David Palmer: The man behind Boundless

The Varsity interviews the man in charge of U of T's $2 billion fundraising campaign — the largest in Canada

David Palmer: The man behind Boundless

Construction has become a fact of life at this university.

There are, of course, some negative aspects to this constant. The roar of backhoes and bulldozers interspersed around campus can become irritating at times. Worksites, vast tracts of dirt and concrete, and spiderwebs of half-assembled steel girders rising slowly toward the sky are admittedly unsightly. In some cases, there may be reason to question whether what is being built is more valuable than what was destroyed to make way for it, as was the case for the Back Campus project.

Vice-President of Advancement David Palmer poses with the Boundless handbook in front of Simcoe Hall. SARAH TAGUIAM/FILE PHOTO

Vice-President of Advancement David Palmer poses with the Boundless handbook in front of Simcoe Hall. SARAH TAGUIAM/FILE PHOTO

But, at its core, construction is growth, and growth is survival. Every building erected, every faculty member employed, every research initiative seen through is a sign that the University of Toronto is alive, thriving, and well-financed. U of T is currently engaged in a fundraising initiative, titled the Boundless campaign. Launched in 2011, the project seeks to raise $2 billion in donations. As of September 27, it has collected $1.35 billion of this sum. Before the university’s most recent campaign, 15 years ago, U of T typically raised below $20 million per year in donations. For Boundless, the school seeks to collect at least $200 million per year, a figure it has well exceeded thus far. This is made possible, in part, by the work of the University Advancement Division, and of David Palmer, vice-president, advancement.

“Last year, for instance, we raised $226 million,” says Palmer, “Of course that money lands in a lot of different places around the university. Every single department, college, faculty, and campus participates in the campaign. They all benefit, and in fact, the fundraising that was done has gone into all of these divisions.”

The vice-president is soft-spoken and businesslike, possibly a practised affect, but at any rate one that is likely useful for persuading generous volunteers like Peter Munk, Judy and Blake Goldring, and Joseph Rotman to contribute to the university. “We do very little advertising or direct solicitation,” he explains. “By far the majority of money we raise, probably well in excess of 90 per cent, is by face-to-face meetings with individuals and corporations that have an interest in supporting us.”

Boundless has, of course, explored many different avenues of fundraising: alumni receive mailers and telephone calls encouraging them to give, flags advertising U of T’s Boundless are ubiquitous on campus, and the administration has hosted impressive galas in several strategically important locales, such as Silicon Valley and Hong Kong, to raise awareness of the university’s projects.

“We really needed to be out there with a very strong statement of the nature of this university, its importance to society, its importance to this community, and what it is we’re going to do, what we’re going to stand for, and why it matters. And that’s the key phrase: why it matters,” emphasizes Palmer, the subtlest hint of conviction entering his quiet speech. “I’ve had direct conversations with alumni that have said, ‘You know, I knew you were going to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. But now that I’ve been exposed to this, I’m really impressed with what you’re doing in this area and that area, and I’m going to give some thought to my gift to the campaign, and instead of giving “x”, I might give “x times 2” or “x times 3.”’”

The vice-president lists some of these possible areas of interest: “We raise money for some of the most exciting academic projects that you’ve ever come across, whether those projects are coming out of medicine, or engineering, or they’re coming out of English, history, or they’re coming out of UTM, UTSC, these are the projects that drive philanthropy,” he says. “The quality of our ideas, the quality of our people, those are the things that drive people to come to the table and be generous toward the university.” Palmer’s vocabulary in describing these grand endeavours is fairly mercenary, likely because money is important to all of them.

This reality has proven quite challenging to the administration at times. Government grants to the university have effectively been frozen for two decades now. U of T’s tuition is one of the lowest in the world for an institution of its calibre. As he discusses these obstacles, Palmer shares a rueful smile with Michael Kurts, assistant vice-president, university relations, who has been silently taking notes on the meeting. Perhaps most damagingly, the university’s entire endowment (as well as its Pension Master Trust fund) is managed and invested by the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM). While its returns have been between reasonable and impressive most years, in 2008, as a result of the worldwide financial crisis, UTAM lost $600 million of the university’s $2.1 billion endowment. The Advancement Division’s work, including the Boundless campaign, has gone some distance to alleviate this; U of T’s endowment sat at $1.896 billion at the end of 2012.

These gains have come with remarkable efficiency. Palmer describes how Boundless has spent on average $0.15 for every $1.00 it has raised, an almost sevenfold return, which is far better than Revenue Canada’s recommended rate of $0.35 per $1.00 raised.

The effects of this yield reverberate throughout the university and, ultimately, allow it to be a school. “I think raising money for faculty has huge direct benefits for students,” says Palmer. “When you look at all of our top faculty, our Canada Research chairs, our endowed chairs, our major award winners, over 90 per cent of them teach undergraduates. There are not many universities, in Canada or elsewhere, that can come anywhere close to that statistic.”

“We have new buildings like the Rotman School, like the law school, like the Goldring Centre; those are three examples of capital projects where there’s very significant support for students built into them, and we’ve been very successful at raising funds for those capital projects, because either they’re tied to the need for expansion or to very poor facilities that have been existing for some time and been degrading over time.”

This is the surest sign of Palmer’s success: the University of Toronto is building.

With files from Anthony Marchese

Tales from the TTC

U of T students share their most memorable experiences riding the rocket on this interactive map

Tales from the TTC

Tales from the TTC

Click on the points on the map to read stories from U of T students about their experiences riding the rocket:


Scenes from the TTC













Lecturer “not interested” in teaching works of queer, female, or Chinese writers

David Gilmour’s comments draw criticism from administration, students’ union

Lecturer “not interested” in teaching works of queer, female, or Chinese writers

David Gilmour has come under fire in the past few days following an interview with Hazlitt, in which he indicated his preference for teaching the works of heterosexual male authors. The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has criticized both Gilmour and the U of T administration’s response to the ongoing controversy. Gilmour is a sessional instructor at U of T.

“I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women,” said Gilmour in the Hazlitt interview.

In an email to The Varsity, Yollen Bollo-Kamara, the union’s vice-president, equity, stated: “David Gilmour’s comments were absolutely offensive and unconscionable. The University should take immediate action to ensure that concerns of hundreds of members of the university community are adequately addressed. We all have the right to a safe, inclusive learning environment.”

Scott Prudham, president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association, joined a number of university figures in distancing themselves from Gilmour’s statements: “These comments fail in the most fundamental way to respect and reflect the great cultural and intellectual diversity of this institution, this community, and the Faculty Association itself. While Mr. Gilmour may well choose the books he wants to teach based on his expertise as a teacher and a writer, one would hope he would choose his words more carefully in both capacities, not least out of respect for his colleagues and his students.”

Angela Esterhammer, an English professor and principal of Victoria College, praised Gilmour’s professional pedigree, describing him as a part-time instructor who “brings his professional accomplishments as a Governor General’s Award-winning novelist and film critic to his teaching role.” Esterhammer outlined the fact that Gilmour has since apologized to students and staff, and that many people, including the Victoria College administration, have stated that they do not share Gilmour’s views.

Esterhammer concluded by defending the course offerings at U of T, which she described as “without parallel” for their range and diversity: ”David Gilmour’s seminar ‘Love, Sex, and Death in Short Fiction’ is an optional course that students may take at Victoria College. It is one among hundreds of course offerings in literature at the University of Toronto and its Colleges, which include survey courses as well as small, focused seminars. These course offerings are incredibly diverse as to culture, gender, form, period, content, and approach.”

Thursday morning, roughly 50 students attended a rally at Victoria to show their support.

Andrea Day and Miram Novick, two U of T graduate students who organized the rally, called on attendees to “show [our] support for the omission of unserious people like women, queer folks, and writers of colour (especially Chinese writers) from university syllabi.”

U of T issued a statement Thursday outlining their stance on Gilmour’s statements: “One might hope that, in a university environment, teachers would encourage respectful airing of differences of opinion, and that, by airing their own views in a respectful way, they would encourage students to examine critically their own beliefs as well as those of their teachers and classmates.”

The statement outlined the fact that Gilmour has repeatedly apologized for his statements, and that the university had heard from students, faculty, and staff who were “dismayed” by his statements. “The University and Victoria College will also ensure that students in his class are under no misapprehensions that Mr. Gilmour’s literary preferences may be translated into assumptions about their innate abilities,” it read.

This statement also drew harsh criticism from the students’ union. “We are very disappointed in the statement released by the University this evening,” said Bollo-Kamara, “It is frustrating that the University does not acknowledge the impact that Mr. Gilmour’s words may have on the large part of our population who are women, Chinese, or do not identify as heterosexual.”


With files from Kate McCullough.

Dissecting the Insider Pass

UTSU-offered discount card contains almost no discounts not available for free

Dissecting the Insider Pass

Earlier this month, an investigation by The Varsity revealed that the Insider Pass sold by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) offered discounts that were already offered to students for free. This week, a reporter from The Varsity purchased an Insider Pass from the UTSU to investigate the benefits that are being offered. For $20, a student receives a piece of photo identification labelled as the Insider Pass, in addition to a “survival kit.” The pass itself displays the UTSU logo and is labelled as: “Your official Insider Pass into the University of Toronto’s Community Clubs and Campus Events.” However, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) logo is also clearly displayed on the card, giving the impression that the UTSU pass is an ISIC card with additional UTSU benefits. The ISIC card, which is available to all students for free at the UTSU office, already offers most of the discounts advertised by the Insider Pass, such as a $10 discount at The Body Shop with purchases over $20. When The Varsity visited The Body Shop, employees only acknowledged the ISIC logo but did not comment on the validity of the Insider Pass. However, discounts that the ISIC already offers are advertised on the UTSU website as exclusive to Insider Pass holders, including discounts for The Body Shop, WestJet, and Greyhound.

At present, no definitive list of businesses that offer benefits with the Insider Pass is available. Students can see the discounts available with the Insider Pass on a poster displayed at the UTSU office and on their Orientation website. Both sources advertise the following benefits: discounts for the UTSU Unity Ball and Culture Show, the Body Shop, WestJet, Greyhound, the annual Montreal Reading Week trip, as well as the UTSU water bottle and survival kit — the only discounts exclusive to the pass are ones that pertain to UTSU events. Other than the advertised UTSU events and discounts that are already available to students, the pass’s benefits have yet to be announced.

UTSU president Munib Sajjad stated through email, “The discounts to known UTSU events have been spelled out, but events are also created throughout the year by students, which is why it is not as yet definitive.” Sajjad mentioned that discounts available outside of university events are still being developed “The ISIC discounts are fully listed on the ISIC Canada Website. The discounts that are not available with the ISIC are all discounts that pertain to UTSU-specific events, in addition to discounts that are currently being worked out with local businesses who have offered to be a part of the program, (these will include yoga studios near campus, theatres near campus and other locally-focused discounts).” The names of the businesses have not been specified.

Though the Insider Pass duplicates free discounts, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) does not find this problematic. Hildah Otieno, a spokesperson for the CFS said, “We have partnered with other universities in the past to combine the ISIC card with other services the student unions can offer. At the University of Ottawa we helped them plan an ISIC card that also involved their bus plan.” When asked to comment on the cost of the pass for the limited amount of services, Otieno could only say that while the CFS helped with the idea of the pass, the UTSU is an autonomous organization and that the actual putting together of the pass was outside of the CFS’ realm of control. “We do not believe that it creates a two tiered system,” commented Otieno, emphasizing that the ISIC card is available for free and that purchasing the Insider Pass is entirely optional. Some U of T student leaders have criticized the pass for setting up a “two-tiered” system.

The UTSU’s advertising for the pass is also a potential source of confusion. The UTSU Orientation website refers to the pass as an “Orientation Insider Pass,” and events for which it advertises exclusive access are all during Frosh Week. The pass seems to be targeted specifically towards first-year students. These events include the chance to meet and greet rapper Lupe Fiasco at the Frosh Concert, “a chance to arrive in style by limo” to the Guvernment Afterparty, and a chance to win a free meal at the UTSU Street Festival. However, these benefits have not been available since the end of Frosh Week. Sajjad said that the pass is targeted towards first-year students with the intention to get them involved with UTSU events, “It is our hope that this pass will help first year students save some money, and get plugged in to some campus events and the community at large.”


The Contents


1). Wall calendar
2). UTSU Planner
3). Pen
4). Highlighter
5). Shrimp crackers
6). Coffee cup
7). Emergen-C
8). Gummy bears
9). Scotiabank promotion
10). UTSU waterbottle
11). Princeton review promotion
12). Zipcar promotion
13). Sammy’s promotion
14). Bookmark
15). Clubs directory
16). Tea Emporium promotion
17). Canada’s Wonderland coupon
18). UTSU fabric bag


The Fine Print

— Anyone that creates a Scotiabank debit account gets five free movies. This can be found on their website and at any Scotiabank branch.

— The Sammy’s coupon for a free drink was offered in Frosh Kits and when asked, Sammy’s had no knowledge of it being used in the Insider Pass kits saying only: “we’re trying to get rid of the coupons.”

— The $15 Zipcar discount is for York students. No comparable offers exists for U of T.

— The Princeton Review flyer offering discount codes for their services can also be picked up at the UTSU office.

— The Tea Emporium discount is offered to all students. A TCard is accepted as a valid form of ID. A representative did not know what the Insider Pass was when asked.

— The agenda, clubs directory, water bottle and travel mug are all distributed in frosh kits. UTSU President Munib Sajjad has repeatedly denied that Insider Pass contents include excess frosh kit items.

— The UTSU advertises a number of discounts available with the pass, including a $10 discount at The Body Shop for purchases over $20 and a 25 per cent discount on Greyhound bus tickets within Canada. Both discounts are available with the presentation of a TCard.

— Other discounts found on the Insider Pass website are available to students with ISIC cards, available free of charge to UTSU members

— The ISIC offers students 109 discounts in Toronto alone. At present, the Insider Pass website identifies four specific non-UTSU event related discounts, all also offered by the ISIC. The UTSU has repeatedly declined requests to provide a complete list of discounts offered by the Insider Pass, including the amount of the discount on UTSU events.

UTSU implements online voting

After more than a year of divisive debate, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) voted Friday to offer online voting for its upcoming October by-election.

Supporters hope that online voting will make voting more accessible to students. The motion to approve online voting follows three general meetings, a $17,000 lawyer’s report commissioned to study the impact, and a threat from the Provost’s office.

The board approved the recommendations of the Elections and Referendum Committee (ERC) almost unanimously, bringing online voting to UTSU elections this fall. The ERC proposed a motion to limit hours for online voting to 9 am–6 pm, with the intention of ensuring “a fair and secure election process.” The committee’s minutes state that the intention is to prevent candidates from campaigning during late evenings and overnight at social events where alcohol is present. Additionally, the motion is designed to ensure candidates who live on or near campus do not gain an unfair advantage.

Some directors, including arts & science at-large director Benjamin Coleman, who proposed a number of other electoral reforms that were also approved, raised concerns in the minutes. “We have a rule that prevents campaigning in residence during voting, a rule that prevents pressuring someone while they’re voting online, and a rule that prevents campaigning where alcohol is served — it’s a solution for problems that we already have rules for, so I don’t see how it justifies the huge loss of accessibility for students,” said Coleman, who sits on the ERC.

Benjamin Crase, UTSU board member for Trinity College, as well as co-head of the College, was similarly critical: “The purpose of an electoral policy is to account for the changes and elucidate the parameters needed to ensure a continued fair and safe elections process. Currently this motion is only stifling the creation of a more accessible electoral system,” he said. Crase was not able to attend the meeting. Aimee Quenneville, UTSU board member for University College, deputized on his behalf.

UTSU president Munib Sajjad spoke in favour of adopting online voting hours. Sajjad referred to instances of candidates campaigning to residence students during various council and college elections where online voting is used as explanation for the restricted hours.

UTSU vice-president, internal, Cameron Wathey spoke on behalf of the ERC. He confirmed that the executive will work with Simply Voting, a web-based online voting system. Testing of the system is expected to occur next week. Discussions between U of T and the ERC took place in order to ensure that the online voting system meets the university’s requirements for security and logistics. “The university’s involvement has simply been to provide support for implementation with the UTORid system. They have been truly helpful,” said Wathey. Students will be able to vote by logging in with their UTORid.

According to UTSU bylaws, ratifications to the Election Procedure Code may not have sections externalized. The Board of Directors may only send the document back to the ERC for review and revision. This prevents directors from voting on proposals one by one.

Among the electoral code changes approved Friday, the UTSU’s board eliminated the Elections and Referenda Appeals Committee, which used to be the final appeal body for election-related complaints. There will now be a two-step complaints process, with the Chief Returning Officer’s decisions appealable to the Elections and Referenda Committee only. The rules were also changed to standardize costs for common items, so groups of candidates don’t have a financial advantage by purchasing in bulk. Similarly, the reimbursement structure was changed in an attempt to eliminate any financial barriers that may cause candidates not to run.

The election will fill nine positions, including vice-president, external, one of five vice-presidents that are part of the executive committee. The vice-president, external, position requires a by-election because Sana Ali, who ran with this year’s executive in last spring’s election, resigned mid-campaign, citing concerns about the executives’ autonomy. Students can be nominated to run in the upcoming elections at any point before October 4. Voting will take place October 15– 17.

Private tutors: required or redundant?

ECOMAN, Toronto Life Sciences, and SOS Tutoring receive mixed reviews

Private tutors: required or redundant?

As a first-year student, Chelsey Konya struggled in Economics 105. Finding that she was not able to learn effectively in lecture, she stopped going to economics classes after the first few weeks. Around exam time, Konya remembered a pamphlet she received in the first week of class for a tutoring service called ECOMAN. Konya paid for the service, aced her exam, and passed the course.



Konya is one of many students who opt to use services offered by private tutoring companies such as ECOMAN, Toronto Life Sciences (TLS), and SOS Tutoring Inc. Among other services, these companies offer group tutoring sessions designed around many introductory math, science, and economics courses at U of T. While Konya had very positive things to say about her experience, perspectives on the effectiveness and value of these services vary widely among faculty and students.

Though outside tutoring companies are not affiliated with the university, they often rent space from U of T and run their sessions on university property. Laurie Stephens, Director of Media Relations for the university did not answer questions about the tutors saying: “We cannot comment on the effectiveness of services provided by external service providers.”


Concerns about “crash course” learning model

Some professors interviewed by The Varsity expressed concern about “crash course” sessions offered by private tutoring companies. “Some of these services try to teach students to memorize a lot of things without understanding,” said mat137 course coordinator and lecturer Alfonso Gracia-Saz. He added that a crash course focusing on memorization and pattern matching will not prepare a student for a well-designed exam, which would focus on conceptual understanding.

“Learning occurs best when it is drawn out over time, e.g., through a series of multiple learning sessions, not when it is crammed into a single session,” said PSY100 professor Ashley Waggoner-Denton. Shawn Tian, president of the Arts & Science Students’ Union (ASSU), stressed that it is every student’s responsibility to stay on top of their work. He argued that viewing tutoring sessions as a “failsafe” for not paying attention in class is ineffective. A crammed review session is unlikely to help a student who hasn’t stayed on track throughout the semester, he said.

Aaron Benshabat, president of SOS Tutoring disagrees. He feels there is a place for crash courses in the university system: “There are some courses where you’re not going to be able to have the ideal amount of interaction,” said Benshabat. “Let’s say if you have questions and are in a larger classroom… the university setting as a whole is more conducive to a crash course or an exam review session.” Meanwhile, Collin Nguyen, regional director of TLS, argued that labelling exam review sessions “crash courses” is unfair. He stated that most review sessions span over the course of a few weeks, giving students ample time to consolidate their knowledge. He added that the services offered by TLS are meant as a complement for lectures and official university aid resources, rather than as a replacement for them. ECOMAN declined to comment for this article.

Third-year student Albert Qin attended an ecoman course in his first year. He argued that despite the fact that each concept is taught from scratch, time constraints render the course ineffective if a student goes in without sufficient background knowledge. Second-year student Fatema Khan agreed, adding that ecoman and tls provide short cut answers to difficult questions. Maria Khalil, also in second-year, said that she found group tutoring sessions very effective for cementing difficult concepts in math and chemistry. Not all students praised the tutoring companies though. Third-year student Danny Zaidman was more critical: “I think those tutoring companies are tailored for students who are too lazy to do the work on their own. If you want to have somebody tell you some basic information in monotone, then I guess SOS, ECOMAN, and TLS are for you,” he said.


Quality of teaching material questioned

Another common concern of faculty members is the course material used by private tutoring companies. “When I was a TA, I was handed a booklet of questions and solutions from one of these sessions and asked to explain them,” said mat137 instructor Lindsey Shorser. “The booklet was rife with errors, missed steps, and unreasonable questions. Unless the material is official university material, we cannot guarantee its accuracy, relevance, or quality,” she added. Dwayne Benjamin, a professor of economics and chair of undergraduate affairs, said that his department is concerned about outside companies using copyrighted material, such as notes and solutions from professors, without their approval.

Nguyen confirmed that his service does not use any course notes or packages from the university. He added that TLS courses are taught with up-to-date and relevant information. “We have the most up-to-date textbook in order for [the instructors] to understand and relate to what the students are going through,” he said. Benshabat said that SOS Tutoring uses its own material. He added that instructors are vigorously filtered to make sure that they have taken the same course as the one they are teaching.


Free aid sources under-utilized

Students reported varying degrees of satisfaction with free university aid. Khan said that while the free mathematics and economics aids offered at U of T are effective, limited hours make it difficult for students to get all their questions answered. Qin said that while he made use of the university’s free aid sources, he also found outside tutoring sessions useful. Khalid claimed that peer mentors in the economics department are unable to answer simple ECO100 questions, and that she did not find the economics study centre useful. Eric Chung, a second-year student, argued that while the university offers effective aid services, private companies market their services more effectively.

“I think there is an idea that if the price of some product is higher, then the quality of the product must be higher. This might lead students to believe that tutoring services are more effective than the resources provided by U of T,” said Peter Samuelson, a post-doctoral fellow in the department of mathematics. Economics professor James E. Pesando stressed that the aid centre unique to ECO100 as well as the peer mentoring program available through the department, are under-utilized.

Men’s rights activists call for creation of “Men’s Centre”

Few protestors compared to large-scale confrontation last year

Men’s rights activists call for creation of “Men’s Centre”

On September 27, the University of Toronto’s Men’s Issues Awareness Society (UTMIA) and the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) hosted an event called “Why We Need Campus Men’s Centres.” Dr. Miles Groth, who published a book called Engaging College Men: Discovering What Works, was the keynote speaker for the event.

Groth’s lecture focused on the difficulties facing young men in today’s universitys and professional programs, as well as his experience hosting a men’s centre at Wagner College. He believes that a men’s centre has become necessary for men to flourish in the “noxious sociocultural environment” that is present in today’s universities.

At the event, CAFE announced that they had reached $35,000 out of their $50,000 goal to establish a Canadian Centre for Men and Families in Toronto. The group hoped to see the arrival of not only men’s centres in universities, but also support centres for men in the general community. Several prominent members of the Men’s Rights Movement visited the lecture, including Paul Elam from A Voice for Men (AVfM) and Karen Straughan from A Girl Writes What. Nick Reading from Men’s Rights Edmonton was also at the event. They came to give CAFE their support and to promote a follow-up rally the next day.

Attendees wait to enter the lecture hall for Dr. Miles Groth's talk. CAROLYN LEVETT/THE VARSITY

Attendees wait to enter the lecture hall for Dr. Miles Groth’s talk. CAROLYN LEVETT/THE VARSITY

A lecture on campus by Dr. Warren Farrell last November was met with almost 100 protesters, some of whom barricaded doors and shouted at attendees. The incident prompted a highly publicized debate between the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and senior administrators over the acceptable limits of free speech on campus.

In the hour prior to the event, there was a sense of unease. “I expected protesters to be here like last year,” said Ethan Hu, a second-year student.  “I was a bit nervous that I’d be yelled at.” After the event, Hu said that he was “pleasantly surprised” that the event was held without difficulties. No protesters were ultimately present.

U of T administration charged UTMIA a mandatory fee of $964 to cover the security costs in the event of another large-scale protest. Almost a half-dozen police officers were stationed at the entrance of the lecture hall. Organizers managed to pay the fee using donations from CAFE supporters, but sources say AVfM is considering legal action to get the fee refunded.

“I can’t believe [CAFE] had to be charged,” said Jonathan Turner, a “curious” observer who wanted to know more about men’s issues. “It should be the protesters who get stuck with the bill.” He was not aware that this was a large, contentious issue in the past because of the lecture hall’s “peaceful and open” atmosphere.

Members of Bash Back, a radical anarchist queer organization, assembled to counter the Rally for Men and Boys in Crisis. MICHAEL CHAHLEY/THE VARSITY

Members of Bash Back, a radical anarchist queer organization, assembled to counter the Rally for Men and Boys in Crisis. MICHAEL CHAHLEY/THE VARSITY

A follow-up event called A Rally for Men and Boys in Crisis occurred the next day at Queen’s Park. Hosted by AVfM and other partners concerned with men’s rights, the event was an opportunity for supporters to share their stories. Many of the guests from Groth’s lecture returned for the rally and were also given a chance to speak. Half an hour into the rally, a group of around 20 protesters from Bash Back!, a radical anarchist queer organization, arrived in front of Queen’s Park. The group was not affiliated with the university. The protesters attempted to march up to the rally attendees, but were quickly stopped by three police officers. A clear boundary was created between Bash Back! and the activists.

The group proceeded to make a non-violent protest against the rally. They chanted that the supporters were sexist and homophobic, and waved signs that read “Listen to Women” and “Sexism is not a Right.” In the middle of their protest, a few members of the group climbed the Ontario Veterans Memorial and shouted slogans such as “MRA, go away!” They were eventually convinced by police to step down and return to their previous location.

Members of Bash Back! declined to comment.

“It’s so critical that we don’t shut up,” said Paul Elam, using the microphone to address the protesters. “If I shut up, I’m going to contribute to the suicide of men and boys. If I don’t want to talk about these problems, who’s going to?” Other speakers talked over the chants to give their personal stories about the injustices that men still face today.

A few students were more open about the presence of the demonstrators. “They are not so bad,” said Dennis Najm, a student from York University. “They are a bit rude, but at least they are obeying the cops. At least they are not doing anything illegal.” Najm admitted that he was curious to hear from different sides of the issue, but was disappointed that only a “fringe radical group” came to protest.

“I’m glad to see that these groups are still around,” said John MacTaggart, a Life Sciences student at U of T. He was afraid that students had “scared these groups off campus” after last year’s events. “What sort of university are we if we can’t handle a bit of noisy discourse?”

U of T charges “credit-card-level” interest on tuition

University collected over $1.75 million in tuition-based interest charges last year

U of T charges “credit-card-level” interest on tuition

Last year, the University of Toronto collected a little over $1.75 million in tuition interest fees from undergraduate students at the St. George campus. Benjamin Coleman, an arts & science at-large director of the University of Toronto Student’s Union (UTSU) revealed the information Tuesday, following a freedom of information request submitted to the university.

According to Coleman, the current deadline for paying tuition is too early, which leads students to accumulate interest charges at high rates. A major cause for concern, he claims, is that “you can save money by going to a bank if you have unpaid tuition.” Students pay 19.56 per cent interest annually to the university. The five major Canadian banks advertise basic credit card plans at 19.99 per cent annual interest. In contrast, RBC’s student line of credit is four per cent annually. Other major banks have comparable rates.

As expected, the data shows a large spike in the number of students owing money in mid-November­ — the university’s payment deadline. There is a steep decrease in January for students receiving financial assistance from OSAP. More surprising is the amount of non-OSAP-receiving students accruing interest charges. These student’s debt levels, unlike those receiving assistance from the province, gradually decrease until May. Approximately 35 per cent of OSAP students and 25 per cent of non-OSAP students accrued interest in November.

A survey of tuition deadlines and payment policies for other universities in Ontario suggests that the U of T’s payment deadlines are an anomaly. While U of T requires full tuition payment before November 15, institutions such as York, Laurier, Guelph, and Ryerson collect their fees in two instalments — once per semester. The University of Western Ontario provides its students with a choice to pay all at once, like U of T, or per term of study.

The UTSU has been lobbying both the administration and the Government of Ontario to institute per-semester billing at U of T says UTSU president Munib Sajjad. Eventually, the union hopes that per-semester billing will be mandated across the province.

Interest graph

The two instalment method is an effective one for students receiving OSAP, as funding becomes available at the beginning of each semester. At U of T, these students are forced to pay interest in the months between November and January, while waiting for the second instalment of funding. Even after January, a subset of these students continue paying interest until May.

Coleman notes that there is another group of students affected by the early deadline: “Those who are able to pay by November but have to put financial strain on their parents, work extra hours, and take out bank loans.”

When asked how the money raised through interest charges is used, the university did not offer specifics. According to Dominic Ali, a spokesperson for U of T: “The funds assist the university in fulfilling its academic mission and providing an outstanding educational experience for students.” As tuition fees constitute a portion of the university’s operating budget, he claims that interest charges are needed to ensure “predictability” of incoming funds; otherwise “It would become challenging for the university to operate and to plan for the future.”

Coleman says insufficient funding is part of the problem, claiming the university is a “partial victim.” While the cost of salaries has gone up over the years, the university has had their funding decreased from both the provincial and federal governments. “There’s a need to get money from students, but having interest charges becomes a problem.” At the same time, “if these things are removed and students are protected, the university will have more financial pressures,” he says.

Last year, the provincial government established a working group comprised of representatives from across the post-secondary education sector, to find a solution for student interest charges. Currently, the deadlines and interest rates are not unregulated by the ministry, and in practice are set at the discretion of each university’s administration. David Raymont, a spokesperson for the ministry, explained that controls around interest fees would be implemented in the coming year. The focus, he says, lies on aligning the timing of payment with OSAP funds release, which does not address the portion of students who pay interest and who do not qualify for OSAP.

In light of these issues, the university is abstaining from taking action, says Coleman. “The university knows there is a problem with students not getting their money on time, but it doesn’t seem like the university understands how it affects their life,” he said.

Ultimately, “The ministry is aware and plans to do things. What needs to happen is  that students, and parents, and everyone affected needs to pressure them to follow through,” says Coleman, suggesting those affected write a letter to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Education, Brad Duguid, or join the UTSU in its advocacy for change.