Through thick and thin

A letter from Josie Kao, Editor-in-Chief 2019–2020

Through thick and thin

Four years ago, I stood nervously in the hallways outside of The Varsity’s offices, trying to work up the courage to go inside a space that I so longed to be a part of. I left the office that day thinking that perhaps it wasn’t the place for me; perhaps this terrifying institution wasn’t where I belonged. 

Years later, I’ve now had the privilege and honour of leading The Varsity for one volume of its long, 140-year history. However, it took many articles and breakdowns for me to realize that The Varsity could be a home for me, and capable of helping students express their visions for a more equitable U of T.

Yet to the average U of T student, the newspaper may be a distant afterthought, if they ever think of it at all. 

But even if you go through your entire degree without ever picking up a copy of the paper, that doesn’t mean that you have been unaffected by its work. Change does happen at U of T, hard as that may be to believe, and one driver of that change is student media. 

Every week, I have watched as our editors and contributors ceaselessly push The Varsity — and by extension, U of T — to be the best that it can be. 

Comment Editor Angela Feng moulded her section into a place where students could freely criticize accessibility concerns of all kinds, from late withdrawals, to sick notes, to laptop bans. 

Managing Editor Ibnul Chowdhury and Senior Copy Editor Ori Gilboa dedicated their entire year to creating our behemoth of an equity guide, which I hope can act as a standard of excellence for mastheads to come. 

Features Editor Stephanie Bai made the best out of the Student Choice Initiative, because of which we lost our print magazines, and published a stunning digital magazine that has been a creative outlet for dozens of contributors. 

Our news team, led by Andy Takagi and Kathryn Mannie, doggedly covered the issues that mattered to students, whether it be the mental health crisis or COVID-19. 

In hard numbers, we set an all-time record for reaching the one million unique pageview mark on February 1, and over the year we’ve gained more than 1.5 million unique pageviews in total. We had over 400 contributors this year, of whom 100 were staff, and I’m grateful to each and every one of them.

To say that I am proud of the work that we accomplished this year would be an understatement, and yet I’ll be the first to admit that many mistakes were made. Achieving a more equitable workplace and content output was my main goal for this year, but this is, of course, a goal that can never be fully realized. 

‘Equity’ is not about publishing one article and patting ourselves on the back, but about continually putting in the work to bridge the gap between The Varsity and the communities we cover. The Varsity has rightly received fair criticisms for failures in the past, but it’s still worth acknowledging progress in the present.

This should not be your main takeaway of our work this year, but I’m one of the few — if not the only — women of colour to have had the privilege of running The Varsity. But I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my dream without the work of those who came before me. Therefore, I hope that the foundations we have laid this year will ensure that anyone can see themselves in this position in the future. Being the first shouldn’t matter, so long as you’re not also the last. 

Speaking of our achievements, I want to thank the masthead, who never failed to impress me with their wisdom and generosity. To Ilya, Ibnul, Julie, Al, Ori, Andy, Angela, Kashi, Stephanie, Adam, Silas, Vindhya, Megan, Kathryn, Will, Aditi, Dina, Iris, Nathalie, Kevin, Stephanie, Nicole, and our many associates, correspondents, and columnists: thank you for giving me the great honour of working with you this past year and bearing witness to your incredible contributions. I’ll never forget our late night font changes, mysterious Shringle appearances, or questionable Slack emojis.

Thanks is also owed to my predecessors, Jack, Jacob, and Alex, for their endless encouragement and guidance. 

To Ilya, thank you for the many good times and late nights we shared in this Varsity journey. To Ibnul, thank you for your level-headed wisdom that never failed in times of crisis. To Al, thank you for your neverending good humour and dependability. And finally, to Julie, thank you for being my moral and music compass — I don’t know where I would be without you. 

I know that The Varsity’s hope for a more equitable future is safe in the hands of my capable successor, Ibnul. Ibnul’s sound judgment and clear-eyed vision gives me perfect confidence in his ability to lead the paper through another year of ups and downs. 

I’ve said nearly all the thank-yous I’ve wanted to say, but I’ll end with one final expression of gratitude: thank you to you, our readers, for sticking with us through thick and thin. 

— Josie Kao

Editor-in-Chief, Volume CXL

Letter from the Editor: The Varsity’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Reliable news and social distance journalism

Letter from the Editor: <i>The Varsity</i>’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

When I first picked up the proverbial pen at the beginning of the year to write to you, our readers, I never would have guessed that the next time I would address you would be under such circumstances. A pandemic has made it so that our U of T community has been thrown into chaos, and many of us are dealing with stressors that we never could have imagined. During this time of great uncertainty, The Varsity will persevere in bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date news.

We have decided to cancel the print run of our last two issues of the year, but we will nonetheless continue posting PDF versions online for all to read. While we never thought that we would cancel issues because of a pandemic — we were placing our bets on the Student Choice Initiative instead — there is no reason to keep printing when our campuses are nearly deserted and, moreover, when we want to encourage them to stay that way.

However, we are continuing to produce our paper online for the purposes of documenting the times we live in.

In this issue, you’ll find print-exclusive roundups of all our COVID-19 coverage in news, as well as movie reviews to keep you company while social distancing, pieces on why you should even be social distancing, and how to be kind to yourself and practice compassion during this difficult period.

At this time, I want to give my thanks to our dozens of writers, editors, illustrators, designers, and more who have gone to great lengths to keep the U of T community informed. The Varsity is entirely student-run, which means that none of us are exempt from the confusion that all U of T students are experiencing right now.

Even though many of our masthead and contributors have had to hastily leave campus and scatter across the world, and many more are scrambling to complete assignments in the midst of upheaval, they have nonetheless managed to continue producing high-quality and valuable content because they care about keeping you informed.

I am forever in awe of the brilliant people who work at The Varsity and I want them to know that their contributions do not go unnoticed.

As such, please enjoy our last two issues of the year, made entirely by our editors while working from home. I hope you are taking care of yourselves and those around you at this time. We can all get through this together by doing our part not only for ourselves, but for our community.

Letter from the Editor: An update to how we label opinion articles in our comment section

A letter from the comment editor

Letter from the Editor: An update to how we label opinion articles in our comment section

It has become apparent that there is much confusion when distinguishing the opinion of individual contributors versus that of The Varsity as a whole, particularly on social media.

Last week, ahead of the 2019 federal election, we published an opinion piece by a contributor that endorsed the Conservative Party. As usual in the Comment section, we included “Opinion” in the text of the social media posts on both Facebook and Twitter.

However, the label, as usual in the Comment section, was not included in the actual heading of the article. This led to many readers believing that the article reflected the opinion of the newspaper itself. In fact, we published our own endorsement through the editorial board a few hours later, which was the opposite of that of the contributor.

In our print issue, all opinion pieces are published under the Comment page, and editorials are published under the Editorial page. On social media, however, we recognize that we can do more such that readers can easily distinguish between the two.

Hence, beginning with our eighth issue, the headlines in all Comment pieces published online will be labelled appropriately.

First, all pieces written by contributors that represent their individual views will be published with the “Opinion” label.

Second, all pieces written by contributors on behalf of a particular organization or group will continue to be published with the “Op-ed” label. Typical op-ed pieces are written by members of student unions, executives of student groups, and other student leaders writing on behalf of their constituents.

Third, all pieces written by The Varsity Editorial Board that reflect the opinion of our masthead will be published with the “Editorial” label. It is noteworthy that “Opinion,” “Op-ed,” and “Editorial” pieces all operate independently from one another.

Fourth, all pieces written by readers in response to any aspect of our coverage will be labelled as a “Letter to the Editor” in fact, as with op-eds, this is how we publish them already.

I would also like to take the opportunity to highlight the divide between the News and Comment sections. Contributors are only permitted to write consistently for one section each year.

The Varsity masthead is prohibited from writing for the Comment section, and the comment editor is the single member of the masthead who cannot write for the News section.

This is to ensure that different sections of our paper remain independent such that News and Comment do not influence each other.

As both the comment editor and the chair of the editorial board, you may contact me about any concerns about our opinion pieces, and also send letters to me at

Angela Feng
Comment Editor
Volume 140

Bridging the gap

Letter from the Editor

Bridging the gap

One common refrain that readers will see when glancing over any article celebrating The Varsity is its age. As of this October, this newspaper will be 140 years old — you are all invited to the party. While we take great pride in continuing the legacy of one of Canada’s longest-running student newspapers, the very age of The Varsity may give students the perception of an unchanging institution, disconnected from the campus.

This year, my team and I hope to bridge this perceived gap between students and the newspaper that we love. This year, we want to engage with you. We want to hear your concerns, your experiences, the big and little things that you care about.

While this goal is something that our masthead is dedicated to, regardless of external factors, the creation of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) has certainly highlighted just how important it is for us to continue our long-standing goal to earn your trust as a reader.

The SCI allows students to opt out of certain incidental fees, including The Varsity’s levy of $2.87 per semester for undergraduates and $0.87 for graduates. 

While this policy has raised questions about our place and responsibility at U of T, our consistent and responsible reporting on not only the SCI, but on issues that are important to students, has proven just how essential we are to the community. 

As you continue to read our content, be it investigations into U of T’s finances, campus theatre reviews, or recaps of Varsity Blues games, I hope you will consider supporting us by staying opted-in.

Advocacy-editorial divide

As the SCI continues to be a pressing facet of campus life, I will be continuing the policy established by my predecessor, Jack O. Denton, to recuse myself from editing articles on the SCI. 

The justification for this is simple: I must continue to be an outspoken advocate for The Varsity as an essential service while also upholding the paper’s long-standing commitment to responsible and fair reporting. Therefore, a recusal would allow for a separation of my advocacy efforts and the The Varsity’s editorial operations.

The news team’s reporting on the SCI — led by News Editor Andy Takagi and Deputy News Editor Kathryn Mannie — will be edited and published by Managing Editor Ibnul Chowdhury, instead of myself. Moreover, Ibnul, Andy, Kathryn, and all associate news editors will refrain from publicly expressing any opinions on the SCI.

Ibnul will also take over editing and publishing responsibilities for all SCI articles found in our other sections. Therefore, I will not be involved in any of the content we produce about this topic.

I am continuing this policy so as to further assure our readers of our enduring commitment to the values of fair, just, and accurate reporting.

The Varsity will always be here as an expression of the student voice, in all its diverse and multi-faceted forms. However, it’s up to you, the students, to work with us, fund us, and tell us what we can do better.

Josie Kao


Volume 140

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

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

Clearing the air: BDS, Chemi Lhamo, and the News-Comment-Editorial divide

Letter from the Comment Editor

Clearing the air: BDS, Chemi Lhamo, and the News-Comment-Editorial divide

The intersection of global conflict politics and the U of T community often occurs in highly contentious contexts. Subsequently, The Varsity’s editorial decisions are often subject to accusations of inaccuracy or bias that we feel are unwarranted and ultimately misserve the general readership.   

Earlier this semester, we published an opinion piece entitled “Who speaks for Palestine?”  that revolved around a contributor’s alarm over the content of a guest speaker’s lecture on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The contributor advocated for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation.

Following publication, Hillel U of T, a Jewish organization on campus, publicly accused the article of containing “misnomers and falsehoods about BDS and the reality on campus.”

We welcome reasonable disagreement and debate on highly divisive issues in the Comment section. In fact, we published two anti-BDS letters in response to the pro-BDS article. But making an unsupported comment about the factual basis of our articles serves to misinform readers about already sensitive issues. It overlooks how different sides can use different evidence to reach different conclusions.

Our coverage of the online harassment campaign against Scarborough Campus Students’ Union President-elect Chemi Lhamo was met with similar accusations of misinformation. When our opinion coverage condemned the campaign, defended Lhamo’s Tibetan activism, and supported her presidency, we were accused of being “one-sided” and “biased” because the pieces were not “objective” and did not reflect the views of international Chinese students.

Accusations were made that the publication constituted a “character assassination” of China and that we supposedly have personal connections to Lhamo for “pushing her agenda.”

It is important to understand that opinion pieces in the Comment section are not news coverage. The News and Comment sections operate independently. Expectations of impartial reporting should only exist for the News section. Comment is a space for contributors to comment on issues from any perspective or side that they choose, so long as their arguments are presented reasonably. Expecting balanced arguments or neutrality from Comment articles is, by definition, contradictory.

That being said, context matters with regard to impartiality in News and diversity of opinion in Comment. The story of Lhamo is about the harassment campaign against her despite the legitimacy of her election, which our news coverage correspondingly focused on, and Comment contributors initially problematized.

The story is not about the general history of the conflict in Tibet. But the choice of some readers to interpret our coverage through this lens meant that they associated the ‘lack’ of a ‘China perspective’ as a deliberate stance on the conflict and thus reinforcing the Western tendency to negatively portray China.

Comment is not obligated to false balance for the sake of appearing neutral. A column on the online harassment against Lhamo does not automatically warrant soliciting comments from international Chinese students or groups on campus — they do not carry the same weight for the story in question. In fact, such a strategy would instead imply that being an international Chinese student means being on the ‘opposite’ side and could wrongly associate them with the harassment campaign.

Nonetheless, we reminded readers that if they disagree with our initial opinion coverage from their perspective as international Chinese students, they are always free to reach out and write an article accordingly. What we publish is ultimately a reflection of the interests of our contributors. Indeed, our UTSC Affairs Columnist wanted to provide an alternative perspective on the Lhamo story, and so that is the focus of his column this week.

Making charges against our editorial process on social media without fully understanding it, however, is not conducive to healthy discussion and debate. Discussion on sensitive issues should not devolve into flame wars. Many unreasonable and misinformed comments on social media from all sides compelled us to intervene and moderate for hateful content.

Publishing opinion pieces defending Lhamo is not an automatic endorsement of any position, and this is where the Comment-Editorial divide comes in. Whereas the Comment section is reserved for U of T community members, only editorials represent the opinion of The Varsity’s leadership. This year, the Editorial Board has not taken a position on the Lhamo story. We are obligated to make that known to readers who conflate individual contributors’ opinions with the paper’s as a whole and subsequently make accusations of bias.

Some readers’ concerns were fair. They observed that our news coverage on the Lhamo story was obscured because it was only a subheading in a news article’s recap of the SCSU elections, rather than a full article on its own. This may have contributed to the perception that opinion preceded news coverage, which is typically avoided so the former is not mistaken for the latter. We welcome readers to write letters to the editor or reach out to our Public Editor to discuss possible shortcomings in our editorial process.

We can always do better. But it is also important that readers abide by a certain level of media literacy. This means making informed and fair criticisms so that difficult discussions remain constructive.

Love beyond romance

Make Valentine’s Day about family, friends, U of T, The Varsity, and yourself

Love beyond romance

Every February 14, the capitalist cisheteropatriarchy (we’re not social justice warriors; we’re being satirical, somewhat — we promise!) calls on us to perform, or yearn for, ‘romance.’ That is, lavish expenditures and material offerings for ‘the one.’ But love is much more than romantic gestures directed toward a single target.

Spreading affection to the broader community and to oneself ought to be the goal of Valentine’s Day. So we challenge you, U of T’s student body, to give your love to something different this year.

Love your family

The rigour of studying at U of T often results in a disconnect from what really matters: family. If you live on or near campus, you likely don’t see your family for weeks at a time. For international students, this might even be months or, god forbid, years. If you’re a commuter who still lives with family, it’s likely you’re too busy at school, doing extracurriculars, or on transit to spend as much time with your folks as you should.

In some ways, this is what we all dreamt of. University was sold to us not just as a pathway to better employment, but as an escape from home, to experience independence and responsibility. And this is an important step for young adults. But homesickness is a real phenomenon for many — it doesn’t take long to miss home-cooked meals, for example.

Remember, the number one supporters of what we’re trying to achieve at U of T are those whom you consider family, whomever comes to mind with that word. On Valentine’s Day, give them a call and tell them you love them.

Love your friends

Yes, friends do exist at U of T — and no, the library doesn’t count. During your time here, you are bound to have made some acquaintances, whether through your college, classes, events, extracurriculars, or the gym.

In any case, you probably have multiple social networks that fuel your enjoyment at this university. Whether helping you with homework, listening to you vent, or discussing how problematic that one professor’s views are, you were never in it alone. Take a moment to appreciate the community around you by letting your friends know how central they are to your university experience.

Love U of T

Okay, this one is controversial. How can you possibly love U of T, or even like it? After all, this is the school whose grandeur radiates alienation until you feel like a nobody, and makes you tired from walking so much. This is the school that refuses to close its downtown campus as early as its satellite campuses, leaving commuters to suffer. And, above all, this is the school that engages in contentious policies, be it the university-mandated leave of absence policy or investments in fossil fuels.

But, by the time you leave U of T, you’ll probably feel kind of cool for having gone here. I mean, what’s not to love about those emails you get about the school being ranked number one in Canada, yet again?

In all seriousness though, going to U of T, despite all its challenges, puts you right at the heart of a buzzing metropolitan city. There’s always so much to do and somewhere to be, and you can easily hop on transit to get there. Be an explorer, and learn to love the adventures and little pockets that you didn’t know existed. And there’s a world unto itself on campus, with plenty of activities and events to experience. So take the day to love what U of T has to offer.

Love The Varsity

Obviously, at some point, we’re going to ask you to love us, your student newspaper. To be honest, we get more hate than we deserve, especially when we’re accused of being biased and having a political agenda. We’d like to tell you that what we do is actually invaluable on campus.

First of all, we keep the student body informed about what’s happening on campus. When the university or a student union does something questionable, we communicate that information to you. On the bright side, when a theatre show, sports game, or scientific discovery is really worth tuning into, we let you know. And we provide you, the students, a platform to express yourselves.

We’re always looking for writers, designers, photographers, illustrators, copy editors, and more, so join us if you’d like to make a difference in how this paper is run. And if you’re a reader who wants to know what U of T is up to, pick up a print issue on a stand near you, or hit up our website.

Our doors are always open, so drop by on February 14 to say hi.

Love yourself

No matter how much you might be struggling with school right now, or stressing over getting into graduate, medical, or law school in the future, remember that everything working out depends on you taking care of yourself.

So get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, and do things that make you healthy and happy. Life is short, but university life is even shorter. So take it day by day, and make sure that moving forward doesn’t mean leaving you and your needs behind.

On Valentine’s Day, remember that love starts with loving yourself.

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

Check out The Varsity’s hottest new projects

Following last year’s levy increase, Volume 139 is excited to deliver

Check out <i>The Varsity</i>’s hottest new projects

Last year, in the face of financial pressure stemming from a decade-long decline in advertising revenue across the media industry, The Varsity sought the direct support of students. We needed you to help sustain and grow our operations as a newspaper committed to building a strong and informed student voice at U of T.

Specifically, we asked you to vote ‘yes’ on two levy referenda: one to increase our full-time undergraduate membership levy by $0.80; and another to establish a new levy of $0.80 for full-time graduate students. We were thrilled when you approved us on both accounts.

The levy increase has enabled us to compensate our employees fairly, according to the new provincial minimum wage, without cutting costs. Furthermore, the new graduate levy means that full-time graduate students can fully participate in our operations, and our coverage of graduate politics and affairs has correspondingly grown significantly.

And that’s not all. With the addition of five new masthead positions and the commission of seven new projects overall, our coverage and scope have grown and improved on an unprecedented scale this year.

At the halfway mark of the year, we update you below on these expansions in detail, and we hope you find them to be worthy. We owe you for the support you’ve shown to your student press, and Volume 139 is excited to deliver.

A truly tri-campus newspaper: the UTM and UTSC Bureau Chiefs

The addition of the UTM and UTSC Bureau Chiefs has helped immensely in improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of coverage of the two campuses. With additional resources, we have been able to offer UTM and UTSC students the reporting they deserve and expect of us as a tri-campus newspaper. The bureau chiefs understand these campuses in a way that the UTSG-centred News team, alone, never could.

The bureau chiefs have two major roles: to pitch stories about their campuses and to be there on the ground to report. If you glance through the News section, the vast majority of the articles about UTM and UTSC have come from pitches from the bureau chiefs.

For example, one article announced the now open Chatime at UTSC. This seemingly small piece of news turned out to be one of our most popular articles of the year. The chiefs help the News section tap into our readership on a much deeper level. They also inform the other six section editors about stories that are relevant to their content.

In the past, the News section would only have the resources to superficially report on UTM and UTSC student politics, especially due to the difficulty of getting students to go out to other campuses. Now, we cover a wide range of board and Campus Council meetings.

Having our reporters in rooms where decisions get made means that we have caught major policies that we otherwise would have missed in the past — for example, the article on the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union’s disregard for its Annual General Meeting consensus.

Most importantly, the bureau chiefs are themselves students on the ground who are well-informed about the issues that matter at UTM and UTSC. This means that we are no longer limited to just covering routine governance meetings.

In September, when there was a lot of buzz around UTM accepting more students than it could accommodate, our UTM Bureau Chief pitched articles documenting the space constraints of the campus, which have been an ongoing and pressing issue. When there was another discovery of a bug in food at UTSC, we were able to delve deeper into the issue when our UTSC Bureau Chief wrote about the wider healthy food concerns that students had.

This is the type of coverage that the News section hopes to expand on this semester. With the support of the bureau chiefs, News intends to continue its watchdog-type reporting of governance at the satellite campuses, but also focus more attention on everyday issues that UTM and UTSC students care about.

To get involved with News coverage at all three U of T campuses, contact News Editor Josie Kao at

Our seventh section: Business

The new Business section was launched in October, with 30 articles published so far. This allows us to dedicate more attention and detail to the financial side of the university. Specifically, Business has focused on university investments and partnerships, student and alumni startups and entrepreneurship, donations and gifts, and events. The section is open to both reporting and opinion writing, so News and Comment contributors are equally welcome.

Business is especially committed to keeping student readers informed about where university funding comes from and how it is being used, so as to hold the university more accountable for its dealings. For instance, our coverage of Huawei discussed the details of its partnership with U of T and how funding is used to support student research, while also questioning concerns over security and intellectual copyright.

For the upcoming semester, Business strives to do more service journalism, cover the financial side of labour agreements and disputes, and begin to produce longer, more in-depth investigations and analyses of university finances and investments.

To get involved with the section, contact Business Editor Michael Teoh at

The Sports documentary: Beyond the Blue Line

Since last semester, the Sports section has been filming and editing a documentary series on the journey of the members of the Varsity Blues men’s hockey team in the 2018–2019 season. It promises to provide students, alumni, and the general public with an in-depth look into the course of an Ontario University Athletics season, and the joys, frustrations, and challenges of such an experience.

Founded in 1891, the men’s hockey team is one of the oldest in U of T’s history, making it an easy pick for a documentary series. The series is still being filmed and edited, and approximately four episodes will be released over the course of this semester, including a final feature-length cut.

The project has been an incredible and invaluable experience for the 14-member documentary team and is a feat that has never before been attempted at The Varsity. Stay tuned for its upcoming release.

For more information on Behind the Blue Line, contact Sports Editor Daniel Samuel at

The student life blog: The Squirrel

The new blog, launched last week, is a lighthearted opportunity for students to express themselves and their interests in a concise, short, and humorous way. It focuses on activities to do and places to see on campus and in the wider city of Toronto. Furthermore, the blog showcases the unique experiences of some students who wish to either describe their interesting travel stories or share stories about how they overcame a challenge.

The blog has been developing steadily throughout the past semester, with articles already available for readers. Ultimately, given the plethora of blogs these days, the project hopes to find and create a unique voice specifically for U of T, which we hope many students will wish to contribute to and read.

Visit the blog at To get involved with the section, contact Blog Editor Joseph Naim at

Hearing people out: Podcast

This year, we’ve built a podcast studio and started a Podcast section because we believe that podcasts offer more creative possibilities for our contributors. We currently have two shows: Bazaar and (Un)Spoken. The first is a variety show with multiple individually produced segments under one cool theme. Episode one was “FEAR OF,” and both “INFAMY” and “HEAD” episodes are on the way.

The second is a talk show focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups at U of T. We’ve done episodes on exclusionary tendencies in academia and Chinese diaspora on campus so far, and we’re planning episodes on Black students’ experiences as well as women in STEM.

Podcasts bring a unique focus to the importance of hearing people out — hearing a discussion as it was spoken or hearing the exact tone of someone’s voice. We hope to harness this to make the podcasts a more accessible way for people to look below the surface of U of T. As we continue with this very new project, we hope the podcasts can come to be seen as uniquely relatable and insightful output from The Varsity.

To get involved with the section, contact Podcast Editor Blythe Hunter at

Website redesign

The Varsity’s website has not had a major redesign since 2011. This semester, our online and creative teams will be working diligently to redesign the website, making it more user-friendly, intuitive, and accessible. A primary focus in the redesign will be showcasing the variety of content we produce — from Arts & Culture articles to videos to live-tweeting governance meetings. We also want to creatively present featured stories in a visually appealing way and provide readers with contextual stories alongside the latest news.

The Varsity is committed to reaching as many people in its community as possible and providing them with the information they need to know. The majority of our readership is online and we’d like to engage readers in a dialogue, ensuring that our communication is a two-way conversation.

Over the course of the year, The Varsity has implemented a few new projects designed to increase our online presence and gradually merge into a digitally-focused newspaper. Our new blog, podcast section, and this upcoming website redesign have been a three-pronged online strategy to this end.

For more information about our online strategy, contact Managing Online Editor Kaitlyn Simpson at

Professional development: we went to NASH

The levy increase helped The Varsity to supplement its budget for professional development. This meant that a contingent of Varsity staff were able to travel to Calgary from January 3–6 for the Canadian University Press’ annual NASH conference. This opportunity allowed us to attend presentations, panels, and workshops from industry leaders in media on topics ranging from social media strategies to innovations in visual journalism to using open-source intelligence tools in campus reporting.

Though only a delegation of staff were able to attend, the entire masthead and staff base will benefit from the takeaways from this conference. The conference also connected Varsity staff to student journalists from across the country, allowing us to share experiences and knowledge with a view to improving the strength and outlook of the student press across the country. Ultimately, we hope to apply what we’ve gained from NASH to improve the quality of our journalism for readers.

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