Analysis: Presidential debate

The Varsity: We have Jason coming in as the outsider, and Sandy, the insider, justifying why she should stay: who was more convincing?

Giorgio Traini: What I wanted to hear from [Jason] was that they need new blood, and I didn’t really hear that from him. He just tried to prove that he had some community knowledge, which I would assume you do; you’re running for student government.

Padraic Ryan: He specifically said the answer to one question: I don’t want to use the word change. Change is his slate label.

GT: Coming in, Sandy said the same thing every incumbent sells: I know the ins and outs of the area. She didn’t really say anything about herself that she brought.

Erin Fitzgerald: But that’s how she’s running, and she didn’t do it particularly well. But she did it, whereas Jason didn’t.

PR: I agree, he allowed it to be about experience, and incumbents are always going to win over challengers if it’s about providing more of the status quo.
TV: … Who would you say did a better job of recognizing the needs of their constituents?PR: One answer I would have liked to see to that question is what’s the disconnect between the 13 per cent of students who vote and what the students who don’t vote want. Certainly some demands in student politics are only reflected among the turnout rate. Something like tuition, I don’t think 100 per cent of students want lower tuition as a political matter.
TV: Jason did say briefly that some students who don’t vote maybe feel disconnected from the student union.GT: I don’t think he really said what issues he was bringing from that other 83 per cent, but I’m glad he mentioned the major disconnect and that was the group who needed to be represented now.EF: But I don’t know if we can give Jason credit for just mentioning there’s a disconnect, if he doesn’t say anything substantive about what that disconnect is and what he’s going to do to fix it.

TV: They both talked about engagement as something students want, do you think students care about that?EF: I don’t care about being engaged.

PR: The nature of politics is that you have to say that everyone wants to be engaged, but obviously not everyone does. Particularly commuter students who have less of an interest.

GT: Right, but I think it’s within their mandate that they should focus on trying to get people more engaged. At least, to get their views on issues, because otherwise it’s just a few people sitting around a table playing with each other.
TV: Another big divide between the two seemed to be tactics and fighting fees. What do you think Jason’s point about joining the admin [in the fight], was that naïve or a genuine point?GT: I think it was probably his best point through everything [Jason] said. I buy his “us vs. them” comment [that UTSU engenders an “us vs. them” atmosphere]. I definitely feel that in UTSU’s 2030 campaign, it was very much, “the administration is the devil, they could never possibly have any student interests at heart.”

TV: In light of Naylor’s Towards 2030 synthesis, which suggests deregulating fees, what do you think of Sandy’s point that Naylor has a totally different philosophy about fees?

GT: Sandy said Naylor suggested higher fees, and then subsidies to those who need it. That doesn’t seem ideologically opposed to what she’s saying—ideologically opposed would be let’s just raise fees. It seems Naylor still has a wish to make sure that students who want to come can come, and that seems like a view that you can work with.
TV: Jason also made a claim about a lack of grassroots at UTSU. Was that a convincing argument?

PR: In lots of political debates, there are process vs. substance debates. He’s saying there’s something wrong with the process—it’s not grassroots—but he’s not really telling us how would the substance change.

Those kinds of claims seem easy to refute when you don’t really have a concrete idea of how the drop fees campaign have been different.

I think Sandy sort of dealt with that by saying, look, this is the people we talked to, this is what they want.

If he made a more aggressive claim, such as “students they specifically don’t want this campaign, and if you had consulted them, you would have found that out,” I find that more convincing than just saying it’s procedurally flawed.

TV: Sandy had the difficult job of defending UTSU’s connection to the Canadian Federation of Students. How do you think she did in that?

EF: Very poorly.

PR: She made a gaffe. She said no one on the campus supports the CFS campaign, which obviously I don’t think she meant to claim, and so she had to backpedal. If this were a more sophisticated campaign we could get a viral video of just that clip again and again.

EF: Even at a deeper level, I think she had a hard time actually defending her involvement in CFS. She didn’t seem to have a sound philosophical underpinning for this and why this is a good thing for the student union to be involved in.

PR: This is a great debating mistake, is assuming your audience agrees with you. So she sort of assumed everyone thought the CFS is worthwhile, and that it’s worthwhile to have her work for the CFS. Why do you have these two jobs that may be conflicting, with UTSU and the CFS, but she didn’t feel the need to explain that.

GT: But in all honesty, for all that she slipped up there pretty bad, I would have liked Jason to jump on any one of those faults.He hit it a little bit by saying we’d be focusing on U of T issues first and foremost.

TV: Unlike Sandy, Jason was a whole lot more hesitant to have UTSU take any action on anything that’s not directly and locally affecting students. Which one do you think will appeal more to students?

GT: I think Sandy will be more appealing to those who have voted in the past, because that’s usually the group who gets out and votes.

But to the non-involved majority of U of T students, [Jason is] saying we’re going to spend your money on something that directly relates to you. I think he did a great job. This is his one highlight of his whole speech, where he said when you take a highly contentious political issue, and you fund it, your going to alienate certain students who disagree.

TV: How do you think they fared in talking about clubs?

EF: Jason’s ROCSI idea [Repository of Campus Space Information for student groups to be able to access complete room-booking information in an online system comparable to ROSI.] was a good point.GT: The kind of thing a new person should be coming in with.

EF: But he should have had more of that throughout.

TV: And of course, there was the funding question.

EF: Here is the incumbency advantage. Sandy said, “Guys, they’re going to cut auditing, you can’t do that.” And so she definitely won that point.PR: I think that Jason should have been more familiar with his budget. If his best example of trimming the fat is executive salaries, to me that doesn’t translate into a familiarity with how the union works.

TV: Talking about the salary cut itself, do you think it’s something that would win over some voters?

GT: I’m not swayed by salary cuts.

EF: Oh it’s charming in that I’m-going-to-take-one-for-the-team way, but Sandy came back with, you becomee a part-time student [when you take on office]. That’s $400 more in OSAP that you’re going to be paying.TV: He briefly mentioned that you could reduce budget on campaigns, but do you think he was too vague about that?

GT: Yes, again, I think that’s something he could have hit very hard on. I know a lot of students at U of T who are just thinking there’s a campaign every weekend, I don’t even know what these campaigns are for. There are a lot of signs everywhere. All these people’s faces that seem very angry.

PR: Yeah he didn’t say which [campaigns]. TV: Sandy was again in the difficult position of having to defend the decision at the Annual General Meeting of not putting minutes online. How convincing was she?EF: Very, very unconvincing.

PR: I think this is an example of when she was very, very process-heavy. Instead of just telling us straight-out whether or not she wanted to have the minutes online, it’s “well there’s a working group looking into that.”

And we’re talking about copy-pasting a word document onto a blog, this is not difficult. And so she—incumbents do it all the time—tried to rely on process.

GT: Pulled a Mackenzie King.

TV: She has talked about political feasibility of putting up campaign strategies.GT: The line’s been saying, what I’ve heard in the past, the administration is this strange spy organization, or fascist government that is going to infiltrate their minutes online and use it against them to undermine student government, and make sure we don’t have fun and enjoy ourselves at university, because that would be bad for them.

TV: Are you sold on their priorities?GT: Wonderful bywords. Open governments, inclusivity, and vibrant campus life vs. access, equity, agency and engagement.PR: I think that Jason can speak to openness, whereas the other five are just designed to evoke positive feelings.
TV: The winner?

PR: Sandy.EF: Sandy.

GT: Sandy.
TV: If one of you were to take Jason’s side, what would you give him?GT: Jason’s points about the political issues was very strong, and his focus on the need for clubs to be the main aspect of what UTSU should be doing, focusing on regional and local events.

His CFS talk, the idea that we should be focusing on U of T first.

Making sure clubs are funded, that they have space, making sure we deal with them first and foremost.

Israeli apartheid, Afghanistan—those are campaign you can bring to your MP, your MPP, we [Slate Change] just want to give you a good time on campus, that’s our job.

EF: It was good that he said, “we will alienate people if we take stances on these issues.”GT: Exactly, where he finally put up a kind of bulwark—“I’ll stand here for a few moments in defense.” And then he fell.

Calcium and Colon Cancer

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, widely known for its role as a neurotransmitter trigger, in muscle contraction, and normal bone growth and development. Studies indicate the mineral also helps to protect against colon cancer.

A study conducted by Denise Govers at the Netherlands Institute for Dairy Research looked at the importance of bile acids and their cytotoxicity in the colonic epithelium. Bile is secreted by the gall bladder into the small intestine between meals to aid the digestion of fat. Bile production increases according to dietary fat intake, and along with fatty acids, can act as wetting agents in the colonic lumen. It is believed that they stimulate crypt cell proliferation, increasing the risk of colon cancer.

Several studies have concluded that calcium interacts with bile and fatty acids in the intestinal lumen to form an insoluble complex, reducing their lytic activity. As a result, this calcium precipitate is flushed out of the system, as opposed to being absorbed or sticking to the colon epithelium. Gover’s study involved rats that were fed diets varying in calcium intake. The rats’ fecal water was added to isolated human red blood cells to determine haemolysis levels. Haemolysis, or red blood cell destruction, was inhibited in rat fecal water that contained the highest calcium levels. This test established calcium’s protective effect in reducing the cytolytic properties of intestinal contents, as well as the bile acid concentration of fecal water.

Several other human studies using dairy product calcium sources have reached similar conclusions, with milk providing the most significant benefits. It is suggested that bile acids may promote colon cancer through an indirect mechanism, potentially acting via a signal transduction pathway to increase production of a pro-inflammatory molecule involved in many illnesses. Bile acids could also make immature goblet cells resistant to cell death, crucial to maintaining normal physiologic function, as it ensures destruction of unwanted cells.

Calcium can be obtained from a wide variety of sources. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as turnips, broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, and fortified soy milk are excellent sources. The daily calcium recommendation for a healthy adult is 1,000 mg. Vitamin D intake should also be maintained alongside calcium, as it significantly increases calcium absorption. Supplementation is only necessary for the elderly.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, although researchers believe it’s still too early to change the recommended dietary intake of calcium.

CRO stops UTSU elections debate

The UTSU elections officer has moved to shut down a candidates’ debate on the grounds that one of its organizers, Antonin Mongeau, is campaigning for the Change slate. Mongeau is president of EFUT (the French club), which teamed up with U of T NDP to run a March 10 elections town hall for UTSU and GC candidates. CRO Lydia Treadwell has previously stopped U of T NDP from hosting a March 5 debate.

Treadwell’s March 6 ruling leaves any attending candidate subject to penalty at her discretion.

“Within this campaign it has become public knowledge that the president of EFUT is campaigning against certain members of the Demand Access slate which deems the president of EFUT biased,” wrote Treadwell in CRO Ruling 006 on the UTSU website. She also cites instances of Mongeau allegedly intimidating and levelling false accusations against slate Access candidates.

Mongeau wrote Treadwell on March 6, denying the allegations and challenging the CRO to produce evidence.

Mongeau said he can back up his accusations that a paid assistant to one of the incumbents was campaigning full-time in Sidney Smith. He contends this violates Elections Procedure Code 6.1p, which states that candidates may not use any resources “conferred to them by virtue of holding a position in any campus organization […] (including) staff.”

“[The assistant] just happens to be a friend of ours as well,” said Adnan Najmi, running for a second term as VP internal as part of Access. He denied that any rule violations occurred. Najmi added that while he stands by the CRO’s decision, he is “not afraid of talking on any forum.”

Sally Elabasery, president of U of T NDP, is upset that the CRO has now moved to close two of their attempts to host a debate. “[We tried to] initiate discussion between executives of student groups, student members, and the UTSU candidates,” she said. In a statement, the NDP group said they strongly felt that “UTSU was being undemocratic in their move.”

Mongeau said the March 10 event will go ahead as planned, with some Governing Council and faculty candidates in attendance.

The CRO’s office could not be reached for comment over the weekend. According to the elections code, the CRO must respond to Mongeau’s letter by no later than 6 a.m. Monday morning.

Sports culture shock

Spending four months in another country will teach you a lot. In between pints of Stella on Friday nights in Brussels, my academic exchange in Belgium shed light on the cultural differences that make the world such an endlessly fascinating place. One such difference was sport.

I was in a peculiar situation. As one of the few Canadian exchange students at the University of Leuven, I tried to find my place amongst the native Belgians and the majority of Americans that comprised the program. When people found out where I was from, they would respond with a clichéd comment about how I was stuck somewhere in between Europe and North America. I initially reacted with my nationalist rhetoric, explaining that Canada shouldn’t always be compared to other cultures, and that we have many things that make us distinct and unique.

But after a couple of weeks, I came to realize they were kind of right. When it came to campus sports, Canada is caught in the tide somewhere between the Old and New World.

Canadian universities aren’t known for their athletic prowess. With the exception of Western and Laval around the Vanier Cup playoffs, Canadian university students are far too preoccupied with their studies and social melodramas to pay attention to athletics. Granted, U of T suffers from spectator fatigue more than most Canadian institutions. But let’s face it: when it comes to our own athletics, Canadian universities look the other way.

I learned from my American counterparts that it couldn’t be more different south of the border. American college students are obsessed with campus sports. The whole country goes crazy during football bowl season, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single college student in class during the Final Four. Witnessing the mania first-hand made me realize just how important sports are to the American college experience.

Living in my Belgian residence was fellow foreigner Patrick Buley, originally from Kentucky but attending Hanover College in Indiana. “Quite often support for collegiate sports easily surpasses that for professional divisions,” he said. I’ll never forget they day I heard an elated cheer resonate from his room at four in the morning as his basketball team hit a buzzer beater to win the quarterfinals in the Division III playoffs. He cheered for his beloved Panthers with the same gusto I do when the Leafs are in a game seven (if long memory serves me correctly).

Many American students value their campus athleticism as a matter of self-identification and pride. American colleges institutionally support campus sports, both for athletes and for fans. Millions of dollars go into athletic scholarships, training facilities, arenas, fields, and courts. Schools plan activities to make sure students support major rivalry games and turn it into a big event. It’s a whole culture down there, one that Canadians have never experienced at the post-secondary level.

Then there are the Belgians. Over 50 per cent of students at Leuven participate in sports. My old buddy Niels says, “Leuven has a university soccer team, a basketball team, an American football team, a field hockey team, a handball team, a volleyball team, and a gymnastics team.” On a participatory level, student involvement is quite high.

But on the spectator side of things, they show about as much enthusiasm for their teams as they do for Dutch beer. Even though there are many facilities where sporting activities take place, there are barely any places for spectators to watch. No bleachers, stands, or seats, and hardly any standing room.

I was perplexed by how students could be so involved in playing sports, yet so disinterested in watching them.

Unlike the Americans, who had their entire sense of school pride tied up in their Division III basketball team, Belgians had other priorities. Not a single one of my housemates could name a Varsity athlete or tell me the score of last night’s game unless they were playing in it. Their football team’s shameful losing record didn’t phase them one bit.

Canadian students are stuck somewhere in between. Our athletes aren’t celebrities, the Vanier Cup isn’t the holy grail, and a men’s hockey team first round exit doesn’t prompt students to toss themselves off the eleventh floor of Robarts. Most of us don’t obsess over the standings and stats, yet we care enough to notice when our football team wins a game for the first time in seven seasons. So I began to take those clichéd comments as compliments. We’re caught somewhere in between complete obsession and total apathy. A healthy medium, especially when it comes to sports, is a good thing.

Israel’s election issues

Last week, as tensions boiled over into full-blown accusations of racism and constructive debate between supporters and critics of Apartheid Week, Israel’s long, meticulous process of coalition-building continued unabated. The results of last month’s election are still, in a way, undecided. For those unfamiliar with the workings of Israeli politics, seats in the Knesset are granted proportionally. Since religious and special interest parties fragment the vote, a coalition is almost always necessary to form a government. For this reason, each election is followed by an arduous process of alliance-making, negotiation, and careful press manipulation by each party, in an effort to secure any advantage toward forming the next government. On February 20, Israeli President Shimon Peres gave Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu the task of putting together a ruling coalition.

Though this new coalition’s character remains to be seen, the success of Israel’s right wing and religious parties may render the already ineffective peace process completely impotent. Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been duplicitous when discussing his plans to deal with the Palestinians. While he claims to be a proponent of a two-state solution, he walks a tightrope, with potential coalition partners from religious parties like the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, both of which vehemently oppose the creation of any Palestinian state. His own party’s charter officially states that “the Jewish communities in Judea [The West Bank] and Samaria [the Gaza Strip] are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defence of the vital interests of the State of Israel.”

During last week’s visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu insisted “there is broad agreement inside Israel and outside that the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives but not to threaten ours.” However, he also suggested that any future Palestinian state should be subject to Israeli control of its airspace, electromagnetic spectrum, and border crossings, and that it could have no standing army or external military alliances. Coalition talks between Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have been hampered by disagreements. The last round of meetings reportedly collapsed after the Likud leader distanced himself from a two-state solution: “a final agreement will see the Palestinians having the full authority to run their lives, but do you want them to have control of the air space, their own army, the right for them to make alliances with other states like Iran, or control over borders that would allow for weapons imports? I won’t stand for it.”

By seeking to deny the Palestinians four of the most fundamental rights of any sovereign state, Netanyahu may sabotage the already ineffective peace process before it resumes. If the United States wants to be firm on the creation of a Palestinian state, they could face intense opposition from the Netanyahu coalition, particularly its religious parties. And it will have to be more than marginally critical of Israel’s ongoing colonization of the West Bank. During her visit, Clinton called the continued building of settlements in the West Bank “unhelpful,” but stopped short of applying any substantive pressure on either the incoming or outgoing Israeli government.

In February, Israeli NGO Peace Now reported that “the Housing Ministry is planning a mass expansion in the West Bank with the creation of 73,300 new housing units, including many beyond the Security Fence.” If this plan were to receive government approval, it would amount to a 100 per cent increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The official position of most American administrations is that such settlement is illegal. However, it has been ongoing, and may be exacerbated by the rise of the right-wing bloc.

If the Obama government wants to actively pursue a two-state solution, it must break with previous American administrations and act swiftly to prevent any further Israeli expansion in the West Bank. The United States provides Israel with roughly three billion dollars in economic assistance annually—one fifth of its total foreign aide budget—and it provides exclusive diplomatic support, having vetoed thirty-two UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel since 1982, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all other members of the Security Council combined. If the new Likud-led government continues to allow expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the United States will have to apply more substantive measures towards preserving any kind of two-state solution.

Varsity vanquished

Sometimes all you need is stellar goaltending and a hat trick to win a game.

Queen’s Golden Gaels forward Amanda Morra scored three goals as goalie Melissa John stopped 38 shots for a 4-2 win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues at Varsity Arena on Tuesday night.

With the loss Toronto is eliminated from further contention in the OUA playoffs.

The controversial winning goal came at 7:32 of the third period.

Victoria Kaufmann scooped up a loose puck in the high slot and raced in alone on Blues goalie Kendyl Valenta. While the freshman netminder made a nice left-leg save, Becky Conroy trailed the play and jammed the puck and the goalie into the net.

Blues head coach Karen Hughes explained that the winning goal shouldn’t have counted because you’re not allowed to push the goalie over the line to score.

The Gaels were 2-1 against Toronto in the regular season and were cautiously optimistic going into a winner-take-all situation.

“We were confident,” said Morra. “We like the pressure situations and we came into it knowing this could be the last game for our fourth and fifth-year players and we didn’t want our season to be over.”

Against the run of play, Queen’s opened the scoring on their fifth shot of the period. Morra deflected a shot that went through four bodies in the crease past Valenta.

The Blues were rewarded for their effort when Annie DelGuidace tied the game with 3:17 left in the first period.

DelGuidace intercepted an errant pass at the top of the right circle. She went in and wristed the puck high over the glove hand of John.

Even though there were 13 total shots in the second period, the Blues wasted three two-on-ones and had a three-on-one called offside.

The Blues took the lead at 3:13 of the middle stanza shortly after a missed two-on-one.

Callie Bazak couldn’t deflect the puck into the empty net off an Amanda Fawnes pass but seconds later Bazak made up for it. She found the back of the net with a slap shot from the right face-off dot that got through the legs of John.

Morra got her second goal of the game over six minutes later to knot the game at 2-2.

Following a Blues turnover in the neutral zone, Queen’s forward Megan McNutt dished the puck to a streaking Morra who blasted the puck far side and by the blocker off Valenta.

“I spent some time with the coaches after practice [last week],” said Morra. “I was working on shooting and I think it worked tonight because I picked some corners.”

The Blues outshot the Gaels 17-8 in the third period but were unable to solve the Queen’s goalie.

“She did exactly what we hoped a fourth-year goalie would do,” said Queen’s head coach Harold Parsons. “We felt we had that advantage coming into the game with Toronto. [John] was competitive tonight and if there was a rebound she was in position for it.”

Morra got her third of the game with a short-handed goal at 8:51 to make the score 4-2.

“Morra played the best game I have seen her play in five years,” Parsons said. “In every zone [Morra’s line] was the best unit on the ice for both teams.”

Toronto finished with 40 shots but John was the difference.

“I think we worked hard,” said Blues sophomore forward Lindsay Hill. “We didn’t finish on our chances […] and that is what it comes down to. We all worked hard, we had so much passion and drive, we just didn’t come through.”

Canada needs a Royal Commission on HIV

Hamilton’s Johnson Aziga is the world’s first person to be charged with murder for spreading AIDS. His trial, in process since last October, involves two counts of first-degree murder and 11 counts of aggravated sexual assault. Aziga knew about his HIV status in the ’90s and did not disclose it. He infected multiple women, and two died of AIDS-related complications. Aziga’s case is expected to come to a close next month; in the meantime, the world is debating the criminalization of HIV. Controversies have flared in recent weeks.

HIV/AIDS is a social issue like no other. There is no cure for AIDS; like hepatitis and diabetes it must be medicated and controlled for a lifetime. It carries a stigma like no other infection, with links to sexual preference and practice, race, and poverty. Since 1998, AIDS has been the only disease one can be charged for exposing others to (not necessarily infecting them with) under Canadian law. Since then, there has been a grey area concerning consent and malice.

At first, the idea of criminalizing HIV disclosure seems logical: in order to give real consent, people must be informed of their partner’s status. But opponents raise convincing arguments which reveal the big picture. UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme, believes criminalization only adds to our extreme misunderstanding and prejudice towards the HIV-positive. Increased stigma means embarrassment and thus less testing. At the same time, some will assume that the law somehow protects them against infection.

Aziga’s case involves variables. Aziga is Ugandan-born. One witness said that she asked Aziga directly if he had AIDS, and was lied to. Some of his former partners were infected, while others were only placed at risk. Judges are supposed to base decisions on legal precedents. While the outcome of Aziga’s trial should make it easier to settle this debate, the case is more complicated. Sexual dynamics are difficult to understand and even more confusing to legislate, especially in a country of diverse cultural and medical norms.

What Canada needs is a Royal Commission. Yes, these notoriously lengthy commissions cost millions and occasionally lead to corruption. They have, however, provided our nation with legal and social guidance about such complicated issues as women’s rights, bilingualism, and Aboriginal issues.

Almost 60,000 Canadians live with positive status. The significant amount of those affected by AIDS makes it necessary to inquire into the relationship between the disease and Canadian law, attitudes, and public awareness.

It’s widely unknown that the vast majority of HIV court cases involve heterosexual couples. Anthropologists suggest that this is not due to people’s ability to dodge the justice system; rather, it is increasingly assumed that the LGBT community has better-established codes on disclosure and safe sex, perhaps as a result of the AIDS crisis in the ’90s. If the minority is able to deal with this, why shouldn’t the majority?

This commission could investigate all the issues surrounding AIDS in Canada, including its affect on the gay community. We need laws to protect people from being intentionally infected, but we also need to reach a better understanding of this disease to challenge the widely-held stigmas about it. The commission could propose training for HIV-positive people, and measures to ensure that more people get tested.

With these commissions, a national discussion is started, and many are given a voice. A committee of diverse experts delivers suggestions to legislators, who try to figure out solutions. We’ve done this with other issues. We must for AIDS.

After all, this is a perfect opportunity. Because of Aziga, Canada is being watched by the rest of the world. Rather than allow the jury’s decision in a complicated trial dictate our laws, we must examine our thoughts and beliefs in order to establish a more inclusive and just society. Canada can set a precedent, helping to solve one of the world’s toughest questions.

Marginalized students shafted?

With UTSU election season underway, the atmosphere on campus stands in marked contrast with that of last year. This round of elections has seen the formation of two opposing slates: Demand Access and Change. While the much-needed debate is welcome, something is becoming increasingly clear about the “Change” mandate proposed by presidential candidate Jason Marin: it is not a change that students—particularly poor and racialized students—can afford.

During a recent debate hosted by The Varsity on CIUT radio, Marin presented the three focal points of his platform: school spirit, student space, and bridging the disconnect between students and their union. On the surface, these points may appear reasonable, but upon closer examination their substance is highly problematic.

Marin suggested that parties, or a “homecoming,” would build community. However, there is no lack of activities for students on campus: there is a lack of active students. If a slate is sincerely committed to building community, as opposed to catering to the already hyper-engaged core of students most likely to vote, financial barriers and systemic racism need to be met head-on. During last week’s Task Force on Campus Racism hearing, student after student discussed feelings of alienation—exclusion from the campus community—as a result of Eurocentric curricula, poor representation of marginalized groups in faculty, and numerous incidences of prejudice. Also mentioned many times were financial barriers that prevent marginalized students from properly accessing their education. These financial barriers range from the lack of affordable student housing to rising tuition fees—issues that have been sidelined by the Change slate. If Marin believes that the main issue is “not enough parties,” he is dangerously mistaken.

Secondly, we can all agree that student space is crucial. Indeed, students have been active in pushing for greater and more accessible spaces—opposing the expansion of the Second Cup in Sid Smith, or the eviction of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students. However, Jason Marin’s model, based on his elaborations during the debate and more importantly his track record, differs significantly in substance from what students have demanded. The issue isn’t whether student space is needed, but rather who should pay for it. Problematic for both slates is their support for a Student Commons to be constructed with student fees. Marin cites the New College Student Lounge’s renovation as one of his achievements. As he explains, this was achieved through a $50,000 donation from the New College Student Council. Why are students, already burdened with tuition fees and living expenses, expected to carry further financial burdens to fund basic public services like physical infrastructure? Bricks and mortar should be funded by the government and the university, not by students already struggling to stay in school.

Lastly, Marin discussed the disconnect between the student union and its membership, a valid point. Marin claimed that campaigns should start from the grassroots. However, what is Marin’s track record? Where was Marin when campaigns were brought up by such rank-and-file students?

Marin himself has been disconnected, if not openly hostile, to such campaigns at his own college—let alone at the university level. Marin was absent when students organized against the 20 per cent New College residence fee increase and condemned their activities afterwards. He also failed to participate in the work to address the underfunding and underdevelopment of Area Studies programs, most of which fall under New College. Unsurprisingly, Marin was also absent from organizing against U of T President David Naylor’s plans for deregulating tuition.

Marin was asked whether he supported positions taken on broader issues of social justice, or on precarious campus food workers, and his answer was an unequivocal “no.” At the same time, his answer on whether he saw David Naylor as an ally—a man who advocates for tuition fee deregulation—was an unequivocal “yes.” The clear message to marginalized students on campus is that the Change ticket will ignore their needs at a time when we need stronger representation.

An open letter by Lucho Granados Ceja stated the following: “Good leaders must champion our issues to the powerful by taking direction from our communities. Jason, sadly, only takes direction from the administration. Racialized people and their allies need to support leaders that support us, and they will not find such leadership in Jason Marin and his Change ticket.” Marginalized students on campus and their allies would have to agree.

Gabi Rodriguez, Edward Wong, and Shannon Ashman are volunteers at the Ontario Public Interest Research Group—Toronto