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A letter to the graduating class of 2019

There’s no rush to figure it out — your time will come

A letter to the graduating class of 2019

My own post-grad period was filled with self-doubt which bordered on intense self-hatred, with confronting situations I thought I had already overcome, and with a desire for a seemingly-impossible better life.

If I have one piece of advice for those who are about to become graduates, it’s that you need to give yourself time. This can apply to any number of things: from finding a job, to getting into grad school, to figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life.

You’re so young, and I know how ridiculous this must sound. I felt it was ridiculous too, but there is no rush to figure any of these questions out. I know it seems that way because you’ve either got people you want to make proud — looking at you, diaspora students — or you want to save the world as soon as possible. 

I want you to waste daylight. I want you to know that it is okay to spend time existing plainly, without a purpose. I want you to know that someday you will miss the times when you had nothing better to do than sit around and watch Netflix or listen to music. 

One day, you’ll be on a packed train, finishing up your morning commute, and silently cursing yourself for not reading your book in a more comfortable setting. You’ll miss waking up to the rain falling at 11:00 am. These moments that seem like curses of an uncertain period are actually moments you can spend starting to heal. 

You worked so hard in university, regardless of the cGPA you graduated with. Things will happen eventually; do not try to rush into doing things that may not be the best for you. Never try to bury your emotions — talk or write about them. Know that you are not alone in your fear of the future. The best years of your life are yet to be finished, and there is nothing more important for your well-being than taking care of yourself. 

Your time will come. And whenever it does, I know that you will make the best of it. Figuring yourself out is a learning curve; there is no use in wishing that things would be perfect immediately. I’ve learned that the best thing about the unknown is that, in a way, it will stay with you forever. Even when we think we have things figured out, things can change overnight. The best thing for you is, and will always be, to live your life without trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel. It’ll come to you eventually. Just trust yourself, and live your truth in the meantime.

So, for all the 2019 grads, take the time to go for a stroll around Toronto, especially if you’re planning on moving away. You’ll miss it.

Support 140 years of campus journalism — The Varsity’s levy is worth it

Why the student press is vital under the Student Choice Initiative

Support 140 years of campus journalism — <i>The Varsity</i>’s levy is worth it

In 1890, on the 10-year anniversary of The Varsity’s founding, its editors wrote to the student body to thank them for their support of the young newspaper. In words that still ring true to this day, they promised “to make The Varsity a mirror of the events, the lights and the shadows of college life, and moreover a true exponent of the views of the undergraduates of the University of Toronto.”

The Varsity is one of Canada’s oldest student newspapers and one that takes its role as a platform for student voice no less lightly. Yet we are presently facing an existential threat: the Ontario provincial government’s Student Choice Initiative (SCI), which allows students to opt out of our levy.

After almost a century-and-a-half of serving the University of Toronto community, we are writing to you now to ask for your continued support of our mission to provide meaningful and balanced journalism. Please stay opted in to The Varsity’s levy.

We know that this is no small favour. While our per-semester fee is one of the lowest in Canada — $2.87 for undergraduate students and $0.80 for graduate students — there are students for whom opting out of all fees would provide enormous financial relief. However, for those with the means to do so, we ask that you consider supporting The Varsity’s work. 

This includes our efforts to keep students informed about our community, to act as a watchdog for campus institutions, and to provide a platform for students to speak on the issues of the day. We also provide a wide range of opportunities for students to develop their professional skills, whether through writing for seven different sections, or through photography, illustration, graphic design, and copy editing. Through their contributions, students can be a part of the larger student life and community at U of T. 

With our consistent record of financial transparency and journalistic excellence, we hope that you will put your trust in us to keep you informed.

Our recent work

Whenever news breaks that affects campus life in a major way, The Varsity is always there to uncover the truth and deliver it to more than 100,000 students, staff, and faculty at the University of Toronto.

Consider when the then-Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities and current Minister of Long-Term Care, Merrilee Fullerton, announced the SCI back in January under a cloud of suspicion. Our reporter was the only journalist at the Queen’s Park press conference to ask about an apparent lack of consultation with students and campus organizations in the decision-making process.

We were also the first newspaper, ahead of other more established media outlets, to publish the unofficial guidelines of the SCI, lifting the veil on what had been a highly secretive process until that point. It was the first time that the public was able to see which groups were specifically targeted.

Our reporting has also drawn attention to important administrative decisions on campus. In the fall of 2017, we revealed that U of T was proposing a university-mandated leave of absence policy, which allows the institution to unilaterally place a student on leave from school for mental health reasons.

We covered the policy from start to finish, amid strong public outcry from students and even the intervention of Renu Mandhane, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. And since then, we have been on the ground to document the ongoing mental health crisis on campus.

The Varsity’s journalism has also brought along real change. When The Varsity and The Queen’s Journal, the student newspaper of Queen’s University, reported that the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities had come under fire for delaying the results of the provincial survey on sexual violence on campus, the survey was released to the public soon after, shining a light on the important topic.

The SCI as a challenge to student community

A student newspaper provides a service central to a campus community from which all members can benefit, as we’ve noted in a past editorial. Levies enable students to collectively pool resources to provide services accessible to all. As noted in that editorial, the opt-out model is problematic because it treats students as private, individual consumers, as opposed to participants in a broader community.

Consider Canada’s single-payer health care system: we all pay into and benefit from essential health care services. But the dilemma, as with health care, is that students do not always know that they need a particular service until they actually need it. Even if you do not regularly interact with The Varsity today, you could benefit from our services in the future — such as our ability to hold campus institutions, especially the U of T administration and student unions, accountable.

National media outlets also rely on campus newspapers like The Varsity to pick up on campus stories that would otherwise be underreported. We have a track record of doing this, from reporting on Muslims Students’ Association executives receiving surprise visits from law enforcement, to covering protests to student death on campus. These are just two recent examples of U of T stories that have received wider attention.

We also understand that students are frustrated that their levies might be abused, especially by student-run organizations. But The Varsity is on the frontline when it comes to student union accountability and financial mismanagement, such as when broke the story about the University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) lawsuit against its former executive director and two executives.

While student unions such as the UTSU still have much of their levy considered to be “essential” under the provincial government’s guidelines, The Varsity does not. Staying opted in to The Varsity enables us to ensure that student organizations spend your essential fees responsibly.

The opt-out option makes it difficult for us to hold institutions accountable. The challenge is not just the possible loss of our funding. Each year, The Varsity must wait until autumn to determine our funding, rather than be assured of it well in advance. The opt-out option therefore destabilizes our operational stability by creating financial uncertainty and thereby obstructing long-term plans and projects.

Future projects 

With the federal election coming up, we hope to be the definitive source of information on student issues for the University of Toronto community. Much like how we covered the recent provincial and municipal elections, we aim to profile candidates running in all three University of Toronto ridings, host debates, and provide political analysis.

The Varsity also aims to increase coverage of the crucial issue of the global climate crisis. The University of Toronto is an immense institution and there are a myriad of stories waiting to be unearthed about how the school and the people in it are helping — or not helping — the fight against the climate crisis.

Moreover, we hope to continue our expansion of UTM and UTSC coverage, which was made possible with the creation of bureau chiefs for the two campuses last year following a successful levy increase the year before. Having these positions enabled us to break major stories and cover student unions more effectively, and we plan to expand into covering other areas of student life.

Finally, there are countless ongoing projects that require more resources, such as our blog, our efforts to highlight marginalized groups on campus, our video coverage of U of T sports teams, and our new events calendar, which we hope will become the go-to place to find a comprehensive list of events around the university. 

These projects are made possible through our student levy, without which we would not be able to fund them. We are very excited to bring them to life and others like it, but we need your support to make it happen.

Earning your trust

We are humbled by the past century of trust placed in us by students and we hope to keep it through not only continued truthful reporting but also through financial and governance transparency.

On our website, you can find our audited financial statements of the past decade. The Varsity is grateful to be funded by students and we are committed to telling you where your money goes. This includes how we pay our editors a fair wage in line with other student publications and provide professional development opportunities to our hundreds of contributors.

The Varsity is also committed to openness in governance, and our Board of Directors, which is run by students and open to all members, provides oversight on our operations. Any student can run to serve on it. Likewise, our Public Editor holds The Varsity accountable and addresses readers’ concerns.

For the past 140 years, The Varsity has been fortunate to have had the support of the students it serves, and we hope to be able to continue to provide the U of T community with comprehensive and trustworthy coverage for years to come. The University of Toronto is a vibrant university filled with brilliant, compassionate members from diverse backgrounds. It is only with your support that we can continue to be both a mirror and a spotlight for our community.

Students can choose their opt-out selections for the fall 2019 term on ACORN by September 19.

To learn more about our work, and why you should stay opted in to The Varsity’s levy, visit https://thevarsity.ca/dont-opt-out.

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

Op-ed: Why you should ChooseUofT this year

U of T students depend on services threatened by the Student Choice Initiative

Op-ed: Why you should ChooseUofT this year

When the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities released the official Tuition Fee Framework and Ancillary Fee Guidelines document in March 2019, student societies all across Ontario braced for the changes to come. Here at the University of Toronto, that story was no different.

Under the framework, certain incidental fees are considered “essential,” while many other fees that are important to student life have been designated as “non-essential.” These can no longer be charged on a compulsory basis like in previous years.

Over the past few months, the University of Toronto’s Office of the Vice-Provost, Students has assessed all student groups to determine which, if any, areas of their budgets could fall into the “essential” categories. Unfortunately, the provincial government’s fee framework does not take into account the importance of some of the programming that is provided by many of the student groups on campus. This has regrettably rendered certain groups with extremely high percentages of their budgets considered ‘non-essential,’ putting their ability to operate at serious risk next year.

While many of the services categorized as ‘essential’ are important, much of what has been deemed as ‘non-essential’ by the framework is equally so. Regardless of how important these resources may be for students, the provincial government has inadvertently placed them in serious financial jeopardy. Many services pertaining to orientation, clubs, and student activity are now classified as non-compulsory.

One example of such organization is Downtown Legal Services (DLS), a community legal clinic that offers counselling to low-income community members and U of T students with housing, employment, immigration disputes, and more, all at no cost. Its entire levy has been deemed ‘non-essential’ by the university. Coupled with cuts to Legal Aid Ontario and tuition cuts affecting the Faculty of Law also impacting revenue streams, this places DLS in serious danger of having to drastically reduce the services it provides.

Other important humanitarian-based organizations that have been similarly affected include The World University Service of Canada, which, as part of its services, sponsors student refugees to study at the University of Toronto by providing tuition, housing, and employment support. Students for Barrier-free Access, which provides important supports and services for students with disabilities, and the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)-run Food Bank at the Multi-Faith Centre which provides food services for low-income students, also face an uncertain future.

Unfortunately, the list of threatened services just keeps going. Fees for financial aid bursaries, family care, and housing services are all considered to be ‘non-essential’ under the framework. 

Students who depend on these services are now subject to the will of individual students, each deciding on their own on whether or not to pay their fees. Since these changes have been so dramatic, and since there’s no concrete way of knowing how these services will be affected this year until September, it is no surprise that talk of a campaign began to surface when student society executives entered their new roles this past May.

Realizing how serious these changes were going to be, many student societies across campus started discussing their planned reactions to these new guidelines. These early meetings kickstarted a series of deliberations that would ultimately result in the ChooseUofT Campaign, which you may have recently spotted on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed.

As a result of collaborative work between the UTSU, Arts and Science Students’ Union, eight service groups, seven colleges, and five faculty student associations, ChooseUofT asks students to consider the value that student groups and their services add to our campus. It asks students to remember their favourite experience from orientation, the night out they might have had at a formal, and the free snack they received at a library during exam season. While we may have had the privilege of these experiences, future students may be barred from doing so in light of these changes.

ChooseUofT has given campus groups the opportunity to show students just how essential their ‘non-essential’ fees are, each in their own unique way. Surprisingly, what started out as a dilemma has now given groups the opportunity to look deeply at what they offer to students. We have learned from each other and found ways to improve what we provide for this year and the years ahead. 

With that being said, the only way we can all benefit from these changes is if we decide to support each other. Now, more than ever, student societies are fighting to keep their services and activities alive. Each of the participating student groups and services is being showcased on the ChooseUofT website in great detail. It is imperative that we as students support each other and improve our student experience together. 

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we ChooseUofT, because the student experience that we take for granted will never be the same if we do not.

From the ChooseUofT campaign, we ask that you join us in investing in our student life, and that you consider what a service or fee means to you and others prior to unchecking that box. We ask this for the students who do not have a choice, for the students who rely on these programs, and for the students who would not be a part of our community without them.

This fall, we ask that you choose your peers, classmates, and friends. This fall, we ask that you ChooseUofT in the least cliché way possible. There’s so much at stake this year, and it is up to all of us to support our peers and help keep our community great. 

Students can choose their opt-out selections for the fall 2019 term on ACORN by September 19.

Joshua Bowman is a fifth-year Political Science and Indigenous Studies student at St. Michael’s College, and the President of the UTSU. Keenan Krause is a third-year International Relations, History, and Diaspora & Transnational Studies at Trinity College, and the UTSU Director of Humanities. Dermot O’Halloran is a third-year student at the Faculty of Music, and the Vice-President of Professional Faculties at the UTSU. Devon Wilton is a fourth-year Human Physiology and Ethics, Society and Law student at Victoria College, and a Chief Executive Assistant for the UTSU. They are members of the Choose UofT campaign.

A Myers-Briggs for the romantically active

Where to eat, drink, and be merry

A Myers-Briggs for the romantically active

If you’re new to Toronto, or even just the downtown core, it can be tough to navigate the best dating spots. And, of course, who are you to go on a subpar date? Before you know it, the hot and heavy beginning of the semester will be over, so don’t miss your chance to ask out that person you made awkward eye contact with in tutorial.

Here’s a dating guide to the city, tried and tested and tested and tested by yours truly. Broken down by personality type for your convenience:

You’re a classic U of T student who has either just discovered the Annex or a neighbourhood ride-or-die

Don’t mistake any snark in the subheading for a disdain for the Annex; I fall into the latter category described above. My highly-specific recommendation is to not eat at Sakura Sushi — I used to live above it. Instead, focus on the neighbourhood’s archaic but charming stores. BMV, with its books and records, is a place to get lost in before finding yourself asking how Queen Video is still around. Inti Crafts is a fun place to look for quirky bits and bobs (hey, do you want to come back to mine and decorate?). Grab dinner at Victory Cafe or Sushi on Bloor Street West before drinking something cheap at The Lab, likely in excess. Definitely finish the night with cake at Future Bistro.

You’re appropriately hip with a flair for art and vintage

Hit up the Art Gallery of Ontario and take advantage of the free admission deal, before swinging down to Queen Street West for thrifting at Black Market and a meal at Queen Mother Cafe. Proceed to join the throngs of tourists and suburbanites for the parade west on Queen until you grow tired. If you make it to Bellwoods, you win — pass GO and collect $200.

You’re appropriately hip with a flair for art and vintage AND willing to travel

Hit up the Museum of Contemporary Art and think hard about taking advantage of the partner deals at the nearby Henderson Brewery and the Drake Commissary — before doing just that. Try your hand at thrift shopping at the Bloor Street West and Lansdowne Avenue Salvation Army and, if it’s a Thursday, don’t miss the Dufferin Grove farmer’s market. Be sure to hit up Sugo for dinner — be prepared to wait — and Burdock Brewery for drinks. If you walk back east: trust me, Christie Pits Park at night isn’t as romantic as you’d think — probably the harsh lighting or something.

You’re bougie — or at least your parents are

Admittedly out of my own wheelhouse. Start with the most expensive coffee ever at Goldstruck, before browsing Bloor Street West’s luxury shops and hoping you’re the sugar baby in the relationship. Have dinner at — and these are unironic, good picks — Alobar Yorkville or Trattoria Nervosa. The Gardner Museum and Toronto Reference Library provide some lighter culture and architectural interest on the fringes of this neighborhood. But that might spoil the vibe.

You’re a genuine foodie and want to get stuffed 

Toronto is a great food city, and I can’t just recommend a restaurant or two. If you want to sample a wide variety of goods, and more generally immerse yourself in food culture, I’d tell you to start in Kensington Market. Sanagan’s is the best butcher in the city and is next to maybe the best bakery, Blackbird Baking Co. Nearby is Global Cheese Shoppe, Wanda’s Pie in the Sky, and a few minutes away is Carlos’ House of Spice. From there you can easily make your way into Chinatown to lose yourself, or walk along Dundas Street to find whatever the coolest new eat is.

You’re dedicated to making a park hangout work as a date

You have two fundamental choices to make: west or further west. Pick up drinks and food along Queen Street West — takeout tacos from Grand Electric will not let you down — and cross the street into Trinity Bellwoods. If you’re a bit more adventurous, get on public transit and head to High Park, which is a much bigger, better, and more private park. There are some great bars and restaurants in nearby Roncesvalles, with Bar-Que, La Cubana, or Bandit Brewery being my recommendations, and I guarantee your classmates won’t have been to any of them.

You’re sporty and actually healthy

You think I fucking know? Go do hot yoga and eat the less-tasty things on the menu at Urban Herbivore.

You’re obsessed with the outdoors

The relative isolation of urban nature spaces may not be the best call for a first date. But who am I to tell you what to do? Ride your bikes through the Don River Valley to the Evergreen Brick Works for a picnic and pose for hot Insta pics. Depending on the day there could be some pretty cool events there, like the Saturday Farmers Market. For something a bit more strenuous and away from the hustle, ride out to the end of the Leslie Street Spit through Tommy Thompson Park — the best place for birdwatching in the city. Plus, what if we kissed at the southernmost tip of mainland Toronto?

A catch-all winter edition because the cold equalizes all personalities

Browse the bustling St. Lawrence Market, where the only game in town for lunch is Carousel Bakery or Mustachios. Then go buy some of the best groceries at the city to cook later in the warmth of your shitty apartment or dorm. Recommended nearby activities include ice skating and hot chocolate at the Harbourfront Centre.

Disclosure: Jack Denton was the 2018–2019 Editor-in-Chief of The Varsity.

Attend it for the culture

Spice up yo’ student life with these fun and free events

Attend it for the culture

It’s true — you can, in fact, have fun at U of T! The campus is home to much more than pre-exam dread and hallways filled with lecture handouts. Take your focus off of class by slipping these events into your calendar. 

Street Festival and Clubs Carnival

Yes, it’s just as good as it looks in those cheesy college movies! Catch a glimpse of student life at U of T by stopping by the brochure-laden tables and booths of various student groups. The Clubs Carnival will take place at King’s College Circle from 3:00–7:00 pm on September 4, while the Street Festival will run along St. George Street 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on September 11. The size and location of these events make them impossible to miss and easy to swing by. 

Learn about what the school’s electric car-racing team has been up to, realize your passion for contemporary films, or improve on your debating skills! This is your opportunity to find extracurriculars that will keep you motivated throughout the school year. Not to mention, there will be plenty of corporate tables that hand out free goodies like sunscreen samples and cup noodles. These events are not only for incoming students, but for anyone who wants to see what student life at U of T is all about.

Winterfest

This annual week-long festival includes cross-campus events and activities exclusively for U of T students. Celebrate the winter (even though it’s hosted during the post-holiday-season!) with free pancakes, drag shows, open mic events, and club nights! Events are often hosted by different colleges, so be sure to follow their Facebook pages to keep track of event details and updates. The shows hosted during this week are fantastic opportunities to show off your poetry and drag style. You can attend as a spectator or participant. Winterfest is the upsized spirit week your high school wished it had.

Annual book sales

Find the right book at the right price at these on-campus book sales. Taking place every fall, Victoria College, St. Michael’s College, University College, and Trinity College each host their own sale, with proceeds going to their respective libraries. Each year, these sales collectively offer hundreds of thousands of donated books, music, movies, and other items. Overwhelmed? Don’t be! The materials are sorted by volunteers to fit into an array of scholarly and general categories. The variety and arrangement also make these sales a popular place to spot signed first editions, unique art books, and curious tales. Donations for the sales are accepted on a year-round basis, so drop by to donate and buy for a good cause.

Your experience at U of T is a product of your agency. Events across three campuses are hosted for your enjoyment and your benefit, so take advantage of them! Though the school is known for its academic rigour, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the fun in pursuit of a degree. Pick and choose your courses, events, and extracurriculars wisely to make your U of T experience the best it can be.

OSAP changes threaten equitable access to education

Ford’s policies exacerbate the burden placed on students who rely on financial aid

OSAP changes threaten equitable access to education

In mid-June, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) became the top trending topic on Twitter in the GTA. Many students shared how the changes that the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario announced in January will affect their ability to afford higher education. Notable changes include a decrease in grant-to-loan ratios, changes to the definition for independent students who are eligible for more support, and scrapping the free tuition program for low-income students. Some Twitter users posted screenshots comparing past OSAP payments to their current assessments to emphasize the substantial decrease.

Hundreds of thousands of students depend on OSAP to fully or partially cover their tuition, easing the financial burden of higher education. These changes may even determine whether students can afford to attend college or university at all. 

Students should not have to live in fear and trepidation while trying to better their lives. These changes intensify the economic barriers that can prevent promising students from accessing opportunities equal to those of their wealthier peers. Although many students work while going to school, a job may not be able to fully fill the gaping hole left by these cuts.  

Some students claimed that their final OSAP loan and grant recalculation differed drastically from their initial estimations they received in the beginning of the summer. Twitter user @natashambeckett wrote that her estimate was “8k less than [OSAP] originally totalled,” and that she didn’t “have that kind of money” to pay the difference — especially so late in the summer.

For me, the estimate did not change much: I am receiving approximately $1,600 less than last year. A glance at my own funding reveals that approximately 75 per cent of my OSAP funding would be through loans. My previous applications indicate that my funding has always been around 60 per cent loans, with the remaining 40 per cent coming in the form of grants. 

This kind of change from previous years will cause students to accumulate more debt once they leave their higher education institutions. Nonetheless, the most significant change is the overall funding that OSAP will provide. 

As a full-time student in a deregulated program, my yearly tuition is roughly $13,000. While in previous years OSAP covered about 80 per cent of my tuition, it is now estimated to only cover 65 per cent. With my last year only a month away, there is little opportunity for me to make up for this cost. This is the difficult situation that many students now face.

Ontario already has the highest tuition rates in Canada. Additionally, the loans-to-grants ratio has increased, with “a minimum of 50 per cent” of OSAP payment being through loans. If the steep tuition costs did not discourage many potential postsecondary students from enrolling in Ontario’s universities before, the inability of the province’s student aid program to cover a considerable amount of postsecondary education expenses may now.

These cuts potentially dissuade many students from pursuing higher education, especially with additional changes to funding eligibility,  such as a new definition of “independent” student. In calculations, students who have “been out of high school for six years or less, rather than four years” will have their parents’ income considered in the assessments. This means that students entering graduate programs are expected to rely on their parents’ support, preventing a considerable number of students from receiving aid that they expected.

It is also important to consider that students from affluent households already have a greater chance of obtaining a college or university education. Higher education is a known pathway to high-income jobs, and yet these OSAP changes threaten to further deepen the wealth inequality between low- and high-income students and serve as a barrier between economically disadvantaged students and tertiary education.

According to Statistics Canada, 81.4 per cent of graduates aged 25–64 were “in fields important for building a strong social infrastructure.” A more educated population creates a stronger, more fulfilled society, so placing financial barriers on students’ ability to learn is a poor long-term investment.

Students should not have to worry about financing their education. Education should not be something restricted to and exclusively for the wealthy. Currently, a bachelor’s degree is a must for entry into most mid-to-high income industry positions. Postsecondary education has become less of an asset and more of a requirement, meaning access to higher education is a necessity. 

With economic barriers to education, fewer students will enrol in postsecondary studies. Research shows that people with more education lead healthier and happier lives. When people are given access to postsecondary education, they are given the opportunity to forge better lives for themselves and ultimately create a more productive society.

Belicia Chevolleau is a fourth-year Communication, Culture, Information & Technology student at UTM.

A guide to UTM

Your four-stop guide to survival at U of T’s deer-filled campus

A guide to UTM

Welcome to UTM, the University of Toronto’s second-largest campus! 

While it is possible to survive U of T’s one-of-a-kind postsecondary experience without any sense of direction — I am living proof — it might be easier if you let me guide you through the four cornerstones of your stay here at UTM.

Your first stop: caffeine, the unhealthy addiction that will stay with you well into your mid-thirties!

If you want hot bean water without breaking the bank, the two Tim Hortons Express locations in the Davis and Communication, Culture, & Technology (CCT) buildings are the way to go. If you opt for a frozen or iced caffeine hit, prepare to wait for at least 10 minutes in line at the Tim’s in The Meeting Place.

Alternatively, you can join the queue at the Starbucks across the Hazel McCallion Academic Learning Centre — or what us mere mortals just call the library. The only coffee places without much of a wait are the Second Cup in the Kaneff Centre and the coffee vending machine in the Instructional Centre (IB).

Your second stop: food, because the Freshman 15 won’t gain itself. 

If you want overpriced and undercooked food, feel free to head to the Temporary Food Court in Davis, Oscar Peterson Hall, or the eateries at Deerfield Hall and the new North Building. 

If you want to consume food without bankrupting yourself, The Blind Duck ­— the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union’s student pub — is the place to go. Its meat is halal, it has vegetarian options, and it’s neighbours with Chatime, meaning you can go get your bubble tea fix after your meal. 

The Subway in the IB and the Pizza Pizza in Davis also provide edible food. However, if you want to go the fast food route, take either the 110N, 101E, or 1CE buses to the South Common Popeyes. You can get a sandwich for $4.49 on Wednesdays, which includes lettuce and tomatoes with your fried chicken, so you won’t feel like you’re completely poisoning your body. If the nagging feeling of guilt after eating is what you’re going for, then head to the Pita Land next door, which offers The Cheesecake Factory cheesecake slices for $4.99!

Your third stop: study, because you need a 1.50 cumulative GPA to remain in good standing.

The library is the best and quietest place to study at UTM if you need to access technology and Wi-Fi. However, if you don’t want to rub elbows with plebeians from York, Ryerson, and McMaster — who sometimes also come study at UTM — there are many desks and couches available on the upper floors of the IB, Deerfield, and the new North Building. If you work best amidst noise, the Meeting Place in the Davis building just got a facelift. If waiting forever for your Wi-Fi to connect is more your vibe, try Kaneff, and if you want your laptop to die on you because none of the outlets work and there is no place to charge it, the CCT is perfect!

Your fourth stop: sleep, the only place where U of T won’t haunt you — much.

The Student Centre has a nap room, but I cannot vouch for whether or not it is… appropriate. The best places to rest your eyes are either the couches in the basement of the library or those on the upper levels of the IB. Wherever you choose to sleep, however, remember to BYOB ­­— bring your own blanket. 

Disclosure: Zeahaa Rehman was the 2018–2019 UTM Bureau Chief of The Varsity.

The 🅱️oundless value of U of T memes

How a Facebook group fosters community and satire for thousands of students

The 🅱️oundless value of U of T memes

U of T meme groups on social media have become incredibly popular outlets for those who want to laugh and relax in an otherwise academically challenging university environment. Students make memes about a variety of U of T topics on a daily basis, whether it be the architecture of Robarts Library or biting satire that criticizes unpopular decisions made by the administration.

Moreover, memes might just be the solution for the alienation that students often feel at such a large campus, bringing us together as a community that actively engages with university affairs. Indeed, it seems that every time something noteworthy occurs on campus, memes about it are sure to follow.

To learn more about the impact of these groups on student life, I spoke to some of the admins of one of U of T’s most popular Facebook meme groups, UofT memes for true 🅱lue teens. The group now has over 13,000 members and provides a constant stream of original content from U of T students. This popularity is likely due to some of the different events the group has hosted, the first of which was the the true 🅱lue bracket, which pitted colleges and faculties against each other through a democratic student vote. This popularity is likely to continue with plans for a library bracket in place.

On the college ranking bracket, admin Arjun Kaul notes that “it brought the campus together in a very… low stakes environment.” More than 7,000 people from all colleges voted in some of the most heated rounds. There were more votes in some rounds of the meme bracket than in some categories of the University of Toronto Students’ Union election last year.

While it did pit colleges and faculties against each other, the group’s admins do not think there was any real animosity. Admin Padraic Berting describes the bracket as a way for “both people who really liked frosh and people who didn’t really care about frosh to all get unified in [an] event and have some type of… collegiate battling fun.” The goal of the bracket was to get students involved and to enjoy themselves, and it was quite successful in doing so.

One topic on the minds of all the admins was U of T President Meric Gertler’s ill-advised decision not to divest the university’s investments from fossil fuel industries. This has become a popular meme in the group and highlights how members use comedy to communicate important messages. “We like that it amplifies the signal of certain things that wouldn’t be received,” says Kaul. “I don’t think many people would know that we haven’t divested yet if not for memes.”

That amplification seems to be working. Issues like U of T’s mental health services or apparent callousness toward student safety during extreme weather are brought to the forefront of student discourse through memes. Admin Tristan Bannerman explains that “if people use the group to make a fun meme about how we need to divest… or how U of T admin is saying wack shit constantly, if we make fun of that, that’s fun. And that’s good.” With such a large audience, true 🅱lue memes has become a place of student discourse and deliberation about important issues. To many, true 🅱lue is a source of U of T news, with weather alert and building closure memes often informing students of issues faster than U of T itself.

The admins believe that memes are not going anywhere because there is just so much content to be made. They credit that to the versatility of the medium and how almost anything can be made into a meme. Moderator Shervin Shojaei notes, “Any template can be used, any form of humour.” That seems to be the beauty of memes and the key to their popularity. There is no limit to potential content, and no matter what, you will be able to find a group that fits your interests.

Memes are often looked at as simple jokes that people enjoy in their day-to-day lives. But if this year at U of T has proven anything, the creation and sharing of memes can be much more than just a laugh that amuses viewers. It can help to form a community and spread important commentary. If I learned anything from talking to the admins of this group, it is that there is a lot of potential for good in these snippets of internet humour, and I am excited to see where things go next.   

Archie Burton Smith is a second-year Cinema Studies student at Victoria College.