New Schulich building designed with a central ‘marketplace’

London’s Financial Times highlighted York’s new Schulich School of Business building in an article April 14 examining how business-school architects are taking to heart the idea that design shapes human behaviour. The new Schulich building is designed to encourage greater interaction between students and professors, said the FT. Siamak Hariri of Hariri Pontarini Architects said the facility has been designed in such a way that “it is impossible to make your way through the school without bumping into students and faculty.” Students, staff and faculty will all pass through the main space – “the marketplace,” packed with everything from the high-technology “information screens” around the lobby to a cluster of Internet cafés and shops – before heading to offices or classrooms. James McKellar, co-director of Schulich’s building program – someone with the advantage of being both a professor at the school and an architect – believes that building design can have a big effect on human behaviour. “You can’t manipulate people, but you can introduce new functional elements,” he said. “When you come into this building you have to move through [the marketplace].” Even faculty, he added, “can’t sneak in the back door and up to their offices.” If the current popularity of the MBA persists, sheer growth will force more schools to expand their facilities, said the FT. McKellar is keenly aware of this pressure. “When I came [to Schulich], I said to the dean: ‘We have to get out of this building – it’s inhibiting our growth,'” he said. “Buildings are a big part of moving forward.”

When statues fall

“Were I reincarnated as a dictator, I’d forbid the setting up of statues of myself: no statues, no big posters, no murals,” wrote Saeed Rahnema, co-ordinator of the Political Science Program at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail April 16. “I’ve learned that the falling of statues hastens the fall of the dictator behind them. Symbols of terror-based power quickly turn into symbols of defeat.” Rahnema witnessed the overthrow of two shahs of Iran, in 1953 and 1979. “Watching the fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue on TV last week brought back memories of the fall of the Shah and his statues. The circumstances were different; the outcomes have ironic similarities.” He concludes: “Iraq’s new leaders may not erect statues. But they will have no choice in using other institutions and apparatuses of dictatorship. Alas, it will take decades for the Iraqi intellectuals and the public to move toward a democratic and free Iraq. Just ask Iran.” Rahnema’s recent books include Iran After the Revolution and Rebirth of Social Democracy in Iran.

No savings in privatization

There are few explanations for why Ottawa decided to privatize military aircraft maintenance, although defence analyst Martin Shadwick of the York Centre for International and Security Studies pointed out that privatization “had become the flavour of the decade,” reported a CanWest News Service story. The article on Canada’s $800-million Cormorant helicopter fleet appeared in CanWest papers such as the Montreal Gazette April 16. Shadwick said Ottawa should have listened to those in the military who thought privatization was a bad idea. “You implicitly lost military capability and military flexibility while not saving very much money at all, and maybe saving literally no money,” said Shadwick. He was referring to the fact that each hour of Cormorant flight requires 16 or more hours of maintenance under the new private contract.

The SARS effect: stay-away-from-work policies

It’s an “ironic twist” that companies, which traditionally fight absenteeism in the ranks, now must develop stay-away-from-work policies in the SARS era, said Monica Belcourt, a York University human resources professor and president of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario. She was quoted April 16 in a Toronto Star article focusing on businesses and schools taking action against the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.