Campus divides at AGM

Partisan politics emerged as a key theme of the UTSU annual general meeting that took place last Thursday. The three-hour meeting saw all agenda items pass and publicly unveiled a right-leaning student group critical of UTSU, which featured prominently in discussion and debates.

As in past years, the meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. started late. At about 6:30 p.m., Chair Ashkon Hashemi, who also serves as internal coordinator for CFS-Ontario, called the meeting to order. Many UTM students were also in attendance.

No Q&A

Five minutes into the meeting, student Brett Chang asked if there would be a general question period for business not stated on the agenda. Hashemi replied that discussion would be limited to motions already stated on the agenda.

Peter Buczkowski, a board of directors representative for UTM, attempted a motion to add a period for general questions onto the agenda, but Hashemi replied that general questions can be asked after the president’s address.

Michael Scott asked why there would be no separate question period held. Hashemi reiterated that questions could be asked after the president’s address and invited Michael Scott to make a motion moving the address to the meeting’s end. Mischa Menuck made the motion, which was defeated.

Throughout the meeting, student Brent Schmidt stated that motions had to be submitted by a November 17 deadline that he described as ill-advertised.

“I feel that there’s many people in this room who came here wanting to talk about things who haven’t been able to,” Schmidt said.

Invited guest-speaker Leslie Jermyn, chair of CUPE 3902, touched on student political engagement “in these difficult times.”

In his address, UTSU President Adam Awad spoke about recent UTSU successes that included both increased student participation in events and a rise in movie and event ticket sales from 200 per week to often over 200 a day. Awad also criticized university administration for their handling of the G20 and the Faculty of Arts and Science academic planning.

Partisan accusations

Schmidt and Chang both accused UTSU for only increasing clubs funding by 15 per cent while raising the campaigns budget by 120 per cent. They both claimed that students are better represented by clubs they participate in than what they allege to be “partisan advocacy campaigns.”

Awad explained that campaigns often represent all members and include the recent protest against flat fees and academic planning proposals from the Faculty of Arts and Science. He added that percentages are misleading and that he considers campaigns to be underfunded.

“If you feel unrepresented, it’s important to engage with the organization,” said Awad. “Coming out to this meeting is a great first step, but it requires coming often, it requires sending emails, and asking ‘What’s going on with this?’ […] It requires going out to meetings on a regular basis because all members have a vote every time we have a commission meeting.

“If people have specific issues that they want to see the union take up, it’s a matter of engaging with us and actually coming out and participating and that’s the only way that we’re going to be able to respond.

“But if we don’t ever hear from you, we’re not gonna know what your issues are.

Michael Scott criticized UTSU-run events such as disOrientation for “not embracing a diversity of opinions,” citing the pamphlet’s “blatantly one-sided” stance against ideologies such as capitalism and neoliberalism. Awad replied that UTSU sponsors a diversity of events and cited its participation in a Campus for Christ fundraiser.

Menuck challenged Awad to name a UTSU-run event that strained from its normally left-leaning ideology. Awad reiterated that students have to participate in UTSU to have their views voiced.

“We haven’t been approached by a group that has a completely opposite ideology from the groups that did disOrientation,” admitted Awad. “That has nothing to do with our capacity to deal with groups that have different beliefs doing events. It’s about people using the student union as a structure for organizing engagement with issues on campus.”

One specific club was mentioned during the discussion.

“The basic principle of a democratic society is that people of different ideologies and opinions should be heard and should be given equal treatment,” said Jorge Prieto, before explaining that the University of Toronto Free Democrats, a group whose website declares its advocacy for “traditional democracy and free market capitalism,” was denied funding.

Prieto alleged that the group was denied funding after it was “deemed to be right-wing and elitist,” before noting the funding of multiple left-leaning political groups.

“My question is should the purpose of UTSU be to provide services and things that are good for all students,” asked Prieto, “or should it be to promote a particular ideology that tends to divide rather than unite the campus?”

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Awad responded that services are just as political as campaigns, citing how offering health and dental plans is done in response to a lack of comprehensive drug and dental coverage. He then referred club funding allegations to VP Campus Life Corey Scott, who called the allegations “upsetting” and said the process is not political.

“Reading over the application, I didn’t even get the idea that it was a right-wing club,” said Corey Scott. “I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, because we aren’t denying any clubs on the basis of ideology. There were actually several clubs I didn’t even want to fund, but I would because it’s not my place to be saying that and the committee agrees.”

In a follow-up email to The Varsity, he noted that the club did not apply for funding for the current academic year

“Our correspondence shows that the club applied for clubs recognition on October 9, 2010 and sent an email inquiring about long-term funding on Friday, October 15, 2010 — the deadline for long-term clubs funding applications,” said Corey Scott. “This club has not attended the mandatory Club Executive training session which is requisite for long-term funding. We have not received a hard or digital copy of a funding application to date.”

He added that the club is still eligible for short-term funding if a representative attends club executive training and noted that Prieto was not one of the official contacts UTSU was corresponding with.

After Awad’s address, both UTMSU President Vickita Bhatt and board of director member Mariam Sheikh praised UTSU for their work for UTM students. Neither mentioned their affiliations with UTMSU.

Name Change Semantics

A motion passed to legally change its name from the current “Students’ Administrative Council of the University of Toronto” to “U.T.S.U.” after the name change was approved in a 2004 referendum.

Awad explained that senior administration would only allow the use of “University of Toronto” if it was able to approve all by-laws, audits, elections, and more. He said “a bit of creativity was needed,” admitting that having to use initials only “is a bit ridiculous” but ultimately useful since UTSU will save legal fees by not having to change documents related to the student commons project.

Awad then presented three proposed name changes for commission, “to make them more accessible to students.”

While replacing “Equity Commission” with “Social Justice and Equity Commission” generated little feedback, the other changes provoked substantial debate.

Two students criticized switching “External Commission” with “Community Action Commission” for being less value-neutral, while most controversy surrounded replacing “University Affairs Commission” with “Academic and Student Rights Commission.”

“Personally I don’t think UTSU works for students’ rights. I think UTSU has been actively working against the entire student body to target specific groups. I don’t believe their policies focus on the lives of students and improve them directly,” said Chang. “Until UTSU begins to represent students, not just one group of students […] I don’t believe they have the legitimate right to change their name to student rights.”

Michael Scott disagreed with the change for another reason.

“There are lots of student issues external to the university that should be brought to a commission that don’t necessarily fall into the community action label. I think renaming it as such will have the affect of self-selecting out [students] who don’t identify themselves as activists.”

Jiayi Zhou noted that she participates in all three commissions and said that “there is value in asserting” their roles.

“I dispute the idea that Community Action Commission must mean ‘Activist’ Commission,” said Zhou. “Community action has a much broader and more important meaning than the narrow pigeon-hole the opposition had tried to put it in.”

Criticisms of student engagement

A handful of students who participate in commissions criticized detractors for not doing likewise. Schmidt gave an impassioned response.

“I think it’s maybe a little a bit offensive to those students who are in this room who find it hard to even find the two hours of day to come to this AGM, to be told that our opinions only matter if we come to the commission meetings.

“’Cause quite frankly I study a lot to attend this university; I do a lot of activities in the community, and to be involved in student politics as well is a heavy burden. And I do want to participate and I try to come to meetings, but I do not believe that my opinion is only valuable insofar as I attend one of those meetings.”

Schmidt was met with an indirect reply from a single-parent student who says she commutes four hours each day.

“It really upsets me when I see students who don’t participate in the community,” she said. “When you put yourself into that ring and file a complaint and stand up and make statements at the podium, you need to be accountable for how much time you’ve invested into student affairs.”

After conversation digressed, the motion was called to question and was passed. A five-minute break was then called.

By-Law Changes

Seven changes to UTSU by-laws were approved, most involving minor rephrasing. One proposed ammendment generated about half an hour of discussion. It would change the three executive appointees to the Elections and Referenda Committee from the top executives positions to any three executives.

VP Equity Danielle Sandhu clarified that the was motion intended to “avoid situations of conflict of interest” that UTSU executives have had to manoeuvre around for years, since many executives have sought reelection.

“I find that there’s actually a truckload of things that could be put under this category of elections,” said Schmidt, explaining why he would abstain from the vote. “I don’t think this deals with any of the things that students came here to talk about.”

After some confusion, Daniel Bertrand, UTSU representative to the Students’ Law Society, clarified to attendees what a conflict of interest entails.

One student moved that the board, rather than the executive, be made responsible for choosing which executives sit on the committee. Hashemi ruled the amendment out-of-scope from the original proposal. He welcomed an appeal to his ruling, which was discussed in depth before being defeated.

A motion was passed to remove chairing the Blue Crew, a campus cheering squad, from the list of responsibilities for the VP Campus Life. Sandhu explained the group had become redundant after four years of inaction and replaced by other campus spirit groups, although Chang and Michael Scott said the motion was defeatist.

Hashemi closed the meeting at 9:30 p.m.

The print edition of this article incorrectly quoted Corey Scott as saying “…we are denying any clubs on the basis of ideology.” He actually said that UTSU is not denying funding on ideological grounds. The Varsity regrets the error.

In case you missed it…

Didn’t attend the meeting and think our article is long winded? 6 fun facts from the UTSU AGM:

Last year’s AGM started at 6:45 p.m. and finished at 11:00 p.m.

Hashemi asked a moustached Bertrand if he was aware that movember was over.

Noting the success of pancake brunches for commuter students, Awad observed that UTM students seemed to eat four times as many pancakes as St. George students.

There was slight confusion as Hashemi addressed “Scott,” pointing in the direction of both Michael Scott and UTSU VP student life Corey Scott.

Sandhu said she was relieved at not having to wear the Blue Crew over-alls

Awad mentioned that UTSU could focus more on offering movie tickets, but stated he’s more of a bookworm.

A challenger appears

Student Political Action Committee (SPAC)

SPAC’s Facebook group describes itself as “a forum for ideas of how we can pursue the mission of increasing accountability, efficiency and realism in our student union” to confront individual grievances with UTSU.
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Co-founders Schmidt (top) and Chang (bottom) stressed that the group will launch next year and is a non-partisan advocacy group. A significant amount of members participate in right-leaning groups on campus. When asked if they would be running for election, Chang told The Varsity he would not, while Schmidt declined to comment.

SPAC photos by ANDREW RUSK/The Varsity

U of T gives nurses a check-up

A new study on the trials and tribulations of Ontario nurses working in correctional facilities has recently been released. Generally, correctional nursing is an unexplored topic, but the results of this new study reveal the problems unique to the profession.

“It’s a study that hasn’t really been looked at. No one has really examined the work environment of these nurses before,” said Joan Almost, co-principal investigator exploring worklife issues in provincial correctional settings. Approximately 500 nurses work in Ontario’s provincial correctional system, caring for almost 9,000 people. The study included interviews with 17 nurses from different jails, prisons, and detention centers. The study also surveyed 30 managers.

“Understanding the perspectives [of] correctional nurses […] is critical to providing appropriate support,” said Linda Ogilvie, manager of corporate health care at the Ministry of Community and Safety and Correctional Services. Results of the study show the following main issues with correctional nurses’ working environments: heavy workload, lack of up-to-date nursing education, and the prioritizing of security over health care.

“The main focus of correctional facilities is security,” explained Almost. “Security hinders their scope of their practice and thus they have limited control over it. They can’t control their practice due to the security focus of their setting.” Explaining the intricacies of this specific problem, Joan points to the issue of the correctional officer always having to be present in the health unit. “If the officer is busy, a potential medication delivery might be delayed. If the inmate has to be moved from the cell, and the officer is not around, medical attention is delayed.

“Correctional officers are really in control,” she added. “Officers can either limit the role of the nurse or be a great asset to them.”

These problems, according to Almost, “Ultimately impact job satisfaction, and job burnout. The correctional nurses need support to do their jobs effectively.”

The study compared with older national reports of nurses outside correctional facilities showed interesting contrasts. Correctional nurses surveyed said that they had more emotional and relational disputes with their colleagues. They also showed a lower sense of personal accomplishment than nurses in other sectors. “However, correctional nurses reported similar levels of autonomy as well as similar levels of collaboration with physicians,” explained Almost. Correctional nurses reported lower levels of burnouts and higher intent to stay in their job. “Even though they had higher dissatisfaction, they stay in their jobs because they do enjoy them,” said Almost.

Discovered in the study was the statistic that while emotional abuse is high within nursing in correctional facilities, physical abuse is hardly present; there is more physical abuse found in regular hospitals. “It’s a security issue, and the goal is to maintain safety of everyone working there. Because security’s the main focus, it makes sense that there is a lot less physical abuse,” explained Almost.

While correctional nurses seem to be dissatisfied with a lack of support towards problems in their profession, they also seem to be very satisfied with the work they do. “It’s very satisfying seeing progress made with the inmates,” explained Almost. “The combination of the autonomy and being able to do a lot more in their role are one of the many reasons why correctional nurses enjoy their profession.

“The next study we’re hoping to do is to make some sort of educational process for the nurses. Since they are short staffed, they don’t have the opportunity to go to educational sessions outside their work.” Almost added that correctional nursing is very unique. “As a profession, we haven’t looked at it closely. We should explore and look at their work environment and try and improve the support for their role.”

It’s not easy being green

This year, the University of Toronto is number one when it comes to green campuses. U of T received an A- on the 2011 College Sustainability Report Card, making it the leader of over 300 schools surveyed in Canada and the United States.

“I hope it will make students and faculty and other members of the U of T community more aware of the fantastic things the university has been doing in this area for a very long time,” said Vice President of Business Affairs, Cathy Riggall. “Too many people are not aware of our leadership in this area and are not aware that we have been a leader for so long.”

The report, prepared by the Sustainable Endowments Institute based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, uses seven categories to evaluate how well an institution meets its own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. In administration, food and recycling, student involvement, endowment transparency, and shareholder engagement, U of T achieved As. The remaining categories — climate change and energy, green building, transportation, and investment priorities — yielded Bs.

“There are a lot of really cool initiatives coming out of the university,” said President of the Arts and Sciences Student Union, Gavin Nowlan. “And there are a number of campus groups that are really pushing for a more sustainable campus.”

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Specific programs that add to the University of Toronto’s green image have come from both the administrative and student bodies. These include the Lug a Mug program, which saves students $0.25 at participating coffee shops on campus when they bring their own mug, trayless dining at New College, and post-consumer composting which was introduced in cafeterias last winter. Last year’s sustainability office piloted a project that encouraged paperless teaching. “Faculty members signed on to a pledge to reduce paper consumption in their offices,” explained Nowlan. This fall, the eco-tray program was launched in an effort to replace disposable takeout containers with reusable ones.

“Many of our programs have been in place for a number of years,” expressed Anne Macdonald, director of ancillary services. “So in some ways it is a little surprising that we were not recognised with higher scores in previous years.”

Under the leadership of Director Jaco Lokker, U of T’s food services increased their emphasis on sustainable food procurement. Having been in partnership with Local Food Plus since 2006, food services have striven to increase the amount of local, organic, and vegetarian-fed products used on campus.

According to Macdonald, the Chestnut and New College residences stand out as having especially sustainable cafeterias when it comes to both local procurement and waste reduction. Along with University College and Aramark locations, these cafeterias also have organic and vegetarian-fed options.

Riggall assures students that the administrative team is always investigating new technologies and methods to keep U of T eco-friendly. The university hires managers to look after their investments, but U of T’s Responsible Investing Committee is currently considering how to encourage managers to take sustainability into account in their decision-making processes. The administration plans to maintain a focus on options that make financial sense, such as installing interactive displays and other modes of promoting awareness. Currently, there is a display up in the lobby of the exam centre on McCaul Street that shows the history of sustainability at U of T.

Nowlan thinks the university needs to tackle other concerns such as waste disposal on campus.

“This is an issue we’ve brought up with the admin before,” he said. “Many students don’t know that the university doesn’t use the city’s garbage services. The university has its own garbage service.” He went on to explain how improper recycling increases waste disposal costs, which is ultimately felt by the students. “We’re continuing to put pressure on the university to tackle larger issues like [this].”

Adventures in Bookland

The month, the Varsity Book Club is discussing Sheila Heti’s How Should A Person Be? Heti is the Toronto author of two books: a collection of short stories released in 2001, and her debut novel, Ticknor, which was published in 2005. She is also the co-creator of the popular lecture series Trampoline Hall. How Should A Person Be? was published by House of Anansi Press in September. The books follows the story of a young writer living in Toronto, also named Sheila, who is struggling with writer’s block and questioning her identity as an artist.

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Jade Colbert: So we’ve got this character, Sheila, who seems to be going through some sort of identity crisis; the book’s question — “How should a person be?” — is one that she’s working out through the book. The novel is divided into a Prologue, Five Acts, and then what I guess is an Epilogue. One assumes that this structure is to mirror the play that Sheila is working on.

Emily Kellogg: It was kind of hinged on a discussion of art, in which living your life kind of becomes an art form: an exploration of what life as art actually is. It’s very much a discussion about what life should be. Should it be beautiful? Should it be meaningful? Should it be fulfilling? It’s supposed to be a novel, but it is one of those books that is less what happens in this book… it’s almost a philosophical treatise.

Brigit Katz: Kind of an orally fixated Plato’s Republic.

JC: Let’s get into that a bit more. Who is this book? Who is Sheila? Heti has insisted in interviews that this is a work of fiction, and that the characters, while sharing the names of various people within the Toronto arts community, are the fictional counterparts of those same people. I found Sheila to be one of the most brutally honest characters I’ve ever read.

EK: Heti said in an interview that the character Sheila is the worst parts of herself concentrated into one character. And I didn’t like her. In fact, I kind of hate her. The problems that she’s dealing with are so quintessentially first-world, and I think I’m frustrated with her insofar as she is one of the most self-indulgent characters I’ve ever read.

JC: I don’t think it’s fair to criticize a character for being a bad person, because there are plenty of people I enjoy spending time with who aren’t good people. What grated me, was her voice. All the bad things about Sheila come out because she is the one telling her this story. But this person is not trying to be liked.

BK: The book almost turns into a textbook of self-indulgent anxiety. The novel is really fixated on art, she does with the plot what people do with art. She picks it apart until it loses its specialness and its beauty, pulled apart to the point where you can’t stand the author anymore. And ultimately, the book takes a really holier-than-though attitude: a person should live ‘just like my five artist friends.’

JC: In the book Sheila meets Margaux, who is the fictional counterpart to Margaux Williamson, the Toronto painter; they meet, and it’s a meeting of minds as well. They’re both creative individuals and take to one another pretty immediately. Neither of them has ever had a female friend, so this is new territory for the both of them. Their relationship becomes strained fairly early on, though, because Sheila has writer’s block on the play she’s supposed to have finished. Sheila admires how Margaux seems comfortable in her knowledge of herself and how Margaux is not experiencing a block at all. What did you make of their relationship?

BK: Sheila’s relationship with Margaux — as annoying as I found the two of them — opens the gates to have her become an individual. And that’s the contrast between the male and female characters. She tries to transfer that consuming quality of her relationship with her boyfriend, Israel, and be controlled by Margaux, instead. But Margaux doesn’t let her do that. She makes her become a person.

EK: Margaux is really only what Sheila conceives her to be. She’s two-dimensional in that Sheila has limited her in her own mind, and that is the only thing we see of her as a character.

JC: Let’s backtrack a bit. I’m interested in hearing your initial reaction upon reading the book. It isn’t a very challenging read, and I really liked both the beginning and the end, but it’s tough slugging getting through the middle, or at least I found it that way. I just didn’t find anything pulling me through the story. Am I wrong?

EK: I do think that it’s interesting, because she writes in a minimalist style that isn’t pretty. I think that it might be a necessity, because she needs to underwrite these issues, otherwise it would seem ridiculous. You’re having a crisis, because you don’t know what your soul should consist of. Really? If that were written with more flamboyant prose, you really couldn’t take it seriously.

Joe Howell: I think a better name for this book would have been: What Should a Person Give a Fuck About.

EK: The answer would seem to be nothing.

The full conversation is available in our inaugural Adventures in Bookland podcast.

Campus Stage: Give ‘em the Old Razzle Dazzle

Most musicals, even those that eschew stereotypes of musical theatre, aim to be heart-warming, and demand that their songs be sung and danced in earnest. Chicago, currently presented by St. Michael’s College at Hart House Theatre, offers no such comfort, and is all the better for it. Rather than giving the audience a winsome story about romance-yearning farm girls or life-affirming bohemians (or, for direct comparison, see Chorus Girls, Chicago’s nun-like cousin), Chicago is a risqué portrayal of the deep-reaching tentacles of illusion, corruption, and emotional manipulation. There are no lessons to be learned, nor is there anyone to empathize with, as every character is either evil or simply pathetic. Chicago is about one thing and one thing only: entertainment. By harnessing an ironic, tongue-in-cheek mix of slapstick humour, historical pastiche, and glittering, sensual dance numbers, Chicago itself becomes a timely commentary on how so much that tries passing itself off at the moment as the earnest, serious truth is really just an artful sham.

The highlight of this performance of Chicago lies in its original dance numbers, choreographed by director Shakir Haq. Operating under the shadow of Bob Fosse is no enviable position, especially when you are working with busy students and a budget less than the total amount of money lost under the seats on Broadway in a year, yet Haq’s excellent choreography and lighting makes the production feel richer than it must be. As Billy Flynn, the sleazy lawyer-cum-courtroom puppet-master, played to perfection by Bruce Scavuzzo, says in a dance number: “Give ‘em the old razzle dazzle / Give ‘em an act with lots of flash in it / And the reaction will be passionate / How can they see with sequins in their eyes?” Haq has clearly taken this advice to heart, and keeps the audience continually engaged.

Melanie Mastronardi, playing Velma Kelly, the tough, out-of-luck primo diva of a prohibition-era Chicago vaudeville troupe, carries the biggest burden, dancing and singing in more of the numbers than anyone else. She is extremely talented, and pulls off the feat of singing very well while either dancing with jumps, twists, and somersaults, or being hung upside down. On two occasions she does the splits exactly on cue with the live band. A number of other principals also add to the flair of the dancing, but it is the Jail Birds, the production’s eleven-woman dance troupe, that ensures that the show scintillates. The production program includes a ‘Mature Content Warning’ and while people smoke, drink, and gun people down on a pretty regular basis, it is the costumes and dancing of the Jail Birds that is largely the reason for this warning. They might be decked out in fishnets and tiny skirts, and their routines include elements of striptease, pelvic thrusts, baring their behinds to the audience, and a black-whip that is rubbed suggestively, these aren’t stage floozies but angry and empowered women, inhibition-free maneaters who won’t take no shit from nobody.

Roxie Hart, played with poise by Lauren Goodman, the play’s other principal, sets up the plot by killing her lover. Hart hires Billy Flynn to engineer a celebrity fuelled miscarriage of justice, and begins reciting “Hail Mary full of grace” a heartbeat after shooting a man in cold blood. God can exist, so long as he’s in on the con. Chicago was first written and performed in the 1970s, and its mood of merry cynicism was too ahead of its time to be appreciated. However, the last few decades has carried out the collective simmering away of many of our social inhibitions, and Chicago, as this production and its extremely successful revivals on Broadway and the West End can attest, suits the moral and political zeitgeist perfectly.

In “Class,” one of the final numbers, Velma and her manager (Jaymie Sampa) ask themselves “Whatever happened to fair dealing / And pure ethics / And nice manners? / Why is it everyone now is a pain in the Ass? / Whatever happened to class?” Now, of course, they do this while getting sloshed and making fart jokes. Chicago’s thesis is that there never was any such thing as class, or good-hearted people, or perfect love and justice, or anything so rosy. It’s answer is that what was referred to as “class” and “truth,” was merely conformity, inhibitions, or ignorance. This production has none. As Billy Flynn puts it: “It’s all a circus, kid. A three ring circus. These trials — the whole world — all show business.” And that’s why you give ‘em the old razzle dazzle.

Life on the line

The CFL has always worked alongside various charities with the aim of fostering better communities and making a difference to the lives of those in need. This fall, Taylor Robertson, offensive linesmen for the Toronto Argonauts, partnered with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation to launch the campaign Life on the Line. The charity, which aims to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research, is a cause close to Taylor’s heart, having lost his mother to breast cancer when he was seven. It was this event that propelled Taylor to partner with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and begin LOTL. Despite his busy schedule, The Varsity was able to interview him right after the Eastern Division Playoffs.

The Varsity: You recently tweeted “12 yrs (4college, 8pro) never won any kind of post season game, can’t explain how good this feels!!” Could you try and describe this past season in comparison to the others you have played as a CFL player?

Taylor Robertson: Every season is different. For me the feeling of winning a playoff game was unlike any other because it was a first for me. Any time you have a first in your career its special.

TV: What made you decide to start up Life On The Line? And that name: where was that derived from?

TR: I have always been associated with different cancer charities throughout my career. While playing in Calgary I was involved with the Canadian Cancer Society, which in turn formed a very successful partnership with the Calgary Stampeders and the CCS which still exists to this day. However, I have always wanted to have my own program with the capabilities to have my own iniatives and send the messages that I felt were important. After being traded to Toronto, I felt the time was right to start creating my own program. The name actually was going to be the title of my blog entries on my website, however when I decided to go the non-profit route and create this, I thought that name would be perfect. Life on the Line comes from, well, my position on the field is an offensive lineman, and the blogs were going to be somewhat about my life. When I decided to use it for the program, I thought it related well because of what I do for a living, and also because of the severity of breast cancer and how peoples’ lives are on the line when they get diagnosed by this disease.
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TV: When did you decide to set up LOTL? And how does it work?

TR: I made the decision about a year and a half ago. I had talked about it for a while and did a lot of research. When I was comfortable with everything I started the process. A lot of people probably don’t realize that this stuff doesn’t just pop up overnight, it takes alot of time and effort to create — especially if you want to do it right! LOTL is a non-profit organization in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. All money raised goes directly to the CBCF.

TV: What do you see LOTL doing in the future?

TR: We have a large number of events planned for this upcoming year and we will be announcing them as they come up. The events will be something people can keep checking out for information about.

TV: In October there was Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Run at UTM, which you had attended. How was that? Is there something similar to that coming up? Will LOTL ever do anything on that scale for fundraising, or is LOTL meant to function as a purely donation charity?

TR: It was great. I had the opportunity to speak during the opening ceremonies which was awesome. I was grateful for that opportunity. The run for the cure was the first event we did and unfortunately, [we] barely had any time to put anything together due to time constraints. But we’re already working on next year’s run, and will have some big things planned for it. We will do lot of fundraising events ourselves, again though. We are not announcing those events at this time, but we will be in the very near future, and they will be big. May 2011 — that’s the only hint I’ll give out!

TV: How much has LOTL raised thus far?

TR: Since our launch in September we have raised $4,745. Only a small portion is from Run for the Cure. It’s mainly from the win-matching donation program.

TV: How do you see players moving around in the offseason? Any major changes you think are coming?

TR: No team is ever the same from year-to-year. You always have retirements, trades, free agency, and releases. It’s just the nature of this business. You never know what to expect in the offseason. Even the championship teams make changes. Nobody is ever safe in pro sports.

TV: What’s your primary goal for the offseason?

TR: Do what I need to do to improve and to help my team improve for the 2011 season, as well as build LOTL to help make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.

The end of women’s intramural hockey at U of T?

Women’s intramural hockey is dangerously close to dying at the University of Toronto. With four teams left in the league, the league is one drop-out away from game over.

As per U of T intramural sport guidelines, a league needs four teams to run. If one of the four teams currently playing drops out next semester, there will be no league.

The University has had a league on and off since 1908. For over 102 years, women have been playing the nation’s most popular sport on campus, representing different colleges and faculties.

In its hay day, during the 1970s and 1980s, there would be more than 20 teams spread out over several divisions, all jockeying for the Division 1 Hartson Cup or the Division 2 Addison Cup.

According to Intramural Manager John Robb, the sport wasn’t any more popular at the time than it is now.

“It was just a fun thing to do,” said Robb. “Of course, back then, girls hockey was unknown.”

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Today, that is not the case. There are women playing in the men’s intramural hockey league, and in an effort to revive the women’s league U of T is going to allow men to play in the women’s.

Alexis Goldenberg, a third-year concurrent education student, who has been playing in the Lower Lakes Female Hockey League for five years — first with the Vaughn Flames, and for the past three seasons, with the Scarborough Sharks — explained that one of the reasons she chose to play boy’s hockey is that there was less stigma around it.

“I played boys contact hockey up until I was 16,” she said. “It’s more aggressive and there’s more puck control.”

Women’s intramural hockey gets evening hours at Varsity Centre when Varsity Blues hockey doesn’t impede, although the league is not guaranteed the same night each week due to Varsity Blues athletics and rentals by other groups.

Like many U of T students, Goldenberg — a commuter — likes to have her evenings to herself.

“I like to go out at night and play hockey mid-day,” she said. “I don’t want to play hockey on a Saturday night at 10 o’clock,” she said.

“And it’s not really accessible. You’re not going to take your bag on the subway.

Many women who are interested in playing recreational hockey are, like Goldenberg, already playing in leagues outside the university.

“I’ve been playing with my team for so long and I’m still eligible to play with them. Why not keep moving along?” said Goldenberg.

The women’s intramural hockey league at U of T is seemingly in need of a pick-me-up, and a few strong leaders to guide it in the right direction.

“Good leaders make the team,” said Robb. “We need builders in hockey.

“It’s a great opportunity right here on campus, and it’s Canada’s national sport. Why not take advantage of it?”

A good sport: CFL season wrap-up

Last week in Edmonton, the finale of the 2010 Canadian Football League season played out between the Montreal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders. There was an acute sense of déjà vu, as the same two teams had met for the 2009 championship a year earlier.

Both games were close, though this year’s version could not touch last year’s, which will live on forever because of the shocking mental lapse that caused Saskatchewan to lose. They had too many men on the field for what would have been the game-ending play; instead, Montreal got another shot at a game-winning field goal and made it.

Of course, the Grey Cup is only 60 minutes of football, and it caps a campaign that begins every year in May and entails 18 regular season games. The 2010 version, like all others, came with its share of pleasant surprises, disappointment, and predictability.

The least surprising outcome this year? The Montreal Alouettes’ Eastern Division championship and subsequent Grey Cup appearance.

The East Division may as well be called the Alouettes Division, as they’ve made eight of this decade’s 10 Grey Cup appearances as the eastern representative. The team has only walked away with three Grey Cup victories, but that’s certainly a dynasty by any standard.

More surprising than the Als’ presence in the big game is the fashion in which they got there. It wasn’t surprising, painful as it is to admit, that they steamrolled the Toronto Argonauts 48–17 in the Eastern Division final the previous week. What was surprising is that the recently hapless Argos found themselves in a position to be one win away from reaching the Grey Cup in the first place, even if they came up abysmally short in that one game.
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In 2009 the Argos went 3–15, missing the playoffs. Their coach, with no previous coaching experience in the CFL, got into a fight with their star offensive player Arland Bruce III, and sent him Toronto’s arch-rival, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

This year, the American-born (but CFL-seasoned) Jim Barker took over. It was his show from the get-go, and he made moves based on his own intuition, even though many of them baffled critics throughout the year.

Still, his starting quarterback — an NFL cast-off named Cleo Lemon who scuffled badly in his first full year in the CFL — pulled through to a 9–9 record with help from the defence, one significantly better than what most Argos fans would have settled for before the season.

The Argos then found a way to beat their rival in a playoff showdown on the road in front of a notoriously hostile Hamilton crowd. It was a tight 16–13 win that came down to the last play, but it represented a remarkable turnaround, both symbolically and in substance, for a club that appeared utterly hopeless just a year before.

In a small league, some predictability is inevitable. That the Montreal Alouettes found themselves in the Grey Cup is no surprise. But the Argos’ unlikely bounce-back year illustrates that CFL fans can always count on at least one unexpected storyline to pop up every year.