Student group aims for peaceful approach

The Toronto Star featured a photo and story, and CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” interviewed two students, Jan. 22 about Shalom-Salam, a new student group at York established to promote understanding between Jews and Muslims over the Middle East situation (see Headline News).

The Star photo featured co-presidents and York political science students Hina Khan and Miriam Yosowich. The story explained that the 100-member student organization is headed by an executive body of four pro-Israeli students, three pro-Palestinian supporters and two neutral members and was the brainchild of a group of students who took political science Professor Saeed Rahnema‘s class “War and Peace in the Middle East” last spring. At the group’s inaugural forum, Rahnema, one of two keynote speakers, told the group, “Israeli-Palestinian relations is a very sensitive subject. There were a lot of tensions, emotions and pressure in the class at the beginning. The students all came in with strong views on some of the issues.”  He explained, “To have peace you need to sit down, calm down and try to listen to each other and understand each other. I am proud of the students’ initiative. If we can’t have peace as intellectuals in a university in Canada, how can we expect those in the Middle East to work together for peace?”

“We realized we were not going to solve the problem by yelling, screaming and pointing fingers at each other,” Khan told the Star. Yosowich said the organization is intended to foster respect and understanding – and not to convert. “Both camps felt that the confrontations between the extremes had become ridiculous and what we’d like to do is to walk in each other’s shoes. We may not agree with each other, but we agree to disagree.”

Guest speaker Michael Bell, a former Canadian ambassador to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories, said he is impressed and encouraged by the York students’ enthusiasm, reported the Star. Bell said the prolonged and painful Middle East crisis stems from “suspicions, ignorance, fear and insecurity. Peace can be built. It will be slow, but it is possible,” he told the 300 people in attendance at the forum at York’s Founders College.

CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” host Andy Barrie interviewed two Shalom-Salam members, Rabia Siddiqui and York kinesiology student Effi Frohwein. They debunked misconceptions about tensions on the York University campus and delivered a strong pro-peace message. Siddiqui emphasized the importance of dialogue and “bringing both sides to the table.”

New student government recognized but homeless

The York University administration issued a statement Jan. 13 saying it has recognized the November student government election results. But as of Jan. 19, the York Federation of Students office was still closed to newly elected student council president Paul Cooper, and the old council was still refusing to formally ratify the slate and turn over the keys, reported Canadian Jewish News Jan. 22. York Media Relations Director Nancy White told CJN that discussions were still under way as to whether the incoming council had to be ratified or whether the administration’s decision is an adequate equivalent. Jordie Saperia, who won the position of Faculty of Arts councillor, said, “The York administration is treating us as the new student government.” But he said the newly elected “Progress Not Politics” slate does not have an office, nor does it have financial control.

Marsden invited to mayors’ dinner to launch summit

York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden was invited to attend the dinner that kicks off a two-day meeting of the mayors of Canada’s largest cities, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 22. Toronto Mayor David Miller invited the mayors to the summit to help hammer out a clear position on what cities want from the federal government in the Feb. 2 Speech from the Throne. In addition to politicians, the 85-person dinner guest list included community leaders such as urban guru Jane Jacobs, Chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance David Pecaut, Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti, and retired bank executive Charles Baillie.

York classes going hi-tech

With the official opening of the Technology Enhanced Learning Building on York University’s Keele campus, it’s just a matter of time before postsecondary students won’t have to go to school at all, reported The Toronto Sun Jan. 22. The hi-tech structure is a joint project of York and Seneca College and holds 4,000 students in its computer labs, lecture halls, classrooms and lounges. Its classrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, allowing professors to project Web sites, printed pages, videos or DVDs at the front of the classroom. They can also record lectures for live or later viewing. The $88.3-million building houses programs such as animation and computer science, but also accommodates social science, education and arts classes.

On air

  • Dianne Martin, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and director of Osgoode’s Innocence Project, discussed cultural sensitivity training for an OPP officer involved in 1995 videotaped racist dialogue one day before Dudley George was shot dead at Ipperwash, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” Jan. 21.
  • Where the future home of the Toronto Argonauts will be – University of Toronto, York University or Exhibition Place – was the topic of a report on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” and of “Goldhawk,” Rogers Television’s call-in show, on Jan. 21.