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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The eggs we eat can’t actually hatch

The pressing need to dispel sexual misconceptions at all levels of education

The eggs we eat can’t actually hatch

Twice this past year, I have found myself having to explain that the type of chicken eggs we eat aren’t able to actually hatch into chickens. Each of these conversations began with someone questioning why, as a vegetarian, do I still eat eggs, despite the fact that they are basically “unborn chickens.”

I explained that chicken eggs are not the same as chicken fetuses. Like in human females, some eggs become fertilized and some do not; only the ones that are fertilized become fetuses, and the ones that do not are expelled from the female’s system. This is the same process with chickens, only in the form of hard-shelled eggs.

What was striking was that, instead of clarifying things, this comparison made things more confusing. I discovered that many of the individuals I spoke to had not learned the basics of female anatomy, fertilization processes, and contraception.

Misunderstanding the basics about sex seems to be widespread. Sex education varies tremendously across jurisdictions, resulting in wide knowledge gaps.

For example, sex education is monitored locally in Canada, with programs and curricula varying from province to province and creating wildly different classroom expectations depending on the location.
[pullquote-features]These discrepancies are seen across the board, meaning that it is left up to parents to teach some of the more controversial lessons in sex education. If the parents lack either prior exposure to information or the willingness to have taboo conversations, the student inherits an information deficit.[/pullquote-features]

Students in Newfoundland and Labrador learn about sexual abuse in the second grade, while teachers in Manitoba are not mandated to even approach this topic. Even more surprisingly, Quebec doesn’t have an official sexual education program at all: rather, it embeds the lessons into other subjects.

These discrepancies are seen across the board, meaning that it is left up to parents to teach some of the more controversial lessons in sex education. If the parents lack either prior exposure to information or the willingness to have taboo conversations, the student inherits an information deficit.

This is not to mention that sexual education — or the lack thereof — inherently involves opinions and value judgements. Different families, religions, and cultures have different ideologies on when having sex for the first time is appropriate and on the moral issues related to contraception and abortion.

No matter the belief system, improper education leaves youth vulnerable to unsafe practices. This variance is further amplified given the sheer international diversity of sex ed perspectives: 20.6 per cent of Canada’s population was born abroad and 25 per cent of the student body at the University of Toronto is comprised of international students.

Clearly, a lack of knowledge about sex education is not without consequence. Sexually transmitted infections continue to be prevalent in Canada and around the world; learning about these risks is essential to mitigating them.

Yet, a lack of knowledge is not the only problem in the nation’s approach to promoting safe sex; the system that is in place does not provide easy enough access to contraception. While condoms are sporadically provided for free in universities across Canada (they are available at the Sexual Education Centre and Health Services at U of T, as well as in some dorms), they remain expensive for many. Cheaper and more accessible options for safer sex should be more widely explored.

Lauren Groskaufmanis, a student at Duke University School of Medicine, previously taught sex ed to adolescents in North Carolina high schools. She explains that she is not aware of any sex ed programs that do not teach abstinence as the only surefire way to prevent pregnancy and STIs, no matter how progressive the program.

“You can’t teach abstinence only because it’s not preventative,” Groskaufmanis says. “Providing teenagers access to condoms doesn’t raise the rate of sexual activity, neither does education.”

Instead, prevention of STIs and unplanned pregnancy is most effective when sex education is paired with access to contraception and other health resources. The American Academy of Pediatrics made guidelines in 2013 that recommended providing free condoms, finding that condom use increased when free access was provided by the school system.

[pullquote-features]Providing adequate resources and a solid educational basis provides protection to students, who can be vulnerable to the dangers of unsafe sex.[/pullquote-features]

At U of T, while students benefit from the free access to safer sex supplies offered at some locations, some students may be embarrassed and unwilling to take advantage of this option if they are to be seen doing so in public. This creates varying barriers for student access and, consequently, varying levels of safe sex.

Providing adequate resources and a solid educational basis provides protection to students, who can be vulnerable to the dangers of unsafe sex. It also accommodates for the impractical idea that all students come into university with thorough knowledge about sex.

Therefore, the University of Toronto should prioritize sexual education at the university level, by strengthening and expanding upon existing programming, and by improving access to contraception on campus.

As beneficial as the resources currently available may be, they are not sufficiently widespread to help all students. For instance, while the Sexual Education Centre provides contraception and resources and works hard to promote sex positivity on campus, some students are not comfortable reaching out to make use of these services. Making sexual education more prevalent on campus may encourage those students to reach out.

For students who invariably have different exposure to sexual education, providing access to contraception and education in university will reduce problems at university and further on in life. Free contraception and universal sexual education are the best ways for the university to reduce misunderstandings about sex and the inevitable problems that occur ― they would accommodate for the fact that students in university are inevitably having sex.

 

Sunniva Bean is a second-year student at St. Michael’s College studying Sociology and International Relations.

Sports and drinking: a perfect match

Alcohol is the norm in sports

Sports and drinking: a perfect match

Some equate Varsity Stadium’s poor attendance during varsity football games to a lack of spirit. That would be true, but just a couple kilometres south, the opposite can be said for attendees at the Air Canada Centre (ACC), who are cheering on the Raptors or the Leafs.

Is it simply because people get more pleasure from watching the Raptors than from watching the Varsity Blues? Out of all universities in the OUA though, U of T boasts some pretty impressive standings. Rather, it appears as if the problem stems from the lack of a form of enjoyment that is automatically associated with sports: alcohol.

“I went to a game, like most first years do when they get into university,” said Arvin Reyes, a second-year media studies student. “But after being only one of 50 or so in the audience, and a large absence of alcohol when attending the game, I think I’m better off going to Western’s games with my friends.” 

A University of Minnesota study on alcohol consumption in sports showed that a substantive amount of post-secondary students were above the .08 limit while watching a game. This suggests that drinking goes hand-in-hand with sporting events, which is why U of T needs to consider offering it at its facilities.

Drinking in a more controlled environment is also safer for the students. Last year, University of Maryland president Wallace Loh said student leaders want to “transition from a culture of unsafe pregame binge drinking to a culture focused on healthier social drinking.”

Seeing as it would be impossible to eliminate the drinking aspect of live sports, it would be beneficial to incorporate it into these events legally. Plus, events on campus would encourage attendees that live in close proximity to travel by walking instead of driving.

Additionally, tailgating — when fans gather before games to socialize and eat meals served from the back of trucks — promotes a sense of school spirit and attachment that transcends attendance at a game. At Louisiana State University, for example, socializing begins the night before the game and continues on until well after the game.

In most cases, it’s not even about the game; it’s about the experience that a student has participating in something larger than themselves. It’s time U of T and universities alike recognize that alcohol facilitates that process.              

A recent article in the New York Times describes the relationships an attendee built while tailgating before a game. “Normally, you just talk about football, try to initiate conversation,” the fan said. “You just got to talk to people and then you realize, ‘ Hey, I’ll see you again next time.’ That’s the whole point of tailgating… you meet everyone around you.”   

Including alcohol in sporting events might bring about additional issues, but these could be prevented with the right type of controls. U of T could benefit from some increased school spirit at games and providing alcohol would be a step in the right direction.

Go big or go home

Students and their love of supplements

Go big or go home

Professional athletes and weightlifters have been using supplements to increase muscle mass and help with recovery for a long time. ‘Iron Guru’ Vince Gironda was known to drink a concoction of raw eggs, protein powder, and heavy cream after working out, and athletes like Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook and professional race car driver Danica Patrick are both spokespeople for the supplement brand Six Star Pro Nutrition.

Although you’d be hard pressed to find a student who drinks raw eggs, U of T does have a multitude of students who use supplements like protein powder or creatine as well as other pre-workout and post-workout blends. Bolstered by the popularity of protein shakers, the supplement industry is booming and students are some of its top customers.   

Realizing that the student demographic is increasingly in-demand of workout supplements, Jacked Scholar an e-commerce supplements provider has created a place for students to shop for, and buy their favourite supplement brands. 

Travis McEwan, founder of Jacked Scholar admits that, “the market in this demographic has never been bigger.” Jacked Scholar has even gone so far as to employ more than a hundred “campus ambassadors” for the company. 

According to the global consulting firm McKinsey, knowledge-based consumers are driving the recent attention to supplements. In their study of supplements, the company notes that 96 per cent of adults who use the Internet have used online resources to help them make decisions about their health and fitness choices. 

Companies like Jacked Scholar target the university demographic, hoping to entice students with cheaper prices on name-brand goods, and out-compete both local supplement stores and chains like GNC. It makes sense because e-commerce can provide a better price on a given line of products for students. 

Annette Latoszewska, a U of T student and former Jacked Scholar U of T representative, uses various supplements when she has the time to commit to a workout routine. “I like to complement [my routine] with supplements. Cellucor C4 pre-workout, not picky about my protein so it’s whatever is decent and cheap for post-workout and then I’ll use Cellucor SuperHD twice a day for fat burning,” she said.

Latoszewska also explained her duties while affiliated with the company; she was tasked to “promote the brand to generate sales. When your discount code is associated with the sale online, you get the credit [commission].”

Despite the fact the Latoszewska did not purchase supplements from the company, citing “cheaper options” she does admit that there is earning potential for those willing to put in the requisite time and effort. 

Nevertheless, McEwan is confident that the market at universities only has more room to grow. “We’re getting to the point where we can be pickier about the type of students that we accept into the campus rep program,” he explained. 

Another advantage of having supplements on campus is that it provides for an innovative testing lab. According to the McKinsey study, “new products will be offered as fads [and] go in and out of vogue.” Because U of T is like a Mecca for diverse groups of people, campus-specific supplement companies have the perfect ecosystem to observe what supplements work and what supplements don’t. 

Whether or not students will be interested in the long-run is an entirely different matter. Danny Lee, an economics student at U of T is aware of the campus presence and is firm when he advises students to “follow a workout schedule and eat right. Protein powder is like icing on top of the well-disciplined cake.” 

Supplements represent more of an idea to students than a reality — the idea of what’s possible. The truth is in the name. These producst are intended to supplement your normal, healthy diet, not replace it. So at the end of the day make sure that what’s at the end of your fork is more important than what’s at the bottom of your supplement bottle.

What does it take to be an all-star?

Students weigh in on professional league exhibition games

What does it take to be an all-star?

Every year, millions of hockey fans take a mid-season break to watch the NHL All-Star Game, an exhibition weekend that aims to showcase the leagues’ best players. All-star games have taken root in many professional sports leagues — most notably the NFL Pro Bowl, the MLB Midsummer Classic, and the NBA All-Star Game.   

Traditionally, league officials determined all-star rosters, which remains only partially the case today. For the NHL All-Star Game, 40 players are selected by the league’s Hockey Operations Department to compete on four seperate teams, and four individual captains  are selected by fans through an online voting system. Once the fans have elected them, the four appointed captains get to select their teams based on the 40-athlete pool. 

“I do enjoy the all-star festivities,” said U of T graduate student Shakeeb Ahmed. “Having the captains pick the team gives it a certain pond hockey feel to it.”

For Ahmed, the NHL All-Star Game is so enjoyable because there’s nothing to lose. Athletes get to showcase their individual skills, like hardest shot and fastest skate time, and with games using a three-on-three format with modified rules, some pressure is relieved. “[It’s] not so serious” he said, “like the rest of the NHL season. I think the game is of course for fun and entertainment [and] I also think it’s a way to showcase the immense talent in the league.” 

Lindsay Boileau, a business management student at Ryerson, prefers the all-star skills competitions to the actual games, citing the modified rules and nonchalant play from athletes as a deterrent to watching the game. “I personally don’t look forward to the All-Star Game each year,” she said. “Player’s aren’t trying their best and are going easy on each other. So it’s not very entertaining for me to watch personally.”   

Undoubtedly an opportunity to watch players let loose and have some fun — something professional leagues often forget — all-star weekends breed conversations surrounding who actually benefits from the exhibitions. 

Proceeds from the NHL All-Star Game go directly to players’ pensions, but is the event all fun and games, or does the league have a hidden agenda?

According to Ahmed, the exhibition’s only underpinning is that it gives host cities like Nashville, this year’s host, the opportunity to rake in a lot of added business. “[The All-Star Game] gives the city hosting it gain sales and revenue in large quantities in a short period of time,” he said, adding that this doesn’t just mean demand for NHL merchandise but for various businesses and attractions in the city as well.   

Boileau, for one, expresses more cynicism, admitting that she doesn’t see a point in the NHL’s hosting an All-Star Game, which looks like a money-grab to her. “Now you see players refusing to attend the All-Star Game after being voted in by fans,” she said. “This has led the NHL to suspend players for one game after the all-star break. So to me it just looks like a way for the league to make extra money.”

A self-proclaimed Leafs and Penguins fan, Boileau cites the John Scott controversy as a prime example of the NHL’s sticky hand in the all-star festivities. She agrees that this All-Star Game was defined by the audience the AHL goon drew, which had non-hockey fans tuning in to watch the exhibition. “This All-Star Game in particular probably did spark the interest of people who wouldn’t normally watch hockey. This is due to the media surrounding John Scott, an enforcer who wasn’t well known in the NHL. But this normally doesn’t happen, that a goon gets voted in.”

Overall, the NHL All-Star Game and the events leading up to it is made for entertainment purposes: to showcase the ‘not-so-serious’ side of different athletes. For every fan that enjoys All-Star Games, whether it’s the skills competitions or John Scott’s game-winning goal in the final, there are multiple players, coaches, and officials who revel in the opportunity to watch players just have fun.