Graduate students express frustration, confusion at U of T’s advisories on lab work amid COVID-19

“Non-essential” lab research to be suspended as of March 20 due to pandemic

Graduate students express frustration, confusion at U of T’s advisories on lab work amid COVID-19

On March 13, U of T announced that it would be cancelling in-person courses for undergraduate and graduate students, but that research operations would continue. “Faculty members have a responsibility to maintain the operations of laboratory and research environments,” reads the statement

Almost immediately, confusion ensued among research staff, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scientists, and graduate students across U of T.  

Days later, on March 17, U of T officials stated that lab-based research operations must be shut down by March 20 at 5:00 pm, with the exception of time-sensitive projects under the approval of the Incident Management Team, or projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But before U of T made this call, research staff and graduate students were left in limbo. 

Some researchers received directions from their respective faculties, departments, or research supervisors to remain home if possible, or work in the lab during off-peak hours. In addition, several departments advised principal investigators (PIs), or heads of research groups, to move group meetings online, prepare contingency plans for experiments, and accommodate students who feel unsafe coming into work. 

Researchers at U of T-affiliated hospitals have also received additional advisories. 

On March 16, the University Health Network (UHN) suspended “non-essential on-site research activities” until April 6. The UHN noted that projects related to COVID-19, studies essential to clinical care, and those that have “significant cost- or time-related implications” will remain active, but in-person access will be limited to “essential personnel” who have been tasked with maintaining facilities, instrumentation, or looking after animal colonies.

“We all have a pile of papers to write and data to analyze,” wrote Dr. Bradly Wouters, Executive Vice-President Science and Research at UHN, in an email to PIs at UHN on March 12. “Stay home, use the time valuably and let’s all see a bump in publication productivity over the next 6 months.”

The Varsity contacted graduate students across various science departments at U of T to determine how their departments, labs, and supervisors are responding to COVID-19. 

Mixed signals: graduate students received little direction from departments, PIs

Lee*, a public health graduate student, said that their PI initially expected their team to come into the lab every day amid cancellation announcements, even though Lee’s lab does not require wet-lab or on-site experiments.  

“My PI has given us no direction on whether we’re to come in but it seems like the expectation is yes,” wrote Lee to The Varsity. Lee noted that they felt their PI’s message to lab members “seemed to downplay the situation.” 

Similarly, Alex*, a biology graduate student, wrote to The Varsity that while their PI encouraged lab members to take precautions, like washing their hands often, they still expected students to work in the lab. 

“[They want] us to do more work just in case we won’t be able to in the future. For example if we become sick and need to self-isolate,” Alex wrote. “[They think] there’s less distractions now since we don’t have as much TA work.”

“I am concerned about getting infected but since it’s worse in older people I’m more concerned about getting infected and then infecting others,” Alex noted. 

Following U of T’s announcement on March 17, both Lee and Alex’s PIs responded by either telling them to stay home, or to make preparations to work from home. 

In a comment to The Varsity, the University of Toronto Graduate Students Union (UTGSU) wrote that they have been communicating with administration regarding lab closures.

“The UTGSU Executives are disappointed that it took so long for the University to take this step, but remain advocates for safe working conditions for our members.”

Prioritizing health and safety: “It’s been instilled in the lab culture”

While some graduate students felt frustrated at a lack of response from their supervisors, several graduate students told The Varsity that their PIs have taken extra steps to support their lab members during the pandemic. 

Chemistry PhD candidate JoAnn Chen wrote to The Varsity that her PI had not explicitly said anything about COVID-19, but her lab’s culture has always made it possible for students to stay home when they are feeling sick.

“In my lab, the students have decided [that] we’ll come in when we have scheduled instrument time, but otherwise, we won’t be coming to lab,” Chen wrote on March 13. “Our supervisor has always been accommodating in terms of sick days and vacation, so we were able to decide as a group, but in other labs, the PI probably needs to say something.”

After U of T’s shutdown notice for non-essential lab work on March 17, Chen’s PI informed lab members of plans to shut down instruments. 

Molly Sung, also a chemistry PhD candidate, is scheduled to defend her thesis on April 7. “I have my PhD defense coming up – the next group meeting was supposed to be my practice,” wrote Sung to The Varsity on March 15. Her PI, Professor Robert Morris, offered to meet with her one-on-one to practice her talk. 

On March 17, Sung found out that her defence will take place over a video call, but the public portion of her defence has been cancelled.

Graduate students worried about research setbacks

Even though classes and meetings shifted online this week, Kyle*, a graduate student in biology, expressed guilt about their inability to complete lab work. “It’s hard to sit at home when you know you have a growing pile of work that has to be done at the lab,” Kyle wrote to The Varsity. “This will either set you behind or create more work to do.”

Similarly, Ash*, a neuroscience graduate student who works with mice, wrote that they were worried about how a lab shutdown would impact their mouse colonies and degree progress. “I have a lot of big ideas but no concrete evidence to link everything together yet,” Ash wrote. “If research is shut down, it’s not easy to get back.”

Ash said that their PI is looking into “whether the research animals have to undergo mass euthanasia.”

“It is a huge waste of research funds if it happens and we’d like to prevent it as much as possible,” Ash wrote.

Avery*, a pharmaceutical sciences graduate student shared this sentiment. “I’m definitely worried about the impact this will have on my research.”

“The guilt I feel at the possibility of missing a few weeks in [the] lab is immense. But the guilt I feel about not doing my part to stop the spread of COVID-19 is also huge.”

*Names have been changed for privacy.

The Varsity has reached out to U of T and the UHN for comment.

U of T Faculty of Medicine sees positive results one year after Black Student Application Program launches

New MD application stream helps to welcoming environment for Black applicants

U of T Faculty of Medicine sees positive results one year after Black Student Application Program launches

One year after implementing the Black Student Application Program (BSAP), the U of T Faculty of Medicine has seen an increase in the number of qualified Black medical students admitted to its Doctor of Medicine (MD) program. From one Black student in the 2016-2017 application cycle to 15 in the 2018-2019 cycle, the increase in admitted students signals a significant improvement.

U of T’s BSAP is an optional application stream for applicants who self-identify as Black. The general admission requirements remain the same for students who apply through BSAP, but students must submit an additional personal essay highlighting why they chose to apply through the stream. Members of the Black community, including Black physicians, faculty members, and students take part in admissions file reviews and admission interviews.

There are no designated seats for BSAP applicants and no quotas that need to be met in order to ensure a more diverse student population.

Dr. David Latter, Director of MD Admissions and Student Finances of the MD program, believes that “one of the reasons BSAP has been so successful, so quickly, is because we are demonstrating in a concrete fashion that U of T is serious about diversity.”

It is important that medical schools reflect the communities they serve.

In Ontario an estimated one to 1.3 per cent of doctors are Black whereas approximately 4.7 per cent of Ontarians identify as being Black. Research has shown that greater diversity in medical classes leads to doctors who are better able to serve diverse communities.

“Having different ethnic and racial groups within the profession broadens the scope of care as well as concern and awareness about unique health conditions that affect specific populations,” explained Latter.

Marginalized student populations face various unseen barriers when applying to academic programs. One such barrier is the fear of feeling culturally excluded or isolated.

Chantal Phillips is a first year U of T medical student who applied through BSAP. In an email to The Varsity she wrote that one of her fears while applying to medical school was that “[her] work in the black community would not be fully understood or valued when compared to applicants doing work for other causes.”

Phillips recalled the pressure she felt to remove the word “Black” from the Black Youth in Science Mentorship Program and from Western Future Black Physicians.

Through the BSAP, she did not feel a similar need to mask her race. “BSAP helped to reinforce a sense of comfort in not having to remove those key identifiers from who I am and what I do,” explained Phillips. “Black people are not a monolith, and so being black is not necessarily enough of a commonality to ensure that this would take place.”

Nevertheless, now six months into her medical education, Phillips reports that “the Black Medical Students Association has grown in size and in passion. This has enhanced my desire to be involved on campus and to make a difference while I have the privilege of attending U of T.”  

The University of Toronto, in partnership with the U of T Black Medical Students’ Association and the Black Physicians Association of Ontario, has launched other similar initiatives. For example, the Community of Support mentors Black, Indigenous, Filipino, disabled, and economically disadvantaged university students who are considering applying to medicine.

BSAP has already begun to foster a diverse group of students in the medical program and its success will continue to be monitored.

After just one admissions cycle since its launch, there is evidence that BSAP is helping to remove barriers and support community members so that they may fulfil their academic and professional goals.


21 Canada Research Chairs appointed at U of T

Federal award recognizes high-impact academic researchers across Canada

21 Canada Research Chairs appointed at U of T

In 2000, the Government of Canada initiated the Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) to provide funding and resources to researchers working at Canadian universities.

The funding promotes the work of promising researchers who are considered world leaders in their field. In addition, it attracts international researchers and retains talented home-grown individuals to position Canada as a world leader in research and development.

An appointment to the CRCP signifies and rewards impactful research.

The number of Research Chairs made available to each university is based on the value of federal research funding that a university has received over the past three years prior to the year of allocation. U of T and its partner hospitals currently hold 275 Chairs.

The CRCP appointment is broken down into Tiers 1 and 2, which are differentiated by the length and value of funding.

This year, 21 new and renewed CRCP Chairs were awarded at U of T. Eight researchers received Tier 1 appointments, with Dr. Daniel Durocher of the Faculty of Medicine having his Tier 1 appointment renewed. Among the recipients are researchers studying breast cancer, neural circuit development and function, developmental genetics and disease modeling, and experimental high-energy particle physics.


Below are a series of profiles on the new Tier 1 appointments and their research.

Dr. Rayjean Hung’s research aims to detect cancer in its early stages through examining individuals’ genomic and molecular profiles.

“This Chair award will form an important foundation of my research program in the next 7 years, not only to continue the core of my current research program but it will also help us to embark on novel initiatives that are considered high-risk and high-reward,” wrote Hung in an email to The Varsity.

Dr. Brian Ciruna is a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics who previously held a Tier 2 Chair. Ciruna’s research includes studying the molecular genetic regulation of embryonic development. Using zebrafish models, his team’s work is directed towards understanding the role that the planar cell polarity signalling pathway — a mechanism responsible for proper tissue development and cell to cell communication — plays in the growth and development of the embryo.

Dr. Alan Davidson is a Chair in researching and developing bacteriophage-based technologies. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. In addition to understanding the interactions between bacteriophages and their bacterial hosts, Davidson and his team study the CRISPR-Cas systems, and investigate their inhibitors and their potential in helping understand how bacteria resist bacteriophages.

Dr. Dana Philpott is the Acting Chair in the Department of Immunology. Philpott’s team seeks to investigate the Nod-like receptor family of protein. Of particular interest is the role that these proteins play in autoimmune disease and in the adaptive immunity to bacterial infections.

Dr. Pierre Savard is a particle physicist in the Department of Physics. A Scientific Associate with the European Organization for Nuclear Research, his work focuses on the production and behaviour of the Higgs boson particle.

Dr. Mei Zhen is a neuroscientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and is cross-appointed to the Departments of Molecular Genetics, Physiology, and Cell & Systems Biology. Zhen’s research uses the worm C. elegans to reveal deficits underlying human neurological disorders. Her lab works in the field of connectomics — the the study of neural connections known an connectomes — with applications in understanding the development of the human nervous system and its diseases.

Dr. Rama Khokha is a renowned breast cancer researcher at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. With a wide scope in solving biological problems associated with cancer, the research led by her group includes a focus on stem cells, having also setup workable mouse and human cell platforms for cancer research.

Dr. Lisa Strug is focused on developing new methods to analyze multi-omic data that can help in the creation of diagnostic models for diseases, including cystic fibrosis and genetic epilepsies.

“I am inspired by — and committed to — the people involved: The patients and their families who suffer but continue to contribute their time and specimens even when the research may not immediately benefit them; the foundations who tirelessly raise money and support the patients and families they aim to serve; and the students who I train, who are so committed to a career in biomedical research and work tirelessly to push the science forward,” wrote Strug in an email to The Varsity.

“Choose something you love to do and that you believe is important, and then work hard at it,” Strug advises young scientists. “Be resilient in the face of adversity, be determined, have a strong foundation in your discipline and always practice your science with the utmost scientific integrity.”


U of T track stars attack Rio

Four U of T track and field athletes to represent Canada at Olympic games

U of T track stars attack Rio

Although they were missing from the opening ceremonies, Canada has sent, arguably, its best track and field squad to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

Among the 65 athlete roster — including London 2012 bronze medalist in the men’s high jump, Derek Drouin, and 100m sprinter, Andre De Grasse, are four female athletes: Alicia Brown (women’s 400m and women’s 4x400m relay), Gabriela Stafford (women’s 1,500m), Andrea Seccafien (women’s 5,000m), and Micha Powell (women’s 4x400m relay), who are not only representing Canada, but U of T as well.

Alicia Brown

Graduating with a bachelor of Communications, Culture, Information and Technology from U of T in 2013, Brown had an incredible intercollegiate career with the Varsity Blues. In 2013, she was the winner of both the provincial and national 300m titles, and was also a member of the national record-breaking women’s 4x200m relay team. Brown was also named U of T’s 2013 female athlete of the year. 2013 was a breakout season for Brown, who, along with all of her university accolades, won the national championship for the 400m.

After graduation, Brown continued to train with Blues sprint head coach Bob Westman and competed for the University of Toronto Track and Field Club (UTTC) where, this year, she crushed the women’s 400m Olympic standard and won the national championship in a personal best time of 51.84. Alicia competed in the preliminary heats of the women’s 400m on Saturday, August 13, where she placed 28th. You can catch her again in the women’s 4x400m relay on Friday, August 19 at 7:40 pm.

Micha Powell

Joining Brown on the Canadian women’s 4x400m relay squad is 21-year-old Micha Powell. Powell, who trains with the University of Toronto Track Club, had a successful season competing in the NCAA Division I Track & Field championships for the University of Maryland, where she holds the indoor and outdoor 400m records. Although the decision of which four of six possible athletes will be chosen to run in the four-woman relay lingers, with a personal best 400m clocking in at 51.97, Powell is a strong contender to represent Canada next Friday in the 4x400m relay preliminaries.

Gabriela Stafford

Third-year U of T psychology student Gabriela Stafford is the third track and field athlete to represent Canada and U of T in Rio. The 20-year-old middle distance phenom will take to the track in the women’s 1,500m event where she has clocked a personal best time of 4:06.53. Stafford is no stranger to success — her career as a Varsity Blue has seen her win multiple accolades, including a silver at the 2015 CIS Cross-Country Championships, two individual golds at the 2016 CIS Championships (over 1,000m and 1,500m), as well as several provincial titles. Stafford booked her trip to Rio after finishing first at the Canadian National Track and Field Championships back in July where she dominated a field of senior athletes in the 1,500m final.

Andrea Seccafien

A member of the UTTC, 5,000m specialist Andrea Seccafien booked her ticket to Rio at the Canadian Olympic Track and Field Trials in July by winning the 5,000m event with a time of 16:00.41.

After sitting out last season due to injury, Seccafien, who is a University of Guelph Alumni, joined the UTTC and has had a stand-out season, winning the prestigious Hoka One One Middle Distance classic in Los Angles where she clocked a personal best 15:17.81 — placing her well below the Canadian Olympic standard. Andrea raced on Tuesday, August 16, at 8:30 am, in the 5,000m preliminaries at Olympic Stadium in Rio. She ranked 20th after the race.

Times Higher Education ranks U of T twenty-third in 2016 world reputation rankings

U of T also places first in Canada

<em>Times Higher Education</em> ranks U of T twenty-third in 2016 world reputation rankings

The University of Toronto placed first in Canada, and twenty-third in the world in the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2016.

For the past twelve years, Times Higher Education has been evaluating universities around the world based on an invitation-only academic opinion survey. Unlike Times Higher Education World University Rankings, these rankings are solely based on subjective, expert judgment.

Meric Gertler, president of U of T, stated that these ranking systems are essential because, “They provide an opportunity for us to benchmark ourselves against other universities across the world.” Gertler continued, “Externally they are a significant source of information for students and faculty.”

The University of British Columbia, ranked thirty-seventh, and McGill University, ranked thirty-ninth, are the only other Canadian universities that were included in the list.

In November 2015, Times Higher Education also ranked U of T tenth in employability of graduates. “That is one of those rankings that you really feel good about and you really want the world to take notice of,” Gertler explained.

“Having high rankings instils a sense of pride in knowing that my university is recognized,” said fourth-year student Katya Carvalho. “[It’s] nice to know [it’s] competitive and that the hard work I put into school is recognized.”

Juliana Bertosa, another fourth-year student, agreed: “When I was looking into applying for university, I chose the University of Toronto primarily because of its prestige and notoriety. If anything, it will make a degree from U of T stand out even more. It may also streamline the ability to find jobs abroad, which I think will be beneficial for our high number of international students.”

Silence is Violence

Anti-sexual violence group develops branch at U of T

Silence is Violence

A new anti-sexual violence group has opened a chapter on campus; Silence is Violence is the University of Toronto’s survivor-led collective that aims to tackle problems related to sexual violence and rape culture.

The Silence is Violence organization started at York University and has branches at other post-secondary institutions, including the University of British Columbia (UBC). The group at U of T met for the first time recently to discuss issues surrounding the university’s ineffective responses to sexual assault and violence.

Silence is Violence takes an intersectional feminist approach to mobilizing solutions. Survivors of sexual violence may share their ideas for organizing and are at the forefront of the initiative. The group is open to connecting with related movements and coalitions.

According to the UBC branch of Silence is Violence, the organization is “not a rape relief organization but endeavours to gather and share various resources for survivors of sexual violence, particularly those navigating the difficulty of the university reporting process.”

The organization also states that they would have universities “[put] survivors of sexual assault above their commitment to image and brand.”
Organizers with Silence is Violence U of T were unavailable for comment at press time.

U of T forecasts net income of $138.2 million, $70.1 million deficit

Actual outstanding debt $1 billion, credit rating remains investment grade

U of T forecasts net income of $138.2 million, $70.1 million deficit

The University of Toronto’s financial results and report on debt reveal that U of T forecasts a net income of $138.2 million and projects net assets to be at $4.35 billion. The forecasted net income is a decrease from last year’s net income of $287.8 million, while the value of last year’s net assets was $4.38 billion.

The forecast, which includes the university’s projected revenue, expenses, net income, and changes in net assets for the fiscal year ending on April 30, 2016, was presented on January 25 to the Governing Council Business Board. The board oversees the university’s financial transactions.

These forecasts are based on a projected investment return of 0.4 per cent, an endowment payout of $78.3 million, an increase of $96.4 million in reserves, and an increase of $23.7 million for future divisional capital expenditures. The university acknowledges that it only has interim information regarding divisionally controlled revenue and expenses, and that investment returns are uncertain.

The university also projects a deficit of $70.1 million, which is a drop from the $89.5 million deficit run during the 2015 fiscal year. This has been partially attributed to the $22.9 million increase in tuition fee revenue, correlated with an increase in enrolment from international undergraduate students, who currently pay over five times more than domestic students.

The debt report

This report is comprised of three parts: the annual debt strategy review, the status report on debt, and the credit report by Moody’s Investors Service.

According to the status report on debt, the university allocated $1.218 billion in borrowing room, with $150 million allocated to pensions and $200 million allocated to other internal debt. The university also allocated $868 million for external components, which includes $15 million for the expansion and renovation of the Recreation Wing at UTSC.

The University of Toronto’s actual outstanding debt as of October 2015 totals $999.9 million. Of that figure, $123.3 million is pension debt while $158.9 million comes from other internal debt.

External debt makes up $717.6 million, the bulk of which is in the form of unsecured bonds issued by the university.

The university’s credit rating is unchanged from last year; Moody’s gave the university an Aa2 rating, while Standard & Poor’s and Dominion Bond Service assigned a rating of AA. These ratings are considered investment grade.

Currently, U of T’s debt policy limit is set at a debt burden ratio of five per cent. This means that the debt and interest should not exceed five per cent of total expenditures. This is only the university’s acceptable limit; the recommended upper limit is set at seven per cent.

According to the annual debt strategy review, the university’s debt policy limit was set to $1.401 billion as of April 2015, and the university expects this to increase by an additional $350 million to $1.75 billion by April 2021.

The review also states that a one per cent increase in the interest rate would result in the reduction of the limit between $53 million and $88 million, while a two per cent increase would see a reduction between $95 million and $158 million.

Seed, Steal or Borrow?

On the moral dilemma of torrenting

Seed, Steal or Borrow?

Hypertabs is The Varsity‘s online features subsection about all things Internet. Our goal is to explore the depths of the online world and understand how it shapes our habits and affects our communities. You can read the other articles included in this project here.

Currently, the economy is tough, especially for young people: jobs are hard to find, wages are low, and living near a metropolitan area is ridiculously expensive. On the bright side, we have access to a variety of cheap entertainment in the form of digital media streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, which are reasonably priced and offer plenty of options for the modern consumer. If streaming services don’t have what you want, or if spending money isn’t your jam, you can still visit your favourite torrent sites and download almost any song or movie you could desire.

The rapid increase in the availability of digital media has given people access to movies and music that used to be prohibitively expensive — at least if you were collecting. Today, people are more likely to experiment and broaden their tastes because of the accessibility of media, trying new things for which they never would have paid. Now anyone with a computer and an Internet connection has freedom to explore today’s rich cultural landscape by torrenting. As Drake and Future would say: “what a time to be alive.”

Too bad it’s illegal, though.

I interviewed Martin Loeffler, director of information security at U of T, about torrenting using the campus Wi-Fi. “Torrenting itself isn’t illegal,” he pointed out, because it’s just a way to share files between computers. “If people are torrenting or downloading or otherwise accessing copyrighted materials without authorization, I want them to know that it is against the law, and  . . . [there are] potential penalties for that just like breaking any other law,” Loeffler said.

The Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11) states that for non-commercial infringements, a Canadian’s liability is a maximum of $5000 for all infringements per proceeding. In other words, it can be expensive if you get caught downloading free stuff. As part of this bill, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are obligated to notify their clients when the copyright holder informs the ISP that they suspect a copyright infringement has taken place. The ISP must also hold the information of the client for at least six months, or longer depending on whether or not the complaint goes to court.

Loeffler doesn’t keep statistics on how many of these notices U of T has forwarded to alleged infringers, but he said “If we receive a copyright infringement notice for somebody using the Wi-Fi environment, we block their Wi-Fi access, and they have to go to the help desk to get their access unblocked.”

The help desk also advises the infringer to stop torrenting. Copyright holders, like record labels and movie studios, are interested in what you’re torrenting, but Loeffler’s office isn’t: “We monitor the network activity for use, for threats. It’s our role to look after the well-being of the network and people using the network — we’re sort of like Batmen — but we don’t get into what you’re actually doing… [W]e’re not in the position to make that judgement. So if we noticed that there was a torrent happening, unless it was consuming too much bandwidth, we have no reason to get involved.”

Andrew Sepielli, assistant professor of philosophy at U of T specializing in metaethics, normative ethics, and philosophical psychology, had some insights on the topic of torrenting. I confessed my dilemma of wanting to torrent Justin Bieber’s newest album, but feeling guilty about taking an artist’s work for free. “The more grievous wrong is clearly just listening to the Justin Bieber album,” he quipped. Sepielli doubts people feel all that bad about torrenting: “I’m not convinced that most people think it’s wrong, and even if they say it’s wrong, I suspect … [that] doesn’t reflect their sincerely held views about right and wrong.”

Sepielli’s argument for torrenting not being that immoral of an action is that one person’s torrenting has only a small negative effect. “Some people have this kind of view that [if] you’re one member of a group where the group together is having a huge impact and the impact is bad, that kind of redounds to the discredit of what you’re doing. I guess I just don’t think that’s right,” he explains. Sepielli feels that “what’s relevant in assessing my action is the impact my action makes specifically.”

On the website for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the organization claims that music copyright infringement is music theft. There are similarities between torrenting a copyrighted album and stealing in a traditional sense: both result in undeserved benefit of the person committing the act at the expense of the owner of the work. Sepielli points out some differences between torrenting and stealing, however, stating “the expressive value of the act is different.” He explains that stealing is an expression of disrespect for the person from whom you’re stealing.

In contrast, when you torrent an album from an artist you like, even though you may be harming them financially, you’re respecting them as an artist by listening to their work. “Because of the technology available, it’s really getting difficult to exclude people from enjoying other people’s creations,” Sepielli said.  He notes that getting consumers to pay for the production of music and movies is becoming increasingly difficult, and that digital media is moving towards becoming a public good.

Sepielli’s academic interest is in combating nihilism and anomie manifested online. For him, torrenting is an example of online behaviour that can’t be compared to negative Internet discourse and cyberbullying, which are much more concerning. “Discussions on the internet are, like, terrible.” Sepielli said. They’re “shallow and mean.” On the topic of cyberbullying, he notes, “I’ve never experienced it, but I have two young children so I worry about that kind of stuff.” He’s currently writing a therapeutic philosophy book to combat these problems. When it comes out, he doesn’t mind if you torrent the book — although he does want the publisher to make money through legal sales.

Some of us obey copyright law to the letter; some of us torrent everything we can get our hands on; some of us torrent successful artists and support the struggling ones; some of us torrent when we’re feeling poor and buy when we’re feeling rich; and some of us torrent movies but never software. Everyone has their own ‘bit-ethics’ that they follow when deciding whether or not to torrent. The new Kanye West album — whatever it’s called — just came out, so it’s time to make my decision: Kickass or Piratebay?