University College renovations set to begin in January

Proposed renovations prioritize undergraduate usage and accessibility

University College renovations set to begin in January

A Town Hall hosted by the University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit) on October 10 discussed many of the drastic changes planned for the UC Building. The renovations, proposed in 2015, are part of a multi-million-dollar 10-year plan to restore the historic university buildings. Construction is scheduled to begin in early January of next year.

According to University College Principal Donald Ainslie, there are four core principles that influenced the renovations’ design. The first was to “put undergraduates first.” The second was to place focus on heritage, since UC is a national historic site. The third principle was accessibility. “We wanted the idea of the college to be for everyone,” said Ainslie. Plans are in place to add a new elevator to the front of the building.

“The final priority in the renovation was ensuring that UC… [is the] iconic building of the University of Toronto… We want to make sure that… U of T’s identity as one of world’s great teaching and research universities [is] embodied in the use of the building.”

New features will include a restored library and reading room, which will be named after former Toronto Dominion Bank CEO Ed Clark for his $2.5 million donation. UC alumnus Paul Cadario also donated $3 million to the restoration project; there will be a conference centre at Croft Chapter House named after him.

The renovation costs are to be covered by college donors and a student levy established under UC Lit, which increased by $12.50 in accordance with a vote in March 2016. “Over the past three years, a student advisory committee appointed by the UC Lit has and continues to be involved in discussions on the renovations to ensure the needs of students will be prioritized in them, especially since UC students are paying for the renovation costs,” wrote UC Lit President Albert Hoang to The Varsity. “A large majority of UC students in March 2016 voted in favour of increasing their student fees by $12.50 per session (part time students would pay $5 per session) and these increases would go towards the student levy collected over 20 years.”

Several areas near UC will be inaccessible until the end of construction in spring 2019. The UC quad walkways will be closed to build wider paths; the east and west hall on the second floor of the college will be closed and will become the new library and Clarke Family Reading Room; and the Alumni Lounge and the F Wing Basement will be inaccessible.

Student organizations — including the college newspaper The Gargoyle, located in the F Wing — are working with university officials to “find a way for them to continue their activities even during the construction,” according to Ainslie.

Student events, including the Fireball social and Orientation organized by UC Lit, are also expected to be affected by the renovations. “Students will still be able to enjoy events put on by the UC Lit and its ancillaries,” said Hoang. UC Lit said it will be working with the college administration to “preserve the spirit and quality” of social events.

UC Lit, Dean of Students move to prevent future orientation troubles

Budget deficit balanced by “compromises within events”

UC Lit, Dean of Students move to prevent future orientation troubles

The University College (UC) Orientation deficit of $10,000 is raising questions among University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit) members as to how to prevent future instances of financial mismanagement.

The deficit in large part arose from a previously-lost invoice for $7,200 worth of breakfasts. This deficit reduced the UC Lit’s contingency fund from 12 per cent to 2 per cent and forced the council to re-budget in order to refill the fund.

UC Orientation, which is an ancillary service of the UC Lit, initially went over-budget by $2,000; this was resolved at a December 8, 2016 council meeting by reducing the contingency fund from $12,000 to $10,000.

A $7,200 invoice found by Ramsey Andary, President of the UC Lit, in addition to another $800 in expenses, led to the contingency fund being brought down to $2,000, or 2 per cent of the UC Lit’s budget.

At the January 15, 2017 meeting of the UC Lit, council had to re-budget in order to bring the contingency fund back to 12 per cent. According to UC Lit Finance Commissioner Snow Mei, a total of $9,710 was moved to contingency, with budget cuts affecting events such as the All-Night Fung, the Spring Pub Crawl, and the Awards Banquet, among others.

Andary told The Varsity that “the deficit was resolved by making compromises within various Lit events.” The public will be able to view the specific line items that were altered after the minutes from the UC Lit’s meeting on January 15 are published.

Melinda Scott, the Dean of Students at University College, told The Varsity that she has “met with members of the Core Executive to discuss the situation and our Student Life Coordinator was in attendance at Sunday’s meeting.”

Scott made it clear that her office is there to support the UC Lit, but that ultimately they are an independent body.

“We are always available to members of the Council for advice or support. However, as an independent, incorporated student society – the UCLit has responsibility for the oversight of its budget,” she said.

In addition to the issue of financial mismanagement, this year’s Orientation Co-Chairs, Abby Godden and Julia Davis, breached council policy on how they were supposed to be paid their $6,000 honoraria.

Twenty per cent of the honoraria is supposed to be withheld until after a full written report and a financial audit of UC Orientation is presented to the council. This is required under chapter six, section two, subsection E of the UC Lit’s Council Policies for the funds to be released.

Godden and Davis signed off on their own cheques for the remainder of their honoraria, at a time when a full written report and a financial audit had not yet been presented to the council.

There had been some questions in 2016 as to whether or not a financial arrangement between the Office of the Dean of Students and UC Orientation should be ended to remove conflicts between the two bodies. Ultimately, it was not. Godden was in favour of removing the role of the office from UC Orientation.

Scott says that she does “not believe that additional funding provided by [her] office was the cause of any conflict with the Orientation Coordinators.”

Andary responded to whether or not the Co-Chairs will face repercussions but failed to address what the consequences are for breaching Council Policy: “The Orientation Co-Chairs are no longer employed by the UC Lit and the council will not be taking punitive action against previous staff members.”

He went on to say that the UC Lit appreciates the hard work the Co-Chairs did in delivering a successful orientation week overall.

Scott says that she does not “believe that the remuneration for future Orientation Coordinators should be compromised based on our experience this year.”

Moving forward, both the Office of the Dean of Students and the UC Lit are making changes to ensure that problems like the discovered deficit do not happen in the future.

“The UC Lit will be focusing on placing better measures to support the Orientation team’s financial management as well as prevent the breaking of policies for upcoming years,” Andary said.

Scott explained, “In an effort to ensure a positive working relationship moving forward, we are in the final stages of developing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the UCLit which will establish the expectations of the UCLit, UC Orientation Coordinators, and the Office of the Dean of Students with regard to the planning and implementation of future Orientation programs.”

Andary said that the core executive, comprised of the President, Vice President, and Finance Commissioner “is working to complete the internal audit as soon as it can while also ensuring the audit is done as thoroughly as possible. We cannot provide a date as of yet.”

At press time, Godden and Davis had not responded to The Varsity’s request for comment.

The line items affected

Event/Service Amount cut
All Night Fung $1,500
Rep Initiative Fund $400
Poetry Slam $550
Spring University College Pub Crawl $250
Hart House Farm Retreat $1,050
Active Fun University College Off-Campus Commission Event $200
Spiritwear and Promotions $2,350
Community Engagement $750
UC Waterbottles $500
Awards Banquet $800
Trivia Night $299
Commission Meetings $120
Raptors Game $340
Miscellaneous $200

UC revitalization referendum passes

Next UC Lit council to make decisions about student-run café

UC revitalization referendum passes

A vote in a University College Literary & Athletic Society’s (UC Lit) referendum for a building revitalization levy has passed.

The referendum was held online on March 10, along with the UC Lit executive elections. There were 250 votes in favour, 88 against, and 21 abstentions. 

The levy will be $12.50 for full-time students and $5 for part-time students, bringing the total UC student fees to $30.03 and $13.15 for full-time and part-time students, respectively. The money will go towards various improvements to the University College building, including: renovations to the Junior Common Room (JCR); a new student lounge and café in room 376; improvements to the quadrangle; and an expansion of the UC Success Centre. 

UC Lit president Amanda Stojcevski called the referendum a “huge achievement.”

“Many students involved in our campaign contributed a lot of time and effort into informing students about the referendum, and we are so proud to see that it paid off,” she said. “I am very excited to see the vibrant UC Community expand into the beautiful building we have, and I hope it makes future students even more proud to be a part of UC.”

This is not the first time the referendum was introduced. In 2014, it failed to reach a two-thirds majority by a margin of six votes. 

“It was quite discouraging to have the previous referendum fail by about six votes a couple years ago during my first year at university and a lot of students felt the same,” said UC Lit vice president and president-elect for the 2016–2017 year Ramsey Andary. “But it is thanks to those students who pushed for informing the community on the importance of revitalizing their common spaces that we were able to be successful this time around.”

Some details of the revitalization projects have yet to be finalized, and the UC Lit plans to hold a JCR assessment meeting on March 17 to receive input from students. The UC Lit also plans to discuss the renovations to the quadrangle with the Landmark Committee.

The incoming UC Lit executive will need to decide whether to operate the café in UC 376 themselves or have UC Food Services run it. The UC Lit has the right of first refusal to operate the café and currently operates Diabolos’, a student-run coffee shop located in the JCR.

Diabolos’, which had previously experienced financial and operational challenges, reopened in January 2015 after remaining closed for several months.

Nevertheless, Andary supports making the café student-run.

“Although we found this year that opening Diabolos’ Coffee Bar in its new form was a great challenge, we definitely knew it was worth the hassle. We learned and made note of every little detail it takes to set up a functioning student-run café, and I do believe we can use that experience in opening a ‘second branch’ in UC 376,” Andary told The Varsity.

“To have this café run by the UC Lit means we can open up more opportunities for students in our community to get involved with this project and encourage students to check out the revitalized spaces that will be opened up in the upper floors of UC,” said Andary.