Bail hearing postponed for man charged with human feces attacks

Dozens of students attend hearing, comment on climate of fear felt on campus

Bail hearing postponed for man charged with human feces attacks

Samuel Opoku, the man who was arrested and charged for dumping buckets of human waste on people at Toronto university campuses, was called before the Ontario Court of Justice earlier today to discuss bail.

The hearing, which was scheduled for 10:00 am, didn’t begin until 2:22 pm when the accused finally entered the courtroom. The court session ended after less than 20 minutes when defence attorney Jordan Weisz requested that the hearing be adjourned until December 3. Until then, Opoku will remain in custody.

Throughout most of the hearing, Opoku was hunched over and looking at the ground. His head was barely visible over his shoulders to those gathered in the courtroom’s audience behind him.

In accordance with the section 517 publication ban imposed on today’s proceedings, The Varsity cannot release information or details discussed in court.

Opoku was arrested by Toronto Police on Tuesday, November 26. He has been charged with five counts of assault with a weapon and five counts of mischief interfering with property.

It is alleged that he threw “liquified fecal matter” on two people at the John P. Robarts Research Library on Friday, November 22. Two days later, police believe he did the same at the Scott Library at York University. The final alleged attack occurred on Monday, November 25 when a bucket with the same contents was dumped on a woman in the area around McCaul Street and College Street.

Dozens of people, many of whom were U of T students, arrived at 10:00 am to witness the hearing. Students and journalists alike jockeyed for seats in the packed courtroom, with many not being allowed to enter due to a lack of space. The hearing was moved to a larger room to accommodate the large number of people gathered.

Ruth Masuka, a second-year student double majoring in peace, conflict and justice, and ethics, society and law at U of T was one such student who arrived at 10:00 am and waited the full four hours for the hearing to begin.

In an interview with The Varsity, she recalled her experience waiting in the crowd that morning.

“It attracted so many different types of people. Everyone had this morbid curiosity.”

She was joined by recent U of T computer science graduate, Felipe Santos. They both attended today’s proceedings looking for answers and the motivation behind these attacks.

Santos commented that seeing Opoku in person really humanized him. “He was a lot more defeated than I expected. In the pictures he seemed to be pretty confident and proud.”

Masuka and Santos both described the potential psychological implications these attacks had on campuses throughout the GTA.

Masuka noted that “some of [her] friends didn’t come to school because they didn’t want to have to be nervous all the time.”

Santos said that people were “afraid and always looking over [their] shoulder.”

Commenting on the paranoia that has existed on campus during the past week, Masuka added that only “one guy made how many tens of thousands of people terrified.”

In a joint interview following the hearing, Weisz told journalists that his client is “shocked” by the situation and the allegations.

“Understandably, to say the least, it’s not a pleasant situation to be sitting in a courtroom with the public scrutiny that he’s currently having to endure. It’s obviously overwhelming, as it would be for anybody.”

When asked if his client understood the circumstances of his situation, Weisz said that “there [are] no fitness concerns at all. He obviously understands the nature of the proceedings, absolutely.”

On the topic of whether mental health issues may have been involved in the attacks, Weisz acknowledged that “the nature of the allegations suggest that.”

While he could not comment on his client specifically, he said that generally for “those with mental disorders, the funding to treat [them] in a compassionate, appropriate, and caring way is often sorely lacking. They often fall through the cracks.”

“Because they’re not getting the treatment they require — through no fault of their own — [they] engage in, potentially, acts of criminality.”

UTSG: Accessible Tour of Robarts Library

Accessible Tour of Robarts Library

Would you like to learn more about accessibility and user services at Robarts Library? Join Students for Barrier-free Access (SBA), the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) and the University of Toronto Library Services for a unique accessible tour of Robarts Library.

This tour will provide:

– An overview of services, supports, and technologies available for disabled students

– Information about booking accessible study rooms

– A short walking/rolling tour of Robarts Library

– A chance to meet the User Services and Accessibility Librarian at Robarts and ask questions

Date: Thursday October 3, 2019

Time: 11am – 12pm

Location: Robarts 4th floor Computer Lab

Accessible Power Entrance located off of St George Street (nearest to intersection of St George Street & Harbord Street)

This tour of Robarts is free and open to all students.

New and returning students are welcome.

TTC Tokens will be provided.

Please contact Nadia at sba.advocacycoordinator@gmail.com to RSVP and for more information.

The library tour will be accessible. A notetaker will be present. If you require ASL interpretation please contact us by September 20, 2019.

[Image Description: The banner image depicts Robarts Library on the left side of the image in teal and white. The top left hand corner of the image has the title “Accessible Tour of Robarts” in white block text. The right hand side of the image is white with black text. It reads “Thursday October 3, 11am, Robarts 4th floor Computer Lab. Would you like to learn more about accessibility and user services at Robarts Library? Join Students for Barrier-free Access (SBA), the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) and the University of Toronto Library Services for a unique accessible tour of Robarts Library.” The bottom right corner of the banner has the SBA logo and the APUS logo.”

UTSG: Grad Escape — Escape Room at Robarts Library

When Robarts Library comes under a ransomware attack, U of T grad students will have 60 minutes to fight for the survival of one of the world’s great library collections. Join U of T Libraries for this fun and challenging escape room game. Dive into the dark corners of our brutalist maze and be sure not to lose your way. Time is running out! Presented in partnership with U of T Libraries. Pizza will be available. Please let us know if you have food restrictions.

Robarts Library expansion underway

Five-storey project aims to add 1,200 study spots

Robarts Library expansion underway

Construction has been underway for the Robarts Common, the expansion of Robarts Library that is expected to add 1,200 study spots to one of the largest buildings on campus.

The five-storey project aims to add more study spaces to the library, which will raise the number of spots in Robarts to 6,000. In addition, as part of the Robarts renewal initiative, the entire building will have wireless printing.  

Though the Robarts Common will be accessible from floors two to five inside Robarts, it will differ aesthetically from the main building, as its design features a glass exterior allowing in more natural light.

A fundraising campaign for the project attracted donations from more than 1,000 individual donors.

Construction on the project began in the summer of 2017. A steel structure is currently being constructed on the north side of the library, where work will continue for a month before a similar structure is built on the south side. The library has not undergone any major projects since 1973, when construction on the building ended.

The expansion is projected to be completed this fall. The new space is planned to officially open in 2020, but a more specific date has not been set yet.

As most construction will take place outside of Robarts, no study spaces will close and there will be minimal disruption during construction.

Robarts opens Canada’s first academic library family study space

Room designed to address unique needs of students and staff with children aged 12 and under

Robarts opens Canada’s first academic library family study space

On March 15, University of Toronto Libraries, in collaboration with the Family Care Office, opened a family study space at Robarts Library, the first of its kind in Canada.

Designed for current students, faculty members, visiting scholars, and staff at U of T with their children aged 12 years and under, the space is intended to foster equity, diversity, and inclusivity by addressing the unique needs of student parents.

Students with family obligations are often “not what we think of as a traditional student,” said Francesca Dobbin, Director of U of T’s Family Programs and Services. “They’re usually students who… many times, aside from their student responsibilities, are holding down some part-time jobs so they really have to juggle their time carefully to make sure they meet their academic requirements. And they don’t always have the after-hour resources and care to be able to run into the library after their child care day has ended at 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening.”

At the University of Toronto, based on a 2016 report, 18 per cent of doctoral students have one or more children, while 11 per cent of professional master’s students and five per cent of research master’s students do. Roughly half of doctoral students said that family obligations presented an obstacle to their studies, while 44.3 per cent of research master’s students and 49.3 per cent of professional master’s students said the same. Dobbin said that no data was collected for undergraduate student parents using the Family Care Office.

Dobbin explained that student parents often find it difficult to fully benefit from a postsecondary education due to time constraints and reduced ability to participate in clubs or activities. The Family Study Space is intended to build a sense of community by fostering cooperation among students using the space.

The room, located on the ninth floor of Robarts at room 9-002, has a capacity of up to 20 adults and children. Availability is on a first-come, first-serve basis to those who obtain a free access fob through the Robarts Library carrel office.

In addition, the room includes a variety of toys and seating for children, as well as equipment for students such as carrels with computers or space for laptops, a screen for presentations or collaborative work, and a main table.

Dobbin said that in her experience, universities that take on similar projects typically have a higher proportion of mature students, such as college transfer students feeding into universities or veterans who have returned to school later in life.

While McGill University has offered kits with child-focused activities to student parents at libraries, Dobbin said that the Family Study Space was selected to more comprehensively address the needs of student parents.

A team including Communications and User Services Librarian Jesse Carliner, User Services Librarian Kyla Everall, Operations and Building Services, and the Family Care Office worked in conjunction to assess an ideal space and determine necessary design elements.

Dobbin and Carliner said that they had received number of positive messages and tweets from student parents grateful for the space. As of March 28, 55 students or staff had registered for the space.

“We hope this will start a trend of more family inclusive spaces and services at universities throughout Canada,” said Carliner.

The doom and gloom of Robarts Library

Efficient and impersonal — the U of T experience in a nutshell

The doom and gloom of Robarts Library

Tired, stooped, and seemingly unimpressed by it all, the towering Robarts Library dutifully watches over the intersection of St. George Street and Harbord Street. Its brutalist design and the contrasting stream of fresh-faced scholars pouring out of it make guests feel as if they’ve stumbled into a sad, strange, Soviet Hogwarts.

The library puts a spell on you: its gloomy character seems to seep right into you, whether you’re just slipping by or trudging through. Pedestrians passing by the cold, hard concrete tend to drop their gaze, grind their teeth, and dash away. Upstairs, between ancient bookshelves and dark, dingy corners, students hunch over desks and silently labour away — mirroring their equally dull surroundings.

Serving 60,595 UTSG students, storing millions of books, and soaring 14 storeys high, Robarts embodies U of T: big, efficient, and impersonal. Slowly, Robarts attacks your mood, your energy, your productivity.

Yet ‘Robarts syndrome’ isn’t an isolated phenomenon. There are pages upon pages of research that show how physical space and architecture affect our mental state.

‘Boring’ architecture has been shown to imbue feelings of fear and sadness. In one study, when participants quickened their pace while passing by dull-looking buildings, their mood levels took a dive.

Inside Robarts, its effects become even more pronounced. The combination of high ceilings and blue walls, which Robarts has, have been shown to boost creativity, but otherwise Robarts has a gloomy library interior severely lacking in natural light.

Dr. Alan Lewis, an architecture lecturer at Manchester University, has said that “visible light… helps to stimulate the body’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can reduce the symptoms of depression.” Visible light also “helps the human body to regulate the production of the hormone melatonin, which in turn helps to regulate our body clock, affecting sleep patterns and digestion.”

Sarah Goldhagen, an architecture critic, has also reported that when workers are exposed to natural light, they become 25 per cent more productive. Therefore, proximity to windows and what you can see through them matters to how productive your studying is.

In 1984, Roger Ulrich and his colleagues discovered that when hospital patients had a view of nature through their bedside window, they recovered an average of one day quicker, had fewer ‘post-surgical complications,’ and required fewer painkillers when compared to patients with a view of a brick wall.

While the context of busy students studying in Robarts is quite different from that of a hospital, most Robarts dwellers are subjected to an uninspiring panorama of bookshelves, the backs of necks, or just brick. The views from Robarts’ higher floors are breathtaking: skyscrapers and busy streets, dotted with tiny trees and pockets of green — but due to limited spaces in those areas, they’re hogged by a privileged few.

Taken together, these factors make up one bizarre, intimidating, yet awe-inspiring building. By understanding how ‘Robarts syndrome’ affects your mood, energy, and productivity, you can sidestep its pitfalls and try to lead a healthier, happier academic career.

A roundup of construction on campus

Understanding what is being built where and for when

A roundup of construction on campus

Construction is underway all across the University of Toronto’s St. George campus. Many of the universities old buildings are being renovated, while new buildings are going up. Here is a summary of all the major construction projects taking place on campus.

1. Robarts Library

130 St. George Street

Expected Completion: Spring 2019

According to U of T Magazine, Robarts Library sees as many as 18,000 visitors per day. Despite its massive size, U of T’s marquee library does not house enough study carrells to keep up with the demand.

The Robarts Common will be a five-storey glass structure connected to the main library, adding about 1,200 additional study spaces, bringing the total number of spaces to roughly 6,000.

This is the second phase of the Robarts revitalization project; the first phase took place between 2008 and 2012. During that time, study spaces were improved and infrastructure was added to support mobile computing and connectivity. The second phase seeks to be both practical in its implications for students and also sustainable. The addition is set to be awarded a silver rating according to the standards set by the Leadership in Energy

and Environmental Design.

2. Ramsay Wright Laboratories

25 Harbord Street

Expected Completion: Unknown

Ramsay Wright Laboratories has been undergoing a series of renovations. The date for when that can be expected is unknown, but in 2014, The Varsity reported that renovations would be completed by April 2017, although they are still underway.

A 2014 report on the renovations explained that the renovations are largely based on creating functioning laboratories that have longevity. Various science-based programs are being forced to move equipment between the labs in the Earth Sciences Centre and Ramsay Wright, and the renovations seek to remedy these issues.

3. Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship

55 St. George Street

Expected Completion: 2018

Through transparency and collaboration, the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering has involved the campus in the construction of its new home. The process of creating the Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship began in 2008. Select building elements that used to stand at the site were demolished in 2015, and the official groundbreaking took place on June 24, 2015. Construction of the CEIE is slated to be completed in 2018.

Some of the CEIE’s highlighted features include space devoted to student clubs, multidisciplinary research hubs, a dedicated alumni meeting space, eight design studios, and new prototyping and fabrication facilities. It boasts a brand new auditorium, the Lee & Margaret Lau Auditorium, which is set to be “a 500-seat interactive space meant to optimize audience engagement.” Each of the spaces has a unique and innovative design.

4. One Spadina

1 Spadina Crescent

Expected Completion: Fall 2017

The new Daniels Building has been featured in The New York Times and was one of the main attractions of this year’s Doors Open event. The project has been under close watch due not only to the location but also due to the promise surrounding it. The Daniels Faculty’s website says that the building, when completed, will be “a world-leading venue for studying, conducting research, and advocating for architecture, landscape, and sustainable urbanization.”

During Daniels Orientation and with the start of classes, the building has already begun hosting students.

The story of the ‘One Dollar Poem Guy’

We’ve all passed by Shawn DeSouza-Coelho at some point, but who is the budget poet, really?

The story of the ‘One Dollar Poem Guy’

An interesting addition to the northeast corner of St. George and Harbord has recently set up shop, and it’s not a food truck. Nestled between the neatly lined trees and the red mailbox sits a poet. Taking a brief break from scribbling in his journal, Shawn DeSouza-Coelho quietly observes the campus’ activity throughout the day. For a loonie, he’ll write you a poem about anything. All proceeds go to the Daily Bread Food Bank. He is the ‘One Dollar Poem Guy.’

The One Dollar Poem Guy at Robarts. Lisa Power/THE VARSITY

The One Dollar Poem Guy at Robarts. Lisa Power/THE VARSITY

But DeSouza-Coelho is so much more than that: poet, actor, entertainer, writer, and above all, artist. When he’s not at his poetry stand, he works as a magician specializing in mind reading. He has written the novel MetaMagic: An Introduction and has another book on the way.

In April, DeSouza-Coelho will be hosting a TEDx Talk before gearing up to travel around southern Ontario with a theatre production. Originally from Toronto, he attended the University of Waterloo for his undergrad. Initially, he was to complete his graduate studies at U of T but instead opted to return to his alma mater. Now, he finds himself back at U of T and situated at the epicentre of the campus and offering words of inspiration during exam season.

The poetry stand

“I’ve been doing it since May of last year… I started off doing it on campus at Waterloo while I was doing my Master’s there. And from there I decided to take it to Toronto… I started at Robarts [in the] beginning of February… and one of the reasons I decided to do that was because I was trying to figure out a place in Toronto where there was still a lot of foot traffic in the winter… I’ve read about it in a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg… in that book she talks about practicing letting go of writing… basically the idea behind the poetry stand is that you write a little blurb and then you give it out to the world and then let it go… Because normally when we write something we hold onto it… our internal sense or our editor sort of goes into overdrive and we… don’t want to put it out into the world because we don’t think it’s finished… but it’ll never be finished.”

What DeSouza-Coelho writes about

“I initially started doing the stand to practice my prose but then 95 per cent of people started asking for poetry. So I quickly kind of fell into writing poetry… sometimes they’ll suggest things and sometimes I ask them if they want to suggest some thing…. it’s really just a matter of whatever hits me on the spot… I have a general idea of what I want my poems to be; a general image of what I think poetry should do and… it really amounts to taking or creating a space and then filling it with language, right? That’s what I try to do with all my poems… I try to create a space. Doesn’t matter what space it is. It could be on the patio at Starbucks. It could be on the moon, it could be on Pluto, wherever… it’s just about the practice of getting something out there or getting something on the page… when I did it at Waterloo I did it at a place called The Davis Centre. And that whole building is designed to look like a microchip. A lot of people got the juxtaposition of a person writing poetry inside of this technological vestige at the University of Waterloo.”

This interview has been condensed for clarity.