York student experiences Hurricane Katrina’s fury

Hurricane Katrina plowed into the Gulf Coast at daybreak Monday, with winds up to 233 kilometres an hour and blinding rain, submerging entire neighbourhoods up to the rooflines in New Orleans, hurling boats onto land and sending water pouring into Mississippi’s strip of beachfront casinos, reported The Globe and Mail, Aug. 30. Back in the centre of Gulfport, Mississippi, amateur storm chaser Mark Robinson was preparing for the drive back to Toronto after fulfilling his dream of living through a Category 4 hurricane with fellow weather buff George Kournounis. “It was beyond anything I have ever been in,” said Robinson, a 32-year-old instructional designer who will begin studies in meteorology at York next week. The two friends climbed into their SUV on Saturday and drove non-stop for 24 hours to be as close as possible to the storm but they decided not to head to New Orleans. “It was going to be far too dangerous.” Instead, they stopped at Gulfport, and because Katrina had veered to the east ended up right in the eye of the storm. They spent the night in a parking garage of a 15-storey office building that lost at least half of its plate glass windows in the winds. “We didn’t sleep very much,” Mr. Robinson said. “It was very powerful and we took it very seriously.”

Cheaper used texts: a perennial challenge moves to the Internet

Only steps from the bookstore exit, Sam Azin has to dig deep in his pocket to find the receipt he’s already buried there. It shows the York University biology student is $535 poorer than before he walked into the campus bookstore, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 30. “They didn’t have any of these used,” Azin said, looking over the five-book list. He’d already checked the off-campus used bookshop across Keele St. before trying to find some used books at York. The high cost of post-secondary education is adding urgency to many students’ search for cheaper, used texts and the Internet has expanded their shopping choices. “If you want to pass, you have to have the book,” said Azin’s friend, Andreea Boaides, 19.

The Star noted that York’s bookstore will buy back textbooks for about half of the original selling price. It then resells them, usually for about 75 per cent of the cost of a new book. To qualify for a buy-back, the book has to be on a course offered this year at York. Where a new textbook can be returned to the publisher if it doesn’t sell, a campus bookstore can get stuck with used books no one wants, said Michael Jackel, director of the York bookstore. It also sells books online and offers a used-book classifieds section on its Web site so students can post their private sales, and will notify students if their used books are in demand on another campus.

“There are an increasing number of ways students can find online books,” Jackel said. “We’ve seen new sites all over the place. Now the big kids want to play. It’s Amazon. Who knows how big it’s going to get with them? They’re bigger than all of us put together.” Factor in the recent introduction of electronic textbooks and it’s anybody’s guess what will become of the campus bookstore, he said.

Ontario drops tax break for labour-sponsored funds

After forking out nearly $600 million since 1991, Ontario is going to axe a tax subsidy it gives to investors who put their savings into labour-sponsored investment funds, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 30. Moshe Milevsky of York’s Schulich School of Business said the tax credits are an inefficient way to get people to provide high-risk venture capital. He said published returns are suspect when the value of private company shares held by the funds is not determined daily on a public market. Research that his Schulich colleague Yisong Tian and friend Scott Anderson of Ryerson University published in the Canadian Investment Review suggested that management compensation in the tax-supported sector is stacked against the interests of investors. “The loss of the Ontario tax credit will force fund managers to strengthen their performance, or they will be shaken out of existence,” predicted Milevsky. “As an investment, the funds will be even less appealing than before.”

Former York prof appointed co-CEO of Asia-Pacific Foundation

The Asia-Pacific Foundation announced the appointment of former York professor Paul Evans as co-CEO of the organization, reported the Vancouver Sun, Aug. 30. Evans’ research has focused on contemporary Asian security issues. He has held teaching and administrative positions at York University and at Harvard University, in addition to board positions on several international institutions including the Asia Society in New York. He is currently completing a dictionary of Asia-Pacific security terms that will be published by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Speculation on McKenna for next Liberal leader

What’s intriguing is that the same insiders who say there is no subterranean leadership race in the Liberal party also agree there is a frontrunner – Frank McKenna, Canada’s ambassador to the United States,  wrote columnist John Geddes in the Aug. 29 issue of Maclean’s.  That prospect might cause some left-of-centre Liberals to get leery. “Clearly, he’s on the right wing of the party,” says Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts.

Writer’s love of language learned from his parents

York alumnus Douglas Glover (BA ‘69), winner of the 2003 Governor-General’s Literary Award for English fiction for his novel Elle, was featured in the Aug. 27 edition The Expositor (Brantford), after visiting his parents’ farm in Waterford. Writing has been part of Glover’s life as long as he can remember. His mother used to read to him at the lunch table and even sometimes at the dinner table. He learned the value of books from her. Glover recalled that his father was often writing and making speeches. This gave the younger Glover an appreciation for precision in language. He remembered how in his first year of university he was lamenting the cost of books when his mother told him “a dollar spent on a book is never wasted.” From both parents he got a real sense that writing was a good thing to do. However, he didn’t have their support for a career in writing at first. He was encouraged to pursue something more professional. As a graduate of Waterford District High School in the 1960s, Glover attended York University and then the University of Edinburgh. He worked at newspapers in New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan, while writing fiction, such as The Mad River which was published in 1981. He continued to write and, gradually, his parents realized his competence and gave encouragement.

York student wins Toronto poetry contest

A York student who won a poetry contest supported by the City of Toronto and The League of Canadian Poets collected a $500 prize after her entry was selected by Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, Toronto’s poet laureate, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 27. Adebe DeRango-Adem, who studies English in the Faculty of Arts, won the youth category for her poem “that’s my city” celebrating Toronto’s multiplicity, synchronicity and history. The second-year student said she would like to see more avenues for the literary pursuits of the young. “When it comes to our youth getting out there, I don’t think potential or creativity is what’s missing; I think it’s the encouragement,” she said. “We need to have more opportunities for the younger crowd to get up, stand and know that their words won’t only be counted, but respected and reflected upon. Artistically, though, I think that Toronto is also just a great place to see – the sights and the sounds – and my poem is paying homage to that sort of beauty, the myriad images that I see all the time, even on a simple stroll down the street. It’s a pretty nice place to call home.”

Idea that community has lost faith in police bedevils crime solution

Margaret Beare, director of York’s Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption, said Toronto’s long summer of brutal gun violence – 15 dead so far, scores more injured – won’t be solved by meetings like the one held by Toronto police chief Bill Blair for city councillors on Monday. “Working with the communities themselves has to happen before the violence stops,”  Beare told the Toronto Star in a story published Aug. 27. “It’s not the idea that one person in the neighbourhood has the information and is afraid to tell it,” she said. “It’s the idea that communities have lost confidence in police.” In an accompanying story on why people often turn a blind eye to social injustice rather than snitch, Jennifer Connolly, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, said. “There has always been a part of humanity that does not want to come forward to report wrongs. It’s something we learn at an early age. If teachers and adults say don’t snitch and don’t tattle-tale, then kids learn that.”

Kenora hockey players join York Lions women’s team

Over the next couple of weeks hundreds of young people from Kenora will be heading away to university, reported the Kenora Daily Miner & News Aug. 26. Among them are two graduates of the Beaver Brae Broncos girls hockey team who will not only have to adjust to life in a new city, but will be playing on a new team as well. “It really kind of hit me (Thursday),” said York frosh Riley Edwards about the impact of the move. Edwards and Kayla Meisner will be attending York and playing for the Lions women’s hockey team this season.

The right direction

A number of alumni of the Shaw Festival Directors Project have done well, reported The Toronto Star in its Aug. 28 edition. Among them is Paul Lampert, professor and director of graduate studies in York’s Department of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts, who worked six seasons at Shaw and three at the Blyth Festival.

Never standing Pat

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach and York alumnus Pat Quinn (BA ‘72) could have done anything he set his mind to but the Hamilton-born athlete turned his attention to hockey at a very young age and has gone on to become a major contributor to the National Hockey League and the sport itself, reported The Toronto Sun  Aug. 28. Quinn credits his parents with getting him involved in sports. His mother, who he describes as a real athlete, took him to Mahoney Park to play hockey on an ice surface the city flooded for the local kids. Quinn also found time throughout his hockey career to get an education. In 1972, while playing in Vancouver, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics from York University. After leaving Philadelphia, Quinn earned his law degree from Widener University, Delaware, School of Law. “One of the things that was always drilled into me as a youth by my mom and dad was to get an education out of it,” he said. “So I did.”