CFS brass accused of interfering in student union elections

Update: The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Renew Slate at Ryerson ran in 2009; in fact, they ran in 2008.

High-up individuals in the Canadian Federation of Students and its provincial divisions are under fire for recent election controversies.

Zannah Matson, who ran for VP Equity on the Change slate in this month’s UTSU elections, has accused York Federation of Students executives of meddling in UTSU politics.

Matson told The Varsity that she saw Hamid Osman, president of the York Federation of Students, campaigning for the Demand Access slate at UTM on March 10, along with Gilary Massa, YFS VP external.

Matson said Osman introduced himself as a UTM student named “Ahmed” when she spoke to him, and that the two prevented her from taking a photo. She added that a Change slate campaigner told her Osman had bullied him and threatened demerit points for having campaign flyers in his pocket while going to vote.

“It was a pretty jarring experience in campaigning, and a really disillusioning experience,” said Matson, who describes the experience as disempowering for U of T students. “What it’s doing is intimidating people from participating in the democratic process.”

Matson said she and the other Change slate candidates decided to stop campaigning at UTM after the confrontation. She heard that Access campaigners approached campus groups prior to the campaign period, telling higher-ups that the slate was immature, not diverse, careerist, and would change the accords between UTM and St. George campuses.

The Change slate claimed the election results, to be published next week, will show that they won St. George campus by a wide margin and lost UTM.

The slate filed a complaint with CRO Lydia Treadwell. While photos are permitted as evidence of wrongdoing, only the CRO can enforce the elections procedure code. If someone other than the CRO steps in to stop a possible infraction, as Matson alleges Osman had, they can be fined demerit points.

Treadwell told the Change slate in an email that the complaint was not substantiated.

“There is hearsay on both sides,” wrote Treadwell in an email. “This complaint is dismissed.”

Osman is the delegate chosen by YFS executives to represent the union at CFS-O meetings. He did not reply to The Varsity’s emails, phone calls, and text messages over the past two weeks asking for comment. When asked if he would deny campaigning at UTM, he refused to answer.

Osman has faced demands and petitions for his impeachment after leaving York in the middle of the TA strike to campaign at the University of Ottawa during its referendum to join the CFS. Osman has yet to explain who paid for his travel and accommodations, and why he did not inform students he would be traveling to Ottawa.

Last year, York University student newspaper the Excalibur reported that Osman, Massa, and YFS VP campus life Loveleen Kang were seen campaigning at Ryerson Student Union’s elections for the Renew slate. CFS membership was contested in this year’s election and the Renew slate said it would ensure the union remained part of the CFS. Osman said YFS-ers were there during their reading week because they strongly supported the slate’s platform.

“The federation does not interfere in local student union elections,” said Shelley Melanson, CFS-Ontario chairperson. “We don’t believe that any outside group should be interfering in that process.”

Melanson also clarified the role the CFS plays with students and their unions.

“Our relationship isn’t necessarily with the students’ union; it’s in fact with the individual students at a particular union local. We’re a membership driven-organization,” said Melanson. “That relationship doesn’t exist between the student union and the CFS.”

CFS’s BC division has brought in student union executives to help out in membership votes at other universities. Last year, UTSU president-elect Sandy Hudson and other execs flew to Victoria for a referendum at Simon Fraser University to withdraw from the CFS. Hudson, who ran on the Demand Access slate, is a Students of Colour Representative on CFS national.

CFS-Québec is facing criticism after a Feb. 8 video surfaced, featuring deputy chair-elect Noah Stewart-Ornstein tearing down seven campaign posters during elections at Concordia University. He was CFS-Q spokesperson and Québec Representative for CFS’s national division at the time.

In an email to The Varsity, CFS spokesperson Ben Lewis said that Stewart-Ornstein was acting as an individual, and that his actions should not tarnish the reputation of organizations he is involved with.

Did you know that mysticism was once more highly regarded than science?

“Why do the stars not fall down at our feet?” Our ancestors asked themselves this very question. The average person living in sixthcentury B.C. speculated that invisible powers held the stars up in the night sky, with one supernatural power and god for each and every star. They believed it was the anger of these gods that caused diseases and natural catastrophes on Earth. But not everyone thought this way.

During this time, there was an impressive intellectual awakening on the Greek island of Samos. It was first proposed that the earth revolves around the sun, and that animals and human beings evolved from simpler forms. It was where thinkers realized that everything was made out of smaller particles, diseases have a biological cause, there is order to nature, and the secrets of the universe are discoverable. However, these crucial insights sat dormant for many centuries, waiting to be rediscovered by Copernicus, proven by Charles Darwin, and investigated by other legendary scientists. Why?

The answer lies in one simple fact: mysticism and irrationality once held more importance than science and rationality. Thales was the first man who attempted to explain the existence of land within water without any intervention of the supernatural. His student, Anaximander, used a stick and its shadow to measure time, the length of the year, and the seasons. Yet Democritus argued for the existence of atoms, as many other proceeding thinkers were prosecuted for their thoughts. Other intellectual inhabitants of the Greek islands favoured the magical worldview, founded by Pythagoras. Though he was perhaps the first individual to propose that the earth was a sphere and revolutionized the mathematics of his time, Pythagoras believed that order in nature could only be explained through supernatural causes. He and his followers favoured belief over experiments and suppressed their findings. They later reasoned that the laws of nature would never be understood except through mystics, a contradiction to their earlier viewpoint. This way of thinking later dominated Western philosophy.

It is thought that mysticism overthrew science because, as Carl Sagan explains, “Mystical explanations provided intellectually respectable justifications for a corrupt social order.” Spirituality supported the idea of slavery, and Greek society had a large population of slaves during Plato and Aristotle’s time. They believed science should be kept for a small population of elite, and not the public. Mysticism dominated Western thought for more than twenty centuries. It is only recently that we have rediscovered the mindset of the first Greek scientists.

WCSA seeks levy increase

Update: The previous version of this article incorrectly stated that WCSA finance director Stefan Etarsky said a car accident cost thousands of dollars. Etarsky quoted hundreds of dollars.

Update: WCSA gets a resounding ‘no’ [unofficial results]

Question 1: Should the Woodsworth College Students’ Association get a $2.5 more in levies for Fall/Winter and Spring semesters:

yes: 109

no: 526

spoilt: 2

Question 2: Should the WCSA levy by tied to the Consumer Price Index:

yes: 94

no: 453

spoilt: 19

The board of directors will vote to ratify these results on April 15.

As Woodsworth College Students’ Association asks students for a $2.50 levy increase, citing a projected budget deficit, execs face questions about their spending.

At last Tuesday’s annual general meeting, former VP external Danielle Sandhu asked president Athmika Punja to explain a $2,100 cheque WCSA made out to her for UTSU’s Vendetta Club Night, which she organized as VP of campus life at UTSU. The club night on Oct. 30, 2008, was a collaboration between UTSU and the colleges. According to the budget, the event cost WCSA just $800.

WCSA finance director Stefan Etarsky said that the cheque reimbursed Punja for upfront expenditures on the event. Etarsky said he sent UTSU an invoice and used Punja’s position at UTSU to ask for the money back. He produced no receipts for Punja’s expenses.

“I am not aware of any invoice from Woodsworth College,” said UTSU executive director Angela Regnier. “If Woodsworth College paid for it, we don’t know where the money went.”

Etarsky presented a forecasted $28,113 deficit for the 2008-09 year as justification for the levy increase, which is expected to bring in an additional $39,000. This year WCSA spent $4,700 on a retreat for its 18 board members in September. Sandhu asked the board to justify that amount after last year’s board spent $4,000 and decided it was excessive.

“We got into a car accident,” said Etarsky, adding to this cost several hundred dollars. Punja defended the decision to go to Algonquin Park, saying that it was necessary for the board’s productivity. Sandhu said that going to the Hart House farm instead would have cost far less.

When asked, Pujna denied that WCSA paid for alcohol for the retreat. Alice Wu, an UTSU staffer who used to work at WCSA, then produced a $156 receipt from LCBO dated the day of the retreat. She said it was paid for from the association’s “petty cash” budget.

“I am in charge of the petty cash,” Etarsky said, “That did not happen.” He could not recall the purchase, calling it “a random receipt” stolen from the office and that the matter would be cleared up in an audit. Wu said she had obtained the receipt legitimately from the VP assembly affairs, Yin Cheng, who could not be reached for comment at press time.

Joeita Gupta, VP external of the Association of Part-Time Students, accused the board of not doing enough for mature and part-time students. She pointed out that the budget allocation for mature students is small in comparison to other portions.

WCSA spent $85,676 on regular Frosh Week programming, and only $1,144 on a program for mature students. In 2007-08, WCSA had a $54,000 deficit, spending $43,000 on an open bar gala and $81,500 on Frosh Week.

“We do as much as we humanly can,” Etarsky responded. He said the association never tries to cater to one specific group and that only so much can be done with a volunteer force.

Summer retreat to Algonquin Park for board directors:

Personalized green sweatshirts for board directors:

Boat cruise:

Open-bar gala

Forecasted deficit:

Proposed levy:
per Fall/Spring semester

Voting on the referendum is open from 9 a.m. on March 30 to 4 p.m. on April 3 on

More March Madness

In the 2008 NCAA tournament, despite a valiant effort from number-ten seed Davidson, the four number-one seeds all survived to make it to the Final Four. This year, the expectation was for more upsets, leading to a wide open tournament. But on Sunday, all eight higher ranked schools defeated the lower ranked seeds. The Sweet Sixteen is composed of all the teams that were expected to make it this far, save for the number-five Purdue Boilermakers instead of the number-four Washington Huskies, along with the number-twelve Arizona Wildcats displacing the number-four Wake Forest Demon Deacons. All of the number one, two, and three seeds remain. This could mean that the best teams are left to duke it out. Here are the eight teams that held court on Sunday and make up the second half of the Sweet Sixteen.

Midwest Regional

Louisville Cardinals

Louisville haven’t exactly played like the number-one overall seed, leading Morehead State by only two in their first half of game one, with more than their share of difficulty with the Siena Saints in game two. Louisville struggled in the early part of the season, before dominating Big East play and winning the conference tournament. Besides, it would be difficult to brush off a team featuring Terrence Williams, an athlete described as “freakish” by his coach. Williams can pretty much do it all: monstrous dunks, unselfish assists, controlling the boards, hustling back to play tight defence, and draining three pointers. Coach Rick Pitino has won an NCAA Championship with the rival Kentucky Wildcats, and is credited with revolutionizing the use of the three pointer in college ball. Although Louisville are not winning big, they might just be warming up.

Famous Alumni: Johnny Unitas, but only because Notre Dame and Indiana turned him down

Arizona Wildcats

The conventional thinking amongst college basketball experts was that history allowed Arizona to slide into this year’s tournament. Arizona finished with a record of 19-13, and perhaps the fact that they had made the tournament for the past twenty-four years earned them invitation number twenty-five. But then Arizona went out and upset Utah, and easily handled a dangerous Cleveland State team to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Though Arizona will be hard pressed to get by Louisville, they do boast two solid, NBA ready players. Forward Jordan Hill is an extremely powerful inside presence, and tweener Chase Budinger has lightning quick hands. Interim coach Russ Pennell hopes to ensure that Arizona doesn’t go searching for a new leader.

Famous Alumni: Greg Kinnear, Caroline Rhea, Geraldo Rivera, Nicole Richie, Craig T. Nelson, and Jerry Bruckheimer

Kansas Jayhawks

The 2008 Jayhawks saw most of the players from their championship team go to the pros. This year was expected to be a transition year, until the Jayhawks went out and dominated Big 12 conference play. They did so by going big and going small. The big was represented by holdover Cole Aldrich, who against Dayton recorded the first triple double in the NCAA tournament since Dwayne Wade. Of course, Aldrich decided to do it the hard way, reaching double figures in points, rebounds, and blocks. The small is point guard Sherron Collins, who, while listed at 5’11,” controls the flow of the offense for the Jayhawks. The big and small of it is that the Jayhawks could defend their championship.

Famous Alumni: Bob Dole, Don Johnson, and Mandy Patinkin

Michigan State Spartans

The finale of the 2009 Tournament will be played in Detroit, Michigan and will honour the 1979 final, when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team defeated Larry Bird’s surprising Illinois State squad. So naturally, the best venue in Detroit to host the finale was Ford Field. Yes, the same Ford Field that is usually a football stadium and can hold up to 80,000 fans. Unless another school plans to send busloads of students, it makes sense for the sort-of home team, the Michigan State Spartans, to play in the final. The Spartans actually have a chance of making it to the championship, as coach Tom Izzo has a fantastic history of success. The Spartans’ balanced attack and strong defensive play present a glorious opportunity for a Michigan-based team to win a game at Ford Field this year.

Famous Alumni: To Catch a Predator’s Chris Hansen, Bob Guiney from The Bachelor, and James P. Hoffa.

West Regional

Missouri Tigers

A controversial game has overshadowed a shockingly successful season for Mizzou. In the game against Marquette, the Golden Eagles had close plays on a shot clock violation and a player stepping on the line go against them. But what most incensed Marquette was that with five and a half seconds left, Tiger J.T. Tiller suffered a wrist injury driving to the basket. Instead of shooting the foul shots, bench player Kim English came in and drained both shots. Fans were irritated by coach Mike Anderson’s actions, believing that Tiller was faking his injury. But since English actually shot worse for the season at the free throw line than Tiller, Anderson should be exonerated. It will be interesting to see what happens if a surprising Missouri team, led by Anderson’s nephew (transfer DeMarre Carroll), makes a deep run.

Famous Alumni: Sheryl Crow, Tom Berenger, and Ian Kinsler

East Regional

Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh seemed to have it all coming into the tournament: a number-one seed for the first time in the school’s history, two hard-fought wins over rival Connecticut Huskies, a local talent in the ferocious Dejuan Blair, veteran leadership with point guard Levance Fields, and leading scorer Sam Young, and a first-class coach in Jamie Dixon, who has led Pitt to the NCAA Tournament every year. Then they went out and nearly lost to number-sixteen East Tennessee State. In that game, CBS was repeatedly airing the

“No number-one seed has ever lost to sixteen-seed” graphic, as it looked like Pittsburgh might have been the first. The eventual ten point victory made the game’s result look less close than it actually was. Pittsburgh also had trouble dispatching Oklahoma State. Are these games a sign of trouble, or has Dixon righted the ship?

Famous Alumni: Larry Fitzgerald Jr. and Michael Chabon

Xavier Musketeers

Most teams left come from “power conferences.” These schools normally receive the lion’s share of “at large” bids. This year, non-power conference teams received a measly four at large bids. Two teams from non-power conferences, the ‘Zags and Memphis, won their conference tournaments, and went in automatically. The Xavier Musketeers, from the Atlantic 10, received one of the scarce at large bids, and were given a strong number-four seed. Unlike some of the more powerful schools, Xavier breezed through their opening two games. The Xavier Musketeers are based in Cincinnati, feature a balanced attack, commiting few turnovers. They face a powerful team in Pittsburgh, coach Sean Miller’s alma mater. For fans of the underdog, Xavier might be the best hope for a small school to X out the big guys.

Famous Alumni: Baseball Hall of Famer turned U.S. senator Jim Bunning, and doctor Henry Heimlich, famous for his “maneuver,” is a former faculty member

South Regional

Syracuse Orange

Regardless of what happens during the NCAA Tournament, the Syracuse Orange will have played in two of the most exciting games of the season. Early on, Syracuse was stunned by sixty foot shot at the buzzer in a major upset by, of all teams, Cleveland State. Later, in the Big East tournament, the Orange defeated the favored Connecticut Huskies in overtime. But not just one or two overtimes—six overtimes. Then for good measure, they won in overtime the next day against West Virginia. But the Orange still have juice. Coach Jim Boeheim has led them to their first Sweet Sixteen since they won the NCAA Championship in 2003, in what was Carmelo Anthony’s only season with the team. This season’s edition features the leadership of point guard Jonny Flynn, and sees Andy Rautins, the son of Leo Rautins, playing in a reserve role. The Orange are hoping that the roller coaster season continues all the way to the finals.

Famous Alumni: Running back turned actor Jim Brown, Vanessa Williams, and Jerry Stiller

Glass objects dropped from Woodsworth rez windows

Falling glass objects have targeted pedestrians passing under Woodsworth College residences. Though incidents go back to at least January, the case was first reported March 12. Campus police are considering options, such as reducing the width that windows can open. No suspects have been identified.

Meaghan Barrett, a fourth-year international relations student, was returning home at about 10 p.m. in January when she noticed pedestrians staring upwards at the Woodsworth residence. She heard a crash and thought it was falling ice.

“When I turned around, I saw this glass jar right next to where I was standing that had clearly just fallen there,” she said. Barrett saw a series of broken objects around her, from glass jars and bottles to a can of tomato sauce or juice.

Eden Consenstein, in her third year of religious studies, had a similar experience on a mid-February afternoon. “This bottle whizzed past my face and landed right in front of me,” she said.

Neither Barrett nor Consenstein reported their experiences, though both were shaken by how close they came to being hit. “I could have just died writing a text message [at St. George and Bloor],” said Consenstein.

Q & A with Wayson Choy

Celebrated author Wayson Choy came to UTSC Wednesday to speak about Leadership and talk about the background behind his new memoir Not Yet. Subtitled A Memoir of Living and Not Dying, this latest book talks about Choy’s two near-death experiences and how he discovers the importance of a chosen extended family, luck, and the realization that love has no rules. The Varsity sat down with him before the talk.

The Varsity: In the book, Chapter 1 starts with you talking about the voices of ghosts who visited you at St. Michael’s Hospital. Were they speaking to you in Toisanese [a dialect of Standard Cantonese] or English?

Wayson Choy: I heard them in the voices of family members and it was in Toisanese. It’s interesting; I discovered a dual process happens. If I see the face, I will hear the voice in Toisanese.

But if I just know that there are messages, it comes in English. If my mother spoke to me about that, then it was in Chinese, but if it was someone from the past it was mostly in English, because that’s the bias in my head. But definitely different voices, especially when you’re doped.

TV: Was there anyone from your family or extended that you were surprised to receive support from?

WC: I wasn’t in the end, after realizing that they would be there, I never felt they wouldn’t be there. I think if I was there for 48 hours and no one showed up I don’t know what would have happened. But then friends came and called themselves family and got into the ICU ward and they were very firm. I was told eventually they had to post a list.

Most of these people were Caucasian and only two or three were Asian. For me it was very powerful to discover in many ways you might have to die alone because you have to do it yourself, but you don’t have to die not knowing you were loved.

TV: With this being the second time you’re speaking at UTSC and your regular appearances at other festivals, what keeps drawing you back?

WC: I’m asked and you want to connect with your readers and who they are. I’m so happy that people of all orientations and ages read my book and they connect to it. Because that’s the test of whether your writing a) is good enough and b) reaching people the way you hope they’ll read your writing.
TV: You mention orientation and that’s definitely a topic theme in the Jade Peony and Not Yet. What do you say to the idea that people see you as one of the few gay East-Asian writers? The idea that someone can be gay, be a writer and be successful isn’t a very common in this community.

WC: Well it was a new concept to me too, now that I think of it. When I first realized who I was, I wasn’t ashamed it as I was fearful of it, because that’s new territory. Remember I grew up in the dark ages of the 1940s and 50s, before the language was made healthy, the language before was always condemning. You need to have your own sense of self so you can be yourself. People you know will either take it or leave it. Those who leave it I’m grateful. And those who knew that love had no rules stuck by me and basically said ‘You are who you are, let me tell you who I am.’ And then I heard some outstanding things.

TV: Why do you think queer literature is mostly written by Caucasians?

WC: They have more examples. And don’t forget they have a community of like-minded same-skin readers. If you’re Asian looking for something like that, the Asian culture in this country doesn’t have a culture of reading or writers.

If I was Jewish and I wrote my books, I would sell 10 times the number. But Chinese people don’t read books.

But I’m finding my audience now because young people have discovered if you want to know the truth about being human, it’s seen in creative fiction and non-fiction. If want to know the facts about investment, if you trust it anymore, go ahead.

When I hear from someone like you, I’m happy. Rather one of you than 100 people who read the book out of curiosity, because you’re reading with me, not as some freak thing you did in your spare time.

String of indecent sex acts hits VIU

After two indecent sexual acts were reported at Vancouver Island University last Thursday, police have revealed that six similar incidents date back to mid-January. The incidents include indecent exposure and fondling of women. Victims are women aged 20 to 30.

In an attempt to catch perpetrators using decoys, VIU and Nanaimo RCMP chose not to make the information public before last week—a move students are now questioning.

The attacks have led to boosted patrols and safe-walk programs. VIU has launched awareness campaigns. Police are still searching for suspects.

U Winnipeg bans bottled water sales

Last week the University of Winnipeg became the first Canadian university to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. In a referendum held by the U of W Students’ Association, almost 75 per cent of students voted in favour of the ban.

The sale of water bottles will be phased out by Fall 2009. Students will be encouraged to bring reusable bottles, and three water fountains will be installed in thoroughfares.

The campaign to ban plastic bottle has been ongoing for over a year, a joint effort between the Canadian Federation of Students, the Sierra Youth Club, and the Polaris Institute.

“Students at the University of Winnipeg have great pride for our campus,” said UWSA president Vinay Iyer. “The fact that we have joined with our administration and taken ownership over our environmental impact on campus sends a strong message across the country—it was a community effort.”