UBC scared shut—twice

The RCMP has issued a campus-wide warning at UBC and launched an investigation after prank threats twice brought campus activity to a halt,

On Jan. 29 the Biological Sciences Building was locked down after someone phoned in a “threat.” On Feb. 6, another threat was made against UBC, although this time no particular building was specifically mentioned. Nevertheless, classes in the BSB were cancelled and the media told to stay away. Police have not yet disclosed the nature of the threats, or whether they targeted a specific group of people.

The campus stayed open both times, but students were warned of the possibly dangerous situation.

“It’s ridiculous to cancel classes in this building when the supposed threat is all over campus,” student Elshan Valipour told the Province.

The RCMP said that the two threats may be linked. Police have publicly appealed to whoever made the threats to seek professional counseling.

This week, UBC plans to test a new security system. At a cost of $30,000 per use, the Aizan system notifies the entire university community via email and voicemail of suspected threats. Only 38 per cent of students have provided their cell phone numbers.

Men’s basketball with a chance to catch ottawa for second in the east as playoffs loom

The Varsity Blues will play a home/road double-header, this weekend against divisional rival Ryerson Rams. Toronto (15-5) will need to have a strong end to their season following a split in their previous two games against York and Laurentian. If they can win one of two against Ryerson, the team will tie the Ottawa Gee Gees for second place in the East division with 32 points. The Blues who lead the season series against Ottawa 2-0 would automatically be awarded second place and given a first round bye in post season play. The first round of the playoffs officially get underway on Feb. 20, but with a bye Toronto would not have to play again until the quarter finals on the 23rd.

Things didn’t get off to a good start this past weekend against York. Facing the crosstown Lions for the second time in 2008, the Blues fifth ranked defense were simply dominated, losing in an improbable 76-67 decision. The game had all the makings of a Blues’ blowout early in the first half as they jumped to a 20- 6 first quarter lead, displaying why they’re ranked fifth in the country.

However, Toronto’s offence cooled as York, refusing to lay down and die, kept the game within arm’s length by whittling U of T’s lead down to single digits before the half time buzzer 36- 18. At the half, York’s leading scorer Tut Ruach had scored only a single point on a free throw, after shooting 0- 7 from the field.

“When I saw he only had one point at the half, I was thinking, you know what, he’s too good for that,’” said Blues head coach Mike Katz. Ruach exploded out of the gate in the third quarter, in what Katz characterized as “A scoring record for the second half.” The fourth-year guard garnered York’s first 14 points, outshooting U of T’s entire team 21-12 in the quarter. Rauch finished with 31 points in the half equaling the Blues total.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s an unbelievable game.” Katz remarked of Rauch’s performance. “I mean he was due to break out all year. And that team is coming,”

Also contributing for the Lions was 6’10 centre Stefan Haynes who was a tower of power on the defensive end, finishing with 14 rebounds, and five blocks to go along with his nine points. Blues forward Ahmed Nazmi was the Blues best player with a double double, scoring 15 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Nick Magalas had 15 points of his own, while fifth-year guard Mike DeGiorgio had 11 assists for the Blues.

After the game U of T coach Mike Katz was gracious in defeat: “They’ve struggled a lot all year, but I really felt that it was a team on the rise…they just beat us tonight,” Katz said. Still Katz points to his team’s own uncharacteristic play on Friday night as another factor in the upset. “I thought we panicked a bit, and didn’t stay with our offence,” Katz said. “Maybe guys started to think that all he had to do was show up and win. You gotta do it on the floor, so we can get back to work.”

Despite the loss Toronto was able to salvage the second game of the weekend with a 94-71 win against Laurentian. Despite resting all of its starters in this game, in anticipation of the playoffs, the Blues were able to rely on the solid contributions of guard Nick Magalas who finished with a team leading 17 points for the Blues.

Rental law could leave students homeless

A housing crackdown at Oshawa’s University of Ontario Institute of Technology and nearby Durham College could force as many as 500 students out of their homes.

With 5,000 undergraduate students at UOIT, 5,500 students at Durham, and only 1,300 residence spots available, some students have opted to live in the subdivisions surrounding the institute, transforming suburban homes into overcrowded and illegal student houses. As many as nine students live in some houses, with the driveways packed with five to six cars. Not everyone is pleased with the rental housing boom—a city bylaw is set to pass this week requiring landlords’ property to be licensed, and the number of bedrooms in the houses to be capped at four.

According to a January news release posted on UOIT’s website, students are concerned that the bylaw will significantly increase housing costs, potentially forestalling their education, and even discouraging prospective students from choosing the college or institute in the fall.

Fraser McArthur, president of both UOIT and Durham College’s student association, points out that the university cannot function without students. However, City Councillor and chair of the committee for the bylaw Louise Parkes says that there are health and safety concerns that are impossible to ignore.

President Ron Bordessa of the institute does not plan to discuss the bylaw in a special council meeting this week, but said that he hopes city councillors will reconsider their decision.

Exciting season finale ends in victory for first-place women’s basketball

The women’s basketball team will have a little bit of time now to enjoy thrilling victories against York and Laurentian this past weekend, With the victories the Blues accomplished two feats: They displaced York from first place overall, the first time in three years that the Lions finished out of top-spot, and they also earned a bi into the quarterfinals of the playoff’s giving them exactly 11 days to prepare, but just as importantly, to enjoy their new number one status. With 18 wins on the season women’s basketball matches it single best total, which they last accomplished in 2003. When asked who they would prefer to play in the playoffs, Toronto head coach Michelle Belanger was not about to get ahead of herself. “No, I’m not even going there. Not going there because that’s just way beyond.”

In their final two games of the season, with first-place in the OUA East on the line, U of T came up with a solid 40-minute performance to defeat the seventh-ranked York Lions 79-68 in front of a full house at the Athletic Centre Friday night. It was a different story from their previous meeting when the Lions defeated Toronto 73-70 at York Jan 26. In that game, the Blues played timidly in the first and third quarters and dug themselves a hole too deep to climb out of.

On Friday night however, their game plan was simple: no easy baskets. “We were going to give them the physical treatment tonight, but in the last game against York, we started out extremely tentative,” said fifth-year forward Laila Bellony. “We made a pact between us that we were going to make them earn every basket. Nothing easy tonight.” The score at half time was a little misleading. The Blues were up by only three points despite limiting the Lions to just 32 per cent shooting from the floor. The offence finally shifted into high-gear in the third quarter, starting with a 19-5 run and capped-off with a Christine Cho three-pointer. York went on a small run of their own in the fourth quarter when York’s leading scorer, Brenan Rurak, hit a triple to cut the Blues’ lead to seven.

From there, though, the Blues put the game away. York’s defense could not stop the Blues down the fourth quarter stretch.

Blues forward Christine Cho led all scorers with 20 points in the second half. Guard Kyla Burwash, despite playing with a sore left hand, tallied 14 points, five rebounds, and three steals. Bellony kept her promise by playing aggressive defense every minute she was on the floor. She also made a solid contribution on the offensive end with 15 points and five rebounds in only 13 minutes of play.

Blues head coach Michele Belanger praised the excellent work of her subs after starting forwards Amanda Van Leeuwen and Bellony got into foul trouble early in the first quarter.

“That hurt us at times, but I thought the girls coming off the bench did a great job maintaining momentum,” Belanger said. She was also pleased with the complete 40-minute performance her team gave, especially after the disappointing three-point loss at York.

“We played 40 minutes… We told the girls after the (Jan. 26) game that they played outstanding basketball for six minutes,” Belanger said. “So I said if you could play that well for six minutes, imagine what you could do if you played 40-minutes fairly intensely.”

The team was able to carry the momentum from this game into their season finale against Laurentian. The Voyagers entered the game third overall in the East just behind the Blues, and they battled all the way too the final buzzer. After the first quarter Laurentian had the lead 21-17, but with victory, and first place still within reach, the Blues battled back outscoring their opponents 21-11 in the second to take a six point lead at halftime. Despite a late rally by the Voyagers in the fourth quarter the Blues were narrowly able to capture the win 70-69, on the strength of Allaine Hutton’s 21 points and eight rebounds. Christine Cho also contributed to the victory with 21 points of her own on 7-13 shooting.

Carleton elections off to a chaotic start

As she prepares to step up as chairperson of the Canadian Federation Students-Ontario, Shelley Melanson is dealing with infighting and accusations of misconduct at her own students union. Melanson, president of the Carleton University Students’ Union, will take over CFS-O’s top job this June. Political tensions at CUSA have run high during her tenure.

Carleton’s paper the Charlatan reported on a disput between Melanson and Helen Choi, a CUSA council member, in a Jan. 31 article. Choi, whose motion for new training for councilors, alleged that Melanson and members of the CUSA executive unilaterally decided whether to discuss motions. Melanson dismissed these claims, saying that Choi’s actions are politically motivated and that Choi is seeking the CUSA presidency. Furthermore, Melanson recounts how Choi had commented to her that she “didn’t want to promote student conflict but went to The Charlatan.”

Devon Monkhouse, a CUSA member and a candidate for VP internal, also criticized Melanson, saying she was more interested in working with special interest groups than engaging with students. “A large voting block on council that votes for executive, with their super majority, push CFS initiatives through council,” he said, adding that only those who toe the party line can advance in CUSA.

Monkhouse said that CFS has a vested interest in Carleton, the only CFS-affiliated campus in Ottawa, aiming to train and coordinate students to use them as Parliament Hill lobbyists.

The CUSA kerfuffle, according to Maclean’s education blogger Joey Coleman, is common at Ontario campuses. “Student leaders are obsessed with their own power and egos,” he said.

Coleman said that student unions such as CUSA receive significant amounts of funding, giving them a “perceived status of power.” He said Melanson’s new job was a chance to leave the drama behind: “Shelly has an opportunity to re-invent herself.”

Varsity Blues miss golden opportunity against Hawks

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team may have let an opportunity to upset the OUA-leading Laurier Golden Hawks slip through their fingers, but their last regular-season home game of the year was one to remember.

The game had no effect on the standings, since Laurier and U of T had already clinched the number 1 and 2 spots in the OUA, earning a first-round playoff bye, but you wouldn’t know it based on the spirited play in the up-tempo Saturday afternoon affair. A larger-than-usual crowd was on hand, treated to an impressive display of hockey by two very talented teams in what turned out to be a nail-biter.

The top two teams in the OUA were neck-and-neck for 65 minutes, the outcome unclear until the final horn sounded. Both registered equal shots in the first and third frames, as Laurier held only a one-shot edge in the five-minute overtime period. The Golden Hawks came out strong in the second period and peppering Toronto with shots during three unanswered Blues penalties, but goaltender Stephanie Lockert kept the game close.

Meschino scored the last-minute goal on a mad scramble for the puck in the Blues’ crease with Laurier goaltender Liz Knox pulled for the extra attacker. A shot fired at the open net went wide and the faceoff came back into U of T’s zone on an icing charge. The puck didn’t cross the blue line again until the referee dropped it at centre ice following the Laurier goal.

Annie Del Guidice opened the scoring for the Blues at 17:39 of the first period, ending an almost 138-minute goalless drought against Laurier. She picked up a rebound on a shot by Emily Milito, and lifted the puck over a sprawled Knox on the power play. The Golden Hawks responded on their next chance with the main advantage early in the second period, when a couple of Laurier forwards jammed at a loose puck until Andrea Ironside found the back of the net.

Karolina Urban scored the goahead goal for Toronto in the third period for another special-team tally—this one shorthanded. Urban stole the puck from a Golden Hawks defender, coming in on Knox, who left the crease to challenge the goalie. In return, she spun around and fired into the empty net.

Although the Blues were not able to hang on to the lead, the game represented a victory after being shut out 2-0 in two previous meetings with Laurier. “I think we had small successes,” said Lockert. “I think that spirits are up…The focus is there knowing that we can be successful.” Head Coach Karen Hughes also had a positive outlook. “I thought we did a lot of good things today and gave up a goal in the last few seconds,” she said. “That’s okay. Some days that’s going to go your way, other days it’s not…We know what we need to do to play well against them.”

The coach was less pleased with the visiting team’s physicality. The game featured more contact than usual, and although U of T contributed to this tone, Hughes felt Laurier played a larger part. “They ran over us at times, like that player that hit our number 21 in the third period. That would be a penalty.”

Lockert felt the Blues could’ve responded a little better to Laurier’s style. “We weren’t taking the body as much as we would’ve liked to,” she said. The fifth-year goaltender was named player of the game for her 28-save effort in the last regular-season home game of her Blues career. She and five other graduating students— including captain Jill Clark, OUA points leader Janine Davies, forwards Laura Foster and Emily Patry, and defenceman Sarah Poirier—were honoured before the game. “I was really excited,” said the coach, “I definitely remember every moment of that game.”

Finally, some worthy candidates

Pundits have declared the results of last week’s Super Tuesday as inconclusive. And yet, it has produced a surprisingly clear verdict as to which two candidates should run in the general election. With Mitt Romney’s Death of a Salesman- like departure after Tuesday’s disappointments, the Republican nominee will almost surely be John McCain. With a stellar performance in many swing states, Barack Obama has shown that he is capable of being the Democratic frontman.

A contest between McCain and Obama would be the best for America, as it would result in a winner worthy of the American electorate. Both men possess impressive records when it comes to qualities lacking in their close competitors: integrity and honesty, which facilitate the public to trust their leader, necessary if the U.S. chooses to wage the war on terror successfully. Courage motivates the future president to do what is best, making tough decisions in spite of tough poll numbers.

Time and time again, McCain has challenged his own party when it has betrayed its conservative principles, in times of reckless Republican pork-barrel spending and cynical support for agricultural subsidies. He has admonished his colleagues when they have lost sight of national interest, as in the case of Guantanamo Bay and and the question of torture. When the popular mood turned against the Iraq war in 2006, McCain stood by a new “surge” strategy, unwilling to let the country fall prey to ethnic cleansing and civil war. Unlike the president, McCain was willing to explain the situation in clear terms—that the odds were for success in Iraq were low, but the U.S. had an obligation to the Iraqi people to help them rebuild.

Obama too has made telling hard truths a hallmark of his campaign. He doesn’t shy away from confessing to voters in Michigan that they aren’t likely to get their jobs back. He is a black candidate who opposes race-based affirmative action, a key rallying issue for black activists and voters in the U.S. In 2002, Obama did not give into the fervour of pro-war patriotism swirling around Washington, and voted no on sending troops to Iraq.

Contrast McCain and Obama with their closest competitors. Though Mitt Romney has dropped out, he once commanded a strong following among rank-and-file conservatives. Romney positioned himself as the cookie-cutter social conservative, despite a socially liberal governing record in Massachussetts on gay marriage, abortion, and stem cells. He conveniently changed positions on immigration reform, campaigning against amnesty when a controversial bill providing guest-worker status to 12 million illegal immigrants was hotly debated last summer (Mc- Cain had co-written one version of that bill). When consultants advised Republicans on distancing themselves from the president’s Iraqi struggles, Romney listened. He second- guessed Bush’s surge strategy, before becoming a convert once it proved successful.

Hillary Clinton appears to be the only candidate who could spoil an Obama vs. McCain race, and she has been no better. In fact, her political machine has all but made her campaign one big lie: that she is the experienced candidate. As a senator, Clinton has only one more term in office over Obama. Most of her touted “experience” comes from her years as a first lady. Visits with celebrities to Africa and a failed health care initiative are not signs that one would make a good president.

Clinton’s ambition and calculation are indicators of the poll-tested presidency she would preside over. This is best exemplified in her Iraq plan, which calls for a withdrawal of troops with a remnant contingency to fight terrorists. It would mollify left-wing pressure for an end to the war, but also appease the right’s charges that she is soft on national security. Of course, drawing down troops to a number that is small enough to fail sounds similar to the original Rumsfeld “light-footprint” strategy that got the U.S. into the mess it is now trying to correct.

We can never believe all that is promised on the campaign trail will be fulfilled. After all, situations change and political obstacles often make keeping promises impossible. Instead, in an election with so much at stake, we must rely on our assessment of character. Neither Mc- Cain nor Obama are perfect. They have made mistakes in judgment, and have occasionally had to burn bridges to achieve political ends. But they are politicians who have achieved great, difficult tasks, and inspired many people through their honesty, integrity, and courage. Their character is superior, and it is on that consideration that they both merit endorsement.

How do you rate U of T’s cafeteria and food service?

Clockwork from top-left

Lailah, 4th-year Human Biology

There’s a reason I have Chinese food…Burwash food is pretty inedible and this comes from someone who isn’t eating there for every meal.

Alex, 4th-year Sociology

I was noticing on the way here [Robarts] that there is no food on St. George except for the trucks. I swear I am putting the burger truck guy’s kids through college.

Andrew, 3rd-year Philosophy

It’d be better if they had less corporate food in Robarts. It sucks that U of T sells Aramark the monopoly. If you want good food options you really have to go off campus. Luckily that just means walking a few blocks in any direction.

Elaine, 2nd-year Philosophy and Equity Studies:

More vegetarian and vegan options! I’ve been reading about this Hot Yam thing (student run vegan lunch, Thursdays at the ISC, $5), and I’m gonna check it out. We really need more fresh food on campus.