Inspirational gridiron leader steps down

The football program at U of T is undergoing a changing-of-the-guard this summer. The Varsity Blues need a new head coach, as the man who led the team for the last 14 years has decided to resign.

Coach Bob Laycoe’s last day as chief of the football program at U of T will be June 30. He has been in charge of the squad since 1988.

“It was certainly the toughest decision of my coaching career then again, the easiest,” commented Laycoe. “It was time to take better care of myself and spend more time with my family.”

Laycoe has been coaching university football since 1969, when he was hired as head coach for the University of Saskatchewan. From there he went on to coach at the University of British Columbia from 1973 to 1988, ending up at U of T in 1988.

Over 33 years, Laycoe has witnessed drastic changes in university football, the most noticeable being in the quality and strength of players.

“There is a night and day difference between players now and when I started,” said Laycoe. “Athletes now are bigger, stronger, better conditioned and better coached.”

Laycoe has been no stranger to success throughout his career. He led his teams to three Vanier Cup titles: 1982 and 1986 with UBC and 1993 with U of T.

“Coach Laycoe was always there with words of encouragement, even at 6:30 in the morning during training camp,” remembers Ben Craig, a member of the football team for the past two seasons. “He is a very easy-going, fair and even-keeled coach.”

Andrew Campbell, a member of the team last season, was quick to praise a man he obviously admires: “Coach Laycoe attended every practice when I was on the team, despite his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was always available to help a player and enjoyed guiding us players to be the best that we could be.”

Although Laycoe has coached football for three decades, that hasn’t been his only role. He has also served as a mentor and an inspiration to his players.

“I have tried to give my players something they will remember and carry with them through life,” Laycoe said. “That’s what football is all about, so much more than just winning and losing.”

The football team will now have to try to look forward to the future under a new head coach. To some, this is an opportunity to continue the forward progress started by Laycoe.

“Having a new coach is an opportunity to build on what Coach Laycoe started,” remarked Craig. “There is always room for improvement.”

Even though Laycoe’s successor has yet to be named, Laycoe himself has some idea of what he hopes the new skipper will bring to the team: “I would expect the new coach will be an outstanding caretaker of the program.”

Something missing in Identity

We’ve been seeing previews for this new Matt Damon flick for the past four months. Screaming solid action and a fast-paced plot, the ads promised what seemed sure to be a summer blockbuster.

They were probably right. The Bourne Identity will likely be among the top moneymakers of the season. Does it deserve to be? Sort of. Director Doug Liman (Go and Swingers) gets solid performances from Damon and his counterpart, German actor Franka Potente. The supporting cast includes Julia Stiles, Chris Cooper and Clive Owen, all gifted actors themselves. Add exotic settings like France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and you’re set, right?

Sure, it’s got most of the elements of a good spy thriller—a good lead character with a quirky companion, lots of suspense, the odd bit of humour, and action. Some action, that is. While what’s there is great, there isn’t nearly enough of it. Those lengthy previews that make you think you’ve seen the entire plot and don’t need to fork over fourteen bucks to see it again? Bingo.

It’s not exactly the most intellectual thriller of the year, either. The plot, adapted from Robert Ludlum’s 1980 novel of the same name, is passable, and the writing at times is fairly weak. It certainly doesn’t measure up to some of the truly intelligent films (think Insomnia) gracing theatres this summer. If I had to sum up this flick in one word, it would be “rental.”

HOT WAX

Weezer
Maladroit
Geffen

The California geek-rock quartet is on a roll, releasing this latest effort hot on the heels of the better Green Album. There’s nothing quite as fun as “Hash Pipe” here, although the thematic sequel “Dope Nose” certainly tries, all big choruses and heavy riffage. Contrary to popular belief, Weezer haven’t really gone all emo on us—they’re still churning out the power-pop, just at a slightly higher volume. Everything clocks in at a good three minutes or less, like all good pop songs should, and the band sounds like they’re having the time of their lives. All those sweater-clad, spectacles-sporting fans can stop fretting.

NXNE: Three hundred acts, six you should know about

Luke Doucet—The Horseshoe

The West Coast twanger-turned-T.O. troubadour delivered a solid set to kick off NXNE, proving why he’s a favourite of music scribes everywhere. Yeah, he’s been playing the same songs off his year-old Aloha, Manitoba solo debut forever, but they took on new life when backed by Blue Rodeo’s Bazil Donovan on bass and Paul Brennan on drums. Despite the sparse crowd (just try getting a T.O. crowd out at 9 p.m., NXNE or not), Doucet always gives it his all, and his gift for a well-turned phrase, plus the fact he’s one of the best guitarists in the country, make a killer combination. — TS

The Carnations—Lee’s Palace

These locals seem to get better every time I see them. The foursome play the Rock and Roll so well, you’d have to be Shakira not to like them. They’re the musical equivalent of your first unexpected grope—you certainly didn’t think you’d be manhandled like that, but you enjoyed every blessed minute of it and it’s definitely something you’ll tell all your friends about. – RC

Grimskunk—Lee’s Palace

What to say about these fine young fellows from Montreal that hasn’t been said before by their hordes of adoring fans in the hardcore community? How ’bout something like: there’s nothing finer than seeing a keyboardist tool out his anger in high-flying fits of vocal rage. When it comes to I-like-it-loud-music, the ultimate sign of homage to the band is not throwing the horns but inserting the earplugs. Thank you, Grimskunk, for once again bringing me that much closer to an auditory blackout while smiling and screaming along. —RC

Oh Susanna—The Horseshoe

The Queen of Torch Country can do no wrong in this town, and the place was accordingly packed for her first local show in a while after extensive touring in the U.K. Supported by a full band that included NXNE man-about-town Bazil Donovan and like-minded singer-songwriter Jim Bryson, Suzie’s voice soared above it all, one of the few that really shone through the venue’s sound system. Looking like a cowboy librarian in her denim skirt and trademark glasses, Oh Susanna showed what months of touring can do for a performer with her much-improved stage presence. Factor in the surprisingly heavy full-band sound (damn, they were loud!), and it all adds up to one thing—Oh Susanna ain’t no “folksinger” any more.—TS

Cy Scobie—B-Side

Bonus points to recent U of T music grad Cy Scobie (Todor Kobakov) for showing up for his early NXNE slot—as expected, his three-piece electronic soundscapes combo (don’t call it a “band”) played to a near-empty venue. Too bad, because the classically-trained pianist is making some of the most interesting ambient music on the local electro scene these days. Good to see him branching out into harder, more beat-oriented textures, and a flautist lent a nice melodic touch, but the act really needs a vocalist or some kind of frontperson to maintain the crowd’s attention. —TS

The Mooney Suzukis—The Horseshoe

The Mooneys are one of the few bands that can effortlessly shuck off a Toronto crowd’s politeness and complacency. These four notorious New Yoke-ahs were sweating in their all-black attire, drilling into us in verse-chorus-verse intervals. And we, as obedient fans, lapped it up. Highlights of the night include the glory hog lead guitarist, for his ability to climb all over the equipment while getting his riffs and licks down uninterrupted. —RC

Green light for U.C. residence

A new University College residence on St. George St. could be built by September 2004, and U.C. hopes there will be “a shovel in the ground” by May of next year.

Currently, U.C. has the worst track record of meeting student demand for residency compared to other colleges. U.C. can only house 11 per cent of its students, while Trinity College can house 36 per cent and St. Mike’s 24 per cent.

“There are multiple reasons why [we can’t expand] but the main one is that we’re landlocked,” said Paul Perron, University College’s principal. Because the university has to abide by the city’s zoning laws, the green spaces on campus are safeguarded and only certain areas of campus can accommodate construction.

The chosen site is north of Sir Daniel Wilson Hall, in a small parking lot next to the Howard Ferguson dining hall. The proposed building—which has received City of Toronto approval—is expected to house about 330 students.

“[The zoning laws were implemented] for all kinds of good reasons. However, they did not take into account the kind of dramatic growth in the number of students that were coming to the university system of Ontario nor the U of T,” said Perron.

Initially, a 350-bed residence was to be built behind Sir Daniel Wilson Hall, which would have allowed U.C. to house 21 to 22 per cent of its population, according to Perron.

But that proposal was rescinded due to conflict with the municipal government, amid concerns that the proposed building would compromise green space used by the whole campus.

About a month ago, architects Zeidler Grinnell Partnership were selected to design the residence and began to work with U.C. in consultation with the city. Unless the construction process is stalled by U.C.’s College Council, the Academic Board or the Governing Council, the project should be finished by September 2004.

Since the provincial government does not subsidize student housing, the college will have to mount a fundraising campaign. Each year of delay will cost the university a large sum of money from its general funds and “at the same time will inconvenience students. We cannot build a community if we don’t have a proper residence,” said Perron.

“For only 11 per cent accommodated space, I think U.C. could match the other colleges better. If you’re a first-year student, residence life is important, especially at U of T,” said Pamela Barker, who lived at Whitney Hall for three years. “It’s hard to meet people who will say ‘Hey! Let’s go for coffee’ after class. But this is my theory. Rez life connects you to the school, especially within the community.”

Governing Council’s pad gets pricey makeover

If you’re spending a typical student summer in an overheated, run-down, and cramped Toronto apartment, perhaps you can sympathize with the Governing Council’s plight.

The Simcoe Hall meeting chambers of U of T’s top decision-making body haven’t been renovated since 1926. The facility is not air-conditioned and is visibly ageing. But a fix won’t come cheap: renovations are expected to cost $1.6 million.

In May, Governing Council approved a motion to renovate and refurbish their council chamber and board room. The plan was proposed to the Planning and Budget Committee in March. A memorandum to the committee from Ron Venter, the Vice-Provost of Space and Facilities Planning, says the chamber is in dire need of aid. “The drapery is in tatters, the furniture in urgent need of repair and refinishing, and the inadequate lighting is in need of attention.”

In addition to the upgrades needed in the chamber, the memorandum notes that the president’s office “is not adequately air-conditioned; it would be timely to include this suite of offices when the air-conditioning is added to the Board Room.”

The cost of the refurbishments is especially high because council has placed a premium on preserving the “authentic heritage” of the two rooms. Louis R. Charpentier, Secretary to the Governing Council, noted that “for many people these rooms are a very public face for the university.” As well, the rooms are used heavily by GC and its associated committees and boards. “By repairing them and bringing them up to current technology and meeting space standards,” said Charpentier, “it certainly is respectful of all members who participate in our governance system.”

When the recommendation to proceed with the project was considered by Governing Council in a May 2 meeting, Emily Sadowski, then president of the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students, complained that while the university was funding this initiative, part-time students (amongst other groups) were receiving inadequate bursary funds.

Charpentier agreed that the decision to allocate funds to cosmetic projects was not easy. “It’s true that there are a number of competing priorities,” he said, “and each year, particularly when there are monies that are directed towards maintenance, or repair, or that kind of thing, there are decisions that are made that take into account a number of factors.”

Charpentier told the Planning and Budget committee that major donors would not be likely to express interest in this “small” project, but small amounts of funding might become available once the project is underway.

Fire In The Hole!

I THINK I JUST WET MY ROBE! An anxious parent outside Con Hall at the June 21 Applied Sciences convocation looks on as the Cannon Guard, dressed a bit severely for the occasion, protects the sacred engineering cannon from reckless hordes of graduands.

U of T students in Alberta lambaste G8 inequity

Students at U of T are heading to Alberta this month to protest at the G8 Summit.

The G8 is an informal group of eight countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) that convenes each year to discuss key issues. This year’s summit will be held on June 26 and 27 in Kananaskis, Alberta, and its priorities will be economic growth, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and terrorism.

“I think it is important that they chose Kananaskis as a site,” said Sara Marlowe, a graduate student in the Faculty of Social Work. Marlowe, along with many others, suspects that the secluded site was selected to avoid protestors.

But the site, though hidden in the Rocky Mountains, won’t keep Marlowe away. “I am able to go out to Calgary, being a student,” said Marlowe. “It’s important to support people in Alberta and to show solidarity.”

Kevin Reynolds, a PhD student at U of T, has attended various other protests in the United States and Europe and was present in Genoa for last year’s summit. He feels the selection of Kananaskis for this year’s summit was “an irresponsible and undemocratic response to protestors. They want to maintain a quiet little group of eight leaders and want to map out action for the entire world.”

Some students feel the programs proposed by the G8 are designed in a way that is unaccountable and undemocratic.

“It’s all behind closed doors,” said Joshua Tabah, a graduate student in philosophy at U of T. Tabah is flying to Alberta on a flight organized by the Canadian Labour Congress termed “Air Six Billion.” The principle behind the term is that the world is comprised of six billion, and yet eight people are making decisions for the rest of the world. “Our tax dollars are paying for the summit,” Marlowe claimed, “but it’s not democratic. We have no say.”

Criticisms of initiatives such as NEPAD claim the program was designed without input from the countries in Africa, that Africa’s leaders do not endorse it and that it offers no alternatives.

“It doesn’t actually serve developing countries that well,” said Tabah.

Although protestors are often portrayed as radical troublemakers, Marlowe, Tabah and Reynolds all hope this event will not be plagued by violence and police brutality. All three suspect it will not turn out as other summits have in the past. “I think it will be a different kind of event than Quebec City or Genoa,” said Tabah. “It’s going to be a huge festival atmosphere,” stated Marlowe.

Marlowe feels her presence at Kananaskis will send a message. “People get inspired through big acts of mass action,” she said. “There’s safety and power in numbers.”

“You need a critical mass,” agreed Reynolds. “People don’t go to protests thinking as an individual they’re going to make an impact. I’m going to be one of the critical mass.”