Letter from the Editor: Introducing The Varsity’s website redesign

Reaching our audiences where they spend a sizable amount of their time — online

Letter from the Editor: Introducing <em>The Varsity</em>’s website redesign

The last time The Varsity’s website was redesigned was in March 2015. The world was not in the middle of a pandemic, people still called each other instead of texting, and obviously — dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

We’re now excited to introduce a new design of thevarsity.ca. This project, spearheaded by our 2019–2020 web developers, Stephanie Zhang and Kevin Lu, is the result of more than a year-and-a-half’s worth of work, involving several stages of planning, design, and coordination.

Countless hours were spent on things like homepage layout, general aesthetic, author pages, and more. With this redesign, we hope to make thevarsity.ca more accessible to our readers. You can now more easily sign up for our Monday Briefing newsletter, check up on the latest events in-and-around campus, and learn more about a writer at the bottom of their article.

In the event of a major story, we will also have the ability to rapidly change the layout of our homepage to highlight our coverage.

We are still making fixes and adding features on a rolling basis, so stay tuned — there is more to come.

It’s no question that we’re in the age of digital media. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, a clear majority of people get the news on their mobile devices. With this redesign, we’re reaching our audiences where they spend a sizable amount of their time — online.

This change is a significant milestone in The Varsity’s digital history. In 2019, we won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for Best Campus Website, and in 2020, we were named a finalist for the John H. McDonald Award for Best Online Media. And just a few months ago, we launched our first digital-exclusive magazine, SPINE.

I’m proud of the work we’ve done this past year, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Volume 141.

— Ilya Bañares, Volume 140 Managing Online Editor

Keeping up with women’s soccer under COVID-19

Three Varsity Blues players on staying open-minded, motivated, ready in the off-season

Keeping up with women’s soccer under COVID-19

As the soccer season generally begins at the end of August, the off-season is particularly crucial for the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team. For the reigning Ontario University Athletics (OUA) silver medalists and U SPORTS bronze medalists — a feat which made program history — the 2020–2021 season is critical to prove once again that they are a force to be reckoned with. 

However, strict physical distancing guidelines under COVID-19 — which have led to the temporary closure of public gyms and soccer fields in Ontario, as well as the postponement of summer soccer leagues — have created barriers for preparing for the upcoming season. 

The Varsity reached out to captain Anna Crone and defenders Mikayla Ford and Alessia Cusimano to check in about what they are doing to stay on top of their game during COVID-19. The players noted how they had to adapt their pandemic workouts in response to the amount of space and equipment that they have at home. 

Open-mindedness, motivation during the off-season 

The players are expected to use the off-season to work on specific aspects of their game, improve their fitness levels, and become reacquainted with the high level of play that is required to be successful in the OUA East division. In the absence of the pandemic, the players would have been playing in competitive soccer leagues and completing weekly lifts to prepare for training camp in mid-August.

Under COVID-19, for players like Ford who do not have access to a home gym or much of the equipment necessary to complete team lifting sessions, this has made for an interesting transition. She has had to use cans or a backpack filled with heavy household items in lieu of weights.

This can be frustrating at times, because she knows that “it’s not going to provide the same results as being in the gym with real equipment.” However, she stressed the importance of keeping an open mind, because this frustration is something that many athletes are experiencing across the country.

The players also note the challenges of staying motivated while partaking in physical distancing. For Cusimano, being confined to her home has prevented her from working on many aspects of her game, which has made it hard for her to stay positive.

However, she remains determined to stay physically active because she knows that it is imperative to do so for the upcoming season. “If I come out [of physical distancing without having] improved on anything, then I have failed myself,” she remarked. 

For Crone, thinking about her teammates keeps her motivated to stay fit. “When you know your team is counting on you to do your part, I think it makes it a lot easier to get off the couch,” she said. 

Different circumstances, same expectations 

Nevertheless, under physical distancing, the expectations for players remain the same. They’re still expected to complete mandatory dribbling and conditioning exercises, along with a total of three lifts a week — with two team lifts being led by their strength and conditioning coach over Zoom.

Cusimano and Ford have also taken up activities such as kickboxing, spinning, and yoga in their free time. “The goal is to just keep working out and training on our own with the mindset that the season is still happening for sure,” Crone noted. 

When it comes to holding each other accountable, the players are aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that they come into training camp as the best version of themselves. The large 2020 recruiting class has also served to ensure that they do not slack off. As of February 2020, the team had signed 10 new recruits.

Ford noted, “it is well understood that there are certain expectations for the returning players. If you don’t come into training camp ready to go, it is understood that there won’t be a spot for [you].” 

With no word on when the season will begin, the players are eagerly waiting for the all-clear to begin training again. 

U of T plans to have mix of in-person, online courses for fall 2020 semester

“Much still remains uncertain,” reads President Gertler’s letter to U of T

U of T plans to have mix of in-person, online courses for fall 2020 semester

U of T’s plan for the fall 2020 semester will likely include a mix of smaller on-campus courses, seminars, and labs, while larger courses may remain online, according to a letter from President Meric Gertler to the U of T community today.

U of T anticipates a “gradual, safe return to our campuses, with as much on-campus activity as is practicable, sensible, and safe.” However, it is not clear what class size would determine whether a course would be online, or if classes that begin online in fall 2020 will remain that way the entire semester. Gertler wrote that the university is developing guidelines for safety and that there will likely be different policies at each of the three campuses. 

He also revealed three guiding principles to the university’s plan, which include “promoting health and safety, advancing academic excellence, and meeting the needs of our community – our students, faculty, librarians, and staff.” The university is working with deans and principals to meet the needs of various academic divisions and improve online learning. 

The university expects research to return in the fall, some of which may be done virtually, and promised to release more guidelines soon. Campus buildings such as libraries and labs will also focus on implementing physical distancing requirements.

According to Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) Dean Melanie Woodin, students in FAS will have the option of participating in classes online if they cannot attend in person. She wrote in a Q&A that many courses in the FAS will be delivered both in-person and online, possibly with instructors recording in-person classes for students who cannot be there physically.

In an interview with U of T News, Vice-Provost Academic Programs and Innovations in Undergraduate Education Susan McCahan said that even if larger lectures are conducted virtually, there will still be some opportunities for in-person activities. 

Woodin also announced the FAS’ plan for welcoming incoming students with online advising content and information sessions available over the summer, and noted that the FAS would reach out to new students by email as well.

“We do not have all of the answers yet,” Gertler noted, emphasizing that it is not clear what the conditions will be like in September. Ontario began the first stage of its reopening plan on May 19, with some retail stores, workplaces, and other businesses able to operate. 

The Varsity has reached out to U of T Media Relations for comment.