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Students of the world, inquire within for climate-related emergencies

Get off your ass and get to class — we’ve got a world to change!

Students of the world, inquire within for climate-related emergencies

Those of us born into the age of the internet — the true ‘digital natives,’ as they like to call us on the World Wide Web — have quite the reputation around town. Respected disseminators of journalism, irreputable spreaders of libel, and  media outlets across the continent love to conjure up the now-ubiquitous image of the tottering ‘millennial’: eyes glued to a screen irreverently, missing the world around them as it blurs past.

Certainly, all of the world worth seeing occurs in one singular instance, in one particular place — it couldn’t possibly be that there are worldviews worth accessing beside your own!

News, media, gossip, or whichever word applies best in the circumstance run on these generational perceptions, eager to please a target audience that is increasingly dissatisfied with a changing world, but unwilling to take the necessary steps to change it themselves. For all of you following along at home, making the inevitable social connection to the phrase ‘changing world’: if you thought of the climate crisis, well, you’d be correct.

Our climate is shifting, becoming erratic, and changing faster than what many animals can adapt to via natural selection. Few other periods of world history have experienced something as drastic in the manner we’re observing, and it’s because of human activity.

This is a fact accepted by all but the most willfully ignorant of a generation that has been watching the real-time death of the planet’s one and only shot at life, for the entirety of their own.

To cut the rot out of the core, it’s become similarly apparent that this generation must intercept the climate crisis at all levels: cultural, socioeconomic, and systemic.

The youth of this planet are paralyzed in their image as oblivious bohemians who are too artificial for a world not quite plastic-perfect enough for them.

The educated, the ‘good ones’ — the ones for which the climate crisis is a given — experience a special kind of ignorance: a pleasurable bliss provided by intellectual security.

‘Of course’ our world is stuck in a collection of aging, fragile, and outdated systems that endanger the lives of billions, every day that they’re allowed to operate.

It’s thus us, the educated ones, who must take up the charge and become the vanguard to fight the climate crisis, in place of a generation who cannot or will not use their education.

So why should you care about the climate crisis in this context? Why should it matter to you, as a student, and to the University of Toronto? In this one singular instance, in this one particular place?

The answer:

Despite what everyone might have you think, you hold all the cards: oodles of time left on Earth; the ability to think critically, support an opinion, and communicate effectively; and a nice shiny honours degree under your belt.

If not, do it for an emotional reason: for the kids of the future. If not for an economic reason, or for your own selfish advantage in a world nobody is prepared for, then to use an absurdly expensive degree and make use of half of a decade.

Get out of the classroom with your unsustainably-printed diploma and make a difference in your industry of choice. You have the brains, you have the experience. And more than anything, you are capable as all hell.         

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 300 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Toronto: a hub for coworking

Despite high-profile losses, shared workspace industry is here to stay

Toronto: a hub for coworking

On August 14, the We Company filed its S-1 form with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), revealing to prospective investors that it had a net loss of $900 USD million after revenues of $1.54 billion USD during the first half of 2019.

It’s not surprising for big companies to lose money in their early years. Uber, for example, lost $5.2 billion USD just in the second quarter of 2019. Unlike the wave of tech companies filing for IPO in 2019, the We Company is not a tech-based start-up, but essentially a real-estate company.

Through its main division WeWork, the We Company is the world’s largest provider of coworking spaces. Fundamentally, coworking spaces are venues that, for a fee, provide a space  to work on a short-term or subscription basis. These workspaces comprise of general shared workspaces, small offices, or a mix of the two. Users may also benefit from features like on-site entertainment facilities, technological services, and proximity to a location’s financial district.

“The coworking space also offers a sense of ‘place’ or ‘belonging’ that temporary, public, or solitary independent offices do not,” wrote Professor Hugh Arnold, Adjunct Professor and former Dean of the Rotman School of Management, in an email to The Varsity. “It creates the opportunity for cross-fertilization of ideas and networking among coworking groups.”

While the We Company’s SEC filing may imply that coworking is an unsustainable business model, a broader look at the industry paints a picture of numerous small companies that are slowly finding success. Deskmag’s annual series of Global Coworking Surveys found that 75 per cent of coworking companies at least broke even in 2017, increased from 62 per cent in 2012. Additionally, longevity in the field is increasing, with 69.8 per cent of coworking companies being over a year old in 2017, compared to 48.9 per cent of companies in 2012.

“[The coworking business model] is likely quite sustainable,” wrote Arnold. “The benefits will continue to be important during a time when more and more people are trying to forge a unique work opportunity that provides them with a degree of autonomy and independence that a large employer does not.”

As a hub for international business, Toronto is one location seeing a boom in coworking start-ups. On average, a new coworking space opens every 13 days in Toronto, making it the city with the third fastest-growing coworking industry, behind New York and London, England. Mayor John Tory acknowledged the impact the growing industry had on the city in 2015, by proclaiming February 24, 2015 as Coworking Toronto Day.

The increasing cost of real estate in the city is an important factor in leading new companies to eschew traditional offices in favour of shared options. For U of T students beginning entrepreneurial careers, the university’s ONRamp facility is one such offering. The workspace was opened in September 2017 and occupies 15,000 square feet across three floors of the Banting Institute on College Street.

While membership is available to the general public, ONRamp prioritises university students, faculty, and alumni entrepreneurs, offering these groups reduced annual fees. Entrepreneurs affiliated with McMaster University, Western University, the University of Waterloo, and Queen’s University are also welcome, as ONRamp was built with funding from McMaster and Western.

With the Banting Institute building over 90 years old, ONRamp is projected to move into the new Schwartz Reisman Innovation Centre upon completion of the building. The innovation centre was funded by a $100 million donation by Toronto-based CEOs Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman, and is projected to begin construction by the end of the year.

MaRS Innovation renamed to Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners

U of T has collaborated with MaRS since 2008

MaRS Innovation renamed to Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners

On September 4, its 10th anniversary, MaRS Innovation announced its name change to Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP). TIAP also recently announced its collaboration with Amgen, a global leader in the biotechnology industry. 

TIAP specializes in venture-building of early-stage health science technologies. 

The organization was created as a non-profit in 2008 by an agreement among 14 academic institutions, including U of T. The goal of this organization is to create a vehicle that could take science-based innovations from research labs into biotech businesses. It has opened the door to a new wave of health science-based entrepreneurs. 

TIAP, as the name suggests, creates direct partnerships with future scientists to support the growth of impactful businesses. U of T students have the opportunity to apply to its University of Toronto Early-Stage Technology (UTEST) program, which is a 12-month intensive entrepreneurial education program. Its focus is to support, mentor, and provide business strategy to startup companies based on cutting-edge science technologies. 

UTEST has produced companies like NeuroBlot, a personalized neurotechnology aimed to be a diagnostic tool for detecting dementia. NeuroBlot uses machine learning and data analysis from a user’s social media to generate cognitive analysis. Founded in 2016, the company has an ongoing collaboration with The Hospital for Sick Children and U of T.

TIAP’s current portfolio consists of over 60 early-stage companies in sectors such as therapeutics, medical devices, health information technologies, and artificial intelligence. TIAP has enabled its portfolio companies to raise over $400 million and created more than 1,000 STEM jobs across Canada.

Letter to the Editor: Clarification on the UTSU’s amendment to student union pay

Re: "UTSU Executive Committee to reverse decision to allow overtime pay"

Letter to the Editor: Clarification on the UTSU’s amendment to student union pay

It is extremely important that student union executives hold ourselves to the utmost degree of transparency and accountability to our membership. We are paid and elected by our members to execute what they ask of us. This, more often than not, requires us to work unconventional hours. 

On any given day, I can have a meeting in a different city with another student union, be on the phone with a parent at 3:00 am, or attend academic appeal sessions with students at 9:00 am. 

I am grateful to hold the position I do, and to be trusted by our membership to serve in the capacity that I am. 

In 2016, The Varsity published an article comparing student union executive salaries across Canada. According to The Varsity’s article, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)’s executives are paid less than other student union executives who represent similar undergraduate populations. 

I wholeheartedly stand by the idea that executives need to be properly compensated for the time and emotional labour they put into their jobs. 

The UTSU pays its executive members $16 per hour. The Vice-President Professional Faculties is required to work a minimum of 10 hours. The Vice-Presidents Equity, External Affairs, University Affairs, and Student Life need to work a minimum of 25 hours. The President and Vice-President Operations need to work a minimum of 40 hours. 

All Executives are paid up until 40 hours, after which their pay is cut off and they can no longer be paid despite working 10 or more hours over that in any given week. 

The UTSU Executive Committee found that working more than 40 hours a week was difficult at the rate of pay of $16 per hour, where executives must sacrifice commitments to their academic pursuits, personal lives, and more. 

The amendments to the Remuneration Policy stipulated that rather than instituting the 40 hour per week cap, “any additional hours worked shall be compensated at the same hourly honorarium.” There is an important distinction between straight hours and overtime. Overtime is when a corporation pays its employees a different rate for hours worked above 44, usually time-and-a-half pay. 

The Varsity reported that the Executive Committee had approved overtime pay. This is false. 

At a meeting of the UTSU’s Executive Committee on August 19, 2019 the Executive Committee voted to approve amendments to the UTSU’s Remuneration Policy, which can be found on page 34 of the UTSU’s Policy Manual.

This amendment was approved at the August 24, 2019 meeting of the Board of Directors. After consultations with the UTSU’s membership and Board of Directors, the Executive Committee realized that although we followed the UTSU’s outlined governance structure — whereby items are passed at committee meetings and then approved by the Board of Directors, then approved at the Annual General Meeting every October — we should have followed a different process when it comes to allowing executives to claim more hours. When it comes to something as sensitive as pay for executives, we have realized that transparency and consultation are key. 

To all students who dedicate time to being involved at this level: your work is valuable. We can’t point a finger at institutions that offer unpaid internships, but turn our back when students ask to be compensated fairly. 

As a low-income student, I would never have been able to even entertain the thought of going to a postsecondary institution without Ontario Student Assistance Program. With recent cuts to the program, I can only imagine how difficult it is for students to continue their studies. 

With the hours that are demanded of this position, I don’t have enough time to take up a part-time job to offset the shortcomings of what I am paid. But I understood that when I ran for the role. I hope that, in the coming months, we are able to create a solution that is both transparent and supportive to future students who choose to get involved. 

We need to create an incentive for students to get involved. We had an extremely low voter turnout in the previous elections, and we had many uncontested seats. 

While we’ve created a First Year Council, expanded our Equity Collectives, and are working to increase our outreach to membership, prospective UTSU Executives can’t help but look at the rate of pay and judge whether or not they are able to run. To this point, we are looking at ways to consult our membership to ensure students wishing to run in our elections are free to do so regardless of any financial barriers.

But why should students get involved if their work isn’t valued? Why are we pointing the finger at students when members of our administration make six figures a year

I want students to see themselves reflected in their elected representatives, and should they have the courage to leap into these positions, I want them to know that their time and work are valuable.

Joshua Bowman is a fifth-year Indigenous Studies and Political Science student at St. Michael’s College and current President of the UTSU.