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.

What we’re reading

The Varsity's new masthead share their reading choices for the summer

What we’re reading

A summer reading list is sacred. The books we most want to read gather dust throughout the school year, as we instead lend our eyes to textbooks and research. During our few months of freedom — or at least somewhat less work than the academic year — the opportunity to peruse the pages of books we’ve chosen ourselves is a true pleasure. We at The Varsity certainly can’t wait to rifle through the neglected tomes we’ve been longing for all year. Check out some of the titles that the masthead are planning to pore over this summer.


The Varsity, Vol. 131–3

Joshua Oliver, Editor-in-Chief

This summer I will be reading (at least) The Varsity Vol. 131, 132, and 133. These are the bound volumes of every issue for the last three years. I’m reading them to get context and backstory on the paper and the university, and because I have to. Although a lot of the material is genuinely interesting, the books are tabloid size and weigh at least five pounds each, so they’re not super-portable or easy to read.


The Information by James Gleick

Shaquilla Singh, Design Editor

I love a good historical/pop sci book. I’m also a binge reader so save any book that doesn’t seem easily digestible for the summertime for the sake of my grades.


Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Carolyn Levett, Photo Editor

I originally read this book when I was ten, and it absolutely terrified me. I want to re-read it, and see if it is as powerful as it was then.


Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Zane Schwartz, News Editor

This summer, I’m planning on reading Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay because Chinese history has always been a topic that fascinates me. Also, Kay is a brilliant, lyrical author, who is unparalleled when it comes to historical fantasy.


Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Alec Wilson, Comment Editor

Having already tried once and failed ignominiously to engage this giant book I have built up the strength to give it a second shot. Everything I have heard about this leviathan of postmodern writing has me anxious to get started … even if it will mean having to tackle the 300-odd endnotes Wallace has meticulously worked into the narrative. Soul-crushing, complex, and beautiful, I am convinced this will be one of the better reads of my summer.


Suddenly, A Knock on the Door by Etgar Keret

Danielle Klein, Features Editor

Etgar Keret is a master of the micro-story, known also as postcard fiction or short short stories. His collections are quick flashes of narrative, allowing you to digest dozens of surreal tales in one sitting. I’m planning to read his latest publication in bits and pieces over the summer while on planes and trains as I’m traveling around, since it’s the perfect book to pick up and put down in small increments.


Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Sofia Luu, Arts & Culture Editor

I’m currently reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. It’s a book I bought a few years ago that I never got around to reading. Plus, it’s the only book I brought with me on my trip abroad.


Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Katie Vogan, Science Editor

In 2009, a group of bloggers decided to tackle David Foster Wallace’s door-stopper Infinite Jest. Because the book is super-dense and fairly complex, these bloggers decided to create a “support group for readers” as they read the novel. The result was the Infinite Summer project. When I learnt about that project this year, I resolved to to try Infinite Jest myself, with the help of their website. Infinite Summer has been infinitely invaluable in increasing both my enjoyment and understanding of Infinite Jest. I believe that the site is a representation of the supremely cool ways people are using new media and tech to inform and illuminate their consumption of traditional media.


Today I Wrote Nothing by Daniil Kharms

Elizabeth Benn, Sports Editor

Because I’m taking two summer courses and working this summer, I do not have much time to read for pleasure. However, when I do have the chance to read something for fun, I tend to pick up Today I Wrote Nothing, by the surrealist Russian writer, Daniil Kharms, and read an excerpt from it. This book includes short stories, and other brief pieces that mind-boggle with their odd and absurd content.

How should a student newspaper be?

An editorial by 2012–2013 Varsity Editor-in-Chief Murad Hemmadi

How should a student newspaper be?

“May you live in interesting times,” says the Bard. I’m referring, of course, to Terry Pratchett. This year has been filled with interesting times for The Varsity, both in its pages and in my tenure as Editor-in-Chief. One hundred and thirty-two years of history is a lot to live up to, but I hope that volume CXXXIII has met that challenge.


Money, money, money

The Varsity has faced a tough financial and advertising climate over the last few years, and we’ve adapted to reflect that reality — we’re now one of the few entirely student-run university newspapers in the country.

The referendum to raise our student levy was a key means of ensuring The Varsity’s financial future. I am incredibly grateful for the help and support I received from the board of directors, who oversaw the referendum, and to the paper’s masthead and staff, who put so much time and energy into marketing and campaigning. In particular, Ethan Chiel and Nathan Watson put countless hours into working on the referendum video and talking to students at our tables around campus. The successful passage of the levy increase (if the University Affairs Board of Governing Council approves it later this month) will come as a consequence of the work put in by the paper’s dedicated masthead and staff, and I’m proud to have worked with them on it.

The levy increase will, we hope, allow us to continue to expand our coverage and capabilities. It will also go some way to protecting us against the fluctuations of the advertising market, which took a major hit in 2009–2010 and has continued to waver since. The loss of the agency that sold national advertising on our behalf, which is due to shut down at the end of the summer, will hit us hard — but the impact has been mitigated by a successful levy campaign and the efforts of our in-house advertising team. I have every confidence that they will be able to make up any shortfall we may face.

Ultimately, the money you pay to The Varsity every year goes into the print product, our online presence, and yes, to the salaries of the masthead that works every week to ensure that important stories at this university are covered.

In the brouhaha surrounding ‘defederation,’ the university’s talking heads have often asked, ‘What do our fees pay for? What do students actually get from student fees?” With The Varsity, the answer is news, entertainment, diversion, information, a voice. Campus media is sustained by the students that produce it, and more importantly, by the students that consume it. I believe there will always be an audience for a student publication that speaks for and to students on this campus. That’s what your yearly $3.72 is paying for.


Print or online? Both

Editors-in-chief have often in this forum addressed the importance of the Internet and web-specific content for The Varsity. We’ve continued to grow our web presence, following a revamp of our website last year — for which I owe many thanks to last year’s online team and the website developer, kmsm.

The online team this year has emphasized connecting with students over social media, and our editors have delivered a mix of breaking news, online-specific content, and stunning videos that have increased our online footprint significantly. Certain stories just make more sense on our website. Our coverage of NXNE early in the year and the success of the timelapse video for the Night magazine are just two examples of editors understanding the power and popularity of timely, online-appropriate content.

The media landscape is changing. Every year, it seems, more and more student publications reduce or abandon their print publications in favour of online exclusivity. We understand the importance of the Internet, I assure you, and as we promised in our levy campaign we intend to continue to invest in and improve our website and online content.

But print is not dead, and certainly not on university campuses. Reading a copy of The Varsity that you picked up in a building lobby on your way to class is still a popular way of connecting with our content. At the time of our levy campaign, we heard from students who believed students would be better served by an email newsletter. As we outlined during the campaign, print at The Varsity pays for itself and more. But it also serves a more important function — it lets us showcase the work of our talented designers in a way that the website cannot.

So while we’re committed to growing our audience online, we’re also committed to the convenience that print provides to many students, and to the opportunity it provides students to get involved with the paper. You can have great content online and print it too.


Stories that Matter

This year we’ve tried to live up to our self-styled role as the student voice on campus. Beyond our coverage of campus politics, defederation, and administrative changes, we’ve endeavoured to steer the conversation at U of T, instead of just reporting it. The hundreds of students who have contributed to the paper this year span the multitude of faculties, colleges, ethnicities, genders, and backgrounds that make up our three diverse campuses, and are uniquely placed to reflect and consider the challenges and issues that face students at this university.

We haven’t always gotten it right, and that’s part of the learning process for every masthead. There have been articles that cause offense, and ones that failed to live up to the high standard of accuracy and ethics that we seek to hold ourselves to.

I’ve been particularly grateful to students willing to confront difficult realities or situations in our pages, for the betterment of their fellow students. Whether they’re dealing with anxieties (“Why I can’t come to class,” January 7, 2013) or stigma because of their sexuality (“Speaking out against small acts of homophobia,” March 4, 2013), these students have raised important issues that many U of T students deal with, but too often cannot express. These students’ perspectives are just as important as those of our student politicians, and it sometimes feels like the discourse on campus drowns out such voices.

Simon Bredin and the news team have consistently reported stories as they happened, covering the defederation and election campaigns from start to finish and breaking news of important campus events (like the appointment of our new university president, “Gertler appointed U of T president,” March 11, 2013). They’ve shown that campus media can cover issues of importance in the same timeframe and with the same thoroughness that readers expect from ‘traditional’ media.



My intent is not to be self-congratulatory, though I am proud of our work this year. I’m trying to point out, instead, the role that The Varsity aspires to at this university — as a participant in, and a driver of, important changes and advances, and as a close chronicler and scrutinizer of the institutions (student-run or otherwise) that govern the academic and social lives of students.

We have a duty to the students at the University of Toronto. If you hear about The Varsity during your time at this university, the choice to engage with us is up to you. But if you make it through your time here without ever knowing this paper exists (and paying our fees the whole while), we’ve failed in our responsibility to engage with you — our audience and fellow students.  I have every confidence that next year, led by newly elected Editor-in-Chief Joshua Oliver, and in the years to come, The Varsity’s dedicated staff of students will work to make sure they fulfill that duty.

I owe a debt of gratitude to every writer, photographer, illustrator, designer, and copy-editor who has worked on the publication this year. And I cannot end without giving credit to the people who make this paper run — the masthead. Your dedication and creativity made me want to come in for every minute of production, and carried me through every meeting and catastrophe. Thank you.

The Networks Magazine


Legal infighting serves no one

An editorial on the implications of fee diversion referenda

Legal infighting serves no one

In the last few weeks, the pages of this newspaper have been filled with talk of ‘defederation,’ a colloquial way of referring to the attempts by the Engineering Society (EngSoc), St. Michael’s College Students’ Union (SMCSU), the Trinity College Meeting (TCM) and Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) to divert their students’ fees from the UTSU to their respective councils. As you can see above, there are a number of ways in which those attempts could lead to court battles.

It is difficult to predict what form a possible legal action could take. If the referenda proceed, and their results are accepted by the university, it is unclear what legal precedents would apply if the case goes to court. The case being cited by both sides, APUS vs. UTMSU and EPUS (Erindale Part-Time Undergraduate Students’ Association), does not seem to be a clear precedent. According to those involved in the case, the principle that the judge seemingly upheld is that one organization cannot interfere with the internal workings — membership, for example — of another organization.

As the UTSU has pointed out repeatedly, under its bylaws, every full-time undergraduate at the U of T is individually a member of the union. The UTSU seems to implicitly recognize the faculty and college structure in the makeup of its Board of Directors, but there is no formal recognition in the bylaws. The APUS case seems to be based on a federation structure, so it is not immediately obvious that it applies to the present case.

With both sides displaying confidence in their legal position, any court case will likely be prolonged and expensive. Attempts by various student councils and unions to defederate from the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) have resulted in huge legal fees — over $407,000 in the case of the University of Guelph Central Student Union. There are significant differences between the CFS defederation cases and the present situation. The CFS is a federated body; the UTSU is not. The CFS also has a record of litigation, with long legal battles employed to wear down the unions attempting to defederate and run up huge legal costs; the UTSU has no such record. But the ‘war chests’ being assembled by some of the divisions clearly suggest they fear a legal contest.

In November, the EngSoc hired Heenan Blaikie LLP (the firm that represented Guelph in the above-mentioned CFS case) on a $10,000 retainer, and has a $67,000 legal fund in place. The tcm has retained Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP with a budget of at least $100,000. Although the UTSU does not list legal costs explicitly in its year-end financial statements, it retains legal counsel and has the money to sustain a long legal battle.

But where does all of that money come from? It comes from your student fees. The college and faculty councils, and the UTSU, receive a portion of the student fees you pay every year. It is possible that in the battle to divert or retain the UTSU portion of your fees, those same fees will be spent on litigation. These fees would be better spent serving members, rather than on legal infighting among students.

There could also be broader consequences to a legal fight. Any fee diversion would have to be approved by U of T’s University Affairs Board (UAB), a committee of Governing Council. If faced with referendum results calling for fee diversion, it is unclear what the uab will do. But if the UAB does approve fee diversion, it is possible that the UTSU could take legal action against the university itself. That action could call into question the university’s right to make decisions on student societies’ fee changes, upending the way incidental fees are organized and controlled at U of T. This means thats legal action could do more than cost you money — it could fundamentally alter how students and the administration interact.

The U of T faculty and colleges attempting to divert fees at U of T are each at different stages of the process. VUSAC, TCM, and EngSoc have issued reports detailing how fee diversion would work; SMCSU has yet to publish a report. Some students have criticized these reports as inconclusive or under-researched, an understandable critique considering their short time frame. Discontent has been brewing for some time, but fee diversion is a fairly recent phenomenon. Its current iteration has only been in existence since last month’s UTSU Special General Meeting. Six weeks is not enough time to educate affected students about the potential financial and structural implications of fee diversion. Considering that it also takes time to plan, publicize, and run the referenda, it is questionable whether there has been enough time to run an effective campaign that benefits students.

The UTSU, for its part, has failed to head off the attempts at fee diversion. The union provided a response to the TCM report, and has been in correspondence with the various units planning referenda, but it has not taken sufficient public action to inform students about the consequences of fee diversion. Nor has it acknowledged that some of the student grievances driving the movement may be legitimate. Successful fee diversion would have enormous financial consequences for the union, and would seriously undermine the UTSU’s claims to speak for all U of T students. President-elect Munib Sajjad’s decision not to answer questions about litigation may have been legally prudent, but he and his team have done little to inform students about the implications of a court battle and to bridge the gap in campus politics. Meanwhile, the recent electoral withdrawal of executive candidate Sana Ali and her criticism of the Renew slate suggest that there is a divide even among the union’s supporters.

Both sides justify their actions by claiming they represent the will of students on campus, but a large number of students, perhaps even a majority, are unaware of most campus politics, let alone the recent battles between the union and its divisional opponents. These students are also unaware that the ill-considered decisions both sides are making could lead to a legal battle, the result of which is uncertain except for an unnecessary financial burden on students.

Both sides have repeatedly offered to settle their differences through consultation and compromise, yet no solution has been achieved; each side blames the other for this dispute. The best and least expensive way of obtaining a solution is through outside mediation — an objective, professional third party who could resolve the disputes between the union and their divisional opponents, and ensure that much-needed structural reforms are made within the UTSU. This method of resolution could usher in a new era of mature, conscionable governance. The mediator would basically reboot union and student relations, and lessen the probability of a legal battle.

Student leaders on both sides of the fee diversion battle must back up their rhetoric with a willingness to make substantive concessions in the presence of a third-party mediator. This is the best way to avoid a protracted, expensive, and risky legal battle, which is the worst possible outcome for students.

Letters to the editor

For vol CXXXIII, No. 18, March 4th, 2013

U of T pension fund should invest in student housing Turf  war over fate of uc back field

With regard to the article by Theodore Yan called “Turf war over fate of uc backfield” that appeared in the February issue of The Varsity, I would like to discuss this inequitable issue. I am a fourth year student at the University of Toronto and have personally used this field for many of my athletic activities. For a while now there has been deliberation over the outcome of this particular field. Although I agree that the field does need some work done, I believe it should be done so with the thought of all users involved.

The Varsity Rugby team has been using the backfield for years, along with the numerous intermural teams, and sports clubs that are held at the university. Rebuilding a field that could potentially only benefit one or two specific sports teams (i.e. field hockey) is undeniably inequitable. Going forward with the reconstruction will cost a great deal of money, will decrease accessibility for all student athletes, and ultimately alter students’ experiences at the University.

The fate of this field is important. The special artificial field that is to be created will be deemed dangerous to all contact sports and will result in restricted access. In the case of contacts sports, when engaging in activity, coming into contact with the AstroTurf will cause more damage than that of a natural field. This will reduce playing time and practice time for many sports teams, as well as freedom to participate in leisure activities on the field, while allowing very few teams, depending on the level of competition, to use the field more periodically.

The University of Toronto is a school that continuously promotes equality and inclusion, but in this situation that is not the case. I believe the student athletes of the university would greatly benefit from an alternate course of action. Within the article itself a solution was mentioned that involved the field hockey team using an already existing field hockey pitch that is accessible to the team for both practice and competition. That being said, this can be something to consider and could potentially avoid the unnecessary use of money.

The ultimate outcome of the backfield dilemma should not be overlooked and should be reconsidered. If the maintenance of the already existing natural field would yield more participants in physical activities and sports teams then why change that? We should all be looking to enhance and increase participation and equitability at the University of Toronto instead of limit it.

— Danisha Payne

UTSU Elections: Team Renew 

Once again I am completely at a loss to understand this pipe dream of “pedestrianizing” St. George street. Its like the UTSU wants to turn  utsg into some happy utopia where everyone drives around on segways on rolling green grass hills, finally free of those oppressive cars!

This campus was designed to have major arteries running through it. We are in the middle of downtown Toronto. City planners would never let the massive square that is utsg be turned into a deadzone for traffic, making all the streets around it more congested.

But more importantly, there are a number of buildings and parking lots that are only accessible through St George street, because it was DESIGNED to be that way. The new multi million dollar commerce building being one of them. Do you really think they are going to let you render their brand new parking garage, which only goes out onto St George, completely useless? How exactly are buildings like Sid Smith and Morrison Hall going to be supplied with food and equipment?

Its not just that its a stupid idea, its that these people are apparently going to waste their valuable time and my money on a totally fruitless venture, instead of focussing on goals that are actually achievable. Sadly a common trend that happens every year in these elections.

— Chris Edwards (from web)

Telomerase therapy hopes to remove cap on life expectancy

Are we not going to broach the ethical issues here? Life is given meaning because it is fleeting. If you can only die unnaturally, all that matters is staying alive. You’d focus solely on not getting hurt. Us mere mortals know that death is inevitable, and thus can live.

— Dante (from web)

Speaking out against small acts of homophobia

I feel that separating between small acts of homophobia and “big” acts of homophobia can be problematic. I feel then that big acts/small acts are separated when in fact they stem from the same issues. At the same time – you looked at the big victories as “institutional” — things that happen on a institutional/governmental level yet at the same time a lot of queer and trans people do not experience those victories (some could care less about them). Homophobia is homophobia.

— Queer (from web)

In reply to Queer:

I agree with you that homophobia is homophobia. But I do think there is a distinction — the big victories reflect the elimination of de jure discrimination, whereas the small acts are de facto discrimination. The elimination of the latter lags behind the former, and it’s sad that it will take a long time for it to really catch up.

— cantab  (from web)

Colleges schedule March referenda on severing financial ties to UTSU

Sometimes I feel like the UTSU wants to give people reasons to be so upset, like a quota they need to fill every year. There is literally no other reason to not hold a referendum, not even attempt to implement online voting, and then send threatening letters to the colleges that are clearly unhappy with UTSU — a union they pay fees to.

I don’t know if someone could possibly have handled this worse. So much for “Unity”.

— Oh, Come On! (from web)

I’d say the biggest problem with this article is it ignore Shaun’s justifications for his positions. He argued (At the vusac meeting) that in his experience as President the majority of students do identify with his positions and that opposition disproportionately comes from college governance (and others closely alligned with colleges). UTSU is no a federation of colleges but a collection of students, and I like many would likely to continue my membership in this union and don’t by into the hyperbolic demonization of our union President and his team.

— Z.M (from web)

In reply to Z. M.:

Then if you feel that way, pressure UTSU to host the referendums and put it to the membership. If UTSU win, it proves what you are saying, if otherwise, it proves you are wrong. Either way, let this be democratically decided.

— Leon The Alumni Lion (from web)

U of T’s petty cash grab

An editorial on the ancillary fee review

U of T’s petty cash grab

Was U of T trying to pass an unfair financial burden off to students through ancillary fees? Ancillary fees are imposed by each of U of T’s many departments, who seem to have been ignorant of the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities’ (MTCU) regulations. Yet, the central U of T administration has an obligation to ensure compliance across the whole university. The vastness and complexity of the organization is not a valid excuse for their obvious failure.

Based on the available evidence, we can come to one of three conclusions: the university was either ignorant of, willfully blind to, or deliberately allowed departments to continue violating the MTCU’s rules on ancillary fees. In any case, students have good reason for serious concern and harsh criticism.

If U of T’s administration were ignorant of the rules on ancillary fees, or failed to ensure compliance, it points to a shocking level of ineptitude on its part. It seems inconceivable that administrators simply missed the memo on ancillary fees. It’s more likely that the university simply allowed its departments to exploit a loophole and shift costs onto already cash-strapped students.

The university has already admitted that some fees violated the MTCU’s regulations, and that others were wrongly categorized or poorly explained. U of T has acted appropriately in admitting and remedying some of its faults in this area. There are, however, unresolved disputes over many fees, and even where the university acknowledges its mistake, its attempts at a remedy do not go far enough.

When a student is caught cheating on an exam, they cannot simply promise not to cheat again and by so doing, retain the grades they have unfairly earned. Instead, unfair gains are stripped away and punishments imposed. U of T admits that it cheated on ancillary fees, but claims the right to keep thousands of dollars it collected from students through these unfair fees.

So far, U of T has promised to stop cheating in the future, but not to rectify past abuses. U of T rightly holds its students to a high standard of academic honesty — why does it hold itself to a different standard in legal and financial matters? If a department had no right to impose the fee in the first place then it has no right to keep the money earned from that fee.

The UTSU, GSU, SCSU, and other student unions involved in the Ancillary Fee Review process deserve the sincere thanks of every student for highlighting this abuse of the fees system and for fighting to get a fair deal for their members. This is an example of one of the best roles students’ unions can play: an astute watchdog, carefully ensuring that the university, armed as it is with significant resources and staff, does not infringe on the rights of students. In this instance, student leaders met the university on its own turf and proved more effective at, or more willing to, ensure compliance than U of T’s central administration — an achievement that cannot be ignored.

Yet, reading the university’s fee review, there are a striking number of cases in which the university and the UTSU have different interpretations of how the regulations apply to particular fees. The UTSU claims that a number of fees are tuition-related and therefore unjust, while the university claims that the services named are optional and that the fee is therefore justified. Combined, these fees add up to a significant amount of money. Clearly, further action is needed to resolve this dispute and this is an opportunity for the MTCU and provincial government to intervene.

The MTCU shares responsibility for these unfair fees, since it has obviously failed to enforce its own regulations. Like the university, the ministry was either complicit or incompetent in this failure. Ontario now has a new premier, and Kathleen Wynne and Brad Duguid, her Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, could not make a better first move than to intervene on ancillary fees on the side of fairness and on the side of students.

Action by the MTCU to clarify that any service or resource necessary for a complete educational experience must be covered under tuition, not squeezed out of students through extra fees, would help compensate for past failings. It would also be a gesture of good faith and set the tone for a more productive dialogue between student leaders and the government.

U of T’s administration should be ashamed of its serious failure of oversight. Meanwhile, U of T’s students should be proud of the dedicated student leaders who succeeded in protecting the current and future student body from exploitation. The controversy over ancillary fees demonstrates that we have the power to hold U of T’s administration to account and to effect change at our university.

Romance and Woe

Romance and Woe

Love is a drag, except when it’s not. In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, students shared the highs and lows of their university love lives.

Three’s a Crowd

In my Film History course at Innis Town Hall, I became fast friends with a peppy girl who sat five seats away from me during the first few weeks of class. We had a good system going, sharing notes and making jokes. Then one day, a tall, painfully shy boy who sat a row above us interjected when I asked her a question, and soon after, he began to sit with us. Through lectures and film screenings, we stayed loyal to our little seating arrangement.

I don’t really know when it happened, maybe when I discovered the mysterious boy had great taste in music, but I developed a crush on him. But no matter how eager and hopeful I was, there was always a distance between us. When our mutual friend would skip class, which was surprisingly often, the boy would leave an empty seat between us, or awkwardly fill it with his backpack during darkened film screenings.

I finally understood where the boy’s intentions lay when my friend and I got out of our tutorial on the third floor of Innis College one day to find him waiting for her by the single row of desks, killing time with assigned readings. His advances were timid, but he never failed to wait for her every week. I tried to remain content playing the friend, but luckily I could stop when our union didn’t endure past the school year.

Love Tutorial

The last place one might expect to fall in love would be a Political Theory class located in the bleak, poorly-lit lecture hall of New College (what up, Wilson Hall 1016). This unfortunate setting, however, did not obscure my ability to truly fall for the ethnically-ambiguous, beauteous young man in my class.

While our noticeably aged professor spoke of Marx theory of class struggle and the welfare state, I shifted my head slightly and fixed my attention on the boyfriend of my dreams (this prediction was based purely on appearance and course choice).

The best part? We shared a tutorial session. Our chance of interaction increased tenfold. He walked in one cold January wearing an Urban Outfitters cardigan with two red stripes on the arm. I owned the exact same cardigan, and took it as a green light from the universe. We were meant to be. Taste in clothing must translate to fruitful compatibility, right?

I played the self-assured young female thing and found him on Facebook, added him and sent him a quick “I think we’re in the same polisci tutorial?” The subtext read, “I know you are, let’s hang out and DO IT.” We ended up dating briefly after. It didn’t work out, but I will always have a place in my heart for that purely authentic university style interaction. I can’t think of a better setting than U of T’s dim, fluorescent lecture halls.

—Navi Lamba


First Steps

I was nervous about coming out,  but I finally told a guy whose attention I had been trying to get for ages, since we met at the dining hall. It was only after that moment that he started to notice me, tried to get to know me, and invited me to sleep over. As my first real intimate “relationship” continued, I still felt really distant from him. After asking what he considered us, and getting “I’d rather not put a label on it” as a response, I figured it was just fun for him and he didn’t actually care. A long-time friend came to visit me at residence a few weeks after this had started, and came out to me. He slept over and … well … things happened. After he went back home, I told my “friend-with-benefits” what had happened. He seemed distraught, and disappointed I would do such a thing. Sorry, for ruining what I didn’t know we had. And sorry, for trying to apologize to you for the rest of the year. Thanks though, for giving me a try.


Artsy Encounter

I would always notice this guy in my art history course at Sidney Smith. He would often wear a black vest over a light blue dress shirt and had several interlocking bracelets on his left arm. I would peer at him from across the lecture hall. The next semester we were in a smaller classroom and I decided to get a bit closer to him, so I started sitting right behind him. I enjoyed seeing him cross his legs, playing with his curly hair and ever so elegantly typing on his laptop. At first, his physical appearance attracted me to him, but then I started to notice him browsing fashion and art blogs, and suddenly my urge to be in his life grew more intense. I wanted to talk to him about everything. I wanted to do things with him, like get drunk off free wine at gallery openings or down 40s of Olde English on hot summer days at Trinity Bellwoods. I had a great desire to hug him every time I saw him. I’m a male, I’m straight, and I had a girlfriend at the time. I wasn’t sexually attracted to him, I just wanted to be a part of his life.

—Michel Herzog


Lunch Date

In my first week of classes, I went to a five-buck lunch event at Hart House. The meal was chicken and odd pea-looking things; the room was a beautiful banquet hall; I was alone and didn’t know anyone there. It was in this frame of mind that I came upon a second-year music student with yellow hair and giant headphones. He was alone too. We became fast friends in a matter of minutes. We exchanged details — names, what faculty we were in, our intended majors. He was from a small town in Alberta, and had just transferred to U of T. I came to learn other things — jazz musicians that he was really into, how he rejected an engineering scholarship for music a couple of years ago, and his love for European history.

I was as enamoured as you could get for being naïve and 17.

A week later, a botched first date followed in which he told me about getting drunk at 13 and shooting signs and animals with rifles in Northern Alberta.

I come from a conservative Muslim background, so I was kind of petrified. Guns? Alcohol? WHAT? Needless to say, we broke it off.



Heart House

When we met in the Music Room at Hart House two years ago, I barely noticed him. But he persisted, and we started dating. Soon, perhaps too soon, we were sharing secrets, and sorrows, and promises of forever.

On a Saturday evening this past December, he told me he wanted to take a walk. As we wandered past Trinity College, he looked at me and remarked that much of our relationship has been tied to this campus. “Sure,” I said, not understanding.

When we approached Hart House, icy drops of rain began to fall, and he steered me inside. In a quiet corner of the building, he held my face in his hands, kissed my forehead, and got down on one knee. He said wonderful things that I could not hear because my heart was pounding, and I was shocked and scared and so very, very happy.


Lost Chances

Since coming to U of T, I’ve found that a repeated theme in my ‘romantic’ interactions on campus has been missed connections. I’ll see someone who I find attractive, but the situation won’t be right for me to approach them, or the timing will be off. There was once a guy in one of my tutorials who I thought was really cute. He made cheesy jokes, had a funny haircut, and possessed a sexily extensive understanding of history (only at U of T, I know). At the end of the last class, I finally approached him, and he told me all about his excitement over his impending move to a new country. Great.

This theme of poor timing has been mirrored during my time here by the popularity of the short-lived website LikeALittle and its predecessors, the Facebook pages “UMentioned UToronto” and “UTSG Compliments.” One day, I was tabling for a club at Gerstein. A lot of guys passed by my table on their way to the library, and I mostly just sat and read, smiling at people as they passed, and offering to tell them about the group. My friend later pointed out to me that I had been mentioned on one of these pages by someone who had passed me by. He went slightly overboard describing my eyes, but it was a relief to realize that for all the guys I’ve noticed at U of T who will never know, there may be some who have noticed me too.

—Danielle Klein


Lucky Fool

Last year, I was in a class I absolutely hated. But I was taking it with an acquaintance from home, K. I didn’t know K very well, but I’d thought she was cute since seventh grade. But for two months, I said almost nothing. Then, more than halfway through the course, I finally gathered my courage and went over to her post-lecture. And I said:

“So, uh, if you, uh, ever wanted to. Go to the library. Or something. I’d be okay with that.”

This, apparently, was my idea of courage — inviting a cute girl to study in the most passive way possible.

Now, while I had convinced K to do something with me, the day we went to the library I was late, I was in a foul mood and I was followed there by a very ill friend. I barely spoke to her. And after that disaster I didn’t speak to her for months.

Cut to summer. I contacted K over Facebook. Just some casual conversation. Then I guess she got impatient. She invited me over to watch Buffy. We watched a while, we drank wine, we kissed a bit. And then I tried once more:

“So. Tonight — this was really fun. And I. I was wondering. If you might, maybe, want. To do it again. But … with dinner?”

It wasn’t eloquent. It was, however, an actual question that she could answer.

Her answer — though God knows why — was yes.

And somehow, we’ve been dating ever since.



Robarts Romance

We met on my first day of university. He was my frosh leader and I was a shy first-year, intimidated by my new surroundings. We both lived in residence and hung around similar people, but never really spoke to one another, later each admitting that we were too shy. A year and a half went by. He was no longer in residence and the only contact we had were brief moments passing each other on campus, each of us too busy, or too timid to share more than a “hey.” Annoyed by our lameness, fate intervened, and one cold January day I met him on the steps of uc; we were in the same class. In that big lecture hall, we connected. I nervously laughed at his jokes and our elbows touched in those cramped chairs. That same semester Robarts was transformed into a club; the event was called Party in the Peacock. I hosted a pre-drink and invited him. Later that night, we kissed for the first time! Yes, our first kiss was in the cafeteria space in Robarts. Perhaps not the most romantic place on campus, but, hey, at least there was a disco ball. It’s two years later and we are still going strong!