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U of T receives $100 million donation for innovation advancement

Largest-ever donation to fund 750,000-square-foot innovation complex for AI, biotechnology research

U of T receives $100 million donation for innovation advancement

U of T has received a $100 million donation to fund a new innovation research complex that will support artificial intelligence (AI) and biomedical research. The donation, from the Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation, is the largest that the university has ever received. U of T President Meric Gertler, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains were among the speakers who lauded the donation at U of T’s March 25 press conference.

“Today we enter an incredibly exciting new chapter in this history of generosity, signalling a new era of world-leading innovation and progress at the University of Toronto,” Gertler said.

Gerald Schwartz is the founder and CEO of private equity firm Onex. Heather Reisman is the founder and CEO of book retailer Indigo.

Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre

The new 750,000-square-foot Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre will be located at the corner of College Street and Queen’s Park. U of T expects that the building will host thousands of researchers, investors, industry partners, and international visitors annually. The building will also house the new Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Gertler told The Varsity after the announcement that the centre will provide opportunities for graduate and undergraduate U of T students from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities and law. “All of these disciplines are really trying to understand this incredibly tumultuous time that we’re in, both [with] the advances of technology and their applications but also what it means for society,” Gertler said. “Students will be fundamental for this.”

U of T will appoint a director to lead the new institute, who will oversee the development of programming and research initiatives, as well as the creation of new fellowships and a research fund. The institute will research digital surveillance laws and the ethical and societal implications of AI and biotechnology.

U of T Professor Emeritus, winner of the Turing Award, and leading AI researcher Geoffrey Hinton said, “My hope is that the Schwartz Reisman institute will be the place where deep learning disrupts the humanities.”

Construction will begin in the fall.

The donation

Reisman said that the donation was inspired by an article that the billionaire couple had read about U of T’s plans to further tech-driven entrepreneurship, business partnerships, and artificial intelligence leadership. She praised U of T for creating “a foundation upon which true greatness can be built.”

“At the end of the day, what stirs us most is the opportunity to supercharge the university’s ability to recruit and inspire the best,” Reisman said. “We are grateful to be part of something so pregnant with possibility.”

The gift is the largest donation ever made to the Canadian innovation sector.

“A testament to our excellence as a city”

Tory praised the donation as further evidence that Toronto is a powerhouse in international innovation. He said that continued public, private, and philanthropic investment are needed to succeed academically and commercially and that he hopes the donation will encourage further donations to Toronto’s innovation sector. “It is vital to our ability to finance the things that are very human, whether it’s education or whether it’s support for those who are struggling,” Tory said. He added that the gift will attract more researchers and academics to the city.

Bains also emphasized the importance of an “all hands on deck” approach in furthering the federal government’s long-term vision to “build a nation of innovators.

“I think it’s a great day not only for Toronto — I think it’s a great day for Canada. The investment… will make sure that Canada will leave its mark on the world,” Bains said.

Hinton added that the donation “will further cement Toronto’s leadership as a thriving industry for innovative applications of AI.”

— With files from Srivindhya Kolluru

Joshua Bowman wins UTSU presidential election

Lucas Granger, Avani Singh win remaining executive positions

Joshua Bowman wins UTSU presidential election

The results of the 2019 University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) elections are in: Joshua Bowman has been elected as President, Lucas Granger as Vice-President External Affairs, and Avani Singh as Vice-President University Affairs. All 10 Board of Directors candidates, none of whom were challenged, have been acclaimed.

A total of 1,602 people voted in the election, out of roughly 37,000 eligible voters, a turnout rate of 4.2 per cent.

Bowman won 686 votes, while runner-up Bryan Liceralde received 220 votes.

Granger won 567 votes, while runner-up Spencer Robertson received 213 votes.

Singh won her race on the third round of voting with 484 votes. Sharon Ma was the runner-up, Christopher Chiasson ranked third place, and Ramtin Taramsari came in last place.

Arunoshi Singh, Lina Maragha, Tyler Riches, Sing-Yan Ng, Tiffany (Tsz Wing) Tiu, Honesty Senese, and Disha Mittal were all elected to the board for their respective constituencies.

Incumbent University College Director Artur Khasanov was voted down, with 128 ‘no’ votes and 81 ‘yes’ votes.

Due to a glitch on the Simply Voting website, the elections for the two Director of Applied Sciences and Engineering seats did not show up on students’ ballots, which explains why the two candidates, Eran (Shankeran) Vijayakumar and Hasma Habibiy, received zero votes for their races.

According to current UTSU President Anne Boucher, the union is planning on holding a by-election for this seat, alongside one for the multiple other uncontested positions.

This UTSU elections season has seen the lowest engagement in recent memory — there were no candidates for three executive positions and 18 Board of Directors seats.

Due to this lack of engagement, the union will be holding a spring by-election for the positions that remain vacant. Nominations will open April 1, with an April 8–12 campaign period and April 13–15 voting period.

Crucially, there were no candidates for Vice-President Operations, Vice-President Student Life, and Vice-President Professional Faculties. The former two portfolios oversee important work during the summer — the VP Operations drafts the union’s operating budget and the VP Student Life runs orientation. In addition, as per the union’s own bylaws, a board of directors lacking most of its representatives would be inquorate and unable to function.

The election for Vice-President Equity has not been held yet due to ongoing discussions around whether candidate-hopeful Michael Junior Samakayi will be allowed to run. The Elections and Referenda Committee directed that the VP Equity election be held during the by-election period, but the UTSU’s elections notice does not include this position. It is unclear when the election for the position will be held.

Disclosure: Avani Singh served as the Chair of the Board of Directors of Varsity Publications Inc. — the not-for-profit corporation that publishes The Varsity — from May 2018 to March 17, 2019. Singh has recused herself from the role of Chair and is taking a leave of absence from the board for the duration of the UTSU election period.

Editor’s Note (6:50 pm, March 25): This article has been updated to correct that Vijayakumar and Habibiy received zero votes. An earlier version of this article also incorrectly stated that Khasanov won his election. The Varsity regrets the error.

Editor’s Note (7:28 pm, March 25): This article has been updated to correct vote counts for the executive positions.