Spotlight fades between Olympics

One day after the end of the 2004 Summer Games, 24 of Canada’s Olympic athletes, including three silver medallists, returned to Toronto from their adventures in Athens to a media crush and cheering fans. The rest of the time, though, money is tight, and devotion is necessary, reported the National Post Aug. 31. “I still have to pay to go to international competitions,” said the 23-year-old Karen Cockburn of Toronto, who won silver in trampoline and lives with her parents. “When you get to this level, I don’t think that you should have to pay and put all this money into representing your country. It’s a lot of sacrifice.”

All three of the medallists were virtual unknowns before Athens – even Cockburn, who won bronze in Sydney four years ago, says “People ask me if I train in my backyard” – and will likely recede into the background as attention from the media, the public and the government wanders elsewhere. “I think that’s the problem,” said Cockburn. “No one cares between the years and that’s when all the training gets done. It’s not just in the last three months.” Cockburn goes back to school at York University next week, working towards her degree.

Interest in Yiddish is on the rise

In an Aug. 31 story about the rising interest in learning Yiddish, the Toronto Star reported that Yiddish classes are offered at the University of Toronto, York University and various synagogues. The story was part of coverage of the Ashkenaz Festival coverage.

PhDs see red over American rights

Library and Archives Canada’s current thesis-submission form is at odds with academic principles meant to uphold the free dissemination of ideas, some Canadian graduate students are arguing, reported The Globe and Mail Aug. 31. As it stands now, students who wish to see their theses published in a national, standardized way are required to submit the work, through Theses Canada (a division of Library and Archives), to the American company ProQuest, which then gets non-exclusive publishing rights. In all, more than 50 Canadian universities subscribe to the thesis-publishing program at Library and Archives.

Dennis Pilon, who was a doctoral student in political science at York University last year, contends that his research should not be published to profit an American company. “Universities are providers of non-market research, and it’s very important in my view that they remain that way,” said Pilon. “We don’t produce research with the primary purpose of recouping or gaining money through the sale of that research. This is an awful position that students are put in; we want our work to be accessible. As individuals we are caught in a bind.” Still, said Pilon, if he had to choose between releasing his thesis or not signing the form, he would sign. “At the end of the day, it’s more important that our work is available,” he said. “But I don’t like it.”

At York University, students can opt out of signing — but should they do so, will also see the publication of their thesis delayed three years. Joanne Gambarotto-McKay, academic affairs officer in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, said she cannot recall any graduate students who have refused to sign.

Digging deep into plowing matches

David Mizener of Toronto was a keen observer at his first ever plowing match, reported Stratford’s The Beacon-Herald Aug. 30 in coverage of the annual Perth County Plowing Match. The 28-year-old PhD student in history at York University plans to write his doctoral thesis on Ontario plowing matches. He soaked up the atmosphere as much as he could, talking to veteran plowmen and trying his hand at log sawing. “I’m trying to understand why people competed and how that’s changed over time,” he said. Mizener earned an MA in history from York in 1999.