Double cohort not what it seems

“The truth is that the anticipated double cohort is spread over three years,” said York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden in a Toronto Sun story Sept. 2 about the double cohort’s impact on universities this year. “This year’s total figures for first-year enrolment show the double cohort is really a one-and-a-quarter cohort.” According to the Sun, the 10,000 strong first-year class at the University of Toronto is the size of a small Ontario town, such as Ingersoll or Port Hope.

Student survival guide

Deborah Hobson, retired York professor of classics and humanities and former vice-president of enrolment and student services, offered her advice on student orientation in “Orientation 101 Tips on how to survive university” which appeared in the Toronto Star Sept. 2. “I’ve had many opportunities to talk to new students at orientation events and know first-hand about the challenges students encounter while pursuing their university degrees,” she said. Her tips included: Get involved in at least one extracurricular activity on campus because “if you are actively involved somewhere on campus, you will feel connected to your university and you will have a good experience there.” And: “Take courses and programs which interest you, not those you think you should take. If you pursue your interests, you will do well academically.”

Higher learning partnerships important

In a Globe and Mail article Aug. 30 on why education is the best investment society can make, partnerships between colleges and universities are cited as an important collaboration of skills with theory. “Initiatives such as the collaboration between colleges and universities in Ontario (e.g. Seneca College and York University) to design joint diploma/degree programs may be helpful in advancing our educational attainment,” noted the article’s authors. They are Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, and James Milway, executive director of the Institute for Competitiveness & Prosperity.

Copy cats: Dealing with student plagiarism

One in three university students admits to having plagiarized at least once before obtaining a degree, according to the first national survey of Canadian undergraduates’ attitudes toward cheating, noted the National Post Aug. 30. Universities such as York now offer students tutorials on how to properly attribute others’ work in their assignments, notes the Post article. One in five undergraduates admitted to other serious breaches of academic integrity, such as copying answers from another student during a test, bringing crib notes into an exam room or removing course material from the library to put other students at a disadvantage. About five per cent admitted purchasing an essay online and handing it in as their own.

Corporate culture: Can NASA be fixed?

Ronald Burke, professor of organizational behaviour at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said there’s no quick fix for corporate change at NASA, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 2. NASA’s problems have been identified as: poor communication, top managers who are out of touch with day-to-day realities and employees who are more worried about getting it done than getting it right. Those problems might be in your workplace too. Said Burke, “We can talk about NASA, but it happens in every organization on the face of the earth.”

Status quo versus voting reform

The movement for voting reform has considerable cross-party support, said a National Post article Sept. 2. Only the Tories are arguing for the status quo. Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, said Ontario has slipped badly in the area of voting reform. “We’re one of the few remaining large, wealthy Western democracies that still uses first-past-the-post. Many commissions [over the last] 40 years have been suggesting we look at the electoral system but, of course, the party in power never wants to because they have benefitted from first-past-the-post to get where they are.”

He wants commitment…

“The commitment to higher education, to fulfill the demand, is there, but we’ve seen the opposite. We’ve seen the diminishing of funding,” said Paul Axelrod, York University dean of education, in a National Post article Sept. 2 on the woes of higher education and overcrowding. The author of Values in Conflict: The University, the Marketplace, and the Trials of Liberal Education added: “It’s ironic that as the need and value for higher education is recognized, the support for it is diminished.”

Problems with drug research

Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor of health policy and management in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was mentioned in a Winnipeg Free Press Sept. 2 on the subject of drug company biases. “Research sponsored by the drug industry was more likely to produce results favouring the product made by the company sponsoring the research than studiesfunded by other sources,” he concluded in a recent paper. Lexchin said in an interview that drug companies should stay out of clinical trials. “It would be the best solution, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Don’t gamble with people’s lives

In an editorial about gambling in the Toronto Star Aug. 31, Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, argued that “in a government-sponsored market we expect some degree of quality control and some efforts to protect the addictive consumer from the ravages of his/her foolish choice…. It is the height of hypocrisy to continue to treat as criminals those who gamble outside of the provincially blessed world of games of chance.”

On air

  • Sheila Embleton, York vice-president academic, was quoted on CBC Newsworld Sept.2 about the influx of students this year and the double cohort.
  • York labour historian Professor Craig Heron, Faculty of Arts, appeared as guest on CBC Radio’s “Cross Country Check-Up” Aug. 31. The question discussed was whether people now work too hard and whether they play enough.