All posts by Danielle Klein

Editor-in-Chief 2014–2015 Features Editor & Magazine Editor 2013–2014 Associate Arts Editor 2011–2013

I have nothing to say

It started with lyrics.

A line from a song that someone else wrote somehow seemed to say it all attached to my name and next to a music note in all lowercase letters, because capitalizing proper nouns was not fashionable on MSN Messenger — you either went all lowercase, or Capitalized The First Letter Of Every Word. My MSN status was a message to whomever I was pining after at the time. As far as evidence suggests, these were either never received or consistently ignored, despite my strategic hourly practice of signing in and out like a flashing crush notice.

It may have been more effective to express my feelings by actually saying them out loud, rather than through a carefully curated strand of John Mayer’s musings. There was, however, a certain satisfaction in the simultaneous exposure and complete lack thereof of vague statuses shared with my MSN buddies, shrouded in squiggly lines and asterisks.

I call this the passive-aggressive web-based non-gesture — a pseudo-confession completely opposite to the grand romantic gesture. Rather than confronting someone directly with their feelings — romantic, infuriated, or otherwise — the non-gesturer coyly expresses their sentiments on the Internet without naming who they are directed at. In the case of my MSN names, I hoped that the subjects of my subliminal messaging would somehow read between the lines of Fall Out Boy and know that I was talking to them, and realize that they should demonstrate their reciprocal feelings by, for example, I don’t know, serenading me with that very song at the school talent show, or whatever.

These sorts of non-gestures have borne terms less wordy than mine, and the most prominent seems to be “subtweets,” which stands for subliminal tweeting. “Vaguebooking” is also sometimes used to refer people’s vague Facebook statuses, and “#oomf,” which stands for “one of my followers” or “one of my friends,” is often affiliated with “#subtweet.”

What I find most interesting about the phenomenon of subtweeting is that it seems antithetical to what social media is actually all about. Subtweets sometimes contain the affiliated hashtags, but don’t need to, and never directly mention their subject — making them effectively untraceable unless they come up on your news feed or you search the user. Subtweets are essentially private, anti-social media — they are a virtual retreat from confrontation. Rather than interacting with someone and starting a conversation, subtweets are, put succinctly, shy. They are the online equivalent of standing on the sidelines at the dance, staring at the object of your affection intently and silently, and hoping that they might notice your gaze.

The secretive nature of subtweets has earned them a poor reputation online. They’ve been characterized as gossipy, catty, a form of bullying, and attention-seeking, and were in fact declared “dead” in a typically balanced, sober, and not-at-all overstated Buzzfeed headline in October 2013. A lot of the #subtweet feed on twitter is made up of people criticizing others for cowering behind subtweets (and, in fairness, some of it is also pictures of submarines and subway sandwiches). As one user tweeted: “why subtweet when it’s so much more convenient to hit the @ button” — emphasizing that subtweets are a soapbox for the passive-aggressive.

For me, though, there’s a certain poetry to subtweets — or at least an affinity between something like a stream of consciousness poem and subtweets. They’re personal and raw like a journal, peppered with emotion that apparently refused to be contained. It’s fitting that my first subtweet-like expression was through lyrics, because subtweets remind me of songs. They’re about someone, but they don’t need to tell you who, and they let you slip into the first-person through a retweet if you’re so inclined, just as the unnamed subject of any song can be the object of your desire when the melody comes through your speakers.

The simplest subtweets have this global application, saying 1,000 words in under 140 characters — “Apparently I was wrong.” “Sorry I bothered you with my face.” “Oxford comma, motherfucker.” “Take out the garbage.”

And then there’s the rush — the strange satisfaction of putting your emotions out there in the world, or making a quip about someone or something around you.

People are using social media outlets more and more to craft their personal brands. Users painstakingly work on their tweets and making them fit the character limit, monitor the analytics of their accounts, and remove content that isn’t performing as well as they had hoped. Social media platforms can be as career-based as they are attention-based, demonstrating on a public scale the user’s real or perceived interests and insights.

When subtweets find their way into even those professional profiles, they are a break from the usual stream of strategic retweets and replies. They are personal — and, even at their most pointed and scathing, subtweets are vulnerable. They say everything and nothing at once, broadcasting a confession to an audience that may or may not arbitrarily include their subject. They are full of personality yet surprisingly generic, and  casually biting while utterly ineffective. Subtweets are impulsive and, to a large extent, stupid, but they are often hilarious and nearly always honest, standing out in a social media culture broadly composed of branding and posturing.

For me, it continued with lyrics. My MSN statuses evolved into tweets and Tumblr posts of more song snippets, tagged #np for “now playing,” but never explicitly mentioning who the lyrics may be particularly pertinent to in that moment. Aside from stray observations of misogyny or strange behaviour in the coffee line, my days of subtweeting are mostly over. I still find myself occasionally typing them, but never hitting “publish.” My litmus test for subtweets is to ask myself whether I would say what I’m about to tweet out loud to someone distinguished. In conversation with Hilary Clinton, for example, if it were how I was feeling, would I say: “Seriously considering legally marrying my bed after my last dating experience,” or “Replying to my text with one word 16 hours after I sent is a cool thing to do”? Unlikely, but maybe if we were drinking — which we probably would be, because we’re best friends in this scenario. Regardless, I usually backspace.

As for the subject of some of my MSN sub-statuses, who ultimately did not reciprocate my younger self’s feelings, I have nothing to say, and I am far too mature to subtweet on the subject any further as I work tirelessly towards establishing my own social media brand, etc., etc., — except, of course, that I hear you’re into urinating on ladies these days, and that’s a hard pass for me. #subarticle

Campus resources

U of T Health Services

Koffler Student Service Centre, 214 College Street

U of T Health Services is a clinic that provides students with the services you would normally expect from a family doctor, including check-ups and advice on treatment of injury and illness. The clinic also offers disability documentation, birth control, STI screening and treatment, disordered eating care, pregnancy support, immunization, nutrition counselling, and more. Appointments can be made online or by phone. Drop-in appointments are also offered during regular hours.

UTSU Health & Dental Plan

Your University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) membership fee provides you with health and dental care through Green Shield Canada during the academic year. Students with comparable coverage can opt out of this plan and receive a refund. You can learn more about your coverage and how to opt out on their website.

Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
Koffler Student Service Centre

CAPS offers counseling, therapy, and psychiatric treatment, as well as assessment, referrals, and various workshops for both full- and part-time students at U of T. Appointments can be made by phone or in person.

Blue Space

Blue Space, an initiative created by Health and Wellness at U of T, aims to reduce stigma and create open discussion around mental health and well-being. Blue Space posters and postcards can be seen around campus, indicating safe spaces for individuals with mental illnesses. The initiative aims to reduce stigma and create open discussion around mental health and well-being.

Sexual Education Centre (SEC)
Sussex Clubhouse, room 612, 21 Sussex Avenue

The student-run SEC holds workshops, counselling, and sex-positive events. SEC resources, including condoms and lubricant, are available free of charge to students. As a safe space for exploring sex and sexuality, the SEC offers resources on sexual orientation, safer sex, and consent.

Health Clubs & Events

Weekly Meditation and Yoga

The Multi-Faith Centre offers a variety of drop-in yoga and guided meditation classes. Schedules are available online.

Campus Health Initiative (CHI)

The CHI is a student-run organization promoting healthy living through events, workshops, and resources. It is committed to diversity, emphasizing that healthy living is different for everyone.

Active Mind U of T

Active Minds at U of T aims to increase awareness about mental health on campus and to eliminate the stigma associated with mental health issues through education and dialogue.

Peers Are Here

Peers Are Here provides an outlet for students to connect and discuss the stresses of university life. This drop-in, student-led support group is offered by Health Services. More information can be found online.


Counseline

Counseline is a counselling service offered through the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. Graduate intern students of the faculty provide in-person and online counselling for various issues to students in the Faculty of Arts & Science. Registered and experienced social workers supervise each intern. For scheduling details and a complete list of services, see Counseline’s online flyer.

Massage Mondays

Hart House offers free massages every Monday. UTM students are also in luck; free massages are offered on Wednesdays at the UTM Library.

 

Equity & accessibility

The University of Toronto has a strong commitment to making campus equitable and accessible for all students, staff, and faculty. Here are some of the services it offers.

Students for Barrier Free Access

215 Huron Street, Suite 924

Students for Barrier Free Access (SBA) is a student-run, not-for-profit group that advocates for the rights of students with disabilities. Its initiatives include social events such as movie nights, information sessions, pub nights, and wheelchair basketball. Other services offered by SBA include peer mentoring, accessible study rooms, and a variety of courses, including sign language and first aid.

Sexual and Gender Diversity Office

Sussex Clubhouse, rooms 416 and 417

The Sexual and Gender Diversity Office (SGDO) provides services and support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-spirited, and Ally (LGBTTIQQ2SA, hereafter, LGBT) students, staff, and faculty. In addition to individual counselling, the SGDO offers educational materials, workshops, and events.

Family Care Office

Koffler Student Services Centre

With an emphasis on inclusivity, the Family Care Office provides support to students, staff, and faculty who are balancing family commitments with education and work. The office offers a variety of resources including on-campus child care, and seminars on eldercare and parenting.

Positive Space Campaign

The Positive Space campaign identifies inclusive spaces for LGBT members of the U of T community. Positive Spaces can be identified around campus by stickers and posters with the campaign logo on them. Each campus has a Positive Space committee that identifies welcoming environments and holds events.

The Hart House Accessibility Fund

Intended to make Hart House events accessible for all who wish to attend, the fund is used to provide for the accessibility needs of students. If you’re looking to attend an event at Hart House and have accessibility needs, contact the fund two weeks in advance, and they will do their best to make the event accessible for you.

Student Equity Initiatives Team (SEIT)

Sponsored by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, the SEIT creates an inclusive, accessible environment for students involved in physical activity at the university. Students can propose initiatives to the SEIT and be granted funding by the faculty to realize their proposals.

LGBTOUT

Drop-In Centre: 73 St. George Street, Sir Daniel Wilson Residence archway

LGBTOUT offers resources and events for LGBT students at U of T. Some of its notable events include the all-ages party Homohop, pub nights, and orientation and information sessions. The LGBTOUT Drop-In Centre is a Positive Space run by volunteers who can provide information about the many available services and resources.

Multi-Faith Spaces

U of T offers various spaces around campus to accommodate the diverse spiritual and faith-based needs and practices of students, faculty, and staff. These spaces offer rooms for quiet prayer and worship, as well as community events and interfaith dialogue. Some locations include the Multi-Faith Centre (569 Spadina Avenue), Sussex Clubhouse, Victoria College, Hart House, and OISE. Visit the centre’s website for a full listing of multi-faith spaces on campus.

Green Dot

Green Dot is an initiative of U of T Health and Wellness. A green dot represents an action taken against violence, whether it be protecting a friend in a dangerous situation or not accepting a drink handed to you by a stranger at a party. Training dates for the six-hour course are available on all campuses, and Green Dot certification can be listed on your résumé.

First Nations House

Borden Building North, third floor, 563 Spadina Ave.

First Nations House offers services and events for Aboriginal students on campus including academic and financial support, workshops, and access to elders and traditional teachers. The house, which is decorated with indigenous artwork and home to a library of Aboriginal texts, provides social space and support for Aboriginal students.

Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office

The Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office’s mandate is to offer services to students, staff, and faculty across all campuses. It implements programming and policy to promote an inclusive and equitable environment, and to facilitate dialogue and conflict resolution in areas of racism, prejudice, and cultural diversity.

 

Letter from the Magazine Editor

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

For as long as I can remember, people have been asking me what my plans are for the future, and while I’ve done my best to say something convincing, I’ve never really known for sure. Not all of us have a perfect blueprint for our lives laid out, but most of us are overflowing with dreams — fantasies that seem so absurd that we’re afraid to say them out loud. Continue reading Letter from the Magazine Editor

Bar speak

“I’ve worked in probably well over 20 different bars,” Jasmine tells me, as we walk in the cold night at Hart House Circle, the CN Tower providing a bright backdrop. “I’ve been in the business since I’ve been legally able to serve, and I’ve been in it for about four years. I’ve worked in an array of environments such as clubs, Irish bars, regular restaurants, upscale dining atmospheres — I’ve had a taste of all kinds of bar environments.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience past the point of what I thought was just a part-time job. It’s actually helped lead me to achieve others goal in my life.”

A seasoned bartender, Jasmine’s demeanour is simultaneously personable and edgy. Though she chose not to disclose her last name, Jasmine’s quickly apparent charm and magnetism makes our conversation feel like a warm chat between friends, indicative of the reason for her prolonged success in the bartending business. She laughs while recalling anecdotes about her experiences, coloured with intriguing customers and glimpses of the brief melodramas of their lives.

“Working at a bar is like witnessing a soap opera. It’s very entertaining.”

She describes the diverse crowd of people who she has met in the workplace. “Many people may think that working in a bar is just about serving customers, or you’re always just making small talk with people, or these are just one-time contacts, but I’ve met people from politicians, to business owners, to musicians. Part of the job of being a bartender is really communicating with the patrons that come in.

“A lot of the time, if you’re someone that’s very curious about other peoples’ lives, you can learn a lot about people’s successes, not just their day-to-day lives, but how their companies run… That was something that really interested me and that was why I stayed in that atmosphere, because I was learning so many different things about so many different people.”

As a bartender, Jasmine explains, much of the job consists of socializing and filling different roles for the different people who come in. In particular, people seem inclined to reveal personal information about themselves in an environment that they perceive as safe; as a result, Jasmine finds she often plays the part of a therapist at work.

“You do find people that just need someone to share their lives with,” she admits. “It’s funny because when you’re walking down the street you don’t know anything about the people you see around you… In a bar atmosphere, you learn so much about people’s lives and they open up so much… It’s like you’re the bearer of secrets, and you’re there to listen and you hear all this gossip.”

Jasmine tells me that politicians and musicians may come into the bar and divulge details  not disclosed to the public. People typically, however, come in to discuss regular conversational topics like “sports, relationships, and people that are pissing them off.”

“A lot of people come in and talk about their own relationships, or want advice from a younger person or just from an outsider. A lot of times, you can give that advice. I’ve rarely had a situation where it was a risk to give advice. It comes with common sense — you know when it’s the time to bring in help, but a lot of the time they have the answers and they need someone to just listen because there just isn’t anyone to hear them, and sometimes just someone to lift up their spirits. Sometimes, we’re the jester.”

With regulars who come in a few times a day, Jasmine says her role involves more than acting as a therapist or a random person to chat with. “In bars where I’ve been able to converse with regulars, you become more than a bartender; you become a friend for some people.”

Jasmine chooses to limit that relationship, however. “A lot of other bartenders and servers make good friends with regulars and maybe share drinks or go out with them. I’ve always left work at work, but that’s my own comfort zone. There’s been maybe one or two exceptions to that, but I do find a lot of instances where regulars cross that line. It’s best to just be friends in the moment.”

Regulars don’t always, however, establish relationships with staff. “There are no rules with regulars; sometimes they come in and just always keep to themselves.”

While Jasmine often finds that she is able to get a complete picture of the lives of customers, at other times, her interaction with them is more discrete. She simply asssists them in a small episode of their lives, be it a first date, or a minor conflict. She sometimes acts as Cupid, providing couples a with discounted dessert, or a secluded corner of the bar in which to sit.

Jasmine’s cordial relationships with customers have been known to shift over the course of an evening at work, sometimes negatively, when situations have escalated as patrons became disruptive, agitated, or excessively inebriated. “The worst kind of customer is one that doesn’t have any regard for the people around them, so that puts me in the position that I have to take care of the problem myself. If I have someone being too loud, I have to tell them to keep it down. Five minutes ago, we were friends. We were chatting and laughing… Now I have to take that authoritative position and tell them that they’re going to have to leave.

“Sometimes if you’re a woman or young, it may not work in your favour, which is when I have to contact management or kitchen staff or maybe even regulars, or in extreme cases even the police.”

Jasmine does not want to be a bartender forever, but she has found the experience inspirational, and it has impacted her future plans. “This is just a part-time job since I’m still a student at the University of Toronto, and I hope to be graduating at the end of the semester. This is a great job to do in between careers, or if you need fast cash, or if you want to go traveling.

“I don’t see it as a career because I have a degree and I want to do something with my studies, but I have thought about, with all my experience, that I have a chance at opening my own restaurant, or my own bar, or something of that nature.”

It’s the conversations that she engages in at work that truly breathe life into the job, Jasmine emphasizes. “I think, no matter who you talk to, you can learn something. That’s something I really like about bartending. You can get advice, or hear cool stories. There’s always something you can learn, and there’s always something you can give back. I think the more exchanges you can have with more different kinds of people, the more you can grow from it.

“I feel like I thrive the most with a varied group of people and that keeps me coming back. I love to hear what people have gone through and what they experience with their life.”

Getting Home Safe

Campus safety is a major concern at U of T. The university has a number of programs in place to deter crime, including the “Work Alone” service, the “Green Dot” program, and the Community Safety Office. A particular source of anxiety is the increased risk of assault after dark, a concern that has been met by the establishment of the “WalkSmart” program.

“The service started around 1992,” says Sam D’Angelo, the coordinator of WalkSmart. “Back then, there were a few occurrences at other campuses. It was thought that the only thing we were lacking here was a walk home service, which was very popular at Western and other places. So the university decided to adopt it and it’s been in effect ever since.”

Walk home programs were first developed in the United States. Western was the first Canadian university to institute such a program, during a period of increased crime rates. U of T initially had few night classes, meaning a lower demand for a similar initiative. But evening classes became more common, and with increased activity on campus at night, the program was installed.

Anyone can WalkSmart, including visitors to campus who are not enrolled at the university. The only criteria is that you must be moving between campus buildings or to a nearby subway station.

“The objective of WalkSmart is safety in numbers,” D’Angelo explains. “We get the employees to pick up a student from an academic building, and drop them off at another academic building or a nearby subway station. It’s not designed to be a downtown campus walk home service.

“I don’t want my employees to drop people off at a bar; I don’t want them going to Bathurst and Bloor, because it’s not designed for that. We are strictly a campus service. If the university owns and operates a building, we will escort a student to and from there.”

When you call WalkSmart, the dispatch sends out one male and one female escort to meet you for the time you request. WalkSmart employees have jackets and ID cards so they are easily identifiable to callers, due to incidents in the past where impersonators have compromised the safety of people who call in. “We’ve learned that if we leave an opening, deviants might take over,” D’Angelo reflects.

Most program employees are students. “Our objective is to hire students. We’ve had challenges in the past where students couldn’t work, around exam time for example,” D’Angelo recalls. “WalkSmart is designed so that two people respond to an escort. If one WalkSmart books off, that team is now gone. So, at exam periods and on Friday nights, it is challenging to get students to fulfill the role. We have hired students as WalkSmarts that have graduated and come back [for] a part-time job.”

In order to accommodate the schedules of students employed by the program, after midnight U of T Campus Police building patrols take over the service. “The WalkSmart people aren’t on duty but my building patrols then do their part. They’re students, so you have to appreciate that. At one time, we had them working at two in the morning and it was challenging because a lot of them have class in the morning.

“So what I’ve done is that from midnight to six am, you have campus police dispatched to pick up clients and take them from point A to point B in the absence of WalkSmart.”

D’Angelo looks for more than just enrollment at U of T when evaluating prospective employees. “We test to see why you want to be a WalkSmart person. We want to make sure that you’re here for the right reasons — so why you want this job, what are your objectives. And more importantly, we check out their background, to make sure that they’re not a safety risk to the community.

We ask for police record checks on people because they are escorting people that could be vulnerable. We make sure their intentions are honourable. We do all the necessary due-diligence tests.”

Students going into police work do not have a particular advantage in the hiring process. In fact, D’Angelo notes, the opposite is often true. “The majority of [WalkSmart employees] are doing it for sense of community. Some become social workers.

“Those that want to do police work tend not to be good candidates because they get the wrong perception of what it is. They’re not security. They’re simply there as a comfort zone for safety in numbers for that individual.”

More than counseling, WalkSmart escorts frequently serve as a source of information about campus to students who use the service. The program tends to be used most by first-year students in their first six months on campus before they develop friendships, and they often seek basic information from the employees during the walk, such as locations of different buildings, or names of good restaurants in the area.

Usage takes a dip around this time of year, as more students have friends to walk with when it gets dark out. “It stays fairly regular,” Sam notes, “If there’s an occurrence on campus that’s been in the media a lot, we find there’s a spike in usage.”

D’Angelo believes that the presence of the WalkSmart program successfully deters nighttime crimes. “At nighttime around here, it’s actually very safe. You have a better chance of getting your laptop stolen at Robart’s than of getting attacked. Outside of the soft boundaries of the campus, I can’t speak to, but if you look inside the campus, crimes against persons [are] very low.”

Employees of the program declined to provide testimonies for this article.