Getting away with lying

Whether it’s politics, academia or journalism, we are awash in deceit – the kind that destroys careers and erodes public trust, wrote a Toronto Star columnist June 7. She then turned to two York faculty members – business Professor Ron Burke and psychology Professor Fred Weizmann – among others for answers. Burke, professor of organizational behaviour and industrial relations at York’s Schulich School of Business, said lying is a growing problem. “A corrupt society breeds corrupt behaviour.” Up to half of university students admit to cheating at some time, with five per cent admitting plagiarism, he said. But when you have a giant company like WorldCom proclaiming profits one day and losses the next, the truth can seem easily sacrificed. Burke added: “The sad reality is, you can’t teach ethics. But I put my money on truth to build a career.” Why do people lie if the consequences are a ruined career? Weizmann of York’s Faculty of Arts said it’s because they think they’ll never get caught. “People engage in self-destructive behaviour all the time,” he said. “They are opting for short-term gain and hoping the consequences will never happen. You see the same behaviour in rats.” No one knows how many lies go undetected, he pointed out. “Who knows what people can get away with?”

Painter keeps memory of Randal Dooley alive

Sara Sniderhan, a 27-year-old artist and teacher, has created a portrait of Randal Dooley, the seven-year-old boy who, less than a year after arriving in this country from Jamaica, was found dead in 1998 in his Scarborough townhouse after months of savage abuse at the hands of his father and stepmother, wrote Toronto Star columnist Jim Coyle June 10. On June 19, the oil painting will be unveiled at York University, when the school announces the inaugural winners of memorial bursaries established in the little boy’s name. Multicultural groups, along with police and entertainers from the first Roots and Culture Festival, held last July in the Jane and Finch area, raised $8,000 for the Randal Dooley Memorial Entrance Bursary, tenable at York University. Western Union added another $8,000 to the bursary. Sniderman told Coyle she was delighted with the way her work is being handled by the University. “The people at York have been amazing,” she said.

York one of first to go live on high-speed, fibre-optic network

In a few months, Ontario schools and research facilities – including York University – will have access to one of the world’s largest high-speed, optical fibre research and education networks, reported Transcontinental Media’s Technology in Government June 1. The Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a $78-million collaborative venture between the public and private sectors, will connect education and research institutions in 21 communities across Ontario. The network will be able to transfer huge amounts of information very quickly, which is what researchers increasingly require, said Bob Gagne, chief information officer and executive director of Computing & Network Services at York. Researchers have always worked on a collaborative basis, he said, so the ability to hold video conferences or transfer large amounts of data quickly will only aid in the sharing of ideas. York houses one of ORION’s points of presence and is one of the first two live sites together with Laurentian University. Gagne said the university has not yet transferred its research activities onto ORION, but is looking forward to doing so over the course of the summer. “The speed with which we’ll be able to connect to someone at a university or college in Ottawa or Thunder Bay is the same kind of speed with which I can connect to somebody in our computer science building, which is a 100 meters away from me,” he said. “It becomes this great virtual campus…. It’s really quite something.”

Trotsky and the White House 

Jeet Heer, a York University PhD history student and widely published essayist, set the cat among the US pigeons with a June 7 opinion piece in the National Post entitled, “Trotsky’s ghost wandering the White House.” The article suggested that intellectuals involved with George W. Bush’s administration have been influenced by the Russian Bolshevik’s writings supporting the idea of pre-emptive war. On National Review Online June 9, Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow and columnist for the Washington Times, called Heer’s piece “nonsense.”  “Now there is little new in conspiracy theories about American politics and politicians,” wrote Beichman. “And it’s easy to shout ‘McCarthyism’ at the York University academic as he describes pro-war intellectuals, like the historian Paul Berman, as having ‘a Trotsky-tinged past’ but there is something more sinister at work here: to rob the coalition, which destroyed a terrorist haven and an inhuman dictatorship, of the moral victory it represents.” Perhaps one of Heer’s closing lines about Trotskyism also applies to the debate: “The strength of a living tradition is in its ability to inspire rival interpretations.”

Live-sex play challenges obscenity laws

An Osgoode Hall Law School professor weighed in on the ambiguous nature of Canadian obscenity laws in a Globe and Mail story June 10 about a Vancouver play that will feature two amateur actors engaged in oral sex. York’s Bruce Ryder, a constitutional expert on issues of sexual censorship, said an act of public sex might contravene the Criminal Code, but added that it would be hard to predict whether the producers of this play could be successfully charged in court. “To describe our obscenity laws as ambiguous is kind,” he said. “I don’t know of any case where judges have said live sex acts are illegal, but there have been plenty of successful prosecutions that involved far less explicitness. Where this particular performance would fall, I can’t say. It’s not a situation that has been directly addressed by the precedents. My guess is that most judges would say Canadians are not ready to tolerate live sex acts in front of a paying audience. But it would depend on which judge hears the case.”

Not lost in flight

Speculating about the future of Air Canada, the Toronto Star June 7 turned to aviation expert Fred Lazar, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. He said Air Canada will survive and emerge from bankruptcy protection either later this year or early next year. “It’s in no one’s interests to liquidate the company. You’re not going to get someone coming along and replicating Air Canada. They were well on the way to restructuring [before being forced to file for bankruptcy protection]. Through this they were able to accelerate the pace and do things [such as achieving massive labour cuts] that would not have been possible otherwise.”

Two weddings, one marriage

The Globe and Mail profiled several young couples from different immigrant backgrounds in a June 7 feature on the changing face of Canada. One couple met at York: Nazaninam Afshari, 23, who graduates this year with a bachelor of science degree, and Sotirios Stergiotoulos, 27. Afshari’s Muslim and Stergiotoulos’s Greek Orthodox, so they had two weddings, one in each religious tradition.

York grad appointed to immigration board

Elsy Jetty Chakkalakal has been appointed full time to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) in Toronto. Chakkalakal is a program reviewer with Legal Aid Ontario in Toronto who received her bachelor of laws from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1994, reported Canada News-Wire June 9.

On air

  • Joyce Zemans, art historian in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, talked about an online database that features the work of contemporary Canadian artists from coast to coast, on CBC Radio’s “Arts Report” June 6.
  • Kenneth McRoberts, principal of York University’s Glendon College, participated in a discussion about bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada after 40 years, on Sudbury’s “Ici L’Ontario” (CBON-FM), June 6.
  • Carl James, of York University’s Faculty of Education and involved in a national conference on racism, violence and health funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research in Dartmouth, talked about the challenges facing young black men in Canadian society, on “Mainstreet” (CBH-FM), Halifax, June 6.