The Breakdown: What will cannabis legalization even look like at U of T?

University officials say cannabis is an “evolving issue”

The Breakdown: What will cannabis legalization even look like at U of T?

With cannabis legalization coming up on October 17, the university plans to treat cannabis in the same way that it treats tobacco. This means that, among other things, students will be banned from smoking in residence and from receiving deliveries for online orders.

In an interview with The Varsity, Senior Director for Student Success Heather Kelly said that, like other institutions, U of T would “largely rely on existing policies to respond to the changes for smoking cannabis in residence.”

For instance, residences currently have a zero-tolerance policy for smoking cigarettes indoors.

“The smoking of cannabis will not be any different,” said Kelly. “Students will not be allowed to smoke cannabis in dorms.”

For medical users, Kelly assured that they will continue to make necessary accommodations.

“We’ve always accommodated for medical marijuana. Academic accommodations or any accommodations are individualized in nature. So it really depends on the nature of the request and the residents’ environment, but we have and will continue to make exceptions for students who require marijuana for medical purposes.”

However, the issues will continue to evolve, even after the legalization of cannabis. For smoking outdoors, students are expected to obey federal and provincial legislation, which will allow people to smoke in public places such as parks and sidewalks, but not in indoor common areas.

Outdoor smoking rules would also be very difficult to enforce. In an interview with The Varsity, Sociology Professor Patricia Erickson said that there are “very difficult enforcement issues.”

“It’s probably easier to tie it into tobacco, then try to sort out which drug is being used where.”

Erickson, whose main area of expertise is the cultural and legal normalization of cannabis, also spoke about how legalization could affect campus culture. She said that despite common belief, legalization will not change much in terms of the normalization of cannabis, especially among younger people.

“The law, I think, is now coinciding more with the normalization process rather than the normalization process driving the legal change,” she said. “I would also say be careful, I think, about assuming that use will go up… It depends on age, and sex, and your kind of cultural setting, and so on.”

“I really thought legalization was coming,” said Erickson, speaking about the beginning of her career in the ’70s. “And instead, we’ve gone through decades of very modest proposals about decriminalizing possession and reducing the penalties. There was never a serious proposal put forward.”

Edibles will not be available for legal purchase in Canada as of October 17, so the university is taking more time to come up with an appropriate policy relating to this issue.

“Once there is more information with respect to edibles, we’ll review it, and we will also take a look at our existing policy. However, currently, because the new law does not cover edibles, again, we expect students to obey the law, and so we are only addressing the smoking of cannabis at this time,” noted Kelly.

The university is also planning to educate students on responsible marijuana usage. “Starting with orientation and continuing with our health promotions programming throughout the year, what we are doing is talking to students about safety, understanding their limits, making sure they’re aware of their rights, but also their responsibilities… and I think most importantly where to seek help,” said Kelly.

Particular importance will also be placed on helping students understand how to recognize and respond to situations in which they or someone else is in distress, and how to seek assistance if they believe that cannabis is negatively impacting their or someone else’s academic or personal life.

“Our focus is really about helping students learn about resources available to them.”

— With files from Andy Takagi

U of T Blockchain Group presents Blockfest

Students will explore applications of new technology through workshops and talks

U of T Blockchain Group presents Blockfest

U of T Blockfest, a student-run hackathon focusing on blockchain ecosystems, will be held October 12–14 in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology.

The 36-hour hackathon will introduce students to blockchain technology and its applications.

Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrency and it functions as a decentralized ledger of encrypted records — ‘blocks’ — connected chronologically in a series — a ‘chain’ — that cannot be easily tampered with by any one entity. Among other potential applications, it could be used to track goods in a complex supply chain.

The Varsity sat down with Stephanie Zhang, Vice-President of the U of T Blockchain Group and co-organizer of the event, to discuss the importance of hackathons, blockchain, and how students can get involved.

“We’re trying to foster a friendly environment where students are helping students, mentors are helping students, and students are given the resources that they need so that they are able to make sense of… things that they might not be able to make sense of on their own,” said Zhang. “We just want people to collaborate.”

When asked about the value of blockchain, Zhang answered, “Toronto is actually a really, really bustling place in the blockchain industry,” noting that Vitalik Buterin, the creator of cryptocurrency Ethereum, is from Toronto.

“Toronto actually has a lot of growing companies,” continued Zhang, “and they’re all looking for student developer talent.”

“What we want to do is to better prepare our students to be able to take the jobs that are openly available for them, and maybe even get them interested in developing on blockchain, so that they are able to then continually develop better and better infrastructure for these platforms,” she added.

This kind of focus and student direction, according to Zhang, is what distinguishes U of T Blockfest from other, larger hackathons.

Blockfest will host workshops to help participants find ideas that interest them. Participants will be able to form groups of up to four, and mentors will be on hand to support them through the completion of their projects until the end of the hackathon.

“We’re also going to be posting resources on the Slack before the event, so students can start messing around with it themselves before they come into the hackathon,” she added.

Zhang fondly remembered a story from EthUofT, a hackathon that she had helped organize in March.

“Last year, we had a first-year student walk onto the hackathon, [and] ask what was going on.”

“He was like, ‘What’s going on here? Oh, it’s a hackathon. What’s a hackathon about? Oh, can I join?’”

He was added to a team and, according to Zhang, the student learned to program through workshops and talks, and executed a project with the help of teammates within 36 hours. 

Zhang encourages interested students to participate, and to not be concerned if they are unfamiliar with blockchain technology.

“It’s okay if you don’t build anything as long as you’re there to learn, because the whole goal of our hackathon is for you to learn something,” said Zhang.

Students can now register at to participate in the hackathon, which will be held at Bahen from October 12–14. Those interested in volunteering at Blockfest or helping out with future hackathons can email

Undergrad is the time to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do

Take advantage of all U of T’s resources and try something new

Undergrad is the time to do everything you’ve ever wanted to do

While at U of T, I always felt like I was running out of time.

This first week of school turned into fourth year, and then in between, there were months of pure agony when my mental health went down the drain. But before I knew it, I made it to the other side, and it was all just over.

In hindsight, you too will likely feel as if you have missed so many opportunities and lost so much time. Don’t stress. Instead, get to know all the incredibly talented students here: both your peers and yourself. Embrace all that this school has to offer.

If you’re not sure where to begin, ask someone. It’s unlikely that you will have a chance like undergrad at U of T ever again, where you can walk in with zero experience, gain access to hundreds of resources and opportunities, and then take risks with minimal consequences.

Write that play, and submit it to the U of T Drama Festival. Form a makeshift band, perform at empty open mics, and audition for the Winterfest Battle of the Bands. Write some dramatic poetry, and submit it to a college review. Heck, pitch a podcast to The Varsity and see what happens. Even if you’re rejected, you’ll have written a play, you’ll have experience performing live, and you’ll have a creative portfolio to edit and pull from for next time.

If you’re a commuter, don’t just go home after class. If you live on res, don’t spend your whole life at Robarts Library. Talk to the people in your tutorial and form a study group together. They might just become your good friends. Look for hidden study spots throughout the rest of campus, and then get off campus and explore the actual city.

I spent much of this last summer saying goodbye to people and deliberating whether or not I should move to Vancouver for grad school. “I feel like I wasted so much time not knowing you guys,” one of my best friends said before moving to England.

“But I feel like we’ve known you forever,” I responded.  

Sure, we weren’t able to do everything we had hoped to during undergrad. Realistically, there just wasn’t enough time between all the extracurriculars, academics, and friends. Yet, as it all came to a close, I’m grateful we all did so much while we could, or saying goodbye wouldn’t have been nearly so difficult.

More U of T Professors Read Mean Reviews

The Varsity continues to capture the reactions of U of T professors reading mean reviews about themselves online from Rate My Professors

More U of T Professors Read Mean Reviews

A history of success

A timeline of Varsity Blues at the Olympic Games

A history of success

Ahead of the Rio Olympics, The Varsity takes a look at the history of U of T olympians.

Varsity Blues have been representing Canada in the Olympics since 1900. The Blues have been representated in sports like swimming, track and field, and women’s hockey. The very first Blue to compete in the games was George Orton. Orton was the first Canadian to medal at the Olympics, earning a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles and a gold in the 2,500m steeplechase.       

Orton’s successes came before Canada even had an Olympic team. In the early years of the modern Olympics, Canadian athletes competed as individuals in primarily track and field events.              

Although Orton was a Blue in his undergrad, his invitation to the Olympics came when he was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. Since Canada did not send a team, Orton competed with the American team. It took decades for Orton’s accomplishments to be recognized as a Canadian triumph; however, he has since been regarded as Canada’s first Olympic medalist.       

Allan Keith and Orville Elliot were two members of the Varsity Blues gymnastics team who represented Canada at the 1908 Olympic Games. That same year, Ed Archibald and Cal Bricker, members of the track and field team, each earned bronze medals.

Greater successes for the Blues came later. As the Olympics increased in popularity, the Varsity Blues represented Canada in greater numbers. In the 1924 Paris Olympics the entirety of U of T’s eight-man rowing team was selected to compete. The team more than held their own against the international competition, cruising to a second place finish.

U of T has since had a consistent presence at the Olympics. Members of the Varsity Blues hockey team were chosen to play for Canada in the 1928 Winter Olympic Games, earning a gold medal, Canada’s third straight gold in hockey.

This came during a very dominant period for Canadian Olympic hockey; the team was in the midst of a run that would see them winning six of seven gold medals from 1920 (the year hockey was introduced to the Games) to 1952. 

As dominant as the men’s team has been, Blues women have been just as successful. The women’s hockey team earned silver in 1998 and has won gold in every Olympics since.

Besides medals, another fixture of this team has been Jayna Hefford, who has represented the Canadian team in every competition since women’s hockey was introduced in 1998. Hefford, who played for the Blues as an undergraduate, recently retired to become an assistant coach at her alma mater. Her goal in the 2002 championship game won Canada a gold medal. 

In addition to our nation’s penchant for winter Olympic glory, the Varsity Blues have maintained a presence in the summer Olympics as well. The Blues swimming program has had a long history of success at the games. In 1972, five Blues represented Canada’s swim team. Erik Fish earned a bronze.

Current Blues swim coach Bryan MacDonald also competed in 1972. Since he began his head coaching tenure in 1978-1979, the Blues have sent 27 swimmers to the Games, representing Canada, Switzerland, Barbados, and Swaziland. MacDonald’s presence at the games has extended beyond his players — since 1984, he has been a commentator for the swimming events at nearly every Olympics. He has won two Gemini awards for his coverage, in 2004 and in 2008.              

The most recent competitors to represent Canada and U of T came in 2012 by athletes Sarah Wells and Rosie MacLennan. Wells, a former CIS gold medalist, competed in her first Olympic games in London in the 400m hurdles competition where she placed twenty-fourth. Current kinesiology  graduate student, and trampoline gymnast Rosie MacLennan competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and won Canada its only gold medal of the entire London 2012 games. Both Wells and MacLennan hope to represent Canada and U of T in Rio.

Science around town

Your guide to the top science-related events this week

Science around town

The robot will see you now: the revolution of artificial intelligence in medicine

Ethicists, computer scientists, artificial intelligence experts, and health care professionals come together to weigh in on the ethical issues concerning the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. How will we deal with issues of confidentiality, accuracy, and accountability?

Tuesday, April 5 

4:00–5:30 pm 

Bahen Centre for Information Technology

40 St. George Street


Admission: Free with registration 

Designmeets: Design Thinking in Healthcare

Hosted by PIVOT Design Group, this talk is about transformation in the healthcare experience and delivery. It features speakers Collen Youg, online community director for Mayo Clinic connect, Craig Thompson, diector of digital communications at Women’s College Hospital, and other innovative thinkers. 

Tuesday, April 5 

6:00 pm 

MaRS Discovery District

101 College Street 

Main Auditorium 

Admission: Free with registration 

Astrotour Planetarium Shows

Join the free Astronomy Public tour —  taking place on the first Thursday of every month — for a free public talk followed by telescope observing and planetarium shows.

Thursday, April 7 

8:00–10:30 pm 

Astronomy Building

50 St. George Street 

Admission: Free with registration (meeting places differ)

Astronaut Jeremy Hansen Speaks

The U of T Aerospace Team and UTSonISS hosts space talk, featuring Lt. Col. Jeremy R. Hansen, one of the two Canadian astronauts expected to fly to the ISS by 2024. This is an opportunity for students to find out more about the Canadian Space Programme and what it’s like to be an astronaut.

Friday, April 8 

11:30 am–12:30 pm 

Bahen Centre for Information Technology

40 St. George Street


Admission: Free with registration 

The most obscure courses at U of T

Highlighting essential non-essentials that the university has to offer

The most obscure courses at U of T

Unfortunately, the four years of lectures that make up an undergraduate experience can be a joyless journey. Buried deep in U of T’s course catalogue, however, are a number of unconventional academic gems. The following are real students’ tales of real classes that you can really take during your time at U of T.

CIN360: Doppelgangers and Doubles

“I realized just how ridiculous ‘Doppelgangers and Doubles’ was as our professor stood in front of a projector displaying a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio standing next to his Russian doppelganger. The course covered exactly what it said it would: doppelgangers in cinema. Surprisingly, there was a lot to talk about. At times we studied the CGI element of recreating a figure on-screen, and at times we discussed 20th century Horror-flick philosophy surrounding the ‘return of the repressed’. While surprisingly informative, I can say with absolute certainty that there’s virtually nothing I can do with the information I’ve absorbed from this course.”

— Jacob Lorinc

HIS440: Maps and History

“This class focuses on the theory behind the creation of maps, rather than any historic dates or other standard midterm fare. When pressed on what would possibly be on the midterm, Professor Retallack simply teased, ‘if you are present in class, you shouldn’t have a problem.’ So the day of the midterm arrived and I showed up with a solid combination of anxiety and curiosity, only to find that the midterm was a single-page wine advertisement that featured a map of where the drinker’s night would take them, and we were to analyze this map. To my surprise, I realized much of what was covered in class could be applied to the wine ad’s map. The midterm went well but I can honestly say that it was the strangest and most memorable test I have ever taken.”

— Christian Crawford 

MUS321: The Beatles

“Never did I think watching a YouTube clip of Ringo Starr sitting on his yacht recounting how many drugs he and the rest of the Fab Four consumed during the ’60s would get me closer to graduation. But sure enough, there I was in lecture furiously transcribing Ringo’s ramblings like a court reporter, hoping to catch some miscellaneous one-liner that might end up as a test’s bonus question. The Beatles class was a thrill for any pop/rock enthusiast, as we spent each week doing, well, exactly what you’d expect: working our way through the Beatles’ discography one week at a time, watching clips from their all-too-short touring stint, and debating over which Beatle was the best (read ‘dreamiest’). It was the most in-touch I’ve ever felt with those girls you hear screaming in the background of every Beatles live video, and I loved it.”

— Corey van den Hoogenband   

ENG235: The Graphic Novel

“I have been thinking about that ‘what even is this class’ moment, and for me it was really while writing the essay for the Graphic Novel course. I tend to send my essays to my brother to proof read, but in this case it was also specifically because I thought he would enjoy the subject matter. He sent it back to me after reading the first line and refused to read the rest, claiming that it was unfair that he was working on advanced mathematics for his engineering problem sheets while I was writing a paper about Batman’s existential crisis in The Dark Knight Returns. Even after I finished the course, he refused to read any of my essays out of bitterness.”

— Scheherazade Khan 

ENG239: Fantasy and Horror

“There’s a Fantasy and Horror class at UTM and we had to read I Am Legend. But Professor Koening-Woodyard is obviously the biggest nerd ever (he also taught the Science Fiction class), and there was a point where he just explained for twenty minutes how he calculated how many zombies the main character killed throughout the course of the plot, even though like 99% of it is implied and it had nothing to do with anything besides him wanting to nerd out for a while. Weird side note: all three horror novels we read for the class were about vampires. Even Twilight was originally going to be included, but the Professor decided to cut it before the class actually started.”

— Nicholas Schaus

CIN211: Science Fiction Film

“There I was having a mental breakdown. ‘This is it mom, I am going to flunk out,’ I, age 23, told my mother. All of this anguish and it was over what, my mother asked me. ‘…Are you serious? Barbarella?’ It was my final year of undergrad and it was looking like nude, zero gravity Jane Fonda, was defeating me. I did manage to finish the paper, though. A paper my Professor, who unbeknownst to me was a huge Barbarella fan, commented on as ‘taking the film too seriously.’ Upon reading his less than favorable comment I felt dismayed, declaring rudely to my wonderful T.A., ‘But this is Cinema Studies! Don’t you guys take all movies too seriously?'”

— India McAlister

In photos: UNSOC

A photo essay on the University of Toronto United Nations Society

In photos: UNSOC

Buried deep behind the air of pretense, global awareness, bow ties, and a thirst for the coveted ‘Best Delegate’ gavel, you will find the eager and passionate Model United Nations Delegate.

What is Model UN (MUN)? It can be described as a quest to solve world issues following the format of the procedures of the United Nations, but comprehends much more. This includes constructing speeches, negotiating with other delegates, following the platform of the country/individual you are representing and more; all in committees reflecting existing bodies in the United Nations such as General Assemblies, the Security Council and more.

The United Nations Society (UNSOC) at the University of Toronto is an organization of students who are passionate about Model UN and come together to help practice and better their skills and are able to attend conferences across the world. Delegates have attended conferences ranging from McGill MUN in Montreal, to Harvard MUN in Boston, even to World MUN in Rome.

All in search of the desired gavel. Fitting within the palms of one’s hand it is a symbol of effective public speaking and creative resolutions alongside teamwork and active participation.



But this search for the gavel isn’t the sole premise of Model UN. What keeps students coming back as delegates is the experience. The adrenaline of creating quick and effective resolutions to real global problems, the blocs of countries and alliances formed, the strategy, the history, the research, the preparation, and the passionate public speaking. Not to forget, the incredible friendships made.

So how does UNSOC work?

Within the halls of Woodsworth on Fridays from 3-5, if you listen closely enough, you will hear the minds at work of MUNers in crisis committee simulations, foundational learning of MUN strategies for success, and sharing their specific and overall experiences of MUN. These are what comprise the training sessions held every week to grow the strengths and potential of the delegates present.





Ivana Vujeva, one of this year’s Co-Directors of Training has been an avid Model UN participant throughout her schooling. Winning prizes and distinction, she has proven her calibre and strengths as a model delegate. But things weren’t always so easy for her.

“It’s funny, when people see me now, they usually have no idea that when I first started Model UN, I was suffering from social anxiety that made it really hard to put myself out there, make new friends, and even interact with people I knew a little. 6 years later, Model UN has taken me from someone who would be too awkward to take on leadership roles and consistently question their own worth in a social group, to someone who—though I still have a lot to work on—feels far more comfortable sharing and advocating for my ideas, standing up for what I believe in, and putting myself out there socially”.

For Vujeva, she believes that the experience has been core to shaping who she is, “That’s why I always say that Model UN saved my life—without it, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have been capable of this sort of growth”.




John Masangkay serves as Ivana’s partner as Co-Director of Training. He touches upon the importance Model UN has played in his life as well.

“I’m approaching my 6th year of Model UN. I first started doing this when I was a 14-year-old in high school and I’ve been hooked on it since. In such a large school such as U of T, Model UN has provided for me a vibrant and active community of like minded people. It is one of the central sources that I have made a significant portion of my friend group from”.

Masangkay also goes on to explain the importance of the skills MUN has taught him and what can be learned for other delegates as well.

“Model UN has definitely made me become a better public speaker. Before this, I would have never expected feeling comfortable speaking in groups larger than 40, let alone 300. It’s also taught me a lot about social dynamics: how to read people, how people change under stress, how to manage their stress, and how to appeal to different personality types. Most importantly, Model UN has drastically affected my worldview. I think it has made me a more open and accepting person, skeptical of dominating narratives. Being placed in the shoes of a different country every conference, the research has definitely shown me how drastically perspectives can differ on issues depending on geographical, historical, and cultural contexts”.

Vujeva also emphasizes however that it is solely not the experience but the people within it.

“I was able to find a community in the United Nations Society that accepted me for who I was, and gave me a space where I felt valued. When I came to meetings, I left my anxiety and outside pressures at the door. When I decided to run for co-director of training, I decided that I didn’t just want to improve curriculum, I wanted to take my experience and make that the rule for our organization, not the exception. And I have to say, it couldn’t have been more rewarding”.

Her training and expertise have also helped grow the UNSOC platform and community: “When my partner and I decided we wanted to drive the concept of ‘UNSOC the Family’ home every training session, the results were incredible. Meeting attendance practically quadrupled, members were bonding and forming friendships early on in the year, our social events were full of people who wanted to hang out with us, and novices and seasoned veterans alike came forward and commented how much more enjoyable the conference experience was now that there was a defined club culture of inclusiveness and dedication to our team”.

Masangkay adds: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a specific club, sport, or debate format like Model UN. I think all that matters is the community of people that fills the niche that matters the most”.

Training isn’t the only thing however that brings the group closer together. The emphasis on bonding and ensuring that the experience is also about relationships and friendships is brought through relaxing downtime. This includes hosting charitable events that bring the community together. This year, on March 9, UNSOC hosted a Coffee House with Partners in Health at U of T supporting initiatives in global health. The open mic night allowed for the delegates to transform into performers showcasing other facets of their various talents from musical capabilities, to spoken word, and stand-up comedy, the night was filled with hearty laughter and bonding.







Danna Aranda (pictured above to the left) mentions how the Coffee House was a new experience differing from her every day Model UN simulations and training: “My partner and I didn’t actually think we would pull through ‘til the day of the coffeehouse. It was almost kind of spontaneous driven by our anxiety with school. We figured we should take one for the team, do something fun, perform, and be spontaneous—something you don’t get to do so often!”

Venessa Sectakof (pictured to the right) acts as the current Co-Conference Services Director and incoming President of UNSOC for the 2016-2017 academic year also enjoys the outreach as she states that, “It’s been an absolute pleasure watching UNSOC grow and work with other on-campus organizations to host various social and charitable events this past year”. She goes on to call upon the importance of this work and its benefits for the club as well: “We are becoming such an increasingly inclusive club with a rapidly expanding membership. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us over the coming year and look forward to future inter-campus collaborative events!”

With rampant training mixed with the right amount of rest, a delegate is prepared to give their best in committee! UNSOC hosted its own In-House Simulation on March 11 allowing delegates a shot at polishing up their skills and putting them to the test.




Here, the delegates while intensely participating in world peace in the general assembly, and world domination in the crisis committee, touched upon their experiences within the Model UN committee.



“Its an amazing experience. Having fun and enjoying yourself is a much larger component than the high school level. At the same time, I finally have opponents of my caliber… I’m always learning new things, whether that be from an opponent, or from our Training Directors. It’s a constant process of growing as a debate[r], but also as a person.”



“My exposure to Model UN in high school has definitely been the backbone to my experience of Model UN in university. I joined UNSOC after getting intrigued by them at clubs’ fair in September, after which I attended their weekly Friday meetings. Every Friday we go through either simulations and or training sessions on how to become better delegates; and despite sounding otherwise, they’re honestly a lot of fun. I also went to Montreal this year with the team for MCMUN, which was one of my favourite experiences of first year at UofT. Moreover, this also encouraged me to become a staff member of UTMUN this year. I can’t wait to be a part of both these clubs again next year.…I love UNSOC, and I’m so incredibly glad I decided to check their weekly emails and think “this might just be interesting, I’ll just go to this one meeting and check it out”; first year would have been a lot duller without it.”



It’s difficult to say what Model UN means to me, because there’s so many different aspects. At conferences, I love to watch everyone come together to represent diverse perspectives on really pressing issues. Even though we aren’t affecting real change, we are debating ideas and solutions that are actually being discussed in policymaking bodies around the world.  From a team perspective, Model UN at U of T has really become a home on campus. It’s a network of individuals who care deeply about global politics and are always willing to support each other and share ideas….I’m endlessly inspired by the group of people I get to work with at UNSOC. Every time I’m exhausted and want to leave a meeting, someone suggests we go out to eat or debate for just a few more minutes. Everyone in the organization is interested in it because they like their friends and they love to share ideas. This year the most exciting thing has been watching younger students start to feel like they really can take ownership of the organization – in terms of running for elections or taking photographs at events, or writing about us in The Varsity!”



Regardless of whether you are a first year or an outgoing president, UNSOC has served to act as a community that not only grows strong public speakers and critical thinkers for global problems, but also fosters a sense of family — “UNSOC the Family” that is.

Article and photos by Kassandra Neranjan.