Comment in Briefs: Week of October 29

Students react to the Munk Debate protests, the minimum wage freeze, Toronto’s global cityhood, and UTM vending machines

Comment in Briefs: Week of October 29

Free speech emerged victorious

 Re: “Arrests, violence at protest against Munk Debate hosting Steve Bannon”

Violence is the state’s last resort, and was, unfortunately, necessary to maintain order outside of the recent Munk Debate. While peaceful protest is permitted, the demeanour of some protestors quickly exceeded the boundaries of legal conduct. This made the police’s response appropriate.

Nonetheless, the entire event — both inside and outside of Roy Thompson Hall — was a microcosm of liberal democracy, with free speech emerging victorious. The debaters presented their convictions, while those outside exercised their rights to oppose them. No party was restricted. The expression of such contrasts is a positive sign of diversity and contributes to intellectual discourse, where citizens hear all opinions and make holistic decisions thereafter.

However, the cold wasn’t the only bitter presence that evening. Individuals ought to be civilised while exercising their rights. For some protesters — especially those shrieking at queued guests and using four-letter epithets — this was certainly not the case. These individuals seemed to be more bent on suppressing Bannon’s speech than merely opposing it.

This behaviour was fundamentally illiberal, given liberalism’s elevation of individual rights above all else. It speaks to an alarming trend of constitutional speech being contemporarily subordinated to subjective feelings and emotions, which have no basis in law.

Consider how students across college campuses demand ‘safe spaces’ for restricted speech — which is rather contrary to universities’ objectives of holistic education embracing diverse perspectives. These demands are made under the guise of ‘political correctness,’ with the definition of ‘correct’ favouring the liberal left more often than not.

Mick Hume rightly said that “there is no right not to be offended.” In a democracy, the definition of ‘correct’ speech is ultimately in the Constitution, given the subjectivity of morality. As such, Bannon’s speech was neither incorrect nor suppressible, and deserved a fair hearing.

To listen and disagree with civility is crucial, for the opposite furthers polarization, which prevents cooperation and breeds further suppression in a vicious cycle. While protesters were justified to oppose, they ought to have done so in line with liberal democracy’s code. Only then, perhaps, will society be improved.

Arjun Singh is a first-year Political Science student at New College.


The minimum wage freeze isn’t the end of the world

Re: “Provincial government to repeal Bill 148, targeting minimum wage, workplace legislation”

Labour group protests repeal of workplace legislation at Queen’s Park. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

When the previous government announced that it would raise the minimum wage a couple of years ago, I thought it would be a great idea. I was working at a small, privately-owned fast food franchise at the time, and I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to buy that Big Mac combo for 50 per cent, rather than 90 per cent, of my hourly wage.

But what a lot of people missed was the fact that the second that wage went up, so did the price of everything else — sometimes to absurd levels. The franchise I was working at was overwhelmed almost immediately by the newly rising wages, and within mere weeks I found plenty of employees cut off the payroll.

Some friends of mine didn’t have the luxury of seeing their hours cut. Their Christmas gift was a layoff, not a healthier paycheck. Suddenly, we had fewer employees, dealing with the same rush.

And that Big Mac combo? Within a week, it wasn’t only back to 90 per cent, but in some cases, rose to the full weight of that newly raised check.

So, I am not necessarily upset over the freeze of the minimum wage at $14 an hour. Yes, it definitely helped pay some bills — car insurance isn’t necessarily dependent on wages — but it didn’t have the impact that some wished for. Within a couple of months, a few of my neighbourhood pharmacies and eateries had to close their doors, being overrun with costs.

Don’t get me wrong, as life gets more expensive, the minimum wage does need to go up. And in my opinion, $11.40 an hour was definitely too little. But, the sudden jump to $14 an hour was problematic and instead, a better balance of wages to inflation is necessary. The big jump is done. From next year onwards, we’ll hopefully see it grow organically.

Arik Portnov is a first-year Political Science student at Trinity College.


Making Toronto an inclusive global city is tough, but vital

Re: “‘Global City for Who?’ event addresses inclusivity in world’s top cities”

Toronto Star reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh moderated a discussion on inequality. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

If you have been tuning into talk in Toronto for the past few years, you know that breaking into the housing and job markets has proven notoriously difficult. In a panel held by U of T’s Geography and Planning department, Hashi Mohamed and Kofi Hope discussed strategies of ensuring that cities remain inclusive and accessible to all of their residents as they grow globally.

The divides seen in Toronto and many other cities highlight the fallacy of the ‘North American’ dream: the barriers present in our so called ‘global cities’ make it unfairly difficult for disenfranchised individuals to achieve their goals.

The class divides that make cities inaccessible then feed into racial and ethnic divides, which leads to the troubling segregation trends we see developing in Toronto. This creates a vicious cycle in which class divides are both the cause and consequence of ethnic division.

As Hope pointed out during the talk, “equity and inclusion” for everyone is the first step in making global cities inclusive for all residents. For Toronto, where nearly half of the residents were born outside of Canada, making an accessible global city is vital. Equity and inclusion may perhaps seem like too abstract a solution for such a pressing issue, but there is no quick and easy fix.

By taking steps in every aspect of city living to promote equity and inclusion, starting from education and going into corporate practices, Toronto can ensure that it is accessible to all.

Ori Gilboa is a first-year Humanities student at Victoria College.


We need better student health, not profit-driven vending machines

 Re: “Four new branded vending machines added at UTM since summer”

A UTM spokesperson said the new vending machines have built-in anti-theft features. ZEAHAA REHMAN/THE VARSITY

In light of prolonged on-campus hours, UTM installed four new branded vending machines this past summer. Regardless of the good intentions behind the new vending machines, these additions evade legitimate changes to a troubling phenomenon in student life. Namely, overworked students are unable to afford themselves the time to meet their own needs, mental or physical.

In an expansion of what an administrator called “a second tier of products,” more luxury items have been introduced than legitimate necessities. Machines intended to replace campus food services for late nights and weekends aren’t focused on nutrition or satiating students’ diets, but rather on unnecessary specialty food items. And when it comes to school supplies, the trend continues — simple items like pens or notebooks are absent to accommodate expensive electronics.

Items like these allow students to spend money, but not to take care of themselves. Student life has become a state of personal neglect, and offerings like these do nothing to better campus quality of life. The age group most vulnerable to addiction and mental illnesses is not given adequate time to address nutrition, exercise, and sleep, all of which affect the progression of mental disorders.

Vending machines like these seek to profit from, not rectify, the unhealthy lifestyle of the student: late nights, short breaks, and long hours. Our hallways have become commercialized with metal boxes and the appeal of specialty coffees, Fitbits, and instant cameras. Instead, our university should focus on much-needed reforms to schedules and resources to help us live healthier student lives.

Ashley Manou is a first-year Humanities student at New College.

Comment in Briefs: Week of October 1

Students react to price tag for writing surfaces in Daniels Building Main Hall, UTSC Al Berry lecture, and university policy on student-professor relationships

Comment in Briefs: Week of October 1

Intentional design flaw reflects ableist ignorance

Re: “$30 price tag for writing surfaces in lecture hall stirs controversy at Architecture & Visual Studies town hall”

It is appalling and absurd that the Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design (FALD) intentionally designed a lecture hall without writing surfaces. It seems like the FALD is trying to make the lives of students more difficult.

Dean Sommers asserted that the decision to exclude writing surfaces was, in part, because it provides pedagogical value by discouraging students from using their laptops during lectures. He ignores the fact that a laptop, by definition, can be used on one’s lap without a surface.

Professor Jeannie Kim seemed to reiterate this pedagogical value excuse, claiming that it is better to take notes by hand. She ignores the fact that taking notes by hand is a lot easier when there is actually a surface to write on.

The pedagogical value excuse used by the FALD is laughable, and once again exemplifies the ableism embodied in the university’s mindset. Many students struggle to keep up with the pace of lectures as it is, and not everyone is an expert at shorthand. Some students may have a disability that requires the use of a laptop. A student’s level of dependence on technology does not, and should not, reflect on their academic abilities.

Adding insult to injury, the FALD opted to sell lap desks instead of offering a rental program, showing a blatant disregard for the inequitable economic context of student life.

Ultimately, the dean chose chair stackability over the best interest of students.

Madeleine Kelly is a fifth-year Ethics, Society, and Law and Environmental Studies student at New College.


Development comes at the monumental expense of equality — and it shouldn’t

Re: “‘Development or Justice?’: Jeremy Adelman speaks at annual UTSC Al Berry lecture”

Adelman is a professor at Princeton University. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Jeremy Adelman’s recent remarks at the sixth annual Al Berry lecture are now, more than ever, essential to keep in mind. Speaking about the unequal distribution of wealth, Adelman pointed out that the current drive for international development may further divide the global community.

With increasing nativist and nationalist movements at home and abroad, Canadians must remember that to consider ourselves a nation that truly stands for equality, we must care to leave no one behind. While traditional forms of global divide, such as colonialism, have been gradually disrupted, the innate competitiveness of capitalism has quickly replaced tangible partitions with less visible ones.

The development of one group inevitably comes at the vast expense of the other. Neocolonialism, especially at the hands of international fiscal institutions, tends to put non-western countries at severe disadvantages. As Adelman describes it, development is simply a “new form of empire” that serves to divide the globe into its northern and southern hemispheres.

Reconciliation with Canada’s past must also play a part in lessening the divide. The liberal Canadian government tends to focus on the more social aspects of reconciling with our painful history of colonization. However, it seems to forget that the western model of development is not a universal one. The traditional drive for profitable trade has seen Indigenous peoples all over the globe being “excluded from their land that was made valuable to the public.” This lack of integration is seen all too well in First Nations reserves, where over 80 per cent have a median income below the poverty line.

To settle this global crisis, countries must look beyond their local interests and ensure the redistribution of wealth across and inside their borders. This work begins with education. Adelman aims “to keep the global horizons open and to teach that to students” at Princeton. U of T and other Canadian universities would do well to adopt those principles of teaching in their classrooms.

Ori Gilboa is a first-year Humanities student at Victoria College.


U of T’s current disclosure policy regarding student-professor relationships is sufficient

Re: “What are U of T’s policies on student-professor relationships?”

TIAN ZHENG/THE VARSITY

Discussion surrounding student-professor relationships has never crossed my mind, as I have always just assumed that they were not allowed at U of T or at any university. However, while examining student-professor relationships at face value may indicate inappropriateness, we do need to remember that university students are in fact adults and may choose to have a relationship with any other consenting adult.

The student-professor dynamic does spark the issue of having a conflict of interest, such as the professor giving the student an unfair advantage in comparison to the rest of their students. There are also more extreme cases that raise questions, such as the case of the UBC student who accused her professor of sexual assault. He has denied this allegation although he did admit to having an affair with said student.

Nonetheless, U of T’s current policy of requiring professors to disclose their relationship to the chair of their department seems to be sufficient without being too constrictive. Consenting adults should be able to be in relationships with whomever they choose. In cases where sexual assault come into play, investigations and punishments concerning that case should be handled appropriately. These particular cases should not be the sole influence on whether or not students may be in relationships with their professors though.

With any relationship, when sexual assault or any form of abuse occurs, it should be addressed appropriately by the authorities. As long as student-professor relationships are consensual and are disclosed, I do not find any immediate issue with the matter.

Areej Rodrigo is a fourth-year English, Professional Writing and Communications, and Theatre and Performance student at St. Michael’s College.

Comment in Briefs: Week of September 24

Students react to ableism at test invigilator training sessions and law professors’ opposition to Ford’s notwithstanding clause

Comment in Briefs: Week of September 24

Our education system needs to do better for disabled students 

Re: “‘Ableist and discriminatory content’ described at training sessions for test invigilators”

The recent revelations coming out of Test & Exam Services (TES) are genuinely frightening for the many students who depend on TES and Accessibility Services for essential academic functions. TES has demonstrated an astonishing lack of care for the student population for which they are supposed to provide. This lack of care seems to be part of a larger, just-as-foreboding trend, which treats students like numbers, or ‘customers,’ rather than essential participants in an ever-changing institution.

While this trend may seem benign to many ‘abled’ students, it is destined to hit disabled students particularly hard. The idea that students are simply customers of a business produces a dangerous drive to optimize student results, particularly quantifiable, academic ones. Of course, this is never a good idea, and goes directly against the premise of modern higher education, but it is especially harmful to students who do not fit an optimizable academic ‘mold’ — namely disabled students.

The content present in the TES employee training material demonstrates a disturbing lack of understanding of disabled students’ basic needs. They ignore the scientifically-validated truth that many disabled students are capable of exemplary academic function with the right tools. Focusing on correcting ‘problematic’ behaviour indeed, focusing on this behaviour at all, rather than the environment that brings it about is dismissive of the truth that disabled students live every day.

Our education system should not be leaving disabled students behind. It should be finding more holistic ways to include them. Whether or not the individuals behind the TES training intended to focus on behaviour rather than identity, their approach is wrong from a human rights standpoint. The focus on optimizing behaviour rather than understanding it is cruel and will only leave deserving students behind.

As a student registered as disabled, I have used TES many times. My life at university would be much worse without them. The invigilators at TES have always been nothing but kind and understanding. They have always catered to my needs and the needs of those around me. But our understanding of the needs of disabled students must continue to grow as the education system becomes more humane and interdisciplinary.

If the repressive and discriminatory environment at TES continues to exist, these invigilators will not be able to provide for disabled students, and a large, deserving population of students will be left in the dark.

Arjun Kaul is a fifth-year Neuroscience student at St. Michael’s College.


Ford should heed the advice of U of T law professors

Re: “U of T law professor pens open letter against Ford’s threat to use notwithstanding clause”

The letter was written primarily by U of T law professor Brenda Cossman. SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Over 80 Ontario law professors have signed an open letter directed at Premier Doug Ford’s threat to invoke section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms, also known as the notwithstanding clause, in order to pass legislation that would cut the size of Toronto’s city council in half.

The legislature’s ability to waive sections of the Charter without explanation is unnerving, and as such should only be considered when all other avenues have been exhausted. The purpose and power of the Charter would be undermined if section 33 was invoked any time a Premier was frustrated with the limitations it imposes. Ford’s actions reflect a troubling view that the Charter is simply a set of suggestions that can be overruled when desired. However, the role of the judiciary is to be a non-partisan actor and to make sure that legislation is in line with the rights and freedoms granted in the Charter.

The letter warns that if such a role is to be challenged, it could lead us down a slippery slope further and further away from Canada’s democratic principles. While the notwithstanding clause exists in writing, it should not be used in practice without careful consideration. If the rights granted to Canadians can be so easily thrown away, what point do they serve?

Yasaman Mohaddes is a fourth-year Political Science and Sociology student at St. Michael’s College.

Comment in Briefs: Week of September 17

Students react to derogatory language at SMC, tensions at the UTSU board meeting, food quality at UTSC, and the School of Cities Alliance in India

Comment in Briefs: Week of September 17

What happened at St. Michael’s College is systemic, not isolated

Re: “St. Michael’s College registrarial assistant has history of derogatory posts on social media”  

The recent discovery of the derogatory language used by St. Michael’s College (SMC) registrarial assistant Philip Hicks-Malloy’s social media may point to a larger, more systemic issue regarding inclusion at the college. As many will remember, this is not the first time SMC representatives have made insensitive comments with regard to minorities.

Consider the Snapchat videos posted by SMC Student Union executives that included Islamophobic comments back in 2016. Then-SMC president and vice-chancellor David Mulroney responded, “Be sure that your use of social media doesn’t hurt the people that you serve and doesn’t hurt the institution that you serve.” However, it appears that these lessons were not taken to heart by SMC staff.

The fact that these derogatory posts were made on social media belonging to Hicks-Malloy, an individual who has worked at SMC for over 29 years leaves me, yet again, terribly disappointed as an SMC student.

Mulroney’s comment on the Hicks-Malloy case that, “The University of St. Michael’s College deplores any use of language that fails to acknowledge the dignity, respect and worth of every person and that is inconsistent with the values of the University, which are rooted in the Gospel,” appear half-hearted. SMC has been opaque on what measures have been taken to hold Hicks-Malloy accountable for his claims.

His social media is shown to be supporting white nationalist groups and asking his followers to “boycott” brands that offer halal options, which he labels a “symbol of treason.” As a Muslim-identifying woman, these comments, while discomforting, do not surprise me. During my four years at U of T, it appears to me as though SMC has been in one controversy after another, all pointing towards a lack of inclusivity being present at the college.

More work should be done by the college to demonstrate that it is here to represent all of its students. Press statements or apologies are no longer satisfactory in explaining the actions of these individuals who are supposed to represent mine and my fellow students’ interests.

Yasaman Mohaddes is a fourth-year Political Science and Sociology student at St. Michael’s College.


The SCSU needs to do better with food quality

Re: “Scarborough student union apologizes for food quality issue at frosh”

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

The “food quality issue” during the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s (SCSU) three-day orientation, in which what appeared to be an insect was found in a first-year student’s meal, yet again raises the question: does the SCSU lack attention when it comes to food?

In this case, the issue was evidently the responsibility of the food vendor’s supplier. Nonetheless, there should be extra scrutiny toward SCSU’s oversight for next year’s orientation week.

Unfortunately, food quality as an issue at UTSC is not a first. There was another case of poor food quality distribution last March, when a UTSC student found an insect in her meal from Asian Gourmet, located in the UTSC Student Centre. The incident at this year’s frosh week will only increase distrust in the SCSU’s food quality maintenance.

Food quality is paramount to students’ health, especially those who pay costly student fees for not only an exceptional education, but also campus services that are supposed to attend to their basic needs. In the defence of the SCSU, food vendors in the UTSC campus that operate in the Student Centre are licensed in separate agreements, in which the SCSU is merely the landlord. However, the SCSU and their Food Partnership Department must act to ensure that food safety does not raise concerns for the university community.

It seems that atonement for the issue has already occurred, with the SCSU saying that administrators will attend Food Handling courses for future events.  Let’s hope that this is enough to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

Michael Phoon is a second-year Journalism student at UTSC.


UTSU members should act more responsibly when addressing issues with each other

 Re: “Tensions abound at September UTSU board meeting”

ANDY TAKAGI/THE VARSITY

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) has — as mentioned on its website — the responsibility for advocacy on behalf of the student voice and service provision, and both of these objectives seem to be missing in its recent discussions.

At the most recent board meeting, there were plenty of accusations that reflected a lack of organization and communication. Board members referring to others as “liars” or indulging in arguments due to a lack of communication is an inappropriate representation of the role of the UTSU, damaging the image of the student union and putting into question the sincerity of executives and directors in their roles as our representatives.

In the future, the board members must remain attentive to the objectives of the student union and their meetings. Executives and directors should work to better communications and clarity within the organization, for students expect their representatives to work in a manner most effective for students at-large. Issues that they may have with one another should be investigated and resolved before being introduced at meetings to avoid confrontations that are unnecessary, such that meetings remain serious with regard to their objectives.

As a representative body of more than 50,000 students, the UTSU must focus on resolving issues of miscommunication and shift their attention back to addressing the needs and concerns of the student body, rather than repeatedly indulging in quarrels.

Abdul Ali is a second-year student studying Political Science and History at St. Michael’s College.


Global action benefits us all

Re: “U of T to open research centre in India as part of School of Cities Alliance”

TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

It should be anticipated that this research endeavour will come back full circle and help us back here in Canada. Many achievements have come from India, some of which sadly are underappreciated and taken for granted in our everyday lives. Take, for example, the concept of zero and its symbol, or the ingenious decimal positional notation for numbers, otherwise known as the Hindu-Arabic numeral system.

Today, many problems are layered, multi-faceted, and require a multitude of different perspectives in order to confront and solve them. It is reassuring that this research initiative is in the great spirit of multidisciplinary and international collaboration. Together, we can work and help each other and dream of solving the big problems.

I hope that, from the differing scales of problems facing India and Canada, much can be learned, and new knowledge and solutions can be brought back to Canada to help alleviate the problems that Canadian cities face. Toronto faces aging infrastructure, poor urban planning, and criminally long delays in public transportation and the delivery of essential services.

We can both improve and become better together. That is the hope. Someone once told me, in exasperation and frustration with one of the problems here at our university, that in order to solve such a problem, we do not merely need a university; we need a ‘multi-versity.’

In the same spirit, I hope that this initiative is not merely seeking to bring different worlds together, but to unite the one world that we all share and call home.

Oscar Starschild is a second-year Mathematics, Philosophy, and Computer Science student at Woodsworth College.

U of T should pay heed to the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Re: “Ontario Human Rights Commission releases new policy on accessible education”

U of T should pay heed to the Ontario Human Rights Commission

While clearly the new policy on accessibility in education released by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is meant to apply to all schools across Ontario, it appears as though it was in part a specific response to U of T’s Governing Council, following Governing Council’s approval of the discriminatory University-Mandated Leave of Absence Policy (UMLAP) in May. Even if this were not the case, it certainly would not hurt Governing Council to pay attention to this new policy.

For a start, the OHRC policy itself should be a reminder for institutions like U of T as to how they should make special consideration for students with mental illness, disabilities, and other accessibility needs. It is the responsibility of the university to help, accommodate, and respectfully treat students with such needs. It is hardly respectful to focus energy and resources on forcibly removing students with mental illnesses, as is the case with the UMLAP, instead of first and foremost addressing their needs and improving the structure of treatment for such students.

The UMLAP shows us how the university views students with mental illnesses. The OHRC policy, on the other hand, shows us how universities ought to view such students, and how all students with disabilities, mental illnesses, and accessibility needs ought to be treated: respectfully, and in good faith. The OHRC policy includes things like expanding definitions of disability and reaffirming the rights of all students to achieve an education with the support of the Ontario institution of their choice.

It is not up to students to try and force themselves to fit into outdated standards and policies in sacrifice of their health, mental and physical. Instead, it is the obligation of the institution, including U of T, to support all students and meet them where they need.  The goal should be to keep everyone in, not kick them out.

Adina Heisler is a fourth-year University College student studying Women and Gender Studies and English.

The Canadian government should listen to Yemeni protesters and end its support for Saudi Arabia

Re: “Yemeni community stages protest against Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia”

The Canadian government should listen to Yemeni protesters and end its support for Saudi Arabia

Canada’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and the subsequent use of these arms to perpetrate war crimes within Yemen raises a moral dilemma for Canadians. Our international role is that of a peacekeeper, intervening to prevent conflict. The events in Yemen are highly reprehensible, and our involvement as an arms dealer in what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis not only sets a bad precedent, but goes against all of our supposed national values.

Some argue that the arms deal is good for Canada, creating a projected 3,000 jobs and boosting our economy. However, as a nation with a reputation for peacekeeping and diplomacy, it is a questionable decision for the government to use a mere 3,000 jobs as the justification for becoming an accessory to war crimes and the bloodshed of tens of thousands of innocent people.  

While supplying these arms may appear to be in the best interest of Canadians, it has deep social and political implications both nationally and internationally. As tensions rise between Saudi Arabia and Canada following a Twitter exchange requesting the release of human rights activists, Canada should make the right choice to end the deal and its support for the Saudi Arabian government in this conflict.

Canada must strive to use its place on the world stage to help advance human rights in all corners of the world, regardless of the potential economic or political gain ensured by turning a blind eye.

Junaid Ishaq is a second-year Pathobiology student at Victoria College.

A summer’s worth of opinions

A compilation of Comment-in-Briefs in reaction to some of the major stories of the summer semester

A summer’s worth of opinions

The new School of Cities could be the pivotal voice we need for complex urban issues, as long as it pulls together

Re: “U of T’s School of Cities to Launch July 1”

U of T’s new School of Cities has vowed to tackle urban-related issues through interdisciplinary methods and collaborations. However, finding more coherent information on the partnerships or direction of this school has been unsatisfying. Apart from their slogans, the School of Cities’ website features pictures and short descriptions of the professors comprising the Interim Working Group, and three articles and two podcast links which are informative but overlap in content.

On the one hand, this is a frustrating start to an institution that encompasses many of the most important and immediate issues of our modernizing time. With Associate Director Shauna Brail calling the School “a big-tent approach” to urban research, and U of T President Meric Gertler claiming it to be a “hub in a global network” of scholars and practitioners, the school is not lacking in grand objectives. However, this has so far failed to reveal convincing short-term targets.

On the other hand, the school has only taken its very first public baby steps, and a definite outline of objectives often hurts the creativity of budding institutions. Cities are the playgrounds of the future, and though the school shouldn’t have to trudge carefully toward a path, they need to pave their way holistically. The extremely diverse group of professors seems to suggest an optimistic direction, as they draw from Civil and Mineral Engineering to Indigenous Health to Women and Gender Studies.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect about the School of Cities is the bridge it shall attempt to build between theory and practice. Hopefully the school will encourage U of T students to help build this bridge and contribute significantly to not only the initiatives, but the very soul of the institution.

For students and urban dwellers in general, never have cities felt more saturated with potential, yet held back by issues regarding housing, transportation, and public safety, to name a few. The School of Cities presents an exciting and critical opportunity for diverse urban communities to contribute to the dialogue of the future of cities.

Grace Ma is a second-year English and Environmental Sciences student at Trinity College.


We cannot have religious freedom at the expense of social equality

Re: “Trinity Western loses Supreme Court case on religious freedom v. LGBTQ+ rights”

IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

The battle between the constitutional right to freedom of religion and LGBTQ+ rights has taken shape in Trinity Western University’s (TWU) Supreme Court case against the Law Societies of British Columbia and Ontario. Unsurprisingly, the university lost the case seven to two.

The very law that allows the evangelical Christian university to exist has been proven to have clear boundaries. When pitted against each other, religious freedom comes second in modern Canadian society to discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The problem with the covenant signed by all TWU students is that it requires abstinence from any sexual intimacy, not only outside of a heterosexual marriage, but also from any intimacy that “violated the sacredness” of that marriage. This very clearly alienated the LGBTQ+ population, allowing TWU to deny them admission.

U of T campus group LGBTOUT, the intervenors on the case, brought this very point up, arguing that the proposed law school would bar LGBTQ+ students solely based on sexual or gender preferences, which is clearly a discriminatory action.

The case was a big win for the LGBTQ+ community as the Supreme Court clearly announced that the law must protect each and every individual of the Canadian population. The court’s decision came at a celebratory time, enhancing the joy and excitement for Pride Month.

This is not the first time TWU has faced the Supreme Court over religious freedoms. I expect it to continue happening over different issues until TWU recognizes that although religious freedom is crucial to a democratic society, its importance should never surpass the importance of equality in a society that is constantly growing and changing.

Varsha Pillai is a first-year Social Sciences student at University College.


Provost’s action plan does not account for safety or student leadership

Re: “Alcohol at Trinity events can no longer be paid for with student fees”

VASSILIA JULIA AL AKAILA/THE VARSITY

In an email correspondence informing Trinity College students of the administration’s action plan, the Office of the Provost mentions their “aim to improve transparency and communications, while focusing on education, safety and harm reduction, and leadership development.”

As a Trinity College student, I feel that there are numerous inconsistencies with this statement.

First, putting forward an action plan without adequate consultation with student leaders undermines the direct democracy and commitment to student autonomy that has defined Trinity College tradition. Preventing student leaders from spending student fees in a manner they deem fit does not make for effective leadership development. While it’s true that not all students are drinkers, the reality of student fees is that they do not always benefit each student individually.

Second, focusing on safety and harm reduction includes acknowledging that a significant percentage of young adults are going to drink. Harm reduction involves creating a safe environment in which students are familiar with their surroundings and have non-punitive support networks when it comes to alcohol consumption, including a sober patrol and Dons in case of emergency. Moving such events off campus does not guarantee such an environment.

Additionally, the claim that the administration created this action plan primarily due to a 10-month survey of students is dubious given the college’s response to a motion of no confidence passed at the Trinity College Meeting (TCM) last year.

The first meeting at the TCM included a motion of no confidence in which students shared their grievances regarding Dean Kristen Moore and her staff. The motion passed with an overwhelming majority, but it was then overlooked by Provost Mayo Moran, who ensured that she had “full confidence in [Moore].”

Avneet Sharma is a fourth-year English and Cinema Studies student at Trinity College.


The loss of popular locations for students points to a decline in affordability

Re: “Saint George hotel opens on Bloor Street West, replacing Holiday Inn”

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

In July, the Saint George hotel officially opened in place of the Holiday Inn, Fox and Fiddle Pub, and New York Fries on Bloor Street West. After the Starbucks on College and Beverley Street also closed its doors earlier this year to make way for a condominium to be built by January 2020, there are now a total of four popular locations around campus that are no longer available for U of T students.

Holiday Inn housed many families when students visited U of T for the very first time. The Fox and Fiddle Pub had just the right vibe for all kinds of rendezvous, whether it be post-exam celebrations or simple get-togethers. New York Fries was the kitchen of Bloor Street that students resorted to after long hours at the library, often because they were too exhausted to walk any further.

Henceforth, these places will live only in the memories of soon-to-be graduates, while prospective students will no longer share the experience of what had already become part of the ‘typical U of T student’ routine.

From a student perspective, opening a luxury hotel such as the Saint George in the Annex is not ideal, considering its expensive price point of almost $300 per night. Although Gyubee — a somewhat pricey Japanese BBQ joint just across from the Saint George — had already broken the concept of affordable eateries in the Annex, the Saint George will now completely reform the image of a cost-friendly neighborhood for students. This end of the Annex is looking more and more like luxurious Yorkville.

Annie Hu is a third-year Criminology, Music, and Sociology student at Woodsworth College.

A U-Pass at U of T has been long overdue

Re: “TTC board votes unanimously in favour of U-Pass”

A U-Pass at U of T has been long overdue

It appears that the once unfathomable idea of a U-Pass coming to U of T may soon be a reality. The U-Pass would provide U of T students with unlimited transit use of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) paid for by a slight increase in tuition fees, allowing students to access much more affordable public transportation than it is currently being provided with. The TTC board voted in favour of the discount transit pass in December and discussed the possibility of its implementation as early as this coming September.

There is an ongoing trend across the country in favour of providing students with subsidized and affordable transportation by including its costs in their tuition fees. In this sense, I am shocked that U of T has only now pursued this type of program. Ontario universities such as Carleton and McMaster have already implemented a U-Pass, while universities like the University of British Columbia have implemented a system almost identical to the proposed U-Pass. In addition, the city of Montréal provides transit passes at a highly reduced cost to university students. Ontario universities have the highest average tuition costs in the country, making it unfortunate that the cost of transportation has not been included in U of T’s ancillary fees until now.

For students going to school in Toronto, it can be almost impossible to get around the city without access to affordable public transportation. While the U-Pass may be particularly good news for commuter students, I think it’s safe to say that all students will be able to benefit from easier access to transportation regardless of where they live. Even living in downtown Toronto, for example, I find myself having to take the TTC at least once a day, and the financial burden of paying over $100 a month for a metropass can be quite heavy. This burden only increases for students living outside the city and who take a variety of public transportation to get to school. Costs associated with long commutes that traverse the boundaries of the TTC can reach up to $25 a day.

Commuters often abide by incredibly dense school schedules in order to cut back on transportation fees, and long hours often prevent commuters from getting involved with extracurriculars or student life. A U-Pass is therefore a useful tool for all students, as it allows them to have more freedom of movement in a city that is so dependent on public transportation.

Yasaman Mohaddes is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Political Science and Sociology.