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Comment in Briefs: Week of November 19

A student reacts to the APSS gun violence panel and delayed A&S exam schedule release

Comment in Briefs: Week of November 19

To address violence, we need to build an inclusive future

Re: “Association of Political Science Students hosts panel on gun violence in Toronto”

The recent panel, organized by the Association of Political Science Students, brought different perspectives and experiences for a much-needed conversation about the record levels of gun violence plaguing Toronto.

Despite much agreement between panelists, especially on the fact that policing alone isn’t a sufficient response, potential solutions remain open for debate.

What’s really needed is an approach beyond addressing gun violence symptomatically. There should be more commitment toward understanding and supporting communities most affected by it if there’s to be any hope for building bridges and restoring trust.

Disadvantageous socioeconomic conditions and opportunity gaps present significant challenges for communities and contribute to the marginalization of individuals to the perimeter of society. This is where the most vulnerable are at risk of falling over the edge. Also unhelpful are cuts to social programming and gaps in program accessibility. These issues require remedies that go beyond mere band-aid approaches to resolve because, frankly, these problems are not self-resolving.

Social programming is a long-term initiative that isn’t the domain or initiative of any one government’s term of office. It requires a greater societal commitment toward building a more inclusive future that encourages the participation and contributions of all its members.

This includes the Toronto Police Services (TPS). According to its mission statement, the TPS are committed to reflecting and growing because they don’t have all the answers. Therefore to seek and act on input from the communities they serve means acknowledging and learning from their mistakes and successes.

In order for the TPS to fulfil its greatest potential for the benefit of all society, it’s necessary that it listens to the voices of those whom it’s sworn to serve and protect.


Short-sightedness or their own worst enemy? 

 Re: “Arts & Science exam schedule takes longer to complete due to large size, unclear central planning body”

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

It seems that a lack of central administration is undermining U of T’s reliability to efficiently provide students with a final exam timetable, a problem seemingly unique to U of T.

While the process and combinatorial problem underlying the dynamic nature of scheduling exams intends to minimize student conflicts and is difficult and undoubtedly complex, I question whether the university’s excuses are really just a deferral of responsibility.

The university didn’t suddenly find itself underprepared to deal with larger attendance, since, after all, it promoted and oversaw the implementation of policies for its expansion. Is the university’s administration a victim of its own short-sightedness, or is it its own worst enemy because it plans for exponential and unsustainable growth?

I believe that the university, in lieu of hiring a central staff for this process to avoid overburdening its current staff, should stand to benefit by reaching out to more counsel and demand solutions to alleviate its administerial woes.

Otherwise, it should feel encouraged to get creative and, while not overextending itself, could ask faculty to chunk large courses and provide students with a variety of date and time options by making different exams for different sections of the same courses. This would allow students themselves to avoid conflicts by selecting between available sections. This is, perhaps, a better way that administration might defer responsibility and is surely better than delegation without a central command.

I once heard a common problem troubling many leaders likened to the problem a carriage might face when its ten horses are all travelling in different directions. Perhaps that’s the real issue underlying the administration’s difficulties with scheduling exams.

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

Association of Political Science Students hosts panel on gun violence in Toronto

Discussion centres on root causes of violence, role of policing

Association of Political Science Students hosts panel on gun violence in Toronto

The rise of gun violence in Toronto and its connection to the United States was discussed and debated in a panel hosted by the Association of Political Science Students on November 16, with panelists agreeing that increased policing is not a solution.

The panel included Sureya Ibrahim, a community leader from Regent Park; Julian Tanner, an Associate Professor of Sociology from UTSC; and Marcell Wilson, co-founder of the One-by-One Movement, a non-profit organization founded by a group of former gang and organized crime members to create effective social programming for youth.

The panelists discussed the root causes of the Toronto gun problem and potential remedies for the crisis, beginning with the rate at which gun usage has been increasing in the city.

Tanner, whose research explores youth gangs, youth culture, and criminality in Toronto, credited the rise in guns to “our proximity to the United States.”

Wilson, a reformed gang leader, refers to his past history as the ex-leader of one of Canada’s most notorious gangs, “the Looney Toons.” He echoed Tanner, saying that “guns are not produced in the ghetto. Someone has to bring them here.”

“For as long as there is a lack of financially stable and realistic inclusive social programming, violence and gangs — gun culture — will continue to thrive. I believe that others like myself… with lived experience will make important contributions to the development of these programs,” said Wilson.

Ibrahim followed this by suggesting that the city implement a “multitude approach” to address the increasing violence. Drawing from her experiences as a liaison with Toronto Police Service 51 Division, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Children’s Aid Society, she said that the approach “has to be hand in hand, working with the school system, social workers, and the police.”

All three panelists agreed that Toronto Police need to find alternative approaches to handle the gun problem.

Tanner pulled findings from his research, saying, “Many of the young people that we talked to feel stigmatized by the community they live in and they feel profiled.”

Ibrahim referred to the presence of liaison officers in her area, saying that police “need to learn from the community, not just come and invade the community.”

“You may live in a polarized community and be labelled as a dangerous person simply because you come from this community. Police play a role [in] feeding into that,” said Wilson.

Wilson did not openly dispute the potential benefits of having officers in polarized areas. Instead, he offered more proactive alternatives, such as monetary investments from police into programs like the One-by-One Movement.

“What I would suggest for our local government is to talk to people like us, who are in the community, who have the experience. We are receptive to working with our local government and bridging the gap between polarized communities and the police,” said Wilson.

At the core, said Tanner, “gun violence is a consequence of social and economic inequality and disadvantage.” The panelists agreed that the best route for reducing gun violence would be putting money into social programming.

From statistics and his own research, Tanner confirmed, “Policing by itself is not going to solve the problem.”