Advice from the Sports Ethicist: Is it okay for a pro athlete to quit in the middle of a game?

Former Bills cornerback Vontae Davis shockingly retired at halftime

Advice from the Sports Ethicist:  Is it okay for a pro athlete to quit in the middle of a game?

Veteran NFL cornerback Vontae Davis shockingly retired at halftime during the Buffalo Bills–Los Angeles Chargers game on September 16, their defeat marking the second blowout loss that the Bills have faced this season.

Davis joined the Bills this past offseason, after five years as a member of the Indianapolis Colts and two seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

Davis cited his ailing physical health as the reason for his retirement, having undergone multiple corrective surgeries in order to keep himself playing. “I’m not feeling like myself,” Davis claimed, saying that he did not mean to disappoint his teammates, but felt the need to preserve his health by ending his playing career on the field.

His teammates, Lorenzo Alexander and Micah Hyde, called Davis’ actions “disrespectful,” while ex-football player and TV show host Shannon Sharpe commended Davis for respecting the game enough to exit with both his mental and physical abilities intact.

While it seems hard to fathom why a player would choose to quit in the middle of a game, I do see where both sides are coming from. It’s disrespectful to the teammates who are counting on your support, as well as to fans who have paid good money to come see players doing what they’re paid to do.

On the other hand, it’s always crushing when a pro athlete is injured, and it was probably a good move on Davis’ part to not play in the rest of the game. Having residual injuries and needing joint replacement surgeries later in life is a commonality for professional athletes, and Davis’ need to maintain his physical health is completely understandable.

But I think there could have been a much better way to approach retirement than the route Davis chose. There were so many other things that he could have done, least of all waiting until a timeout to announce his decision and sit on the bench for the rest of the game. No retirement decision is made lightly. Many an athlete have spoken about it when they knew it was time to retire — their bodies had been feeling slower and they weren’t able to keep up with the younger players on their teams.

Keeping this perspective in mind, it seems hard to believe that Davis’ decision was spur of the moment, and the Bills apparently had issues with Davis before his announcement.

The main conclusion to draw is that there are almost no circumstances that I can think of in which retiring in the middle of a game is an acceptable, moral, ethical, or respectful decision. As reported, no one knew before the game that Davis would make the decision to retire, and some of his teammates didn’t understand what had happened until after the game.

Hopefully, the Bills won’t let the loss of Davis prevent them from trying to come back from their blowout of a start to the 2018–2019 season.

Tom Brady’s peculiar diet

Brady claims to drink somewhere between 12 and 25 glasses of water per day

Tom Brady’s peculiar diet

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — a five-time Super Bowl Champion and three-time NFL MVP — is widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes of all time. Lately, however, Brady has been endorsing some rather strange dieting habits.

Brady developed these methods with his best friend and ‘body coach’ Alex Guerrero. Guerrero, however, has been caught up in a number of controversies, including lying about being a medical doctor.

Guerrero has also been investigated by the American Federal Trade Commission twice: the first time for starring in an infomercial for a product called Supreme Greens, which claimed to be able to cure “cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease”; the second for advertising a similar product, NeuroSafe, which was advertised as being endorsed by Brady himself.

In September 2017, Brady released his book, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. In this book, Brady detailed exactly what he eats every day. One main feature of his diet is an absurd amount of liquids.

In the mornings, Brady doesn’t eat a full meal. When he wakes up at 6:00 am, he drinks 20 ounces of water infused with electrolytes. He then drinks a smoothie containing blueberries, bananas, nuts, and seeds. Two hours later, he has another glass of electrolyte-infused water, and a post-workout protein shake. Brady claims to drink somewhere between 12 and 25 glasses of water per day.

He also heavily encourages snacking. He usually snacks at around 11:00 am, just before lunch. For lunch, Brady will usually have a piece of fish and a lot of vegetables. In the afternoon, he may have another protein shake or protein bar, and around 6:00 pm, Brady eats dinner, which, again, consists of mostly vegetables.

His book provides recipes for chicken and salmon burgers, green salads, and a creamy pasta sauce — which is odd, considering that he supposedly rarely eats carbs. But even Brady treats himself sometimes. He doesn’t often eat dessert, but he does give a recipe for his famous avocado ice cream.

His book also contains several strange rules for eating. Brady won’t eat carbohydrates and protein together. He recommends eating carbs or protein with vegetables instead, as he believes that this is better for digestion.

Brady’s chef Allen Campbell says that 80 per cent of his diet is vegetables and the rest of his diet is mostly duck, grass-fed organic steak, salmon, and sometimes, chicken.

Brady follows what he refers to as an alkaline diet, in order to minimize muscle inflammation. This entails limiting ‘acidifying foods,’ which mostly includes starch and dairy. Brady will not drink water 30 minutes before a meal, and will wait an hour after a meal before drinking another glass.

What is even more bizarre is the list of foods that Brady doesn’t eat. For Brady, caffeine, white sugar, salt, white flour, dairy, and all nightshade vegetables tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and mushrooms are completely off the table. He also won’t consume olive oil if it’s used in cooking but he’ll have it raw. And he won’t eat fruit, unless it’s in a smoothie.

While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with Brady’s diet, and it clearly isn’t hindering his play on the field, many of the specific effects that his diet is supposed to have are not backed by scientific evidence.

He claims that limiting acidifying foods helps control the body’s pH balance. However, what one eats actually has little effect on the body’s pH. Your lungs and kidneys control pH levels automatically.

Brady also claims that this diet can decrease inflammation in the body. While dieting actually does have an effect on the body’s inflammation levels, the extreme methods that Brady takes to avoid inflammation are unnecessary. Typically, having a balanced diet with less processed foods is a solid start.

At 41 years old, which is already ancient in football years, Brady says he wants to play at least another five years. While he is certainly capable, his diet probably won’t go very far in helping him achieve this goal.

Varsity Blues men’s lacrosse extend winning streak

Blues defeat Laurier Golden Hawks 17–11

Varsity Blues men’s lacrosse extend winning streak

It wasn’t pretty, but they’ll take it.

The Varsity Blues men’s lacrosse team played host to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks on Saturday night at Varsity Stadium, pulling out a 17–11 victory.

Characterized by sloppy play and mental errors, the game proved to be a back-and-forth affair until the fourth quarter, when six unanswered Blues goals stifled any hopes of a Hawks upset. The final frame saw the Blues focus, execute, and force turnovers, which marked a significant shift from the first three periods of action in which they struggled to rebut Laurier’s uncharacteristically chippy play.

The first half saw the lead change hands seven times, and the Blues claimed a small 7–6 advantage heading into the break. Jackson Hickey’s goal in the second quarter proved impressive, as he took a feed from Jason Barnable and found the back of the net while being knocked flat to the ground by a Hawks defender, drawing a penalty on the play as well.

Laurier opened the third quarter on a mission as they managed to score two straight goals and take a 9–8 lead just five minutes into the period. However, the Blues responded with solid defense, as Davis Bottomley’s strip of a Laurier player at the 12-minute mark led to a Darren Elliott goal from Nick Pison a minute later.

Shortly thereafter, AJ Masson’s goal off an offensive rebound was waved off, but he would not be deterred, stripping the Hawks’ goalie and scoring in spectacular fashion to make it 10–7 Blues, with eight minutes left on the clock.

The home team dominated the final 20 minutes, captured elegantly by a beautiful give-and-go sequence between Elliott and Barnable that was created by an Elliott steal four minutes in. Elliot finished the game with three goals.

Barnable scored two goals and tallied six assists, while Pison found the back of the net five times and added an assist to lead the Blues’ offense with eight and six points, respectively. Masson and Bottomley enjoyed four- and three-point nights, respectively. Hickey, Zach Holmes, and Alex Emerson rounded out the scoresheet with a point each.

Varsity Blues head coach Joe Nizich was less than pleased with his team’s overall performance, but praised the group’s turnaround. “In the fourth quarter we started [controlling the pace of the game], winning the draws and stopping their fast break,” he said. Pison agreed, saying that in spite of mental mistakes, the team was “able to bounce back,” and that “faceoffs [and] getting turnovers ended up giving us the lead we needed.”

The two consecutive wins for the Blues mark a departure from a devastating start to the season, as the team dealt with the tragic death of 25-year-old assistant coach Alejandro Duque on September 9. Duque had played for the Blues from 2011–2015 and was set to start his Master’s degree the day after his passing.

Varsity Blues football miss opportunity to earn first victory

Blues lose fourth straight game

Varsity Blues football miss opportunity to earn first victory

The Varsity Blues entered Saturday’s game looking for their first win against the 3–1 Carleton Ravens.

After being hired away from Queen’s University in the offseason, Blues head coach Greg Marshall was in search of his first win against the team that defeated Toronto 43–0 last season.

Early in the first quarter, Blues special team player Javen May forced a fumble from Ravens wide receiver Quinton Soares, but it resulted in a scoreless drive. The Blues were the first team on the scoreboard after Ethan Shafer converted a 37-yard field goal shortly after Clay Sequeira’s spectacular 51-yard pass to Will Corby with just over six minutes left in the first quarter. The Ravens immediately answered back with a 40-yard field goal of their own.

The Ravens opened the second quarter with two big plays, including a 60-yard screen to tailback Nathan Carter. With poor field positioning in their next drive, the Ravens conceded a safety.

MARTIN BAZYL, COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

After a 15-yard facemask penalty from the Ravens, the Blues were on the Ravens three-yard line with Connor Ennis subbed in at quarterback. Two Ravens offsides and a Blues procedure saw Sequeira subbed back in to throw a dime in traffic to Nolan Lovegrove for a touchdown. The Blues took a 12–10 lead.

Late in the second quarter, Sequeira needled another tight pass to his favourite target of the game, Lovegrove — but it led to a missed field goal that was taken to the Ravens five-yard line. After a forced fumble, Blues receiver Daniel Diodati scored a quick touchdown with a five-yard rush. By halftime, the Blues continued leading 19–10.

After a few scoreless drives, running back Mathieu Pickens scored a two-yard rushing touchdown for the Ravens with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. The Blues offense gave up a quick sack that resulted in a safety, tying the game at 19–19.

With little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Soares caught a deep pass and ran it in with the Ravens taking the lead at 26–19. With less than four minutes left, the Ravens finished the quarter with a successful drive and field goal.

The Blues offense refused to show up in the second half, beginning the fourth quarter with an interception that gave the Ravens possession. After two missed opportunities, the Ravens scored another field goal.

The Blues finally woke up almost six minutes into the final quarter as Diodati scored on a 99-yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Ravens answered back with a quick field goal after a forced fumble. With seven seconds left in the game, the Ravens scored a final field goal, winning the game 38–26.

Editor’s Note (September 25): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Varsity Blues hired Greg Marshall from Western University, when in fact the Blues hired him from Queen’s University.

Scenes from the shadows

Four stories of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse from members of U of T campus theatre

Scenes from the shadows

Content warning: descriptions of sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship abuse.

“The theatre community… helped me get through a lot of difficult things in my life. There’s a lot of people there I will love forever,” Janet* says. “But there’s also people there who, if I never see them again, I’ll be happy. That’s not just because they did anything to me [or to someone else]… but because they stood by and let things happen.”

Janet was involved in campus theatre during her time at U of T, and her ambivalence about the experience resonates with others. While many students consider theatre a wonderfully welcoming place, the stories of others reveal a darker side of the picture.

It’s been a year since the #MeToo movement skyrocketed to fame, and it’s well worth considering what lessons it has to bear for theatre at U of T. With that goal in mind, I spoke to students within campus theatre at the university who experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse from fellow cast or crew members.

Women in power, men in control

A unifying thread in #MeToo cases was that men in powerful positions within the industry exploited their ranks to dominate women. On a smaller scale, gendered attitudes still play a role in many university interactions, and campus theatre is no exception.

Sabrina* held an executive leadership role in campus theatre in 2017–2018. An interesting thing about the U of T theatre community, Sabrina explains, is that unlike in Hollywood or other male-dominated environments, many of those in positions of power are women. But sexism doesn’t disappear when women have power; it just takes on a different form. As Sabrina puts it, “It’s almost like [men] are trying to get power in a female-driven community.”

Sabrina and fellow female executives have had numerous negative experiences working with men who didn’t respect their authority. Male directors would often scrutinize their leadership decisions or devalue their opinions in ways that Sabrina felt were unfair; some of this was accompanied by sexist remarks. Other men mocked the capabilities of female set designers, reflecting the common stereotype that women somehow aren’t suited for technical work.

During Janet’s time in theatre, while some theatre executives enforced “zero tolerance” policies for harassment, in many cases she saw men push boundaries and then get off the hook. Sometimes this would happen during productions scripted to include romantic scenes. In one audition Janet witnessed, one actor suddenly pulled their scene partner into a kiss without consulting them first. Incidents like these, Janet tells me, are often brushed off as “trying to make the scene better,” though she feels that some actors use intimacy scenes as excuses to be inappropriately physical.

Female representation in U of T theatre may also come with unintended consequences. Janet was frustrated to see men whom executives and cast knew as harassers continually get cast in plays, simply because there were too few men available for the part. Gender-blind casting could have avoided that problem altogether: her response was always, “Cast a girl.”

There’s no real way to quantify sexism, let alone to determine how pervasive it is within certain campus environments. But testimonies like these are significant, particularly coming from women in relatively senior positions. Repeated microaggressions, disrespect for women’s authority, and lack of accountability can lay the groundwork.

A similar toxic cocktail underlies the allegations against the now over 200 powerful people engulfed by #MeToo, most of them powerful men — from inappropriate comments to unwanted touching to full-fledged sexual assault.

Even when nefarious motives aren’t in the picture, theatre is an environment of intense closeness. The enormous amount of time cast and crew spend together can blur personal and professional boundaries, particularly in the campus context, where students are mostly young and often friends as well as colleagues.

Sabrina recounts multiple instances of male colleagues who seemed to get the wrong idea about the nature of their relationships with the women they worked with. One female crew member was repeatedly badgered by a male colleague until Sabrina and the executive delivered a pointed reminder about professionalism to the entire cast.

In another case, Sabrina and a female friend went to a cast party. Both of them held management roles and presumably deserved to celebrate their work on the production. An intoxicated male colleague’s aggressive advances made them so uncomfortable that they decided to just leave.

PEARL CAO/THE VARSITY

No typical abuser

#MeToo shone a light mainly on powerful men within the industry. But an inclusive perspective on the movement demands accountability for all perpetrators, even if they aren’t who we might expect.

When Melanie*, an assistant stage manager, became intoxicated at a cast party, a female theatre executive insisted on accompanying her home to her residence. Exhausted and ill, Melanie got into bed, but the woman refused to leave her alone. Taking advantage of Melanie’s condition, she forced herself on her and then stayed the night.

“The next thing I know, she’s in my bed and kissing me, and then she just didn’t stop,” Melanie says. “It took me a while to figure out that it was rape.”

In previous weeks, Melanie had noticed executives making inappropriate sexual comments and being overly touchy with the cast. She considered this inappropriate, but it wasn’t until her sexual assault that the significance of those incidents started to resonate. Melanie confided in a female cast member, and she found common ground — her friend confessed that a female director had also pestered her with uncomfortable comments like, “I only cast you so I could stare at you all day,” or “I only cast you because I wanted to fuck you at the cast party.”

But until it happened, Melanie didn’t feel unsafe around the woman who assaulted her. The theatre executive was a queer woman who advocated for equity and sex positivity, widely respected by her peers. The woman’s gender and the position she occupied within the community made it all the more difficult to process that she was capable of what she had done. It was only afterward, when Melanie was already traumatized and wracked with anxiety and guilt, that she found out the woman who sexually assaulted her had also raped two others.

While marginalized people have benefited from generally ‘safe spaces’ like theatre, Melanie is now concerned that myopic approaches to progressivism can isolate certain people from scrutiny. “They’re women and they’re gay and they promote female empowerment and self-love and hate the straight white male,” Melanie says. “They couldn’t possibly be dangerous — right?”

People who occupy powerful or privileged positions can be guilty of misusing them for their own gain. In big industry or professional entertainment circles, it’s often men who occupy those positions. Given the survivors I spoke with, that’s not necessarily true.

During their involvement in various campus productions, Lake* was thrust into an abusive relationship with Nate*. Nate leveraged their management position to exercise increasing control over Lake’s life, creating intense anxiety and splintering Lake’s existing relationship in the process. Though Lake has now broken off the relationship and reunited with their former partner, it still haunts them that Nate was able to abuse their position and get away unscathed.

Nate’s responsibilities included scheduling the cast, which, given the intensive hours associated with theatre, effectively allowed them to control Lake’s whereabouts. “It became very clear that they enjoyed being a stage manager not because, you know, theatre is fun, but because they enjoy power and they enjoy control,” Lake says.

On top of this, Nate was an experienced sex educator; offering to answer Lake’s questions about sex, Nate adopted a twisted sort of ‘mentorship’ role and thereby pulled Lake into a toxic sexual dynamic. In public, Nate brought elements of their sexual relationship onto the set without Lake’s consent, in one instance pulling their hair during a rehearsal. In private, Nate disregarded Lake’s boundaries and pressured them to use kinks as a method of conflict resolution, resulting in repeated physical and sexual abuse.

It’s difficult to come forward as a survivor in the first place, and it’s even harder when the person who hurt you is someone in power. Underlying both Melanie’s and Lake’s testimonies is a common dilemma. Keep quiet about your trauma, and you have to live with it alone. Come forward, and you may be judged, and you may not be believed.

Certainly, in an industry environment, it’s a bad thing to get a reputation, but that extends to smaller semi-professional and extracurricular spaces, too. “You’re so unsure about your position in the community, you don’t want to be known as difficult or causing a problem,” Janet says.

Then there’s the concern that even if you talk, no one will listen. When Lake told others about the abuse, a few were shocked, despite Lake feeling that the signs were obvious. Disturbingly, others revealed they were aware of Lake’s situation but were unsure whether to interfere — and ultimately decided it was none of their business.

“[Nate] not facing consequences is one thing,” Lake explains. “But the fact that there is this community that I feel in a lot of ways enabled this to happen, through not paying attention to what was going on, [that] says a lot.”

Change through conversation

Janet, Sabrina, Melanie, and Lake tell four different but related stories. Their stories don’t represent everyone’s experiences with campus theatre — but they’re also likely not the only ones.

We have to encourage survivors to come forward, and one approach is through policy. Many student-led theatre groups don’t have specific anti-harassment policies, but complainants can seek redress through standard U of T reporting procedures, through the policies of student society offices that oversee certain campus groups, or alternatively, through informal practices.

According to co-executive producers Marie Song and Sonny Nightingale, the Victoria College Drama Society requires its executives members to attend equity training, and it consults with the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council’s Equity Commissioner when they put on shows with sensitive content. The St. Michael’s College Troubadours’ production manager, Jeremy Hernandez-Lum Tong, says that the group seeks to ensure members’ safety by holding actors and crew accountable to the university’s general anti-harassment policies. The Trinity College Dramatic Society (TCDS) and the University College (UC) Follies did not respond to requests for comment.

Michelle Brownrigg, Senior Director of Co-Curricular Education and Chief Program Officer at Hart House, oversees Hart House Theatre. Brownrigg’s team is cognizant that its productions involve a mix of student volunteers, recent graduates, and professional and semi-professional designers, which cuts across age and experience. Hart House requires all of its members to conform to guidelines within an “artists’ handbook,” which provides clear expectations for cast and crew no matter who they are. The handbook also contains information about the university’s anti-harassment policies and procedures for filing complaints.

Hart House has also supported the U of T Drama Coalition by funding the launch of  “intimacy direction” workshops in 2017. Originating with Tonia Sina, Alicia Rodis, and Siobhan Richardson, co-founders of Intimacy Directors International, intimacy direction focuses on challenging power dynamics that could give rise to harassment. Inspired, Coco Lee, then the coalition’s alumni advisor, brought the practice to U of T.

“A lot of what intimacy directors do is be proactive about building a culture of consent in the rehearsal room,” Lee explains. As trained professionals, intimacy directors guide cast through choreography of intimacy scenes, from romance to physical fights; they also facilitate exercises that safely build emotional chemistry between cast members.

A challenge with programs like intimacy direction, however, lies in showing theatre groups the merit they have to offer. Although Lee received positive feedback from those who participated, uptake was limited, and Lee hopes that this will change. She acknowledges that it can be challenging to fit additional sessions within already-packed rehearsal schedules, but she is also disappointed that “people often don’t think they can spare the time to create that safety.”

It’s also important to convince directors that they can adopt these measures without losing control. “It wasn’t until the end of the year when we clued into the feedback from people that there was a fear that their agency in the process would be taken away,” Lee says. She notes a bit of irony in that: the purpose of intimacy direction is to give actors agency, and presumably, that will result in better productions and working environments.

Beyond institutionalized changes, a more positive environment will come with small, proactive steps from members of theatre groups themselves. Janet tells me that she made it her mission throughout her time at U of T to raise concerns whenever she saw something going wrong. She looked out for younger students at cast parties and made seemingly small gestures, like asking audition partners if they were comfortable with physical touch. Over time, a number of her colleagues had started to do the same, so Janet tried to keep people talking. Sometimes they listened, and sometimes they didn’t.

The beautiful thing about theatre, though, is that it can force people to pay attention. The medium itself is a vessel for conversation, and campus productions like What She Said by the UC Follies in 2016 or TCDS’ How I Learned to Drive in 2018 have critically engaged with stories of sexism and harassment and elevated the stories of survivors.

Like a hashtag, pieces like these can spark dialogue. And coupled with policies and proactive moves, the ideas behind them can help ensure that theatre remains the safe space that it’s meant to be.

“Bad behaviour like sexual harassment lives in the shadows where we feel we can’t talk about it,” Lee says.

It’s time to switch on the spotlight.

*Names have been changed.

Heathers: The Musical: the first production of Hart House’s 2018–2019 season

The cult classic tackles themes of rape culture, eating disorders, teen suicide, and gun violence

<i>Heathers: The Musical</i>: the first production of Hart House’s 2018–2019 season

From September 21 to October 6, the dark teen comedy Heathers: The Musical will be performed in Hart House. Heathers celebrates its 30th anniversary this year; when it was first released in 1988, it was groundbreaking with its discourse surrounding contemporary topics.

The Varsity sat down with Justan Myers and Emma Sangalli to discuss character development, gun violence, and performing in the historic Hart House.

The Varsity: For both of you, this is your first time working at Hart House Theatre ­­— what is that like? It’s a historic space; how has the process been?

Justan Myers: Working in this space is incredible. I’ve been mostly in Toronto working in smaller blackbox­-esque theatres, so it’s great to have this wide open space. There’s so many different ways to use it, and with our incredible set, just finding so many cool ways to bring the audience into the world has been really fun.

Emma Sangalli: It feels like a real established theatre. It’s old, you can feel the history, and that’s beautiful ­­ just knowing there have been so many passionate artists in this building doing what we’re doing. And our director has been using it very creatively.

Justan Myers: It’s really cool to have that juxtaposition of how old and how experienced the space is versus how many emerging artists are in this production —­­ kind of that combination of youth and freshness, but then also this foundation.

TV: Can you tell us a little bit about the characters you’re playing?

JM: So, I play Jason “JD” Dean. He’s the typical social outcast —­­ he’s moved schools a lot and he doesn’t have any friends, so Veronica sort of captures his attention. Little does she know that he has a lot of unresolved problems from both his childhood and the way he’s grown up that leads him to influence her into some bad decisions later on in the show.

ES: Yeah, Veronica is not popular at the start of the show —­­ she’s kind of dorky, very smart, a little bit of an old soul. She ends up becoming popular and her whole story is kind of discovering the cost of popularity, I would say, and realizing it’s not worth it.

Emma Sangalli. PHOTO COURTESY OF HART HOUSE THEATRE

TV: This play is based on a film, the 1988 cult classic, Heathers, which many people say played a role in defining its generation. Are you looking to the movie, or past productions, to inform your rehearsal process?

JM: Yes and no. The characters are so much more fleshed out in the musical that it’s really its own work in a sense. I know my character changed a lot, because in the movie he’s a little 2D. ­They don’t give him a lot of super relatable moments. In the musical, they gave him more backstory, something for the audience to grab onto. So, in a sense, yes, because there’s so many of those iconic lines they took from the movie that you want to nail because the audience just knows them, but the character work itself had to come more from our own basis.

ES: At the end of the day, the part of you that’s an actor and the part of the character that you find through research just sort of come together, and you’re able to find the thread. It’s a little difficult, because the movie was quite a bit different from the musical in terms of, I would say, undertone. In the movie, there’s a little bit of ambiguity on whether [Veronica] is a good guy or a bad guy until closer to the end. Whereas in the musical, she’s kind of the belle of the show, as our director likes to say. ­­It’s pretty clear that she’s got a strong moral compass from the beginning. So definitely we had to look at as much source material as we could find, but you also have to dive into the text that the writers of the musical give you and flesh out the characters on the page, because it really is quite a bit different from the movie.

TV: Was there any moment during rehearsals when you had to really step out of your comfort zone or do something you’d never done?

ES: One of the most famous songs in the show is “Dead Girl Walking.” For me in terms of comfort it was definitely a step, because I have never played a romantic role and it’s basically a full, simulated sex scene onstage. So, it’s very much like, we had to come into rehearsal with all our guards down ­­— throw those fears out the window, be a professional actor, and just do it. But it’s so nice working with Justan, because I’m so comfortable with him.

Justan Myers. PHOTO COURTESY OF HART HOUSE THEATRE

TV: This show deals with a lot of really pressing contemporary issues like bullying and suicide —­­ who do you hope sees this show? What would you want them to take away from it?

JM: I think it is very important for teens to see this show, especially with increasing gun violence and hate crimes and things like that. It’s so easy to become desensitized to that because of media and everything, so to just get a real —­­ I mean, ‘real,’ it’s a musical —­­ but [it’s] a more grounded perspective of what these issues are.

ES: It’s funny because when you think about Heathers, you wouldn’t think of words like ‘solution’ and ‘hope,’ but that was something I really took from the writers’ notes of the musical ­­— that’s really what it’s about, solutions and hope, and it really tries to answer all of the problems that it brings up. I think it’s important for anyone to see this show. There are people that maybe shouldn’t see this show, because there’s a lot of heavy stuff in it, but it is cushioned by humour and by good-­heartedness. I think it’s an important story for this day and age, and for this city specifically. For Toronto in the last year, a lot of stuff has happened and because of social media we all know about it right away. It’s hard when you go on social media and all you see is another shooting, another truck driver. We all care, and want to do something, but sometimes we don’t know what to do ­.­

JM: It feels bigger than us.

ES: I think the beauty of this show is that it boils it down to a very simple solution:­­ be kind to the person next to you, offer them a hand, and include them. That’s a big one in this show. Be a friend, you know? That’s something very tangible, that we can all do every day, that will hopefully help change the amount of bad things we see happening. So, in that case, I do think it’s really important for anyone who can handle this type of subject matter to come see it, because it really does give you some inspiration, and also some tools to go out into the world and make it beautiful.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

From grade inflation to grade deflation

All university students pay the price for boosted high school grades, but those from private schools pay more than others

From grade inflation to grade deflation

A list compiled by the University of Waterloo of Ontario high schools that tend to inflate their students averages was recently released to Global News last week through a freedom of information request. Waterloo compared students’ entrance marks with how they measured up in the first-year engineering programs to calculate the average grade deflation of graduates from different Ontario high schools. The university says it now uses the list to apply an “adjustment factor” to entrance grades.

The publication of the list puts into the spotlight the various issues that come along with grade inflation at high schools. On the one hand, grade inflation clearly disadvantages students who are forced to compete against applicants with artificially boosted averages. On the other hand, those who gain from inflated grades are, in reality, ill-equipped for their programs in university in the long-run. In my experience, this is certainly true at U of T, where first-year grades can often bring about feelings of inadequacy as they drop far below the standards students once achieved in high school.

A facet of the Waterloo list that appears to be overlooked is the clear distinction in the schools featured in terms of private and public funding. On average, first-year students from Ontario high schools see their marks drop 16 per cent in Waterloo’s engineering program. Yet private schools are overrepresented in the ranks of schools whose graduates face higher-than-average grade deflation. Almost two-thirds of Waterloo’s list are actually schools whose graduates do better than the average 16 per cent drop, but 80 per cent of private schools on the list fall into the third of schools whose graduates’ marks face above-average drops.

This disproportion should bring about critical discussions regarding why private schools are on the list at all. Quite simply, for high schools to justify charging substantial tuition fees, their graduates must be doing better than average in postsecondary education, and not experiencing such substantial drops. While it is hard to extrapolate beyond the given context of Waterloo’s engineering program, the representation of private schools on the list calls into question whether there are high schools in Ontario where grades are bought, rather than earned.

A 2011 investigation by the Toronto Star sheds light on this issue, when reporter Jennifer Yang went undercover as a student at a private high school. Yang described how her teacher, unaware that Yang was a journalist undercover, arbitrarily raised her grade by almost 25 per cent, while allowing other students to retake tests they had failed — this time open book.

A section of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s website, updated in 2013, says that “in response to concerns regarding credit integrity, the ministry has introduced an enhanced inspection training program.” But a 2015 study found that Ontario has the fewest regulations for private schools among Canadian provinces.

Low-income students already face many challenges to achieving high grades and pursuing higher education, from underfunded high schools to the need to devote time and energy to part-time work outside their studies and family responsibilities. A list that suggests that some private schools inflate their students’ averages can then be a bitter pill for those who work hard to achieve modest marks at publicly funded institutions. This is not to say that grade inflation is a problem for private schools alone; in fact the majority of the schools tracked by Waterloo are public schools.

It may be the case that grade inflation is ubiquitous. However, when schools at the top of Waterloo’s list charge $1,800 per course, and others more than $20,000 per year, it adds insult to injury. Not only are students and their families paying tens of thousands of dollars per year for private high schools, only to have their grades drop 25 per cent in their first year at university, other students who do not have access to these schools may be losing out in admissions processes for universities who do not apply adjustment factors like Waterloo.

The bottom line is that the students suffer most from the practice of artificially increased averages; not only are they not getting the education they deserve, but they are entering university programs that they are potentially ill-suited for. This can take a dangerous toll on students’ mental health when they enter their first year, and compound the symptoms of imposter syndrome that university freshmen already experience.

But the implications for private schools are greater. Grade inflation at private schools calls into question both the quality of education received for the hefty price tag, and the possibility that good grades are for sale to those who can afford them. Not all private schools are created equal, and generalizing or vilifying them all will not provide answers to these questions. It is time to go beyond acknowledging the proximal dangers of grade inflation and take a deeper look at how this practice could be magnifying larger inequities. 

Amelia Eaton is a second-year Political Science and Ethics, Society, and Law student at Woodsworth College.

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

The premier’s determination reflects a new approach to governance which should not be prematurely dismissed

Ford’s handling of Toronto city politics, while reckless, is justified

Premier Doug Ford’s government has proven to be unusual in the tradition of Ontarian politics. Past premiers have tended to err on the side of caution, operating on a moderate, consensus-based program. They have typically prioritized competent and pragmatic governance over grand ideals and purposes. Ford’s firm, populist, “for the people” style, in contrast, translates to an aggressive, uncompromising decision-making process.

Ford’s decision to cut the size of Toronto City Council — and invoke the notwithstanding clause to defend it — is the most recent example of this novel approach to governance. Objectively, the proposal is a justified one: City Council is far from the most efficient and agile institution it could be. While his headstrong pursuit of this quest is reckless, he is fully exercising the government’s legal rights. He is simply pushing the boundaries that no premier has ever thought to go near.

The Better Local Government Act, also known as Bill 5, which passed in August, began the process to cut City Council from 47 members to 25. Ford argues that the measure sought to end the “culture of waste and mismanagement” around the council. He believes that the high number of members entails a redundant and ineffective process, and by reducing its size, it will be “easier to get things done.”

As an idea, this claim is inherently reasonable. City Council is notorious for its inefficiencies. There is an inherent difficulty in having an efficient decision-making process with 47 independent, outspoken voices. When Toronto is compared with other major cities, the council’s size seems excessive. Los Angeles, for instance, has only 15. Philadelphia has 17, Houston has 16, and Vancouver has 10. These cities have established that effective, capable, and democratic local governments can exist in smaller sizes.

Critics argue that the decision is, at best, reckless and, at worst, anti-democratic. Although less efficient, more voices may be more effective in providing representation. For the average citizen, it is much easier to influence a representative of 60,000 than one of 100,000 people.

The strongest critics challenge the legality of the law, accusing Ford of having sinister intentions. In this view, the decision is an autocratic intervention into Toronto’s affairs that compromises the city’s democracy and silences its citizens, and it is also a vendetta against the council for his own negative experiences as a councillor.

These concerns about effective representation come down to a matter of balance. Of course, the city needs several councillors to ensure representation. But with that being said, it surely should not have too many. The claims about Ford’s intentions seem somewhat far-fetched. This decision is simply the result of Ford’s long-held values of smaller and less costly government.

It would also be an exaggeration to call the general proposal an attack on democracy. Municipal governments are well understood to be under the ‘constitutional authority’ of the provinces, thereby justifying provincial jurisdiction over municipal functions, finance, and governing structure.

Critics, however, are right in pointing out that the particular timing and conduct of the decision is reckless. With the municipal election coming up in October, this decision throws the process into a chaotic situation. There is no reason why the decision had to be made now. The move was also done in a very top-down and unrespectable fashion. Mayor John Tory and the council were given no consultation, let alone any warning, that this was coming. It would have been better to propose this policy first as part of a broader, public consultation with the municipality on the various ways City Council could be improved.

This quick, reckless decision also overlooked the potential illegality of the decision, made clear by the Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba’s ruling, which found that Ford’s decision to “suddenly and in the middle of this electoral process impose new rules” compromised both candidates’ and citizens’ freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, Belobaba bases his ruling only on the timing of Ford’s decision, therefore leaving open the possibility that, if done at a latter and more reasonable point, the cuts to the council would be legal and receive no objection from the judiciary.

Ford’s response was unprecedented: the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. As Section 33 of the Charter, this allows the provincial government to overrule certain portions of the Charter. This initially seems to be an overreaction. Although the courts have brought all governments grief, no previous premier has felt Section 33 to be necessary. The clause does have negative connotations, suggesting a disdain for the judicial system and for the Charter itself. The fact that it could be theoretically used to compromise various rights and freedoms has made premiers regard it as too dangerous.

Regardless of the unorthodoxy and recklessness of Ford’s approach, he has the full legal right to follow his course. Section 33 of the Charter was put in place for the exact situation Ford is claiming this to be. The clause, as requested by several provinces, was designed to be an accountability mechanism to the substantial amount of power granted to the courts by the Charter. It also ensures that the legislature, as a democratic and representative assembly, had the final say. Regardless of whether or not this is actually an overreach, the clause allows the Progessive Conservative government to make that determination.

This ability to shrug off convention is consistent with Ford’s ideology and aggressive, populist style — the very thing he promised he would bring to Queen’s Park. Ford is claiming that the good of ‘the people,’ from whom he has, in his own view, received a universal mandate, justifies an aggressive push to get things done regardless of the obstacles in the way. Thus, it is likely that we will continue to see more convention-breaking actions in the future. 

Given that the Ontario Court of Appeal has recently overturned Belobaba’s ruling, the notwithstanding clause has not been used. Nevertheless, the premier’s willingness to do so indicates a new approach to governance in Ontario. 

Sam Routley is a fourth-year Political Science, Philosophy, and History student at St. Michael’s College.