Disappearance of funds at VCDS stirs suspicions of theft

$800 missing from cash box in locked VCDS office

Disappearance of funds at VCDS stirs suspicions of theft

Sometime between October 31, 2017 and November 10, 2017, $800 in cash went missing from the Victoria College Drama Society (VCDS) cash box, located in a locked office. According to the society, eight members of VCDS have access to the office, located within the larger Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) office, as do housekeeping staff and the VUSAC president. VCDS believes the money was stolen.

While cleaning their office during the fall reading week, VCDS co-producers Alyssa DiBattista and Leora Nash discovered the empty cash box, but they originally thought nothing of it.

“We assumed that our Chief Financial Officer, George Wilson, must have deposited the revenue from our first show into our bank account. Later in the month (before our second show), however, George went to count the amount in the money box, to be used as a float for our second show, only to find that there was only the small amount I had seen during reading week,” wrote DiBattista.

Wilson wrote that much of the money allegedly stolen had been “inherited by past years executives who often kept cash from shows in the office,” assuming the cash was revenue from past shows. Most of that money was deposited into VCDS’ bank account, but the money in the cashbox at the time of the supposed robbery was kept as float for the VCDS production of Colours in the Storm, which ran in mid-October of last year. The $800 consisted of the float cash and one night’s revenue from the show.

DiBattista clarified that the VCDS exec assumed that the money was stolen because only she, Nash, and Wilson deal with money or the cash box. “We didn’t want to conclude that the money had been removed illicitly but it became more and more clear to us; no one else had used the money box on official business since the end of our first show. At some point, it just disappeared, and the only reason we could conclude was that someone got access or had access to the office, and took the money.”

The incident has resulted in the VCDS employing stricter policies regarding how it handles its cash. “While there have always been official policies on money handling and counting, there had never really been anything specifically addressing money in the locked VCDS office,” said Wilson. According to Wilson, the new policy is that no cash will be left unattended in the VCDS office, and the drama society will now be using VUSAC’s safe or VCDS’ own bank account whenever possible.

Additionally, non-VCDS members will not be allowed in the office outside of normal hours, and keyholders will only be allowed to enter the office for VCDS purposes. “Our fall production of The Drowsy Chaperone occurred under these new policies without incident, and we believe the policies will continue to succeed,” said Wilson.

DiBattista claimed that there was a history of stolen money within the VUSAC office. “However, this was the first time money was stolen from inside a private, locked office at VUSAC and it was also the largest amount of money stolen, so we felt the need to respond thoroughly. We feel extremely disappointed because the purpose of having an office for our organization is to have a safe and useful space, but that’s been compromised, and it feels violating,” wrote DiBattista.

The co-producers brought up the matter at a VUSAC meeting but were advised that there could not be an investigation. They were asked to consider more secure methods for storing funds that must remain in the office for short periods of time.

As to why there was no investigation, VUSAC President Zahavah Kay said, “Ultimately it was decided that the best and most practical solution was to improve security moving forward. VUSAC has supported this decision by recommending all levies purchase safes for their offices, limit key sharing, and keep the office locked at all times.” VUSAC itself has also increased security by decreasing the number of office keys distributed, as well as limiting after-hours access to the office.

As of press time, there is no update to the identity of a perpetrator, and Campus Police have not been informed of the alleged theft.

Correction (January 8): a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that only eight people have access to the VCDS office, and that the cash box was locked. In fact, the cash box does not have a lock, and eight members of VCDS, as well as the VUSAC president and housekeeping staff, have access to the office. 

Trinity administration responds to vote of no confidence, allegations

Provost Moran elaborates on alcohol ban, plans for reconciliation

Trinity administration responds to vote of no confidence, allegations

In response to a vote of no confidence in the Office of the Dean of Students on September 25, Mayo Moran, Provost and Vice Chancellor of Trinity College, sent an email to all Trinity students.

In the email, Moran says that “some of the decisions [of the Dean’s office], particularly where they involve discipline, will be the source of unavoidable tension between some of the students and the Dean’s Office which is responsible, among other things, for maintaining discipline.”

“I realize that some of the allegations may worry you, particularly because you do not have the full details,” Moran’s email reads, “But I do want to assure you, as your Provost, that the Dean and her staff approach all student issues in an attentive, thoughtful way.”

The administration and students have been working to resolve dissatisfaction over how the college has handled a number of recent events, including an alleged assault of Co-Head of College Bardia Monavari while two assistant deans watched, and the Provost’s decision to suspend alcohol-licensed events at the college.

“We are working with the student leaders and others on a plan to re-establish the strong working relationships that enable us to hold the unique events that Trinity students enjoy,” wrote Moran in an email to The Varsity.

Monavari said that “students are disappointed–to say the least.”

A few weeks after the vote of no confidence was passed, Moran issued a temporary ban on alcohol-licensed events at the college, stressing that “the well-being of all our students is our top priority.”

“Because of serious concerns arising out of recent student-organized parties in residence, I placed the privilege of hosting licensed student-organized events on hold,” she said. “The hold will remain in place until we can be confident that future student-organized events can be conducted safely and responsibly, and with regard for the larger student body and applicable law and policies.”

The vote of no confidence was motivated in part by Monavari’s assertion that he was assaulted by a Campus Police officer while Assistant Dean of Students for Residence Life Adam Hogan and Assistant Dean of Students for Student Life Christine Cerullo stood by and watched.

Monavari consequently filed a complaint with Campus Police. He says that the Campus Police had confirmed that they received his complaint during the last week of September but have not contacted him since.

Another motivation was the college’s alleged mishandling of Trinity student Tamsyn Riddle’s sexual assault case, which resulted in Riddle filing a human rights complaint against the college and U of T.

Monavari stated that many of the events included in the TCM motion had “no causal link to alcohol.”

“By focusing on alcohol, the administration has effectively turned its attention away from the source of the issues,” said Monavari. “The assault that took place on September 23rd was enabled by a failure to act–not alcohol.”

Monavari notes that the Dean’s office’s “inability to follow up right after the incident was a result of negligence– not alcohol,” and that Riddle’s human rights complaint was a result of “inadequate policy and decision-making–not alcohol.”

Despite this, Monavari says communication between the student leaders and administration has been “very professional.”

“We are working towards a reconciliation process between the Heads team and the Dean’s Office; this will be done with the aid of a third-party counsel,” he said. “It is important to emphasize the following: there is no personal animosity between the student heads and the Dean’s office.”

“We are also looking to any ways to improve what we do and are hopeful that something positive will come out of this difficult set of circumstances,” said Moran.

Campus Police did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

All statements sent to The Varsity by Moran were made on behalf of the college and its staff.

Student alleges assault by Campus Police

Bardia Monavari says Assistant Deans of Trinity College did nothing to protect him

Student alleges assault by Campus Police

A Trinity College student claims to have been assaulted by a Campus Police officer in the aftermath of a residence party on September 23.

The student, Bardia Monavari, Co-Head of College at Trinity, alleges in a formal complaint filed to the Campus Police that the Assistant Dean of Students for Residence Life Adam Hogan, and the Assistant Dean of Students for Student Life Christine Cerullo wrongly pointed him out to the police as the organizer of the party and consequently did not act as he was verbally and physically assaulted by a Campus Police officer.

According to the Trinity Co-Head of Arts Lukas Weese, who was witness to the incident, Hogan called Campus Police because he thought that the party was becoming too loud. At the same time, a fire alarm was pulled and students in the residence were evacuated.

After it was determined that it was a false alarm, Monavari says that he and Weese were asked by Hogan and Cerullo to speak to the officers.

“They made us think that it was an informal conversation,” Monavari told The Varsity. “I didn’t think I was going to be held liable for anything.”

However, according to Monavari, the situation escalated when an officer threatened to hold him accountable for the cost of calling the fire department.

“He would continue his threats through unprofessional taunts to me specifically, saying, ‘You’re fucked,’ ‘You’re done,’ and ‘Someone needs to pay for these fines and it’s going to be you,’” Monavari wrote in his complaint.

The officer then allegedly asked for Monavari’s name, which Monavari refused to give him.

“In response to this, [the officer] shoved me from behind, grabbed my shoulder, and forcefully placed my hands behind my back, claiming I was under arrest,” Monavari wrote.

Weese confirmed Monavari’s account of the event, adding that “while this was happening, [Hogan] and [Cerullo] were watching and did absolutely nothing to stop this assault from taking place. They stood there, incredibly apathetic, just did not do anything to condemn this behaviour.”

Actions against the Dean’s Office

Another witness at the scene, first year Trinity student Ellie Schoefell, further corroborated Monavari’s description. “It was obvious that they were targeting [Monavari] and they didn’t target [Weese] at all. And they tried to handcuff him, I think. It looked like they were doing something with his wrists,” she told The Varsity.

“[The Assistant Deans] were there, they were definitely on the scene,” she further alleged.

As a direct result of this event, former Head of Arts Thomas Robson put forward a motion for the September 25 Trinity College Meeting (TCM), Trinity’s direct democracy student government, for a vote of non-confidence in the Dean’s Office. The motion passed 209 to seven with five abstentions.

Robson stated that he also motioned for the vote in part due to the office’s mishandling of Trinity student Tamsyn Riddle’s sexual assault case, which resulted in her filing a human rights complaint against U of T and Trinity.

Based on this vote, TCM Chair Leila Martin will send a letter to several governing bodies at Trinity, including the Office of the Provost, the Board of Trustees at Trinity College, all committees of Senate, and members of Trinity College Corporation. The letter will inform them of the students’ vote.

“Effectively this vote was just students voicing their concerns with the Dean’s Office and students informing administration above the Dean’s Office that we no longer have confidence in the said office,” Robson said.

Robson stated that he would like to see Monavari and Riddle receive an official apology from the Office of the Dean of Students. “I think specifically the two of them have been wronged egregiously,” he said.

Monavari also said that he wants there to be disciplinary actions against Hogan and Cerullo, who, he said, “enabled the police to violently assault me.” He said that “a lot of times a lack of action is worse than actually being malicious to someone.”

Weese stated that he wants to see Hogan and Cerullo “gone, to be honest. I think that would be the best scenario… We want these people to receive the appropriate disciplinary action, which I would say is removal from their position.”

The Varsity reached out to the Office of the Dean of Students at Trinity, and received a statement from Young Um, Trinity’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs. “Providing a safe, respectful, and welcoming environment is a priority at Trinity. The College is in the process of carefully reviewing the series of events concerning Saturday night and therefore we are not in a position to comment at this point,” Um said.

Althea Blackburn-Evans, Director of Media Relations at U of T, stated in an email to The Varsity that Campus Police have opened an investigation. “It’s ongoing so there’s no further information to share at this point,” she said.

Campus Police were unable to provide comment at time of publication.

Editor’s Note (October 4): This story has been updated to reflect that Young Um responded to The Varsity‘s request for comment from the Office of the Dean of Students.

Shooting near St. George subway station hospitalizes two

SIU investigation closes Bedford Road

Shooting near St. George subway station hospitalizes two

A daytime shooting near UTSG is the subject of investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

The shooting occurred at around 3:30 PM near Bedford Road and Prince Arthur Avenue — steps away from one of the entrances to St. George subway station. Toronto criminal lawyer Randall Barrs, who has his office on 23 Bedford Road, is among the two victims who are in serious condition.

Toronto Police Services and U of T Campus Police have closed off Bedford Road between Lowther Avenue and Bloor Street West.

The SIU is a civilian agency responsible for investigating instances involving police officers that result in serious injury, death, or sexual assault allegations and has the ability to lay criminal charges on officers, if the SIU Director believes charges are necessary.

This story is developing, more to follow

Suspect wanted in break-and-enter case at UTSG

Surveillance video and photos released to the public

Suspect wanted in break-and-enter case at UTSG

The Toronto Police Services and U of T Campus Police are asking for the public’s help identifying a man wanted for an ongoing break-and-enter investigation near the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue.

A man was reported to have broken into Daniels Studio Commons in the early morning of July 26 and stolen two LED televisions. The Daniels Studio Commons, located on 665 Spadina Avenue, functions as a workspace for undergraduate architecture students.



The suspect was captured on security cameras wandering the building attempting to cover his face while searching for items of value. The man is described as having a thin build; medium, brown hair; and appears to be in his in his 30s. He was wearing a black T-shirt with a grey hat.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

Five-hour lockdown at UTSG ends as Toronto Police conclude investigation

One man arrested, released without charges

Five-hour lockdown at UTSG ends as Toronto Police conclude investigation

Several buildings centred around the north-eastern part of the St. George campus were on lockdown after Toronto Police received calls about a suspicious person at 9:30 AM on June 13.

At 10:15 AM, students were alerted that Falconer Hall, the Faculty of Law, the Edward Johnson Building, the Munk School of Global Affairs, the Varsity Centre, and all building affiliated with Victoria University and Trinity College were closed. Students and faculty in these buildings at the time were asked to remain inside until the all-clear was given.

University Avenue and Queen’s Park Crescent were also closed between Bloor Street and Hoskin Avenue. The TTC had also announced that subways are also bypassing Museum Station.

The lockdown was lifted for all buildings on campus at around 3:15 PM. As well, the roads reopened and subway service to Museum Station resumed.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters that police had seen a photo of a “male subject, dressed in all black with a black knapsack and a mask” with reports of this person armed with a gun.

An arrest was also made, but Saunders said that the suspect was  “not the same likeness” as the person in the photo, and declined to elaborate further. The suspect was later released without charges.

Wycliffe College student Orvin Lao was coming out of Museum Station when the situation began to unfold and described the scene.

“Another pedestrian was telling me to duck and cover as there is a man with a rifle running around the Faculty [of Music]. And so I hid for a bit at the stairwell that led to the subway,” he told The Varsity. “I saw two female officers with unholstered firearms and another male officer a few yards ahead with an automatic assault rifle crouching.”

Convocation for Rotman MBA and St. Michael’s College graduates proceeded as usual.

In a statement, U of T president Meric Gertler thanked the Toronto Police, campus police, and members of the U of T community for acting swiftly: “I think I speak for many of us when I say that this has been a distressing day, but I am very relieved at the outcome.”

UPDATED: Several buildings at UTSG on lockdown after reports of armed person

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders confirms one person in custody, convocation unaffected

Update (June 13, 4:49pm): The lockdown has been lifted for all buildings on campus.

Several buildings centred around the north-eastern part of campus are on lockdown after Toronto Police received calls about a suspicious person at 9:30 AM.

The following buildings continue to be on lockdown as Toronto Police continue its investigation:

  • Falconer Hall — 84 Queen’s Park
  • Faculty Of Law — 78 Queen’s Park
  • Faculty Of Music: Edward Johnson Building — 80 Queen’s Park

Those who are already in these buildings are being asked to remain inside until the all-clear has been given.

Earlier today, the lockdown extended to more buildings on campus. The following buildings are no longer closed:

  • Trinity College — 6 Hoskin Avenue
  • Munk School Of Global Affairs — 1 Devonshire Place
  • Gerald Larkin Building — 15 Devonshire Place
  • Varsity Centre — 299 Bloor Street West
  • All buildings affiliated with Victoria University

In addition, Queen’s Park Crescent between Bloor Street and Hoskin Avenue remain closed off. The TTC has also announced that subways are also bypassing Museum station.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters that police has seen a photo of a “male subject, dressed in all black with a black knapsack and a mask” with reports of this person armed with a gun.

An arrest was also made, but Saunders said that the suspect in custody is “not the same likeness” as the person in the photo,  and declined to elaborate further

“We’re making sure we’re clearing as best to our abilities, utilizing our tactical officers, as well as our dogs to ensure we can maximize the safety of everybody here,” said Saunders.

Convocation for Rotman Graduate students was unaffected by the lockdown. Convocation for St. Michael’s College students will also go on as planned.

“We have no reason to believe there will be any safety concerns during convocation,” said U of T president Meric Gertler, in his convocation address for Rotman students.

This story is developing, more to follow.

Update (June 13, 12:08pm): This story has been updated to include comments from Mark Saunders and Meric Gertler.

Update (June 13, 2:24pm): The list of buildings under lockdown has been updated.

Campus police reports show crime decrease at UTM, UTSC

Little change in crime reports at UTSG

Campus police reports show crime decrease at UTM, UTSC

Campus Police from all three campuses have released their annual reports for 2015. Compared to 2014, crime occurrences have dropped 20–30 per cent at UTM and UTSC; numbers remain steady at UTSG.

Property crime, which makes up the majority of reported crimes, has largely decreased. Sexual assault reports remain low: two at UTSG and one at UTSC.

The statistics do not reflect theft that was not reported or reported to other authorities.

Decline in reports of property crime

At UTSG, property crime accounts for approximately 85 per cent of reported crimes. The biggest contributor is theft of student property worth less than $5,000. This accounts for about half of reported property crimes and has minimal change in frequency since the 2014 report. Damage to university property is the second most reported property crime.

Property crime is also the most reported crime at UTM and UTSC, although their annual reports show significant decreases from 2014. At UTM specifically, there was a 30.25 per cent decrease in reports of theft under $5,000, which contributed to an overall drop in crime by 30.41 per cent. Instances of mischief or damage to property remained mostly unchanged at the campuses.

The reports do not show how many of these crimes are resolved. UTSG is the only campus to release the number of arrests made in the annual report; details of recovered property is not included.

The reports also emphasize crime prevention with a focus on policies like the ‘Stop Campus Theft’ campaign.

Community policing model

When asked about the disparity between campuses, Althea Blackburn-Evans, Director of News & Media Relations, stressed that crime occurrences at UTSG are relatively low compared to the population. She added that the location within downtown Toronto places it in a unique context.

UTM has also hired a patrolling team recently, which means the addition of “six new building patrollers and two new constables” to ensure an increased “presence of campus police officers,” according to Blackburn-Evans.

UTSC implemented two strategies that have proved to be successful: the officers are actively taking part in the community by hosting events like pancake breakfasts and movie nights; and the campus created a more extensive awareness campaign at the library, in the hopes of preventing theft.

Multiple theft rings have successfully been shut down at UTSC and UTSG. These rings were targeting libraries and bikes.

Althea Blackburn-Evans also told The Varsity that campus police will be “very focused on awareness, mostly among students and mostly in library settings.” Their aim is to reinforce the safety of the students and the presence of the campus police, Blackburn-Evans said.