“This was a lot of fun,” I said to my boyfriend after our first time together. We had only been dating for a couple months, but after careful planning, we decided that we were ready. “We should do this again,” he boldly replied.It’s been three years since that conversation, and we never did it again. In fact, I haven’t done it with anyone. Other than partaking in a simulated version alone in my room, I’ve haven’t done it at all—until now.Yes, after three long years, I finally went bowling again.As I walked into the alley, reacquainting myself with my former passion through the familiar smell of worn-out shoes and overpriced French fries, I wondered if, like me, others had taken an extended break from the game.In his famous essay, Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capitol, Robert Putnam posits that participation in bowling is “the most whimsical yet discomfiting bit of evidence of social disengagement in contemporary America.” According to Putnam, “more Americans are bowling today than ever, but bowling in organized leagues has plummeted in the last decade.”Bowling represents a vanishing form of social capitol. With the loss of organized leagues comes the loss of a basic human need: social interaction. By bowling alone, we forego our right to bond as a team over pizza, beer, and those overpriced French fries. Alone in the alley, we lose our social allies.Yet I propose that it’s this very social aspect of the game that encourages us to bowl alone—if we even choose to bowl at all.While bowling is an individual sport, bowling in a league is a unique experience where individual efforts affect the outcome of the entire team. The level of interaction and connection to our team is directly influenced by our performance. If you fail to get a strike, not only will your team’s scores plummet, you may strike out with your social group. The risk of social exclusion faced in bowling leagues may prompt us to bowl alone—or in my case, avoid any contact with the sport for three years.It’s no coincidence that I began a relationship with a trip to the bowling alley. In many ways, bowling is like the dating game.In a recent episode of VH1’s reality dating program Rock of Love Bus, aged and “lust-struck” rocker Bret Michaels, lacking an emotional connection with the remaining contestants, invites three new women to join his tour. In order to ensure that the new girls are right for him, he takes them on a group date to a bowling alley. While Michaels often has his mind in the gutter, bowling is a bold choice for the quasi-star, standing in stark contrast to his typical strip club and dingy bar haunts. But on closer inspection, the date seems fitting as the other women have spent the first four episodes parading around their bowling ball-esque appendages for all to see.“I know if I’m attracted or not attracted to someone right away,” he reveals as they enter the alley. Now, it’s up to the women to bowl a strike and spare us the pain of watching them flounder at love.In a gratuitous yet prescient shot, one of the girls is shown bowling “granny style.” If Michaels’ reaction is any indication, it won’t be the last time she has a ball between her legs.“I had a lot more fun on this date than on most of the other ones,” says Michaels, concluding that he made the right decision in bringing the new girls on his tour.Next, Michaels and his three new ladies ditch the bowling alley and head to the limo to make out.If only bowling (and dating) were this easy in real life.Although my first game of bowling in three years is a platonic affair, I can’t help but feel an anxiety similar to the pains of initiating a romantic relationship. Among colleagues and relatively new friends, I have an irrational desire to impress on the lanes. While we’re not in a league and my scores won’t personally affect them, I fear that poor results will influence my social standing. I don’t want to be eternally known as the girl who can’t bowl. Before even stepping up to the lane, I have bestowed a new nickname on myself: “Gutter Girl.”As I grab the perfect ball and casually stroll up to the lane, I am reminded of the first time I ever asked a boy out on a date. I determinedly stare down the lane as if I am eyeing my dream man. I have so much to prove, but so much to lose. My knees begin to tremble, my arms begin to shake, and my hands start sweating profusely. Just as I’m about to make my big move, I lose my grip as the ball slips through my wet, nervous fingers, and heads straight for the gutter.The ball’s trip down futility lane is like a car wreck—I can’t watch, but I can’t look away. In front of my friends, my failure feels like physical pain. I coyly wonder if dropping the ball on my foot would hurt as badly as the social ostracism of a public gutter ball. I conclude that Wii bowling is probably my safest option.Back at home, free from the scrutinizing public eye, I turn on my Nintendo Wii, pick up the controller, and proceed to “bowl” strike after strike. I don’t tremble, or sweat. The controller stays firmly planted in my hand, and I remain composed. Perhaps my simulated success will encourage me to try my luck once again in the lanes—but I doubt it. The advent of modern technology has provided us with another luxury: the ability to truly bowl alone.All by myself, I bowl a 150. Next, I pick up the phone to tell someone about it.
Sparing My Feelings
Fuel for change
The recent trend of environmentally themed non-fiction, or “green books,” can be traced to a growing fear of global warming, the rising price of food, and a declining economy. The frightening picture painted by environmentalists for the better part of a decade is finally starting to affect the public.In 2003 and 2004, House of Anansi Press released two collections, Fueling the Future and Feeding the Future, which addressed these very fears. The project was spearheaded by the president of Investeco Capital Corp. and environmental do-gooder Andrew Heintzman, who recently revisited the books with his co-editor, CBC journalist Evan Solomon. Together, they selected the best essays from each book, resulting in the newly-released Food and Fuel. “I thought there was a really good message that was as relevant today as it was when we first published them,” explains Heintzman.These essays remain relevant, because the world hasn’t witnessed enough change in the last five years. Yet Heintzman remains optimistic, saying, “I think we’re on the verge of a lot of change. Part of this is driven by the U.S.—the last administration wasn’t very imaginative in regards to the environment, but I think the new administration is likely to be so, and that will drive change.”As it outlines the necessary adjustments, Food and Fuel provides an intelligent analysis of the agriculture and energy sectors—two subjects that are intrinsically intertwined. These are the precarious mechanisms that drive the planet and unsurprisingly, they have similar problems.A unifying theme in the collection is the criticism of our archaic economic model, in which only money and goods produced are accounted for. We neglect environmental costs, thereby destroying the ecosystems that sustain our industries.That’s the idea behind Natural Capital, put forth by Paul Hawkins, Hunter Lovins, and Amory Lovins in their seminal work, Natural Capitalism (1999). “The externalities have to be factored into the cost of our choices,” says Heintzman. “Particularly on energy, the cost of our carbon emissions, our greenhouse gas emissions, and other pollutants that have a real cost to society. Until those are factored into the price we pay, we aren’t going to solve these problems.”However, Heintzman points out that not every writer in Food and Fuel agrees on every issue. There is a lack of unanimity on potential solutions in the environmental community, which both he and Solomon have embraced.The differing opinions are one of the book’s strong suits. These various approaches not only present a broad sense of what’s wrong with the environment, but avoid the slanted discourse other books in this genre are famous for.History is also a focus of the book. In the first essay, “Saving Agriculture from Itself,” Stuart Laidlaw describes the disastrous consequences of the Green Revolution of the ’50s and ’60s. The modern food industry, with its addiction to nitrogen for fertilization and oil for fuel, has degraded topsoil and created appalling inefficiency. Laidlaw’s solution is to buy locally grown, organic products. At the U of T Conference Centre last Saturday, the Canadian Organic Growers held the “Nourishing the Future” conference, where they shared similar concerns.The book’s second half is dedicated to the energy sector, concentrating on the progression into renewable sources. In her essay “Is Nuclear Energy the Answer?” Allison Macfarlane judges the viability of nuclear energy in the long term. Fears of meltdowns aside, she sheds light on the difficulty of managing its waste and the possible proliferation of nuclear arms if its usage were to expand. Though torn, Heintzman admits, “It’s a necessary evil. I’m attracted to the low greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear energy [… ]though I wouldn’t want to over-rely on it.” Nuclear energy, like natural gas, is a stepping-stone to renewable energy sources, and Jeremy Rifkin describes a solution in his strangely utopian article, “The Dawn of the Hydrogen Economy.”Former U of T professor Thomas Homer-Dixon contributes an interesting article on the need for ingenuity—the quality that allows societies to solve problems. As he understands it, all obstacles on the path to renewable energy are social. Humans have been reduced to “walking appetites” and are unable to think any other way. “I invest in these kinds of companies,” Heintzman explains, as he lists off examples of Canadian ingenuity over the past few years. Organizations such as Organic Meadows and Enerworks have provided new solutions, alternatives to current agriculture and energy practices.What can Canadians do to reduce the burden on the environment? Heintzman says the answer is education, beginning with reading books and learning about legislation. “We plug into our sockets and ask no further questions […] we go to the supermarket, buy the product, and ask no further questions,” he explains.He’s quick to respond when asked how Canada will ever meet the Kyoto Protocol, saying, “It’ll have to be some combination of a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade program, and if we really wanted to hit Kyoto, we’d probably do both. But will Canadians accept that price? I guess what it really comes down to is—do Canadians want to hit Kyoto or not?”Of course, that’s the real question.
City of dreams
Ever wonder what Toronto will look like in the future? Spacing Magazine tries to answer that question with their thinkToronto urban design ideas competition, which encourages the development of ideas and plans to improve the city’s public realm. The magazine, which focuses on the joys, obstacles, and politics of the urban landscape, selected twelve finalists and eight honourable mentions to be displayed at 401 Richmond’s Urban Space Gallery in the month of February.Contestants aged thirty-five and under were given carte blanche to create their vision, as long as the design incorporated Toronto’s public squares, streets, traffic circles, plazas, ravines, the waterfront, sidewalks, or greenways. They were assessed on imagination, functionality, attractiveness, sustainability, and accessibility. With over 100 entries received, the competition was fierce.U of T was represented by Fionn Byrne and Kyle Xuekun Yang, two second-year students in the architecture program. Their design Dreaming of a Better Lakeshore proposes a complete remodeling of the area around the Gardiner Expressway, making it a sea of pedestrian traffic rather than a barrier. Parking lots would be transformed into parks, creating more pedestrian crossways, and shops and restaurants would be built below the concrete artery. Yang says their inspiration came from Japanese-style city planning where major transportation routes are incorporated into the cityscape rather than scarring it. He adds that if the Gardiner were torn down in a few decades, an area filled with culture and beauty would be left below it.Not surprisingly, several designs focused on green space. David Karle, Dennis Sintiz, and Sarah Thomas’s Green Lung proposes an elevated platform lined with trees, bike paths, and biofuel plants running above the railway tracks from Dufferin Street to the Don River. Yifeu Yuam and Sonia Yuai’s Transplanting the Sun would see subway entrances fitted with solar panels that would transplant the sun’s rays underground, providing commuters with natural light and feeding an underground garden. Brett Hoornaert, Michael Ormston-Holloway, and Elnaz Rashidsanati’s Streetscape Bloor calls for all street parking to be eliminated on Bloor between Avenue and Bathurst, replaced by widened sidewalks, public benches, and trees.One of the most creative entries was A.J. Vaid’s A Path Home. The University of Waterloo student envisioned the transformation of the Don River into a Sikh spiritual space. Currently a destitute riverside, the area from Gerrard Street southward would be transformed into a cremation ground complete with a temple, meditation pathway, and space to release ashes into the water.The competition’s winner was Mike Wilson and his entry 5 Minutes. One of five entries addressing transit, his integrated pedestrian and transit information strategy would see public touch screens go up at every subway exit, with digital maps and walking directions to local businesses and amenities. Directing people to routes would motivate individuals to drive less, walk more, and grow in touch with their city. While it might not be the most creative or aesthetically pleasing design, it’s certainly the most feasible.Though their projects may seem like utopian visions right now, the finalists illustrate the direction of city planning moving fast into the 21st century. Let’s hope Toronto can keep up.
What does it mean to be black?
Bedour Alagraa, second year International relations, was one of many students that voiced their opinions about black identity at the Black Student Association’s “Black is, Black Ain’t” discussion on Tuesday. The event was part of a series of events marking Black History Month.What makes a person black? Is blackness just a skin colour, or is it an attitude, an ethnicity, a cultural history? These questions were discussed at “Politics of Black Identity: Black Is, Black Ain’t,” an open discussion held by the Black Students Association at Hart House as part of a series of BSA events marking Black History Month. The discussion asked whether the term “black”—commonly used as one ethnic or racial category, despite the diversity of cultures and experiences of the African Diaspora—is really useful as a descriptive term.Stan Doyle Wood, an Equity Studies TA, and UTSU president Sandy Hudson addressed the discusssion. Wood shared his experiences growing up biracial in England and Trinidad. In England, “anything to do with non-whiteness was something to be ashamed of,” said Wood. There he tried to “pass” as white. Conversely, while in Trinidad, Wood felt pressured to “prove” his blackness by emphasizing his African features. Hudson spoke about her role as Canadian Federation of Students’ Students Of Colour representative. She said she had seen administrative resistance to CFS’s efforts to be more inclusive to marginalized students: “Folks need to recognize privilege and make sure that people are not being marginalized.”To start discussion, organizers showed excerpts of the documentary Black Is… Black Ain’t. The film, directed by author and social commentator Marlin Riggs, explored constructions of black identity through interviews with Afican American scholars, artists, and religious leaders. BSA political director Vashti Boateng came across the film years ago and couldn’t forget it. “It was something that really stuck with me […] the themes in the film are things I find myself talking about with other black folks all the time.” She saw the film as a tool to dissect and disempower racism and other forms of oppression.In response to the film and with some prompting from Boateng, many students said they had experienced being seen as “not black enough” by black and non-black peers. Students cited restrictive stereotypes of blackness from media images of the “gangster.” For them, the expectation that religion is important in black communities, and thus “black” and “atheist” must be mutually exclusive.Homosexuality was a major topic of discussion throughout the night, particularly the statistic that 70 per cent of black Californians who voted on that state’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, supported the anti-gay measure.Also at the centre of debate were Eurocentric beauty ideals and their impact on black people, particularly for women. There was a general consensus that predominantly white North American culture and media perpetuate a European ideal of beauty, but also that many Africans and African North Americans internalize these ideals instead of challenging them. “That’s all conditioned, [the preference for] light skin over dark skin,” said fourth-year engineering student Sean Ashman. “Break down that barrier!”Join the BSA for V.I.B.E.’s production of Yellowman and open mic night tonight (Thursday Feb. 26) at the Poor Alex Theatre, 722A Dundas Street W. (upper floor), the door opens at 7 p.m. Also look our for Black Prom: Midnight Masquerade at UC’s Junior Common Room, March 14. Details on facebook.
Under the Knife
Surgery is something most people try to avoid at all costs. Yet we cannot resist watching someone else go under the knife. TV shows like Nip/Tuck have banked on this perverse fascination for years, happily satisfying our penchant for blood and guts. So when a friend and I were invited to see a live colorectal surgery, we couldn’t resist. It’s not every day you get to watch a man’s excretory system get entirely re-routed.Upon entering the hospital, a nurse points us towards a narrow corridor, where we fish disposable scrubs out of a cardboard box. We walk into a sterile white hall called the “aseptic core,” swathed in teal J-cloth from head to Keds—or in my friend’s case, three-inch heels, which the nurse frowns upon.Dr. Cohen, the surgeon leading the procedure, greets us warmly and quickly briefs us on the proceedings. Our patient, an elderly man suffering from rectal cancer, needs his sigmoid colon and rectum removed.A heavy set of doors reveal the operating room painted cool lavender, buzzing with activity. Generic pop hits hum from the radio. We are greeted by a pair of legs spread wide and supported by stirrups, a blue sheet dangling between them.In the centre of the room, three figures clad in surgical green lean over the patient. Between the hairnets and face masks, we make out their eyes by the white lights overhead, and they smile in acknowledgement. I am secretly thrilled to catch my first glimpse of blood on their gloves.We spend the next hour by the patient’s head, craning our necks over his covered face to peer into his abdomen. An opening in the blue cloth pinned to the body frames a rectangle of loose yellow skin. A bloodless cut the length of a pen runs towards the navel. As the skin rises and falls, the incision parts, revealing the red tissue beneath. Dr. Cohen reaches in and pulls out a wet pink tube, dangling with bulbs of orange fat.“See it moving?” he asks us. “That’s peristalsis.” My long-suppressed physiology lectures bubble back into consciousness. Peristalsis is the autonomic movement of intestinal smooth muscle to push food along. This man is digesting while his intestines are being held up half a foot over his body.Translucent webs of connective tissue between loops of intestine are pulled taut with forceps and examined in the body cavity. The senior resident strokes the tissue with a thin metal wand that crackles and sears through it, effortlessly sealing the ruptured blood vessels with intense heat. Wisps of smoke rise from the body as I slip my mask off to sneak a sniff. It smells like burnt hair.Behind us, beeps issue from the anesthetist’s gallery of screens. She is a relaxed woman who does not flinch when the patient’s heart becomes arrhythmic and his systolic blood pressure drops fourty units.“The patient’s blood pressure rose because he was in pain,” she explains later. “So I gave him some morphine to bring it back down.”They take turns feeling for the tumor—the rectal cancer we’ve spent the last hour unraveling bowels to find.“We’re gonna get this mother out!”A section of contracting intestine is laid on a device that looks suspiciously like a kitchen mandolin. With a swift slice, it is cut neatly in two, sealed on both sides with a row of staples. The blood-stained gloves are withdrawn, as the yellowed flaps of skin fall back into place and a white towel is laid over the incision.The entire party moves towards the patient’s elevated feet as everyone arches over Dr. Cohen’s shoulders to get a closer look. He sits facing the patient, as a beam of light from a vaguely orthodontic headpiece illuminates everything between the patient’s legs.I was worried that I would be struck with the juvenile urge to laugh inappropriately at moments like this. However, the thighs and buttocks, swabbed with yellow iodine, look more like scientific specimens than a man’s backside. A metal device exposes the anus as Dr. Cohen takes up the electrocautery once again.The room is hushed as he dexterously cuts through the layers of flesh around the opening. Blood pooling at the base of the incision drips into the pan on his knees. My back aches when the cautery is finally laid down an hour later.He reaches in with a pair of blunt forceps. With a gentle tug, the rectum slides out and slumps into a metal pan, bloated and slick with blood. One end is still stapled shut. I crouch over, incredulous, staring into the cavity. Distilled water, poured in from a perineal incision, rushes out, caught in a container labeled “biological waste.” Over the next half hour, the opening is meticulously cleaned and sealed with tiny stitches.There is now a quarter-sized hole on the left side of the patient’s abdomen. Reaching into the abdominal cavity, the senior resident threads the remaining intestine through, leaving the end protruding like a large red navel. He places a doughnut-shaped sticker over the stoma, the colon’s opening.“This part can get a bit messy,” he says mischievously as he snips off the staples, opening up the intestine. Finally, a plastic pouch is fastened to the sticker: the new endpoint for the patient’s excretory system.Only then does it occur to me that the patient will have to live with a colostomy pouch for the rest of his life. He will experience the emotional triumph of beating cancer, but will have to endure the consequences. Days after the surgery, I am still berating myself for getting swept away by the blood and gore, reducing the patient to a jumble of bloody organs and iodine-stained limbs. It is frighteningly easy to do, especially when you never see their face.The pressure on the surgeon—who personally meets with the patients and often, their families—is immense. The next time I see Dr. Cohen, I ask him how he deals with the anxiety that comes with so much responsibility.“You learn from your training and your mentors that you’re in charge in the operating room. You saw all the people milling around: nurses, anesthetists, visitors, residents. There are ten to twelve people out there.”For him, the patient is always at the heart of the experience. “If you lose control or get excited, everyone around you gets excited and you can never proceed. You’re the captain of the ship and you have to stay calm, even if you may be a little nervous. Mainly because when you get in a flap, you can’t do a good job with the patient.”
‘Outsider’ CRO has links to exec
UTSU’s elections committee hired their chief returning officer for her lack of connections to U of T, but she was contacted for the job through a friend of the current executive who chairs the elections committee.CRO Lydia Treadwell and Dave Scrivener, the chair of UTSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee and VP external, told The Varsity conflicting stories about her hiring. Scrivener denied soliciting any applications, but Treadwell said a mutual friend of her and Scrivener’s passed on her name. Scrivener said the ERC did not solicit applications, and that Treadwell probably surfaced in a stack of resumes. “We got enough by just putting it up on the Career [Centre] site and our own website,” Scrivener said, claiming that UTSU did not try to hand-pick anyone for the job. “We didn’t need to,” he added.The Career Centre website is only open to U of T students and alumna.Treadwell said she was contacted on Jan. 23, and that Scrivener got her name through a friend. She had met Scrivener earlier on a car trip. “Dave contacted the person from the trip to see if they knew anyone who would be a good CRO, and they mentioned my name,” she said.The CRO is hired to administer the election as a neutral third party. Treadwell’s job includes upholding the Elections Procedural Code, authorizing all election materials, and organizing an all-candidates meeting. She will count the votes with the chief deputy returning officer.The elections committee can overrule Treadwell’s decisions.Scrivener said Treadwell’s lack of connections to U of T makes her a neutral third party. Treadwell is not involved with any club or college, and has never been elected to any position at a university—qualities that Scrivener said make her a more neutral third party than the U of T students who were up for the job. Last year’s CRO Gail Alivio had also never attended U of T. She is a deputy returning officer this year and will assist Treadwell.Treadwell said her qualifications also include experience on three winning election campaigns, though she refused to identify these elections. “I don’t think it’s relevant and I’m not going to disclose,” she said. “I have a firm handle on elections, I know the process.” She added that she did not disclose the specifics of the campaigns when she was interviewed by Scrivener and UTSU director Angela Reginer. Treadwell works for the advocacy group Environmental Defence.Treadwell officially became CRO on Feb. 12, too late for her to approve election notices, which came out on Feb. 5. That notice, published on the UTSU website and in The Varsity, gave the incorrect numbers of board members for Woodsworth College, New College, and the engineering faculty. The error has since been corrected on the UTSU website.Scrivener estimated the ERC was struck in November or December. At press time, the meeting minutes with the exact date were not available online.According to UTSU bylaws, president Sandy Hudson, VP internal Adnan Najmi, and VP university affairs Adam Awad should sit on the ERC. Instead, UTSU execs are represented by Scrivener and Khota Aleer, VP equity. The other four seats are filled by UTSU directors Meghan McPhee, Sarah Ali, Maria Galvez, and Jacqui Wilson.With files from Naushad Ali Husein
A policy’s journey across Canada
Released December 3rd of last year, the latest guidelines for ethical research involving humans are now being submitted to the Canadian research community for review and consultation. These stipulations apply to any institute or researcher eligible to receive funding from the community and whose research involves humans.The updated version of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) was drafted by the federal Interagency Panel on Research Ethics on behalf of Canada’s three federal funding agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.First published in 1998 and updated in 2000, 2002, and 2005, the TCPS has had a major overhaul to reflect the changing needs of researchers and 10 years of scientific advance.Research ethics is a relatively new field, tracing its origins to the Nuremberg Code and the 1947 Declaration of Helsinki. While it has evolved significantly over the last few decades, there is still a long way to go. Fundamental questions, like “does the TCPS improve the ethics of research?” remain unanswered, says panel member Dr. Jim Lavery, an assistant professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health Sciences. “It is extremely difficult to study its impact precisely. However, the guidelines provide a crucial common starting place.”The process has not been without its challenges. “It’s been arduous,” says Lavery. The professor adds that it has been “an astonishing policy journey.”What makes the TCPS so unique, he says, is that it’s “a living document.” The official web-based version now allows for ongoing communication between the panel, the research community, and the public. “If a person wishes clarification on a certain issue, they can submit a query and the panel will return with an official interpretation,” Lavery explains.This characteristic distinguishes it from the U.S. research ethics model, based on a set of regulations called the Common Rule. The U.S. regulations are essentially law, making changes “very legalistic and complex, and the result is that it is very poorly responsive or non-responsive to rapid changes in the science,” says Lavery.The TCPS and the ethics review process have not been without their share of critics. At a recent U of T consultation session, a social science researcher complained that emphasis on consent forms in the 1998 version undermined the sense of trust between researcher and subject. Researchers, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, have noted that the ethics review process can be cumbersome, unhelpful, and at its worst, an obstacle to their work.According to Lavery, face-to-face consultation with the people involved in, and affected by, research is fundamental. “This [consultation tour] is where we’ll hear whether we’ve gotten close to something that resonates with the communities that we’re trying to respond to,” he says.Major changes to the TCPS include condensing the eight original guiding principles into three, and a more comprehensive section on research involving Aboriginal communities.Lavery emphasized that this document is not a how-to manual, but is designed to guide Research Ethics Boards (REBs) as they make difficult decisions. Ideally ethical decision-making should to be a part of everyday scientific practice.Lavery notes that accessibility and communication are the cornerstones of the document’s success. Making it available online and written in an understandable fashion will “set the tone about what [publicly funded] ethical commitments are about.”The TCPS consultation period ends March 31, 2009. The panel will then incorporate feedback from the consultations into a final draft, presented to the agencies by the end of June 2009. It is expected that the agencies will approve the new version by November 2009.For more information about the second draft of the TCPS document, and its contents and history, visit www.pre.ethics.gc.ca
Raising the stakes
How close, if at all, should UTSU be to the Canadian Federation of Students? Some praise the group for organizing mass advocacy on student issues, while others see them as power-hungry, careerist, wannabe-NDP hacks.
What commitment should UTSU have in campaigning to lower tuition and ancillary fees? Some support advocacy for cancelling or lowering tuition fees. Others want less secondary fees, such as for Hart House, textbooks, and campus media. Last year UTSU reps voted for the $18 Varsity Centre bubble levy after a heated referendum; now funding for the Centre for High Performance Sport, the Student Commons, and other projects may be raised.
Advocacy or service?
Should unions primarily campaign on student issues, or should their focus be on supplying services? UTSU has lost points with some students for its political slant, and for spending time on activism that doesn’t yield results. Many find class sizes and professor accessibility more important than Drop Fees protests.
How much should UTSU compromise for an annual Metropass built into the T-card? Should the union insist on an opt-out? Last fall, the TTC proposed a $480-per-year, non-transferable pass for September to April with no opt-out. The idea died before reaching a vote and UTSC’s referendums failed, although many are using public transit in the midst of the recession.
President David Naylor’s roadmap for the university advocates corporate research partnerships and hints at fee hikes. How should the plan be approached as it goes to Phase 2? An all-campus plebiscite by UTSU and GSU found 93 per cent against the removal of provincial regulations on tuition, which the plan is likely to ask for.
Who gets a say in how to run the upcoming student commons? The campus has crumbling infrastructure and few places to study and hang out. How effectively can UTSU advocate for more student space?
Last year, UTM’s union wanted its own budget for clubs, taking a chunk out of UTSU’s ability to fund over 350 recognized clubs. Clubs who do not receive official recognition face astronomical fees for space bookings. The Clubs Committee meets behind closed doors, and club leaders are outnumbered two to one. The committee chair is appointed, not elected.
Should UTSU’s relations with UTM and UTSC change? The Mississauga campus shares responsibilities between its union and UTSU. Scarborough has an independent union.
Students have made repeated efforts to make their union more transparent and accessible. Moves to have the board meeting minutes posted online were struck down at November’s annual general meeting, on the basis that campaign strategies would become available for admin to view.