The Varsity presents

On Saturday, November 3, The Varsity is hosting it’s first Off The Record party at the Boat (158 Agusta Ave.). Cover is $5, or free with a T-Card, with all proceeds going to Journalists For Human Rights.

Performing at Off The Record will be five of the best musical artists Toronto has to offer: oneman guitar scientist Now Yr Taken, shimmering heartbreakers The Coast, nocturnal rockers Uncut, indie-garage cheerleaders Germans, plus dance-floor filler Shit La Merde will be DJing before, after and in between the bands. Here’s a bit more about the talent The Varsity has in store:

The Coast with the most

Friends that play together, stay together. That’s been the modus operandi for local quartet The Coast since they first formed several years ago. Ever since two sets of pals (and a pair of brothers) joined forces in high school, the band has been plugging away in the local indie scene with their trademark melodic, atmospheric sound.

But while they’ve managed to stay fast friends while working to find a place for themselves in an increasingly crowded scene, it’s been a long trajectory for the band—after changing their name a few years back, releasing a self-titled EP, and building a steady fanbase on the strength of their energetic local shows, the band signed to tastemaker indie label Aporia last year, giving them the support to move forward with touring beyond hometown borders and finally record their first full-length.

“I don’t feel a crazy amount of pressure, but I’m anxious to get it right,” singer/guitarist (and Varsity Comment editor) Ben Spurr notes during a break in studio sessions with producer Chris Stringer (D’Urbervilles, Ohbijou). “Sound-wise, it’s shaping up a bit differently…”

“We don’t have as much delay and reverb as before,” chimes in guitarist Ian Fosbery, who gleefully points out that earlier that day in the studio, he was playing a Gibson worth more than the band’s entire recording budget.

All four members contribute to the songwriting process, though Spurr and bassist Luke Melchoirre handle lyrical duties.

Spurr notes the new songs deal with darker themes, examining disillusionment with love and life—including an honest look at the occasional bout of inter-band tension.

“There are parts that are kind of confessional; a lot of that is uncovering some of the uglier sides of our personalities, but it’s kind of a cathartic thing, making peace with some of that stuff,” he says.

But the guys have learned how to juggle their musical career and friendship— their common goal to make it has kept them going through school, day jobs, and, er, Newport Harbor?

“Yeah, they licensed one of our songs,” Spurr admits sheepishly of MTV’s Laguna Beach spinoff show. “We’re apparently the background to a very emotional scene. We don’t know that much about it other than that it’s kind of a big deal.”

The Coast are confident other big opportunities will come their way once their debut is released in the spring.

“We’ve been together a long time, but it feels like we’re just starting to make some progress,” Fosbery says.

“We’re really excited about the record,” Spurr adds, “and we’re really hoping people feel the same way”

Levy vote rips through campus

With a referendum underway on whether students will contribute around $20 million to build a new student centre, election officials have torn down posters opposing the measure. At the same time, the “yes” campaign, whose prominent campaigners include several University of Toronto Students Union executives, hung a banner near a polling station in a major campus hub, which appears to violate UTSU’s own bylaws.

The referendum asks full-time undergraduate students if they agree to pay two-thirds of the centre’s construction costs over a term of up to 25 years, and to shoulder a levy to pay operating costs once the centre opens. Volunteers and staff of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students have complained that their posters opposing the referendum are being torn down. Volunteer Katie Wolk was handing out APUS leaflets in front of Sid Smith on Monday, Oct. 29, when UTSU’s VP internal and services Faraz

Siddiqui issued her an ultimatum: either Wolk could surrender her leaflets to him, or he would call for the Campus Community police to step in. Siddiqui told The Varsity that, because APUS had not registered as an official “No” campaign in the referendum, UTSU’s bylaws prohibit them from campaigning.

A long-standing APUS volunteer, Wolk instead told him to contact Chris Ramsaroop, APUS’s campus coordinator. Campus police met with Ramsaroop and found that, though the groups postering conflicted with UTSU’s bylaws, APUS was not bound by those. The police refused to intervene.

Nonetheless, Gail Alivia, who UTSU hired as Chief Returning Officer for the referendum, confirmed that she and her Deputy Returning Officers have been tearing down APUS posters whenever they see or are informed of them.

UTSU’s general manager Rick Telfer has alleged that the posters are potentially defamatory and said that Student Affairs had given support to taking them down. He added that a lawyer retained by UTSU had found that the poster’s wording could be possible grounds for a libel suit. Telfer cited a phrase he said implied certain “yes” campaigners were corrupt.

APUS volunteers have complained about being followed closely by “yes” campaigners who would step in whenever they were talking with a student, interrupting them and telling the student that APUS was not telling the truth. This happened when a reporter from The Varsity approached an APUS volunteer on the Sidney Smith patio.

Most of the “yes” volunteers asked by The Varsity were aware that they were required to stay at least six metres away from polling stations while campaigning.

Yet volunteers hung a banner from a balcony in the Sidney Smith lobby, within direct view of the polling station there, in apparent contradiction of the UTSU charter for referenda, which reads: “Campaign banners may not be placed within six (6) metres or within sight of the polling station.”

The “yes” campaign, whose prominent volunteers include UTSU’s president Andréa Armborst, VP external Dave Scrivener, and VP equity Sandy Hudson, have been highly visible across campus wearing green shirts and buttons promoting the Student Commons levy and the website

For most of Wednesday, campaign workers also operated a table serving free coffee and displaying “yes” posters almost directly opposite the polling station in the Sidney Smith lobby.

Opponents of the referendum claimed the table broke the spirit of non-interference in voting. “If [the table] was not within six metres, it was ridiculously close,” said James Janeiro, a member of the official “no” campaign.

Asked by The Varsity to explain the banner, both Alivia and Telfer said they were unaware of the “within eyesight” portion of the rule it broke, which is written in section 7.l of the union’s charter on referenda. The banner has since been removed.

The charter has different rules for posters and banners, and refers to a U of T document defining banners as signage in excess of 17″ x 22″. The charter on referenda itself was unavailable online due to an apparent technical glitch on UTSU’s website when The Varsity called, and has since been posted.

APUS has consistently opposed the Student Commons project, taking the position that government assistance and the university should pay for the building, not students. If the Student Commons construction goes through as planned, APUS’s current home will be demolished to make room for the new centre, the union’s third eviction in recent years.

The “no” campaign, Coalition for a Democratic University of Toronto, has also complained that students at Victoria University had been disenfranchised in the referendum, which has no polling station on its grounds. Alivia said she initially contacted Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council members and Jason Hunter, the college’s dean of students, to set up a polling station, but that calls were not returned. Janeiro, also a member of VUSAC, said that the council checks their messages regularly and was not aware of receiving such a message. Hunter could not be reached at press time.

A letter obtained by The Varsity, sent to UTSU’s elections and referenda committee and signed by Janeiro and VUSAC president Zinzi de Silva, complained that claims of administrative errors were no grounds for Victoria to lack a polling station. The committee’s chair, Ahmad Khan, responded that VUSAC’s letter came far too close to the voting period to make any changes. The referendum was announced in mid-October.

Victoria University is in the planning stages of its own student centre, an expansion of the Wymilwood building. If it is built, Victoria students would contribute to its costs as well as those of the Student Commons.

If the referendum passes, each fulltime undergraduate on the St. George campus will pay $5 per semester to the construction budget until the centre opens. At that point, the levy would rise to $14.25 per semester and students would also start paying $6.50 per semester for operating and renewal costs, totaling $41.50 over the fall and winter terms. The levy could be raised no more than once each term, by no more than 10 per cent per term, to cover inflation.

Voting continues until Friday, Nov. 2.

Chestnut bomb threat defused

Just outside their windows, city and campus police responders brought a bomb squad, two explosive-handling robots, and dozens of bystanders who gathered just beyond the yellow tape lines. But inside the University of Toronto’s 89 Chestnut residence, students were told nothing by police, administrators, or the residence’s dean Josephine Mullally, about the car parked across the street that was suspected to contain a rigged explosive.

While students were gawking at police crews, the Chestnut residence was also playing host to a University of Toronto Health Network conference.

The situation began at 9:30 a.m., when police responded to a call placed from a pay phone near Osgoode Hall, CTV reported. The call threatened an explosion downtown, and investigators soon linked the bomb threat to a stolen vehicle discovered parked on Chestnut St. At 10 a.m., Toronto police cordoned off the street and shut down 89 Chestnut’s main entrance.

The residence’s administration was informed of the situation and convened a management meeting, where they decided to comply with police requests not to divulge information about the threat to the students lodged in the building. The former Colony hotel has been a University of Toronto dormitory since 2003, when the school bought it to cope with a huge spike in enrolment.

David Kim, assistant to 89 Chestnut’s dean, defended the decision not to inform students, saying that the police had asked administrators to withhold news of the potential threat to avoid causing a panic.

Had the bomb threat been confi rmed, Kim added, the building would most likely have been evacuated.

U of T’s Campus Community Police were also on the scene. Toronto Police 52 Division requested that the campus police offi cers get everyone to remain inside the building due to a “potential scenario” outside, according to Ruta Pocius, U of T’s director of issues management and media relations.

While the threat was being investigated, people were routed through the building’s East exit. At 12:30 p.m., police dismissed the threat as no explosives were found, and normalcy was restored.

For some residents feeling the midterm crunch, the affair passed unnoticed: “I slept through it,” said Hilary Barlow, a studious (and therefore groggy) fi rst-year student.

Corporations court LGBT students

This weekend’s Out on Bay Street conference will formally introduce LGBT business students to companies that have made them a priority.

The conference, organized by MBA students from U of T’s Rotman School of Management and York University’s Schulich School of Business, exists to connect LGBT students with businesses specifically seeking them out.

Andreas Kouremenos, co-chair of the event’s host, the Rotman Gay- Straight Alliance, said the workplace is frequently unsupportive of LGBT sexualities. “I worked in the financial sector this summer, and I didn’t feel a need to be out to the people I was working with. I definitely felt like it was very much an old boys’ club,” he said.

But while heterocentrism persists in business settings, some enterprising employees are capitalizing on their status as minorities.

“The buzzword really is diversity right now with businesses and industry in general […] companies are really smartening up and seeing that having a diverse workforce really adds to a company,” said Kouremenos.

What some might call tokenism translates to leverage.

“[Sexual diversity in hiring] is a fairly recent initiative for companies, and they’re starting to tackle it headon. And that’s why we’ve seen the support we have for the conference,” said Kouremenos. He reported that almost 50 students and 70 business insiders had signed on.

The conference’s itinerary unites the practical and the political. A career fair attended by 12 to 14 corporations will take place on Friday, followed on Saturday by speakers and workshops addressing issues of interest to jobseeking business students.

Student registrants cite a wide range of reasons to attend.

“I hope to see what companies out there support LGBT and provide a supportive environment for us,” said one Master of Mathematical Finance student who didn’t want to be outed. “I hope to build a network with people and companies that I want to work with, to increase my chance [of landing] a full-time job after I graduate.”

Kouremenos conceived OBS after attending the Reaching Out LGBT MBA Conference in Fall of 2006, a similar event held by Harvard Business School and the Yale School of Management in 1999. “They had an attendance of about 750 people down there, so I thought to myself, we might have the critical mass here in Canada,” he explained.

What careers should OBS attendees look for?

“I think finance is one of the most tolerant and LGBT-supportive industries,” said the MMF student. “Events like this one promote positive working environments […] and increase awareness of the fact that LGBT professionals indeed value a working environment in which we feel comfortable.”

The organizers, who have announced they hope to make OBS an annual event, have emphasized the importance of discourse between the communities involved. “I’m hoping that students ask the companies what they’re doing in the LGBT community, and I’m hoping that companies ask the students what they’re doing within their community at school.”

Bomb threats, thefts, and assaults on campus

While most of October passed by relatively quietly on at U of T (with two reported assaults and breakand- enters), the end of the month saw a bit more excitement.

A bomb scare last Monday, which turned out to be a prank, affecting residents of 89 Chestnut who were not evacuated, but told to use an alternative exit. On Halloween, the next day, Toronto and Campus Police responded to a report of a second bomb threat at Falconer Hall, which also turned out to be a false alarm.

On Sunday, Oct. 28, Hart House was the scene of a man breaking windows with a baseball bat and a couple engaging in “sexual activity” outside the building.

Elsewhere on campus, students had trouble holding onto their bicycles, as 14 bikes were reported stolen this month, despite the efforts of the Bait Bike program, which rigs a decoy bike with a GPS system to capture would-be thieves.

A total of 95 alarms were triggered on campus, in addition to 47 incidents of trespassing.

An attempted theft of a television and DVD player from Woodsworth has police looking for two males in their 20s. At the Nursing building, a male, also in his 20s, with a shaved head, a scarf bearing the Jamaican flag, and a grey Che Guevara camouflage jacket, is suspected of trying to steal a computer. In total, 26 thefts were reported to police.

The first of the two assaults this month took place on Oct. 2 around Queen’s Park crescent, involving someone grabbing a person who was walking to St. Michaels College. The suspect is described by police as a white male, 5’8”, with a medium build, sporting gelledback hair and a black jacket. The second assault occurred last week on Oct. 25, near the residence at 89 Chestnut Ave., though no description was provided by police.

During the month U of T’s Campus Community Police also helped an elderly person who was lost and disoriented, investigated a vehicle that was driving erratically on King’s College Circle, and responded to two particular complaints at the Medical Science building—musicians playing in the cafeteria and an “unattended package” left outside.

Anti-war cry shrinking to a whimper

An international day of action against the American-led “war on terror” took place Saturday, Oct. 27. If you were unaware of this, rest assured you’re not the only one. In Toronto, a measly 1,500 people marched on the U.S. consulate.

Though the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are the least popular they have ever been, turnout at anti-war protests is dwindling and the peace movement is utterly failing to grab the attention of the North American public. The largest protests against the Iraq war occurred before the invasion, at a time when opposition to the war was only at 23 per cent. Every year since then, the crowds at demonstrations in both Canada and the U.S. have gotten smaller, despite growing opposition to the wars. What could possibly explain this startling inverse relationship?

Most analysts blame it on fatigue. As the war on terror stretches into its seventh year, so the story goes, those who oppose North American military action in the Middle East get tired of protesting. They burn out. But this analysis ignores what’s really at the core of “protest fatigue”— namely, that it has become painfully apparent to demonstrators that no one is listening.

The Canadian and American governments are completely out of step with the public about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The conflicts are tremendously unpopular in both countries, yet their respective governments seem not to care.

In direct opposition to public opinion, Stephen Harper used his throne speech last week to announce his intention to extend the Afghan mission until at least 2011, two years beyond our current commitment to NATO. George W. Bush seems similarly deaf to calls to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. As support for the war continued to spiral downward earlier this year, Bush sent more soldiers overseas. With leaders in Ottawa and the White House blatantly ignoring the majority of their citizens on this vital issue, it’s no wonder protestors feel fatigued.

But the government’s deaf ear doesn’t fully explain the toothless nature of the peace movement. If people feel strongly enough about an issue, they will voice their opinion loudly, whether or not they are heeded.

What Americans and Canadians primarily object to is the loss of their own country’s soldiers. Most people now agree that it’s grossly unfair to ask our young men and women to die in a war for which the cause is vague, and victory ill-defined and uncertain.

This same concern for the youth of the nation was partly what galvanized anti-war protestors of the Vietnam era into unprecedented mass protests, especially when the draft was imposed. But the millions who shouted “Hey hey LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?” at President Lyndon Johnson were also deeply concerned about the innocent youth of the country they were at war with. This is not a widespread concern in America or Canada today. North Americans primarily see our soldiers, not foreign civilians, as the victims of these conflicts. This is reflected on the evening news, where tallies of Canadian and American dead are meticulously kept track of nightly, while the total number of Iraqis or Afghans killed since the invasions is almost never mentioned. This is a stunning omission, considering over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since 2003. Within the first few months of the Afghan war, over 3,000 civilians were killed.

In the wake of 9/11, North Americans apparently have difficulty identifying with the plight of Muslims in the Middle East. Relatively few people have relatives or friends dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. As long as soldiers are depicted as the main casualties of war, the majority will object to the conflicts, but few will feel passionate enough to take to the streets. Until the peace movement convinces Canadians and Americans to stop the conflicts for the sake of those that it affects most, the protests will dwindle, and our leaders will continue beating the drums of war.

No average Joe

Joe Torre has declined a one-year contract extension with the New York Yankees, declaring the offer an insult. Yankees brass proposed $5 million with an additional $3 million in incentives, which amounts to a substantial pay cut from previous years.

Undeniably, Torre has had a remarkable run with the Bronx Bombers, including four World Series titles and 12 straight years of post-season play. But even considering the team’s success during his tenure, Torre’s inability to progress to further rounds in recent playoffs effectively foreshadowed the end of his management days. In a city like New York, advancement is imperative and Torre has failed to move forward with each consecutive year.

In view of the team’s failure to make significant strides in the post-season, Yankees management made quite a generous offer. Torre would have been the highest paid manager in the game and would only be committed to the team for an extra year. He may have been better served by taking a step back to assess the situation before letting his pride get in the way.

However, the Yankees are arguably in a better position with former Yankees’ catcher Joe Girardi (natinal league manager of the year in 2006), taking over for Torre in 2008. The old adage of change for the sake of change is perfectly applicable in this situation. The team appeared to hit a wall in the last few seasons for various reasons, including the inability to cultivate a viable pitching staff and perhaps more importantly, out of a lack of motivation. Torre’s service to the team for such a significant number of years may have led to complacency in the system. With a new manager in place, players will have to be alert to the new expectations that are placed upon them. Perhaps this will ignite a fire under some of the veteran members of the team.

Thank goodness that the Yankees were able to avoid a massive public relations nightmare. Their offer signalled a desire to bring him back—on a short-term basis, and the hiring of Girardi as his replacement represents a movement towards the future as well as a connection to past glory (Girardi won three championships as player for the Yankees in ‘96, ‘98, and ‘99).

Torre got the last word on the topic by holding his own press conference to explain his reasons for not coming back. They may share the same name but Joe Torre is a legend in New York and simply can not be replaced.

The key to managing a group of world class athletes, is to find someone that can bring a sense of stability and composure to the diamond. Furthermore, playing in the most demanding market in the world requires a manager who can face the media on a daily basis, answering questions in a dignified and direct manner. Curiously, that sounds very much like the man who just left the team.