The state of the Scarborough student union

UTSC students share their views on the SCSU in light of a rocky election cycle

The state of the Scarborough student union

The 2018 elections of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) were marred in controversy. With the unofficial results now in, we reached out to UTSC students who wanted to share their opinions on everything that’s happened.

Confusion surrounding SCSU-related controversies leaves students at a loss

Coming to university, one of the things that fascinated me was the concept of a student council that had the ability to make a real difference. To the untrained freshman eye, the SCSU was ‘by students, for students’ and had the platform to influence decision-makers and advocate for my rights.

While these thoughts are valid in theory, recent events demonstrate this platform is not realistic in practice. Watching the controversy with this year’s SCSU elections unfold, the first thing that struck me was how unprofessional the whole situation is.

Allegations of misconduct in this year’s elections were first brought to attention on social media; they contained some very serious claims but no real detail as to what truly happened. To this day, most of us who don’t have the privilege of working in the SCSU office are still left in the dark with a frustrating pile of ambiguous statements.

After observing the protest at the all-candidates’ meeting and viewing the response from the official SCSU page, I have been forced to question how much of the battle is really for justice and how much is for personal gain. Do these people really care about me, or is the goal just to obtain another nice mark on an already impressive resumé?

While I do respect the amount of work and passion our current executive board displays daily, I can’t help but lose some respect for the union as a whole. As a campus that is not taken as seriously as it should be, we cannot present this kind of divided front. It is very easy for the powers that be to disregard student unions as childish, and I am afraid that this behaviour affirms those patronizing thoughts.

Deborah Ocholi is a third-year student at UTSC studying Neuroscience.

SCSU elections still primarily a popularity contest

Videos. Hashtags. Petitions. What began as two candidate disqualifications has mushroomed into a fierce backlash against the SCSU. However, this commotion is obscuring the fundamental causes of the student union’s downfall.

The foundation of this scandal is the student body’s woeful ignorance of the SCSU’s management. Unless you are a motivated individual with political aspirations or a desire to pad your resumé, you are probably unaware of the SCSU’s principles. What are the election rules? How is the budget determined? What values guide decision-making? This obliviousness stems from apathy on the union’s part in making its values widely accessible. To the layperson, the SCSU is a shadowy organization that can only be understood by those already inducted into its hierarchy. Lack of transparency facilitates the perception of corruption.

Furthermore, trust in the electoral process is eroded by focus on candidate popularity at the cost of policy. Walking through campus during election season guarantees being bombarded by brightly coloured posters or students canvassing votes. Slates are banking on the familiarity of their candidates’ faces as the path to triumph. And unfortunately, their methods seem to be working. While most students can identify candidates by face, they might find it harder to discuss any of their policies, and candidates rely heavily on this.

It falls on the SCSU to organize debates or town halls, where students can determine the feasibility of a candidate’s policies and decide who represents their interests. Yes, a candidate forum was held, but it was poorly advertised and even more poorly attended. Right now, friends vote for friends.

Meanwhile, a glance at the candidates’ proposals reveal wildly unrealistic suggestions, most of which are unlikely to be implemented. One wonders from what bottomless pockets would funding for bubble tea and a permanent ice rink be procured.

To the SCSU: don’t underestimate your student body’s intelligence. Give them the opportunity to engage in democracy. Until the electoral process is reformed, the SCSU will continue to be perceived as a nepotistic organization that does not embody the voices of the students it represents.

Maria Raveendran is a third-year student at UTSC studying Human Biology and Psychology.

Being a candidate means following the rules

I was an executive of the SCSU for two years, and during that time I saw the advantages and resources an incumbent has at their disposal.

Using office space to plan for the election and recruit other candidates, using the station of their power to sway the election by wearing SCSU paraphernalia during campaigning, and intentionally misleading the student population regarding the Elections Procedures Code (EPC) are just a few examples of how the EPC was violated this year by incumbent executive Deena Hassan.

Hassan was disqualified from the election twice this year. The demerit point system exists to ensure no candidate is able to win the election through unfair advantages like the ones I outlined above.

Inherently, incumbents have an immense advantage in rerunning — let’s not hand them the election by letting them violate the rules unpunished. Ignorance of bylaws and policies is no excuse. As a part of the board of directors, it is the duty of executives to not only understand but to also execute all bylaws and policies of the union.

In turn, it is the duty of the board, its committee, and the general student body to ensure that we hold the executives accountable. Do your due diligence and fact-check the campaign statements made by the candidates who were elected. Don’t just listen to the people who had a stake in the result.

Yasmin Rajabi is a fourth-year student at UTSC studying Public Policy & City Studies. She served as the SCSU’s Vice-President Operations in 2016–2017 and the SCSU’s Vice-President External in 2015–2016.

Limiting election-related conversation is a limit on free speech

The controversial events leading up to the SCSU elections this year have slowly come to light and have left many, including me, horrified at how deep the SCSU’s dishonesty runs. This year, one slate in particular, Rise Up UTSC, came under fire in the SCSU’s unjustified war for maintaining control over the council’s elected representatives.

I feel the members of Rise Up UTSC have a lot to offer in terms of concrete change, especially compared to the other slate. While Rise Up UTSC recommended the expansion of the existing Food Centre and academic workshops to equip students with employable skills, president-elect Nicole Brayiannis of the UTSC Voice slate spent too much of her time promoting opening a bubble tea place, even though a food place on campus already sells it. However, over the course of the week after the protest, Rise Up UTSC members warned supporters to keep their language neutral while voicing their opinions for fear of receiving demerit points. They were required to draft a cookie-cutter promotional message and have it pre-approved by the CRO before disseminating it to their supporters.

Even more troubling is that a recent ruling by the CRO resulted in students who were not connected to any of the candidates being limited in how they could express their opinions about the slate. Anyone who was outspoken about their support for Rise Up UTSC was a potential target for this restriction. I was personally asked by a member of Rise Up UTSC to amend my own opinions, which were posted as a Facebook status update, for fear of having the slate receive demerit points, even though they didn’t explicitly target any other group. And even with disclaimers that the opinions being expressed were not in any way encouraged by the candidates of Rise Up UTSC, the candidates on the slate were still penalized with demerit points for these posts.

We’re just beginning to find out the ways in which students’ free speech can be stifled at Scarborough, and it’s all the more ironic coming from a union allegedly committed to social justice and equity. Can the SCSU reconcile with this injustice? I’m not certain. What I do know is that I don’t pay the SCSU roughly $40 per semester for bubble tea.

Shiza Shaikh is a third-year student at UTSC studying Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

Transparency and accessibility were in low supply this election period

From controversial allegations to poorly constructed statements, conflicts and miscommunication are not atypical of the SCSU elections process. While student politics are often manipulated to some degree, the lack of oversight, transparency, and the complete disregard for process this year is ridiculous.
It’s hardly inconceivable that slates are planned by outgoing teams. Why is it that we so often have repeat executives while other candidates are quickly voted down, have spoiled ballots, or are disqualified?
Aside from that, let’s talk about the fact that the Elections Candidate Forum was designated with a “TBA” for the date and time on all posters, and then the Facebook event was created the evening before the event was actually scheduled — and cross-promoted on the same day as another large-scale event. If more time to advertise had been needed, there was ample opportunity to shift the dates, especially given the current controversy and the hiring of the new CRO.
You would think that a student union would take pride in being able to share democracy with its members. Instead, it is common to find UTSC generally unaware of the details of the elections — or apathetic, as some would have us believe. Events such as the Elections Candidate Forum, whose purpose is to promote accountability and transparency in the elections process, often wind up doing the opposite. I have yet to see an adequately advertised SCSU election period or Annual General Meeting (AGM) in over four years of being a student at UTSC. A motion about adequate elections advertising was passed at this year’s AGM, but it was not enough to prompt the SCSU to reconsider how it carries out its promotions.

While it is nice to see the campus on the alert during the aftermath of the SCSU elections controversies this year, it’s more about timing than anything. It’s a shame that more students aren’t aware of what has been going on, but it’s more of a shame that the SCSU doesn’t seem to care either.

Katie Konstantopoulos is a sixth-year student at UTSC studying Sociology.

Scandals at other student unions reveal the importance of solving SCSU problems now

The controversies surrounding the SCSU are concerning, and given the even more serious scandals at other student unions in Canada, we should take care that they don’t escalate further. Before coming to UTSC, I studied for two years at the University of Ottawa. The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), on a yearly basis, manages to make headlines for its clownery and corruption. The SFUO mismanaged its way to bankruptcy, all before increasing executive pay by 18 per cent.

Allegations of unfair disqualifications may be new to the SCSU, but they are commonplace at uOttawa. Reform-minded candidates are routinely pushed out, especially when the power of incumbent slates is threatened. In 2011, a winning Board of Administration member was disqualified after the election, and the SFUO appointed the second place finisher to take his place. In 2015, the President of the SFUO, who won on a reform platform, resigned. To the surprise of no one, the candidate was replaced by the VP Communications, who belonged to the previous year’s incumbent slate.

Another student union where mismanagement has been prevalent is the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU). Recent allegations made by executives describing a “boys club” environment and unpleasant working conditions have led one executive to resign outright. The VP Operations has also criticized the working environment, saying he and other executives were not consulted on important campaigns and initiatives.

While the SCSU does not compare to the SFUO or the RSU, the recent occurrences do represent a troubling trend. When student politics becomes an industry, and when there is little to no turnover in executive elections, the quality of representation decreases, while scandal and incompetence increase. Examples from uOttawa and Ryerson should present a warning to UTSC students and student leaders. Low levels of turnover and incompetence in both executive and staff members have serious consequences that must be mitigated before they reach the levels of other schools.

Andre Roy is a third-year student at UTSC studying City Studies.

 

Hell hath no fury like a campus scorned

From resources to reputation, UTM and UTSC contributors stress the merits of diverting the spotlight away from UTSG

Hell hath no fury like a campus scorned

As an Indigenous student, UTSC can be an isolating space. It is UTSG that hosts the majority of Indigenous spaces at U of T, such as First Nations House and the Centre for Indigenous Studies. Over the past year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission committee has been advocating for UTSC to invest in and create Indigenous spaces as well hire Indigenous faculty and staff. This has yet to happen.

For years, UTSC has not taken a role in engaging the local urban Indigenous community, often resulting in a huge lack of awareness and education around Indigeneity. UTSC does not offer courses in Indigenous studies, leaving many disciplines lacking foundational knowledge on the history of settler-colonialism in Canada and contemporary issues such as reconciliation. UTSC needs to do more work to meaningfully engage Indigenous peoples and perspectives in the university space.

Diane Hill is a fourth-year student at UTSC studying Health Studies and Anthropology.

When I first walked through the sad-looking doors of UTSC’s Instructional Centre, I remembered a tip that was given to me: to do well on exams, I must practice test questions using old exams. It made sense to me — practicing on previous exams would familiarize me with the exams’ format and questions. I could also practice writing the exam within the time limit, reducing stress and time pressure.

So, approaching midterms, I searched for my courses’ past exams in U of T’s Old Exams Repository — but my courses were not included in UTSC’s limited exams list. I realized that, unless restricted by faculty request, the repository provides UTSG students with all of their courses’ three most recent years of previous exams. UTSC instructors, however, submit previous exams on a voluntary and inconsistent basis. As a result, the repository hosts an overwhelming number of UTSG exams and only a meagre number of UTSC exams.

Given our school’s stressful environment, having the ability to access old exams would help improve students’ mental health by ensuring they are well prepared for finals. Yet it seems that in U of T’s eyes, UTSC is never a priority. It is difficult to grasp how a university prides itself on being ‘tri-campus’ without giving students at all three of its campuses the right to see all their courses’ past exams online.

Jayra Almanzor is a first-year student at UTSC studying Journalism.

‘Scarbage,’ the high school of U of T, and the place where academia goes to die — I’ve heard UTSC called all of these things by St. George students. Frankly, the name-calling is a bit childish at times, but during frosh, when every college is spitting out insults like sunflower seeds, it is considered acceptable and admittedly fun to watch. But these stereotypes are only vaguely true.

I’ve lived in Scarborough for nearly half my life and can personally understand the ‘Scarbage’ claims — referring mostly to the location of the university rather than the people. There’s no way a university located in Scarborough wouldn’t be made fun of for being in Scarborough, so I’ll give them that.
It’s also true that UTSC looks like a high school. But being a smaller campus has its advantages, like smaller class sizes, shorter walking distance between buildings, and, of course, the sense of community.

The one stereotype that I strongly disagree with is the quality of academia. UTSC’s small environment comes with one important advantage, and that’s the fact that I can go to my prof’s office hours and have a three-hour conversation about democratic tyranny without being interrupted. The academic minds at U of T are world-class, and at UTSC they are easily accessible.

Tebat Kadhem is a third-year student at UTSC studying International Development, Public Policy, and Public Law.

Many believe that UTSC is like a high school, especially when compared to UTSG, which is both larger in size and more established. These two facts steal the attention away from UTSC and don’t allow it to come out of its older sibling’s shadow.

As a student who has taken classes at both campuses, I can say that UTSC is definitely the friendlier campus. It is important to note that large campus size doesn’t always equate to a happier student population. For many, the small size of UTSC allows for strong friendships to be made. This doesn’t hold true for the downtown campus, as arguably the only surefire ways to make long-lasting friendships is to either live on campus or to join school clubs.

UTSC may be smaller than UTSG, but it creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere for all students who attend it. The campus size provides students with ample opportunities to create strong bonds with people that they meet, which also includes staff and faculty at the school. UTSG may get the glory of being an older and larger campus, but UTSC’s friendliness makes up for it.

Tania Sleman is a third-year student at UTSC studying Human Biology and Psychology.

While students and tourists flock to appreciate the Gothic architecture at UTSG, I find more beauty when taking a rejuvenating stroll down the Valley at UTSC. The Valley, also known as the Ravine Zone or the Highland Creek Ravine, is a little gem of a place tucked away behind the lower campus. It is hugged by tall maple trees and unique native trees and overgrown bushes, parting a paved path in the middle that is perfect for strolls. The beautiful Valley acts as the meditation spot for many students, travelers, and trekkers who wish to escape from the stressful institutional spaces of university life and enjoy the wildlife or outdoor activities.

I have walked down the majestic steps of the Valley during the hard times in my life. Whether it was coping with exam stress or personal issues, the Valley has helped me escape reality and reboot myself — something that is much more difficult to do on the crowded downtown campus. The fact is that UTSG does not have secluded, natural spots that allow people to remove themselves and recover from the everyday stress of student life, and it is too bad that what UTSC has to offer in this regard often gets ignored.

Madiha Turshin is a fourth-year student at UTSC studying Media Studies and History.

As an English and History student, I have sometimes browsed the UTSG course calendar and been shocked at the number of courses available in comparison to the ones at UTM. Don’t get me wrong, I love my campus and the feel of a close-knit community, but sometimes I wish that we had the same options as students at UTSG.

This academic year, UTM is offering 54 English courses over the two terms, compared to the 62 available at UTSG. UTM is a great and resourceful campus, but we could use just a little bit more choice and variety to align us with the opportunities available at UTSG.

When it comes to reputation and attention, UTSG is seen as the superior campus, and course options certainly play a role in establishing that status. It is important to recognize the importance and influence of the two other campuses as well. We are privileged to be students at the University of Toronto, and perhaps that privilege can be spread across the three campuses in a more satisfactory manner.

Aisha Malik is a fourth-year student at UTM studying English and History.

Four years ago, I was just your typical UTSG student. I was attending a prestigious school and working toward a prestigious engineering degree, all with the prestigious backdrop of Toronto to keep me company. I had it all. When I switched into a writing program at UTM, I expected to feel isolated due to the commute and distance from friends, but I could not have foreseen the disappointment my decision would awaken in others.

Professors, peers, the parents of children I babysat — everyone seemed shocked and personally disgusted by my decision to go to a ‘lesser’ program, a ‘lesser’ school. Even now, after the switch and with no reference to my past, my studies at UTM are met with polite nods and smiles. My GPA receives congratulations that sound inauthentic or patronizing, because everyone assumes it’s easier to achieve academic success at UTM. Everyone behaves as if my professors do not bear the same credentials as the professors at UTSG, and furthermore, as if every UTSG professor is outstanding, even though we all know that isn’t true.

It’s time to stop treating UTM like a second choice to UTSG — they are unequivocally both parts of the same institution.

Jenisse Minott is a third-year student at UTM studying Communications, Culture, Information & Technology and Professional Writing. She is an Associate Comment Editor for The Varsity.

Whenever I reveal the ‘secret’ that I’m a UTM student to the people I meet at UTSG, I’m constantly met with confusion, shock, and sometimes hostility. Statements like, ‘What do you mean?’ and, ‘Oh, you’re not supposed to share that’ are just some of the responses I’ve received, and I’ve never understood why.

A similar response was heard on a larger scale during The Varsity’s UTSU presidential debate on March 13, 2017. Micah Ryu, then-disqualified presidential candidate for the Reboot UofT slate, answered a question about how Reboot planned to reach out to students on the UTM campus with the response, “Frankly, UTM students should fuck off.”

Why are UTM students as a whole seen as otherworldly creatures that live on a satellite light years away from the metropolitan UTSG campus? Many of the experiences UTSG students face are, in fact, not unique to them. Surprise! We all have the same Blackboard maintenance, ACORN lags, and waitlist troubles. UTM students are not less deserving of anything. I’m tired.

Elham Numan is a student at UTM studying Art & Art History and English. She is The Varsity’s Creative Director.

I’m a copy editor at UTM’s The Medium. Both The Medium and The Varsity get their funding from student levy fees. The stark difference between the two, however, is that The Varsity gets fees from both UTM and UTSG, whereas The Medium only gets funding from UTM.

Funding determines not only where we can afford to publish our papers and magazines — without compromising professional quality, that is — but also how often we can publish. I find it unfair that The Medium does not also get funding from the UTSG campus, because many students who attend UTSG are also from the City of Mississauga. The Medium does not only publish Mississauga-focused content; it focuses on issues pertinent to students across all campuses. Likewise, The Varsity does not produce enough Mississauga-focused content, even though they receive levy fees from students in Mississauga.

Many students from both campuses take courses from the other. Let’s unite and not compete — we’re on the same team here.

Ayesha Tak is a fourth-year student at UTM studying Sociology.

I was accepted to both UTM and UTSG about four years ago, and I weighed the pros and cons of each campus before I made the decision to attend UTM. When I accepted my offer, I received looks, questions, and worrisome expressions of concern. That was the summer I began to realize that there were real differences between UTM and UTSG. However, I am ultimately glad that I chose the campus where I have spent some really good years.

The UTM campus is small, but feels like a community. You will probably pass by the same people daily and know everyone in your program within the first year. Although our campus doesn’t rival Hogwarts, the newer architecture is aesthetically pleasing. Plus, freaking out over where to find your classes in first year isn’t an option, given that everything is within a few minutes’ walking distance.

Choosing UTM is not a consolation prize after not getting into UTSG. It’s an experience that regenerates you without needing city lights or a vast campus space. UTM has given me what I needed because it’s been like a friend — a place where I don’t get lost, literally and figuratively — and a place that is still U of T, but a warmer, more tightly knit version.

Keena Alwahaidi is a fourth-year student at UTM studying English.

There is something inherently powerful and enjoyable about memes. A single picture or phrase can be reworded and reshaped as needed by the user to express emotions that words alone can’t quite express.

As enjoyable as memes are, however, they can often become hurtful rather than humourous — ignorant, hurtful, and even banal at times. The memes about UTM are often all three. From mocking how frequently UTM students spot deer to confessions deeming UTM an inferior school, these memes reduce the second-largest division of U of T, whose diversity and research know no bounds, to a barn overrun by deer. Joining the deer are undergraduate students whose grades and intellect, apparently not meeting the standards of UTSG’s requirements, have damned them to a bland, personally unfulfilling, and academically undemanding life at UTM.

It is time to move away from these stale and overtired memes and focus this meme-making energy to shed light on other sides of UTM, even if it is for mocking purposes. For starters, our athletic centre is called the RAWC, we have a cricket pitch on campus that nobody uses, and every ride on the UTM Shuttle is wild from start to finish — meme those things, if you will.

Zeahaa Rehman is a third-year student at UTM studying Linguistics and Professional Writing.

Love makes scents

UTSC professor’s study finds ring-tail lemurs use ‘stink-flirting’ to attract mates

Love makes scents

If you think the smell of Axe is bad, be glad you’re not a lemur. In a study led by Amber D. Walker-Bolton, a UTSC professor in the Department of Anthropology, researchers found that male ring-tailed lemurs use their ‘stink’ to impress potential mates.

This unique behaviour allows lemurs to display their rank among other males and attract suitable mates, albeit at a cost.

Lemurs belong to the Strepsirrhine sub order and live in male groups that have a core female lineage. Each of these groups have dominant central males and periphery males, where rank is correlated with age.

‘Stink-flirting’ refers to male display of tail anointing and wafting, which is considered “a submissive display prior to a close approach.” The study found these displays are associated with male dominance and that they are reciprocated by females. Females preferred the exaggerated displays and are said to set the male apart from the rest of the population.

Additionally, the study found females showed a preference for dominant resident males as opposed to lower-ranking immigrant males. Immigrants are rarely found mating with females of the group.

Surprisingly, male lemurs are more frequently faced with aggression from both females and other males when they perform stink-flirting displays compared to other mating rituals. Only when females in estrus were receiving the olfactory display would they then mate.

Some of the females are also mate-guarded by a male. These guarded females were found to receive a higher rate of displays than non-guarded females. Although mate-guarding doesn’t completely eliminate displays from other males, it hinders approach to guarded females.

While the majority of females chose the most dominant mate, the opposite was not the case. According to the study, male ring-tailed lemurs did not “preferentially target high-ranked females for olfactory displays.”

In the future, Walker-Bolton’s team hopes to study the correlation between ‘stink-flirting’ and reproductive success.

Back-to-school plans being prepared for students in UTM-Sheridan, UTSC-Centennial programs

What to expect from satellite campuses’ administrations in wake of strike’s end

Back-to-school plans being prepared for students in UTM-Sheridan, UTSC-Centennial programs

Nearly 500,000 college students across Ontario found themselves back in the classroom last week, after the Ontario government voted to end the five-week college faculty strike. The 1,000 students in joint UTM-Sheridan College programs and 170 in UTSC-Centennial College programs headed back to class on Tuesday.

UTM Vice Principal Academic and Dean Amrita Daniere said that her administration has been in “hourly” contact with administrators at Sheridan to accommodate students. “We have… a plan for every single course that will allow students, we believe, to finish their education, finish their work, in a way that everyone can get done, almost without exception by [mid January].”

UTM-Sheridan students will also have their credit/no-credit option period for first semester courses extended until January 26, 2018 from the original December 4 deadline. They will also be able to withdraw from a course without academic penalty up until January 8, 2018.

Students in UTM-Sheridan courses won’t experience a shortened winter break, though assessments will take place during the UTM exam period.

Representatives from the Dean’s office at UTSC did not meet with Centennial administrators until November 24, when it was determined that students in UTSC-Centennial programs would be allowed to drop courses without academic penalty up to a date that has yet to be set by the Centennial administration.

UTSC Media Relations Officer Don Campbell said it was agreed that a “detailed document” would be produced, “specifying those delayed drop and add dates and providing advice to students on how to deal with other issues and possible conflicts that will arise as a result of the extended fall term and delayed winter term at the college.” Students can expect that document to be sent to them and posted on the UTSC Registrar’s website later this week.

“We’re all on high notice to prioritize these students,” said Daniere. “So I’m actually feeling very calm compared to how I imagined I would be feeling over the weekend as we all waited for some kind of resolution.”

No end in sight for Centennial, Sheridan faculty strike

Students in joint programs at UTM, UTSC still affected

No end in sight for Centennial, Sheridan faculty strike

According to a bulletin posted on the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) website, Ontario college students, including those in joint programs with Centennial College at UTSC and with Sheridan College at UTM, are “in real danger of losing their semester” due to the ongoing faculty strike. The bulletin further alleges that although colleges are trying to reassure students they have a plan, faculty have not seen it.

The OPSEU strike, which began on October 16, has seen full-time and partial load staff on protest indefinitely as bargaining teams from 24 colleges across Ontario work to renegotiate a collective agreement with the union.

The strike at Sheridan affects about 1,000 students out of approximately 14,000 at UTM, while less than half of the 170 students enrolled in joint programs at UTSC and Centennial are affected.

The bulletin says that some colleges have “casually mentioned” that students may only have to complete 80 per cent of their course requirements.

“Students do not pay 100 per cent tuition to receive 80 per cent of the learning,” continues the bulletin. “Faculty are passionate about what we teach, and passionate about making sure students succeed.”

According to Amrita Daniere, the Vice-Principal Academic and Dean at UTM, the administration cannot provide support to students beyond communication, updates, and refer them to support systems.

“We’re not playing any active role in dealing with any of the Sheridan courses, in any of the Sheridan issues. We’re not allowed to, and we would never dream of it,” said Daniere. “The process has to play out and that’s basically our approach […] in terms of the messaging we’re giving our students and the support we are providing our students.”

“Can you imagine if you’re a first year student and it’s your first semester and half of your program is taught at a campus where the professors aren’t teaching? It could be very stressful,” continued Daniere. “So we refer them to counselling, we refer them to the registrar’s office, the chairs are doing everything they can to be a presence and to reassure them.”

Daniere added that UTM does not receive any additional information about the progress of negotiations between OPSEU and the colleges. “No more than what you could pick up on the web or in the newspaper,” she said.

Representatives from UTSC did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment as of press time.

 

Tory tackles transit, housing at UTSC town hall

Mixed housing, Scarborough subway extension main talking points

Tory tackles transit, housing at UTSC town hall

Transit and housing were the main topics of discussion at a student town hall held at UTSC’s Meeting Place, which featured Mayor John Tory. The forum was organized to discuss a collective vision for Scarborough and to discuss the major issues that affect the UTSC community, including transit, housing, and policing.

The event, titled “Vision for Scarborough,” was organized by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) in collaboration with the Centennial College Student Association, Inc (CCSAI) and the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization.

During the town hall, Tory campaigned for the Scarborough Bloor-Danforth subway extension, explaining his belief that it will stimulate investments and create jobs in Scarborough. “If you said if I thought it was kind of any strange notion that we would have a subway that has been extended to the east before,” Tory said, “No I don’t.”

Tory has faced widespread criticism over the choice to build a one-stop subway that is estimated to cost north of $3.35 billion. Critics have argued that the same amount of money could go toward a series of LRT lines that would serve more residents in Scarborough and beyond.

Tory believes that transit is the key to converting Scarborough into a job hub. He stated that the main reason investors may not find Scarborough attractive for establishing their business is its poor accessibility via transportation. He said the solution is the construction of “higher-order transportation.”

The mayor also said that safety barriers for subways are not part of any immediate transit plans in the city, as the billion dollars needed to install these barriers is currently being put “into building new transit and improving transit.”

When asked about affordable housing for students, Tory emphasized finding a way to step “up the pace” on mixed developments, including monetary subsidies to incentivize developers to build and operate affordable housing. He also spoke of shelter subsidies, where students would be able to find an apartment of their choosing and receive monetary support from the city.

Ravneet Kaur, President of the CCSAI, also expressed satisfaction with Tory’s proposals but “wanted to know more about the subway system.” Sitharsana Srithas, President of the SCSU, told The Varsity that she was satisfied with Tory’s answers in the town hall but felt that “there was still a lot of work to be done in terms of investing in Scarborough.”

Faculty at Centennial, Sheridan College go on strike

Strike impacts UTM, UTSC joint program students

Faculty at Centennial, Sheridan College go on strike

Students enrolled in joint programs at UTSC with Centennial College and UTM with Sheridan College have their college classes cancelled on Monday, October 16 as faculty go on strike indefinitely.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) represents 12,000 faculty members at colleges across the province, including those working at Centennial and Sheridan colleges. Following failed negotiations between the union and the bargaining teams of the 24 colleges where the faculty work, OPSEU 556 set a strike date for 12:01am on October 16.

OPSEU works to ensure fair say for its 12,000 faculty members. Key proposals include having an even ratio of full-time to contract faculty, increased job security for partial load faculty, and academic freedom that will give faculty a stronger voice in academic decisions.

Faculty from three joint programs at Centennial College — Paramedicine, Journalism, and New Media Studies — are going on strike. There are 170 students enrolled in these programs, however, less than half will be affected by the strike as they are currently at UTSC and not Centennial College, according to Mark Toljagic, Communications Officer at Centennial College.

At UTM, there are about 1,000 students enrolled in joint UTM–Sheridan College programs, including those in the Communication, Culture, Information Technology program, as well as the Art and Art History, and Theatre and Drama Studies program.

Centennial College libraries, athletic facilities and child care centres, among other basic amenities, will continue to function normally despite daytime classes being cancelled. As well, all students have been supplied with information on properly crossing picket lines if the event were to arise on campus.

At Sheridan, there are similar plans to keep services open, with all non-faculty based operations, such as the student health centre and food services, still for open for students at the college.

UTM has also posted an FAQ page specifically for students in the Sheridan College-UTM joint programs that will be updated as more information about the ongoing strike becomes available.

Does older mean wiser?

UTSC study finds that older kids in American classrooms undergo greater academic development

Does older mean wiser?

A study led by Dr. Elizabeth Dhuey, Associate Professor of Economics at UTSC, shows that older children perform better throughout elementary school and toward post-secondary school than their younger classmates.

The goal of this study, conducted among American students, was to learn how age influences the accumulation of human capital — the skills, knowledge, and experience that an individual has — of students throughout their lives. The findings demonstrate that older students undergo greater cognitive development overall and perform better in school, allowing them better opportunities later on in their lives.

The results of the study show that “early differences in maturity can propagate through the human capital accumulation process into later life and may have important implications for adult outcomes and productivity.”

Due to better academic performance, older students have a greater chance of entering into post-secondary education. The effect is consistent across American schools with varying levels of education quality. Older students are also less likely to be incarcerated for juvenile crimes than younger students in the same grade.

In the US, a child’s entry into primary school is often dictated by a specific cutoff birth date. As a result, the children born in September will be almost a year older than their peers born in August. The existence of this age gap has increasingly encouraged parents to adopt the practice of ‘redshirting,’ whereby a child’s entry into school is delayed by a grade level in the hopes of giving them an advantage over their peers.

This study was the first to compare siblings born in August versus September, which allowed the researchers to control for the unobserved differences in student success found in separate families. Dhuey hypothesized that the variation in maturity between younger and older students may impact their human capital accumulation, with the younger, less mature children having greater difficulties during their years of cognitive development.

To test for this, a regression discontinuity framework was used. “The assumption of this kind of framework is that these children are similar except for the month they were born. We were able to even refine this more by looking at siblings [where] one was born in August and one…was born in September to make sure there were no unobserved family effects that might have contaminated our estimates,” said Dhuey.

“We also are able to control for conditions and treatments surrounding pregnancy and birth. We ultimately find that these extra controls do not alter our results, indicating that omitted-variables bias in the extant literature is likely not as large as some might fear,” the authors explained in the paper.

One of the implications of this study — which has yet to be peer-reviewed — is that schools should decrease the age gap between students in the same grades or classes. By doing so, younger and older children may receive adequate attention to supplement their learning, and the gaps in cognitive development and academic performance between them may decrease.

“I would like to try to empirically figure out what is making these age [effects] last into adulthood when the small differences in age should matter a lot less,” said Dhuey.