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Governing Council approves UTSC’s strategic plan for next five years 

Consultation involved 1,100 community members, priorities stress settler-Indigenous reconciliation

Governing Council approves UTSC’s strategic plan for next five years 

On May 14, U of T’s Governing Council approved UTSC’s five-year strategic plan, “Inspiring Inclusive Excellence.” This plan will remain in effect from 2020–2025 and focuses on five priorities to achieve campus prosperity, which were determined through consultations with students, faculty, and members of the UTSC community.  

In an interview with The Varsity, UTSC Vice-President & Principal Wisdom Tettey expressed that intentional inclusion is at the heart of the strategic plan. According to the plan, “This means embracing and promoting the enriching contributions that come from the diverse backgrounds, ways of knowing, ideas, perspectives, and experiences represented in our community.”

Tettey explained that the strategic plan is essentially a roadmap for the campus, and is able to realize institutional goals at the UTSC level.

The consultation process

The planning process started in November 2018 and involved consultation with over 1,100 community members from on and off of the campus, such as government representatives, alumni, community representatives, and campus partners. The consultations took place in many forms, including town halls, student engagement events, and online feedback. 

Eight working groups were also created in the consultation process, each focused on a specific topic, such as “Indigenous Peoples and Truth and Reconciliation” and “Healthy Learning and Working Environments.”

Tettey told The Varsity that consultation allowed for engagement with the tri-campus community. His goal was for students to see themselves and their voices represented in the plan. Overall, he believes that the consultation process “was a great experience to go through… in a way that was truly inclusive.”  

Goals of the strategic plan

For the plan’s first priority, a high-quality student experience, UTSC plans to expand residential and athletic facilities and provide more opportunities for student entrepreneurship.

Other priorities include scholarly prominence, intentional inclusion and relational accountability, and enduring local, national, and global partnerships. The fifth and final priority focuses on administrative capacity, and hopes to ensure financial transparency and create academic and operational plans that correspond to the overarching UTSC strategic plan. 

Throughout all the priorities, there is an emphasis on settler-Indigenous reconciliation. Some specific goals for the next five years include creating Indigenous spaces and educating faculty, staff, and administrators on “Indigenous protocols, knowledge systems, and histories.”

Tettey added that, overall, this plan will make sure that the UTSC curriculum is inclusive, student-centred, and prepares students for the uncertain world. “We still have work to do,” he said, but noted the impact U of T has as “the most diverse [institution] in Canada.”

Editor’s Note (May 28, 3:41 pm): This article has been updated to clarify the wording around the plan and correct Tettey’s title.

Out of Left Field: The rise of eSports

Can on-screen athletics be a placeholder for the real thing?

Out of Left Field: The rise of eSports

Stadiums, teams, fans, coaches, sponsors, players, practices, and games are not just features of real-world sports, but of eSports as well. With COVID-19 putting athletes’ seasons, like those of our very own Varsity Blues, in jeopardy, digital competitions are providing an opportunity to bring people closer together.

Similar to live sports, eSports — which refers to competitive sports video gaming — test players’ precision and accuracy through physical and tactical challenges. But what makes a sport a sport? Well, it needs to be institutionalized, and it needs to have a broad following around the world.

In 2018, there were nearly 400 million eSports viewers, and according to eMarketer, this number is “expected to surge to roughly 557 million viewers by 2021.” There’s no denying that the popularity of eSports is rising at a rapid pace.

ESports have allowed a much wider range of people to get involved in competitions compared to traditional sports, primarily due to their ease of use and lower physical barriers of entry. The enhanced accessibility of eSports leads to more involvement at the push of a button — literally. That isn’t to say that eSports do not require high levels of skill and many hours of practice and training to get to the top; it’s just easier to get started. 

The tides of popular opinion are shifting, and there now seems to be a place for both eSports and traditional sports to flourish, grow, and push human potential forward. Similar to traditional sports, athletes in eSports get a salary, sponsors, and sometimes even full university scholarships. While the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics will not contain official eSports competitions, people can expect to see digital events organized alongside the Olympic games. 

The Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education at U of T is hosting its very own summer eSports leagues while we continue to practice physical distancing. Participants can play NBA 2K20, FIFA 20, NHL 20, and Madden NFL 20 to quench their competitive thirst in the absence of on-field activities. With three periods of registration — the deadline for the July league is June 18 — anyone can grab a controller and compete. Those interested can register online

Out of Left Field is the Sports section’s newest column. Ever wondered if the university has more to offer than Varsity sports? Out of Left Field will explore the wackiest, weirdest, and most underrated athletic opportunities that U of T has to offer. 

The difficult but necessary art of physical distancing

Being alone is hard ⁠— but feeling lonely is much harder

The difficult but necessary art of physical distancing

The loneliness of physical distancing demands of people what we are simply not meant to do. We are social creatures. We thrive on interactions with others, especially ones that are physical, and being unable to connect can push us to our breaking points.

So, with the continuation of COVID-19, we are expected to practice physical distancing, and many are struggling to keep their mental health afloat. Luckily, many are surrounded by family members, significant others, or roommates. But what about those of us who live alone? I have now spent more than two months alone, and I’ve come to cope with the burdening solitude.

At first, it wasn’t so bad. I binge-watched Scandal, Lost, and Revenge during the first two weeks of March. However, by the time I was halfway through Revenge, reality started kicking in. I’d made up for the boring and increasingly lonely life of physical distancing by immersing myself completely into the action-packed and dramatic lives of TV characters, but I had reached a point where that was simply not enough.

The next two weeks were perhaps my lowest point so far.

I actively felt my physical and mental health going downhill. I knew that physical distancing wouldn’t be easy, but I hadn’t expected it to be as emotionally taxing and draining as it turned out to be.

To make things worse, I was slowly running out of food and water. I’m currently living in a part of Mexico where tap water is undrinkable, and, as such, I had relied on two water jugs the past couple of weeks, which were quickly depleting. However, this turned out to be an opportune moment because I realized that going outside would be a great pick-me-up. So, I decided to go on a grocery run.

I had bought a black cloth mask from a local tailor before I began physical distancing and two packs of medium-sized latex gloves from a pharmacy a block away from my apartment. I hadn’t used them up until that point, and I was inappropriately excited to show them off for the first time.

Seeing everyone in masks freaked me out when I first stepped outside. I don’t know why. I was wearing a mask myself, and, if anything, seeing that other people were wearing masks should have reassured me.

My nervousness was heightened when I got to the entrance of the grocery store. The line to get in wasn’t very long, but a grocery worker stood outside as a bouncer. Before customers went in, he would spray their cart and their hands with disinfectant, regardless of whether they were wearing gloves or not.

When I got inside, I was surprised to see that the store didn’t seem that far out of the ordinary. Yes, some shelves were completely devoid of products, and the lines to the registers stretched halfway across certain aisles, but other than that I was able to find all the groceries I needed. I was glad the experience hadn’t been as hectic as I had expected.

Come April, two of my close friends had invited me to partake in a virtual movie night. I gladly agreed, and now, our movie nights have become an almost nightly occurrence. Even though this wasn’t a big change in my routine from March, it was still nice to be able to share my thoughts, impressions, and quips with others.

Now, in May, I feel a lot better than I did a month ago. Daily exercise has been really effective in perking me up, and I’ve taken up journaling to ease my thoughts and really get to the bottom of who I am and what I want.

Some days are better than others. Whenever I feel myself getting increasingly sad, I go up to my roof and enjoy the sunlight. Often, I’ll read a book and work on my tan.

This pandemic has made me glad we live in such an interconnected and increasingly globalized world. I’m thankful that I can talk to my parents on the phone and contact friends two countries away with the push of a button. Without modern technology, which has connected me with those closest to me, I would have lost my mind. Yes, I am physically by myself, but I’m not truly alone.