Law grad Michael Geist in Top 40 Under 40

Two – not one – of Report on Business magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, the brightest business achievers and innovators on the rise in Canada, are York University graduates. Yesterday, YFile identified James O’Sullivan, of Scotia Capital Inc., who has a BA and MBA-LLB from York. Today, we add Michael Geist, who graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1992. The 34-year-old holds a Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa. Geist returned to Canada in 1998 from postgraduate studies at Columbia Law School in New York – the “brain drain in reverse”, he calls it – to be in on the ground floor of Canada’s legal response to the Internet, reported the Globe and Mail‘s business magazine. “Not everything had been written, not every policy had been set,” Geist says. Hot issues included privacy, jurisdiction and how Internet domain names are governed. “The Canadian government, along with a lot of other national governments, have used the last 18 months as a wonderful opportunity to put into place a series of new surveillance approaches,” he said. “In many respects, the public still is not sufficiently engaged on privacy issues.” He spearheaded Canada’s leading technology law program, including the first technical-law internship, in which students staff a “very traditional legal-aid-type clinic.” Geist said his role model is Lawrence Lessig, professor at Stanford Law School: “He was part of the appeal last year arguing against the extension of copyright from 50 to 70 years after an author’s death (the so-called Mickey Mouse Act). He’s a global leader in Internet law, and is engaging the public and policymakers.”

Writers’ odysseys into the drug world

The Boston Globe reviewed York English Prof. Marcus Boon’s 2002 book The Road of Excess: a History of Writers on Drugs in its book section Sunday. The reviewer said: “In an impressive display of scholarship, Boon meticulously chronicles the connection between writers and drugs. From Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Jack Kerouac, writers’ personal odysseys into the dizzying world of drugs are depicted with a novelist’s eye for detail. Boon creates order of this heretofore largely uncharted history in five well-rounded essays examining how literature has been influenced by narcotics, anesthetics, cannabis, stimulants, and psychedelics.”

Supreme Court pot case goes ahead

In a trio of cases to be heard May 6, the Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to throw out criminal penalties for simple possession of small amounts of pot on the grounds that they violate the Charter of Rights, reported Canadian Press from Ottawa May 5. Government lawyers will be arguing the present law should be upheld, even as Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Justice Minister Martin Cauchon prepare to change it. The key issue, stripped of legal niceties, is whether the politicians or the courts have the final say in deciding what substances ought to be outlawed. “You can’t simply say Parliament has the right to be wrong,” says Paul Burstein, who teaches at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and is counsel for one of the three people whose pot convictions are under review. Burstein is hoping the court will draw a “constitutional line in the sand” that no future government can cross, no matter what the prevailing political winds of the day. Alan Young, a York law professor who favours decriminalization of marijuana, welcomed the hearing, said CP. He thinks the government, even if it brings in a bill, is unlikely to push it through Parliament before the next federal election, likely to come in about a year’s time. “I just don’t believe they will be able to fast track it through,” said Young. “And I believe they know that.” Young also told CBC “News and Current Affairs” at a pro-pot rally: “We’re wasting valuable criminal justice resources chasing something that’s relatively harmless.”

Did knives and forks cut murders?

In 1939, a little-known Swiss sociologist, Norbert Elias, published a book called Uber den Prozess der Zivilisation (“On the Civilizing Process”) with a strange and unlikely thesis: that the gradual introduction of courtly manners – from eating with a knife and fork and using a handkerchief to not spitting or urinating in public – had played a major part in transforming a violent medieval society into a more peaceful modern one, began a New York Times Saturday feature in the Arts & Ideas section. Hitler invaded Poland that year, and Elias’s book was consigned to obscurity. It was not published in the United States until 1978 (with the title The History of Manners). But since then his seemingly eccentric thesis has been revived, and Elias has posthumously become the theoretical guru of a field that did not exist in 1939: the history of crime. It was then that pioneering historians began to do what most historians had thought impossible: create crime statistics for eras that did not systematically keep crime data. “The Elias theory got revived through the statistical approach to history,” said Elizabeth Cohen, a historian in York University’s Faculty of Arts, who has written extensively on crime in Renaissance Italy.

Law grad played key role in US credit card settlement

Canada’s love of lower-cost debit cards and the input of a York University law school graduate played a key role in the landmark $3-billion US settlement of a big lawsuit this week by the Visa and Mastercard companies, reported the Ottawa Citizen May 2. Jeff Shinder, a founding partner in the Constantine and Partners law firm in Ottawa that won the settlement, said: “For 20 years we have talked about creating a cashless society, but the major credit card companies imposed a credit-card tax on debit-card transactions in the US which significantly slowed development.” US merchants wanted the right to reject high-fee debit cards, but the credit card companies insisted they must accept both kinds. Shinder said Canadian merchants pay significantly lower fees for debit-card transactions and Canadians use the simpler and more secure cards twice as frequently as Americans on a per-capita basis. He said US merchants and ultimately their customers have been penalized for years because they pay $1.34 for every $100 transaction on a unique US debit card activated by a signature rather than a personal identification number. The service charge on PIN cards similar to those in Canada is just 13 cents per $100.

Post-MBA average salaries

The National Postclarified May 1 that in a March MBA Special edition, conflicting facts were given for graduates from Queen’s University School of Business, York’s Schulich School of Business and Richard Ivey School of Business. The correct post-MBA average salaries are $89,300 for Schulich, $82,443 for Ivey and $75,900 for Queen’s.

York grad Fawzia Haji welcomes immigrants

The Town-Crier of Leaside-Rosedale profiled York grad Fawzia Haji, 31, who welcomes newcomers to Toronto in her role as a settlement worker, in Monday’s issue. A Muslim woman, Haji has provided settlement services to newcomers for more than a decade. She speaks Gujarati, Hindi, Irdu and Katchi fluently. “Don’t ask how I learned all those languages,” she says with a laugh. She studied global development at York University and taught for a couple of years before joining Settlement and Education Partnership in Toronto.

Campus security a top priority

Personal safety is an issue on college and university campuses, said The North York Mirror in a story on city commuter safety Sunday. That’s why York University offers the Student Security Escort Service for all faculty, staff and students. The service is made up of vehicular and foot services, said Nicole Arsenault, manager of transportation and student escort, security and parking services at York. She said the Student Security Escort Service is necessary to have on campus because it gives a feeling of comfort. “It’s used for safety reasons. The feedback we’ve received is how much this service is needed for convenience and safety.” The services are available year round at both Keele and Glendon campuses. “It does get very busy at times. Peak time is 10pm because a lot of night classes get out then.” She said both males and females take advantage of the transportation escort service, adding the van service is the more popular request.

On air

  • CBC’s “Metro Morning” gave extensive coverage of the first conference on Canadian black music at York last weekend with audio essays by Toronto musical historian Clive Walker on reggae in Canada and co-organizer Natasha Smith on the importance of jazz in Afro-Canadian cultural history, a panel discussion on the history of Canadian hip hop, and a performance by the Joe Sealy Quartet and vocalist Diane Brooks. News of the conference was also carried on CBC’s “Here and Now” and Global News.
  • Andrea O’Reilly, women’s studies professor and organizer of York’s conference on Mothering as Work and Mothering at Work last week, was interviewed on “Niagara at Noon” (CKTB-AM), St. Catharines, and discussed the guilt of motherhood on “Canadian Living TV” (LIF-TV), on May 2. The conference was also mentioned on news programs by radio stations in Edmonton, Stratford, Wingham, Toronto, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay on May 1.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the soaring Canadian dollar, on CBC’s “Radio Noon,” Montreal, on May 2.
  • Jianhong Wu, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Applied Mathematics at York University, is leading a team of Canadian experts to try and come up with a mathematical model on determining the spread of SARS, reported CBC’s “World Watch” May 2.
  • Catherine Robbin is retiring from the stage and has enjoyed teaching at York University, reported CBC’s “Sunday Edition” in a profile of the opera singer on May 4.
  • Gary Bunch, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, discussed whether students with disabilities should be taught separately or taught with the regular class, on a panel on TVO’s “More To Life” May 2.
  • Liberal MP Judy Sgro was interviewed about Ontario receiving $8 million for crime prevention initiatives announced May 2 at York by Solicitor General Wayne Easter at a press conference, on “Studio Aperto” (CFMT-TV).
  • Norma Sue Fisher-Stitt, dance professor with York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, talked about the world premier of Tristan and Isolde told in dance with new music at the Hummingbird Centre, on TVO’s “Studio 2” May 2.
  • Michael De Robertis, physics and astronomy professor in York’s Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, explains how black holes and gamma ray bursts form in the dark, on “Daybreak” (CBME-FM), Montreal, May 1.
  • Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, talked about why it’s good to decriminalize marijuana, on CBC’s “NW Today” May 3.
  • Peter Keir, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, discusses the art of ergonomics, on “Medical Intelligence” (ROG-TV), Toronto, May 5.