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Unpacking the university’s underrated services

From income tax filing to virtual reality fun, students share some of U of T’s hidden gems
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Centralized resources and accessible support at the Sexual Violence Centre

One of the most underrated services provided on campus, perhaps due to how new it is, is the Tri-Campus Sexual Violence Prevention and Support Centre. Established in 2017 as part of the Action Plan on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence, the centre spans all three campuses and has a mandate to respond to sexual violence on campus.

The centre helps members of the university community confidently navigate the resources offered at U of T. Resources are available to students, faculty, and staff; no formal reporting process is required for access; and the centre can be reached via email or telephone. Services offered include support in securing accommodations, referrals to other resources, and help with the reporting process if requested.

All in all, the Sexual Violence Prevention Centre provides students who have experienced sexual violence with a one-stop shop to turn to for support and information, making resources simpler and less daunting to access. The centre assists students across U of T in getting the help they need to heal from and cope with their trauma, and more students should know about the resources that it has to offer. 

Anastasia Pitcher is a first-year student at New College studying Life Sciences.

Financial paperwork made simple through the UTSU’s tax clinic

The tax clinic on campus, run by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), provides free support for students earning less than $40,000 in annual income to file their income taxes from up to the past three years to the current year. A student simply needs to book an appointment online and bring their tax documents to the UTSU office, where volunteers help the student file their taxes.

As a volunteer myself, I can attest to the value this program provides for students. Many people do not like filing their taxes because it can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Using this program also saves students from having to spend any money on tax-filing software; for instance, the software used by the UTSU, UFile, costs $20. Having students with some experience filing returns also consumes less time and provides the students with tax-saving advice. Students are already stressed with exams and assignments during tax season, and this program can certainly reduce stress.

Peter Dominicis is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Accounting.

Race toward RACER for access to countless library materials

If there is ever a book that you feel a burning need to read but can’t find anywhere — not at U of T libraries, public libraries, bookstores, or even the internet — then Rapid Access to Collections by Electronic Requesting (RACER) is at your service.

Easily accessible under the ‘Services’ tab of the U of T Library’s website, RACER is an electronic inter-library loan service that lets students and staff at Canadian universities request materials from collaborating institutions, free of charge. Libraries that students can borrow from include libraries at institutions like Simon Fraser University and the University of Prince Edward Island, Library and Archives Canada, and even the Supreme Court of Canada Library.

RACER materials can be accessed online or delivered in person to locations across U of T. If you opt for the latter option, the waiting time can be considerably long, depending on the format of the requested material and the distance of the institution it is being loaned from. However, good things — and books — come to those who wait.

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

An escape into alternate reality with VR at Gerstein

Although inching closer to widespread affordability, personal virtual reality (VR) systems are still typically far too expensive, especially given the general lack of content for them thus far. But for U of T students who want a taste of The Matrix without the exorbitant price tag, Gerstein Science Information Centre has you covered.

Moving past the traditional literary purview of libraries, Gerstein now loans out Google Cardboard headsets for up to five days, allowing anyone with a fairly recent smartphone to enter the virtual world. For those looking for an even more immersive experience, room-scale VR can be experienced at MADLab in the first-floor basement of the building. MADLab features an HTC Vive headset, although an orientation session and a friend to act as a spotter for safety are mandatory for anyone looking to use the device and the accompanying software.

Aspiring VR artists and engineers are also catered to with a RICOH Theta S 360 Camera available for borrowing. Resources for VR content creation are available on Gerstein’s website. Remember to return the items on time though — late-fees are a whopping $0.50 per hour.

Spencer Y. Ki is a second-year student at Victoria College studying Astrophysics and Mathematics.

Writing centres help students turn drafts into masterpieces

Running out of time to meet upcoming deadlines? At this point in the semester, it is easy for anyone to get overwhelmed — the next few weeks are going to be filled with assignments, essays, and exams. Now is the time to take advantage of the free academic resources the university offers.

As an undergraduate student, I have tried almost every academic resource on campus, and the resources that have provided me the greatest benefit are the university’s writing centres. It was in my second year when I began using the University College Writing Centre. After seeking help, my grades significantly improved compared to my first-year written assignments. Writing centres on campus provide assistance to students at any stage of the process: you can go into a session with as little as an essay outline, or as much as a final draft of a paper. Writing sessions are up to 50 minutes long, but they can be as short as 10 minutes for students who have limited time.

The university writing centres are one of the most underrated academic resources at U of T. With deadlines fast approaching, they can help students offset some stress caused by written assignments.

Areti Tzanetakis is a fourth-year student at University College studying Molecular Genetics and Human Biology.

Stream films on U of T WiFi — it’s fully legal with Criterion-on-Demand

I found out about Criterion-on-Demand from the amazing Innis College librarian, Kate. It’s a movie streaming website that all U of T students can access. You enter the site through the library website, sign in with your UTORid, and there you go — thousands of movies available for free.

The site has a huge catalogue of primarily North American films from the 1920s to present day, across all genres. From La La Land to Happy Go Lucky to Alien, you’re bound to find something to watch. They even have all the Shrek movies and the best movie of the twenty-first century, Paddington. The site’s interface is a touch archaic, but it’s ultimately easy to navigate.

The site’s only downside is that some movies can only be accessed on the U of T WiFi network. But “every rose has its thorn,” as Julianne Hough sings in the 2012 film adaptation of the musical Rock of Ages — also available to stream from Criterion-on-Demand.

Elspeth Arbow is a fifth-year student at Innis College studying Cinema Studies and Buddhism, Psychology, and Mental Health Studies.