A recap of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union elections

Table throwing allegations, “disgusting, transphobic” comments

A recap of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union elections

The attention on this year’s Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) elections has been largely focused on non-policy related matters, namely the allegation of an SCSYou candidate being hit by a table, harassment of now-president-elect Chemi Lhamo of Shine Bright UTSC for her personal activism, and an anti-LGBTQ+ comment from disqualified SCSYou presidential candidate Anup Atwal.

As the election comes to a close, The Varsity looks back at the major events of the campaign period.

The table incident

Atwal was disqualified on February 5 after receiving too many demerit points. A large number of these were in response to an “unapproved” social media post, which was ruled by the SCSU’s Elections and Referenda Committee on January 25 to have contained “an unreported incident which contained broad accusations.”

In this post, Atwal wrote that candidates were “shoving, yelling, hitting each other with tables (literally), throwing things at each others posters so they can fall and you can put up yours.”

In the following days, Atwal claimed that Lhamo hit SCSYou’s Vice-President Academic & University Affairs candidate Carly Sahagian with a table, a claim that Lhamo said is categorically false.

Video clips later posted show Lhamo asking Sahagian and bystanders about the incident if she had hit her, to which Sahagian answered yes and bystanders — including Lhamo’s running-mate Raymond Dang — answered no.

Chief Returning Officer Philip Scibor handed Atwal 20 demerit points for a “Gross Misrepresentation of Facts,” and posting unapproved campaign material on social media on January 25 for these claims.

“Days after that, I keep hearing from first years when I’m going and campaigning, ‘Oh, I heard you’re the one that hit someone,’” Lhamo explained. “It sucks to have to win someone’s vote by trying to bust myths first… That is creating such a big disadvantage for any candidate because you’re having to defend yourself before you can say, ‘Hi, my name is Chemi.’”

Online harassment of Lhamo for Tibetan activism

In the run-up to the release of the election results, Lhamo’s social media was attacked with comments that mostly concerned her outspoken stance on the Tibetan independence movement.

On her Lunar New Year post on Instagram, Lhamo received about 10,000 comments in the span of a day. Other recent posts have also been affected. Many of the comments included Chinese flag emojis, personal attacks, racist slurs, and vulgar words in English and Chinese.

“It’s been blowing up since the day after the elections,” Lhamo wrote to The Varsity. “It is concerning, not so much about my safety but rather the safety of our Canadian rights.”

“This is just an example of China’s long arms, how they still think and inherently believe that they can intimidate me into not running for Presidency,” said Lhamo.

According to Lhamo, the heads of security at UTSC and the U of T President’s office are both aware of the situation.

Lhamo said, “To all the students, I’m standing tall and strong, so stand with me. I’m not afraid because I know I stand on side of the truth and justice.”

“Disgusting, transphobic” comments

Following Atwal’s disqualification from receiving too many demerit points, a screenshot of a group chat in which Atwal made a transphobic comment about Shine Bright UTSC’s Vice President Equity candidate Leon Tsai was leaked to UTSC’s student newspaper The Underground.

Tsai is a transgender woman who ran on an LGBTQ+-friendly platform. The vote count for Vice-President Equity was within a five per cent margin and has been sent to an automatic recount as of press time.

Armaan Sahgal, who ran for Director of Critical Development Studies with SCSYou, was revealed to be the one who leaked the chat.

“Someone close to me sent [The Underground] the first screenshot to see if they would publish it, then put me in contact with them and I DMed them the rest on Messenger,” Sahgal wrote to The Varsity.

“[Atwal’s] comments about Leon Tsai were disgusting, transphobic, and hateful,” wrote Sahgal. “Voters have a right to know about his views especially considering Anup’s expressed intent to appeal his disqualification and call for a re-vote.”

According to Sahgal, after The Underground’s article went live, Anup messaged the group chat, “threatening” to sue both Sahgal and The Underground.

Sahgal provided a screenshot of Atwal writing to the group chat that it’s “going to now become a legal suit against Underground AND @Armaan.”

However, Sahgal wrote to The Varsity, “I stand by my platform, I stand by the platforms of our great exec candidates such as Tebat Kadhem and others, and I stand by the electoral reform agenda we at SCSYou have put forth to the public… I stand by the electorate’s right to be informed.”

Kadhem is SCSYou’s Vice-President Equity candidate.

When The Varsity asked Atwal about the leak, he said that he did not want to make any particular comments, but that “context is super important.”

In screenshots he sent to The Varsity to provide such context, Atwal is shown further criticizing Tsai for posting about what she saw as SCSYou candidates’ mishandling of LGBTQ+ issues.

A day after Atwal’s messages were leaked, The Underground received an anonymous screenshot showing a Facebook chat with SCSYou’s Vice-President External candidate Chaman Bukhari.

In the screenshot, an anonymous person is shown asking Bukhari, “How was it,” to which Bukhari replied in Urdu, “Fuzool” and “Wohi LGBTQ [bakwas].”

The Varsity translated Bukhari’s text to “useless” and “the same LGBTQ bullshit.”

However, Bukhari defended his comment as being “grossly misinterpreted” and “utterly lacking context,” and added that it was almost two years old.

Although Bukhari knows the identity of the woman who leaked the screenshot, Bukhari told The Varsity in an email, “I refuse to stoop to tactics beneath me and I do not find it appropriate to reveal her name.”

“It is amusing how offense from two years ago can be realized when someone begins to run for office. Ultimately, it’s an inevitable part of politics and I welcome a healthy environment of criticism.”

Bukhari said that he does not hold anything against The Underground. “If I truly stand for freedom of expression, I stand for it whether the news favours me or not,” said Bukhari. “I personally loved the article… The popcorn at home has run out.”

Tsai has not responded to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

— With files from Josie Kao

Editor’s Note (February 11, 3:30 pm): An earlier version of this article suggested that in video clips of the table incident, Sahagian denied that Lhamo hit her. In fact, Sahagian continued to allege that Lhamo did.

Students march to Queen’s Park in protest of OSAP cuts

Attendees split over support for Liberal MPPs present, cheered NDP speakers

Students march to Queen’s Park in protest of OSAP cuts

Students from schools across the GTA marched from City Hall to Queen’s Park on February 4 in protest of the provincial cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Similar protests also took place in Guelph, Ottawa, and the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

The march, hosted by Students for Ontario, March for our Education, and the Ontario Student Action Network, went north on University Avenue toward Queen’s Park, where organizers, student activists, and MPPs gathered to make speeches and rally the protesters.

One of the first speakers was Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario chairperson Nour Alideeb. She began by commending the many protesters for their efforts in pressuring the government on this issue.

Addressing the crowd, Alideeb said, “We are going to show them that OSAP cuts will not be tolerated, and we’re going to show them that our students, as individuals and as a collective, will not be silenced.”

She invited everyone in attendance to return to Queen’s Park on February 19 to welcome back the government when it is back in session.

“When I see you next, look around you. This group is going to double and it’s going to triple in size, because this government needs to remember that we are the students.”

First-year student activists for Students for Ontario, Le Nguyen and Tyler Riches, then got on stage to speak to the crowd.

“I am standing in front of you today as a proud female immigrant and the first person in my family to attend postsecondary education in Canada,” said Nguyen. “I, along with many, many low-income students in Ontario, receive free tuition thanks to the expansion of OSAP last year.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling my stories to get some pity looks. I’m telling my stories to show that students from disadvantaged backgrounds — like me — regardless of the barriers and struggles, we still have the strength and the determinism to study hard and contribute to the community, get accepted to one of the best institutions in the world, and ensure a better future for our children.”

Afterward, in an interview with The Varsity, Nguyen went into greater detail as to her motivations for attending and speaking at the march.

“Seeing the change from the Doug Ford government, seeing that students will no longer have free tuition, as well as student unions, student groups, and student newspapers being optional fees, I feel outraged because I feel that this is like a direct attack on students from minorities and students from low-income families,” she explained.

Riches dubbed the reaction to Ford’s cuts ‘the student movement.’

“We march for low-income students. We march for international students. We march for all students, and we march because education should not be gatekept by financial means. And we will not stop marching,” said Riches. “Make yourselves heard, and together, let’s show this Ontario government what ‘For the Students’ really means,” he proclaimed, to a chorus of cheers.

A number of MPPs from the New Democratic Party took to the stage to voice their support for Ontario students.

Marit Stiles, MPP for Davenport, spoke on the effects that the changes to OSAP might have on the student population.

“People are graduating with mountains of debt, and that means putting off important life milestones for years… Ontario’s economy suffers, while you put off buying a home or starting a family because all your income is going back to the government or the banks.”

While the remarks made by Stiles were met with cheers and applause, the crowd was split when members of the Liberal caucus went up to speak.

Marie-France Lalonde, MPP for Orleans, the first speaker from the Liberal Party, struggled to make herself heard over chants of “What’s disgusting? Union busting!”

Former Liberal MPP Yvan Baker tried to turn the attention back onto Ford, saying, “If we don’t stop Doug Ford, he will cut access to postsecondary education… So I congratulate you for being here. Let’s get out there. Let’s stop Doug Ford and let’s save OSAP.”

While his comments were met with cheers from parts of the crowd, booing and chanting persisted from others.

These chants were primarily led by members of Socialist Fightback, a Marxist organization with chapters in numerous Ontario universities. Marco La Grotta, an organizer and editor of the Fightback magazine, voiced his discontent with the Liberal Party on the issue of education.

“Well, the fact of the matter is that the increase in tuition, that happened under the Liberals. I mean, it’s skyrocketed over the last few years, the last few decades. And the Liberals were just as much responsible for that as the Tories are. So I honestly don’t believe that the Liberals are friends to students.”

La Grotta and Socialist Fightback were at the protest to stand in solidarity with working-class students and to encourage protesters to join a student strike. “What we really need is for a student strike, similar to what you saw in Québec in 2012. Really we need to use the leverage and power we have in order to force this government to back off.”

A look into the student groups protesting postsecondary changes

Weeks after the Ford government’s announcements, student groups continue to organize

A look into the student groups protesting postsecondary changes

From organizing province-wide protests to talks of a student strike, student groups and unions are mobilizing in response to the changes to postsecondary education funding announced by the Ford government last month. The Varsity took a look into what student groups are doing to protest the changes and what they hope to accomplish.

A majority of groups are rallying against the Ford government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI), which would give students the option to opt-out of “non-essential” incidental fees and levies. The changes also include sweeping alterations to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and a 10 per cent cut to domestic tuition.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), and the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) all signed an open letter to the Ford government, along with 75 other student unions from across the country, condemning the changes to postsecondary education and specifically asking for the reversal of the SCI.

The UTSU launched its #UTSUwithU campaign last week in an effort to lobby government officials and university administrators, and the union has also confirmed that it has met with the university to discuss how U of T plans to respond to these changes.

In a statement released last week, the UTGSU committed to working with “coalition and campus partners to advocate for accessible post-secondary education for all students.”

The UTGSU executive, in an email to The Varsity, confirmed that it is also in talks with other student groups to organize meetings with U of T administrators.

The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) executive wrote to The Varsity, “We are working with our members, student unions, clubs, societies and associations across all three campuses to fight back against these cuts.”

APUS executives particularly expressed concerns regarding the cuts to OSAP and the SCI and their impact on marginalized students and student groups that provide “support, services and community.”

The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) confirmed that it is in discussions with other student groups on how to move forward and affirmed that OPIRG stands in solidarity with other levy groups.

“OPIRG is quite disturbed and condemns the [government’s] move to unilaterally invalidate and overrule the choices students have already made through democratic votes and processes to implement the levies currently in existence and the ways in which this provincial legislation now strips students [of] power to make their voices heard,” representatives wrote.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3902 (CUPE 3902), the labour union that represents sessional lecturers and teaching assistants at U of T, has also established a presence at multiple rallies and protests since the Ford government’s announcement. Inviting members to sign a petition to reverse the cuts, CUPE 3902 is also encouraging members to write to their MPPs about these changes.

“We are looking into organizing townhalls and meetings with other leaders on campus and in Toronto so that we can continue to present a united front and to create a plan for loud, disruptive organizing that shows that Ontario residents do not accept these cuts and changes that will only saddle students and workers with more debt and worse working conditions.”

Students for Ontario, a group formed in response to the provincial government’s policy, organized a province-wide march on February 4 and has also provided resources to students on how to to contact their local MPP. The group also confirmed with The Varsity that it will continue to organize protests and marches, coordinating with other groups in the coming weeks and months.

On the topic of a student strike, Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario (CFS–O) Chairperson Nour Alideeb said that “anything is possible,” but she wants to see any kind of movement come directly from the federation’s member student unions. Alideeb is currently examining the 2012 Québec student strike to identify potential unforeseen consequences of a similar strike in Ontario.

Alideeb also believes that the SCI will not be the end of the CFS–O, further saying that changes to the organization will depend on member unions and how those members wish to allocate funds.

A roundup of Black History Month at U of T

Where you can celebrate Black history on campus

A roundup of Black History Month at U of T

In honour of Black History Month, equity groups and student unions across U of T’s three campuses are organizing a series of events from panels to workshops throughout February. Here’s where you can participate and celebrate Black excellence on campus.

UTSG

Student unions, college governments, and equity collectives at UTSG have a plethora of events in celebration of Black History Month.

As part of the eXpression Against Oppression series, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) will be hosting an event on February 15 titled “Anti-black Racism and Mental Health.”

This event will take a look at mental health from an intersectional perspective while addressing the role of anti-Black racism and discrimination. The event will be moderated by Sudanese-Canadian writer Rania El Mugammar.

In collaboration with Hart House, the UTSU will also be hosting a career drop-in event, titled “Black Futures,” featuring résumé checkups and professional LinkedIn photography.

College student unions such as the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC), the Innis College Student Society (ICSS), and the Woodsworth College Students’ Association (WCSA) are hosting respective Black History Month events run by their equity commissions.

Along with the ICSS and the WCSA, the Woodsworth Racialized Students’ Collective will be hosting a panel discussion featuring three U of T graduates drawing on their experiences going through academia while Black.

VUSAC’s equity commission hosted an event on February 7, titled “A Taste of Black History,” highlighting the importance of food in Afro-Caribbean diasporas. It is also running a social media campaign highlighting the contributions of Black-Canadians to Canadian society.

The Varsity spoke with Vibhuti Kacholia, a member of VUSAC and organizer of its Black History Month programming, on the significance of commemorating Black histories in an academic environment.

“It is important for the U of T community to celebrate Black History Month because it is important for us to recognize and celebrate our Black students, faculty, and staff and provide spaces for that prioritizes them,” she said.

The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) will also be hosting various events throughout February and into March. Of note, the GSA will be presenting Black History “An Evening of Black Excellence” on February 28. This event will “showcase a variety of visual and performing artists” and those interested in presenting are encouraged to sign up.

UTSC

In collaboration with the U of T Black Students’ Association, the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) and the Olive Branch of Hope, a foundation aimed at breast cancer research, will be hosting Hoops for Hope, a tri-campus basketball tournament, on February 22.

Tickets start at $8, with the proceeds going toward cancer research.

The SCSU is also hosting the Black Joy Banquet on February 15, celebrating Afro-Caribbean culture over a three-course meal.

The UTSC Department of Student Life and International Student Centre will be hosting a Black History Month poetry slam competition on February 13 in collaboration with Hart House.

UTM

UTM will be hosting a Black History Month Luncheon on February 28, featuring Masai Ujiri, president of the Toronto Raptors and co-founder of Giants of Africa. The event is free but space is limited.

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, the UTM Black Students’ Collective, and Caribbean Connections UTM have partnered to host multiple events throughout the month of February. These events centre around themes such as mental health, self care, and more. They will also be hosting a Closing Ceremony on February 27 which includes an art showcase, which students can sign up to be a part of. 

Ford government yet to release results of Ontario-wide sexual violence survey conducted a year ago

Ministry cites privacy concerns for delay

Ford government yet to release results of Ontario-wide sexual violence survey conducted a year ago

In February 2018, over 20,000 U of T students completed Student Voices on Sexual Violence, an Ontario-wide survey about sexual violence sent by the provincial government to all postsecondary institutions. However, one year later the results have still not been released and the current Progressive Conservative (PC) government was unable to give a timeline on when the results can be expected.

With more than 160,000 students participating, the survey was created to help the province and universities benchmark and understand sexual violence.

It was developed in fall 2017 by the previous Liberal government’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, currently known under the PC government as the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (TCU).

In an interview with The Globe and Mail in March 2018, Mitzie Hunter, the previous Liberal minister and current MPP for Scarborough—Guildwood, said that the results would be released to postsecondary institutions in summer 2018, and that certain portions of the report would be released to the public that fall.

After the Liberals lost the June 2018 provincial election to the PCs, MPP Merrilee Fullerton succeeded Hunter as the new Minister of TCU, taking over responsibility for the release of the data.

Government blames privacy concerns for delay

Fullerton’s office told The Varsity that the results of the survey have not been compiled due to concerns about the confidentiality of students.

When asked for the reasons behind the delay and for a release date, Fullerton’s media relations representative Tanya Blazina wrote that the survey vendor, identified as CCI Research on the survey’s website, is “continuing the process of compiling the data in a way that protects participant privacy.”

“Initial projections underestimated the time this work would take.”

When pressed again for a release date, Blazina repeated that the project had underestimated the timeline.

According to the FAQ on the survey’s website, “CCI Research will conduct this survey in a manner that protects your identity… Results will only ever be reported in a format that preserves confidentiality.”

When CCI Research was asked by The Varsity to independently verify the government’s assessment about the survey’s progress, the company redirected all questions to Blazina.

When The Varsity asked Hunter about the delayed results, she noted that confidentiality was the utmost concern when developing the survey.

“I think [Fullerton] should explain what the risks are… There was thought given to confidentiality and the privacy of those [completing] the survey so that it would not be attributable to any individual,” she said.

“The survey has been completed by students for quite some time,” said Hunter. “It’s Minister Fullerton’s responsibility to make those results known to students and to the public.”

Increasing demands to release the data

Pressure has been mounting on the Ford government to release the survey results to universities and the public.

According to U of T Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh, the results of the survey currently remain unknown to schools and students alike.

“We have not received the data nor have any other universities,” she wrote to The Varsity.

Likewise, the Queen’s Journal, Queen’s University’s student paper, recently reported that Queen’s also has not received the results.

U of T group Silence is Violence, which recently released a 60-page report on sexual violence on campus, released a statement condemning the delay.

“The delay in releasing the data represents the PC government’s deprioritization of issues impacting women and other marginalized groups most affected by sexual trauma,” wrote Jessica Wright and Simran Dhunna, representatives of Silence is Violence.

Wright, a PhD candidate at U of T and researcher for Silence is Violence, believes that the survey’s results are necessary to create a safer campus.

“In order for [U of T] to act in accordance with Bill 132, which stipulates that they have [to] review their policies at least once every three years and then amend them as appropriate, and also [to] include student input in that process, we need to see the data from universities and colleges,” Wright told The Varsity. “We need to see what students said.”

UTM principal suggests over-enrolling international students to make up for tuition revenue losses

City of Mississauga to vote down funding for Innovation Complex, UTM to increase non-tuition fees

UTM principal suggests over-enrolling international students to make up for tuition revenue losses

In a wide-ranging UTM Campus Council meeting on January 30, UTM Principal and U of T Vice-President Ulrich Krull suggested over-enrolling international students to act as a “buffer” against the loss of revenue following provincial tuition cuts that are a part of recently announced changes to postsecondary education funding.

Further ideas to offset the changes included getting involved in the real estate market, reducing the rate of hiring faculty, delaying building openings, and cutting other investments such as faculty and staff housing.

Krull also made the announcement that the City of Mississauga is likely to vote down the upcoming year’s funding for UTM’s Innovation Complex in an unexpected move, leaving the university on the hook for $5 million.

Furthermore, Krull announced that the university will be going ahead with professional graduate program proposals, even though it does not have “express permission” from the provincial government yet, though it was expected that they would be approved.

However, since the council meeting, the university has decided to postpone the launch of the program by one year, since the lack of government approval means that students would not be able to receive support from the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

The council also voted in favour of increasing parking, meal plan, and retail fees for the upcoming academic year.

Changes to postsecondary education funding

University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union Vice-President External Atif Abdullah spoke on how the union might be put in jeopardy based on the provincial government’s plans to mandate an opt-out option on “non-essential” fees, known as the Student Choice Initiative.

“As a student union, our autonomy and our operations are at stake with voluntary ancillary fees,” said Abdullah. “We don’t know what next year is going to look like for us as a student union.”

Krull agreed with Abdullah, saying that there is a “lot in the balance” and that U of T would be “in front of the politicians” to “make a case for universities overall.”

“We’re in the same boat,” said Krull to Abdullah, adding that he intends to work together with all affected parties to ameliorate these changes.

“We looked at the financial plans of the U of T in total across all three campuses and other areas,” said Krull. “The kind of impact that that 10 per cent domestic tuition reduction has [is] something on the order of $200 million over two years.”

According to recent estimates from U of T Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr, the university expects to lose $88 million in the first year, and $113 million the following year, based on these cuts.

Krull maintained that the university does not intend to “take this out” on international students, and instead proposed that UTM “over-enrol” international students, like it did this academic year, to compensate for the loss in revenue.

However, he acknowledged that the over-enrolment “was not something that was planned.

It put us under a great deal of strain this [past] year, and part of that strain is because we didn’t have time to react to it… If we can take on some more international students, then we have a way of starting to create some revenue generation to buffer some of the cut.”

Krull also said that U of T has plans to participate in the real estate market to generate revenue to buffer it against the incoming changes in funding.

Explaining that U of T has many property holdings that are not being used for academic purposes, Krull said that one possible plan is to partner with realtors and construction companies to build, for example, faculty and staff housing in a “shared risk situation.”

“We know more changes are coming,” remarked Krull. “All you need to do is look at the record of the government funding over the last 15–20 years, and you recognize operations funding has been going down almost linearly.”

Krull further noted other ways that the university could buffer against the imminent revenue cuts.

“We can reduce the rate at which we hire faculty, we can reduce… the amount of money we put into capital. Maybe the ACT [Arts, Culture, and Technology] building will open one or two years later,” he said. “Whether it’s faculty, staff housing, or other types of investments we’re looking at.”

Krull assured the council that the university “can afford to slow down a little” because it is doing quite well in terms of faculty hiring. He noted that the university has almost met its student-faculty ratio goal.

“It’s not to stop, it’s simply to give us the breathing space so that we can pay it down over a period, and we can move to a new state of operations.”

“The end result will be if we’re going to take this particular cut, we’re going to try to spread it, and we’re trying to keep it from hitting the academic budget as much as we can,” said Krull.

Increases to non-tuition fees

Following Krull’s report, the council discussed and voted on increases to UTM’s non-tuition fees.

These included a 10 per cent gradual increase to the parking permit for the Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology Building parking garage, four per cent increases to most student residence fees with the exception of a seven per cent increase for the MaGrath Valley residence, and a 15 per cent increase for the newly renovated Putnam Place.

The Campus Council also voted to approve a two per cent increase to meal plans pricing, as well as an increase in retail prices between two and three per cent.

The increases will be presented to the University Affairs Board on March 4, before confirmation by the Executive Committee on March 26.

Funding cut from City of Mississauga

Krull informed the room that the City of Mississauga, which supports UTM’s Innovation Complex with $1 million in annual funding, will likely vote down the funding for this year.

According to Krull, the city’s budget committee voted against the funding, and although it still needs to be put to City Council for final approval, it does not seem likely to be overturned.

“We now have to find another $5 million to cover off of what we’ve already built, what we’ve already hired,” announced Krull.

When asked why UTM would not just halt the project, Krull responded that “UTM is a city builder in this community. We have been for decades. We will, in a sense, take a leadership role in spite of the city.”

When construction of the building first began in 2013, much attention was also paid to how the university would continue to fund the project moving forward.

Professional graduate programs going forward without “express permission”

Krull also announced that UTM would be running its professional graduate programs, such as the Master of Urban Innovation (MUI) program, without the “express permission” of the provincial government, although this decision has since been reversed.

During the meeting, Krull suggested that the program’s proposal was pending approval because the government was running behind.

“If we’re going to start it in September and we don’t recruit and advertise now, then we cannot start in September. Yet we’ve made commitments to people,” pointed out Krull. “I am loathe to pull [the program] after all of the three to four years of work that people have done to get us to this point of launch.”

Krull acknowledged that the decision came with a financial risk, in case the government rejects the plan and leaves UTM to fund the entire program.

However, he said that it was a “worthwhile risk,” given that it was a “strong program.”

In a statement to The Varsity after the meeting, Krull wrote that the university has decided to delay the launch of the MUI program because “the interest of the MUI team is to ensure that as much as possible, all students can compete for positions without financial wherewithal being an overriding factor.”

The next UTM Campus Council meeting takes place on March 5.

Editor’s note (February 12, 2:18 pm): This article has been updated to include information on the delay of the MUI program launch. 

U of T President Meric Gertler on international student fees

Gertler: U of T looks “at what our peer institutions are doing” to set tuition levels

U of T President Meric Gertler on international student fees

In an interview with The Varsity, U of T President Meric Gertler explained comments he recently made in a BBC News interview, in which he said that increasing international tuition led to an increase in demand from international students, saying that the university also takes other factors such as funding and peer institutions into account.

In the BBC interview, Gertler said that because of a higher education market driven by status, people seemed to have a “hard time reconciling” U of T as an inexpensive postsecondary institution and yet a top-30 university.

“When we increased price, we found demand went up — as did the quality of the applications,” Gertler said to BBC.

Speaking to The Varsity shortly after the BBC interview, Gertler said that the university took other factors into consideration when setting tuition fees for international students, especially given the fact that neither the federal nor provincial government provide postsecondary institutions with funding for non-domestic students. The university thus has to cover the “full costs associated with educating those students.”

When asked if U of T increased its fees in part as a way to attract more students from abroad, Gertler said that this was not the case.

“While many of our international students do not require financial assistance, a significant number of them do,” he said. “We have been able to — through the international tuition revenues that we have brought in — fund some international student scholarships.”

The president also mentioned that U of T looks “at what our peer institutions are doing,” in terms of setting fee levels, including in public university systems in places like California, Washington, and Michigan. “We obviously want to be in the similar bands to them,” he said. “We don’t want to be higher and we also don’t want to be lower.”

Gertler said that another factor is the cost of “various services that ensure that [international students] are prepared for a successful experience while they are students here. So there’s special counselling, Centre for International Experience, and things like that that are relevant.”

Tuition fee increases are set differently for domestic and international students. Under provincial regulations, domestic fees cannot be increased past a certain ceiling every year. International fees are unregulated, meaning the university can increase them at a higher rate than for domestic students. Fee increases are proposed by senior administration officials and approved by Governing Council, U of T’s highest decision-making body.

As for the rising number of international students at U of T, Gertler explained that this was due to the university’s active drive to recruit overseas.

“We compared our international enrolment to other peer institutions and found that we were actually lower than a lot of our peers,” he said. “While it’s true that Toronto is a very global city, we found that the university wasn’t quite as globalized as the city itself,” Gertler added, noting that students benefit from having more international students in the classroom.

Around 16.2 per cent of the University of Washington’s Seattle campus students and roughly 14 per cent of the University of Michigan’s students were international.

According to U of T’s 2017–2018 numbers, around 21.3 per cent of students were international.

International fees background

If it seems like international student fees are ever-increasing, you’re not wrong. An undergraduate student entering the University of Toronto in 2019 will pay as much as $59,230 in tuition fees, or roughly four per cent more than someone just the previous year. A student entering U of T in 2015 paid as much as $43,540, or 36 per cent less than in 2019.

According to Statistics Canada, it’s part of a general trend across the country. Data collected by the federal agency shows that the average tuition for an international student rose 6.3 per cent for the 2018–2019 academic year, not including incidental fees and other day-to-day expenses.

When ‘friends with benefits’ no longer benefits you

Let’s talk about sex, second tries, and no strings attached

When ‘friends with benefits’ no longer benefits you

A couple of months ago, I decided to get involved in a friends-with-benefits relationship. Do I regret it? No. Does it suck? Yes. Am I surprised that it sucks? No. After all, these situations rarely work out, but I also knew that I didn’t want to shelter myself anymore or cower away from new experiences, even if that entailed making myself vulnerable to getting hurt.

This was the second time I chose to get involved with this guy because I thought the feelings I once had for him were gone. Logically, I understood that we wouldn’t work out together, not only because he had expressed to me before that he didn’t see me ‘that way’ — ouch — but also because I genuinely could not see us in any type of relationship beyond this weird hookup or friends-with-benefits thing.

We don’t share many similar interests, we don’t really have the same sense of humour, and we just aren’t compatible. I figured that my judgment could override my emotions; naturally, this did not work out.

At the time, I didn’t even want a relationship, but tasting intimacy was simultaneously comforting and unsettling. I enjoyed it in the moment, but retrospectively, I felt fake because he didn’t actually want me and he just wanted to have sex with me. I began to crave something genuine.

I realized that my feelings had not disappeared and that I subconsciously thought that if he spent more time with me, he would like me. I eventually had to accept that I was the rule, not the exception, and that if a guy is acting like he doesn’t care, it’s because he doesn’t care. He was doing everything he should be doing for the type of relationship I agreed to: nothing more and nothing less. Could I really blame him?

I rarely dabbled in the dating scene, so I was disturbed when I began to doubt myself because a boy denied me affection. I began to question my emotional and mental depth. I overthought whether I was interesting enough to deserve romantic attention. I have always been strong-willed and self-assured, so I disregarded myself when I began to crumble over a guy who wasn’t worth crumbling over.

I hate to turn this oh-so-sexy article into a Chicken Soup for the Soul narration, but after I ended things with him, I realized how much love was in my life that I had been oblivious to while I was sleeping with him. Was part of this romantic longing a sick need to prove to myself my own worth by trying to win his validation? That’s when I knew it was time to end it.

After it was over, I continued to wonder if casual sex was ever sustainable, or if getting hurt and developing feelings for your partner is inevitable. A friend of mine said that her experience with casual sex worked out well. However, she only recommends it if you don’t see them often because otherwise “you’ll probably get attached, catch feelings, and start freaking out.”

I don’t regret my decision. I still care about him, and he still cares about me. I broke it off because hoping for anything stronger than platonic care is a waste of my time and energy. In a weird way, friends with benefits did work out. I learned from it. I sustained the friendship. I walked away.

If anyone relates to my experience or is in a similar situation, my main advice is to end it when it’s not fun anymore. If you want more from the relationship but can’t get it, or if you find yourself feeling generally dissatisfied or frustrated, you should probably move on.

Stop beating your dead horse. The horse is already dead and the punching and kicking will only make you winded. We all have too much to do to be winded.