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 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.

UC to hold referendum on building revitalization

Plan includes JCR renovations, new library, new café, improvements to quad

UC to hold referendum on building revitalization

THE University College Literary and Athletics Society (UC Lit) plans to hold a referendum on creating a new levy for improvements to the University College (UC) building.

The new levy would comprise a tuition increase of $30.03 and $13.15 for full-time and part-time students respectively, over a span of 20 years. Even after the proposed increase, UC students would still be paying the second-lowest fees among all seven colleges.

“We want students to experience the amazing potential that our building has, and have the opportunity to use these revitalized and newly implemented spaces themselves before they graduate,” said UC Lit president Amanda Stojcevski. 

The levy is part of a larger $40 million campaign to revitalize the UC building. The campaign includes a new library and reading room at East and West Hall, improvements to the quadrangle, a conference centre at Croft Chapter House, audio-visual systems for all classrooms, a central elevator, and more accessible points of entry. Other funding sources for the project include the Faculty of Arts & Science, the Office of the Vice-President and Provost, the UC Capital Funds, donations from UC alumni, and the Boundless campaign.

Stojcevski stressed that the levy would be specifically allocated for improvements to student spaces. These include renovations to the Junior Common Room (JCR), such as power outlets on the floor, and a student run café at the the tower of the building (UC 376).

Stojcevski also mentioned that the recent flooding of the JCR will actually save the UC Lit time and money in the long run. “Since the cost of the new floor will be covered between the college and insurance as it was damaged out of our control, we now only need to cover the cost of the outlets,” she explained.   

According to Stojcevski, the new flooring of the JCR is expected to be completed within the next few weeks. Other improvements to the JCR will start in May and are scheduled to be completed in September before Frosh Week. The UC Lit hopes to see the café, library, elevator, and reading room completed around January 2017. Details for the quadrangle will be discussed with the Landmark Project, U of T’s initiative to revitalize outdoor public spaces throughout the entire campus.

This is the second time that this referendum has been introduced. In 2014, it was defeated by a margin of six votes.    

UC students will be able to vote online on March 10, between 9:00am and 9:00pm and in-person from 10:00am to 7:00pm.

Reading week spirits dampened after UC floods

Burst pipe to blame for wreckage

Reading week spirits dampened after UC floods

Students that hoped to make themselves comfortable in the University College Junior Common Room (JCR) over reading week were left shut out when a flood caused the room to close after a water pipe in the building burst; it did not reopen until February 25.

The JCR is a popular lounge and study space among students, especially those from University College. The space houses the office of the University College Literary and Athletic Society (UC Lit) and Diabolos, UC Lit’s student-run coffee shop, both of which were forced to close.

“We believe that the pipe burst due to the extreme cold,” said Melinda Scott, dean of students for University College. Over Family Day weekend, the City of Toronto issued an extreme cold alert as temperatures plummeted to below –20° Celsius.

In terms of repair, contractors worked to remove the damaged hardwood flooring and clean the concrete underneath. The floor of the JCR will remain exposed concrete until it can be replaced.

This is not the first time that ruptured pipes have caused a flood at U of T. Last year, Woodworth College residence flooded due to a burst pipe. In November 2014, Sidney Smith Hall flooded as a result of a water main break.

According to U of T’s annual deferred maintenance report that was released last month, the University College building currently has $6.9 million in deferred maintenance costs. The building was given a Facilities Condition Index score of 11.9 per cent; a score above 10 per cent indicates that a building is in poor condition.

Incidents of voyeurism return to University College

Peeping, room invasions wrack Sir Daniel Wilson Residence

Incidents of voyeurism return to University College

For a second time this academic year, residents at University College have been threatened by a spate of voyeurism, this time paired with a number of room invasions.

On February 17, Campus Police circulated a community alert to University College residents, which read: “On February 16, 2016 an unknown male was observed in the area of resident rooms within Sir Daniel Wilson Residence. The male left the area upon arrival of a community member. The male is described as: Male, Asian, 6’0”, slim build, short black hair, wearing a black peacoat style jacket with buttons down the front, grey hat, black boots.”

During reading week, this individual is believed to have entered a number of residents’ rooms, one of which belonged to Jessica Li.

According to Li: “My friend came to wake me up one morning. She left to brush her teeth and left my room open and then I fell back asleep. When she came back, she saw an unfamiliar Asian guy walk out of my room. She came in and asked me who that was, because she didn’t know that I was asleep and was unaware that someone had entered my room.”

Incidents at Sir Daniel Wilson Residence escalated from room invasions to outright voyeurism, where victims were spied upon while in the shower. “I was showering in the Sir Dan’s bathroom when someone looked into my shower,” said Alice*.

According to Alice: “I finished showering, left my shower caddy outside my door with my keys in it and went and talked to my friend whose room is right across from mine. When I left her room (maybe 5-10 minutes later) my keys and T-card had been removed from my shower caddy.”

On February 23, Oliver Dyment said that he saw someone watching Stacie* while she was showering. “I had just woken up, so I crossed the hall from my room into the bathroom. When I went in I saw a guy, all Smeagol-like, crouched down by the shower door,” Dyment recalled.

Dyment thought that the man was picking something off the floor but realized that he had been looking at Stacie as she showered. When the man noticed Dyment, he allegedly gave “a look of sheer guilt,” then bolted out the door.

“I went out into the hallway, where there were some other people, and we called Campus Police. He met the description of the person from the campus alert last week,” said Dyment.

Melinda Scott, dean of students at University College, said that Campus Police were able to identify the individual accused. As of yet, no charges have been laid in relation to either the room invasions or the voyeurism. Scott noted that they were not aware of any connection between the incidents and the February 17 community alert.

Stacie said that, despite the incidents, she “[considers] the residence to be pretty safe as long as I am careful and aware of my surroundings and remember to close my door even when I’m leaving for a couple of minutes.”

Not everyone involved was able to readjust after the events. Katherine*, the victim of a room invasion, said the incidents took a toll on her, and that she went home for a few days to recuperate. “I needed to feel safe for a little bit, but I still had nightmares for a few nights. Just knowing that someone would break into my room with possibly perverted intentions makes me feel sick,” explained Katherine.

This is not the first time University College has had to deal with instances of voyeurism. Early in fall semester, Toronto Police Services became involved at Whitney Hall where females were being filmed with a phone camera while they were in the shower. The perpetrator in that case was never identified or caught, but there is no indication that these incidents are linked.

Campus Police declined The Varsity’s request for comment.

*Name amended at individual’s request.

The makings of a play

In the lead up to the U of T Drama Festival, we tracked a UC Follies production

The makings of a play

The logistics of a theatrical production can be complicated. Finding a performance venue, or even just rehearsal space can be an arduous process. Fortunately, Twenty-Two Troubles Theatre Company — founded by three U of T drama students — found out about a UC Follies initiative that would provide them with administrative and creative support. They were taken on as the Follies’ incubator project, which came with a conditional spot in the annual U of T Drama Festival.

The company is curated by Madeleine Heaven, Sophie Munden, and Carmen Kruk. It will soon premiere What She Said, an experimental piece that uses the real words of real women to create a story.

The journey from inception to performance has been a long one. Munden has always wanted to work ‘in verbatim,’ but was daunted by the prospect of gathering enough raw material for an entire play. Once she, Heaven, and Kruk began working together, they started to discuss what they “wanted to say with the work that [they] were doing in theatre.” They decided to collect true stories of women, hoping that “sharing these stories [would] expand the cultural understanding of what it means to be a woman.”

The support of the Follies has been helpful, says Kruk. “They were very clear with us [that] if we ever needed anything, we could go to them for support, whether for administrative reasons or artistic reasons.”

They began by interviewing different women. The process was difficult at first, as the directors found it hard for the women involved to open up in such an intensely personal setting. Eventually, the team decided that the best way to move forward would be to approach the interviews as conversations, by gathering groups of about six or seven women, and participating in the interviews themselves.

“We never asked anybody to speak about something that we didn’t feel comfortable doing ourselves,” Kruk says. The questions became more specific, but the atmosphere was more conducive to personal connection. What they learned from this process, says Munden, was that “you can ask people anything and they’ll talk about the things they want to talk about. They’ll find a way to get there. People often found a way to talk about what they needed to talk about, regardless of the format of the question.”

The participation of the directors themselves in the interview process also created a deeply personal connection with the material. When the three started combining the stories of their interview subjects into composite characters, something felt off. “It felt like we weren’t doing their stories justice if we started putting them together to make characters out of them,” says Kruk. They agreed that “if we wanted to tell narratives, the best way to do that was to use the words of the females to whom the narratives belonged,” says Heaven.

Though the production has been in progress for about a year, it wasn’t until the winter holidays that the script was finally written. Even now, Kruk says, “We’ve been making little changes here and there.” The script has a conversational, but deeply intimate tone. It deals with themes of miscommunication, self-perception, and belonging. It’s about how people can isolate themselves in their own worlds, but have more in common than they think. “When you’re doing a show that’s about women’s narratives, you’re going to get things that are difficult to talk about,” Heaven says.

Rehearsal for What She Said is an exercise in organized chaos. There are seemingly endless questions to be asked and answered, about everything from the arrangement of the boxes that comprise the sparse set, to the precise number of seconds an actor will need to bounce her leg nervously. Everything is complicated by the busy schedules of everyone involved and sometimes the actors even have to rehearse around another’s absence.

There is no central message, though, and the directors make a point of saying so. Kruk says, “the heart of it has always been to try to do justice to the stories, and to the girls who shared with us.” Munden adds, “The important thing is that [the viewers] listen. I think that’s pretty much what it is for me, is that they just take a moment to listen to other people.”

Twenty-Two Troubles Theatre Company’s What She Said will debut on Thursday, February 11