Tag Archives: University

World University Games in China postponed until 2022

Summer Sports

The World University Games that were due to open in China in just over four months have been postponed until next year, the governing body the FISU said on Friday.

Decision prompted by pandemic, travel restrictions

The World University Games, which features about 8,000 athletes, was to have opened in Chengdu in western China on Aug. 18, just days after the closing of the Tokyo Olympics. (Feng Li/Getty Images/file)

The World University Games that were due to open in China in just over four months have been postponed until next year, the governing body the FISU said on Friday.

The Switzerland-based FISU said COVID-19 and travel restrictions prompted the postponement, adding the decision was made jointly with officials in China.

The multi-sport event, which features about 8,000 athletes, was to have opened in Chengdu in western China on Aug. 18, just days after the closing of the Tokyo Olympics. A rescheduled date has not been announced.

The country has two other large multi-sport events coming up. The Winter Olympics open on Feb. 4, 2022 in Beijing, and the Asian Games, which feature more sports than the Olympics, are set for Hangzhou from Sept. 10, 2022.

China has become the go-to nation for many of these mega-events because it pays the costs, builds venues quickly, and does not need voter approval, which is common in many European countries.

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CBC | Sports News

Tragedy, heartache shaped Aboubacar Sissoko’s path to the top of university sports

Aboubacar Sissoko would have loved nothing more than to celebrate with his mother, Yacine Coulibaly, after he found out that he was the winner of the 2020 Lieutenant Governor Athletic Award as the U Sports male athlete of the year last week. 

She was the one who encouraged him to stick with soccer after he tried to make the leap to the pros, but was cut by Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League last year. 

He recalls being demoralized when he was released, but her support convinced him to go back to the Université de Montréal to finish his degree and play one more year for the Carabins. 

“She came to all of my games,” Sissoko said.

“She took care of me. I can say it’s because of her today that I’m here.”

But a conversation with his mother wasn’t possible because she passed away suddenly on May 1, at only 57 years old. 

“It’s a tragedy but it’s life,” Sissoko said.

He says doctors told him her death was of natural causes and not due to COVID-19.

Sissoko, 24, already knew what it felt like to lose a parent; his father also died suddenly eight years ago. Like his mother, he was also only 57 years old at the time of his passing. 

Sissoko’s father was a diplomat from Mali and worked in aviation. He immigrated with his family to Montreal from Africa in 2006, when Aboubacar was nine years old. 

A brush with death 

While the path to success for any athlete is rarely a straight line, Sissoko has endured more hardships than the average person trying to make it as a professional soccer player. 

Aboubacar Sissoko is the first male athlete from the Université de Montréal to win the U Sports athlete of the year award. (James Hajjar/Montreal Carabins)

In addition to losing both his parents before the age of 25, he also had his own brush with death when he was a teenager. 

In 2014, after playing at a tournament with Mali’s national team where they qualified for the U20 World Cup, he returned to Canada, fell ill with malaria and went into a coma. 

“I was with my brother in his car, I got out of the car and it was ‘boom’ — it happened. Three days later I woke up in the hospital,” Sissoko said. 

He says the experience of lying in his hospital bed after he woke up from the coma changed him. 

“After that I was a new man. I enjoy my life, I’m happy to be in good shape and not sick. Being in the hospital was very hard. That experience helped me to be a better person,” he said.   

“I’m a survivor.”

Another shot at the pros

Sissoko recently had a trial with Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps, but was released after their training camp this spring. Now he is back in the CPL with the Halifax Wanderers, where he is hoping to have a breakout season as a rookie.

The Wanderers’ roster has several players from Montreal, such as striker Omar Kreim who was Sissoko’s teammate for a few seasons with the Carabins, and he says that has made the transition to Halifax easier.   

“It’s a good team spirit. We are all brothers,” Sissoko said. 

But regardless of what happens to Sissoko at the professional level, his place in the history books at the Université de Montréal is set. 

In winning U Sports’ top honour, he is the first male athlete from the school to take the prize and third overall after female volleyball players Laetitia Tchoualack won in 2008 and Marie-Alex Bélanger won in 2018. 

“To be honest, yes, I’m surprised. If you told me 10 years ago, or five years ago, I would win that I wouldn’t believe you,” Sissoko said.  

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CBC | Soccer News

U.S. surpasses 100,000 deaths from COVID-19: Johns Hopkins University

The U.S. surpassed 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount, but it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korean wars combined.

“It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.6 million people and killed over 350,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths by far, according to the JHU tally. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths, while the U.S. reached more than 100,000 in less than four months.

The true death toll from the virus, which emerged in China late last year and was first reported in the U.S. in January, is widely believed to be significantly higher, with experts saying many victims died of COVID-19 without ever being tested for it.

At the end of March, the United States eclipsed China with 3,500 deaths. Now the U.S. has not only the highest death total but also the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, making up more than 30 per cent of the global total.

Early on, U.S. President Donald Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and called it no worse than the common flu. He previously predicted the country wouldn’t reach this death toll. As early as March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, was warning that COVID-19 could claim more than 100,000 lives in the U.S.

“I think we’ll be substantially under that number,” Trump said on April 10. Ten days later he said, “We’re going toward 50[,000] or 60,000 people.” Ten days after that: “We’re probably heading to 60,000, 70,000.”

WATCH | Trump eschews masks at U.S. Memorial Day events:

U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t wear a mask to either Memorial Day event he attended, while his political rival Joe Biden made his first public appearance in months wearing one. 2:01

Biden expresses condolences

Critics have said deaths spiked because Trump was slow to respond, but he has contended on Twitter that it could have been 20 times higher without his actions. He has urged states to reopen their economies after months of stay-at-home restrictions.

Former vice-president Joe Biden, the likely Democratic challenger to Trump in November’s presidential election, posted a video after the announcement expressing his condolences. “There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they’re forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief,” Biden said in the video.

Wednesday’s stark development comes as only half of Americans said they would be willing to get vaccinated if scientists are successful in developing a vaccine, according to a new poll released Wednesday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll found 31 per cent simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated. Another one in five said they’d refuse. Among Americans who say they wouldn’t get vaccinated, seven in 10 worry about safety. Among those who want a vaccine, the AP-NORC poll found protecting themselves, their family and the community were the top reasons.

Most people who get COVID-19 have mild cases and recover. However, the coronavirus has been seen attacking in far stealthier ways — from blood clots to heart and kidney damage.

There is no vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, though several emergency treatments are being used after showing some promise in preliminary testing.

Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are starting to be tested or getting close to it. Health officials have said studies of a potential vaccine might be done by late this year or early next year.

U.S. could see ‘slow burn of cases and deaths’ in summer: expert

Some public health experts cautioned that even more death is in the offing. 

“Despite the terrible losses seen and the many difficulties Americans have faced to date in this pandemic, we’re still probably only in the early stages,” said Michaud. “In the U.S., we could be looking at a long pandemic summer with a slow burn of cases and deaths. There’s also reason to be concerned about a new wave of infections in the fall. So we’re definitely not out of the woods yet.”

Comparing how the virus has impacted different countries is tricky, given varying levels of testing and the fact that some coronavirus deaths can be missed. According to figures tracked by Johns Hopkins University, the death rate per 100,000 people is lower in the U.S. than in Italy, France and Spain but higher than in Germany, China, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

WATCH | U.S. passes 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19:

Dubious distinction reached as fatalities continue to rise while the country prepares to reopen economy. 1:09

“The experience of other countries shows that death at that scale was preventable,” Michaud said. “To some extent, the United States suffers from having a slow start and inconsistent approach. We might have seen a different trajectory if different policies were put into place earlier and more forcefully.”

Countries with low death rates suppressed the virus “through lots of testing, contact tracing and policies to support isolation and quarantine of people at risk,” Michaud said.

The White House said the president was committed to holding a Fourth of July celebration in Washington, D.C., even as local officials warned that the region — one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus — will not be ready to hold a major event so soon.

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CBC | World News

Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine trials approved for Halifax university

A Halifax research team will be working with a Chinese manufacturer to run the first Canadian clinical trials for a possible COVID-19 vaccine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement during his daily remarks on Saturday.

The trials have been approved by Health Canada and will take place at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology (CCfV) at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

“Research and development take time, and must be done right. But this is encouraging news,” Trudeau said.

He added the National Research Council will be working with the manufacturers so that if these vaccine trials are successful, the vaccine can be produced and distributed “here at home.”

The CCfV team of about 45 people is working with a potential vaccine from Chinese company CanSino Biologics.

Health Canada said in an email Saturday that their decision followed a careful review of the trial application, which “met the necessary requirements for safety and quality.” 

Researchers say about 600 participants will be needed

Scott Halperin, director of the CCfV and a professor of pediatrics, microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University, said they are building on trials that have already begun in China.

The vaccine strain, called Ad5-nCoV, uses another virus that’s been modified so it can’t cause infection in humans, he said. It expresses one of the COVID-19 antigens on its surface called the “spike protein.”

If participants develop antibodies to fight this antigen,”one hopes that one would be protected against COVID-19,” Halperin said.

Once their team gets approval from an ethics board, Halperin hopes the trials can begin within the next two weeks.

Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology and a professor of paediatrics and microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University, hopes the trials will begin in the next two weeks. (CBC)

In Phase 1, Halperin said there will be just under 100 participants of different ages involved. In the early stages, they will begin with “very healthy individuals” about 18 to 55 years old. Once their team sees some “early safety data” from those trials, he said they will bring in those 65 years of age and older.

Then in Phase 2, Halperin said they will add 500 additional participants, who might be anywhere from 18 to 85 years old.

Their team follows participants for six months after they’re immunized, Halperin said, so the whole study runs about six to eight months. However, after even a few weeks of each phase they will likely be able to learn enough to move onto the next stage.

The Phase 1 trials are “quite intensive” in terms of monitoring, Halperin said, including screening to ensure participants are healthy.

Once someone is given the vaccine, the CCfV team tests their blood, holds physical examinations, and looks at other signs and symptoms including immune response. People must also keep a diary of any symptoms.

Participants will come in a couple times in the first week, then less frequently as the weeks go on, for a total of nine to 13 times over the six months. 

Director hopeful Phase 3 could come this fall

Halperin said they may be able to move to Phase 3 studies as soon as they have good data from Phase 2, which could be as early as “late summer, early fall.”

The third phase is designed to see “if the vaccine works,” Halperin said. It looks at whether participants who have received the vaccine are protected from getting COVID-19, if exposed to the virus.

Halperin said the only part of the study their Halifax team is conducting alone would be Phase 1. 

When they move into Phase 2, likely in a couple months, they will be joined by multiple centres across the country through the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN).

The network was originally set up around the 2009 H1N1 pandemic by the federal government, to have a national capability to “rapidly” start Phase 1 studies in extreme cases like this, Halperin said.

“It’s satisfying that the infrastructure was there in order for us to be able to respond,” he said.

An ’emergency release’ could come before study ends

He also noted that this vaccine is not the only one which will be going into clinical trials in Canada. Halperin said there will likely be others announced within the next few weeks.

Any potential vaccine won’t be publicly available until after Phase 3 is complete, Halperin said, which “could take quite a long time.”

However, Health Canada could allow the vaccine to be used before that in an “emergency release,” and there are some talks ongoing now about how that could be done.

That was the case when the Ebola vaccine was used in west Africa before Phase 3 trials were complete, Halperin said.

The CCfV team consists of nurses, data managers, research assistants, laboratory personnel, and three or four other physician investigators.


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CBC | Health News

Felicity Huffman’s Daughter Sophia Gets Into Prestigious University Following College Admissions Scandal

Felicity Huffman’s Daughter Sophia Gets Into Prestigious University Following College Admissions Scandal | Entertainment Tonight

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Despite overcrowding issues, many beds at Montreal’s university superhospitals are empty

Several years after opening, in the midst of an ongoing overcrowding crisis in Montreal’s emergency rooms, the city’s two university superhospitals still aren’t making all their beds available. 

The exact reason for the unused beds depends on who you ask. The hospitals say it’s a funding issue, but Quebec’s health minister says it’s primarily a labour shortage problem.

At the end of 2019, there were over 70 unavailable beds at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), out of a total of 772, Radio-Canada has learned. Another 22 beds were not available for use at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), out of 500 in total.

In a written response to Radio-Canada’s questions about its unused beds, the CHUM said the empty beds are only 85 per cent funded.

Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said a labour shortage is the source of the problem. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/Radio-Canada)

An MUHC spokesperson said that when the hospital opened in 2015, funding existed to make 471 beds available out of 500. Since then, new funds allowed the opening of seven additional beds: two in palliative care in early 2018 and five critical care beds in 2019-2020.

But Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann said on Thursday that staff shortages are at the root of the problem.

“If we didn’t have a labour problem,” bringing the hospitals to full capacity would have happened faster, she said. 

Whatever the explanation, critics say it’s a problem that should not exist.

“Either they’re amateurs, or they’re really cheap,” said Jean-Lesage MNA Sol Zanetti, Québec Solidaire’s spokesperson for health and social services.

“We paid billions to get beds. We’ve got overflowing emergency rooms, specifically because of a lack of beds. And here we have unused beds, which we’re not funding although there’s a $ 4-billion surplus. It makes no sense.”

‘It’s not normal’ to have empty beds when hospital overcrowding is an issue, said Paul Brunet, president of the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients. (Radio-Canada)

In recent weeks, the occupancy rate of stretchers at the two hospitals has exceeded 100 per cent. 

Emergency rooms in Montreal and around the province are perennially overcrowded. In January, with holidays adding further complications, many ERs were running at double capacity. Nurses, complaining of exhaustion, staged sit-ins at two hospitals in Montreal’s east end.  

Former health minister Gaétan Barrette, now a Liberal opposition MNA, says he is surprised that beds are not yet operational at the CHUM.

“I would have expected, years later, that they would have reached full capacity,” he said. “There’s a shortage of rooms in the greater Montreal area, and these beds could have been used.”

Paul Brunet, president of the Quebec Council for the Protection of Patients, had similar criticisms.

“It’s not normal that we continue to have unused beds when we have such high occupancy rates for stretchers and long waiting lists for a bed,” he said.

McCann believes that the two superhospitals will gradually resolve this problem, and for now isn’t putting a deadline on making the beds available.

“I am confident it will improve,” McCann said.

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CBC | Health News

Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team wins 1st-ever FISU University World Cup

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s soccer team are international champions after claiming a FISU University World Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Brazil’s Paulista University in Jinjiang, China, on Saturday.

Mikayla Morton of Courtice, Ont., notched the game-winner during just the second minute of action with a header to the right corner that was set up by a corner kick from Halifax native Katherine Bearne.

It was the only goal allowed by Paulista University goalkeeper Fernanda Laís Delazere during the inaugural tournament.

The Gee-Gees were a tournament wildcard entry in this first iteration of the international university soccer championship, and they previously won the U Sports women’s soccer championship in 2018.

First-year Gee-Gees defender Trinity Esprit of Scarborough, Ont., was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

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CBC | Soccer News

‘It’s literally life or death’: Students say University of Toronto dragging feet on mental health services

It’s the beginning of the semester at the University of Toronto’s downtown St. George Campus, and there are about three dozen students sitting on the floor of the school’s computer science building, making signs that say things like: “Again?” and “Policies must change.”

It’s just days after a fourth student in less than two years died by suicide at U of T — the third death in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology, a very busy public building on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus.

Students are preparing to show up uninvited to an academic council meeting to send a message: the administration isn’t doing enough.

“It’s literally life or death, what is at stake here,” says fifth year computer science student Shahin Imtiaz. “The university has turned into a pressure-cooker of intense demands, without the resources to meet the student needs to back it up.”

Shahin Imtiaz speaks at a rally for more mental health services at University of Toronto. Imtiaz is a fifth year student in University of Toronto’s computer science faculty. The school’s computer science building, the Bahen Centre, is where three students died by suicide. She says her program is very demanding and there aren’t mental health supports for students who are struggling. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

After the third death, the administration put up temporary barriers in the Bahen Centre for Information Technology to try to prevent any other deaths. But students of Canada’s largest university — also one of the country’s wealthiest — say other needed changes aren’t happening fast enough. 

“Infuriating,” said Aloysius Wong, a third-year student at the downtown campus. “It’s disappointing. I mean, I don’t think I can say one or two words that will really express, like, all the multitude of emotions that each and every one of us are feeling right now.”

For protesters like Wong and Imtiaz, the fact the deaths have continued feels personal. This is Imtiaz’s faculty’s building, she spends much of her day here. For her, there is outrage and profound grief. She watched friends go through difficult times with mental health years ago, and nothing has changed, she says.

“All that suffering was meaningless, no-one learned anything from it, no-one did anything about it. It’s still happening. It’s really tough to reconcile, all this suffering is so needless.”

Shahin Imtiaz talks about her mental health struggles since starting at the University of Toronto. 0:33

The group walks briskly with their new signs to stand outside Simcoe Hall, a historical building that flies the university’s flag. They are directly underneath the window where the meeting is taking place. The group is told they are not allowed to attend, so they chant louder.

“How many lives will it take before you fix your mistakes,” they yell.

Eventually, some of the students are allowed to sign in and go upstairs. They make pleas, in front of the administration and board members, asking them to put more money into mental health at the school and reconsider a controversial mandatory leave policy that can force an academic leave on students deemed to be a danger to themselves and others. Outside the cheers, chants and boos of their compatriots who weren’t allowed upstairs can be heard.

It’s the first time the student group has “stormed” (as they say) an academic meeting. But in the weeks to come it won’t be the last. And even as midterms loom and their numbers dwindle, the die-hards among them say they won’t stop until they feel like the university is listening.

“The cost of not doing anything, or not doing anything fast enough, is far too great,” Imtiaz says.

Accessibility of mental health services called into question

Victoria Liao, a recent graduate of University of Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College, tried to reach out for help while she was a student four years ago. She waited several weeks to get into group therapy on campus.

She was two weeks into group therapy, when after a night of drinking, she attempted to take her own life.

“Because it had been an impulse thing I scared myself, and that’s why I went in for help instead of just trying again or doing it while sober or something,” she says. “I went in for help because I didn’t want that.”

Victoria Liao graduated in June 2019. When she was a student she struggled with suicidal thoughts and attempted to take her own life. After the attempt, she sought help but had to wait about a month for an appointment with a therapist through the school’s counselling services. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Liao went back to campus counselling and was put on a priority list for one-on-one therapy. 

“I had no clue exactly how long that list was,” she said. “I had been told you’ll hear within two weeks for a call, which then scheduled an appointment another two, three, however many weeks later. That was frustrating. I didn’t really know what else to do.”

Overwhelmed by the state of her mental health and the pressures of life, she thought the help was coming, so she didn’t try to seek help elsewhere.

In the end, she waited another four weeks for one-on-one therapy. 

Victoria Liao waited a month for a counselling appointment at the University of Toronto after a suicide attempt four years ago. 0:25

Eventually, she did get help from the school, but Liao says she feels the road was longer and bumpier than it should have been.

“I got very lucky. Not everyone gets that lucky. But it shouldn’t be about luck,” Liao says.

“It’s clear this isn’t an isolated incident or an isolated couple of situations. This is a crisis that’s ongoing because of a system that’s failing us.”

Now, four years later and with some very public deaths on campus, it’s still not clear what kind of wait time Liao would experience if she was in the same situation today.

Mental health and the ability of students to thrive on campus is a priority, says Sandy Welsh, the vice-provost of students at the University of Toronto. Welsh oversees the health and wellness centres that deliver counselling support on campus. However, Welsh would not say how long the current waiting list for therapy is.

“The range of waiting really varies by individual students and individual cases,” says Welsh. 

“We would prefer that there is absolutely no wait list, [that] there’s absolutely no waiting for students to get into see services. And we’re doing our best to see students as quickly as possible.”

The University of Toronto is not alone in dealing with increasing demand for mental health services on campus. Academic institutions across the country are facing skyrocketing mental health needs, forcing academic institutions to grapple with the complexities of providing more support.

CBC News surveyed 30 of Canada’s universities from coast to coast, asking each school nine wide-ranging questions — about suicide on campus, mental health services, the budgets for the services, and how long it takes students to access them — to try to get a national picture of what is happening with campus support systems.

Many schools, like U of T, declined to answer how long their waiting lists are or how many students are on those lists.

Some universities detailed programs and measures they are taking to support students. McGill, for example, has recently created a “Wellness Hub,” calling it a “one-stop shop” for all student health issues. Other schools said they have programs to train faculty and staff to spot and help students in distress.

Students say action isn’t fast enough

U of T has made recent efforts, including adding $ 3 million to its mental health services budget to boost the number of counsellors. That brings the number of counsellors up to 90, in a school with a population of 90,000 students.

The university won’t divulge how long students are waiting now, but activists like Imtiaz say they still hear frequently from people who tell them they have faced long delays to get mental health support.

The student group she belongs to — the one behind the protests at the University of Toronto, the Mental Health Policy Council — says it has consulted with hundreds of students who report waiting weeks and even months for help.

One of the other issues around which students are asking for change is the university’s mandatory leave policy, which allows the school to put a student on leave, without academic consequences, if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. The school has used the policy eight times in the past year.

First-year student Youssef Metwally is from Virginia. He says he has been reluctant to seek mental health services on campus at U of T because of what it might mean for his academic career. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Students say the policy is a barrier to students who may want to reach out for help. International students like American Youssef Metwally pay steep tuition. He struggles with depression and anxiety. He says he’s afraid of being kicked out of school and out of the country if he seeks help, since he’s on a student visa.

“If I do get kicked out of school, I’m going to have immigration knocking on my door saying I cannot be here,” he said. “And that made my mental health a lot worse. I don’t see how that policy in any way would help anyone. And it actually pushed me away from reaching out and going to get help.”

The policy was criticized by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for not requiring the school to assist students when they needed the help the most.

Since that criticism, the university has revised the policy to address many of the issues raised,  but the commission “remains concerned that in urgent situations the Policy allows the University to withdraw essential services from students who pose a serious risk of harm to themselves without considering the impact on the particular individual or explicitly referencing the University’s duty to accommodate before the leave is initiated.”

Welsh, the vice-provost of students, says the school understands there is a perception problem when it comes to the mandatory leave policy.

“The policy is a process,” she says. “In those rare cases that we’re concerned about a student, the very first thing that we do is we review all of the supports and accommodations that are available to the student. That’s written in the policy, that we’re required to do that. And the first question that I’m asking is, can we do more? Is there more that we can do … before we even consider any kind of leave.”

Welsh also says she acknowledges the frustration of students who are demanding change on campus in very public ways.

“I think students are angry and they want us to do more,” she said. 

“I understand that. I want us to do more as well. That is a big priority for me, and for all of the people who are working with me on the mental health issues on campus. So I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

Meanwhile, Imtiaz and members of her group say they will keep putting pressure on their school to do more, and do it fast.

“Not much has happened, really,” Imtiaz says. “We’re still getting the same responses. So at some point it starts feeling like is anyone really listening?”

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CBC | Health News

Hong Kong protesters set fires on bridges leading to Polytechnic University

Protesters on Sunday set fire to bridges leading to Hong Kong Polytechnic University as they tried to keep police from advancing on their stronghold, while other demonstrators used bows and arrows from the barricaded campus.

There were flames on the length of a footbridge over the roadway entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, just south of the university. Police had shut access to the area and massed earlier in an apparent attempt to surround protesters. Some retreated inside the campus while others remained outside to deter any advance.

Another fire was set on a bridge over the toll booths for the tunnel. Protesters have blocked access to the tunnel for days and set fires in the toll booths.

Several protesters fired arrows from the rooftops of the university amid some of the most dramatic scenes in over five months of unrest in the Chinese-ruled city.

Police said a media liaison officer was hit in the leg by an arrow. He was taken to hospital for treatment. A metal ball hit another officer in the visor, but he was not wounded.

Protesters, concerned about the contents of blue liquid that police fired from water cannons, stripped down to their underwear before being hosed down by colleagues with fresh water.

An anti-government protester uses a bow during clashes with police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong on Sunday. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters )

Police also fired tear gas to try to break up protesters on the artery of Nathan Road in the Kowloon district of Mong Kok, a frequent venue for unrest.

Huge fires had lit up the sky at the university in the heart of Kowloon district overnight as protesters hurled gasoline bombs, some by catapult, and police fired volleys of tear gas to draw them on to the open podium of the red-brick campus.

Water cannon and gasoline bombs

The clashes spread into Sunday evening, with protesters greeting each water cannon charge with gasoline bombs.

“Rioters continue to launch hard objects and petrol bombs with large catapults at police officers,” police said in a statement. “The shooting range of such large catapults can reach up to 40 metres … Police warn that the violent activities in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have escalated to rioting.”

In the university courtyard, civil engineer Joris, 23, said he would be prepared to go to jail in his fight against the government. Those shooting arrows were protecting themselves, he said.

Protesters clash with police as police fire teargas at them at the Hong Kong Poytechnic University on Sunday. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

“The police violence has been over the top,” he told Reuters. “The protesters have been reacting to the police. We haven’t fought back as much as we could. I would be prepared for jail. We are fighting for Hong Kong.”

Reuters correspondents heard a high-pitched wailing coming from at least one police vehicle, suggesting a new weapon in their crowd dispersal arsenal.

Chinese soldiers in a base close to the university were seen monitoring developments with binoculars, some dressed in riot gear with canisters on their chests.

Chinese soldiers dressed in shorts and T-shirts, some carrying red plastic buckets or brooms, emerged from their barracks on Saturday in a rare public appearance to help residents clear debris blocking key roads.

‘We are not afraid’

Parts of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus looked more like a fortress with barricades and black-clad protesters manning the ramparts with improvised weapons-like bricks, crates of fire bombs, and bows and arrows at the ready.

“We are not afraid,” said a year-three student Ah Long, who chose not to disclose his full name. “If we don’t persist, we will fail. So why not (go) all in,” he said.

A protester runs after throwing a molotov cocktail at the police outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. (Ye Aung Thu/AFP via Getty Images)

The campus is the last of five universities to remain occupied, with activists using it as a base to continue to block the city’s central Cross-Harbour Tunnel.

The presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers on the streets, even to help clean up, could stoke further controversy over Hong Kong’s autonomous status at a time many fear Beijing is tightening its grip on the city.

The Asian financial hub has been rocked by months of demonstrations, with many people angry at perceived Communist Party meddling in the former British colony, which was guaranteed its freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing denies interfering and has blamed the unrest on foreign influences.

Clashes between protesters and police have become increasingly violent, posing the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.

WATCH: Hong Kong protesters hurl gas bombs at police:

Clashes between protesters and police have turned violent at times in Hong Kong, which is grappling with its biggest political crisis in decades. 0:56

Xi has said he is confident the Hong Kong government can resolve the crisis. Until Saturday, Chinese troops in the city had remained inside their base during the protests.

Chinese troops have appeared on Hong Kong’s streets only once since 1997, to help clear up after a typhoon in 2018.

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The freshman 15 is real: Study says Canadian students’ waistlines bulge in 1st year university

The so-called freshman 15 — when students experience hefty weight gain during their first year of university — is real, according to a Canadian study published Wednesday, and men typically pack on twice as many pounds as women.

The average Canadian female student gained about four pounds in her first year of university, compared to the roughly eight pounds added for the average male, said the study from researchers at York University and Brock University, published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“The actual fact our students gained weight was not surprising. This is not a new phenomenon and has been shown many times on university campuses. It’s been dubbed the freshman 15,” said Andrea Josse, the study’s lead author and a professor of research nutritionist at York University in Toronto.

“What was most surprising is the differences between males and females.”

The stereotype of undergrads filling up with junk food and washing it down with copious amounts of beer largely holds true, according to the survey of 229 females and 72 males.

A customer orders from Chicky’s Chicken at the Calgary Stampede in 2017. First-year university students in Canada ‘significantly increased their consumption of doughnuts, fried chicken, beer and liquor, alongside a decrease in healthy food options such as vegetables,’ according to a study published Wednesday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press )

Students were asked about their eating habits and body mass at the beginning of their first year of university, and then again at the end. The average female student said she saw her waist expand by 1.1 centimetres after year one, while the average male said he saw the circumference of his gut bloat by 2.7 centimetres.

“The researchers found that diet quality decreased over the year and alcohol intake increased, especially in males,” the authors of the study said in a news release. “Males, in particular, had significantly increased their consumption of doughnuts, fried chicken, beer and liquor, alongside a decrease in healthy food options, such as vegetables.”

‘Skeptical of the methodology’

The study had plenty of limitations, researchers said, including its small sample size and the fact that respondents self-reported their own eating habits and weight gain patterns.

The study wasn’t designed to determine why students gained weight, Josse said, and this warrants further investigation.

Dr. Sean Wharton, an internal medicine specialist in Toronto focused on obesity, said the study is interesting but the sample size is too small to draw broader conclusions about what Canadian students are eating.

At university, peer pressure can play a role in determining what students eat and whether they choose unhealthy options, said Melissa Baker, a dietitian and manager of nutrition and well-being for food services at the University of British Columbia. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“This study may not reflect accurate research,” he said in an interview, noting that the research subjects were all in Ontario and eating patterns could vary widely in other regions.

“The other big limitation is they just asked the students: What did you eat? They didn’t actually track them … I’m very skeptical of the methodology.… The gender difference could be a sampling error.”

Regardless, he said, significant weight gain for people between the ages of 18 and 25 is a “global epidemic” that needs to be tackled through education and behavioural changes.

Social pressures 

Melissa Baker, a dietitian and manager of nutrition and well-being for food services at the University of British Columbia, said she wasn’t shocked by the study’s conclusions. But she also urged caution over its methodology.

Weight gain among first-year students tends to vary significantly between individuals, she said, so using averages, as the study has done, might not give the most accurate reading. Moreover, she said, “you can only infer so much” about general trends from questioning 72 males, also commenting on the study’s small sample size.

One of the rounds of questioning for the study took place during exam time, she noted, when Baker has seen students “use unhealthy food to cope with stress.”

In this 2010 file photo, Ariana Kramer, left, follows her mother as they shop for supplies in Iowa City, Iowa, where she is beginning her freshman year. In Canada, the average freshman student gains a significant amount of weight, according to a new study. (Martha Irvine/Associated Press)

Students who arrive at university from a highly restrictive home environment tend to gain the most weight, she said, as they can finally eat whatever they want “and have no one telling them what to do.”

On the gender divide, Baker said peer pressure could play a role in differentiating weight gain patterns between men and women, at least based on what she’s seen among the students with she works at the UBC cafeteria in Vancouver.

“I do think there is more social pressure from men, especially in a university environment, to eat a bit more and eat that fried chicken and fries. They tend to do what their social group does,” she said. “The women have more pressure from their social group to eat healthy and stay slim.”

Telling people to eat vegetables and stay away from fried foods often doesn’t work so well in a university setting, she said, when students are already bombarded with having lots of things to learn.

“In my experience, the traditional nutrition-education messages don’t get across,” she said. “I think we need to focus on the environment: Making the healthy choice the easy choice and making it look and taste good.”

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