A letter from Alec Wilson, 2015–2016 Editor-in-Chief


The tone of a lot of recent speculation on the future of The Varsity has been tinted by the harsh realities of the world in which we operate. The slow collapse of print advertising, the rapid pivot to digital readership, and the accompanying democratization of publishing contribute, in no small part, to the maddening frustration of the fools still trying to steer this ship. Yet, journalists are necessarily romantics, as cynics are necessarily disappointed optimists. 

The sea is so great, and our boat is so small, though thankfully, the past few years have benefitted from a series of dedicated stewards who have put prudence and parsimony over haphazard ambition to keep the paper’s head above the waters of financial hardship. 

With their work in mind, I am humbly proud for my last report in these pages to be good news. 

The Varsity has seen its reach grow exponentially this year, as we draw close to a million page views on our website for the year. We have published over 1,000 articles and brought in excess of 450 students to the fold, 104 of which are now staff, to produce this paper.

A zealous social media strategy has made bringing the stories that matter to our community easier, while vivid design, illustrations, and photography have brought those stories to life.    

As we press on into the future, coming generations will no doubt suffer their own crises and celebrate their own successes. They will also have to face the uncertainty that lies on the other side of the most pressing existential question facing all traditional print media: how do we transition into a digital space without losing ourselves? 

For 136 years, The Varsity has been the university’s paper of record. In recent years, we have seen that, in order to best serve our community, we need to unshackle ourselves from the medium we have known for so long and brave the uncertainty of the changing tide.

There is no measure to how appreciative and proud I am to have had the opportunity to lead this centenarian institution this year and to work with such a wonderful group of people. Volume CXXXVI would not have been possible were it not for the dauntless masthead, who showed up every week with renewed vigour and good ideas. Equally, we would not have been able to achieve a modicum of the success we have enjoyed this year were it not for our volunteers and contributors. 

To former editors Danielle Klein, Murad Hemmadi, Tom Cardoso, and Jade Colbert: thank you for always being available, both to myself and to the paper in which we have invested so much. To Joshua Oliver: thank you for being such a fierce friend and mentor and for always calling back.

I have always been confident in the conviction that we, as the press, are not doing our jobs if we aren’t making someone uncomfortable. Our essential purposes are to shine light, to ask difficult questions, to probe, and to provoke. That comes with its fair share of criticism and animosity. The climate in which CXXXVI has operated makes carrying out that work increasingly challenging, as fair comment and rigorous investigation have been mistaken for ad-hominem attack. Telling the stories that matter has never been, nor will it ever be, comfortable; that isn’t about to change with the landscape.

As the paper proceeds into an uncertain future, the words of former CBS anchor Dan Rather ring in my ears. For a few days in 1986, Rather signed off his CBS broadcast with a single word: “Courage.” 

It takes courage to risk offense in the course of responsible inquiry; it takes courage to stand up to power, to question dogma; and it takes courage to criticize oppression. Courage, Rather would remind us, is not the absence of fear, but action in spite of it. 

So, to my eminently capable successor, Alex McKeen, her incoming staff, and to you the readers: 


— Alec Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
     2015–2016, Vol. CXXXVI

A direct hit

University of Toronto Association of Student Cricketers looks to expand

A direct hit

The University of Toronto Association of Student Cricketers (UTASC) is only two years old, but has an impressive following. Created by students Beebarg Raza and Remo Reuben after the pair realised the demand for the sport on St. George campus, the club has since generated  a positive response and is looking to expand.

Bilal Ahmed UTASC events coordinator,  explains that due to the demand for organized cricket, the UTASC executive team decided that this year they would facilitate UTSG’s first ever cricket tournament. “This year we wanted to do… an event like a tournament and… make it kind of big and the response we got was huge,” Ahmed explained.

The tournament, hosted in the last week of January, was a test run for the club to determine if the UTASC had generated enough campus wide popularity to pursue more drop-in hours or even a league of their own on campus. Although Ahmed says that the club’s drop-in hours at the Varsity Dome and Hart House were usually packed, he was still apprehensive about the response the tournament would garner from the St. George community.

Once the executive team had organised everything for the tournament, doubts started creeping in; Ahmed recalls feeling nervous that no one was going to sign up for the event. These fears however, proved to be unfounded. “As soon as we opened registration we got a ton of requests so our initial thought was lets tone it down a bit because we don’t want to go too far fetched,” said Ahmed. He had initially only anticipated to accommodating eight teams of eight — a cap he soon had to revise to 12 due to the demand.

Working closely with facilities managers at the Athletic Center, Ahmed was able to book a space more conducive to cricket play than the spaces the UTASC had used in the past.

Ahmed says that the kind of cricket played at these facilities had to be modified significantly, which he believed would be a barrier to getting students involved in the tournament. “Cricket was being played at a very kind of toned down level, basically baseball where you have to keep everything on the ground and you basically just have to not swing 100 per cent” said Ahmed, adding, “I mean because of that people get turned off because you know obviously if you’re coming to play you want to play proper.”

UTASC partnered with the UTSU to host the tournament. Ahmed credits much of the success of the event to the creation of a team atmosphere — something sorely missing from drop-in activities.        

“What we noticed is that even for drop-in cricket, people come out more if its… organized in terms of, ok I have my team you have your team and you have your team,” he said. “People… engage more in cricket when its kind of team oriented because it’s more competitive for them and gives them an incentive to show up.”

Although much of the UTASC executive team will be graduating this year, Ahmed hopes that the momentum and excitement generated by the tournament continues throughout the St. George campus, reaching the level of popularity that other universities like Ryerson and even UTM experience.

“If you compare cricket at St. George to cricket at UTM… [the latter] has lots of resources in terms of space, funding, and everything, even at Ryerson… all these universities have a lot of funding and have a lot of resources in terms of their gym space and everything,” said Ahmed. “It’s not because they have more people that play cricket than downtown St. George” he said, “I’m pretty sure there’s more people at downtown St. George that play cricket, than UTM for sure, Ryerson we can probably equal them as well.”

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A history of success

A timeline of Varsity Blues at the Olympic Games

A history of success

Ahead of the Rio Olympics, The Varsity takes a look at the history of U of T olympians.

Varsity Blues have been representing Canada in the Olympics since 1900. The Blues have been representated in sports like swimming, track and field, and women’s hockey. The very first Blue to compete in the games was George Orton. Orton was the first Canadian to medal at the Olympics, earning a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles and a gold in the 2,500m steeplechase.       

Orton’s successes came before Canada even had an Olympic team. In the early years of the modern Olympics, Canadian athletes competed as individuals in primarily track and field events.              

Although Orton was a Blue in his undergrad, his invitation to the Olympics came when he was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. Since Canada did not send a team, Orton competed with the American team. It took decades for Orton’s accomplishments to be recognized as a Canadian triumph; however, he has since been regarded as Canada’s first Olympic medalist.       

Allan Keith and Orville Elliot were two members of the Varsity Blues gymnastics team who represented Canada at the 1908 Olympic Games. That same year, Ed Archibald and Cal Bricker, members of the track and field team, each earned bronze medals.

Greater successes for the Blues came later. As the Olympics increased in popularity, the Varsity Blues represented Canada in greater numbers. In the 1924 Paris Olympics the entirety of U of T’s eight-man rowing team was selected to compete. The team more than held their own against the international competition, cruising to a second place finish.

U of T has since had a consistent presence at the Olympics. Members of the Varsity Blues hockey team were chosen to play for Canada in the 1928 Winter Olympic Games, earning a gold medal, Canada’s third straight gold in hockey.

This came during a very dominant period for Canadian Olympic hockey; the team was in the midst of a run that would see them winning six of seven gold medals from 1920 (the year hockey was introduced to the Games) to 1952. 

As dominant as the men’s team has been, Blues women have been just as successful. The women’s hockey team earned silver in 1998 and has won gold in every Olympics since.

Besides medals, another fixture of this team has been Jayna Hefford, who has represented the Canadian team in every competition since women’s hockey was introduced in 1998. Hefford, who played for the Blues as an undergraduate, recently retired to become an assistant coach at her alma mater. Her goal in the 2002 championship game won Canada a gold medal. 

In addition to our nation’s penchant for winter Olympic glory, the Varsity Blues have maintained a presence in the summer Olympics as well. The Blues swimming program has had a long history of success at the games. In 1972, five Blues represented Canada’s swim team. Erik Fish earned a bronze.

Current Blues swim coach Bryan MacDonald also competed in 1972. Since he began his head coaching tenure in 1978-1979, the Blues have sent 27 swimmers to the Games, representing Canada, Switzerland, Barbados, and Swaziland. MacDonald’s presence at the games has extended beyond his players — since 1984, he has been a commentator for the swimming events at nearly every Olympics. He has won two Gemini awards for his coverage, in 2004 and in 2008.              

The most recent competitors to represent Canada and U of T came in 2012 by athletes Sarah Wells and Rosie MacLennan. Wells, a former CIS gold medalist, competed in her first Olympic games in London in the 400m hurdles competition where she placed twenty-fourth. Current kinesiology  graduate student, and trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and won Canada its only gold medal of the entire London 2012 games. Both Wells and MacLennan hope to represent Canada and U of T in Rio.

Mo macros no problems

Making the most of your workout, or obsessive?

Mo macros no problems

I’m sure you’ve heard or seen the word macros at one point or another, with the current fitness craze flooding everyone’s newsfeeds with gym selfies and fancy lingo.

The term ‘macros’ is short for macronutrients and refers to the three basic components of every diet: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. In order to have a well-balanced and effective diet, it’s important to get these proportions right because calorie counting alone may not give you the desired results. Focusing on the composition of calories you’re consuming, and not just the number of calories is the fundamental principle behind counting macros.              

Although it’s important to be aware of how many calories you’re consuming in a day, the number of calories doesn’t take the nutritional content of what you’re consuming into account, which is one of the major problems with traditional calorie counting. Eating 100 calories of candy is very different from eating 100 calories of vegetables; and based on their nutritional content, your body will use or store these foods differently as well. The classic saying ‘everything in moderation’ encourages using portion control instead of making drastic restrictions to your diet. Unless you’re eating the right foods, however, you’ll eventually give in and fulfill that late-night craving for McDonald’s. 

Margaux Parker/The Varsity

Margaux Parker/The Varsity

Putting the Pro in Protein             

To start living a healthier lifestyle, it’s best to focus on macronutrients, not just calories. In the world of fitness and athletics protein is arguably the ruler of the macronutrient kingdom. Protein is primarily associated with building muscle, which is why it’s extremely common to see bodybuilders, fitness trainers, and athletes often obsessing over protein supplements. But protein does more than just build muscle. Protein is essential for the growth of new muscle tissue and also for repairing broken tissue. 

Car ‘bro’ hydrates              

The diet and fitness industry has a rocky relationship with good ol’ carbs. As the body’s most easily accessible source of energy, carbs are broken up into glycogen, which is necessary for our muscles and liver, and glucose, which is essential for brain function. Carbs are generally divided into two classifications — simple and complex.

The difference between the two classifications is the length of the carbohydrate molecules. Simple carbohydrates have a shorter molecule chain, which makes it easier for the body to break down. Complex carbohydrates, such as starch, have a larger molecule chain and the body takes longer to break them down into usable components. When it comes to macros, choosing sources of complex carbohydrates is best for keeping your hunger satisfied: making it easier to resist those wicked cravings. 

Making friends with fat             

The third major macronutrient, fat, has a reputation for being unhealthy, but it should not be demonized or avoided because our normal body functions rely on them. There are different kinds of fats, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. The three that we should be concerned about are trans fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids.

To put it simply, trans fats are the enemy. They have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease and should be avoided. Trans fats are generally found in most packaged and processed foods and in various brands of margarine. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, are known as essential fatty acids and for good reason. Similar to the essential amino acids found in protein, your body cannot produce them on its own, so they must be obtained through your diet. 

Learning how to properly measure, prepare, and record food is key to accurately measuring your macros. It may sound difficult and annoying, but luckily, there are numerous apps that make recording our calories and macros a lot easier. MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular calorie counter and diet tracker app, because it has the world’s largest nutritional database and it’s available across all platforms. Not only does it track your entire food intake, but it also has an exercise tracker with more than 350 exercises stored in its database. It’s convenient, easy to use, and it allows you to customize a personal diet profile to fit your specific needs and goals.

The emerging big market north of the border

Toronto’s major sports teams are ready to consolidate the city’s big market identity

The emerging big market north of the border

With the 2015–2016 regular season for the Raptors and Leafs coming to a close, we can look back at how important 2015 and 2016 have been for Toronto in the NHL, NBA, and MLB.

While the Leafs will never relinquish the mantle as the city’s biggest market, the season was an indicator of the potential for the Raptors and Blue Jays to become bigger attractions as well. For years, the city has seen the likes of Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Carlos Delgado, and Roy Halladay leave for bigger markets to chase titles.

The year 2015–2016 initiated a shift in this mindset. The Raptors and Blue Jays have demonstrated strong regular seasons, playoff runs, and the ability to attract big name players.

This begs the question — does Toronto have the potential to become a serious contender in the NBA, NHL, and MLB? And if so, can the city become a desired destination for sought after free agents?

Both the Raptors and the Blue Jays were recently rebranded to consolidate the teams’ respective successes by bolstering regional pride.

The Raptors utilized the “We The North” campaign to gain fans while remaining relevant by assembling a competitive team able to surpass the Carter and Bosh eras. Two straight division championships and an inevitable third have put Toronto in the same conversation as Eastern Conference elite teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan, the Raptors showed their willingness to spend with free agent DeMarre Carroll joining the team in the 2015 offseason. Ticket purchases have been a key indicator of this expansion. The Raptors sold out season and postseason tickets in 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 and are expected to do the same during this year’s post-season. All Star Weekend was also a media boost to Toronto. Although the city embraces its ‘outside looking in’ approach to the NBA, the team has made an effort — especially this season — to be at the center of it all.

The Blue Jays also experienced a rebranding in 2012, but the team took a retrospective approach, returning to their 1992–1993 championships colours following an era of lackluster years as a fringe team. Their rebrand was met with blockbuster trades for stars like R.A. Dickey and Jose Reyes. Success after the rebrand was not immediate like the Raptors’, but last year’s trades for stars Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, and reigning MVP Josh Donaldson made significant contributions to the Jays’ first postseason appearance since 1993. The Blue Jays are title contenders and the city has taken notice through ticket and merchandise sales. The Jays’ 2015 season illustrated the dedicated fan base baseball can have in a non-American city.

The market value for the Leafs will likely never be a problem. Despite their struggles in recent seasons and a rebuild underway, the future is bright for the franchise.

The Leafs live in a hard salary cap era, but this has not stopped them from stockpiling talent. They accumulated draft picks, including potential star William Nylander, all under the watchful eye of arguably the best management in the league. GM Lou Lamoriello has won three Stanley Cups and coach Mike Babcock has won the Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals. The team has  a robust analytics department led by rising management star Kyle Dubas, which has modernized how we view hockey and player evaluations. The road to contention will be long and arduous for the Leafs, but they have the pieces in place to compete again, and the regional market to sustain them. 

The regional market has the ability to sustain the three major teams, similar to other big markets like New York and Los Angeles. While the more profitable and more popular team is rebuilding itself, their future is bright. The Raptors and Blue Jays are the contenders, and now they have the rosters and fan bases to show for it.

Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding: which is right for you?

Lifting weights has never been so diverse

Powerlifting vs. Bodybuilding: which is right for you?

Whatever your inspiration , there are a variety of ways to approach weightlifting. It wasn’t until recently that powerlifting and body building became more nuanced. If you’re new to weight training, or working out in general, here are some major differences between the two fitness styles. 


We’ve all seen crazy pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronnie Colman competing for Mr. Olympia — one of the highest level of bodybuilding competition — but how did they get up to that point?  Bodybuilding is a round-the-clock commitment where athletes use cardio and strength exercises in tandem with an emphasis on bulking and cutting: putting on as much muscle mass as possible, and eliminating as much fat as possible from the body in order to get the muscle definition. The goal is to develop a perfect which meets judges’ criteria.             

Bodybuilders emphasize weight training using moderate to heavy weights with a higher number of repetitions that focus on major muscle groups. A common method that bodybuilders use is ‘rep to failure.’ This involves lifting weights until they physically cannot lift anymore. Some bodybuilders incorporate ‘heavy days’ into their training regimen, where they focus on one body part with fewer repetitions. Bodybuilders also incorporate cardio into their routines in order to reduce body fat to maintain muscle definition. In order to become a successful bodybuilder it helps to have amazing vascularity, definition and musculature. 


Powerlifting is often not covered by mainstream media. It involves three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. In competition, the individual who lifts the most weight, in each of the three categories, wins.

Powerlifters have a very different training regime than body builders. Powerlifters focus on training specifically for those three events and building muscle that will assist in the attainment of lifting the heaviest possible weight. They train by lifting heavy weights with fewer repetitions because, in competition, only one rep is needed. The emphasis is on triples (three reps), doubles (two reps) and a single, all out rep. This promotes maximum strength rather than defined muscles.

A powerlifter’s diet can be less specific than that of a bodybuilder. Powerlifters eat to provide immense amounts of energy, rather than maintain muscle or build a certain physique. They eat high fat, high calorie and high protein foods in order with a much higher calorie intake than the bodybuilders.  If you look at the body types between powerlifters and bodybuilders, they are quite different. Powerlifters are stockier and have much more fat on their bodies than the average person, and many can be classified as morbidly obese because of their high muscle and fat body composition.

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Not as safe as you think

A U of T nursing student explains why e-cigarette smoking should not be your preferred stress-relieving habit

Not as safe as you think

For most students, spring means too many hours in the library.

As a graduate nursing student, the Gerstein Science Information Centre is my second home. Last week, just outside of Gerstein, I polled fellow students about their health concerns during this stressful time of year. We discussed many exam-related stresses: lack of sleep, increased consumption of coffee, and other vices.

During one of these discussions, a young man explained — with an e-cigarette in hand —  “I smoke more during times when I’m stressed.” His roommate added, “thank goodness it’s just vapour because we spend a lot of time together these days.” I held my tongue as we continued our light-hearted chat and wished them best of luck with their exams.

Contrary to what has become a popular belief among many U of T students, “just vapour” is not without harm. Although there is a lack of concrete evidence at this time about the exact dangers associated with e-cigarette use and secondhand exposure, there is evidence suggesting potential harm. 

Here’s how it works: e-cigarette vapour is visible and emitted only when the user exhales. What is exhaled in this vapour are the contents of e-liquid.

The e-liquid is often a combination of water, natural or artificial flavouring, nicotine and most often propylene glycol (PG). Known to irritate the upper airway, which includes the nose, mouth, and throat, fine particles of PG and nicotine can end up deep in the lungs, acting as an irritant.

It is obvious that an e-cigarette user is exposed to these chemical irritants, but just as with second-hand smoke from regular cigarettes, even a non-user may be exposed when the vapour is exhaled into the surrounding air. 

It is important to note that there are many factors that may affect a non-user’s exposure to the vapour; for example, temperature and room size can influence the amount of aerosol (vapour) inhaled by a non-user.

Jenna Liao/The Varsity

Jenna Liao/The Varsity

There is also the often over-looked risk of thirdhand exposure from what is left unseen after the visible vapour dissipates. Since nicotine can live on inanimate objects such as curtains, couches, and clothing, it can enter the body through the skin. This may result in prolonged exposure to the carcinogens associated with vaping for anyone living with an e-cigarette user. 

Though the research about the risks relating to e-cigarette use and exposure is in its early stages, I still believe it is also important to communicate that harm is harm. Even though the precise level of risk is not quantifiable, it is clear that vaping is not entirely without risk.

Despite the knowledge that there is some risk involved, there is currently no ban on “vaping” in public. There was a previous policy to ban vaping in certain public spaces, which was to take effect January 1, 2016, but it has been stalled while the Liberals determine new rules that will include medical marijuana.

If some harms have been identified, why wait for this ban?

The ministry of health admits this is an oversight and has committed to addressing this as soon as possible, yet it took us decades to acknowledge and act upon the harms of smoking cigarettes; do we really want history to repeat itself?  For more information and updates on the regulations around smoking and vaping please visit Smoke-Free Ontario.

Free exam tip: for a stress reduction tactic this exam season, instead of reaching for that cigarette (electric or not), I would encourage my fellow students to take a few laps around King’s Circle, since physical activity is well known to help reduce the negative effects of stress.

Good Luck!

Streeters: are evolution and religion compatible?

Students weigh in on the roles religion and science play in their lives

At a meeting of the British Association in 1860, Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, and T.H. Huxley, a proponent of Darwinian evolution, engaged in a heated exchange about the validity of evolution.

The incompatibility of evolution and religion has had a long history. As science explains it, evolution is the process by which populations undergo genetic change over time. One of the agents of evolution is natural selection, which acts on the variation within a population. This variation must be heritable
(transmitted from parent to offspring) and must affect an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a given environment. 

Individuals with beneficial variants produce more offspring than those with deleterious ones because they are better able to survive and reproduce. Over time, the number of individuals with beneficial variants increase relative to those with deleterious ones. As a result, the population becomes better suited to its environment.

This week, The Varsity asked members of U of T to comment on whether evolution and religion are compatible. Here is what they said:

“From my perspective and knowledge regarding the subject matter, I am… confident to say that religion and evolution are intimately related to each other. They are simply different manifestations of the exact same phenomena that happened on earth a few million years ago. Looking back at every civilization, religion has always been around to serve as guidance for people as lost, and to offer an explanation for the magic of creation. On the other hand, evolution is the human way to regard this exact topic by crowning Homo sapiens at the top of the food chain. People could view this subject in whichever way that they are comfortable with, because the ‘truth’ shall never be altered [regardless of who] believes it… ” 

— Jessie Gao, third-year physics and math student

“Religion and evolution are completely compatible. Scientific evidence need not conflict with religion. Science and religion answer completely different questions. Science answers the ‘how and when’. and religion answers the ‘who and why’. A creator can therefore govern over evolution and have a hand in these processes. Nothing should surprise God, so when we discover a distant lineage of life that has implications for humans, that should not overturn religious doctrines but rather enable us to interpret them in new ways.”

— Adam Varro, fourth-year ethics, society, and law student

“For many Christians, it would never occur to them that a model for explaining nature’s development would be incompatible with a commitment to the truth or religious faith. The support for science and university, longstanding in the church, rises from conviction that there is one God and truth is united in him. That implies, however, that the Christian does not believe the universe is without a source or that life can be reduced to the physical realm and stripped of meaning and purpose.  For the believer, it is a fuller and truer description of life as we know and experience it.”

— The Rev. Canon Dr. Dean Mercer, instructor, Wycliffe College

“If, as many faiths teach, there is an all-powerful, omniscient Creator, the unfolding of scientific understanding can be seen as part of the divine plan and of the process of divine revelation, even if new scientific information — as in the developing study of evolution — challenges and transforms some previously-held beliefs.”

— The Rev. Andrea Budgey, Humphrys Chaplain, Trinity College and the University of Toronto

“Evolution as a theory was devised as a tool for us to … understand the world. It is supported by … evidence, but we are far from being able to claim that evolution is an accurate representation of the reality. In fact, no scientists claim their theories to be absolutely correct. That being said, sciences are not dogmas. Although the Bible may conflict with Darwin’s theory, this does not prevent religion from coexisting with sciences.”

— Dominic Li, third-year math and statistics student

“What does it mean to be compatible? In my personal opinion, if people are able to accept both religion and the theory of evolution then, by definition, the two are compatible. Nowadays, religion and science play two different roles in people’s lives. The primary role of a religion is more to give people comfort and relief. Before, people may have turned to religion to find the ‘truth’, but now that’s the role that science takes. If science and religion play two different roles in our lives, why shouldn’t they be compatible?”

— Mike Park, third-year math and physics student