful for determining differences between nature and nurture—have found that a twin has a 50 per cent chance of acquiring schizophrenia if the other twin suffers from it. This perfect middle value suggests that more than just genetics is involved.

A well-known sufferer of the disease—due to the Hollywood movie A Beautiful Mind—is Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Nash. His story is a vivid depiction of how the disorder can derail one’s life:

“What you saw was the erosion of his reality. Nash is unusual in that he seems to have made some recovery without medications, but that was after a very long and devastating period of his life,” said Braff. “The fundamentals of his deterioration are quite accurate for what happens to many schizophrenia patients.”

Other noteworthy sufferers come from all walks of life. Syd Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, was a fascinating and, at the same time, depressing case. Early on in the band’s career, he would at times become completely catatonic as the band was performing, simply standing and staring off into space as the rest of the band played. Bandmate Nick Mason described his bizarre behaviour in a past interview:

“Syd went mad on that first American tour in the autumn of 1967. He didn’t know where he was most of the time. I remember he detuned his guitar onstage in Venice, LA, and he just stood there rattling the strings, which was a bit weird, even for us.”

Eventually, his behaviour became so erratic that he had to split from the band, only releasing a few solo albums before becoming a recluse. Other notable schizophrenics include Jack Kerouac, Superbowl-winning football player Lionel Aldridge, and Peter Green, guitarist for Fleetwood Mac.

Politicians and policy makers like to speak in dollar amounts with regard to health problems and their effect on society. Schizophrenia is not a very widespread disorder, affecting about one per cent of people worldwide—so the costs associated with it seem unusually high.

“The total cost to society is probably close to $100 billion. There’s a huge cascading effect on families and other systems. It ranks up there with many cardiovascular diseases or any other serious medical illness,” said Braff.

This bleak portrait is not without hope. Treating schizophrenics with anti-psychotic medications has had moderate success, although prolonged use of these medications can lead to involuntary tics or difficulty with movement, termed dyskinesia. Medications, coupled with cognitive behavioural therapy or psychotherapy, are the recommended course of action for most patients, but there is no magic pill that can stop schizophrenia, and there may never be. Now the focus is on looking at the genetic level for clues on what makes an individual pre-disposed to acquiring the disorder.

“Now we are looking for the genes that are abnormal in schizophrenia and we have found probably between eight and ten major genes and some minor genes that interact to create vulnerability [to schizophrenia],” said Braff.

All things considered, there is still a long way to go. Famous British psychiatrist R.D. Laing can perhaps give us the best understanding of this mysterious and crippling mental disorder:

“Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair.”

Editor’s Pick: Radiohead – In Rainbows (Independent)

Returning from their longest gap between albums, In Rainbows triumphs as Radiohead’s strongest record since 2000’s Kid A. While 2003’s Hail to the Thief was a strong return to their classic guitar-driven form, In Rainbows builds and mutates into something that sounds distinctly like Radiohead without retracing any steps. Opener “15 Steps” starts off as a jerky drum and vocal intro, then adds a light-hearted guitar riff, which in turn yields to a sinister, rock bass riff backed by the cheers of a children’s chorus. “Bodysnatchers” features some of the best guitar sounds on In Rainbows as the song enters a more melodic mode about halfway through. One of the album’s musical peaks is the downtrodden “All I Need.” Sentimental, dark, and beautiful, Thom York singing “I’m in the middle of your picture, lying in the reeds” makes this song the perfect feel-bad hit of the fall. “Reckoner” receives a more subdued treatment than in live performances, but despite some online outcry, is even better for it. Here, York’s falsetto is one of many delicate hooks (another being Johnny Greenwood’s gentle picking during the chorus of “Nude”) that give In Rainbows its distinct and memorable tenor. The album’s climax is the energetic and unabashedly catchy “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.” This standout track builds to one of York’s best turbo-charged register jumps, making this song requisite “repeat” material. The haunting piano ballad, “Videotape,” closes off In Rainbows with killer lyrics that are as much genius as they are creepy as fuck—think of an updated “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” While attention naturally settles on York, drummer Phil Selway and bassist Colin Greenwood also deserve loads of credit for their air-tight and fabulously unpredictable performances. People keep asking “who will be the Radiohead of the 2000s?” The answer is Radiohead, stupid

Rating VVVVV

Dallaire asks where we draw the line

Amidst all the great academics, politicians, lawyers, officials and students gathered together, it was an elderly Canadian from Montreal and a cynical mother from Rwanda who seemed to catch the most spirit and attention.

That’s what happened last weekend when former UN Lt. General Romeo Dallaire and Rwandan activist Esther Mujawayo appeared in Montreal to take part in the inaugural Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide.

The event, hosted by McGill University, brought together both local and international representatives for a series of panel discussions on various issues concerning genocide and human rights. Bringing together legislators, activists, journalists, diplomats and students, the conference sought lessons from genocides of the past, and strategies for dealing with them today and preventing them in the future.

Mujawayo is an individual who personifies the topic of genocide consequences. In the opening ceremonies, Mujawayo spoke alongside three other survivors of genocide– Marika Néni of Hungary, Youk Chhang of Cambodia, and Batia Bettman, a survivor of the Holocaust. Mujawayo spoke passionately and angrily about how the world had failed to help her and her family as a result of the idea that she was worth less than other people. “You and me —are we human beings, the same?”

She went on to bitterly relate details of the evacuation of Belgian, French, and American citizens of Rwanda, who took care to also evacuate their pets during the genocide in Rwanda but then painfully ignored Tutsis like herself targeted in the genocide.

“A Belgian dog is better off than my child,” she told the conference.

When Dallaire’s time came to speak, he confronted the crowd with questions highlighting the problems of international intervention. The wellknown humanitarian criticized the lack of guidelines for such action.

“What is the bar determining this need for political intervention?” he questioned. “What is the magic formula that will give politicians the will to intervene?”

The answer may lie in the images that the world wants least to see. In the opening ceremony, evidence of atrocities committed on children was shown to drive home the horror of genocide.

Near the end of a film used to open the conference, the image of a young Rwandan boy was shown with a fiveinch gash across the right part of his head. In a low quiet voice, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka spoke of witnessing such an act of butchery, recounting his experience of seeing a lifeless child on the ground with a machete embedded in his skull.

Such a loss of life was something Mujawayo had personally seen as well. She spoke angrily against the UN and world community, who she said failed to stop the murders of hundreds of her family and friends. And she added that the failure was continuing.

Mujawayo remarked on how, despite the Rwandan genocide having been officially declared to have ended 10 years ago, its effects were still starkly evident in the country’s widespread cases of widows and orphans, many now living with HIV/AIDs.

Despite the painful introductions, the crowd was soon reminded by Mc- Gill’s Professor Payam Akhavan that the purpose of the conference was not to “come here tonight to weep” but rather, to take action against genocide.

He repeated what Mujawayo had said earlier in the conference: “I want to challenge the leaders and academics among you,” she had cried. “Do something about us.”

In part II of this story, The Varsity gets an in-depth look into the critical discussions held on aspects of genocide, the groundbreaking work of the first International Young Leaders Forum following the Global Conference, and work students are doing to fight genocide worldwide.

Vic closes the books on historic archives

After over a century on the U of T campus, the United Church of Canada/ Victoria University Archives are set to close in December. Housed in Victoria’s Emmanuel College, the archive contains the United Church of Canada’s national records, as well as other documents related to the history of the church and Victoria University.

Since its establishment in 1899, the archive has been jointly funded and maintained by the United Church and Victoria University. Recently, however, the church and the university ended their partnership due to concerns about cost and space. The United Church archive will be relocated.

An agreement between the United Church and Victoria University stipulates that the two organizations would each pay half of the cost of operating the archives until 2013. In 2006, however, the university announced that it would no longer fund the archives. The United Church has found itself unable to finance them independently, and in April of this year Victoria administration voted to close the archives. The church agreed to relocate their portion of the archive, and the partnership between the church and university was officially dissolved in May.

The United Church archives are often used by those researching history, theology and anthropology. In addition to the major church records, the collection includes documents from local congregations and missionaries, and a large collection of related print and multimedia material. The church’s marriage and baptismal records are extensively used for genealogical and demographic research.

The Save the Archives Coalition, led by researchers and library clients concerned that their opinions were not taken into consideration, has sprung up to challenge the the church and university’s decision. On their website, savethearchives. ca, a petition to keep the archives open has garnered nearly 1400 signatures. Craig Heron, a York professor and coalition leader, explained that the coalitions goal was “to convince the church and the university not to close the archives on the Victoria campus, and to work together on finding appropriate and sufficient space there.”

The coalition’s major concerns include temporary unavailability of archival material during the move, and the possibility that experienced staff will not be rehired when the archives open in their new location. Space, the coalition stresses, should not be the deciding factor, as many other archives and libraries make effective use of offsite storage. Heron continued by saying that the real issue behind Victoria’s decision was probably financial, not spatial.

Prof. David Keeling, the Bursar at Victoria University, described the protests as the result of a “massive misunderstanding.” He emphasized that the decision to relocate was made mutually between the church and the university, after analyzing the problems of cost and space. The archives have been growing rapidly, and will soon run out of room at Emmanuel College. It was therefore agreed, Keeling explained, that the Victoria archive would remain in its current location, while the United Church would move their collection to another facility. Although the archives will be unavailable during the move, Keeling said it will soon be reopened. Their new location, however, has not as yet been announced.

Broad street Boulerice

In addition to their usual drills and medical assessments, every player in the NHL recieved something new in training camp this year—a DVD compiled by the NHL that detailed what is acceptable in a bodycheck, plus a set of criteria defining suspendable shots to the head. The perception heading into the season was that the league, spurred by the media, was ready to take more serious action to prevent dangerous acts resulting in injury, whether they be “hockey plays gone bad” (questionable checks) or the “gratuitous violence” (sticks to the face, sucker punches, etcetera) end of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, this season has been off to a rough start. Jesse Boulerice of the Philadelphia Flyers—a team known for both its success and brutality in the 1970s—is but the latest player whose goal-scoring prowess will never make headlines whose egregious on-ice conduct has earned a place in the media spotlight. The league’s chief disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, handed Boulerice a 25-game suspension for a vicious cross-check to the face of Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler, matching the punishment given to Chris Simon last year for taking a two-handed swing at Ryan Hollweg’s face. While it is encouraging that the punishment for these actions has been severe by NHL standards—25 games is an NHL record—the fact that the Boulerice incident, the second of its kind in less than a year, even occurred is evidence that the deterrent isn’t working.

Boulerice fits the profile of the typical on-ice violence perpetrator to a tee. He already had a violent stick incident on his resume from his OHL days. The Flyers placed Boulerice, with eight NHL career goals to his name, on waivers Monday in an attempt to clear up roster space. In short, Boulerice is expendable. While some star players have committed dangerous on-ice acts—Todd Bertuzzi’s sucker punch that ended Steve Moore’s career, and Chris Pronger’s two illegal head shots in last year’s playoffs come to mind— these have been the exception. It’s the fourth-line players with a tenuous hold on an NHL job and a history of suspension who fit the bill.

For most of these players, the risk of crossing the line separating physical from violent play does not outweigh the reward of playing near it. When a player is at the bottom of the depth chart, he’ll do what he has to do to keep his job, and the only way to defend his spot against the scores of minor-leaguers dying to take it is to make up for a lack of skill with grit. While most teams and fans certainly don’t condone outright violence, they do feel that tough, physical play can help their team by getting opposing stars off their game. When Flyers prospect Steve Downy leveled Dean McAmmond of the Ottawa Senators with an illegal blow to the head during pre-season action (to which Campbell responded with a 20-game suspension), he explained to reporters that he was “just trying to earn a spot on the roster.” There’s a reason why penalty minutes earn you points in fantasy hockey leagues. Would the Nashville Predators’ Jordin Tootoo have an NHL job if he played a gentleman’s game? Is the league better off because he’s in it? According to CBC hockey analyst Kelly Hrudey, who passionately sounded off on Tootoo in his weekly Behind the Mask segment after a questionable check, “we don’t need him in the game.” If Nashville’s not your thing, remember Toronto’s own Tie Domi?

So, while 25 games may be a significant blow to players like Boulerice, who earn significantly less money than their more skilled teammates, the thought of missing 25 (or more) NHL games is still better than never playing one to begin with.

If the league can’t deter dangerous play on the players’ end, then perhaps it’s time to look at taking action against the teams that sign them. While it would be difficult to argue that teams or coaches are the instigators of violence, it would be equally difficult to argue that they are helpless to prevent it.

The always outspoken Don Cherry was quick to point out on this week’s Coach’s Corner segment on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada that there was no need for coach John Stevens to put an enforcer like Boulerice on the ice with the Flyers up 7-2. Losing an easily- replaced player like Boulerice may not seem like a huge loss to the Flyers, but an inability to replace a suspended player on their roster, or even something as severe as losing a draft pick, might make them think twice about signing players with a history of violent conduct. If the rewards for dangerous play are minimized, they may no longer outweigh the risks.

One of the knocks to NHL discipline is the allegation that the league is soft on star players, on the rare occasion that they do commit infractions. Each of Pronger’s two suspensions while playing for Anaheim last year kept him out of action for only one game. While Pronger’s offences occurred before the NHL set out its new guidelines for suspensions, which stipulate that repeat offenders are punished more harshly, there remains skepticism that the league won’t be consistent the next time it happens. While it’s unlikely that punishments for teams’ on-ice actions will prevent them from employing elite players like Pronger, there’s a chance that holding teams responsible when their players break the rules will change coaches’ and general managers’ views on their role in cleaning up the game. In the time leading up to the Bertuzzi- Moore incident, Bertuzzi made it clear that the next time he faced Moore, he’d be out for blood to avenge the concussion sustained by his Canucks teammate Markus Naslund. If Canucks general manager Bryan Burke and head coach Marc Crawford had felt responsible for Bertuzzi’s actions, would they have supported Bertuzzi’s desire for vigilante justice? Would Burke, now GM of the Anaheim “Fighting” Ducks, have defended Pronger’s actions after his first suspension if he felt it was his job to prevent the second?

Like anyone else in society, professional hockey players are, of course, responsible for their own actions. But if the NHL can do something to take dangerous plays and dangerous players out of the game by acting through the teams. Doesn’t the league owe it to players?

UTSU announces Student Commons levy referendum

Time has not been kind to the plan for the St. George campus Student Commons. The project to build a student-controlled downtown campus hub, perennially in the discussion phases, has been kicked around for nearly six decades. After being held back by competing visions and funding shortfalls for well over half a century, the centre is fast approaching what may be its final obstacle: your wallet.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union announced on Sunday that it will ask students to pay about $20 million to fund the $30 million Student Commons. Between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, the union will conduct a referendum asking students if they agree to shoulder two-thirds of a 23-year mortgage to fund the Student Commons. The union is seeking a $5 levy per semester from each full-time undergrad on St. George campus, until the Commons opens. Once the centre opens its doors to students, the levy will rise to $14.25 for the remainder of the 23-year term.

The university has agreed to contribute 50 cents to the Commons for levy every dollar students pay. The cost of operating the centre, however, will fall to students.

Campaigns for a student hub on campus have existed since the late 1940s, when a campus community recovering from the hardships of World War II pushed for a leisure facility all students could share (with rare exceptions, Hart House did not allow women inside until 1973).

In 1965, UTSU, then called the Students’ Administrative Council, secured bank loans, contracted an architect, and set into motion a plan to build a student centre at the corner of St. George and Russell streets. That scheme cost $211,000, took five years, and ultimately failed due to disagreements over how the centre should be funded and what facilities it should contain.

This time around, Andréa Armborst, president of UTSU, is talking big. According to her, the Student Commons will sport a 600-person auditorium. Students lounging in its spacious lobby, or using free space in any of its small and medium meeting and A/V rooms, will have their choice of three restaurants, possibly including a long-awaited halal/kosher/vegan outlet. Its front desk will sell metropasses all month long.

“We have high hopes,” said Armborst. “But we’ve seen a great commitment [from university administrators] to the project.”

If built, the Commons will occupy the north side of “Site 12,” a plot on Devonshire Road just south of Bloor, across from the new Varsity Centre field. This does not sit well, however, with some of the current occupants of the site.

The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students, housed in the Margaret Fletcher building on Site 12, are facing eviction to make room for construction of the Student Commons and a proposed Centre for High Performance Sport. The part-time students union has been relocated against their will twice in the past two years and has said they will fight any attempt to remove them from their current home.

Ilona Molnar, APUS’s executive secretary, vehemently opposed the Student Commons proposal, saying it represents a culture of corporatization in public education.

“Student levies are forms of privatization and downloading of the cost of higher education on students […] And, every time we approve a levy we take away from the possibility of putting pressure on the government and the university,” said Molnar.

She added that she thought government agencies and the university administration should finance the Commons’ construction and operation.

3 Toronto women honoured as very important persons

Three Toronto women are being honoured on October 18, the seventy- eighth anniversary of Canadian women being recognized as persons.

The women were chosen by a selection committee, due to their “efforts in improving equitable treatment for women.”

June Larken, the undergraduate coordinator for the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the U of T, was chosen for her leadership in equity and women’s studies; Helen Liu for advocacy on behalf of marginalized workers; and Beverley Wybrow, the Executive Director of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, was chosen for leadership and advocacy within the volunteer sector, according to a news release from the City.

“The annual commemoration of Persons Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the progress made for women’s equality, to re-affirm our commitment towards the equality of treatment for women,” said Mayor David Miller.

The winners will receive the Constance E. Hamilton Award on December 10, when the City holds its annual Human Rights Program.