Half-fiends

Caffiends, the student-run coffee lounge at Old Vic, is slated to move to a less spacious room across the hall from its current location.

The relocation is due to the ongoing construction of Vic’s new $21-million Goldring Student Centre, which will expand the Wymilwood Building. The construction is slated for the next two and a half years.

During construction, the café’s space will be used for administrative purposes. Alumni offices in Wymilwood will occupy what is currently the Caffiends and the Victoria College bookstore.

The university has assured Caffiends co-managers that the original space will be restored once construction of the student centre is complete.

Co-manager Emily Gilbert said it is unclear when the move will occur. “Originally it was scheduled for Christmas but that hasn’t been confirmed, so it might be Reading Week,” she said.

The new location, VC111, is a tutorial room that is roughly half the size of the current space. Gilbert said the change will definitely affect the business. Last year Caffiends initiated a “no take-out cup” policy, which boosted sales considerably and required more room to accommodate customers. “With a smaller space, there will be a different vibe,” Gilbert said.

Caffiends started four years ago as a fair-trade coffee booth by two Victoria College students, moving into its current space three years ago. Opening with “equitable consumerism” in mind, it is known for its fair-trade coffee, supplied by local cooperative ChocoSol Traders.

The cafe makes little profit—just enough to cover the cost of supplies—and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Over 76 volunteers work weekly one-hour shifts. “Any extra money made over the year is put into our bank account for new supplies,” Gilbert said.

Roy Halladay a fair trade

alt text This offseason, the best decision for the Blue Jays will be trading Roy. Halladay’s contract expires after the 2010 season, and it’s very unlikely that he will sign another contract with the Jays. Toronto is in the midst of restructuring, so they should look to compete around 2012. Halladay is the best trading chip the Blue Jays have if they want to add young talented players.

On Friday, Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston told the New York Post that Halladay will not remain in Toronto when his contract expires after the 2010 season. “We would like to sign him. He is an original Blue Jay and we have never had a pitcher as good as him, but he is not inclined to sign with us,” said Beeston. Halladay wants to win, and so do the Jays, though both have different timelines to achieve that goal.

The Blue Jays franchise is not in as complete a mess as some think. Former general manager, J.P. Ricciardi left a solid core of young players behind, like pitchers Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and Mark Rzepczynski and hitters Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Travis Snider. By trading Halladay this offseason, the Jays could add more young and controllable pieces to their core instead of losing Halladay to free agency and receiving only two compensatory picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Since Halladay becomes a free agent after the 2010 season, teams might not be willing to give up a lot of young talent for just one year of Halladay. However, rookie general manager Alex Anthopoulos has stated he would give teams a window to negotiate an extension with Halladay in trade talks, which would definitely guarantee the Blue Jays a more significant return.

Halladay should be a hot commodity this offseason. He had a terrific 2009, as he went 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA, 208 strikeouts, and a 1.13 WHIP spanning over 32 starts and 239 innings, with nine complete games and four shutouts. Halladay is in a class of his own, pitching in the toughest division in baseball, the American League East.

Because Halladay has a no-trade clause, he is most likely to end up on a team that is ready to win. He should join a team that has the payroll flexibility that will allow them to sign Halladay to a contract extension past 2010. On the open market, Halladay could definitely command a five-year contract worth $20-25 million per season. Teams need solid young players and prospects with a tremendous amount of talent to get a deal done. It’s likely that the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers, and the New York Mets will express interest in Halladay. Colorado Rockies could emerge as a dark horse in the trade talks, since Halladay is from the Denver area and the Rockies reached the playoffs two of the last three seasons.

Rumours swirling this past weekend spoke of Blue Jays and Cubs discussing a possible deal for Halladay. The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, so trading for Roy Halladay would be a start in the right direction. The Cubs have some solid prospects that could interest the Blue Jays: shortstop Starlin Castro, third baseman Josh Vitters, and starting pitchers Jay Jackson, and Andrew Cashner. The problem facing the Cubs at the moment is that they probably will be unable to take on the $15.75 million owed to Halladay in 2010, since they already have several immovable contracts, like outfielders Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley.

The New York Yankees have the best chance of putting together an alluring package for Roy Halladay. They have the money to lock up Halladay long term, and most importantly, the best pieces to get a deal completed with Toronto. Plus, the Yankees will do everything in their power to keep Roy Halladay away from the Red Sox. The Yankees could centre a package around one of right-handed pitchers Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, as both would be ready to make a quick impact. The Yankees’ catching prospect Jesus Montero could interest the Jays. The young catcher batted .337 with 17 HR, 70 RBI, and a .951 OPS in 2009 between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Trading Halladay to a team within the same division should not be an issue, especially if that team has the best offer on the table.

Overall, it will be difficult for Blue Jay fans to face the fact that Roy Halladay’s tenure in Toronto is nearing an end. The 2003 Cy Young Award winner has meant a lot to this franchise and will go down as one of the greatest players to wear a Blue Jay uniform. The Blue Jays are unlikely to make a run for the postseason in 2010, but trading Roy Halladay is the best way to build the team into a perennial contender over the long run.

Victim identified in Bay St. shooting

Toronto Police have identified Shane Kelter, 32, from Vancouver, as the victim of Sunday’s shooting at Bay and St. Joseph streets. Post-mortem results determined the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.

Detective Graham Gibson told the Toronto Star that investigators suspected the incident was a planned hit and not a typical gang shooting.

After partying with friends at Musik, a waterfront nightclub, Kelter stepped out of a limo in front of 1001 Bay at roughly 3:20 a.m. He was killed shortly after by an individual who police believe was waiting for him.

Witnesses reported seeing someone run down St. Joseph Street on Sunday morning and get into what may have been a black Honda Civic. A spokesperson for U of T confirmed that Campus Police were cooperating with investigators but declined to elaborate.

Toronto Police are still looking into whether a weapon found at Queen’s Park Crescent matches shell casings found at the scene of the crime.

Kelter was well-known to Vancouver Police and RCMP. He was charged in September 2008 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in an investigation called “Operation Candystore.” The indictment alleged that he oversaw a cross-border drug smuggling operation moving ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamine. Although a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with that indictment, U.S. and Canadian authorities were still discussing whether to formally request extradition, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the Star. In the meantime, Kelter was appearing in Canadian courts for other offences.

Authorities also suspect that while he was not a member of any group himself, Kelter nevertheless had ties with some of Vancouver’s most dangerous gangs. Vancouver police announced earlier this year that they were in the midst of a gang war, although it remains uncertain whether this most recent shooting is related.

Decisions, decisions

I have to give the CBC credit: they’ve done quite a lot right to remain relevant in new media circles.

The corporation’s efforts to make more content available to more people by creating an almost universal program for podcasting radio shows, and developing an ever-expanding web presence are exactly what the national broadcaster should be doing to fulfill its mandate in the 21st century. Their newest experiment in the technology of distribution, however, may go too far in responding to the pressures of the new media climate.

Certainly, a longer version of The National, a news broadcast that provides nuance and context to distinctly Canadian stories, and CBC’s new initiatives to make news available online, and for Blackberries and IPhones, is appreciated. However, the new web version of The National, in which users can customize their newscast by “selecting the news items they want to see and the order they prefer to see them”—admittedly a secondary feature in the Mother Corp’s National reforms—is potentially problematic. The initiative is not a new one, as CNN has had its own customizable webcasts on-site since 2007. The ability to select your own cast is a feature born from the idea that there is an Internet fuelled consumer mindset that pushes unfettered choice in what viewers deem to be important.

It isn’t that people have become total dictators over content so much as the curators feeding that content have become more numerous. The Internet has been a boon for the broadening of things like musical tastes, not because the people consuming it have been given unfettered choice, but because we have access to more curators than ever before, and the tools to create true mass movements around particular artists and sounds have been democratized. Bands like Grizzly Bear and Vampire Weekend have played arena-level shows thanks to blog buzz. Certainly, people are consuming more news, too, from more sources than ever before.

But unlike music, more gatekeepers in news media have not created a general broadening of perspective, but instead a sharply partisan understanding of current events. That this is symptomatic of the news-on-demand decade suggests that perhaps, in the end, we might not know what’s good for us after all.

This is not to infer that institutional news has to remain the same. Stagnant, “objective” news organizations stand to gain nothing from staying the course in the middle of technological upheaval.

Instead, institutional news media can take on a corrector’s role—an authoritative voice that can bring prominence to issues of genuine importance and try to rectify the pervasive myths of hyper-partisan blog media, rather than to re-report them, as was so prevalent during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Network news could have been the voices that helped put the Obama-as-secret-terrorist-Muslim story to bed, instead of being the bodies that brought the issue into prominence during an organized debate (thanks again for that, George Stephanopolous). There may be no money for middle-of-the-road reporting any more, but I wager more people would come to prefer a cold, sobering shower in their news to the “shouting across the void” as Obama describes it.

There is certainly a role for institutional media in the age of the Internet, and the CBC’s experiment is likely a first step in reforming the way that institutional media provide information to the public. However, it cannot be the last one.

Sit-in has students fearing Hotel California

Seventy UC Santa Cruz students occupied an administrative building last Thursday after the university approved a 32 per cent increase in student fees. In June, UC’s board of regents had raised fees by 9.3 per cent effective immediately, after an earlier 10 per cent hike in the same fiscal year.

The University of California is the fourth largest public university system in the U.S. Its 10 campuses have suffered massive budget cuts, resulting in tuition hikes and reduced student services.

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Protestors issued a list of seven demands, including amnesty from protest, protection of undocumented students and workers, a freeze on all layoffs, and guaranteed funding through employment of fee remissions for students who have lost TA or work-study positions.

Students spoke with administration throughout the day Saturday. Executive vice-chancellor David Klieger later decided that the university would make no concessions until students vacated the building.

Students and faculty could come and go from the five-storey Kerr Hall until Saturday night. When protestors learned police had been called, they used a refrigerator to barricade the building.

“Ironically, the administration building was much more accessible to students when it was occupied by students than it normally is,” said Don Kingsbury, a media contact for the protestors.

Kingsbury added that much of the negotiations occurred through faculty members who supported the student campaign.

“The way that administration treats students and thinks of students, it is much more effective to have faculty approach them. The administration has been very clear that they don’t really care to interact with students.”

Faculty and staff have also been severely affected by cutbacks at UC, said Bettina Aptheker, a feminist studies professor who observed the occupation in and outside the building on Sunday morning. All faculties received a seven per cent pay cut earlier this year.

“Our local administration has closed child care for faculty and staff effective Jan. 1,” said Aptheker. “We are the only campus to do this.”

Campus and local police in riot gear announced 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning that protestors who didn’t leave would be arrested. Students surrendered and moved to Kresge Town Hall, a campus student space, to have a debriefing meeting.

None of occupiers were arrested or have since been arrested. One bystander, an assistant professor, was injured after he lost footing on a railing while trying to make room for protestors exiting the building.

On Monday night, the group held a town hall meeting that drew 300 attendees including students, faculty members, Santa Cruz residents, members of the Brown Berets, and Pajaro Valley educators, according to Kingsbury. The group plans to launch a defensive measure over American Thanksgiving, asking friends and family to call the university and demand charges not be pressed.

“Future direct actions also aren’t off the table, but it’s important to emphasize we don’t want this to turn into committing offensive acts throughout the school year,” said Kingsbury.

On Wednesday the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that the university has estimated damages conservatively between $50,000 and $52,000, not including wages of cleanup crews or police. “That’s hard dollars that have either already been spent or we know we are going to spend,” said Barry Shiller, a spokesperson from the university.

Kingsbury suggested that the estimates may be inflated.

“The graffiti that students put up was done with blue painters tape,” said Kingsbury, “students have been very focused on the struggle for public education and we aren’t going to get anywhere by trashing the infrastructure of our universities.”

While neither academic nor criminal charges have been pressed, many students are apprehensive. Kingsbury has expressed a concern he may face academic or criminal prosecution for his role in the incident. Students who left personal belongings in the building as they fled are lobbying them to be turned over to a third party. They are concerned that the university will compile a list of protestors as they retrieve belongings from the police. Administration has so far refused to grant this request.

The future of arts and science

There are few opportunities at this university for students to get directly involved with the apparatus of our education. As one’s years here add up, more and more situations arise which elicit our baffled response, “Why?” Every student here has a similar story of a moment where some facet of our institution reared its ugly, seemingly unplanned head. Must it be so hard to make a distinguished university that’s obviously full of talented people work for its students?

Currently, the faculty of arts and science on the St. George campus—which represents around 26,000 students—is undergoing an academic planning review. What this means is that the future of the faculty, the largest single division at our university, is being planned out right now.

The current plan, 2004’s Stepping Up, focused strongly on the student experience and the role of interdisciplinary programs. One of the largest concerns within the faculty at the time was the impact of the large number of Ontario high school students who had entered the university after the elimination of grade 13 in 2003. The focus on smaller programs, and research-based courses helped to assuage the influx of students into the campus.

The financial situation of the faculty is quite different from where it was in 2004. The recession has cut into funding, and this budget crunch is reflected in the mood set out in the planning outline provided by the dean, which provides context and a guide for departments. There is also the reality of President Naylor’s Towards 2030 document, which envisions the St. George campus as research focused and with fewer undergraduates. The priorities of 2004, which stressed equity, interdisciplinary programs, and connections to surrounding community, will most likely change with the new academic plan.

The eventual academic plan is not a fait accompli. Right now, every department, college, and program is creating its own plans to present to the administration. These documents will stress where each department sees its own future, and how it can best accomplish its goals. It is these plans that will eventually make up the faculty’s next five years. As students, one of the best ways to ensure that final plans reflects our needs, is to make sure each department or college program presents a document that reflects not only the needs of its students today, but the needs of students five years from now.

Like much at this university, the planning program is bloated and convoluted at best. Course unions are trying to cut through the bureaucracy by organizing events for students to voice their ideas for improving the faculty. The success of these events will be reflected in the final document submitted by each department, as, conversely, a lack of student involvement in the planning program will show in the final academic plan.

Along with feeling this university could work better for students, is the idea that hoping for change is futile. This defeatist attitude does a disservice to those who are actively campaigning to change our university for the better. The university can work for students, but it takes the active participation of those students to make this change possible. This current planning process provides a direct and tangible outlet for students to work to improve our learning experience, and an opportunity to not be dismissed out of hand. If we ever want to see improvements in the faculty of arts and science, students need to engage and educate themselves about the workings of the institution they belong to. Through being involved in academic planning, we can bequeath to future students a university that works—a university we can take pride in.

Gavin Nowlan is president of the Arts and Science Students’ Union.

Alberta students could see massive fee hikes

The Alberta government is allowing cash-strapped universities and colleges to apply for tuition fee increases, despite a 2006 pledge capping tuition rates to the inflation rate for 10 years.

Doug Horner, Alberta’s advanced education minister, said tuition hikes will be considered on a case-by-case basis. “I have told the post-secondary institutions that it’s our intention to maintain the cap on tuition,” he told CTV Edmonton. “We’re open to fair and equitable proposals that are brought forward.”

The University of Alberta is reportedly considering applying to the province for tuition hikes, as is the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Increasing university revenue is provincially regulated and tied to the consumer price index. U of A was expecting a six per cent funding increase from the province. But due to a record provincial deficit of about $10 billion, the government decided to freeze funding.

U of A is struggling to cope with a $59 million budget shortfall. According to its student union, proposed hikes for professional programs could go as high as 66 per cent.

“A substantial tuition fee and professional program fee hike would discourage high school graduates from pursuing higher education, and may cause currently enrolled students to drop out of school,” said fourth-year U of A student Laura Rivera, who studies immunology and infection. But, she said, it would not deter her from applying to the faculty of medicine.

The most recent Statistics Canada data available, from 2005 to 2006, show that Alberta had the lowest university participation rate for students aged 20 to 24 in the country. At the time, only 17 per cent of Albertans in the age group attended university. By comparison, 28 per cent of Ontarians in the age group attended university.

Watson Scott Swail, president and CEO of the Educational Policy Institute, said the province should have created an education fund as a safety net when its economy was booming, instead of handing out cheques to Albertans because of the budget surplus. “When there’s less college and university access, there’s less diversity in the workforce, and society’s ability to change and evolve is limited,” Swail told the Calgary Herald.

Ian Armstrong, a third-year neuroscience student at U of A, took a more sympathetic view. “I’m not happy about the tuition hike, but I think that it’s a reasonable response to the deficit that the university is facing,” he said. “It’s not unexpected that Alberta’s economic boom would eventually end and the government would make cuts in funding to postsecondary institutions, so I’d be willing to shoulder the extra fees.”

Who’s afraid of Sarah Palin?

alt textConservatives who value intellectual vitality no longer have a party to call their own in the United States. The line-ups outside bookstores and endless media coverage of Sarah Palin’s new memoir Going Rogue drives home this gloomy point.

It’s easy to dismiss Palin as an outlier in the Republican Party. Her gaffes on the campaign trail (we all remember that she can see Russia from her house), her affinity for rural pastimes like hunting (from her helicopter), and her repetition of buzzwords like “maverick” make her fodder for satirists. However, with the conservative movement at its lowest intellectual ebb since the 1960s, and with the Republican Party now home to Joe-the-Plumber-style populism, there’s a credible threat that Palin could become the next Republican nominee for president. We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss her.

Palin’s no-apologies style of conservatism has positioned her as the choice of deeply conservative Republican activists—the same ones who vote in primaries and choose presidential nominees. But she also has the ability to engage voters who would otherwise stay home. Republican moderates have virtually been eliminated from the party. There is the recent example of Dede Scozzafava—a Republican Congresswoman Congressional candidate from New York who is pro-choice and for gay marriage. She was forced to end her campaign due to lack of support. A far right candidate challenged Scozzafava, and was subsequently endorsed by several notable Republicans, including Palin. In another election, Florida’s Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who has a moderate record on environmental and economic issues, opted to run for the Senate in 2010 and is facing a challenge in the primaries from conservative Marco Rubio, who has criticized Crist for being too liberal.

However, the most striking example of the rightward Republican shift has occurred in New England. The last Republican members of Congress from New England were defeated in the 2008 elections, marking the first time in nearly 150 years that the region has not had any Republican representation. While New England voters tend to vote Democratic, other factors have erased Republicans from the region—mainly inadequate financial support for moderates, and challenges by more extreme conservatives preventing moderates from running at all.

While Republican moderates would be unlikely to support Palin, the sad truth is that very few of them exist to oppose her.

There are no credible candidates likely to seek the Republican nomination. Mitt Romney is an alternative, but the problems which plagued him last time he sought the nomination will not disappear. He is still an unapologetic member of the Republican Establishment—the people who officially run the party—running with a moderate record. But in a conservative, anti-Establishment climate, that record will hurt him. Newt Gingrich has never been popular nationally, Mike Huckabee will once again not get the support of the fiscal conservatives he needs, and Tim Pawlenty barely registers with voters outside of his home-state of Minnesota.

All of these factors lead to the unhappy conclusion that Sarah Palin is a serious contender for the Republican nomination. She should not be dismissed, lest we find ourselves with a President Palin. That would certainly be no laughing matter.

Illustration by Cristina Diaz-Borda