Subway to York and York region on Sorbara’s mind

Funding for a new subway line serving York University and the region beyond will be in the next provincial budget, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara hinted Friday, reported the Toronto Star June 25. Sorbara’s comments came at Toronto City Hall, after he met privately with mayors and regional chairs from Greater Toronto and Hamilton. Speaking to reporters, Sorbara said commuters northwest of Toronto don’t have enough access to transit service. “I think what you have to look at is the burden of need up in York Region and Peel,” said Sorbara (a 1981 York law grad). “We’re going to get significant intensification up there. You just have to drive those streets for a couple of days in that whole northwest area to know that we have to do something that is, in Howard Moscoe’s words, attractive enough to get people out of their cars and into public transit.”

When asked whether he’s planning any announcements to help fund a new line, Sorbara said, “I’m not sure that we’re going to hear anything over the course of the next month or two, but in my view it has to be part of the overall infrastructure plan that I put in the budget.”

Mayor David Miller said later that the York line hadn’t been discussed during Sorbara’s meeting with the mayors, but agreed that it is an “important link. The plan is to take it into York Region, not to York University, and build a very large bus terminus and parking facility there,” he said. Extending the University-Spadina line to York will ease pressure on the crowded Yonge line, he said. The TTC has recommended a route and is doing an environmental assessment for the line.

“We’re not quite there in terms of financing the York University subway, but it does serve a very important regional and city purpose,” Miller said.

Beyond the slam dunk

For Carl James, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, it’s a chicken-and-egg kind of question, suggested the Toronto Star June 26. By encouraging black kids to participate in school sports, are teachers threatening their academic achievement and feeding unrealistic expectations of professional success? Or are they helping prevent students who may feel alienated from school stay connected? James doesn’t answer the question directly in the latest in his series of articles and books on the sociology of sports. Instead, Race in Play: Understanding the Socio-Cultural Worlds of Student Athletes proposes a kind of Coach Carter compromise: kids get to play only when they’re achieving academically.

This month James was named to a group of race-relations experts and academics with the politically charged task of advising the Toronto District School Board on how it might collect race data on its 270,000 students. He thinks the idea of all-black schools warrants further exploration and isn’t among those who fear statistics alone will further marginalize students already on the edge of the system.

Just as race can’t be viewed in isolation of other factors such as income, the school system’s tendency to relegate some students to the academic ranks and designate others for athletics can’t be seen in isolation from the broader culture, he says. “If that’s how you’re going to get a name, girlfriends and recognition, I can see the logic in students wanting to be athletes,” he says. “It’s part of what it means to be male, to be part of the brotherhood.”

But he worries about the vast majority of student athletes who won’t win a sports scholarship to a US college. “What mechanisms can we provide in schools to support the education needs of student athletes” who often skip last period to make a game or come home too tired to do their homework? asks James. “Dunking isn’t all. It’s attractive, it’s interesting but there are skills to be learned beyond dunking,” says James.

Demand increasing for business profs

Almost 300 potential PhD candidates attended a recruitment fair Thursday at York University’s Schulich School of Business, where they heard that increased funding to business schools, together with the expected retirement of business professors in the next five to 10 years is creating “a strong anticipated demand for PhDs”, reported the National Post July 25. Representatives from 23 business schools in Canada and the United States – including such leading institutes of higher learning as Harvard Business School, Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Business – were also in attendance.

David Dimick, associate dean at Schulich, said, “it’s not a bad bet” that a job will be waiting for a student who has received a PhD in business. “But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone,” he added. That was one of the dominant themes of a panel presentation. Schulich marketing Prof. Eileen Fischer opened the panel with a talk on who should and should not do a PhD and why. “Before you think of where, think of why,” she cautioned. In response to a question from the audience on whether older individuals should pursue a PhD and a university career, Fischer said, “The answer is it is for younger people.” Fellow panellist and Schulich finance Prof. Mark Kamstra added, given the half-million-dollar investment universities generally make in a doctoral candidate, “they want a long career ahead of that person.” Kamstra noted that “salaries [in academia] do vary a lot but it’s a good living.” Starting pay for a finance professor is upward of $200,000, he said.

Have double law degree, will travel

York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and New York University’s School of Law recently unveiled a prestigious joint program that qualifies graduates on both sides of the border, from day one, reported Canadian Lawyer in its June issue. The advantages of the joint LLB-JD program are clear, suggested the monthly. NYU School of Law, which U.S. News & World Report magazine ranks fifth among the 180 US fully accredited American law campuses in its annual gold-standard survey, might well move up in the academic caste system south of the border by gaining what Osgoode has in spades: young high-functioning brains. Dean Patrick Monahan explained Osgoode’s approach to bargaining for an affiliated American law campus: “We looked at three or four US schools in the five-to-15 rankings. I mean, why should a US school ranked at the very top be interested in doing this? Harvard is already Harvard.”

Students in the joint-degree program would first attend Osgoode for two years, paying tuition at the rate of $12,000 yearly, switching then to NYU Law, where annual tuition is about US$35,000. The program expects to be in full gear by the fall of 2006, although Monahan said Osgoode has enrolled two Canadians for this fall term. Tuition aid, said deans at both schools, would be available on a reciprocal basis.

“It is simply the best program I can imagine,” said Filko Prugo, a Toronto native and 1998 Osgoode alumnus now working as a patent litigator for a New York firm. “With a degree from Osgoode, you can get a job anywhere in Canada. Now with a dual degree from NYU, a Canadian lawyer can get a job anywhere in the United States.”

A dedication to Dianne Martin – dog lover and walking companion

Other facets of Dianne Martin’s life made her memorable to many who had little familiarity with her professional life, wrote Ingrid Gadsden and Linda Howard in The Globe and Mail June 27 of the law professor who died Dec. 20. “To most of those folks, she was simply ‘Dianne – Magic and MacLeod’s mom.’ Magic and MacLeod are Dianne’s beloved collies. Almost every morning for more than eight years, she walked them in the off-leash park at Toronto’s Cherry Beach. Today, Magic, Dianne’s 13-year old tri-colour collie lives with Ingrid. MacLeod, her sable collie sleeps on the sofa at Linda Howard’s home. We love and nurture them the same way Dianne did. We walk with them along the same paths we walked with Dianne, but these days the park seems quieter and a little emptier. Dianne had a powerful and unforgettable presence. That’s why, in her honour, the Cherry Beach dog owners are donating funds to buy a permanent bench that will overlook the Leslie Spit at the entrance to the Eastern Gap. It was Dianne’s favourite viewing point. We’ll inscribe it with her name, a token of our affection for a remarkable, generous and inspiring friend who left us with heaps of enduring memories.”

Dangerous medicine

Dr. Joel Lexchin, a drug safety expert and professor at York’s School of Health Policy & Management, published a landmark paper this year that catalogued Canadian drug withdrawals for safety reasons since 1963, reported the Hamilton Spectator June 27 in a story on the drug-approval process in Canada. “One of the things that’s most disturbing would be this push to approve drugs faster, which means more safety problems down the line,” said Lexchin, who is also an emergency room physician. “One of the main problems is this whole lack of transparency. We can’t see what the reasons were that Health Canada used to approve the drug in the first place,” Lexchin added. “Unless the company agrees, we don’t have any access to the safety and effectiveness data that the company submitted to Health Canada.”

Students love challenge of philosophy

“I was delighted to see that philosophy in high school was prominently displayed on the front page of the Star,” wrote Gerard Naddaf, philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and president of the Canadian Philosophical Association, in a letter published June 27 in the Toronto Star. “Your readers may be happy (or surprised) to learn that there are now almost 30,000 students taking the Grade 11 and Grade 12 philosophy courses in high school in Ontario. Since it was introduced in the early 1990s, the numbers have grown (and will continue to grow) exponentially. Ontario is, in fact, the only English-speaking educational jurisdiction in North America in which philosophy is part of the official secondary school curriculum. Students love to be challenged and philosophy is and has been since its inception in ancient Greece (at least in the Western tradition) the discipline par excellence. Love it or hate it, philosophy challenges us to think. In conjunction with this, philosophy majors develop analytic and verbal skills applicable to almost every conceivable problem.”

Tax freedom day? Not really

“Tax Freedom Day has come and gone. Feel any richer yet?” asked Neil Brooks, a tax law and policy professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and author Linda McQuaig, in a Toronto Star opinion piece June 27. “Almost every cause has designated a day of the year to draw attention to its message, from World Leprosy Day to Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Day. Few, however, have enjoyed the success of Tax Freedom Day, an event that routinely prompts loud laments about the heavy tax burden weighing on Canadians. This is a remarkable achievement on the part of the Fraser Institute, the right-wing think tank that promotes Tax Freedom Day (according to Fraser, it was Sunday) and has succeeded in presenting it as simply a day of public education about taxes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If anything, it’s a day of public misinformation, in which the tax burden is grossly exaggerated and the nature of taxes hopelessly distorted.”

  • Brooks also discussed Tax Freedom Day on CKNW’s “The World Today” in Vancouver June 24.

The Wobblies were dedicated to one big world union

The Toronto Star’s Olivia Ward wrote a story June 26 on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World, a.k.a. the Wobblies, and a renewed attempt to form one big world union. “The Wobblies were free-spirited, often transient, and dedicated to a large social vision,” said Craig Heron, professor of history at York’s Faculty of Arts. “They carried around the union songbook in their back pockets.”

Popular music flourishes in Islamic cultures

Arguments for and against music, and other art forms, have been voiced for centuries by Muslims, says Amila Buturovic, a professor of religious studies and Noor Fellow at York University, reported the Toronto Star June 25 in a story about popular music in Islamic countries. But neither position has negated the existence of music, and various traditions of music have flourished under Islamic rule.

Ethnic neighbourhoods contribute to city’s dynamism

Are the new ethnic enclaves a blessing or a curse to Canada? asked the Toronto Star June 25. Paul Anisef, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, says ethnic enclaves serve a vital function in settlement. Newcomers rely heavily on their community’s social network for housing, services and employment. “There’s nothing wrong with enclaves. A lot of people come here as new Canadians and they feel more comfortable in sticking together, whether it is because of their shared language, traditions, cultures or religions,” he said.

Chief justice rarely discussed his dissenters

In a profile June 25 of the late Supreme Court chief justice Boris Laskin, the Toronto Star said he rarely spoke candidly of those who disagreed with him. But former law clerk John McCamus, now a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, recalled him letting down his guard just once. When he arrived at the chief justice’s office, Laskin, with a twinkle in his eye, handed him a dissenting judgment. Then, he dusted off an apocalyptic phrase, one used by reporters to describe conservative judges who blocked progressive US legislation in the 1930s. “I wonder,” he said, “what the Four Horsemen will think.”

Toronto Unlimited – logo bad, strategy good, Middleton says

Toronto’s new brand passes many of the tests set by marketing expert Alan Middleton, but it failed the first one: making a good first impression, reported the Toronto Star June 25. “Oh dear. That’s the logo. It’s a pregnant man.” That’s how Middleton reacted to his first sight of the Toronto Unlimited logo, unveiled Thursday to promote the city. Luckily, it got better from there for Middleton, who teaches at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s better than what we’ve had before, which is nothing,” Middleton said. “The concept behind it is not bad,” Middleton said, “A key question to me will be: How do Torontonians see this as an expression of who they are? On that basis it’s probably a seven or eight out of 10. It’s feeding back the diversity and the fact that we are lots of different things.”

Shoddy journalism abounds

If truth is the first casualty of war, some journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are its undertakers, wrote Ron Podolny, who graduated this month from York with a BA in religious studies, in the National Post June 27. In the four years of the current intifada, the media have shown an astonishing lack of judgment and professionalism. From the BBC’s false accusations of an Israeli “massacre” in Jenin, to a Le Monde article ruled to be defamation by a French court, examples of shoddy journalism fueled by ideological zeal abound, Podolny said.

‘Mean girl’ gets centred in T.O.

The more famous Rachel McAdams gets, the more precious her anonymity becomes. That’s why she’s pleased that she’s usually left alone in Toronto, the city she’s called home since 1997. “It suits who I am,” she told the National Post for a June 25 profile of the meanest of Mean Girls.

“Being in Toronto keeps me centred, because I can live a life and take the TTC and ride my bike and garden,” she says. It wasn’t that long ago that the 28-year-old McAdams needed work more than she needed to be centred. A 2001 graduate of York University’s theatre program, she struggled to get noticed, or hired, or both. A co-starring role in 2002’s The Hot Chick did the trick. It got her an audition for Mean Girls, which led to her scene-stealing role as the Queen Bee high school “beyatch”.

On air

  • On the eve of Almonte’s 125th anniversary, CBC Radio’s “Ottawa Morning” interviewed York University Professor Emeritus Frank Cosentino June 24 about the town’s namesake, Mexican revolutionary general Juan Almonte, about whom Cosentino has written a biography.