Universities need money – and a social mission

One of the best submissions to last February’s Rae Report on Post-Secondary Education in Ontario was “The Mission of the University” written by economics professor and former dean of arts at York University, George Fallis, suggested Master of Massey College John Fraser in an op-ed piece in The Globe and Mail March 26. Though ignored by the authors of the Rae Report, “the paper’s slow-burning fuse is still active – a compelling indictment of the failure of university culture to deal with the growing cynicism about democracy and citizenship.”

“Although Fallis accepts that all the principal objectives of the Rae Report are urgent (‘accessibility, quality, funding’ – the mantra is familiar even if it remains unaddressed),” he argues that universities must accept a new mission of deliberating democracy, wrote Fraser. “And they should be held accountable for how well they do it: ‘The university is the ideal forum – in the classroom and through its graduates and its professors as public intellectuals – for such deliberation in a civil society.’ Great universities should not be judged just by the quality of their research, or the learning of their students or the accomplishments of their graduates, ‘but also by their service to democratic society as critic, conscience and public intellectual and by their preparation of students for citizenship.’”

Education is an investment

“After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto and from York University with a master’s, my combined debt was about $50,000,” wrote York economics student Saif Nawaz, in a letter about a Quebec student strike to The Montreal Gazette March 28. “I went to university knowing that it was an investment, much like buying a house,” he wrote. “Striking students have to realize that in the real world nothing is free. You choose to go to university and thus you must pay your fair share because in the end you will benefit from it the most. To expect the Quebec government use taxpayers’ money to pay for your education, from which only you will gain, is unfair and unjust.”

The BlackBerry paradox

BlackBerry ownership has its cost, beyond the price tag and the monthly wireless fee, reported the Toronto Star March 28 in a story about the popular electronic gadget that allows wireless connection to e-mail, phone, Internet, and company databases and applications. “My students expect a quick turnover of their messages,” said Markus Giesler, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “They expect a message back 10 minutes after they sent it. Four years ago I could have taken two or three days.” The paradox of technology that wireless innovation faces is common, said Giesler. “You solve one problem, but then you create another.” Besides giving workaholics a fix, the technology has also spawned executives who are oblivious to common corporate courtesy.

Low opinion of high rises

“At a time when we are trying to make cities more compact and therefore more environmentally friendly, residential high rises appear to be a grand way to increase urban density,” wrote Edmund P. Fowler, professor emeritus of political science at York’s Glendon College and author of Cities, Culture, and Granite, in a letter to the Toronto Star March 28. “Developers, and the councillors who support them, describe these high rises as epitomizing a vibrant downtown lifestyle that will contribute to the city’s urban vitality. Even Jane Jacobs has been invoked as a fan of them. Anyone reading her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities will find she is not.”

Hedging risk in real estate investment

Investment experts in Canada and the United States are actively exploring the idea of a futures market in metropolitan-area home prices, reported the Toronto Star March 26. Work on new financial instruments to provide a hedge against a drop in future home prices is underway in Canada, according to economics professor Moshe Milevsky of York University’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s in the kitchen, and it will trade on the Montreal Stock Exchange.” But that could be years away.

The bliss of the big faces

Art critic Gary Michael Dault interviewed York grad Shelley Adler about her new exhibition, Anonymous, opening at Loop on Queen Street West in Toronto, in The Globe and Mail March 26. The first time he saw her paintings, they were small and quirky – of her dog. “I first did that kind of painting after I left university,” Adler said. (She earned a BFA from York in 1983 and then earned an MFA from Boston University.) The paintings that make up Anonymous are big, softly brushed but hotly coloured paintings of people, and mostly of their faces alone. You wouldn’t call them portraits, because they’re too diffuse and generic for that. As Adler points out, the pictures are about painting, not about likeness.

On air

  • Musicologist Rob Bowman, a professor with York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, discussed ‘missing music’ – some song or album that people want to add to their collection, on CBC Radio’s “Sunday Edition” March 27.
  • Stephen Friedman, a job coach and consultant at York’s Schulich School of Business, was the guest on CFRB’s “Christina Cherneskey Show” March 26 in which callers shared their experiences working on long weekends.

  • Schulich School of Business Professor Bernie Wolf, was the featured guest on ROB-TV’s “Squeeze Play” on March 22. Wolf was interviewed by hosts by Libby Znaimer and Andrew Pyle about General Motors and the company’s recent lackluster performance.