Why neighbours kill

Howard Adelman, a visiting professor at Princeton University, professor of philosophy at York and founding director of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, has studied the question of why humans wage war closely, in the Middle East and currently Rwanda, where one of the worst genocides in modern history took place in the 1990s, reported the Toronto Star June 5. “We’ve learned a lot about why and when people kill each other,” he said. “But we still haven’t learned our lessons well enough. Countries can slide toward war, while people cry out for something to be done. In Sudan just now, a crisis has been going on for a year. There were many committed people willing to help, but the peace process foundered. The information was there, but it wasn’t used for a constructive policy.”

The question of how individuals make the transition from neighbours to enemies, and eventually killers, is one of the most vital to understanding the nature of conflicts. “To get a war going you need the people on the top policy level to create the vision,” said Adelman. “You need the people in the middle who administer the plan and give the orders. And you need the ‘little guys’ who actually kill. They are usually not motivated at all. They need different kinds of inducements, like fear, peer pressure and drugs. It’s a distasteful thing they are going to do, and it’s hard work convincing them.”

Youth look toward eco issues

In a poll of 500 Canadian teens sponsored by the Dominion Institute and Navigator Ltd. as part of Youth Vote 2004, environment ranked second only to education in terms of its importance to young people, reported CanWest News Service in a story printed by the Windsor Star June 7. Robert Macdonald, professor of environmental studies at York, says young Canadians tend to have a greater appreciation for the natural world than older generations. So for politicians courting future voters, placing sustainability issues on the back burner is “a big mistake.” Climate change and air pollution are the issues he believes are of the utmost importance.

“Young people generally don’t like their parents or their parents’ political parties interfering with their lives,” Macdonald said. “But [teens] recognize, quite rightly, that environmental issues need to be addressed by the country as a whole.”

Health-care court case ‘hugely important,’ says law school dean

In 1998, parents of autistic children launched what was destined to be a stunningly successful action under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They persuaded the courts to order British Columbia to pay up, but provincial officials dug in their heels, both because of the big price tag and the spectre of copycat litigation on behalf of other treatments not covered by medicare, reported the Globe and Mail June 5. So next week the two sides will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada for the final showdown in their six-year battle. As well, the court will hear a companion case that seems to be the flip side of the coin. Montreal doctor Jacques Chaouilli and a frustrated patient, George Zeliotis, hope to strike down a ban on paying privately for services that medicare does cover. Patrick Monahan, dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, called the cases “hugely important” and their juxtaposition “striking” because they “come at this health-care question from both directions.”

CAA report calls for extended subway to York

The Canadian Automobile Association is launching a major offensive that calls for more expressways and more subways, reported the Toronto Star June 5. The CAA says it wants to begin rectifying the errors of the past by promoting its recommendations – $18 billion worth of investment over 15 years to be paid for from the gas tax – through a survey of its members and presenting the results to Toronto Mayor David Miller. It is calling for a looping of the Yonge Street subway line with the Spadina line with a stop at York University, as well as a Queen Street subway, an Eglinton subway to Toronto Pearson International Airport, expanding the Bloor subway line to Mississauga and the Sheppard subway to the Scarborough Town Centre.

Benefit of tailor-made courses easier to measure

Executive business courses designed more closely around real business issues are proving more popular than open enrolment courses because it is far easier to present the business case for making the investment than for a more general public enrolment program, reported the National Post June 7 in a special report on customized executive education. But whether they are buying public programs or tailor-made courses, Alan Middleton, director of executive development at the Schulich School of Business at York, says companies should think about the pay-back on training expenditure much as marketers do when quantifying the impact of advertising and communications efforts. As a former advertising industry executive – a business in which ROI (return on investment) is notoriously hard to pin down – Middleton is well qualified to make such an assumption. “With marketing communications, first, there’s stuff designed to sell more stuff tomorrow,” he explained. “And then there’s stuff to build the long-term value of the brand, because the long-term equity of the brand has a direct relationship to growth in shareholder equity.” Similarly, he said, in training and education, managers have short-term goals – to equip executives with the skills they need to do their jobs better, as well as using training as part of longer-term goals relating to strategic management and corporate cultural change. Like the growth in brand equity, the longer-term impact of training is more difficult to measure. “The reason is training is only one small component part,” Middleton said. “If you’re talking about the change and evolution of the culture of an organization there’s myriad things you have to pay attention to – remuneration systems, decision capability or how the goals are communicated.”

Grant to fight violence

Amy Yuile, a PhD candidate in psychology at York University, has won one of three scholarships from the Miami-based Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, a non-profit group dedicated to the study and prevention of violence, reported the Miami Herald June 6. The $2,000 grants are given to winners of the Melissa Institute Dissertation Awards, a contest that aims to help graduate students who want to work in victim treatment and related areas.

Grad runs for the Green Party

Jessica Fracassi, 25, who received her bachelor of environmental studies from York University in 2001, is running for a federal seat in York South-Weston, reported the York Guardian June 4.

York’s new basketball coach aims at championships

Tom Oliveri will have some additional responsibilities now with the York University Lions men’s basketball team, reported suburban Metroland newspapers June 4. Oliveri, who has served York as an assistant coach for the past seven years, has been promoted to head coach. That’s because Bob Bain, York’s head coach for the past 31 seasons, will be on sabbatical during the 2004-2005 season. Oliveri, 38, has his share of experience as a head coach but not at the university level. “I’ve often thought what it would be like,” he said. During the past two years Oliveri was the head coach for the provincial boys under-17 program. He led Ontario to back-to-back gold medals at the national juvenile championships in 2002 and 2003.

The Lions’ coaching staff this coming season will once again include Adam Urbach, said Metroland. He’s heading into his third year as an assistant coach. Also, York kinesiology and education student Dean Labayen, a former York player who graduated from the team three years ago, will return for his first season as an assistant coach. With the Lions, Oliveri inherits a club that advanced to the semifinals at the national university championships in Halifax this past March. The 2005 nationals will also be held in Halifax. “We hope to get there again,” said Oliveri, who is expecting to have as many as seven returnees in his lineup. “We have a good group coming back.”

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, discussed assessing the worth of election promises, on CBC Radio’s “World Report” June 5.
  • Gordon Flett, psychology professor with York University’s Faculty of Arts, commented on his new study showing perfectionists suffer more from chronic pain and depression, on Toronto1’s “Toronto Tonight” June 4.