The Breakdown: Commuter resources on campus

Lounges, special dons, pancakes among commuter services

The Breakdown: Commuter resources on campus

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

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

Innis College

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

New College

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

IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

St. Michael’s College

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

Trinity College

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

University College (UC)

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

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

Victoria College

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

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

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

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

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

IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

Woodsworth College

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

UTSC

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

UTM

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

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

Colleges, student unions expand representation for international students

U of T welcomed 19,187 international students last year

Colleges, student unions expand representation for international students

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

UTSU

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

UTGSU

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

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

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

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

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

UTMSU

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

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

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

SCSU

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

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

Innis College

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

New College

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

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

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

University College

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

Victoria College

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

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

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

Woodsworth College

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

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

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

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

St. Michael’s College registrarial assistant has history of derogatory posts on social media

SMC administration aware of posts, “deplores” any derogatory language

St. Michael’s College registrarial assistant has history of derogatory posts on social media

Evidence has surfaced that St. Michael’s College (SMC) Registrarial Assistant Philip Hicks-Malloy’s social media have included derogatory posts that have targeted women, Muslims, and other marginalized groups.

Many of the postings targeted prominent female politicians, including former US Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, with a post calling her “a lying, satanic witch from hell.” The postings also shared a video about former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, above which he commented, “This Whore Bitch!!!!!!”

Screenshot taken from Facebook.

Among the content that has been shared on Hicks-Malloy’s social media was a post that called halal — a guideline that includes what foods are permissible in Islam — a “symbol of treason.” The post was a response to confectionary company Cadbury producing halal foods. On this shared post, Hicks-Malloy’s social media had added a comment saying, “Boycott this product!”

Also included was a shared post on Facebook that read, “People of European descent need to wake up and realize that our culture and identity is being strategically attacked by the Left,” as well as a post that claimed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was legalizing bestiality, which Trudeau has not.

Screenshot taken from Facebook.

Hicks-Malloy’s social media also shared posts from alt-right figures such as Faith Goldy and Milo Yiannopoulos. Goldy has been associated with white nationalists, is a former contributor at The Rebel Media, and is running for mayor of Toronto. Yiannopoulos, a former editor for far-right website Breitbart, has made derogatory comments toward marginalized groups in the past and collaborated with white nationalists.

Also on Hicks-Malloy’s Facebook timeline were many posts criticizing Toronto Pride, with one saying that Black Lives Matter had “infiltrated… [Toronto] Pride and have turned everyone against the police.”

Hicks-Malloy, who, according to his Facebook profile, is in a same-sex marriage, had described himself in a Facebook comment on his timeline as a “gay Homophobe,” and he had also shared a post saying that “the greatest threat to LGBT rights is the Liberal LGBT community.”

The Varsity reached out to Hicks-Malloy multiple times for comment but did not receive a reply. Soon after The Varsity’s attempts to reach him, many of his social media accounts, including Facebook and YouTube, were deleted.

In response to the discovery of Hicks-Malloy’s social media accounts in June 2018, then-SMC President David Mulroney told The Varsity in an email that “the University of St. Michael’s College deplores any use of language that fails to acknowledge the dignity, respect and worth of every person and that is inconsistent with the values of the University, which are rooted in the Gospel.”

Screenshot taken from Facebook.

According to then-SMC Director of Communications, Events, and Outreach Stefan Slovak, SMC had discovered the issue a few days prior to The Varsity’s request for comment in June 2018. Slovak said that they are “taking the issue seriously, but cannot comment further.”

SMC’s new president, David Sylvester, told The Varsity in an email, “I became aware of this situation when I began my term at the beginning of July, and am aware of a previous statement made at the time by President David Mulroney, which captures our current position perfectly.”

“We take this matter seriously, and are not in a position to offer any further comment at this time,” wrote Sylvester.

When asked about the situation this month, he responded, “St. Michael’s has addressed this situation in full accordance with the University’s policies.”

“St. Michael’s takes seriously its responsibilities to ensure that all USMC community members conduct themselves professionally at all times. We will not be commenting further regarding what is now an internal matter,” he continued.

According to Hicks-Malloy’s LinkedIn profile, which has also been deleted, he has worked for SMC for 29 years. As of press time, Hicks-Malloy is still listed as a registrarial assistant on SMC’s website.

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.”

St. Michael’s College funds pro-life group

U of T Students For Life faces allegations of inappropriate conduct

St. Michael’s College funds pro-life group

University of Toronto Students for Life (UTSFL) received $1,450 in funding this year from the St. Michael’s College Student Union (SMCSU).

Criticisms have been circulating this year that the group’s conduct borders on inappropriate. Allegedly, their graphic, bold activism on campus has triggered students. Their activism includes participating in ‘Choice Chains,’ where students stand on public sidewalks with images of aborted foetuses in an attempt to engage the public.

SMC funding

“If these allegations are true, I would 100 per cent condemn aggressive tactics,” said Stefan Sistilli Sguazzin, president of the SMCSU.

Emily Posteraro, co-founder of University of Toronto Students for Choice (SFC), said that “the college should consider the impacts of this group on the rest of the U of T community. Anyone who walks by their demonstrations is affected, especially folks with a female-assigned reproductive system who could have, or already have had, to make a decision regarding the termination of a pregnancy. It makes campus more unwelcoming to those people. Many people approached us during our demonstration to thank us and I have heard many others express their disapproval of the UTSFL.”

SFC was created in direct response to the UTSFL and its actions.

“In Canada, we’re in the midst of hugely consequential debates about the very nature of life. At a university, it is particularly important that all perspectives in this debate are allowed to be heard, including those seeking to defend the sanctity of life from conception to natural death,” said David Mulroney, president of the University of St. Michael’s College, in a statement to The Varsity.

Joseph Crimi, vice president of the SMCSU, said that they do not endorse their action or their vision, but that they support them as a club. “If we do get formal statements and complaints, we would heavily take them into consideration when determining what they get, if they do get anything,” Crimi said.

It remains to be seen what influence, if any, a Catholic leadership at St. Michael’s has when it comes to distinguishing between which clubs should be funded and endorsed. David Mulroney, a practicing Catholic, took up his position as president this academic year.

UTSFL are unwilling to compromise for what they view as a radical injustice and do not cede the choice of individuals as taking precedence over the existence of life from fertilization even in the cases of rape and incest. “Rape is a horrific crime, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be a victim of rape. But abortion doesn’t un-rape somebody, and it doesn’t make it okay to kill the innocent child because of the father’s crime. In our country we wouldn’t even give the death penalty to the rapist, but we would give the death penalty to the innocent child,” said Blaise Alleyne, education coordinator at the UTSFL and a masters of theology student at Regis College.

Anti-abortion groups at Ryerson, OUIT, and UTM have all been defunded and are no longer recognized by their respective campuses. UTM’s SFL group is currently suing the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union because of this.

Engagement tactics

On the pamphlets UTSFL distributes, which come from  pro-life organization Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, the following is printed: “Each year, 100,000 pre-born children are decapitated, dismembered, and disemboweled by abortion in Canada. It’s hidden behind clinic and hospital doors. Worse, this brutal reality is hidden behind rhetoric like ‘choice’.”

Mary*, a volunteer from the Sexual Education Centre (SEC), described how that community has been informally responding to the escalation from UTSFL this year. Volunteers at SEC took to standing by at SFL demonstrations and escorting students who feel threatened past the demonstrators. “People would see that and then just go check it out and make sure people were okay who were in the space… there are a couple of times where I’ve walked out [and] I’ve gone by and stood by the protesters and kept an eye on people who were walking by, and just talk to people who were visibly upset,” she said.

Mary and other SEC volunteers are concerned with the emotional wellbeing of people who interact with the demonstrators, after seeing people brought to tears by the demonstrations.

“The need to escort people, I don’t think, is a necessary factor when you’re demonstrating,” said Sguazzin.

Response

“We took issue in particular with their large, disturbing, and misleading signs that may be troubling, triggering, or shaming for those who have gotten abortions. I spoke with one student who told me that she had had an abortion in the past, and she felt disrespected and vulnerable seeing this group being so active on campus and making fierce arguments against abortion towards students who may have sensitive histories with this topic,” said Teodora Pasca, co-founder of SFC.

The UTSFL responded that the only signs they use in demonstrations represent first-trimester abortions, but that they occasionally partner with external groups that use signs depicting third-trimester abortions. These types of images have come under criticism for incorrectly depicting the reality of most abortions, which occur in the first trimester.

Althea Blackburn-Evans, director of news & media relations at U of T, told The Varsity that under the Policy on Recognition of Campus Groups, “the University will not attempt to censor, control or interfere with any group on the basis of its philosophy, beliefs, interests or opinions expressed unless and until these lead to activities which are illegal or which infringe the rights and freedoms already mentioned. By the same token, recognition as a ‘campus group’ by the University implies neither endorsement of a particular group’s beliefs or philosophy, nor the assumption of legal liability for the group’s activities.”

“Obviously our images can be triggers… But given the weight, given that human lives are at stake, given that people who may have had abortions before may well make that decision again — in relatively large numbers — when we go to the public sidewalks, if there were a way for us to skip over the people that have had an abortion and never will again, I would love to be able to do that. But the stakes are high and we know that people are going to walk by. We also do carry resources on us for people facing crisis pregnancies, but also for people that have had abortions,” said Alleyne.

Disclosure: Teodora Pasca is an associate comment editor for The Varsity.