York goes to the movies with latest marketing venture

The ivory tower is coming to a theatre near you as York University takes its latest marketing venture to the big screen, reported the Toronto Star April 16. York began running ads on 365 movie screens in the Toronto area Friday in what’s believed to be the first cinema advertising by a university, said the paper. “We thought we would get prospective students where they relax and where they would be receptive to our messages,” said Richard Fisher, York’s chief communications officer. The campaign that runs through May is designed to raise York’s profile among the key movie-going audience of 17- to 24-year-olds – a group rife with prospective students. Cinemas in the GTA sell two million admissions a month. Taking its message to the movies means York will reach 72 per cent of Toronto’s 17- to 24-year-olds, said Fisher.

The campaign, called “theatre domination”, includes three 30-second commercials. It will also blanket five Toronto-area multiplexes with York’s name and logo on banners and posters inside and outside the theatres. Last year York did a “subway domination” campaign by wrapping a TTC station in its red logo. “You’ve got to take your message to the audience and not wait for them to come and seek you out,” said Fisher.

Branding is a growing trend among universities competing for the best faculty and students, and York is trying to be an innovator on that front, said Fisher. “People want to work at a place that is high-profile and seems to be on the ball. Students are like any other people. They want to be part of an organization that is thriving and growing. From our point of view it’s to make sure we get the best students.”

  • Marketing Daily also featured a story April 18 on York’s big screen debut. The University is targeting young moviegoers at a time when many are choosing a school. “If you’re trying to portray yourself as a creative and forward-looking university, then the message has to be creative, and also the medium,” said Fisher. The campaign aims to build on the success of last years’ “subway domination” campaign at St. George station, designed to raise awareness of the university and the need for a subway to York’s Keele campus. “It’s kind of a continuation of that kind of thinking, which is to take it where people least expect to see it,” says Fisher. “It’s the impact that maximizes your message.”

National unity in trouble, Ignatieff tells Osgoode conference

The current political crisis in Ottawa is destroying national unity and hurtling Canada toward a constitutional crisis, Harvard scholar Michael Ignatieff said Friday at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, reported Canadian Press April 16. Whenever the next election rolls around, Quebec nationalist parties will likely swell in support and with that surge comes a renewed call for separation, he warned. But this time, a referendum to separate could result in an “unequivocally” clear result. “We might all find ourselves unwilling participants in an experiment unprecedented in the annals of political history – not the break up of a failed state, but the dissolution of a mighty, successful and admired G-8 country,” said Ignatieff, a human rights professor. Ignatieff made his comments in a keynote address at the law school’s eighth annual Constitutional Cases Conference, which attracted more than 30 constitutional experts who spoke of the Supreme Court of Canada’s constitutional decisions in 2004.

  • Ignatieff’s comments were also carried by Broadcast News, National Post and The Ottawa Citizen.

Physicist tests Einstein’s theories 

Scientists are still testing Albert Einstein’s work, reported The Ottawa Citizen April 18 in a feature celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famous physicist’s death and the 100th anniversary of the publication of his theory of relativity. One of them is York physicist Norbert Bartel, an investigator on the $700-million US Gravity Probe B satellite, which is orbiting Earth to measure how our planet’s mass bends space and time. “Why is [Einstein] the quintessential scientist?” he wondered. Relativity is a large part of the answer, he said, but so are “his personality, his character, the way he got into it [science], and the fact that he always spoke his mind, not like other scientists. Einstein had a character. He really gave his opinion on many subjects.”

  • The CanWest News Service story was also published in the Kingston Whig Standard, Windsor Star, Montreal Gazette, National Post and Regina’s Leader-Post.

Supreme Court averse to risk, prof says

The Supreme Court of Canada has become a “play-it-safe” court whose colourless judgments reflect very little spirited debate, a leading constitutional scholar told a Toronto legal conference Friday, reported The Globe and Mail April 16. Jamie Cameron, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the court is approaching Charter of Rights cases in a passive manner and seems determined to decide them on bland, legalistic grounds. A co-organizer of the York conference, Cameron said the Supreme Court has slipped into being “a risk-averse court [that is] reluctant, unwilling or afraid” to exercise its authority. “The degree of solidarity [among the judges] we are seeing is making me quite nervous,” she said. “When you have too much conformity, there are maybe not enough ideas being circulated and debated. In the absence of a dynamic tension between competing visions of the Charter and the court’s mandate to enforce its entitlements, ideas will tend to stagnate.”

Section 15 – effective weapon to fight discrimination?

Twenty years ago, when Section 15 of the Charter of Rights came into effect as a revolutionary weapon for fighting discrimination, experts predicted it would, among other things, force an end to mandatory retirement and usher in minimum working standards for domestics, with an emphasis on women’s equality, reported the Toronto Star April 16. Two decades later, its effect has been profound, but sometimes in unanticipated ways. “The really sort of vexing question has been this concept of discrimination – how to define it,” said Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

A similar story in The Globe and Mail April 16 reported that York University law professor Bruce Ryder tabulated Section 15 jurisprudence and found that people mounting challenges under other Charter sections consistently fare better than equality-rights claimants. Ryder concluded that “far from being captured by equality-seeking groups, the courts have approached Section 15 cautiously and with a persistent anxiety about the breadth and depth of its potential impact on state policies involving the distribution of material resources.” Successful challenges usually involve issues that promise to have a distinctly modest impact on government policies, he said. But when it comes to weighty policy areas, he said, “these kind of challenges face a steeper-than-usual uphill battle, and the quality of the court’s reasoning often suffers.”

Prescription for success

The need for new and updated drugs has a major effect on the cost of our overall health care, reported the Montreal Gazette April 16. In a debate sponsored by the Montreal Economic Institute, Frank Lichtenburg of Columbia University also said new drugs have had a spectacular effect on longevity in the US in the past 20 years. But Joel Lexchin, a professor at York University’s School of Health Policy & Management, disputed the findings, especially in the area of hypertension treatments. He said older drugs are better than the new drugs at treating this ailment. Lexchin said Canadians live longer than Americans although there are fewer new drugs introduced here than in the United States.

On air

  • Steven Flusty, geography professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, and author of De-Coca-Colonization: Making the Globe From the Inside Out, discussed how Coca Cola products can be artifacts, as a guest on City-tv’s “Breakfast TV” April 15.
  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, discussed the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, as a guest on Rogers TV’s call-in show “Goldhawk” April 14.