The recent UTMSU salary raise is justified

While criticizing student unions is easy, we should acknowledge the work they do and get more involved ourselves

The recent UTMSU salary raise is justified

Last month, the motion to increase the salaries of the executive members of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) from $28,500 to $31,600 was passed. This is in accordance with the UTMSU’s Operation Policy, which states that the salaries should rise with inflation.

In 2016, Western University’s student newspaper The Gazette, the University of British Columbia’s The Ubyssey, and The Varsity compared student executive salaries across Canada. The University of Waterloo Federation of Students came first on the list, with an executive salary of $46,532. Despite having the largest undergraduate student population of all six Canadian universities compared, the University of Toronto Students’ Union was fourth to last on the list, with an executive salary of $30,060.92 at the time.

Some people have expressed discontent at the UTMSU salary increase, saying that it is unjustified due to the campus’ smaller size. UTM has a comparatively smaller student population than most, at 14,190 undergraduate students for the current academic year. However, the University of Saskatchewan has a student population of around 17,000, and their student union executives have salaries of over $40,000.

Student unions at U of T lag behind when it comes to remuneration. Regardless of student body size, there should not be significant differences between student union wages. Student union executives work full-time, with similar fundamental responsibilities as other student unions. As such, they should be paid the same for their time.

A common complaint among UTM students is that the union does not do enough for them. While this is a valid concern, it is important for students to realize that the result of student union advocacy is not always immediately seen. Policy changes can take years, and the student union will go back and forth with the university to implement such changes.

A recent example is the course retake policy that was passed at UTM. Under this policy, students can retake a course and have the second attempt included in CGPA calculations. This is clearly a big win for the student body, providing numerous advantages for current and future students. The retake policy had been in the works for years, and reflects the zealous attempts of not just the current executives, but past executive teams as well.

Additionally, benefits that students already possess, such as the U-Pass and the Credit/No Credit policy, have also been the result of what must have been gruelling efforts on the part of the student union. Personally, I cannot imagine university life without the aid of the U-Pass, which allows me to travel anywhere in Mississauga.

Student unions also have the responsibility of ensuring that they are actually representing the needs of the student body. The UTMSU has been criticized for not considering student opinions or not having the right priorities. It should therefore ensure that it can effectively communicate with the student body in order to fully represent it. Students should be given platforms for expressing their opinions on what issues are important to them. Similarly, students need to be more proactive if they have opinions.

Complaining about the student union does not mean anything unless students are willing to become involved themselves, and bring important issues to light. I have seen plenty of students who are not even aware of issues happening on campus, let alone involved in them. But student involvement is essential for any kind of change. While the student union could put change into action, it is the students themselves who need to recognize their role in facilitating it.

Student unions play an important role in the university: they organize, represent, and advocate for a diverse student population. While there is plenty of debate to be had around improving their role, there is no question that their work matters — and they should be paid fairly for it.

Sharmeen Abedi is a fourth-year Criminology, Sociology, and English student at UTM. She is The Varsity’s UTM Affairs Columnist.

Decolonizing by the pen and tongue

Language representation in postsecondary education must prioritize Indigenous peoples

Decolonizing by the pen and tongue

Two weeks ago, public indignation followed the provincial government’s announcement that it would not be following through on plans to fund a French-language university.

Critics of this decision are understandably angered by the government’s lack of accountability towards the needs of the approximately 600,000 Franco-Ontarians, who would have been significantly empowered by an entirely Francophone educational institution.

However, if the core of the criticism is that linguistic groups should be adequately represented and empowered in postsecondary education, then the Francophone community is only one of many minorities in Ontario.

In fact, Francophones are outnumbered: over 600,000 Ontarians speak a Chinese language — such as Mandarin or Cantonese — as a mother tongue. There are also sizable Italian- and Punjabi-speaking communities. Yet there is no clamour to open postsecondary institutions based on these languages.

In reality, the necessity of upholding French as a unique language in Canada is grounded not as much in demographic representation as it is in a colonial mentality. French is thought to hold a rightful place in the nation because of the intertwined history of the language and the country.

But if we are upholding the integrality of French for historical reasons, then this justification should be extended to certain other communities, namely, those that speak one of the many Indigenous languages that have existed on this land for thousands of years.

These languages, more than any others, can be said to hold a rightful place on this land. It is interesting that there is no equivalent uproar for their representation in postsecondary institutions.

Ontario is home to a rich network of six Indigenous language families: Anishinaabek, Onkwehonwe, Mushkegowuk, Lunaape, Inuktitut, and Michif. These families include over 18 different languages and dialects.

The province has made efforts to revitalize and integrate these languages in the context of postsecondary education in the last decade. A key way is through the provincial funding of several Indigenous postsecondary institutes.

Ontario is home to nine Indigenous-owned and operated postsecondary institutions that offer programs in partnership with other colleges and universities. A year ago, legislation was passed that gave these institutes the ability to independently award degrees, certificates, and diplomas without negotiating with their non-Indigenous partner schools.

This legislation is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, in line with reconciliatory aims to grant the Indigenous peoples of Ontario further autonomy over their communities and affairs, as well as power and influence over the affairs of the country in general.

But these institutes have rather small circles of impact. Combined, the nine institutions offer programs to around 4,000 students. This number pales when compared to the over two million postsecondary students in Canada. U of T alone has over 90,000 enrolled students.

Indigenous language revitalization is a critical issue. Some of the key ways the violence of colonialism inflicts itself upon Indigenous peoples are the suppression and erasure of their ways of communicating, and the replacement of their languages with those of their colonizers — whether English or French. This process was facilitated through the residential school system.

Integration of these languages in education can be an important way of acknowledging the validity and necessity of Indigenous languages, to ensure that these languages continue to be learned and passed on to future generations.

Most of us are settlers in this country and benefit from colonialism by enjoying the use of the land and its resources. As such, we have an ethical obligation to support Indigenous peoples’ efforts to revitalize and sustain their cultures and ways of life. Language itself is a key site of power and control — and by making efforts to revitalize Indigenous languages, we can help empower these communities in a major way.

For education in Indigenous languages to have a wider influence and impact, larger colleges and universities ought to expand their curriculum to be more inclusive of them. Integrating Indigenous languages within an academic context would validate these languages as legitimate and important ways of communicating. Indigenous students would also have the ability to participate in their culture within these institutions.

Moreover, integrating these languages within educational institutions could help reverse some of the erasure wrought by residential schools — Indigenous students who were not brought up with knowledge of their communities’ languages would have opportunities to reclaim them. Non-Indigenous students would also have the opportunity to learn these languages, which would widen the scope of efforts to revitalize and sustain them.

Since 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for more programs in Indigenous languages has spurred attempts by universities to integrate these languages into their course offerings. But the selection is still sparse. The most exhaustive offerings are those from the smaller, Indigenous-run institutes, like Six Nations Polytechnic in southwest Ontario, which offers Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mohawk and Cayuga.

Other schools have been moving toward offering more courses in Indigenous languages. Queen’s University, McMaster University, and Lakehead University now all offer some courses in Indigenous languages. U of T’s Centre for Indigenous Studies offers courses in Inuktitut, Iroquoian, and Anishinaabemowin.

These selections have yet to compare to the exhaustive curriculums that these schools offer in languages like French. It can be argued that an expansive curriculum in Indigenous languages is of even greater importance, since there is no threat of French dying out. With Indigenous languages, that is a very real possibility.

As students, we can contribute to the revitalization of Indigenous languages on our own campuses. We have opportunities to take courses in an Indigenous language offered by U of T, and in that way we can make a concrete effort to spread and sustain the language.

Debates around French representation in postsecondary education illuminate that language is a locus of power and control. And while being mindful of the needs of Franco-Ontarians, we should be aware that the representation of Indigenous languages in our colleges and universities is of equal, or greater, importance.

Meera Ulysses is a second-year Equity Studies and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations student at New College. She is The Varsity’s Current Affairs Columnist.

Damn the exam cram

Screw ‘term tests’ and final assignments due during the last week of class

Damn the exam cram

As we arrive in December and the semester draws to a close, U of T students are forced to grapple with the ramping up of classes, the approach of exams, and the intensification of winter.

The brutality of this time is particularly felt by students with final assignments and exams that are due during the regular class period. They have to juggle their regular class schedules, readings, and smaller assignments with huge final assignments and ‘term tests’ in the very same week. This puts an unfair amount of pressure on students to constantly perform, without being given any downtime.

The unfairness of it all

This pre-exam period practice only further renders students overworked, overwhelmed, or even hopeless, and adds to the stress and anxiety that they already feel as the exam period arrives. As mental health awareness rises, it seems contradictory to allow the practice of in-course finals or assignments while supposedly supporting students’ well-being.

There’s a reason why the exam period was established as a separate entity from the regular schedule of classes: to help mitigate the intensity of studying for final exams while trying to keep up with regular classes. While professors have a right to enjoy their Decembers, students should not have to pay for it.

Professors also have to adhere to having the final due date of all papers and term tests by the last day of class. This means that if a paper is due this late in the term, students with accommodations may not be able to implement their extra time, because the university gives professors very little freedom to grade papers once school has finished for the semester. This often results in students struggling to finish papers, while also having to start studying for their finals.

Furthermore, this practice puts students with final assignments and term tests at a significant disadvantage to their counterparts who are tested solely in the exam period. These students are given much more time to prepare, organize, and even take a break.

Are we human, or are we robots?

University is supposed to teach students how to think critically and engage with new material. Students are told that this is their chance to expand their horizons, learn more about themselves, and explore different ways of thinking.

But cramming assignments and exams in the last two weeks of November and early December teaches students to be robotic and mechanically pump out content that they know their professors want. Ultimately, they are driven by the need to produce and the mission to get a high grade.

The sheer volume of responsibilities heaped upon students inhibits the genuine learning, growth, and development that they want to derive from the classroom in the first place. While time management is a vital life skill that is developed at university, there is a difference between being responsible and being overwhelmed. Students aren’t given Time-Turners with their admission letters, and shouldn’t be expected to perform as if they had.

Grades over happiness

There is also the added pressure of taking part in extracurricular activities, maintaining a social life, and, for many, the added burden of having to focus on finances. The unspoken rhetoric that ‘if you aren’t doing everything, then you aren’t doing enough’ is heightened during the exam period and, typically, something ends up falling through the cracks. Unfortunately, it’s usually mental health.

At any university, particularly one as academically rigorous as U of T, it is difficult for students to feel as though they are excelling simply by having high grades. Therefore, they often balance feelings of inadequacy with other creative outlets. However, grades will almost always be the main focus of their university careers.

When there are term tests and papers due before the exam period begins, it is difficult for students to escape from the monotony and pressure that comes with being examined, and they therefore stop prioritizing other aspects of their lives that make them happy. After all, there is nothing more important than that A-grade.

Being kinder to students

Going forward, professors should be held to a higher standard of course organization. If professors prefer to assign a final paper instead of an exam, but they weight the paper as if it were an exam, then that paper should be due in the exam period — not during regular classes. Furthermore, if a ‘term test’ is used as a metonym for a full-year course midterm or a half-year course final, it should likewise take place in the exam period.

In other words, the expectation should be that any assignment, test, or paper that is being marked as if it were a final exam should be due when an exam would be. If one is being swapped for the other, the swap shouldn’t carry repercussions for students.

Students should also be given time to breathe between the end of classes and the beginning of the exam period. They should not be burnt out before they have sat their first final.

Grades and exams can themselves be relatively arbitrary, but they can also have a significant impact on the rest of a student’s academic career, especially in upper years. In a world where employment is increasingly precarious and undergraduate degrees seem to matter less, students are constantly worried about their futures. They should feel supported by their university, not hindered by it.

U of T prides itself on being the leading university in Canada. However, if the institution wants to maintain this high standard, it needs to start being kinder to its students. U of T students are doing their best, but they also need to be provided with a secure safety net. Unfortunately, the brand name just isn’t going to cut it.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

Opinion: How useful are business self-help books?

Despite extravagant claims, business guides can be a source of inspiration to consumers

Opinion: How useful are business self-help books?

The business world can be a difficult place to navigate — while some people are lucky to have their destination mapped out, others face a slow burn to find the right path to a business goal. In particular, we tend to seek guidance when various paths may be viable but each is laced with different degrees of uncertainty.

When friends and mentors fall short, a world of experience awaits on bookshelves — both physical and digital — with self-help books. The self-help industry was valued in the US at almost $10 billion USD in 2016.

While the focus for self-help titles cover almost every minutiae of daily life, considering how important a successful career is viewed in society, helping people navigate their way through their professional lives comprises a significant genre within self-help books.

Empty promises

The goal of the self-help guru, or the self-help books they write, is to be applicable and approachable to as many readers as possible. This increases the likelihood of the book being a financial success. The need to stand out from the competition and be noticed by the consumer is a reason why these works may reach to make claims and use hopeful language to attract buyers.

Among Amazon’s best-selling business titles are works such as The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure, The 48 Laws of Power, The Laws of Human Nature, and Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too.

These are enticing titles that confidently proclaim the secrets their pages hold, with promises of wealth and power. These false hopes and unrealized promises are what the business self-help industry is notorious for.

Self-help books can be analogous to, and as ubiquitous as, dietary fads. New information is quickly seized upon as the ‘next big thing’ with little evidence to support the claims made. Often, anecdotal tales are used to support certain behaviours and prescribed as the right methods that should be followed to achieve certain outcomes. Furthermore, each reader is likely to judge the relevance of information differently, interpret advice differently, or weigh the same sets of rules differently, based on personal factors.

A guidebook, not a bible

The issue with business self-help books is that there is no follow-up on the effectiveness of the particular methods preached. The people who succeed might retroactively misattribute the reasons for their success to a particular self-help method, while the blame for failure is burdened onto the individual.

Yet proponents of self-help books argue that keeping an open mind and applying the lessons described can be useful. After all, the literature in this category is not meant to be a sure-fire method to the top but rather a mixture of learned processes and opinions from ostensibly successful individuals. Rather than follow the advice to the word, consumers should use the available information to better educate themselves.

Not perfect, but valuable nonetheless

If you are interested in self-improvement through reading, billionaire and business magnate Warren Buffett recommends titles such as The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns.

Business self-help books can come in the form of a guide for self-improvement, like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey. They can also be well-researched works that try to explain the causation of success and question common misconceptions, such as Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by ‎Steven D. Levitt‎ and ‎Stephen J. Dubner.

Business self-help books can be great sources of foundational information and potential sources of advice, but the application of said advice should be at the reader’s careful discretion.

Toward a decent, dignified masculinity

The St. Michael’s College School scandal shows that we need to shape a healthier culture for boys

Toward a decent, dignified masculinity

Content warning: discussion of sexual violence.

In mid-November, videos surfaced on social media that showed an alleged assault and sexual assault at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) — an all-boys private school just a few kilometres away from U of T. Hearing this news left me feeling physically ill. Six boys connected to the incidents have been charged, while the police continue to investigate other separate incidents. Recently, both the principal and president of the school have resigned.

The scandal compelled me to question what hazing entails, which is the common thread between all the incidents. The practice refers to the initiation of students into a group through humiliation.

Hazing and toxic masculinity

Professor Michael Atkinson of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education describes hazing as “a physical, psychological and emotional gauntlet [that] new members of [a] group must endure to be respected as legitimate insiders.” He notes that the practice occurs regardless of the respective gender of the team, group, or club, which is usually sports-related.

While Atkinson recognizes that this behaviour is not exclusive to men, it is essentially boys and men who undertake a larger risk when performing these said “rituals,” taking it to the “proverbial next level.” I now recognize that there is a spectrum of hazing, which I believe is synonymous with society’s understanding of bullying: public shaming and degrading, abusive behaviour, and varying degrees of violence and assault.

With this in mind, I believe that now is as important a time as ever for all of us to reflect on our complacency in a culture that breeds toxic male behaviour. The notion of toxic masculinity is a controversial one, and in this context it is not meant to be a targeted, gender-oriented criticism on men. My intent is to shed light on its very real existence, as shown by the SMCS scandal.

The boys in question are trapped in their own culture of what it means to be male. Misogyny, chauvinism, vehement toxicity, and the deep-rooted subversion of ‘emotion’ facilitates a lifestyle that many young boys observe, learn, and thus embody. Internalization of such beliefs stems from something much larger than the boys who committed these horrific acts.

Institutions like SMCS must be held accountable for histories of abuse and perpetuation of hypermasculinity, enforced by implicit values that are in turn modelled by teachers. Sports is the locus of pride and glory at SMCS, and after the story broke, alumni have spoken out about their high school experiences, noting that it is not just students that exhibit cruel behaviour, but also teachers and coaches.

But whether your coach slaps you in the face at football practice or your principal withholds videos of a gang sexual assault for a few days, being a boy in high school today means staying silent, complicit, and petrified.

My heart is with the survivors of these senseless, torturous crimes. I’m sorrowful for those boys and for the persistent neglect to acknowledge men and boys as survivors of sexual violence — not just perpetrators. The media attention and panic that have ensued do not help either.

Survivors are indeed subject to shame and trauma, the psychological aftermath that has the power to debilitate or disguise itself in various ways. It creeps and seeps into anything; it does not discriminate. But even more, being a boy in this context has an added stigma.

While it is crucial that the perpetrators are held responsible for their actions, it is important to acknowledge the bigger picture here: they are products of society. It is important that we do not simply dismiss bullies as the isolated ‘bad guys,’ because that doesn’t solve the problem. Their behaviour is one that is taught, learned, and assembled by culture — and society must take some responsibility for this.

What is important to consider is that what happened at SMCS is not unique: it could happen at any educational institution, including U of T. It has simply come to public awareness now. Any institution that covertly or overtly allows or ignores signs of humiliation, torment, and verbal abuse is one that can house crimes such as the ones at SMCS. It starts with the consistent normalization and lack of questioning of truly toxic behaviour.

Moving forward

I must admit, however, that bullying cannot be eradicated entirely, for I believe it is an exploration of power dynamics expressed by and through children. But there can and must be change within our schools and homes. Temperaments and conduct must be monitored exhaustively by the gatekeepers of our youth’s success: parents, educators, and mentors.

Even more, school policy must position visible tools and resources to navigate such situations at its forefront, and this begins at the top. As U of T students, professors, and leaders, we should ask our institution what it’s doing to combat a culture of silence.

The SMCS events should act as a wake-up call to all board members and educational leaders. We need to break the stigma. We need to show that it is an act of courage to reach out for help. An anonymous voicemail service that will be implemented at SMCS is a start that other institutions should follow.

Universities and schools should also strongly enforce a zero-tolerance policy for hazing rituals and any kind of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, while also implementing clear, non-negotiable consequences for such behaviour.

Additionally, school and university boards should implement curriculum surrounding emotional literacy. Equating sensitivity with weakness is outdated and needs to be challenged. Rather, learning how to manage emotion can help youth make rational decisions.

Inhabiting a healthier culture

The fact of the matter is that I’m a student and aspiring teacher who has no formal training in the field of education yet. Although I don’t have the answers to the issues of hypermasculinity and bullying in schools, I hope that our education system invests in the work, planning, discussion, and commitment required to find solutions. When I become a teacher, I will do everything in my power to realize and inhabit a healthier culture in our schools.

The goal is show boys how to be decent, dignified men. Parents, teachers, leaders, and adults: we can do better, for the sake of our succeeding generations and our youth. Let the events at SMCS serve as a reminder to take personal responsibility for our actions, and to question the behaviour we embody or witness.

Melanie Cohen is a fourth-year Book & Media Studies, English, and Religion student at Victoria College.

Bringing men into the #MeToo conversation

Reflecting on sexual violence at St. Michael’s College School

Bringing men into the #MeToo conversation

Content warning: discussions of sexual violence.

In recent weeks, the incidents that occurred at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) have garnered national attention. Opinions range from two extremes, from alumni arguing that the incidents reflect their experiences to angry moms yelling at newscasters that “there’s a bad apple in every crowd.”

This incident is about something bigger than a few bad apples. It is not just an isolated incident of bullying or hazing. Many journalists and commentators are quick to blame the mix of “regressive” Catholicism, the toxic masculinity that stereotypically defines all boys’ schools, and the elitism that comes from the privilege of a private education.

But this incident is bigger than that. It’s part of a bigger pattern where men, like Jian Ghomeshi or Patrick Walsh, thought their entitlement to someone else’s body superseded that individual’s right to life, liberty, and security.

This is part of #MeToo, and it’s about time Toronto sees it that way.

This behaviour extends far beyond high school. According to a 2014 Statistics Canada survey, 41 per cent of all self-reported sexual assault incidents were reported by students, and 58 per cent of male offenders are between the ages of 18–34. It is, and always has been, a pervasive issue on college campuses. U of T has as much of a responsibility to spread awareness about these issues as SMCS.

While the legal system is rightly treating these incidents as sexual assaults, many articles solely refer to the abuse as hazing. This fails to acknowledge the unique context in which sexual assault occurs.

For example, one SMCS mother was quoted in The Toronto Sun as praising the school’s response, highlighting the fact that hazing rituals exist at other private all-boys schools. But no one has bothered to ask why those boys used that particular method to ‘haze.’ Throwing water on someone or making them march in circles is not the same as using a sexual act to degrade an individual’s bodily integrity.

Sexual violence is about using sex as a tool for power and control. What happened at SMCS was sexual violence.

Sexual assault is thought to be about sexual gratification, so when an assault, like the one at SMCS, is not overtly sexually motivated, focus shifts away from the sexual nature of the crime. For many people, the incident does not align with the biased societal conception of the ‘ideal’ victim. The young boy subjected to ‘hazing’ doesn’t match society’s idea of a #MeToo victim: a young, innocent, white woman.

When society fails to appropriately respond to these non-‘ideal’ victims, there are grave repercussions. It took months for the police to recognize that the series of murders in Toronto’s Gay Village were connected. It took even longer for police to tie killer Robert Pickton to the women who went missing in Vancouver’s Lower East Side.

Many believe that sexual assault against men is rare. It’s not. From 2009–2014, 13 per cent of sexual assault victims in Canada were male. However, since not all sexual assaults are reported,  this number only represents about 10 per cent of all sexual assaults, resulting in little research or resources dedicated to supporting male victims. Researchers estimate that progress for male victims of sexual assault is about 20 years behind that of women.

When society fails to educate boys on sexual assault, we can end up with cases like this — where groups of boys believe that sexually assaulting someone and posting it online is just regular hazing. It’s considered ‘boys being boys’ instead of a crime.

The boys at SMCS believe such a thing because children learn from their environment. There’s a pervasive cultural belief that violence and aggression is a natural extension of male sexuality. If society doesn’t see this event as part of #MeToo, the boys won’t either. Worse, if the perpetrators don’t see their actions as sexual assault, it won’t stop them from committing similar crimes in the future.

So let’s see this for what it really is: a single sexual assault which reflects our broader lack of understanding about sexual violence. This is not just boys being boys. Let’s make space in #MeToo for men to come forward — a space where boys don’t have to fear that their accusations will be dismissed.

Ella Benedetti, Olivia Berkovits, Rachel Gordon, Christian Logue are master’s students at the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies.

In defence of Ford’s minimum wage freeze

Why students should support the recently passed Bill 47

In defence of Ford’s minimum wage freeze

On November 21, Bill 47 was enshrined in provincial law. The much-maligned bill eliminates a bevy of provisions passed under the preceding government’s Bill 148, the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The crux of the controversy surrounding the bill is that it freezes the minimum wage at a substantial $14 an hour, instead of the previously planned $15 an hour.

Many progressives, including students, have voiced their concern over the bill. But given the state of the economy following Kathleen Wynne’s tutelage, this freeze is Doug Ford’s best option and the right path forward for Ontario.

Legislation cannot overwrite the market

As pure as the intentions may be in advocating for higher wages vis-à-vis government mandates, it is not possible to legislate away poverty. Economic intrusions like artificial wage hikes always come prepackaged with unintended consequences.

At the end of the day, one individual’s wage is another person’s cost. Employment is the voluntary contract between those two individuals. The agreed upon wage is ordinarily set by basic market forces: supply and demand. Efforts by government to intervene in this contract cannot benefit the employee without affecting the employer.

As their costs of doing business increase, employers react. Industries such as food and entertainment lay off staff, cut their hours, or hike prices. As reported in the Financial Post, Ontario restaurants hiked prices in response to Wynne’s wage hike. Accordingly, in January, the province saw “food inflation [rise] to its highest annualized increase in nearly two years.”  

As also noted by BMO Capital Markets’ senior economist, Robert Kavcic, the restaurant price hikes were a direct result of the Liberal government’s policy. In the same period that saw the province’s minimum wage jump 21 per cent, Ontario’s restaurant prices grew at a faster rate than any other province in the country.

Restaurants weren’t the only industry to feel the economic ripples of Wynne’s progressive proclivities. The Canadian grocery conglomerate Metro estimated its costs incurred from the wage hike to exceed $40 million. As a result, the firm said that it plans on cutting staff hours, in addition to reducing the number of 24 hour stores in the GTA.

The service sector also felt the pinch of rising costs. In Collingwood, Little People’s Daycare closed its doors permanently, citing the steep and swift spike in minimum wage.

The hike hurts low-wage workers including students

A coterie of minimum-wage proponents argues that their preferred policy benefits university and college students by helping them pay off tuition loans. This too is a folly proposition. If the presumption is that you can simply give people more money with innocuous wage hikes, it could be argued that the minimum wage ought to just be $50.

An oft-cited claim is that $15 reflects what is considered to be a ‘living wage.’ However, this argument requires bifurcating economic policy from its indirect outcomes. As previously described, raising Ontario’s minimum wage to whatever politicians at Queen’s Park determined to be the ‘living wage’ increases the cost of living, arguably negating any positive results the wage hike bestowed.

The latest Ontario labour market report indicates that nine months following the wage hike, the youth unemployment rate in Ontario increased to a whopping 12.2 per cent. That’s a 15 per cent increase from a year ago when youth unemployment was already at 10.6 per cent.

The unemployment rate increased for the very same demographic minimum-wage proponents preen about supporting. Moreover, the minimum wage hike has also increased these now out-of-work university students’ cost of living, making cafés, restaurants, and groceries more costly.

In addition to affecting students and younger members of the workforce, the hike also priced people with certain disabilities out of jobs entirely. The previous Liberal government eliminated an exemption for sheltered workshops a place where people with mental or physical disabilities could find work.

Setting the minimum wage at $15 makes accepting a job that pays $14 illegal. Individuals who can’t compete for the higher wage effectively have their minimum wage reduced to zero. This was what happened at the sheltered workspaces, where people with disabilities were priced out of the job market.

There’s a reason electricians, plumbers, and other professionals don’t earn minimum wage. It’s called minimum wage because earning it requires minimum skill. I earned $15 an hour in my first job, and even that required laborious lifeguarding certifications.

If you want to help unskilled workers earning minimum wage increase their wages, the solution isn’t to blithely hijack the economy and inflate their wages. It’s to help them find better jobs. Unskilled labour was never meant to be the mainstay of the economy.

A far more effective solution is to empower individuals by helping them acquire skills that make them competitive for higher paying jobs. Furthermore, it is necessary to foster an environment where people can rise in the workforce. The onus is on government legislators to tackle tax and regulation burdens shackling businesses from potential growth. Ford’s Bill 47, in conjunction with his proposed tax cuts, puts Ontario on the path to achieving just that.

Harry Khachatrian is a fourth-year Electrical & Computer Engineering student in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering.

The diversity dogma

Identity-based proportional representation in universities is impractical, unfair, and ultimately unnecessary

The diversity dogma

In December 2015, U of T agreed to begin the collection of its students’ demographic data pertaining to race, following pressure from the Black Liberation Collective’s (BLC) U of T chapter. The purported goal, according to the Director of News and Media Relations, Althea Blackburn-Evans, was to “further the university’s interest in embedding diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Almost two years later, in October 2017, U of T committed to the exact same agreement. This time it was called the “Action Plan for Inclusive Excellence” and all other Canadian universities had also signed on. Just over a year later, U of T has yet to release all the data associated with these pledges.

It is important to consider why the BLC would want this data in the first place. They are hoping that the data reveals that Black students at U of T are underrepresented relative to their demographics in Canada — and that this will prove the existence of discrimination that can be rectified by demographic engineering.

Campus bureaucracies like the Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity office, the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, and Human Resources & Equity are also in pursuit of this diversity agenda. However, nobody thinks to ask what exactly the goal is and what happens when it is achieved.

And there’s a good reason why nobody mentions specifics when talking about diversity: it’s because it would quickly be revealed as a nonstarter. For instance, consider racial diversity. Presumably, the goal would be to attain proportional representation at the university such that the university sample aligns with the broader demographics.

However, the first question that emerges is what demographics should serve as the baseline, whether that is the city, province, or country. Furthermore, provided perfect racial representation is achieved relative to a given chosen demographic, other criteria — such as ethnicity or religion — could face a representation problem.

Next, the complication emerges as to whether proportional representation would have to apply to every possible division. For instance, in the case of gender, one faculty or discipline might have more women, and another more men. This might have to be rectified until there is perfect gender parity in every case.  

The bureaucrats in the diversity offices are likely aware of the difficulties and impracticalities of their agenda. But the point of their existence is to ensure that they have a job that never finishes. No matter how ‘diverse’ the university may be, they will always be able to point to a specific subset as having too many of the ‘wrong’ people.

For example, our sports teams are too white, medical school isn’t Black enough, there aren’t enough women in engineering — and so on. While the diversity objective remains unclear and unspecified, some demographic data does already exist to provide insight into what our university looks like.

Since 2004, U of T has participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement, which is an optional survey for students that includes demographic questions. In 2017, 9,380 students responded. The gender divide skewed about 55 per cent female; the ethnicity of first years was 66 per cent Asian, between Southeast, East, and West; 31 per cent white; five per cent Black; four per cent Latinx; and two per cent Indigenous. These add up to more than 100 per cent because respondents select multiple identities. LGBTQ+ students are about 15 per cent of the entire student population.

Even taking into account that about a quarter of first-year students are international, the underrepresented groups are men, Indigenous peoples, and whites, relative to Canadian demographics at large. Apart from Indigenous peoples, who certainly aren’t ignored by Equity & Diversity, it is difficult to understand how we have not already accomplished the mission of diversity. How the diversity advocates would respond to data that shows the opposite of underrepresentation — even overrepresentation — is a question worth asking.

We should especially consider that the inclusion of one demographic has to come at the cost of another. For instance, it would be unfair for the diversity office to discriminate against Asian students, who are by far the most overrepresented demographic. This hasn’t gone well for Harvard University.

Indeed, the quality of admission standards might be compromised if demographic engineering were to prioritize diversity — and this is likely to upset students who are currently overrepresented by virtue of their competence.

The activist wings of the humanities have spent decades arguing that underrepresentation of a group constitutes discrimination. But they will likely not agree that equal representation indicates a lack of discrimination, or that underrepresentation of traditional oppressors indicates discrimination in the opposite direction. Instead, they will likely deny that these situations exist. They have a narrative to maintain, and the data being demanded threatens it.

Given that the diversity officers have been in this position for a while, they will likely release a report, as opposed to raw data. Their thesis will approximate, ‘We’ve increased our diversity, but there is still a long way to go.’ For an existing example, consider the annual diversity report released by the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. There’s no mention of any axes of intersectionality where the ‘marginalized’ might be overrepresented — namely, no mention of race.

Instead, there are a series of graphs that show that the gender ratio is steadily approaching parity, but that women are still underrepresented. Conveniently, the conclusion indicates that the diversity offices are doing good work and are still needed. Nobody will have to confront the fact that maybe we no longer need an army of diversity-obsessed administrators and activists.

None of this would be an issue if the grievance studies hadn’t translated into bureaucracies that do nothing but reduce people to superficial characteristics that are orthogonal to competence. We are, above all, individuals, and should be treated as such. The politicization of demographics should be scrutinized.

It’s about time that the administration recognize that the diversity offices aren’t clear or consistent, let alone beneficial to the university.

George McKeown is a fifth-year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry.