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Editor’s Pick: Woodhands – Heart Attack (Paper Bag)

Until the release of Heart Attack, Paper Bag Records had been experiencing a drought of up-tempo, danceable releases. Here on their debut, Toronto duo Dan Werb (ex- Spitfires and Mayfl owers) and Paul Banwatt drop an album’s worth of body-rocking electro-pop that should elicit head-banging and pogo dance moves in clubs and bedrooms alike. Banwatt’s pulsating acoustic drums are layered with Werb’s dirty synth lines, but what makes Woodhands better than most are vocal parts that are perfectly fitted to maximize catchiness. To this end, highlights include the heartfelt lamentations of “I Can’t See Straight,” the sugar-sweet guest vocals on the sometimes- agro “Dancer,” and a pretty duet with fellow Paper-Bagger Laura Barrett on closer “Sailboats.” But by far the standout track on Heart Attack is the arresting fl oor-filler “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting,” which sounds like Chromeo getting jacked by punks behind the Sam’s at College and Augusta. —JORDAN BIMM

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Daniel Lanois – Here Is What Is (Red Floor Records)

This album features an interesting compilation of styles, and given it’s Lanois’ fourth album this decade, consider it a showcase of his versatility. The first half of the album is consistent in its supple, twang-like melodies in “Here Is What Is” and “Blue Bus.” While his vocals are monotonous, Lanois gets away with it. “This May Be My Last Time” juxtaposes previous songs with a gospel fl are. “I Like That” creates a sullen mood, where one will inevitably become entranced by its quirky instrumentals and soothing vocals. “Duo Glide” is similar; its nattering guitar solo seems endless and without climax, which causes one to slip into an inevitable vegetative state. The album is cool and calm, making it suitable company to a Sunday afternoon of lounging (and recovery). —Suzannah Moore

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The B52’s – Funplex (Astralwerks)

Neither a hit nor a miss, The B52’s are notorious for producing distorted, angular sound, reiterated in their most recent album, Funplex. The style is quirky, and may require an acquired taste and pre-existing loyalty. The band has been around for three decades, and their image is tiring: on the cover they look like your parents dressed up like characters from Beetlejuice. It’s ambiguous whether or not they’re trying to be farcical. Although they may not be trying to live up to “Love Shack,” this album barely moves in any direction. For a voice that has loaned itself to Iggy Pop’s “Candy,” Kate Pierson wastes a lot of her breath nattering without melody to a discordant sound. Fred Schneider sounds like an obnoxious Weird Al impersonator in their third track, “Eyes Wide Open.” Other than that, the two singers don’t sound much different than they did fifteen years ago.—SM

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The game plan

It’s a typical late-November morning, mercury on the thermometer heading south, many of us wishing we could make the same trip. Jessica Hiew is busy lacing up her cross-trainers. She puts her books down beside her to make sure she doesn’t forget them. A crumpled uniform hanging out of an old gym bag the only evidence of the double life she’s been leading.

She doesn’t have much time to think: she’s late for class, or is it practice? Lately it has all blurred into one. Without looking, she picks up her books with one swift movement and is out the door. Suddenly the cold hits her like an opposing point guard, but she fights through, weaving past a throng of slow moving students in front of her. It all seems very familiar; like she’s done it before. Heart pounding, she finally gets to class just as the professor walks in, cursing the weather. A wave of relief runs over her’ she’s made it, all the training has paid off.

For many student athletes, the challenges don’t stop once they step off the field. In the real world there are no timeouts or substitutions, and the game ceases to be five on five, but everyone for themselves. Jessica, a second-year guard on the University of Toronto women’s basketball team knows that when the final buzzer sounds, the real game begins.

Like any other undergrad pursuing a degree, she often finds herself walking a delicate tightrope between school and recreation, but trying to maintain that balance can be even more elusive: “It’s happened several times where I had a test, but I haven’t done much studying, and then you have to drag your butt to practice, and you’re thinking I could be using these extra three hours to study for the exam the next day,” says the physical education student.

Taking one for the team

Being a student athlete at one of Canada’s top academic institutions is a bit like leading a double life. Every athlete is required by the University to maintain full-time status in their programs (usually a minimum of three credits) in order to be eligible to play for a Varsity team. They also commit upwards of 15-20 hours a week to their sport, including two-hour daily practices, team meetings, video sessions, and weekend games, which can adversely affect their scores off the field.

“I remember in first year, my time management was an absolute mess,” recalls Mike Bialy, the captain of the men’s soccer team. “I thought ok: an hour to get to practice, two hours of practice and another hour to get home, and I’ll study after, which clearly never happens because you’re absolutely exhausted from training. By the time you get home there’s nothing you want to do except get some sleep.”

More than a game

For Michael, the dilemma is slightly more complex than a decision to choose school over sports. Getting good grades in University does not always guarantee you the career you want, especially when your dream is to have the best of both worlds: a career in athletics. Unlike Jessica Hiew, who plans to enter medical science or optometry, Michael wants to pursue what he’s known for most of his life: soccer.

“Basically I’m trying to do the whole professional athlete thing,” says the fifth-year political science student. “That’s pretty much going to be taking up most of my summer, then I’ll see where it goes from there.”

Winner of both the Ontario University and Canadian Interuniversity Sport MVP awards for soccer in recent years, Michael has already attracted interest from professional clubs in the United Soccer Leagues, and practiced with the Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. Still, most soccer players turn professional at a much younger age than the 23-yearold Bialy. American soccer prodigy Freddy Adu began playing for D.C. United of the MLS in 2004 at the age of 14, the same year Michael began plying his trade for U of T’s Varsity Blues:

“My chances might be hindered a little bit because I’m going so late. I’m 23 right now, and 23 is considered old. If I had gone when I was 18, I would have had better opportunity. Then again, I think I developed a lot playing for the program that U of T has.”

There is no tried-and-true path to becoming a professional athlete, no four-year program you can take. Oftentimes it takes as much dumb luck, stumbling into the right situation or opportunity, as it does skill. And so, it’s always important to have a backup plan, and that’s where the student part of the equation comes into play. Michael, who also minors in math and statistics at UTM, is keeping an open mind to career options outside of sports:

“I think I’d be able to [do a desk job], just for the fact that I wouldn’t stop playing soccer at least at the amateur level, for something to look forward to.” He has even considered entering accounting (his mother’s profession) but wants to see where soccer takes him first.

Globe trotters

Sports has taken a couple athletes on a strange and circuitous route. For Jessica Hiew, her love of basketball took her from her native Canberra, New South Wales, to Idaho State University on a basketball scholarship, then finally to the University of Toronto. Hiew was chosen most valuable player three times at Radford Highschool, but she was forced to seek opportunities abroad due to a lack of athletics in Australian universities.

U of T grad Safiya Muharuma, 28, can relate to the trans-national adventure. After completing teachers college at OISE in 2003, the former

defenseman with the Varsity Blues decided she wasn’t prepared to commit herself to that career for the next 30 years: “I wanted to do something closer to athletics than simply being a phys-ed teacher at a school” said the East York native.

Muharuma, who helped lead the 2000-2001 Blues squad to an undefeated 35-0 record, decided to prolong her hockey career by joining a professional women’s hockey team in Switzerland, an experience which she admits broadened her horizons, but also left her in a state of uncertainty: “Your path kind of opens up in forks in different directions. I think that’s what happened with me. If I hadn’t gone to Europe I wouldn’t have second-guessed becoming a teacher. But after I went there for 2 1/2 years I really thought about doing other stuff.”

Her story also shows that a career in professional sports is not always full of the glitz and glamour North Americans have come to associate. Sports doesn’t exactly pay the bills, in fact Muharuma never had a paycheque from her Swiss club, working at U of T sports camps in the summer just to fund her hockey dream. “I didn’t play hockey for the money,” says Muharuma, “I played because I love it,’’

Scoring off the field

In 2007, Canadian Universities, U of T in particular, finally started to step up to the plate to help fund student athletes, many of whom can’t work parttime throughout the year because of their intense training schedules. Last year the Faculty of Physical Education and Health gave out close to $250,000 in athletics-based awards, much of which is donated by alumni and friends of the faculty. There are currently 50 awards for athletics according to the FPEH awards handbook, ranging from basketball and hockey, to rowing, swimming, and fencing. All awards related to participation in Varsity sports fall under OUA and CIS regulations, which sets a limit of $3,500 per student, as roughly half of the 50 awards are for the maximum value (This year the deadline for awards applications is April 11.)

The big picture

Is it worth being a Varsity athlete in the long run? The majority answer in the affirmative, without a second thought.

“My best memories of my university experience will definitely all be basketball related. It’s pretty much been my life here,” says Hiew, who helped the women’s basketball team capture OUA silver this past season.

“Sports has definitely defined my university experience,” says Jessica Fitzgerald, 23, a wrestler who is pursuing a second-entry degree in pharmacy at U of T. “Being an athlete, that’s my label. You know, some people are sorority girls, or whatever, and I’m a student athlete, that’s what I do. I couldn’t imagine not competing while I’m at school.”

Considering the amount of hours most students’ waste procrastinating, , there is something noble in dedicating oneself to an ideal and pursuing it. The important thing for any student is just to find that balance: “It really helps you develop your time management skills [being a student and an athlete] because it forces you to stay on top of things, you can’t just waste time on other things” says Fitzgerald.

“I would say I was a better athlete than a student,” says Muharuma, recalling her experiences. “That’s going to be an honest answer, I was a good student, but I’d probably be a better student if I wasn’t an athlete, but then I wouldn’t have gotten to be an athlete, so it’s a catch 22. It’s worth it in the end.”

Bring back the glory Jays

It was just like old times for Blue Jays fans at the Jays’ home opener on Friday night, as a sold-out Rogers Centre watched Roberto Alomar’s name and number rise to the Level of Excellence in a pre-game ceremony to honour the former second baseman. The team donned vintage powder blue uniforms for the first “Flashback Friday” of the season, defeating the defending champion Boston Red Sox 6-3. A boisterous crowd showed enthusiasm not seen in years—two fans couldn’t even confine their excitement to the stands, jumping onto the field in a state of partial undress. The typically vocal contingent of Red Sox fans was smaller and quieter than usual as Jays fans made sure their team enjoyed a memorable welcome, saving their loudest ovations for Alomar while reminiscing about the Jays’ glory days, including Alomar’s famous home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS.

If Jays fans seem a little stuck in the past, it’s understandable. Perennial third-place finishers in the ultracompetitive AL East, the team hasn’t played a postseason game since winning the World Series in 1993. While introducing Alomar and surprise honouree Paul Beeston, the long-time Jays executive, president and CEO Paul Godfrey received a hearty round of boos, a testament to the frustration of Toronto baseball fans. They were promised a more competitive team when the Jays received a substantial payroll boost a few years ago, but it hasn’t been enough to push them past their two divisional foes, the powerhouse Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

But there’s an optimism this season,one that hasn’t been seen in years. A homemade sign reading “This is our year” graced the 200-level outfield, a sentiment echoed by fans in the cheap seats who dissected the weaknesses of their AL competitors while watching starting pitcher Shaun Marcum, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2007, hold a potent Red Sox offence to only three hits in seven innings of work.

While it seems strange to put faith in a roster that is not substantially different from last season’s—the Jays added shortstop David Eckstein, swapped third basemen with St. Louis, acquired utility infielder Marco Scutaro and brought back Shannon Stewart— fans are hoping that their young arms continue to improve. As the bats that lay dormant in an injury-plagued 2007 wake up, the Blue Jays have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. If Toronto’s first few games against their chief rivals are any indication, there is reason for cautious optimism. Although the Jays dropped two of three games in New York, they outscored the Yankees 9-8 as the two losses were made by only one run. After winning the home opener, the Jays hammered the Red Sox 10-2 in their second meeting.

The Yankees could be vulnerable this year. They lost popular manager Joe Torre and their combination of young and inexperienced arms and past-their-prime pitchers could fall flat. And who knows what could happen with Hank Steinbrenner taking over from his father George as the new ringmaster of the Yankees circus, given the Steinbrenners’ penchant for bold, unpredictable, and sometimes questionable decisions. The Yankees’ offence could be strong enough to cover up any weaknesses, especially if they get another MVP season from Alex Rodriguez, but they may leave the door open enough for the Jays to squeak through.

Before fans speculate on who will be this year’s Eckersley and Alomar, the Jays will have to get past a number of talented teams. The BoSox have not done much to change their championship-winning roster, and that bodes well for them. Youngsters Jacoby Ellsbury and rookie of the year Dustin Pedroia will only get better, and with a stronglineup from top to bottom, Boston seems destined to win another divisional title. While that still leaves the AL wild card open, the Jays have to contend with the Yankees, two strong teams from the Central division in the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, and the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the West. The Tigers are fresh off a blockbuster trade that brought them 24-year-old sensation Miguel Cabrera and starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis. The Angels signed well-rounded outfielder Torii Hunter. Cleveland and Seattle pack powerful one-two punches at the top of their rotations, with C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona leading the Indians and Erik Bédard and Felix Hernandez on the mound in Seattle.

The Jays, having lost set-up man Casey Janssen for the year due to injury, lack the depth to compete with their AL rivals. But while the Jays may still be a long shot to make the playoffs, the chances that Toronto could be singing “OK Blue Jays” in October are looking better than they have in years. If the Jays could at least stay in contention until September, and bring back some of the atmosphere from the days when Alomar patrolled the infield, that would be a step in the right direction.

Event listings for week of April 7

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ON-CAMPUS

$25 SPRING BIKE TUNE UP

Get a professional tune-up and help the Varsity Mountain Bike Team.

INSURGENT CITIZENSHIP IN AN ERA OF GLOBAL URBAN PERIPHERIES

Anthropology lecture with Prof. Holston of UC Berkeley.

  • Weds. April 9, 3-5pm. Free!

  • Anthopology Building, Room AP246 (19 Russell Street)

  • www.utoronto.ca/cdts

SEARS ONTARIO DRAMA FESTIVAL

Eleven plays produced and performed by Toronto high schoolers.

SACRED VISION, SACRED WORLD: A VEDIC VIEW ON ECOLOGY

Vegetarian feast, discussion, and meditation with Devamrita Swami.

FREE FRIDAY FILM: THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES

Brought to you by the Cinema Studies Student Union

U OF T SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

Performing Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Liszt.

LIVING THE HIPLIFE

Film painting a musical portrait of street life in West Africa.

THE GREAT GATSBY AFFAIR PARTY

Presented by the English Students’ Union and BMO.

  • Fri. April 18, 8:30pm-1am. $10 in advance to World Literacy of Canada.

  • Hart House Debates Room (7 Hart House Circle)

  • http://esu.sa.utoronto.ca

FINDING RENTAL HOUSING FOR SEPTEMBER

Brought to you by Student Housing Service.

OFF CAMPUS

TORONTO ALTERNATIVE FASHION WEEK

Celebrating independent Toronto designers.

  • Weds. April 9 to Fri. April 11. $20.

  • Fermenting Cellar, Distillery District (55 Mill Street)

  • www.getfar.ca

SPROCKETS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL FOR CHILDREN

It’s like TIFF, but with more butterflies and robots.

  • Sat. April 12 to Fri. April 18. $10.61 per film.

  • Various locations.

  • www.sprockets.ca

GOIN’ STEADY AT THE GLADSTONE

Dance to 50s and 60s music all night long.

First Nations uni saved at last minute

In operation since 1985, the First Nations Technical Institute is the oldest Aboriginal educational institution of its kind in Ontario. With over 2,000 graduates, the school has around 320 current students in addition to its secondary school and after-school programs. Ninety per cent of FNTI grads find work and the institute hopes to continue its success for another 22 years. That is, unless it goes broke first.

On April 1, the provincial government announced that it would bestow a one-time payment of $1.5 million so the FNTI can stay open. The school was in danger of closing due to cuts in federal funding.

The federal and provincial governments have been quarreling over jurisdiction for some time. From the province’s point of view, the feds should fund FNTI because it is an Aboriginal institution. The feds counter that the province is responsible for postsecondary education.

FNTI was consistently funded by the federal government until 2004, with an annual budget of $2.7 million. The amount has now decreased to $531,687 for the 2008 academic year, not enough to keep the institute afl oat. The province’s money will keep the FNTI open for another year.

“For more than twenty years, the First Nations Technical Institute has helped Aboriginal people from this community and across the province find success through postsecondary education,” said MPP Leona Dombrowsky (Prince Edward-Hastings). “I am pleased that we are able to strengthen the partnership with the institute.”

FNTI is currently asking for $2.5 million per year with 2 per cent cost-of-living increases to make up for infl ation, a lesser amount than their 2004 funding and, supporters point out, in the context of a current federal surplus estimated at $2 billion.

“To say that this is a burden on another level of government is way off the mark, we’re talking about a small amount of money,” said Ken Marciniec, communications coordinator of Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario.

The funding crisis has FNTI’s students in quite a bind. How do you plan for graduation when your school might be gone before that happens? “It was a ridiculous situation for our students to be in, taking two-, three- and four-year programs and not sure if they were going to finish,” said Karihwakeron Tim Thompson, president and CAO of FNTI. “It’s pleasing that the province is

taking a constructive approach to intervene on behalf of our students for this year, we’re very encouraged by that,” Thompson said. But the reprieve, he knows, is only temporary. “FNTI’s hope is that a longer-term solution makes itself available long before Christmas break. We can’t be put in the same situation come the end of March next year.”

Columnists crack Canada conundrum

Sometimes Canadians get tired of talking about national identity. Luckily, a couple of opinionated New Yorkers were ready to take up the matter.

That’s exactly what happened last Sunday, March 30, when Maclean’s magazine brought Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik to Convocation Hall for a debate on that very subject.

The two staff writers for the New Yorker live full-time in Manhattan, but both grew up north of the border.

Gladwell, born in the U.K., graduated from U of T’s Trinity College in 1989 and worked for the Washington Post before being hired at the New Yorker in 1996. Gladwell wrote two best-selling books, Blink explaining the thinking behind quick decisions and The Tipping Point, which examined how “social epidemics” begin.

Hailing from Philadelphia, Gopnik, who has won three National Magazine Awards for his writing in the New Yorker, grew up in Montreal and attended McGill. Before this appearance, Gopnik and Gladwell had debated the Canadian system of health care published in the Washington Monthly in 2000.

In Saturday’s debate, entitled “Canada: Nation or Notion?” Gladwell presented the argument of Canada’s “small” international profile as a powerful advantage. In an example, he likened Canada to businesses operated by Chinese immigrants. According to Gladwell, being a minority outside of the mainstream allows one to be unburdened by the needs and considerations of a broad group of constituents, allowing one to “be mean” if necessary and forcing one to be connected on a greater scale in order to succeed. Gladwell added that he didn’t mean to imply these traits were inherent to Chinese businesspeople.

“That might be the best argument for the separation of Quebec I’ve ever heard,” Gopnik said of Gladwell’s remarks. Gopnik called his vision of Canada “notionalism.” Canada, he said, was not unburdened and mean, but encumbered by its history—why else did Toronto have signs in two languages when so few Torontonians speak or read French?

If Gladwell’s idea of Canada lurking in the wings of the international stage was a bit cynical, Gopnik’s notion of the country was downright sentimental. After sharing his love of the CBC and anecdotes about Don Cherry’s quixotic charm, he went on to define Canada in everyone’s favourite way: by comparing us to the U.S. According to Gopnik, U.S. nationalism is tied to “flags and fears,” whereas Canadian nationalism springs from “hopes and holidays.”

On a basic level, Gopnik’s argument for Canada as “notion” was yet another stab at giving the country a national identity—one, in this case, of common sense and inclusivity. Canada, he said, was not a place where people just come for the short term.

Among those seated in the front row were former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, her husband the acclaimed essayist John Ralston Saul and author Douglas Coupland, of jPod fame.

“What role or mission do we have—or should we simply be a happy little country fond of our habits?” Clarkson asked, opening the event’s question period. Gladwell responded by commenting on Canada’s need to speak up and serve as the place for experimentation. “I think it’s time for us to tell the world what we’ve accomplished and to experiment and show the world new direction. The world really needs that kind of example.”

Losing paradise

We have commenced our descent when a strong wind from the north pushes the tiny aircraft headlong into the mountain to our left. Soren, my partner and travelling companion, clamps his sweaty palm hard on to my thigh—he’s always had a fear of flying. As our plane touches down on the barely-paved runway, I breathe a sigh of relief. Surrounded by the lush tropical forests of eastern Panama, we make our way towards Immigration, which is really just a bamboo hut with a few benches. A local man stamps our passports, and children paw at the few bags we’ve brought. It seems like the whole village has made its way to the airport to welcome our arrival.

The Cormaca de Kuna Yala is the semi-autonomous home of the Kuna, located in the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. The region is only accessible by aircraft. Rough terrain, combined with annual floods and guerrilla activity to the east, has made it impossible to build roads. Consequently, the Kuna have flourished in relative isolation, maintaining political and cultural autonomy. The area’s inaccessibility has also led to the natural preservation of the ecosystem against development. Simply put, the San Blas Islands are the stuff of postcards. White sand beaches, windswept palms and tiny islands dot the rugged costal terrain. In the early 1980s, the Kuna put aside 60,000 acres as designated parkland, making them the first indigenous group in Latin America to do so. The creation of the protected area was based on their belief in “Spirit Sanctuaries,” a space where spiritual animals, plants, and demons reside. This system, in conjunction with the belief that all living things have a spiritual dimension, forms the foundation for the conservationist efforts of the Kuna people.

We board a dugout canoe outfitted with a modern motor engine on the back, and head for the tiny island we’ll call home for the next week. The Kuna pack their communities tightly onto the islands of the archipelago, reserving the mainland for agriculture and hunting. This technique protects the communities from the influx of malaria and yellow fever, which thrive in the jungles but have little impact on the coast. Our own island has seven bamboo huts. There is a communal space for eating and bathing.

Over the next few days our guide, Domi, takes us around the region. Sporting Guess Jeans and a baseball cap, Domi speaks little Spanish and even less English, telling us “the mangroves are the life force of the Kuna people. We use them for everything, for making rope, building houses, and to prevent erosion. Ukupseni relies of them for her nature. The mangroves are like a mother.”

Emphasis on the balance of the earth, and the great mother is made repeatedly throughout our stay. At the community gravesite, Domi explains the symbolism of the graves. The Kuna do not bury their deceased, but rather pile mounds of earth on top, posting sticks at either end. “The stick posts represent hammock posts, to help the deceased find comfort. The mounds of earth are symbolic of the pregnancy of the mother earth. The deceased will be reborn from the mother and into the natural world.”

I am taken by the myth of the Kuna tribe, at one with nature, in perfect balance and harmony. Miles away from the pressures of globalization, these people have carved out a sustainable existence based on coconuts, fresh fish, and local crafts.

On our final day in the San Blas, Domi wakes us up early and declares that we will visit the community. I am thrilled to see the life force of this impressive region. As our canoe docks at the tiny island, I immediately notice the hundreds of children. We walk down the dust-covered street between the rows of bamboo huts. It seems the entire community has come to greet us.

The children sport western outfits, belly tops, jewellery, some even have Ipods. Almost every girl over the age of twelve is pregnant. A cross looming at the end of the main street proves that the animistic traditions of the Kuna have long been put to rest. I look harder at the children. There is a glazed look in their eyes. One girl stumbles past me, a pop can in one hand, and a comb repeatedly pulled through her greasy hair. She must be about nine years old. I look closer. She’s high. On gasoline. I look around the crowd of children before us. They’re all high. Some of the adults too. I look at Domi who refuses to meet my eyes, a heartbroken look on his face. On our way back to the canoe, we spot a larger boat, docked at bay. Columbian drug runners on their way up the coast to Carti.

At night I curl up in my hammock, wind howling through the cracks of our bamboo hut. Tomorrow we will board a plane, back to the mainland. I wonder if I was naive to believe this place should be different than any other. I wonder if it’s my mere presence as a tourist that has rendered the dismal future for the Kuna. It’s dark now; there are no lights for miles. I sink further into the hammock and gaze up at the mystery above.

Don’t ignore the nitty gritty

As anyone involved in political activism can tell you, nothing derails a movement quite like a fight over tactics. U of T’s student movement is off the rails— in the face of a 20 per cent residence fee increase at New College, most students seem to be siding with President David Naylor.

While we exchange insults in the Varsity’s comment threads, important issues are getting lost. At the University Affairs Board Meeting on March 25, a group of senior administrators presented a report that could fundamentally change the way ancillary services are funded at U of T. The report articulated a “fourth objective” for residences at U of T: to bring in a profit.

At the moment, most residences operate at a substantial net loss. Since a relatively small number of primarily well-off students live on campus, it’s reasonable to suggest that commuter students should not subsidize residences. That means, ideally, that residences should break even. It doesn’t mean that they should fund other initiatives.

Residences can’t haemorrhage money the way New College does, so something needs to change. I’m not sure that change should come on the backs of students, especially students living in the decrepit Wilson and Wetmore halls. But the fee increase was only one item on that UAB meeting agenda. The university’s whole attitude towards ancillary services is changing, and in the long run, that is what will hurt students.

While we squabble, a precedent is being set. In the past, some residences have brought in modest profits. Those profits have funded residence expansion the right way: with a large down payment and a small mortgage. If this report’s recommendations are taken seriously, in the future, those profits will be put to use by the administration at Simcoe Hall.

Other changes may be on the way. The New College Residence Review Committee also suggested closing down 89 Chestnut to “increase demand and pricing power for remaining residences.” Another recommendation: scrapping the first year residence guarantee.

U of T has been underfunded for as long as you or I can remember. It’s no surprise that this administration is desperately seeking new streams of revenue. If the admin was really concerned with student engagement they would be open about their intentions. And If the student movement was serious about access, they would stop shouting for a few minutes and spread the word about all the nitty gritty policy changes that will ultimately make education inaccessible.