York pulls out all the stops at St. George

With cheerleaders, mascots and volunteers, York University did its best Monday to paint the St. George subway station its official colour of red with an aggressive campaign designed to attract high-school students, gain some respect and ultimately get a subway to the campus, reported the Toronto Star May 4 in a feature story with a large photo.

“We’re doing this to promote York University and all the things that make it great,” said Jeremy Greenberg, a political science student who was handing out information leaflets and “Subway To York” buttons. “York teaches that being different isn’t wrong. It’s actually better,” he said. “That’s what I love about York. You can find your own niche there. Whatever it is you want to do that comes naturally to you, they promote that as what makes you special.”

There was some good-natured banter with University of Toronto students, whose downtown campus is beside the station. One U of T student refused York’s button. “Never heard of the place,” Greenberg retorted about U of T, a smile never leaving his face for the two hours he handed out leaflets. “We’re educating all these people about all the things about York University and what makes it great, about the need for a subway, about York being the centre of the GTA,” he said. “The reception is fantastic.”

The University, located in North York, maintains it contributes $3.4 billion a year to the local economy. “We believe the decision has been made that we must build more rapid transit in the GTA,” said Ted Spence, York’s executive director of institutional research and analysis. “There will be subway expansion. We believe we’re the top priority and we intend to stay the top priority.”

“We’re a big player in the GTA,” York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden said at the campaign launch, noting that York’s unusual “interdisciplinary” approach encourages students to specialize in several fields of study at a time. “As a student, only at York could I do a degree in both physics and theatre, or music and politics,” Marsden said, unveiling a series of  advertisements that hail how York “breaks down traditional boundaries to tackle real-world issues.”

On May 3, as the campaign was unfolding, the Star featured an advance story. The newspaper said York University students planned to “take over” the downtown St. George subway station (a theme picked up by headline writers on several radio stations) – to convince Torontonians how important their university is to the economic life of the city. The “subway domination” has twin purposes: raising the university’s profile among high school students; and raising awareness of the need for a subway to York’s campus at Keele Street and Steeles Avene West, reported the Star. “This campaign is for the students,” said Marsden. “Its purpose is to raise awareness of York in the community and to encourage students to come to York and take pride in the University and its unique qualities. This is an opportunity to shape perception of York University. We chose to do that in a bold and innovative way.” 

Major Toronto radio and television stations also broadcast news of the campaign launch May 3:

  • CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” interviewed York political studies student Miriam Yosowich about the need for subway line to be extended to the University.
  • Toronto1’s “Toronto Today” interviewed Richard Fisher, York University’s chief communications officer, about York’s campaign and subway-to-York promotion at the TTC’s St. George subway station.
  • CFTR-AM “680 News” reported that York is launching a new campaign in an effort to boost its reputation. It said 88 percent of students and 90 percent of faculty and staff live in the GTA; and they and York alumni contribute close to $3.5 billion to the economy. The station interviewed Spence, who said he wants to see the TTC run to the school, a theme picked up in its later news coverage.
  • CHFI-FM “News” reported that York students intended to occupy St. George subway station demanding construction of a subway line to the isolated campus, as had been promised for many years.
  • City-tv’s “Breakfast TV” mentioned that York students took over part of St. George TTC subway station in effort to raise awareness for need for a subway to their Campus and the need for a “York-branded” Metropass.
  • CFTO-TV reported on “Night Beat News,” “Newsbeat Today” and “CFTO Newsbrief” that York students brough their mascots to St. George subway station to gain public support for a TTC line to Keele and Steeles.

Union desperate to organize Walmart

As the United Food and Commercial Workers moves to organize Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s outlet in North Battleford, Sask., a lawyer claiming to represent more than 80 employees has stepped forward with a raft of allegations against union organizers, reported the National Post May 3. The dispute is part of a North American-wide war launched by the UFCW to crack Wal-Mart’s non-union status. “It’s absolutely crucial for them as a symbol,” said Judy Fudge, a labour professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. “Things are quite desperate for the UFCW.”

Film documents first wave of South Asian immigrants

Filmmaker Ali Kazimi, whose documentary Continuing Passage, a story about Canada’s first wave of South Asian immigrants, will be screened at Brampton’s Pearson Convention Centre on May 24, said it is important for Canadians to reflect on their immigrant history during South Asian Heritage Month, reported the Toronto Star May 1. “Early immigrants struggled a lot and fought to make the Canada we have today. Canada celebrates its tolerance, its willingness to embrace diversity and human rights, but we didn’t share those values until the 1960s because we had an unstated white country policy,” said Kazimi, a 42-year-old, 1987 film graduate from York University. “A friend of mine, a third-generation South Asian woman, saw my documentary and said, ‘You have given back my history, which I knew very little about.’ We really need to know our history in order to move forward.”

Producer’s path set after he saw Jaws

As a kid, York grad Robert C. Cooper, executive producer of Stargate SG-1, experienced a trauma that may well have influenced his career path, reported the Vancouver Sun May 3. When he was an impressionable seven-year-old in Toronto, Cooper’s dad took him to see Jaws, the screechingly scary shark flick that’s kept so many of us out of the water since 1975. “Despite the fact that it literally scared the crap out of me, I saw the power of that medium. I wanted to control that power that had possessed me. I didn’t want to scare other kids the way I had been scared, but there was a power there, there was a way to get inside people’s heads, and that was very intoxicating.” He started out writing serial comics for his sisters to read as bedtime stories, and, after graduating from York University’s film school in 1990 and being accepted into the prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School, much to his mother’s chagrin he decided to postpone further education and take a shot at screenwriting. “One of the reasons I decided to commit myself more to television is that in TV the writer really becomes the boss,” he said. “It’s just so great compared to writing a [film] feature and seeing it optioned for years and floating around to different companies and talked about as being attached to this person or that person and, ultimately, never getting made.” Cooper has been with Stargate SG-1, now shooting its eighth season, since before the pilot was shot back in 1996. He began climbing the ladder from executive story editor immediately, even being promoted mid-season a couple of times. By fifth season, he was executive producer.

Student barred for three years for disrupting classes

York University has barred a student activist for three years for taking part in unauthorized campus protests and using a bullhorn that disrupted classes, reported the Toronto Star May 4. Third-year student Daniel Freeman-Maloy said he was told Friday he would be expelled the next day and will be charged with trespassing if he steps on school property. York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna  R. Marsden said Freeman-Maloy – a Jewish student who is a vocal defender of Palestinian rights – had disrupted learning twice this year by holding protests inside Vari Hall, where classes take place, and using what she called an “unauthorized sound amplification device,” or megaphone. “This has nothing to do with politics, because there are other members of his group who have not been expelled. But it is about the repeated disruption of classes after several warnings,” Marsden said. The action cannot be appealed, reported the Star. Freeman-Maloy was involved in a March 16 clash between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups on campus. Marsden said Freeman-Maloy also broke the rules at a Vari Hall protest last fall when he used a bullhorn and failed to arrange a meeting with officials to discuss the breach in protocol.

Lawyer becomes Midland’s first permanent judge

For the first time ever, a provincial judge has been chambered at the Midland courthouse, setting up permanent quarters there. Justice Robert Main, who graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1977, was given the appointment last September. Born in Montreal, Main grew up in North Bay, where his father was employed by a large chemical company. He enrolled at the University of Waterloo on a mathematics scholarship, but soon switched to majoring in literature, with a minor in philosophy. Upon graduation, Main taught for four years at a northern Ontario school. He soon traded in his teacher’s hat to become a student again, enrolling at Osgoode.

Ontario students stressed out

Nearly four in 10 students in Ontario’s junior high and secondary schools report feeling constantly under stress, while one in 10 struggles with multiple mental-health issues, including signs of depression, substance abuse or anti-social behaviour, according to a new study, reported the Windsor Star May 4. The survey of 6,616 students in Grades 7 to 12, released May 3, found girls were more likely than boys to exhibit “internalizing” indicators. They include experiencing psychological distress in the past few weeks (39 per cent compared to 22 per cent) and having serious thoughts of suicide in the last year (17 per cent compared to eight). York University‘s Institute for Social Research administered the provincial survey at 126 schools last spring on behalf of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Globe predicts odds on Supreme Court contenders

Ontario Court of Appeal Judge James MacPherson, 53 and a former law dean at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, is a contender for a Supreme Court of Canada vacancy, suggested Globe and Mail justice reporter Kirk Makin May 3. A one-time executive legal officer at the Supreme Court, MacPherson is well-acquainted with the court’s inner workings. Well-connected, affable and hard-working, he is not shy about using the Charter of Rights. Makin predicted his odds at 4 to 1.

Men with sticks: The silly season gets underway with a dance at dawn

The Toronto Morris Men are not your standard dance group, reported the National Post story May 1. Middle-aged, teenaged, bald and shaggy-headed, professionals and high-school dropouts, they are united in their love of morris dancing. There is no contesting that they are a collection of unique personalities, including silver-maned John Mayberry, a York University theatre professor.

Student entrepreneurs honoured for summer company ventures

Six York University students from Vaughan were recently honoured by the Vaughan Business Enterprise Centre last month for successfully completing their ventures as part of the Summer Company program funded by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, reported the York Guardian Region Business Times April 30. Michelle-Shannon Saraceno, who’s studying visual arts at York, Joshua Cohen, in business administration, Michelle Dagnino, in first-year law, Sophia Maio, in arts at Glendon, and Fatima Sajan, in international development studies, were among 250 young people across the province who won grants of $1,500 to start up businesses. At last week’s dinner, they received an additional $1,500.

Former football coach teaches golf

John Downing mentioned Nobby Wirkowski, the legendary Grey-Cup-winning quarterback and Argo and retired York University football coach, in a Toronto Sun opinion piece May 3 about golf clubs and city taxes. Downing took golf lessons from Wirkowski. “Nobby now has so many metal parts, he causes airport detectors to buzz even when they’re unplugged, but his golden age has brought a tolerance for duffers like me who slice more than a bakery. Each May, Nobby unleashes another crop of his hundreds of flailing graduates on Toronto’s five municipal courses,” said Downing.

On air

  • CBC business columnist Michael Hlinka discussed Wealth Logic by Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, in a commentary on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Morning” April 30.
  • Jim Laxer, political science professor at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and author of The Border: Canada, the US and Dispatches from the 49th Parallel, was interviewed about Prime Minister Paul Martin addressing border security during visit to Washington, on CBC Newsworld’s “Today” April 30.