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$484 million needed in building repairs

Maintenance deferral could cost U of T much more in long term

$484 million needed in building repairs

Brad Evoy stepped out of the office to get lunch on August 1, 2012. When he got back, he found that part of the ceiling in the main lobby of the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) building on Bancroft Avenue had fallen in.

“We weren’t expecting it — no one had noticed there was an issue with the ceiling at the time, from our side or the university’s,” explained Evoy, the internal commissioner for the GSU.

There are over a hundred buildings on U of T’s three campuses, and many are in need of significant maintenance and renovation work. The 2012 Deferred Maintenance report estimated the university’s total deferred maintenance liability at $484 million. The report also estimated that U of T must spend $19 million a year to maintain the current conditions of its buildings. Last year, the Ontario government provided $3.2 million through its Facilities Renewal Program (FRP).


Deferring maintenance is simply not a good idea, said Tamer El-Diraby, an associate professor in U of T’s Department of Civil Engineering. “This is maintenance that is needed. If you do it early, that means it’s going to be a small job. If you do it late, it’s going to be a bigger job and it will cost more.”

Evoy said the university’s Facilities & Services responded to the problem swiftly. “They jumped on it quite quickly; they checked it for asbestos, sealed off the area, and dealt with it.”

Deferred maintenance involves postponing maintenance activities because of a shortage of funds, and several organizations in the post-secondary education sector believe that funding pressures on universities are causing that gap to grow. “There’s been an endless cat-and-mouse game about deferred maintenance; the cat-and-mouse game is universities and colleges trying to get across to the government that if we don’t pay to keep these buildings up, it costs more for the taxpayers and the students and families in the long run,” said U of T president David Naylor in a recent interview with The Varsity.

Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges, and universities, said that the province has funded universities at record levels since the Liberals took power in 2003. “Nobody can suggest for a second that this government hasn’t been there for the post-secondary education system when it comes to capital funding. I think we’ve got very significant results out of the investments that we’re making in post-secondary education.”


Why defer maintenance?


Ron Swail, U of T’s assistant vice-president of facilities services, said that there are a number of factors that determine whether a maintenance job is performed immediately or put off until later. “Immediate repairs would routinely be conducted if there is a risk to occupant or staff members’ health and safety,” said Swail, citing building accessibility and usability for teaching as other important factors.

U of T’s total assessed deferred maintenance and score on the Facilities Condition Index, a measure of building condition, have both increased significantly over the last few years — from a recent low of $257 million and 8.5 per cent respectively in 2007 to 14.3 per cent in 2012 (see graph 2 above). Deferred maintenance calculations do not include the federated colleges — Victoria, Trinity and St. Michael’s Colleges — which conduct their own maintenance.

Graeme Stewart, communications manager at the Ontario Confederation of University Associations (OCUFA), said that underfunding is affecting the quality of education and research at Ontario universities. “I think the bottom line is as these buildings age, and as they are not renewed, essentially everything that goes on in those buildings comes under threat.”

OCUFA’s 2012 Ontario Budget Brief called on the provincial government to raise direct maintenance funding to Ontario universities via the FRP from the current level of $17 million a year to an annual $200 million by 2015–2016. It also cited estimates from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) that suggest that maintaining facilities in their current condition would require $380 million in funding per year over the next decade.

Duguid said those demands are unrealistic. “I think it’s a little fanciful to suggest that somehow the province can just wave a magic wand and come up with hundreds of billions of more dollars every year.”


Is there a funding problem?

Michael Kennedy, a media officer for U of T, said that the university acknowledges the funding pressures on the government. However, “the low level of funding for maintenance is an ongoing issue for the University and one that is regularly raised with the provincial government.”

Naylor said that what matters is not necessarily the dollar value of deferred maintenance, but “do we have a lot of deferred maintenance that is reasonably pressing, and what are prudent and sensible responses to get it fixed to avoid a crisis that affects student, faculty, and staff, or avoids needless expenditure? The answer is, we have a lot, we know how big the level is, but for many years it has been almost impossible to get the province to engage in a serious discussion about putting in play the funds to fix those problems.”
The university’s deferred maintenance reports suggest FRP funding has fallen, from a high of $4.7 million in 2010 (see graph 3 above). Jelena Damjanovic, a media relations assistant at the university, indicated that FRP funding fell because “the entire program was reduced by the province.  That is why the dollar share allocated to the University of Toronto fell.”

Duguid said that’s not necessarily the case. “The funding levels haven’t changed. Different institutions will get different amounts every year, based on their project submissions. So that’s a number that will fluctuate a little over time, but the Facilities Renewal Program, it fluctuates just based on projects that are submitted.”

The COU is an umbrella organization that links Ontario’s publicly funded universities and advocates on their behalf. COU president Bonnie Patterson is registered to lobby the provincial government on several subjects, including infrastructure, and the organization also retains Toronto firm Counsel Public Affairs Inc. The COU declined to make anyone available to comment for this story. Bob Lopinski, a principal at Counsel and a former senior official in the McGuinty government, said the firm does not discuss client matters publicly.

Duguid maintained that the government has shown its commitment to funding the province’s universities. “In all, since 2003, we’ve invested $3.1 billion in capital funding, and one-third of that, a billion dollars, was specifically targeted to renewal, repair, and modernization across the sector. U of T got a good share of the funding for much of that capital funding,” he said.


Can it be fixed?

The province has announced $800 million in capital funding for the next three years, though the ministry could not provide an estimate of how much of that money would be put towards new projects, and how much to maintenance spending.

Duguid said there are currently no plans for more capital spending once that money runs out. “In the near future, as we’re working to balance our books in the province over the next number of years, there is no plan at this point for additional new capital dollars,” he said. However, he emphasized that the province has already made significant improvements in funding for Ontario’s post-secondary universities.

U of T’s administration stressed that while funding pressures are a problem, the situation is under control. “While we are advocating for more funding, we are managing the situation,” said Damjanovic.

Swail acknowledged that this year’s report is likely to see a further rise in total deferred maintenance, although he emphasized that the university has made significant progress in tackling the most urgent projects. According to Swail, the total amount of “priority one” deferred maintenance items have decreased steadily for the past seven years, from approximately $76 million to just over $18 million (see graph 5 below).
With new construction projects underway on all three campuses, Evoy said the university needs to concentrate on fixing its existing structures. “It’s extremely worrying; I think that as a university we should be trying to not just build outwards and seem impressive, but maintain the structures and capacities that we have,” he said.

The next deferred maintenance report will be discussed at the Business Board meeting on January 27, 2014.

Saying goodbye to David Naylor

Outgoing U of T president discusses flat fees, fee diversion, favourite books, and his final thoughts as he says farewell

Saying goodbye to David Naylor

It has been eight years since David Naylor became president of U of T. He’s led the university in the midst of provincial funding cuts, a global recession, and seemingly endless battles with the students’ union. He will step down on October 31, and former Arts & Science dean Meric Gertler will take his place. I sat down with Naylor one more time for a 45-minute interview that lasted nearly an hour and a half, not counting the responses he emailed for the questions we didn’t have time to get to.


The Varsity: I know that provincial and federal funding is something that you’ve talked about for a long time, in terms of the university wanting more of it. If you could have any system you wanted right now, what would it look like?

David Naylor: We would be at the national average for student funding, at the minimum, and that alone would see probably on the order of $300 million of additional base funding; that’s how big the gap has become.


TV: And why are we below the average?

DN: This is a very challenging question to ever answer definitively. If you go back twenty years, you’ll find the province was already lagging in terms of post-secondary funding and, despite some positive steps in the early days of the Reaching Higher program the province adopted, there has been no real progress. It’s particularly puzzling because we are the national average on spending K-12 education, and the national average in terms of spending on health care. Yet we seem to have decided, somehow, that it’s okay to have a situation in which universities and colleges receive relatively less per student from other provinces. Indeed, so much less that if I were to move the University of Toronto’s operations to Edmonton or Calgary tomorrow, we would double our funding from the province, even after they’ve had their cuts.


TV: The province is considering amending the flat-fees structure, the proposal is, as of next year students taking 3.5 courses will be considered full-time, and as of 2015 students taking four courses or 80 per cent will be considered full-time. Do you think that these changes are positive? If so, why, and if not, what would be a better system?

DN: I think the changes are not evidence-based…what has not been established is that there are any ill effects from this approach, and by established I mean good strong evidence rather than the usual anecdote that carries the day in newspapers. When you look at the studies that were done by the Faculty of Arts & Science, with student representatives on those committees, we see quantitative evidence that shows the following:

We see faster times to completion, which is good for everybody. We see the funds that have been generated from the program fee approach have been redirected to improve student aid, which is also a good thing net and net no one ends up paying more as a result, when you consider both intensification and the additional student aid.

You see that extracurricular participation has not fallen one bit. You see that grade distribution, so far from going in the wrong direction, is actually showing positive changes. When you put all the evidence together, there’s really not a lot to say that program fees have had an adverse effect.

Would you advocate for the status quo? Do you think that there should be any change at the provincial level?

DN: Do I think the threshold should be four? No, I do not think that threshold is appropriate. Do I think the threshold could be 3 or 3.5? You can argue it either way, but to me if you’re going to do it, what I really would want to see from the standpoint of fairness is get the evidence as you proceed, step by step, to show that adverse effects are not occurring.


TV: U of T consistently ranks poorly on Maclean’s and other surveys that rank student life on campus. Do you think U of T has as strong a student life or sense of identity as Queen’s or Western? If so, why? If not, why not? 

DN: I take some consolation on these surveys from the reality that we have a more critically minded, and I think very smart, audience that may be more inclined to take a skeptical view than those who are happier to paint themselves purple or participate in rowdy Homecoming institutions.




TV: Can it all be attributed to that?

DN: No, of course not. I just wanted to get in that preliminary caveat before I answered your question. The surveys that I look at that give me some sense of encouragement are the NSSE [National Survey of Student Engagement] surveys. On NSSE, we’re up meaningfully over the last few years on five of the seven big domains, and stable on two others. So there’s no question that student life and student engagement are improving. The reality is that this is a major urban centre. We have a lot of students who commute and we know in all these surveys that commuting poses challenges in terms of spirit and solidarity. I do think that the continued improvement in athletics helps. I think that having a Student Commons will help.

I do think that U of T students are simply more academic and have a stronger orientation to a life of the mind than students at some other campuses. And we get accordingly a group who may be less inclined to go out and whoop it up at an athletic event or hang out at a local bar and have fun and who may be a little more likely to be hitting the books in a pretty demanding school and tending to focus on their academics a little more heavily — and I frankly get that and I admire it.


TV: Yes. Now you said the words ‘‘student commons,’’ so I have to ask: On the one hand you have Trinity, Engineering, and Victoria who want to leave. On the other hand you have the students’ union who doesn’t want them to leave. What is a potential compromise?

DN: I think that one has to ask what are some of the services that are sufficiently common across the campus that they might be provided by an umbrella entity and which are division specific to the extent that one might want to see them devolved and that thinking around functionality is one starting point. Another starting point for a compromise is to think about how good governance occurs and that means there has to be some sense that there is an umbrella body like UTSU, that it is responsive to the component divisions in a way that gives them a real sense of full participation in decisions that are made, and both those principles become a starting point for some intelligent compromises. Where this will end up is going to depend upon whether people are willing to find compromises in both directions.

It is the formal position at Victoria, Engineering, and Trinity that they feel there is no room to compromise and they want out. And a few weeks ago the St. George Round Table passed a motion endorsing the principle that if students have voted to leave in a fair referendum then they should be allowed to leave. And, as you know, the union is not responsive to these things. Online voting only got implemented in this election because Cheryl Misak basically threatened to cut off funding. How do you work with the union under these circumstances?

DN: I think it is fair to say that the administration is very unlikely to be comfortable with anything that doesn’t involve some sensible compromises on all sides and if there is no appetite for compromise then there will have to be some decision made by governance on the advice of the administration as to what a sensible and fair dispensation would be. There is no question we have heard very quickly the unhappiness of at least three major student groups on this campus. There is also no question, that we have watched years of challenges to electoral results and have had more than one student group through the years have similar concerns to those that have crystallized and been voted on now. All that is to say that no one should underestimate the resolve of the administration to see a fair resolution.

So I think you will find that we will be moderately patient, perhaps frustratingly so for those that want a fast resolution, and we are going to try and keep the conversation going and if at some juncture there is no resolution, we will act.


TV: The Varsity recently wrote a story about interest fees the university charges. U of T collects about $1.76 million dollars in interest fees from the St. George campus undergraduate students. I don’t think that’s much money for the administration, but I do think that’s a lot of money for your average student. Students get osap money twice during the year, but they have to pay their fees once during the year. So bearing in mind the different OSAP timelines and the pressure from the students’ union, do you think the current model needs to be altered, and if not, why? 

DN: First off, whatever the number is, any money in base that recurs is important to the institution. This is not a one-time amount of money, it’s a recurring amount of money, but much more important than the actual amount brought in on interest charges is the fact that if fees are not paid on a timely basis, there is a loss on the part of the institution. Like any other enterprise we have to continue to make payroll, deal with our expenses, and manage cash flow.


TV: Are there ways to do that without charging interest?

DN: Well it’s pretty hard not to charge interest because if the money isn’t in our hands we can’t put whatever money has been banked out to collect interest out from the banks. Remember that our money comes in in a couple of tranches, just like the money comes in from OSAP in a couple of tranches. We have to manage cash flow for the year. If we don’t invest the money that comes in we’re guilty of dereliction of the appropriate use of capital in our hands and that would be inappropriate and wasteful. One of the reasons interest is charged on these accounts is not some desire to gouge or to make a lot of money out of the interest per se, but rather to make sure we actually have people paying on a timely basis.


TV: Could U of T operate on a model where students pay once per semester? Other universities do.

DN: You have to look at each institution’s model to look at what works. As I see it, most institutions have some interest charges simply to ensure fees are paid on a timely basis. As I see it when a newspaper reports that this amounts to 19 per cent they are misrepresenting the reality and that no one is going to go a full year without paying their fees. When we have claims that these fees are a great burden when in fact they’re OSAP-eligible expenses, we also have some misperception.


TV: If I may though, the data does show that most people are sitting with it between OSAP disbursement periods.  

DN: So in that period they will see this as an expense and they will wait to be paid back, and I understand that that is something that rankles, I get it. It also rankles when anyone else gets a bill with an interest charge on it, which is why we pay them. I would love to see some sensible compromise that found everyone happy our fees are paid on a timely basis and students feeling as though they are also incentivized to do their share to pay.


TV: What is next?

DN: I will go back to the ranks and I will try to be helpful to the institution in any way I can. I will do some private sector work and I will do some non profit and charitable work and try to stay out of the way.


TV: Will you teach?

DN: I hope so. I love teaching, and I really enjoyed research. I would like to live that life again, but I will have to take a little time to see how feasible that is. I mean, I’ve been at it 14 years as a full-time academic administrator as dean of Medicine and president and the jury is out as to whether I can retool and be effective as a researcher again. I’d like to give that a try, but it may be too late — the neurons may have gone to sleep permanently.


TV: What is your favourite book?

DN: Mr Bumbletoes of Bimbleton… That’s a sentimental choice.  My grandparents on both sides were immigrants with limited education.  My mother was a gifted student, but neither she nor her three brothers attended university. My father was determined to be a medical researcher, and was the only one of six children in his family to attend university.  He arrived here at University College during the Depression without any family financial backing, and worked more or less full-time to support himself.  There was no student aid.  He made it as far as first-year Medicine, but couldn’t manage and dropped out. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my parents gave their four children a house full of books and a strong sense that we should all pursue higher education as far as it would take us. Among those books, Mr Bumbletoes was my childhood favourite. I am sorry that my father did not live to see his old oak desk in the office of the dean of Medicine at U of T.


TV: Let me ask you one last question. If you came back to U of T 10 years from now, what would you hope the campus would look like?

DN: I would hope they were still amazingly diverse, with the fabulous mix of students we have here from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures. I think one of the things that I feel best about is that we’ve had huge numbers of people over the last number of years work hard to promote a uniquely Canadian brand of accessible excellence here at U of T. I think it distinguishes us hugely from some of the Ivy League institutions with which we compete otherwise on the academic level, and I also think in the quality of our graduates — so I would want to see that same wonderful level of diversity. I would hope that we might on this campus have finally figured out a way to close down some of the traffic around King’s College Circle, so that this can be even more of a pedestrian space.

I’d love to see some of the new buildings that are planned up and thriving and full of terrific students and faculty and staff, and I’ll be watching all of those developments with great interest. East and West, I would be really excited to see more of a sense of research buildings that enable more graduate students and graduate studies to thrive as per the 2030 plan as well as the outworking of some of the great plans they have underway. For example, in Scarborough the development of the North campus with the remediated land around the Pan Am Centre is going to be incredibly exciting, and I think they will have made big progress a decade from now.

To the West, there’s infinite potential at the Mississauga campus and I can see any number of new programs emerging there that would again represent a change. They have an academcy of Medicine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both Missisauga and Scarborough with academies of engineering or similar professional programs that are tied to St. George at some later date. I think the sense of a blend of all the historic architecture and all the facilities and greenspace is something that I hope will remain forever. It will always be a place I come back to with a sense of coming home.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

UTSU’s Policy and Procedures Committee blocks opposition motions

Fee diversion proposals would have permitted vote at AGM, final decision to be made Tuesday by UTSU Board

For the second year in a row, opposition-driven proposals may not appear on the agenda of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Newly elected engineering director Pierre Harfouche submitted three motions to the UTSU’s Policy and Procedures Committee (P&P) intended to encourage the union to permit those student divisions who want to leave the UTSU to do so. All three motions have been ruled out of order by the P&P. The UTSU’s Board of Directors, which is meeting on Tuesday, has the ultimate decision as to whether or not to allow the motions. It is unusual for the board to overrule the P&P.

Harfouche’s first motion called on the UTSU to support in principle the stances of Trinity College, the Engineering Society (EngSoc), and Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) with respect to fee diversion referenda, as outlined in a letter co-authored by those groups and addressed to the Student Societies Summit. Harfouche likened this to the stance taken by the UTSU in support of online voting and opposition to unpaid internships at the two-part Special General Meeting last year.

The second motion Harfouche submitted called for the appointment of two UTSU representatives to the Student Societies Summit. The third called on the union to support an amendment to its Charter for Referenda that would enable colleges and professional faculties to hold fee diversion referenda. The current structure requires all students to vote on any issue. The proposed changes would allow a single division to vote on a question that exclusively pertains to it, such as whether it wants to remain a part of the union. Harfouche believes that a student vote on these issues would “ensure that the union is something that students are willingly a part of and can contribute to in a way that isn’t forced.”

The P&P has reviewed the motions and ruled them out of order. As outlined in a recent UTSU report to its Board of Directors, motions one and three were rejected because they attempt to “circumvent existing union bylaws.” The second was ruled out of order because “the university administration has made it clear that Student Society Summit members cannot be changed.” UTSU president Munib Sajjad characterized the motions in general as being “in bad faith, given that there is a whole process set up by the administration to deal with all of this and these motions are an attempt to avoid that process,” noting further that “[Harfouche was told that] this kind of thing was against the bylaws at the policy townhall.”

Harfouche believes that no legitimate basis exists for the exclusion of at least his first and second motions: “These are not policy changes and there is no bylaw I know of that could prevent [the motions’] inclusion on the AGM agenda,” he said, adding: “I was told at the Policy Townhall that motions which contravene the bylaws would be ruled out of order, but these motions do not, and I did not at that time present these motions specifically.”

Meanwhile, UTSU director Ben Coleman argued that notwithstanding technical problems with the motions, their handling by the UTSU executive represents a “broader communication problem,” wherein, “the [UTSU] executive fails to explain to students what they are doing and why they are doing it.” Trinity’s Heads of College Ben Crase and Maha Naqi expressed support for Harfouche’s proposals, noting that, “We are always in favour of student efforts to reform the UTSU to better represent those they claim to represent.” The pair are concerned that “motions not made in accordance with the UTSU’s status-quo agenda confront logistical speed bumps that prevent their enactment.”

The rejection of Harfouche’s motions raises the question of whether organized support and opposition to the union will coalesce in advance of the AGM. Last autumn, students forced an early end to the meeting, voting not to approve its agenda. At that time, opposition centered on the exclusion of motions calling for electoral reform submitted by then co-head of Trinity College Sam Greene.

In a Facebook post, Harfouche makes clear that he is “not trying to start a proxy war,” although Aimee Quenneville, the seconder of Harfouche’s motions and one of the University College representatives on the UTSU Board of Directors, sees the possibility for a struggle for votes in light of the motions’ rejection.

Reached by phone, Quenneville stated that, “It could happen… Rejecting an agenda that deliberately denies students the right to discuss this issue would be a legitimate course of action.” For Coleman, the outcome is uncertain. “The UTSU board of directors is meeting on Tuesday. If they create an agenda that allows students to talk about these issues, I think [a fight for proxy votes] is much less likely to happen,” he said.

Also discussed and passed at the P&P meeting was a motion banning proxy voting at UTSU Board of Directors meetings to conform with new federal law, as well as a motion to investigate new possibilities for the structure of the UTSU Board of Directors. Harfouche will ask the board to accept his motions on Tuesday.

Correction Monday October 28: A previous version of this article referred to a motion that would ban proxy voting as designed to comply with new provincial law. It is designed to comply with new federal law.

Meet the Honourable Hal Jackman

Former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario has donated over $40 million to U of T

Meet the Honourable Hal Jackman

This is the first in a multi-week series of profiles introducing donors who have given more than $25 million to the University of Toronto’s “Boundless” Campaign.

The Honourable Henry Newton Rowell “Hal” Jackman welcomes me into his vast, elegant 10th floor office. It is lavishly and tastefully appointed, with gorgeous landscape art; hardwood floors; and rich, intricate Persian rugs. The former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario is as well known for his philanthropy as for his success in business. A patron of the arts and humanities, as well as a U of T alumnus, Jackman has given more than $40 million to the university since 1998.



“I’m a Torontonian, born and brought up here. I’m a graduate of U of T, from Arts and then from Law. Both my parents are graduates of U of T. Where else would I give? It’s the natural place for me to be interested in, and I think the best university in the country,” he says. Thirty million dollars of his donation went to the Jackman Humanities Institute and the Jackman Humanities Building, $11 million to the law school, $2 million to Victoria College for its Vic One program, and $500,000 to the Centre for Medieval Studies’ 2012 fundraising effort for the Dictionary of Old English, among others.

“The humanities are broadening to the mind, whereas a lot of professional courses tend to be narrowing. You go into dentistry, and what do you learn? You learn about teeth! I think the humanities are deserving of support,” says Jackman. His wife, Maruja Jackman, was a professor in the humanities, and all five of his children have post-graduate degrees in the humanities.

Jackman credits his upbringing as the foundation of his philanthropic spirit. Born in 1932 to Henry Jackman, Member of Parliament, and Mary Rowell Jackman, Jackman says that his family did not believe in frivolous spending. “My mother and father were very generous. We came from what we would call a Methodist background, where we don’t believe in ostentatious display of wealth.” He gets more of a kick, he says, out of contributing to the university than buying expensive properties or luxury goods. “I don’t have a yacht, or a big house in Florida, or the south of France, or anything like that. I guess it’s tradition,” he says.

As far as U of T’s policies, Jackman says that he does not know enough to comment on specific ways in which the university can improve. He did say that he thinks the university should focus its resources on professors at the entry level, rather than going after established, senior professors from other institutions. “I have the opinion that if you’re building for longer term, you’re better to spend the money at the lower levels, on entry-level positions, which are very good for post-docs or assistant professors. Because if they’re really really good, they’ll get acclimatized, make friends, meet people, get married, have children, have a house. They build themselves into the community, and then it takes a hell of a lot to get them to leave.”

Despite holding this opinion, Jackman says that he is rather hands-off when it comes to the specifics of where his donations go, leaving the details up to the university. “Because the university needs the money, the university has to cut donors a lot of slack for a lot of them to sound off. I didn’t try to dictate what they should do. I talked about the general area I wanted to donate to, I agreed it was for the humanities, but I’m not saying whether we need more professors, or we need more post-docs, or scholarship money.”

Weighing in on tuition fees, Jackman says that he thinks that, aside from government subsidies, tuition should not be free. Someone has to pay for it, he says, and the cost of university should be borne by those who benefit from it — the students.

He seems to hold a positive opinion of millennials in general. Jackman claims that students coming out of U of T today are of much better quality than in his time as a student. “Maybe the sense of entitlement has gone up, but certainly the students are very good. I’m the visitor at Massey College, and I see very bright, very good kids. I think they’re exceptionally gifted people. Certainly the calibre and the quality of our graduates now compared to my day is way, way up.” He credits stricter admission standards as the main reason for this improvement.

Looking back on his experience as an undergraduate, Jackman admits that he was not a diligent student in those years, saying that he appreciates the university more in retrospect. “I remember the hijinks more than I do the academic studies as an undergraduate. I did an awful lot of theatre. Robert Gill was the head of Hart House Theatre in those days, and I spent a lot of time in the plays there. I probably spent more time in the theatre than I did in my studies,” he says.

On the topic of those hijinks, he has more than a couple of stories to tell. “We did all kinds of crazy things. We did what we call panty raids, our ‘50s expression, and all this kind of stuff. I don’t know whether that was very constructive, but it filled in the time.” Smiling, he recalls taking the sheets off the bed of a senior tutor with a few friends, and hoisting them up on the flagpole over Victoria College. “We were called in before the dean, and the dean said: ‘Why would two young fellows like you, intelligent, rational people, do a thing like that?’ I looked at my friend, and he looked at me. We both shrugged our shoulders, and mumbled ‘well, if you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.’” Things changed in law school, he says, where the disciplinary standards and work load increased.

“My best educational experience was at the law school,” says Jackman. Even today, he occasionally attends law and business lectures at the university. He says that he loves to watch the seasons change on campus on his walk from his south Rosedale home to work in the financial district. “I certainly enjoyed the University of Toronto, so I owe something to it, I guess. You have to give back if you can,” he concludes.

Making ends meet

Six students in downtown Toronto share how they pay, or don’t pay, the bills

The University of Toronto’s tuition fees are among the highest of any Canadian post-secondary institution. When high rent prices, expensive food, and a costly transit system are factored into the equation, one thing becomes quite clear: living on a student budget anywhere can be hard, but students at the University of Toronto have it especially difficult. In spite of this, young people in North America have increasingly been considered poor managers of money, as well as generally shiftless. So how do students at U of T manage to overcome their financial obstacles and get their degrees? Here are snapshots of how six U of T students budget their money.


Emma, 19, undeclared ­

emmaFINALYear of Study: Second

Course Load: Five

Annual Income: $2,500

Monthly Income: $100, I referee varsity sporting events.

Monthly Parental Contribution: $0

Monthly Expenses: I spend $325 on rent by sharing my room with my sister. I have a tight budget of $100 for groceries. I bike or walk everywhere I go, so my transportation costs are $5 a month, if anything. I don’t contribute to savings during the school year; however, I do have a sponsor child who I support with $31 monthly.

Are you on OSAP? Do you have personal debt? I don’t qualify for OSAP, but I am not financially supported by my parents. I have about $985 dollars right now in personal debt.

What do you like to splurge on? Candy.

What financial advice do you have for U of T students? Don’t ever get a credit card! The small purchases will add up.


Ryan, 22, studying philosophy

ryanFINALYear of Study: Fourth

Course Load: Four

Annual Income: $9,400

Monthly Income: $650, I work at a nightclub.

Monthly Parental Contribution: $550 for rent, $150 grocery card

Monthly Expenses:  My rent is $550 and my parents help me with that. I spend $350 on food, but I usually go over that budget since I like to go out rather than cook. I don’t need more than $60 a month for transportation. I’ll spend $200 on recreational activities and then save the rest.

Are you on OSAP? Do you have personal debt? I received $6,000 in osap funding this year. I currently have about $400 dollars in credit card debt.

What do you like to splurge on? It’s important to me to have up-to-date technology, so I recently bought a new computer for the school year.

What financial advice do you have for U of T students? Make a budget at the beginning of the year and stick to it.


Rebecca, 20, studying philosophy and religion

 rebeccaFINALYear of Study: Second

Course Load: Three

Annual Income: $6,000

Monthly Income: $500, I work part time at a fish and chips restaurant.

Monthly Parental contribution: $750 for rent

Monthly Expenses: My rent is $750 a month, which my parents cover. I usually spend $250 on groceries. I take the TTC to get to and from work, so I end up spending $96 on transportation. I aim to save $100 per month, and I usually spend $250 on recreational use. I do not donate to any charities at the moment.

Are you on OSAP? Do you have any personal debt? I am not on OSAP and I do not have any personal debt.

What do you like to splurge on? I love to eat out! And I could spend thousands at the drug store.

What financial advice do you have for students? Do your grocery shopping in Chinatown — it’s half the price. Also, try to avoid going out to eat when you can cook instead!


Hana, 19, studying classics and classical civilizations

hanafinalYear of Study: Second

Course Load: Five

Annual Income: $7,000

Monthly Income: $300, although it varies. I work occasionally as a sample food stand operator.

Monthly Parental Contribution: $725

Monthly Expenses: I live on residence — where the cost of food is incorporated into my annual fee — so together food and rent work out to be $1450 a month. I spend $15 on transportation. I allocate $100 to savings, and spend about $200 on miscellaneous spending. Instead of donating money to a charity, I volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Are you on OSAP? Do you have personal debt? I received a $4,000 loan from OSAP these years, as well as a $1,800 grant. I also received a $2,700 bursary from U of T.

What do you like to splurge on? I like to splurge on books and movies, and I recently treated myself to a new pair of boots!

What financial advice do you have for students? My best advice would be to work hard during the summer, and to look for scholarships and bursaries. There is money out there, but it’s not for everyone.


Amir, 21, studying human biology

amirFINALYear of Study: Fourth

Course Load: Five

Annual Income: $5,500

Monthly Income: During the school year I don’t work, as it would interfere with my studies.

Monthly Parental Contribution: $325 for rent

Monthly Expenses: I recently moved downtown after commuting for three years. My current rent is $650. I spend about $300 on food. Most places I can access by walking, so I rarely spend more than $20 on transportation. $100 goes towards recreational activities. I am not earning money while I’m in school, so I am not currently saving. I choose not to donate money to charity, but I volunteer at a hospital nearby.

Are you on OSAP? Do you have any personal debt? I don’t have any personal debt; however I received a little over $9,000 from OSAP this year.

What do you like to splurge on? I like to buy new clothes when my budget allows it.

What financial advice do you have for students? Be very careful when choosing telephone and internet plans. Make sure you shop around before you commit and compare different companies to get the best deal.


Thomas, 25, studying history and political science

thomasFINALYear of Study: Third

Course Load: Four

Annual Income: $12,000

Monthly Income: $900, I’m currently coaching kids’ hockey.

Monthly Parental Contribution: $0

Monthly Expenses: I live at home and commute from Oakville, so my rent and food are covered while I’m focusing on getting my degree. I spend around $195 per month on the go train, and then an additional $72 on the TTC just to get to class. I’ll spend around $350 a month on recreational activities and try and save the rest, which works out to a little over $250 a month.

Are you on OSAP? Do you have any personal debt? I am not on OSAP. I took time after graduating high school to work, so I also do not have any personal debt.

What do you like to splurge on? I am currently saving up to buy a vehicle.

What financial advice do you have for students? Live within your means. Don’t buy things you can’t afford. And budget yourself for what’s really important.

Paul Martin, Lloyd Axworthy, and Bill Graham tout importance of diplomats

Liberal heavyweights help launch Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy

Paul Martin, Lloyd Axworthy, and Bill Graham tout importance of diplomats

On October 25, The Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History hosted the Canadian launch of the Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. The centre received a landmark donation last year when Trinity College Chancellor and former Foreign Minister Bill Graham donated $5 million to the school. The event featured a talk between Graham, Lloyd Axworthy, and former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Handbook co-authors professor Jorge Heine and professor Andrew Cooper were present, though their third colleague, Ramesh Thakur, could not be. The professors opened the conversation by addressing the perceived, “crisis of diplomacy,” highlighting the goal of their book to “bring the perspective of practitioners” to the study of diplomacy.

After hearing from the authors, Graham mediated a conversation between the panel’s diplomatic heavyweights. Martin and Axworthy spoke about the chapters they authored in the handbook, and moved on to discuss a range of topics in modern diplomacy, from the relationship between foreign affairs ministers and prime ministers to the responsibility to protect (R2P) and Canada’s role in Africa. Chancellor Graham kept the conversation moving and humorous before opening the floor to questions.

Asked about the handbook launch, as well as upcoming Bill Graham Centre events, Graham emphasized the importance of facilitating opportunities for students and faculty to “meet face-to-face” with “practitioners of foreign affairs and politics.” The event had limited admission and tickets sold out almost immediately.

Cooper was pleased with the event and the “wealth and depth of talent and experience” of the panel. In terms of diplomacy, Axworthy was optimistic stating that the book and the event highlight the important role Canada has to play domestically and internationally: “In the rule of law and the protection of people.”

Overwhelming support for colleges at Hart House Debate

Judges, audience, UTSU praise college system

Overwhelming support for colleges at Hart House Debate

The Opposition claimed victory at the Hart House Intercollegiate Debate on Wednesday.

The motion “This House would abolish the college system at the University of Toronto” was defeated after the Opposition (the negating side in the British Parliamentary format of debate) impressed all five judges and the audience voted in a 2:1 ratio for them over the Government (the affirming side). The event attracted around 40 people.

Louis Tsilivis, the Hart House Debates Committee (HHDC) secretary said that: “The issue of colleges resorting to secession in the face of obstinacy from the student government definitely played into” the choice of motion for the debate, referencing the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) fee diversion conflict. An article written in The Newspaper by last year’s UTSU president Shaun Shepherd, which questioned the value of the college system, also prompted Tsilvis to organize the debate.


The UTSU declined the HHDC’s invitation to send a debater and a judge. UTSU vice-president, internal, Cameron Wathey, who declined on behalf of the union, explained that he is a strong supporter of the college system and that “no member of the executive committee thinks that abolishing the college system is a good idea.” In an email to Tsilivlis he said: “I’m sorry but we don’t feel as though engaging in this debate will help our efforts on collaboration and work with colleges on campus.”

The Government’s arguments centred around equal funding, interactions with student government, provision of adequate services, and the adversarial relationship between the different colleges. In a comment on college pride set against university spirit, debater Veenu Goswani said: “The University of Toronto (U of T) consistently generates some of the lowest numbers in terms of how attached people feel towards their university.” On intercollegiate rivalry, Goswani said “All colleges build their sense of being special, or different from the others, on the sense that they are the best college.”

Kathleen Elhatton-Lake, also debating for the Government, spoke about the issues faced by non-resident students. “They feel like they’re missing out on the normal college experience and they feel financially pressured to actually live in residence,” she argued. Elhatton-Lake went on to mention the value of negotiating power in one unified student body, and used the example of transportation costs included in tuition fees as something that individual colleges will not be able to negotiate.

The Opposition spoke to the benefits of U of T’s unique college system: academic dons, registrar’s offices, writing centres, and interaction with a diverse body of students across every faculty. Kaleem Hawa of the Opposition pointed out that “A lot of students seek guidance [at their college] instead of going to counselling and psychological services, or the UTSU.” Deirdre Casey from the Opposition challenged the idea that commuters are excluded under the collegiate structure. “The reason why commuters would feel isolated without a college is because they would not be tied to a specific residence building,” she claimed.

None of the debaters were actually of the opinion that the colleges should be abolished. Goswani stated afterwards: “I personally think that the college system is a great idea and the real take-away is how colleges can best try and move away from some the problems that we just discussed, like being too adversarial to each other.”

Tsilivis was pleased with the discussion generated by the debate and said that it “made the college issue a very live one.” Although Tsilivis himself supports the college system, he believes that “thinking about college abolition can help get you in the headspace where you can think about those other issues.”

Teaching Assistants want more training

Union executives speak out on issues regarding TA organization

Teaching assistants (TAs) and the tutorials they lead are among the most important parts of undergraduate education. How much training TAs receive is therefore a significant deciding factor in how well the University of Toronto functions as a school, and some of the TAs themselves argue that they are not given nearly enough.

Graduate students at U of T are often offered enough funding to pay for their programs. Part of this funding package can come in the form of a position as a TA. First-year TAs go through just three hours of mandatory, paid training before being they begin their work. These three hours of learning generally focus on skills such as time management, tutorial management, and other important pedagogical skills, as well as grading. No paid training is available for TAs who start teaching a new course or start doing different kinds of TA work after their first year.

This means that a teaching assistant who has spent their first few years as a grading TA and is asked to do supplementary lectures or work as a tutorial leader must do so without any additional paid training.

“Not every graduate student is funded, but PhD programs are generally funded, and there is a minimum guaranteed funding. That funding is $15,000, plus tuition and fees,” explained Jaby Mathew, academics and funding commissioner of the University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) who is a teaching assistant himself: “Of that $15,000, a percentage of it comes from stipend, and a percentage of it comes from work. The work can be TA-ship or RA-ship.” Matthew went on to point out that the university effectively has the choice between making students work for some of their guaranteed money or simply paying the full sum.

With this in mind, it makes sense that the administration wishes to save as much money as possible on those positions. “The collective agreement between CUPE 3902 [Canadian Union of Public Employees], Unit 1, and the University of Toronto requires that TAs on their first contract at the University of Toronto receive three hours of paid training,” stated Sara Carpenter, acting assistant director of the Centre for Teaching Support and Innovation at U of T (CTSI). “That is the only centralized mechanism within the university for training. Departments may engage in additional training beyond that.”

The caveat is that while TAs can pursue additional training through the CTSI’s Teaching Assistant Training Program (TATP), or through the department that employs them, the university is not required to pay them during that time. Regardless, many teaching Assistants take advantage of these opportunities, spending time going to optional, unpaid TATP workshops, or simply observing more experienced TAs leading tutorials. “TAs do it because, particularly in the Faculty of Arts & Science, many of them want to get into teaching, so they want to acquire those skills,” noted Mathew. “They are doing it so it can help them in the future.”

Of course, for many graduate students, spending so many hours participating in unpaid training is not a realistic option. According to CUPE, the university has historically resisted remedying the situation. “Whenever we bargain with the university, we try to get more training. The university doesn’t want to guarantee that to us because it costs them money to train TAs — not only to develop the training programs to give us the resources we need to do well in the classroom, but also to pay the hourly rate to attend training,” stated Ryan Culpepper, internal liaison officer of CUPE 3902. “So they’re always resisting offering more training.” Despite this, change is possible in the future. CUPE 3902 and the university are currently working together in a committee to deal with issues regarding tutorials, and Culpepper believes it likely that their work will result in more paid training for TAs, as well as smaller tutorial sizes.

Cumbersomely large tutorials are another symptom of the university’s frugality with teaching assistants. As undergraduate enrollment increases, TAs are gradually being spread thinner, as they have to devote more time to marking larger numbers of assignments; conversely, they have less time to teach tutorials that have increasing numbers of students.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that teaching assistant contracts are for a set number of hours, meaning that if a TA runs out of hours because they need to grade more assignments or hold office hours for more students than the contract predicted, they may run out of hours they will be paid for their work.