“Boundless” U of T campaign misrepresents the realities of university life

University advertisements misrepresent the constraints on student life

“Boundless” U of T campaign misrepresents the realities of university life

I own this shirt. It is navy blue with a white trim, a nice looking shirt. Perhaps you’ve seen this shirt. I wear it to the gym sometimes, especially the one back home where I show it off as if to say: why yes, I do attend university. Maybe you even own it too, I got mine for free and I know I’m not the only one. What really draws attention to the shirt is the message written across the chest: “I am Boundless.”

Now I’ll admit it’s a great slogan. The first thing you can say about “Boundless” is that it fits all the criteria you would expect from a university slogan. Ambiguity? Check. Opportunity? Check. Infinite horizons? Check.

From a marketing standpoint, the obscurity of this term is what makes it so effective. It carries the idea that school is what you make of it, putting you in the driver’s seat. What’s boundless? Is it the diverse mix of research programs, exchanges, clubs, teams and all manner of opportunities that are readily available at U of T? No. It is you. You are boundless.

“Boundless,” perhaps more than anything else, denotes freedom. One could argue that this is exactly what potential students are looking for. The meaning of the slogan is twofold. It first posits that the university will help provide the necessary environment for you to explore your freedom, while at the same time, the slogan suggests that this environment will not restrict or bind you in any way.

On an academic level, this slogan seems to fit well with U of T’s culture. After all, this school offers some outstanding opportunities. Ironically — perhaps intentionally — this motto runs contrary to some of the popular beliefs about this university. Barring any outside criticism, many students at this school report that the academic demands on their time are too strenuous, and that they invade too deeply into their social lives. This is of course merely the price one pays for attending a top school. Still, the fact that our slogan seems to run contrary to what many of us believe about this university is somewhat troublesome.

If this slogan only meant that we are boundless in the academic sphere then perhaps there would be no issue. However, the various ways in which this slogan is delivered play up both the academic and social advantages of the school.

In one sense, this is a must for the university’s advertising. In an age where the value of any given university degree has shrunk, social networks are becoming increasingly important for many prospective students.

Accordingly, university ads seem to be advancing the social merits of their schools more than ever. In these ads, the message that the social value of the degree is tantamount to academics is not only promoted, it’s unequivocal. After all, how do you think alumni get to the top? When you play Frisbee in the shade of the campus quad with women in sundresses and men in Oxford shirts, yes there is great fun, but there is also an opportunity to make profitable connections.

The reality for many students is that the academic rigors of this school overshadow the social benefits of university. In this sense, our slogan is contradictory. We are not boundless, but heavily bound. We can only hope, then, that this hindrance to social freedom will be worth it in the long run.


Breen Wilkinson is a second-year student studying English, history, and American studies.

Gertler installed as president of U of T

New president emphasizes public funding question in installation address

Gertler installed as president of U of T

On November 7, professor Meric S. Gertler was installed as president of the University of Toronto in front of a packed audience at Convocation Hall.. Judy Goldring, Chair of Governing Council, administered the declaration of office, after which Gertler was robed and formally greeted by several dignitaries. The new president then delivered his installation address.

Distinguished guests included the Hon. David Onley, Lieutenant Governer of Ontario, the Hon. Reza Moridi, Minister of Research and Innovation, Dr. Suzanne Forteir, principal of McGill University, and several past president and past chancellors of the university

Gertler served as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science from 2008–2013 and has been praised for his innovative spirit and dedication to the university. Greeting the new president on behalf of students, student-governor Adrian De Leon quoted ratemyprofessor.com, calling Gertler “a nice guy, a top gun-prof, and one of the best out there.” De Leon was one of the few speakers who addressed the serious challenges facing the university, and wished Gertler luck in tackling these issues.

During his installation address, Gertler also addressed substantive topics, particularly the question of public funding for the university. He confronted the audience with what he called the paradox of the University of Toronto. First, he noted U of T’s many accomplishments: that it is ranked 20th in the world, eighth in the world in scientific performance,  second in the world in terms of total output of scholarly publishing, and first among Canadian universities. Then, Gertler stated that “U of T is last in Canada and amongst the very lowest in north America when it comes to public funding per student. Simply put, this institution defies gravity.”

In his address, Gertler also identified three areas for change that he plans to focus on in his time as president: leveraging University of Toronto’s location, increasing strategic international partnerships, and re-inventing the experience of undergraduate education, particularly through the use of technology.

Gertler is the sixteenth president of the University of Toronto.

Meet Judy Goldring

Family of Governing Council chair has donated over $10 million to U of T

Meet Judy Goldring

Judy Goldring, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at AGF Management, had a special reason to spend time in the library during her undergraduate career at the University of Toronto. “I loved hanging out at Emmanuel College,” she says. “This will really date me, but Tears for Fears did a video at Emmanuel College, and I loved going into Emmanuel College and saying ‘This is where the video was done.’”

Four generations of the Goldring family have attended U of T, including Judy and her brother Blake, both of whom graduated from Victoria University, and both of whom have individually donated over $1 million to the university. The Goldring family has made numerous donations to the university. The most visible signs of its generosity are the recently opened Goldring Student Centre at Victoria University and the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport, currently under construction on Devonshire. “One of our family principles is to give back to your alma mater,” Goldring explains.

Goldring’s experience as a commuter student informed the decision to contribute to the Victoria student centre. “We’re really so honoured and proud and humbled to be able to put a building that we think will help integrate the commuter students, to have a place for not just commuter students but also [residence] students, and it’s a place of meeting.”

Goldring believes that the development of projects like the two Goldring centres must involve consultation and dialogue between donors and the administration. The student centre at Victoria created some controversy when it was first proposed in 2008, with students voting in a referendum that approved a $100 ancillary fee to pay for one-third of the $21 million building. Goldring says the decision of students to support the project at the time was inspiring. “I think that’s exactly what donations are all about; that’s exactly why if there’s a vote and people will support it, it’s because they want to make sure they’re improving the time for the student experience after they’re gone, and that’s exactly what we wanted to see happen with the Goldring Student Centre.”

The connection to Victoria is obvious, but why high performance sport? Goldring says her father, the late C. Warren Goldring, co-founder of financial firm AGF Management, believed in a well-balanced life. “I did joke with him, ‘There are no Olympians in my side of the family,’” she remembers, “but he was a firm believer about having that element of your life fulfilled, and it is about having all parts of your life in a positive way, and that’s what the Goldring Centre for High Performance does.”

Health is a particular topic of interest for Goldring; her husband has Type 1 diabetes, and she has previously co-chaired the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) Ride for Research charity event. According to Goldring, the quality of research being conducted at institutions like U of T is particularly important: “In terms of the research excellence that’s done here, you do see organizations like JDRF benefitting from phenomenal research, and research does make a difference in managing diseases like diabetes.”

Goldring believes that it is important for students to take care of their health. “You’ve got a lot of pressure; students today are under a lot of stress, and the pressure to perform and succeed in a very competitive environment is a challenge,” she admits. “But it is a good message to get out — to get out and do that, keep active, keep healthy, eat right.”

Goldring’s contributions to U of T go beyond the remarkable sums she has donated. She has been a member of the University of Toronto’s Governing Council for four years, serving as its vice-chair for two years before being elected to the role of chair on July 1, 2013. “We’ve spoken about my love of this institution, my fond memories of it,” she says. “My family connection has afforded me the opportunity to get involved, and when the opportunity came around for me to get involved with the council, I was excited to be able to give back.”

As Meric Gertler takes over as U of T’s new president, Goldring is leading Governing Council during a period of change for the school, and she looks forward to the work. “Certainly governance, I think, can be helpful in the transition, assuring a smooth transition to support the president and the provost,” she says. “We’re also looking to support, where appropriate, on key defined advocacy issues as the president might define or the administration might define.” Goldring emphasizes that a current key policy initiative for the Governing Council is the implementation of campus councils on the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses, an effort to respond to their growth by increasing decision-making at the local level.

Goldring balances her position at the university with what she drily calls her “day job” as COO of AGF Management, a $38 billion asset management company that invests money for clients without the expertise or inclination to do so themselves. Portfolio managers at the company construct investment packages in which individuals and institutions can then choose to participate. U of T itself employs AGF’s services through the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation. “So it keeps me busy,” Goldring says of her multitude of responsibilities with a smile.

“Some would argue there’s no such thing as balance,” Goldring notes, when asked how she manages to keep her complex life in order. “It’s just a very busy time on campus right now, which is great. So right now, the balance is a little imbalanced, but it’s okay. It’s all good.”

The discussion eventually turns back to the business of U of T. Goldring shares what she sees as the most significant challenge for universities in Canada. “Broadly speaking, I think for all universities it’s government policy around post-secondary education and sustainability of the framework that we’re operating in,” she says. “It’s one of the more pressing issues; it’s not a new issue, and it’s not going to be solved in a day either.” Still, Goldring is excited about the opportunities for dialogue for the schools leaders going forward, and particularly expressed great confidence in president Gertler.

Perhaps she is remembering her days making friends in The Buttery, or reading in her favourite quiet spaces around Vic, or being awestruck by the building in which Tears for Fears filmed a video (yesterday’s Mean Girls and Convocation Hall, one might say). At any rate, there is context that makes the words Goldring utters in conclusion just a little more meaningful. “Enjoy your time here,” she says. “It goes by quickly.”

There are always choices

Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan discusses her new book, World War I, and the study of history

There are always choices

Margaret MacMillan, one of Canada’s best-known historians, returned to Toronto this week to promote her new book The War That Ended Peace. A Toronto native and University of Toronto graduate, MacMillan was provost of Trinity College and has taught at both U of T and Ryerson. Now warden of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, MacMillan is also a public intellectual and award-winning author.

Her latest book, which addresses the causes of the First World War, is the historical prequel to her famous book on the conclusion of that war, Paris 1919. While 600 pages on international relations may not be your idea of fun, The War That Ended Peace is shockingly readable and contains broadly interesting themes. The Varsity caught up with MacMillan at Trinity College to talk about that troubled, pivotal, and ultimately calamitous moment in world history, and the lessons it can offer about the world today and the role of history.


The Varsity: So, the book is 600 pages. I think for most undergraduates, even reading a 600 page book is pretty daunting. Where do you start when writing a book of this length and complexity? 

MacMillan_Margaret_The War that Ended Peace_HCMargaret MacMillan: I never start thinking I’m going to write a 600-page book. I start trying to get an idea of what I want to say. Then, what I usually find is that you have to go back a bit to explain it, and then you have to go back a bit more. So what’s very difficult is to stop myself from going all the way back. I decided for various reasons that I had to start in the 1890s… I couldn’t understand, and I thought others couldn’t understand, why Europe went down particular paths.


TV: You draw parallels between that period, 1890–1914, and President Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, which you’ve also written about. Then you draw further parallels to the present day. What do you think those major parallels are?

MM: I think part of the reason I draw parallels is that it helps people to think about the past if they can relate it to what’s happening in the present. But I also find the parallels interesting. I think there is a real parallel between the world of the pre-1914 period and the world today.

I mean, we’re living in a period where you have one power that has been dominant that is no longer as dominant as it was: i.e., the British Empire before the First World War and the United States now. So it’s a period of transition. You have other powers that are beginning to develop, and develop military power. For example, before the First World War it was Germany or the United States and today it’s China, Brazil, or India.

We also have social unrest, we have international ideologies — both of which you also had before the First World War. I obviously don’t think the times are exactly the same, but I do think there are interesting parallels.


TV: It’s interesting, of course, that the events of 1914 led to war and the events of 1972 strengthened peace. Can you identify critical differences there?

MM: In 1972 the Americans and the Chinese, for their own very different reasons, decided they should talk to each other. What you had on both sides was a good will and a willingness to talk to each other. With a recognition that both had something to benefit from that improved relationship.

Before 1914, you had, for example, the British and the Germans talking to each other. Though on both sides, there were some people who recognized that they had something to gain for a better relationship, there weren’t enough people.


TV: You talk about the importance of colonies and how colonial tension contributed to hostilities that built up toward the war. The narrative around World War I has always focused on Europe. The only story we hear is that European powers competed for colonies and that when the war broke out the empires said, “jump” and the colonies jumped. Did you see any ways in which the actual people in colonies, like Canada, were contributing to the process that led to war? 

MM: No, I don’t think the people in the colonies were contributing to the process that led to war, or only as much as they were supporting the colonial power. You did have people who shared the fears of the British toward Germany, and so shared in the concern about German naval building.

But I don’t think that was pressuring Britain to do anything. I think it’s really the British that are making the policy. If anything, the British felt that the colonies were not contributing to naval defense, and felt they were getting a free ride.


TV: So it really was “Europe out?” 

MM: It was “Europe out,” I think. It was beginning to change, but it hadn’t changed as much as it was going to do in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Of course, what the empires were beginning to face, in different parts before 1914, were nationalist movements. But not everywhere — in a lot of the old European empires, the local people had not yet begun to organize themselves into national movements. There were certainly revolts based on religious grounds and particularist grounds in particular regions.

But I think the period before 1914 was one in which it was relatively easy to have an empire, because those being ruled hadn’t yet, in most cases, begun to really become a mobilized political force.


TV: And then all that changed.

MM: Oh, it was changing anyway. You can see those roots already being laid down in the period before the First World War. And the war was going to give it a great stimulus. It wasn’t the same throughout the empires. There were some bits where the local people were only beginning to realize what had happened to them.

They suddenly found themselves as part of the Belgian Empire, or the French Empire, or the British Empire. They hadn’t really taken it in. And they were being treated, often, as a political unit, where they hadn’t been a political unit before. Certainly, there was a lot happening at the grass roots, but a lot of it was going to really play out later on.


TV: A review of your book in the London Review of Books (LRB) argued that The War that ended Peace is implicitly structured around a narrative where Germany acts and other European powers react, and that in this way it portrays Germany provoking the war. Do you agree with that characterization?

MM: There’s something in it. It was written by Christopher Clarke, who is a very good German historian, and who I think feels that Germany is being treated unfairly. My sense is that he goes too far in that direction, that Germany did do some things which other powers did react to. But it wasn’t just powers reacting to what Germany was doing, it was also Germany reacting to what other powers were doing.


TV: The question of responsibility is, of course, the question when it comes to First World War history. It’s almost expected that you take a position on it. And you don’t spend a lot of a time on that question. But do you think you can assign responsibility, and what are the people or factors or nations that you would assign it to? 

MM: I think Germany, because it’s at the centre of Europe, is very important to European stability. Bismarck, when he was in charge of Germany, managed to build a system where Germany — through a series of very skillful maneuverings and alliances — really dominated Europe. The trouble with Bismarck is that he builds a system that only a genius like Bismarck can run.

The trouble with Germany is it’s at the heart of Europe; it’s very strong, it’s getting stronger. It already has the strongest army, and from the point of view of Germany’s neighbours, this is a worry and a menace. Of course, from the point of view of Germany, it’s surrounded.

So you have a very bad situation where both sides see things in their own way and they’re not seeing how the other side would feel. But I do think German policy was reckless in some cases. Letting the reinsurance treaty with Russia lapse was a mistake. And it shouldn’t have been that difficult. I mean, the two countries had a lot of synergy.




TV: Something you seem to be very aware of writing the book is walking the line between ascribing too much importance to individuals and ignoring them completely, and saying they’re caught up in great trend of history that no one could possibly have done anything to change. 

And then you leave, with the very last sentence in the book, with, “There are always choices.” You also say, “context is crucial.” So my question here is, do you see there being real choices, or is there the illusion of choice in a context that makes one path inevitable or almost inevitable?

MM: I think circumstances make certain choices more likely than others. I think you can’t expect people to make choices where they don’t have a clear choice. I think people work within a framework. So there are certain givens within that framework, but even then I think there are choices, particularly war. If you choose to go to war with someone else, there is a clear element of choice. It’s one of the great choices that is made in human history.

So I don’t think things are inevitable. I think people are confined within certain parameters as to the choices they can make. If you’re Germany, you can say we will either dominate our neighbours through our undoubted military supremacy and through our economy, or we will dominate them in a peaceful way, and that was a very clear choice before Germany in the period before 1914.

There’s a German industrialist who says in 1914, we just need to wait and sooner or later we will be economically dominant, which would bring with it political influence and so on. And that’s what Germany has chosen to do since 1945. Germany has very consciously chosen not to be a military power.


TV: A distinction has been drawn between three strands in history right now. First, you have what’s called “political history,” that’s kings, presidents, wars, treaties. Then there’s “social history, ” which is the history of how people lived in the past. And third — and this category sometimes overlaps with social history — there’s a history that’s written in opposition to the traditional account of how things happened, which was written by the people who were in power. First, do you agree with those rough distinctions?

MM: I don’t think I would ever make as clear distinctions as those. I don’t think they even exist in the past. I mean political history cannot be separated from political sociology, which means it can’t be separated from the nature of society. And the sorts of things that people argue about, the sorts of things that are called political divisions, very much reflect what’s going on in society.

I don’t like, and it does happen in history, people who think exclusively in one term or another. I think the whole thing about history is that it’s eclectic. We don’t look narrowly at one particular subject. I mean, if you’re doing a history of technology, you can’t separate that history from a history of society, values, and power structures. Why are certain things invented and other things aren’t? Why are certain types of science pursued and others not? Those choices reflect the nature of the society and power structures.


TV: In light of that, there’s been some discussion on this campus that there is a dominance of social history in the course offerings. You’ve taught here. Do you see that happening? How do you fit the different piece of that eclectic picture together in that way that you teach history? 

MM: You can teach courses with different emphases. If you looked at history, for example, of the changing position of women in Canadian society, you’d presumably not be able to do such a history without the economic history of Canada, without looking at the political structures, because changes in society often are a result of political pressures, or political decisions, or changes in the law.

I suppose the sort of history I like is one in which we don’t compartmentalize it too much. I think there’s a tendency among people who do one kind of history to caricature the other. I think we do ourselves no service by that. I think we learn from each other and come at it with different emphases, but I think if you start ignoring a whole big chunk of what makes societies tick, you’re not going to get a whole picture.


TV: In your 2013 Hagey lecture you mention that public opinion was becoming increasingly important before World War I. Of course, public opinion is even more important now. You spoke recently to the CBC about what Canada’s government is doing to the history of the War of 1812. What do you see as the most troubling uses of history going on around us right now?

MM: The creation of very partial or even false narratives, which then give justification to behaving in certain ways


TV: But specifically?

MM: You get claims being made. I mean, the Chinese are now claiming islands in the South China Sea, or they claim Tibet, on very dubious historical grounds. So I think that’s where history can be dangerous.

Or you get history called into the use of various ideological movements. You can see it with Islamist movements, where you get a vision of an Islamic past which was absolutely blissfully happy and everyone lived in harmony, and then the crusaders came along and ruined it all, and we need to recover that past.

I think this can be extremely dangerous. Because it doesn’t just unite people around a grievance, it also gives them justification for attacking people who aren’t like them. History can be a very powerful and dangerous tool.


TV: Anything closer to home?

MM: You’ve got, of course, the Canadian government trying to portray or promote a view of the War of 1812 as a struggle of Canadians against Americans — when it wasn’t. It’s anachronistic to say that there was a fully-fledged Canadian identity and consciousness in those days.

These were people who lived in Canada, some of whom were of British descent, some of whom were of French descent, very recently American, or Aboriginals. I mean, the recent commemoration of the War of 1812, at least at the official level, seems to have left out the Aboriginal contribution. It was much more complex, and I think we could recognize that.

There’s also been talk, and again it seems to come from the Conservative sections of Canadian society, that Canada is a nation made in war. I suspect this will come out again in the commemoration of the First World War. Vimy ridge is clearly going to be a big thing. Yes, war has been an important part of Canadian history, but I don’t think we’re a nation made by war. I think, on the whole, we’re a very peaceful nation, and we’re made more by peace and peaceful evolution than by war.


TV: You’ve also said history shouldn’t be left to amateurs. Are students amateurs? 

MM: No, I don’t think students are amateurs, and if I were doing it again, I wouldn’t put it like that. Because a lot of people took me to mean that only people who have professional history degrees count as professionals, which is not what I meant at all.

What I meant was that history has to be done by people who respect the use of evidence, who are prepared to deal with uncomfortable evidence, not just ignore it. What I mean by amateurs is people who write about the past in a lazy sort of way, without really informing themselves about it. And if there’s evidence that doesn’t fit whatever thesis they have, they ignore it or explain it away.

So no, I don’t think students are amateurs. If you write bad essays then I’d say you’re an amateur, if you write good essays then I’d say you’re doing it as a professional.


TV: In your Hagey Lecture, you said that 32,000 works have been written in English about the First World War. What’s your reaction to people who assume that there’s no more to say on this topic?

MM: My reaction is that there’s always something else to be said. Because history changes as we change.


TV: In the LRB review, which was generally very positive, the critic described your book as “magisterial.” How does it feel to be a historical authority? 

MM: Well, you don’t feel it. You don’t feel like a historical authority. I’m always aware of how much I don’t know. But I suppose I know more than I used to. And I know more about certain subjects than other people. But magisterial sounds terrifying, it sounds like someone with a long grey beard, looking like a Michelangelo painting of God, saying: “This is the past.” I know he meant it kindly, but you always feel you never know it all. Although I know more than I used to, I suppose. Then I’m also forgetting more.


Interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Build new structures, or renovate?

Maintenance on existing infrastructure neglected as donors choose to contribute to new projects

Build new structures, or renovate?

The parking lot on St. George Street behind Convocation Hall will soon be covered in scaffolding, with work on the Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering’s Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CEIE) scheduled to be completed in late 2016.

U of T’s $2 billion Boundless campaign aims to fund a large number of new buildings and capital projects, including building the Centre for Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the expansion and renovation of the Faculty of Law, and the renovation of the north building at UTM. Some university figures, however, have suggested that the way the university tries to attract donor contributions and provincial funding structures for capital projects incentivize building new over maintaining the infrastructure the university already has. This could be problematic, as buildings in need of repair go ignored while funds are diverted to new construction.

The Engineering Society (EngSoc) has contributed $1 million towards the costs of the building. Rishi Maharaj, former president of EngSoc, says the money came from the Skule Endowment Fund, set up in 2010 to establish a permanent endowment for the society, with the aim of eventually replacing the society’s annual fee and the student contribution to the faculty’s operating maintenance budget. Engineering students contribute $100 a year to the fund. “One of the provisions was that the capital could potentially be spent for something major like a new building,” he explained.

Infra Graphs

Maharaj said that initial plans for the CEIE did not include any student space, and that EngSoc’s donation to the project, an initiative begun last year, is partly an attempt to remedy that situation. “What eventually emerged during my time, was that we would be much more likely to be able to get not all the things we wanted, but a substantial number of them, if we were willing to come up with some money. That was the genesis of the idea to give the university some money.”

Direct student contributions to capital projects like new buildings show a sense of ownership and an acknowledgement that students benefit from these projects, said David Palmer, U of T’s vice-president, advancement and the person behind Boundless. Palmer said that voluntary one-time donations — as opposed to the referendum-supported levy, used to partly fund the Goldring Student Centre at Victoria University, for example — are also a great motivating tool for donors. “That type of student giving is one of the most powerful incentives for donors and alumni to give,” he explained.


Build new or renovate?

Tamer El-Diraby, an associate professor in U of T’s Department of Civil Engineering, says that the university’s focus on new building is partly pragmatic. “There is no politician that I am aware of that wants to cut the ribbon for the renovation of a building instead of placing the foundation stone for a new building,” he said.

Many of the capital projects currently underway at the university include significant renovation or maintenance components, including the north building and 1 Spadina projects. Palmer says that donors do not express a preference for new buildings at the expense of renovating the university’s existing infrastructure. “I’ve never had a donor express to me a preference for new versus renovated [buildings],” he said. “In fact many of the biggest capital projects that we’ve had donors give money to are a combination of both.’

The provincial government has provided $417 million in capital funding to U of T since 2003, according to figures provided by the ministry of training, colleges, and universities (TCU) (see graph above). New buildings and construction accounted for $224 million of those funds. Universities need to consider the maintenance costs associated with new buildings when they apply for funding said Brad Duguid, minister of TCU. “[When] we invest in a new capital project for a university or college, the expectation is that the maintenance of that facility will be covered under the operating budgets of the institution,” he explained. “If an institution doesn’t have the capability of maintaining a facility, they ought to not be applying for funding for us to build it.”

Palmer admitted that donors often have a similar attitude. “Deferred maintenance is often seen by people as the responsibility of the system, of the university, to maintain things correctly,” he explained. “I have never had much success in going to a donor with a pitch to have their funds allocated towards deferred maintenance.” Last week, in responding to questions about deferred maintenance, the university administration indicated that it believes provincial funding levels are currently insufficient, and that it is lobbying the Ontario government on the matter.


Why are we expanding?

Duguid says new infrastructure is key to maintaining the reputation and ranking of Ontario’s universities. “There’s no question that the deferred maintenance issue is a pressure,” he admitted. “At the same time, we also have the pressure of ensuring that we’re continuing to provide a globally-competitive education experience to our students.”

Infra Graphs2

Enrollment at the university has increased significantly in recent decades, with the total number of full-time students at U of T growing from 55,127 in 2000–2001 to 80,899 in 2012–2013. Michael Kurts, assistant vice-president of strategic communications and marketing, said in an email that “demand for PSE has increased due to population increases combined with increasing participation rates,” leading to a growth in enrollment.

These new students need new space, faculty and infrastructure. “U of T cannot say to students, ‘We will not have classrooms for you.’ We cannot say to a chair of a department, ‘We cannot have a secretary for you.’ We cannot tell students, ‘We will not have professors to teach you,’” said El-Diraby. The result, he said, is that maintenance gets deferred because it is the only cost that can be delayed.

Palmer emphasized that the Boundless campaign reflects the priorities set by academic units within the university. “All the priorities for the campaigns begin with academic priorities, that are approved in academic plans by the divisions, and they have to be approved by the provost.”

The ability of a project to attract funding does play a significant role in the planning process, however. Maharaj said that during the initial planning stage for the CEIE, the faculty created a document detailing how the building’s space would be used, broken up into four or five blocks. “Each one of those blocks was based on some type of concept of some type of donor that they would be able to reach with the idea for that space.”

The university has repeatedly emphasized that donors do not try to interfere with the academic priorities or planning of faculties or departments. Brad Evoy, external commissioner of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), however, says that donor participation affects what the university is able to fund. “It’s much more about building a new program, building a new thing — something that seems cutting-edge,” he argued. “But it’s not so much about the bread-and-butter basics of the university.”

Palmer said attracting and retaining donors is dependent on their willingness to give to specific areas of the university’s need. “It is almost impossible to steer a donor to an area of interest where they have no interest,” he said. “It essentially is not sensible to even try, because donors — it’s their money, they can give it to whatever worthy charitable cause they wish, and there’s plenty of competition out there.”


What are the implications of this system?

The current system of donor contributions and government funding could lead to unforeseen problems in the future, according to Maharaj. “Over the long term you won’t have a master-planned university, you won’t have a university that evolves according to academic or educational goals — you’ll have a university that evolves towards what people are willing to pay for.”

The university’s Governing Council and Business Board approves capital projects, including new buildings and renovations. The Business Board meeting on Monday, November 4, will include the university advancement division’s quarterly report on gifts and pledges above $250,000.

Outgoing president commemorated at Simcoe Hall

A warm send off for David Naylor at the recent Governing Council meeting

Former university president David Naylor was lauded for his tenure and accomplishments by the Governing Council on Wednesday, October 30. The open session was his final council as president of the university.

Though not the official purpose of the council,  expression of gratitude to Naylor was constant. U of T’s new president, Meric Gertler, the former dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, expressed his thanks to the outgoing president for his transitionary role, and stressed a continuation of Naylor’s aims of research excellence during his own presidency.

“One of our defining features is research excellence, but at the same time, it’s the ability to welcome thousands of students from the GTA and across Canada and around the world. That accessibility paired with that research excellence is a big part of our identity, and I want to work as hard as I can to make sure that those attributes remain our hallmark for a long time.”

Munib Sajjad, president of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) was also in attendance, and had a more critical view of Naylor’s time at the university. “The students’ union and Dr. David Naylor certainly did not always agree,” said Sajjad. “His vision of a high-cost, private institution is not one that we can support.” Sajjad noted particular concerns, including the rapid expansion of the Scarborough and Mississauga campuses, and the for-profit model of the Pan-Am Sports Centre. “We will work with our peers at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union to ensure that we monitor the revenues gained and to where they are attributed, and hold the university to their word,” said Sajjad of the Sports Centre.

Governing Council chair Judy Goldring addressed Naylor’s legacy by announcing commemorations in his honour, including naming Naylor a professor emeritus. The Tanz Neuroscience Building at 6 Queen’s Park Crescent will also be renamed the C. David Naylor Building, and two new scholarships have been founded. As some of the largest entrance scholarships in North America, the ten annual C. David Naylor University Scholarships are valued at $20,000 each, and are aimed at incoming Canadian students. The two annual C. David Naylor University Fellowships, valued at $30,000 each, are geared towards graduate program candidates from Atlantic Provinces. Both will honour excellence in academics and leadership in other fields, such as sports or arts.

Naylor, who is returning to the Faculty of Medicine, was humbled by the commemorations. “The building naming is beyond comprehension, frankly, and it means more than I can say,” he said. “This place has all the ingredients to be among the very best universities in the world for a long time, with fantastic students, faculty, and staff.”

Other items on the council’s agenda included the report of the university ombudsperson, who stressed the need for increased guidance on the handling of complaints, and an update from provost Cheryl Regehr on the Student Societies Summit. All items for council decision, including the creation of a corporation to oversee the profit from the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre under construction at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus for the 2015 Pan Am Games, were approved with little to no opposition. Governing Council’s next meeting is Thursday, December 12, 2013.

TIFF’s latest exhibit explores the career of director David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg: Evolution, presented at the TIFF Bell Light Box, is an intriguing look at the director's work in the genre of 'body horror'

TIFF’s latest exhibit explores the career of director David Cronenberg

Who is my creator? Who am I? Who are we? These three penetrating questions frame David Cronenberg: Evolution, TIFF’s latest retrospective about the major filmmaker. The exhibit charts the development of our very own Canadian filmmaker, David Cronenberg.



The exhibition moves chronologically through Cronenberg’s work, which makes it easy to follow his development as a filmmaker. The information panels strike exactly the right balance, describing the themes of Cronenberg’s films in clear and concise language. So if you’ve been reading too many theory texts for class, this is your chance to get some refreshingly digestible information.

Even better, an amazing number of artifacts are on display. There’s the telepod from The Fly, which is even accompanied by the engine from Cronenberg’s Ducati 450 Desmo RT motorcycle that inspired its look. There’s also the cringe-worthy collection of gynecological instruments from Dead Ringers, a full-size mugwump puppet from Naked Lunch (plus a fiberglass replica that you can pose with for a photo), and plenty more. Cronenberg’s films tend to rely on puppets, prosthetics, and makeup rather than computer-generated imagery. Seeing these props live and in the flesh is a delight, even if they also make you squirm.

For University of Toronto students, the exhibition has a number of special treats. First, Cronenberg is a U of T alumnus, so we get bragging rights. The exhibition also reveals some more direct connections between Cronenberg and U of T; his first feature, Stereo, was shot at the Scarborough campus, and his second feature, Crimes of the Future, was filmed at Massey College. If you think U of T has some strange, brutalist architecture, this  is your chance to see it at its creepiest.

In the centre of the exhibit, there are two large screens that cycle through interviews with Cronenberg. The interviews are personable, honest, and fascinating. Body horror films can be alienating, but Cronenberg is both eloquent and down-to-earth. It’s well worth the time to sit through a full cycle of the interviews.

The TIFF Bell Lightbox is screening all of Cronenberg’s features and other body horror films over the next few months. Admittedly, Cronenberg films are not the easiest to binge on. Sexuality, technology, and human nature are enduring themes that keep Cronenberg’s films feeling fresh. While you’ll probably feel disturbed, they’re always worth the effort. This retrospective is a good chance to see these films on high-quality screens.

This exhibit and the accompanying guest events and screenings are a perfect opportunity for filmgoers, whether you’re new to Cronenberg or an ardent follower. The panels and Q&A discussions lift off the mystifying veil of filmmaking. A previous TIFF Higher Learning panel event focused on Cronenberg and his frequent collaborators: makeup artist Stéphan Dupuis and producer Jeremy Thomas. The three emphasized the difficulties of making Cronenberg-style movies. Difficulties with financing meant it took eight years to make Dead Ringers, and the Gulf War meant Naked Lunch’s Interzone scenes couldn’t be filmed in Morocco. They were filmed in Toronto instead, like the rest of the movie — not a terrible change for Canadian viewers who like to spot familiar scenery.

The violence and sexual content of Cronenberg’s films might put off some viewers, but when you hear Cronenberg and his collaborators speak, you realize the depth behind these horror films. In one of the exhibition’s interviews, Cronenberg explains that The Fly needed the cover of the horror genre to be made; its central love story is really about assisted suicide in the face of a terminal disease, which he suggests would be too dark to get funded if the movie was of any other genre. The monstrous effects are earnest explorations of what it means to be human. They are not for cheap shock value. Of the many artifacts on display, there is a collection of comment cards from a preview of Videodrome. One suggests: “scrap the grotesque.” Thank goodness he didn’t.


David Cronenberg: Evolution exhibition is open until January 19 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Blue becomes Beast

U of T graduate Kyle Ventura set to spend 2013–14 CHL season with the Brampton Beasts

University of Toronto alumnus Kyle Ventura has been signed to play the 2013–14 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) season with the Brampton Beasts. Ventura graduated from U of T in June 2013 with an Honours Bachelor in Arts. The aggressive forward led the Blues in scoring for three seasons and served as assistant captain during his final year on the team.

Blues hockey players have a busy schedule: players are on the ice six days a week, travel frequently across Ontario, as well as Canada and parts of the usa, and are still accountable for a full university course load. Ventura credits U of T for teaching him time management skills.

“It was tough for me at first,” Ventura added, “but it was a huge wake-up call, and it got me to where I am today.”

Ventura’s main inspiration seems to come from his parents. They gave him motivation to be the first in the family to earn a university degree, while simultaneously urging him onto the ice.

“When I started hockey, I couldn’t skate, so it was really frustrating,” Ventura explained. “My dad eventually forced me, and I’m glad he did.”

After learning to tie his laces, Ventura skated on up to the Ontario Hockey League (ohl). From 2004–2006, he played with the
Ontario Junior A Hockey League’s Wexford Raiders. In 2007, he played for the Newmarket Hurricanes. From 2006–2008, Ventura also competed with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens; then he hit the ice with the Blues. During the 111 games he played as a Varsity Blue, he scored 57 goals and had 45 assists.

“My favourite U of T memory was scoring 4 goals in 1 game against Guelph,” Ventura recalls. Playing on the Blues was a good experience.”

While playing with the Brampton Beasts, his game plan on the ice of the Powerade Centre lies in the hands of head coach Mark DeSantis.

“[Kyle] is the guy who will get under the skin of our opponents,” DeSantis told The Brampton Guardian. “That’s what will create his space as an agitator.”

“Agitator” is a nickname that Ventura knows well.

“That’s typically the way I play,” he agrees. “I like to get under the guys’ skin and score a few goals while I’m at it.”

Keeping his physicality in check, however, has been a battle of its own. During Ventura’s second year playing for the Wexford Raiders, he spent 101 minutes in the penalty box. Experience has taught him “to focus aggression elsewhere on the ice and harness more body contact.”

“I play hard. I hate losing. I’ll do whatever it takes to win; that’s what I want to show the Beasts,” said Ventura.