Prep Courses


November sucks. The professors and course coordinators have all ganged up and decided to just bleep us all over for a whole month. It doesn’t get better. There will be the illusion of a break before the December exams hit, but it is only that: an illusion. Want to party for the last time? Exams are going to sneak up on your when you’re hung over. Need a break? You’ll be dreaming about your notes. If you’re lucky, you will relive a lecture in a dream, except your professor will be speaking in a dialect of Mongolian. Imagine learning about fly embryos in Mongolian.

If you are anything like me, you’re seriously considering all those multicoloured pamphlets about prep sessions that have been handed out to you around your classes, especially if you’re a first year life science student. I’ve had experience with a couple different prep courses and centres, and I’ve decided to break them down for you and maybe give some advice on studying I’ve gathered over the past two years. Continue reading “Prep Courses”

Sana Is Gone – Now What?

Opinions shared in this post belong solely to the author and do not reflect the opinions of the blog.

I’m probably not the only one who was left feeling discontent following last week’s lackluster UTSU election campaign period. We only had one slate running, the debate was so unremarkable that, even after sitting through the whole thing, I had nothing to say about it, and the platform was typical. Team Renew was trying to renew the campus, no doubt, in the same way you would renew a library card. Same books, new card.

I’ve said before that it seems like Team Renew isn’t keen on talking to anyone, especially since they have no real reason to. Well, now someone is talking, and that someone is ex-VP External Candidate, Sana Ali.

Here’s a quick summary of her letter:

  • Her job wasn’t to use her brain (her words), but to fulfill a predetermined set of mandates that haven’t changed much over the years.
  • The team runs supreme, and everyone part of it must find a way to conform, apparently without question.
  • Different opinions will not be tolerated.
  • Most importantly: the people are well-meaning and progressive, but the system is corrupt.

So what does this mean?

Well, first is that there are serious communication issues within our student government. It should be no surprise to most of us that the hottest student politics topic this year is the push for defederation by three colleges and one faculty. The biggest reason for is because many of those college and faculty unions think the UTSU is incompetent and unable to meet their needs (that’s the nicest way I can put it). It’s one thing to have other groups criticizing the big guy, but to have one of their own? That’s huge.

Second, it goes far beyond ideology. She talked about being stifled, and the suffocating nature of groupthink. She talked about how her statements were reviewed, and how everything was submitted by the same person. What she said isn’t anything new, but she was the first to say something about it. By doing so, she exposed the inner party politics that exists within our union. Does this make UTSU any different than any other political body? Or any other organization, for that matter? I don’t think so.

I thought it was very nice of Sana to not point anyone out and criticize people explicitly. As far as I can tell, a major reason why she’s pulling out is that her beliefs didn’t match up with the rest of theirs, and that led to undesirable circumstances. She was kept from talking to her friends and conversing meaningfully during the campaign. But even through all that, she doesn’t name any names. That was very classy of her.

Finally, with all the buzz Sana’s letter is generating, I am hoping that this will get more students interested in how our university works. As harsh as this may sound, this kind of press is exactly the kind of thing that gets people going. Team Renew and UTSU will be forced to address this and, if they don’t, it’s indicative of how our unions are run. I want them to take this chance to really review and think critically about what has happened, and what is wrong with the system.

For Team Renew, I want you to consider just how effective and novel your slate is. Is your platform really a bunch of antiquated mandates, and is there really no plan other than to “work together”? That seems sort of flaky. And are you really not letting your candidates talk to “one of them“? Are you five?

For UTSU and all the bodies under it, I want you to take this opportunity to put it all out in the open. The spotlight is on you now, and if things go the way I think they should go, then more people will be asking questions. Your communication skills are lacking. You need to review your agenda. I know you implemented many suggested changes this year, but most of us don’t know about them, and that’s a problem. If you want to address the discontent that is definitely spreading among our colleges and faculties, that’s the least you can do.

For all defederating student bodies, no doubt you think this as a major victory. It really isn’t. First, if you’re going to defederate anyway, whatever happens with UTSU doesn’t matter to you so you shouldn’t spend your time caring in the first place. If your referenda go through, then focus on making your colleges and faculties a better place, not on rubbing it in the UTSU’s face. Second, if you don’t defederate, then you’re just like the rest of us – we don’t have a VP External. I’m not sure how that will play out but, either way, you’ll be just as worse off as the rest of us.

And to all of you, are you really doing this for us, the students, or are you doing this for your bruised egos, as Sana suggests?

Critical thinking doesn’t mean just being critical of others, but being critical of yourself as well. I dare all of the parties and teams I mentioned about to criticize themselves. Seriously. Can you do it?

There’s this one line Sana wrote that didn’t sit well with me:

The day of the All-Candidate’s Meeting when it was revealed that nobody would be running against the team, I was really upset because I saw it as a massive call for reform. When I brought this up, I was told that it did not mean no-one had faith in the system, it simply meant that people were too lazy to put in the work.

Politics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some people just have no interest or are repulsed by politics in general, which is fair. And others, like me, like to talk about it (some much more obnoxiously than others) but would never run for it, and that’s fair too. But the least we can do is listen in once in a while, and maybe question things that our governing bodies are doing. You may not care about it now, but one day they may bring up an issue that will affect you. Show that you care in your own little way. We’re adults now, and this sort of practice will extend to “real world” things, like municipal, provincial, and national elections.

Besides, I resent being called lazy. Don’t you?

This is probably the most exciting thing that has happened during the UTSU elections in the past few years. This is even more exciting than the tragic campus bar. There is no word on what the CRO will do in response to her withdrawal this late in the game. I also have no idea what will happen to that empty position. Perhaps a by-election in the fall? Everything will likely fall in the hands of the CRO and the rulebooks.

Team Renew Doesn’t Seem So Keen

Opinions shared in this post belong solely to the author and do not reflect the opinions of the blog.

Campus was eerily quiet today. So quiet that I had to double check my phone just to make sure today was, in fact, the first day of campaigning for UTSU elections. Gone are the intense poster wars at 7am. Gone are the heated (and albeit slightly hilarious) slogans shouted with vigour in front of Sid Smith. Gone are the UTSU elections.

Okay, not really. No one can get rid of UTSU (trust me, people have tried). Without further ado, let me introduce to you the one the only slate running this year:


Executive Board Candidates:

  • President: Munib Sajjad
  • VP Internal & Services: Cameron Wathey
  • VP External: Sana Ali
  • VP Equity: Yolen Bollo-Kamara
  • VP University Affairs: Agnes So

There are two familiar names up there. Both Munib and Yolen are current UTSU VPs of University Affairs and Campus Life, respectively. Everyone else are rookies to UTSU politics, so how those candidates do remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, with two international students running, Renew is using the diversity card to push their tuition agenda.

Chances are, you didn’t know we had UTSU elections this year. That’s okay! Don’t feel bad. You probably aren’t the only one. With the way campaigning week is starting off, you probably won’t be hearing much about it anyway. This is my fourth U of T election, and so far it has been my quietest.

An election is only as engaging as the parties running. It serves both legislative and entertainment purposes. What I mean by that is, an election decides the fate of legislative directions for the coming term, but it is only as interesting as the personalities in the race. In past years, the general formula has been an “incumbent” vs “opposition” race. Slate go head to head over issues they think are relevant to U of T (incumbent) or try to take down The Man (opposition). While voter turnout has always been low at our university, there was at least a buzz on campus. Candidates used to campaign in major campus hubs, and students going to and from class would get at least one pamphlet during the week.

Since Renew is the only slate running, it seems like they have taken the half-assed approach to campaigning. And why shouldn’t they? Why should they put in the same amount of work as previous years if they’re going to win anyway, right? At this point, all executive positions will be filled. Most of the Board of Director positions – with the exception of Trinity, of course – have been acclaimed, meaning that the people running are guaranteed positions on the board. Renew’s website wasn’t up until the afternoon, and as of March 4, 9:15pm their Twitter account is still locked and inactive. The link to their Facebook Page from their website doesn’t work. Once found, it doesn’t really tell us much.

Perhaps I am being too nitpicky about their PR strategy. But think of it this way: with horrible PR, how are they supposed to get the word out? You haven’t got a campaign if no one follows it. I get it though. There’s not point in actually campaigning when there’s no one running against you. It’s practical. It’s pragmatic. And most of all, it tells you just how much Renew wants students to know about their platform.

That isn’t to say Renew is going to sweep the board. Acclaimed positions undergo a “confirmation vote”, meaning that students can vote Yes or No. If enough people vote No or cast an empty ballot, these positions will remain vacant until someone more suitable fills it. So, as decisive as this year’s elections may seem, things can still change at the turn of a dime.

We should know about our student union. It can be as simple as learning about what services and platforms each new executive team has to offer.  Look for these candidates and talk to them. Clearly, they aren’t going to talk to you. It is up to us as U of T students to step up and put running candidates on the spot.

As always, I encourage anyone and everyone to comment and share their opinions. I will be posting my thoughts here on blogUT throughout the election period, so look out for them! If you would like to contact me or you have a tip you want me to talk about, comment below or tweet me at @cjyc23.


Interview: James Finlay, Student and Past VP External Candidate

Opinions shared in this post belong solely to the author and do not reflect the opinions of the blog.

I think it’s important to get input from people who have past experience in order to understand how and why things are happening now (says the History minor). That’s why I recently got a hold of James Finlay, past VP External candidate for Change, a slate that ran opposition 2 years ago. I asked him a few questions that would hopefully give insight to why the elections are the way they are now.

Have you ever wondered why there are some of us who have problems with the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario, while others are completely for it? Ever questioned the conduct of those who are seemingly ‘anti-UTSU’ and ‘pro-UTSU’? Want to know what makes a good slate? Is this starting to sound like an essay topic? Should I remind you to be slightly analytical while reading this?

The following interview is uncut. Therefore, I would like to remind all readers that what you are about to read is the opinion of one person. Perhaps it is representative of a few others, but it definitely is not representative of blogUT.

Continue reading “Interview: James Finlay, Student and Past VP External Candidate”

Day 3: Meet Your Next President

Opinions shared in this post belong solely to the author and do not reflect the opinions of the blog.

Post Publishing Correction: According to ex-SPAC members, SPAC no longer exists. Correct me (again) if I’m wrong, but I think Stop The Salaries is more accurate.

Before I go on, some things to address from my last post:

One of the most exciting things about elections is that there are debates. Candidates are put in the spotlight and go head to head. Debates test their ability to think on their feet, and it’s usually here where we figure out how seedy, or legitimate, or committed, or half-assed candidates are. Public speaking skills and, more importantly, public answering skills, can basically tell us how prepared a person is in whatever they’re doing. It’s one thing to convince with your speeches – it’s another to convince with your answers. Am I starting to preach? Sorry – I used to be a debater. Debates gives me lotsa feelz.

However, you need to organize a debate in order to have a debate, and that was something that was done poorly. Yesterday, the #UTSU2012 Twitter hashtag was going crazy over how little notice there was for both the candidates and the general public. More details here. But before you put the blame directly on UTSU, things like debates and, really, anything related to planning and organizing the elections, is dealt with by the CRO and Elections and Referenda Committee. Now, I’m not sure what CRO Daniel Lo and the ERC are playing at but, whatever it is, it’s not cool. Thankfully, the UTSU did a live stream of the event. Twitter was also very active throughout so, if you missed it, do a search for #UTSU2012 and you’ll find coverage.

What I’m going to talk about here is how impressed I was by the presidential portion of the debates. Unfortunately, I was unable to see a good chunk of the VP debates, so I’ll leave them out. Think of this post as a “Meet Your Next President” profiling post.

One of the things that struck me during the presidential debates was how candid the candidates were. There were three: Shaun Shepherd of Unity, Brent Schmidt of Students First, and Rohail Tanoli who is running independently. While on the table, they displayed this kind of camaraderie, actively referring to each other. Rohail even said that both Brent and Shaun are his friends. Cue the “awwwww”s.

Continue reading “Day 3: Meet Your Next President”

Day 1: Who’s Prepared? + Bonus “Scandal”

Opinions shared in this post belong solely to the author and do not reflect the opinions of the blog.

Post Publishing Correction: According to ex-SPAC members, SPAC no longer exists. Correct me (again) if I’m wrong, but I think Stop The Salaries is more accurate.

It has finally started! UTSU election campaigning period has begun and already it seems like one slate is ahead of the other. Who are the slates, exactly? Well, they are…


Motto: Because U of T Needs Unity


  • President: Shaun Shepherd
  • VP Internal & Services: Corey Scott
  • VP External: Abigail Cudjoe
  • VP Equity: Noor Baig
  • VP University Affairs: Munib Sajjad

See any familiar names? Well you should, because two of them are this year’s current VPs. Shaun and Corey are VP External and VP Internal, respectively. If you’re from UTM, you’ll recognize someone else. Munib is VP External of the UTM Student’s Union. Needless to say, Unity has got an impressive roster that is full of experience. That, and the fact that they are the “incumbent” slate gives them a lot of leverage in this election.

One thing, though: Is anyone else surprised that Shaun is running for President? Not that I’m saying he’s unqualified – I just think we were all expecting Corey to run. Given his experience, first as a UTSU associate and then his two consecutive terms as VP, he is the obvious choice for presidency. That was quite a curveball there, Unity.

Students First

Motto: Build the Campus Bar


  • President: Brent Schmidt
  • VP Internal & Services: Dylan Moore
  • VP External: Alexander Ripley
  • VP Equity: Karthy Chin
  • VP University Affairs: Carmen Reilly

I can’t say that I’m very familiar with the Students First candidates. All I know is that Brent Schmidt was part of last year’s Students First slate. Their (frustrating) lack of website and posters just adds to the mystery. Boo. 🙁

Day 1: Feb 27:

When I walked around campus this morning, I was prepared for a mosaic of posters plastered on every pole and wall. Instead, what I saw was a lot of electric blue. ‘Strange,’ I thought. ‘Don’t they start postering at 7?’ One of the rules of the election is that opposing slates are not allowed to cover or take down each others’ posters. That makes postering somewhat of a property battle; once you get the spot, no one else can take it.

The posters I saw belonged to Team Unity, and clearly they already have the upper hand.

I’m not saying this because I support Unity – I want to get to know each team’s platform first. I’m saying this because, like any prepared team, they have posters, a full roster of candidates (executive and board of directors), a functioning website, and a working platform. Conversely, Students First’s lack of posters, website, and platform (at the time of writing) shows that they were unprepared for this election season. Their Facebook page and Twitter also lack any detailed information. What exactly does “Build a Campus Bar” mean? An ambiguous motto like that requires explanation, and the fact that Students First are unable to provide one sets them back.

That brings me to question whether or not they are serious about their campaign. Their lack of preparation is a rookie mistake – one that shouldn’t happen if their campaign team is committed to their slate. Do they have anything up their sleeves? Could this be a political tactic? Does past candidate Brent Schmidt have something planned? Or am I being too hard on them and technical difficulties really did arise?

But it’s only Day 1. Students First, you still have time to impress us. One question: Is it too late to change your colours? Blue against blue isn’t very… eye-catching. Your blue logo won’t stand out against Unity’s blue posters, and Lord knows you need to catch up. Big time.

The “Scandal” – The Mystery Impersonator: Is UTSU impersonating with the intent to defame?

While Students First is showing a disappointing lack of activity, a couple of their supporters are making up for it. Student Political Action Committee (SPAC) members Brett Chang and Taylor Scollon had their feathers ruffled on Sunday when an impostor Tweeter impersonated Brett. Unfortunately, I was unable to see what Fake Brett tweeted, but whatever he said got quite a response from Real Brett and others. If my skills of deduction are correct, Fake Brett posted something racist and Real Brett took the hit. Anyone care to provide more explanation? Click here and here for the original tweets. The links will work as long as Real Brett doesn’t delete them.

“I’m Chinese!” I can only imagine what fake Brett could have said.

(FYI: SPAC is kind of like the answer to UTSU’s problems.They are the masterminds behind Stop The Salaries, what Taylor called an “issue advocacy campaign”, and what I saw as the predecessor to this year’s Student’s First.)

Anyway, the @Brett_Chang account has since been reported and deleted, but what I find most intriguing is the timing. If UTSU really did intend to impersonate to defame, would it be smart to do so right before they send their own off into the election campaign period? I find it hard to believe that they would resort to such tactics at such an inconvenient time. It’s bad publicity, right off the bat, and UTSU isn’t dumb enough to do that.

What happened, then? Do you believe that UTSU is behind that account, or is there someone out there who is pulling a prank on all of us just for giggles? Is this an attack on SPAC or a ploy to mar UTSU?

As always, I encourage anyone and everyone to comment and share their thoughts. I will be posting my thoughts here on blogUT throughout the election period, so look out for them! If you would like to contact me or you have a tip you want me to talk about, comment below or tweet me at @cjyc23.

Stop The What?

It’s that time of year again, when critics put on their horns and defenders get their panties in a bunch.

While it may only be the beginning of February, the storm is already brewing. The Varsity has already published a few articles about the UTSU, and even has a weekly column dedicated to the upcoming election just for the sole purpose of keeping us updated. Sadly, if last year’s election turnout is any indication, few people care what really happens. Why? Well, we all say U of T has no school spirit. I really hope that this year we can prove that wrong and perhaps get some dialogue going about something that actually concerns all the undergrads on campus. I’m not just saying this to sound corny and important– UTSU elections actually matter!

Before I get down to it, I want to be very clear that right now I have no particular side I’m writing for. Everything I am saying here is meant to be presented in the most critical and objective way possible. If it appears otherwise, please accept my apologies.

Today, I’m writing about the potential opposition slate, Stop The Salaries. Campaigning hasn’t started yet, but even keeping that in mind, I say “potential” because, as of right now, I really don’t see them gaining much momentum. Why? Well…

Continue reading “Stop The What?”