The UTSU elections officer has moved to shut down a candidates’ debate on the grounds that one of its organizers, Antonin Mongeau, is campaigning for the Change slate. Mongeau is president of EFUT (the French club), which teamed up with U of T NDP to run a March 10 elections town hall for UTSU and GC candidates. CRO Lydia Treadwell has previously stopped U of T NDP from hosting a March 5 debate.Treadwell’s March 6 ruling leaves any attending candidate subject to penalty at her discretion.“Within this campaign it has become public knowledge that the president of EFUT is campaigning against certain members of the Demand Access slate which deems the president of EFUT biased,” wrote Treadwell in CRO Ruling 006 on the UTSU website. She also cites instances of Mongeau allegedly intimidating and levelling false accusations against slate Access candidates.Mongeau wrote Treadwell on March 6, denying the allegations and challenging the CRO to produce evidence.Mongeau said he can back up his accusations that a paid assistant to one of the incumbents was campaigning full-time in Sidney Smith. He contends this violates Elections Procedure Code 6.1p, which states that candidates may not use any resources “conferred to them by virtue of holding a position in any campus organization […] (including) staff.”“[The assistant] just happens to be a friend of ours as well,” said Adnan Najmi, running for a second term as VP internal as part of Access. He denied that any rule violations occurred. Najmi added that while he stands by the CRO’s decision, he is “not afraid of talking on any forum.”Sally Elabasery, president of U of T NDP, is upset that the CRO has now moved to close two of their attempts to host a debate. “[We tried to] initiate discussion between executives of student groups, student members, and the UTSU candidates,” she said. In a statement, the NDP group said they strongly felt that “UTSU was being undemocratic in their move.”Mongeau said the March 10 event will go ahead as planned, with some Governing Council and faculty candidates in attendance.The CRO’s office could not be reached for comment over the weekend. According to the elections code, the CRO must respond to Mongeau’s letter by no later than 6 a.m. Monday morning.
CRO stops UTSU elections debate
Sports culture shock
Spending four months in another country will teach you a lot. In between pints of Stella on Friday nights in Brussels, my academic exchange in Belgium shed light on the cultural differences that make the world such an endlessly fascinating place. One such difference was sport.I was in a peculiar situation. As one of the few Canadian exchange students at the University of Leuven, I tried to find my place amongst the native Belgians and the majority of Americans that comprised the program. When people found out where I was from, they would respond with a clichéd comment about how I was stuck somewhere in between Europe and North America. I initially reacted with my nationalist rhetoric, explaining that Canada shouldn’t always be compared to other cultures, and that we have many things that make us distinct and unique.But after a couple of weeks, I came to realize they were kind of right. When it came to campus sports, Canada is caught in the tide somewhere between the Old and New World.Canadian universities aren’t known for their athletic prowess. With the exception of Western and Laval around the Vanier Cup playoffs, Canadian university students are far too preoccupied with their studies and social melodramas to pay attention to athletics. Granted, U of T suffers from spectator fatigue more than most Canadian institutions. But let’s face it: when it comes to our own athletics, Canadian universities look the other way.I learned from my American counterparts that it couldn’t be more different south of the border. American college students are obsessed with campus sports. The whole country goes crazy during football bowl season, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single college student in class during the Final Four. Witnessing the mania first-hand made me realize just how important sports are to the American college experience.Living in my Belgian residence was fellow foreigner Patrick Buley, originally from Kentucky but attending Hanover College in Indiana. “Quite often support for collegiate sports easily surpasses that for professional divisions,” he said. I’ll never forget they day I heard an elated cheer resonate from his room at four in the morning as his basketball team hit a buzzer beater to win the quarterfinals in the Division III playoffs. He cheered for his beloved Panthers with the same gusto I do when the Leafs are in a game seven (if long memory serves me correctly).Many American students value their campus athleticism as a matter of self-identification and pride. American colleges institutionally support campus sports, both for athletes and for fans. Millions of dollars go into athletic scholarships, training facilities, arenas, fields, and courts. Schools plan activities to make sure students support major rivalry games and turn it into a big event. It’s a whole culture down there, one that Canadians have never experienced at the post-secondary level.Then there are the Belgians. Over 50 per cent of students at Leuven participate in sports. My old buddy Niels says, “Leuven has a university soccer team, a basketball team, an American football team, a field hockey team, a handball team, a volleyball team, and a gymnastics team.” On a participatory level, student involvement is quite high.But on the spectator side of things, they show about as much enthusiasm for their teams as they do for Dutch beer. Even though there are many facilities where sporting activities take place, there are barely any places for spectators to watch. No bleachers, stands, or seats, and hardly any standing room.I was perplexed by how students could be so involved in playing sports, yet so disinterested in watching them.Unlike the Americans, who had their entire sense of school pride tied up in their Division III basketball team, Belgians had other priorities. Not a single one of my housemates could name a Varsity athlete or tell me the score of last night’s game unless they were playing in it. Their football team’s shameful losing record didn’t phase them one bit.Canadian students are stuck somewhere in between. Our athletes aren’t celebrities, the Vanier Cup isn’t the holy grail, and a men’s hockey team first round exit doesn’t prompt students to toss themselves off the eleventh floor of Robarts. Most of us don’t obsess over the standings and stats, yet we care enough to notice when our football team wins a game for the first time in seven seasons. So I began to take those clichéd comments as compliments. We’re caught somewhere in between complete obsession and total apathy. A healthy medium, especially when it comes to sports, is a good thing.
Israel’s election issues
Last week, as tensions boiled over into full-blown accusations of racism and constructive debate between supporters and critics of Apartheid Week, Israel’s long, meticulous process of coalition-building continued unabated. The results of last month’s election are still, in a way, undecided. For those unfamiliar with the workings of Israeli politics, seats in the Knesset are granted proportionally. Since religious and special interest parties fragment the vote, a coalition is almost always necessary to form a government. For this reason, each election is followed by an arduous process of alliance-making, negotiation, and careful press manipulation by each party, in an effort to secure any advantage toward forming the next government. On February 20, Israeli President Shimon Peres gave Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu the task of putting together a ruling coalition.Though this new coalition’s character remains to be seen, the success of Israel’s right wing and religious parties may render the already ineffective peace process completely impotent. Incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been duplicitous when discussing his plans to deal with the Palestinians. While he claims to be a proponent of a two-state solution, he walks a tightrope, with potential coalition partners from religious parties like the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi, both of which vehemently oppose the creation of any Palestinian state. His own party’s charter officially states that “the Jewish communities in Judea [The West Bank] and Samaria [the Gaza Strip] are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defence of the vital interests of the State of Israel.”During last week’s visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu insisted “there is broad agreement inside Israel and outside that the Palestinians should have the ability to govern their lives but not to threaten ours.” However, he also suggested that any future Palestinian state should be subject to Israeli control of its airspace, electromagnetic spectrum, and border crossings, and that it could have no standing army or external military alliances. Coalition talks between Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have been hampered by disagreements. The last round of meetings reportedly collapsed after the Likud leader distanced himself from a two-state solution: “a final agreement will see the Palestinians having the full authority to run their lives, but do you want them to have control of the air space, their own army, the right for them to make alliances with other states like Iran, or control over borders that would allow for weapons imports? I won’t stand for it.”By seeking to deny the Palestinians four of the most fundamental rights of any sovereign state, Netanyahu may sabotage the already ineffective peace process before it resumes. If the United States wants to be firm on the creation of a Palestinian state, they could face intense opposition from the Netanyahu coalition, particularly its religious parties. And it will have to be more than marginally critical of Israel’s ongoing colonization of the West Bank. During her visit, Clinton called the continued building of settlements in the West Bank “unhelpful,” but stopped short of applying any substantive pressure on either the incoming or outgoing Israeli government.In February, Israeli NGO Peace Now reported that “the Housing Ministry is planning a mass expansion in the West Bank with the creation of 73,300 new housing units, including many beyond the Security Fence.” If this plan were to receive government approval, it would amount to a 100 per cent increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The official position of most American administrations is that such settlement is illegal. However, it has been ongoing, and may be exacerbated by the rise of the right-wing bloc.If the Obama government wants to actively pursue a two-state solution, it must break with previous American administrations and act swiftly to prevent any further Israeli expansion in the West Bank. The United States provides Israel with roughly three billion dollars in economic assistance annually—one fifth of its total foreign aide budget—and it provides exclusive diplomatic support, having vetoed thirty-two UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel since 1982, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all other members of the Security Council combined. If the new Likud-led government continues to allow expansion of settlements in the West Bank, the United States will have to apply more substantive measures towards preserving any kind of two-state solution.
Sometimes all you need is stellar goaltending and a hat trick to win a game.Queen’s Golden Gaels forward Amanda Morra scored three goals as goalie Melissa John stopped 38 shots for a 4-2 win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues at Varsity Arena on Tuesday night.With the loss Toronto is eliminated from further contention in the OUA playoffs.The controversial winning goal came at 7:32 of the third period.Victoria Kaufmann scooped up a loose puck in the high slot and raced in alone on Blues goalie Kendyl Valenta. While the freshman netminder made a nice left-leg save, Becky Conroy trailed the play and jammed the puck and the goalie into the net.Blues head coach Karen Hughes explained that the winning goal shouldn’t have counted because you’re not allowed to push the goalie over the line to score.The Gaels were 2-1 against Toronto in the regular season and were cautiously optimistic going into a winner-take-all situation.“We were confident,” said Morra. “We like the pressure situations and we came into it knowing this could be the last game for our fourth and fifth-year players and we didn’t want our season to be over.”Against the run of play, Queen’s opened the scoring on their fifth shot of the period. Morra deflected a shot that went through four bodies in the crease past Valenta.The Blues were rewarded for their effort when Annie DelGuidace tied the game with 3:17 left in the first period.DelGuidace intercepted an errant pass at the top of the right circle. She went in and wristed the puck high over the glove hand of John.Even though there were 13 total shots in the second period, the Blues wasted three two-on-ones and had a three-on-one called offside.The Blues took the lead at 3:13 of the middle stanza shortly after a missed two-on-one.Callie Bazak couldn’t deflect the puck into the empty net off an Amanda Fawnes pass but seconds later Bazak made up for it. She found the back of the net with a slap shot from the right face-off dot that got through the legs of John.Morra got her second goal of the game over six minutes later to knot the game at 2-2.Following a Blues turnover in the neutral zone, Queen’s forward Megan McNutt dished the puck to a streaking Morra who blasted the puck far side and by the blocker off Valenta.“I spent some time with the coaches after practice [last week],” said Morra. “I was working on shooting and I think it worked tonight because I picked some corners.”The Blues outshot the Gaels 17-8 in the third period but were unable to solve the Queen’s goalie.“She did exactly what we hoped a fourth-year goalie would do,” said Queen’s head coach Harold Parsons. “We felt we had that advantage coming into the game with Toronto. [John] was competitive tonight and if there was a rebound she was in position for it.”Morra got her third of the game with a short-handed goal at 8:51 to make the score 4-2.“Morra played the best game I have seen her play in five years,” Parsons said. “In every zone [Morra’s line] was the best unit on the ice for both teams.”Toronto finished with 40 shots but John was the difference.“I think we worked hard,” said Blues sophomore forward Lindsay Hill. “We didn’t finish on our chances […] and that is what it comes down to. We all worked hard, we had so much passion and drive, we just didn’t come through.”
Canada needs a Royal Commission on HIV
Hamilton’s Johnson Aziga is the world’s first person to be charged with murder for spreading AIDS. His trial, in process since last October, involves two counts of first-degree murder and 11 counts of aggravated sexual assault. Aziga knew about his HIV status in the ’90s and did not disclose it. He infected multiple women, and two died of AIDS-related complications. Aziga’s case is expected to come to a close next month; in the meantime, the world is debating the criminalization of HIV. Controversies have flared in recent weeks.HIV/AIDS is a social issue like no other. There is no cure for AIDS; like hepatitis and diabetes it must be medicated and controlled for a lifetime. It carries a stigma like no other infection, with links to sexual preference and practice, race, and poverty. Since 1998, AIDS has been the only disease one can be charged for exposing others to (not necessarily infecting them with) under Canadian law. Since then, there has been a grey area concerning consent and malice.At first, the idea of criminalizing HIV disclosure seems logical: in order to give real consent, people must be informed of their partner’s status. But opponents raise convincing arguments which reveal the big picture. UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme, believes criminalization only adds to our extreme misunderstanding and prejudice towards the HIV-positive. Increased stigma means embarrassment and thus less testing. At the same time, some will assume that the law somehow protects them against infection.Aziga’s case involves variables. Aziga is Ugandan-born. One witness said that she asked Aziga directly if he had AIDS, and was lied to. Some of his former partners were infected, while others were only placed at risk. Judges are supposed to base decisions on legal precedents. While the outcome of Aziga’s trial should make it easier to settle this debate, the case is more complicated. Sexual dynamics are difficult to understand and even more confusing to legislate, especially in a country of diverse cultural and medical norms.What Canada needs is a Royal Commission. Yes, these notoriously lengthy commissions cost millions and occasionally lead to corruption. They have, however, provided our nation with legal and social guidance about such complicated issues as women’s rights, bilingualism, and Aboriginal issues.Almost 60,000 Canadians live with positive status. The significant amount of those affected by AIDS makes it necessary to inquire into the relationship between the disease and Canadian law, attitudes, and public awareness.It’s widely unknown that the vast majority of HIV court cases involve heterosexual couples. Anthropologists suggest that this is not due to people’s ability to dodge the justice system; rather, it is increasingly assumed that the LGBT community has better-established codes on disclosure and safe sex, perhaps as a result of the AIDS crisis in the ’90s. If the minority is able to deal with this, why shouldn’t the majority?This commission could investigate all the issues surrounding AIDS in Canada, including its affect on the gay community. We need laws to protect people from being intentionally infected, but we also need to reach a better understanding of this disease to challenge the widely-held stigmas about it. The commission could propose training for HIV-positive people, and measures to ensure that more people get tested.With these commissions, a national discussion is started, and many are given a voice. A committee of diverse experts delivers suggestions to legislators, who try to figure out solutions. We’ve done this with other issues. We must for AIDS.After all, this is a perfect opportunity. Because of Aziga, Canada is being watched by the rest of the world. Rather than allow the jury’s decision in a complicated trial dictate our laws, we must examine our thoughts and beliefs in order to establish a more inclusive and just society. Canada can set a precedent, helping to solve one of the world’s toughest questions.
Marginalized students shafted?
With UTSU election season underway, the atmosphere on campus stands in marked contrast with that of last year. This round of elections has seen the formation of two opposing slates: Demand Access and Change. While the much-needed debate is welcome, something is becoming increasingly clear about the “Change” mandate proposed by presidential candidate Jason Marin: it is not a change that students—particularly poor and racialized students—can afford.During a recent debate hosted by The Varsity on CIUT radio, Marin presented the three focal points of his platform: school spirit, student space, and bridging the disconnect between students and their union. On the surface, these points may appear reasonable, but upon closer examination their substance is highly problematic.Marin suggested that parties, or a “homecoming,” would build community. However, there is no lack of activities for students on campus: there is a lack of active students. If a slate is sincerely committed to building community, as opposed to catering to the already hyper-engaged core of students most likely to vote, financial barriers and systemic racism need to be met head-on. During last week’s Task Force on Campus Racism hearing, student after student discussed feelings of alienation—exclusion from the campus community—as a result of Eurocentric curricula, poor representation of marginalized groups in faculty, and numerous incidences of prejudice. Also mentioned many times were financial barriers that prevent marginalized students from properly accessing their education. These financial barriers range from the lack of affordable student housing to rising tuition fees—issues that have been sidelined by the Change slate. If Marin believes that the main issue is “not enough parties,” he is dangerously mistaken.Secondly, we can all agree that student space is crucial. Indeed, students have been active in pushing for greater and more accessible spaces—opposing the expansion of the Second Cup in Sid Smith, or the eviction of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students. However, Jason Marin’s model, based on his elaborations during the debate and more importantly his track record, differs significantly in substance from what students have demanded. The issue isn’t whether student space is needed, but rather who should pay for it. Problematic for both slates is their support for a Student Commons to be constructed with student fees. Marin cites the New College Student Lounge’s renovation as one of his achievements. As he explains, this was achieved through a $50,000 donation from the New College Student Council. Why are students, already burdened with tuition fees and living expenses, expected to carry further financial burdens to fund basic public services like physical infrastructure? Bricks and mortar should be funded by the government and the university, not by students already struggling to stay in school.Lastly, Marin discussed the disconnect between the student union and its membership, a valid point. Marin claimed that campaigns should start from the grassroots. However, what is Marin’s track record? Where was Marin when campaigns were brought up by such rank-and-file students?Marin himself has been disconnected, if not openly hostile, to such campaigns at his own college—let alone at the university level. Marin was absent when students organized against the 20 per cent New College residence fee increase and condemned their activities afterwards. He also failed to participate in the work to address the underfunding and underdevelopment of Area Studies programs, most of which fall under New College. Unsurprisingly, Marin was also absent from organizing against U of T President David Naylor’s plans for deregulating tuition.Marin was asked whether he supported positions taken on broader issues of social justice, or on precarious campus food workers, and his answer was an unequivocal “no.” At the same time, his answer on whether he saw David Naylor as an ally—a man who advocates for tuition fee deregulation—was an unequivocal “yes.” The clear message to marginalized students on campus is that the Change ticket will ignore their needs at a time when we need stronger representation.An open letter by Lucho Granados Ceja stated the following: “Good leaders must champion our issues to the powerful by taking direction from our communities. Jason, sadly, only takes direction from the administration. Racialized people and their allies need to support leaders that support us, and they will not find such leadership in Jason Marin and his Change ticket.” Marginalized students on campus and their allies would have to agree.Gabi Rodriguez, Edward Wong, and Shannon Ashman are volunteers at the Ontario Public Interest Research Group—Toronto
Poetry In Motion
Toronto-based writer, hip-hop artist, and spoken-word poet Motion graced the stage at Trane Studio last week to launch her new book of poetry 40dayz.Motion describes her unique style of spoken-word as an interactive mode of expression that combines preaching, storytelling, public speaking, and the vocalization of poetry. She fused her poetry with elements of hip-hop, jazz, soul, and Caribbean music, creating a unique and captivating performance.Motion’s undeniable stage presence and ability to connect with a crowd was evident as she rapped, sang, and recited a selection of her poems from 40dayz. A perfect complement was her full backing band, comprised of bass, drums, trumpet, and DJ L’oqenz, a staple throughout the set.“I want to keep incorporating new instruments,” said Motion, in a recent interview with The Varsity. “I love wind instruments and string instruments. Also, I want to keep building production—and I can’t forget DJ L’oqenz, because DJs are musicians too. So I’m open to a whole bunch of different ways to do music, from live to digital, to manipulating sounds, to sampling.”In addition to her band, Motion was backed by three female vocalists, each of whom was selected to contribute to the tone of her work. Motion has performed with her musicians and singers for years, and she went to high school with most of them. “Almost everyone who performed with me that night I’ve known in some artistic capacity for a while. [Bluesy singer] Michelle Francis and I had a band in high school, so it was great to bring those people together. It was like a family affair, and I was very happy for the support and the opportunity to collaborate and bring this vision to reality.”A graduate of U of T in English and African Studies, Motion was exposed to an array of music from an early age. “My mother was always saying I could dance before I could walk. I’ve always loved music, I’ve always loved dancing. I loved expressing myself to an audience—singing, making up songs, writing.”With parents from Antigua and Barbados, her exposure to Caribbean music, soul, reggae and jazz was unlimited—it included such artists as Bob Marley, Roberta Flack, Sparrow, Isaac Hayes, and Parliament Funkadelic. These eclectic influences and her resulting musical vision are apparent in her arrangements. “Sometimes I [write the arrangements myself], but I also have input: I work with people to build instrumentation, but I’m definitely expanding myself into the production side. I surround myself with DJs and producers who give me input into production aspects…because I love music and I have a good sense of what I want to hear underneath my lyrics.”Whereas her first book, Motion in Poetry, was comprised of poems written throughout her life, the material in 40dayz came together over the course of a year.“It was almost 10 years of writing that I had to choose from for Motion in Poetry. It’s very lyrical, it has a lot of attitude, but it also has peaks and valleys where it moves from reflection to straight-up affirmation to exploring the whole concept of relationships and romance. [The first book] was sort of like my introduction as an emerging woman, and I think that with 40dayz it was [my] focus on a particular theme that opened my eyes to new things, to new stages of my own artistry and my own life.”As she began to craft 40dayz, Motion was influenced by her experience at the University of Guelph’s Fine Arts program, where she had the chance to work with esteemed poets Dionne Brand, Judith Thomson, Tom Kane, and David Young. Motion credits Brand in particular for exposing her to contemporary poets with whom she was unfamiliar.“I started thinking about how 40 days is often associated with trials and tribulations, going through your challenges and being able to go through that fire and emerge scathed but stronger. I think that’s just reflective of life. It was a way of documenting a season that I’ve been through.”In addition to this theme of resilience, Motion has focused on different kinds of poetry. Not all of her poems are free verse—there’s some haiku as well. She found herself compelled to place restrictions on her creativity, limiting herself to a certain number of lines or specific structure, to make the words as potent as possible. “I really admire Langston Hughes, the poet from the Harlem Renaissance. I was fascinated by the way he could use four lines and just blow you away, how he could say so much with so little. That was something I had in my mind [while writing this book].”One poem in particular which stood out at the book launch was “Connecting The T-dots.” This work won the CBC National Poetry Face-Off, where a poet is chosen to represent each of Canada’s major cities, and listeners vote to pick the winner.“The theme that year was ‘love in your city’ and when I heard that theme I thought, ‘Wow, there’s so many ways I can approach this,’ because when we hear the word ‘love’ we always think of walking hand in hand, flowers, kissing and candy…but I wanted to explore love from the urban cities that I’ve seen, its good and bad aspects.”“Connecting The T-dots,” alongside Motion’s other works presented at the book launch, was performed with controlled passion. Motion is currently planning a summer tour across Canada and possibly the United States, where she plans to continue drawing in the listener through a musical and poetic journey of emotional peaks and valleys, leaving them on the edge of their seats.
The best of the worst
As a campus-based response to the recent Oscar ceremonies, the eighth-annual University of Toronto Film Festival is holding the famed Shitty Film Contest on March 13. The competition between the student-made short films in the running for the coveted “Shitty” promises to be intense, as all are remarkably strong contenders. The best of the worst is Rocky 2009, a parody trailer of the classic Sylvester Stallone franchise. It features the puppet Rabbi Rockowitz “shvitzing” across the desert, training for his showdown against “that shiksa” Sister Maria Guido. With the way it builds anticipation for a puppet showdown, Rocky 2009 is the only film that manages to elicit a few genuine, not in any way bemused, laughs.The humour of Something Wicket this Way Comes and Lampreydator is largely derived from their complete absurdity and amusingly poor quality. Something Wicket This Way Comes depicts a wrathful video game Wicket seeking vengeance on an unappreciative gamer, although the film never actually troubles itself with showing the Ewok advancing upon his victim. Instead, it cuts from an image of the digital Ewok to a rather frightened looking guy looking over his shoulder, presumably signifying the imminent attack. In Lampreydator, a blood-sucking fish, which bears more resemblance to a sock monkey than any aquatic animal, threatens to devour the planet and can only be stopped by a group of scientists and (naturally) fishermen.The black and white Mother(bird), whose entire plot consists of two pears stewing in a pot, is extremely funny, although admittedly only after reading the press release, which describes it as a “non-narrative film that focuses on the power of the mind and memory under the influence of fruit.”For the most part, the films manage to save themselves from becoming totally insufferable by being completely aware of their own lacklustre quality, although one does become painfully conscious of time passing during the 60-second Suggested Opening for $20,000 Pyramid, which literally involves lights on a pyramid getting increasingly brighter.At any rate, there’s something decidedly refreshing about watching films so utterly devoid of any pretension and so willing to laugh at themselves. They’re shitty, but at least they know it.The U of T Film Festival runs March 9-14 at Innis Town Hall, and features a wide variety of student-made films. Tickets are $5 for students. For screening information, visit uoftfilmfest.ca.