Clubs get funding at emergency UTSU meeting

At an emergency meeting on Dec. 3, the clubs committee of the U of T Students’ Union granted funding to the French Club (EFUT), the U of T Italian-Canadian Association, and the North American Model UN student group.

EFUT, which in November had their budget request tabled, was given $8,000. The club had requested $17,020.64 in their October application. Last year, they received $10,000. Sitelle Cheskey, EFUT’s president, says the club will appeal the decision.

According to Vita Carlino, UTSU’s clubs and events coordinator, EFUT will have to submit a written statement expressing their concerns, which will be addressed once the tabled funding requests are resolved. UTSU warns clubs that if they do submit a statement of appeal, there is the possibility that they will receive no funding at all.

Clubs have expressed dissatisfaction over limited funding. WATCH, a student-run charity that serves children, asked for $500 to help cover costs for their annual holiday dinner at Hart House. UTSU gave them $400 and recommended that they search for a less expensive venue. “We are mostly unhappy with the reason they indicated for not giving us [the funding],” said Fei He, a WATCH member and former president. “What better way to inspire all these inner-city children to go to university or college than to give them a taste of the best at U of T—Hart House.”

The budgeting calendar is a primary concern. Clubs submit budgets to UTSU in October and receive the verdict in November. Rejected clubs were told their budgets would not be reconsidered until January. UTSU awards funding on a 40-30-30 schedule. For clubs that are granted over $2,000, the first 40 per cent of their grant is given immediately, with two remaining instalments of 30 per cent forwarded once clubs submit receipts to UTSU. The schedule effectively gives clubs five months to spend what their applications have budgeted as a year’s worth of money and forces clubs to draw from reserves or pay out of pocket for events in the first semester.

“I’m not an enthusiast [of the funding schedule],” said Mueen Hakak, UTSU’s professional faculties representative and former clubs committee member. “I’ve been a clubs member and I’ve seen that it causes a delay, as clubs find out how much they are going to get very late in the semester. By that time, half of their activities are already done.”

Club leaders echoed the sentiment. “Our biggest problem now is that we’re having trouble reimbursing our executives for the expenses they’ve paid themselves,” Fei He said.

“There needs to be a profound change in the clubs funding process, since we had to fund all of EFUT’s activities out-of-pocket up until now,” said Cheskey. “It is unacceptable for [the students running a club] to have to take such financial risks.”

In an email to The Varsity, UTSU’s VP campus life Danielle Sandhu said she has not heard from any clubs that the budgeting calendar was flawed. “All feedback I have received thus far regarding funding allocations has been positive,” she wrote.

UTSU informed Cheskey that the club’s application was incomplete, as they did not submit a membership list. EFUT maintains that they held back on the information out of consideration for student privacy. Alumni chair and former president Antonin Mongeau said that the clubs committee ignored an invitation to examine membership lists at EFUT’s office.

“EFUT will not likely be able to host all the events we had hoped to,” Cheskey said. “We feel that a 20 per cent cut [in funding] from last year is not consistent with our efforts.” She said EFUT had around 1,300 students on their mailing list last year, and over 1,700 this year.

Hakak said that complaints are of little significance when applications are incomplete. “We have to as clubs make sure that what we do is complete before we can make complaints or point fingers,” said Hakak. “If EFUT was the only club denied because they did not have membership lists, then it would be a problem. From what I can tell, the rules were applied across the board.” The African Students Association also had their funding delayed because of an incomplete membership list.

With the $8,000, EFUT plans to continue with most of their regular programming, which includes a tutoring program, regular movie and pub nights, and conversation clubs for students seeking to polish their French language skills. Among the events that are likely to be cancelled are a large academic conference and a trip to New Orleans.

Body Worlds and The Story of the Heart arrive at the Ontario Science Centre

Did you know that there is such a thing as dying from a broken heart? Termed broken heart syndrome, the condition involves a weakening of the heart muscle triggered by severe emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one. This is just one of many facts about the heart that can be learned at Gunther Von Hagens’ new exhibit, Body Worlds and The Story of the Heart, now open at the Ontario Science Centre.

Four years after the Canadian premiere of Body Worlds II at the Science Centre, Dr. Von Hagens is back with a brand new chapter in his Body Worlds saga. The current exhibit presents an integrated view of the heart using anatomy, cardiology, psychology, and culture to explain how this four-chambered muscle regulates and sustains life.

Through the life-like and dramatic poses of full-body specimens and the detailed presentation of organs and body parts, guests obtain in-depth insight into the structure and function of healthy and unhealthy bodies. These captivating displays use real human bodies that have been preserved through a technique called plastination.
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The organs and whole-body plastinates in the exhibition came from people who generously donated their bodies to Von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany, specifically to be used in Body Worlds exhibitions for educational purposes. Today, more than 10,000 donors have bequeathed their bodies for plastination, 68 of whom are Canadian.

Plastination was developed by Von Hagens in 1977 to enhance the education of medical students. It is a technique that removes water and fat tissues from deceased specimens and replaces them with curable plastic polymers to halt decomposition. Today, it is used at more than 40 medical and dental schools throughout the world as a supplement to anatomical
dissection.

There are four steps to the plastination process: fixation, dehydration, force impregnation in a vacuum, and hardening. The first step entails embalming a body in formaldehyde to halt decomposition. After the necessary dissections, the dehydration step involves placing the specimen in an acetone bath, then exposing it to freezing conditions. This allows the acetone to draw out and replace all the water from the body’s cells. In the third step, the specimen is then placed in a liquid polymer bath, such as silicone rubber, epoxy resin, or polyester. When placed in a vacuum, the acetone in the cells boils at a low temperature. As it evaporates and leaves the cells, it draws the liquid polymer in behind it, leaving a cell filled with liquid plastic. The plastic must then be cured in the last step using gas, heat, or ultraviolet light to give the specimen rigidity and permanence.

Once plastinated, specimens can be manipulated and positioned. These preserved specimens retain their natural structure and are identical to their pre-preservation states, even down to the microscopic level. The new exhibition includes over 200 human specimens including whole-body plastinates, organs, and translucent body slices. Of particular interest are a full sized (15-foot) sliced giraffe (a personal favourite) and a full-body plastinate in a delicate yoga position.

Visitors are provided with profound insight into the human body, health and disease, and the physical ramifications of unhealthy habits and lifestyle choices. The exhibit juxtaposed plastinates depicting healthy bodies against those that deteriorated due to common conditions such as arteriosclerosis, smoking, and obesity. It also provides fascinating displays featuring up-to-date research in cardiology, including preventive care and state of the art treatment options such as artificial hearts and angioplasty techniques.

The exhibit also includes a powerful emotional element that explores the heart’s significance in art, history, and religion. A striking and memorable example is a full body plastinate named “star warrior,” posed in mid-prayer holding a perfectly preserved human heart up to the sky, a poignant image representing the historical and cultural significance of the heart.

Body Worlds and the Story of the Heart is designed to appeal to an extremely diverse audience, from health nuts, to parents with small children wanting to learn more about the importance of healthy life choices, to university students of all disciplines. No previous medical knowledge is required and the exhibit acts as a fascinating aggregate for information and discovery into your own body. One U of T life science student remarked on her experience: “It’s like rereading all your notes on PSL302 [Human Physiology] again, but it’s fun and interesting because there’s no test!”

It is a must-see for anyone with a passing interest in anatomy and the human body. The exhibit inspires a sense of awe at the intricacies of our physiology. The displays motivate visitors to learn more about the human body and empower them to make healthier life choices.

Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds & The Story of the Heart runs until February 28, 2010 and offers a special discounted price for students (with ID). Photos are not allowed.

Migrant workers have right to unionize: protestors

Two activist groups are going to the Supreme Court over unionizing rights for migrant workers.

Justicia for Migrant Workers and the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario presented oral arguments on Dec. 17. The arguments were presented as a part of the ongoing case Fraser vs. Attorney General of Ontario to give Ontario’s 100,000 agricultural workers the right to bargain collectively.

Ontario’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act gives agricultural workers who come to Canada yearly with temporary visas the right to form associations but not to bargain collectively. The Fraser case is a legal challenge to that exclusion.

Justicia’s main organizers are Tzazna Miranda Leal, an undergrad at U of T, and Chris Ramsaroop, a former president of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students at U of T.

Supporters, including 15 U of T students and alumni, travelled to Ottawa to attend the trial. They also demonstrated at the house of Stephen Harper and held a vigil at the Chinese Railroad Monument.

“We were interveners in the case, meaning we were a party to the proceedings. We brought forth arguments relating to the particular experiences of migrant workers,” Ramsaroop stated in an e-mail to The Varsity. Ramsaroop was present for the court proceedings.

Intervention is a legal procedure that allows outside parties to join and contribute to ongoing litigation. Justicia was included in the intervention because of the organization’s affiliation with migrant workers.

After being awarded intervener status, Justicia and IAVGO jointly raised nearly $5,000 to cover the cost of buses, food, and demonstration materials. Legal representation was pro bono.

Justicia argued that uncertain employment compounded by the lack of immigration status denies migrant workers the ability to exercise their rights.

Arguments that Justicia and IAVGO developed were delivered by Selwyn Pieters, who told the court that the current model of labor relations in Ontario is insufficient to protect workers and results in systematic discrimination.

Ramsaroop said arguments also sought to capitalize on the history of discrimination in Canada. “We wanted to show how history has repeated itself through the exploitation faced by migrant workers,” he said.

Full proceedings of the Fraser case are expected take between six months and a year.

A public vigil will be held for four migrant construction workers on Thursday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m, at 2757 Kipling Avenue. They died on Christmas Eve when the swing scaffolding they were working on broke in two pieces, plummeting them over 13 stories to the street below. With files from Naushad Ali Husein.

Crime and news in brief

Crime on campus

Campus police kept busy in December, investigating crimes from theft to arson.

There were 40 counts of trespassing, 32 thefts, 19 emergency calls, and one report of elevator entrapment. Out of thefts reported, six laptops were stolen.

There were several reports of mischief. On Dec. 14, campus police investigated damage inflicted on a door at the Graduate Students’ Union pub and damage to a vending machine.

On Dec. 1, campus police responded to a complaint of a suspicious package at 222 College St., which turned out to be a charging battery pack. They also investigated a report of arson at the Koffler Student Centre.

Campus police responded to two complaints of indecent acts, one at St. George and Hoskin, and the other at St. George and College.

The St. Basil’s Church parking lot on Bay St. had the highest number of reported incidents, followed by Robarts and the Bahen Centre.—Nikki Rozario

College students fear strike

A strike has been a possibility ever since talks between Colleges Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which represents 90,000 teachers, broke down in December. The union has set a strike vote for Jan. 13.

Mature students enrolled in Ontario’s Second Career program fear potential campus strikes across Ontario.

The program offers training and financial support to laid-off workers, and has approved 21,000 people since 2008. Now many of these people are worried about their situation should the strike take place.

“A lot of us, after getting laid off and going through all that uncertainty, looked to the education system as a place of safety,” said Don DeSchutter, 44, who is in his final year of a human resources program at Fanshawe College in London, Ont.

“People who are getting ready to get into second careers may not be able to do that now, [and] their life is in the balance.”—Ryan Tuzyk

Source: Canadian Press

Language changes how Canadians see university

A national poll of Canadians over whether a university degree is a minimum requirement for success shows a wide gap between French- and English-speakers.

The survey of 1,500 Canadians found that fewer than 20 per cent of French speakers between the ages of 18 and 24 said a degree was required, whereas 40 per cent of the English group maintained it was. Notably, more than two-thirds of respondents whose first language is neither French nor English agreed that a degree is necessary for success.

Michel Perron, a professor at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, pointed out that the results of the survey may be affected by the importance placed on technical degrees by many in the province. In a poll conducted this spring for the Ménard group, when college training was included as an option, nearly 90 per cent of respondents said post-secondary education was important.

Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, worries that there will be a growing incongruity between the groups unless action is taken to change the attitude that education is insignificant to success.—Carolyn Arnett

Source: Globe and Mail

Separation of church and philosophy

Plans at the University of Winnipeg to merge the philosophy, classics, and religious studies departments into a singular humanities department have been postponed. Dean of Arts David Fitzpatrick formally revealed the amalgamation plan early this November, arguing that amalgamating the departments would effectively save the school close to $30,000 in its Arts budget. He maintained that each program would still remain a separate unit within the merger to maintain its academic integrity. However, there was immediate backlash from the would-be affected communities, and the project has been moved back for at least another academic year. Nevertheless, students and faculty continue to express concern over the recent disintegration of the philosophy department in particular, and what the merger could mean for the department’s future at the university.—Gina Shin

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Agassi opens up

Pulling an all-nighter the night after having finished my last exam of the fall term may seem slightly unconventional, but stopping to put down tennis icon Andre Agassi’s autobiography Open is an even crazier thing to do. Having finally been granted the liberty of picking my own reading topics, I was excited to dive into the misunderstood world of Agassi and was grateful that I would have something to occupy my time on my long trek home for the holidays. The book was finished before I even boarded my plane; it’s just that good.

Open is an inspiring story about Agassi’s life on the court and his personal journey through torment and adversity to find himself. The book is told in a flashback of Agassi’s life that he experiences after a historic match in the 2006 U.S. Open. It’s written in the present tense from Agassi’s perspective at each time in his life.

Agassi recounts stories and matches from decades ago, accounting for every detail. His descriptions are so vivid and nearly photographic that while reading you feel as though you are there, experiencing Agassi’s life right along with him. You usually find yourself wishing that you could do something to help him.

Agassi, the only man to have ever won a “golden slam”—all four Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic Gold Medal—admits in his book that he actually hates tennis. A shocking confession, considering his career choice, but we learn through his stories that he didn’t have much of a choice at all. He lives a life full of contradiction as he hates the game but drives himself to succeed for money.

As a young boy, Agassi is forced by his violent and aggressive father to play tennis as he sees it as being the shortest route to the American Dream. His father compromises all aspects of Andre’s young life in order to push him into tennis—even forcing him to skip school and ingest speed at a young age to enhance his play. At the age of 13, Agassi is stripped away from his best friend Perry and is sent to Florida to attend a tennis academy that he describes as nothing short of a prison camp. In Florida, Agassi struggles with school and begins to rebel by changing his image, drinking, and smoking pot. Being such a talented tennis player, Agassi is able to wheedle the head of the school, Nick Bollettieri, to let him drop out of his academic classes in grade nine. At this point, there is no option other than tennis. There is no turning back.

Agassi’s story continues into adulthood where his journey to find himself and create a personal identity begins. He depicts the continuous inner turmoil that he faces with his hairstyle, admitting that his signature “flow” was actually a head-piece, as well as his battle to play on with his treacherous back pain due to being born with spondylolisthesis. He describes all of the important and influential people in his life, including coaches, family, competitors, ex-wife Brooke Shields, and even Barbra Streisand and how they all either helped or added to his constant struggle and downfall. His trainer, Gil, is given the role of a father figure and is depicted as the hero in Agassi’s life.

After falling into depression, Agassi struggles on tour and is caught by the Association of Tennis Professionals for his use of crystal meth. After fabricating a story about his drug use, Agassi is given a second chance and makes a tremendous comeback, not only on the court but in his personal life as well. He is finally able to find peace through his wife Steffi Graf, his children, and his foundation school in Nevada, which raises money for underprivileged kids and gives them the education that he was so unjustly robbed of as a youth.

Open appeals to tennis fans and players alike, as Agassi vividly recounts numerous matches and offers up portraits of other star players that he encountered during his long career. Any competitive tennis player will be able to understand the solidarity and loneliness that Agassi depicts on the court, but all readers, tennis buffs or not, will be able to relate to the personal struggles that Agassi faces while trying to establish his identity and purpose in life.

The writing by ghostwriter J. R. Moehringer, is impeccable, and a huge factor in the books success. Every sentence is descriptive, to the point, creative, and often times funny. I often caught myself smiling while reading along because of the truly outstanding craftsmanship of sentences and how the stories are perfectly sewn together.

Tennis fan or not, this book is a must read—a masterpiece even, and I suggest picking it up before the semester gets heavy. Reading Week is much too far away to wait for this one.

Freshly pressed: So this is the new year

Basia Bulat—Heart of My Own
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In September 2007, Basia Bulat was still playing tunes from her debut album Oh My Darling on U of T’s Back Campus. Within a year, however, she’d been short-listed for the Polaris Prize, signed by Secret City Records (home of Patrick Watson and Miracle Fortress), and showered with critical acclaim. Luckily there’s no trace of a sophomore slump on Heart of My Own as Bulat explores new sounds while maintaining her unique voice both sonically and lyrically.

Bulat’s once-trademark ukulele has been eschewed in favour of more tunes driven by autoharp, lending a sense of optimism to “Run” and creating optimal ambience on “If It Rains.” Heart of My Own also shows more of a Celtic influence, notably on the rollicking pace of opening track “Go On” and the album’s gorgeously deliberate title track, both of which provide a sense of meandering through lush highland landscapes.

The most energetic songs, however, remain the true stand-outs: early blog offering “Gold Rush” is endlessly replayable while “If Only You” benefits from a lighthearted, almost jaunty trumpet line. Coupled with a carryover of Bulat’s proven songwriting prowess—her plaintive confessionals are rife with addresses to a yet-unknown “you”—this album provides an optimal balance of experimentation with the voice we’ve come to love. Catch her CD pre-release on January 16 at Trinity-St. Paul’s Church. The only thing that could make this album better would be to hear it performed in such an acoustically-appropriate space.—Shoshana Wasser

Katy Perry—Katy Perry Unplugged
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Has any other zeitgeist singer managed to pander as egregiously as Ms. Perry (as she prefers to be called these days)? Beginning with “I Kissed a Girl,” the album starts unexpectedly with a jarring rearrangement of the eponymous hit. It’s so different I am left wondering if I accidentally opened up a lounge song that came with Windows Media Player.

The joke’s on me. This isn’t some random jam band, but rather Perry’s desperate attempt at getting cred. And who can blame her? Who wouldn’t feel insecure if their only claim to fame was a faux gay anthem that served as the impetus for straight girls to make out at res parties?

Trudging along from one clumsy re-imagining to another, the songs struggle to retain the qualities that made them hits in the first place. The soaring melodies of hit ballad “Thinking of You” don’t translate well into lounge reinterpretation and are underwhelmed by Perry’s over-reliance on vocal histrionics beyond her pay grade. The most blatant vocal misstep occurs on “Brick by Brick” where she occasionally veers into feeble Bjork imitations. (These come off as well as Bjork homeland, Iceland, fared during the current recession.)

Katy Perry Unplugged comes in at a meagre seven tracks, omitting most notably her best song, “Hot ’N’ Cold.” Conveniently, the DVD component of the CD comes with 10 videos of live tracks and an exclusive interview. I guess EMI and MTV understand how important the visual component is to the Katy Perry experience.—JP Kaczur

No rest for the wicked

While the rest of the world prepared for the launch of a brand-new decade, the University of Toronto hosted the 19th edition of their National Invitational Tournament at the Athletic Centre from Dec. 28 to 30.

The University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, Winnipeg Wesman, Brock Badgers, Dalhousie Tigers, and the Ryerson Rams all joined the host Varsity Blues in the six-team tourney.

Dec. 28

On Monday, the Badgers and Wesmen opened the tournament. The Wesman got off on the right foot by taking the first set 25-20. Brock then settled down taking the next three sets 25-18, 25-22, and 25-23, and the match.

Player of the Match Erin Mercer of the Badgers led the way for her team with 15 kills, three solo blocks, and 13 digs. For Winnipeg, southpaw Ariel Smith matched Mercer with 15 kills of her own to her match-high 16 digs. Also worth mention is the Wesman’s Lauren Sears, who gave the Badgers headaches all match behind the service line, finishing with five aces in the losing cause.

In the only other match on Monday, it was the battle of the colours: the hometown Varsity Blues versus the Varsity Reds.

It looked like the Reds were about to blow the Blues out of water with a three-set sweep after taking the first two sets, 25-18 and 29-27.

However, storming back into the match with a dominating 25-16 third set, comeback was clearly in the cards for the Blues as they calmly took the final two sets 25-21 and 15-10, respectively.

Karlee Diesing led the Blues attack with an astounding 18 kills and two aces, while Heather Bansley nearly matched Diesing’s numbers with another vintage performance thanks to her 17 kills and three aces.

The Reds’ six-foot-three behemoth, Barb Vriends did most of the damage for the east-coasters, finishing the match with 12 kills and six blocks.

Dec. 29

The Varsity Reds and the Ryerson Rams started Tuesday’s 12-hour volleyball marathon.

The Reds, clearly not happy with their collapse on Monday, swept through the Rams in almost an hour, 25-20, 26-24, 25-20, to exact a little revenge on the other Toronto team in the tournament.

Once again, Vriends led the Reds’ attack with nine kills and seven blocks. Leah Saar did her best to keep her Rams in it with 10 kills, one ace, and seven digs.

Game two was an all-Ontario match-up with the Blues taking on the Badgers. Blues head coach Kristine Drakich elected to rest most of her starters for this match, and it clearly showed on the scoreboard.

The Blues’ substitutes simply could not stop the Badgers offence. In a blink of the eye, the match was over with the Badgers taking it, 25-16, 25-17, and 25-10.

Rookie Rebecca Crosier led the Blues’ attack with seven kills and an ace, while Kristina Valjas, injured all season until the NIT, chipped in with three kills of her own.

Brock’s Shannon Anderson topped all Badgers with 11 kills and three aces.

Game three featured the NIT’s other east coast team, the Dalhousie Tigers, making their tourney debut against the Wesmen.

Despite getting blown out in the third set, Winnipeg killed the match in four (25-23, 25-18, 14-25, 25-21) giving the Tigers a rude welcome to the tournament.

The high-flying Smith led the way again for the Wesmen with an amazing eight aces to go with 14 kills and eight digs.

Lousie Facca played great all-around ball for the Tigers, finishing the match with 13 kills and 24 digs.

Game four saw the Badgers looking to go perfect for the NIT in their third and final match against the Reds.

It didn’t look good at all for the Badgers after the first set, falling 25-11 before either team had even broken a sweat.

That debacle of a set clearly awoke a sleeping monster as the Badgers dominated the rest of the way, winning the match in four sets (11-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-22).

Mercer took home her second Player of the Match honours thanks to her 14-kill, four-block, two-ace performance. Tanya Paulin had a stellar match for the Reds with 12 kills and six blocks of her own.

The final game on Tuesday had the hosts taking on the Wesmen at centre court. This time Drakich went with her starters and got the results she wanted. A clean three-set sweep over the ladies from Winnipeg (25-14, 25-21, 25-19) clearly displayed what the Blues are capable of.

Valjas, looking stronger every match, led the Blues offensively with 12 kills (tied with Bansley) and three aces and blocks.

Dec. 30

From the Varsity Blues to the Varsity Reds, the Wesman barely had any time to catch their breath when they were on the court again Wednesday facing UNB on the final day of the NIT.

Once again Winnipeg took it on the chin getting swept out of the tournament 25-22, 25-19, and 25-21.

On a positive note, Smith turned in another solid performance with seven kills and 10 digs for the Wesman. Rebecca Glancy and Tanya Paulin powered the Reds offence with 10 and nine kills respectively on the match.

The grand finale of the NIT featured the Varsity Blues and the Tigers.

After dropping the first set 25-21, the Blues sent their fans home happy by winning a tight second set 25-23 and then cruising through the third and fourth sets by identical 25-16 scores.

Bansley and Valjas continued their two-headed monster attack with 21 combined kills. They also got solid support from Crosier’s six aces and one block and Lauren Willoughby also came up big with three aces and three blocks.

Raeesa Lalani had nine kills and three aces, while Kirstie Shephard had eight kills, three blocks, and nine digs in a losing effort.

The matches start counting again beginning Saturday, Jan. 9 when the Blues resume their OUA schedule by hosting the Ottawa Gee-Gees at 4 p.m.

SCSU fracas over top job

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union has a new interim president after much debate at an emergency board meeting on Monday, Jan. 4. VP external Amir Bashir is now at the helm, replacing VP academics Aisha Khaja.

Zuhair Syed is SCSU president in name only—he was removed from all presidential duties on Dec. 18, receiving a tier 3 censure from the board of directors for “his inaction in representing the student interest as the President & CEO of the SCSU.” Syed told The Varsity that he is currently speaking to board members to come up with a compromise and get his duties back.

Syed admitted to skipping meetings for various governing bodies and not producing reports, but contested other allegations. He also denies allegations from two board members who say he threatened them.

Syed will keep his pay and title unless 1,000 students petition for his impeachment. As of Jan. 6, there are 511 signatures in an online petition to remove Syed as president. Campaigners for his impeachment have also collected signatures at the Student Centre.

The allegations

The tier 3 motion to remove Syed’s duties was brought forth by Imran Khan, the chairman of the SCSU board of directors, after he investigated several allegations on a Facebook group accusing Syed of neglecting his presidential duties.

Khan learned from UTSC admin that after Syed’s second presidential term started, he only attended one out of four Academic Committee meetings, two out of eight Governing Council meetings, and has been consistently late for Council of Student Services meetings. Syed is required to present a report on every board meeting; Khan said that prior to Dec. 18, Syed’s most recent report was on Aug. 21. Khan also said Syed did not carry out town hall forums planned for the fall semester.

The allegation that Syed failed to attend the Remembrance Day ceremony was not corroborated. Aisha Khaja, VP academics, was chosen to attend the ceremony instead.

“In no way or form am I denying [the above mentioned] allegations and I as a president apologize for it,” said Syed. He said he neglected these duties because he was busy with big projects, such as opening a new restaurant after campus eatery Bluff’s was shut down in February 2009. Syed also cited numerous meetings about the Pan Am Games athletic facility to be built on campus.

“[Apart from those projects], I took on all duties of [the VP campus life] when he was out of work for about a month and a half [due to illness]. It has been difficult juggling big projects so I sort of left out other things,” added Syed.

Responding to the allegation of insufficient office hours, Syed said that he fulfilled the 35 office hours per week that were required of him. Fatih Kurt, VP human resources, said Syed is “putting in more than the recommended number of hours because of his work load.” Syed also said two assistants were in the office to take messages when he wasn’t available.

Khan said Syed did not carry out the Exam De-stressors program, where the union gives out refreshments during exam time. Syed responded that such events and town hall forums are new additions that he came up with, and are not essential.

Syed also denies the accusation from other board members that he has been smoking shisha in the SCSU office. “Shisha has a distinct smell, so if I was smoking it in the office the police would have smelled it and there is no report stating that I have participated in illegal activity,” he said.

The power handover

VP academics Aisha Khaja took on the duties of the president from Dec. 18 to Jan. 4. Humanities director Maryann Raby raised a motion to replace Khaja with Bashir, pointing to a conflict of interest between Syed and Khaja because of a personal altercation between the two.

Khaja alleges that Syed threatened her on Dec. 13 in the Scarborough campus library after seeing that she had joined a Facebook group advocating for his removal as president and had invited others to the group.

An excerpt of Khaja’s statement in the Dec. 14 minutes of the SCSU board meeting reads, “After what happened on [Dec. 13], I am afraid to come to work. I want it to be publicly known that I will lead [Syed’s] impeachment. No apology will stop me from making me feel scared. I now have to walk around campus with a walkie-talkie connected to the campus police because I don’t feel safe.” Khaja says she has filed a police report and that she will only meet Syed with another exec president present or through email.

Khaja later said she no longer plans to lead the impeachment and that the decision should be made by the student body.

The board fiercely argued the motion. “I am not given the opportunity [to take on presidential duties] because I was threatened and I spoke up,” Khaja said.

Khan also alleges that he was threatened by Syed but did not go to the police or take the threat seriously. Syed apologized for his unprofessional tone during his altercation with Khaja and Khan, but denies threatening anyone.

Prior to the tier 3 censure, Syed had received three tier 1 censures, which are verbal reprimands for absence in meetings and failing to produce reports. He also received a tier 2 censure on Dec. 14 that ordered him to write an apology letter to Khan and Khaja for the incidents in the library. He has not written the letter.

“[Syed] should have never been president in the first place,” said David Leaman, a fourth-year UTSC student. “It’s a tragedy that [the SCSU] is an organization that takes a lot of money from [students] and spends it on salaries for people who don’t do their jobs.”

“[The SCSU] does a lot of good that no one knows about,” said Jon Mandrozos, a sixth-year student who led a sit-in at Bluff’s last February to challenge Syed over what Mandrozos and others saw as mismanagement of the student restaurant. Mandrozos said he would like more transparency, but added that he appreciates the SCSU’s effort in improving wireless access on campus.

“I think that Zuhair has some flaws […] but I also think that [there] were no prior warnings of the tier 3 and that wasn’t really done except for the chair’s warnings,” said Bashir, the new interim president. “As a fellow executive, I think he was doing his job.”

Bashir said he plans to hold more town halls, to talk to critics of SCSU, and to ask for suggestions on how the union can improve.

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