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Letter to the Editor: Is our failure a sign of success?

Re: “UTSU AGM 2018: Where’s the spirit of union democracy?”

Letter to the Editor: Is our failure a sign of success?

On October 30, 2018, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) for the current term. I was in attendance that night, and I truly believe that the union accomplished goals that will make our campus, and our place in it better in the coming years long after we are gone.

The Varsity’s editorial talks about the progressive stance of the UTSU and how a more direct democracy could potentially be a good thing for the union in the future. However, I felt the need to clarify two issues from my perspective as a Board of Directors member.

The first issue is how the ability to submit policy is framed. In the past, the AGM has been a heated event, major reforms had been made, students were more involved in campus life, and the union had different rules. We don’t live in that era anymore, campus is thankfully not as polarized along certain student issues like online voting anymore, and we have seen reduced turnout for the AGM because of this.

I would argue that this is a good thing; it means that our union has actually listened to our membership but the drawback has been that we are no longer as engaged as a membership. The ability to submit new policy could potentially revive a student sense of being able to actually make change, instead of having to go through a long committee process filled with only “insiders.”

Critics use the example that ill-intentioned members of our community could use this as a way to hamper the union, to force us into a corner. These critics forget to mention that the items and motions for AGM must be approved by the Board of Directors, and we have a duty to protect the union and what it stands for. Yes, the “insiders” have the final say, but it is up to the students to elect good representatives too. I find the cynical view that students will take advantage of this new direction for the UTSU to harm the union very saddening, and, potentially, just plain wrong. If the membership wanted to, they could already enforce bad bylaws on the union, but so far, they have not.

The second issue, raised by the editorial, was that falling out of quorum broke the spirit of our student democracy. In a sense, I have to agree with you. When the quorum check was called, I was ready to pack up and leave, happy with the unanimous accomplishments of the night but that did not occur, and thus we continued. Falling below quorum is an issue our union needs to solve, and one that I plan on working to fix. It is a complicated issue. Having motions that are internally controversial brings out crowds, as the policy submission bylaw did at the most recent AGM. It also caused tensions in the room.

A quorum check was called in an attempt to ensure that the bylaw didn’t pass, something that I find to be also out of the spirit of democracy. Theoretically, this could happen in the future as well, should one side of a debate stage a walkout and force the AGM to adjourn early, despite a majority of students in the room being in favour of something. Just as you said that a group of friends could take over an AGM for their own agenda, they could also force an AGM to end on their own terms. These are the issues the UTSU must now play with, and we must look back at what made our meetings successful in the past, potentially adding new rules and requirements for the AGM.

This AGM proved one thing to us that we need to continue to review our bylaws to ensure that they best represent the membership. I believe that the motions we passed that night make the UTSU more democratic, not less. The motion for members to submit policy to an AGM puts more power into the hands of average, and I believe this is critical to the future of the union. To answer the editorial’s question, the spirit of our student democracy can be found again by setting up a future where our members can be involved in a more meaningful way.

To build on this future, we need to engage with our membership more effectively. Although I can only speak for myself, and the opinions in this letter are my own, I want to assure everyone that we have an amazing team working for the UTSU this year. I believe we can and will make the UTSU, and the University of Toronto, better for everyone.

Lucas Granger

It’s time to try powerlifting

Winter is coming and so is bulking season

It’s time to try powerlifting

As the new year is approaching and the temperature is dropping, it’s official — bulking season is here. If those words immediately remind you of long hours on the treadmill until you can’t breathe or lifting weights until you can’t move the next morning, it may be time to try something new.

Powerlifting may help take your body to the next level this bulking season. Simple in concept, the goal of a powerlifter is to move as much weight as possible. Powerlifting is all about increasing strength above average capabilities and pushing your body beyond what you consider its limits.

Powerlifters focus on compound movements, such as the benchpress, deadlift, and squat. These exercises are multifaceted and incorporate many more muscles than simple isolation exercises like dumbbell curls and leg extensions. By focusing their efforts on compound movements, powerlifters are able to increase their overall strength because they train as many muscles as possible within a single workout.

Bigger and stronger muscles are for more than just show, as weightlifting has been proven to increase bone density, ward off chronic disease, improve mood and sleep, and boost metabolism, among countless other health benefits.

Another good reason to start powerlifting is because it is relatively simple compared to other workout regimens. All you really need to powerlift is a barbell and weight plates. These can be found at the university gyms, and pretty much every gym in Canada. If leaving the house isn’t your thing, a bar and weights are also relatively inexpensive and can be adapted easily to create a home gym setup.

However, this workout regimen is far from simple brute strength. In order to lift properly, let alone powerlift, there are multiple aspects of training that one must master, including proper form, nutrition, and willpower. Powerlifting is as much about finesse and technique as it is about raw power, so don’t just walk into a gym and start lifting as much weight as possible, Rather, take it slow and learn your workouts.

If you want to try powerlifting this bulking season, it’s vital that you start slow, stay consistent, watch your form, listen to your body, and get advice from someone more experienced. These five tips will make your experience more enjoyable and ensure that you see results that’ll carry over into next summer.

More than anything else, powerlifting is an investment in yourself, but the first step is getting in the gym.

How to go dairy-free

All the info you need to cut dairy from your diet

How to go dairy-free

More often than not, individuals seeking to make healthy lifestyle changes are bombarded with a plethora of new and trendy diets, many of which seem impossible to implement. However, with a little bit of help, some of these diets can be easily conquered.

With some celebrities and athletes swearing by the health benefits of a dairy-free diet, it is important to note that eliminating dairy products from one’s diet does not always result in significant health improvements. However, going dairy-free can help some people reduce bloating, lose weight, and gain clearer skin.

Here are some ways to go dairy-free.

First, it is important to compensate for the vitamins and nutrients that you will miss by eliminating dairy.

Many of us rely on dairy as our primary source of calcium, and so it is crucial to introduce alternatives into one’s diet. Just one cup of cooked collard greens contains 36 per cent of the required calcium intake for one day, and many milk alternatives, such as almond milk, can provide up to 45 per cent of a day’s calcium needs.

Dairy can also be a significant contributor to the daily value of protein for many people, and so it is important to make up for this loss with alternatives such as meat, beans, and nuts.

Second, stay true to your diet by carefully reading labels on food items.

Oftentimes, foods with dairy can be easily identified by looking for ingredients such as milk, butter, and cheese. However, dairy ingredients are sometimes hidden in less recognizable names, such as ghee and lactoglobulin. It is important to do your research so that you are able to recognize these ingredients. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to do a quick Google search.

Third, eat more whole foods.

Since there are hundreds of dairy additives, it is always safer to eat foods with less ingredients. Look for food items that are less processed.

Fourth, when dining out, choose restaurants that cook meals from scratch.

Many chain restaurants simply prepare pre-packaged food in the kitchen, and so they are unable to control what goes into your food. When dining at restaurants that cook meals entirely from scratch, you can let your server know to alert the chef that you don’t eat dairy.

Follow these helpful tips and you’ll have no problem adjusting to a dairy-free life.

Good luck!

WNBA pay disparity

Why WNBA players want a larger share of revenue

WNBA pay disparity

On LeBron James’ HBO Show The Shop, the Los Angeles Lakers star discusses pop culture and politics with other entertainers and influencers. Recently, one of his visitors was WNBA all-star Elena Delle Donne. Delle Donne has become a major advocate for pay equality for WNBA players.

She has voiced her disappointment with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments that the WNBA simply doesn’t currently attract enough young fans to become profitable and that increasing media coverage is not the answer to WNBA’s financial struggles. While WNBA players such as Candace Parker and Delle Donne are excited to have a voice on LeBron’s show, recognition from NBA players is far from the solution.

NBA players live like rock stars. Cameras and recorders follow them the moment they walk off their bus at the arena. A multitude of Instagram accounts are dedicated to their pre-game outfits, handshakes, and highlights of their games. The internet is flooded with comments about Lebron’s music choices, Russell Westbrook’s extravagant outfits, and Kawhi Leonard’s ridiculous laugh. Everything they do gets attention. We glamourize them for social outreach endeavours, big stat lines, and broken records. In the end, the exorbitant revenue made by the NBA allows its players to reach such incredible levels of stardom.

Diana Taurasi, star of the Phoenix Mercury, has expressed frustration with being covered in makeup before an interview. In the past years, WNBA marketing has encouraged female athletes to fit an inauthentic image and added unneeded pressure to WNBA players.

Silver explains that the new goal should be to market the players as themselves. “They’re certainly the best female basketball players in the world… but once that’s established, you have to build out their character… so people have ways that they can connect with them, beyond basketball on the court.” There appears to be a consensus that changing the WNBA’s marketing strategy will eventually get WNBA players the higher salaries that they deserve.

While NBA players connect with fans by sharing inspiring messages, buying their mother a house, or owning several sports cars, WNBA players do not have this luxury. The ability to solely focus on winning, living a healthy lifestyle, and simply staying in the United States during the offseason, is a privilege held by NBA players. For women playing in a league that has existed for 22 years and has yet to earn a profit, they continually have to prove their value as a “product” worth investing in.

To accurately portray the WNBA’s image, however, is to make the public aware that WNBA players do not live glamorous lives, or even lives fitting for professional athletes.

WNBA players live regular middle-class lives. Mirin Fader’s article in B/R Mag opens with the daily struggles of the Connecticut Sun’s Layshia Clarendon as a professional athlete. Clarendon had difficulty affording a proper diet or finding a nice gym to practise in. Her WNBA salary only affords her a $30 USD a month LA Fitness membership, where her jump shots off a slippery, injury-inducing floor hit the ceiling.

Kayla McBride was the third overall pick in 2014 and averaged 13 points per game as a rookie. She earned $48,000 USD that year with the San Antonio Stars. In the offseason, she played in Hungary and broke her foot. She rushed back to the WNBA shortly after surgery because she felt pressure to play well and sign another generous overseas contract. When she returned to WNBA basketball, she broke her foot again. This year, she is off to Russia to play for a contract that is six times her WNBA salary.

This year’s third overall pick in the NBA draft will earn $5,467,200 USD and $6,402,800 USD in their second year. This is more money than most young adults know what to do with. It is enough to give back to their families and communities, buy a luxury home, and pay a personal chef.

This past season, Sylvia Fowles was named the WNBA MVP and earned $109,000 USD. Meanwhile, Phoenix Suns’ Leandro Barbosa will earn $500,000 USD, although he was waived in July. He will earn half a million dollars without setting foot on the court.

While NBA organizations worry about players living too lavishly and getting into trouble off the court, WNBA organizations worry about players maintaining their diet, having access to good gyms, and hurting themselves overseas.

This year, the NBA is expected to generate over $9 billion USD in revenue, while the WNBA will earn around $60 million USD, less than one per cent of the NBA’s total revenue. WNBA players earn about 22 per cent of the leagues revenue, while NBA players receive about 50 per cent. In 2018, ESPN will air up to 33 WNBA games, including 13 regular-season games. ESPN will host 84 NBA regular-season games, and up to 44 NBA playoff games along with ABC.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve believes that the WNBA plays under a “media blackout.” Players are concerned that if people cannot watch games from their home, then they won’t be encouraged to buy tickets. Silver responded to this concern with, “I’m a little bit frustrated.”

He believes that ESPN has been generous enough, and that the WNBA needs to focus on social media to attract a younger fan base. Fader accurately describes this as a chicken-or-egg debate. Once it becomes more popular through increased national telecasts, social media presence comes naturally.

Although a marketing strategy change will allow players to represent their authentic selves, the ‘authentic’ WNBA player today is a woman who needs to leave the country to make a living each year and who waits in line to use weights at a local gym.

For men, becoming a professional athlete is the ultimate victory. It doesn’t just represent winning, doing what you love, and becoming the hero of a city; it represents luxury and access to many other things that they could want.

For women, the dream is not equal. It may take them the same amount of time and effort to become professional athletes in the United States, but the payoff is bleak and incomparable. There is ample work to be done until female basketball players can live the life that is expected for professional athletes. Ultimately, increasing salaries will keep younger women inspired to pursue sport.

A blunt look at cannabis and the NHL

Opinion from the Sports Ethicist

A blunt look at cannabis and the NHL

As we were all highly anticipating, recreational cannabis was legalized on October 17 across the Great White North. While this was an exciting event for a lot of us, it has larger implications for the world of sport.

The NHL was quick to make headlines stating that it would not be changing its cannabis policy to accommodate Canadian teams. Although cannabis is generally banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and thereby the Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP), the NHL has the most lenient rules toward its usage out of all major sports leagues.

The NHL has never suspended players for having weed in their systems, and an anonymous ex-player interviewed by Sportsnet estimated that 60–70 per cent of current players already smoke the drug regularly. With that being said, is it ethical to regulate cannabis usage for NHL athletes?

This is a question that has already been asked by nutritionists and sports therapists, but the debate rages on about whether or not weed actually has benefits as a painkiller. Most evidence is anecdotal at best and there is little to no conclusive data from independent clinical studies.

Zack Smith, an 11-year NHL veteran, has also expressed the potential for cannabis as a sleep aid, since athletes are often under intense travelling schedules and need to find time to get a good night’s rest.

Riley Cote, a retired player for the Philadelphia Flyers, has gone on record touting weed’s benefits for sleep, reduced anxiety, and overall increased moods. Even if these benefits are not empirically proven, the step that Canada has taken by legalizing cannabis chips away at the ever-present stigma of its use and opens up the floor for Canadian institutions to examine the effects of the drug in sport.

While the restorative value of weed remains up in the air, I believe that the larger ethical issue resides in the distribution of and access to the drug among players in the NHL.

As we know, a majority of teams in the NHL are based in the United States, where cannabis is still illegal. Not only would there be logistical issues — as Canadian teams would not be able to bring any weed over the border — but it would also present issues of fair play, as American teams do not have access to treatments that utilize cannabis.

In the case where cannabis does improve the sleep, recovery, and overall mood and anxiety levels of NHL athletes, American teams should have the same access to these resources that Canadian teams do, or else this could be seen as an unfair advantage.

Regardless of legalization, U of T’s varsity hockey athletes still have to follow the same rules. Ryan Medel, Varsity Blues men’s hockey head coach, reminds us that weed is still prohibited by U SPORTS. “All student-athletes are not permitted to use during their season. That is league-wide and we are in line with that,” Medel says.

Although cannabis has been legalized in our country, it isn’t feasible for the NHL to change its policy because of the variation in laws between countries.

This being said, I believe that the CADP’s decision to maintain cannabis as a banned substance for athletes was an ethically sound judgement, based largely on fairness in access to the drug by athletes. This decision is not a moral one and, if one day the US decides to legalize cannabis federally, then the NHL and WADA may have to change their policies and decide how the drug can be used as an aid or therapy for athletes.

But for now, Canada’s favorite pastime cannot, and should not, go green.

Inside Sport & Rec’s Diversity and Equity Team

Sport & Rec is hosting a Diversity and Equity Conference on November 17

Inside Sport & Rec’s Diversity and Equity Team

From the squash court to Mindful Moments drop-ins, there is always some way to get active at the University of Toronto. Despite the many options available, students still struggle to find fitness spaces that are right for them. It can be especially difficult for students who don’t see themselves represented in such spaces.

Aiming to shed light on these anxieties, one group on campus is working to break down the barriers to physical and mental health facing U of T students: Sport & Recreation’s Diversity & Equity team.

Composed of undergraduate and graduate students from across campus who work to promote equity and inclusion in physical fitness, the Diversity & Equity team is a part of the Sport & Recreation division of Kinesiology & Physical Education, which offers sport and physical activity programs to the U of T community. With an emphasis on accessibility, their initiatives aim to cater to all skill sets, body types, genders, and other diverse forms of identity.

Through activities and events such as the weekly trans-positive swim time and the body-positive Move with Pride! series, the group is creating non-traditional fitness spaces for underrepresented bodies on campus. With its programming, the group hopes to provide spaces where students feel accommodated, comfortable, and encouraged to get involved in the Sport & Rec community.

Whether attending alone or with friends, Diversity & Equity events are a great way to learn more about fitness, make new friends, or simply destress from hectic university life.

If you’re looking to incorporate some education into your fitness journey, the Diversity & Equity team is hosting a Diversity & Equity Conference on November 17, in collaboration with the 519 Community Centre and the Toronto SAD Collective at 519 Church Street. The conference includes a series of lectures, workshops, and interactive panels on topics ranging from Indigeneity to mental health. Registration is only $5 and includes dinner and snacks.

Muslim Students’ Association says executives receiving surprise visits from law enforcement

Officers have shown up unannounced to offices, homes asking for information since at least 2016

Muslim Students’ Association says executives receiving surprise visits from law enforcement

The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) at U of T said that its executives have been receiving surprise visits from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for at least three years. According to the group, officers have, on occasion, show up unannounced at executives’ homes.

According to current and former MSA executives, officers have visited them on the basis of building community relations, as well as to seek information on a specific member of the group. The officers have always shown up in plainclothes.

The most recent incident occurred over the summer, when an RCMP officer visited the MSA’s offices at 21 Sussex Avenue on the St. George campus.

According to the MSA executive team, no one was there at the time so the officer went to the ULife office next door and left a card. The MSA said that during this visit the RCMP was “[seeking] information on a past member.”

When asked by The Varsity to confirm these visits, RCMP spokesperson Louise Savard responded only by writing, “The RCMP will not confirm or deny if an investigation is taking place. If an investigation is taking place we will only comment if charges are laid.”

The Varsity spoke with a former MSA executive who was visited at his home by CSIS in 2016. The executive, who wished to remain anonymous, described how two plainclothes officers showed up at his doorstep unannounced and went with him to a coffee shop nearby for an hour.

According to the former executive, the officers started asking in a very “cordial” tone about the MSA and what it does, but it soon became clear to him that they were looking for information on radicalized students.

He remembered questions about the number of members who were from the Middle East and what groups the MSA associated with. He also recalled that the officers said that they thought U of T might be a place where students were becoming radicalized, and that they wanted to get to them before that happened.

The Varsity spoke to CSIS Head of Public Affairs John Townsend, who said that while he could not speak to any specific investigations, CSIS’ “mandate is to protect Canadians from threats to national security at home and abroad. In this regard, we engage with Canadians from across our country.”

He added that since CSIS is a civilian intelligence service; their employees are not law enforcement officers and they do not wear uniforms.

In fulfilling our mandate, there may be instances in which CSIS’ lawfully authorised investigations come into contact with individuals associated with Canadian fundamental institutions such as religious institutions and academia. Any investigation by CSIS that comes into contact with a Canadian fundamental institution is subject to additional safeguards and requirements.”

The former MSA executive said that CSIS’ approach showed “ignorance on how radicalization happens, ignorance on how to deradicalize,” and suggested that law enforcement would have done better by involving community leaders to address the issue.

“I think it’s an absurd way of trying to [keep] tabs,” he said.

Townsend added that, “When CSIS seeks cooperation or assistance from Canadians, we emphasize that discussions are voluntary. CSIS ensures our approach is lawful, ethical, necessary, and proportionate.”

“This is not a joke”: community responses to the visits

In an interview with The Varsity, the current MSA executive team described this pattern of visits as “very shocking.”

“This stuff shouldn’t be seen as normal… We’re talking about the safety and well-being of [U of T] students, particularly students of faith. This is not a joke,” said the executives.

They added that they were worried about how this issue might stop people from getting involved with the MSA. The former executive said that during his tenure, he knew of students who had left the club after hearing about the visits from law enforcement.

“We shouldn’t have to think at the back of our heads about the threat of being surveilled,” said the current executive team.

They also emphasized that they do not want “this incident to be viewed in isolation,” saying that it speaks to a larger problem of Islamophobia.

In an interview with The Varsity, Jasmin Zine, a professor of Sociology and Muslim Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said that these types of visits have been happening at MSAs around the country.

Zine has interviewed multiple Canadian MSAs and said that many of them, including the MSA at Laurier, have experienced similar contact from law enforcement. Zine has been in touch with the U of T MSA about their own experience with these visits.

“This is profiling that’s happening. It’s racial and religious profiling,” she said. “I hope that universities will have the courage and the bravery to step up.”

U of T’s Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh did confirm that the university is aware of these visits and wrote via email that the university has “been in contact with [the MSA], and are scheduling a time [to] meet. We welcome the opportunity to hear their concerns.”

“Students’ personal information is protected by provincial privacy law and we do not share material about individual [students] and student associations unless legally compelled to do so,” wrote Welsh.

After the off-campus visits, U of T President Meric Gertler sent the MSA a letter of support, which, according to Welsh, “[reinforced] the University’s commitment to a safe and welcoming place for the widest breadth of communities.”

“We want to support our students in the range of activities they are engaged in. Organizations such as the MSA are vital to the social and cultural diversity of the University,” wrote Welsh.

Though the MSA executive believes that the university is “sympathetic” to their problem, they said that they still hope for more support.

“We’re not sure, legally speaking, that U of T can tell RCMP not to come… but what we are going to be pushing for is stronger support from admin,” said the MSA, suggesting that U of T could contact the RCMP and show support for the MSA, as well as explain the work that they do.

As one of the largest clubs on campus, the MSA offers prayer spaces, workshops, and social events, among other programming that is aimed at attending to the social and spiritual needs of Muslims on campus, said the executives.

For instance, the MSA offers a weekly space for Jummah prayers every Friday afternoon, as well as a resource for where to find Halal food around campus.

“[The MSA] has also existed just [to] provide a space for Muslims so they just feel like themselves,” said the executives.

Zine also emphasized the good work that MSAs do across the country and hopes that the U of T MSA will be able to receive more support from the university, especially when they meet to discuss the issue.

“I’m hoping it will not just be a meeting where they get heard but nothing happens afterwards,” said Zine. “I hope that the students will make sure that theres some accountability from the university administration.”

Editor’s Note (November 23, 9:29 pm): This article has been updated to include comment from CSIS.

U of T to ban all forms of smoking on campus in 2019

Move follows pledge made in September 2017

U of T to ban all forms of smoking on campus in 2019

The University of Toronto has officially decided to ban smoking on all three campuses by January 1, 2019. This includes smoking tobacco or cannabis, as well as vaping.

This will fulfil a September 2017 pledge, which was made shortly after McMaster University announced that they will ban smoking on their property effective January 1, 2018.

The existing smoking policy dates back to 1995 — 11 years before it became illegal to smoke in bars and pubs in Ontario.

The university will allow each campus to designate “smoking spots,” which will be decided based on how far away they are from main buildings. These smoking spots will be temporary, however, as the university aims to move toward a smoke-free environment. Exceptions will be made for Indigenous ceremonies and medical requirements.

“Our existing smoking policy is decades old and recent changes by the provincial government that allow smoking of cannabis in public spaces may increase the risk of exposure to second-hand smoke,” Kelly Hannah-Moffat, Vice-President Human Resources and Equity stated.

“We feel this change is consistent with our goal to have a healthy campus environment.”

The policy still needs to go through Governing Council in order to be fully approved. If this occurs, U of T will join 65 other universities and colleges across Canada that have banned smoking.