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Campus unions secure strike action mandate

CUPE 3261 and USW 1998 may strike if negotiations with university are not successful

Campus unions secure strike action mandate

Following the expiration of their collective agreements on June 30, two campus unions — CUPE 3261 and USW 1998 — have secured a strike action mandate from their members. This means that as these two unions prepare for bargaining negotiations with U of T, they have the ability to leverage a threat of strike action.

CUPE 3261 represents full-time, part-time, and casual service workers at the university, as well as workers in the University of Toronto Press and the Faculty Club. USW 1998 represents 4,300 administrative and technical workers on all three U of T campuses.

After members voted on August 22, 23, and 24, CUPE 3261 secured a 96 per cent vote for a strike mandate from full-time and part-time workers, and 95 per cent from casual workers. According to the union, this was based on “substantial turnout.”

Strike mandate votes do not mean a start to strike; according to Ontario law, unions are required to hold these ballots before they are allowed to move towards strike action. If the bargaining committees cannot recommend the university’s offers by their respective deadlines, the unions may hold a second vote, this time on whether to go on strike or not.

In the case of CUPE 3261, according to the union, if the bargaining committees are unable to come to an agreement with the university, they will ask the Ministry of Labour Conciliator to issue a 17-day countdown. If, during that period, no agreement has come to fruition, a strike will begin.

Following the positive strike vote, CUPE 3261 has seven more meetings planned with the university, with the last on September 14. The USW 1998’s bargaining deadline is September 5.

The main point of contention for CUPE 3261 is immediately increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, ahead of provincial law providing for it in 2019.

Allan James, President of CUPE 3261, told The Varsity that they “want the Employer to hire U of T employees who make a living wage with health benefits and pensions who live and work and spend money in the GTA.”

Other points CUPE 3261 will bring up at the negotiations include paid emergency and sick leave, greater ability for casual workers to become permanent, and ending the external contracting out of cleaning services.

The strike mandate votes come as the new 2017–2018 academic year begins. James says that CUPE 3261 does “not want to inconvenience anyone. Our members do not want to go without income. However, we do want a campus which pays a living wage and which has pensions and benefits and a reasonable path to precarious employment.”

USW 1998 held a strike vote on August 17, in which 94 per cent of the union’s members voted in favour of a strike mandate. USW 1998 President Colleen Burke told The Varsity that the vote “lets management know that our members are behind us and that they are ready to take job action if need be, in order to get the best deal that we can.”

Burke said USW 1998 was “holding a strike vote now because the fall semester is approaching. Snow plow operators don’t go on strike in July. September is the busiest time for the university, when the work of our members is most important. A strike at this time of year would be far more effective than a strike earlier in the summer.”

A strike at the beginning of the new academic year has the potential to greatly affect the university community; these two unions represent thousands of service workers, ranging from maintenance technicians to grounds staff. They also serve employees greatly involved in student life, such as residence, athletics, and health.

The Varsity has reached out to the university for comment.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with a correction to the details of the way the strike mandate vote works, and to include the 17-day countdown process that may be utilized by CUPE 3261.

Brian Regan can outsmart a horse-sized duck any day

The comedian speaks to The Varsity ahead of his September 8 Toronto show

Brian Regan can outsmart a horse-sized duck any day

Standup comic Brian Regan is currently on a tour that will take him across the continental US, which includes stops in Hamilton and Toronto. The comedian, who recently agreed to film two specials for Netflix, spoke to The Varsity ahead of his upcoming September 8 show in Toronto about being labelled a ‘clean comic,’ life on the road, and comedy in the current political climate.

The Varsity: I was just reading your interview with Jim Gaffigan from a couple years ago, and you talked about this idea that your comedy is labelled ‘clean comedy,’ and how that label sort of makes you cringe. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that, and if deciding to pursue what other people refer to as ‘clean comedy.’ Was that a conscious choice or was that just something you were more naturally drawn to?

Brian Regan: A little of both, you know? When I first started, I was always mostly clean anyway, you know. But I wasn’t 100 per cent clean, I had a handful of— it’s just the word ‘dirty jokes’ sounds so strange — but I had a handful of jokes that were off-colour or whatever. But, you know, it’s so weird to me to do something only 97 per cent of the way. I tried to go 100 per cent clean. Just for my own head. It wasn’t because I was like a prude or something like that, it was more because I was very anal. I don’t want to be 95 per cent something when I can be 100 per cent something. I decided to go completely clean just because I like to see how hard I can get people laughing without using certain words. 

TV: Do you still find it challenging to keep the act 100 per cent clean or is it natural to you at this point?

BR: It’s not hard for me. I mean, there’s plenty of things to talk about. I always try to be careful to make it clear that it’s not an ‘us against them’ kind of thing, you know? It isn’t like I’m trying to make a point. Sometimes people come up to me after shows and act like I’m on their side as opposed to the other side, but the other side is evil, or something. ‘Thank you Brian, for not being like them.’ You know what I mean? But I like them! I like them over there, they’re just different. 

TV: Them is my friends. 

BR: Yeah, you know. So to me it’s better when a lot of people approach comedy from different angles. I like that there are dirty comedians, I like that there are political comedians, I like prop comedians. I like that there are clean comedians, to describe it that way. It’s different people approaching it from different perspectives. It’s all good. 

TV: Others would label you as a comedian’s comedian — I have quotes in front of me from Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr, Marc Maron, all listing you as one of their favourites. When did you realize, if you had this moment of realization, when you felt that your comedy appealed to the masses, but also to these career comedians who really admire your work?

BR: Well I never really — it was not something I sought out, to have comedians like what I do. I’ll put it this way, I didn’t try to do that specifically. I want to make everybody laugh, not just comedians and not just the audience. I want to make everybody laugh. There’s a term, the back of the room, and that means the comedians standing in the back of the room. And I think some comedians out there that care about the audience and not so much the back of the room, and there are other comedians who care about the back of the room and not so much the audience. And I’m a pig. I want everybody. I want to capture as many people as I can. Audience and back of the room. So when I found out that other comedians liked what I did, it was flattering. 

TV: I want to know more about life on the road, because I think that that’s something that very few people experience or can really understand, is that life of touring. I know that you’ve toured pretty extensively, and you’ve also taken your family on the road at times, your children. What is that like and what are some of the challenges in doing that?

BR: It’s so much a part of my life that it feels normal. In fact, I woke up the other day and I was like, ‘Where the heck am I?’ You know, I looked around and realized I was home. It’s kind of strange. I’m like, ‘Oh, this is my house.’ It’s just the nature of the beast, but I’m also careful to spend plenty of time at home. I’m at home more than I’m away. And I do shows throughout the year but I’m not working every weekend. I’ve got plenty of time to be home with the kids, and all that sort of thing. I still enjoy it very much. I’m sure there’ll be a day when I grow weary of all the travel, but right now everything is fine. 

TV: Are there some cities or areas of the country that you find are easier to tour in than other, or have the best audiences? Is there anywhere that you return to again and again and you feel like this is sort of your niche?

BR: Toronto. My favourite place on Earth. 

TV: Oh, I see. 

BR: That’s one of the things that is fun about doing comedy, is I get to go to a lot of places I might not have gone to otherwise. I like playing big cities, I like playing little cities, I like playing in New York state one day, and Des Moines the next day. It’s cool, people like to laugh everywhere. And also, to be able to go to Toronto, to be able to go to Canada, you know. If I had chosen another profession, I wouldn’t have been able maybe to do that at all or maybe certainly not as often as I do. So it’s cool, it’s fun. 

TV: Okay, so speaking of appearing in Toronto, what are some of the biggest differences, I’m curious to know, between Canadians and Americans that you notice when you’re here?

BR: I like Canada. Well, I like all audiences. Canadian audiences, they’re really going out of their way to enjoy the subtleties of a joke. US audiences can do that as well but you can also catch a US audience that is more like, ‘Give it to us on a platter, comedy boy! Don’t make us think too much.’ Not always, occasionally you can catch an audience like that. But in Canada, it seems like more often than not, the Canadian audiences are willing to build half the bridge. You know, I always feel like the best jokes are when the comedians build half the bridge and the audience builds the other half of the bridge, and you meet in the middle. You want to leave certain words out of a joke, you want the audience to go, ‘Ah, I see where you’re going with this,’ and it’s nice to meet happily in the middle. It’s not as fun to catch an audience where, ‘Oh, I have to build the bridge all the way over to you, I see,’ you know? I mean it happens, what are you gonna do?

TV: I want to know where you stand on the debate of whether or not comedians should stick to performing a selection of their best jokes, or should they turn over their act completely every year or few years. Maybe what works best for you is a better way of putting it. 

BR: I like to turn it over. I’m fortunate that every few years I can record an hour of material, whether it’s a TV special or a CD or whatever. And then once it’s recorded, I can feel like okay, that material, I worked on it, I created it, I made it as good as I think I can make it, and now it’s recorded and now it’s out there and now I can move on from it. There’s pressure for me to be doing stuff that is new. The newer the jokes, for me, the more excited I am to tell ‘em. So I think it helps me as a performer. Also I have the nice byproduct of people wanting to come back. You know if people come up to me after shows, I always like when they say it’s funny, but I also like when they say it’s new. To me it’s a compliment. I had somebody on my Twitter feed last week, was performing in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Somebody — didn’t reply but it made me laugh — said, ‘Hey, I’m coming to your show in Hampton Beach, will the material be new? I’m like, ‘In relation to what? I don’t know when the last show you saw was, buddy.’ It’s new from 20 years ago, it’s not new from the day before. So new is a relative term. But I love letting old jokes fall by the wayside and letting new jokes come into play. 

TV: And I like the idea that he has already purchased tickets to your show and if you say that the jokes are old he might not come. 

BR: Yeah, maybe he should have asked before he bought the tickets. 

TV: This question may veer a little bit into the political, but I was curious, in your recent appearance on Jimmy Fallon, you said that you thought a really good dad might be able to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I was curious, do you think that Jared Kushner is that dad?

BR: [laughs] I don’t know. I mean, I think I get political without getting overly specific, you know what I mean. I just, like, to me, that joke is — even though it is about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s about how dads can solve problems quickly. So the joke is almost reverse engineered. I just think it would be funny for somebody to solve a political crisis like a dad would solve a problem between two kids.

TV: On that appearance, you led up to the joke by talking about the political climate in the US. Do you find anything has changed with appearances since the election? I guess your comedy isn’t so inherently political, but do you find anything that’s different in what maybe people are willing to laugh at versus not? Or have you not had that problem just because of the nature of your material? 

BR: Well, I think everything is fair game, you know. Every single subject is fair game, if you ask me. It all depends on what perspective you’re coming from. And not every comedian wants to touch on every single thing, but I think with as many comedians as there are and as many subjects as there are, everything should be fully covered. I don’t think of myself as a political comedian, but I do like to touch on it. It is part of the world, and part of what affects me and that sort of thing, so I do like to touch on it. But for me, at least right now, I don’t want to faction my audience. I don’t want to go there, cut my audience in half.  Like, hey, this half will enjoy what I’m talking, the other half hit the highway. I’m not opposed when comedians do that, I mean, there are comedians who definitely have a point of view and they’re not shy about sharing it cause their act is political in nature, that’s the nature of the beast. But you know, I don’t want to cut my audience in half and then the next joke talk about donuts, and donut sprinkles. Half the people are in their cars driving home going, ‘Man, they could have really gotten into this donut sprinkle joke and the only thing I hear is comments about Trump.’

TV: We’ll move on to the few rapid-fire questions I have and then I’ll let you go. First question is, salty or sweet?

BR: Sweet. 

TV: Sweet, okay. 

BR: Eleven Krispy Kremes is my record. I’ve never done a dozen, but I’ve done eleven. 

TV: If there was a movie based on your life, who would you want to play you?

BR: Will Ferrell. 

TV: Describe your sense of style in three words. 

BR: Kirkegaardian with Machiavellian undertones, and a Nietzsche perspective. 

TV: What is the longest road trip you’ve ever taken?

BR: Probably a month. 

TV: From where to where?

BR: Well, I used to do shows, I used to stay in a comedy club for one month, and I had two one-hour shows that I would rotate back and forth. So when I say a road trip it wasn’t really — well, I have silly answers. This is rapid fire and I’m getting too into it. 

TV: That’s totally fine. 

BR: Comedy clubs for a month, but I also drove across the United States one time and I took three weeks and that was a blast. 

TV: What were you like in college?

BR: I was like a new baby chick coming out of the egg. 

TV: Last question: would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? 

BR: You’ll have to repeat the question, it’s a bad connection. It sounds like a very important question, I don’t want to get it wrong. 

TV: It’s very important, the people need to know. Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? I can tell you afterwards what President Obama said, but I definitely want to hear your answer first. 

BR: Okay, I just want to make sure I’m hearing it correctly. Would I rather fight, like a fight—

TV: Yes, like a physical right. 

BR: Okay, a hundred duck-sized, like a duck, like a duck in the water?

TV: Yes. 

BR: Or one horse-sized duck. 

TV: Yes.

BR: You know, I always have my notes in front of me, to lead me into something. This isn’t leading me towards any of my notes. 

TV: This is a famous Reddit question, so I didn’t actually make this up, I don’t want to take credit for the question. 

BR: Alright. I would rather fight one duck-sized horse. 

TV: Oh, but that’s not an option. 

BR: Oh, I messed it up. 

TV: It’s one— one horse-sized duck is maybe what you meant to say?

BR: One, yes. I would rather fight one horse-sized duck. 

TV: Okay. That was President Obama’s choice too. 

BR: Because, you only have to deal with one brain. 

TV: Yeah, a hundred is quite a lot. Even if they are duck-sized. 

BR: Yeah, then it’s like, you know, hey, I have big knees, but these guys are forming a faction and they’re coming around on different sides. At least the one horse-sized duck, I can face it the entire time, and I could beat it with my brain power. I can outsmart a horse-sized duck any day.

Brian Regan will perform at Massey Hall on September 8. 

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

10 science courses you didn’t know existed at U of T

From cooking labs to physics in pop culture

10 science courses you didn’t know existed at U of T

Disclaimer: This article is intended only as a guide. Please check course requirements to verify your enrolment eligibility.

Stressing over timetable organization and refreshing ACORN every five minutes to check your waitlist rank are telltale signs that it is, once again, course selection season. To make your decision easier, here are 10 interesting science courses that will satiate your desire for knowledge.

1. AST221H1 F: Stars and Planets

If stars and planets are your passion, AST221 is the course to take. Learn about the life of stars and how we can study them using instrumentation. Students can also suggest topics not covered extensively by the textbook to the professor for interactive discussion during tutorials.

2. CHM209H1 S: Chemistry of Molecular Gastronomy

Have you ever wondered why some foods are so flavourful and colourful, or how to make mango ravioli, chocolate spaghetti, or a perfectly cooked egg? Take CHM209 to find out. In this course, the chemical and physical components of cooking are examined to discover how and why our food can be so tasty.

3. CHM210H1 F: Chemistry of Environmental Change

In this course, the chemical systems of the Earth, along with the way they are affected by human behaviour, are the main focus. Topics include the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and biogeochemistry

4. ESS105H1 S: Our Home Planet

The focus of this course is on Earth, from its terrestrial composition to human interactions with it. A highlight of this course in the past was a poster assignment that provided a hands-on opportunity for students to demonstrate their newfound knowledge.

5. ESS241H1 F: Geologic Structures and Maps

If you have a love for geology and enjoy interactive practical work, then this is the course for you. ESS241 takes you on an exciting adventure to unravel the secrets of Earth’s geology. The best part is that students are eligible to participate in an International Course Module taking place in Oman during Reading Week in November.

6. IVP210H1 S: Holography for 3D Visualization

With a small class size of 35 people, this course provides you with the opportunity to learn the theory and applications of holography. Previous lab sessions involved an engaging mix of creating holograms and modelling 3D graphics.

7. PHY202H1 F: The Physics of Science Fiction and Gaming

Are superpowers achievable outside the realms of action movies and video games? Is time travel really possible? These questions and more are answered in PHY202. This course explores and analyzes the physics in pop culture, as well as how these ideas affect us.

8. PHY231H1 F: Physics of Living Systems

Gain a new perspective on physics by understanding how it ties in with biological systems. Past experiments in this course made use of computer simulations to visualize lecture concepts.  

9. PSY230H1 F: Personality and Its Transformations

If you are interested in psychology from a biology standpoint, consider PSY230. Uncover the science behind the formation of personality and the factors that shape an individual.

10. TRN125Y1: Contemporary Issues in Health Science

With a class size of 25, TRN125 offers a close-knit setting to discuss and develop viewpoints on controversies in the health sciences. Contemporary topics such as stem cells, transplantation, regenerative medicine, vaccination, and personalized medicine will be discussed. This course is part of the Trinity One program.

UTSU votes against seeking second legal opinion on Hudson lawsuit

Overwhelming vote down held at August 24 board meeting

UTSU votes against seeking second legal opinion on Hudson lawsuit

At its meeting on August 24, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Board of Directors approved a motion to rescind the requirement of a second legal opinion on the lawsuit against former Executive Director Sandra Hudson.

The board approved the motion to rescind by a vote of 21 in favour to eight against.

“I was surprised. We expected the motion to pass, but not by such a wide margin,” said UTSU President Mathias Memmel in an e-mail to The Varsity. “I can’t speak for the board, but my sense is that we’ve all had enough of non-members–be they Ms. Hudson’s friends or CUPE 1281–disrupting our meetings and trying to prevent the UTSU from functioning.”

At an April 29 meeting, protesters from the Black Liberation Collective (BLC) compelled the board to approve a motion requiring the UTSU to seek a second legal opinion on the lawsuit. That motion stipulated that the BLC must be involved in the hiring process of a second lawyer, that the lawyer must “identify as Black,” and that the lawyer must have a background in employment and equity law. A second motion was later introduced to rescind the initial motion.

Memmel said that the second legal opinion would have cost the UTSU “around $50,000” and claimed that, while the UTSU expects to run a surplus of less than $10,000, moving forward with the second opinion would have led to cuts to services provided by the UTSU. During the meeting, Equity Director Adrian DiTommaso questioned whether the second legal opinion would be worth more than these services, and encouraged the board not to appease a group of “politically motivated individuals” by seeking a second legal opinion.

“You should not be seeking a second legal opinion as a PR measure,” Vice President Internal Daman Singh argued during discussion on the motion. “That is not what lawyers are for.”

As discussion progressed, UTMSU Representative Jose Wilson criticized the board for its hesitance in seeking a second legal opinion, saying that finances should not factor into the decision and that he was “puzzled” at the board’s emphasis on cost. Humanities Director Kassandra Neranjan also spoke against the motion to rescind, calling the UTSU a “shady institution,” and claiming that the main issue was cost versus transparency.

“The UTSU has a history of not being accountable and pushing away black students,” said New College Director Prashansa Atreay.

In order to gain entry to the meeting room, each individual was required to present a TCard; Wilson criticized the board for “policing” the door to the meeting.

Memmel told The Varsity that the decision to implement the TCard was made by the university administration. “It’s also very telling, although not at all surprising, that so few of the people who’ve been disruptive are members of the UTSU.”

Recent UTSU board meetings have been subject to protests and interruptions, including a meeting held on July 20, where members of the BLC forced entry into the room during an in-camera session and, following discussion, vocally protested the UTSU’s lawsuit against Hudson, leading Chair Billy Graydon to adjourn the meeting early.

The UTSU Board of Directors is set to meet again on September 23.

The Varsity has reached out to UTMSU Representative Jose Wilson and the Black Liberation Collective for comment.