The WWE and me

“This isn’t something a girl should be watching,” my mother used to say to me as I stared intently at the television screen every Monday evening from 9–11 p.m.

I tried my best to ignore her remarks and continued on my quest of becoming a devastatingly knowledgeable aficionado in everything WWE-related.

Not only did I learn as much about the professionals as I could, I mimicked their staggering personas to the point of near perfection. This is my life — I am, and always will be, an obnoxious wrestling fan.

To set the tone for how my lawless love for the sport came to be, I have to step back a few years. In hindsight, my mom was somewhat right about the whole intemperate fascination I had with wrestling. My passion was too strong and my judgment too weak, creating a severe imbalance in my ability to discern when I could and could not tell someone to “suck it!”

In my defence, I was only eight years old at that point and it was rather impossible to overlook the powerhouse that was D-Generation X. It was the Attitude Era after all.

Being the little badass that I was, I refused to comply with my older sister’s demands to stop performing the gesture in front of cars at stop signs. Although I had no idea what was being implied when I told someone to contract their lip and cheek muscles until I was 16, I doubt anyone has ever seen a more enthusiastic crossing of the arms on the crotch being delivered by a girl and I am pretty damn proud of that. Triple H and Shawn Michaels would have probably considered dumping the she-male known as Chyna for a chance to stand alongside me on the world’s greatest wrestling stage.
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Watching wrestling was a big part of all my siblings’ childhoods. Every action resulted in an immediate reaction by one of us, whether it was a feeling of excitement, anger, or the sudden urge to put someone in a sharpshooter until they cried and tapped out.

As a proprietress to five kids, my mom has always been quick to spot changes in our behaviour and find where to lay the immediate blame.

Although it is easy to deny some of these allegations, there was absolutely no doubt when it came to our conduct after watching wrestling.

My brother’s aggression upon coming to Canada was attributed not to mockery in the schoolyard due to his inability to speak English, but rather his keen commitment to the Ultimate Warrior.

My sister, on the other hand, took on the role of household diva by emulating Miss Elizabeth, who she claims to have idolized until the star’s drug overdose and passing in 2003.

I never stood a chance against my sister, who was affectionately nicknamed the Helganator, when it came to being put in a headlock.

Fastforward a few years to when my infatuation with Ric Flair and Canada’s own Captain Charisma, Christian, became full-fledged. I enjoyed woo-offs with friends and remorselessly attacked a few of them with slanderous statements about their mothers.

I’m so sorry, Mom, but attempting to embrace your moral stance is no match for that of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s, which included legendarily ruthless pontificating.

Needing an outlet to help cope with all of the awesome angles running through my mind when I watched WWE Raw, I decided to document every minute of each episode. Speeches were dissected, quotes were taken down, and hilarious fan signs were scribbled in the margins of my Hilroy notebooks.

I idolized the Divas and wanted to be just like them. Then came a realization, and quite a disheartening one at that: my body was nowhere close to how theirs were sculpted.

On the elementary school soccer field, I pompously declared to my fellow wrestling fans that I would get breast implants if it meant they were my sole ticket to WWE Diva stardom.

After nearly two years of being completely committed to the wrestling logs, I began to grow tired of the WWE. Maybe it was because my 10-year-old brother told me it was fake, or maybe it was because My Chemical Romance had begun to take over my free time.

Years passed and friends came and went. Puerile elation had been vanquished.

One night I decided to skip writing an essay and tune in to watch wrestling. I was devastated to find that I was genuinely confused as to who was honing the mat and the microphone.

What happened to the girl who knew every wrestler and every move? I felt as if I had betrayed myself.

Then everything came rushing back to me. That was not a jobber Mexican wrestler on stage — it was Randy “RKO” Orton!

As for that huge Mayan-looking man, well I had no fucking clue. I thought to myself “the WWE must be really desperate for a ratings grab. Who does that douche think he is, the Ro-oh my God?”

The self-proclaimed people’s champion was back. I was forced to deal with multiple emotions coming over me simultaneously. I was happy to see him, but infuriated that he had the audacity to return to the ring he had abandoned all those years ago for a shameful life in Hollywood.

As soon as he started ripping on John Cena though, he won me over. The return of the Rock meant something far more than Dwayne Johnson making a appearance to repair the lull in superstar activity at the WWE.

Calling Cena a “Yabba Dabba Bitch” was the single best thing that has happened to Vince McMahon’s Holy Wrestling Empire since the introduction of Muhammed Hassan and his endless barrage of irate affirmations concerning his unwelcomed presence at the WWE, due in large part to his ethnic background.

If you didn’t get that joke, I don’t give a crap. My love affair with World Wrestling Entertainment had been rekindled in a matter of minutes, even though it had been destroyed for years.

As influential as it may be, I took a little more from the entertainment giant than my mother claims I did. Sure, I became slightly verbally abusive at times, but the hundreds of hours I spent watching wrestling provided me with something else, something ethereal. I became fearless with my interactions with others, hiding barely any feelings and always speaking my mind.

My first year of university proved to be no different. While strolling down Bloor Street one sunny afternoon, I was stopped by a volunteer from the World Wildlife Fund. I pretended to look genuinely interested for a moment, and then dropped a big one.

With conviction, I clearly let the man know that I did not “give a single shit about” him or his organization for the sole reason that they “stole the WWF’s identity.”

He looked at me in sheer confusion and attempted to mitigate the situation by claiming that the World Wrestling Federation was “greedy” and “did not want to share.”

Looking back, I wish I could have altered the way I handled that encounter. Instead of resorting to harsh criticism, letting him know my standpoint with a sickening amount of grace and refinement would have sufficed. A solid “suck it” would have made my point loud and clear.

How he got here: Paul Martin

Before dreaming of becoming prime minister, Paul Martin was an undergraduate student at U of T. He graduated with an Honours BA in Philosophy and History from St. Michael’s College in 1961, after which he went on to complete his law degree, also at U of T.

“I was very actively involved in college life,” said Martin. He lived in residence, was a member of the Young Liberals, and could usually be found working out in the Hart House gym and swimming pool.

“I think it’s a win-win situation,” said Martin on U of T’s college system. “It offers you all the advantages of a major university [with] all the advantages of a smaller college system.”

Growing up in Windsor, Martin was very active in the Michigan civil rights movement. “[That] was during the time of Martin Luther King Junior,” said Martin. “If you talk to a lot of people my age, they’ll tell you the same thing.”

Martin had no intention of going into politics; rather, he planned to travel to Africa after finishing law school. He was convinced upon graduating, however, to gain practical business experience. “I went into business for two years and stayed for 20,” he laughed.
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Martin had a long career in business, and only after his children were older did he begin to consider entering politics. “I’d had some success, and so I decided at the point the time was come to fish or cut bait.”

Martin’s first summer job was on a fishing boat when he was 13. “We had a cottage on Lake Erie, and I just went down to the docks,” he recalled.

One summer, after working on oil and gas fields in Alberta, Martin hitchhiked up to the Hay River and Great Slave Lake where he found a job working as a deckhand on a tugboat in the Beaufort Sea. “I wanted to see what the far north was like,” he said.

“I had a great fascination with the north, and still do,” revealed Martin, who believes it was easier to get summer work when he was young. “You could get jobs because people were desperate. […] [I just] said, ‘Look here, I’ve got my union card! Can I get a job?’”

While working up north, Martin worked with the First Nations and witnessed “the absolute unfairness [with which] we as Canadians have painted out the country’s first people. [This] became one of my strongest convictions.”

Martin thinks that it is crucial for young people to have a variety of experiences before choosing a focus. “Before you make a career decision, you should have a pretty clear idea of what opportunities are out there,” he advised.

“If somebody isn’t prepared to get as wide a spectrum of what life is all about at a young age, they will inevitably cocoon themselves, and they’ll simply isolate themselves into something and they’ll miss out on what the rest of the world has to offer.”

Martin sees the value in working or studying abroad. “It is just impossible to deny [its] importance […] and the perspective that it gives you,” he said, particularly stressing the benefit of working in Africa.

Martin, who first entered the political world in his mid-forties, suggests that young people do not jump into political careers. “My own advice is that you should go into public life after you have some real experience behind you,” he said. “To understand where the world is going and what life is all about […] gives you an opportunity to make a contribution [that is] probably better than most.”

Holding the University of Toronto accountable

On Monday March 7, Students Against Israeli Apartheid — heeding the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — launched a campaign demanding that the University of Toronto divest from companies violating international law and perpetuating an illegal apartheid regime. In particular, SAIA has serious concerns with the university’s holdings in the following four companies: BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin. These companies are actively involved in significant violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and U of T’s holdings in these companies make it complicit in the commission of these crimes.

BAE Systems is a global defence, security, and aerospace company and currently the world’s third-largest weapons manufacturer. It produced weaponry, including F-16 combat aircrafts, cluster bombs, and weapon components, used in Israel’s 2008/09 assault on Gaza. The Goldstone Report of 2009 concluded that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity in its assault on Gaza. BAE Systems — in which U of T holds $1,746,000 worth of shares — contributed to Israel’s weaponry used in these internationally condemned crimes against Palestinian civilians.

Northrop Grumman, another large weapons manufacturer, also contributed to the production of various components and weapons used in the killing of civilians by Israel in its 2008/09 attack on Gaza. Significantly, the company is the sole provider of radars for F-16 combat aircrafts – aircrafts which, according to Amnesty International, played a central role in the killing of Palestinian civilians and the wholesale destruction of Palestinian civilian and economic infrastructure. Shamefully, U of T currently holds $1,157,000 worth of shares in this company.
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Hewlett Packard, among the world’s largest information technology companies, is implicated in the ongoing collective punishment of Palestinians, through the production of checkpoint technologies used in the West Bank, and information technology infrastructure used to facilitate the ongoing naval blockade of Gaza. In particular, HP aids the Israeli Defense Forces in their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip by supplying them with personal computers, servers, and virtualization systems. By aiding and abetting the IDF — an institution which has enforced the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967 — HP is implicated in numerous violations of international law and human rights.

Finally, Lockheed Martin, an arms manufacturer based in the United States, is currently the largest overseas supplier for the Israeli armament industry. In particular, this company is involved in the manufacturing of F-16 combat aircrafts and Hellfire missiles, which have together contributed to hundreds of civilian deaths in both Gaza and Lebanon. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has condemned the IDF’s use of such American-built military weapons, stating that hundreds of Palestinian civilians had been killed or injured in Israeli attacks, largely by tanks deployed in refugee camps and explosives dropped on heavily populated area.

In short, these companies reap profits from the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violations of Palestinian rights. By investing in these firms, U of T not only reveals the hypocrisy of its stated commitments to human rights and social justice, but also becomes complicit in their breaches of international law. Furthermore, according to Principle VII of the Nuremberg Principles, “complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity…is a crime under international law.” In other words, U of T is in breach of international law through its indirect participation in, and profiting from, war crimes.

It is therefore imperative for all students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are committed to principles of equity and social justice, and who do not want to be part of an institution that so egregiously violates these principles, to join SAIA in demanding that:

(1) The University of Toronto Governing Council immediately divest of its stock in BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin.

(2) The University of Toronto refrain from investing in all companies involved in violations of international law.

(3) The University of Toronto work with students, faculty, and staff to undergo a democratic and transparent process to ensure accountability to principles of social and environmental justice.

As the BDS movement gains momentum around the world, more and more institutions are cutting ties with apartheid Israel. Notably, in 2009, Hampshire College in the US became the first university to divest from Israeli apartheid. Divestment campaigns have also begun at many universities including Carleton University, York University, and UC-Berkeley.

We must remember that it was only after years of concerted pressure from students, faculty and staff that the U of T administration decided to divest from South Africa in 1988.

Unfortunately, our university was the last in Canada to take a stand against South Africa’s apartheid regime. Join SAIA to ensure that this time, U of T is one of the first universities — and not the last — to cut ties with an apartheid state.

Editor’s note: Look for the University of Toronto’s response in the coming weeks at the www.thevarsity.ca.

Boys will be Girls

We can trace Little Girls’ career back to 2009 when the music blog Gorilla vs. Bear posted their song “Youth Tunes” with an appropriate caption: “sometimes dropping a link to your two-day-old MySpace page in our comment section can result in having one of your songs given away for free right here on the blog.” The result: instant blog fame and the quick release of the band’s first album Concepts on Toronto label Paper Bag Records. Fortunately, they are still the band you name-drop into conversations during Canadian Music Week or NXNE so that your peers think you know what you’re talking about when it comes to Toronto’s music scene. The Varsity took some time to speak to Josh McIntyre, the brains of the operation, about what the band has been up to as well as the ever elusive sub-genre “doom surf.”

THE VARSITY: So what have you been up to since the release of Concepts?

JOSH McINTYRE: That came out on Paper Bag Records last October. Officially, as of three days ago, I’m not with them anymore, which I’m quite happy with. We got caught up in a bit of a legal battle for a while, which kind of sucked. I’m not going to get in to the details but basically my experience was not so great with them, and it’s over now so I’m really thankful. We’re signing with some new people soon. We’re doing something with Hand Drawn Dracula in Canada, and I’m not sure about the States yet, but we’ve been talking to some people there about putting out the next record.

TV: Do you feel that Toronto crowds are familiar with your work now?

JM: Yeah, we’ve played a ton in Toronto, almost too much. We’ve been doing a lot of shows at Parts and Labour and open up for a lot of Canadian and American bands that have come through to tour. We kind of have an ongoing joke as being the Parts and Labour house band because we play there with the band Metz all the time, so we definitely play Toronto shows a lot.

We’re doing two shows for CMW this Thursday. One is at Wrongbar with Metz, Austra, Ell V Gore, and Valleys. Then later on in the night we’re going to play the Hand Drawn Dracula showcase at the Garrison with Actual Water, Makeout Videotape, etc.
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TV: Is the press still saddling you with weird genres?

JM: Definitely. Me and my friends have this ongoing joke about calling it “doom surf.” When the band first started, NOW Magazine dubbed us as “doom surf,” which is nothing — there’s no such thing as “doom surf.” Then others are saying, like, “surf goth,” and just putting together buzz words to create this new genre but it’s basically just post-punk.

TV: So semantics aside, it’s post-punk. You’re not going to endorse the doom surf label?

JM: No, no. I’ve been saying minimalist post-punk just because it’s kind of stripped down, and that’s not even a buzz genre; that’s just what it is.

TV: I read that you were influenced by a lot of different genres and artists, ranging from hip hop to post-punk.

JM: I listen to a lot of hip hop. That’s basically most of what I listen to right now. I was producing hip hop for a while, so when I make music, it’s done the way a hip hop record would be put together. I had been producing hip hop for two years before Little Girls so when I did them all myself I’d have like a drum machine and then do bass and then layer things on top the way my favourite hip hop records were put together. But that being said, I do listen to a lot of other music, including post-punk.

TV: Does it influence your writing process?

JM: It’s going to change now a little bit because we’re writing as a band so that’s actually coming together the way a band usually writes music where we just jam. People come in with ideas and we turn them into songs but when I write and record on my own its done like a hip hop record.

TV: Do you have contemporary hip hop albums or artists to recommend?

JM: I would say all I ever listen to right now is Odd Future. I’ve been obsessed with them for quite a few months now. Their videos, artwork…everything they do is just incredible

TV: What would you be doing right now if you weren’t making music?

JM: Who knows – I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t making music. I’ve been playing music since I was about twelve years old, and that’s all I’ve ever been really good at.

TV: Are you going to see any bands at CMW?

JM: I know Kurt Vile is playing on Friday at the Great Hall so I’m probably going to want to see that. Austra, who we’re playing with, are really good, I haven’t seen them yet. And just a bunch of my friends’ bands are really good like Ell V Gore, Actual Water, Makeout Videotape, and Metz.

Irks & Quirks: Where’s the beef?

If you didn’t know already, the Howard Ferguson Dining Hall is the food facility for residents at University College. Affectionately known as “Fung” by residents of UC, this is a burgeoning hub of resident life where many of us come to dine and relieve our “funger.”

I write today not to complain about the lack of healthy menu choices or high cost of food that sometimes makes eating in the Annex a more affordable option. I will even avoid mentioning how food often runs out an hour before closing and that the lettuce in the salad bar is frequently frozen or brown. Rather attention needs to be drawn to a new initiative — “Beefless Tuesday” — which the University College Residence Council “proudly presented” at the end of January. The concept for this event is as straightforward as it is ridiculous. Every Tuesday, members of the UCRC harass students not to eat beef. While the meat is still available in Fung, the initiative tries to reduce the amount of beef consumed to help reduce UC’s carbon footprint. The event page on Facebook also includes a laundry list of other reasons to go beefless, predominantly religious and dietary in nature.

Don’t get me wrong. I think student councils serve an important role in providing services for students. However, I think they overstep their bounds when they take on the advocacy campaigns for special interest groups.

Banning beef creates an institutional precedent for actively lobbying student’s consumption habits. It’s the beginning of a process that takes away a student’s ability to choose what they put in their bodies. It also makes the uncomfortable suggestion that accommodation for special interest groups simply is not enough. Apparently, accommodation also involves limiting the freedom of choice for others. I have no problem with Fung providing halal and kosher options, even if it raises the cost of food. As soon as you take away my steak, I know there’s a problem.
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As an out of province student with close ties to Alberta, I also resent the residence council taking aim at one of the key industries that still supports many of my family members.

I lived through the mad cow scare that caused the crash of cattle prices and demand for Canadian beef. Ranchers are the backbone of our country’s cattle industry, an industry that supports thousands across the prairies. Beefless Tuesday creates an unsafe space that alienates everyone supported by Canada’s cattle industry, both directly and indirectly.

Beefless Tuesday is not only offensive, it’s illogical. While farting cows certainly contribute to global warming, methane gas makes up a very small part of all greenhouse gas emissions. While a successful boycott would certainly lead to unemployment and economic collapse for Canada, it won’t substantially help our efforts to reduce emissions. If student politicians were truly committed to improving environmental responsibility on campus, they would be working with administration to find critical solutions. How about advocating for seasonal and local produce or portion options to reduce food waste?

If you go to Fung you have the option of broccoli or no broccoli. Hoping to have a half portion of broccoli that you can pair with a salad? Either bring your elastic waist pants or get ready to waste some food. In the wonderful world of student politics, irrational ideology always overpowers pragmatic solutions. The standard political hack response to complaints such as mine is that a student government is a representative democracy and individual students cannot be consulted on every single decision. While this argument is applicable to municipal, provincial, and federal governments, voter turnout that floats in the single digits, and with the only awareness of student politicians being a smiling poster during campaign season, we can see that this kind of logic is flawed. Representative democracy is little else but a dream. If student politicians want to impose ideologically driven reforms they have the responsibility to include them in their campaign message, or at the very least host a town hall and plebiscite.

The fact that this article is even being published is indicative of what is wrong with the student experience at U of T. Student politicians are the first to point to Simcoe Hall as the source of the crummy student experience at this otherwise topnotch school. Ideologically driven students forcing their special interests upon their peers are equally to blame. Students should be using their positions in office to do some hard thinking on how to build some unity on campus and get the majority of students to care more about the school they are educated within.

Trying to force dietary choices upon students is simply a step in the wrong direction.

Fire at UTM

University of Toronto Missisauga’s Davis Building and Recreation, Athletic and Wellness Centre were evacuated on February 16 after several 911 calls reported heavy smoke coming from the building’s ventilation system. Though the evacuation was successful, two weeks after the incident, most students still remain in the dark about the events of that afternoon.

While contractors were changing the air conditioning pipes at the Davis Building’s fifth floor mechanical room, the vent’s cork insulation caught fire, causing smoke to spread to some classrooms, the main lobby, and the cafeteria.

“Cutting torches were being used to cut the metal pipes in the room […] and knowing that they’re going to generate some heat and potentially [trigger] the alarm repeatedly, we asked the fire security company to disable the building’s alarms until the construction was finished,” explained UTM campus police services manager Len Paris, who was directly involved with the operation.

According to Al Hills, Mississauga fire department platoon chief, two pumpers, one aerial ladder truck, and a total of 17 firefighters were dispatched to the university at approximately 11:29 a.m., three and a half minutes after the first 911 call.

As the fire alarm was off at the time, students were told verbally to evacuate the building and take refuge at the nearby Student Centre.

“It took a long time to remove the smoke from the building [but] everything was done according to [the fire department’s] policies and procedures,” Hills reported.

Fourth-year History major Marcia Soto agreed that the university neglected to give enough information about the incident even though they ensured student safety.

“The Student Centre was packed more than usual and some people told me that it’s because of a fire from a chemical experiment in one of the labs,” she said.

“To this day I am not sure about what happened that afternoon. I didn’t receive any emails during and after the fact, and it was only through the university’s Twitter account that I got a rough idea of what was happening,” said Matt Arias, a third-year Political Science major and one of the first people to post a picture of the scene on Twitter.

When told that construction work caused the accident, Soto and Arias said they wished they had been notified beforehand.

“[UTM] should have at least warned us that there was construction in the building and let us know that it might pose as a fire hazard,” Soto said.

Arias added that “it would have been better if emails were sent informing students about the precautions that the university was taking to ensure [their] safety.”

But according to Paris, UTM holds regular fire drills and has over 80 fire wardens trained to execute fire safety procedures on campus.

To prevent any future accidents, he said that the university is implementing more safety measures.

“We recommended that the contractors use a saw when cutting pipes as it’s a much safer alternative to the torch, and to cut longer lengths of pipes on the roof where it’s not a hazard.”

After the smoke was removed from the building at exactly 1:38 p.m., the fire alarm system was restarted and a health inspector ensured that all food products were safe in the cafeteria.

No injuries or damages were sustained.

To think or not to think

It seems that scientists have known about the differences between the left and right sides of our brains forever. In fact, hemispheric specialization — the idea that each side of our brain is more suited to different functions — was first discovered in the 1960s by Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry. Since then, the popular media has characterized the left hemisphere as our “wise” and analytical side, favouring logic and past experience in decision making. The right — our imaginative side — is less afraid of taking risks, and prefers symbols and images as opposed to facts.

Using these broad distinctions, there’s little doubt that throughout development, children are encouraged to do the type of thinking that occurs on the left side. PhD student Richard Chi and his supervisor, Allan Snyder, from the University of Sydney have been fascinated with the categorical functions of each side of the brain for years. Considering the fact that accident victims who spontaneously experience inhibition to the left side of their brain can develop surprisingly new artistic abilities, they continued to wonder: what if there was a way to deliberately stimulate or inhibit parts of the brain?

This is exactly what Snyder and Chi did. They used a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) — a fancy way of saying that they switched different sides of the brain “on” or “off.” In their study, 60 participants were presented with the same “matchstick arithmetic” problems, requiring them to rearrange matches in the form of Roman numerals to create mathematically true statements.

Each participant was asked to solve a number of math questions, after which they were divided into randomly selected groups to receive varying levels of stimulation on different sides of their brains. Snyder and Chi hypothesized that participants who received stimulation to the right side and simultaneous suppression of the left would solve subsequent questions more rapidly.
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Their results indicated just that. Individuals were three times more likely to solve a problem after right-side stimulation. Interestingly, participants who received both left-side stimulation and right side suppression fared no worse than when they received no stimulation at all. Apparently, we are only set in our ways to a certain extent.

This research, while not exactly novel, does bring up some interesting points. Perhaps our prior beliefs and reality-based judgments, characterized by the left hemisphere, can be pushed aside when it makes more sense to take risks and use our imagination (which is typically the territory of the right hemisphere.) Now, this isn’t to say that our species lacks creativity; our collective resume is filled with some serious credentials. But Snyder and Chi’s work could lead to research on how we can engage different parts of our brains more successfully.

However, it’s all fun and games until the thinking cap comes off. Criticized for jumping to conclusions without controlling for possible false causes of their observations, Snyder and Chi’s experiment has been widely scrutinized for failing to discuss the short-comings of their research, and forgetting to examine the effects on other areas of cognition. The study was branded as “pseudoscience” by writers for the Guardian in the UK, who claimed that Snyder and Chi have created a biased study geared towards popular media in order to increase their exposure.

The original article by Snyder and Chi does, however, state its limitations. In fact the discussion is filled with explanations of the possible shortcomings and misinterpretations of their research. For example, they state that an improvement in performance is likely due to a combination of cognitive mechanisms that result from the interaction of several neural networks. They go on to say that their interpretation can be classified as an “oversimplified caricature” of the inhibition of the left side of the brain.

Despite the controversy, the research certainly gets people thinking. While brain stimulation won’t make you smarter, it will encourage the more dormant parts of your brain to solve problems in a new way. Unfortunately for students, I don’t foresee a time in the near future when a professor will excuse you while you put your “thinking cap” on to get a different perspective on question five during your final exam.

If we’re learning that certain parts of our brains — and in particular the right side — are suppressed in the majority of the population, then perhaps more research can be directed towards determining potential benefits of being able to access both sides on a regular basis. According to Snyder and Chi, it is three times more useful.

Perhaps if more emphasis is placed on nurturing the right side of the brain, educators might think twice about cutting funds for the arts in schools, or branding kids as “smart” because they excel at math or science. Most importantly, if we can encourage equal development of both sides of the brain at an early age, maybe we won’t need a thinking cap to access these parts when we need to.

The right side of my brain is going crazy just thinking of the possibilities.

USMC staff vote to unionize

A group of about 20 faculty and library workers at the University of St. Michael’s College voted to unionize and are awaiting ratification this week.

Although the vast majority of USMC staff are unionized, the group of 20 is an exception due to technicalities in the college’s arrangements with U of T. Michael Attridge, assistant professor in the Faculty of Theology, said the group didn’t feel a need to unionize until the university chose to apply separate standards for the first time.

In May 1974, St. Michael’s, Trinity, and Victoria College — formally titled as universities — were partially incorporated as federated colleges within the Faculty of Arts and Science through a Memorandum of Understanding.

The memorandum comprised most college staff, but excluded St. Michael’s librarians and archivists, and its Faculty of Theology, which had been incorporated separately into the Toronto School of Theology in April 1970. As a result, about 20 staff were paid not by U of T, but by USMC.

The college respected an informal good faith agreement, whereby these non-unionized staff would receive the same salaries and compensation as agreed by the unionized staff.
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In 2005 the provincial University of St. Michael’s College Act changed the college’s governing structure from an internal board, composed of collegium (e.g. division heads and faculty), to the more common model of an external board, consisting of lawyers and business professionals.

“There are lots of benefits to that. That’s the way a university in the twenty-first century works,” said Attridge. “But they didn’t know librarians and theology faculty personally; that minimized our voice.”

Attridge said this lack of a voice became apparent last November.

In March 2010, provincial legislation known as the Restraint Act proposed a two-year freeze in compensation for all non-unionized public service workers. While the 20 staff had an informal bargaining agreement with UTFA, the association didn’t represent them as a recognized trade union under the Labour Relations Act.

An arbitration agreement between the U of T Faculty Association and university administration came out last November, in which a 2.25 per cent across-the-board salary increase was negotiated.

Instead of following its two-decade course of action by granting the same increases as negotiated by the UTFA, Attridge says that USMC told staff four weeks later that they chose to follow the Restraint Act, thus implementing a pay freeze.

“There was no consultation on implementing the financial Restraint Act. In my opinion, the issue is not the 2.25 per cent. We weren’t even consulted and that’s a major departure from how we understood our relationship,” said Attridge. “They hadn’t consulted us on these opinions. We have no memorandum of agreement that they have to consult. It’s only a good faith agreement.

“This exposes a larger issue: we have no say in how the university works. We’re a small group; we’re only about 20. It would not have been an enormous process for [them] to sit down and ask ‘how do you want to talk about this?’”

The group of 20 had an information meeting in late January, followed by a February 17 certification vote asking UTFA to represent them as a trade union. Attridge claimed the vote was unanimous.

The group will have a hearing with Ontario Labour Relations Board this week. In the meantime, UTFA continues to represent the 20 through a non-certified bargaining agreement.

“Faculty and librarians have an enormous amount of appreciation for the University of St. Michael’s College,” said Attridge. “We don’t have the same salaries and benefits as many other universities. People stay here because they love the institution. It actually moved me, how much appreciation [they have] for the university.”

Attridge said the group considered a second option, a memorandum of agreement, but the accord would limit necessary negotiations to compensation, excluding areas like workload.

“This is only bizarre at U of T; no one would normally blink at this,” said Attridge, citing a study that found that 79 per cent of Canadian university faculty were unionized by 2004. He also noted that unionization is consistent with Catholic Church teachings.

Attridge noted that these kinds of labour relations are atypical in a university context.

“Typical unions involve labour organizing against management. In an academic community, these lines of labour and management don’t exist. Many faculty have been appointed to an administrative term for five years. Some go on [but] you could finish and go back to being a regular faculty member.

“There’s no sense of animosity on the part of faculty and librarians toward administration. That has underscored the collegiality for many of us.”

University administration, which tends to decline interview requests surrounding ongoing legal or labour issues, emailed a statement to The Varsity. “The University of St. Michael’s College has advised us that a majority of the eligible St. Michael’s employees who cast ballots voted in favour of the University of Toronto Faculty Association’s application to represent them as a trade union under the Ontario Labour Relations Act.

“If the Ontario Labour Relations Board confirms this vote and certifies UTFA as the bargaining agent, UTFA and the University of St. Michael’s College will negotiate a collective agreement covering the terms and conditions of employment for this group of approximately 20 professors of theology, librarians, and archivists.”