Scenes from the Much Music Video Awards

Miley Cyrus grinds her hips and shakes her ass to the beat as she struts across the outdoor stage of the 2010 Much Music Video Awards. Free of her Hannah Montana character and promoting her album “Can’t Be Tamed,” Miley is dressed in butt-hugging leather shorts and a small, breast-boosting piece of clothing closer to a bra than a leotard. Thousands of girls scream as she performs “Party in the U.S.A.”

Got my hands up, they’re playing my song!/The butterflies fly away!/I’m noddin’ my head like “Yeah!”/Movin’ my hips like “Yeah!”

“Is it okay to find Miley Cyrus hot?” asks a reporter in the Much Music Press Room, where I am watching her performance on a TV monitor. This year’s presenters will be dropping by to participate in a series of press conferences throughout the evening, with Jackson Rathbone and Nicola Peitz currently fielding some halfhearted questions about The Last Airbender, but all eyes are on the monitor as Justin Bieber rides a bike onstage and Miley thrusts her hips at him. Justin looks her up and down, and grins. Her career has reached its sexual awakening.

“What’s up, Canada? How’re you guys doin’ tonight?” The crowd roars as Miley high-fives the girls in front of the stage. “Wuddup? Wuddup? Wuddup? Wuddup?”

“Alright, this is my very first MMVAs and I’m so excited to be here partyin’ with y’all tonight. How cool is it that y’all are here partyin’ on the streets with us? There is so much I’m excited for here tonight, and I’m sure I’ve got a few girls that hate me since I just got to Party in the U.S.A. with Justin Bieber!”

Both Miley and Justin will visit the Press Room at the end of the night. Talk about delayed gratification. In the meantime, Jersey Shore’s Pauly D is taking questions about his DJ career. He confirms that he would indeed play The Situation’s new song.

“Yeah, but do you like it?” asks a reporter.

“Uh… I’d spin it.”

Whitney Port, of The Hills and The City, is asked for advice for struggling young artists. “It’s hard for me to do that. Obviously, I think working your hardest is the most you can possibly do. If you really believe in something and work your hardest, you’ll get there. But obviously I had a whole system behind me helping me make this happen, so I can’t lie and say, like, I just made this happen on my own. Y’know? Like, I have a show that’s able to publicize the whole process.”

On the monitor, Pauly D throws his T-shirt into the audience and flaunts his abs. Whitney Port continues: “I think the key is really just knowing that this is what you want to do and just networking, and talking to people… and if you have to sacrifice some of that social aspect of your life, then that’s what you have to do, because you only have so many years to actually make it.”

“Hey girl, how you doin’ today?” says Rudy Blair of 680News. “I need to know what you think: Spencer and Heidi – true or untrue? Splitting up, or are they just trying to milk this thing to get publicity?”

“Honestly… I swear to god I have no idea, and could not even begin to tell you what could be true.”

When Ke$ha performs “Tik Tok,” the plexiglas stage glows with highlighter yellow while purple neon bathes the audience. The camera cranes through the sky for a long shot of the assembled multitude; the sun has set by now, but the purples and yellows illuminate the block. When the song concludes, the camera floats above the street to Toronto’s fluorescent skyline. I can’t remember when I’ve seen my city look sexier.

Ke$ha’s performance follows appearances by Katy Perry, Hedley, Adam Lambert, and seemingly hundreds of Degrassi and Twilight alumni, but the 2010 MMVAs are the Justin and Miley show. When Justin Bieber finally arrives for his press conference, the room fills.

“You got a lot of swagger, and it’s working,” says a reporter. “So, if you were gonna teach someone a swagger move, what would you teach?”

“Y’know, swagger, it… that definition is just, confidence. And just being able to… be, y’know, who you are, and have people, y’know, see that come out.”

“You hair is iconic,” says another reporter. “Could you go head-to-head with the Rachel haircut from Friends?”

“Uh, I could. Y’know, I grew up watching Friends, my mom loves that show, so, uh, I think so.”

On the monitor, Miley is smothered in fiery orange light and surrounded by dancers holding torches as she performs “Can’t Be Tamed”. I idly wonder if her virgin-white costume symbolizes her Hannah Montana image, with the fiery landscape suggesting a transition to a new, more sexual persona. Then I see her cameltoe.

I go through guys like money flyin’ out their hands!/They try to change me but they realize they can’t!/And every tomorrow is a day I never planned!/If you’re gonna be my man, understand I can’t be tamed!

“It was amazing, I had so much fun, and it was really cool being able to see all the performers and see all the different artists, and I think the hardest part was the rehearsal, I didn’t realize it got so hot in Canada.” The MMVAs have wrapped for another year and Miley Cyrus at last is in the house. The air is electric.

“I gotta ask you about your opening outfit,” says a reporter.

“Oh, my chola look,” says Miley.

“So, in terms of taking your image… to a more grown-up image… are you finding there’s a backlash?”

“I think, I’m just having fun and doing what I love, which is performing, so I do that in a way that I feel most comfortable. And, that’s like, again, like me saying I don’t take myself too seriously. We’re up there dressing up, we’re having fun, it’s just like a girl and a guy sorta living their dream playing dress-up. Y’know, I don’t walk around in a bikini and bright pink lipstick all the time, so it’s just about who you are when you’re performing and what feels right for that song.”

Under a mass of cosmetics and a tight faux-leather dress, her thin, toned body looks much older than 17 years, and a different species than the plain-looking reporters. She answers four questions with lightning efficiency before being whisked away, off to perform tomorrow at Hollywood’s House of Blues. She is alarmingly perfect.

For those who don’t know me, I can get a bit crazy/Have to get my way, 24 hours a day/ ‘Cause I’m hot like that/Every guy everywhere just gives me mad attention/Like I’m under inspection, I always get the 10s/‘Cause I’m built like that

It’s not all ROSI

It’s the most stressful time of year for a University of Toronto student and it’s not even exams. It’s not even during the regular school year, but during the summer: course registration on the Repository of Student Information (ROSI).

Imagine you’re like me: majoring in English, with a double minor in Drama and Writing and Rhetoric. Each one of these programs has its own set of course requirements that you must somehow fit into your course calendar for not only this year, but the two that succeed it.

We all remember what happened during course registration last year. At least, I do. Due to system failures on ROSI, many of us couldn’t even get in at our start times. I had spent a good hour planning out my year and fitting courses into my schedule only to find that when I sat down for my course registration at 3:30 p.m., one of my friends, who is in the sciences, still couldn’t get in. Her start time was at 1:00 p.m.

Now, to say that I panicked would be an understatement. I spent an hour typing and retyping my information into the login page. When I finally got in after what seemed like forever, most of the classes I planned to take had already filled up. So I was left to scramble through my calendar and timetable, entering courses I didn’t even want to take or pay for just so I could hope to meet requirements necessary to emerge from U of T’s hallowed halls with a degree. I didn’t even get into half of the new courses I chose. Sometimes ROSI logged me out while I was waiting, which simply added insult to injury as I tried in vain to get back in.

U of T’s admin would later concede the difficulty students had with their course registration, promising that next year would be better. I must ask: is there not a better way? Is there no way U of T, one of the best schools in Canada, can ameliorate this system?

I have an idea of my own. As I mentioned, my friend in the sciences got to have an earlier start time. This is ridiculous. There is way more competition to get into smaller Arts classes than to get into larger Science classes. Despite the time it took her to get into ROSI, my friend found not a single one of her classes filled. I propose that Arts students be given earlier start times than Science students in their years. Last year, as the Arts students logged on, the server was still being clogged by all the Sciences students trying to get in. If this were reversed perhaps the Arts students could get their course registration out of the way without all the added traffic in the system.

It’s worth mentioning that this year is shaping up to be just as bad as the last. I spent two hours planning the next two years of my life this past Saturday. All the courses I chose were not only listed in the Calendar, but also the Timetable. I noticed that a couple said they weren’t offered in the 2009/2010 year, so I figured I might as well check with ROSI to see if they were offered this year. To my surprise, not only were those courses not offered, but other ones I had chosen (that were in both the calendar and timetable) were not offered either. And so it begins. How can U of T’s students be expected to choose their courses when they have Calendars and Timetables that aren’t even updated properly? Is the university so busy that they can’t be bothered to change the list that says “not offered in the 2009/2010 year” to “not offered in the 2010/2011 year”? What about the people who don’t check ROSI to make sure their class is offered? And why can U of T not give us a break?

The facts are simple. U of T needs to do a little to keep its students happy during course registration time. We need a Calendar and Timetable that are truly their latest, updated versions. Don’t worry about giving them to us the first week of April. Give them on the last week, as long as they have accurate courses. We also need a course registration system that does not crash when we use it. Seems simple, right? So why aren’t we getting it?

The other side of the fence

2010 marks the third year that Erin Fitzgerald, a recent graduate of U of T, has attended a G8 summit. Through U of T’s G8 Research Group, Fitzgerald has traveled to conferences in Japan, Italy and, this year, Muskoka, where she has spoken to government officials, attended press conferences, and analyzed recently released documents, among other duties.

The group, founded in 1987 by U of T faculty Janice Stein, John Kirton, and Bill Graham is housed at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and home to 150 student analysts. Their stated mandate is to “provide research and analysis on the activities of the G8 and its member states, particularly with respect to monitoring whether or not member states comply with the commitments they make at the G8 Summit,” according to the group’s website.

This is achieved through a year-long process, culminating in the summit itself, which 25 U of T students attend. According to Fitzgerald, who acted as Chair this past year, the process begins in September with the executive looking for measurable outcomes in the annually-released official document summarizing the results on the summit.

“A lot of the document will be ‘we are really proud that this initiative has gone forward,’ and there’s no monetary signals we can track, they’re not saying they’re going to implement a program, so we go through and look for things that are actually measurable, so areas like world economy, climate change.”

Once specific commitments are isolated they are assigned to student analysts track the progress of two countries with one of the identified G8 commitments. “That way, we’re able to see whether the G8 countries actually do what they say they’re going to do,” said Fitzgerald.
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Analysts use almost entirely “open-source research”—information available on-line, easily accessible, and preferably published on a government website. The report is then sent to government ministries, who respond saying “‘No, you should score us higher in all these areas for all these reasons,’ and then we say ‘but no, look at the interpretive guidelines,’ or ‘this commitment is two year’s old, we can’t give you credit for it,’’ said Fitzgerald.

At the summit, a smaller group of students produce two reports, available on the group’s website; one is an analysis of how each country fared based on their objectives going into the summit, and the other a ranking of how the G8 Presidency (this year, Canada) performed based on its success advancing the issues—such as food security, the environment, and the world economy—that the group identified as their priority.

“About a month beforehand we identified the objectives each country has going into the summit, and then at the summit as the communiqués are released, we score them based on the content of the communiqués,” said Fitzgerald. “So, if France wants a bank tax, and there’s no bank tax, then France did really badly in that area, but if everyone wants interim targets for climate change, and there are interim targets, then everyone does well.”

This year, in the Country Assessment Report, the U.S. maintained the highest ranking, scoring an average 79.6% success rate in pursuing its objectives, while Canada rose to third-place, scoring an overall 69.5%. Canada was marked high for the attention given to its “maternal and child health initiative, regional security, and the economic issues discussed at the G8 Summit, but was scored low for climate change, which received very little attention in the communiqué,” according to the report.

In the Issue Assessment Report, the group scored issues’ priority based on “how well the communiqués that are released by the G8 at the summit reflect the stated objectives of the G8 Presidency in each of the priority issue areas. If the statements and communiqués emerging from the summit reflect the pre-identified priority objectives of the G8 Presidency, a high score is assigned for the objective.” With Canada at the helm this year, world economy was judged to be by far the most successfully advanced with a score of 83%, while the other issues scored mostly in the 50s. Food security earned a score of only 10.8%.

U of T student raises over $30,000 for FOP

On June 17, U of T student Vanessa Herce rode from Niagara Falls to Toronto to raise awareness for Fibrodysplasia Ossifcans Progressiva (FOP), a condition her sister Valerie was diagnosed with at the age of 15.

FOP is a rare condition that causes the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the body to turn to the bone. Ribbons, sheets, and plates of bone develop in the soft connective tissue causing joints to lock in place and stop moving. People with the disease experience frequent swellings, known as flareups, which occur without warning and are worsened by trauma to the area.

In April 2006 Dr. Frederick Kaplan at the University of Pennsylvania discovered that FOP is caused by a mutation of a gene involved in skeletal formation. The average time to correctly diagnose the condition is 4 years.

Vanessa embarked on the 130km bide ride to raise awareness of the disease while raising funds for research. There are only 30,00 known cases of this currently incurable disease around the world and very few treatment options are available. Vanessa and Valerie hope to change this.

“[Valerie] always talks about when we have a cure, not if,” Vanessa said.

Vanessa created a Facebook page for her ride and with the support of her friends and family quickly reached her goal of $1500. By the date of the ride over $30,000 had been raised, twice the 2010 fundraising goal for the Canadian FOP Network. The ride also succeeded in raising awareness, catching the attention of Rogers TV, and several community papers.

The Canadian FOP Network became a registered charity in 2009. The mandate of the organization is to increase awareness of the condition and to provide support to individuals with FOP and their families in Canada.

“She’s really excited about how much we’ve raised and she’s even making a list of the things she wants to do when they have a cure for FOP” says Vanessa.

Valerie accompanied her sister on part of her ride on her motor scooter. Family and friends also joined the ride. “Having all these people in your corner is amazing,” says Valerie.

You can learn more about Fibrodysplasia Ossifcans Progressiva here.

U of T residences used for G20 accommodation

University of Toronto residence buildings are being used to house University Staff and Campus Police during the G20. On Thursday The Varsity spotted people entering Morrison Hall, a residence affiliated with University College.

“We’re sticking around,” said one worker interviewed as he was leaving the building. “We’re looking after a few things around the building.”

Students residing in the constituent colleges were required to leave residence by 6pm Wednesday. Those interviewed told The Varsity they had moved in later that evening.

UTSU President Adam Awad had received reports that New College Residence was being used for G20 accommodation, but was unaware that Morrison Hall was also being used. When questioned, Awad claimed that members of the administration denied that any residence was being used for G20 accommodation.
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“We had a meeting and we said we heard reports that people were being housed in residence. Their response was no there’s not going to be anyone there; we’re changing the locks because that’s what we do.”

After learning that The Varsity had acquired images of people entering and exiting residence buildings, UofT Spokesperson Laurie Stephens confirmed that UofT staff and Campus Police are being housed on campus. She was unsure as to whether any buildings in addition to Morrison Hall are being used.

Nona Robinson, the Dean of Students for University College, was reached by phone on holiday, but refused to comment.

U of T consolidates workplace safety programs

U of T has established a workplace violence program to summarize and streamline the university’s many violence-related safety policies. The program comes in response to Bill 168, an act to amend Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

According to U of T’s Human Resources and Equity website, workplace violence specifically means “the exercise[…]the attempt to exercise[…]and statement or behavior that it is reasonable for a worker to interpret as a threat to exercise[…]physical force against the worker, in a workplace, that could cause physical injury to the worker.”

Campus safety protocols are currently set by a variety of offices including the Community Safety Office, Environmental Health and Safety, the Organizational Development and Learning Centre, and the Campus Police.

Addressed strictly toward U of T staff and faculty, the program includes a mechanism for centralized reporting of incidents of workplace violence that are forwarded to the VP of Human Resources and Equity Office.

“[Reported incidents] may come in through community safety office or through an HR office, but they all get reported [to the VP of Human Resources and Equity Office],” says Christina Sass-Kortsak, Assistant VP of the Human Resources and Equity Office.

“That really allows us to ensure that every situation goes appropriately addressed and that we have a way of identifying some of the systemic issues that you might only really see if you look at a pattern over a period of time.”

According to Sass-Kortstak, U of T currently has no statistics on the frequency of workplace violence on campus, but “we’re in the course of trying to pull together some of those, [and] in the future that’s going to be a lot easier to gather because we will be getting this information centralized.”

One of the program’s methods of controlling risk involves disclosing an employee’s previous history of committing physical violence to those who expect to interact with the employee.

“We’re very mindful of employee privacy, but that has to be balanced with employee safety,” says Sass-Kortsak. “We would only disclose as much information as required to protect an employee.”

Although the program does not directly address students, some training workshops provided through the Community Safety Office and Campus Police, are available to students.

No way out

Erin Cauchi was arrested last Sunday (along with Varsity staffer Joe Howell), after spending the night in the pouring rain at Queen and Spadina, hemmed in by lines of police officers.

Cauchi, a recent graduate of U of T’s History program and President of the Canadian University Press (CUP) did not expect to be detained for an estimated four hours by the police that weekend.“I’ve had dozens of discussions in classes about privacy vs. security, and you’ve always had the debate of, if you have nothing to hide what’s the harm of extra cameras, or police,” said Cauchi. “I always thought what’s the harm? You treat cops this weekend like you would treat airport security: you let them look in your bag, you don’t joke or antagonize them, whatever.”

“My perception of the whole situation has completely changed.”

Cauchi had stayed out of the protests all weekend, acting as ground control for CUP by watching Twitter and the TV news, while sending reporters to different places.

Sunday afternoon, she was walking around with friends when she received a message from Emilio Comay del Junco, an editor at the McGill Daily, that two Daily reporters—Stephen Davis and Braden Goyette—had been questioned, and one violently searched. Cauchi was downtown at the time, and went looking for them with friends, one of whom had been photographing the protests all weekend. At Queen and Spadina, she saw Goyette.

“We’re talking and all of a sudden my friends come back and say that we have to leave, and I really trusted his assessment of the situation because he had been there the day before, so I was like, ‘okay, we gotta book it.’ And then you see the police who had been sitting swing in like a pendulum. My friends had gotten past and we were caught by them right as we were trying to get out.”

Though Goyette had G20 accreditation, Cauchi only had her CUP business cards, but was confident that the police would let them out.

“It was at the very beginning, they had just closed the line, and we just walked right up to them and tried to be very polite and were like look, we’re press, she showed her accreditation, I showed them my business cards, and they said ‘okay, you have a badge, we’ll let you out, and they were like you, not good enough.’ Braden was told she could leave or stay and be treated like everybody else, and for me it was ‘stand up right here and get arrested or we’ll take you by force.’”

Goyette left, while Cauchi was kept for what she estimated to be four hours, in pouring rain. “People kept saying ‘can they do this, can they do this,’ and it became clear that it’s not can they, it’s whatever they want to do. After a while the fear subsided a bit, and we started joking that the police tactic was to put the fake lake above us, and just pour it down on us.”
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Eventually, Cauchi claims that one police officer announced they would be put on a bus if they didn’t make a fuss, and soon after said “ ‘you were under arrest for breaching the peace, but all charges have been cleared,’” and the police line broke, at which point everyone “bolted.”

Toronto Police Chief Blair told the Globe and Mail that “The police gave three very clear warnings, separated by time, asking people to disperse, asking people to leave the area, warning those curious to leave the area to allow us to deal effectively with those who had come to commit criminal acts. They declined. Some left, some didn’t. So we had to contain that.”

Cauchi stated unequivocally that this was not the case. “To say that is such bullshit,” said Cauchi, “because we tried to leave.”

She found the experience particularly unnerving as a reporter. “When they gave Braden [Goyette] those two options to either leave or be detained, it was really scary, because then there were no eyes—the media had to choose their own well-being over covering this.”

Blair defended this choice, claiming that “accreditation does not afford you additional rights or any immunity from the application of the law,” and that “we asked the media to leave. They made choices. They chose to remain. And in choosing to remain they got hemmed in with everyone else and got wet.”

Further, as president of CUP, Cauchi claims to have repeatedly heard stories of reporters being harassed and questioned, especially student reporters.

“What keeps going through my head is the lack of acknowledgement of legitimacy of the press, and the student press especially. The issues we’re constantly trying to prove is we were press because they kept saying we were youth.”

After the G20

Both UTSU and the GSU are asserting that U of T administration knew more about the events on campus surrounding the G20 than they are letting on.

Adam Awad, president of UTSU, claims that the administration was informed of police plans to push protestors out of the designated protest site at Queen’s Park North, which they estimated would be filled with more than 50,000 people, a number well beyond its physical capacity.

UTSU requested a meeting with provost Cheryl Misak following the announcement that the U of T campus would close for the G20 Summit. At the June 15 meeting, attended by Misak and vice-provost, academic Cheryl Regehr, union members were informed that the campus would be used as a spill-over zone by police during the Queen’s Park protests.

“We found this information to be troubling,” said Awad. “After seeing how this weekend played out […] many of us are questioning if this [was] a planned use of force by police, of which the University’s administration seemed fully aware.”

Awad is unsure as to why the administration did not announce the diversion plans to students and thinks they should have opposed the police’s plans entirely. He adds that even campus closure notices were received by students more through the mainstream media than through the university itself.

Campus police administration were aware of billeted protestors. Anton Neschadim, a GSU executive member and spokesperson stated that U of T administration not only knew of the protestors billeted by the GSU, but that top Campus Police administrators were also notified.
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In the early hours of June 27, the Integrated Security Unit raided the GSU building on Bancroft Avenue following what Neschadim claims was an anonymous tip. Executing a very general search warrant, the 70 inhabitants of the building were arrested on the purported grounds of “unlawful assembly.”

The arrest included two GSU executives, Daniel Vandervoort, GSU vice-president External, and a member whose name is currently not being released. They were let go after 48 hours in the detention centre, allegedly suffering ill-treatment in “horrible” conditions.

Though unsure of the specific people being billeted, Neschadim says they included individuals from student movements or those who came through the Toronto Community Mobilization Network.

“Supervision and security arrangements were made for everyone to be accommodated safely, with GSU exec members present on site at all times assisted by volunteers,” he says. Every person present signed a liability waiver and was instructed on appropriate behaviour.

Neschadim claims that while police stated they found “weapons of opportunity,” no weapons were present. Police confiscated items ranging from “containers with vinegar to sticks and black articles of clothing.” These, he says, are items present at the GSU at any given time. He adds that it is unclear whether the items were found inside the GSU, on anyone’s person, or outside the building.

Police have still not volunteered information to the administration or to union members regarding the raid. The GSU will soon hold a meeting with the administration to allow Vandervoort and his co-arrested to provide what they claim will be a more accurate account of the events.

“We are not being blamed for billeting out-of-town individuals, but will review our processes and will work closer with the administration in the future,” says Neschadim.

Despite events over the weekend, Awad claims that damage to University property goes only so far as the raid conducted by police on the GSU building.

The university administration has refused to offer any comment beyond a recently released statement in which they applauded their ability to “ensure that essential services and research activities could continue.” They also cited an incident in which senior administrators personally intervened to avoid ISU entry into the UTSU building. No details were given. While the names of all individuals arrested at the GSU are unknown, stories by or about some have surfaced.

Two members of the UBC Okanagan Student’s Union, services coordinator Grayson Lepp and director-at-large Kirk Chavarie, were held for more than 30 hours before being released, according to VernonBlog.

Québec Solidaire representative Emilie Guimond- Bélanger was detained for 60 hours and decried the conditions she and other individuals were held under.

Student unions and campus organizations have condemned the raids and police violence in a public statement.