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Archeology students dig to the past

Field school excavates front campus

Archeology students dig to the past

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t may be the summer, but on a Tuesday morning, University of Toronto’s front campus is already buzzing with activity. Grounds crews are hard at work under a cloudless sky. Tourists are especially prevalent, each taking more than enough pictures of University College’s iconic tower. Before they make their way south towards Convocation Hall, the tourists slow to stare at a group of approximately 15 students surrounded by a yellow rope barrier and intermittent piles of dirt.

This was a U of T Field School, part of the Archaeological Field Methods course. Initially, there were full-day classes on mapping and archaeology techniques. After practicing their mapping skills behind Gerstein Library, students began excavating in King’s College Circle. They were expected to run their one by one metre squares with the precision of a professional archaeology site, while taking detailed notes and photos of their findings.

[pullquote-default]The UC fire destroyed the interior of University College in 1890. Pieces of shell beads, buttons, and nails have been found by students in the dig sites, offering tangible evidence of U of T’s long history.[/pullquote-default]

“It’s not intended to find artifacts,” said Sally Stewart, one of the two professors teaching the course. “What [the students] are finding is a lot of construction debris… We’ve also found window glass as well, some of which look melted. We’re wondering if it came from when the fire that happened [at UC].”

The UC fire destroyed the interior of University College in 1890. Pieces of shell beads, buttons, and nails have been found by students in the dig sites, offering tangible evidence of U of T’s long history.

Despite tempering expectations, Stewart became increasingly excited as she discussed her students’ findings. A graduate of U of T herself, Stewart’s career has taken her all over the world, particularly in and around the southern European continent. Despite her latest site being close to home, Stewart still looked prepared as ever, observing her students in steel-toed boots and coveralls.

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Piece of a clay pipe. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Piece of a clay pipe. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

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It may be the professional enthusiasm that energizes these students. Paul Duffy, who specializes in Eastern European Bronze Age Archaeology, is the second professor of the course. “It’s probably the best instruction I’ve had at U of T so far,” said graduating Archaeology major Diana Hansen.

Students have the option to attend field schools around the world, with opportunities in Peru and the Hungary. However, the costs are high and, as Stewart explained, there is little instructional time. The goal of international digs is to find artifacts, not necessarily to prepare students for their professional careers.

As the morning progressed, university staff began to appear, preparing the large, white convocation tent that is characteristic of this time of year. According to Stewart, the administration was worried that students digging up the northeast corner of the field wouldn’t look aesthetically-pleasing. However, they soon changed their tune with positive feedback. “Probably close to a hundred people come by [per day], from alumni events and then convocation… people just wandering by asking questions,” said Stewart.

Under the watchful eyes of a new crowd of tourists, the students settle in for another long, hot day. But the exhaustion of a full day is certainly worth the opportunity to finally do something they spent years learning.

Victoria University avoids millions of dollars in property taxes, City of Toronto staff report says

City proposes amendments to Victoria University Act

Victoria University avoids millions of dollars in property taxes, City of Toronto staff report says

Victoria University could be liable to pay millions of dollars in property taxes.

A staff report issued from the City of Toronto Solicitor and Treasurer estimates that Victoria University has avoided $12,213,171 in property taxes on its 131 Bloor Street West property since 2009 and $2,715,409 on its other properties since 2013 due to an oversight in the Victoria University Act.

Victoria University leases out the land on which several commercial buildings are located, including: 131 Bloor Street West, an office building with retail space, to Revenue Properties Company Limited; 151 Bloor Street West, another office building with retail space, to GE Canada Real Estate Equity Holding Company; and 110 Charles Street West, a condominium building, to McKinsey & Company. The institution also owns the land to the condominium at 8 St Thomas Street, which is under construction by Kingsett Capital.

Revenue Properties and GE Canada have appealed the value assessments, which were completed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). The city is waiting on a settlement proposal between Revenue Properties and MPAC; they have put the assessment appeal of 151 Bloor Street West on hold.

Most universities are exempt from property taxes, only if the properties are occupied by the university and used for educational purposes. Such provisions exist in the OCAD University Act, the Ryerson University Act, and the York University Act, but not for the University of Toronto Act or the Victoria University Act.

Victoria University and the University of Toronto are not mandated to pay property taxes on leased properties; the University of Toronto does so on a voluntary basis.

“The financial unfairness to the City and to the other public universities in Toronto from Victoria University’s broad tax exemption is stark and should be fixed,” read a portion of the report.

The City Solicitor and Treasurer advised City Council to request the provincial government to amend the Victoria College Act to be the same property tax legislation as other public Ontario universities.

After an amendment to the recommendations by Ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam during the June 7 City Council meeting, City Council voted to request a meeting between Victoria University representatives and the City Treasurer before making a decision.

Wong-Tam, who represents the ward in which Victoria University is located, told The Varsity that Victoria University president William Robins came to her and requested a deferral.

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“They had just found out about the item on the agenda and they needed to have enough time to consult with the professional advisors to have a full understanding of the impact of the content of the report,” she said. “I said that would be fine. It’s not an unreasonable request.”

The City Treasurer is expected to report back on the results of the meeting to the Government Management Committee’s November 14 meeting.

Jennifer Little, Marketing and Communications Manager at Victoria University declined The Varsity’s request for comment.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Victoria University leased out number of buildings. In fact, they lease out the land on which these buildings are located. The Varsity regrets the error.

Details for Scarborough transit plan revealed

Eglinton East LRT with station at UTSC projected to take 43,400 commuters in 2041

Details for Scarborough transit plan revealed

Details of the proposed Scarborough public transit revamp, which includes the extended Eglinton East Light Rail Transit (LRT) to UTSC and the single-stop subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre (STC), were made public after a Scarborough community meeting on May 31.

New ridership statistics indicated during the presentation illustrate that an estimated 43,400 people will use the Eglinton East LRT daily in 2041, including students commuting between UTSC and Centennial College.

In addition, the $1.48 billion project will provide rapid transit options within walking distance of about 41,500 people and facilitate access to over 7,800 jobs. 

The new LRT route would span an estimated 11 km along Eglinton Avenue and Kingston Road, elevating along Morningside Avenue and running at-grade through Military Trail, with one station at the the heart of UTSC and another at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

The LRT expansions is also set to be integrated with UTSC Master Plan, which is the campus’ plan for revitalization.

The community meeting revealed that the 6 km extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line to STC will have a projected ridership of 7,200 during peak hours in 2031.

Mayor John Tory originally announced the 17-stop extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and the one-stop addition of the subway in January, which was a decision that was met with praise from the UTSC community.

Conflicting visions for rapid transit in Scarborough sparked heated debates between stakeholders and politicians as far back as 2006, with opinion split about using subways or LRT systems to extend service further into Scarborough.

Late Toronto mayor Rob Ford advocated against LRT to connect the city’s east end, repeating the line, “subways, subways, subways.” Ford discarded earlier plans for city-wide LRT and bus rapid transit routes that would have circled UTSC grounds.

Funding boost for graduate students

The Faculty of Arts & Science introduces three-pronged approach to enrich graduate education

Funding boost for graduate students

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]rom the invention of the first electronic heart pacemaker to the discovery of a drought-resistant gene in plants, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts & Science has a legacy of cutting-edge research. From 2010–2014, the faculty pioneered numerous innovations, including 240 new inventions, 24 patents, and 29 start-up companies. Graduate students were the backbone of these novel research findings.

The Faculty of Arts & Science makes up one of Canada’s largest graduate student bodies, hosting 70 graduate programs and 4,299 graduate students, as of 2015. In an era of rapid technological and ideological advancement, graduate students encounter numerous obstacles during the course of their education.

Starting September 2016, a new policy will be in effect to improve graduate education for domestic and international students on all three campuses. The faculty has identified areas of concern and will be addressing them through professional programs, improved financial support, and by allocating resources on a program level.

More specifically, the faculty will be undertaking a three-pronged approach to increase financial support, create networking opportunities, and provide career directions to graduate students. This new initiative emerged through extensive collaboration between graduate students, faculty members, and administrative leaders across the university.

Although this initiative is not directly associated with the 2015 teaching assistants strike, the policy was designed to respond to the needs of graduate students.

“It is important to recognize that the strike itself was reacting to a certain set of circumstances graduate students at this university and not just at this university face,” said Joshua Barker, Vice-Dean of Graduate Education & Program Reviews in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “The challenges that they are facing are real.”

According to Barker, who was appointed in July 2015, improving graduate student education has been on the faculty’s agenda for some time prior to last year’s TA strike. However, it was only last year that the faculty was able to achieve a balanced budget and was finally in the position to institute an increase in graduate funding.

The Fellowship Initiative supports the university’s long-standing commitment to high quality research by increasing the base funding package for all eligible graduate students within the faculty. Starting with an increase of $1,500 in September 2016 to be followed by an additional $250 per year in the next two years, eligible students will receive an overall increase of $2,000 by 2018-2019.

Barker acknowledged that hourly work — like that of teaching or research assistants — poses a significant burden on graduate students and could hinder them from finishing their programs in a timely manner. Rather than increasing the hourly wage of teaching assistants, the direct increase in fellowship income provides students with opportunities to work on their research and recognizes their valuable contributions to the university.

“We are really trying to invest in the students as researchers,” said Barker.

In 2017–2018, the faculty will also oversee the establishment of Program-Level Fellowship Pools, which are financial resources dedicated to each academic unit within the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Barker explained, “The purpose of Program-Level Fellowship Pools is to allow departments and institutes who have graduate students in their program to identify where they have a discipline-specific need which they can provide fellowships for.”

These pools provide academic units with the flexibility to allocate their resources according to their priorities. For example, the Department of Anthropology may choose to invest in pilot fieldwork for graduate students, while other units may focus on introducing additional scholarships or increasing base funding. “All the funds that come through the Program-Level Fellowship Pools will end up in students’ pockets,” noted Barker.

The allocation of resources will be established in a transparent fashion: academic units will identify priorities in consultation with their graduate students and faculty members.

Overall, the Faculty of Arts & Science is undertaking a major investment in graduate education. This initiative marks the third significant change in graduate student funding throughout the history of the university. It is also the first major effort under the 2006–2007 new budget model, in which authority for revenues and spending was shifted from the university to the faculty level. Under the new policy, the faculty will be providing $3.35 million in 2016–2017; this annual investment will double by 2018–2019.

Besides financial support, the faculty aims to prepare graduate students for transition into full-time careers through the establishment of two new programs, Milestones and Pathways. Milestones will provide students with support to successfully complete their graduate training, and Pathways aims to expose students to alternative careers and valuable networking opportunities.

The form of professionalization that graduate students require is often discipline-specific. These new programs within the Faculty of Arts & Science are designed to complement the initiatives undertaken by the School of Graduate Studies, which typically targets broader skill sets required for a wide range of careers.

The Faculty of Arts & Science in conjunction with the School of Graduate Studies will be conducting research over the summer to examine the distribution of graduates in academic and non-academic careers. By examining the career trajectory of previous graduates, administrative leaders within the faculty will gain insight on ways to support current graduate students and to further enhance the their experience.

New identities for new generations

Shifting values have wrongfully dubbed Millennials as narcissists

New identities for new generations

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]riticisms have been pelted at the Millennial generation for years. These judgements range from trivial topics, such as hairstyles and fashion trends, to concepts as serious as moral and political beliefs. Notwithstanding their variety, such critiques tend to converge on a singular thesis: Millennials have an unnatural, unprecedented obsession with themselves. This supposed narcissism manifests in the vanity, indolence, and slacktivism that allegedly characterize the generation in all of their pursuits.

However, can one truly claim that the narcissism in the Millennial generation is more prominent or detrimental than in any other? Instead of using the scapegoat of generational egotism, we should consider Millennial behaviour as a byproduct of driving forces; we should consider the manner in which modern technology, education, and politics have shaped Millennials into who they are today.

[pullquote-default]We should consider the manner in which modern technology, education, and politics have shaped Millennials into who they are today.[/pullquote-default]

One of the most cited arguments to support Millennial egocentrism is their constant use of cell phones. Yet, this argument neglects the fact that Millennials have had more access to technology throughout their lives than any previous generation. The idea of using a telephone for a personal call is outdated to many millennials because social media allows users to control their public identities, and communicate with others. This format of communication is not more narcissistic than the marathon-phone calls of young adults from previous generations; instead, it is a modern take on the same experience, simply prompted by technological advancement.

Critics also jump to condemn selfies, but once again, the culture of photography has changed. Photography no longer requires heavy equipment or developing time. Moreover, the sheer volume of storage space on electronic devices and the ease with which these images can be shared change the value of photography. Millennials use selfies to capture moments of joy and intrigue — these images can add to their recognition, both on and offline.

Basically, Millennials carve out their identities with the help of the technology in different ways from previous generations. This is not narcissism but merely an advanced form of self-expression. The value at the root of these behaviours — displaying personal identity — is familiar to all generations.

Narcissism accusations are also founded against many Millennials pursuing higher education. Unlike previous generations that went to school, got a job, worked hard, and also managed to save money in the process, the state of the current economy means that this generation can scarcely find a job with a college or university degree. For Millennials, education comes at a hefty price, must be endured for an average of four years, and still does not offer any guarantees. As such, many Millennials have decided on something that shocks the grin-and-bear-it mentality of older generations: they refuse to work in a field they do not enjoy.

This is good sense, not narcissism. To pay money for something you do not like and waste your time perfecting skills you do not care for is, frankly, a terrible return on your investment. College and university are no longer symbolic rites of passage but are ordinary, optional stepping stones to adulthood. Paying for the opportunity to work is the foundation on which society rests in 2016, but there are only so many sacrifices one can feasibly make.

[pullquote-features]What baby boomers may view as narcissistic laziness is actually a quest for fulfillment and sustainability[/pullquote-features]

This is why Millennials often refuse to take unpaid internships or demand more lucrative salaries. Just last year at the University of Toronto, teaching assistants went on strike for higher wages. What baby boomers may view as narcissistic laziness is actually a quest for fulfillment and sustainability, in the phase of life where many Millennials will spend the largest portion of their lives: the workforce.

Finally, Millennials who use social media to express distress and outrage at political injustices are often considered narcissists for actions that come across as ill-informed or attention-seeking. Baby boomers cringe at the way this generation handles issues: seated in a computer chair behind a glossy laptop screen. However, many critics neglect to consider that it is this ‘backseat activism’ that allows Millennials to post and share firsthand accounts of these injustices on a massive scale. Moreover, this has prompted numerous allies to join forces with social movements they may otherwise have been ignorant to — just look at the growth in recognition for movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #TransIsBeautiful.

To define Millennials as narcissists is to misinterpret the effects technological advancements, educational culture, and current politics have had on the world. One generation should not have to perfectly reflect the previous one to earn its respect. The values that make up the Millennial generation are unique, yes, but they are not narcissistic. Rather, they are prompted by the circumstances of the world Millennials live and thrive in.

Jenisse Minott is a second-year UTM student studying Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology.