Feminism, combat, and pillows

Toronto’s Pillow Fight League fights for recognition

Feminism, combat, and pillows

It’s been a huge year for sport in Toronto. This past summer the city hosted the seventeenth Pan American Games in which Canadian athletes won a record 217 medals; the entire city got behind the unprecedented success of the Blue Jays, who made it all the way to the ALCS for the first time in 22 years; and Toronto FC have clinched a playoff spot for the first time in franchise history. With the right infrastructure and fan support already in place, is the city finally ready to welcome a new, unconventional sport into its successful roster?

Brandy Dawley, president of the Pillow Fight League (PFL), thinks so.

Started in 2006, the PFL is trying to distance itself from the girls-only slumber party image that perpetuates conversations amongst the ignorant. The PFL has hosted 65 events across North America over the last five years. Pillow fighting prides itself on being a full contact, mixed martial arts, and boxing hybrid. The competitors, dubbed fighters, traditionally compete on floor mats and are equipped with one weapon: a pillow. Drawing inspiration from roller derby, the sport is all about contact — fighters use their pillows to incapacitate their opponents — and all contact must be made using the pillow.   

Pillow fighting prides itself on being a full contact, mixed martial arts, and boxing hybrid.  

Dawley, along with a few other fans of the sport, purchased the rights to the league after the original PFL went defunct in 2011, and they are looking to put pillow fighting on the map.

A proud feminist, Dawley recently talked to The Varsity about her plans for the league, the importance of female only sports, and the badass fighters who make up the PFL.

The Varsity: What is the PFL and why did you make the decision to become the president of the league?

Brandy Dawley: Back when the original pillow fight league was still running I came to a couple of shows and I had the same reaction I’m expecting most people are going to have about the sport which is, you know, kind of: ‘ok sure girls pillow fighting this is going to be hilarious.’ I was picturing the same thing I think everyone pictures when they think of pillow fighting: some lingerie-clad bikini models hitting each other with pillows, [but] I went and it was nothing like that at all. It was the brutal exciting sport with these athletes. Just beating the crap out of each other with pillows and it was just so amazing that I became hooked… I was really personally disappointed when the league folded, and then I got in contact with a few other people who were fans of the league… and we decided we needed to bring this thing back, and we bought it. And here I am.

TV: Do you think the PFL will be received as more of an activity or entertainment? Is Toronto ready to embrace pillow fighting as a sport?

BD: Well here’s the thing, I think now is the perfect time because women are starting to really make a name for themselves in sports. The women’s world cup finals was, I think, the top watched soccer game in US history. Ronda Rousey is one of the most notable combat athletes out there right now, women are finding their way onto coaching staff in the NFL and NBA; its not a boys club anymore. I think the general idea of women as athletes is celebrated more now than it was… even a year ago… I think now is the time that we’ll be taken seriously as a sport… We’re kind of counting on that ‘WTF’ factor to bring people to the first game. We’re hoping that people are as blown away by our athletes as we were when we first came to the shows and decide that they actually like the sport… the first show is going to be the toughest — getting people to take [the PFL] seriously. We’re hoping that…the press [are] there [and] get the chance to see what we’re about. Then people [can] decide to give us a chance… I’m very proudly a feminist and we want to make sure that this is first and for most a women forward event, and a women forward sport.

TV: What is the selection process like for the PFL and how many fighters are you looking to take onboard? When can we expect the first match to take place?

BD: Right now we’re focusing on our crowd funding campaign and getting the seed capital for our first show because we kind of expended most of our resources in buying the league. We could have started our own league — many people have tried — but we wanted the first and the best… Now its time to plan the first event and we’re hoping that the crowd funding campaign will give us a little boost… We have a tentative date and a tentative location… but it all depends on how the crowd funding campaign goes… If you want to become a fighter the website is jointhepfl.com you sign up — there’s a lengthy questionnaire. We’re going to be having open tryouts, probably in November, and from there we will have coaches and they will be working with our athletes… Right now we’re looking for our first six fighters but we’re going to have a much larger roster as time goes on.

Fantasy sports takes on a whole new meaning

Some of the best programs don’t appear on the varsity roster

Fantasy sports takes on a whole new meaning

The University of Toronto consistently tops intercollegiate rankings as one of the world’s best places to study. Studying, however, isn’t all we do. A large portion of the student body is unaware of the variety of non-varsity sports that are available to them.

WIZARDING GAMES ON FRONT CAMPUS

Not many people have heard of The Centaurs who regularly practice at U of T’s St.George campus. The Centaurs play quidditch; a muggle adaptation of the sport from the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Much like in J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, and according to the International Quidditch Association (IQA) rulebook, there are seven players on each side — three chasers, two beaters, a keeper, and a seeker. Three kinds of balls: a quaffle, a snitch, and bludgers. The chasers try to get the quaffle, a slightly deflated volleyball, through one of three hoops guarded by keepers. Beaters throw the bludgers, dodgeball-style, at the chasers. Seekers chase the runner, who has the snitch — a small ball — tucked into a sleeve attached to their shorts.

Quidditch is not yet allowed to join the ranks of more traditional collegiate sports such as varsity swimming or varsity football. The quidditch community continues to lack support and recognition from students as well as the university. Former co-captain Matt Korda contends that recognition remains one of the team’s biggest challenges. “I do think that one of the toughest things about Quidditch is moving the game away from the books,” he said in an interview with The Varsity last year.

The Centaurs, however, have made impressive strides since the club’s inception in 2009, and they have inspired teams to form on the UTM and UTSC campuses. But the team still needs more: more resources, more participation from the student body, and more recognition from the university and the media.

EMBRACING YOUR INNER LEGOLAS AND YOUR INNER KATNISS

The Hart House Archery Club owes some of its popularity to various fantasy and sci-fi series like The Lord of The Rings and The Hunger Games franchises. 

Prospective archers need not fear — the stakes of the club aren’t life or death. Due to the rise in the popularity of archery, the club is growing faster than ever, so much so that former Varsity writer J.P. Antonacci described the space as crowded. “Eight spots was fine for training day, but during the weekday free shoots… the small space gets pretty crowded,” he explained.

At a closer glance, however, the possibility of growth for the club is immense. Archery is an Olympic sport, with events lasting as long as seven days at the 2012 Games in London. Historically, Canada’s achievement in archery has been almost nonexistent, but an investment in infrastructure and development for the fast-paced and growing sport within Canadian universities could change that.

Correction (October 29, 2015): A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the Centaurs as the Nifflers. The Varsity regrets the error. 

Sport suspensions

Tracing past transgressions of college and university varsity programs

Sport suspensions

October has been a month of turmoil for the Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning. The polytechnic college, just under an hour north of UTSG, suspended both its male and female rugby teams on October 2. The reason for the suspension: alleged violations against the college’s code of expectations.

“The school’s code of expectations includes guidance on dress codes, hazing, alcohol and drug use, among other areas” reads an article from The Canadian Press, in correlation with Humber’s policies, classified as a “level four” offence. The highest possible level of offence, level four suspensions are classified as acts or offences which “pose a danger or threat to individuals, are in many cases illegal, and in most cases have already caused physical or psychological harm.”

The indefinite suspension of the teams will be determined by the results of an internal investigation. The Ontario College Athletics Association (OCAA) has been informed of the suspension of both teams. “We take matters of our athletics, of our students, we take all this very seriously,” said Andrew Leopold, Humber College’s director of communications.

Although there has been much speculation as to why the college chose to suspend the teams, this isn’t the first time that a program has been suspended by an inter-college or inter-university governing organization like the OCAA.

In March of 2014, the University of Ottawa’s varsity men’s hockey team was suspended after allegations of sexual assault arose after a tournament at Lakehead University. 

Certain players on the team, however, were granted the opportunity to transfer immediately to another hockey program at a different university after Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) CEO Pierre Lafontaine waved the mandatory one-year waiting period. “Our position is to support the student athletes,” said Lafontaine, of the decision to let the players transfer. The team’s head coach was fired due to his failure to report the incident to the university.

Other instances of program suspensions include Dalhousie University’s women’s hockey program. The team’s 2013 season was forfeited due to the alleged hazing of rookie players. Although the entire team was not suspended — rookie players were allowed to remain — the team was forced to forfeit the season due to lack of players. In September of 2009, Carleton University also suspended it’s women’s varsity soccer team for rookie hazing. The team was only suspended for two games, participating in charity work at a local soup kitchen during their off-time.

A case that hits closer to home is the suspension of the Ryerson Rams men’s hockey team in 2009. The university suspended the team for seven days for a breach of the student-athlete code of conduct in an incident involving alcohol consumption during a pre-season trip to New Jersey. Although seven days seems like a slap on the wrist in comparison to a yearlong suspension, the team was subsequently forced to forfeit two games, the head coach was suspended for four games and the team’s assistant coach was dismissed from his duties at the university. 

How the Jays set fire to Toronto

The Jays did what the Pan Am games couldn’t: get Torontonians excited about sport

How the Jays set fire to Toronto

There are numerous ways to define Toronto: its breadth of diversity, the hospitality of its residents, or the quality of its leadership all come to mind. Last summer the city was defined by the mayoral election. This year will be marked as the year of sport for Toronto, thanks not only to the Pan American Games, but the success of the Toronto Blue Jays.

2015 marked the most successful Jays season the city saw in the past 22 years. If you walked anywhere in the downtown core over the past two months you would have seen hundreds of Jays hats-and-jersey-adorned fans littering the streets. 

2015 marked the most successful Jays season the city saw in the past 22 years.

Not only did the sale of various Jays merchandise skyrocket over the length of the team’s playoff stint, but so did collective pride and excitement about the team — a breakthrough Toronto based sports desperately needed. “[The success of the Jays] brings together people of different walks of life, social locations, and ages to share the experience of cheering on a winning team” said urban studies lecturer David Roberts in an interview with U of T News.

The success of the Jays couldn’t have come at a better time. University aged students alone have seen several Leafs and Raptors teams spiral into the abyss of NHL and NBA standings. We’ve lost playoff spots by one point on more than one occasion, and so desperately needed this ego boost to finally get over the memory of the 5-1 lead loss the Leafs had in the infamous game seven match against Boston in 2013.

The city reveled in the tenacity and expertise of Josh Donaldson, David Price, and Jose Bautista, who to many, are now considered civic heroes. Aside from the fact that the Jays roster was the best we’ve seen in decades, athletes, management, and the media continued to hype the success of the team until the bitter end. Now the only question left is sustainability.

Roberts admits that the civic pride and excitement the Jays created over the past few months in Toronto will be difficult to sustain after the team’s elimination from the ALCS on Friday, but there is still hope. “Part of the challenge of creating a greater impact is to figure out how to extend the feelings about the Blue Jays to the city of Toronto… [which will] likely takes some visionary civic leadership,” he said.

The Jays success may also translate into a newfound appreciation for university sport as well. The Varsity Blues men’s baseball and women’s fastpitch teams — both coming off third place finish’s in the OUA and OIWFA championships, respectively, this season, may be able to harness some of Toronto’s new found love of the game.

Alleged history of sexual assault at WCSA pub crawl prompts boycott

WCSA implements changes to make event safer, more inclusive

Alleged history of sexual assault at WCSA pub crawl prompts boycott

Content warning: Discussion of sexual assault

The annual Halloween Streetcar Pub Crawl hosted by the Woodsworth College Students’ Association (WCSA) is facing scrutiny after reports of sexual assault and rape in previous years have come to light. In response to the allegations, some students are calling to boycott pub-crawl and have set up their own alternative event on Facebook.

“Over the past two years, there have been multiple incidents of severe sexual violence at previous WCSA Halloween Streetcar Pubcrawls,” reads a portion of the boycott event’s description. “WCSA has failed to inform the student body of these attacks at their event, nor have they made sufficient efforts to improve the safety of this event. Despite making promises to substantively address sexual violence within their community, there has been no evidence that they have followed through with this.”

Allegations of sexual assault

Veronica*, a student who attended WCSA’s Streetcar Pub Crawl last year, alleged that the WCSA president at the time sexually assaulted her.

“I went on the WCSA streetcar event with the WCSA president, who was a close friend of mine and I got very drunk,” she recalled. “It was easy to do because there was no way to track the number of drinks you’d had. I was just given a bunch of drink tickets at once.”

Veronica said that the WCSA president offered to take her home afterwards. “I was house-sitting at the time so I was alone. I remember going to bed and then I remember waking up under the covers with him under the covers with me. I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“This isn’t really to do with WCSA — it just shows what kind of leadership there was at the time,” she commented.

When asked what could be done to make the event safer, Veronica said that there should be more active bystanders. “They should have people who are sober and watching out for students who don’t look comfortable or who don’t seem to be able to take care of themselves.”

The boycott

Lisa Meyer, a fourth-year Woodsworth College student, and Celia Wandio, founder of Students Against Sexual Violence U of T, are calling for students to boycott the pub crawl, or for WCSA to cancel the event altogether. They said that they would like WCSA to refrain from hosting events involving alcohol until they make a commitment to the safety of the students and to have students at each location monitor potential unsafe situations.

“The fact that WCSA has never told their constituents about the assaults is completely unacceptable and downright shameful,” Meyer said. “It is WCSA’s responsibility to ensure that students who attend their events are safe and this is something they have failed to do year after year.”

WCSA rents out a streetcar to take students to several different bars, but according to Meyer, who worked with WCSA on the event in 2012, it’s not a safe or guaranteed mode of transportation. 

WCSA is very clear year after year that ‘the streetcar waits for no one’,” said Meyer, adding, “I remember being at the event and scrambling to find people you know that the streetcar was about to leave the bar. If the people couldn’t be found, the group would leave without them. Additionally, there was no ride back from the third and last bar, meaning that all attendees would have to find their way home while being piss drunk. Back in 2012, we ended in Little Portugal.”

“I decided to help with this boycott because what has happened at previous WCSA pub crawls has been horrible,” said Wandio.

“There are suggestions that they are taking more safety precautions as a result but there has been no clear attempt to communicate this to students. While off-campus alcoholic events are difficult to regulate, WCSA needs to do more in order to ensure the safety of all its students and to show that they take sexual violence seriously,” Wandio added.

Jasmine Denike, vice-president external of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), said, “the UTSU will not be endorsing the boycott of the Streetcar Pub Crawl but we do encourage the WCSA executives to re-evaluate the event and find ways to improve the safety of students who are attending.”

“As these incidents have happened in the past, it’s a possibility that they may happen in the future. The best way to avoid them is to acknowledge them and to take the necessary steps in preventing them from ever happening again,” Denike said, adding, “it’s not the fault of the current exec — they haven’t done anything wrong. I’d just like to see the event made safer and better. It’s not an attack on WCSA. Everything needs to change to be safer.”

WCSA’s response

WCSA released a statement on Sunday, October 25 regarding the pub night. The statement outlines the changes that have been implemented in order to make the event safer.

“Our Vice-President of Social Affairs has personally met with our Dean of Students as well as our Student Life Coordinator to brainstorm ways to mitigate risks, as well as meeting with the executive team of WCSA to discuss how to minimize risks for our students. We have created a detailed risk management plan for the evening and implemented changes to make the event more inclusive and safer for all our students,” a portion of the statement reads.

“WCSA does not tolerate assaults of any kind nor do we act in a way that puts our students at risk,” said Olivia Hauck, WCSA president, and Ongio Tsui, WCSA vice president, social, in a joint email to The Varsity. “In the past we have always worked to ensure that measures were put in place to keep students safe at our events including sober leaders, wristbands to identify students, training, and strong communication with venues.”

Hauck and Tsui also told The Varsity that they have made changes to the event.

According to Hauck and Tsui, these changes include holding the event on a Tuesday instead of a Thursday or weekend evening, a move aimed at minimizing crowds at the venues. The event’s time has also changed, starting at 7:15 p.m and ending around 11:00 p.m.

Only Woodsworth students will be allowed to participate at the event this year, and the bars will either have a private section reserved for Woodsworth students or the entire bar will be booked out. No drink tickets will be handed out to students as they have been in previous years.

Hauck and Tsui said that more “sober leaders” are being added to the event to escort students to and from the streetcar, ensuring each person has a safe way home if they wish to leave early. According to Hauck and Tsui, the majority of the leaders will also be first aid certified. The “sober leaders” will each be responsible for a group of students, of whom they must keep track of throughout the night and whom students must check in with before leaving. All students will wear wristbands and each group will have different coloured wristbands.

WCSA has also introduced a “pre-event workshop” to tell students about “check-out” procedures” and to ensure they know whom to ask for help. The streetcar will also take the students back to campus this year.

A separate budget for “home-returning” has been allocated for students needing TTC tokens or taxi money, and leaders can accompany students if they are leaving alone.

With files from Iris Robin.

St. George introduces exams on Saturdays, Friday mornings

Schedule may cause problems for religious students, commuters

St. George introduces exams on Saturdays, Friday mornings

Students writing final examinations in December at the University of Toronto should book off their weekends, as the UTSG exam schedule includes Friday morning and Saturday exam slots for the first time. UTM and UTSC have had Friday morning and Saturday exams for several years.

According to Steve Bailey, director of academic and campus events at U of T, the additional exam times are the result of a late Labour Day this year. Since classes did not begin until the third week of September, there is less time for students to write their exams at the end of the semester.

Abdullah Shihipar, president of the Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU), told The Varsity that he does not think that the situation could have been avoided. “Having discussed this with the faculty, the academic calendar is quite constrained this year and it seems like Saturday exams were the only option to fit all these exams, while keeping the study period,” he said.

Shihipar noted that the schedule might cause problems for students who have exams at the same time as their religious observances, and for students for whom commuting on weekends can be an additional challenge. “These students will be accommodated like an exam conflict… It is not an ideal situation and the Faculty seems to acknowledge this,” Shihipar said.

“Saturday exams might seriously affect Jewish students on campus as it goes against the rules of Sabbath. [The] university has to resolve this situation and at least offer alternative days of exam sitting,” said Yana Staroverova, a third-year mathematics and economics student.

Alex Verman, a fourth-year political science student and ASSU executive, echoed Staroverova’s concerns. “As a Sabbath-observant Jew, I know that this introduces another unpleasant complication that students will have to navigate.”

Verman resolved to help students access the accommodation they need in order to write their exams free of conflict. “I can only hope that the Faculty will be cooperative, patient, and lenient, fee-wise, with providing exam deferrals, especially to those students who cannot write exams on Saturdays for religious reasons, and I intend to work to that end,” he said.

U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science website states that students who have exams scheduled at the same time as religious observances should contact the faculty registrar for assistance.

Doyun Kim, a second-year East Asian Studies student, does not believe the schedule is fair to students. “I can understand why [the new examination times] were put in place; however, for students, it largely cuts into time that is set aside for their own use, and adds to the stress of student life,” he said, highlighting the inconveniences of extra commuting.

“One particular inconvenience is that commuters who live away from the campus area of downtown Toronto will face their commutes for just one to three hours of exams on days when they normally would not make the commute,” Kim said. “This costs money and time that they could spend on other pursuits — destressing from exams, studying for other exams, or following other interests.”

“Given that students tend to look forward to Friday mornings/Saturdays as time that they have to take care of themselves, I believe that it is to the detriment of students’ mental health and wellbeing to take this time away from them as a permanent change. Perhaps it makes sense only as a temporary measure introduced for this single semester,” Kim said.

Looking to future examination schedules, Shihipar said that Friday morning and Saturday exams will probably be here to stay. “We know that this will likely be in place next year; however, we are hoping it does not go beyond that.”

With files from U of T News.

Alex Verman contributes to The Varsity.

Trans Inclusivity Project fights transphobia and transmisogyny

Horizontally-structured group first of its kind at U of T

Trans Inclusivity Project fights transphobia and transmisogyny

The Trans Inclusivity Project (TIP) is a new club at the University of Toronto founded to address the systemic inequality experienced by transgender students trying to access education, as well as the violence experienced by transgender people in Toronto

“Even organizations and faculty within U of T have a history of perpetuating transphobia and transmisogyny, both through intentional and unintentional means. Simply put, this history is an unjust one, and it urgently needs to be addressed with accountability, and sweeping changes,” said Jades Swadron, an organizer with TIP.

A unique group

Although TIP is a student group recognized by both ULife and the University of Toronto Students’ Union, its services are also available to the greater Toronto trans community. “While TIP also serves to act as a student advocacy group in the case of students experiencing transmisogyny or transphobia, but with such a large school, it should also come as no surprise that it plays a role in the lives of people who are not students or faculty,” said Swadron.

“Being able to provide outreach for trans people who are not students, and also letting trans students interact with them and grow off their experiences, is definitely an invaluable experience for both parties involved.”   

A unique aspect of the group is that rejects a hierarchical structure, preferring a horizontal structure instead. “Due to the ways in which trans people have had to endure marginalization so consistently, it is in our experience that only the most privileged trans people seem to get into positions of power, even within our own communities,” explained Swadron.

“[Every] time a trans person seems to be able to succeed, they are leaving everyone else around them behind. Our successes are all too often tokenistic, and rather than bringing up the community, they just seem to separate us… With the marginalization that trans people face, a few people getting a chance for success is absolutely insufficient for changing the overall status of trans people,” she said.

Protest against RCPA event

TIP recently held its first events — a meeting, and a protest against a panel discussion held by the Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance (RCPA), both of which Swadron feels were successful.

The protest occurred on Wednesday, October 21, outside the U of T Faculty Club, where the RCPA-hosted panel discussion took place. The panel discussion, entitled ‘The Business Case’, was designed to create discussion around how LGBTQ+ inclusion throughout the workplace drives acceptance and authenticity.

“As LGBTQ+ and ally business students, one of our aims is to help build a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ individuals in the corporate sphere and to further the dialogue around the important issue of diversity in the workplace,” said Christopher Morello, president of the RCPA.

Morello added that through the discussion, the RCPA sought to address some of the historical and systematic marginalization of LGBTQ+ people in business by connecting students interested in finance, consulting, accounting, and legal careers with special networking opportunities to reduce barriers into the workforce.

However, TIP saw cause to boycott the event, citing the cost of the panel discussion, sponsorship concerns, and co-opting of the term ‘intersectionality’ as reasons for the boycott. “The way in which the Rotman Commerce Pride Alliance positions diversity and inclusion as not having inherent value beyond their ability to increase profits, renders it a matter of tokenization and superficial marketing schemes, and affirms our standing that corporations will forever place us in the margins,” read part of a post in the boycott’s Facebook event.

“One of the core mandates of the RCPA is to support the visibility and acceptance of trans people in business,” said Morello in response to the boycott. “All RCPA members actively engage in trans inclusion workshops with the University of Toronto’s Sexual Gender and Diversity Office, the 519 Church Street Community Centre, and the Miami-based YES Institute. Since our founding, the RCPA has welcomed numerous trans students and professionals to our events in a truly safe environment,” he added. 

While Swadron acknowledged that the RCPA’s event was not without merit, they objected primarily to the involvement of large corporations in the event’s funding. “[As] an event aimed at LGBT people, the RCPA’s event was already trying to do something right. However, the way the event was very much wrapped up with corrupt corporations, and depicted business as an unrealistic saviour to queer people. These sorts of things made protesting the event a very much prudent thing to do,” Swadron said.

Morello told The Varsity that the RCPA tried to meet with TIP organizers in advance of the panel discussion and protest, but that attempts were unsuccessful. “We appreciate the value of diverging viewpoints within our community and extend an invitation to anyone interested to engage in dialogue to drive equality forward,” Morello said.

TIP plans to host a workshop on Wednesday, October 28, explaining their call to boycott the RCPA event. “The reception we have received has been both [despair-inducing], in the sense that there are still bigots around campus, but also heartwarming, due to the positive impact we have been able to make already, just in TIP’s first semester of existence,” Swadron said. 

In Conversation: Sandy Welsh

New U of T vice provost, students on representing students and improving services

In Conversation: Sandy Welsh

Although technically new to the position, Sandy Welsh, the University of Toronto’s incoming vice provost, students, is no stranger to the University of Toronto. With 21 years of experience in positions that ranges from professor to vice-dean. Welsh has the experience, knowledge, background, and big ideas needed to take on the immense task of improving student life for the largest student body in Canada.

Welsh officially began her five-year term on July 1, 2015 and worked closely with student groups in an effort to encourage students to vote in the federal election.

Now that the election is over, Welsh will be prioritizing student engagement across all three campuses to get to the root of the most important issues  facing students. On reaching out to students, Welsh emphasizes that she is eager to speak with students. “I’m really willing to have the difficult conversations that people want to have and to hear the things that people tell me.” Welsh hopes that her background in a tri-campus department will help her achieve her goals of building a sense of community for students at U of T.

Accommodating differences in the student body is another important part of being vice provost, students. Representing all students across three campuses, including graduate students, Welsh notes the different experiences between that of a graduate and undergraduate student and has begun to pinpoint areas of interest for those different groups including mental health services. One of the graduate-focused initiatives is providing locations for counselling services that are different from those of undergraduates. Welsh says that an awareness of cycles is important and that student services are “not a one size fits all model.” 

Another priority for her is continuing work to provide services for victims of sexual violence and to establish training for dons, staff, and faculty on sexual violence and consent. Welsh is also prioritizing improvement of the student experience for international students, and is working to have embedded counselors at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Looking to the future, Welsh says, “I hope that one of my legacies will be what comes out of our recommendations for sexual violence, and to leave students feeling that they know where to go.”

“I take administrative jobs because they call out to me. It’s because there is a job that touches me in some way, and I really think is important. I want to know what I can do to help students, and if there is a legacy I hope I have done some things that make life better for all of our students here.”