A call to students to ‘resolve their issues’

University officials were expected to take financial control of the student government because the existing council voted last Tuesday not to ratify many winners of the November 2003 elections, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 9. This meant the university administration would take charge of funding the student health plan and other university clubs and groups, instead of handing the money over to the student council. Bonnie Neuman, York’s vice-president students and alumni, said she would not fund salaries of student council executives and staff. “They’re going to have to resolve their issues,” she said.

The student council blocked elected candidates of the Progress Not Politics (PNP) campaign from office by voting to overturn an earlier decision by York’s elections committee that dismissed complaints against them, the Globe noted. Members of the losing side – many of whom also sit on the existing council – complained last month that PNP violated election rules by overspending on its campaign. Although the elections committee dismissed the complaint against PNP, the current council contested the results and a new hearing was set for today, Jan. 12. PNP campaign manager Yaakov Roth told the Globe the election results are not being ratified because many of the winners, endorsed by the student group Hillel, have views conflicting with current council members who vocally support Palestinian groups on campus.

York University students said they’re used to seeing both anti-war and pro-Israeli rallies on campus, according to the Globe, but they don’t want international politics affecting student government. “I’m not saying that world debates and world politics shouldn’t be discussed in university, but as far as our federation of students, I don’t really see how that’s an applicable issue,” said Sean Pearce. “The greater good of the students should be taken into account first and foremost.”

On CBC TV’s “Canada Now” Jan. 8, Neuman and several York University students commented on the reasons why candidates who won seats in the student government during the Nov. 27 election were not ratified. Ali Hassan, president of the Middle Eastern Students Association, said it was due to the allegations of campaign overspending. In its report, the CBC concluded, “By no means is the administration giving up, but it seems the next lesson the students may be learning is a hard one: find consensus or lose control.”

In his Jan. 9 column, National Post writer Jonathan Kay mentioned the student council election battle at York as one of many examples of how the Middle East fuels campus firebrands. Campuses are balkanizing along religious lines, he said. Arab and Muslim student groups, which until 9/11 had a relatively apolitical role, are now the angry kernel around which the larger “anti-war” left is coalescing. Meanwhile, Jews – liberals traditionally – have become so disgusted by anti-Israel bigotry that they are defecting to the right. It’s a clash of civilizations in miniature, and it’s ugly for students and educators to behold, he wrote, citing the incidents at Concordia and University of Toronto. If there is a bright spot, Kay said, it is that university administrations seem to understand what they’re dealing with. He concluded that student politics are cyclical, and campus firebrands will eventually move on to some other part of the world.

Osgoode rates No. 2 in Canadian survey

York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School came in second in a new national survey of students, reported The Calgary Herald Jan. 9. The University of Calgary’s B+ rating was the highest grade in the survey commissioned by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. The online survey asked 350 new law school graduates to rate their alma mater.

York alum named president of US oil giant

Canadian oil executive and York University alumnus John Richels, who led a new industry trend that saw more Canadians run the vast operations of American subsidiaries operating in Canada, has been promoted to president of the Oklahoma City-based international oil giant Devon Energy Corp., reported the National Post Jan. 9. Richels grew up in Toronto, earned a BA in economics from York University in 1974 and a law degree from the University of Windsor. He moved to Calgary to practise corporate and securities law with the blue-chip law firm Bennett Jones, and then ran it as its managing partner for six years. He was also one of the top organizers of Calgary’s 1988 Winter Olympics. The Daily Oil Bulletin also carried news of his appointment Jan. 8.

Student a political mover in Ontario and best-selling author in China

To the untrained eye, Li Zhang, 18, may appear to be nothing more than an energetic first-year York University student studying international business, who likes to dabble in politics, but don’t let that facade fool you, suggested Yorkregion.com Dec. 26. Her friends, the people who know her best, were not at all surprised to hear she had been nominated the Kid Most Likely to Rule the World, reported the community news service. This is a young woman, after all, who is already on a first-name basis with Premier Dalton McGuinty and wrangled a backstage pass to the federal Liberal leadership convention in Toronto last month. And as one of the executive members of the Ontario Young Liberals, Zhang has been pretty busy these past few months organizing strategy sessions and doing her best to sign up new members. Born in China, she came to Canada at the age of four and quickly mastered English, then French. At age 12, she became a bestselling author, thanks to her mother. “She said to me one day, ‘You have 50, 60, 70 journals here. Why don’t you put them all together and write a book?'” Zhang said. “So I wrote it and my mom took the manuscript and sent it to a publishing house and I got a call saying they’d like to publish it.” You won’t find it in bookstores, though; it was published in China as the story of a young Chinese girl growing up in a foreign land. The promotional tour that followed was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Zhang, who, to this day, maintains contact with people she met in China while on tour.

On air

  • Bredan Quine, planetary physics professor with York University’s Faculty of Pure & Applied Science, talked about the Spirit Rover’s images from Mars, the seven different camera systems on board and sub-surface bacteria in Antarctica, with Toronto1’s Ben Chin on “Toronto Tonight” Jan. 8.
  • James Laxer, political science professor with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, discussed how Canadian exports of auto products to the US have not been hurt since 9/11, on “The Bill Good Show” (CKNW-AM), Vancouver, Jan. 8.