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.

Saying goodbye to David Naylor

Outgoing U of T president discusses flat fees, fee diversion, favourite books, and his final thoughts as he says farewell

Saying goodbye to David Naylor

It has been eight years since David Naylor became president of U of T. He’s led the university in the midst of provincial funding cuts, a global recession, and seemingly endless battles with the students’ union. He will step down on October 31, and former Arts & Science dean Meric Gertler will take his place. I sat down with Naylor one more time for a 45-minute interview that lasted nearly an hour and a half, not counting the responses he emailed for the questions we didn’t have time to get to.


The Varsity: I know that provincial and federal funding is something that you’ve talked about for a long time, in terms of the university wanting more of it. If you could have any system you wanted right now, what would it look like?

David Naylor: We would be at the national average for student funding, at the minimum, and that alone would see probably on the order of $300 million of additional base funding; that’s how big the gap has become.


TV: And why are we below the average?

DN: This is a very challenging question to ever answer definitively. If you go back twenty years, you’ll find the province was already lagging in terms of post-secondary funding and, despite some positive steps in the early days of the Reaching Higher program the province adopted, there has been no real progress. It’s particularly puzzling because we are the national average on spending K-12 education, and the national average in terms of spending on health care. Yet we seem to have decided, somehow, that it’s okay to have a situation in which universities and colleges receive relatively less per student from other provinces. Indeed, so much less that if I were to move the University of Toronto’s operations to Edmonton or Calgary tomorrow, we would double our funding from the province, even after they’ve had their cuts.


TV: The province is considering amending the flat-fees structure, the proposal is, as of next year students taking 3.5 courses will be considered full-time, and as of 2015 students taking four courses or 80 per cent will be considered full-time. Do you think that these changes are positive? If so, why, and if not, what would be a better system?

DN: I think the changes are not evidence-based…what has not been established is that there are any ill effects from this approach, and by established I mean good strong evidence rather than the usual anecdote that carries the day in newspapers. When you look at the studies that were done by the Faculty of Arts & Science, with student representatives on those committees, we see quantitative evidence that shows the following:

We see faster times to completion, which is good for everybody. We see the funds that have been generated from the program fee approach have been redirected to improve student aid, which is also a good thing net and net no one ends up paying more as a result, when you consider both intensification and the additional student aid.

You see that extracurricular participation has not fallen one bit. You see that grade distribution, so far from going in the wrong direction, is actually showing positive changes. When you put all the evidence together, there’s really not a lot to say that program fees have had an adverse effect.

Would you advocate for the status quo? Do you think that there should be any change at the provincial level?

DN: Do I think the threshold should be four? No, I do not think that threshold is appropriate. Do I think the threshold could be 3 or 3.5? You can argue it either way, but to me if you’re going to do it, what I really would want to see from the standpoint of fairness is get the evidence as you proceed, step by step, to show that adverse effects are not occurring.


TV: U of T consistently ranks poorly on Maclean’s and other surveys that rank student life on campus. Do you think U of T has as strong a student life or sense of identity as Queen’s or Western? If so, why? If not, why not? 

DN: I take some consolation on these surveys from the reality that we have a more critically minded, and I think very smart, audience that may be more inclined to take a skeptical view than those who are happier to paint themselves purple or participate in rowdy Homecoming institutions.




TV: Can it all be attributed to that?

DN: No, of course not. I just wanted to get in that preliminary caveat before I answered your question. The surveys that I look at that give me some sense of encouragement are the NSSE [National Survey of Student Engagement] surveys. On NSSE, we’re up meaningfully over the last few years on five of the seven big domains, and stable on two others. So there’s no question that student life and student engagement are improving. The reality is that this is a major urban centre. We have a lot of students who commute and we know in all these surveys that commuting poses challenges in terms of spirit and solidarity. I do think that the continued improvement in athletics helps. I think that having a Student Commons will help.

I do think that U of T students are simply more academic and have a stronger orientation to a life of the mind than students at some other campuses. And we get accordingly a group who may be less inclined to go out and whoop it up at an athletic event or hang out at a local bar and have fun and who may be a little more likely to be hitting the books in a pretty demanding school and tending to focus on their academics a little more heavily — and I frankly get that and I admire it.


TV: Yes. Now you said the words ‘‘student commons,’’ so I have to ask: On the one hand you have Trinity, Engineering, and Victoria who want to leave. On the other hand you have the students’ union who doesn’t want them to leave. What is a potential compromise?

DN: I think that one has to ask what are some of the services that are sufficiently common across the campus that they might be provided by an umbrella entity and which are division specific to the extent that one might want to see them devolved and that thinking around functionality is one starting point. Another starting point for a compromise is to think about how good governance occurs and that means there has to be some sense that there is an umbrella body like UTSU, that it is responsive to the component divisions in a way that gives them a real sense of full participation in decisions that are made, and both those principles become a starting point for some intelligent compromises. Where this will end up is going to depend upon whether people are willing to find compromises in both directions.

It is the formal position at Victoria, Engineering, and Trinity that they feel there is no room to compromise and they want out. And a few weeks ago the St. George Round Table passed a motion endorsing the principle that if students have voted to leave in a fair referendum then they should be allowed to leave. And, as you know, the union is not responsive to these things. Online voting only got implemented in this election because Cheryl Misak basically threatened to cut off funding. How do you work with the union under these circumstances?

DN: I think it is fair to say that the administration is very unlikely to be comfortable with anything that doesn’t involve some sensible compromises on all sides and if there is no appetite for compromise then there will have to be some decision made by governance on the advice of the administration as to what a sensible and fair dispensation would be. There is no question we have heard very quickly the unhappiness of at least three major student groups on this campus. There is also no question, that we have watched years of challenges to electoral results and have had more than one student group through the years have similar concerns to those that have crystallized and been voted on now. All that is to say that no one should underestimate the resolve of the administration to see a fair resolution.

So I think you will find that we will be moderately patient, perhaps frustratingly so for those that want a fast resolution, and we are going to try and keep the conversation going and if at some juncture there is no resolution, we will act.


TV: The Varsity recently wrote a story about interest fees the university charges. U of T collects about $1.76 million dollars in interest fees from the St. George campus undergraduate students. I don’t think that’s much money for the administration, but I do think that’s a lot of money for your average student. Students get osap money twice during the year, but they have to pay their fees once during the year. So bearing in mind the different OSAP timelines and the pressure from the students’ union, do you think the current model needs to be altered, and if not, why? 

DN: First off, whatever the number is, any money in base that recurs is important to the institution. This is not a one-time amount of money, it’s a recurring amount of money, but much more important than the actual amount brought in on interest charges is the fact that if fees are not paid on a timely basis, there is a loss on the part of the institution. Like any other enterprise we have to continue to make payroll, deal with our expenses, and manage cash flow.


TV: Are there ways to do that without charging interest?

DN: Well it’s pretty hard not to charge interest because if the money isn’t in our hands we can’t put whatever money has been banked out to collect interest out from the banks. Remember that our money comes in in a couple of tranches, just like the money comes in from OSAP in a couple of tranches. We have to manage cash flow for the year. If we don’t invest the money that comes in we’re guilty of dereliction of the appropriate use of capital in our hands and that would be inappropriate and wasteful. One of the reasons interest is charged on these accounts is not some desire to gouge or to make a lot of money out of the interest per se, but rather to make sure we actually have people paying on a timely basis.


TV: Could U of T operate on a model where students pay once per semester? Other universities do.

DN: You have to look at each institution’s model to look at what works. As I see it, most institutions have some interest charges simply to ensure fees are paid on a timely basis. As I see it when a newspaper reports that this amounts to 19 per cent they are misrepresenting the reality and that no one is going to go a full year without paying their fees. When we have claims that these fees are a great burden when in fact they’re OSAP-eligible expenses, we also have some misperception.


TV: If I may though, the data does show that most people are sitting with it between OSAP disbursement periods.  

DN: So in that period they will see this as an expense and they will wait to be paid back, and I understand that that is something that rankles, I get it. It also rankles when anyone else gets a bill with an interest charge on it, which is why we pay them. I would love to see some sensible compromise that found everyone happy our fees are paid on a timely basis and students feeling as though they are also incentivized to do their share to pay.


TV: What is next?

DN: I will go back to the ranks and I will try to be helpful to the institution in any way I can. I will do some private sector work and I will do some non profit and charitable work and try to stay out of the way.


TV: Will you teach?

DN: I hope so. I love teaching, and I really enjoyed research. I would like to live that life again, but I will have to take a little time to see how feasible that is. I mean, I’ve been at it 14 years as a full-time academic administrator as dean of Medicine and president and the jury is out as to whether I can retool and be effective as a researcher again. I’d like to give that a try, but it may be too late — the neurons may have gone to sleep permanently.


TV: What is your favourite book?

DN: Mr Bumbletoes of Bimbleton… That’s a sentimental choice.  My grandparents on both sides were immigrants with limited education.  My mother was a gifted student, but neither she nor her three brothers attended university. My father was determined to be a medical researcher, and was the only one of six children in his family to attend university.  He arrived here at University College during the Depression without any family financial backing, and worked more or less full-time to support himself.  There was no student aid.  He made it as far as first-year Medicine, but couldn’t manage and dropped out. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my parents gave their four children a house full of books and a strong sense that we should all pursue higher education as far as it would take us. Among those books, Mr Bumbletoes was my childhood favourite. I am sorry that my father did not live to see his old oak desk in the office of the dean of Medicine at U of T.


TV: Let me ask you one last question. If you came back to U of T 10 years from now, what would you hope the campus would look like?

DN: I would hope they were still amazingly diverse, with the fabulous mix of students we have here from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures. I think one of the things that I feel best about is that we’ve had huge numbers of people over the last number of years work hard to promote a uniquely Canadian brand of accessible excellence here at U of T. I think it distinguishes us hugely from some of the Ivy League institutions with which we compete otherwise on the academic level, and I also think in the quality of our graduates — so I would want to see that same wonderful level of diversity. I would hope that we might on this campus have finally figured out a way to close down some of the traffic around King’s College Circle, so that this can be even more of a pedestrian space.

I’d love to see some of the new buildings that are planned up and thriving and full of terrific students and faculty and staff, and I’ll be watching all of those developments with great interest. East and West, I would be really excited to see more of a sense of research buildings that enable more graduate students and graduate studies to thrive as per the 2030 plan as well as the outworking of some of the great plans they have underway. For example, in Scarborough the development of the North campus with the remediated land around the Pan Am Centre is going to be incredibly exciting, and I think they will have made big progress a decade from now.

To the West, there’s infinite potential at the Mississauga campus and I can see any number of new programs emerging there that would again represent a change. They have an academcy of Medicine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Missisauga and Scarborough with academies of engineering or similar professional programs that are tied to St. George at some later date. I think the sense of a blend of all the historic architecture and all the facilities and greenspace is something that I hope will remain forever. It will always be a place I come back to with a sense of coming home.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

David Palmer: The man behind Boundless

The Varsity interviews the man in charge of U of T's $2 billion fundraising campaign — the largest in Canada

David Palmer: The man behind Boundless

Construction has become a fact of life at this university.

There are, of course, some negative aspects to this constant. The roar of backhoes and bulldozers interspersed around campus can become irritating at times. Worksites, vast tracts of dirt and concrete, and spiderwebs of half-assembled steel girders rising slowly toward the sky are admittedly unsightly. In some cases, there may be reason to question whether what is being built is more valuable than what was destroyed to make way for it, as was the case for the Back Campus project.

Vice-President of Advancement David Palmer poses with the Boundless handbook in front of Simcoe Hall. SARAH TAGUIAM/FILE PHOTO

Vice-President of Advancement David Palmer poses with the Boundless handbook in front of Simcoe Hall. SARAH TAGUIAM/FILE PHOTO

But, at its core, construction is growth, and growth is survival. Every building erected, every faculty member employed, every research initiative seen through is a sign that the University of Toronto is alive, thriving, and well-financed. U of T is currently engaged in a fundraising initiative, titled the Boundless campaign. Launched in 2011, the project seeks to raise $2 billion in donations. As of September 27, it has collected $1.35 billion of this sum. Before the university’s most recent campaign, 15 years ago, U of T typically raised below $20 million per year in donations. For Boundless, the school seeks to collect at least $200 million per year, a figure it has well exceeded thus far. This is made possible, in part, by the work of the University Advancement Division, and of David Palmer, vice-president, advancement.

“Last year, for instance, we raised $226 million,” says Palmer, “Of course that money lands in a lot of different places around the university. Every single department, college, faculty, and campus participates in the campaign. They all benefit, and in fact, the fundraising that was done has gone into all of these divisions.”

The vice-president is soft-spoken and businesslike, possibly a practised affect, but at any rate one that is likely useful for persuading generous volunteers like Peter Munk, Judy and Blake Goldring, and Joseph Rotman to contribute to the university. “We do very little advertising or direct solicitation,” he explains. “By far the majority of money we raise, probably well in excess of 90 per cent, is by face-to-face meetings with individuals and corporations that have an interest in supporting us.”

Boundless has, of course, explored many different avenues of fundraising: alumni receive mailers and telephone calls encouraging them to give, flags advertising U of T’s Boundless are ubiquitous on campus, and the administration has hosted impressive galas in several strategically important locales, such as Silicon Valley and Hong Kong, to raise awareness of the university’s projects.

“We really needed to be out there with a very strong statement of the nature of this university, its importance to society, its importance to this community, and what it is we’re going to do, what we’re going to stand for, and why it matters. And that’s the key phrase: why it matters,” emphasizes Palmer, the subtlest hint of conviction entering his quiet speech. “I’ve had direct conversations with alumni that have said, ‘You know, I knew you were going to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. But now that I’ve been exposed to this, I’m really impressed with what you’re doing in this area and that area, and I’m going to give some thought to my gift to the campaign, and instead of giving “x”, I might give “x times 2” or “x times 3.”’”

The vice-president lists some of these possible areas of interest: “We raise money for some of the most exciting academic projects that you’ve ever come across, whether those projects are coming out of medicine, or engineering, or they’re coming out of English, history, or they’re coming out of UTM, UTSC, these are the projects that drive philanthropy,” he says. “The quality of our ideas, the quality of our people, those are the things that drive people to come to the table and be generous toward the university.” Palmer’s vocabulary in describing these grand endeavours is fairly mercenary, likely because money is important to all of them.

This reality has proven quite challenging to the administration at times. Government grants to the university have effectively been frozen for two decades now. U of T’s tuition is one of the lowest in the world for an institution of its calibre. As he discusses these obstacles, Palmer shares a rueful smile with Michael Kurts, assistant vice-president, university relations, who has been silently taking notes on the meeting. Perhaps most damagingly, the university’s entire endowment (as well as its Pension Master Trust fund) is managed and invested by the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM). While its returns have been between reasonable and impressive most years, in 2008, as a result of the worldwide financial crisis, UTAM lost $600 million of the university’s $2.1 billion endowment. The Advancement Division’s work, including the Boundless campaign, has gone some distance to alleviate this; U of T’s endowment sat at $1.896 billion at the end of 2012.

These gains have come with remarkable efficiency. Palmer describes how Boundless has spent on average $0.15 for every $1.00 it has raised, an almost sevenfold return, which is far better than Revenue Canada’s recommended rate of $0.35 per $1.00 raised.

The effects of this yield reverberate throughout the university and, ultimately, allow it to be a school. “I think raising money for faculty has huge direct benefits for students,” says Palmer. “When you look at all of our top faculty, our Canada Research chairs, our endowed chairs, our major award winners, over 90 per cent of them teach undergraduates. There are not many universities, in Canada or elsewhere, that can come anywhere close to that statistic.”

“We have new buildings like the Rotman School, like the law school, like the Goldring Centre; those are three examples of capital projects where there’s very significant support for students built into them, and we’ve been very successful at raising funds for those capital projects, because either they’re tied to the need for expansion or to very poor facilities that have been existing for some time and been degrading over time.”

This is the surest sign of Palmer’s success: the University of Toronto is building.

With files from Anthony Marchese

Innovation and Destruction

Rotman’s Creative Destruction Labs to host entrepreneurship meet-up September 12

Innovation and Destruction

This Thursday, September 12, the Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Management is hosting a free Demo Camp for students interested in technology and entrepreneurship. Students attending the camp will have the opportunity to present their own innovative ideas and to network with university alumni and members of the Toronto venture community.

“Demo Camp is an event designed to bring the community together… to show off what they’ve been working on.” says Jesse Rodgers, director of the Creative Destruction Lab.  “It’s not necessarily for the highly polished start-up — or the highly polished company. It’s for really interesting ideas, to get the conversation going.”

Students interested in registering for the event can register online until September 12. The event is scheduled to last from 3 pm until 6 pm, and is designed to appeal to a broad audience.

The presenters of the event represent a diverse range of interests and approaches to entrepreneurship. University-based presenters are drawn from many faculties, including the faculties of Engineering, Optical Science, Computer Science, and Chemistry. Presenters at the Demo Camp will also include representatives from the Next 36 and The Hatchery — two Toronto programs that work extensively to develop undergraduate start-ups. The Next 36 website boasts that “no [other] program in the world provides the same mix of ceo mentorship, investment, academic instruction, networking opportunities and exclusive events.” The Hatchery, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto Faculty of Engineering, describes itself as a “hothouse for the best ideas of entrepreneurial undergraduate engineers.”

Companies represented will include U of T-based oti Lumionics, which focuses on organic light-emitting diodes (leds), and UnConference, whose conferencing app was constructed at a Toronto based hackathon. Also represented is Seamless Medical Technologies, a Next 36 venture which attempts to prevent hospital readmissions through a mobile platform which allows patients and doctors to better manage outpatient recovery.

Christina Mueller, a PhD student in the Chemistry department at U of T and co-founder and vice president of Insight Nanofluidics, will also be attending the Demo Camp. Rodgers says that she will be presenting an electron microscope that can analyze a specimen at the nano-level in real time, without prior sample preparation, and described her innovation as “change-the-world technology”.

The Creative Destruction Lab is hosting the event as part of its focus on the development of the U of T entrepreneurship community. As a cornerstone of this focus, the Lab also runs an eight month intensive and competitive program for promising entrepreneurs in the U of T community. The program guides its ventures through important milestones and offers mentorship and access to the Toronto venture capital network. Applications for the Creative Destruction Lab program close September 17. Interested students can apply online through the Creative Destruction Lab website.

The Destruction Lab takes its name from the “creative destruction” concept by economist Joseph Schumpeter.  According to Rodgers, creative destruction is entrepreneurship. “It’s the piece of entrepreneurship in capitalism in how it plays a role to replace creatively the old industry, which essentially results in  a ‘tearing down of the old — replacing with the new’ — and it takes creativity to do that, and innovation… We’re seeing more entrepreneurship in building massively scalable companies that are replacing industries, not just doing an app that sells a million on the app store. We want to see real change, and real growth.”


The Creative Destruction Lab can be found here. Register online for the Demo Camp here

Rotman Commerce should adhere to the rules of capitalism

Subsidies save Rotman Commerce student groups from loss

Rotman Commerce should adhere to the rules of capitalism

Free–market capitalism is undoubtedly the economic system under which commercial activity is most profitable. If the commerce program, offered jointly by the Rotman School of Management and the Faculty of Arts and Science, wants to maximize the earning potential of its students and create a climate conducive to increasing prosperity, it should extol the virtues of capitalism and encourage its students to embrace free–market principles. However, Rotman’s management of its various student groups displays a somewhat anti-capitalist mentality.


In addition to the Rotman Commerce Students’ Association (RCSA), there are eight student groups recognized by the Commerce program; each of these eight groups focuses on a specialized area of business. For example, Rotman Commerce Beyond Business focuses on corporate social responsibility; the Rotman Commerce Finance Association focuses on finance; and Rotman Commerce Women in Business promotes initiatives for women in business. Each recognized student group receives funding from the university’s operating budget, external sponsorships, and fundraisers. The problem is that the university’s operating budget includes tuition and government funding. In other words, U of T’s commerce students are relying on tax and tuition money to support their activities, which operate at a loss. The reason these students need this external funding is because sponsorships, fundraisers, and ticket sales are insufficient to cover their costs.

To make matters worse, it seems that nobody knows exactly how much money from   tuition-paying students is being used to fund the activities of Rotman’s recognized student groups. Furthermore, while these groups are required to report to Rotman Commerce, their financial information is not published online for public scrutiny. The only way to view the RCSA’s financials is through a direct request to the association’s president during times when it is conducting an audit. In other words, not only do students have no idea how much of their money is being taken by student groups, but they also do not know what the money is being used for.

Despite being students who aspire to be leaders in the business world, the elected presidents and executive teams of Rotman’s recognized student groups are displaying incompetence and irresponsibility. Even more shocking than the fact that tomorrow’s business leaders apparently cannot run organizations that break even is that they receive a plethora of free resources from Rotman Commerce — including free marketing, space on the Rotman Commerce website, access to Rotman Commerce rooms and AV equipment, and other support. Having studied commerce for several years, the students who run these organizations should understand that if they cannot break even without using external funds, then their organizations have a negative net impact on society.

Rotman Commerce needs to reform its student organizations; if its student groups cannot operate without subsidies, then the market has spoken: these groups should cease to exist. By rewarding these failing organizations and listing them as recognized student groups, Rotman Commerce is condoning incompetence and contradicting the rules of capitalism. Rotman Commerce should shut down any student group that bears its name and cannot survive without bailouts. As it stands today, Rotman Commerce’s recognized student groups are a stain on capitalism.


Matthew Lau is a second-year student studying commerce.

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.