Honouring Randal Dooley

A host of Toronto television, radio and print media reporters and photographers covered the June 19 ceremony at York to unveil a portrait of seven-year-old Randal Dooley, who died at the hands of his parents in 1998. The portrait was donated to the University by teacher and artist Sara Sniderhan. Announced at the ceremony were the first winners of the Randal Dooley Memorial Bursary, Tammy Nguyen and Suzanne Narain. 

On air, CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” broadcast interviews with the artist and bursary recipients, City-TV’s “Citypulse” talked to the artist, Faculty of Arts Dean Robert Drummond, a York Regional Police officer involved in fundraising for the bursary, and Narain. The event was also featured on Omni TV, CFTO-TV news programs and on City-TV’s “Breakfast Television.”

In print, the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail published photos, The Toronto Sun featured a photo and story, and Canadian Press circulated a story.

Double-cohort acceptances 

More double-cohort students have accepted admission offers at Ontario universities than there are spaces available, reported Toronto newspapers June 20, following a press conference by Colleges and Universities Minister Dianne Cunningham. Preliminary enrolment figures released June 19 by the Council of Ontario Universities show 73,000 Ontario high-school students have accepted offers from the province’s 17 universities, compared with the 70,000 double-cohort students universities were planning to enrol. At York University, 9,587 have accepted spots, 1,407 more students than it was prepared to handle, reported The Globe and Mail. The National Post said several campuses have over-admitted significant numbers of students, including York, which, it said, planned for about 8,200, not 9,587 (see More News).

Public vetting of judicial candidates?

A Canadian Press wire story June 19 on Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s task of choosing a Supreme Court of Canada replacement for Justice Charles Gonthier, who recently retired, surveyed legal opinions including that of Patrick Monahan, associate dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Monahan noted that Chrétien, like his Conservative predecessor Brian Mulroney, has been widely praised for the quality of his appointments. “Nevertheless, I think there is room for improvement in the process. There’s a strong argument in favour of some kind of hearings or public vetting of a candidate who has been nominated by the prime minister.” 

York grad poised to become first female jockey to return to Queen’s Plate

Chantal Sutherland, a 27-year-old jockey and York University graduate, on Sunday was set to become the first woman to compete in the Queen’s Plate for the second time, reported the National Post June 20. Sutherland is ranked eighth in the rider’s standings at Toronto’s Woodbine race track, with 20 wins entering this week. “I think women are making huge progress in sport today,” Sutherland said following the recent Queen’s Plate post draw at Woodbine. “To win would be amazing for women, for racing, and for my career. I mean, it is $1 million.”

Bob Marley music and other York convocation traditions

York University Secretary and General Counsel Harriet Lewis described York’s convocation traditions, in a Toronto Star story June 19 on modern universities’ need for speed and sanitation at annual convocation ceremonies in a more populous and post-SARS world. “We want it to feel good.” Music is carefully chosen to reflect the ethnic diversity of York, she said. “We still pipe in the academic procession, but we usually leave to something like Bob Marley, upbeat and popular.” Convocation is enjoying something of a revival. “In the ’60s when I graduated, it was considered boring to go – people didn’t necessarily all attend,” she said. Changing times have also affected who is chosen to receive an honorary degree. The entire York community, including students and alumni, can nominate candidates. There’s even a Web site to enter suggestions. 

Lewis said York tries to select degree recipients from varied walks of life, including popular culture. To that end, the University has conferred degrees on singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn, theatre impresario Garth Drabinsky, and broadcasters Moses Znaimer and the late Peter Gzowski. When football coach Mike (Pinball) Clemons received an honorary degree three years ago, “the students absolutely adored him,” Lewis said. And opera singer Teresa Stratas “had the entire graduating class in the palm of her hand.” Germaine Greer autographed copies of her books for the graduates and audience after receiving her honorary doctorate. “She spoke beautifully and fluidly for her whole time,” Lewis said.

In recent years, universities have been criticized for cheapening honorary degrees by awarding them to direct benefactors. This year, for example, York gave a doctorate to Seymour Schulich, whose contributions have already seen the University’s business school named for him. But Lewis said Schulich is typical of the people who donate to universities. They frequently have made significant contributions elsewhere and give generously of their time and experience. “They all pass the criteria of the honorary degrees committee,” she said.

Decision to retry anti-poverty activist is “political,” says prof

A Canadian Press wire story June 18 quotes James Porter, a sociology professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, concerning an Ontario Superior Court decision June 18 to drop charges against two anti-poverty activists for participating in a riot at Queen’s Park three years ago. By deciding not to pursue charges against Gaetan Heroux and Stefan Pilipa, “the Crown exposed the weaknesses of its original case,” said Porter. Of the same court’s decision to retry anti-poverty activist John Clarke on a charge of inciting a riot, Porter said, “The motivation here is political. It is to damage as much as it can the strongest voice for the poor and homeless that exists in this country.”

More power to Potter publishers

In a letter to the Toronto Star, Michael A. Gilbert, a philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, responded to a columnist’s opinion of the latest Harry Potter book craze. “Jim Coyle is either a serious curmudgeon or truly desperate for topics for his columns. Here we have a world full of children excited and eager to read. That’s right – they want to read, not watch TV or go to a movie, but read a real book. And what is Coyle’s concern? That the entire Harry Potter thing is being marketed and manipulated by profiteers. Well, if profiteers can get today’s children that excited about reading, then more power to them.”

Mellotron defined the sound of ’70s progressive rock

In a June 19 story about the mellotron, the vintage keyboard instrument that gave The Moody Blues and Genesis their distinctive, orchestral sound in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the Winnipeg Free Press interviewed Rob Bowman, a Grammy-winning musicologist in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. The mellotron was the analogue precursor of digital synthesizers and samplers. “The idea was to use the mellotron in place of an orchestra, but I think most of these recordings wouldn’t have sounded as [interesting] without it,” said Bowman. “It didn’t sound perfect, and that imperfection contributed to the idiosyncratic sound of that period of progressive rock.”

Brunei student wins York’s global leader scholarship

Aubrey Pacheco, a student at International School Brunei, has gained one of York University’s most prestigious international entrance scholarships, reported BruneiDirect.com. The International Baccalaureate student is the recipient of the Global Leader of Tomorrow Award for 2003, it said quoting a story in the Borneo Bulletin. The award, worth $10,500 annually for four years, is given for scholarly achievement and community and extracurricular involvement. The newspaper said “York is an internationally renowned Canadian university where students flourish in an environment that encourages independence as well as the highest academic standards. It attracts the very best candidates from around the world.”

Good teaching is about passion

In a June 16 opinion piece about the quality of education in The Independent of Dhaka, Bangladesh, a writer cites an article in The Teaching Professor by Richard Leblanc, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business and winner of the Seymour Schulich Award for Teaching Excellence. Leblanc says that good teaching is as much about passion as it is about reason, said the article. It’s about not only motivating students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful and memorable. In his words, good teaching is about substance and treating students as consumers of knowledge. It’s about doing your best to keep on top of your field.

Focus on anti-Semitism “an earthquake”

Irving Abella, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and the Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry at York’s Centre for Jewish Studies, told The Canadian Jewish News that the focus of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on anti-Semitism is “an earthquake”. He was quoted in a June 19 story on the OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in which his wife, Ontario Court of Appeal Judge Rosalie Abella, is participating. “For Canada to ask a judge, rather than a diplomat, to lead [the Canadian delegation] is significant…. They’ve chosen a person who is Jewish, who is a refugee, born in a displaced persons camp, [the daughter] of Holocaust survivors,” he said.