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I hate Quercus

The name of Portal’s new replacement leaves much to be desired

I hate Quercus

I am tired of Portal and its user-unfriendly design. I hate being greeted by the chaotic home page when I log in, and having to click on 10 different things to get where I want to go. The mobile version for its website is non-existent — I refuse to make room in my already cluttered phone for the app. So when I heard that Portal was changing, I was ecstatic.

My joy was dimmed, however, when I learned that the new Portal would be called ‘Quercus.’ McMaster has Avenue, Laurier has MyLearningSpace, Western has OWL, and Guelph has CourseLink, while U of T has Quercus? One of these things is not like the others — and by ‘others,’ I mean a solid, serious name befitting a university as renowned as U of T.

Admittedly, not all universities are so creative with their choices. Waterloo’s portal is called Portal Waterloo, Ryerson calls theirs my.ryerson, and York has Passport York. Though these three are a smidge unoriginal, compared to Quercus, I’d take something like ‘My UofT’ any day.

Quercus is the Latin word for the oak tree genus, which is in line with U of T’s motto and crest, and evidently one of the reasons it was chosen. Despite its distinguished roots, however, Quercus is a poor choice of name for a learning system at a university as esteemed and as large as U of T.

For one, Quercus is hard to say. It’s pronounced as ‘qwhere-kis’ according to the bulletin posted by U of T — but how many people will read that bulletin? All I imagine whilst contemplating the phonology of Quercus are variants ranging anywhere from ‘quirkus’ to ‘queerkiss’, and professors wasting 10 minutes of class debating with their students about the correct pronunciation.

More importantly, Quercus is easy to mock. Quercus shares an ending with the words ‘circus’ and ‘ruckus,’ rhymes with ‘ridiculous’ and, if you’re ambitious, ‘worthless.’ One of these will surely be adopted by U of T students to refer to Quercus mockingly, and non-U of T students will probably start using it, too, once they hear what our portal is called. 

To gauge how students felt about Quercus, I posted a poll in a group comprised of majority U of T students asking them what comes to mind when they hear the name of our new portal. Admittedly, the group is a meme group, which means frivolous answers are a foregone conclusion, but it seemed like the only group in which participation in such a poll was guaranteed. Out of 135 students who filled out the poll, 38 of them responded with ‘How do you pronounce it?’. ‘Eh wot’ and ‘Ridiculus’ were other popular choices. One brave soul responded with ‘I want to transfer out.’ The most popular choice by far, though, was ‘Ignorant and hurtful’ — a meme born from a post in the UofT Memes for Edgy Teens Facebook group that called its members “straight up ignorant and hurtful” for mocking other universities — which garnered70 responses. This answer, meant to be comical, is beginning to seem truer with every passing moment that U of T wastes by not recognizing the name Quercus for what it is: a mistake, “magnus incursitamus.”

Quercus is currently still running on pilot, with full integration expected by Fall 2018. Until then, U of T still has time to change its name to avoid a potential circus around Quercus. In the meantime, I’ll be acting ignorant and hurtful like the rest of my peers by pretending that Quercus doesn’t exist, and continuing to use Portal.


Zeahaa Rehman is a third-year student at UTM studying Linguistics and Professional Writing.

Teaching assistants set strike deadline for February 26

CUPE 3902, Unit 1 to go on strike should agreement not reached by then

Teaching assistants set strike deadline for February 26

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Local 3902, Unit 1, have voted unanimously to set February 26 as their strike deadline, as negotiations with the university continue. This means that if no tentative agreement has been reached by that date, or if it gets rejected by the unit’s membership, then they will automatically vote to go on strike.

The vote took place on Monday, January 22 in Convocation Hall. It comes after the union voted 89.4 per cent in favour of a strike mandate in December.

Unit 1 represents over 7,000 people who work as teaching assistants, student and postdoctoral course instructors, and exam invigilators at all three campuses of the University of Toronto.

Profesor Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President of Human Resources & Equity at U of T, told The Varsity that both the union and the university are “working hard” to reach a tentative agreement.

Since the strike mandate vote, the bargaining committees of the university and the union have started a conciliation process with the help of a government-appointed conciliation officer from the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The process was initiated by both sides. They first met on January 19, and will meet again today, January 24, as well as on February 7. This is in addition to regular bargaining meetings.

Aleks Ivovic, Chief Spokesperson for Unit 1’s bargaining team, told The Varsity that their current concern is that they haven’t made any progress on is their funding package. “That’s the biggest issue for members,” Ivovic said. “That’s been the biggest issue every round of bargaining since we had the funding package.”

Hannah-Moffat said that the university’s goal is to have productive and constructive rounds of bargaining to reach a collective agreement. “That said, as a matter of course during any bargaining process,” she said, “we have both business and academic continuity plans in place to minimize the risk of disruption for our students and the broader U of T community.”

The union is seeking a roughly 25% increase in the graduate funding package — from a minimum of $15,000 to $20,000 — over the next two years, culminating in 2020. According to Ivovic, however, the university contends that the funding is not a labour issue. “We told them it is,” Ivovic said. “We went back and forth a little bit about that, but didn’t actually discuss where to go,” he said.

On a potential strike, Ivovic reaffirmed the union’s position that they do not want a strike but will strike if they have to. “We go on strike because our working conditions aren’t what they should be,” he said. “We definitely don’t want to put undergrads in the position of a strike. We don’t want to be in a strike ourselves, and a strike only ever happens if we’re just so far apart from what we need, that we can’t come to an agreement.”

The collective agreement Unit 1 had with the university expired last December 31. It was initially struck up in May 2014. Bargaining negotiations have been ongoing for four months, since September.

The unit last went on strike three years ago, in February 2015. This caused a disruption in classes and tutorials, as teaching assistants and student course instructors went on strike for close to a month after rejecting a tentative agreement.

Editor’s Note (January 25): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the minimum funding package for graduates is $16,500. It is $15,000.

SCSU election campaign period delayed after protests at all-candidates meeting

February 6–8 voting period will not change, says ERC Chair

SCSU election campaign period delayed after protests at all-candidates meeting

The start of the campaign period for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) elections has been delayed following protests at an all-candidates meeting on January 22.

The campaign period for the SCSU executive and board of director elections was supposed to begin on January 23. According to Nafisa Mohamed, Chair of the SCSU Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), the ERC will have to meet again and reschedule another all-candidates meeting before the campaign period can begin.

Despite the delay in the start date, Mohamed told The Varsity that the election itself has not been halted, and that voting will still take place from February 6–8.

The all-candidates meeting, which typically happens the day before the campaign period begins, was met with protests on the evening of January 22.

The uproar was spurred by damning allegations made toward SCSU executives and staff regarding the upcoming election period. In line with a petition currently circulating online, the protesters are calling for a freeze on the election until five concerns are resolved.

The protest devolved into scuffles, leaving Chief Returning Officer Mahir Zuber injured and SCSU Internal Coordinator Arthi Velupillai seeking medical attention for an arm injury.

Deena Hassan and Ray Alibux, UTSC students seemingly at the helm of yesterday’s protests, are two of three candidates disqualified from running in the coming elections.

Hassan, the current VP Operations at the SCSU, had planned to run for president of the union. She was disqualified after amassing more demerit points than is allowed for executive candidates. Her demerit points, issued as per the SCSU Elections Procedure Code, were given out for “abuse of position or status” and “malicious or intentional violation of this code.” Hassan contested these rulings publicly at yesterday’s protest, saying that the SCSU was trying to “silence” her and that they did not give her “substantial evidence” for their rulings.

Alibux was disqualified after he failed to collect the requisite number of nominee signatures from UTSC undergraduates.

“The events of last night is currently under the investigation of Campus Police,” said Mohamed. “The Elections and Referenda committee will be meeting soon to discuss the course of action.”