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.

What are U of T’s policies on student-professor relationships?

No Canadian universities ban such relationships, despite recent controversy at UBC

What are U of T’s policies on student-professor relationships?

The debate around student-professor relationships was recently reopened in Canada in the wake of an alleged sexual assault of a former University of British Columbia (UBC) student by her professor, author and former UBC creative writing chair Steven Galloway. Galloway admitted to having an affair with the student, though he denied sexually assaulting her. Since the issue began in 2016, the student has called on UBC to ban relationships between students and professors.

While many American universities such as Harvard University and Yale University have policies banning sexual relationships between professors and students, no Canadian university has a specific ban on student-professor relationships.

U of T’s policy on such relationships is codified under the Memorandum on Conflict of Interest and Close Personal Relations from the Division of the Vice-President & Provost.

According to the memorandum, instructors romantically involved with a student must disclose their relationship to the chair of their department.

“We also have guidelines that make it clear that faculty members who have close personal relationships with students are in a conflict of interest if they exercise any influence, direct or indirect, in decisions that may affect the student,” said Heather Boon, Vice-Provost Faculty and Academic Life.

It’s the chair’s responsibility to relieve the instructor of their “professional duties” involving the student with whom they have a conflict of interest, or assign a third-party to oversee decisions made by the instructor, according to the memorandum.

The memorandum also states that the academic staff member “should also be aware that if [they] become romantically or sexually involved with a student or a subordinate, [they] leave [themselves] open to allegations of sexual harassment.”

As to whether U of T is considering banning student-professor relationships, Boon said that discussions “on this issue continue to evolve, and we will continue to listen to our community and consider updating policies.”

According to Joshua Grondin, Vice-President University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), the UTSU has not been made aware of any potential changes to the Conflict of Interest Policy or if these conversations are happening at the administrative level.

“I would imagine that a standalone policy [for student-professor relationships] would be difficult to coordinate, as relationships often fall on a spectrum that can be difficult to pinpoint concretely,” said Grondin in an email. “The current policy allows for this flexibility and makes it easier to apply, in my opinion.”

However, Grondin believes that student-professor relationships should be banned.

“There are very complex power dynamics involved, and I think it exposes students to situations that could be unsafe or unfair if things do not work out,” said Grondin. “Relationships would create a bias, either good or bad, that I feel would inevitably interfere with the professor’s ability to treat the entire class fairly.”

In the worst-case scenario of an abusive professor-student relationship, Grondin said that, regardless of specific U of T policies, “all staff and students are still bound to the law, wherein abuse in relationships is not and should not be tolerated.”

“The UTSU would work to ensure that professors are held accountable to their actions, and that the student can have any resources/exemptions necessary to navigate the situation,” continued Grondin.

Boon noted that U of T’s Sexual Violence Policy covers all members of the U of T community, including faculty, students, and staff.

“Under the policy, supports including accommodations are available to all members of the community.”

Marriage is a big decision — and students shouldn’t go into it unprepared

Why the university should provide resources to students about choosing a life partner

Marriage is a big decision — and students shouldn’t go into it unprepared

Until recently, I thought marriage was something that just happened to people, rather than being a conscious, intentional choice. This changed when I completed my undergraduate program four years ago and read The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now. I soon fell in love with the sentiment of the book — that is, you can pick your family, and partnering in marriage can be a deliberate choice based on compatibility and fit.

This does not sound very sexy, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Millennials are marrying later in life than previous generations, and despite the common misconception that delaying marriage allows for the development of better decision-making skills and more life experience before choosing a partner, this delay is not actually a predictor of marital satisfaction.

Irrespective of when it happens, nearly 27 per cent of the population will be married by the age of 25–29. University graduates are also significantly more likely to marry than their counterparts who do not have postsecondary education, perhaps due to financial stability or investment in family.

It is important to acknowledge that many people do not ever get married for a wide variety of reasons — some simply do not want to marry, some prefer other types of romantic partnerships, some are celibate by choice, and some are bound by cultural considerations. However, the fact is that many current students will go on to get married, either right after graduation or later in life. Thus, knowing how to pick wisely is worth knowing something about.

There are many myths that guide millennials in love and relationships that are not particularly helpful, like ‘opposites attract’ or ‘you can’t choose who you love.’ On the contrary, researchers do know what facilitates a good marriage: oppositeness does not sustain happiness, and you can choose who you love. Interestingly, it is similarity in personality that contributes to compatibility and marital satisfaction. If this information were more accessible to university students, it may encourage better-suited partnerships, higher quality of life, and lower rates of divorce.

People who have happier relationships with their partners are happier in their lives overall. Couples partnered in happy marriages can buffer against and alleviate physical pain, contribute to successful recovery from illness, and mitigate the physical and cognitive declines associated with getting older.

For those who do settle into unhappy marriages or those that get progressively worse over time, however, the consequences can be severe. Unhappy marriages have a significant impact on psychological and physical health — so much so that marriage can serve as either a protective or risk factor for illness: happy marriages can facilitate a speedy recovery, while unhappy marriages can exacerbate illness.

The number of marriages in Canada that end in divorce has significantly increased since the 1980s. In addition to the negative physical and psychological impacts of divorce, there are also economic consequences. In national interest, it is advantageous for couples to marry once and stay married, given that separation and divorce have financial impacts and cost taxpayers money due to clerical and legal fees.

Considering the severe consequences to unhappy marriages, marriage may be the most important decision university graduates make. However, there are no university courses or resources available at U of T that advise students on how to choose a partner — and this is something that should be addressed.

Universities are not solely responsible for educating young people on how to pick a good spouse, but parents, communities, pop culture, and the media also play a role. However, universities can make an impact by offering courses and resources on what contributes to and sustains good relationships and marriages during this formative stage of life. Guidance on how to choose a spouse could be offered at the Career Centre or through Student Life. A course through the department of psychology on the science of love could be an option as well.

In addition to what sustains marital satisfaction, if university students were aware of the neuroscience behind their intense feelings of attraction, they might be more cautious and intentional with their choices before investing time in a partner. It is worth noting that we are not only drawn to people by what we think but also by how we feel. There are deal-breakers that deter us from certain people, but attraction is also associated with the limbic, or more reactive, part of the brain. Once the honeymoon phase dulls, and the dopamine levels decline, we may unfortunately find that our partner is not well suited to us at all. Resources that guide students toward making pragmatic choices when picking their partners might help alleviate the negative feelings that come with this outcome, if not prevent it altogether.

Marriage is about much more than love; it is about quality of life and overall happiness. When married, you will spend the majority of your free time with that person, and your spouse becomes your partner in every aspect of life, including finances, leisure, household management, and often child-rearing. More guidance on how to pick your partner is therefore always welcome, and the university is in a good place to provide it.

 

Kelsey Block is a graduate student in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.