Hampton urges review of University land deal

The provincial auditor should be called in to scrutinize a land deal at York University, says Howard Hampton, leader of Ontario’s NDP, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 27. A Star story published the day before examined a $15.8 million sale of York University-owned land to Tribute Communities. It noted that Joseph Sorbara, volunteer Chair of York University’s land development agency, which handled the untendered sale, has also been a close business associate of the developer. The Star suggested the price for the land was below market levels.

York University and Sorbara said everything on the sale was done properly. In two letters to the Star, Sorbara said that he received no benefit from the deal and “any allegations of impropriety are untrue, offensive and totally without foundation.” York, also in a written statement, said finding the best developer – not the best price – was its goal. The school wanted a home builder with a track record for “socially sensitive” developments and Tribute fit the bill. York said it was aware of Sorbara’s business ties to Tribute and found it “helpful” to have him in negotiations. York said  Sorbara received no benefit from the deal. Tribute president Howard Sokolowski, in an interview with the Star, said the project will be “sophisticated and first class.” He said it’s clear he and Sorbara have a business relationship, but that had no influence on the deal. Hampton said he will demand the auditor’s investigation in the legislature. The original, 3,000-word Star story can be seen here until March 4.

Ryan wins an Oscar

Canadians were in the winner’s circle Sunday, as Toronto’s Chris Landreth won an Oscar in the animated short category for Ryan, reported Associated Press Feb. 28. The film makes innovative use of 3-D digital animation to tell the story of one of Landreth’s predecessors at the National Film Board in the 1960s, animation innovator Ryan Larkin, who has since fallen on hard times and is a panhandler on the streets of Montreal. (Ryan is also a film within a film. It is contained in the documentary Alter Egos by Laurence Green, a film and video professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.) Larkin himself was watching the Oscar ceremonies Sunday night from his favourite Montreal bar. “I am here tonight because of the grace and humility of one guy watching in Montreal. Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you,” Landreth said in accepting his award. He also thanked the Canada Council and Seneca College, and called the NFB “visionaries in Canadian filmmaking.” The media carried news of Ryan‘s win in Oscar winners’ lists Feb. 28.

In related Academy Award coverage, Alan Middleton, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, said the acadeny’s red carpet is all about marketing, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 26 in a story about how hair is the only way a female celebrity can show individuality at the Academy Awards. “There’s a real danger of an actress getting tied to an era or a look,” Middleton said. “It’s just like marketing Tide. You don’t want the profile of your users to be 65.” He thinks that Nicole Kidman is one celebrity who has managed to negotiate this tableau “brilliantly”. The long-haired actress has been red to blond to a shade that’s almost pink. “She’s continually changing her image and mixing edgy roles with more mainstream ones. It’s all about keeping the brand fresh.”

 Focus on Canadian black experience

They trace their roots to Jamaica, Trinidad, Nigeria, Somalia. So, why do so many black Canadian youth identify with a particular US black experience –  the condition reflected in pop cultural portrayals of poverty, violence and isolation, asked Sam Grewal in the Toronto Star Feb. 26. Even in our schools, there seems to be an over-emphasis on African American culture and history. “When we learned about Canadian history, we didn’t learn so much about black people in Canadian history,” says 22-year-old Taysea Hall, a fourth-year psychology student at York University who has lived in Brampton since moving from Jamaica when she was 7. Hall says she’s taken it upon herself to cultivate an identity as a black Canadian of Caribbean descent who grew up in a Toronto suburb. The same can’t be said of her 19-year-old brother. “I’ll look at him and his friends who all want to be gangsters and ghetto, because that’s what they see coming out of the US. But I’m, like, ‘You live in Brampton, you go to college, your parents still take care of you in their house.'”

Canadian courts vs. ‘Law & Order’

“Every time Jack McCoy, assistant district attorney on ‘Law & Order’ (played by Sam Waterston), rises from his chair during a trial and barks, ‘Objection!’ I suspect Canadian judges out there watching are wincing,” wrote lawyer James Morton, an adjunct professor of evidence at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a Toronto Star commentary Feb. 27. “That’s because ‘Law & Order’ and its spinoffs have had an enormous impact on public perceptions about courtroom procedures. My Osgoode Hall law students have not been spared, and colleagues in the criminal bar often find themselves correcting a client’s mistaken ideas about our justice system, too. ‘Law & Order,’ now in its 15th season, has already spawned ‘Criminal Intent’ and ‘Special Victims Unit’ spinoffs. And now a fourth series from the same team, ‘Law & Order Trial by Jury,’ which premieres in Canada on March 3, promises to compound the legal confusion by focusing on the courtroom. Because, despite vast areas of similarity, there are a lot of points in trial procedures where we differ from our neighbours to the south.”

Corporate social responsibility pays dividends

Dezsö Horváth, dean of York’s Schulich School of Business, wrote the following in a letter to the National Post Feb. 28: “I strongly agree with Hewlett-Packard Canada CEO Paul Tsaparis when he states that good corporate social responsibility is simply good business management. In today’s increasingly complex world, business needs to embrace a much broader stakeholder model that recognizes the triple bottom line of economic, social and environmental impact management. Business should adopt this model not simply as a matter of good corporate citizenship, but as a matter of sound business practice.

“It is the responsibility of management education, if it wishes to remain relevant, to prepare business graduates for this new reality. At the Schulich School of Business, we have made corporate responsibility and social and environmental impact management an integral part of our approach to management education. We believe that students who graduate with a solid grounding in corporate social responsibility will be much better prepared to assume leadership roles in the private, public and non-profit sectors.”

France struggles to find its place in new wine order

The Aussies, Chileans and, yes, even Canadians are consuming a wine market that the French used to dominate, reported Reuters News Agency in an article printed in the Toronto Star Feb. 27. “If you look at French wines against Australian, Chilean or South African, the price is out of whack,” argues Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. “More sophisticated buyers aren’t sure if the extra quality is worth the extra price.” Middleton explains that there is “glut of supply of pretty good reds and whites” thanks to new world competitors, where less temperamental climates result in more consistently strong harvests than France’s. The oversupply has driven the price down.

For music and the love of food

In a February lament, the Toronto Star’s Marion Kane wrote Feb. 26 about an event that cheered her up – Sensory Symmetry, an inspired dinner event that matches food with music, dreamed up by chef Martin Kouprie and his friend David Mott. It is to take place at the restaurant next Wednesday. Mott, a deep-voiced, muscular man with a shaved head, is a concert and jazz musician, composer and improviser who teaches music composition at York University. He’s a buddy of Kouprie’s and long-time patron of Pangaea.

Rapping against Jane-Finch’s bum rap

Paul Nguyen decided it was time to do something about his neighbourhood’s image when his new girlfriend refused to meet him near his home, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 27. “You hear them say, ‘I don’t want to come to Jane and Finch to meet you. It’s so dangerous,'” the 24-year-old sighs. “It gets a bum rap, honestly. I hate explaining to people that it’s not that dangerous.” If that’s the case, he’s got an odd way of dealing with it, said the Star. What Nguyen – a 2004 graduate of York’s film and video program and a 15-year resident of the Jane-Finch neighbourhood – did is both contradictory and controversial. He made a hip-hop video that glorifies racial street violence in the area. Ten months later, the video for You Got Beef, by local Vietnamese-Canadian rapper Chuckie Akenz, is a bona fide Internet hit, and Nguyen’s Web site, jane-finch.com, is reaping the rewards, soaring from 30 hits a day to 3,000.

You’ve got brains, you’ve got problems

Chen Cooperman is an excellent student in a respected university in Canada and a favorite of a particularly demanding mathematics professor, reported Israeli newspaper Maariv Feb. 11. In his spare time he tutors 18-year-olds. Cooperman, not yet 14, is an Israeli genius. So why is he in Canada and not in Israel? asked the newspaper. The Ministry of Education refused to allow Cooperman to take the state-wide math matriculation exam and the Technion in Haifa would not admit him. York took a mere five minutes to decide to accept the boy, reported Maariv.

On air

  • Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, commented on what credit card companies get away with charging us, on CBC TV’s “Marketplace” Feb. 27. The language of these agreements is “somewhat difficult,” said Milevsky. “And I consider myself a specialist in finance. I can just imagine someone who isn’t a specialist in this to try to wade through and understand what these terms really mean and under what conditions the interest rates can change. So it’s not written in plain English, let’s put it that way.”