Charles Street West may turn two-way, input being solicited by city

Campus cohesiveness, dangerous traffic, accessibility among concerns at Victoria University

Charles Street West may turn two-way, input being solicited by city

Toronto City Council is in the process of soliciting feedback from Victoria University and the Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) about the possibility of converting Charles Street West into a two-way street.

The proposal aims to alleviate additional traffic resulting from new developments in the area, according to Toronto Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.

Charles Street West, which currently runs one-way right through the heart of Victoria University, is, in its present state, fundamental to the “cohesiveness” of Victoria’s piece of campus, wrote VUSAC President Zahavah Kay in an email to The Varsity.

“Vic students cross Charles Street regularly, every day, multiple times a day,” said Kay. “You have to cross Charles Street… if you want to eat, and print something and go to class: you’re crossing Charles Street dozens of times a day.”

According to Kay, Charles Street West’s transformation into a two-way street, with increased traffic, would threaten the safety of students who hustle daily from residence to the dining halls to Vic administration offices. She noted that the street “literally divides Vic in half.” There are two residences and a student centre on one side of the street, with two residences and a dining hall on the other side.

Kay also voiced her concerns about parking and accessibility if Charles Street West stopped being one-way, and said that the “pedestrian campus feel” — with more benches and places to study — would be at stake if the proposed change saw the light of day.

Wong-Tam told The Varsity that the city is soliciting advice from the Vic community because they “want to make sure that there’s some predictability, with respect to pedestrian and cycling movement. So one thing that we’re doing is trying to get a sense of what the community wants.” In addition, “Transportation Service staff are prepared to consider [the change], but we need to know whether or not there is broader community support.”

The Bursar of Victoria University, Ray deSouza, wrote in statement to The Varsity that “no decisions have been made. Feedback is currently been solicited from all stakeholders. Wong-Tam has invited us to a meeting to discuss this issue. We are grateful to the councillor for this opportunity.”

Kay plans to accept the councillor’s invitation as well. “It’s not a set in stone plan, it’s very much a discussion right now,” Kay wrote. “We’re going to get to talk with them about what Charles Street means to the Vic community as it is right now, hear a little bit more about their feasibility report and then just go from there.”

God of Carnage

VCDS’ most recent production depicts parenting at its worst

God of Carnage

Victoria College’s Cat’s Eye Lounge served as an intimate backdrop for Victoria College Drama Society’s (VCDS) God of Carnage. Written by the award-winning French playwright Yasmina Reza in 2006, director Ben Murchison and the VCDS bring to life this 70-minute comedy that dramatizes familial strife. 

Haphazardly brought into each other’s orbit, the Novak and the Raleigh families are forced into confrontation following an incident in which their 11 year-old sons Henry Novak (played by Katie Pereira) and Benjamin Raleigh get into an altercation, resulting in Henry losing his front teeth. Rather than consulting lawyers, the families seek to handle the matter ‘like adults.’ The play focuses on the four parents, Veronica and Michael Novak (Samantha Finkelstein and Matthew Fonte) and Alan and Annette Raleigh (Ryan Falconer and Rachel Hart), and their attempts to maintain. “Superficially,” the director writes in the brochure, “the play is about…resolv[ing] the conflict between their two children; underneath, it is a complex examination of adult life.”

A “complex examination of adult life” is a bit of an overstatement. Rather, stereotypical biographies characterize these families: Veronica is an uptight philanthropist and helicopter mom married to Michael, an entrepreneur who sells hardware. Alan is a lawyer constantly on the clock — too busy to care about anything going on around him — while his trophy wife, Annette, tries to compensate for his physical and emotional absence. The constant bickering over moral compasses and parenting styles climax into a sensationalized ‘coming undone.’

Regardless of this hackneyed narrative arc, the play’s interactive component, which engaged the audience from start to finish, was outstanding. While I stood in line waiting to get inside the theatre, Camille Novak (Katie Cohen) frantically stormed about the stage in search of an undisclosed object. The play hadn’t begun, and it was hard to tell what was going on, but that didn’t matter, as it succeeded in getting our attention.

While fumbling around to find our seats, we were greeted by a freeze-frame of the cast sitting still in place, staring off into the distance. The stillness was punctuated by Henry and Camile’s boisterous scurrying and teasing each other before vanishing, marking the beginning of the play. Adding to the show’s interactivity was an invitation to explore the immaculate arrangement of the Novak’s apartment, which many did before the play began. 

Although, at times, the acting felt exaggerated, the actors ultimately did a remarkable job, and the roaring laughs of the crowd were a testament to their success. Ultimately, God of Carnage is an entertaining exploration of individuals who, in an attempt to act their age, find themselves unreasonably childlike, which is the very reason they met in the first place.

Victoria College dean postpones traditional Gardiner Gala

Students express long-standing frustration with administration

Victoria College dean postpones traditional Gardiner Gala

The Gardiner Gala, an annual event held at Victoria College to celebrate the relationship between the college and the Gardiner Museum, was postponed last week, which caught Victoria University Students’ Administrative Council (VUSAC) off guard.

For the past three years, VUSAC has planned the event in cooperation with the Office of the Dean of Students at Victoria College. This year, however, VUSAC lost touch with the Dean’s Office during the month of December.

The office was responsible for communicating and handling contracts with the Gardiner. VUSAC nonetheless continued to plan the event. “There was a break in communication between parties when we needed to maintain that. If there had been a plan about what had to be done things would have worked out differently, but there seemed to be a breakdown in communication,” said Stuart Norton, VUSAC’s Scarlet & Gold Commissioner.

On January 4, following the winter break, the Dean’s Office assured VUSAC the event would still occur on January 14. The next day, however, VUSAC received an email from the Dean’s Office stating the event had to be postponed. “VUSAC representatives did not know why the event was postponed and felt they were not given enough notice or clarification. That wasn’t seen as appropriate,” said VUSAC co-president Benjamin Atkins.

VUSAC released a statement on Facebook — without agreement from the Dean’s Office who wanted to approve the statement beforehand — explaining the situation to students. “The dean helps with monetary contributions and supports us, but we are not the same. We are accountable to students and I’m concerned with creating space to ask questions,” said Norton, who did not want to censor the situation.

Within the week, VUSAC met with the dean, who confirmed the office was late ordering catering and that they did not want to agree to the package that the Gardiner offered, which would cost $40 per person. The office decided to postpone the event, but were also willing to provide an alternative semi-formal event for students at the Goldring Student Centre. “The Dean’s Office is covering the cost of an alternative event on Thursday, which is very kind of them, and we’ll still be holding the Gardiner Gala sometime this semester,” said Norton. “The initial reaction from students was anger, frustration and disappointment,” said Atkins. “VUSAC is grateful that the dean is covering a new event but students were left bewildered.”

“I think the future for us, we have to make sure we are not cut off from the Dean’s Office,” added Norton. “We’re trying to rework how we work together and how the two organizations can come together to provide programming for students.”

Issues with the dean’s office

“This event fits into a larger narrative of the Dean’s Office as being overinvolved in student affairs and not committed to student interests,” said Auni Ahsan, a third-year Victoria College student. “We have this body that doesn’t consult students but puts policy in place that makes it difficult for students to hold events here. When you look at the Dean’s Office, it is an ivory tower that is not transparent about where money is going,” Ahsan added. “Last year they built another wall that made the only accessible washroom available only by elevator. Did they consult students about it? No.”

When Jenna*, a Victoria College student, was sexually assaulted on campus last year, she felt mistreated by associates of the Dean’s Office. “I had to (painstakingly) repeat what had happened at least five times that night before going to the hospital, despite being overwhelmed and wanting nothing more than to go to bed…I felt there was more attention paid to spreading ‘awareness’ about what had happened (even that night) than was paid to making sure I was okay.” A few days after the incident, Jenna saw a post about the assault on Facebook, and although she was aware of the importance of warning the student body, she was not notified about the post beforehand. “There are issues with confidentiality, issues with taking responsibility, and issues with actually listening to and having respect for the students under their purview. I understand that mistakes are made and information leaks sometimes, but I could have had been given an apology.”

“I think what occurred with the Gardiner Gala and my experiences reflect an overall inadequacy at the Dean’s Office,” added Jenna.

The Office of the Dean at Victoria College declined to comment.

*Name changed at student’s request.