Surprise! You’re elected

French Club president Antonin Mongeau was furious when he got voted off the Clubs Committee. Now, because his replacement didn’t actually want the spot, his seat will remain vacant this semester.

The committee, which gives recognition and funds to UTSU clubs, has three spots for club executives. The committee was re-struck after the Fall by-elections last Friday and UTSU board members voted on the three spots.

VP campus life Athmika Punja, who chairs the committee, nominated Natalie Orellana for a seat. Though Orellana was not present at the meeting, she won over Mongeau.

Punja told The Varsity on Jan 31, “I sent out the call-out […] only two days before the meeting, and [Orellana] got back to me really quickly and said that she couldn’t make it on Thursday but she really wanted to be part of it. I guess it was sort of my duty to nominate her.”

In fact, Punja sent an email to Orellana on the day of the meeting, less than an hour before it was due to start, saying that there was a spot available on the Clubs Committee and inviting her to join. Orellana, president of the Current Affairs Exchange Forum, did not know what the Clubs Committee was.

Punja said that Orellana should have known about the committee from clubs training, which is mandatory for all club leaders.

“At that time it had only been Antonin and Jimmy Lu, so when I sent out the call-out, I saw it as an opportunity to fill that last seat. When I sent out the call-out, I didn’t expect that there would be a big change in the Clubs Committee, the outcome did surprise me.”

Punja’s email to Orellana did not mention the vote. Orellana replied that she could not come to the meeting and asked for more information about the committee. “I can’t today, but maybe next time you guys have a meeting I could come,” she wrote.

Punja told it differently. “The e-mail that I got from [Orellana] said she did [want to join the committee], she just couldn’t make the first meeting.” Later, Punja revised her statement, saying, “I got that she was interested from her email, so I nominated her.”

Punja replied saying that she would add her to “the list,” and that she should make it to the next meeting. By the time Orellana saw this message, she was already a member of the committee, but didn’t know it: “I didn’t assume that I was committing myself to something. There was nothing about voting or whatever.”

“She’s said she doesn’t want to be on it, but we’ve pretty much made all the decisions so far. I guess it’s going to be two people again.”

Mongeau said the vote was done hastily to remove him from the board for political reasons. Punja admitted that she voted against the French Club president, accusing him of being out of order during meetings.

UTSU execs denied that the vote was politically inspired, and repeated that committees are re-struck after by-elections every year. According to UTSU bylaws, committees are supposed to be re-struck in November.

“I only got the directions to re-strike the committee from Adnan [Najmi, VP internal],” said Punja. “I didn’t find out until Tuesday, the meeting was on Friday.” She said she had not checked the bylaws for the rules. “He [Adnan] is the policy guy, I obviously took his word for it.”

Home-court advantage

Fans, alumni, and professors alike packed the Athletic Centre Sports Gym this weekend to watch the Varsity Blues men’s basketball team battle the number-three Ottawa Gee-Gees and number-one Carleton Ravens.

As part of “White Out Weekend,” much of the crowd wore white in support of the Blues’ playoff bid. Even U of T President David Naylor, adorned in a tailored white shirt, cheered on the team at Friday night’s game against Ottawa. “I wish I could come out more often, but I think it’s great to see so many students out and a lot of alumni out tonight,” said Naylor. “Here we are giving the number three team in the country, a very strong game […] It’s fantastic.”

What began as a strong game resulted in a 80-72 loss to Ottawa. Despite being the team’s first home loss of the season, a general optimistic attitude permeated the entire court. While the crowd was decked in white, the Blues were unwilling to wave the white flag.

“We played the third best team in the country without our starting point guard [Nick Magalas], so we did okay,” said Blues head coach Mike Katz. “I thought our guys played really hard, and they tried their best, and the result wasn’t all that terrible. But [Ottawa is] a good team and we just got to keep going. I was proud of our team.”

The Blues lit up the court in the first quarter, outscoring Ottawa 25-19. They shot 55 per cent from the floor, going 3-4 from behind the arc. Guard Rob Paris scored two of the three-pointers, ultimately tallying 18 points in the game. While the team’s momentum began to dwindle in the second quarter, the Blues maintained a three-point lead going into the half.

Although some say that good things come in threes, bad things happened to the Blues in the third. They turned the ball over eight times out of their 19 total, propelling the Gee-Gees to a 61-50 lead. While four of the players scored in double-figures in the game, the team only mustered 11 points in the futile third quarter. Even Blues player of the game Ahmed Nazmi, who tallied an impressive game-high 22 points and nine rebounds, was unable to get a basket during those lifeless 10 minutes.

The team fought back in the fourth, outscoring Ottawa 22-19. But it was too little, too late. Plagued by turnovers and poor shooting from the line, the Blues succumbed to the Gee-Gees, 80-72. Yet the crowd remained boisterous up until the final buzzer.

“I think the fans recognize that Ottawa is a very strong team, much stronger than any of the other opponents we’ve played at home,” explained U of T Modern Jewish History professor and avid basketball fan, Frank Bialystok. “The atmosphere was supportive and strong, and not at all defeatist.”

In only his third start of the season, point guard Anthony DeGiorgio offered insight into what went wrong. “We came out flat in the third quarter and against a team like Ottawa, if we’re going to beat them, we have to play forty minutes,” he said. “We have to play the whole game really well.” For his part, DeGiorgio tallied five rebounds and 10 points, five of which came during his very impressive opening quarter.

While Blues forward Nazmi led both teams in points and rebounds, he modestly deflected praise, focusing on his team’s progress. “Basketball is funny in that it’s the collective, it’s the sum of the individual effort,” he said. “I’m humbled that I was able to step up today, and the trick is to keep that going, and hopefully, we can all do that together. And when we gel together, we can count on more winning.”

The Blues couldn’t count on another win in their following game, falling to the Carleton Ravens 74-54. Yet there’s still something to cheer about: The Blues remain in third-place in the OUA East. With only three games left of the regular season, they are a lock for the playoffs, and it’s almost guareenteed they’ll play at home during the first round. And if there’s one thing that’s been learned this past weekend, it’s that win or lose, with the crowd behind them, the Blues have the advantage.

Potty for primates

Before I even meet Shawn Lehman, I get a clue to his lighter side from the door to his office. More specifically, the dozen comics pasted all over, ranging from single-panel gags to Calvin and Hobbes. Lehman, an anthropology professor, is one of ten finalists for the TVO Best Lecturer Competition. U of T has four profs in the finals.

Lehman brings to mind a cowboy. Something about the tall man in faded jeans recall cattle wranglers from an old Spaghetti Western.

But while Lehman has spent some time in the Wild West—Calgary—he wrangles a different beast. As his students know, Lehman loves to study primates.

It was a big jump. “I was a football player,” he says. “The first time I was on this campus was to play in the Vanier cup in 1985 with the University of Calgary Dinos.” He cracks a grin. “I didn’t think a lot about school, but I did think a lot about football.” Through serendipitous contacts and amazing professors, Lehman ended up in anthropology.

“I love my job,” Lehman pronounces with a hint of a smile. “People talk about ‘doing the job’, but I am the job. This is who I am.”

He grows animated as he launches into stories of his adventures. “One time I was walking in the jungle in Guyana in South America, and I reached the end of this long trail of white sand. I was writing in my notebook as I turned around to head back, and I noticed a huge jaguar print in the sand.”

“And I remember thinking ‘Oh there’s a lot of jaguars, that’s a healthy ecosystem.’ But then I looked at the next print, and I noticed,” Shawn chuckles. “I noticed that it was on top of my boot print.”

He shakes his head a little in recollection. “It turns out that for the last 400 metres or so this enormous jaguar had been walking right behind me. It could have killed me in an instant, but it was just curious.”

Lehman, it seems, has a talent for attracting curiosity. He was nominated for Best Lecturer by students in his first-year Intro to Anthropology course.

“I don’t want to give dry, boring examples,” says Lehman. “If I can render a complex idea down to one silly story, then people will remember it.”

“When you sit down for a test, it’s like this giant eraser wipes your brain clean of all the dry facts, but you’ll still remember the funny stories.”

Though he’s a well-travelled researcher, Lehman admits that there are still some things he hasn’t managed to do: “I’ve always wanted to dress up in a gorilla suit when I’m doing the primate lecture.”

“But all the gorilla suits are one-size-fits-all, and I’m too tall,” he laughs. “But one day I will wear a gorilla suit to class.”

Penalty-killed

In a hard-hitting and penalty-filled affair, the Royal Military College Paladins beat the Mid East division-leading University of Toronto Varsity Blues 4-2 at Varsity Arena Friday night.

In a game that became a consistent march to the penalty box, the Blues (12-10-0-3) and Paladins (8-16-0-2) combined for 15 minors, two majors, and two game misconducts.

Going into the game, Toronto was fourth in the OUA in the man advantage, clipping along at over 20 per cent.

The Blues went 1-9 on the power play, including two five-on-three’s and the Paladins went 2-7.

Toronto had a chance to put the Paladins in the hole in the first period, but failed to convert on three consecutive power plays.

“Their goalie played pretty well,” said Blues forward Sean Fontyn. “We missed the net and tipped some pucks but, again, we didn’t get the puck to the net and it ended up costing us. We’re definitely more skilled but we had one of our worst games [tonight].”

Sometimes, you have to give the opposition kudos. A large portion of the credit goes to Paladins goalie Adam Briggs. The Wallace, Nova Scotia native was RMC’s best penalty-killer, especially during the third period when the Paladins went to the box five times, including a five-minute major for crosschecking to Richard Lim.

“[Briggs] was tremendous,” said Paladins head coach Adam Shell. “We have a young team and a short bench and sometimes we’re going to give up chances. When the guys know it’s going to take a really good play to beat him, they play and inch taller.”

The winning goal scored at 7:52 of the second period was a direct result of playing a basic hockey system.

Luke Pierce went to the net and parked himself to the right of Blues goalie Russ Brownell and jammed a rebound home short side.

“We’re most successful when we play simple,” said Shell. “And the important part of that is getting the puck to the net and having guys there.”

For the eighth time in 10 games, the Blues allowed the opposition to score first.

Just over five minutes into the first period, Paladin Jeff Oke wristed a puck Brownell on a two-on-one pass from teammate Justin Lacey seconds after the Blues killed a penalty.

“We never seem to score the first goal,” said Toronto head coach Darren Lowe. “Our first period is not usually very good. It seems we need a bad period to wake up and play better. We’re trying to find the answer to that but we can’t seem to put our finger on it.”

Toronto rookie Byron Elliott evened the score, netting his 14th goal of the year on the power play at 12:26 of the first.

Lim and Oke also scored for RMC in the second, both on the man advantage, to turn a tie game into a 4-1 visitors lead.

Six minutes after Pierce made it 3-1, the Blues thought they had closed the gap to one. The goal was disallowed because the referee lost sight of the puck.

Blues forward Paul Dupont took a five-minute major and game misconduct at 18:42 of the second after a check to the head.

RMC entered the third with a lead, for only the fourth time in 26 games.

After the Blues killed the Dupont major, Toronto cut the deficit to 4-2 when Bryden Teich scored his second of the season after parking a rebound behind Briggs.

The rest of the third, the Blues buzzed the net, rewarded with three power plays in a row, including a 36-second two-man advantage, but could not get any closer.

“At the beginning of the year we were winning a lot of games with our power play,” said Lowe. “Tonight we missed way too many opportunities and we just didn’t get it done.”

The Blues have 27 points; five ahead of second place Queen’s Golden Gaels. Toronto is 4-8 on the road and two of their three remaining games are away from home.

Brownell stopped 23 shots and took his sixth loss of the year and Briggs stopped 37 for his seventh win.

Syed keeps SCSU

SCSU president Zuhair Syed has won this year’s executive elections to become the student union’s next president-elect.

After ballots were counted Friday night, Syed surpassed his opponent, Daniel Greanya, by more than 170 votes.

This year’s elections saw unusually high engagement at UTSC with student protests, a highly publicized radio show, and coverage in university and national news sources.

The result was more than 1,500 completed ballots and hours of counting for this year’s elections committee. “We started at 8 p.m. [on Friday] and finished right before 6 a.m.,” said chief returning officer Ryan Grosskopf.

But despite the large turnout, abstentions made up more than 10 per cent of total votes. Grosskopf said this may have been to due to students’ limited knowledge about other executive positions.

“People were just there to vote for one candidate and they didn’t know about the others,” he said.

Many of the candidates ran on platforms concerning accountability after news of the closure of campus restaurant Bluff’s and large executive pay raises made headlines in The Varsity, The Strand, and Maclean’s online. To Grosskopf, a lot of it seemed unfair.

“It’s no secret there was lots of hostility towards the current SCSU and that there’s lots of negative articles about the current SCSU, which some of them are re-running,” Grosskopf said.

Still, he admitted the media exposure did have advantages. “Whether [students] read the articles and agreed or they read the articles and felt they were unfair, I think either way it helped bring out a lot more people to vote.”

This year’s elections saw a number of noticeable changes, including three days of voting, five strikes needed for disqualification instead of the standard three, a strong Facebook presence, and campaigning during the voting days.

At press time, no student candidates had requested an appeal on their strikes or asked for a vote recount. The elections committee’s report is set to be ratified on Friday, February 27.

Grad school not a last-ditch resort: profs

Grad school applications are on the rise across Canada. As jobs are cut—Statistics Canada figures show that last month alone lost 34,000 jobs—students seem more inclined to wait out the tough times with more schooling. So far, U of T has received 12,631 grad school applications, an increase of nine per cent from last year.

“Historical evidence is that when the economy goes sour, there tends to be an uptake in applications to graduate schools,” Alan George, dean of graduate studies at University of Waterloo, told the Record.

But Susan Pfeiffer, U of T’s graduate studies dean, said the economic crisis hasn’t necessarily increased the volume. “As far as I know, the increase in applications is not huge,” Pfeiffer said. “I wouldn’t characterize all graduates as flocking to grad school because of the recession. I figure that each applicant is making their own reasonable decision.”
Pfeiffer said grad degrees are always assets: “ It’s good for the person, and good for the society.”

“There is only x-amount of knowledge and experience you can gain with a bachelor’s degree,” said Berina Gacanin, a second-year student and law school hopeful, who knew she wanted to do grad studies before she started her undergrad.

Senior professors are seeing more requests to supervise students for grad school.

“The truth is, the demand exceeds way more than I can do,” says Garry Leonard, an English professor.

Editorial: In search of transparency: the SCSU question

World War I happened largely due to a culture of suspicion, hidden alliances, and private messages. On campus, Scarborough Campus Student Union (SCSU) elections are plagued with the same issues. These past weeks have seen a shameful cycle of secrecy shared equally among the SCSU, groups against SCSU president Zuhair Syed, and individuals afflicted by SCSU decisions. As a campus newspaper, all we can do is sit back and look at the facts on all sides.

Flyer campaigns were organized by an anonymous group on campus. A man in a hooded sweater was seen delivering said flyers to all residences Tuesday night. The next morning, the same group posted flyers on windshields in the campus parking lots. The group had been organized out of an on-campus office which SCSU officials were trying to locate.

“I think a lot of the information the people have been getting is propaganda,” said Syed. “But I think freedom of speech should prevail.” Funny, when the student union is under fire for secrecy. Syed screened answers during the campus radio debate and refuses to answer questions about Ministry of Labour complaints, a missing alcohol inquiry, the firing of SCSU’s accountant, meetings with U of T administration, and an uncompleted audit.

After rising tension on Facebook groups and web forums, SCSU decided to speak up. Last Monday saw the release of “A report into allegations and questions surrounding the SCSU and Bluff’s,” a document welcomed by our reporters, which clarified the union’s decisions and included last year’s financial statements. “We will not flash the confidentiality card to avoid answering hard questions, but will limit it to where it applies from a legal standpoint,” reads the report. In response, students organized a sit-in at the soon-to-be-closed Bluff’s restaurant last Thursday, where many voiced questions and criticisms to SCSU officials.

One of the event’s main promoters was a student under the Facebook pseudonym “Buttons D Kat.” Kat has become notorious online for leaking information and raising criticisms. On last Wednesday’s campus election radio show, Kat was accused of “talking a whole bunch of smack” and being “the biggest coward on campus.” The day after the radio show, one DJ sent a message to all listed on the event’s Facebook posting to inform them of Kat’s identity. Kat has since told The Varsity that the leaked name was incorrect. Meanwhile, another Facebook account with the same name was created and posted contradictory comments before being exposed as a fake. Online rumours have run rampant. With poetry, prose and wisecracks, The Varsity’s recent article comments and Facebook groups are sure to entertain and disgust.

Many have accused our reports of biased and untruthful reporting. But we can confidently state that we published whatever information could be attributed to actual people. This is really where the last source of secrecy lies. Over the past three weeks, many have spoken with Varsity staff. Most remained anonymous. People come to us in secrecy, but then expect us to spread information unattributed. In doing so, reporting the facts becomes impossible. This intensifies when students unions allude to suing the media. Some sources had valid reasons, but most kept a veil of secrecy out of convenience.

Congratulations on keeping yourselves, and some truths, comfortable and out of sight. Last week, UTSC students voted for campus executives in an election based on accountability. It is encouraging that our notoriously apathetic campus submitted 1,540 ballots in this election, compared to October’s 325 votes.

Students opted for another year of Zuhair Syed. While the results leave us baffled, we can only hope Syed lives up to his assurances of free speech and transparency. We hope that UTSC and U of T as a whole can develop a new culture; one of truth and openness. One that will lead us into a better future and not wars of suspicion.

Twice Silenced

Derek spent years in a violent relationship. At first Derek’s partner Josh made remarks about Derek being “ugly” and “not good in bed,” says Alex, a social worker in Toronto. Over time, the situation escalated to physical violence, and Josh slammed Derek’s head against walls, kicked, and beat him. It took eight years, but Derek was eventually able to escape the situation.

Interviewed for a book called Gay Masculinities, Paul recounts how his partner bit his nose all the way to the septum and locked him out of his own apartment, bleeding.

“I had to run all the way back to the bars to try to get some help. It was awful,” he says.

Most imagine domestic violence as something that men inflict on their female partners, but the real story is more complicated.

While straight women make up the majority of victims of domestic violence, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are not immune. According to Statistics Canada, people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are two to four times as likely to have experienced intimate partner violence.

A familiar story

Their relationships may look different, but LGBT victims of domestic violence face many of the same challenges as their straight counterparts.

“It’s hard to get the energy to stand up and walk away from a relationship that has lasted years, after going through years of abuse,” says Laurie Chesley, manager of the David Kelly LGBTQ Counselling Service at Family Service Toronto. Victims may also be financially dependent on their abuser. Over time, they can become cut off from friends and family, losing the social support that could help them escape. Many victims may think that violence just comes with the relationship, and that they should deal with it.

But LGBT people face particular challenges in finding help. Stigma, gender roles, and a lack of adequate social services combine to keep them in harm’s way.

Nowhere to go

None of the domestic violence shelters in Toronto accept men of any sexual orientation. This makes it difficult for gay men to find safety in times of severe violence, and even harder in the long run to leave an abusive relationship.

“There are people not knowing where to go,” explains Howard Schulman, coordinator for the Anti-Violence Program at the 519 Centre, a community centre for the LGBT community in Toronto.

Even if they do decide to seek help, Schulman says, “There are issues of shame, and people might not even recognize they are in a violent relationship.”

Compared to social services for heterosexual women, there are far fewer programs for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals that accept both women and men. The 519 is one exception, along with Family Service Toronto. The lack of support is a real concern, because early intervention can make a big difference in victims’ lives.

“The longer you are quiet about it, the more likely you are to experience it again and again, and to deal with something more serious down the road,” says Alex.

A culture of silence

Cheryl Champagne, an assault counsellor and educator at U of T, says it can be difficult to admit that domestic abuse happens with LGBT couples.

“There is fear that it confirms that same-sex relationships are not healthy,” she says. “But it’s important to realize violence and abuse can happen to everyone, to every group […] and it’s important to be out there talking about it.”

“Violence in some same-sex relationships shouldn’t undermine [our perception of] the quality of relationships in the community as a whole,” says professor David Rayside, founder of the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at U of T. No one uses heterosexual domestic violence to argue that straight relationships are dysfunctional, he points out.

Victims must also confront stereotypes. Gay and bisexual men might feel that they should be strong enough to defend themselves, and lesbians face the stereotype that females are not violent or abusive. These assumptions become a problem when seeking help from the police, who might brush violence off as a “catfight.”

Studies show that every minute, a lesbian is abused by her partner. Lesbian relationships are often romanticized as a utopian “fusion” of two women, where violence is out of the question. Many lesbians are trapped in “a conspiracy of silence,” as scholar Joan Mclennen writes, where women face immense pressure to maintain the romantic façade, even in times of severe violence.

Moreover, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have to come out twice, once as a sexual minority, then again as a survivor of intimate partner violence. HIV/AIDS, homophobia, ethnicity, and age further complicate the issue.

Abuse can even take the form of outing a partner, which means that it is closely connected to homophobia.

“There is a surprising amount of homophobia still present,” says Chesley. “Some people can experience that overtly, from negative comments to not getting promoted.”

Closing the gap

The few public services open to men or focused on LGBT relationships, like the 519 Centre and Family Service Toronto, are hampered by underfunding and understaffing.

“It’s always funding, funding, funding,” says Chesley. She runs the David Kelly LGBT program with another staffer, who has to divide her time between this and another family services program. Chesley notes that it’s hard to attract large donors like TD Bank, who support LGBT events like Pride Week. “How can a counselling service compete with Pride? We’re quiet, confidential, and small. It’s hard for us to sell our image, whereas something like Pride is a celebration, and on TV. Social services generally have a hard time.”

“There are limitations in terms of services we can offer, in terms of dealing with clients,” says Schulman of the 519 Centre, who’s the only one shouldered with the Anti-Violence Program. “More funding from city of Toronto and the provincial level would definitely be helpful.”

As a result of meagre financial support, public education campaigns, like advertisements in subway cars and buses, are directed towards heterosexual women. Shelter from the Storm displays a poster of a disgruntled family sitting on a couch: “Help her out. Donate. Because no one should have to live with abuse. Ever.” LGBT relationships aren’t in the picture.

“It would be good for larger donors to recognize the service we provide for the community,” says Chesley. “How do we tell the public ‘counselling is good for you?’

“People will go to the gym to get healthy, but counselling to deal with problems? Perhaps with time.”