The University of Toronto’s Student Newspaper Since 1880

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Checking in with the Comment columnists

The section’s regular writers briefly reflect on the fall 2018 semester and what’s yet to come in the spring 2019 semester
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It’s been a great first semester as the UTM Affairs Columnist for The Varsity. In my first contribution, I focused on the topic of free speech in the context of controversial opinions at university campuses. I continued with the topic of hate speech surrounding the disturbingly popular Mississauga mayoral candidate, Kevin Johnston. My last column shifted to UTM student politics, specifically in light of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union’s executive salary increase.

This coming semester, I look forward to continuing to discuss topics as they relate to both UTM and the Mississauga community as a whole. I believe that it’s important to have such conversations because it impacts the way we as university students think and act. Universities are spaces of personal growth and exposure to new ideas, and I hope that my columns illuminate fresh debates to this end!

— Sharmeen Abedi, UTM Affairs Columnist

While I took the student life column to be an important avenue to challenge the university administration, I underestimated the opportunities it provides to shine a light on the positive impacts made by students. From rescuing books from dumpsters to writing new course proposals, U of T students did a lot in the fall term to rectify troubling situations and improve campus life for everyone.

In 2019, I’d love to hear from more students about the issues that are affecting them on campus. I also want to continue to use this platform to applaud various student efforts. Ultimately, I’ve realized how much our lives as students fall at the crux of larger social issues. Where we live, what kind of living we make, how we get to class, even who teaches us — these are all embedded in a political context. In examining these issues, students have unique perspectives and stories to tell. It takes work to get to the heart of these stories, but student issues are worth paying attention to.

So that’s what I pledge to do in 2019: pay attention. Being in touch with students is critical to my ability to weigh in on student life. I can’t claim to represent every student, but I hope that in breaking down issues for my column, I can also break down barriers on campus. Inclusion has been an overarching theme for me, whether through my columns on sign language or clique culture. By paying attention to the challenges and triumphs of inclusion at U of T, I hope to generate worthwhile reading material for students and, if I’m really ambitious, even change on campus.

— Amelia Eaton, Student Life Columnist

As the UTSC Affairs Columnist, my contributions in 2018 have focused on the basic needs of students, whether it’s adequate housing or food safety, and the responsibility of those who represent us to provide for those needs.

Heading into 2019, I intend to continue to tackle issues that concern students at UTSC, like study spaces and commuting, as well as student government in the form of the SCSU. I will also try my best to cover other areas of student interest, like campus events. While there are many issues that are specific to UTSC that have yet to be covered, I hope to write columns on topics that generate interest for all three campuses. Ultimately, I look forward to continuing my role and writing columns that prove to be enjoyable reads for everyone.

— Michael Phoon, UTSC Affairs Columnist

Through the fall semester, I’ve covered reconciliation, student government, and student participation. It’s become clear to me that, as with every organization, student government will at some point make mistakes and fall short of its potential. This means that fair and well-intentioned evaluations of our representatives will always be necessary and useful, both in terms of what decisions are made and how they are made.

However, a particular problem that I have found is the lack of broad student participation on campus. This includes formal actions, such as voting, and the much broader choice to participate in public ‘discussions.’ My article on conservatism was an attempt to understand the absence of a given group and its negative implications. I hope I can do similar deep-dives in the future.

Above all, I have and will continue to be careful about not being an armchair critic. I should be very open about my lack of practical experience and knowledge in the day-to-day workings of student government. While my columns steer toward what is ‘wrong’ with a given topic, I want to do so with a full understanding of the context and possibilities of the situation. For this reason, I want to more extensively reach out to groups of those actively involved.

As for the ‘solutions’ that I propose, I don’t intend for these to be binding, full-proof answers to complex problems. Instead, they are my individual contributions to what I hope will be broader discussions that may be otherwise antithetical.

— Sam Routley, UTSG Campus Politics Columnist

For many of us, 2018 was a difficult year, whether in terms of political regression or further environmental degradation. Despite this, we continue to speak and propel our perspectives into this mess of a world with the hopes that others might listen, take pause, and understand our point of view for a moment.

Working with this publication so far has helped me to refine my writing and voice, to understand better how to reach others with my perspectives, and how to get them to listen. I firmly believe that language has the ability to alter the world by shifting others’ thoughts and beliefs, and in this time of turmoil, we have a duty to use the powerful weapon of language to try and change the world in positive and productive ways. Through writing this column, I have been fine-tuning my use of language and I hope to continue to improve my abilities in the coming semester.

In the future, I would like to further diversify the subjects that I write about. I began writing this column with a focus on the explicitly political, thinking that in these areas a critical or dissenting voice is most needed. For my last piece though, I shifted focus slightly and discussed an issue related to Indigenous languages. I found it more fulfilling, and perhaps more necessary, to discuss an issue that many people were not so aware of. For this semester, I would like to continue to bring awareness to essential issues or subjects that are not immediately visible to a given reader.

To uplift forgotten perspectives and to bring to light erased knowledge is the power of language and the duty of the writer.

— Meera Ulysses, Current Affairs Columnist