Spotlight on: The Varsity Blues Wrestling Team

Wrestling is a very intense, physically demanding sport, requiring superior agility and strength.

The Varsity Blues Wrestling Team is comprised of only four men and three women who are actively competing. The teammates practice together and with non-Blues wrestlers.

“We have some international wrestlers,” says Blues wrestler Dene Ringuette. “Quite a few who are the best in Canada, who are almost uncontested.”

There is a maximum of six practices per week. Some practices are devoted to technique, while others are solely devoted to matches. The intensity of the practice differs depending on whether or not a tournament is approaching.

“You have volume training, and then you have high-intensity low volume training before major events. This basically mimics what you do at competitions,” says Ringuette.

Team members have the chance to improve their technique with members of other clubs who drop by to practice with the Blues. Teammates are supportive of each other, often acting like coaches for other wrestlers.

“At practice everyone works together,” adds wrestler Alyssa James.
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Although upon first glance wrestling may not seem safe, Riguette insists that, “Despite the fact that there are a lot of injuries, it is a very safe sport. I can’t think of one that is that safe for how intense it is.”

There are a few distinct styles of wrestling. Folkstyle wrestling is found in the United States and Cuba, while Greco Roman is most popular in Europe. The Varsity Blues wrestlers primarily compete in Olympic freestyle.

Folkstyle involves technique similar to freestyle, but with slightly different rules, while Greco Roman is entirely different. For Greco Roman, feet are not allowed to be used in any way — whether to take your opponent down or to escape a hold. Greco Roman wrestling involves more high-amplitude throws. Riguette won the Greco Roman Ontario Provincials last year, but his training is not focused on this style.

”It’s certainly done as an afterthought here in Ontario. I guarantee that all my opponents see it as an afterthought,” says Ringuette.

The team participates in up to eight tournaments per year within the university circuit, and in tournaments outside the circuit, including provincials and nationals. At every tournament, each match is best two out of three, two-minute rounds. Matches last between four and six minutes.

An exception occurs if an athlete executes a five-point takedown: this occurs rarely and only if the opponent’s heels go over their head during the course of the throw.

“The criteria for a five-point take down is that during the course of a throw or a leg takedown, their feet have made an arc, meaning their feet have gone head over heels,” says Riguette.

This takedown ends the match.
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Another possibility is the one-point takedown which is when you take the opponent down by grabbing their feet and putting them into a non-dangerous position, like on their back.

There’s also the two-point takedown.

“For two-points you’d have to expose their back to the mat while par terre (on the ground)” says James.

A three-point takedown is from “feet to back” — when you take the opponent by their feet, they must end up on their back.

If the score is zero-zero when time is up, the tie-breaks are decided by flipping a coin.

“One person gets to grab the other’s leg — if they score, they win. If they don’t score, the other person wins,” says Ringuette.

If the final score is a tie but not zero-zero then the last athlete who scored wins the match.

At both competitions and practices the Varsity athletes get to compete against and practice with players from all around the world, always learning new techniques and styles.

“Often I find that Russians are the best wrestlers. Their style is more balanced, more like a chess match,” says Ringuette. “They never seem to beat up an opponent. That’s more the American style. The Russians are focused on deception, and I find that it works better. It’s not about trying to sneak in there quick. Instead, they’ll set you up at the beginning.”

Both James and Ringuette say they enjoy wrestling because there are always new techniques to be learned, it is physically intense, and it is an individual sport. Although the team boasts some elite wrestlers, it also welcomes those who are new to the sport.

“If you want to join, just come to practice, and if you work hard enough, you’ll get to compete,” says James.

Elementary, my dear Watson

On February 14, 2011, Alex Trebek will play host to a battle of man versus machine.

In a special edition of Jeopardy, IBM’s deep analytics question-answer computer “Watson,” named after IBM president Thomas J. Watson, will play against top Jeopardy winners Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. IBM researchers hope to answer the question of how a computer will fare in a competition of knowledge retrieval and natural language processing when it’s up against human players.

The rest of us are hoping for an answer to the question of whether a computer can ever be smarter than a human. Although it is tempting to pit this as a fight between artificial intelligence and human intelligence, it is much more important to consider it as an event with profound implications for understanding the nature of intelligence and what it means to be an intelligent being.

Watson represents a big step in IBM’s long journey toward creating innovative intelligent machines. IBM’s previous landmark was a computer named “Blue Gene,” which scientists used to map the three billion base-pairs of the human genome. For Watson, the issue is instead to tackle a different but equally complex task: natural language.

“Language was an area that, even at the beginning of the computer era, people believed computers would be good at,” says Dr. Bill Murdock, a Watson algorithms researcher. “So far, computers have failed.”

From the beginning, the problem has always been “open question answering.” This problem is very different from a simple search task that everyday computers are built for. It also more closely resembles how humans actually communicate.

“People can understand language because we relate it to our own thinking and our cognition,” says Murdock. “Language is grounded in our experiences — not in a formal mathematical language that computers can only understand. Computers understand unambiguous things, not like human language.”

Indeed, one of the most curious and impressive challenges will be testing Watson’s ability to discern the many nuances, regionalisms, slang words, and short hand terms that run rampant in Jeopardy questions.

“Jeopardy is a playing field by which we can do some science,“ says Dr. Chris Welty. He explains that Jeopardy producers were at first hesitant about the idea, since they did not want the event to be a mere stunt or gimmick for their show. They reconsidered, however, when they realized the idea was not something to be passed off — a lucky break for IBM researchers, since Jeopardy provides the perfect conditions for testing a natural language processing machine.

“Jeopardy as the broad domain aspect asks all kinds of questions — something we really wanted to take on,” says Welty. “And you have to work quickly. Technology must be responsive. We needed to make a system that can extract unique information from a large amount of general information, and faster than a human can.”
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Early tests showed that Watson’s processing speed would be a major problem to overcome. Researchers used a process of putting as many algorithms as possible into the system, and then seeing which ones they could trust to provide a correct answer. The system works on parallel processing. Once Watson is fed a question, it activates all relevant algorithms, and cross-references them with the question. If there is a high degree of overlap or similarity between certain algorithms, this increases Watson’s confidence that it has found the correct answer.

Watson can also input answers into its own system to see if the Jeopardy question appears. This further reinforces its confidence in its answer, highlighting the statistical basis of Watson’s processing.

As one might guess, to be a competitive player at Jeopardy, Watson would need as many algorithms as possible, representing all available knowledge. Luckily, this obstacle was overcome thanks to the Internet, where vast amounts of information are now available digitally.

Watson represents IBM’s most ambitious foray into deep analytics and natural language processing. However, Watson’s early test matches were difficult for IBM researchers to watch:

Watson: “I Love Lucy for 800.”

Question: “It is Ricky’s signature tune and later the name of his club.”

Watson: “What is song.”

According to Dr. David Gondek, “Watson didn’t have a good notion of what the answer type was, or what it was even being asked.”

It would take two years for Watson to play at a competitive level. This was accomplished by building a computer the size of a classroom.

Dr. Eduard Hovy of the University of Southern California says the implications for such a machine will become more apparent and astounding once we can imagine a Watson the size of a PDA.

A more practical-sized Watson could be used in the healthcare industry. IBM researchers hope to build a Watson that can store all the medical information in the world — from illnesses to tried treatments — in order to provide information to doctors when treating patients. Doctors would be able to ask Watson to name all the treatments that have been performed for a particular ailment in the past, and choose one accordingly.

Lawyers could also benefit from Watson when searching for precedent cases, by asking it to name all of the cases similar to the one at hand. Watson would essentially make information retrieval more efficient using its ability to understand human language.

“Can you imagine computers communicating more fluently in natural language?” asks Welty. On February 14, we won’t need to.

The Varsity Interview: Lieutenant Governor David Onley

The Varsity: I just wanted to start off by congratulating you on almost four years in this office.

David Onley: Four years, yes. Well, three and a bit now. I don’t like to use the “four years” just yet.

TV: Why’s that?

DO: Well it’s just hard to believe that so much time has gone by. It really has — even to say three years is amazing to me.

TV: It must be all sort of a blur now, but what was it initially like to get that phone call from the Prime Minister?

DO: It was an amazing moment. There is a process that you have to go through when you realize that you’re on the short list and you’re actually interviewed for the job. So the last Thursday of June of 2007, just prior to the Canada Day weekend, I was called by the Prime Minister’s office, [and they said] that they wanted to interview me. […] The interview was scheduled to go on for 45 minutes, but the way [the interviewer] was sitting, every once in a while I would catch a glimpse of his watch, and [the interview] was 10 minutes shy of 90 minutes. […] [On] Wednesday, it was 20 minutes to 5 and this gentleman called. And the first thing he said was the Prime Minister needs to talk to you. […] I was driving, at the top of the Don Valley Parkway. And I thought to myself, Lord don’t let me hit anybody, just keep it straight in this lane.

TV: The Governor General, in his installation speech, mentioned three pillars he wanted to address during his time in office: families and children, learning and innovation, and philanthropy and volunteerism. At the onset of this journey, what were the goals that you personally set for yourself?

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DO: The primary one is the whole concept of accessibility within our society. And it’s an issue that I’ve been promoting through my whole term in office. It is something that is more than just for people with disabilities, who [constitute] 15.5 per cent of our population. When you take into account the immediate family members, the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children of those disabled people, it is now comfortably over 50 per cent of the population who are affected. And with the aging boomer population, who just by virtue of aging will be encountering more issues, accessibility is no longer an option, it’s mandatory. […] I’ve made a series of good allegiances and alliances and contacts with a range of communities, whether it’s the Black History association or the Monarchist League or children’s hospitals. [It’s important to] reach out to many different ethnic communities who have come to Canada and to whom the monarchy is a new experience.

TV: You mentioned your father’s faith. What’s been the role of spirituality at this stage in your life?

DO: Well for me, as a Christian, it’s been a fundamental part of my life. There are issues and there are problems in life that you just simply can’t answer with traditional mathematics, chemistry, physics, languages. The issues of suffering, the randomness of bad events — as the title of that famous book many years ago said — bad things do happen to good people. And why is that? When I got polio at three and a half, I wasn’t a bad person, but it happened. And why was the police officer killed a week and a half ago? And why was the congresswoman shot in the US? And ultimately the questions we all wrestle with are where do we come from, why are we here, and where are we going. And I think it’s important in life to not ignore those questions.
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TV: Obviously being visibly disabled comes with its own burdens and pain, but I was wondering what advice you’d offer those who feel emotionally trapped or inadequate or discouraged?

DO: I think somehow, within ourselves we have to realize that there’s no one that’s perfect. Society can airbrush all they want and present images of perfection. But even if you don’t have any immediate imperfections, it doesn’t mean you won’t get cancer or be struck down by MS or get hit by a car. I saw a picture in the newspaper today and there was a gentleman in an electric wheelchair speaking at the TTC hearing about the changes to bus routes. When I saw the picture I thought, “well, good for him.” He’s out there, doing more than so many people. He’s making his voice known and his opinions heard. I think that, regardless of your religion, we are made in the image of God, and some of us have issues or difficulties. If you’re judging a person’s value or worth based on what disease they’ve encountered or on a birth defect, these are not descriptions of character.

If there’s any overall criticism of the way our society markets things, it’s that we put a ridiculous overemphasis on the peripheral and on imagery. Far too little on the core values of what it is that makes a society unique, why we have the quality of life that we have, despite its imperfections, and its heartache, and its miscarriages of justice. In comparison to just about any other country in the world, we’re doing very well. I like to tell the students in elementary school that these things didn’t come about by accident, that slavery had to be done away with. We had slavery in the province of Ontario in 1791 until the first lieutenant governor took the steps to get rid of it and create the court system that we have. Such a fundamental concept of freedom happened in 1791; it didn’t happen in the States until a war was fought over it. There’s a quality of life and values that didn’t happen by accident and those values are far more important than any transient image.

I know I’m combining two elements together in terms of motivation, and I don’t expect that someone struggling will be motivated because of the experiences of John Grave Simcoe in 1792. But at the same time, it is possible. There are more opportunities here than anywhere else.
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TV: What’s been a particularly poignant moment from the past three
and a half years?

DO: I have an enormous sensitivity to basically any time I’ve presented a memorial cross to the families of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. That’s been just really powerful. […] [Furthermore] the three police funerals I’ve been to. One for the OPP officer in Ottawa, Officer Czapnik; Officer Hack, who died in a car crash in pursuit of a suspect; and most recently, Sergeant Ryan Russell. I was the only person not affiliated with the police who spoke. Those were deeply moving moments that I’ll never forget. […] On the positive side of things, [there have been] just amazing moments: meeting the Emperor and Empress of Japan and having them here in the suite [of the Lieutenant Governor]; having Queen Elizabeth visit there, the first monarch to visit since before the war; meeting Hu Jintao; meeting Prince Charles when he came; and people in the world of entertainment like Dolly Parton and Don Cherry. Probably the mot significant memory I have that I’ll always take away with me would be at the Prime Minister’s dinner for the Queen, held at the Royal York. […] She made eye contact with me, came over and started to talk about what a wonderful evening she had, and how she’d be seeing me tomorrow and how she rather looked forward to it.

Sororities and fraternities targeted by Vaughan

Members of U of T’s fraternity and sorority houses are crying foul after receiving a financial hit.

As of late January, the houses are subject to a zoning bylaw that classifies most as “rooming houses,” requiring them to obtain a licence and close if too many noise complaints are issued.

Adam Vaughan, Councillor of Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina, spearheaded the changes last June, citing noise complaints about frat houses lining Prince Arthur Avenue, a street otherwise filled with private condos and townhouses.

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Vaughan is also moving to prohibit the houses from renting out their property for lucrative movie shoots. He alleges the profits, which can amount to $7,000 per day, are used to fund parties that prompt noise complaints. Options for the ban will be discussed this month.

“The idea isn’t to chase them out of the neighbourhood, the idea isn’t to close them, the idea isn’t to stop them from providing cheap, affordable housing,” Vaughan told the National Post. “The idea is simply to find a way to say to the ones that are holding parties at four o’clock in the morning where they’re peeing on people’s cars and doing all kinds of bizarre stuff in the parks, could you just please get on with your neighbours?”

Fraternities and sororities at U of T aren’t affiliated with the university, and most are located off-campus.

“I can’t speak to the relative legitimacy of complaints that Councillor Vaughan may or may not have received,” said Adam Carson, speaking to the Toronto Sun on behalf of local frat houses.

“I can say though that we don’t feel that licensing and regulation is a necessary step that’s required by the city Any of the issues that the councillor has brought up […] are addressed and covered by the existing municipal code.”

Councillor Karen Stintz has moved to re-evaluate the zoning changes, and study if sufficient consultation took place beforehand.

With files from the Globe and Mail.

An election in our midst?

Parliament resumed on January 31. They were talking about you, your family, and our future, and the chance that we will be given an election. While the current government claims it will not call nor provoke an election — as of the newest parliamentary session — we’ve probably all learned to interpret most political promises with jaded reluctance and a now-calloused tongue-in-cheek reaction. With the Liberals already indicating they will vote against the government’s budget upon its tabling in March, Harper will have to woo either the Bloc Quebecois or New Democrats to survive a confidence vote. Perhaps this is news to you — if the budget doesn’t pass, we will be heading to the ballot box. This is the time of year where parties will jostle positions and stances for inclusion on the budget and then vote on said elbow-rubbing. If an election was called today, the following is probably what we could expect each party to include in their respective campaigns. I’m no expert, but a little research and a desire to understand the “powers that be” has led me to the following (in no particular order):

We can expect the Conservatives to focus their energies on year two of their five-year economic action plan, which has been branded rather effectively (you know those signs?). This trickle-down model should create jobs, they say. They might not be good jobs, per se, but a job is a job. We can also expect significant defence expenditures on those American-made fighter planes, as well as a renewed commitment to a police-state: new prisons, revamped crime prevention, and renovating the backlogged justice system.

The Liberals will likely focus their rhetoric on ending corporate tax cuts — which they supported in the 2007 budget. In terms of the economy, Ignatieff likes to talk about creating jobs through investments in education and training. Free education? Don’t hold your breath. They’ve also been known to support long-term health care. I do love Medicare.

During the 2008 leaders debates, Gilles Duceppe accurately stated that no one really expects the Bloc Québecois to form a government. They really serve the purpose of representing Québec’s interests in Ottawa. To this end, they’ve effectively stated that they will accept a $ five-billion bribe, in order to support the government‘s upcoming budget. Go Nordiques.

The New Democrats, for their part, will heckle the corporate tax cuts, as well as focus on Senate reform. It won’t happen tomorrow, but small steps, working families, and good jobs — that’s the NDP.

Elizabeth May and the Greens are off the map, unfortunately, especially under the electoral system we currently employ. She did peep up on the subject of political morality with respect to the Conservative attack ads that ran in December. Release the hounds.

Amidst all of that, where do Canadians stand? Ipsos-Reid recently published that the top priority of Canadians was health-care. While polls can be dubiously-framed and interpreted, here is the point: take a minute to identify your priorities. Really, take a minute and think “Gee, what do I value and what is important to me?” How much do the issues of our parties matter to you? Where do you stand? Wait. Do you even stand at all? Even the possibility of an election should serve as a call to understand our role — as citizens, and not merely “taxpayers” — in the democratic process in Canada; not merely an “X” every whenever-the-prime-minister decides, but a consistent and engaged involvement.

Don’t be surprised if you feel out of touch with the political system. In fact, it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Elections Canada has recently endeavoured to understand what’s up with the low youth voter turnout. They said it just like that, I’m sure.

Don’t complain if you’re not contributing. Perhaps that was harsh. It can be daunting to get involved. There isn’t a handbook, though Local Motion: The Art of Civic Engagement in Toronto provides evidence that even the smallest steps create the largest change. Sign a petition; search for political information; attend a public meeting; boycott/choose a product for ethical reasons; contact a newspaper or politician; participate in a demonstration or march; or volunteer for a political party.

Get involved. For you. For your family. For our future.

Ethical investing on campus

The investment decisions of the University of Toronto are being opened up to a small forum of students, staff, and faculty. The Responsible Investment Committee was formed in 2009 by the Governing Council and aims to better incorporate environmental and social issues into the university’s investment plan.

“Though it may not sound as sexy as other activist activities,” said John Maiorano, master’s student and member of the RIC, “I can assure you, it is one of the most important ways to evoke change for a more environmentally and socially rational world.”

The committee has struggled to create widespread student interest. In November the RIC hosted People, Planet, or Profit, a town hall that was poorly attended. Maiorano stresses that working to change the investment decisions made by U of T is arguably a more meaningful method of creating change than protesting.

“There is no sense in complaining about the state of the world, either environmentally or socially, if you invest in, or own, those very agendas you are fighting against,” said Maiorano.
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While the RIC has yet to make any recommendations to the university regarding its investing strategies, Maiorano cites U of T’s decision in 2006 to divest from tobacco companies as an example of students’ ability to pressure for change. Moiorano suggests that despite small victories, the importance of investment decisions is still poorly understood.

“All investors, from the University of Toronto, to your corporate pension plan, to the mutual funds you invest in, have business impacts, locally, nationally, and internationally. With every dollar we invest, there is an effect somewhere,” said Maiorano. “We, as investors, need to better understand the decisions other people are making with our money, the business practices that are being engaged in, the natural resources that are being used, and whether the environmental impacts are sustainable or non sustainable.”

The frozen North

According to a recent poll conducted for the Munk School of Global Affairs, Canadians rank defending Arctic sovereignty as a top foreign policy priority. Moreover, they support backing up Canada’s commitment to protecting the North by shifting military resources to the region from overseas deployments. Compared to people polled in other countries that border the Arctic Ocean, including Russia and the United States, Canadians were more likely to emphasize the importance of increasing military capacity in the Arctic. What is remarkable about these results is not the findings themselves, but rather how closely they mirror the Harper government’s Arctic policies.

Unfortunately, this apparent vindication of the Conservatives’ defence-heavy approach to the Arctic will help keep us from evaluating how successful their approach has been. The Harper government has done far too little to deliver on the ambitious Arctic defence plans that it laid out during the 2006 election campaign. Among these plans were a major new port on Baffin Island and several icebreakers to allow the Canadian navy to operate further into the Arctic and for a longer part of the year. The government has delivered on neither, and instead turned its attention towards costly plans to purchase F-35 stealth fighter jets.

If the prime minister were serious about improving Canada’s military capacity in the Arctic, he would initiate a major review of Canada’s defensive capabilities, resulting in a white paper (an authoritative government report or guide) explaining the government’s plans. Such a review would likely renew plans for expanded hard infrastructure, including longer airfields and deeper harbours, which had originally been scrapped during budget cuts by the Mulroney government. It would also call for modernizing Canada’s naval fleet, the vast majority of which is unprepared for Arctic operations, especially compared to the aging — but enormous — Russian northern fleet.

Unfortunately, due to the budgetary pressures and fears that the opposition will paint him as a warmonger, Harper has turned his attention toward renewing stalled talks with Denmark and the United States on Arctic territorial disputes. While these efforts are certainly admirable, they will do little to improve Canada’s position in the North, unless they are complemented with wider diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing new disputes. This is particularly important in the area of security, which was explicitly avoided during past negotiations due to Cold War rivalries. Without a clear mechanism for resolving disputes, Arctic security will be left at the mercy of ad hoc relationships.
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Arctic diplomatic efforts will be made easier once the current UN-sponsored process of seabed claims throughout the region is completed. Canada is set to make its final submission next year, as are Denmark and Russia; all three claim ownership over mineral-rich undersea mountain ranges near the North Pole. If the recent resolution of a seabed dispute between Norway and Russia is any indication, the settlement of seabed claims, particularly near the North Pole, will help lay the groundwork for the resumption of wider-ranging negotiations between Arctic countries. The need for such negotiations is especially clear when it comes to environmental issues.

Another consequence of the resolution of competing seabed claims and the rapid pace of climate change will be vastly expanded oil and gas exploration and undersea mining. Some see this inevitable development as a future source of conflict. However, the enormous opportunities for development will create new incentives for them to cooperate with their neighbours to ensure the stability which investors in Arctic oil and gas ventures will demand. This, too, will set the stage for broader negotiations aimed at providing long-term solutions to Arctic problems. Unfortunately, increased traffic and development in the Arctic will also create significant new environmental challenges.

Until then, there is little incentive for Arctic leaders like Harper to work to revitalize the Arctic Council, which was intended to help Arctic countries coordinate their responses to Northern issues. Unfortunately, this means that for all his talk about making Arctic diplomacy a top foreign policy priority, Harper is likely promising far more than he can deliver. Combined with his failure to design and deliver a clear plan for the future of Arctic defence, Harper’s list of Arctic achievements is short. There is little indication that the opposition Liberals would do better were they in power, as they do little more than pay lip service to Canada’s Northern interests.

It is clear that there is major diplomatic work to be done to secure the future of the Canadian Arctic. Moreover, it is crucial that Canada build and maintain the capacity to credibly operate throughout its Arctic lands and waters. While conditions today are not those which are likely to lead to a long-term solution to Arctic problems, unless Canada is prepared and able to participate in developing that solution when the time comes, it risks being left out. The Harper government is doing far too little to ensure that does not happen.

UTSU hosts Churchill and Davis

On Wednesday, February 2 keynote speakers Ward Churchill and Angela Davis spoke at Convocation Hall to an audience of 350 people as part of the University of Toronto Student Union’s eXpression Against Oppression week.

Ward Churchill is an American scholar and activist who focuses on the historic treatment of Native Americans and political dissenters in the United States. He gained media notoriety in 2005 for an essay he published in 2001. “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” alleged that the September 11, 2001 attacks were a natural and unavoidable consequence of US policy. Angela Davis is an activist, author, and retired professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department.

The talk was part of a series of campus discussions, performances, and movie screenings organized by UTSU’s Equity Commission to raise awareness of equity issues at home and abroad. Both speakers spoke to a number of issues, including their experiences with organizing against oppression, the conditions of Aboriginals in Canada, and emerging issues at the University of Toronto.

The talk began with a speech by OISE faculty member and Assistant Professor Roland Sintos Coloma, who started the evening talking about what it means to apologize. He made reference to the infamous Maclean’s “Too Asian” article.

“If the media offends us we have the right to talk back,” said Coloma. He urged the audience to voice their concerns and send postcards to the minister of culture to cut public funding from Maclean’s.

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Churchill then began to speak, focusing on what he characterized as the detrimental role of corporatization on campus. “Power is not listening. […] You do not speak truth to power, you speak truth to people. […] Private financing of post-secondary education leads to crushing of academic freedom.”

Churchill continued to discuss alleged oppressions of speech due to political beliefs in academic settings. He used the example of Norman Finkelstein, who wrote The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, who was allegedly denied tenure because of his political views.

Davis began her speech discussing access to education and corporatization on campus. “The University of Toronto is not a public institution. It is a publicly-assisted not-for-profit corporation.”

She went on to speak about the “American prison-industrial complex,” alleging that Stephen Harper is taking a similar approach. “It’s a shame he is prioritizing prisons not education.”

At the end of the speech both speakers were invited by Danielle Sandhu, vice president equity, to sign the stop flat fees petititon in support of free higher education.

The talk received opposition from some students. After the keynote the Student Political Action committee condemned what they alleged to be the use of student fees to promote “radical politics” on campus.

“Both speakers said some pretty outrageous things,” said Student PAC representative, Robert Boissonneault, in an email to The Varsity. “They have a right to say those things, though. That does not mean they should be hosted, promoted, and paid for by our student union with our money.”

“U.T.S.U collects nearly $2 million from students every year and that money should be spent on things that matter to ordinary students, not on promoting a radical political agenda.”