The Dark Side Of The Universe

It starts with Einstein

Albert Einstein is known by most for the equation E = mc2. Although the equation is not entirely his own —he borrowed ideas of mass-energy equivalence from Friedrich Hasenöhrl and Henri Poincaré—he was the first to work out the idea of mass-energy equivalence in light of the theory of relativity. E = mc2 means that any amount of mass has an amount of energy that is its equal, and vice versa. After Einstein, mass and energy are different forms of the same thing.

Predicted by Einstein’s general relativity theory, the observation of light bending under the force of gravity is the best proof yet of the existence of that mysterious stuff known as dark matter.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius— and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”
—Albert Einstein

Fear of the dark

Dark matter is described as having an unknown composition and observable only through indirect means. The reason that scientists cannot directly see dark matter is that it does not reflect or give off enough electromagnetic radiation (electricity, visible light, radio waves, etc.) to be detected with current technology. It would be easy to dismiss dark matter as a needle-in-a-haystack exercise if it weren’t for one startling detail—it is estimated that only four per cent of the total energy and mass of the universe is the visible type. The remaining 96 per cent is a combination of unseen dark matter and dark energy.

This notion of an indirectly identifiable force that makes up a vast majority of the universe borders on the philosophical. If we can’t prove directly that it exists, is it even there? There are many reasons to believe it does exist. Ironically enough, they have to do with how this invisible dark matter and energy affect visible matter.

Calculations on the Fritz

Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss astrophysicist working out of Caltech in 1933, offered up the fi rst evidence of the existence of dark matter. He estimated the mass of the Coma cluster of galaxies using the observed motion of the galaxies on the edge of this cluster. After comparing the value he obtained to another value gauged by counting the number of galaxies in the cluster and its relative brightness, a surprising result surfaced— the mass of the cluster estimated using the first method was 400 times greater than the value given by the second method. Zwicky reasoned that there had to be some form of invisible matter that was providing enough mass (and therefore gravity) to hold the giant galaxy cluster together.

Further study of galaxies yielded the galactic rotation curve, which predicts the velocity of rotation of stars around a galaxy’s centre based on their distance from that centre. Using only visible matter, the observed values do not match up against predicted values. This again suggests that there may be dark matter that produces greater-than forecast gravitational forces and is the source of the discrepancy.

Number one with a Bullet

Dark matter has been one of the biggest unsolved problems in astrophysics— and perhaps in all of science— from the moment it was first described. Last year, some of the best evidence to date of its existence was published in the Astrophysical Journal, in which Marusa Bradac of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology revealed her findings in her research paper, “A direct empirical proof of the existence of dark matter”. Bradac studied a collision between two galactic clusters that occurred 150 million years ago, known as the Bullet Cluster. Because the different types of matter in the clusters exhibited distinct behaviour during the collision, it offers a convenient instance to study those different types separately.

The dark matter component of this astronomical collision was detected using a process known as gravitational lensing. When light from a far away and highly luminous object (for example, a quasar) bends around an object with a large mass (such as a galaxy), it creates a gravitational lens: what looks to an observer is on the other side of the galaxy as a ring surrounding the quasar or as multiple distorted copies of the object, depending on the positioning. Such gravitational lensing happened to objects behind the collision of the Bullet cluster, but no visible mass source could be seen to account for the bending light. The researchers in the study concluded that dark matter was the guilty party.

There’s a hole in my universe dear liza

As if things weren’t complicated enough, scientists recently found what they describe as a “hole in the universe.” The area is almost one billion light years across and contains nothing—no galaxies, stars or, as far as they can tell, dark matter. When scanning the skies for cosmic microwave background radiation (leftover noise from the Big Bang that gave birth to the universe) using the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite, the University of Minnesota team led by Lawrence Rudnick found a “cold spot”. Upon closer investigation using the Very Large Array radio telescope, the team found there was literally nothing there. Scientists were completely surprised at the find, as no void that large was ever expected to exist. No one has any possible explanation for the phenomenon at this point in time.

WIMPs versus MACHOs

One of the most frustrating aspects of dark matter is that we are currently unable to detect it directly using current technology. If scientists were able to determine the subatomic composition of dark matter in laboratories, its behaviour in far off environments might be better understood. Conclusions regarding sub-atomic dark matter particles using data gleaned from galaxies millions of light years away may be leaps of faith.

A commonly held view of dark matter is that it is made up of atypical elementary particles (particles unlike electrons, protons or neutrons). Some examples include weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) and sterile neutrinos that do not interact with other particles using any fundamental interactions. Since gravitational, electromagnetic, strong or weak interactive forces cannot be measured from these hypothetical atypical particles, finding them becomes a seriously daunting task.

A theory to help explain the missing- matter problem lies in the figurative opposite of the tiny WIMP: a massive compact halo object (MACHO). These objects are comprised of typical matter (known as baryonic matter), but emit no detectable radiation and coast through space as free agents, not tied to any solar system. Neutron stars, black holes and brown dwarfs can potentially fall under this category. The foremost problem with this theory is that there simply isn’t enough typical matter in the universe to make up the gravitational effects felt by dark matter without seriously changing the relative abundances of the elements. There may still be some MACHOs that remain undetected and exert gravitational forces, but they cannot account for all the mass attributed to dark matter

For sale: increasing galactic real estate

Another piece of the puzzle lies with what is now known about the structure of the universe and, once again, Einstein. He believed that the universe was neither expanding nor contracting, but was in stable equilibrium. In order to reconcile this idea with his general relativity equations, he introduced the cosmological constant known as lambda. Famously, he later said that introducing this constant was “the biggest blunder of my life.”

It was Edwin Hubble, after whom the incredibly useful Hubble space telescope is named, that first found evidence that the universe is expanding. When he compared the distances of galaxies from Earth, he found that the galaxies farther away were moving at a quicker pace. Not only is the universe expanding, it is doing so at an accelerating pace.

History has been kind to Einstein in the end, as some astrophysicists believe that his constant, lambda, is in fact approximately equal to the value of dark energy. This dark energy is believed to be driving the expansion of the universe, since through Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence, a given amount of energy would have a certain amount of gravity associated with it. Dark energy is a formidable force as it is estimated to make up 74 per cent of the mass of the known universe.

There are always alternatives

Progress is being made on the subjects of dark matter and dark energy, but clearly there is still much to learn. Alternatives to the theory of dark matter and its exertion of gravitational force propose that dark matter may not exist; instead, it may be that we simply do not adequately understand the workings of gravity. Reconciling these modified models with Einstein’s widely-accepted relativity framework has proven complicated.

It will most likely be a very long time until the missing mass of the universe is fully described. Perhaps another genius of Einstein’s calibre is the necessary catalyst. Or perhaps an accidental discovery in the realm of particle physics will be the key. What is certain is that dark matter and dark energy are two of the greatest puzzles ever faced by the scientific community. By unravelling its complicated web, incredible discoveries—maybe an infinite energy source or the ability to harness gravity for near lightspeed space travel—would no doubt be the next step. The future will be dark and that may not be a bad thing.

Quirky courses

With Chester Brown’s historical graphic novel Louis Riel selling more than 20,000 copies, Alison Bechdel’s groundbreaking work Fun Home becoming Time’s Book of the Year and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis adapted into an awardwinning animated film, it seems the time is ripe for the academic community to embrace graphic novels as a mainstream subject of serious study.

This year U of T’s English department at St. George Campus debuts a course surveying the graphic novel medium, touching such varied topics as travel, religion, war, faith and mental disease. Sure to be up for discussion: comics as a appropriate platform for social criticism; the popularity of autobiography as the subject of graphic novels; and the controversy between the two terms comic books and graphic novels among fans and authors alike.

Among the required texts for this course are Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and Craig Thompson’s Blankets the former a definitive guide to deciphering the format of graphic novels and the latter an acclaimed example of the medium’s capacity to express deep themes.

The Graphic Novel is taught by Professors Andrew Lesk and Jeff Parker in both the fall and winter semesters at University College and Sid Smith.

Still feeling the blues

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the men’s football team lost another game, this time falling in their home opener 42-17 against Waterloo. The Blues have been receiving headlines of late for all the wrong reasons with major publications like the Star, the Sun, and the Globe and Mail shooting zingers at the team’s expense. With Monday’s loss the team’s losing streak now stands at 42 games. Over a five year period, that’s 2,150 days, for those keeping score.

While the team may tire of being a punch line for more than a few campus one-liners, both coaches and players remain diplomatic towards their critics.

“We’re no joke,” said head coach Steve Howlett, “but at the same time we’re not aiming to prove anything to anybody. We have to focus on what we have to do and just stick with that.”

When asked about the infamous ‘streak’ of 42 losses, the coach suddenly became serious.

“The ‘streak’ has nothing to do with this team, and everything to do with external perceptions and expectations from people who aren’t close to the situation. I choose to live in the present and go from there.”

At present the Blues prepare for a Saturday showdown with the third ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees. Ottawa led the OUA with 7-1 record last season and defeated Toronto soundly in their only meeting, 59-23. The Gee-Gees will be a tough team to beat coming off a 31-23 win over the Guelph Gryphons in their season opener, but Coach Howlett remains optimistic

“They’re the team to beat in the conference,” said Howlett, “but we played very well against them last year. We were neck and neck with them for three quarters then let it get away from us in the fourth. I’ll be happy to get the same type of effort from our guys this time around, without the fourth quarter meltdown. If we can sustain our drives and the defense is good then we should be competitive.”

If the streak is going to end this weekend the team will need a more complete effort than the one they showed on Monday. Against the Warriors, the Blues had the edge in net offence (461-457), yards passing (398-349) and first downs (27- 17). But they also led in fumbles (4-0) and penalties (20-15). That careless play really cost them in the second quarter when Waterloo took a 24-0 lead due, in part, to two majors on UofT fumbles.

In the second half Andrew Gillis, coming in for injured quarterback Dave Hamilton, gave the team a bit of a spark. Gillis was the Blues player of the game registering 243 passing yards at a 15-29 completion rate. He also finished with 49 yards rushing and set up nicely both Mark Stintson’s touchdowns. Unfortunately, it was too little too late.

The Blues are fielding 19 new players including Gillis who is in his first year on the team. Not having been around for any of the five losing seasons, he remains positive and optimistic which can only help the process. Stintson said cheerfully, “I know the program will turn around because there’s nowhere to go but up. The wins will come and then people will have to find something else to make fun of other than Toronto.”

In defence of the sleeping elephant

Somehow, over the course of the last six decades, America has evolved into the world’s rhetorical whipping boy. Negative opinions about the United States abound, even domestically. Whether discussing the government, economic system, or the everyday lives of its citizens, the country has become a symbol to many of all that is wrong with humanity.

Although some of this criticism is probably warranted, America’s detractors often exhibit an arrogance that unfairly belittles many of the country’s great contributions to the world, especially in the realm of culture. And I’m not talking about the New York theatre scene here, or Mark Twain either. I’m talking about mass-market, middle-class popular culture, the kind so often derided for its lack of sophistication.

In Canada, we have an entire bureaucracy dedicated to defending us from the “threat” of American cultural exports. The Europeans too, obsessed with their own histories, carefully protect their aristocratic culture from the “low” culture of the New World masses. Many Americans have themselves bought into this myth of cultural inferiority.

I recently came back from a road trip to the northeast United States. After staying in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, while taking in numerous baseball games and a wonderful trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I came to a much different conclusion.

Baseball and rock n’ roll are rich cultural enterprises, with deep histories and a global outreach. Otherwise known as the National Pastime, professional baseball has been around since the 19th century and continues to be an important aspect of American life. While sitting in a sold out, 85-year-old Yankee Stadium, I could only imagine the millions of people before me who had sat down with a hotdog and beer and witnessed the defining moments of one of the greatest sports franchises the world has ever seen.

In Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I explored the complex web of music that is rock n’ roll. From the early influences of gospel, blues, and jazz to the emergence of funk, punk, alternative, and hip hop, American popular music has reflected the country’s diversity and defined generations, while constantly reinventing itself along the way.

Although baseball and rock music are in many ways uniquely American, they have both become important aspects of global culture that have shaped, and been shaped, by the rest of the world.

Baseball, for example, was heavily influenced by British cricket. Today, much of the world has fallen in love with the game. In Latin America, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, two very anti-American leaders, are avid baseball fans. In Asia, professional baseball leagues are producing many talented players that are increasingly making inroads in the United States.

As for rock and roll, some of its roots can be traced to music brought over by African slaves, and since its emergence in the mid 20th century, it has been in a constant cultural interplay with European, especially British, music. American blues influenced the Beatles, who in turn shaped American rock in the 1960s. Since then, its been a musical ping-pong match with bands like Led Zeppelin and Metallica, the Strokes and the Arctic Monkeys playing off one another, pushing themselves to greater musical heights.

Contrary to being a disease spread by imperialists, American culture has intrinsic value, best shown by the way people around the world embrace and add to it. In fact, labelling it simply as “American” ignores the role it has had in defining the identities of millions, if not billions of individuals.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw on some Green Day and watch the Jays game.

The Motorcycle Diaries

“The best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism—and the best journalists have always known this” – Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

It was late August. I had been planning all summer to get my motorcycle level two license but had largely spent the time procrastinating, plagued by sleepless nights and reckless drinking which was definitely contrary to the process. But it was late August, as I said, and I knew I had to complete at least one thing on my summer ‘to do’ list and—let’s be realistic—I wasn’t going to learn French in a week. So I turned to the page labeled “summer goals” in my notebook, between pages containing some demoralizing financial statements and hack poetry which I probably composed at 5 o’clock in the morning in some altered state of awareness and decided that I needed to ride a wild hog before labour day—or die trying. Over the years I’ve found you learn a lot about yourself at five o’clock in the morning, if you can remember any of it. My main method is just jotting down whatever I figure out, and then trying to make sense of it in the morning. The problem with this is that the words end up looking like hieroglyphics or some illegible cipher. It’s basically like trying to interpret and analyze a dream and after some quick consideration decided that I was unwilling to subject my burning desire to ride a motorcycle to anything close to Freudian analysis—lest I figure out something I didn’t intend to.

So, by 8 a.m. on Monday morning I had to be down at the Docks for my first day at the Rider Training Institute (RTI for short). Seeing as how 8 a.m. had been my bed time for most of the summer, I was forced to get up from some half-trance state which was more like a glazed over reverie than actual sleep. I made some coffee, which seemed pointless since I had just popped some combination of sedatives and tranquilzers, having alternated some days between Ativam and Robax, just stopping short of popping valium in concocting my pharmaceutical trail-mix combinations. Still it did not cure my insomnia a bit nor did a stiff belt of Vodka which my best friend assured me was an ancient Russian remedy that had been in his family for generations.

It was nearly 8 o’clock when I called a cab, knowing full well I was in no physical condition to make it down there under my own physical power, but having shelled out the 400 dollars or so to take the course in the first place I resigned my fate to higher powers and hopped inside. The day was far more grueling than I could ever have imagined. I could hear Raul Duke’s fictive voice echoing in my head having watched that Fear and Loathing movie for a 58th time: “God please give me a few more high speed hours before you drop the hammer!”

Unlike Duke I was without a Doctor Gonzo to share in my ‘loathing,’ having been so unceremoniously ditched in my quest by my friend with the Vodka morning breath….

The Taxi arrived at 8’oclock on the dot which meant that I was already late. Not good, considering the pass/fail nature of the days that were ahead. I sat in the cab trying to avoid small talk to no avail, a disappointing turn of events because I really needed the time to brush up on my road rules. “What’s going on at the docks?”, my chatty cabby Amir inquired. I recalled that Cirque du Soleil had just debuted their new show nearby, hoping he would take the hint and just let me study. But he noticed the book spread a top my lap, forcing me to reveal my true intentions. Motorcycles. A quick, perverted grin lept to his lips. “A ha! Girls… they love the motorcycles, you know… lots of power between the legs, right? Right?” Great. Really insightful buddy. Of all the cabbies in Toronto they had to send me an amateur Freudian. I dove back into the rule of the road.

By quarter to nine I had made it to the RTI more than a half an hour late, perking up instantly as I saw the bikes from the streaked cab window. I immediately gravitated towards a black Kawasaki Eliminator 125. Not exactly the kind of bike you want with dubious motor skills, but I was assured that a 125cc engine is probably one of the slowest this side of a moped. There were eight of us in the class, all guys, and the testosterone flow was as obvious from the start from Eloi the Cop, brothers Cory and Collin (two Irish construction workers), and Will the graphic designer who looked more like a Hells Angels alumnus than an artist.

We started off discussing how to turn on the bikes, using the freakyass acronym COLD KNIFE. Man, it’s like motorcycle school was designed by a psychotic ex-Navy Seal. I’ve since forgot the exact formula but the letters somehow stood for Choke, Kickstand, Ignition, Fuel, Engine. Maybe it was one of those incomplete acronyms.

The bike was more heavy than I anticipated, and I struggled to keep it up at slower speeds, but with the engine on I didn’t face this problem. I pulled in the clutch to separate the back wheels from the engine, put the bike in neutral then gave it some throttle and I was off.

I was the first one to get into the actual exercises as my classmates spent a considerable amount of time revving their engines by jostling with the throttle, which they assured me was to warm up a cool engine, but sounded more like some strange, metallic mating ritual for motorcycles.

I’m not sure at what point in the day I received it but eventually I had acquired the moniker “First Gear”–a pretty emasculating moniker for a guy. Wanting to shed this label I gave in to peer pressure (like any post adolescent male) and did something stupid. I didn’t know how brash I was being until my lower torso and solar plexus were rudely introduced to the cold, hard, pavement.

I had tried to shift into 3rd gear but had trouble finding it with my left boot and ended up riding “air bike,” which is about as bad as playing air guitar—but with more painful consequences.

I ended my first day of training physically beaten down, but on the plus side I fell into a deep sleep of pure exhaustion by the time I got home. If I had known that a motorcycle could cure my insomnia I would have gotten one along time ago.

Fees suit fails

U of T’s Governing Council was pleased to announce a judicial ruling in its favor in a case brought against it by two of its student unions. The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students and the Graduate Students’ Union had accused U of T of accepting an illegitimate vote on a controversial athletics and recreation fee increase.

On Tuesday, August 28, a provincial judge ruled that the fee hike—which amounts to $19 per year for full-time students—was not illegal.

APUS and GSU representatives, however, have warned that the ruling opens the door for unprecedented fee increases far outstripping the rate of inflation.

The increase was approved at a hastilyconvened meeting of the Council On Student Services called on April 5, 2007 especially to vote on the Athletics fee, which had been rejected earlier in the year.

APUS and GSU, who hold four of the COSS’s 17 votes, refused to attend the meeting, believing that it would not achieve quorum without them and therefore could not legally vote. The unforeseen last-minute appointment of Andréa Armborst (then SAC VP internal), from a non-voting to a voting position on the COSS, allowed the meeting to proceed and approve the increase.

GSU president Gina Trubiani accused the university of “exploiting the wording of the COSS protocol,” which U of T must follow when raising ancillary fees. These fees pay for non-academic aspects of the university— like athletics facilities, psychiatric services, and Hart House.

“The wording of the protocol is slightly on the ambiguous side, however the spirit of that protocol was not to exploit students and double-dip,” Trubiani said. The alleged double-dipping, in this case, means adjusting a fee by an inflation factor— twice.

Governing Council can only raise ancillary fees by a certain amount—generally, to keep up with inflation—without COSS approval. To calculate this amount, the university uses either the Consumer Price Index, which reflects the rate of inflation (this year’s CPI was set at two per cent) or the “University of Toronto Index”, a special formula calculated separately for each service fee. For example, this year’s UTI for the Student Services fee was set at 5.6 per cent, while the UTI for Hart House fees came to 13.4 per cent .

The UTI is generally the higher of the two indices, but fee hikes using the UTI are limited to a three year term, after which the COSS votes to scrap them or keep them permanently.

Governing Council has always chosen one or the other of these factors: the benefit of increased funding from using the higher UTI is offset by the risk of losing that funding after three years.

The $19 increase marked the first time the univrsity has added both factors to the cost. The ruling in Governing Council’s favour upheld the argument that such double inflationary increases are permitted.

GSU and APUS will each decide at their next meeting whether they wish to pursue further action on the matter.

Huffin’, puffin’ Ignatieff

For those of you who blinked last week, you missed a brilliant statement by Michael Ignatieff about the potential new Liberal party mascot. The Grits were out on a whalewatching tour in Newfoundland when deputy Liberal leader told accompanying media how thoroughly impressed he is by puffins, a group of which was apparently flocking nearby.

“It’s a noble bird because it has good family values. They stay together for 30 years. I’m not kidding. They lay one egg and they put their excrement in one place. They hide their excrement!” he beamed. “They flap their wings very hard and they work like hell. This seems to me a symbol for what our party should be.”

Mr. Ignatieff’s light-hearted humour has bemused Canadians familiar with his party’s record and his own past. Apparently the best way to impress voters is to flap your wings, appearing to work very hard. And while no one likes to make personal jabs, Mr. Ignatieff is just begging for it in praising the monogamy of the puffin. He has been married twice.

But perhaps the fact that the puffins hide their excrement is their most admirable deed, at least in the eyes of the former wannabe Liberal leader. When Mr. Ignatieff suggested that the puffin should be the symbol for the Liberal party, it is difficult to not recall the sponsorship scandals his party so thoroughly failed to cover up. It seems that Mr. Ignatieff only regrets that the Liberals are not better at hiding their dirty messes.

While the Liberals continue to puff up their political campaign, what voters are looking for is a real contribution to prove the Liberals can indeed assume responsibility for governing this country instead of mere “flapping”. That, Mr. Ignatieff, not flapping around and hiding its shit, should be the focus of the Liberal Party of Canada.

NDP caters to students’ needs

Canadian students anxious over tuition fees and high interest loan repayments will soon have a little more breathing room, if the NDP has its way.

Last week, Denise Savoie, Victoria MP and NDP post-secondary education critic, set forth a campaign she plans to bring to campuses across Canada. The NDP’s Fix Student Aid petition calls for the federal government to reform Canada’s current federal Student Aid program.

The petition calls for measures such as lowering the interest rates of federal student loans, and the creation of a needs-based grants system. The petition also proposes an increase in the number of available study grants and suggests the instatement of a Federal Student Loan Ombudsperson to investigate and resolve complaints by student loan borrowers.

“If we look at the loans, it’s nothing but high interest rates,” explained Savoie during a phone interview. “Where countries like Australia have 2.4 per cent, Canada’s students pay 8.5 per cent as a minimum on their student loans. New Zealand and Germany—no interest rates. Even in the USA, which Harper likes to model Canada’s policies on, students pay 3.3 per cent.”

Savoie intends to increase the amount of needs-based grants for student borrowers. Her 2007 proposal suggests giving $1,500 to every student in need of a loan for every year of their study. The plan proposes phasing out the money set aside by the government for tax credits, and instead using that money to create a needs-based grant system for students.

“If you look at Ontario and B.C., the average debt load is $25,000, which is a large debt for someone who is just graduating,” says Savoie. “It’s really an unfair position to put them in at the time they’re just starting their career. If we expect them to be in a position to contribute to society and compete in this economy, we have to do so without burdening them with these astronomical levels of debt.”

Jen Hassum, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, and former SAC president, levelled similar criticisms.

“All the time, students are complaining about the amount of inflation they have to pay, how they wish tuition fees are lower, how they wish they could have needs-based grants,” said Hassum. “We get those kinds of sentiments all time from e-mails and letters and from students on the streets.”

Savoie added that a great deal of government resources go to recovering defaulted loans. “So instead of putting all that energy in, I’m saying let’s fix it, because there’s an obvious problem.”

According to a 2007 Auditor General’s report, the Canada Student Loans Program distributes an approximate $1.9 billion every year to postsecondary students. The total value of the Federal Student Loan Portfolio is reported at $11 billion.

“It’s quite a big chunk of our economy,” said Savoie.

Overdue and defaulted loans are estimated to add up to over $800 million, which is recovered from student borrowers by 12 different collection agencies and the Canada Revenue Agency.

“I’m hearing and have had first-hand experience with collection agencies that insult student borrowers, bully them, and harass them. They act like pit bulls, whose only incentive is to recover and collect,” says Savoie. “We have to have, and I’m calling for, legislative collection standards.”

According to Canada’s Coalition for Student Loan Fairness, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that keeps track of the needs of Canada’s student loan borrowers, the most common complaint from borrowers is being “unduly threatened or harassed at their places of work or at home” by collection agencies.