Hero and Villain of the Week: March 6
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Hero and Villain of the Week: March 6

Every week, Toronto is filled with Heroes and Villains. These are their stories.

Every week, Toronto is filled with Heroes and Villains. These are their stories.
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Hero of the Week: Dr. Trance

This past week, legendary Toronto DJ Dr. Trance passed away. A pioneer in Toronto’s rave scene and seemingly omnipresent at parties and events over the past 25 years, he provided an outsized influence that went along with his booming voice.

Dr. Trance—also known as Don Berns—had an early radio career that took him to various mid-sized American cities before he found a home in Toronto. Here, he played dance music on the radio that no one else would, and, as an out and proud gay man, was a fixture at LGBTQ events.

It’s easy to think, “Oh, he was just a DJ,” and move on, but Berns meant much more than that. For many Torontonians, he provided the soundtrack to their youth and, for many others, his work continues to resonate. He leaves a legacy that is worth celebrating, and in the ways he had an effect on so many, his beat goes on.

Villain of the Week: York and U of T

Over the past week, TAs and some contract faculty at York and the University of Toronto—Ontario’s two largest universities—went on strike. Any labour dispute has its nuances: U of T can’t just spend a large chunk of its surplus, which is in excess of $200 million, on TAs. After all, that money is also used for other necessary items, such as supporting the university’s large capital budget.

Those details can be debated, but in the process we shouldn’t lose sight of the larger principle that should be addressed in these negotiations: Major universities like U of T and York increasingly rely on low-cost TAs and untenured faculty to teach courses, and pay them less than a living wage to do so.

The wage TAs earn on an hourly rate is decent; under the recently expired contract, it’s over $40 an hour. But, as most any student or professor can tell you, this does not reflect the work needed to be an effective TA, which goes far beyond class hours and includes marking, office hours, prep work, responding to student queries, and providing general guidance. The wage for graduate students at U of T, as Zane Schwartz writes in a Globe and Mail op-ed, caps earnings at 210 hours a year, and while the proposed contract increases the hourly rate, it reduces the cap on annual hours to 180. Despite cost of living increases in a pricey city, it’s an effective 8.2 per cent reduction.

TAs and untenured faculty deserve respect from university management and to be fairly compensated for their role in educating students. They’re often the first point of contact for undergraduates, and shape their students’ education and general impressions of university life. Those vital contributions should be recognized for what they are, and should be reflected in the contract on offer.