Earning credit in the community

Your next class could take you out of the classroom and into the community. The Centre for Community Partnerships pairs community organizations with professors interested in diversifying their classes.

“We’re really about creating meaningful learning opportunities outside the classroom in Toronto and the Peel region,” said Lisa Chambers, director of the center.

The program focuses upon service learning, a specific higher education pedagogy that Chambers explains is somewhere between volunteering, which mainly benefits the community, and interning, which mainly benefits the individual.

“Service learning tries to balance both,” said Chambers. “We believe its a bit of a package.” The program promotes a three-step partnership experience: development, meaningful service, and post-service reflections.”

“We really believe that unless you reflect on the experience you’re not going deeper. What were the underlying issues? How is it going to change me? […] Am I going to vote differently? Am I going to be involved in different initiatives?”

Programming is not limited to social justice courses; the centre has implemented service learning across 15 disciplines. In the 2009/2010 year service learning occurred in 22 courses and reached 1,700 students.

“You learn about a theory in a lecture and it might play itself out two days later in a community-based atmosphere.” said Chambers.

The only stipulation of the centre is that partnerships need to be based in the GTA.

“We’re unlike other centres who try to send students abroad […] our centre was created to specifically meet the needs and help create more sustainability and capacity in our local community,” said Chambers.

The centre was founded following a symposium of the Safer City Neighbourhood Taskforce at UTSC and results from the National Study of Student Engagement.

“There were certain areas where the university felt that students could have an engaged experience and one of the ways of doing that was to engage students with community,” said Chambers.
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Partnerships are created following a faculty member requests assistance in establishing a service learning program.

“We don’t get involved in anything unless the community identifies what the need is and it meets the kind of learning outcomes of the course.”

Chambers aims to create extended relationships with community organizations that continue after a course is completed. She points to a course created by Reid Locklin in the Department of Religion and Theology as a successful example of a partnership with the Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System that led to an extended multi-course relationship.

“They created a course called Religion and Theology after Auschwtiz because of the interest and knowledge Reid has in that area and then the needs of the residents,” said Chambers.

The centre is working to to use a combinations of courses, student groups, and individual volunteers to create year-round volunteer support for organizations.

“The need doesn’t go away,” said Chambers, “The need is still there in April but no one is there from the university.” The need for service learning is also not seen by everyone at U of T.

“Across the board at a big research institutions it’s not always seen as a benefit for pre-tenured faculty.”

Along with being seen by some as a distraction from publishing and research, community partnerships are also time-consuming.

“Even though we can try and provide support, it’s going to take more time with service learning pedagogy than it would a lecture of traditional teaching.”

Fall fashion preview

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Oxford Comma: Classic ≠ Dated.

Left: Elizabeth Kagedan. Menswear for women has always been a tried and true method of a bold fashion aficionado. Androgyny is, as it seems, OUT and class, not crass, has crashed its way back into the collections of Fall/Winter 2010-2011. The blouse-and-trousers combo is never going to be out of style; however, be a little more daring and look for accents like a secretary collar or a feminine print to infuse the spirit of youthful vitality and coy flirtation into your Dad’s white button-down. A shorter length, a cinched waist and some suspenders update the dandy trouser into a sexy and fresh way to dress for the modern age. The perfect accessory is always the way to add a flourish of personality to any outfit, and everyone should own a solid pair of dress shoes and a practical carry-all. Girls, ditch the TNA and Lulu’s. Boys leave the Burton backpacks back in your high school lockers where they belong. Giddy-up and get with it with some Saddle shoes and invest in a briefcase because hey, we’re in university now — the rest just looks like child’s play.

Freewheelin’ Utilitarian

Middle: Aaron Zach. Let’s keep it simple boys. It’s all about the canonical staple fashion items — comfortably cool and confident is the look for men this season. Despite its blue collar history, the blue jean is so much more than that, and comes in so many more fabulous colors these days. Instead of the traditional true-blue wash, opt more for a darker indigo, black or even grey version for more mileage and less stress. Investments are key here; a great utility jacket in a vivid neutral with pocket and button detailing and a pair of all-purpose trekking-friendly boots will make for an easy transition from the crispness of autumn to the glacial temperament of winter. If glossy leather Docs are too “I just got discharged” for you, perhaps try buck leather, or shaved suede — same use, but with a more subtle vintage feel.

Combat Baby: Badassery of Chic

Right: Evelyn Lee. The dichotomy of hard and soft, bold and understated, and gothic and glamorous was executed with militant precision in fashion weeks overseas by the likes of design gods Marc Jacobs, Christopher Bailey and Miuccia Prada. Clothing takes on an almost architectural identity with a play on structure and volume. Experiment with rich textures like leather, fur, lace, wool and velvet, in both bold and muted colors, not only to brave the volatile winds approaching, but also to achieve an instant “wow” factor. There is a call to arms for aggressive outerwear: full-length coats, cropped jackets, and either ankle-length or thigh-high boots have invaded the urban catwalk. These statement pieces are by nature very masculine, and are best paired with something feminine and pretty. Elegant tailored dresses in luxurious or flirty fabrics are your best bet — not only because you can dress them up, down and all around, but because a great fit and feel will always stand the test of time even after trends notoriously fizzle.

Styling by Aaron Zach and Elizabeth Kagedan

U of T researcher invents Omni-focus video camera

Professor Keigo Iizuka of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto has invented the world’s first Omni-focus video camera. The Omni-focus video camera is revolutionary. It exceeds the capabilities of today’s mainstream cameras, capturing both near and far images in high resolution and real time focus.

Prof. Iizuka states that it took close to ten years to create this advanced and innovative camera. He created it in collaboration with Dr. David Wilkes, president of the Wilkes Association, a Canadian high-tech product development company. Dr. Wilkes assisted in creating the programming part of the Omni-focus video camera.

The Omni-focus video camera uses a distance mapping principle that allows users to focus on both the foreground and background at the same time. In most of today’s cameras however, when you focus closely on an object, the background is always blurry. Iizuka explains that he wanted both foreground and background to be in focus.

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According to Iizuka, his first motivation for the project occurred when watching musical performances on television. He explains that when you watch television, the singer is singing with the orchestra in the background. When the camera is focused on the singer, the orchestra is always blurry. Prof. Iizuka wanted the singer as well as the orchestra to be in focus.

The invention of the Omni-focus video camera will also contribute to advances in the fields of medicine and entertainment.

Professor Iizuka states that the technology of the Omni-focus video camera can be used for medical purposes such as microscopes. When using a regular microscope, one usually has to adjust the focus many times to fit the object, especially when observing moving objects. If one does not have to worry about the focusing, it becomes easier to see what is happening in the foreground as well as background. Under these circumstances, an Omni-focus microscope would be more advantageous in comparison to the commonplace microscope.

In describing the benefits of the Omni-focus camera towards medical applications, Professor Iizuka explains his dream that someday we will be able to insert the device in the stomachs of human beings. This would allow scientists to see the fine details of stomach contents instead of having to extract samples and examine them under microscopes outside of the body. This would be possible because the Omni-focus video camera functions with the freedom of range that was not previously possible with the use of regular microscopes.

The first model of the Omni-focus video camera was relatively large, but the second model was smaller and could be elevated with a tripod. “The Omni-focus video camera is very user friendly,” says Prof. Iizuka. He also states that as long as you can operate a computer, you should be able to operate the Omni-focus video camera, since it only requires the pressing of a button.

With the invention of the Omni-focus video camera there are endless possibilities to its uses. As the camera continues to be developed by Professor Iizuka and his team of researchers, we can hope to see numerous uses for this new technology.

Welcome back!

DYLAN C. ROBERTSON provides an exhaustive summary of the havoc the G20 caused on campus.

Read about our new pedestrian only street. Take that, drivers.

YASER GHASSAN describes our new planetarium!

Now you can earn school credit by helping out in the community, as if that warm feeling inside you weren’t enough.

In case you missed it last issue, the U of T Bookstore is now offering rental textbooks. It could help you cut down on $100 paper weights come next April.

The men’s football team nearly managed to fill the stadium in their home opener! Not bad for a team that once went the better part of a decade without a win.

Finally, the Varsity’s section editors are holding a little virtual meet-n-greet over here. Come say hi… and remember to email recruitment@thevarsity.ca if you’d like to write for one!

Of course, there’s plenty of other great stuff going on in the issue, but we’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

Don’t turn it in

The start of the school year means new classes and for many students these will involve the use of Turnitin.com, an electronic resource designed to detect plagiarism used regularly at the University of Toronto. The program works by checking submitted student papers for textual similarity against the millions of resources stored in its database, including an archived copy of the Internet, published works, and student papers submitted to Turnitin since 1996. Papers containing too many textual similarities are flagged as possible cases of plagiarism. While Turnitin is considered a valuable resource by many professors who might otherwise not spot plagiarism in student work, it is also the source of a number of controversies which suggest that students should think twice before submitting their work to the website.

Turnitin’s name is more reminiscent of Crime Stoppers tip hotlines and criminal activity than of an academic resource. Many students at universities such as McGill, Mount Saint Vincent, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford have criticized the program for its assumption of student guilt before any crime has been committed. All students are regarded as potential plagiarists, and must prove themselves innocent by submitting their work to a resource that rigorously scans it and creates an “originality report.” Since recent studies have shown the number of undergraduate students who have admitted to cheating at least once during their time at a post-secondary institution is at 70 to 80 per cent, many argue that this presumption of guilt is justified. However, Turnitin’s “guilty until proven innocent” approach is about more than just catching plagiarists — it also creates an atmosphere of mistrust between teachers and students that fosters a negative learning environment. Rather than encouraging professors to create assignments that are difficult to plagiarize and to teach their students about academic integrity and proper citation styles, Turnitin reduces student-teacher relationships to ones of rule enforcement. An emphasis on catching cheaters rather than avoiding academic dishonesty in the first place does not allow for learning opportunities, only for a mechanistic system of surveillance and penalties.
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Turnitin’s practice of permanently storing submitted student papers in its database has also been the source of controversy. Iparadigms LLC, the company that created Turnitin, asserts that the information stored is only a digital “fingerprint” of the work and not the work’s actual content, and that students retain copyright of their work even after submission to Turnitin. Despite this, Turnitin’s policy of storing all submitted work in its database is a way of using students’ intellectual property for commercial purposes. Turnitin regularly flaunts the unrivalled size of its database as an incentive for prospective universities considering its use. John Barrie, the founder of Turnitin, has declared that, “in very short order, [Turnitin will] have it all wrapped up. […] There will be no room for anybody else, not even a Microsoft, to provide a similar type of service because we will have the database.” Student work submitted to Turnitin automatically becomes a part of this massive database, as there is no option offered to students who do not wish to have their intellectual property used in this way. It is questionable whether universities should use a resource that allows students’ original work to be used for a private company’s profit.

Given the various concerns that have surfaced about Turnitin, U of T allows students to choose whether or not they will use the resource. It also provides them with alternatives if they should choose not to, such as handing in rough notes with an essay. However, professors have a responsibility to do more than simply offer alternatives to Turnitin. They should also take the time to explain why a student might choose to opt for another method of evaluation. Similarly, students must do their research and consider the implications of their decision before using Turnitin.com for their assignments.

Double standards

For years, the United States and its allies have accused Iran of being a major nuclear threat because it has violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ironically, the real violators of the NNPT are the same nations accusing Iran. The U.S. and its allies have never been able to confirm their accusations with concrete proof since they are based entirely on suspicion. While the media continues to attack Iran, illegal nuclear activities made by the West remain widely unknown to the public.

Iran, unlike Israel, is a signatory of the 1970 NNPT, which requires the International Atomic Energy Agency to make frequent unannounced inspections in order to verify that the country’s nuclear program remains within the bounds of the treaty. The IAEA has made over 2,700 snap inspections in Iran and have repeatedly stated that they have found no evidence of a weapons program and that non-diversion of nuclear material is continually being verified.

United Nations Security Council investigations, led by former Director General of IAEA, Mohamed El-Baradei, have repeatedly shown that Iran has no military component to its program. In an interview for the German magazine, Der Spiegel, in July 2010, El-Baradei stated “I do not believe that the Iranians are actually producing nuclear weapons… in general, the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran is overestimated, some even play it up intentionally.”

One of the treaty’s main principles is non-proliferation. This means the five nuclear weapon states (U.S., France, United Kingdom, Russia, and China) agree not to transfer nuclear weapons. Yet the IAEA and the media have completely disregarded that the U.S. has actively been contributing to the proliferation of nuclear arms in Europe. The U.S. has thus far supplied 480 thermonuclear bombs to the so-called “non-nuclear states”: Belgium, Germany, Holland, Italy, and Turkey.

According to University of Ottawa emeritus professor Michel Chossudovsky, three out of the eight U.S. nuclear air bases are situated in Germany.

Israel, an “undeclared nuclear state,” has obtained an estimate of 200 nuclear devices and has the Middle East’s largest and most advanced chemical and biological warfare facilities. Its refusal to sign the 189-nation NNPT enables it to easily threaten its neighbours. El-Baradei stated at a press conference in October 2009 that, “Israel is the number one threat to the Middle East given the nuclear arms it possesses.” Israel has refused to allow inspections into its nuclear program for 30 years, while Iran is complying with its obligations and allowing inspectors into its nuclear sites.

Iran has never launched a war in modern times but since 1900 has been invaded by Britain, the Soviet Union, Russia, and Iraq. It is surrounded by nuclear powers such as Israel, Pakistan, India, and Russia. The former three have yet to sign the treaty.

The signatories of the treaty are required to gradually eliminate all of their nuclear weapons and yet 40 years later none of the original signers (U.S., Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and China) have complied. Instead, all of them have steadily enhanced their nuclear arms.

The U.S. has invaded other countries, most recently Afghanistan and Iraq, and is the only nation to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation. The U.S. is also notorious for organizing coups against democratically elected governments, overthrowing regimes, and waging illegal wars. The U.S. has no right to bully Iran when the U.S. itself is a major violator of the NNPT and of international law. Therefore, it is a double standard for the United States and its allies to curtail Iran developing peaceful nuclear technology.

The American nightmare

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree, If mankind perished utterly
—Sara Teasdale, “There Will Come Soft Rains”

Part of the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Essential Cinema project, Soft Rains #6: Suburban Horror, is a feature projection that uses David Lynch’s Blue Velvet as a jumping off point to explore several themes: consumer culture, the falsely idyllic suburbs, genre film-making, and the role of cinema in our lives. Originally designed by Brooklyn artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy for a series of Soft Rains pieces commissioned in 2003 (Suburban Horror is the sixth), the exhibit is on display at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)’s Thorsell Spirit House for the duration of the Toronto film festival.

“[I]n general the works within feature projections […] can be classified as remakes, where the artist uses the original film as a sort of platform for something else or uses it as a framework to explore their own ideas,” explains Michael Connor, the exhibit’s curator. “This Soft Rains piece is an example of that because the McCoys are really recycling genre elements or elements of Blue Velvet and re-assembling them in a new whole.”

The main display is a diorama consisting of four separate pieces — each designed from ready-made model materials — which come together to form a pleasant suburban setting. The first piece is two identical white houses on the same piece of land, both with white picket fences, flower bushes, and American flags sticking out on the front porch. Another piece is just a white picket fence with pink flowers, and another is a woman in her kitchen about to bake a pie. The final piece is a mysterious figure driving a convertible down a tree-lined highway.
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Small video cameras mounted around the diorama connect to a central projector, which projects images of the diorama to the upper right corner of the gallery wall. The same seven scenes are looped with Billie Holiday’s “On the Sentimental Side.” We see an idyllic house with an American flag, then a boy pushing a lawnmower, then the man on the porch, then the pink flowers, and then we get three separate shots of the woman in her kitchen. As soon as the camera shows the image of the stranger on the highway, the music swells and becomes very dark and ominous. Is this person a threat to the tranquility of this suburban scene? We have no idea. The music implies something dark lies underneath the exhibit’s quiet, peaceful exterior.

“[The philosopher] Žižek talks about ‘The Truman Show’ and how one of the classic, American, paranoid fantasies is to be living in the suburbs where everyone is watching you,” says Connor. “When he said that it reminded me of this piece, because not only is there the horror that’s implied, but also the series of cameras that’s watching it.”

The whole piece accurately captures the tense atmosphere of Blue Velvet’s opening scenes, which offer the viewer similar idyllic images with pleasurable music. However, the tranquil scenery is broken when we see an older man fall over in his garden and start to writhe with pain. The camera then zooms further into his garden and we see black beetles tearing and biting each other. No context is offered, though we understand that there is some dark malevolence eating away at Lumberton.

The exhibit also connects thematically with Ray Bradbury’s short story “There Will Come Soft Rains”, which features a fully automated house in the future that continues to cook food and clean itself up even after its human occupants have left. “One link I’d like to mention with the Bradbury [short story] is the fact that this is a machine that makes movies” Connor says. “It’s similar to the machines in the story that continue to make toast after the humans die. The film will continue to be made and made and made long after were gone, in theory.”

I ask Connor if the piece expresses a horror at the inconsequential nature of human existence. He doesn’t quite agree with my interpretation: “That condition is explored, but not precisely in those terms. Maybe it would be fair to say it reflects our horror [at being inconsequential]. Certainly it presents suburban life as an inconsequential existence.”

The exhibit also highlights conceptually how cinema culture tends to use many of the same motifs in film. “There is definitely a connection between the idea of this machine that repeats the film ad infinitum and this idea of a cinema culture that repeats many of the same modes,” Connor explains.

“What [the McCoys] are picking out is this suburban idyll that is shattered by…”

“…a malevolent force?” I ask.

“A malevolent force—exactly.”

Whether that malevolent force is the stranger on the highway or just being trapped in the suburbs to begin with, the McCoys have definitely captured all the pleasure and trauma of their exhibit’s cinematic counterpart.

Soft Rains #6: Suburban Horror runs until September 19 at ROM in the Thorsell Spirit House. Admission is free.

Varsity tech supplement

iPad: not so rad

Apple recently released its latest product, the iPad, designed to be a fusion of the iPhone and the laptop and featuring video games, internet, maps, word processing, and digital books. It was also meant to challenge Amazon’s Kindle, since the Kindle only offers digital books, whereas the iPad offers digital books plus many other features.

The iPad is light-weight and operates very efficiently, with rapid and simple navigation. According to Toronto Star technology writer Marc Salzmann, the “first-generation iPad does prove to be a ‘magical’ device, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs promises.” Globe and Mail technology writer Omar El Akkad states that “overall it’s a beautiful device but a couple of things still need to be fixed.”

Compared to a laptop, the iPad’s performance is lacking in many areas, and technology magazines including PC World were quick to point out its deficiencies. The iPad does not allow you to multitask, so despite the quick responsiveness of the touch screen, you will only be able to have one program running at a time. The iPad does not have Adobe Flash, therefore limiting the content you will be able to see on many websites. It does not have a camera nor does it permit you to add additional memory using memory cards, so you are stuck with one of the four memory options available. What’s more, the touch screen makes the gaming experience less accurate (and therefore less enjoyable) than that of a laptop.

The iPad’s attempt to compete with Amazon’s Kindle was also unimpressive: the Kindle uses e-ink type which was created to closely emulate actual ink. in order to optimize the reading experience. The iPad has an LED-lit screen that is brighter and harsher on the eyes. Therefore, if you are an avid reader, you may be more inclined to purchase the Kindle because prolonged reading on the iPad will lead to serious eye strain.

Another feature that lacks in functionality is the iPad’s keyboard, which pops up directly on the touch screen. This keyboard has proven to be a nuisance: it is insufficient for two-finger typing (which you would use on an iPhone keyboard) because the keyboard is too big, and is very inaccurate if you use all ten fingers to type.

Ergonomically, the iPad’s keyboard faces similar problems, because if you prop it up on something in order to get a good viewing angle, you cannot type. However, if you do not prop it up, you have to hunch over to see the screen, making extensive typing painful and annoying. No matter how you look at it, this keyboard is problematic.

Apple attempted to remedy this by creating a keyboard dock which allows a keyboard (one specifically made for the iPad) to attach while simultaneously propping it up. Macworld magazine pointed out the pros and cons of the dock. The pros include a “good viewing angle; connection to Mac, power, and speakers; and a solid keyboard feel” while cons include “an awkward shape and the fact that it is heavier than a standard wireless keyboard.” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak offers a final word on the keyboard dock: “Apple is offering an auxiliary physical keyboard that docks with, and charges, the iPad. But you won’t want to lug that around.” The fact that a physical keyboard is required for efficient use of the iPad defeats its purpose entirely.

After having tried the iPad myself, I can confirm that the touch screen is highly responsive, with bright colours and high resolution. However, the keyboard is impossible to use comfortably and I would certainly not use the iPad to read digital books. In short, the iPad is a neat gadget that is worth trying out for five minutes in a store, but it is useless when it comes to reading books, typing, or performing many work-related tasks. Purchasing a good quality laptop would be a much better choice.—Charlotte Tombs

Not a tough cell

Cellphone plans can be really confusing sometimes. (Heck, one of The Varsity’s editors doesn’t even have a phone yet for that very reason.) Now that mom and dad are out of the picture, it’s all on you to get shit done. Opening your own bank account, cooking for yourself, and getting a cellphone plan of your very own. So we’re making it simple for you: here’s a (highly stereotyped) breakdown of the best bang for your mobile buck.—Tom Cardoso & Erene Stergiopoulos

The Player

Carrier: Rogers
Plan: Unlimited Student 150min Plan
Price: $30

For the player who can’t get enough, Rogers’ plan provides unlimited evenings and weekends from 9pm (because let’s face it, if you’re getting as much as you say you are, you’re gonna need it) and unlimited talk, text and picture messaging to five of your “closest friends,” if you know what we mean.

Long-Distance Caller

Carrier: WIND Mobile
Plan: Infinite Long-Distance Add-on
Price: $20 (plus the cost of a plan)

If long-distance calling makes your mouth water, get on WIND’s gravy train with this long-distance add-on, which makes calling the homeland a piece of cake. In a nutshell, this country-specific add-on can be paired up with any existing WIND plan, spicing up your calling more than mom’s homemade curry. Nice.

Data Fiend/Social Networker

Carrier: Rogers
Plan: Unlimited 150min Blackberry Student Plan Price: $40

You have 1652 Facebook friends and you get an email every eight nanoseconds. How are you going to keep track of them all? Rogers’ plan will get you there with 150 minutes of talk and unlimited social networking. You’re too cool for this article.

The Person Who Just Wants A F*ing Phone (AKA The Commitmentphobe)

Carrier: Koodo
Plan: Unlimited Incoming Combo
Price: $30

For the cellular everyone, who really just wants a phone with no contracts or strings attached. Koodo’s plan includes unlimited incoming calls, so you never have to make the first move. If you are prone to making first moves, however…

Momma’s Boy

Carrier: Wind Mobile
Plan: Always Shout Student Plan
Price: $25

If your “closest friend” is your mom, however, then Wind’s plan will serve you just as well as a nice, warm slice of homemade apple pie. Yum. The plan includes Canada-wide unlimited text and calling, with no contract and 25c/min calls if you’re not dialling from a Wind Zone.


Carrier: Rogers
Plan: Unlimited Student Messaging with My5
Price: $30

If you declared a thumb war, you would probably win. In fact, your fingers are so muscular from constant mobile missives that you could easily compete at the international level. So why not reward yourself with a plan that can live up to your textual glory? Rogers’ offering includes unlimited text messages and calls to five of your closest friends. So go forth, my friend: the world is your keypad.