Dallaire visits UTSC

“Get off your butts and get engaged,” was Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire’s message to students when he spoke to an audience of over 400 at UTSC’s 35th Watts Lecture on Wednesday night. He challenged students to get out and experience the world and then return home to make Canada a global leader in humanitarian causes.

“The youth of this nation should have […] a sort of rite of passage,” he said. “Under their bed, [they should have] a pair of boots that have been dirtied with the soil of [developing] countries.

“[It is] so that you can see, you can feel, you can hear, you can taste, you can sense what is happening to […] humanity.”

Rather than visit London and Paris, he suggested they go to Kinshasa, Accra, Bujumbura, and Dar es Salaam.

Dallaire recalled his term as Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. He said witnessing such atrocities made him realize that the international community had begun to view some humans as more important than others.

He defied orders to leave Rwanda, saying that the decision may have been illegal, but the alternative was immoral.

“Three hundred thousand Rwandan kids died, and [Canada] did nothing,” he said. “Yet we freak out over one Amber Alert here.”
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Looking forward to Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, Dallaire said citizens must start planning beyond a four-lane highway or Centennial rink.

“Is there something more to us?” he asked. “What will be the new vision of this nation […] as we move forward into this very complex […] future?

A key step would be recognizing that Canada, as one of the “most powerful nations in the world,” has a responsibility to countries beyond its borders. Eighty per cent of the world’s population, he stressed, lives in inhumane conditions.

One of the problems to overcome is Canada’s political culture, which focuses on short-term, domestic issues.

“No matter how many pundits […] we have, we don’t have the strategic leadership [to shape] the future […] We are still very caught up in the near-term, and we often try to survive the future. That future’s going to catch us by surprise.”

Rather than take a backseat in politics, Dallaire told students that since they represent 35 per cent of the voting population, they “hold the balance of power,” and “could change the face of [Canadian] politics” in just one election.

“[But] you’re abdicating that responsibility to others!”

Referencing events in Darfur, South Sudan, Congo, Northern Uganda, and Cote d’Ivoire, Dallaire once again touched on responsibility.

“If we do not engage in […] [protecting others], and [do not] inspire our leaders to have the will to intervene […] we will be held accountable in history as having failed.”

Dallaire’s lecture was delayed more than two hours as his flight was grounded in Ottawa due to the weather. But few students left the hall, passing the time watching Hotel Rwanda. They were greeted by an enthusiastic Dallaire, who spoke for over two hours to the engaged audience, and was willing to spend more time to personally speak to all the students lining up to meet him.

Dallaire closed the event by reminding students of the importance of human life.

“Move away from the pretentiousness of tolerance […] and rise to the level of respect as equals,” he said. “Not one of us here is more human than any other.”

He alluded to events in Tunisia and Egypt, where the youth mobilized themselves to change the face of politics in their countries, proving the power of the younger generations.

“I don’t think there is a more significant time to serve as a diplomat, [soldier], or humanitarian,” Dallaire said.

“The time is right.”

What U of T has in common with the WWE

Wrestling fans from all across the globe will be celebrating as the world’s most electrifying stage in sports entertainment returns for the 27th time on Sunday, April 3 in Atlanta.

As usual, this event is in tandem with the final grapple each University of Toronto student has with end-of-semester assignments, presentations, and tests.

Coincidence? I beg to differ.

Professional wrestling, specifically Wrestlemania, and undergraduate studies have more in common than you might think. Forget the fact that you may have pushed your interest in the so-called ersatz sport to the side many, many years ago and ponder this question: have you ever faked it?

Think back to when you were an adolescent and heard the collective moans from kids calling themselves “hardcore” WWF fans. As soon as they found out about the alleged razor technique, they made it their personal mission to tell all the believers that wrestling was, in fact, a sham and denounced their creed, which was that of the crippler crossface.

If you were one of those kids, there is a special spot reserved for you in heretic hell.

Let’s say that there was some merit, though. Maybe the wrestlers are faking it, but can we really blame them?

You must have felt the pressure to deliver at one point, or twelve, in your late teens and early 20s at U of T. The wrestlers in the WWE are coerced into satisfying millions of watchers while receiving massive blows to the head and being verbally attacked by the crowd.

We, the students, have acquiesced in our school’s ability to kill our self-esteem. Just like the wrestlers, we attempt to get our egos back, but rather through academic diligence and a bit of truth-stretching.
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But when push comes to shove, some will stop at nothing to get what they want. Enter the art of feigning. Yes, I am making a bold assumption and calling all of us out on one level of lying or another.

Ever cited a panic attack to get a week-long extension on an assignment you didn’t want to hand in, in fear of getting a low mark? Remember getting that exam deferred because of a bout with “explosive diarrhea”?

These precautions were taken not because you wanted to lie, but because you just aspired to live up to the expectations of someone holding much power over you and your career.

The WWE audience is administration at U of T.

It is hard to take in, believe me, I know. We are all just a bunch of performers, toiling away for something much greater than ourselves. And you know what? It doesn’t end there.

In first year, every student at St. George is a jobber, and a big one at that. You come in not having a single clue as to what to expect, other than knowing you are part of the elite.

But then you get your first essay back and your appallingly low mark kills every ounce of confidence you once held in your ability to write an awesome paper.

Unfortunately, jobber comparisons can’t be made between first years and Wrestlemania competitors, seeing as it is exclusively for those whose hearts pump only the fearless blood of tigers. Oh wait, never mind. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi will be making her sporting debut (I won’t count that blow she took to the face to the face in a club last season) in a 6-person mixed tag team match.

Here’s to hoping she jobbers it up.

And I think we’ve all encountered that one jerk in lecture or tutorial who suffers from delusions of grandeur and doesn’t realize that nobody wants to hear them harangue the professor or make an “intellectual” comment that lacks any purpose to class discussion.

Leave it to the wrestlers to go on insane speeches of self-absorption. We pay to listen to the profs, not you, okay?

If this were a just world, I could deliver a devastating DDT to every one of those fools without suffering any legal consequences.

Wrestlers and undergrads share another thing in common: they end shit abruptly. Whether it be the loss of steam, stamina, or time, it’s bound to happen in matches, essays, and social encounters. At least the wrestlers know how to carry on a conversation, though. Fuck, I have an assignment to write.

Predictions for Wrestlemania XXVII:

1. Canada’s Edge will pummel Alberto Del Rio and retain the World Heavyweight Championship belt.

2. John Cena, Doctor of Thuganomics, will defeat the Miz via FU* and will take back his lameass spinner belt reign as holder of the WWE Championship.

3. Triple H will break the Undertaker’s Wrestlemania winning streak by means of pedigree in this probably epic No Holds Barred matchup.

4. Jerry Lawler will hopefully bury Michael Cole’s ego forever.

5. Randy Orton will RKO CM Punk and hopefully make that Nexus bitch shut his mouth for good.

6. Rey Mysterio AND Cody Rhodes will both lose the match. They will smell what the Rock is cooking.

7. The Undertaker is pissed about his loss to Triple H and RIPs Snooki.

8. I don’t know who Sheamus or Daniel Bryan are. The United States Championship belt is a joke, anyway. Bring back Shelton Benjamin!


Razor blade technique: Using a razor blade to create wounds during matches to heighten the audience’s excitement with an onslaught of blood.

Crippler crossface: A punishing wrestling hold perfected by the late Chris Benoit.

Turnbuckle: An important asset to any wrestler who wishes to lay the smack down on their opponent in the corner of the ring.

Jobber: A wrestler who routinely loses matches and is the butt of every joke.

DDT: A wicked wrestling move accidentally invented by Jake “The Snake” Roberts involving a headlock and the forceful drive of the opponent’s head into the mat.

FU: Now known as the “attitude adjustment” because WWE pussied out under pressure from parents; essentially a powerslam.

The Varsity Interview: Woody Harrelson

It feels like Woody Harrelson has been around forever. Certainly in the last 25 years he has accumulated plenty of baggage. He was on the most successful sitcom from the ‘80s (Cheers); flirted with leading-man stardom (the popular White Men Can’t Jump, then the less-popular The Cowboy Way and Money Train); received two Oscar nominations (The People vs. Larry Flynt and The Messenger); became a well-known environmentalist and pro-pot activist; and has lately been appearing in more movies than ever, alternating commercial projects with some of the most intriguing art and independent films of the last decade (A Prairie Home Companion, No Country for Old Men, Defendor).

And now, U of T will be contributing to the Harrelson canon: on April 21, he will open his new play, Bullet for Adolf, at Hart House Theatre, and next week he’ll be a Contributing Editor at The Varsity.

THE VARSITY: You’ve described the play as “a raucous frolic into murky waters.” I was wondering if you could elaborate on that.

WOODY HARRELSON: Well, I dunno what that means, exactly. I guess I thought it sounded good. (Laughs) That’s a very ambiguous statement, but I do think it’s kind of a racy play. I was thinkin’ especially about this yesterday when I went over to [a restaurant] and this one woman said hi to me, and she was quoting this line to me from Zombieland, but she was saying, “Woody Fucking Harrelson!” like I was sayin’ “Bill Fucking Murray!” right? And, the woman behind the counter turns to someone and says, “Did you hear that? You heard her cuss? You heard that?” This is the woman who I guess is runnin’ the place, and then a little later she asked me what I was doing here, and I said, the play. “But there is a lot of cussin’, so you might not want to go to this play.”

But it is racy in terms of, y’know, it has some provocative statements, racy things… it’s humour with a little bit of an edge, I guess you’d say. It’s a comedy.

TV: The play is called Bullet for Adolf, so it’s obviously provocative. What are some of the ideas you’re dealing with?
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WH: There’s these discussions that go on about a number of issues. So, maybe, on the issue of race, or on the issue of… there are philosophical discussions, but I don’t wanna portray it as this, like, really philosophical play. So, if you ask me what the play’s about, I’ll say it’s about makin’ you laugh.

The plot does relate to this artefact [a gun intended to kill Hitler] that gets stolen in the course of the play, and so that’s kinda the exciting incident in the play. But the way it’s autobiographical is that all eight of the characters are real people that we knew in Houston, two of whom include myself and Frankie Hyman, who’s the guy that I wrote this with. And that’s perhaps the most interesting part of the whole deal, is that Frankie and I wrote this play together. We knew each other in the summer of 1983, which is about 92 years before you guys were born (laughter). We worked construction, and we had these incredible conversations, and he had this enormous impact on me, just philosophically. I ended up thinking, y’know, this guy’s gonna be a lifelong friend — the kind of guy where only death separates your friendship.

And then I didn’t see him again for ten years. But part of the reason was, Frankie left Houston, and then I had no way to get in touch with him. Anyway, long story short, I ended up going on the Jay Leno show and asking if anyone knows where Frankie Hyman is, and the next thing you know, I get a call to the office — I was at Paramount doing Cheers at the time — and they said ‘It’s Frankie’s brother’, and he had been watching. The next thing you know Frankie comes out and we’ve been friends and hangin’ ever since. And then we wanted to write this play because there was something special about that summer.

TV: This is the second play you’ve directed in Toronto, and I guess this is the inferiority-complex question that any Canadian asks when an American celebrity does anything in Canada, but: why Toronto?

WH: Well, I love it here.

TV: Oh good. We do too.

WH: Yeah, y’know, even in the wintertime, which, I’m not a winter fan. I love it here. People are great… I have a lot of friends here… y’know, Roots, some of the yoga studios here. I dunno, it’s pretty cool.

TV: Do you think Canada is more receptive to a lot of the environmental issues you’re interested in?

WH: Yeah, yeah, I think they’re much more receptive here. It’s more the mainstay here to be green or eco-conscious. Even eating, I think people tend to eat a little bit healthier than Middle America.

TV: There was a period from 1999 to 2004 when you made almost no movies. Since the end of that period, you’ve been in movies just about constantly, and you’ve been in movies by Altman, the Coen Brothers, Schrader. So, what made you take the break, and what has inspired your career path since then?

WH: Well, I really made a decision that I wanted to take some time off. And I did — I took a long time off. A lot longer than I expected. But I’ll tell you what: I’m a hard worker — a good worker, I think — but a world-class slacker and vacationer. I can get on a real roll with that to where I don’t even wanna come out. And it’s hard, y’know, livin’ in Maui, I don’t need anything else. Everything I need is there: my family; I get to play soccer with my buddies; I get to go do kite-surfing and all the sports stuff that I love, and so many of my closest friends are there.

TV: And raising kids?

WH: Yeah, I mean, really that was a big part of the initial impetus, was like, “Jesus, I’m spendin’ a lot of time goin’ from project to project, I’d like to get some time with the little rascals before it’s…” There used to be this song… oh, how did it go… well, the effect is, the kid’s always sayin’ to the dad, “C’mon dad, let’s play,” and he’s like…

TV: Oh, “The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…”

WH: That’s the one! (Singing) “Little boy blue and the man on the moon! When you comin’ home, dad, I don’t know when – but we’ll get together then! You know we’ll have a good time then!”

TV: Did you make a conscious decision about the type of movies you wanted to do when you came back? Because there are a lot of films that don’t seem so concerned with… “stardom,” per se, because there are a lot of interesting and uncommercial films in there.

WH: That’s true. When I came back I was like, “I’m really gonna focus on just doin’ stuff that I love and kinda attracts…” Y’know… the very first one I did after I started doin’ movies again was a little bit of a… I kinda got talked into a…

TV: Was it After the Sunset?

WH: Yeah, kind of a commercial endeavour (laughs). Which, any time I’ve ever done a movie with the concept of, “Well, this’ll be commercially successful,” it just never goes that way. It’s just the worst way, and it’s the worst motivator, and so many people today are motivated by, they really have the equation in their mind of success equals happiness. And, of course, it’s happiness equals success, so better to be the bum on the street who’s happy than the frickin’ guy freakin’ out on Wall Street.

TV: Was success equals happiness a mentality you had in the ‘90s and the ‘80s?

WH: Yeah, I think probably so. I mean, I was very much conditioned by that same mentality. I mean, billboards are effective. You really wanna get that cool-lookin’ car, ‘cause… well, look at the girl who’s gonna like me, she’s in the poster too! And I think I bought that whole deal. I remember drivin’ down the road in my white Corvette, maybe mid ‘80s, just when the [cell] phones were comin’ in, and I got this big ol’ contraption, just thinkin’ I was such a cool guy. I realize the folly of it all now, but I was just chasin’ the dream.

TV: I found this article in our archives from 2003 about you coming to U of T to host a yoga class [“Woody brings yoga to U of T,” by Ian Ha], and it begins by describing you as, “Movie bad-boy turned eco-friend Woody Harrelson,” and it ends with this passage: [reads aloud several paragraphs in which U of T students discuss wanting to smoke a joint with Harrelson]. What I think is interesting about this article is that, when someone has been around for as long as you have, one tends to develop certain preconceived notions about you. I feel there is a “Woody Harrelson persona”….

WH: Tell me what it is — I’d like to know what your opinion is.

TV: Well, when I think of the Plato’s World of Forms version of Woody Harrelson, I think: “Good Old Boy.” You’ve played many different kinds of roles, but No Country for Old Men is the one that, in my mind, epitomizes the Harrelson persona, while something like The Walker I would characterize as an atypical role. Is this something you’re at all conscious of, or do people’s preconceived notions of who you are and what characters you play have an impact on the roles you get?

WH: Well… I think there’s been a good variety of roles offered, so fortunately I don’t think… well, you never know how much impact things have. Probably, I haven’t been my own best friend in terms of courting studios, but… I dunno, it’s hard to gauge, but I guess it’s inevitable that someone that you see two-dimensionally, and hear about in a rather one-dimensional fashion, that you’re gonna gain some preconceptions.

TV: I bring this up also because you’ve been so active with environmentalism, and your celebrity brings a lot of attention to these issues, but on the other hand, are there also people who see your work from this one-dimensional view? “Woody Harrelson, he’s a Hollywood liberal, he’s a pro-pot activist, I’ve got him figured out.”

WH: Yeah, I would say that’s probably true, especially the thing with pot, because, I don’t know about so much here, but from the time — I think it was ’96 or ’97 — a buddy of mine was going to jail who was, he had been growin’ some pot and he was going to jail, so I appeared on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. So, when I went on it with him, y’know, I don’t know what the fuck I was thinkin’ even doing that. It’s kind of a suicide move, but I went on, and from that day it’s never stopped, never close to stopped. I think I should embrace it the way Willie [Nelson] does, but I just find it annoying ’cause it’s so superficial, and such a…well, would you care so much if I drank? Would you care so much if I took pharmaceuticals?

TV: (Laughs) Of course not.

WH: It’s like, what’s the onus on pot? And, I dunno, I would say that my real mistake to go on the Bill Maher thing was, I wanted it to be more on the issue of consensual crime, and what they call victimless crimes, and I think that’s the broader issue that’s much more important. I do think that when you live in a country that calls itself free then you have to examine, y’know, what does it mean to be free? And so, I think you can do anything you want as long as you’re not hurtin’ someone else, or hurtin’ their property. That’s freedom. So, if you think about it, a lot of what’s goin’ on in the United States and even I s’ppose a little bit in this very progressive country is the legislation of morality. So, on the subject of, like, drugs or gambling or prostitution or all these things that are gonna go on in society and people are always gonna find out how to go down that path if that’s their interest, it seems to me it’s absurd to be making those things illegal. But anyway, I still haven’t really answered your question, but… y’know, I suppose it’s hard to ever achieve three-dimensionality when you’re a public figure. You pretty much stay just two-dimensional.

Check back next week for a special edition of The Varsity featuring a guest editorial by Woody Harrelson.

“I came, I saw, I clicked!”

When Martin Luther King had a dream, he woke up and made it a reality. When Gandhi wanted peace, he got up and marched for it. When Mother Teresa saw the poor and sick in India, she created a missionary movement. When Japan called on the world for help, we clicked a button.

Humanity has evolved through these many years. Its history has been written by the hands of courage, the minds of perseverance and the actions of determination. It is this history that created the legacy on which modern society is built today; it gave us experience to learn from, success to aspire, and the foundation to be able to do and be anything and everything. Our predecessors were people of action; they fought for independence, they fought to save lives, they fought to protect nations. Yet, unfortunately, their spirit died with them. In today’s modern age, where the world is more interconnected than anyone could have imagined in the past, humanity seems to lack the will that built their history.

It is not that the world is heartless or ignorant; in fact it is quite the opposite. Thanks to the growing dependence on technology and its constant development, today’s society is more involved globally than to any generation of the past. But the fact of the matter is that this same technology has made us idle and complacent as a global unit. Take for instance March 9, 2011 — the day an earthquake shook Japan and then the media shook the world.
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First there was breaking news — heart-wrenching footage of a severely ravaged nation. Then there were updates on Facebook and Twitter — images, news articles, links to YouTube videos. The world, it seemed, was grieving; it was coming to terms the unimaginable disaster and destruction that had happened. Such a tragedy in the past had brought to light some of the most efficient and most effective relief work; the world united in its efforts for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir/Pakistan earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, and Haiti to name a few. But this time millions of people logged on to their Facebook and Twitter accounts and clicked “like” on the Pray for Japan page. They “liked” the pages asking for donations. They tweeted: #prayforjapan <3.

The solidarity inherent in these actions is admirable and uplifting to see in a world whose everyday vocabulary has developed to now include recession, debt, and terrorism, but the logic of this action is questionable. In a severely ravaged nation, where cities have become ruins, homes rubble and lives lost, does it make sense to “like” the act of praying for these people in strife on Facebook — an action which most may not be able to see in their circumstance — rather than physically praying for them? Is it better to click the button to “like” the page asking for donations for aid to Japan, or to actually click the button that allows you to give the donation itself? These actions may seem important, but at the end of the day they are actions limited to the boundaries of cyberspace, accessible to a limited number of people, and when the people who these “likes” and “tweets” are dedicated to cannot see them then these actions have no value

At the end of the day, people in strife need solid, tangible action to give them hope and the courage to face another day after experiencing the threat of danger they have. Facebook and Twitter are great phenomenona; they bring to the table the outlets that have the potential to inspire and create great movements. But clicking, liking and updating your status only goes so far; for the will of our past to be re-born. The world needs to learn that its not enough to simply “tweet” Pray for Japan. The needs to act on it too because actions have and always will speak louder than words. It is not enough to be that one person out of a million who is attending Pray for Japan on Facebook. It is not enough to put a heart next to Japan and log off. It is not enough to switch on our computers or mobile phones every time something goes wrong.

There is no doubt that the will to fight is in humanity; it never left. Egypt has it. Libya has it. Tunisia has it. But the world as a collective body has lost it when they joined cyberspace. However, we need to re-connect with the emotion and the fortitude that fights and protects. With a history of doers, it is sad to see a present of clicktivists.

UTSU prez campaigns in BC referendum

UTSU president Adam Awad was seen last week campaigning at the University of Victoria in BC.

Members of the University of Victoria Student Society are set to vote in a Canadian Federation of Students membership referendum. The CFS comprises most university student unions in Canada, making it the largest national student lobby group. The referendum, which came after a lengthy court battle, is scheduled for March 29–31.

Eye on the UVSS, an anti-CFS blog run by UVic student David Foster, alleged that Awad was seen campaigning for the CFS side.

“I think it is incredibly important for students on any campus to hear about the experiences of other students across the country within the federation,” wrote Awad in an email to The Varsity.

“This is particularly necessary when the local students’ union has been antagonistic to the work of the students’ movement all year. When it comes time to vote, students should be well-informed, and that includes taking other students’ experiences into account. All students benefit when we are working together.”

Awad, who is National Deputy Chairperson-elect for the CFS, said he paid for his own travel expenses and is on vacation leave from UTSU. He said he was in Victoria for a local Canadian University Press conference. Awad is former queer issues co-ordinator for CUP.

Foster also alleged that York Federation of Students President Krisna Saravanamuttu was seen on campus. In an e-mail to The Varsity, he later admitted mistaking Saravanamuttu for former YFS president Hamid Osman. Former UTSU President Sandy Hudson, who has held positions with the CFS, was also seen campaigning.

Osman, who is Ontario representative for the CFS, left Toronto during the 2008 York University strike to campaign during a CFS membership referendum for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa.

External student campaigning has become common on Canadian campuses. During the 2010 UTSU election, Toby Whitfield, then president-elect of the Ryerson Students’ Union, was spotted campaigning for the incumbent slate for the second year in a row. Whitfield attempted to avoid The Varsity and refused to identify himself when approached. Darshika Selvasivam, VP campaigns and advocacy at the YFS, was also seen campaigning for the incumbents.

In the lead-up to a 2008 defederation campaign at Simon Fraser University, the BC branch of the CFS mistakenly emailed campaign plans to each CFS student union in BC.

The document contained campaign tactics and rated student politicians from across the country on their ability to campaign in the style of a report card. The document also listed non-students, including full-time staff from the NDP and unions.

When the one student union made the campaign plans public, they received a legal threat from the CFS’ lawyer demanding a public apology.

Federal minister launches instructional centre

UTSC’s new $78-million Instructional Centre is the government’s first contribution to Canada’s “brain gain,” said Tony Clement, the federal industry minister, on his visit to the building on March 15.

The project, which will increase campus space by 25 per cent, was funded by a shared investment of $35 million each by the federal and provincial governments through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program.

Launched on 2009, KIP is a part of the Economic Action Plan, an infrastructure stimulus program that invests $2 billion on the growth of universities and colleges all over Canada.

“As [the country] continues to emerge from the global recession, I want you to know that we know, as a government, that investing in leading edge research labs, libraries and learning commons is essential in creating high-paying, highly-skilled jobs both now and in the future,” said Clement.

He believed that the Instructional Centre, the first to be completed out of all the KIP projects, is a step towards the country’s “brain gain.” UTSC Principal Franco Vaccarino agreed.

“Our ability to participate with the ‘brain gain’ was restricted by the university’s lack of space […] but this project has opened up the gates for us,” he said.

For the past decade, UTSC has experienced a rapid growth of its student body. It has gone beyond its enrolment capacity of 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

“The building will have a direct impact on the lives of our students, giving them much needed space to learn, study and work in cutting-edge environments,” said Vaccarino.
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Another benefit of the Instructional Centre, he pointed out, was that UTSC has become a “destination of choice” for some of the world’s “top scholars.”

The building has allowed the university to hire 65 new members over the last three years, more than half of what was planned.

Clement said that the new federal budget which has since been released, prior to the government being defeated on a vote of non-confidence — would include more stimulus spending.

Apart from state-of-the-art lecture spaces, offices, and research labs, the Instructional Centre will include a street hub for co-op programs and a large audio-visual atrium.

The building will open on May 2011 and will house UTSC’s Management Department.

ASSU president elected unopposed

On Tuesday March 15, Katharine Ball was elected president of the Arts and Science Student Union along with a new group of executives. Ball is currently in third year and just completed her first term as an ASSU executive, working closely with current president Gavin Nowlan.

Ball was the only candidate for president. Since ASSU elections are held within the council itself, including the current executive and course union presidents, Ball did not run an extensive campaign.

While Ball acknowledges it is unusual for an ASSU executive with only one year to become president, she is sure of her abilities for next year.

“You can be active or not really active. I was very active,” she said. “I was a part of the ASSU scholarships committee, and I attended the dean’s meeting. I was active in reviewing the anti-calendar.”
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Along with the anti-calendar, ASSU has three projects in the works which Ball hopes to continue and improve on. “Project: Universal Minds [ASSU’s high school tutoring project] has been fairly successful. It’s hard though, as guidance counselors change every year and that makes the process difficult. I hope to promote it a little bit more. It’s valuable for a high school student to have a first-year university student help them out.”

“Also, we need to put more thought into our sustainability project,” said Ball, who admits ASSU has had difficulty with their sustainability initiatives. “I want to do something more creative and fun, something in the realm of awareness.”

Nowlan has also been working with university administration to create an undergraduate research fund and Ball hopes to continue the task.

One of Ball’s main goals is to continue ASSU’s good relationship with the faculty. Maintaining this strong relationship requires “keeping an open discussion about things. For instance, during academic planning, you are going to butt heads on issues. There are issues, and then there is an administrative view, and there are points where you meet heads. My first concern is the students’ view, and student concerns,” said Ball.

“I’m really proud and excited to work on ASSU. I think I can do some really great work. I’ve held a short period of time at ASSU and that is a little strange. But I’m not underqualified with my abilities,” said Ball.

“She is gonna do a great job,” said Nowlan. “She’s done a great job so far, and has just jumped in there with issues on campus like flat fees and use of space. I think she is going to be a great president.”

Does the Munk School belong to U of T?

While philanthropy is regarded as a virtuous action, its use for the sake of influence can have serious consequences for the institutions receiving it. Many of you may have heard of the Peter Munk donation, which has been a hot topic for some time now. The Munk Centre of Global Affairs, located on St. George and Bloor, will constructed under a $35 million donation made by the Peter and Melanie Munk Foundation. Peter Munk is the president and owner of Barrick Gold Mining Corp, the biggest mining company in Canada, and one of the biggest in the world. Discussion at U of T about this donation revolves around whether donations such as these affect academic freedom and whether these corporate donations push a neoliberal agenda. A look at the grassroots origins of this struggle will prove to highlight the arguments made by these people, and will reveal a battle going beyond academic freedom.

Barrick Gold operates mines in Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, the Dominican Republic, and other locations. Gold mining is regarded as one of the most socially and environmentally degrading industries in the world, with the use of cyanide and other chemicals being correlated with disease, contaminated water, and injured wildlife. While this is aggravating in itself, the social repression following the mining industry involves displacement of communities, destruction of villages, targeted deaths of anti-mining activists, and the erosion of agriculture.
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On May 2009, toxic waste between a gold mine located in North Mara, Tanzania, spilled into River Thigithe. Reports from the surrounding villages alleged that 20 people and from 700 and 1,000 head of livestock died from the contaminated water. Barrick Gold denied responsibility for the deaths, while villagers living near the mine claimed they were still experiencing health-related illnesses from acidic water. There are also reports that a number of people have been killed by security forces belonging to the company. These types of stories are repeated throughout the operating areas of Barrick Gold, such as Papua New Guinea, where reports of gang rape of women and killings from local villages have been testified against security forces working for Barrick Gold.

While these factors are disturbing, especially since Peter Munk sponsors U of T, does this mean that it has any effect on the academia?

U of T website The Blue and White released an article called “A Response to The Perils of Philanthropy.” Gullibly outlining the “recites” of the contract produced by Munk and U of T, there was an explanation stating that the University will provide the donor an annual written report with descriptions of the programs, initiatives and activities, and will also offer to meet with the Board of The Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation once a year to discuss those programs. While in some circles this may be called accountability, this can also be seen as the censorship of academia through a conflict of interest. Munk has been known to be a leading lobbyist against regulations for Canadian mining companies, and has lobbied against Bill-C 300, a private members bill that was said to require divestment from companies that face human rights allegations overseas.

And while this donation claims to respect the integrity of academia, let’s look at it from a different perspective: if a graduate student is writing a thesis on human rights abuses, and uses the mining industry as an example of abuses by corporate organizations, would this pass by unnoticed the Munk School of Global Affairs? How about a course on mining injustices in the global south? Would it even stand a second look when being overviewed by the Peter Munk Foundation?

Having a corporate funded school of global affairs by a company that has been known to lobby for reduced regulation and who also silences activists is questionable. Possibly allowing them to have a say in the programs the school produces is further questions the true nature of accountability.

Donations coming from donors like Peter Munk push a neoliberal agenda which will serve to silence academic work which runs counter to his initiatives. The interests of Barrick Gold are in a research community which would serve corporate interests, and shutting down opposition to their gold mining. By having Munk as a lead donor to the University of Toronto, a critical academia that challenges Barrick Gold’s harmful practices will not be present.

For students, workers, professors, and other members of our community, it is time to mobilize against this Munk donation, and the general corporatization of U of T. Our perspectives will not be heard by either the Governing Council or any other governing body. It is up to us to form an opposing narrative to the general privatization of opinion within the University. Peter Munk and his corporation conduces a right wing agenda in favor of business interest, affecting how the University performs its research, and the kind of discourse we, as students, are exposed to.