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The Breakdown: Commuter resources on campus

Lounges, special dons, pancakes among commuter services

The Breakdown: Commuter resources on campus

Despite its large commuter population — over 75 per cent of U of T students identify as commuters — almost all students who commute more than an hour each way say they feel discouraged from participating in off-campus activities.

Considering the barriers that face commuter students, various colleges and student groups have created initiatives to support the needs of these commuter students and enhance their overall student experience on and off campus.

Innis College

Among the services that Innis provides to commuter students are a commuter lounge equipped with couches, tables, beanbags, a kitchenette, a microwave, a football table, and a TV; lockers available for rent starting at $10; and monthly commuter-oriented events. In addition, students can run for the two Commuter Representative positions in the Innis College Student Society.

New College

Like many other colleges, New is home to a commuter don program, which consists of two Commuter Dons and one lead don. These dons plan programming once or twice a month for commuters. Upcoming events include community hours for students to reach out to Commuter Dons and residence students alike, as well as information sessions about TTC tips.


St. Michael’s College

St. Michael’s also has a commuter donship program, which helps facilitate commuter-friendly programming and acts as a resource to both commuter and international students.

Trinity College

Trinity has a Non-Resident Affairs Committee (NRAC) made up of 14 members who meet four times a year. Members in the NRAC are responsible for facilitating commuter-friendly events, maintaining the commuter students’ common room, and integrating commuter students into student life, while also encouraging participation in student government. Trinity also has a meal plan for commuter students, which includes 10 free meals for part-time students and 15 free meals for full-time students.

University College (UC)

The Commuter Student Centre (CSC), located in the UC Union building at 79 St. George Street, is the primary space for commuter students at UC. It is equipped with a lounge, a kitchenette with a microwave and refrigerator, a study space, a group study room, lockers for rent each semester, and board games. The CSC is supported by Community Coordinators (CoCo), who facilitate programming, events, and activities at the centre.

“The UC Literary and Athletic Society, Off Campus Commission is a volunteer organization that has as its goal the betterment of the university experience for UC students that live off campus. They create community and organize events for commuter students, often in collaboration with the CoCos,” wrote Naeem Ordonez, Assistant to the Dean of Students at UC, in an email to The Varsity.

Victoria College

Victoria is home to two commuter student groups: Victoria College Off Campus Association (VOCA) and Commuter Dons. The college hosts several commuter-oriented events throughout the academic year including a weekly free pancake breakfast by VOCA.

The Goldring Student Centre also has a commuter lounge in its basement with lockers that students can rent free of charge and a quiet study space equipped with couches, desks, and charging tables.

“We (VOCA) are responsible for hosting and facilitating events throughout the year for commuter students. VOCA also holds monthly collaborations with residence dons as a way to connect residence and commuter students,” wrote Emilia De Fabritiis, Commuter Commissioner of the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council in an email to The Varsity.

“The other commuter initiatives are the Vic Commuter Dons. Similar to VOCA, they host events for commuters. However, Commuter Dons are trained to provide more of an emotional support for students.”

Students are encouraged to get involved at VOCA through applications for general commission members, first year execs, upper year executives, commissioner, and co-chair.


Woodsworth College

Woodsworth has several commuter resources including lockers available for rent starting at $15; a commuter lounge equipped with a microwave, books, whiteboard, outlets, tables, and comfortable seats; and events such as Woodsworth College Students’ Association Wednesdays, when free pancakes are served. Commuter students can also run for positions, including Off-Campus Directors, and they can participate in Woodsworth’s Off-Campus Committee.


The City of Toronto’s Smart Commute Scarborough initiative allows users to be matched with a fellow commuter taking the same route, in an effort to encourage sustainability. The campus also runs a bikeshare program that allows students and staff to rent out bikes free of charge. Commuter meal plans are also available for $390.


Like UTSC, Smart Commute is also made available for commuter students at UTM. A U-Pass — a transit pass granting unlimited travel — is made available for students using MiWay. Lockers are also available for rent in the student centre.

Trinity, UTSC, and UTM did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

Colleges, student unions expand representation for international students

U of T welcomed 19,187 international students last year

Colleges, student unions expand representation for international students

Amid a rising international student population, student unions and the seven colleges are expanding their representation on campus and creating services catered to those demographics. The Varsity reached out to several student unions and college governments for a roundup of international student representation on campus.


The University of Toronto Students’ Union does not have a specific committee geared toward international students. However, it does have positions which serve the international student population, such as Vice-President Student Life and Vice-President Equity.


The International Students’ Caucus (ISC) at the University of Toronto Graduate Students Union (UTGSU) aims to address the interests and concerns regarding international graduate students.

The caucus hosts social, academic, and professional workshops and meetings concerning governance and policy changes within the university community and the city at large.

“The ISC is a group under the UTGSU [that] mainly serves international students’ interests, including academic success, social interaction, and networking,” reads a statement on its website.

“Meetings will be held monthly and will focus on the needs of the caucus’ members and the needs of all international graduate students including social interaction, networking, and potential changes in programming and/or governance at the university, city, and/or provincial levels.”

The ISC’s elected positions include the chair, who oversees the caucus as a whole, and the UTGSU Executive Liaison.


The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) represents over 13,500 students across the UTM, with 20 per cent of students being international. While the UTMSU does not have a specific position or caucus dedicated to international students, they do provide several services.

“We endeavour to ensure that the rights of all students are respected, provide cost-saving services, programs and events, and represent the voices of part-time undergraduate students across the University and to all levels of government,” reads a statement on their website. “We are fundamentally committed to the principle of access to education for all.”

The UTMSU also has several campaigns in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) regarding international student issues, including Fight for Fees, Fairness for International Students, and OHIP for International Students.


The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) currently does not have a specific levy or caucus dedicated to international students; however, it has positions aimed toward serving the needs of domestic and international students alike on campus, such as Vice-President Campus Life and Vice-President Equity.

SCSU also provides specific services in partnership with the CFS for international students including the International Student Identity Card, which provides students with exclusive discounts such as airfare and entertainment.

Innis College

The Innis College student body provides a number of resources and services made available to international students. The Innis Residence Council has six positions for Junior International House Representatives who work alongside Senior House Representatives to coordinate events and foster a sense of involvement. An International Transition Advisor is also available on campus.

New College

New College houses the International Foundation Program, which provides conditional acceptance to international students whose English proficiency scores do not meet direct entrance requirements. The program guarantees admission to the Faculty of Arts & Science or the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering upon completion.

Madison Hönig, New College Student Council President, told The Varsity, “At New College, international students make up an important part of our student population. We are lucky to house the International Foundation Program (IFP) at New College. As such, we do have an International Foundation Program Representative to advocate for these students.”

“Additionally, we work closely with the New College Residence Council and the main governance structures within the College to ensure that international students are being advocated for and included in our programming, academic initiatives and support at New College,” continued Hönig. “We are working to see that international student representation and advocacy is considered within the portfolios of all of our members.”

University College

University College’s International Student Advisor aims to provide academic and personal resources to International students through their sUCcess Centre. Appointments can be made to meet with an advisor.

Victoria College

Victoria College International Students Association (VISA) is a levy funded by the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council that aims to support the needs and interests of international students at Victoria College.

VISA is used to host social, academic, and professional events throughout the year and also funds a mentorship program for incoming students.

“Our program offered help to students from all backgrounds, in which the mentor would be providing both academic and moral support to the students transitioning into the new university environment, through a two-hour session every two weeks,” reads a statement from the mentorship program’s website.

Woodsworth College

The International Students Director under the Woodsworth College Student Association (WCSA) is the representative for international students at Woodsworth College. The International Students Director also coordinates events hosted by the association catered to international students.

“With this role, I hope to connect with not only incoming international students but also upper year students to bridge the gap between them. I look forward to continuing with some of the events introduced by last year’s director as well as introducing a few new ones,” reads a statement on its website from from Leslie Mutoni, WCSA’s International Students Director.

During the 2017–2018 academic year, the university welcomed over 19,187 international students from across 163 countries and regions, mainly from China, India, the United States, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

The Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students and student societies at St. Michael’s College and Trinity College did not respond to The Varsity’s requests for comment.

Innis College to renovate West Wing of building

Library to be moved while accessibility, student spaces increase

Innis College to renovate West Wing of building

Innis College plans to renovate the West Wing of its building to provide more student spaces and increase accessibility. The Innis College Library will also be moved to the West Wing.

While there is no specific set date for when construction will start, the President of the Innis College Student Society (ICSS), Yolanda Alfaro, said it will be at least one to two years before the college will begin to break ground, “because they do want to take their time with student consultations.”

According to the Chief Administrative Officer of Innis College, Cameron Clairmont, Innis is in the early stages of planning the renovation.

“The build is motivated by a desire to serve students […] We also see an [opportunity] to provide essential services to students through improved classrooms, support spaces, faculty offices, which translates into expanded learning opportunities,” wrote Clairmont. “As well a great opportunity to relocate our current library to the new space allowing us to transform it into a student centric learning hub rather than just a library.”

Alfaro said that the building is “pretty inaccessible, especially the West Wing. That’s why it’s the target for the renovations and rebuild.”

She added that the West Wing renovation, “will definitely create a better community in terms of the college,” especially for commuter students. “I think it will be a lot easier on commuter students to come in and feel that they actually have somewhere to be.”

On the subject of improving campus life for students, Miranda Lees, President of the Innis Residence Council, echoed Alfaro’s statements, writing, “At the moment the space in which students can study or socialize in at the college is very limited, and I think that increasing the amount of common spaces available will also draw students to the building.”

Plans for the renovation are still ongoing, including details on where student group offices will go. “We haven’t even started a conversation about logistics or who’s moving where yet, so hopefully we have all those things figured out,” said Alfaro.

Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne delivers 2017 Harold Innis Lecture

Lecture part of annual series hosted by Harold Innis Foundation

Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne delivers 2017 Harold Innis Lecture

Journalist and political commentator Andrew Coyne delivered the 2017 Harold Innis Lecture at Innis Town Hall on November 7. This year’s talk featured an hour-long lecture by Coyne followed by a Q&A moderated by former Varsity Managing Editor Jaren Kerr, an Innis College alumnus and Toronto Star journalist.

The annual lecture series is hosted by the Harold Innis Foundation, and it honours the work of Harold Innis, a U of T professor of political economy, contributor to the Toronto School of communications theory, and a respected author on economic history and media. Coyne, a columnist at the National Post and member of the CBC’s At Issue panel on The National, has led a career in journalism spanning over 30 years following his graduation from Trinity College in 1983. He has contributed to publications such as Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Coyne diagnosed a current crisis wherein the media, particularly existing legacy publishers, feel that their influence is declining and that they may be in “danger of disappearing altogether.”

“Once we worried the mass media had acquired too much influence, shaping our debates, our perceptions, our very ways of thinking. Now there is equal concern that the media no longer shape much of anything, and that in their weakness, something vastly worse has taken their place,” said Coyne.

Coyne stated that the media once functioned as gatekeepers, defining the matters on which reasonable people could disagree, and straddled the line between being “too narrow so as to exclude legitimate differences of opinion nor too broad so as to put crackpot theories on the same place as real knowledge.”

With the advent of the internet, advertisers up on which newspapers and other media historically relied “have deserted them en masse for Ebay and Craigslist, Facebook and Google,” leading employees at the National Post to “say we work in the non-profit sector,” joked Coyne.

Coyne was careful not to assign blame, noting that all industries “have been disrupted by the internet, and that in the end, it comes down to whether [journalists] offer a compelling enough product to attract and keep paying customers, and if we are honest with ourselves, we will concede that too often, we have not.”

As a consequence of the media crisis, fake news, most notably during the election of Donald Trump, has proliferated due to ease of access and the current climate of opinion in which there is a mistrust of experts and of professional news media.

Surpassing reasonable skepticism toward journalists and experts due to occasional error and bias, current “free-floating popular mistrust has been amplified and weaponized” by the internet’s capacity to connect once-alienated individuals and solidify their views. This has elevated mistrust to a “blind rejectionism” of media.

Subsidies to media, Coyne opined, would be an untenable solution. In a debate in Ottawa in June, Coyne said subsidies could promote mediocre reporting, making journalists “mewling supplicants for government grants,” according to the Toronto Star.

This point was challenged by The Globe and Mail’s senior media writer, Simon Houpt, during the Q&A period, who noted that “most of your career, frankly, has been spent providing content, if you will, for subsidized providers.” Coyne said that he’d spent most of his career biting the hand that feeds him.

“It seems to me to be the more hypocritical stance would be to take public subsidies and then write endless articles about why those articles should get public subsidies.”

Ultimately, the crisis entails a transformation in the media industry, primarily “from advertiser finance to reader finance”, with publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reporting “soaring subscription numbers even as they tighten their paywalls.”

Coyne suggested that media would have to rely on subscriptions to stay afloat, and referenced The New York Times’ digital subscription numbers, which totaled $83 million in revenue last quarter, whereas it received $55 million from digital advertising, a reverse of previous trends in media revenue.

“Advertisers don’t much care about quality or content. Readers, when you ask them, do,” said Coyne.

Though fewer journalists could end up working in the news business of the future, Coyne said that with readers driving content and paying for quality journalism, future journalists would be working in a healthier industry than they are today.