St. Mike’s faculty, administration negotiating collective agreement as strike deadline looms

Faculty filed for a no-board in January, triggering a countdown for strike action

St. Mike’s faculty, administration negotiating collective agreement as strike deadline looms

After eight months of negotiations, the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) faculty and administration are heading back to the bargaining table on February 9 in pursuit of a collective agreement before the February 11 no-board deadline. A strike is imminent after 86 per cent of unit members voted in favour of job action at the college.

A no-board triggers a 17-day timer for an agreement, after which either side can legally take job action, either by striking or locking out. USMC faculty filed for a no-board with the Ontario Ministry of Labour after they were dissatisfied with negotiations during a January 19 meeting between the two sides. University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA)-USMC Chief Negotiator Michael O’Connor said that the faculty filed for the no-board as a way to increase pressure on the administration, which they felt was “not up to speed.”

If a strike should happen, undergraduate students in Book & Media Studies, Medieval Studies, Christianity and Culture, and Celtic Studies would be affected. Graduate students in the Faculty of Theology, and by extension the Toronto School of Theology, would also be affected, along with some services at the John M. Kelly Library.

“We’re hopeful that if the employer comes to the table prepared to bargain and ready with a serious effort to reach an agreement, then an agreement should be possible,” said O’Connor. “We don’t think a strike is necessary; we think it’s avoidable if the college administration is serious about reaching a deal.”

Negotiations have been ongoing since the last collective agreement expired on June 30, 2017. The two sides did not meet until August 8 and 9, after which the administration filed for conciliation to bring in an individual to mediate negotiations. Since then, they have met in September, October, December, and at the January 19 meeting.

USMC Director of Communications Stefan Slovak wrote that the administration will continue to work to secure an agreement.

“We’ve been negotiating in good faith for many months to reach an agreement with our colleagues who are members of UTFA,” reads a statement to The Varsity from USMC President David Mulroney. “We’ve tabled a comprehensive offer that tracks closely with the agreement that UTFA reached with the University of Toronto some months ago, that respects our autonomy as an institution, and that contributes to the long-term viability of our university and the community it sustains.”

Faculty and administration are at odds on four key issues, according to O’Connor. The first is greater job security. The administration has proposed a new category of limited-term contract faculty at the college. The faculty, however, believes this is “precarious employment,” and it does not motivate participation in college life.

The second is that the administration is asking for a one-year agreement, which O’Connor attributes to changes facing the college with Mulroney’s exit. This means that a new agreement would be backdated to July 1, 2017 and would send the two sides back to negotiations next summer.

“To drag things on for eight months in a way that’s felt just very frustrating, and then say we want to do this right away again just seems impractical and unreasonable to us,” said O’Connor. “So we’re looking for a multi-year agreement that would give us much more stability.”

Third, faculty are also asking for “equity and diversity in hiring,” requesting that those on hiring committees receive training and that language in USMC job ads mirror U of T’s.

Fourth, they are requesting compensation that mirrors the one per cent plus the $1,150 lump sum that U of T faculty received last June.

O’Connor said that the administration has rejected all of these proposals.

Editor’s Note (February 5): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the lump sum that U of T faculty received last June was $11.50. It was actually $1,150. 

St. Mike’s President criticizes new Canada Summer Jobs funding requirement

Blog post says requiring groups to support abortion rights “unacceptable to a Catholic university”

St. Mike’s President criticizes new Canada Summer Jobs funding requirement

University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) President David Mulroney has criticized the federal government’s cuts to Canada Summer Jobs funding for groups that oppose abortion rights.

In a blog post published on February 1 titled “Catholic Social Teaching: A pre-Lenten Reflection,” Mulroney wrote, “Canada’s federal government seems intent on making support for its pro-abortion policies a litmus test for entry into the public square. The latest affront is the requirement that institutions applying for funding under the Canada Summer Jobs Grant program attest that their core beliefs align with government policies that include support for abortion.”

The Canada Summer Jobs Grant program provides wage subsidies to help employ secondary and post-secondary students throughout the summer. The program welcomes applicants from small businesses, non-profit employers, public sector, and faith-based employers, according to Employment and Social Development Canada.

Employment Minister Patty Hajdu released a statement in April 2017 saying that anti-abortion groups would no longer receive funding in constituencies represented by Liberal MPs. Hajdu’s statement followed a report published by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada that detailed the extent to which federal funding was going toward anti-abortion groups. MPs determine where funding goes in their constituency, including the Canada Summer Jobs grant.

After Hajdu’s statement, the federal government added a mandatory attestation that applicants of the grant in all constituencies must sign. “Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada… These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

Mulroney praised the strong reaction from faith groups, including USMC Chancellor Thomas Collins who, during a meeting of multi-faith leaders at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church on January 25, highlighted the value of faith-based organizations in their contributions to their communities through summer jobs. The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto could see as many 150 summer jobs affected by the new attestation requirement.

According to Mulroney, USMC hasn’t used the Canada Summer Jobs program since 2015, and he remarked that given the new requirement to sign the attestation, it “will almost certainly not be able to use it in the future.”

“The government’s suggested work-around, that institutions simply assume that the requirement for attestation doesn’t apply to them, is unacceptable to a Catholic university on a number of counts,” wrote Mulroney. “First, this sends a terrible message to our students, whom we daily counsel to live their values to the fullest. Second, holding our noses and signing makes us both complicit and foolish, particularly if we comfort ourselves that this is a rare and not-to-be repeated assault on our values. There is a pattern developing here.”

During a town hall in Winnipeg on January 31, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the summer jobs funding issue. “There are certain groups that are specifically dedicated to fighting abortion rights for women and rights for LGBT communities and that is wrong,” said Trudeau. “That is certainly not something the federal government should be funding: to roll back the clock on women’s rights.”

Athens is burning at St. Michael’s College

The administration’s involvement in SMCSU’s ‘re-imagining’ raises serious concerns about student democracy

Athens is burning at St. Michael’s College

Students at St. Michael’s College (SMC) have been through their fair share of political turmoil in the past few years. A recently concluded financial investigation into the operations of the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) revealed evidence of kickbacks, poor record-keeping, and unidentified expenditures and cash deposits. In December 2016, Snapchat videos depicting then-current and former members of SMCSU joking about Islam were leaked onto social media. Disagreements over the appropriate role of Catholicism at SMC have created hostility and mistrust between students, staff, and SMC President David Mulroney.

In light of everything that has happened, the elections for this year’s SMCSU representatives are currently taking place under the watchful eye of the SMC administration. We acknowledge that changes to SMCSU’s operations are necessary in light of past events, but the administration is treading a path to ‘reform’ that is deeply undemocratic — and its constituents will ultimately suffer the consequences.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that the SMC administration is slowly but surely assuming control of student government at the college. After SMCSU prorogued its activities late last year, the administration appointed a ‘re-imagining committee’  of six students to establish guidelines for SMCSU’s new directions. According to committee member Haseeb Hassaan, many of the suggestions made by these students, including the proposition to add a Vice-President Equity to the SMCSU executive, were not taken into account by the administration.

In exchange, the new Student Society Leadership Policy drafted by the committee now requires leaders to “accept their ethical obligation to act in accordance to USMC’s mission as a Catholic university.” All SMCSU expenses that exceed $500 will have to be co-signed by the SMC Administrative Advisor, who will also attend all scheduled meetings as an ex-officio member once the student union begins its term.

The administration’s attempts to ‘reform’ the college have been underway for some time. Mulroney has made his disapproval of SMCSU and SMC student culture clear throughout his tenure, and he has repeatedly expressed a desire to reconnect the college with its Catholic roots. After Mulroney condemned the financial mismanagement of SMCSU’s frequent club nights last fall, SMCSU opted for a trip to a pumpkin patch while other student societies hosted successful Halloween parties.

One of the most important functions of democratic student government is to meet students’ needs in ways that a university administration cannot. This sentiment is codified in the “Aims and Purposes” section of the most up-to-date and publicly available version of SMCSU’s constitution, which states “the Union shall effectively represent the interests of its members” at the college and within the U of T community. Hired by the university, and often insulated from the more minute realities of student life, university administrations are not always in the best position to gauge what students want, or they may be more concerned with other priorities. In step student representatives as liaisons and lobbyists.

In order for relationships between student governments and administrations to be truly successful, both parties must maintain independence and mutual respect. Student representatives cannot be dissolved into figureheads.

Of course, student societies should be subject to checks and balances to avoid abuses of power. Provisions within student society constitutions exist for this very purpose. Additionally, external mechanisms such as the Policy on Open, Accessible and Democratic Autonomous Student Organizations, approved by Governing Council in June 2016, demonstrate that accountability mechanisms can be implemented while making efforts to respect the autonomy of student organizations. SMCSU and all other student societies should undoubtedly remain accountable to their constituents, but maneuvering on the part of the administration is not the way to achieve this goal.

In an editorial last year, we expressed concern that Mulroney’s attitude toward students at the college was infantilizing, and we continue to stand by that position. The actions of a few grossly reckless individuals are not representative of the vast majority of students and student leaders at SMC, who are capable of making responsible decisions — suggesting that the administration needs to babysit all SMC students is insulting.

In July, an open letter from SMC faculty and staff condemned Mulroney for criticizing SMC at the SIGNIS World Conference. Signatories expressed that Mulroney’s remarks about SMC students — which included concerns about objectification of women, excessive drinking, and a dearth of Catholic values — were disappointing and did not reflect the behaviour of all students at the college.

As conflicts persist and changes unfold, it is crucial that SMC students retain their right to freely select their own leaders. It is a mistake to assume that a heavier hand on the part of the administration will necessarily improve life at the college. Though issues of financial responsibility may be more effectively policed, if students are not respected, other problems may arise in their place. Not the least of these is the lingering resentment that undoubtedly comes from being treated like toddlers.

Also concerning is the quest to expand Catholic influence at SMC, which could have a marginalizing impact on students of other faiths. Keep in mind that many, if not most, SMC students are not Catholic, yet Hassaan was the only Muslim and non-Catholic member of the re-imagining committee. In a prior interview with The Varsity, Hassaan expressed concern that the administration was using him as a “showpiece,” and that he was selected for the committee due to the Snapchat incident that targeted his religion.

The issues that plagued the ‘old’ SMCSU were in serious need of redress, and it is understandable that the administration seeks to avoid future disasters. That does not, however, make it appropriate for university officials to set up shop in student government offices. And to non-SMC students who question the relevancy of these events to their own colleges and faculties, think of the precedent being set. Many student societies have had long and thorny relationships with administrations, which at times have led to struggles for independence. If it can happen to SMCSU, it can happen to you.

We’ll be following the SMCSU elections closely to see how the union will navigate its role within these newfound constraints. In the name of democracy and student autonomy, we suggest you do the same.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the administration’s Director of Student Life planned SMC’s orientation and that the orientation lip-sync contest was supervised to ensure the songs were appropriate. The article has been updated to reflect that neither of these instances occurred. 

Read the letter, heed its warnings

Given emerging signs of opposition from the SMC administration, President Mulroney needs to reassess his approach to governance

Read the letter, heed its warnings

In October 2016, The Varsity’s Editorial Board wrote an article concerning St. Michael’s College (SMC) President David Mulroney’s ongoing efforts to revamp the college. The Editorial Board urged Mulroney to “be careful not to lose touch with students,” as this would represent “a loss for everyone involved; students, faculty, and alumni.”

This foreshadowing came to fruition in July 2017, when disgruntled current and former members of the college administration penned an open letter condemning Mulroney’s leadership. The letter came in response to Mulroney’s speech at the SIGNIS World Conference at the Université Laval, in which Mulroney levelled numerous criticisms at the college and the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU).

It comes as no surprise that Mulroney is not happy with the college. SMC’s reputation as a ‘party college’ and past instances of financial mismanagement by SMCSU executives are legitimate concerns. However, Mulroney’s overbearing attempts to address these issues have been misguided, resulting in a leadership style that’s been considered borderline authoritarian, not just by students but also by members of the college administration.

The letter expresses the opinion that Mulroney’s speech is detrimental to SMC’s legacy. As the signatories write to Mulroney, “By choosing to offer an exclusively negative portrayal… you effectively reduced the ‘hope’ of our university to your leadership as President.” It would serve Mulroney well to heed the letter’s warnings and reconsider his approach to governance at the college.

Since he took office in the Fall of 2015, Mulroney has pushed for many changes that have had mixed results instilling the sense of ‘community’ he argues the college lacks. During his tenure, Brennan Lounge and the Coop, spaces that are central to the SMC student community, have both been renovated. At the same time, much of the SMC student community views his insistence on instilling Catholic values into the college’s student body as an unnecessary intrusion. For example, by the USMC Campus Ministry subsidizing a trip to a pro-life rally in Ottawa, students feel that Mulroney is forcing his ideology on them.

Mulroney’s policies were based on the popular mandate that SMC, as it stands today, is a shadow of its former self, and that the president’s actions are necessary to prevent the college’s secularization. The release of the open letter, which comes after a lengthy period of tension and conflict at the college, demonstrates that Mulroney is not meeting the needs of the people he is supposed to be representing. The popular mandate has disintegrated.

For all of the attempts he has made to rectify the college’s moral compass, Mulroney is not infallible. He constantly mentions that SMC is a “party college,” even presenting the SMCSU’s tacky “Cowboys and Schoolgirls” promotional event video from years past at the SIGNIS World Conference. Moreover, by constantly criticizing the SMCSU as a means to earn support for his policies, Mulroney has inflamed opposition from alumni and faculty, who cited SMCSU controversies as “irregularities” that “represent a fraction of the 5,000 students we have at the college.”

Mulroney has levelled criticisms toward college administration members for their reluctance to adapt to his changes, as well as to the non-Catholic-influenced hirings SMC has made. These actions make Mulroney seem like a dictatorial leader, unwilling to tolerate the voices of others.

Not helping matters are the power struggles taking place between the Basilian Fathers and Thomas Collins, the Catholic archbishop, for control of the college. According to the Toronto Star, Collins, who is the college’s chancellor, has asked three times that the college be turned over to him by the Basilians. Collins’ interventionist attitude has been interpreted by many faculty members to be a step too far.

Investigations conducted by the Toronto Star have revealed more troubling signs of internal upheaval. Angelo Minardi, “fired several months ago as the college’s lay chaplain” claimed that a “Golden Rule” poster, which declared that major religions of the world “adhere to the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated,” was taken down at the college on Mulroney’s orders. Minardi alleges that Mulroney told him that Catholics are not equal to other faiths. Should this allegation be true, Mulroney will find himself in further trouble, especially concerning previous allegations from his former aides about his prejudices towards LGBTQ+ students and those with different religious beliefs.

Maintaining a good image is important for a college; Mulroney is being perceived as arrogant and out of touch by those around him, and this may have significant reach. Instabilities at the college will erode the public’s trust in Mulroney’s leadership and undoubtedly affect how applicants and incoming students view the college as well. Although Mulroney has some accomplishments under his belt as President of SMC, his mishandling of public relations is damaging not only to his personal reputation but to the reputation of the college as a whole.

With less than a year until his retirement from office, Mulroney needs to demonstrate that he is listening to the college community’s criticisms of his actions. While the open letter was penned by only a few members of this community, the college as a whole has made it clear that it cannot afford to chase Mulroney’s imagination of the past.

 

Arnold Yung is a fourth-year student at St. Michael’s College studying History and Political Science. Previously, he served as a Communications Councillor on the SMC Residence Council and as a Leader and Marshal for SMC Orientation Week.

SMC faculty, staff pen open letter disavowing President David Mulroney

Open letter comes in response to Mulroney's speech at SIGNIS

SMC faculty, staff pen open letter disavowing President David Mulroney

Faculty members and staff of St. Michael’s College (SMC) have published an open letter accusing SMC President David Mulroney of dishonouring the college and its alumni. The letter, released on July 31, was signed by 22 current and former professors, associate professors, and librarians.

The letter is a response to a speech that Mulroney gave at the opening ceremony of the SIGNIS World Conference at the Université Laval, hosted by Christian media organization Salt + Light Media.

In the speech, Mulroney lamented that SMC has lost a sense of community. He stated that the undergraduate students, the Faculty of Theology, the library, and St. Basil’s Catholic Parish were all operating in isolation from each other. “We very definitely didn’t know who we are,” Mulroney said.

He played a section of a St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU) video called “Cowboys and Schoolgirls” to the conference attendees, saying that the the video was exemplary of the trajectory that St. Michael’s student culture had come to follow: “people drinking excessively” and “women being objectified.”

“These were the great communicators of our narrative,” Mulroney added. “We’d given up communicating the message.” He reiterated that the student union was improper in its use of social media, referring to the SMCSU scandal that broke last December regarding a series of leaked Snapchat videos.

The open letter argues that Mulroney’s criticisms of the culture at SMCSU do not reflect the behaviour of all its constituents. “We believe this is a distorted picture, and a disservice to the nearly 5,000 undergraduate students in the Arts & Science Division and over 200 graduate students in the Faculty of Theology,” the letter reads.

Mulroney also said that U of T has become a “much more aggressively secular institution” since his time as a student, citing what he saw as the secularization of Trinity College and Victoria College, U of T’s two other federated colleges. He said that he doesn’t want to see SMC follow the same path. He noted that SMC stopped recruiting from Catholic-related institutions and, as a result, has attracted more non-Catholic students, causing SMC to be “involved in this continuous process of dialling down the salient points of our [Catholic] identity.”

He also criticized SMC for not providing a “Catholic voice” to speak on the spread of euthanasia around Canada, something he regards as a significant failure.” The writers of the open letter disagree, stating that “as the euthanasia debate heated up in this country in 2013, students in our Christianity and Culture programme hosted an open forum—an event which was covered favourably in the Catholic press.”

The letter concludes: “It was very disappointing and embarrassing to members of this community who have come to appreciate the gifts of our students and the legacy of the University of St. Michael’s College as a leader in post-secondary education… Your remarks, in our judgement, have dishonoured this legacy and shaken our confidence in you as President.”

Mark McGowan, the Principal at SMC from 2002–2011 and a signatory of the letter, told The Varsity that “since [Mulroney] made the comments and showed a clip from an off campus ‘party’ video to an international conference, whose proceedings were being filmed and disseminated by Salt  & Light Media, we thought it necessary that our defense of the vast majority of hardworking, conscientious, and gifted SMC students be made in a public manner.” McGowan explained that the letter “signaled our public support for our students and alumni.”

This turn of events comes just one month after it was announced that Mulroney would be stepping down as President and that a presidential search committee had been established to find his replacement. Mulroney assumed the role in June 2015 following a lengthy career in the Canadian Foreign Service.

Mulroney has been outspokenly critical about SMC in the past: he has criticized SMCSU, The Mike, other SMC student groups, and called for a total reform of SMC in September 2016.

The Varsity has reached out to SMC for comment.

This article has been updated to include comment from former SMC Principal Mark McGowan.

Introducing Comment in Brief

Comment writers provide short takes on major news stories The Varsity broke this summer

Introducing Comment in Brief

Welcome to the first edition of Comment in Brief, a reactive, online-focused subsection featuring short-form responses to The Varsity’s news stories. Briefs will be posted on our website shortly after news stories are published online and later compiled in print.

A series of briefs on news from over the summer is provided below.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

May 1, “Inside the 2017 Ontario budget”

The 2017 Ontario Budget, released earlier this year, could significantly impact the lives of those who live in the province. Under Premier Kathleen Wynne, the Liberals have allotted budgetary spending for housing reform and have proposed measures to address rising electricity prices. They have also implemented changes intended to boost employment and increase access to prescription drugs for youth. None of these items on the budget, however, are as notable as the Liberals’ new healthcare policy, in line with years of well-developed Canadian policy.

In the US, a war is being waged over Americans’ access to basic health coverage. The Republican US Senate is set on repealing the Affordable Care Act and possibly instituting a replacement, the details of which are largely unknown. For years, Senate members have been debating this topic, and the situation is made worse by an ongoing opioid crisis that surely requires a sustainable healthcare policy in order to be effectively addressed.

Meanwhile, Canadians are in a significantly better position when it comes to healthcare, and the Ontario government has added a “booster shot”  of resources to its healthcare budget for 2017. The changes made to youth drug coverage seek to provide those aged 24 and under with the medication they need within the terms of the Ontario Drug Benefit program. The health budget will also rise by $7 billion — a 3.3 per cent hike over the next three years — and these additional funds are expected to be used to build and revamp hospitals to meet growing demand.

Let’s be thankful that healthcare was one of the top priorities in the 2017 Ontario Budget — what’s happening south of the border shows us just how worse things could be.

Chantel Ouellet is a fourth-year student at Woodsworth College studying Political Science.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

May 1, “Jordan Peterson’s federal funding denied, Rebel Media picks up the tab”

Earlier this year, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) rejected Jordan Peterson’s federal funding requests for the very first time. Contrary to what he and his supporters may believe, this denial is nothing particularly special; the process of obtaining need-based grants is often painstaking.

Peterson earns a substantial income from other activities, suggesting that there are others in the grant applicant pool who are in greater need of funding. Peterson’s Patreon account, used to fund his online lectures and related materials, earns him more than $50,000 per month. He receives a significant public salary just by nature of being a tenured professor — during his tenure, he has talked at length about how Frozen is feminist “propaganda.” It is entirely within the SSHRC’s jurisdiction to deny him further funding, given his high income.

Even if Peterson’s activities were more academically focused, SSHRC selection committees are comprised of scientific experts. It is entirely plausible that Peterson’s research proposal was found to be lacking in substance, especially given his significant shift in interest over the past few years, targeting topics like ‘political correctness’ as opposed to more academically legitimate pursuits in the field of personality psychology.

Though he has stated otherwise, it is also possible that Peterson’s grant money was to be used for explicitly political purposes: a post on his Patreon stated that the income he collects is ostensibly for the purpose of “[taking] the humanities back from the corrupt postmodernists.” The repeated, troubling statements about gender identity that Peterson made last year suggest that his ideals are often contradictory to those that any good public university espouses, such as openness and inclusiveness toward students regardless of their identity. It makes sense to deny money to someone who denies his students respect and dignity by refusing to recognize them as they are.

Arjun Kaul is a fourth-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Neuroscience.

STEVEN LEE/THE VARSITY

May 11, “Indigenous art exhibition poster vandalized with racist slur”

The vandalism of a poster advertising Indigenous artwork at Hart House this summer is far from an anomalous incident; rather, it reflects a much bigger problem of racism and urban inequality that has long been ignored.

In our city, the plight of Indigenous folks is too often eclipsed by headlines concerning far-off, rural communities. In some media coverage, racism against Indigenous peoples is relegated to distant reserves and the Highway of Tears. The sad truth is that prejudice is alive and well in Toronto, we just rarely hear about it.

Meanwhile, deficiencies in data collection methodologies regarding Indigenous people in Toronto suggest that government numbers on this population are wildly inaccurate, likely making it more difficult to implement policies that will positively impact the Indigenous population. While the 2006 Census of Population estimated the number of Indigenous people in the Greater Toronto Area to be 31,910, the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council puts the real number closer to 70,000. One would expect a city that prides itself on multiculturalism to have come up with better surveying methods. Mandatory questionnaires were replaced with the voluntary National Health Survey in 2011, meaning numbers for urban Indigenous populations are now more imprecise.

Though it might be perceived as a disturbing one-off, the act of vandalism at Hart House was a glimpse at a crisis that typically remains hidden, and more needs to be done to bring it to light. Engaging in conversations about racism against Indigenous people and developing reliable data collection methods in collaboration with Indigenous groups are important first steps.

Katie MacIntosh is a fourth-year student at Trinity College studying Psychology and Linguistics.

UNIVERSITY OF ST. MICHAEL’S COLLEGE/FACEBOOK

June 7, “St. Michael’s College group attends pro-life demonstration in Ottawa”

On May 11, the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) sent 23 people to the March for Life, a large ‘pro-life’ demonstration that takes place annually on Parliament Hill. The ‘pro-life’ movement, for me and many others who support basic rights and access to healthcare, represents a serious threat to bodily autonomy and public health. The preventable deaths from complications of unsafe illegal abortions in anti-choice regimes demonstrate how ‘pro-life’ policies often have the opposite effect than intended.

As a conservatively religious institution, USMC has a reputation it must uphold. As such, it is unsurprising that the Campus Ministry provided approximately $1,800 to subsidize participant costs, that USMC President David Mulroney accompanied the group, and that USMC Director of Communications, Events and Outreach Stefan Slovak defended the trip by categorizing those who crusade on behalf of “the sanctity of human life” as “marginalized and silenced in Canadian society.”

What stuns me, however, is that 14 students were willing to pay $100 to take a bus to Ottawa and yell about the way people use their uteri. There must be better ways to spend $100. That amount would get you at least three copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves, an informative guide to reproductive health, or, fittingly, 6.66 student tickets to Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Hart House, a musical about a botched sex change perfect for impassioned religious groups. You could even donate it to one of the innumerable charities that actually protect the “sanctity of human life” by providing food and shelter to real people.

Telling me how I should be allowed to treat my body is offensive, and spending $100 to do it is just foolish. If USMC plans to subsidize the retraction of reproductive rights, then I hope they have their books in order — it seems it won’t be cheap.

Sarah Millman is a fourth-year student at Trinity College studying Criminology, International Relations, and Political Science.

NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

June 22, “BC student union accuses CFS of collusion in local student union elections”

Though the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has championed itself as the heart and soul of the student movement, it has simultaneously been at the forefront of controversy in student politics circles for years. A recent motion now alleges that former National Chairperson Bilan Arte, along with other CFS executives, colluded with pro-CFS slates in student union elections, and that Arte received assistance from the CFS Communications Department during her own campaign for the University of Manitoba Students’ Union presidency in 2013. And really, is anyone surprised?

Not only does this represent a threat to student democracy, but these leaks should have us scrutinizing other instances of CFS collaboration with student union slates. Meanwhile, CFS Executive Director Toby Whitfield claims that the allegations about Arte are fabricated in order to break “student unity.” This would be more convincing if many other students’ unions across Canada had not made similar claims of CFS interference in their own elections, such as when CFS  members campaigned to help incumbent slates at York University in 2010. Though student unity is incredibly important, the CFS is an organization that threatens student democracy by interfering with the ability of the student body to choose their leaders. The CFS can either find a way to reconcile with the unions that are making these claims, or alternatively, it can dissolve and let the activists behind the organization rebuild and improve a student movement from the bottom up.

Haseeb Hassaan is a fourth-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Political Science.

SMC President criticizes SMCSU, calls for renewal

Mulroney to present report on proposed reforms to relationship between university, student groups to SMC Collegium

SMC President criticizes SMCSU, calls for renewal

David Mulroney, the President of the University of St. Michael’s College (SMC) announced Monday his intentions to reform the university’s relationship with its main student groups: the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU), The Mike newspaper, and the St. Michael’s Resident’s Council.

Mulroney plans to report to the Collegium — the highest governing body at SMC — Wednesday about the creation of a “new constitution” aimed at correcting a disconnect between the university and its student groups. The announcement was made in the form of an article on the university’s website and refers to this disconnect as the existence of “two solitudes.”

Mulroney’s article focuses on what he calls “disconnects between SMCSU’s program of activities and our mission as a Catholic University,” and says that SMC’s “dubious” reputation as U of T’s party school has come about as a result of events held by SMCSU.

“I was struck by the number of events I had attended where I saw many staff and alumni, but at which students were largely absent,” he wrote. “Similarly, SMCSU’s program of activities had almost nothing to do with the life of a Catholic intellectual community.”

Mulroney also called Brennan Hall — which houses a lounge space and the SMCSU offices — an “unfriendly territory for all but a small group of insiders.”

“I rarely completed a circuit of Brennan Hall without stopping to talk to students about inappropriate language and anti-social behaviour,” he continued.

He also expressed concern’s over the SMCSU’s financial management and transparency, which is the focus of an ongoing investigation that the college is conducting.

“[S]tudent government was, at its highest levels, embracing a closed, entitlement culture that actually parodied what good government is all about,” Mulroney writes. “As a former public servant who cares deeply about these things, it pained me to see SMCSU’s senior leadership adopt—and enforce—a lifestyle and practices that would be more suitable at a fraternity house,” a portion of the article reads.

Mulroney indicated that his report will be made public once it is reviewed by the Collegium.

This story is developing, more to follow.

 

In conversation: Randy Boyagoda

The Varsity sits down with the new principal of St. Michael’s College

In conversation:  Randy Boyagoda

St. Michael’s College will soon welcome a new principal.

The college announced that Randy Boyagoda will be stepping into the role of principal and vice-president of the University of St. Michael’s College effective July 1.

Boyagoda has had a lengthy career in education, including work as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, as a professor of American Studies at Ryerson University, as the chair of the English department at Ryerson, and most recently as the Director of Zone Learning at Ryerson.

The Zone Learning program at Ryerson University is a new take on education; it inserts startup culture and methodology into a classroom setting, allowing students from different fields to come together and create something new and exciting.

“My job for the past three years has been to help grow this program to create opportunities for students basically to live out the mission of the university beyond the classroom. In year one we had thirteen students in one zone, three years later we have 650 students in ten zones,” he explained. “I’m an English professor. It isn’t because I’m a tech guy or a business guy, it’s because we saw the energy and creativity involved with startup culture an opportunity to take Ryerson’s kind of mission to provide career relevant, professionally-engaged education and reimagine it for the 21st century.”

Standing by the welcome sign. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Standing by the welcome sign. NATHAN CHAN/THE VARSITY

Boyagoda thinks of Ryerson University as a school that is constantly trying to improve and wants to bring this spirit of self-improvement to St. Michael’s College.

“How can we ever better a place when [mass communications theorist Marshall] McLuhan was here and [French philosopher] Etienne Gilson was here? You know, I think instead the idea here is to be inspired by that history and to believe and to work to make sure the best years are ahead for our students, our faculty, and our staff,” he said.

Having completed his undergraduate degree at U of T in 1999, Boyagoda is no stranger to the campus, and reminisces about his personal experience while attending U of T as an undergrad.

“I think what I enjoyed about being here is, it’s sort of like pitching from Yankee stadium, right? I mean, this is a school like no other in Canada and like a few in the world and the range of educational experiences and intellectual opportunities at U of T are amazing.”

Boyagoda also noted that the college system at U of T is important for offering different types of communities and compensates for the school’s large size.

“In that mix, St. Mike’s has a really important role to play, I think. Providing what I would describe as an inclusive and demanding place, we want the very best of you, we believe in you, we believe in what you want to do and that means living out the fullness of your aspirations as a student and a person.”