Elected York students vow to stay local as Mideast issue erupts at U of T

A slate of candidates calling themselves Progress Not Politics won 26 of 31 seats on the York Federation of Students in an election Nov. 27, reported the National Post Nov. 29. The group pledged to turn student council attention from international events to local issues, such as campus security and obtaining discounted bus and subway passes for students, said the Post. “We want to talk about parking lot congestion and rising tuition, not what America’s tanks are doing in Iraq or who is right or wrong in the Arab-Israeli conflict,” said Paul Cooper, president-elect of the York Federation of Students. He said Progress Not Politics was created after students grew tired of hearing their elected representatives use student council meetings to debate international issues. “A lot of students feel very alienated by the positions taken by the [York student federation],” he said.

The news of York’s student election was carried in the context of conflicts over the Middle East on other university campuses. Within the previous week, there was a clash between the University of Toronto and organizers of a pro-Palestinian conference. U of T initially banned the conference, scheduled for Nov. 22 and 23, because organizers insisted attendees sign a list of beliefs – including that Israel is “a racist apartheid state.” The university argued that organizers contravened university policy protecting dissenting opinions by forcing conference participants to agree with their views, reported the Post. A week of campus protests ensued that saw one student arrested and a student newspaper closed. The one-day workshop went ahead without incident Nov. 30. The Post noted that there has also been tension over Middle East issues at Concordia University and at York.

In a letter to the Post Dec. 1, Eric Lawee, humanities professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, took issue with U of T’s actions. “Even if student extremists technically agree to allow others to debate their murderous aspirations,” wrote Lawee, “do we really want to give them a university platform to promote them?”

York needs subway, not ‘Band-Aid’ busway, says Pecaut

The proposal for a busway to York University, while costing a fraction of the $1.5 billion needed to extend the subway, is the wrong way to go, David Pecaut, of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, told the Greater Toronto Area New Deal summit Nov. 28, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 29. Healthy transit means building new lines properly, said Pecaut. “I told them we need to have long-term solutions, not short-term fixes,” Pecaut said after his remarks to federal, provincial and municipal politicians at the summit. “This isn’t about just getting through one more year of state-of-good-repair budget for the TTC. It’s fixing the problem for the next five years and getting subway expansion going as well,” he said. “It’s rail that builds a city. I think it’s a real mistake to do short-term Band-Aid measures. We’ve got the stars aligned to do something bold.” Pecaut was also featured on a summit news item on “680 News” (CFTR-AM) in Toronto, Nov. 28.

York grad debuts on Broadway’s Mamma Mia!

Tamara Bernier, a saucy 34-year-old redhead from North Bay, ON, who graduated from York in Fine Arts (’91), is currently making her Broadway debut as Tanya, the vamp, in Mamma Mia! wrote Toronto Star theatre critic Richard Ouzounian Nov. 30. It’s a role Bernier played before in Toronto, back in 2000. Bernier grew up in North Bay where she sang in church choirs, did the usual run of high-school musicals, participated in a theatre outreach program every summer, and finally went off to York University to study drama.

Business success in China depends on finding right partner

Bernie Wolf, a specialist in international economics at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says the most critical factor for business success in China is finding the right local partner, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 30. He was commenting on the success of Canada’s Lingo Media, the second-largest supplier of English-language educational materials to China’s primary school system. Wolf said the Chinese have signalled a growing willingness to open their borders and markets to outsiders. “The biggest risk is the Chinese will change the rules in midstream,” Wolf said. “But there’s always risk in foreign product development.” One of Lingo Media’s contacts was Yafu Gong, director of the foreign language department of a Chinese textbook publisher, while he was completing his master’s of education degree at York University in 2000, reported the Star.

Will you be a Scrooge or Santa this Christmas?

Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says how confident people feel about their jobs and the performance of Canada’s economy are large influences on Christmas spending, reported CanWest News Service in a story published in The Ottawa Citizen and The Regina Leader-Post Nov. 29, and The Calgary Herald Dec. 1. But so are some psychological factors that are harder to quantify, said Middleton. “How Christmassy we feel,” which is often related to snow levels, plays an important role. So does how happy or guilty people feel (guilty is better for retailers because people overspend) and how cool this year’s fads and merchandise are perceived to be, he said. “When you get a Christmas with a whole bunch of new fads, new colours, new gizmos, people go to the upper end of spending,” he said. Retailers are also offering exclusive shopping nights or promotional deals to preferred customers, he added.

Crown-native treaty can’t be ignored

A Hamilton lawyer has launched a $100-million lawsuit to stop the Red Hill Creek Expressway because it has no right to set aside a Crown-native treaty, and a York University professor says the lawyer makes a good point, reported the Hamilton Spectator Dec. 1. Professor Gordon Christie, an expert on native rights at Osgoode Hall Law School, said, “It would be wise to at least bring in the province.” Christie is director of Osgoode’s Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments. It would appear a negotiated settlement was the best course but the treaty was a recognized one with recent decisions attached to it, he said. “Whether it would have the power to stop the construction of an expressway is not known,” Christie said.

Medical research fakery abounds

Dr. Joel Lexchin says drug firms regularly write a review of their own product and go shopping for a doctor willing to claim this is his or her independent work, for a fee of several thousand dollars, reported The Windsor Star Dec. 1. “This is ghostwriting. This is something that’s not all that uncommon for the drug companies,” said the professor at York’s School of Health Policy & Management, who is also an emergency physician at a Toronto hospital. “Sometimes it’s pretty benign, but a lot of times it’s just a way of making sure that a positive message about your drug gets out,” he says. “This is the kind of thing that largely relies on an honour system.”

Homeless win in charity hockey game at York

Toronto media covered the Hockey for the Homeless game at York University’s Beatrice Ice Gardens Nov. 28. The Toronto Star printed a photograph Nov. 29 of Hall of Famer Mike Gartner, one of the organizers of the event, which raises cash to buy survival kits for the homeless. The Toronto Sun carried a story about the National Hockey League old timers who played in the charity event, and the story was also covered on “Evening Newsflow” (CP24-TV), Toronto, Nov. 28.

Grandparents’ influence extends into adulthood

A recent questionnaire given to 92 York University undergraduate students, aged 18 to 30, has revealed that grandparents continue to play significant roles in their grandchildren’s adult lives, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 29. The survey was conducted by Rachel Schlesinger, a sociology professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, and her husband Benjamin Schlesinger, a University of Toronto social work professor emeritus. They asked the students enrolled in her first-year social science class to answer a 23-question written survey about the impact of their grandparents on their lives. They found that “the stereotypical image of grandparenting may be of an elderly person nurturing a small child, but grandparents are influential as role models offering friendship, love, moral support, guidance and teaching of family values even after their grandchildren become adults,” said Benjamin Schlesinger.

Track and field athlete wins OUA honours

York University track and field athlete Olga Mankovskaya was honoured at an Ontario University Athletics luncheon recently as top female-scholar athlete from York, reported The Toronto Sun Nov 29. Mankovskaya is a fourth year student in the Bachelor of Business Administration program.

Music of the Holocaust

In a column Nov. 29 about an upcoming conference on music of the Holocaust, Toronto Star music critic William Littler remembered a York University panel discussion on criticism many years ago, when the Star’s then-art critic declared flatly, “all art is politics.” Littler said Michael Kater, distinguished research professor of history at York University, will give a lecture titled “Jewish Musicians And Their Music In Nazi Germany And Beyond,” at the conference.