Clean sweep

In an impressive match, the number-one ranked Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team defeated the Lakehead Thunderwolves 3-0 on Sunday, coming off an equally impressive 3-0 win on Saturday.

The first set started out as a struggle for both teams with a few misblocks and service errors, but the Blues stepped up with some powerful kills from Kristina Valjas and Heather Bansley to take the first set 25-15.

The Thunderwolves proved confident in the second match, tying up the game early on, but Bansley responded with three consecutive kills. Middle Karla Brayshaw fought back for the Thunderwolves, trying to keep her team within striking distance by constantly blocking the Blues’ attempts to score. Katrina Russell recorded two kills for the Blues, bringing the score to 24-16. Outside hitter Amy Sweetman ended the rally 25-18.
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The Blues continued to play strongly in the third match as they maintained a six-point lead throughout the final set, ultimately ending the match 25-16.

Valjas and Karlee Diesing led the Blues with a remarkable 12 kills and nine digs each, while Bansley added an impressive six points and four digs. Blues setter Kathleen Mahannah tallied six digs and 41 assists, and was named the Varsity Blues player of the game.

“Before each game, we challenge ourselves to play at our level and in this match we definitely played up to the challenge. Our mindset coming into this game was to treat the game seriously, as if it were the gold-medal match,” said Valjas.

Next home games

Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. at Athletic Centre Sports Gym vs. Queen’s Golden Gaels

Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. at Athletic Centre Sports Gym vs. RMC Paladins

Three more years!

David Naylor’s term as president of the University of Toronto has been extended for three more years by the Governing Council. The news of this extension was met with a negative reception from student leaders—particularly the University of Toronto Students’ Union and the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students—who cited areas such as academic freedom, equity and accessibility, flat fees, and the controversial guiding document Towards 2030 framework as areas where Naylor had failed students.

While Naylor’s tenure as president has not been perfect, it has been far from an abject failure. I approve of Naylor’s renewal as president, and U of T students should not worry about three more years of Naylor.

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When Naylor was selected as president in 2005, he made a commitment to improving the student experience. However, he has had to attend to both provincial and federal governments that have placed post-secondary education low on their list of priorities. This has resulted in what might appear to be compromises between institutional and student goals.

Despite that, the U of T experience has been enhanced, but not necessarily in the way student leaders expected. For them, the importance lies in lower tuition fees or allowing more student dissent. Instead, Naylor’s term and president has seen small and cautious steps, with programs like Vic One and the increased infrastructure at the satellite campuses. He has steered U of T toward remaining competitive, both nationally and internationally, a course mostly outlined in the Towards 2030 framework.

Detractors have argued that Towards 2030 will make the university less accessible to the growing undergraduate student population by reducing the number of undergraduate positions available. This is a limited view of a complex situation in which the university must remain committed to students but also increase its research base to attract them. Having the latest technology and research gives U of T a competitive advantage in hiring professors and training students, as professors and students are not going to be as attracted to a university using outdated equipment or working from outdated theoretical paradigms. Furthermore, the lowest percentage of undergraduates out of the three possible scenarios outlined in the Towards 2030 document would represent 70 percent, which is still high. Overall, St. George campus currently has about 14,000 grads and 40,000 undergrads (that’s roughly 1/4 grad, 3/4 undergrad), so the increase will be modest at best.

Criticisms of Naylor are the result of broken communication between the administration and student unions. As ASSU President Gavin Nowlan indicated, many meetings seem more like information sessions, and greater dialogue needs to be opened up between all parties concerned.

The flat fees issue is a case in point. Students were given inadequate opportunities to articulate their positions on the controversial measure at the final meeting at Simcoe Hall. A decision like this required more input from the student community, which can’t happen until student unions and the administration strike up a more respectful discourse with each other. Naylor does have the skills to engage with students at a high level, and increased communication will lead to a greater sense of student representation.

Naylor will no doubt remain a controversial figure for the next three years. However, his request for a more meaningful dialogue at the Governing Council, and overtures to the St. George Roundtable should be taken as positive signs.

Overall, he’s far from the worst president this university has ever had, and if he keeps up the good work, he may eventually be considered one of the best.

Farewell to a friend

The front entrance of Lee’s Palace, which was once adorned with various posters illustrating the venue’s history, is now home to Big Fat Burrito. Though initially appalled that a piece of Toronto history would be altered in such a manner, after a night at the Dance Cave, my moral quandaries were quickly dispelled by my pragmatic stomach. After all, if America’s manifest destiny is to come north and steal our water, then Mexico’s is filling our pacifist bellies with tortillas and guacamole.

I stood in line with a friend of mine, discussing the merits of the remodelling.

“At least Lee’s Palace isn’t closing down like the Big Bop,” he noted. “The mallification of Queen Street continues.”

“You know I used to work there,” chimed in the guy manning the counter at Big Fat Burrito.

“I wonder what they’re building there,” my friend remarked. “I’ll bet another condo.”

“Nah, they can’t build anything on the land. The building is directly over a river.”
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As much as I wanted to believe the Big Fat Burrito guy, I wasn’t sure about the accuracy of his story. It was the first thing I wanted to know when I met up with Domenic Tassielli, the owner of the Big Bop, to speak about the fact that his venue will host its last show ever at the end of this week.

“No, there is no truth to that at all,” Tassielli says, “although it is true that you can’t knock the walls down. This building has been around for over 100 years—it’s a historical landmark at this point.”

The original Big Bop, which began as a dance club in the 1980s, closed down in 1994 and was subsequently left vacant for two years. At the time, Queen and Bathurst wasn’t exactly a hot area for real estate. The price was right, however, for Tassielli to purchase it in 1996. His vision was to create an all-ages venue that would be distinctly open in character.

“I was more of a live band kind of guy,” he explains. “I didn’t want to keep it as a dance club. I found that there was a market for this kind of thing, and I knew I wanted to have an environment where everyone could come in and get a chance to play.”

Some have argued that such open venues create the opportunity for promoters to profit off the music scene. Tassielli, though, takes genuine pride in the role that Big Bop has played as a breeding ground for the Southern Ontario music scene since he took over the place.

“Many bands got their start here,” he recalls, easily able to list them off: “Billy Talent. Alexisonfire. Down With Webster—they were even telling me they first got the idea to play at our venue after riding by on the Queen streetcar. They came in one day and said, ‘Hey, can we play here?’ And I said ‘Sure!’”

What does Tassielli think Toronto will lose when the Big Bop closes? “I don’t think a band like [Down With Webster] could start right away at The Horseshoe, what with their unique sound. Venues like that usually make you jump through hoops to get a show.”

Newer bands looking for a place to get started are already feeling the pinch. Ask Marc Sautter, drummer for Home For The Headlines. “It seems like promoting and getting shows in Toronto keeps getting harder and harder. You could always count on getting shows at The Big Bop.” His band is fresh out of high school, and his friends wouldn’t be able to attend the band’s shows in the largely 19+ Toronto scene.

Local music fans of all ages, though, have expressed concern. Jennifer Kuhn, who estimates that she attends 50 live shows a year, is worried about where her favourite bands will play. “Not every band in the scene can justify playing The Mod Club,” she says.

Tassielli is planning to start another venue, but the problem so far has been finding an affordable space. “We were looking at places downtown,” he says, “and you can just forget it with the increasing rent costs.”

Still, his business model has been profitable, and he wants to continue hosting all-ages concerts. Tassielli recently found a workable (though far west) location at Dundas and Kipling, which he plans on calling The Rock Pile. The all-ages crowd can still get there easily enough by subway, but one thing is clear: the venue won’t be a part of what is supposed to be a vibrant downtown arts scene.

“I think half the fun of going to a show when you’re 14, 15 years old is the fact you get to go downtown,” explains Cindy Parreira, The Big Bop’s head booker.

Tassielli doesn’t seem as concerned with the placement of the venue: “I like to believe that if you build it, they will come.”

Tassielli is clearly optimistic, hoping his new venue will help remind us of the good ol’ days—before gentrification reared its ugly head on Queen Street West.

The Big Bop hosts its final series of concerts this week, ending with The Last Kathedral Show Ever on Sat. Jan. 30 beginning at 2 p.m.

For more information, visit www.thebigbop.com.

Creative chronology

What is time? If it exists, can it be measured? And if it can be measured, does it occur in just one universe or several?

Over 600 curious people came out to OISE to hear the answers to these questions at the Great Time Debate, an event co-hosted by the Centre For Inquiry and the University of Toronto Secular Alliance. Cosmologist J. Richard Bond and philosopher James Robert Brown, both from U of T, joined Lee Smolin, a physicist from the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. Dan Falk, a science journalist and the author of In Search of Time, moderated the talk.

“I think it’s safe to say that as long as our species has existed, our ancestors have been fascinated by the natural cycles that we see, the cycles of time,” Falk said in his introductory remarks, citing mechanical devices and theoretical models that people built to measure time and to explain it.

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Einstein’s theory of relativity destroyed Newton’s idea of a “universal now,” the idea that time operates the same way in all universes, Falk said. Each part of the universe has its own concept of now and its own way to measure time. Falk also picked apart the metaphor of time as a river.

“A river flows with respect to the shore; what could time flow with respect to?” he asked. “ A river flows at a rate you can measure […] at what rate does time flow?”

These questions framed each panelist’s arguments for their position on the event’s topic.

According to Bond, our universe is one in a series of multiverses born of eternal inflation. Eternal inflation results from oscillations in the structure of each universe, including our own. Each universe has its own clock—in this case, time is completely relative and past, present, and future collapse.

Brown’s view of time rested on an argument for “the relativity of simultaneity.” All times are happening at once, he said, which means that past, present and future are all happening simultaneously and are all real.

Smolin disputed the idea of simultaneous nows by positing a “Darwinian cosmology,” where laws and universes evolve. The only real time is the present. He took issue with the idea that we happen to exist in a habitable universe.

“We are scientists and must do better than theology. These views do not yield testable results and are therefore not science,” he said.

An audience member asked each presenter to sum up their concept of time with the phrase “Time is.” Bond replied that time is the fourth-dimension and said, “We do not have control of the horizontal or the vertical,” a passing reference to the sci-fi show The Outer Limits. Brown shrugged, threw his hands up in the air, and said, “Time is obscure.” Smolin paused for a moment before announcing with a smile: “Time is real.”

Shelving illiteracy

U of T students Afton Chadwick and Lorenzo Somma are living at Robarts this week. The duo moved in on Jan. 23 to raise money for literacy in developing countries.

The annual “Live-in for Literacy” event takes place across Canada. It is spearheaded by the student organization Discover the Reality of Educating All Minds. This year, DREAM hopes to raise $20,000 for Room to Read, which will use the funds to build a school in India and fund the publication of 10,000 copies of children’s books in the local language. Eight campuses are participating in the event.

Chadwick and Somma have set up a tent on the first floor of the library. They have been selling raffle tickets for an array of gift baskets donated from GiftCraft.

U of T students are generous and kind, says Chadwick, “You don’t have to convince them to give, they do it on their own.”

Having raised $3,200 last year, the U of T chapter of DREAM hopes to raise at least $3,000 this year. As of press time, they have raised around $500.
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Gender studies by any other name?

It’s not easy to encapsulate such an interdiciplinary field as women’s studies. The product of second-wave feminism, women’s studies classes often delve into issues of racism, class prejudice, and homophobia while borrowing from more traditional disciplines like sociology, anthropology, and history.

In an effort to reflect this wide mandate, many women’s studies programs across Canada have changed their names to women and gender studies or simply gender studies, with Queen’s University as the latest addition. The change is a signal that their curricula focus on constructions of masculinity as well as femininity. A few schools, such as Guelph University, have eliminated their women’s studies programs altogether.

Observers have wondered whether women’s studies programs are just keeping up with the times, or whether they are making their programs seem more palatable to the mainstream while diluting their focus on women’s issues. Some say that the change is a step forward, an acknowledgement in the tradition of third-wave feminism that issues of oppression go beyond sex and gender.

“The UTM program was initiated in 1996 and had ‘Gender’ in its title from its inception,” said Joan Simalchik, professor and coordinator of UTM’s Study of Women and Gender Program. “It was not named to attract more students, but came from a more precise understanding of the content of the discipline as taught on this campus.”

U of T first established a women’s studies minor at St. George in 1974, and the women’s studies program joined New College in 1977. A graduate program followed in 1994. In 1998, the Women and Gender Studies Institute, the current face of women’s studies at St. George, was established. UTSC also has a women’s studies program, though a representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

“‘Women’s Studies’ sounds gender-specific, and that can be a deterrent for men,” Ian Desjardinsan, an honours thesis student in the Gender Equality and Social Justice program at Nipissing University, told the National Post. “At Nipissing, I think that because there is an emphasis on social justice in the title, more men are inclined to partake.”

“We’re not abandoning women’s studies, or saying the women’s movement is dead. We’re saying things are changing,” said Catherine Murray, chairwoman of the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. “It’s about moving forward, staying ahead of the game and recognizing the need to include broader discussions surrounding gender.”

New principal for UTM

UTM will welcome a new VP and principal starting July 1. Hargurdeep Saini, the dean of the environment faculty at the University of Waterloo, will take over the job from Ian Orchard.

As VP, Saini will be a part of U of T’s senior planning team. As principal, he will be responsible for running all aspects of the 240-acre campus containing around 11,400 students.

In Orchard’s eight years as principal, UTM’s student population has nearly doubled. “The world is unlikely to remain the same, and so too, universities are unlikely to remain the same. The challenge is to respond to these changes in an innovative way,” Orchard told The Varsity. He spoke of economic restructuring, demographic changes, and globalization.

Other challenges of leading UTM include tackling economic constraints, competition from other schools, and catering to diverse educational needs, Saini said.

Saini’s solution is to establish strong connections with the community. “The scale of the required effort and the economics of university funding—at least in Ontario—are such that no institution will be able to offer significant solutions on its own,” he wrote in an email. Saini sees the university as an ideal place for the “honest brokers” who will be needed to mediate conflicting ideas and plans.

Saini said that grad programs are also a priority, and that specific measures would be decided through discussions and market analysis.

News in brief

Tofu-pie terrorism?

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne says that throwing a pie in the face of the fisheries minister by a PETA seal hunt protestor should be seen as a terrorist act.

On Monday, an American woman pushed a tofu cream pie in Gail Shea’s face while the minister was delivering a speech at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington. Emily McCoy, 37, is charged with assault.

In a press release PETA said that this act was part of a strategy “to stop the government’s ill-advised sanction of the slaughter of seals.”

“A little tofu cream pie on her face is hardly comparable to the blood on Ms. Shea’s hands,” said PETA executive vice-president Tracey Reiman.

“When someone actually coaches or conducts criminal behaviour to impose a political agenda on each and every other citizen of Canada, that does seem to me to meet the test of a terrorist organization,” said Byrne in an interview with radio station VOCM in St. John’s, Nfld. The member from Newfoundland and Labrador plans to call on the federal government to investigate whether PETA is acting as a terrorist organization under Canadian law.

Shea says the event has further strengthened her resolve to defend the hunt.—Carolyn Arnett

Sources: Toronto Star, National Post

More fees, please!

To help out their cash-strapped school, two Queen’s University undergraduate students are proposing a new $70 fee with the choice of opting out. The university’s 2009-10 operating budget has a projected $8.3-million deficit.

Morgan Campbell and James Simpson say that Queen’s would reap more than $1 million in three years if half of its undergraduate students paid the fee.

Campbell, a trustee, said contributions would help pay for TA salaries, classroom maintenance, and teaching materials, making a difference in the quality of education at Queen’s.

The fee’s proponents won’t take the issue to referendum just yet: a survey suggested that students have little awareness of the proposed fee. To pass, the motion would need a vote of 50 per cent plus one, or around 5,000 students.—Jane Bao

Phishing scams target York, Concordia

York University and Concordia University email accounts have received messages asking for users’ log-in information. The sources of the fraudulent messages appeared to be authentic university accounts, such as helpdesk@yorku.ca. The accounts of those who replied with their personal information were used to send spam email.

In the past, phishing attempts that resulted in extensive emailing of spam led external e-mail services to temporarily hold back messages coming from York University accounts.

Students at York and Concordia have been advised not to reply to these messages, as genuine emails coming from the universities would never ask for passwords or other personal information.—Kimberly Shek

Sources: York and Concordia news releases

McMaster expands labour studies program

McMaster University unveiled plans to start a school of labour studies on Tuesday, expanding its program. Approved last year, the expansion was first recommended by an external review of McMaster’s undergraduate programs in 2008.

“Labour studies has become so much more central to the major changes that are going on,” said Don Wells, chair of the labour school, in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator.

Currently there are 1,400 students enrolled in first-year labour studies courses. McMaster has said it will continue to offer non-degree certificate courses affiliated with the Canadian Auto Workers union and Mohawk College.—Kari Vierimaa