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Trudeau visits University of Toronto campus

Liberal frontrunner fields questions from students about leadership race

Trudeau visits University of Toronto campus

Justin Trudeau, the MP for Papineau and putative frontrunner for the leadership of the federal Liberal party, visited the University of Toronto’s St. George campus last Tuesday.

Trudeau, 40, spoke for approximately two hours, fielding questions from a crowd of nearly 400 students. The son of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau returned often to the theme of generational change and the importance of youth involvement in reshaping the Liberal party.

“Obviously something is not working,” said Trudeau, suggesting his party tends to focus “too much on itself.”

He dismissed suggestions that the party needed “rebuilding,” instead stressing the “need to build a whole new Liberal party” to “reconnect with Canadians and recruit young Canadians who are conscious about what’s going on in the world, but feel disconnected.”

“I feel if I didn’t run, there wouldn’t be anyone strong enough to pull together this generation,” Trudeau added.

Students peppered Trudeau with a range of questions, asking him about his reasons for entering politics, healthcare costs, and youth unemployment and engagement in politics.

Asked by moderators Jonathan Scott and Semra Sevi to respond to attacks suggesting he’s unqualified to be prime minister, Trudeau noted his experience running non-profits and as a high-school history and French teacher.

Although he highlighted the need to avoid “divisive” US-style politics, Trudeau missed no opportunity to take a jab at Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, calling him a former “mail clerk” who joined a “right-wing lobby group” before climbing the ranks of the amalgamated Conservative party to

lead an “unhealthy” government. During a media scrum after the Q&A, Trudeau declined to speculate about his position at the head

of the leadership pack.
“That’s what the leadership

race is all about,” said Trudeau. “That’s what Canadians will get to see for themselves, in terms of who they want to represent them as head of the Liberal party.” Trudeau said he is looking forward to the contest.

The next day, Trudeau held a rally in the rural Ontario riding of Durham with provincial Liberal leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne, to lend support to local candidate Grant Humes, who is contesting a federal by-election set on November 26. As he was rallying the local Liberal volunteers, former MP Martha Hall Findlay launched her leadership race in Calgary.

“Allow me to say, ‘I told you so,’” Trudeau said. “I told you there would be a lot of very strong candidates getting into this race, who are going to bring forward tremendous ideas.”

Other candidates in the leadership race include Toronto constitutional expert Deborah Coyne; lawyer David Bertschi, who lost his bid for an Ottawa-area seat in 2011; Vancouver crown prosecutor

Alex Burton; former Liberal president for British Colombia David Merner; and Toronto economist Jonathan Mousley.

Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, a Montreal MP and the Grit house leader, is widely expected to enter the race. Vancouver MP and former provincial environment minister Joyce Murray is also a rumoured contender, as is Toronto lawyer George Takach.

Welcome to the new UC

Plans announced for major restoration, renovation of historic U of T building

Welcome to the new UC

“If you take a picture of the University of Toronto, you take a picture of University College,” says Donald Ainslie, principal of University College. “UC is, in some sense, synecdochical for the university: it’s the part that stands in for the whole.”

In his office, surrounded by relics of the rich heritage of University College — old photographs, pieces of the burnt rubble from the famous fire of 1890, the purported skull of Ivan Reznikoff — Ainslie expounds his plan for UC’s future interior.

Donald Ainslee stands in a to-be-renovated section of UC BERNARDA GOSPIC/THE VARSITY

“One of the things I discovered in my first year as principal was that we had far too much empty and underutilized space. I started to think about what we could do to make sure that students get the most out of what University College has to offer,” he says. Ainslie became principal of the college in July 2011, having previously served as chair of U of T’s philosophy department.

The UC building, a designated Canadian national historic site, opened in 1859 and was last renovated in the 1980s.

“It’s an institution that’s welcoming, that’s respectful of our longstanding, non-sectarian history and our history of openness, taking students no matter what their religious or ethnic background. This helped to focus a discussion of the space: how do we make the building embody that which UC is about?”

Ainslie explains that the project is guided by four principles, decided upon through consultation with faculty and students: “To embody the college’s commitment to education and research; to make sure this commitment focuses on undergraduates; respect for historical heritage; and accessibility.”

Students and faculty have been supportive throughout the process. “Students have been involved throughout and I’ve heard pretty much only supportive words,” Ainslie said.

The University College Literary and Athletic Society (UCLit) has enthusiastically supported the proposed renovations.

“It’s a beautiful building that we all love and I don’t see anything negative about trying to maximize its use,” says Ben Dionne, president of the UCLit. “The biggest concern has been that it’s going to happen when people are graduated. Overall, people are very enthusiastic about the project.”

A key project in the proposed restoration will be relocating the Laidlaw Library. The 33,000-work collection will be moved to East Hall to become the new University College Library, and Laidlaw’s current space will serve as a large classroom or event space.

Although a few fans of Laidlaw are disappointed with this plan, the library goes largely unused, regularly sitting empty.

“This idea came partly because of a fortuitous circumstance. East Hall was originally the library of the university with a mezzanine that housed about 33,000 works,” Ainslie explains. “Why not solve the problem that East Hall sits empty and solve the problem that the library isn’t working for our students by returning to the original purpose of East Hall, being inspired by this history and reconstructing a twenty-first century library in a historic space?”

The architecture and design of the library will invoke the original space, reconstructing the mezzanine over the stacks, and using columnar lighting inspired by the kerosene lamps originally used throughout the college, one of which caused the devastating 1890 fire that burned the College to the ground.

Other proposed renovations include converting West Hall to a multi-purpose space, revamping and modernizing UC classrooms, and adding a café to the third floor, likely in partnership with beloved UC institution Diabolos.

While Ainslie intends to fix floors and desks and bring in new technology as part of his plan to modernize the lecture halls, he also wants to uncover hidden historic features to reveal and highlight the heritage of the building.

Accessibility, one of Ainslie’s central tenets for the restoration, is a critical issue in the college as it stands.

“We pride ourselves on being the open college … and yet if you can’t handle stairs, it’s a very difficult building. If there’s a class with any kind of mobility problems, we will move the class. We can’t accommodate the student’s needs and it shows that we failed to meet our sense of ourselves as the welcoming college. We’re trying to build accessibility into all the projects,” Ainslie explains.

Dionne expressed concern about accessibility as well. “To get in the college right now, you need to go all the way around, and take the elevator at Laidlaw Library.”

To address this need, an elevator will be placed in the centre of the building, and a new wheelchair-accessible entrance will be constructed behind Croft Chapter House.

Croft will also undergo a facelift under the proposed plans. The aging space will be renovated into a modern conference room with improved lighting for research events and meetings of the UCLit. It will be linked to the Senior Common Room with additional entryways.

The University College quad will undergo changes, with lighting and outlets to allow for more events to occur in the outdoor space. A new air conditioning system will be introduced to the college, meaning that the large AC unit in the corner of the quad will be removed. In order to increase traffic to the patio surrounding the quad, a slope will be added on the east side to connect the quad on all sides. Renewed vegetation and a water feature will also be added.

The cost of the plan remains unclear. Ainslie intends to fundraise through the ongoing university-wide Boundless campaign. University College fees are determined by students, and therefore are unlikely to be impacted by the restoration, though there is some discussion within the UCLit about asking students to contribute modestly to the campaign.

“There is some talk about trying to pass a referendum to get a project levy,” Dionne explains. “It’s still in discussion, but we are thinking about asking students to throw in a small contribution. This would bring some money, but also show possible investors that the students are behind it.”

Ainslie  believes that the project will reinvigorate the college by bringing activity to the front of the building and bustle to its hallways. “I want the place to be alive. We don’t have a lot of large classrooms, there’s not as many people in the building as I’d like to see,” he says. “I want it to be a centre of activity.”

“I want the college to be alive so when students collect in West Hall and march out of the college at convocation, reenacting the history of the college, they say that this is a place where they spent a lot of time; ‘That is where my life at UC happened.’”

Reforms absent from AGM agenda

Union opts to hire lawyer to conduct review of electoral policies

Several proposed reforms to the University of Toronto Students’ Union electoral policy were quashed Sunday after it was announced that the amendments had been submitted past the deadline — a deadline that, according to some, was intentionally obscured to prevent the  proposed changes from coming before next week’s annual general meeting.

The UTSU found itself on the defensive after student co-head of Trinity College Sam Greene charged that the union “deliberately attempted to stifle proposals and amendments” that he believes should be discussed during Thursday’s high-profile meeting. Trinity College will vote Monday on a motion calling for the resignation of union executives.

All UTSU constituents are eligible to attend the annual general meeting, to be held this Thursday. In recent years, the AGM has served as a de facto battleground for pro- and anti-union groups. (for more, see pg 5)

The amendments, which were developed by Greene in conjunction with other college leaders, were not added to the AGM agenda because they were submitted too late to be vetted by the Policy and Procedures Committee and the Board of Directors.

Some of the changes proposed by Greene included removing the ability to use proxies in voting at AGMs as well as reducing the minimum number of nominations needed to run as a candidate in future elections.

The amendments were developed in part to operationalize changes initially proposed by a  non-binding, non-partisan declaration circulated by the St. George Round Table. Various campus groups have endorsed the declaration, including the Trinity College Meeting, the University College Literary and Athletic Society, the Engineering Society and most recently, the St. Michael’s College Student Union.

Instead of entertaining the reforms at Tuesday’s AGM, union executives moved late last week to allocate $17,000 to hire a lawyer to perform an “independent and bipartisan review of elections procedure.” UTSU president Shaun Shepherd said that the review will be completed prior to the next election.

Absent Greene’s amendments, the union will discuss a largely uncontroversial agenda that tinkers with several components of UTSU bylaws.

Last year’s AGM mandated that the UTSU would be required to advertise future meetings in vaguely defined “campus publications.” This year, it is being proposed that “campus publication” be clarified to mean The Varsity and the newspaper.

The role of the vice president– campus life is also to be altered. The job currently calls for “one clubs day and at least one clubs resource session each semester.” The proposed change will describe the job as “chief liaison with union-recognized campus groups.”

Angered by the what he calls the union’s “obfuscation,” Greene took to Facebook, claiming that he had specifically emailed UTSU vice president-internal and Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) chair Corey Scott to ask if there was a deadline for proposal submission to the AGM.

The response, according to Greene, “was not forthcoming.”

In an interview with The Varsity, Scott maintained that he responded to Greene’s request by informing him about the policy for proposal submission, and specifically that “unfortunately, he would be unable to submit proposals to the AGM [this year]”.

Greene rejected Scott’s claims as a “lie”, saying he hadn’t received a response. Greene also noted that even if Scott had responded when Scott claims he did (allegedly on November 7), it would have come too late for Greene to have the time to react.

“Due to the nature of the bylaws surrounding reform, it is unlikely Sam would have been able to get his proposals in anyways,” Scott says. “Something that wasn’t understood is that the firm deadline for submitting proposals comes way in advance of the AGM and that [the proposals] need to be vetted by the Policy and Procedures Committee first.

“There is no malicious intent anywhere. In fact, I would say the approach that Sam took is disingenuous and a bit offensive.”

When pressed on the allegation that he had responded late to Greene’s email, Scott did say that “the end of October and early November is a hectic period, where we’re finishing up our budgeting cycle and we’re trying to get international student identity cards. So, I made it a priority to get those done and while I try to get to emails as fast as I can, I don’t have hordes and hordes of executive assistants working behind me.”

Greene believes the email conflict speaks to a larger issue.

“It’s obvious that the UTSU executive is deliberately trying to conceal information. They’re working as hard as they can to ensure that students’ voices aren’t heard,” says Greene. “I don’t see the point in having an AGM if its only purpose is to rubber stamp pre-approved Union policy. What Corey has done in this case is indicative of a broader culture of paranoia and non-transparency where requests for basic information by students are ignored or denied, and opposing voices are marginalized.”

Mike Cowan, president of the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU), agrees. He believes the UTSU had a duty to publicize the deadline and procedures to the general public in order to ensure all prospective issues could come to light and be discussed at the AGM.

Asked about Cowan’s concerns, Corey Scott said: “Should we add that to the website? Sure. I think we can add that but people need to let me know what most of the concerns are.”

Cowan said he finds it difficult to believe that Scott hasn’t heard any of these concerns before. “The by-law amendments that Sam sent were not rooted in partisan-politics. [Our] amendments were drafted with the intention of bettering the system the UTSU works in, and they were shot down evidently out of spite for anyone who wants to do something productive for this university’s students, and to do it with legitimate representation of the general student voice.”

An “extremely frustrated” Cowan maintains that he is “not just expressing [his] personal views, but the opinions of the SMCSU.”

“Whatever we say, it’s going to be interpreted as something that is partisan,” Scott says. “It is going to be interpreted as the most evil thing ever. That’s why I think the best thing to do is get a legal opinion on it to make sure we have strong election procedures.”

Rishi Maharaj, president of the Engineering Society finds the move to hire legal counsel unconvincing. “The refusal to even discuss the most patently reasonable reforms to the UTSU — such as requiring sitting executives to actually be students or to institute preferential voting so that voters’ intentions can be captured more accurately — demonstrates that the current executive opposes anything that would dilute their power. Their defense is singularly shallow: it is not illegal for them to do this.

“They may very well be right about that, but it is certainly unethical, and most importantly, destructive of the aims that the UTSU was founded to promote.”

KPE to shutter leadership centre

Popular centre employs numerous students on campus

KPE to shutter leadership centre

A memo released last week by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education announced that a prominent student leadership centre for KPE students was to be shut down, its services decentralized to other program areas within the faculty.

The Centre of Leadership Training and Education (CLTE) is a student centre focused on developing leadership skills related to physical and heath education, as well as providing staff training for KPE-related jobs.

It is also one of the biggest student employers on campus.

The announcement of the centre’s closure came as a surprise to many students and staff within the faculty, including those employed at the centre.

One student doing a work-study placement with the CLTE said that while she knew the centre had been under review, “the decision to shut it down was a complete surprise.” Another casual staff member commented on how the memo seemed vague on what will happen to the CLTE in the future.

Kevin Sousa, president of the Physical and Health Education Undergraduate Association (KPE’s student union), noted that the centre had a positive reputation on campus and was seen as a valuable resource by many students both within and outside the KPE program.

But in a formal review commissioned by dean Ira Jacobs during the 2010–2011 year,  the CLTE was criticized for what administrators perceived as a vague and unfocussed mandate. It was recommended at the time that the centre’s mandate be streamlined to better serve students.

The review also offered, as one of its solutions to combat the centre’s broad mandate, a redistribution of CLTE services to other program areas within the faculty.

Though the report had been partially informed by student input through focus groups and interviews, student leaders like Sousa felt that student engagement in the final decision about the centre was lacking.

“One of my largest concerns was that the decision was made unilaterally by the senior leadership as there were no students involved in the actual decision process,” said Sousa. “It’s quite problematic to have a governing structure to make a decision without involving students in the process.”

Other students involved with the CLTE feel the same; a casual staff member noted that it did not feel like the faculty was consulting students in their decisions, and that there needed to be more emphasis on student impact in the future.

Anita Comella, one of the assistant deans involved in the decision, said that while the formal report was a factor, the decision was also a business one, informed by a vision to incorporate more experiential learning opportunities within the Faculty.

Comella noted that faculty was changing its academic program. “The intent is to include student leadership and experiential learning within all the courses provided by the faculty — so there would be no need for the CLTE to provide this.”

Comella also noted that the decentralization process will mean the delegation of work-study positions to the appropriate curricular or co-curricular positions within the faculty, and that staff training will be undertaken within these specific program areas.

Though the transition plan from a centralized hub for student leadership to a decentralized one has not yet been detailed, Comella says that over the next six weeks, the CLTE staff and senior leadership will put an effective strategy in place.

The centre is expected to be discontinued by March of 2013.

Currently, there are differing opinions of the future implications of the CLTE closure. To Comella, the decentralization of the CLTE services will bring new opportunities to enhance student leadership and collaboration within the Faculty.

But to many students, the CLTE was also a student centre that brought the KPE student body together. For one staff member involved in leadership programming at the CLTE, “there will be a big difference between a centre that makes leadership development its number one priority, versus someone who does it on the side — the quality of leadership training is going to go down.”


For more on the KPE Sport Model review, see pg 23

Canada’s reputation abroad falters in higher education

An Ipsos-Reid study commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade found that Canada is not seen as a prospective destination for university education and that “there is no awareness that Canada has world-class educational establishments.”

The University of Toronto was one of few institutions with a positive perception outside of Canada. The otherwise negative findings come as a surprise, since Canada attracts almost 100,000 international students every year.

The report recommends improving the “Imagine Education in Canada” campaign. Produced jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the international campaign is meant to promote Canada’s image on the international education market.

Suggested improvements include providing more information on the advantages of Canada’s international education programs, as well as the advantages of Canada’s high living standards.

In recent months the Canadian government has been working with post-secondary institutions to promote Canada’s education brand abroad. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made education a key strategy in deepening economic ties with Asia. U of T president David Naylor made a similar move during his own trip to Hong Kong for the university’s Boundless campaign.

Fall convocation installs new chancellor, awards honorary degrees

Friends and families gathered at Convocation Hall this November to celebrate the presentation of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees to over 4,300 students, including the inaugural class of Global Professional LLM graduates.

The Honourable Michael Wilson was also installed as the 33rd Chancellor of the University of Toronto at the ceremonies, succeeding the Honourable David R. Peterson. A former Canadian ambassador to the United States and federal Minister of Finance, Wilson served as Chancellor of Trinity College from 2003 to 2006, where which he graduated in 1959. Currently chairman of Barclays Capital Canada Inc., Wilson received an honoury Doctor of Laws degree from the university in 2005 and is on the governing council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Sharing the stage with the graduates was distinguished Canadian poet and classicist Anne Carson, who joined Dr. Vandana Shiva in receiving honourary degrees. Known for her unique fusion of poetic forms, Carson is a University of Toronto graduate and a member of the Order of Canada. The author of over twenty books, Shiva is known for promoting sustainable agricultural practices and women’s rights worldwide.

Contentious VUSAC amendments withdrawn

Two contentious amendments to the Victoria University Student Administrative Council constitution have abruptly been withdrawn from consideration after being proposed and debated in recent meetings.

One amendment would have ensured that only Canadian citizens could serve as president of the VUSAC, the other that only Victoria students with at least one year of experience on the VUSAC would be eligible for the presidency.

Both amendments have since been withdrawn, but not before inciting considerable dissent, both within the VUSAC and in the student body.

The first amendment was advanced in order to make the VUSAC constitution compliant with the Victoria University Act, which assigns a seat on the Board of Regents, Victoria University’s highest governing body, to the President. The Act also stipulates that all members of the Board of Regents must be Canadian citizens. Students have alleged that discussion of the proposal was redacted from council meeting minutes after they were posted on the VUSAC website.

The second amendment was motivated by a conviction among some students that only a candidate with prior VUSAC experience could serve as an effective president. But some VUSAC executives and students believed that the amendment would aggravate the so-called ‘VUSAC bubble,’ which is said to isolate the council from its constituents and deter parts of the Victoria University population from becoming involved in student government.

“Instead of trying to bring people into the process of student government, this council is spending its time insulating itself from the student body,” said Zack Medow, a former VUSAC presidential candidate.

Although neither proposal was approved, there will be another opportunity to introduce constitutional amendments in the second semester.

Opposing factions battle for proxy votes

Scramble for votes leave both sides on edge as meeting approaches

A concerted effort by opposing factions on campus to gather proxy votes in advance of Thursday’s UTSU annual general meeting is underway, with thousands of votes potentially in play.

Routine votes that take place at the meeting have become increasingly polarized in recent years. Students opposed to the UTSU have consistently been outgunned when it comes to voting, and appear determined to change the status quo this year.

“For the first time in as long as I can remember, we’re actually collecting proxies,” said Sam Greene, student co-head of Trinity College.

Proxies are forms enabling students who cannot attend the meeting to have other students vote on their behalf. A fully completed form can confer one student with the votes of up to 10 others.

This year, approximately 375 forms have been signed out, meaning that up to 3,750 votes are in play. Equivalent estimates from last year vary from 20 to 50 forms.

The race to gather votes is motivated in part by the opposition’s experience at previous annual general meetings.

“They limited debate to three speakers for and three speakers against,” said Brett Chang, a fixture of the opposition movement on campus. “It allowed them to force votes quicker, and power through the agenda. Students with legitimate concerns were silenced.”

According to Greene, allies of the union tend to come prepared with a “massive number of proxies” that, when deployed in combination with students that the union “buses in from UTM for the meeting”, ensures the passage of all agenda items.

Engineering Society president Rishi Maharaj says he thinks that anyone who attends the meeting will see the problems confronting the opposition.

“I want as many as possible to attend, to see how the union actually functions,” says Maharaj. He estimates that engineering society members have submitted between 40 and 60 completed proxy forms.

Opposition efforts to collect proxies are concentrated at St. Michael’s College, Trinity College, and the Faculty of Engineering. According to Maharaj, however, all members of the SGRT are working on increasing their presence at the meeting.

The union and its allies, aware of this effort, have engaged in a campaign of their own. Student groups with connections to the current UTSU executive have been actively soliciting proxies.

There are allegations that their strategy has been to suggest that without support, in person or through proxies, clubs funding and even the very existence of the union could be endangered.

Others have complained that these suggestions are misleading attempts at scare-mongering.

Kerri Tingling, vice-president of the Black Students’ Association, urged supporters on Facebook to collect proxies: “If you truly love the BSA, we need you to stop by the UTSU office ASAP and pick up a proxy form … support our beloved UTSU by dropping by their office”.

At a Hindu Students‘ Council Diwali event, students were asked to sign a “petition” which was in fact a proxy form.

“The students were told that “15,000 to 16,000 Trinity students had signed a petition to abolish the Hindu Students’ Council, and they needed to collect signatures to stop them,” said Sanchit Mathur, a director on the UTSU board.

“Around this time of the year cultural clubs often feel the most targeted when people are going after the UTSU,” said Mathur.

In another instance related by Trinity director Calvin Mitchell, a student stood up in her Swahili class on Thursday and asked her classmates to sign her proxy form. “I was just sitting in a NEW280 class and at the break a student representing the UTSU came in and said everyone needs to sign their proxy form if they don’t want the union to be abolished,” says Mitchell, who is also enrolled in the class.

It remains unclear which side has collected more proxy votes. The meeting room’s capacity is 273. With approximately 375 forms signed out, it is possible that all form-holders will not be able to fit into the room. Tensions are high across campus, and a controversial meeting is now expected by both parties. “People are just going to get frustrated and angry,” predicts Laurel Chester, New College director for the UTSU. “And things aren’t going to go well.”