Don't opt out: click here to learn more about our work.

Skule Night returns for its 97th anniversary

The engineering musical and sketch comedy revue has been in the works since July

Skule Night returns for its 97th anniversary

Skule Nite, the annual revue put on by U of T’s engineering students, returned for its 97th run from March 14–17 at Hart House Theatre. The sketch comedy and musical showcase was composed completely of work by current engineering students and alums.

Skule Nite allows engineers to showcase their talents in song, dance, and sketch writing. The musical poked fun at the quirks of university experiences, including relationships and online dating, finding a job, studying and food cravings, and the occasional summoning of Satan.

The show’s production process lasted nearly an entire year, with the creative work and brainstorming beginning in July and auditions in September. The students’ work definitely came through in their performance.

Chris Renaud, an engineering alum and this year’s musical director of Skule Nite, described the songs as “creative re-imaginings of other songs.” The songs featured in the musical all had their lyrics rewritten with lyrics to match the sense of humour of the musical. “The songs are picked first in the summer… and ultimately form most of the vision of the show,” said Renaud.

Renaud broke down the process of the music behind the musical. “It’s a pretty fun process because the people in the creative team — myself, the directors, the vocals, the choreo team, the producers — we all get to pick our own ideas for songs,” said Renaud. “It takes a long time for us to go through each individual song… put together concepts, discuss the feasibility, and how awesome it would be.”

The songs remain at the core of the musical, with the sketches emerging from them. “It was a really fun process and one of my favourite parts about doing Skule Nite,” said Renaud.

Pia Dimayuga, a cast member of Skule Nite and current engineering student, discussed the intensive work that went into their performances. “We started having some rehearsals in the fall and then starting second semester, much more heavily. Cast are in rehearsal about 16 hours a week.”

This includes working on both their sketches and musical numbers. Dimayuga said that there are two weekday rehearsals for the sketches, which are workshopped with the director and assistant director. On weekends, the cast rehearses vocals and choreography.

This year, Dimayuga, a Skule Nite veteran, joined the cast again. The show’s basis of combining sketch and music doesn’t change, but the changing cast adds to the experience. “I think Skule Nite is one of those really cool things that is very different every year because the people that you do it with [are] very different every year,” she said.

What stays the same is the ethos of the show. As Renaud puts it: “a big [and] kind of unique fact about Skule Nite is that we’re engineers doing artistic stuff.”

Play that funky music, engineers

Music minor approved for Faculty of Applied Sciences & Engineering students

Play that funky music, engineers

The Faculty of Music and the Faculty of Applied Sciences & Engineering (APSE) have approved an Engineering Music Performance Minor, which will allow engineering students to complete a degree in music performance and technology. The program received unanimous approval at the January 2018 meeting of the Faculty of Music Council and is set to start in September 2018.

The curriculum touches on the crossover of music and engineering within “acoustics, signal processing (both physiological and technological) and noise control. Students can then apply this knowledge to further studies in music technology, cultural areas, or engineering applications,” according to the proposal memo released on November 8.

This interdisciplinary initiative is part of the Faculty of Music’s five-year academic plan, which, since 2016, has aimed to expand the resources, research opportunities, fellowships, and exchanges available for music students and staff. Similar initiatives include joint programs like Music Technology & Digital Media.

Auditions for a core course — which will be year-long PMU course — will begin as early as March 2018. An information session, hosted by U of T Engineering, will occur on Tuesday, February 13. Committed faculty members in attendance will include Professor Willy Wong of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Faculty of Music professors Ryan McClelland and Midori Koga.

The minor will consist of three required courses, the core course, titled Applied Performance; TMU130H1 — Music Theory 1; and ECE446 #1 — Sensory Communication. A half-credit of 1.0 FCE in electives must relate to technology and music.

The minor was created in response to student demand, according to the memo. Engineering students have expressed their interest through clubs like Skule Orchestra, Choir, and Stage Band, as well as by choosing music electives to fulfil their Humanities breadth requirements. “I’m excited that this is happening. Given the extensive role engineering plays in modern music performance and production, I think it’d be a fascinating area to explore,” said Harry Jiang, Vice-President Communications of the Engineering Society (Skule). “Also, I hope this opens up more access to artistic resources by Engineering Students.”

The program’s pilot year enrolment limits are based on audition outcomes that will be revealed by May 2018. An estimated cap is set for eight pianists, four string players, and two chamber groups. Students auditioning can choose between performing classical or jazz, as well as performing solo instrumental or in a chamber music setting. All prospective minor students are required to play at RCM Level 8 and must have background in theory and rudiments — Rudiments II or equivalent.

When asked about these restrictions, the engineering Skule Music groups wrote in a joint response that “the performance minor is somewhat exclusive in its requirements and therefore may be inaccessible.”

“We would like to see the minor offered to vocalists, instrumentalists in the jazz stream and other orchestra musicians as the program grows,” the groups wrote. They recommended expanding the minor to give “students opportunity to learn an instrument or partake in the faculty of music ensembles.”

McClelland, who is also Associate Dean Academic and Student Affairs at the Faculty of Music, said that the faculty has a growing interest in developing more program-based collaborations in the future and that “having students from APSE in music courses will bring new perspectives and areas of knowledge into the classroom, enriching the experience of both students and faculty and opening up possibilities for future collaborations that might extend well beyond students’ time at U of T.”

Second-year music major Ricci Ebron is happy about the new minor but worries about the student plan on balancing the workload.

“It’s a good opportunity for engineers to explore different areas, however I believe engineers are already super busy with their heavy schedules and would suffer from having to balance time,” said Ebron. “Music is not just having fun and playing music all day. Underneath all that is a lot of intensive theoretical and historical studies.”

Furthermore, she is concerned about the stress it will place on the Faculty of Music’s resources, saying that “if they’re integrated into the program that would mean they would have to be included into our ensembles, which are already overpopulated, as well as use our practice spaces which are already extremely limited.”

Associated costs for this minor will be covered by the U of T Interdivisional Teaching framework, through which the Faculty of Music will receive a “per student” compensation for each engineering student enrolled in its courses.

BSA organizes in response to racism in Faculty of Engineering

Town hall held November 28 after recent incidents of racial harassment

BSA organizes in response to racism in Faculty of Engineering

The Black Students’ Association (BSA) organized a town hall on November 28 in response to a recent series of racist incidents in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

Dozens of students and faculty members gathered at the Sandford Fleming Building to share their experiences with anti-Black discrimination, find ways to eliminate racism on campus, and create a sense of community. U of T’s Black Liberation Collective (BLC) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) attended and co-organized the event.

In September, an international student in her first year of engineering approached the BSA with screenshots of two group chats in which three non-Black students repeatedly used the n-word and sent a picture depicting blackface.

One of the group chats consisted mainly of engineering students attending an orientation for incoming international undergrads. The racist remarks were initiated by one of the orientation leaders. The other group chat was a first-year civil engineering group.

In response to an email from the BSA, BLC, and NSBE outlining the racist incidents, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering Cristina Amon met with the respondents — the three students implicated in the anti-Black racism — to inform them that the incidents had been brought to her attention. Shortly after, an official investigation was initiated.

The email was also sent to Vice-Provost Students Sandy Welsh and the Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office.

According to BSA President Anyika Mark, the three investigated students subsequently reached out to several Black students in hopes of finding the student who filed the complaint. Mark said that she is concerned about the safety of the complainant, especially with the recent white supremacist posters on campus.

“We’ve literally had to create a safety plan for her,” she said. “She’s the only Black student in her class so, sometimes we walk with her from classes and tutorials.”


Criticism, calls to action from the BSA

The BSA called for the expulsion of the three respondents, in addition to a $500 fine and 25 hours of community service, which are stipulated as possible sanctions in the Code of Student Conduct. Mark believes that there must be serious consequences in order to set a precedent for anyone who thinks that racial harassment is acceptable.

Other demands include an independent Black studies department, funding an anti-Black racism campaign on campus, funding NSBE, and a higher recruitment of Black faculty and staff members in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

Mark also added that they were told that the investigation may take up to a year. She believes that this process is long, bureaucratic, and intended to tire people out. “It’s meant to derail conversations about real social change,” she said.

The duration of Code of Student Conduct investigations varies on a case-by-case basis, according to U of T’s Director of Media Relations, Althea Blackburn-Evans. More complex cases may last up to 18 months, but resolutions are usually reached much sooner.

“The goal is to have a fair process in a timely manner if possible,” said Blackburn-Evans.

The BSA contested the language of the Code of Student Conduct, stating that the inclusion of specific terms such as “anti-Blackness” and “anti-Black racism” was crucial. U of T keeps its definition of discrimination very broad.

Blackburn-Evans emphasized that, because of the university’s diverse campus, its policies must remain broad in order to include all kinds of discrimination. “We make these broad references to ensure that our very diverse community is included in those policies.”

Another concern raised by Mark was the lack of policies that specifically address cyberbullying. U of T’s Code of Student Conduct does not include any mention of online harassment. Blackburns-Evans, however, stated that the legal terms used in the code may also cover online harassment.

Students at the town hall shared their experiences with anti-Blackness, expressed their frustration, and urged the university to support its Black students, faculty, and staff.

“Black representation in STEM matters,” said Mikhail Burke, a PhD candidate at U of T. He believes that anti-Blackness in the science community is due to a lack of representation. “We need to tackle one in order to tackle the other.”

Chimwemwe Alao, Vice-President Equity of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) was present at the event, but not in his capacity as a representative of the union.

“There’s been a lot of conversation about racism on campus that I experience every single day,” said Alao. He said he was supporting his community and engaging in an “important conversation.” As a Black student, he said that racism is a daily experience and includes anything “from microaggression and small interactions to very overt incidents of anti-Blackness.”

Despite no official UTSU presence at the town hall, UTSU President Mathias Memmel said that anti-Blackness is a systemic problem. “The BSA’s efforts to counter anti-Black racism are important, and we support them.”

Faculty of Engineering receives $20 million donation

Donation from the estate of Erwin Hart to fund professorship programs

Faculty of Engineering receives $20 million donation

U of T’s Faculty of Engineering has received a substantial donation from an alumnus.

The estate of Erwin Edward Hart, who graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1940 and was the Chief Welding Engineer for the manufacturing company Massey Ferguson Ltd, left a bequest of $20 million to U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

The donation will fund the Percy Edward Hart and Erwin Edward Hart Professorships. Percy was Erwin’s father. Seven faculty members in the first ten years of their career will be nominated from among their fellow faculty members to receive financial support from Hart’s fund. The chosen professors will be given $75,000 annually for three years to conduct research.

Among other departments, this extends to the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, the Department of Civil Engineering, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Furthermore, the donation contributes to the engineering portion of the Boundless campaign for the University of Toronto. Currently, $180 million has been raised for the engineers, with an engineering-specific target of $200 million.