U of T responds to allegations of student handcuffed by campus police

Vice-Provost declines to comment on reports, says campus police are trained in “de-escalation”

U of T responds to allegations of student handcuffed by campus police

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide.

At the University Affairs board meeting on November 13, Vice-Provost, Students Sandy Welsh was met with questions about the recent allegations that a student was handcuffed by UTM Campus Police while seeking help during a mental health crisis. Welsh declined to comment on the specifics of the case but clarified that such instances would be separate from the university-mandated leave of absence policy, and also defended campus police training.

Allegations

According to an article in The Medium, later reported by the CBC News, a U of T student sought help for suicidal ideation at the Health and Counselling Centre (HCC), and was handcuffed when the the HCC called campus police on the evening of October 2. 

The student arrived at the HCC with a friend and developed a safety plan with a nurse. Before she could leave, she was informed that it was protocol to speak with campus police. The student was then handcuffed and arrested when she disclosed that she was having suicidal thoughts. 

The Varsity has yet to independently verify the reported allegations.

The University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) condemned the decision by the HCC to call the police. “The UTMSU believes that this student should have been approached with care and compassion, not handcuffs,” reads the press release.  

University responds at UAB

Responding to a question from full-time undergraduate member Daman Singh, the former Vice-President, Internal of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) and an advocate for the UMLAP, Welsh declined to comment on the details reported in the two articles, but did say that the mandated leave policy was about concerning behaviour and that it would be irrelevant in a situation where a student is being taken to the hospital. 

Welsh, along with UTM Dean of Student Affairs and Assistant Principal, Student Services Mark Overton, reiterated that police are there to assist in extreme cases and work in accordance with the province’s Mental Health Act.

In response to a member questioning the “authority and knowledge” of campus police to “put people in handcuffs,” Welsh replied that campus police officers are trained in de-escalation and work closely with the health and wellness offices of the three campuses.

A university spokesperson wrote in a statement to The Varsity, “Campus police become involved when an individual makes specific statements that indicates they have an intention to do harm such as suicide and are unwilling to go to the hospital.”

“U of T is reviewing its police practices in this respect. Our existing practices are consistent with those of local municipal forces.”

Community responses

The UTSU endorsed the UTMSU’s statement, writing that they “stand in solidarity,” and described the incident as an “injustice.” Other campus organizations including the Association of Part Time Undergraduate Students and the U of T Students’ Law Society also supported the statement. 

Spadina—Fort York MPP, Chris Glover, condemned the incident, writing: “What is the state of our services on campus if students looking for mental health support are turned away and led in handcuffs.” Glover also criticized the Ford government for removing services and thereby creating barriers to success for postsecondary students. 

UTSU President Joshua Bowman weighed in with a tweet asking “What university can stand by a protocol that actually “arrests” a student seeking help”? 

Diana Yoon, former federal candidate for Spadina—Fort York, described the traumatic experience of being sent to the emergency room “without any reasonable discussion” after seeking help for mental health issues from a guidance counsellor while in high school. Yoon declared that it is “outrageous to see this now from UTM.”

This story is developing, more to follow.


If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

UTSU AGM 2019: Opt-out rates and finances, mental health, CFS

Union announces average fall semester opt-out rate of 23.6 per cent for non-essential UTSU fees

UTSU AGM 2019: Opt-out rates and finances, mental health, CFS

“As of right now, the [University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU)] is performing stronger than ever,” said UTSU President Joshua Bowman at its 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 30 at the Innis Town Hall. During his presidential address, Bowman listed out achievements, like the First Year Council and the union’s various lobbying efforts. 

However, the conversation at this year’s AGM centred on other matters: UTSU finances in the wake of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI); student mental health; and leaving the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).

UTSU finances, clubs, and the SCI

Under the SCI — the provincial mandate to Ontario universities and colleges to provide an opt-out option for certain incidental fees — a portion of the UTSU’s fees were deemed “non-essential,” while others remained mandatory for all members of the union.

In his presidential address, Bowman unveiled the fall semester opt-out rates for the non-essential UTSU fees:

The Advocacy, Training and Development fund, which has a fee of $0.19, saw an opt-out rate of 21.9 per cent.

Bikechain, a non-profit cycling organization with a $0.54 fee, saw an opt-out rate of 25.4 per cent.

The Blue Sky Solar Racing Car design team, which has a fee of $0.13, saw an opt-out rate of 27.1 per cent.

The CFS, which has a fee of $8.21, saw an opt-out rate of 26.6 per cent.

The Ontario Public Interest Research Group, which has a fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 23.7 per cent.

The Centre for Women and Trans People, which has a fee of $1.50, saw an opt-out rate of 25 per cent.

The Cinema Studies Students’ Union, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 27.6 per cent, although it’s worth mentioning that the UTSU is not its only source of funding.

Dollars for Daycare, which has a fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 25.4 per cent.

Downtown Legal Services, which has a fee of $3.29, saw an opt-out rate of 19.4 per cent, though the UTSU is not its only source of income.

Food Security for Students, which has a fee of $0.15, saw an opt-out rate of 21.2 per cent.

Foster Parents Plan, which has a fee of $0.05, saw an opt-out rate of 24.4 per cent.

Health initiatives in Developing Countries, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 22.7 per cent.

Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Trans people of the University of Toronto, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 25.8 per cent.

UTSU Orientation, which has a fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 22.7 per cent.

The scholarships and bursaries fee, which is $0.16, had an opt-out rate of 15.8 per cent.

The Sexual Education and Peer Counselling Centre, which has a fee of $0.25, saw an opt-out rate of 23.1 per cent.

The UTSU’s Clubs Funding and Resource Bank fund, which has a fee of $2.00, saw an opt-out rate of 20.9 per cent.

Students for Barrier-Free Access, which has a fee of $1.00, saw an opt-out rate of 23.7 per cent.

The University of Toronto Aerospace Team, which has a fee of $2.77, saw an opt-out rate of 27.1 per cent.

And finally, the University of Toronto Environmental Resource Network, which has an incidental fee of $0.50, saw an opt-out rate of 23.2 per cent.

The overall average opt-out rate was 23.6 per cent. Bowman told The Varsity that “any percentage of students opting out of our fees is… not great.”

During the executive Q&A session, Vice-President, Student Life Ameera Karim noted that two funding regimes had been added to the UTSU’s funding structure for campus organizations, including the abolition of automatic renewal of funding and a new semesterly funding application. Karim maintained that these changes were necessitated by the SCI.

Another point of contention arose around the UTSU’s guidelines for recognition and funding of clubs, with students questioning whether groups with ties to the Chinese government or anti-abortion student groups are eligible. While Karim’s answer indirectly referenced the fact that student groups that threaten student safety would not be recognized, Bowman — following a direct question from a student — clarified: “We will not recognize Students for Life.”

The UTSU’s operating budget

Former UTSU President Anne Boucher challenged the UTSU on its delay in posting an operating budget for the year. Bowman pointed to the SCI in response, emphasizing the lack of precedent and the resulting difficulties in financial planning. 

While a preliminary budget does exist, Bowman felt it wasn’t appropriate to post or approve a budget without knowing the UTSU’s opt-out rates. With the confirmation of the rates at the AGM, the budget will pass through the executive committee to be approved at the next UTSU Board of Directors meeting on November 17. 

Approximately 87 per cent of the UTSU’s budget was deemed essential under the provincial guidelines, with the remaining designated as non-essential. Bowman noted that the remaining non-essential budget is directed at “people-facing” initiatives, which indicates that those formulating the guidelines “don’t understand what campus life is all about.” 

Some substantial changes made in light of the SCI include cuts to club funding, student aid, and orientation. However, Bowman added that the UTSU would work to ensure that cuts to student aid would not impact those most reliant on the funds. 

Mental health concerns

In a discussion on the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, Bowman expressed his disappointment with the task force’s operations thus far. He further noted that its four student members have not been present at recent consultations with U of T community members.

Vice-President, Operations Arjun Kaul echoed this sentiment, commenting that “the mental health task force… has been extremely uncooperative” and has only reached out to the UTSU once. When questioned regarding whether the UTSU should develop a committee to hold the task force accountable to its mandate, Kaul asserted that the UTSU’s resources would be more effectively used toward new independent initiatives.

U of T Ombudsperson Dr. Ellen Hodnett’s comments at the October 24 Governing Council meeting — which defended the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP) and accused student activists of unfairly using campus deaths to criticize the policy — were raised repeatedly on the questioning floor. Campus groups, including the UTSU, have expressed outrage and called on Hodnett to issue a public apology. 

Kaul highlighted the lack of consultation involved in developing the UMLAP as well as the policy’s inappropriate nature: “I do believe that there are cases where it would be the student’s best interest to be removed from their studies, but it’s an inherently devoid-of-logic question to pair that with mental health.”

Questioning CFS membership

Vice-President, External Affairs Lucas Granger claimed that the UTSU executive team cannot initiate a referendum with union resources to leave the CFS, in response to a question from Ilya Bañares. Rather, that responsibility resides with student members. A petition to call on decertification must be signed by 15 per cent of the UTSU’s members in order for an exit referendum to occur.

Bowman told The Varsity that, speaking as an individual, if a member were to initiate such a referendum, he would be in support. 

With files from Hannah Carty and Andy Takagi

Disclosure: Ilya Bañares is The Varsity’s managing online editor and attended the AGM as a voting member.

Editor’s Note (November 12, 4:25 pm): This article has been updated to reflect that signatures from 15 per cent of the UTSU’s members, rather than 20 per cent, are needed for a referendum to leave the CFS to occur.

Student Commons to have soft launch in April 2020, projects UTSU

$24.5 million student centre set to open 13 years after project first approved

Student Commons to have soft launch in April 2020, projects UTSU

The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Student Commons project — first proposed in the ’60s and approved by students in 2007 — has been fraught with delays and modifications to its original plan. Now, the UTSU projects an April 2020 soft launch, with the building being fully operational in September 2020. Funded by an $11.26 levy per student, the space aims to be the first student-run centre on the UTSG campus.

The history of the Student Commons

In 2007, students were promised a space that would include a 600-person auditorium, three restaurants, and office spaces for student groups. The project was originally supposed to be located where the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport now stands. Instead, it will now be at the old location of the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at 230 College Street. The referendum to begin collecting a levy from students to fund the project passed later that year.

In 2015, the UTSU signed the Revised Student Commons Agreement, a binding document between the UTSU and the university. Former UTSU President Mathias Memmel, then Vice-President, Internal, criticized the UTSU executive that year for a lack of consideration when signing the document.

He said that the agreement “appears to have been negotiated and signed by the UTSU without due consideration of the real, long-term requirements for the building’s operations and the project’s financing as a whole.” Memmel also wrote that it favoured the university and was overall an “imbalanced deal.”

The Student Commons threatened to put the UTSU in financial jeopardy. In a 2017 op-ed in The Varsity, Memmel wrote, “Bankruptcy became a real possibility.”

That year, the project was revised so as to avoid a $500,000 deficit and the possibility of the building being seized by the university, which would occur if the project ran a deficit for two consecutive years after the first three years of operation. Current UTSU President Joshua Bowman said that the most recent deficit projection for the first year of operation is around $112,000, and that the project will reach a surplus after six years of operation, but clarified that the Student Commons’ operating costs would be covered by UTSU reserves.

Where the Student Commons is now

According to Bowman, the Student Commons costs $24.5 million to build, and will cost around $600,000 to operate. Students are paying $11.26 each semester of the 2019–2020 school year.

The UTSU has been collecting the capital levy from students since 2008. This levy pays for the renovation and building costs, as well as the licensing fee that is paid to the university every year. Costing $200,000 each year, the licensing fee will continue to be collected for 25 years after the building opens.

When the building is fully operational in September 2020, students will also be paying an operating levy. Sources of revenue for the project once it is operating include space rentals and program partnership grants.

UTSU executives from this year and last year expressed that the project’s delays were due to the difficulty of renovating an old building, as well as “a significant amount of asbestos” that had to be dealt with.

Speaking on the projected opening dates at the 2019 Annual General Meeting, Bowman noted, “[Bear] in mind that that is what our contractor has told us, and they have also been the same ones that have given us dates in the past.”

In an email to The Varsity, Bowman wrote, “Our timelines are set by the University Capital Planning Department and informed by the pace of construction. Additional delays could still happen… It is impossible to be certain given the continuously moving target set by our partners.”

Still in the midst of construction, Bowman wrote that “most large scale engineering within the building has been completed and the current work is being directed towards finishing the floors, walls, ceilings and lighting.”

The UTSU will move into the Student Commons when it opens, along with Student Life and the Innovation Hub. The Student Commons is also planned to have space for student groups, a student-run cafe, and an accessible kitchen.

The Breakdown: UTSU’s 2019 Annual General Meeting

Member motions to address board attendance, equity collectives, climate crisis

The Breakdown: UTSU’s 2019 Annual General Meeting

The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on October 30 in Innis Town Hall at 6:00 pm. The meeting is open to all UTSU members, which includes full-time undergraduate students, professional faculty students, Toronto School of Theology students, Transition Year Program students, and students on a Professional Experience Year.

The AGM requires a quorum of 75 members, of which 50 members must be physically present, with the rest being present through a proxy. The meeting acts as a forum for members to ask questions and raise items for discussion. Last year’s AGM was marred by long and heated debates, and notably lost quorum during the meeting. This loss resulted in a vote on policy without quorum.

According to the AGM’s agenda, UTSU President Joshua Bowman will give his address, which will be followed by an executive question and answer period.

The meeting will also see a proposal to change the union’s bylaws and elections procedure. One change to the bylaws will remove all mentions of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union, as it separated from the UTSU at the 2018 AGM. There are also new outlines for abandonment of office for directors, which, for example, will occur if directors have two “unreasonable absences,” or other combinations of absences.

Member motions

On the agenda is a motion put forth by University College representative Lina Maragha to dissolve the UTSU’s equity collectives. The motion recommends this due to the perception that the equity collectives have not fulfilled their mandate since being introduced in 2017.

Instead, a “Equity Initiatives Fund” is proposed, which will provide funding to existing equity groups on campus. Three new community members will also be added to the Equity and Accessibility Committee under the new proposal.

Another motion proposes that the UTSU endorse all upcoming Fridays for Future climate strikes, as they did for the Global Climate Strike in Toronto last month.

Outstanding issues to address

Some outstanding issues that the AGM might address include the UTSU’s Student Commons project, which has put the union in financial jeopardy before, and been the target of numerous construction and planning delays.

The possibility of the UTSU leaving the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which has been a major topic of discussion surrounding the UTSU for the past few years, could also come to a front. Debate over student funding for the CFS has emerged in the context of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) — a provincial mandate for universities that provides an opt-out option for “non-essential” incidental fees. The SCI has also created particular financial challenges for the union, as students can opt-out of certain UTSU fees deemed non-essential by the province.

The union has also been active in student advocacy, including a collaboration with city council on postsecondary transit fees, and pushing for the funding of increased mental health services.

The controversial university-mandated leave of absence policy has once again brought tensions to light between the union, Governing Council, and the university’s ombudsperson on the policy’s effects on student health — less than year-and-a-half after the policy’s approval.

Opinion: Ford burst our bubble — university health care coverage suffers under new policy changes

The UTSU can only do so much to mitigate Ford’s damage

Opinion: Ford burst our bubble — university health care coverage suffers under new policy changes

The Ford government’s changes to OHIP and introduction of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI) have brought a number of pressing issues, including access to health care for university students. The University of Toronto Students’ Union’s (UTSU) health care plan is bearing the brunt of the damage.

The UTSU health care plan is meant to fill gaps in other coverage students may have, including OHIP. However, Ford’s cuts to OHIP have made covering all gaps unfeasible, prompting major shifts in the UTSU Health and Dental Plan.

The UTSU’s coverage for prescription drug costs has been reduced from 90 per cent to 80 per cent of the cost of each prescription, up to $5,000. This applies not only to drug prescriptions, but also to vaccines — which have been fully covered to a maximum of $200 in past years.

Mental health services have also been affected: as opposed to providing $125 per visit for up to 20 visits, the new health care plan only covers $100 per visit for up to 15 visits. It’s important to note is that unlike prescription drug care coverage, mental health funding is being capped by both cost and number of visits.

In an attempt to offset these cuts, the UTSU has implemented coverage for visits to registered psychotherapists, in addition to visits to standard psychologists, clinical counsellors, and licensed social workers. This change may seem minute, but it will go a long way to help students.

What is most worrisome about the UTSU’s changes is not its immediate effects but rather its implications for U of T students. In the statement that the UTSU released regarding changes to the health and dental plan, the union acknowledges that there is a mental health crisis at the university.

Mental health is a high priority for the UTSU: in a statement following a student’s death in September, it committed to continue to place its “resources behind addressing the mental health crisis.” Even though it must contend with Ford’s difficult cuts, it should put all its efforts into tackling this crisis. In terms of policy, this means collecting as many resources as possible.

At the UTSU Board of Directors Meeting in late August, Studentcare, the health and dental care provider of the UTSU, sent a message noting that “a lower claims trend was had for mental health coverage in comparison to other parts of the plan.”

In response to this, the UTSU decided to concentrate more on other areas of health coverage, as mental health seemed to be of lesser concern. This projection was also based on the fact that the UTSU would no longer be covering students at UTM, meaning that fewer resources would be needed. However, these predictions do not necessarily translate as facts, meaning that the students at UTSG may be left without sufficient access to resources.

The UTSU is cognizant of this and is taking active measures to improve health care coverage for the following school year. UTSU President Joshua Bowman explained that the executive team is working on restructuring the Student Aid program to “bridge the financial gap in coverage.”

The UTSU hopes to establish a referendum which would allow for students to re-appraise the cost of the plan and possibly charge students more in certain areas and less in others, depending on their needs. These changes would aim to both meet the individual needs of the student while accommodating for financial barriers.

Of course, the UTSU is only a student governing body, and as such, some changes are beyond its reach. The greatest barriers to equitable access to health care are Ford’s changes to OHIP and implementation of the SCI. The true arbiters of change are the members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Just as they were the ones who created these barriers, they are the ones who can break them down. And in light of the mental health crisis, these policies are only driving us further away from the help we need and straight into the arms of physical, emotional, and financial instability.

The Ford government must recognize the harm that is already stemming from these dangerous policies and do everything it can to mitigate this harm and reverse it. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time until Ford bursts our bubble.

Yana Sadeghi is a first-year Social Sciences student at New College.

Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

All you need to know about the UTSU AGM

Op-ed: Accountability, democracy, and samosas — attend the UTSU’s fall Annual General Meeting

On Wednesday, October 30, at 6:00 pm, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) will be holding its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at Innis Town Hall. This event is crucial for the governance of the UTSU, and gives our membership the opportunity to debate and ratify decisions and bylaws, and have their say in the direction and maintenance of our organization.

The UTSU AGM is one of our most important events, as it serves as a mid-year check on our progress as executives. As such, we work hard to ensure that the AGM is as accessible and open to our membership as possible.

Through measures like our online proxy system at utsu.simplyvoting.com, we want to make sure all members have a chance to engage with the UTSU on a personal level.

The AGM has been criticized in the past for being filled with “insiders” instead of general members. This is a valid criticism. In the past, the UTSU’s engagement skills were poor, and transparency was dubious. We’ve made strides this year to bridge this gap and want all students to feel comfortable at our AGM.

Our organization functions best when we hear your questions and criticisms, and we want to hear as many as possible. We’re here to listen.

The UTSU has a long history of packed AGMs with students raising their concerns with executives, irrespective of how receptive the executives may be. This has extended to the adoption of online voting — despite its initial failure — the proposed erasure of executive positions, the banning of slates, and the separation of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union from the UTSU.

Suffice to say, AGMs are wholly consequential to the operations of the UTSU.

Before I became an executive at the UTSU, I used the AGM as an opportunity to press my predecessors on the status of our membership in the Canadian Federation of Students, because I was under the impression that we would be pushing for a referendum to leave. As a general member, I was tired of the constant rhetoric — if the UTSU was pushing to leave, why were they still failing to deliver?

Furthermore, I advocated for resolutions that I found merit in, and spoke in opposition to points that I found to be unproductive. I found the AGM and the processes that preceded it to be extremely exciting: The Varsity’s bingo cards that predicted the events before they occurred, the samosas that sat lousily in the lobby of the event, the proxy cards that announced how many members were participating, et cetera. It was a lot to process my first time, and it was really one of the events that motivated me to get more involved with the UTSU.

The agendas are normally as follows: an address from the president and an executive question period; the presentation of audited statements and subsequent ratification of the auditor; the presentation of an annual report detailing the events of the preceding year; a package of bylaws to be discussed and ratified by the membership; and member-submitted motions.

The executive question period is a great opportunity to press executives on their actions or inaction. This period has addressed issues like a lack of water bottles at orientation, the inclusion of students from the satellite campuses, and whether the UTSU is democratic or not. This is a great opportunity, and has been historically utilized to a great extent by UTSU members.

Arguably, the two most consequential pieces of this upcoming AGM agenda are the audited financial statements and the Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code changes. The audit allows the UTSU’s general membership to see the financial health of the organization — where our money is being spent.

In addition, changes to the UTSU’s Bylaw and Elections Procedure Code are important, given that the UTSU’s Bylaws are legally binding and guide the organization’s general direction.

I highly encourage all of our members to come out and attend the AGM, if not for the opportunity to keep executives accountable and assess the health of our union, then for the samosas. If anybody has questions about the AGM, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We hope to see you on Wednesday, October 30, at Innis Town Hall!

Joshua Bowman is a fifth-year Indigenous Studies and Political Science student at St. Michael’s College and current President of the UTSU.

UTSG: UTSU’s Soup Day (Ft. Breadsticks)

Join the UTSU this World Food Day for a hot bowl of corn chowder or butternut squash soup as we raise awareness about food insecurity on campus. This is the perfect weather for a bowl of soup to warm you up during the winter months. 🔥

Soup options: Butternut squash

Pay what you can or bring a donation of a canned food item. The proceeds from this event would go towards clubs doing food programming.

If you have any questions regarding access and accommodations, or if you require an accommodation, email events@utsu.ca or vpua@utsu.ca in advance of the event.

Corncoming puts the corn in cornmunity

Innovation, adaptation necessary to reignite campus spirit

Corncoming puts the corn in cornmunity

While it may have started as an inside joke at a St. George Round Table (SGRT) meeting in 2017, Corncoming — U of T’s corn-themed homecoming event— is once again set to take place on October 11. 

Unlike other Ontario universities, such as Western and Queen’s, U of T homecoming is not a significant part of student culture. 

University homecomings are a tradition that celebrates the founding of the university through alumni and student events, and often start with a parade, pep rally, and an opening football game. 

U of T homecoming lacks many of these elements. For many universities, homecoming isn’t just a football game, but a fun day where the student body can socialize and meet members of the community. However, at U of T, this event focuses on celebrating Varsity athletics rather than unifying students through a campus-wide social event. 

The SGRT Corncoming is one step closer to rectifying this missed opportunity for student engagement by providing students with opportunities for involvement in student societies through a day of interactive activities and events. 

“[The mystery] adds to the intrigue of the event,” University College Literary & Athletic Society President Danielle Stella told The Varsity.

On October 11, the event will open with a Fall Festival in Sir Daniel Wilson’s quad. According to Stella, the organizers are hoping to attract passersby, since the quad sees high foot traffic in between classes. After several other events, this year’s Corncoming will conclude with a Pub Night at East of Brunswick on Spadina. 

Corncoming has been a part of U of T’s meme culture since its inception in 2017, being frequently featured in the “uoft memes for true 🅱lue teens” Facebook page. The large and impassioned online response to the event indicates that there is space for U of T to grow. Students are looking for an opportunity to build a community centred around notions of campus pride. 

The event was noticeably missing last year, and Stella noted that the intrigue and longing for the event among students makes her happy.

The purpose of this year’s Corncoming is to promote student engagement, especially in response to the Student Choice Initiative, which gives students the choice to opt out of the non-essential incidental fees that provide student-led organizations with their funding.

Such changes have had an impact on the framework of activities and campus life this year. Stella is hoping that reintroducing student unions from every faculty and college can help students develop informed decisions for the winter term opt-out period.  

The event is more than just a matter of joining a club or socializing; it is an opportunity for everyone to find their place in our community.

With more than a thousand clubs, organizations, and societies across three campuses, Corncoming will hopefully bring us one step closer to reigniting student engagement.

Paul Jerard Layug is a first-year Life Sciences student at New College.