Victoria Silman | News Editor
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
York has had its fair share of difficult years in the past. The possibility of the city shutting off its water, sexual assault scandals, and the myriad of strikes students have had to face every three years since the dawn of time (to name a few). However, this past year hasn’t been so bad for York students.
Whether it be the outcome from the strike, changes to transit services, the YFS, or poorly maintained buildings, students have only had good things to say about this past academic year. Looking back at Fall/Winter 2018-2019, this is what students have to say.
While Fall 2018 began at the tail-end of the longest post-secondary strike in Canadian history, students found joy in cancelled and postponed classes.
Susie Cue, a fifth-year dance major, says she was able to return to York to repeat a course, helping her overcome her fear of graduating. “I’m actually glad classes were cancelled as a result of the strike. I was supposed to graduate but I didn’t really feel ready. Coming back for another year for one class really helped with my anxiety,” she says.
While Cue was returning for another year, other students were enrolling in what they hoped to be their last year of classes. Cue was one of the returning students who had to retake classes as a result of the strike, affecting other students’ enrolment, because classes were just filling up.
According to Hef Tyjo, a fourth-year philosophy student, classes were difficult to find. “I found a lot of classes were full because people were coming back to repeat them after they dropped them because of the strike,” he says.
Tyjo adds: “It’s not all bad, though. It was like a game trying to find courses I actually would enjoy taking. I had fun.”
While some students dropped courses, others opted for deferred standing, which allowed them to submit course work up until December 18. An anonymous second-year student says she was unable to complete the rest of her winter term work during the summer, and was forced to take the deferred standing option. Despite this, they say it was beneficial, not only to their education, but also to their own life.
“It was cool that they gave us the deferred standing option for assignments because of the strike. I was able to complete last year’s work alongside work from the fall term, which really helped boost my productivity,” she says.
“I also started drinking a bit more to cope with the stress, so I’ve really been able to build up my tolerance to alcohol,” the student adds.
Professors have also found the strike’s impacts have benefited students this year. Astronomy professor, Richard Moon, says this year is nothing like he has ever seen in his 17 years of teaching at York.
“I have found students are more prone to stress this time of the semester, but not this year. That strike must have really boosted their morale. Assignments have been coming in late more often, but at least students aren’t flooding my inbox at midnight on due dates,” Moon says.
Psychology professor Sarah Feud, says having the two years combined into one has actually benefited students mentally, and Moon’s observations are evidence of that.
“Students are no longer caring if they receive late marks on assignments. This means they are less stressed about handing in work on time, making them the most mentally stable group we’ve seen at York in a long time,” Feud says.
In a statement provided by the university regarding the strike, President and Vice-Chancellor Loanda Cranton stated: “We provided many supports for students as a result of the strike, including extending the deadline for assignment submissions to exam week in the fall term. All we can say is ‘you’re welcome.’”
While many students support the outcome of the strike, changes to transit services at York have faced differing opinions among the student population.
YRT stopped service to campus in September, rerouting it to Pioneer Village station, while GO began servicing Highway 407 station in January, completely emptying York’s bus loop.
Tyjo, who commutes from Mississauga, supports the changes to transit, especially now that PRESTO has been integrated into the TTC system.
“Getting a PRESTO was great. Even though I had to pay additional money to buy the card, now I can load it wherever I am. On top of that, I don’t have to have two seperate cards to pay for my fare on TTC and my GO bus on my way to Mississauga every day. It’s as easy as a tap on the reader,” he says.
Echoing his optimism surrounding the transit changes, Seir Vayza, a second-year social work student, says she hasn’t been transferring onto the subway at Pioneer Village station. Instead, she has been walking from Pioneer Village station to her classes, which has given her what she calls “a great health boost.”
“I don’t really mind that YRT stopped servicing campus. I grew accustomed to the frigid winter weather walks from Pioneer Village station to my classes early in the morning. I didn’t even have to go to the gym this year—I lost 25 pounds just from walking to and from class,” she says.
Other students have expressed anger towards the changes, especially in light of the provincial government’s changes to OSAP.
“I’m upset transit services have stopped, mainly because now I can’t play chicken with the busses in the bus loop,” Connie Mann, a first-year undeclared student says.
Mann continues: “I always heard that if they hit you, you can sue the transit company and they’ll give you a bunch of money towards tuition. What am I supposed to do now with all this OSAP debt? I don’t even have a six-month grace period to pay it back.”
Despite Mann’s dissatisfaction with the changes, the majority of York’s population sees the positive in commuting on an additional transit system at an additional cost. So much so, in fact, that the university is currently in talks with Brampton’s Züm busses to discusses rerouting their services away from campus.
Media Spokesperson for York, Brenda Ranton, says: “Due to the high volume of satisfaction with transit changes on campus, York is currently exploring options with Züm to discuss moving its services to Finch station.
“We would like to see York become a bus-free campus. The university will provide support to students who are currently not affected by the changes until we are able to establish this.”
YFS, who has been in talks with restoring service to campus, recently released a statement saying they were backtracking on their petition due to student support of the transit changes.
“We will be initiating a new petition to assist the university and TTC in moving Züm from our campus to a much safer and profitable location at Finch West station,” YFS President Rabib Hawan says.
Speaking of the YFS, students have been beyond ecstatic with their performance this academic year. The Annual General Meeting (AGM) in November, saw a record student turnout with over 60 students representing York’s population. Among these students, YFS passed two controversial referendums, which will go into effect without any consultation with the university.
The first will remove Toronto Police Services (TPS) from campus, allowing for a safer, more education-forward environment. Cue, a dedicated member of the student club CopsOffCampus, says the change will make campus more safe and run more smoothly.
“I feel more unsafe with police on campus than I do safe. They aren’t there to protect us—they’re there to harass us,” she says.
Furthermore, Cue says having cops off campus means security can do their job, further ensuring a smooth, cop-free campus. “With police barred from campus, now we can allow security to do their job. If anyone needs to be arrested, security can just take them to the campus limits, and the police can take over.”
Second-year criminology student, Jessie Rudsack, echoes Cue’s sentiment, saying security should be the one dealing with problematic people. “I’m glad we’re keeping cops off campus. We don’t need to have them around. We have security to deal with anything that happens,” Rudsack says.
In addition to TPS being removed from campus, YFS is also ensuring online voting never sees the light of day in student elections. Students seem to agree.
Stu Pedchik, a tenth-year political science student who attended the AGM, says online voting is just too risky because technology is just not reliable enough.
“Online voting isn’t really that great of an idea. I have viruses on my computer and can’t access anything because of it. I bet there are thousands on campus that have the same problem. That makes it inaccessible, and doesn’t change anything when it comes to increasing voter turnout,” Pedchik says.
While this may be true for students, there may also be another threat lurking in the online sphere. All executives voted ‘no’ on the motion to enact online voting in student elections, mainly because of the risk of hacking.
At the AGM, Hawan says there is always a risk associated with international political bodies becoming involved—just like in the American election, even though they still use a ballot system.
“Online voting is too risky with the YFS elections,” Hawan says. “We wouldn’t want Russia getting involved with our student government, which they easily could do by hacking the system.”
With TPS being removed from campus, and online voting not threatening democratic integrity on campus, this year we can agree YFS has brought forward their very best efforts to provide students with the best year possible.
And it doesn’t end there.
The YFS election, which happened in February, gave students a wholesome university experience they never had the pleasure of seeing. YU Integrate and Sight, two widely popular slates, came head-to-head to battle for office.
Despite being here for many elections, Pedchik says this election was the best one yet.
“I love YU Integrate. I’m in my tenth year now, and they have been in power for even more than that. They always do good things for the campus, and always keep their promises. I hope they continue to reign over campus for another 10 years. Maybe my kids will have them as their student government,” he says.
While there were concerns about the legitimacy of the elections, Chief Returning Officer Iwa Zixstein who oversaw the election, says he ensured there was no funny business.
“The YFS elections were transparent because we ensure they are always transparent,” he says.
Zixstein also adds: “We made sure we clear-cut an entire 500 acre forest—like the one you see in Ferngully—so that we could print as many posters as possible to advertise the election. We saw a great turnout of five per cent of York’s population, which far exceeds our expectations.”
YU Integrate released a statement as a result of the election, to assure students they would be upholding the same values and promises as the current YFS government—likely because they worked in conjunction with each other.
“We are beyond excited for this upcoming year. We promise to keep every promise the previous government had, including our commitment to rejecting online voting as a viable option for increasing student turnout in YFS elections,” the statement said.
“We also would like to ensure the student population that they will not miss the hundreds of election posters the incumbent party will be posting around campus during next year’s election with our help.”
When asked about her involvement in this year’s election, however, Hawan could not specify how involved she really was. “I’m really good friends with YU Integrate’s president, however, I am not authorized to comment on my involvement in the election,” she says.
With YU Integrate’s promises to uphold this year’s YFS promises, the future is bright for incoming students. Perhaps the student government will ensure next year was just as good as this year.
While the YFS, transit services, and the strike acted as the scrumptious main course of the school year, the icing on the cake fell into the hands of flooding classrooms leading into midterm season. While this may seem like a negative, York did what it does best and adapted, turning a bad situation into something incredible.
According to a student affected by the flooding, it happened during a highly stressful time in the semester, which allowed them some much needed relaxation.
Ryland Scroll, a fifth-year biology student, says he was short on time the week of the flooding due to his heavy workload. As a result, Croll wasn’t able to bathe for a few days—until the flooding hit. “I didn’t really have time to shower for a few days, so showing up to my class allowed me to have a bath and listen to my lecture. It was a nice stress reducer. Our professor even brought candles to help set some ambiance,” he says.
Other students say their professors were able to adapt to the changes, incorporating new life-skills into their classes.
“My professor decided to incorporate lifeguard and CPR training into my critical thinking class because of the flooding. Not only did I get to learn a new skill, I also got to try it on one of my friends who fell into a deep puddle in our lecture hall,” Mann says.
Professor Ari Locke, who teaches Mann’s critical thinking class, says he incorporated the skill to allow students to learn more about life than just how to prove the validity and soundness of an argument.
“Students were able to face a real-world scenario where buildings aren’t always safe. In this case, we were able to use it as a way for students to learn what it’s like to work in the House of Commons during a debate should it ever flood. The debate was the best one we had all semester,” he says.
Other students didn’t get this type of extra special treatment, but were able to move to different classrooms to carry on with their lectures. Pedchik says he was able to get moved to a different location which was a refreshing change to the semester—especially in his year-long class.
“We did have some flooding in one of lecture halls, but it was a nice change moving to a different room. We at least got to see a grey, industrial atmosphere that was slightly different from what we were used to for the past two months,” Pedchik says.
In light of the flooding, Cranton released a statement ensuring that during future floods, the university would make sure students were ready to handle the situation.
“York is working with departments to ensure all students who take classes in our older buildings will be learning CPR and lifeguard training. Our goal is to ensure a safe and accessible campus for all of our students,” the statement said.
And with that, the greatness that was York this year wraps up. While flooding classrooms was the grand finale, it’s safe to say next year might be even better. Here’s to hoping.
P.S. Good luck.
DISCLAIMER: Everything published in this week’s issue (with the exception of advertisements) is satirical; names and some information are not intended to communicate any true facts.