How Ernst Zundel spurred Holocaust studies

Whether the Federal Court of Canada ships Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel back to his native Germany or not, it’s clear that no one has given a greater spur to the development of Holocaust studies in this country than the man who claimed that “the Jews” made it all up, wrote John Fraser in The Globe and Mail Sept. 25. The issue remained a largely Jewish matter well into the seventies and early eighties, until Zundel labelled the Holocaust a hoax and tested the extremes of Canadian free expression. As Irving Abella, a history professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, discovered, taking advantage of a skewered Canadian sense of fairness was part of Zundel’s clever bag of tricks.

Abella is the co-author of the 1982 book None Is Too Many, a devastating account of how officials tried to keep European Jews out of Canada immediately after the war despite the emerging knowledge of the death camps. That book automatically made Abella an academic expert on the subject and television hosts started calling when Zundel pronounced the Holocaust a fraud. “Someone on a midday program at CBC asked me if I would comment on Zundel’s theories,” Abella recalled. “When I said I would, they then asked me if I could suggest someone to speak for the other side.” It was an epiphany of sorts. “I’m saying to myself then, ‘What’s to be said for the other side? The other side was the killing side!’ This is Canadian fairness gone berserk. I realized that if an intelligent CBC journalist could be seriously beavering away on ‘both sides’ of the Holocaust question…then we historians had a lot to answer for.”

Trophy directors blamed for corporate failures

Until recently, few could have imagined that political luminaries, the so-called trophy directors who are populating the boards of publicly traded companies, would become poster children for the “massive failures” in corporate governance, reported the National Post Sept. 25. The tidal wave of commentary has taken dead aim at politicians as evidence of the “sad and stinging” state of governance today. That latest indictment is courtesy of Richard Leblanc, an administrative studies professor with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. In his paper, “Preventing Future Hollingers,” Leblanc argues that public profile has become a “proxy for independence,” leading boards to focus on an individual’s name and profile rather than on skill.

Iraq ‘reconstruction’ a US corporate grab

Thabit Abdullah Sam, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, left Iraq 25 years ago, fleeing Saddam Hussein’s repression. He returned for a visit earlier this year. He speaks angrily of the “incredible, shameful shambles” of the US reconstruction program, and the “unprecedented looting” of the country by US corporations, reported People’s Weekly World Newspaper, the newspaper of the US Communist Party, Sept. 23. “It’s capitalism gone wild,” he told the World. He described the process: American corporations obtained lavish no-bid Pentagon contracts, then subcontracted them for a fraction of the contract amount, pocketing the vast difference without having to do any actual work. Abdullah visited five schools the US claimed to have repaired. “They were a mess,” he reported in an online diary. “The only thing that was done in each one of the schools was that they got a new coat of paint. The desks were broken, some classes had no blackboards, and in almost all cases the schoolyard looked more like a garbage dump.”

Home sales agents ‘worth every penny’

“I would never dream of selling my house without a broker,” said James McKellar, professor of real estate at York University’s Schulich School of Business, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 25. He said that while some do-it-yourselfers, particularly in a buoyant market, may be satisfied with the price they get on the sale of a home, some studies he’s seen suggest that, by and large, most sellers will not do as well without a broker as those who use one. “There’s no question that a good broker is worth every penny you pay them.” “CTV National News” also aired an interview with him Sept. 25 for a story about how more and more Canadians are selling their homes themselves without a real estate agent.

No-name brand nothing new

Christine Sismondo, a humanities course director with York’s Faculty of Arts, challenged no-logo Naomi Klein in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star Sept. 26. “There’s a chain store on Queen Street with signs in the windows advertising ‘brand-free’ clothing. Welcome to the brand new era of the brand-free brand. It sounds confusing – oxymoronic even – but we have to admit it seems a novel marketing approach. Well, it might not be so brand new, after all. As philosophy teachers Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter argue in The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can’t Be Jammed, this trend has a long, rich heritage, one that can be traced back to the first days of ’60s counterculture.”

Business sharpy plays saving role

There used to be only one role in Toronto theatre for someone holding an MBA: stock villain in a lefty melodrama, said the National Post Sept. 25. Now these business sharpies are in demand as potential heroes. Colleen Smith, who earned her degree at York University’s Schulich School of Business in 2002, was just appointed managing director at Factory Theatre, after a troubled year for the company that saw unusual staff turnover and a board reduced to just three members. Smith said Factory’s woes are similarly on the decline. “We’re up to nine board members,” she said. She hoped to buttress staff by hiring on a full-time basis rather than on contract, “to make sure people are committed to the organization.”

Project remembers Matti Baranovski

Though North York teen Matti Baranovski’s murder took place nearly five years ago, a new project that looks at how art helps people deal with difficult situations will help ensure his memory remains alive and well in the hearts and minds of the community, reported the North York Mirror Sept. 24. The Memory Project, which was put together by York University master of education student Vanessa Barnett with help from local Grade 7 students, their teacher Sandra Genua-Colin and Matti’s mother, Olga Baranovski. The exterior of the display consists of 18 panels, superimposed over a scene of G. Ross Lord Park, where Matti was murdered. “It’s a memorial to Matti Baranovski, but it’s also very universal,” Barnett said. “It’s been an affirmative way to talk about life.” Barnett, who is a visual arts instructional leader with the Toronto District School Board, is doing her masters study on the pedagogy of remembrance. The Memory Project was unveiled at Charles H. Best East Middle School last week and will be displayed at York University in late November.

Schools are breaking new ground

A building boom has taken hold at Canada’s universities, after years of struggling with outdated research facilities, inadequate lecture rooms and insufficient residence space, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 27. At York University, the school has undergone an ambitious five-year construction program that will expand the size of its building by 48 per cent. Increased capital and operating funding from the province for the double cohort, in which postsecondary institutions had to accommodate two high-school graduating classes in 2003, has helped the University grow, despite overall funding cuts.

Schulich earns top ranking

A survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal has ranked York University’s Schulich School of Business as 14th among the top international business schools in the world, reported the North York Mirror Sept. 24. Schulich came out ahead of Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley and Cornell and just behind Columbia. It finished ninth among North American business schools and sixth among non-US schools and was the only business school in Canada to make the international ranking. It is the highest ranking ever attained by a Canadian business school in a major global survey. A total of 261 business schools were eligible for the ranking, but only 71 qualified for the final ranking and only 21 were included in the Top International Schools category. Almost 3,000 recruiters from around the world assessed various attributes about schools and their students.

Female player a hit with baseball Lions

Samantha Magalas is the first woman to play for the York University Lions men’s baseball team, reported Metroland Papers Sept. 24. A fourth-year psychology major, Magalas patrolled first base in York’s 3-2, 9-6 doubleheader sweep of George Brown College earlier this month. Magalas, who plays in Etobicoke’s Royal York Baseball League, was also a member of the Canadian national team at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in Edmonton last month. She said she was more nervous prior to her debut than she had been at the World Cup. “She’s a good player. She understands the game. Her talent won’t go unnoticed,” baseball coach Colin Cummins said.

Buying organic can be political

Professor Gerda Wekerle of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies says choosing to eat organic is about bringing one’s politics home, reported Metroland Papers Sept. 24. She says more consumers may be choosing organic produce because “people are more aware of the linkage of environment issues, such as tainted water and pesticide issues.”

On air

  • York University scored 35 straight points in the second half for a 45-41 win over University of Toronto in university football, reported Toronto radio and television news programs on CFTR-AM, CP24 and City-tv Sept. 25.
  • A smart car rally took teams to York University and finally to the CN Tower, where the event wrapped up, reported news programs on CP24-TV and City-tv in Toronto Sept. 26.