‘The future of education’: Humber College’s Barrett Centre

Eli Ridder | Report

New details have been emerging about Humber College’s Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation, a architecturally unique building located on North Campus that opened on April 10 and hailed as “the future of education”.

“Built to inspire innovation, support skills development and promote STEAM outreach, the Barrett CTI officially opened its doors this week, paving the way for students, faculty and industry alike to solve real-world problems,” Humber College said in a statement on its Today page.

“This 93,000-square-foot facility is located at Humber’s North Campus and builds on Humber’s expertise in areas such as automation, robotics, system integration, user experience testing, applied research and work-integrated learning.”

Technology zones, digital media studios, cutting-edge prototyping and maker spaces, open concept gathering spaces and demonstration areas for new products, Humber says.

“Through the Barrett CTI and across the college, we are working to address the skills gap by providing next generation learning in smart and collaborative spaces to prepare students for the workforce of the future,” said Humber president and chief executive Chris Whitaker.

 “With this Centre, we will continue to be a leader in polytechnic education and prepare our students for a rapidly changing workforce,” he continues.

We will also help organizations of all sizes with testing new technologies, conducting applied research, and providing solutions-based thinking to help them be globally competitive,” adds Whitaker.

Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport and Liberal MP for Etobicoke North and Merlilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities were on hand to help celebrate the grand opening of the Barrett CTI on Wednesday of last week.

“Humber is building important relationships. They provide insights into what employers need and what they are looking for…This is the future and it is happening right here,” said Fullerton.

The Progressive Conservative minister has come under fire for her Ontario government’s cuts to post-secondary education, including wiping a large chunk of grants from the Ontario Student Assistance Program and introducing optional student fees. She also cut tuition by 10 per cent.

“If we want to build the future of this community and the future of Canada, we need to invest in innovation and our people,” the Liberal member of parliament said.

“This Centre — artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, virtual reality — students are going to have the cutting-edge skills to be employed and to build Canada.”

While the building contains no traditional classrooms, the space is meant to provide a unique teaching and learning environment to mend the gap between education and real-world experience, Humber says.

The Centre provides a variety of education programs and disciplines under one roof for all students to enhance their skills and creativity in their chosen field. 

The primary funding for the building was a $10 million investment from the Barrett Family Foundation, the largest private donation in the college’s history.

“We started working with Humber in order to help young people in Canada train for the careers of tomorrow though applied, hands-on learning,” said Bob Barrett, the founder of The Barrett Family Foundation and president and CEO, Polytainers.

We are proud to have been the catalyst to bring about this building and the network of partners that Humber has cultivated. We are amazed at how well Humber has gone about realizing the dream we created together.”

Additional funding was provided by the Government of Canada which contributed $15.5 million from the Post-Secondary Strategic Investment Fund.

The Government of Ontario supported the purchase of key equipment within the building through $1.55 million from the College Equipment and Renewal Fund.


Image of the centre from The Avro Post.

Guelph-Humber student aims to improve accessibility

Eli Ridder | Report

A student with a visual impairment at the University of Guelph-Humber is being promoted for finding solutions on campus and inspiring other students in an article posted on the university website.

The student, Christopher Schiafone, shared the story on his social media on Friday, but it was not immediately clear when the Guelph-Humber article was initially posted.

Despite his impairment creating obstacles in his academic life, the third-year psychology student has “found many creative solutions that have allowed him to thrive at [Guelph-Humber] and beyond,” reads the article posted on the university website.

“He has now been invited to share those insights at the Canadian Psychological Association’s 80th annual CPA National Convention, the largest convention of its kind in Canada, taking place May 31 to June 2 in Halifax.”

Schiafone and his brother, Media Studies alumnus Brandon Schiafone, will together lead a discussion forum with educators based around their abstract, titled “Understanding the Needs of Disabled Students” — though none of the solutions are mentioned in the article.

“Our goal with this discussion is to educate faculty from across the country on ways that they can make course materials and learning more accessible to students with disabilities,” Schiafone said.

“Not everybody has had the experience of having a totally blind student in their class. They do not necessarily know the ways in which they have to adapt things. So I’ve made it my goal and my job to educate people on how best to provide an education in an adaptive way.”

The psychology student is not the only individual who has experienced accessibility struggles on campus. Monica Khosla, when initially running for president of IGNITE in 2018, campaigned on a platform largely focused on improving accessibility supports on campus.

Earlier this year, Khosla ran accessibility focus groups that were not well-attended in person — only 14 went to three across different campuses — but there was a significant response via online surveys with 558 respondents.

She ran for re-election aiming to improve campus accessibility, explaining that she had managed to add a button in a Humber College North Campus building but not much more, yet. The president explained there was more to come in improvements as she heads into an unprecedented second term.

The Guelph-Humber student and Khosla are not alone in their struggle to improve accessibility for those with impairments or disabilities on campus as last year there was a group of students that aimed to have an “accessibility day” at Guelph-Humber.

Sources, speaking on background, told The Avro Post that they attempted over the course of last year to hold the event which would bring in speakers and promote awareness for improving what they saw were poor conditions for those hindered.

The group’s plans were halted by Student Life at the university because the department would not give them the event space because they were not a sanctioned group on campus.


Image of the University of Guelph-Humber from The Avro Post.

2.5K experience sexual harassment at Humber: Survey

Eli Ridder | Report

Over 2,500 students — 51.5 per cent — of respondents from Humber College said they had experienced sexual harassment in a sexual violence survey that took place earlier this spring, over the public college provincial average by over 1 per cent.

63% of Ontario Universities Report Sexual Violence

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey also found that 900 students at Humber experienced non-consensual sex in 2018 out of more than 5,000 that participated in the questions.

While 17 per cent of Humber respondents disclosed a “non-consensual sexual experience” and 28.7 per cent said they had that experience at the Guelph university — which may or may not include numbers from Guelph-Humber.

The University of Guelph-Humber was not listed as an institution in the survey despite an official telling The Avro Post earlier this year that the unique university was considered part of the survey. The University of Guelph made the cut.

The Student Voices on Sexual Violence survey also found that 51.5 per cent — over 2,500 students — of respondents from Humber College said they had experienced sexual harassment, over the public college provincial average by over 1 per cent.

The survey came out on Mar. 19, and The Avro Post published an initial report on the critical finding that 63 per cent of students at universities experienced sexual violence on campus in one way or another.

The minister in charge of the post-secondary education portfolio called the results “disturbing” and announced $6 million in grant funding to boost sexual violence programs on campus.

Universities and colleges will be required to review their sexual violence policies and form task forces to address the issue by September. They will also be required to report annually on the measures take to support students who have experienced sexual violence.

The report was completed by 116,000 university students and 42,000 college students and asked 50 questions gauging respondents on their perceptions of consent and rape myths, experiences with sexual violence and harassment and on how well they believe their school responds.


Image of Humber College from The Avro Post.

‘The Rise Of Skywalker’: Star Wars title revealed

Eli Ridder | Report

Disney and Lucasfilm revealed the title and a teaser trailer of the last movie in the latest Star Wars trilogy at a special event in Chicago early on Friday afternoon, after a panel of the movie’s stars.


Star Wars Episode IX Teaser Trailer


Star Wars Show Live


Image of Star Wars logo from Star Wars.

IGNITE ignores students requesting to see budget

Eli Ridder | Report

After Executive Director Ercole Perrone said students could learn about IGNITE’s budget by requesting to meet in-person, three journalists with The Avro Post contacted him to set up a meeting but never heard a response.

Mr. Perrone said at the student union’s 2019 Annual General Meeting in March that students could talk to him directly about budgetary details in the IGNITE offices, saying that he would meet with them.

The Avro Post’s editor-in-chief emailed Perrone on April 1 to request a meeting and followed up on April 3, but did not receive a response. There were no responses to an email from another reporter sent from their GryphMail on Tuesday.

All the emails were sent from the student journalists as individuals from their own email addresses. It is unclear what one can do to get a meeting with the executive director or see the budget.

The Avro Post has requested to have access to a more detailed, or line-by-line, budget of IGNITE, a document that the student union does not publicly release. The tradition with IGNITE is to post a short infographic with six categories.

IGNITE Budget Infographic 2018-2019

The reason IGNITE releases only an infographic is because long-form budgets do not interest students, officials have told The Avro Post for over a year. However, several students independent of the publication have expressed interest in having the details released.

Other post-secondary students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber have called for more financial transparency ahead of the optional student fees coming into play this fall with the Student Choice Initiative.

One or a group of individuals went as far as putting up posters around the North Campus calling for the student union to release the financials.

IGNITE has not responded to comment from The Avro Post. It is unclear exactly how IGNITE determines what students to meet or if they do meet students to explain the budget as Perrone said at the AGM.


Image of the 2019 AGM from The Avro Post.

Humber 5k Fun Run/Walk; Fundraiser for Leukemia and Lymphoma SoC

Arnold Samson | Report

On Thursday, the annual Humber 5k fun run/walk event will be taking place at Humber North campus from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. with the proceeds from this year’s 14th annual fundraiser donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.

The event is a place for students to come out, have fun, enjoy either a walk or run, and to raise funds for a good cause.

The Avro Post reached out to, IGNITE vice president-elect Megan Roopnarine and Board of Director-elects Erika Caldwell and Julia Ciampa for comment.

Another University of Guelph-Humber student and KinSoc member, Jessica Knowles, said “I think that Humber’s 14th annual fun walk/run event is a fantastic initiative. Not only are proceeds given to support two great causes – the leukemia and lymphoma foundation – but the event also offers an incredible oppertunity to unite the GTA community.”

“As an undergraduate student pursuing studies in the domain of kinesiology, I am cognizant of the importance of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, so I’m really happy to hear that there is an annual event on campus that encourages everyone to be physically active”

Knowles, as a member of KinSoc represents the university community surrounding both mental and physical well-being. KinSoc frequently hosts both physical events such as the “GH Games” with an impressive turnout, as well as mindfulness talks and “mood walks” around campus and the Humber North arboretum.

“I’m excited to know what the turnout of this event will be like. I highly encourage everyone that is available to participate on April 11th to do so!”

Students wishing to register for the event can do so by visiting: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/humbers-14th-annual-5k-fun-runwalk-tickets-55300653744?


Featured Image: Humber Arboretum, Google images

New Humber building adds Indigenous Cultural Marker

Eli Ridder | Report

Humber College’s soon-to-open Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation will add a new Indigenous Cultural Marker to many already in place on its campuses called Anishinaabeyaadiziwin Miikana, described as “a symbol of Anishinaabeg history and longstanding presence.”

The structure, which should not be confused with a totem pole, tells the Seven Stages of Life as part of the Anishinaabe Life Path story of creation, journey and destination, according to a description released by the college on its culture markers page.

Anishinaabeyaadiziwin Miikana concept art from Humber College.

Humber is located in Adoobiigok, known as “Place of the Black Alders” in Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language, the college writes.

It is uniquely situated along GabeKanang Ziibi — the Humber River — providing an integral connection for Indigenous peoples between the northern shore of Lake Ontario and the Lake Simcoe Georgian Bay region.

Humber’s Indigenous Cultural Markers at its North and Lakeshore Campuses are “designed to place the college in the context of the long history of Indigenous peoples in what is now called the Greater Toronto Area.”

The building the new marker is in will officially open on Wednesday.

Marker being built in late 2018 from Ryan Gorrie’s website.

The Avro Post has reached out to Ryan Gorrie, the leader for a team of eight with Indigenous heritage that have so far worked on the three cultural marker sites on campus, for more information on the background to the project.


Image of Anishinaabeyaadiziwin Miikana from Humber College.

Flags fly at half-mast, what can be done?

Sensitivity Warning

Eli Ridder | Analysis

On April 5, Radio Broadcasting student Simeon Weber died in a Humber College residence building at North Campus amidst the end of semester exam period — there was no cause of death yet specified, and it would be wrong to assume one, however, it is clear there was no murder and no one is being charged.

That means it was either an intentional or unintentional death which could have been caused to himself. Many students are whispering that it was a suicide but it would be inappropriate to guess, especially as the family and friends of Weber mourn his passing.

But where do you go from here as a campus? It’s not as a tight-knit community as other post-secondary institutions because of its stature as a so-called “commuter school” and now that it is April, a solid chunk of students are leaving to never return and mostly everyone else for the summer.

After four suicides at the University of Guelph in the spring of 2017, the university’s Residence Life team utilized an old program in which faculty members join their staff, go door-to-door to check on students’ health and hand out information on various supports available.

There was criticism later that year, however, in a tweet from a student that went viral saying that said the university had the “worst mental health support [out] of all the universities in Ontario.”

In the aftermath of two student deaths within 10 days in the fall of 2017, Western University triggered a process to increase the presence of mental health supports on campus through a strategic plan. Other schools have developed their own plans.

Humber College has a department dedicated to mental health in the form of the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre’s health and counselling services. SWAC offers same-day and walk-in availability with no appointment necessary.

Mental Health Services On Campus and Beyond

Again, it is not clear whether the Humber student died of a mental health issue and no one should presume until when, or if, the family or college confirm the cause. However, it has impacted the mental health of students in residence and beyond.

Humber did note in its first email to students, in a statement to The Avro Post and in a press release that mental health supports were available on campus. It is in-line with how other institutions have reacted to death on campus.

Will there be a push now like the University of Guelph or Western University?

It is unclear what, if anything, the college will change in response to students at this time. It is the end of a semester and so the range of impact of anything the administration might do would be limited.

Funding for colleges and universities have been significantly cut by the Ontario government. Optional student fees have been introduced and come into play this fall via the Student Choice Initiative. Both of these should not have an impact on funding for mental health supports, however.

The government told Global News in March that fees supporting mental health counselling should be compulsory. However, there was criticism over the apparent exclusion of mandatory accessibility funding.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, will change in the wake of the passing of a Humber College student in terms of mental health supports, whether or not it was a mental health or physical health-related incident. However, funding should remain in place and the doors of SWAC will likely remain open.


Image of flags at half-mast on April 9, 2019 from Emily Werginz of The Avro Post.

Joint committee is overseeing optional fees implementation: Et Cetera

Eli Ridder | Report

A joint committee made up of stakeholders from Humber College, the University of Guelph-Humber and the IGNITE student union is providing oversight for the implementation of the Student Choice Initiative on campus, Humber Et Cetera reported on Tuesday.

“Every ancillary fee that a student pays is overseen and administered by a committee and this committee has IGNITE people on it and it has members of Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber administration on it,” IGNITE Executive Director Ercole Perrone told the Et Cetera.

Perrone said the meetings will determine with all the parties ensuring they’re approaching the intent of the policy correctly, “and what’s going to stay, what’s gonna go, what’s going to be mandatory, and what’s going to be optional.” The existence of the “fee protocol committee” has not been previously reported.

The SCI leaves IGNITE with a level of uncertainty over how much funding it will receive, as previously reported by The Avro Post. Student unions across the province are scrambling to find out more information.

The optional student fees coming into play this fall after being introduced by the provincial Progressive Conservative government earlier this year has received backlash from student unions, campus publications and other organizations normally funded by fully mandatory fees on top of tuition.

The average Humber College and Guelph-Humber undergraduate student pays $75 in fees to fund largely the medical insurance offered by IGNITE but also events, clubs and other services provided by the student union. The campus does not have a funded student newspaper.

The Et Cetera interviewed the IGNITE executive director who had told students during the Annual General Meeting in March that they could come to the student union’s offices to get more information on finances. Peronne never responded to two requests for meetings from The Avro Post or its staff.


Image of Humber College North Campus from The Avro Post.

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