Incoming pharmacy faculty dean withdraws from position over summer

Wasan and co-authors failed to cite passages taken from an earlier book review

Incoming pharmacy faculty dean withdraws from position over summer

This past year saw both exciting announcements and alarming uncertainty coming from the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. U of T unveiled their pick for the next pharmacy faculty dean in July 2018. Less than a year later, in June 2019, its new hire, Professor Kishor Wasan, had withdrawn from his appointment.

A book review in The Lancet, co-written by Wasan, who was a Professor and Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan, was found to contain “substantial passages” from another review of the same book.

The article, which was titled “A check-up on Canada’s health system,” has since been retracted due to its similarity to a review written by André Picard, a reporter and columnist for The Globe and Mail. Both Picard and Wasan wrote reviews on Danielle Martin’s book Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians.

Wasan was slated to become U of T’s newest Dean and Professor of the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy for a five-year term, meant to serve in his role from July 1, 2019 until June 30, 2024. However, in a statement made to The Varsity, university spokesperson Elizabeth Church confirmed that Wasan had voluntarily withdrawn from his upcoming position following The Lancet’s retraction of his book review.

The retraction notice published by The Lancet in May does not explicitly allege that any plagiarism took place. This may be due in part to Wasan’s explanation that he and his co-authors credited Picard in earlier drafts of their review, but that the citation was removed without appropriate modifications to the text.

He contends that the citation was dropped in order to accommodate more of his and his co-authors’ perspectives. However, due to an accidental oversight, no additions were made to replace Picard’s ideas.

Speaking to Medscape Medical News, Wasan admits that he is “partly responsible,” but maintains that he and his co-authors “did not intend to deceive.”

Wasan was also previously the Chair and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of British Columbia, where he co-founded the Neglected Global Diseases Initiative, a body meant to develop interventions for infectious diseases of poverty.

Wasan will not be returning to his original position as Professor and Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan. His term officially ended there in June 2019.

Professor Lisa Dolovich, who teaches at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, will serve as Interim Dean for a one-year term.

Wasan did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

Government think tank assessing education faces criticisms of questionable research methods, lack of transparency

“Now is the time to shut down HEQCO,” reads faculty coalition press release

Government think tank assessing education faces criticisms of questionable research methods, lack of transparency

A leadership crisis is currently wracking the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), a government agency that evaluates the postsecondary education system in Ontario. The high-level resignations of its board members and President Harvey Weingarten in August are giving rise to criticisms, which are further fuelled by earlier accusations of questionable research methods. 

In an August 20 press release, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), a non-profit organization that advocates for the interests of faculty in Ontario universities, called for the dissolution of the HEQCO, claiming “now is the time” as the organization currently has no president.

The OCUFA accused Weingarten of hypocrisy in his recommendations to cut pensions while he himself has a $4.5 million public pension fund. The HEQCO recently held a series of consultations where it suggested that faculty should not be able to collect a salary and pension at the same time, as well as encouraged faculty to retire at the age of 65 for cost-cutting purposes.

“They put out this ridiculous report in which they said that faculty salaries and pensions are one of the more critical issues facing the sector in postsecondary education in Ontario, without really even mentioning that Ontario has the lowest per capita per student and funding vis a vis GDP in the country,” said Michael Conlon, Executive Director of the OCUFA.

HEQCO’s Research Methods

In 2018, the HEQCO completed a series of studies which claimed that around 25 per cent of graduating postsecondary students in Ontario scored below “the minimum required for graduates to perform well in today’s work world.” The test aimed to measure “literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking,” looking specifically at whether graduates have the skills to succeed in the workplace.

University Affairs (UA) called the HEQCO’s skills assessments “a good example of cargo cult policy research,” meaning that their studies are not conducted according to the proper scientific method. UA criticized the HEQCO for using a non-representative study to support broad claims about the effectiveness of postsecondary education in Ontario.

As noted in The Globe and Mail, “students volunteered or were recruited for the studies, and therefore the sample was not random or representative; nor were the same students tested at the beginning and end of their schooling.”

“They’re in essence drawing really kind of political conclusions from their data, creating this kind of exaggerated sensibility around learning outcomes,” said Conlon.

The OCUFA also criticized the HEQCO for a lack of transparency regarding their relationship to the government. “We feel like they’ve essentially become more of a political organization, rather than an independent third-party policy think tank, which is what they were originally designed to do.”

Another of the OCUFA’s criticisms of the HEQCO is their support of the usage of performance metrics in postsecondary education. Ontario announced plans earlier this year to tie 60 per cent of provincial funding of universities to performance indicators by 2024–2025.

According to Conlon, performance metrics “really undermine the system because they set up these arbitrary artificial measures that really have absolutely nothing to do with quality or student experience.” Additionally, they “distract from the real problems with this system, which is underfunding, cuts to OSAP… [and] a variety of other real challenges.”

“I think what HEQCO sets up is this kind of illusion of an independent, transparent organization, which it’s not, it’s just an agency of government. So that’s why we’re calling for that $5 million to be put back into OSAP.”

The HEQCO has declined The Varsity’s request for comment at this time.

Former USMC president criticizes SMC magazine cover of pro-choice federal minister

SMC alum McKenna featured, David Mulroney cites Roman Catholic values in criticism

Former USMC president criticizes SMC magazine cover of pro-choice federal minister

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, a pro-choice politician, was the centre of criticism after being featured on the cover of the Summer 2019 issue of St. Michael’s — the University of St. Michael’s College (SMC) alumni magazine.

SMC is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, which opposes abortion under any circumstance. This was the same position that David Mulroney, the former president of SMC, took when criticizing McKenna in an article on LifeSiteNews, an anti-abortion publication.

McKenna, an SMC graduate, was featured in her alma mater’s alumni magazine for her accomplishments in a piece called “Living your Passion.” Mulroney’s frustration with the feature stems from McKenna’s public stance on abortion.

McKenna is publicly pro-choice, and often expresses her views on social media. According to Mulroney, these opinions directly conflict with Catholic values.

“When an alumna is invited to address a theology class it is because the university believes that she has some relevant insights to share. It becomes problematic when the alumna has a very significant role in taking actions that run seriously counter to Catholic teachings,” Mulroney commented to The Varsity.

While Mulroney was under the impression that McKenna was addressing a theology class, she was in fact there to meet with environmental studies and eco-theology students — she was not invited to address any classes.

Mulroney further expressed that McKenna’s status and accomplishments should not be a factor in her selection for the magazine cover. Rather, the magazine should feature someone who “exemplifies the best of what a university stands for.”

Despite SMC’s decision, Mulroney believes that “a Catholic University must be faithful to both [worlds]. It encourages the free exchange of ideas, but is unafraid to engage its students in what constitutes a good life.” This quality, he believes, is lacking “at a time when secular society, including secular universities are increasingly intolerant of alternative perspectives.”

SMC Director of Communications, Laurie Morris, wrote in an email to The Varsity that the college “always welcome[s] and encourage[s] feedback from our community on all articles and alumni profiles.”

Morris declined to make any further comments on McKenna, citing inappropriate timing in relation to the upcoming federal election.

McKenna, who faces regular criticism for her work as an MP and minister, now has a security detail — which is uncommon for federal ministers. In an interview with the CBC, McKenna said that, while these threats have been ongoing since her election, in person confrontations have gotten worse only recently.

Editor’s Note (September 17, 1:37 pm): Article was amended to clarify that McKenna was not invited to address any classes at SMC.

Bader Theatre hosts Black Ribbon event remembering Molotov-Ribbentop pact

Chessmaster Garry Kasparov compares Stalin Putin at Black Ribbon event

Bader Theatre hosts  Black Ribbon event remembering Molotov-Ribbentop pact

The Lithuanian embassy held a Black Ribbon event at the Isabel Bader Theatre on September 12 to remember the 80-year anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, and  to recognize the victims of totalitarian and fascist regimes.

The keynote speaker, chessmaster, and notable opponent of the Kremlin, Garry Kasparov, drew from his experiences to compare Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regimes.

“Hitler and Stalin were allies,” Kasparov explained. “They started World War II together.” The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was a non-aggression treaty between Stalin and Adolf Hitler, which was signed on August 23, 1939. The pact enabled the German invasion of Poland nine days later, which is regarded as the inciting incident that began World War II.

Professor Matthew Light, who specializes in Eastern European and Russian politics, explained in an interview with The Varsity that Stalin “essentially carved up eastern Europe with Hitler, and after the war, imposed Soviet rule on the Baltics and communist regimes in Poland and other eastern European states.” Those states included Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and more — many of which had representatives at the Thursday event.

Kasparov on Hitler, Stalin, Putin

Professor Light argues that painting Stalin as a hero against the Third Reich is a tool in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, “whose leadership Putin and his regime frequently refer to as ‘fascists’ and seek to associate with the Nazis.”

In 2009, during a visit to Poland, Putin denounced the pact as a “collusion to solve one’s problems at others’ expense.’’ 2014 — the same year Russia annexed Crimea — Russia’s Culture Minister, Vladimir Medinsky, called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact a “colossal achievement of Stalin’s diplomacy.”

“I could only envy Canadians because they enter elections and they don’t know who’s going to win,” Kasparov joked in his keynote address.

“[Young people] want to hear about the future. And what can Putin can offer? Nothing. They could see wars. They could see growing tension there. Most of them are pro-Western and they could see that there’s a growing gap between Russia and the free world.”

“Corruption in Russia is not a problem, it’s a system,” he said.

Despite the challenges, Kasparov remains an optimist, adding that “whatever happens after Putin, it will be some sort of regrouping, but I think Russia will move in the right direction. It’s a big chance and hopefully, unlike in 1991, we will not miss it.”

UTSU Executive Committee to reverse decision to allow overtime pay

Union hesitant to change pay structure following consultations

UTSU Executive Committee to reverse decision to allow overtime pay

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Executive Committee has announced that it will repeal a recently passed amendment that gave executives the ability to receive overtime pay.

The amendments to the executive remuneration policy were passed at the committee’s meeting on August 19. The change reads, “any additional hours worked shall be compensated at the same hourly honorarium,” without providing an upper limit on hours.

However, the committee later decided to overturn the change. “After consultations with our Board of Directors and our membership, we have come to the conclusion that there are far better and more effective ways to achieve our goals,” wrote UTSU President Joshua Bowman in an email to The Varsity.

Explaining the context to the amendment, Bowman wrote: “We want to empower individuals who decide to get involved with the UTSU with the opportunity to make tangible and meaningful change.” According to Bowman, the Executive Committee will repeal the amendment that expanded executive member overtime pay at their next meeting.

Bowman remains optimistic about future pay policies, and stated that the UTSU will continue to ensure the well-being of their staff members. In order to achieve this, a Time Keeping Management Policy is planned to be approved at the next Board of Directors meeting on September 22.

The intended goal for both the overtime pay amendment and the new timekeeping policy is not only for transparency in executive pay, but also to properly compensate executives for their work, wrote Bowman.

The Hudson lawsuit

The proposed policy change comes four years after the UTSU was involved in a legal battle with former staff and executives regarding overtime pay.

Former Executive Director Sandra Hudson, along with former President Yolen Bollo-Kamara and former Vice-President, Services, Cameron Wathey, were all accused of committing civil fraud after Hudson was terminated by Bollo-Kamara and given a compensation package totaling to $277,726.

Of this amount, $29,782.22 was given as a payment for the alleged overtime hours she worked. However, records for additional hours worked could not be found, and according to the UTSU, Hudson’s termination had no legal grounds, as she only ever had positive reviews from her employers.

Bollo-Kamara and Wathey settled with the union separately in 2016, while Hudson continued the legal battle until the lawsuit was settled in October 2017. Hudson agreed to pay a portion of the money back, and accusations of fraud and theft were not proven. It was later revealed that Hudson had filed a claim for damages alleging that former UTSU President Mathias Memmel broke a mediation agreement after he discussed the details of the lawsuit during an April 2016 Board of Directors meeting.

Editor’s Note (September 16, 2:04 pm): Article was amended to reflect that assistant vice-presidents would not have received overtime pay under the repealed policy.

Clarification (September 19, 12:04 am): According to the Government of Ontario, “overtime pay” is a general term that encompasses multiple forms of compensation. While under Ontario law overtime pay must be allocated at time and a half, it is not the only possibility that exists. The article defines overtime pay according to the UTSU’s meeting minutes as “any additional hours worked shall be compensated at the same hourly honorarium.” 

UTM to participate in Global Climate Strike

Teach-ins, banner-making workshops, documentary viewing among organized events

UTM to participate in Global Climate Strike

UTM will be holding a series of events in support of the Global Climate Strikes taking place on September 20 and 27, which coincides with the upcoming United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit that aims to present viable plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate change is clearly one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time… The Strike represents a pedagogic moment that UTM wanted to be part of,” wrote UTM Media Relations spokesperson Nicolle Wahl to The Varsity.

Classes at UTM will not be cancelled on the days of the strikes. However, in an email, former acting Vice-President and Principal Amrita Daniere encouraged faculty to be mindful of the walkouts and to remind their students to request accommodations should they participate.

In coordination with local groups, UTM is arranging drop-in workshops for making banners supporting climate justice, one-hour sessions with professors from various facilities, and TED-style climate talks.

An event titled “Meltdown: A Climate Change Summit” will be hosted at The Maanjiwe nendamowinan Building on September 24, bringing environment and health experts, including former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Dr. Diane Saxe, to discuss the impact of climate change on health.

The week of Climate Strike events will conclude on September 25 with an outdoor screening of ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch  a multiple-award winning documentary focusing on the Anthropocene Working Group.

As part of a global effort, the Climate Strike aims to “declare a climate emergency and show our politicians what action in line with climate science and justice means,” according to its website. The global strikes are inspired by school strikers, like activist Greta Thunberg, who has been leaving class every Friday since last August in protest of the climate crisis.

In a video in support of the Global Climate Strike, Thunberg said, “This shouldn’t be the children’s responsibility. Now the adults also need to help us, so we are calling for them to strike from their work because we need everyone.”

Climate change is clearly one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time

U of T faced criticism in 2016 when President Meric Gertler opted not to divest from all fossil fuel companies, instead choosing to assess investments individually.

The UN Climate Action Summit, occurring the same week as the strikes, is urging world leaders to enact plans that address more than just fossil fuel mitigation and encouraging countries to move forward in fully transitioning to sustainable economies. This includes prioritizing renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind, and removing subsidies for fossil fuels.

The UN also emphasized that these climate action plans must not add to economic inequality and that those negatively affected by shifts toward renewable energy production must be given new opportunities.

UTSG and UTSC have not announced any events for the Global Climate Strike. A full list of UTM’s Global Climate Strike events with dates and locations can be found on their website.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Faculty coalition says new performance-based provincial funding model will increase inequality

Funding model doesn’t encourage improvement, but will punish failure, says OUCC

Faculty coalition says new performance-based provincial funding model will increase inequality

Since Doug Ford assumed the office of the Premier of Ontario last year, his government has made significant changes to education at all levels. One of these major changes arose in the Ford government’s first provincial budget: the decision to tie a large portion of the funding for universities and colleges to a set of performance indicators, as opposed to enrollment numbers.

In a public statement by the Ontario Universities and Colleges Coalition (OUCC), union and student leaders alike are pushing back on this move, claiming that it will “fundamentally compromise the integrity of Ontario’s higher education system.”

Renewed Strategic Mandate Agreement

The current Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) between the provincial government and the province’s 45 publicly assisted postsecondary institutions will expire on March 31, 2020. SMAs are bilateral agreements that dictate how much the provincial government will provide in funding to these institutions over multi-year periods. While previous SMAs only tied a very small proportion of university funding to performance, the current Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities plans to increase that amount significantly.

By the 2024–2025 academic year, performance-based funding will increase incrementally from 1.4 per cent to 60 per cent in a move that Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Ross Romano claims will make Ontario a “national leader in outcomes‐based funding.”

In a statement to The Varsity, Romano wrote that these SMA bilateral discussions with university and college leaders will begin this fall to determine the specific performance metrics. Under the expiring SMA, U of T’s performance metrics are currently tied to student experience, innovation, research impact, and access and equity.

OUCC Statement

The OUCC, a coalition which represents 435,000 postsecondary Ontario students, faculty, and staff, alongside the 11 other signatories of their public statement, oppose these changes categorically. They list it as yet another attack on Ontario’s postsecondary education system, following years of stagnant public funding and cuts to student financial assistance.

The signatories argue that withdrawing funding from universities and colleges who fail to reach their targets will not encourage improvement, but will actually “ensure institutions fall further behind.”

Among a long list of predictions for how this new approach to performance-based funding will affect education, the OUCC notably claims that it will give rise to increased inequalities across all universities and colleges. Particularly  it will hurt northern and smaller postsecondary institutions, accelerate the corporatization of campuses as private funding becomes increasingly important, and generally compromise the autonomy of Ontario’s schools. In terms of students, they argue it will decrease access to education for those who are marginalized, as admissions requirements will change to best accommodate new metrics.

In an email to The Varsity, Romano wrote that he is “dedicated to making Ontario’s postsecondary education system more competitive and better aligned with labour‐market needs, while operating transparently and efficiently.”

Contrarily, the OUCC claims that Ford’s changes will “do nothing to improve accountability, as Ontario’s universities and colleges already have comprehensive structures in place to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs they offer.”

Further, they argue that performance-based funding won’t improve labour market outcomes, as this system will prepare students for the labour market of today, but not for the one they will enter upon graduation. The statement’s signatories include Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students–Ontario, Felipe Nagata; President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, Rahul Sapra; and President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Chris Buckley, among others.

UTM hosts Raptors 905 Open Tryout

The Varsity sits down with General Manager Chad Sanders to discuss team’s future, U of T hopefuls

UTM hosts Raptors 905 Open Tryout

Last week, almost 100 basketball players from across North America were given the opportunity of a lifetime: a practice roster spot on the Raptors 905, the Mississauga-based minor league team for the Toronto Raptors. 

On Saturday, September 7, the Raptors’ G League-affiliated team hosted open tryouts at UTM, and participants were given a platform to showcase their skills in front of coaches and staff from within the organization. For a fee of $275 during pre-registration, or a $310 ticket on the day of the event, the dream of playing on a team that has previously featured NBA talents Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell, became more attainable. 

While the annual salary of a G League player is only around $35,000, a roster spot on one of these teams symbolizes a tangible route to the NBA and a career playing basketball on the biggest stage possible. 

In an interview with The Varsity, General Manager of the Raptors 905, Chad Sanders, provided insight on the open tryouts, Canadian basketball, and the relationship between U of T and the 905. 

The Varsity: How has the interest in the Raptors 905 team changed alongside the success of the Raptors in recent years?

Chad Sanders: I think we are definitely seeing interest in our team grow alongside the success of the Raptors. Our organization has worked hard to foster a meaningful connection between the two teams and I think that has been shown with how many players have some time with 905 as part of their development with Toronto. As it relates to our open tryout, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this season drew our largest number of attendees following the championship season that the Raptors had. 

TV: What does the enthusiasm surrounding these tryouts reflect about Canadian basketball?

CS: The one thing I have noticed over the last few years is how basketball has continued to grow  — particularly the growth at the grassroots level. We have a number of camps that we run which are well attended, and even just seeing kids at the public courts, basketball is really surging in popularity and we want to make sure we continue to help that happen. 

TV: How many students or alumni from U of T participated in the tryouts? What was the background of the participating of basketball players?

CS: We had a few players that had either attended U of T or played for the basketball team. The school has been so accommodating to us, whether it be at the downtown or Mississauga campus, it really makes the day run smooth when you have a good venue. 

Players ranged from your recreational men’s league players to professionals, and I think that’s the beauty of the open tryout, it really is for anyone. Some people just come out for the experience of being around basketball people and a professional basketball environment. It’s important that we as a staff and organization provide that experience for everyone and really treat everyone who comes out with the same mentality. 

TV: What were the scouts and coaches looking for? What types of drills and games did players participate in?

CS: I think we are always looking for a few key things: talent, potential, and intangibles. The unique thing about the NBA G League is that rosters essentially reset every season, so you are starting from scratch each year. With that reality, it is important to identify players who can play within the team, but who also have the ability to create for themselves. 

We structured the day so we could have some of the more individual aspects of the game come through in drills and smaller group games and then we organized full games that would put players in a position to show how they could operate within a team. 

TV: How has the relationship between the Raptors organization and U of T changed the campus atmosphere and the opportunities that are available to the U of T community?

CS: We have a great relationship with U of T and UTM. We have used the facilities numerous times throughout the last four years, whether it be for open tryouts, G League showcases, or practices. Last season one of our mentor coaches was Tamara Tatham, who is an assistant from U of T with the women’s team and she was great for our program. We have nothing but good things to say about our experiences with U of T. 

TV: How was the talent compared to past years’?

CS: We are really fortunate to be in an area that has really produced legitimate basketball talent. Lots of great players have come from Toronto and surrounding areas, and the open tryout is another opportunity to expose this talent. This season definitely stayed at the standard we have come to expect from the open tryout process. 

TV: Given that current Raptors players Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Norman Powell have all spent time in the G League, playing for the 905, what advice would you give a to a Varsity student regarding a career in professional basketball, and the different paths it might take to get there?

CS: I think you hit the nail on the head with the last part; there is no one path to follow. I’ve been fortunate to work internationally, and the sport of basketball has such a global presence — great basketball is being played all over the globe. That being the case, scouts are all over the world searching for talent, and if it is out there, it will be found.

Someone like Pascal — who you mentioned — was first seen at a basketball without borders camp in Africa. If you look at the NBA, even in the last few years. with players like Luka Doncic and Giannis, the game is more global than ever. The other big thing would be to just keep working at it and focus on improving. All the players who you mentioned, Fred, Pascal, Norm, they all have such a strong work ethic and are constantly adding and improving their craft. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.