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Universities Oppose Access Copyright

In Education on February 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Photo credit: Creative Commons

Amidst controversy over an agreement made between copyright licenser Access Copyright, the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario, Ryerson is standing by the Association of University and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) in its ongoing legal negotiations with the copyright licensing company.

Signed on Jan. 30, the U of T and Western agreement allows Access Copyright to collect an annual royalty of $27.50 from full-time students and faculty to cover the use of online material.

Currently, 34 post-secondary institutions across Canada have chosen to opt out of Access Copyright or fight its demands at the Copyright Board of Canada.

“Ryerson, along with most Canadian universities with the exception of those in Quebec . . . have opted to work together through AUCC in a legal discussion with Copyright Canada,” said president Sheldon Levy. “The (University of Toronto-Western) agreement came as a surprise.”

The AUCC and Access Copyright began legal discussions after the latter declined to enter into new licences and instead filed a tariff with the Copyright Board on March 31, 2010 that imposed higher fees and administration costs on institutions choosing to use it.

The AUCC has stated that institutions have chosen to opt out because the proposed fee of $45 per student and the administration fees associated with the tariff are unfair.

“The University of Toronto views the new (licence) as providing a fair and efficient balance between the rights of copyright users and the rights of creators,” said Jill Matus, U of T’s vice-provost of students in an email statement.

The agreement has been publicly criticized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), which represents 66,000 teachers, librarians, researchers, academic professionals and general staff in more than 100 universities and colleges.

“We have no problem with (Access Copyright) in principle,” said James Turk, executive director of CAUT.

“The focus of our concern is that these two universities agreed to pay this outrageous fee,” adding that at a time where many universities are cutting back on student services, it’s unfair to students.

The group has raised concerns over the identification of a hyperlink as copying and surveillance. The group mentions a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that states that “hyperlinks do not constitute the communication or publishing of content.”

Additionally, it states that because the agreement defines copying to include email transmission and linking to digital files, “the survey instruments will require intrusive monitoring of professors, librarians, researchers and students that will violate academic freedom and privacy.”

John Provenzano, communications manager for Access Copyright, disputes this claim.

“The agreement in no way requires the monitoring of emails. In fact, the agreement is particularly sensitive to the privacy rights of students and faculty,” he said.

“The manner of how Access Copyright will get usage reports in a digital environment will be developed in partnership with (the universities).”

Like the CAUT, the Canadian Federal of Students (CFS) has also denounced the agreement.

In a letter to U of T dated Feb. 15, it urged the school to revoke it and explore other options, stating that “Access Copyright is no longer the most efficient or effective option by which to obtain copyright (licences) for works used on campus.”

“I think that students have seen this agreement as a betrayal,” said Roxanne Dubois, CFS chairperson.

“It imposes new fees and restricts access to materials we need.”

The new flat fee is a change from the previous $3.83 plus 10 cents a page and includes all course packs and hyperlinks or copyright material contained in an email.

Still, the CAUT and CFS question the timing of the agreement, citing better alternatives and the expected clarification of educational copyright by the Supreme Court in the coming months.

* Published on February 29, 2012 at the Ryersonian


Ryerson pairs with private sector for new rez

In Education on February 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

A new student residence project to be built in partnership with a private developer will create at least 500 additional residence spaces at no further cost to Ryerson, the university announced Monday.

The projected 23-storey student residence will be constructed at 186-188 Jarvis St. between Queen and Dundas Streets, about a five-minute walk from campus where a parking lot currently sits.

For years, the university has been strapped for residence spaces, said Julia Hanigsberg, vice-president of administration and finance.

Currently, the university has only about 1,000 residence spaces for its 28,000 students, she said.

The partnership, with developer MPI Group and designer IBI Group Architects, was secured after at least two years of working to provide new student housing, according to Hanigsberg.

“Everybody is trying to figure out how to build student residences in a way that’s affordable and that’s why it’s taken a while for us to come to a form of approach that we think can work.”

President Sheldon Levy said the university wanted to develop a residence that was affordable for students, didn’t require a subsidy from the university and operated on shorter eight-month leases coinciding with the school year.

“Those were the goals,” he said. “I didn’t think there was a way of achieving all three.”

But, although the current development will provide much-needed affordable housing for students, Levy noted it does not meet all three conditions since the new residence will only give students the option of 12-month leases.

“I didn’t think you could do eight months cheap, affordable and not hit the budget,” Levy said. “This is the best that we could have possibly done.”

But Chad Nuttall, manager of student housing services, said a mix of eight-month and 12-month tenancies at Ryerson will cater to a wider group of students.

“There are a lot of students who want to stay in the city,” he said. “I don’t think it will be difficult to fill 500 beds.

“There are a lot of students we have to kick out in May who want to stay so it’s a good option.”

The construction of the residence is expected to begin in 2014 and will be completed by 2016.

MPI Group will cover the construction and development costs of the building through residence fees, Hanigsberg said.

“Working with this developer, they’ve determined that they can make the economics work in a plan that we are very comfortable with,” she said. “It doesn’t involve us paying them.”

The starting rent is projected to cost $1,000 per month, Hanigsberg said, a higher price point than other Ryerson buildings.

Ryerson will provide the student life services for the residence, including room assignment and programming, while MPI Group will be responsible for financial operations and maintenance, she said.

“We think it becomes a really good model of combining areas where we have extremely strong expertise and areas where others have strong expertise,” Hanigsberg said.

It is the first private partnership for student residence for Ryerson but Levy said “there is no risk to the university.

“At the end of the day, if the rents become too high then they don’t fill them,” he said. “They’re going to have to do the balancing between the price and the occupancy.”

The design of the residence has yet to be finalized but preliminary plans include a two-storey podium with retail and other services and a mix of one- to four-bedroom units. Amenities will include laundry, shared kitchens and glassed-in lounges. There will no food service within the building but students can opt in to a meal plan provided on campus.

The student residence will reflect the Ryerson Master Plan that requires that a residence be a maximum 20-minute walk to Gould and Bond Streets.

All plans are tentative until the space undergoes rezoning with the city, Hanigsberg said.

Like Ryerson’s other buildings, priority is given to first-year students, she added.

“We are so far from being able to meet the demand of first-years that this would be our initial focus,” she said.

But as a part of the university’s goal to add 2,000 new residence spaces by 2020, space for upper-year students might be considered.

“I think, as we increase the stock, we will be able to look at where the demand is,” Hanigsberg said.

Levy said obtaining permits for the building may take a while but he still expects the planned time frame for the project to be sufficient for its completion.

“I think it is possible but it is tight,” Levy said.

* Published on February 27 at the Ryersonian

Toronto students participate in National Day of Action

In Education on February 3, 2012 at 4:27 pm

More than a thousand students from across Toronto showed up at Queen’s Park on Feb. 1 to protest the high cost of tuition in Ontario.

They joined students from around Canada who marked the National Student Day of Action, a country-wide campaign to call attention to the high costs associated with post-secondary education.

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) organized the protest to demand that the McGuinty government reduce tuition fees. The organization says that Ontario students have the lowest tuition funding in the country and accuse the provincial government of using the promise of a 30 per cent rebate — which excludes two-thirds of students — to buy votes. Metro News reported that 90,000 eligible Ont. university and college students have not applied for the rebate.

In Toronto, students from Ryerson University and George Brown College marched to the University of Toronto, then travelled east on Wellesley St., south on Bay St. and then west on College St. to Queen’s Park. Traffic was stopped along the route.

Winnie Ng, the Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy at Ryerson, told The Ryersonian that she wants the government to recognize the importance of post-secondary education.

“In Ontario, students are urging the McGuinty government to drop the fees by 30 per cent as promised in the last election,” she said. “It is important that our federal and provincial governments recognize that people are the most important resource of a country and that allocating more funding and investing in public post-secondary education system is more important and yield more return than investing in fighter jets. Our collective voice and action will hold them accountable.”

Sandy Hudson, Chairperson of CFS-Ontario, echoed Ng’s sentiments on the importance of a collective voice.

“In the past, we’ve been able to win significant victories,” she said, adding that students who got involved not only represented themselves, but entire families who are also concerned.

The Ontario Liberals recently made headlines after they announced that $66 million allocated to research conducted at universities and hospitals would be cut. They stated that the money is needed for other programs, which would likely create more jobs.

* Published on February 2, 2012 at Canadian University Press and the Ryersonian as part of a live blog on the National Student Day of Action

Group deals offer big discounts

In Education on October 10, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Lee Liu and Chris Nguyen are the creators of TeamSave, a social buying website. Photo credit: TeamSave.

When Chris Nguyen was planning his destination wedding last fall, he realized that a $1,500 plane ticket to Mexico could be slashed to $1,100 if more people booked with him.

The Ryerson information technology management grad  approached his business partner Lee Liu with the possibility of turning that piece of knowledge into a business venture.

“How do we take this same concept and apply it locally?” he asked Liu.

It’s a good question to ask.  Social buying websites are the latest craze sweeping the Internet, with many finding popularity among cash-strapped students with a knack for social networking.

Capitalizing on the power of group buying and the love of a good deal, Nguyen and Liu founded TeamSave. Developed in Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, TeamSave launched in April 2010 and already has over 10,000 members. Discounts range anywhere from 40 to 60 per cent off anything from restaurants to theatre performances.

Social media websites have played an important role in TeamSave’s growth. They make it easier for Nguyen to both advertise deals instantly to a large number of people and monitor how others are spreading the word. TeamSave members receive notifications on deals through email, Twitter, and Facebook on each day’s deal.

“I’m seeing how they share it,” he said. “Thirty per cent of our traffic is coming from social media.”

Despite competition from a large number of other social buying websites in the city — most notably the Chicago-based giant Groupon, which has a Toronto version — Nguyen sees nothing but steady growth for TeamSave, which is currently expanding to other cities.

Boris Vaisman, another Ryerson grad from the business management program, took a different approach to his social buying website, Chicoup, by targeting it to women.

After a female friend told him how she felt overwhelmed when going out in Toronto, Vaisman wanted to create a way for women to try out new places around the city. Launched in August 2010, discounts on his site range from 50 to 90 per cent off female-oriented activities like manicures and shopping for designer brand clothing.

Vaisman says the power of groups not only make the discounts possible, but fuel the number of people aware of and using the site.

“We bring a perfect excuse for people to try it out,” he said. “You’re not going to want to do it alone . . . word of mouth has helped us.”

Though Vaisman sees a diverse demographic using Chicoup, he has had a stronger response from those in the 20 to 35 age group — particularly students who tend to spread the word quicker.

“We’ve increased awareness of this type of concept and now that more students are aware of it, it works,” he said.

In addition to social networking, Chicoup has also been gaining members through giveaways, such as last week’s gift package including a complimentary tanning session, laser hair removal session and one-week yoga pass. Vaisman says the key is to offer deals on activities and services that his members are interested in, so he ensures that he targets the hottest spots in Toronto.

Discounts and giveaways like this are made possible because of the opportunities they create for the businesses involved. It’s a chance to turn first-time customers into continued business, which is why social buying has become popular for not only the public, but companies as well, Vaisman said.

According to Catherine Middleton, a Canada Research Chair whose research focuses on consumer adoption of new communication technologies, a 2009 Statistics Canada report found that of the 70 per cent of the population using the internet on a regular basis, 50 per cent are window shopping and 40 per cent are doing online purchases.

Though she sees a need for Canada to become a stronger digital society, she doesn’t dispute that younger generations have had no problem accepting and utilizing the digital age.
“It’s a question of does it make sense for everyone to do things online?” she said.

Azar Masoumi, director of student affairs for the sociology course union, is not surprised that students are attracted to social buying.

“Something that comes to my mind is that because students spend a lot of time on the computers anyways, they are more likely to engage in computer-based activities,” he said. “Also, because of the limited free time students often have, I think they are more likely to engage in things that are relaxing but fast.”

Third year hospitality and tourism management student July Legaspi recently discovered social buying websites and says they offer an easy way to discover the city on a budget.

“As a student you don’t have a lot of spare time to go out and find things to do, so it’s a lot easier to go on these sites and be able to find things you’re interested in,” he said. “Discounts are also appealing because although students’ disposable incomes are limited, we still want to have a social life.”

TeamSave currently has 775 “likes” on Facebook and over 700 followers on Twitter, which are both growing daily.

Nguyen has high aspirations for his website and says he sees no signs of social buying disappearing anytime soon.

“It’s just the tip of the iceberg; it’s definitely here to stay.”

* Published on Oct. 10, 2010 in the Ryersonian

Bike design unveiled at cemetery

In Education on October 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Photo by Caitlyn Holroyd

After a little over a year of conceptualizing, creating, and manufacturing their winning design, Ryerson students Katy Alter and Jeff Cogliati’s lotus bike racks reached their final resting place in Mount Pleasant Cemetery last week.

Alter and Cogliati wanted the racks to be an integral part of their location and designed them specifically with the cemetery in mind. They modelled their rack after a lotus flower and the concepts of rebirth and spirituality, something that set them apart from the other entries in the Ryerson Mount Pleasant competition.

“We really wanted to pay attention to context and poetic intent,” said Alter, a fourth- year interior design student.

In September 2009, the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries held a competition for Ryerson students to design the most functional and esthetically pleasing bike racks to complement its cyclist-friendly environment. Alter and Cogliati won the $3,000 prize for their design last January.

“The Ryerson students approached the problem like real professionals,” said Janet Rosenberg, Ryerson alumna, landscape architect and jury chair, at the unveiling.

Though it acts primarily as a sanctuary commemorating those who have died, Mount Pleasant is also a popular place for walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Because of this, the cemetery looked to the creative minds at Ryerson to come up with a unique bike rack design that would complement the other statues and monuments within the 80-hectare green space.

“Partnering with such a fine institution as Ryerson University on this project has been extremely gratifying,” said Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries’ president and CEO Glenn McClary. “Mount Pleasant Cemetery is proud to be a place that provides opportunities for and showcases the work and talents of Toronto students.”

With the help of interior design assistant professor Andrew Furman, KNL Manufacturing and Mount Pleasant Cemetery, the bike racks came to life this past summer — transforming from drawings on a page to physical aluminum structures. Both Cogliati and Alter were thrilled after witnessing the unveiling of the final product and the reception it received from fellow classmates.

“I was ecstatic, it turned out better than I ever could have anticipated,” said Cogliati, a master’s student in the architecture program.
Cogliati and Alter said they are happy to have been part of something that will serve as a lasting legacy of their school and work.

“People are seeing something they’ve never seen before,” said Alter.

* Published on October 5, 2010 in the Ryersonian

Manifesto celebrates Toronto’s arts

In Arts, Education on September 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Ryerson image arts graduate and creator of Manifesto, Che Kothari, kicks off the first event of the festival on Sept. 20 with a youth dialogue featuring Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean. Photo credit: Stephanie Maris.

In just four years, the Manifesto Festival has changed from a grassroots community event to a Yonge-Dundas Square affair.

Manifesto, which ends on Sunday, was created by image arts graduates Che Kothari and Ryan Paterson. For seven days beginning Sept. 20, the festival is filling the city with art exhibitions, musical performances, dance competitions and workshops.

For Kothari, Manifesto is a culmination of his love for both the culture of the city and his desire to create a platform for local artists. He learned quickly that if you call, young artists will answer.

“It’s almost like a Trojan horse that brings people together,” said Kothari.

“We’re stronger if we unify.”

Kothari moved to Toronto 15 years ago after his love for photography brought him to Ryerson.

“Ryerson put me in a room for four years with creative thinkers,” Kothari said.

“I’ve always continued to strive to create a space like that.”

Both men credit their time at Ryerson for providing them with a lot of the skills required to run an arts festival.

The event has managed to grow and succeed over the years without straying from its original goal of providing the city with a non-profit grassroots arts and music festival.

In the past, the festival took place at Nathan Phillips Square, but Paterson says he feels moving to Yonge-Dundas Square will bring greater visibility and increased attendance. Paterson said Manifesto is a community-focused event meant to reflect Toronto’s artistic diversity. He is eager to expand while staying true to the existing template of the event.

For Kothari and Paterson, the real proof of its success has come behind the scenes. Their volunteer team has grown to nearly 250 people. At city hall, what began with 40 attendees has grown to 650 people packing the council chambers.

While Kothari and Paterson are both excited for this year’s festival, they said their passion lies with bringing a voice to local artists.

“We’re excited to reach out and include more of the city and populate it with authentic urban and arts culture,” he said.

“We really make an effort to connect grassroots with a high production value.”

* Published on Sept. 21, 2010 in the Ryersonian

Ryerson gallery gets name change

In Arts, Education on September 15, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Photo credit: Tina Kenny

Ryerson Gallery is hoping a new name will revamp the gallery’s image this year.

The name IMA Gallery was the winner of a contest held last year to rename the Spadina Avenue facility.

Fraser McCallum, a second-year image arts student, thought of the name after experiencing what he describes as a “eureka moment” last spring.

“IMA Gallery is a pun, since Ryerson abbreviates the image arts faculty as IMA, and saying the name aloud pronounced as a whole or each letter individually sounds like, ‘I’m a gallery,’ or, ‘I am a gallery,’” he said.

“I think people have taken to it because it’s dumb, funny and personal; it lacks the pretense of most gallery names which typically use street addresses, owner’s names, or ‘arty’ words.”

The gallery was forced to change its name as an on-site gallery is being built at the new school of image arts building. The image arts gallery will take over the old name.

IMA Gallery volunteer advisor Katie Newman says the change was ultimately viewed as a chance for the IMA Gallery to incorporate more multimedia in its exhibitions.

“Along with the new name there’s a new mandate, which is to open the gallery to film and new media students as much as possible,” said Newman.

“We’d like to see IMA Gallery become a real student space and a much bigger part of university life.”

The new name hadn’t quite sunk in among attendees and staff at the gallery during its opening on Sept. 9. Gallery director Katy McCormick said the name change was the first step in creating interest and enthusiasm for the reinvention of the space.

“We wanted to get students talking about it, thinking about it and dreaming about what they want this space to be,” she said, adding that the gallery will continue to be an incubator for student-initiated programming.

The gallery will be introducing three group shows this year featuring third-year students from each stream of the image arts program. Newman says that while the Third Year Photography Show has been an annual staple in the gallery’s programming, the gallery is hoping to spread the tradition to film and new media students.

The current exhibition features works by current and past image arts students, presenting a wide range of multimedia. Artists Andrew McGill, Bevan Sauks, Kyle Tait and Michael Raymond Clarke kicked off the start of the year with Afterimage, an exhibition about relationships and interactions between digital and analog artistic processes. For Sauks, the diversity of the exhibition represents the gallery’s approach to the artists and works it chooses to display.

“The IMA Gallery is such a wonderful space because of the diverse array of exhibits on offer and the opportunities for students, young artists and more established artists to all display work in the same space,” the recent image arts graduate said.

“Everyone is given equal consideration.”

* Published on September 14, 2010 in the Ryersonian

From rough sketch to masterpiece

In Arts, Education on April 10, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Fresh fruit to start the day off right at Sketch. Photo Credit: Haley Cullingham.

The outside of Sketch is a lot like the people you find within its walls – a little rough around the edges at first glance, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find something inspirational. Housed inside a drab warehouse at King West and Portland, the organization uses art to create opportunities and a community for the approximately 650 homeless and street-involved 15-29 year-olds that come through its doors every year.

Though over half of Sketch’s visitors come from history of drugs and unstable living, each finds a unique motivation here. Some venture into Sketch to attend an art class or use one of the many creative facilities while others are simply looking for a hot meal and place to relax. Whatever the reason, no one asks for life stories.

From the moment the doorbell begins to chime mid-morning, the 6,000 square-foot space is transformed into a bustle of activity and conversation. Early arrivals migrate to the kitchen to chat, filling their mugs with coffee and nibbling at the fruit platter as they skim through the grocery bags strewn across the counter. Though it’s still early, the small crowd is eager to see what’s for lunch – as much a creative activity as anything else here, allowing someone new each day to create and prepare a menu item with the assistance of cooks and volunteers.

Hard at work…

Once everyone has perked up (and caught up), they assume their positions along the long wooden tables surrounding the kitchen. Perched upon mismatched stools with preferred tool in hand, they go to work… occasionally glancing around at the plastered walls. A source of inspiration for many, the colourful pieces stretch from floor to ceiling – a definite contrast to the grey clouds peaking in through the skylight.

In one corner, a silkscreen image is pressed against a t-shirt. In another, a blank canvas reveals the first strokes of what will become a portrait. Though they’ll eventually find their place among the hundreds that came before them, each stands out in their process; a representation of past struggles and future accomplishments.

Sketch’s 2008 annual report showed over 23 participants received bursaries and support for post secondary education while the organization raised over $21,000 worth of art sales, commissions and youth honoraria. Numbers continue to rise with visitors as word on the street spreads.

“It’s very youth-directed,” says Bhavana Kapal, Kitchens Facilitator and Future Options Coordinator. “That’s what drives programming – it’s from the bottom up, which I love.” Though she admits her job does require conflict skills, it’s a small trade-off for the large number of success stories she contributes to.

Tales of success…

In the computer a room, a small group is busy searching for jobs and checking their online profiles. Ozzy Ascenzo, one of the many model citizens of Sketch now acting as a volunteer, sits among them. He first heard of the centre from other youth on the streets and has nothing but praise for the place that helped get his life back in order. “There’s no similar youth centre directly involved with art,” he says. “It’s like a black hole – it sucks you in!”

At 29 years old, Ozzy will be moving on from Sketch soon but is determined to continue the art activism he started here. After his two Pit Bull dogs were shot during an altercation with police a few years ago when he found himself on the wrong side of gun violence, Ozzy was determined to show Toronto that the breed’s violence is a product of their owners. He pulls up a Facebook photo of his new Pit Bull cross’s recent litter of puppies followed by some of his artwork inspired by his dogs. Through designing T-shirts, he hopes to reverse Toronto’s ban on the breed and show others that like him, they just need a little love and respect to turn things around.

Sitting next to Ozzy, Frodo is busy adding music to his iPod, sporting his signature bright oversized orange jacket, ungroomed moustache and giant headphones. He began frequenting Sketch after he and his friends moved from their digs under the Don Valley Parkway to a downtown shelter. There, he heard about the centre and soon fell head over heels for it.

“I absolutely love Sketch, it motivates me,” he says, grabbing a few of his signature maze drawings from a backpack, proudly displaying his hours of dedication. Frodo has become one of the more successful artists at the centre, participating in Nuit Blanche the past two years and selling his drawings on the street.

It’s success stories like Ozzy and Frodo that add colour to Sketch, making it more than just an art community. Bellies are fed, opportunities are given, and judgments are left at the door. You’ll find no starving artists here.