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2020 by the numbers: looking back at the year’s top Business & Labour news

New buildings, new programs, new layoffs, new fears
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JULIEN BALBONTIN/THE VARSITY
JULIEN BALBONTIN/THE VARSITY

Starting with high hopes and ending in a pandemic and recession, 2020 has been a rollercoaster for business and labour news at U of T. Below are some financial highlights from the year.

January

Six new capital construction projects in planning stages at UTSC

The UTSC Campus Council announced plans for six new construction projects to be completed by the 2022–2023 academic year. Of particular note are a new student residence that will double UTSC’s residence capacity, a new Instructional Centre that will include classrooms and study areas, and the Indigenous House to provide a space for the Indigenous community.

February

“A springboard for Black success”: Faculty of Law launches new Black Future Lawyers program

The Faculty of Law, in collaboration with the Black Law Students Association, launched the Black Future Lawyers (BFL) program to tackle underrepresentation in the field. BFL provides networking and mentorship opportunities for Black law students and will inaugurate a Black Student Application Process for September 2021 applicants to help break systemic barriers to entry for prospective students.

Caribbean graduate students the focus of new Munk MGA scholarship

Connie Carter, a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, endowed $100,000 to establish a new scholarship for the Master of Global Affairs program. The scholarship is named the Dr. Connie Carter Global Affairs Award and is awarded annually, with the goal of supporting global affairs students from the Caribbean Community.

March

U of T’s deferred maintenance costs at all-time high

The March meeting of the Business Board reported a record-high facility condition index (FCI) at U of T — representing the ratio between the cost to repair a building and to replace it outright — indicating an overwhelming need to address maintenance costs of campus buildings. With FCI scores only increasing with time, the board considered the $5.6 billion cost to replace all its buildings across the campuses.

July

U of T temporarily lays off scores of workers amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Following a campus shutdown due to physical-distancing guidelines, U of T laid off a total of 185 workers across its three campuses at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. Although the university and federal government provided financial support through pay continuity, paid sick leave, and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, workers faced an uncertain future. The Varsity followed-up with some of the laid-off employees in December.

August

No post-pandemic patriarchy: new Rotman report calls for equitable recovery

A report by the Rotman School of Management’s Institute for Gender and the Economy found that women bore the brunt of the COVID-19 recession, representing 63 per cent of total job losses as of March. 

The report claimed that the pandemic has only worsened existing issues — that women, two-spirit individuals, and gender-diverse people were already suffering from systemic barriers to societal advancement — and that any recovery plan to the pandemic has to be equitable.

September

To rent or not to rent under COVID-19 — that is the question

With less people moving into Toronto and more students attending university online due to COVID-19, rent in the city decreased during the summer. However, physical-distancing measures, scarce job opportunities, and the peril of living with strangers meant that many students had to think twice about renting and returning to campus.

Confessions of a public-facing pandemic worker

Working while studying is already difficult in normal circumstances, and COVID-19 only heightened the difficulties that students employed in public-facing positions face. Writing for The Varsity, one such student reflected on the fear and uncertainty they faced every day when heading into work during a pandemic.

October

Breaking down the historic $250 million Temerty donation to the Faculty of Medicine

The Temerty family gifted $250 million to the Faculty of Medicine in September, setting a record for the largest donation to a university in Canadian history. The primary goal of the donation was to promote the application of artificial intelligence in medicine, but numerous ancillary goals included promoting medical entrepreneurship and flexible COVID-19-related funding. In recognition, the faculty was renamed the Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

November

The battle of ECO230: IR students unsuccessfully petition for retroactive CR/NCR option

International relations students unsuccessfully petitioned the Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) for a retroactive credit/no credit option for ECO230 — International Economic Institutions and Policy. Once a cornerstone of international relations programs, the course was removed from the FAS course calendar following review by the faculty and amid outcry from students of poor instruction, unfair grading, and the necessity of costly third-party tutoring services to succeed.

December

Opinion: Why the professional experience year fails — and how we can make it better

Following a controversial overhaul to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) program, the Engineering Society elected Armin Ale to the new position of PEY negotiator to better facilitate talks between the faculty and the student body. Writing for The Varsity, Ale addressed what he saw as the failures of the new PEY program and proposed recommendations to improve it.