Blues make a splash

The Varsity Blues women’s water polo team made it look easy against the Queen’s Golden Gaels. On Nov. 9, the Blues played two gruelling games to end the regular season. The Blues, playing at home in the Athletic Centre, wrapped up their last match of the season with fl air and steady confidence. Their 14-13 win over the OUA championship contending Carleton Ravens earlier that day gave the team momentum. In the following game against the Gaels, they maintained a seven-goal lead throughout the second half.

The Blues managed to hit most of their dry passes with dangerous efficiency, with an offence that had no problem penetrating the Gaels goal zone. They displayed physical dominance over Queen’s up front and in the mid-zone in the first half. Toronto scored from the middle when pressed back, expertly coordinating their passing game. The Blues’ defence was sharp, limiting any possible Queen’s counter-attack or offensive turn. Toronto kept ahead by at least five goals in the first half, giving the opposition no time to recover from their attack. The second half of the game saw a consistent and unshaken Toronto continue to play the same solid defence. Yet the Gaels managed to bolster their defence in stemming a fl urry of goals by stepping up their physical game and player marking.

Toronto scored a decisive 14-6 victory over the Golden Gaels with Casey Pottier and Nicole Brown leading the Blues’ scoring board with three goals each. The victory marked the end of the Blues’ successful 2008 season where they finished with seven wins and only one loss in their first game of the season against Carleton. The team will now prepare for the 2008 OUA Water Polo Championship at Carleton University on Nov. 22 and 23.

It’s time for Canada to invest in sports engineering programs

Developing sports technology programs in Canada will help to engineer a healthier and more prosperous future.

Sports equipment researchers and designers from Canadian universities say increased and prolonged financial support for such programs will aid not just elite athletes, but weekend warriors and industries as well.

Currently, there are no sports engineering programs for students at any level at Canadian universities.

The closest Canada has to any type of institution for sport equipment innovation is the Own the Podium (OTP) program, launched in January 2005.

After Canada failed to win gold at both the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the OTP program and its estimated $125 million budget pledged to help Canada win not just gold, but the most medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Martin Brouillette, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Sherbrooke, has researched and designed equipment for several large sports equipment manufacturers and Canada’s national speed skating team.

Brouillette explains that though the OTP program invests more in Canadian athletes than in the past and brings together Canada’s 13 winter sport federations along with several other national committees and organizations, it is likely temporary.

“The general feeling is that after the Olympics, all of this is going to die down,” Brouillette said. “My feeling is [the OTP] is a one time thing. There doesn’t appear to be a long term vision.”

For a permanent sports forum or organization to bring together trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and psychologists, Canada should follow the Australian Institute of Sports’ model.

“They actually integrate the entire sports community, including the scientists, into whatever they’re doing,” Brouillette said. “All the scientific aspects of sports are being investigated, including the technology.”

New training techniques are being developed for high performance athletes. The new technologies and products that arise from these interactions could be very lucrative.

“If we win more medals, people are happier and do more sports so they’re in better shape and we sell a bunch of gadgets and make a bunch of money,” Brouillette said. “But [Canada has not] evolved to the point where technology is important at the high performance level to the extent that other countries are doing.”

While on sabbatical in 2001, David Pearsall, lead researcher at McGill University’s Ice Hockey Research Group (IHRG), traveled to Cologne, Germany, where he saw the effect of combining researchers from different aspects of sports.

“[They have researchers] from traditional phys-ed to marketing to broadcast sports to sport medicine and equipment design,” Pearsall said. “So you have 10,000 students employed just in sport-related functions. It’s very viable.”

Pearsall has seen how this works in Canada. The IHRG’s collaboration with Bauer Hockey has led to several of its researchers being hired either by Bauer or another hockey equipment manufacturer.

“So that’s an example where by training people here actually helps draw in industry to stay in Canada,” Pearsall said. “Kind of like if you build [the sports programs, sports industry] may come in terms of huddling around the centres.”

Though there’s no shortage of students showing interest in sports technology programs, an institution’s fate depends on the demand for sports technology graduates from Canada, says Darren Stefanyshyn, a mechanical engineer and associate professor from the University of Calgary.

Working for large multi-billion dollar companies like Adidas and TaylorMade, Stefanyshyn noticed the lack of engineers on staff.

“Because the one thing I would hate is […] to set to up a program, train and educate the students in [sports engineering] and then have no place for them to go or no positions that are available,” Stefanyshyn said.

Graduates from any reputable engineering program would still find work; it just might not be in sports engineering. The disciplines underlying sports engineering are the same as mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

“It’s not the field in itself. It’s an application domain. You could be designing a golf club or hockey stick or could be designing landing gear,” Brouillette said. “The science, the technology, and the skills in doing that are all the same.”

Professor Roy Jones, head of Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Research Group in England, agrees with Brouillette.

“If you look around at, for example, how many graduates doing history degrees that we produce; well Jesus, how many historians do we need?” Jones said. “Our graduates— because they’ve gone to a decent university and they’ve undergone a good training program with their mind—they go everywhere.”

Pearsall feels that by combining Canadian and U.S. markets, there will be an opportunity to employ students wishing to work in the sports engineering field.

A top-down initiative would be the most feasible way to establish sports technology programs in Canada. However, developing these types of programs isn’t exactly at the top of any governments’ list.

“It’s not really up there. If you look at things like stem cell research and subatomic particles, they’re putting wads of money to make those things happen,” Pearsall said.

Even more difficult is achieving professional status from schools across Canada and the United States for sporting agencies like the IHRG.

Professional status would give sporting agencies more clout to make change happen, but anything to do with health promotion takes time.

“You’re looking at a generational change; something you need like 20 years to make happen,” Pearsall said.

Roaches run rampant in rez

More than once, Susanna Sanders has woken up to find a crushed cockroach in her bed. The Master’s student lives with her husband at Student Family Housing, a two-building university residence complex on Charles Street, east of the St. George campus, that houses couples and students with children. Sanders (name changed) had never seen a roach until she moved from her small Ontario -hometown to downtown Toronto. By now, she is a veteran—in some parts of Student Family Housing, the cockroaches are pretty much in charge.

Every morning, Sanders’ husband kills about 15 bugs in the kitchen. Sanders kills three or four in the bathroom before taking her shower. “I can’t even have a bath in my own home because cockroaches fall on me,” she said.

Cockroaches are usually shy, emerging at night and fleeing humans and light. The roaches in Sanders’s apartment venture out in broad daylight, even though the place is otherwise immaculate. They come out of the stove, air vents, and cracks in light switch panels. Even a set of brand-new bookshelves are infested.

“One night I was sitting on the couch, using my laptop, and one crawled right over me,” said Sanders.

Built in 1969, Student Family Housing is among the little affordable housing available near campus. By all accounts, it forms a community for student parents, offering recreational programs and support groups. The building has always been publicly owned, but it was privately managed until 2004, when university employees took over. They are well aware of the problem.

“It’s something I know the staff is very concerned about, and that they spend a lot of time dealing with,” said Anne MacDonald, director of Ancillary Services.

“We have a pest control company that attends the site weekly for treatments. The contractor basically spends the whole day there.” Any resident can request extermination, and every two weeks, all common areas are treated.

Residents can choose between an insecticide spray and a gel treatment. MacDonald says that the units on all sides of problem apartments are also inspected and treated. Tenants cannot refuse treatment if their apartment is found to be infested.

This has not been Sanders’ experience. She sees cockroaches coming through vents from her neighbours’ kitchen and bathroom, and as far as she knows, they have not been treated. As a result, repeated gel treatments have done nothing for her. “I think there should be mandatory treatment for everyone in the building,” said Sanders.

Not every resident is in Sanders’ position. The problem seems to vary between floors and apartments, and some residents have no complaints at all. Others praise management, and place the blame on their neighbours.

“There are some people who simply do not mind living with roaches,” said Callie Abney (name changed). “We heard from a pest control man how he found dozens of roaches crawling over the front door of one such unit.”

“The roach problem in our unit is much better now after receiving the new max-gel treatment, and after repeated block treatments were done in our neighbouring units,” said Abney. “The management office is doing more every day.”

Management runs regular information sessions on pest control, as well as an “exclusion” program, sealing cracks and crevices. Residents say that a little caulk goes a long way, but Sanders hasn’t been offered sealing services. “It’s being done primarily in vacant units right now, and units that are problematic,” said MacDonald.

All this may be too late to save the building’s reputation. Finding affordable housing downtown is a big issue for student parents, but between the roaches and the extermination, Student Family Housing is becoming an address to avoid.

One undergraduate parent was offered a spot, and toured the building: “The apartment I saw had both live cockroaches all over the place and dead ones all over the place. They told me they had already fumigated three times prior to me seeing it,” she said. She chose not to move in.

One graduate student with children has heard too many horror stories from her friends to consider Family Housing. “It’s kind of surprising,” she said “because if you walk around the graduate residence, it’s beautiful.”

For Sanders, living in residence has been both an emotional burden and a financial challenge. “The cost of living here is going to be huge,” she said, “because we are not taking anything with us [when we move out]. We had to throw out a brand new blender, a wedding gift, because it was infested with bugs. It’s just frustrating that we have to live like this.”

Obamarama: Hope for the future and distraction from the present

From hip-hop namedrops to an international deluge of newborn babies named in his honour, it seems Barack Obama is everybody’s homeboy. Young, handsome, charming, and fiercely intelligent, this groundbreaking U.S. president-elect just might be the most popular person on earth.
Unsurprisingly, the media has become saturated with Obama-related content since his November 4 victory, drooling over every discernible aspect of the future president’s future life. The New York Times wonders which elite private school will win the trust—and tuition—of Barack and Michelle (with whom we are on very much a first-name basis). On the subject of those darling girls, what sort of puppy would best befit presidential poochdom? Everyone from “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan to The Globe and Mail has weighed in on this very important matter.

The Obamas’ recent visit to the White House was heralded worldwide, and a familiar dose of TLC was applied to its detailed coverage. The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that Barack appeared undaunted and reserved on a tour of his new digs, proclaiming the office upgrade “very nice.” Fashion bloggers have had a field day critically deconstructing the aesthetic significance of Michelle Obama’s red White House dress, debating, between praise, whether to forgive her for that black widow election night number.

Roughly two weeks into the post-election euphoria that is Obamarama, it’s difficult to pull back. After all, we endured many months of edge-of-your-seat campaign trail drama to get to this point; how can we possibly let go now?

It may be premature to wean ourselves from our delight, but it’s time to recognize that the promise of a new era isn’t quite enough to sideline all other current events. The world has kept turning since election night. A peek into the world outside of the Obama bliss bubble requires a bit of initiative and a lot of bravery; after all, nothing dissolves elation like a good hard dose of reality.

What is happening beyond Barack can be frightening. Ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has progressed from critical to dire in recent weeks, resulting in death, disease, and displacement on a massive scale. Tensions between Russia and the West are rising, complicated by volatility from the former and distraction on the part of the latter. Then, of course, there’s that little matter of the economy.

Submerged in an age of uncertainty, Barack Obama is both our favourite spectacle and the Annie to our wearied morale, reassuring many of us that the sun will, in fact, come out tomorrow. Until then, we have today—and, unfortunately, there’s more to it than our buddy Barack.

Provost names committee on democracy in student government

U of T administors have struck a committee to set guidelines for student governments in order to ensure democracy and transparency. Cheryl Misak, VP and provost, ordered the committee after she froze the Arts & Science Student Union’s student levy funding this semester, citing improper conduct in their spring elections.

U of T admin is responsible for collecting and distributing student union levies, but has exercised the power to withhold funding if they suspect that its processes are not democratic, according to the Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees.

“Nothing changes in terms of what the provost can and cannot do. Rather these guidelines will provide clarity on what the provost expects,” said Misak. The advisory committee appointed by Misak is made up of 10 students, seven professors, and two administrators. They will brainstorm recommendations for fair and democratic processes. Misak will take these suggestions to construct a final set of guidelines, used by both student societies and administrators.

“The issue with ASSU was one of the prompts for this committee,” said Misak. Former ASSU president Ryan Hayes resigned in September, after leaked emails obtained by the Varsity revealed collusion with elections officer Ausma Malik to ensure his election to presidency. However, the administration has seized union funds on other occasions.

Misak referred to a case in which Governing Coucil voted to transfer the membership and levy money of part-time UTM students to UTM’s full-time student union, instead of the downtown-based Association of Part-time Students. A total of 52 students voted in the referendum. The decision was rescinded after Ontario courts found that the referendum did not follow APUS rules.But APUS representatives said their case has nothing to do with why the committee was struck. ”In our case it was the university ignoring and not following their own rules about membership changes and fees,” said Joeita Gupta, APUS VP of internal affairs.”

According to their policy, a referendum by another student union on APUS’ membership is illegitimate.

Jill Matus, vice provost for students and a member of the committee, said the initiative is a step in the right direction. “Many students are craving this kind of guidance of transparency and clarity,” said Matus. “Guidelines that work with broad principles and are mutually agreed upon are much more useful. Nobody wants to impose concrete rules.”

Colum Grove-White, committee member and the new ASSU president, said the committee’s discussion is an opportunity to prevent the administration from intervening in student affairs.

“The onus now is on student leaders,” said Grove-White. “The way to prevent funds from being withheld in the future is for organizations to strengthen their constitutions.”

The student democracy committee will meet this Wednesday, and invites suggestions. Send your ideas by Nov. 21 to sheree.drummond@utoronto.ca, by mail (Room 225, Simcoe Hall), or by fax at 416-978-3939.

Science and religion should remain separate domains

Brian Alters is in vehement opposition of teaching creationism and intelligent design in scientific classrooms. Recently, U of T biology students had the opportunity to hear him speak about the issues surrounding evolution.

Macroevolution is the theory that all organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor or ancestral gene pool. Current species are merely one stage in the process of evolution, and their diversity can be accounted for by much speciation and extinction. In diametric opposition, Creationism maintains that a deity created the universe, and all that is in it. Another creationist tautology is that the Earth is thousands—rather than billions—of years old, a viewpoint that differs from the scientific community.

During his humourous presentation, Alters illuminated the role of creationism and its impact on the general population. The talk focused on the unscientific nature of creationism theory, and its misplacement in scientific classrooms. He showed a video illustrating that many accept intelligent design as a comfortable mix of science and religion. However, the number of people who accept the theory of intelligent design is not the issue for Alters. As illustrated in the controversial book, Of Pandas and People, religion has begun to permeate the domain of science. Alters made it clear that he believes domains for religion, such as temples, churches, and mosques, should remain separate from domains for science, namely classrooms.

Alters used the example of creationist-based museums, which display, among other things, exhibits in which dinosaurs and humans coexist, a phenomenon that never actually happened. He also explained the arguments on both sides of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area District trial, in which he served as an expert witness. In 2005, Tammy Kitzmiller and eleven other parents successfully sued the Dover Area School District over its decision to present intelligent design as an alternative explanation to evolution.

During the question-and-answer period, Alters emphasized that people reject evolution because it undermines their faith. For many, accepting evolution might mean they having nothing to fall back on. Alters noted that “people do want to believe they will see their children again after they pass away, or their parents, or they want to know they will be rewarded for their good deeds.”

However, the two concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive. Alters cites an evolutionary biologist who believes very strongly in evolution, but states that it does not prevent him from believing in Islam. The resistance to new ideas can be a combination of scientific illiteracy, religious illiteracy and, most importantly, fear. In Alters’ view, it is difficult for the average person to grasp these concepts in such great depth.

In addition, the idea of evolution may not be accepted simply because it seems absurd at face value. “Suppose you told people two hundred years ago that you would take some dinosaur goo and metal, some guys are gonna get in, fly to the moon, put a flag on and play golf, come back out and become Senator!” says Alters. “Who would believe you?”

The field of evolutionary biology has many implications in society. According to Alters, “AIDS could probably be cured by evolutionary biology.” However, research is usually based on human needs and what is lucrative, and determining where life originated has no spin-off value. For this reason, research is not as focused on creating life in a lab as it is on finding new kinds of resistance to bacteria.

Alters discussed the creationism vs. evolution debate on a larger scale, explaining how it resonates differently in different parts of the world. France is particularly secular and has little problem with an anti-evolution stance. In China, there is no trouble with creationism at all—it is simply not allowed. Currently, Alters is conducting research in the Middle East and Pakistan, investigating the role of religion in early and later education. It seems that education at the middle and high school levels has many religious references and the Quran is interwoven with scientific facts. However, at the university level there is much more of a separation between religion and science, as topics are generally examined more objectively. What accounts for this difference? Alter noted that the scientific community does not allow religious undertones in publications, and that universities would lose credibility if they incorporated religion into scientific publications. Access to this type of information is particularly difficult due a sensitivity towards religious questioning.

Raised fundamentally Christian, Alters grew up thinking evolution was “bad” and was amazed at the strong clash of opinions about the issue. He attended Christian elementary and high schools before joining a seminary. His upbringing and the disputes to which he was exposed pushed him towards studying evolutionary biology at the University of Southern California, and completing a PhD in science education. He has written several biology textbooks and is a co-author of Defending Evolution, which aims to teach evolution effectively, despite recent controversies.

Private ‘university’ doesn’t deserve its name, says prof

World Trade University sounds like a pretty impressive name—too bad it’s a university in name only. And if B.C.’s public university professors get their way, WTU won’t even keep its name.

After British Columbia passed special legislation to grant WTU status, the school’s founder was caught in a series of lies.

Last Monday, the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C. called on provincial officials to rescind legislation establishing the WTU.

The so-called school is a sham, says CUFABC, and tarnishes the image of the B.C. government.

Headquartered on a military base in Chilliwack, B.C., the private school was established by Sujit Chowdhury in November 2005, when the World Trade University Canada Establishment Act granted it degree status.

But so far, all it’s granted is a lot of suspicion.

“In three years, this institution hasn’t been able to design a viable degree program. It’s time for government to pull the plug on this failed experiment,” said Robert Clift, executive director of CUFABC, in a news release.

According to WTU’s web site, the school aims to “play a lead role in delivering high quality advanced world trade education programs to students from around the world.” But so far, business classes that were supposed to begin in 2007 have yet to open. False insinuations of international campuses and affiliation with the World Bank and the WTO have been exposed, after WTU went to considerable lengths in trying to tie itself to global institutions, including its online statement that it was founded as a “UN mechanism.”

“At various times, it was suggested that Mr. Chowdhury held a doctorate, which is not the case,” said Clift, who also pointed to WTU’s other false claims.

The National Post reported that WTU consists of only the “furnished, one-storey building in Chilliwack that it moved into three years ago.” The City of Chilliwack paid $1 million to renovate the building and leased it to WTU for $1 a year.

WTU withdrew its application to offer a Master’s degree in February 2008. The academic community speculates Chowdhury did so because the proposal would have been rejected by the Degree Quality Assessment Board, the body that authorizes degrees in B.C.

Though WTU has no students and cannot operate as a university, but it can still call itself one. In response to the professor’s call to revoke that privilege, B.C. minister of education Murray Coell said it was an “interesting idea.”
Sujit Chowdhury, the founder and president of WTU, has not spoken.

Blood-suckers demystified

Sanguivores—animals and insects that feed on blood—are often regarded with low esteem. Mention leeches or vampire bats and the average person is less than impressed, believing these species are on the hunt for human blood.

However, much of what has become common knowledge about blood-suckers is a myth. Dispelling these misconceptions is the focus of Bill Schutt’s new book Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-feeding Creatures, in which he presents a comprehensive look at a variety of sanguivores.

The book is divided into three sections, the first of which takes readers through a tropical forest on the hunt for vampire bats. Schutt’s expert knowledge of these flying mammals makes for an engaging read. He illustrates the differences between the three types of vampire bat, while clarifying how they became associated with Dracula-related horror stories.

Leeches are the next species investigated. Schutt describes their storied history, from George Washington’s deathbed to their use in hospitals today. He also gives an in-depth look at how medicinal leech production has become a profitable industry, spawning companies like Leeches USA.

Finally, Schutt delves into the mysterious world of blood-sucking insects. From bed bugs to ticks, mites, and chiggers, he makes a good case for why you should leave that free couch on the curb. In a chapter aptly titled “Sleeping with the Enemy,” he explains why bed bugs—Cimex lectularis in particular—are able to thrive in human beds. “Generally, bed bugs respond negatively to light and actively seek out rough, dry surfaces that are at least partially darkened,” he writes.

In addition to his scientifically accurate accounts, Schutt provides the reader with historical information and the origins of terms, names, and ideas. Scientific concepts are presented in ways interesting for the expert yet easy to understand for those with no previous knowledge. Personal anecdotes and additional quotes from the likes of Charles Darwin round out this well-paced book.

Though Schutt’s descriptions are vivid and clear, Patricia J. Wynne’s striking illustrations are helpful visual aids. Throughout the book, they diagram species and ideas that are difficult to visualize, or that readers may not be familiar with. Schutt’s footnotes are another welcome inclusion, providing the reader with extra information and humourous asides.

Dark Banquet provides a wide-ranging guide to the world of sanguivory. While it won’t turn chiroptophobes into bat-lovers, readers will gain a new perspective on the curious lives of blood-feeding creatures.