Metropasses and granola bars

Commuter culture on the St. George campus

Metropasses and granola bars

Far more than the fare it’s worth, commuting is an all-encompassing experience — a metallic, engine-powered beast shackles its passengers to unpredictable departure times and overcrowded, sardine-like travel conditions. Approximately 80 per cent of the University of Toronto’s St. George campus’s 55,000 students are commuters, a large chunk of which come from all over the GTA.

A certain culture accompanies the commuter experience on campus, derived from both the inherent nature of commuting as well as from the individual experience of each weary traveller. Every commuter sacrifices hours of their day, but everyone goes about it differently, some opting for the subway, others for the bus, the bike, and so on.

Commuter culture is not defined by living off campus, but by the reasons students find to stay on campus. Breaking the chains of the TTC and establishing positive ties through campus life is as crucial to commuter culture as Metropasses, granola bars, and invasions of personal space by mouth-breathing businessmen.

 

Barriers to commuter integration

The most troublesome issue faced by the common commuter is a temporal one. With commuting, time is constantly of the essence: waking up on time, leaving enough time to eat, making the bus on time, and getting to class ten minutes after the hour.

Will Power, a second-year commuter from Victoria College, said that the time his commute takes has hindered his ability to actively enjoy campus life: “I’m not really involved with anything. I don’t have time to do anything on campus because between the three hours a day I’m on transit and studying, it doesn’t leave much time for anything else. I would have liked to have been involved with CINSSU [Cinema Studies Student Union], Raindance, some art shows, I’d like to get into those. There’s not enough time for these, though.”

Many commuter students have part-time jobs to support their various expenses, such as transportation, quick meals, textbooks, and tuition.

With work hours as well, balancing a commuter’s schedule becomes even more difficult, and academic life can become monotonous and repetative, the only enjoyment coming from watching the landscape rush by from the window seat of a crowded GO train.

There are also significant institutional barriers to the involvement of commuters in campus life at the university. Classes that either start too early in the day or finish too late in the evening can wreak havoc on a commuter’s schedule and their ability to participate in extracurricular activities. Commuting early in the morning and late in the evening can also jeopardize students’ mental health by causing stress and lack of sleep.

Commuters may have to compromise in their course selection based on the times when courses take place. With the need to fulfill program and breadth requirements, avoiding an inconveniently timed morning or evening course is often challenging. Classes in the morning coincide with rush hour, making getting to campus in a timely manner difficult.

More flexible timetable options or lowering residence and meal plan fees are potential ways to mitigate the inconveniences that commuter students face. Creating a central, campus-wide commuter space would also foster positive community relations. University College (uc) offers rooms in residence for $15 for one evening, which is another way to accommodate commuters who need to stay on campus for late night classes.

 

A matter of perception

Sarah Qidwai, a fourth-year history specialist and the commissioner of the University College Off-Campus Commission (UCOC), contends that commuting is about perception: “I could choose to commute and say that it is the worst, but I don’t. It’s all about making a conscious decision regarding your time spent commuting.”

As head of the UCOC, Sarah, her deputy Eric Schwenger, and the members of her commission work to overturn the stigma associated with commuting through planning commuter-friendly events.

“We have tried to have a constant stream of events that cater to commuters’ availability,” said Schwenger. “The biggest part of being commuter-friendly is timing. Having events that end earlier, or that are ongoing throughout the day, so students can come and go as they see fit with their schedules, makes these events commuter-friendly.”

The fundamental goal of UCOC, says Schwenger, is to ensure that the off-campus population is engaged in student life on campus. The paradox of commuting is that in order to embrace it, you have to decide not be a slave to it.

Commuters who seek to be involved in campus life need to compromise the “go to school, go home,” mentality that is a model for many off-campus students who operate on TTC schedules rather than social calendars. Students instead establish ties to clubs and activities on campus that provide reasons to stick around after class, in spite of the sacrifice of getting home later. This integration can manifest in different ways, such as joining a course union, finding a work-study, taking on a lab role, or joining a college council.

 

Commuter communities

Integration can also occur when commuters embrace their identity as such and get involved with commuter initiatives on campus, fostering an on campus community for off-campus students.

“The crux of the off-campus community,” said Schwenger, “is the community of students… who are there for each other, who help each other out, who can come together in a similar way students in a residence house would, but even closer, because of the challenges they face.”

Christine De la Cruz, the Commuter Commissioner of Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) and a co-chair on Victoria Off-Campus Association (VOCA), plans events that cater to the needs of commuter students: “Judging from the amount of students at our events, as well as the way people interact with each other, I feel like there is a sense of community there. These are the people who keep coming back every week, and I think the reason they keep coming back is because they’ve made friends at these events. Interacting with other commuter students, forming friendships — that’s how I think community is built. It’s very important, especially for commuters, as it would take more time for us to make friends here at U of T.”

Every college has its own ways of fostering a unique commuter identity. As most of these involve free food, it is apparent that the way to the commuter’s heart is through their stomach. New College recently held a grilled cheese breakfast in their lounge, which was open to all students; Woodsworth throws lavish pancake brunches every Wednesday; uc holds tea and cookies at the Union; and the Cat’s Eye at Victoria College has pancake breakfasts.

Other initiatives, not involving food, have also been successful. Innis has a monthly spirit day, in which they give out a free metropass to one lucky commuter. UC, Vic, and St. Michael’s College have hired community coordinators, whose role is to provide support for commuters and implement them into both campus life and the commuter community. UC is also home to the Commuter Student Centre, a beacon of commuter activity since its establishment in 2007. Housing both a quiet study space and a rambunctious back area, the Commuter Student Centre (CSC) is a haven for commuters and residence students alike, open to students from all of the colleges.

Commuting, says Ezra Shanto, an English major from New College, brings people together: “Making friends simply because you have to take the same ride home is a good feeling. It’s always a good feeling to have someone who doesn’t need to understand what you’re taking, but just understands that you’re taking the same long commute home as them, and you have that personal connection.”

Commuting is a necessary evil, but it also offers students the potential for genuinely fulfilling engagement with the downtown campus. Commuter culture grows stronger by perpetuating itself. It establishes more reasons for students to seek ties to campus and bond with like-minded individuals, and forges a sense of community.

 

A guide to commuting

TTC

Keeping busy during your commute

Read: There’s something about reading Faulkner on a crowded locomotive that just seems right. You’re already the object of everyone’s awkward eye contact, so make the most of it by milking your intellectualism. They’ll think you’re much more interesting than you really are.

Listen to music: Most albums are just under an hour, which is probably similar to the length of your commute. Drown out the sounds of other people’s loud music with your own.

Work: In all likelihood, you’re terribly behind on your readings. Sometimes, you’ve just got to whip out the highlighter, the pen, the sticky notes, and the Plato, and grasp the Form of the Good. Your participation marks in tutorial will thank you for it.

Sleep: The glass partitions on the TTC are perfect for leaning your head against and catching some shut-eye. They’re also breeding grounds for bacteria, but what’s a bit of lice to the fastest-moving catnap in Toronto?

Prepare your next move in Words with Friends: Maybe if you stare at the board just a bit longer, the perfect word for the coveted triple-word score spot will appear to you.

People-watch: You’re bound to find all sorts of colourful characters on public transportation to keep you thoroughly entertained.

Catch up on texts: Let us all give thanks to Wilson, Yorkdale, Lawrence West, Glencairn, Eglinton West, Kipling, Old Mill, Keele, Davisville, Rosedale, Victoria Park, Warden, Kennedy, Lawrence East, Ellesmere, Midland, Scarborough Centre, and McCowan. Make the most of cell service before it’s gone.

 

Commuter Etiquette

DO give up your seat. Be chivalrous by letting an elderly person take your spot. You’ll be out of a seat, but you’ll feel better for it.

DON’T take phone calls. If it’s done at a reasonable volume, go ahead. But if it’s shouted and vulgar, then no. Think of the children — and the generally disgruntled patrons who don’t want to hear all about your day.

DO avoid eye contact. This is one of the unspoken rules of commuting. Rumour has it that the rule stems from a sixteenth-century tradition in which European settlers in the Americas would have to battle to the death after making eye contact of more than two seconds.

DON’T blast your music — especially if you are listening to something particularly profane or embarrassing — because everyone is judging you.

DO the electric slide — otherwise known as musical chairs. If you are sitting directly beside a fellow commuter and a seat opens up elsewhere, it is your sworn duty to switch to the available chair. (Note: the person from which you have moved away may take offence, and may start to wonder if it was something they said).

 

How to be a busker

Getting on the subway is as easy as a swipe of a Metropass, a clink of a token, and the whirl of a turnstile. Getting on the subway as a musician, though, is a little harder.

The ttc is full of buskers, musicians scattered about subway entrances and platforms who perform for the commuting masses. Before getting there, the buskers have to compete for a much-coveted license.

Each year, the TTC takes applications for subway performance permits. The first 175 musicians to submit an application get an audition. The auditions are held during the first three days of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), and the public is invited to attend to watch them take place on a stage near the food building. Each busker is allotted a seven-minute audition, and must perform three songs. Adjudicators award licenses to 75 musicians to play in the subway. The license itself is billed at a fee of $150.

While most stationary instruments, such as drums, are not permitted, a lot of buskers like to keep things interesting, breaking up the procession of acoustic guitars. More eclectic options — such as accordions, violins, cellos, pan flutes, dizis, and steel pans — are all likely to be found on any given day around the subway. A notable exception is Billy James, a popular busker who has been joyfully strumming away on a dilapidated acoustic in stations all over transit lines since 1978, the first year the TTC allowed performers in the subway.

Subway buskers are given free entrance to the station, but aren’t given free passes for transportation — so becoming a busker is unfortunately not a way to cut down on your fare expenditure.

 

The subway in haiku

KIPLING

The end of the line

Closer to Mississauga

Than Islington. Ugh.

 

HIGH PARK

Across from the park!

Want to go frolick outside,

Must stay on subway.

 

ST. GEORGE

Classes lie beyond,

Bedford or Bata, your choice;

Where dreams come to die

 

FINCH

Start of the Yonge Line

GO bus, YRT, all there

Home of Pan Flute Guy

 

DAVISVILLE

Come up for fresh air

The day shines bright upon me

Getting cell service

 

BLOOR

Green and yellow meet

Packed in the train like sardines

Until mass exodus

 

KENNEDY

Four levelled station,

RT, but not a retweet

Scarborough crime hub

A Place Like This

VICTORIA BANDEROB looks into the differences between urban and rural universities in Canada

A Place Like This
Click the X to peruse students’ instagram photos from urban and rural universities in Canada.

Located in the midst of a thriving urban centre, the University of Toronto, although an active player in the city at times, is often an accessory in the comings and goings of local and commuting Torontonians and the quick snapshots of tourists’ cameras. Students of the university view themselves not only as students, but also as residents of the City of Toronto, an active force in and around the institution.

The University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Ottawa are all universities in big cities. The urban environment that these universities inhabit has many other top employers and businesses that keep the city running and other aspects, such as vibrant cultural life, attract residents to live there. The university happens to be in the middle of it all.

In a small university town, the picture is quite different. The city that that the university resides in is relatively small — sometimes so small that one of the top employers in the city may be the university, as in the case of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where it is second only to the Canadian Forces Base, employing just under 10 per cent of Kingston’s workforce. The University of Guelph is Guelph’s second highest employer in contrast to the University of Toronto which, despite occupying one of the top spots of employers in the city, is among 13 other companies that employ similar numbers of people. Similarly, the majority of residents in a university town might be students, as in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, home of St. Francis Xavier University, a town with a population of 4,524 and a student population of 5,185 (2011).

When students are choosing whether to go to a university in an urban or rural environment, these technical factors are often not their central concerns. Academic programs offered and the reputation of the school’s social life are critical considerations for incoming students, and these are often tied to the school’s location in a city or a town. Homecoming at U of T and at Queen’s have entirely different reputations; while Kingston does not offer the same cultural vibrancy that Toronto does.

 

Hands-on learning

While all universities typically offer a normative selection of academic programs, their settings impact the unique interdisciplinary studies they can offer.

The University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Concordia University in Montreal, are all located in the heart of busy cities, and all also host Urban Studies programs. These universities are accordingly surrounded by a living, breathing Urban Studies classroom — the city itself.

Being immersed in a city while learning about urban environments has its obvious advantages. David Roberts, a professor in Innis College’s Urban Studies program, points out: “Starting in the first year with our Innis One class, we have our students getting out in the community and actually involving themselves in seeing the processes that make the city run.”

The various organizations located in cities create increased opportunities for service learning and experiential learning that U of T, and numerous other universities, offers its students. Service learning is described as course-based learning, allowing students to participate in an organized service activity that engages the community, where further reflection allows greater understanding of the content. Many service learning courses can be found at U of T. The Dementia course (HMB440) explores aspects of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2009, the students raised $1,000 by participating in the Alzheimer’s Society Walk for Memories. Not only does service learning help in strengthening understanding of a subject in the present, but it also can help provide knowledge of future opportunities in that field.

In contrast to urban universities, the University of Guelph, an example of a university located in a university-town, specializes in Agriculture — with a faculty of Plant Agriculture and programs such as Organic Agriculture and Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics. Guelph is a rural area that allows programs such as these to flourish, as they are enhanced by an on-campus farm, the Guelph Urban Organic Farm, as well as greenhouses and open land so the students have an opportunity for off-campus research experience akin to U of T’s service learning.

Colbey Templeman, MSc student in Plant Agriculture at Guelph, comments: “Pursuing an education at the University of Guelph has allowed me convenient access to numerous field locations and research facilities. My graduate research requires me to travel to multiple field locations to collect data. Fortunately, Guelph is ideally situated for such a requirement, and I can be out of the city within as little as five minutes. This would be far more difficult in larger cities.”

Although the topics of research may vary between universities in large cities and those in small towns, the quality of research is not necessarily enhanced by being located in a big city. Emily Greenleaf, researcher of teaching and learning in the dean’s office and lecturer for “The University in Canada,” a University College course, suggests: “Especially among academics, their main community is other academics all around the world in their field. So although a university may be in a small town, the academic life of a university is often really cosmopolitan and globally connected… I think the ideas coming into the university, especially on the academic side of things, are really very cosmopolitan no matter where the university is located. Especially when we’re talking about universities with a research mandate and universities where faculty are very involved in the forefront of their field.”

 

City versus school

Conflict can arise between the institution and the city which hosts it. This divide may be more prominent in a small town than in a big city.

In a university town, transient students are moving in and out of residential areas where families are raising children and elderly residents have lived for their whole lives. Disruptions, such as the Queen’s University riots in 2009, can easily cause a community to resent the students and the university that they attend. The Queen’s Town-Gown relations Department was formed in 2011 as a result of the riots and aims to bring students and their community together.

Respecting and accommodating all the residents is a very important aspect of sharing a small community. The City of Waterloo has received an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge Grant to support an initiative that will change a student neighbourhood’s reputation, which has been burdened with negative stigma attached to large parties and poorly maintained properties.

While there are challenges, cities and towns can combine forces for mutual benefit. A university town experiences benefits from the university including — the building and expansion of infrastructure to support the student population, such as restaurants, small neighbourhood stores, and even larger grocery stores. Urban centers and university towns alike benefit directly from some of the facilities within the universities themselves.

The University of Waterloo’s Earth Sciences Museum is largely used as an earth-science teaching museum for local schools and natural-science interest groups in southern Ontario. The university at the heart of a university town will also sometimes represent the interest of the community it is hosted by. In 2004, for example, the University of Guelph launched the Ontario Farmland Trust, an organization whose focus was to preserve Ontario’s lands for farming.

With the infrastructure and graduates produced from the University of Toronto, small businesses with big ideas are able to leverage public and private partnerships to hire, innovate, and create growth opportunities with the funding from larger institutions and governments. For example, the MaRS Discovery District allows entrepreneurs in the medical, science, and social fields to build their small ideas into global businesses. Opportunities like this create jobs for students, research for faculty, and tactile objects to teach about at the university; in turn, the company gains people and money for its projects.

 

Student life

School spirit, involvement in clubs, and social gatherings are all aspects of student life outside of the classroom. Enthusiasm for these activities differs greatly between students of a college-town and a large city.

Becky Eckler, a graduate of Queen’s University, suggests: “Students who choose to go to school in a big city are often picking that school for the city — not for the school. However, students who pick a school in a small town are picking the school for the school. You see a lot more school spirit because they are a lot more enthused about the institution.”

At small town universities, homecoming is the event of the year — school colours are painted on faces, and throughout the rest of the year these colours continue to paint the landscape. Noteworthy homecoming events include those at Western and Queen’s, which have been the subject of controversy due to the disruptiveness of the celebrations in their respective host towns.

While university-town institutions far exceed urban universities in terms of school identity, personal identity may form to a greater extent when one lives in a city, free of the confinements of a town.

Roberts notes: “The community aspect of student life is a lot more spread out [in the city]… you can find your niche outside of the university,” which can help you find new interests and past-times, or just separate your mind from campus and university life. Museums, concert venues, restaurants, and community activities are abundant in a city, but still exist in small towns due to the fact that a university is there. The large demographic of young people attracts businesses to a small town that may not have chosen to set up shop in a small town without a university.

Greenleaf adds: “[A university] is obviously a great creative force — it brings in young people, but it also attracts artists and all kinds of entrepreneurial things that cater to students and faculty. And so, the food in a small university town will be a lot better than the food in a town of comparable size without a university. And the music, and the movies that get shown, and all of that — it creates an audience for the kind of cultural activities that we often associate with a bigger city.”

When choosing your university, it’s not uncommon to hear the advice that whatever university you choose will be the best one for you — you just have to take advantage of what it has to offer and make it the best one for you. Emily Greenleaf notes on the choice of an urban institution like U of T: “[A] real trait of urban universities, [is] that they can attract people who have a choice to be anywhere; but they want to be in a place like this.”

Illustration: Wendy Gu

Tales from the TTC

U of T students share their most memorable experiences riding the rocket on this interactive map

Tales from the TTC

Tales from the TTC

Click on the points on the map to read stories from U of T students about their experiences riding the rocket:

 

Scenes from the TTC

 

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UTSU Insider Pass duplicates free discounts

Campus leaders say pass creates two-tiered system

UTSU Insider Pass duplicates free discounts

Many discounts offered by the Insider Pass, which is being sold by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) for $20, are already available to students at no cost. The Insider Pass is promoted as giving students “first access to orientation activities, events, discounts, and the student survival kit.” However, students can access several of the discounts through existing programs. The UTSU maintains that the pass will save students money and encourage involvement with the student union over the year, while other student leaders on campus are extremely critical — characterizing the program as one that lures vulnerable first year students into purchasing additional services they either do not need, or can already receive at no extra cost.

 

Students charged­–for discounts available for free

The pass, which is only available to students on the St. George campus, will give the purchaser a $10 discount at The Body Shop with purchases of at least $20 and a 25 per cent discount on Greyhound bus tickets within Canada. However, both companies offer students the same discounts with the presentation of valid student ID, such as a TCard. Westjet and Microsoft also offer discounts through the Insider Pass, although the amount of each is not specified. U of T students have access to a 90 per cent discount on some Microsoft products and discounts on flights from WestJet through the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which is available free of charge to all UTSU students through already-paid student fees.

 

The Insider Pass cost $15 before August 1, and now costs $20

A statement from the UTSU website reads: “The ISIC is issued to full-time students and can be obtained at the UTSU office at no cost to you.” The ISIC website lists the UTSU as a location where students can pick up an ISIC card, and the 2013–2014 agenda distributed by the UTSU encourages students to pick up their free ISIC card in the students’ unions office.

Munib Sajjad, president of the UTSU, admitted that many of the discounts are available to students with an ISIC card, saying: “The discounts that are not available with the ISIC are all discounts that pertain to UTSU-specific events, in addition to discounts that are currently being worked out with local businesses who have offered to be a part of the program.” However, he was unwilling to provide a full list of discounts as they “are currently being worked out with local businesses.” Sajjad mentioned yoga studios and theatres near campus as places students could save, although he did not specify how much, or which specific businesses.

The ISIC offers students discounts at 109 stores in Toronto ranging from 10 per cent off at Ten Thousand Villages and Fedex Office to 50 per cent off at Henri’s Optical. Other discounts include bookstores, restaurants, pharmacies, and hair salons, a full list of all discounts is available at the ISIC’s website. The ISIC is also a means of identity for students travelling worldwide, providing reduced prices on airfare as well as historical sites, museums, and other tourist attractions around the world. The Insider Pass’ website names six discounts including unspecified reduced prices for the UTSU’s semi formal and their Montreal Reading Week Trip.

 

Campus leaders criticize

“As the distributors of ISIC Cards, there is no excuse for UTSU’s disturbing strategy of profiting off uninformed incoming students. This degree of manipulation is alarmingly unethical,” said Benjamin Crase, Trinity’s co-Head of College. While any UTSU member can buy the pass, Sajjad says that it is primarily advertised for first-year students.

Crase is also concerned about the contents of the survival kit, which include a water bottle, laundry bag, and clubs’ directory as well as other unspecified items. He is concerned that all of these items may be found within UTSU frosh kits. Some students, however, will not receive UTSU-assembled kits, depending on which division they are in.

Sajjad vigorously defends the program, saying: “the value of the discounts that are passed on to students are much more than the cost of the pass.” In regards to the contents of the survival kit being remnenants of frosh kits Sajjad says: “There are three items in Orientation kits: the clubs directory, the agenda and the water bottle. The items in the kit are not made from excess items that go into orientation kits.”  Other benefits of the pass include a “line by-pass” at the annual end-of-frosh-week-party held at the Guvernment nightclub, as well as a chance to arrive at that party in a limousine. Preferential access to other UTSU events, including a chance to meet musical artist Lupe Fiasco and unspecified discounts on UTSU’s semi-formal and Montreal Reading Week trip, are also offered. Students who purchase the pass are entered into a draw for a variety of prizes, including a Blackberry Playbook and a $200 gift card to the U of T Bookstore.

 

“Two-tiered system”

Brad Evoy, internal commissioner of the Graduate Students’ Union has similar concerns about the pass, saying that: “They are undoubtably creating a two-tiered system which the Graduate Students’ Union does not support and would not instigate for ourselves.” Evoy is also concerned about the use of advertising by the UTSU that he feels could mislead first year students into feeling that the card was necessary to participate in orientation.

The UTSU has been heavily promoting the pass over the past few weeks, with posters and leaflets distributed across campus, a full page advertisement in The Newspaper, and a dedicated section on their orientation website. Several news organizations were contacted by the Union asking them to write articles promoting the pass, but declined. Mauricio Curbelo, president of the University of Toronto Engineering Society, feels that the website from which the pass can be bought makes it unclear whether or not the pass is necessary to participate in orientation, saying that it is ultimately: “misleading first-year students into believing the pass is necessary in order to participate.”

Curbelo feels that offering a separate set of year-long events and discounts will create two tiers of membership in the UTSU; since all students already pay $68.24 dollars a year to the student union, Curbelo finds it unclear why an additional twenty dollars is being asked of first-year students for limited additional services. The sixty-eight dollar figure cited by Curbelo, is the total yearly levy collected for the UTSU, approximately half of which must be passed on to specific services and organizations. The union’s society fee is $34.96 per year. Sajjad did not specify how much money had been raised so far, or where the money would be used.

Not all campus leaders are critical of the pass, though. Walied Khogali, executive director of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) said that the UTMSU were asked to participate and were only unable to because it was too short notice. Reached by phone, Khogali said “We’re a little jealous to be honest with you, it seems like a great idea and the UTSU St. George clearly has done a lot of great work on it.”

Of mayors and metros

A crash course in the municipal issues making Toronto headlines this year

Considering the recent slew of developments both on campus and outside of its borders, it would seem that we are in store for an engaging year of opinion journalism at the University of Toronto. However, the selection of opinion to be published in The Varsity’s Comment section this upcoming year is about as predictable as the eccentric behavior of our local municipal politicians. That being said, here are some issues you are likely to read about in the pages of The Varsity this year.

 

Rob Ford

HYFEN/FLICKR

Mayor Rob Ford’s current term in office will expire in 2014, which means that campus politicos will be embroiled in a serious debate over the future of our city. Mayor Ford has already announced his intention to run for re-election, but he will no doubt be met with fierce competition from opponents looking to wrestle the city away from the belt-tightening conservatives. Expect to find impassioned endorsements from university political leaders in The Varsity as campaigns begin and the competition becomes more clearly defined.

 

Transit debate

Toronto City Hall. LMNOP88A/FLICKR

The results of the mayoral election are sure to influence the ongoing transit debate in Toronto City Council in the upcoming year. As different proposals for how to ameliorate the way that Torontonians navigate the megacity roll in, The Varsity will focus on how these proposed changes will affect the university’s overwhelming commuter population. With some estimates suggesting that as many as 85 per cent of our classmates commute to and from the university’s three campuses every day, any potential disruptions or innovations to the city’s transit systems will definitely play a large part in campus discussion and the opinions published in this paper.

 

Queen’s Park

FILE PHOTO: BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

The Ontario Provincial Legislature at Queen’s Park, located just off campus, is set to be a major source of debate yet again this year — with by-elections across the province scheduled to occur August 1, weeks before classes resume at the university. The results of these elections will help to clarify the province’s current political leanings going into a provincial election. Shifts in Ontario’s political landscape are likely to exhume debate over the essence of our post-secondary education system. Earlier this year, the Conservative party released a white paper proposing radical changes to higher education. Changes to the government’s post-secondary education priorities will have serious consequences for the way institutions like U of T are funded, especially as society tries to adapt to an evolving economy. Pending these precursory byelection outcomes, the future of the post-secondary system in Ontario will be a hot topic on campus and in the province.

 

Pan Am Games

Physical changes to the campus have already begun in preparation for the 2015 Pan Am Games, which will be hosted by the City of Toronto. As construction continues and the city prepares itself to welcome the world, be aware of dissenting opinions — not only over infrastructural changes, but also over more conspicuous cultural and social changes within the city. These types of high-profile events often bring discord with them, even as the city tries to be on its best behavior. While the games themselves are still far off, the initial period could see rifts develop across the city as citizens become discontented with changes to their communities. The university is not immune to this friction, as we have already seen in the dispute over converting U of T’s back campus to artifical turf. The Varsity’s pages will be well-populated with informed commentary as this process continues and the city deals with changes to its environment.

 

U of T Libraries 101

The definitive guide to the St. George campus library system

Looking for a place to study during midterm season? Here’s the definitive guide to the St. George campus library system:

Robarts Library | “The Beast”

It’s 24 hours before an exam, or an essay is due at midnight and it’s half an hour before the deadline; at the height of desperation, students shut themselves in Robarts Library. Many call this concrete monstrosity home — especially during night hours, when tired souls take to the first three floors for serious napping. Robarts is U of T’s largest library, and is fondly known as Fort Book, because of its imposing concrete stature and seemingly endless collection of books. Although you’ll meet some intense researchers and crazed insomniacs at Robarts, it also serves as a social hub for students across all three campuses, housing the largest number of books in the university and a cafeteria with a Starbucks line that is almost always out the door.

Theme Song: “The Final Countdown” by Europe

Snack of choice: 12” Meatball Sub from the cafeteria

 

Gerstein Science Library | “The Hopeful Pre-Med”

Gerstein is home to U of T’s life science students. Here, you’ll find first-years commiserating over Biology textbooks and Chemistry labs, as medical students pass by with their matching backpacks (yep, that’s a thing). Unlike the gloomy interiors of Robarts, Gerstein boasts plenty of windows to make even the most dreary of study days just a tad brighter.

Theme Song: “The Scientist” by Coldplay

Snack of choice: Pizza (brain food) from the downstairs café

 

E.J. Pratt | “The Hipster”

Home to Victoria College students, expect to see the artsy folk on campus getting their work done in Pratt library. Pratt offers optimal private space, with long mini-cubicles for individual students lining one side and a bar of window seats facing the scenic Victoria College residences on the other. The bottom floor contains some overflow stacks, as well as couch seating and vending machines for social interaction after hours of solitary study.

Theme song: You’ve probably never heard of it

Snack of choice: Sushi from Wymilwood Café in the Goldring Centre

 

Graham Library | “The Next Rhodes Scholar”

The Grahman Library takes up the centre wing of the beautiful Munk School building. Its popular reading rooms play host to lounging students who spend large portions of their days in the soft, welcoming Morris chairs — especially during colder months. Meanwhile serious studiers situate themselves in the surprisingly comfortable wooden chairs in front of the spacious individually-lit desks. Many windows boast beatiful views of Trinity College or of the gardens on Devonshire Place.

Theme song: “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Snack of choice: Lunch from The Buttery

Commuter hangouts

For commuter students, campus often becomes a second home during long stretches between classes and even the occasional library all-nighter. In between lectures, meetings, and whatever else tethers you downtown for the day, check out these spots for a moment of Zen or a power nap.

 

Cafeteria, Rotman School of Management Building

The Rotman initiative to expand the school boasted a hefty budget of $91.8 million, leading to the production of this gorgeous building. Built in the past year, the cafeteria’s spacious interior and modern seating are perfect for a coffee date with a friend or a couple hours of studying, complimented by excellent people-watching through the large windows overlooking St. George and Harbord.

 

Kruger Hall Commons, Woodsworth College

Despite the college’s Victorian exterior, it houses a very modern interior. Within Kruger Hall lies a great expanse of open space with ample seating. It is also lined with multiple circular tables, which are convenient for larger groups.

 

Indoor Bamboo Gardens, Terrence Donnelly Centre

These isolated spaces surrounded by bamboo trees allow students to sit and enjoy indoor greenery that is hard to find in the city. Grab a tea and come take a seat on one of the benches to meditate and breathe.

 

Junior Common Room, University College

It is definitely worth your while to figure out how to reach this room within the maze of UC for its legendary sofas and cozy atmosphere. Commonly shortened as the JCR, it is also home to the college’s own student-run cafe, Diabolos’, which serves cheap coffee and bagels. It’s common to find students taking long naps here, so don’t be ashamed to lay out on a couch and snooze.

 

Cafeteria, Medical Science Building

Situated right in front of an assorted selection of fast-food chains — including Pizza Pizza and Spring Rolls — this space offers a great opportunity to sit down, enjoy a delicious meal, and read lecture notes all at the same time. If you’re with friends, the cafeteria extends into the adjacent room and contains comfy sofas well-suited for socializing.

 

The Understudy Cafe, Gerstein Library

When you feel like indulging in a well-deserved break after a copious amount of studying (or just browsing the internet, which is equally tiring), this cafe — situated near the main entrance of Gerstein — is the place to go. Besides some delicious meal options, The UnderStudy gets bonus points for providing a microwave to heat up meals brought from home by the savvy commuter.

 

Welcome to Toronto

Exploring the small wonders of the vibrant city surrounding St. George campus

Welcome to Toronto

Welcome to Toronto