Waxing poetic about York in the summer

During the summer, noted the National Post Sept. 2, “we’ve been excerpting the daily diaries of creative types across Canada. Our final correspondent is a Toronto writer, playwright and performer whose work can be found at www.marikotamaki.com.” Here are excerpts from the excerpt by Mariko Tamaki, a women’s studies student at York:

In the summer, from what I’ve seen, York University is comparatively deserted, an ocean of calm as opposed to the site of a dramatic upriver swim. At 9am there are only a few random souls sleepwalking through the halls in a kind of daze. There’s almost no one in the library. In fact, it’s so empty that for the first time I notice that there is art on the walls and am startled. All the computer stations are free, and I can sit at whatever table I want (the good table even). It’s kind of Twilight Zone-ish and kind of fabulous. I spread out all my notebooks and bask in the power of solitude for a bit.

I get all my last minute graduate student chores done early (a graduate student’s work is never done, no matter what they tell you). I had this idea that I would read everything Judith Butler ever wrote this summer, which didn’t happen. I’ve settled on a list of articles that directly relate to my final research paper instead. The sound of one set of sneakers shuffling two stacks over as I comb the shelves for the right issue of Discourse & Society is kind of creepy.
Of course, in less than a week, all this quiet is finished. Students will pour in by the busloads, with new binders, that new binder smell, and more iPods than you can shake a stick at.

It’s a very New Year’s Eve kind of feeling, knowing that I will be back at school so soon. Knowing that, in less than a week, I will be part of the herd, trading in my green monster bike (with matching knitted pouch), for a bus pass and a backpack that weighs in at about 10 pounds on a good day.

I’m not really all that sad to see summer gone, to be frank. It’s been pretty wonderful but also hectic, and I’m personally not a big fan of summer (my Goth roots showing). I dig fall. I guess, at the same time, I just don’t really believe that fall is on its way. A feeling echoed in York’s uncomfortably hushed halls.

Reaching out to the children of Beslan

For Inna Dolgopolsky, the bloodbath at Beslan’s School No. 1 was a call to action, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 2. A mother and a chemical engineer with an MBA (’03) from York University who emigrated here from Ukraine in 1994, Dolgopolsky could not just sit back and do nothing as she watched the confrontation with terrorism that left 331 people dead, the majority of them children. “I was completely shocked as a mother and a human being,” she said from her home in Richmond Hill. “I wondered someday, could it happen here or to someone I know?”

So last October, Dolgopolsky and three other GTA residents created Hope for Beslan, a grassroots organization designed to offer support and help to the families of Beslan’s School No. 1. The idea, Dolgopolsky said, was to extend a hand and a heart to those battered families, to create “a circle of goodness.” She e-mailed a number of people she had met online about the tragedy in Beslan and they decided to do something. “Sometimes we say evil creates evil. Here, maybe, good would create good,” said the 45-year-old product development manager in the auto supply industry. So far the group of volunteers has helped arrange three paid visits to Canada by children who survived the attack. It also held an exhibition of drawings by many children who attended the school. Next up is to try to get medical help for some of the child victims who are still seriously ill.

Labour ‘flexibility’ just doesn’t work

The CBC dispute is just one example of a larger trend in the Canadian economy toward the increased use of non-permanent employees, wrote four academic and union figures in a commentary on The Globe and Mail‘s Web site. The group included York researcher Alice deWolff of the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, who specializes in equity, employment, adult education and international development, along with Wayne Lewchuk and Marlea Clarke of McMaster University and Andy King of the United Steelworkers Union.

The reality for most temporary workers is that they do not know from week to week if they will be working, where they will be working, or at what rate of compensation, the group wrote. For young workers, this uncertainty makes it difficult to plan a future. For workers with families, it makes it difficult to arrange child care, participate fully in their children’s lives or play a role in their communities. For all temporary workers, the need to remain flexible, should work become available on short notice, makes it difficult to make fixed commitments to family, friends and society.

Even if the CBC’s president is correct that productive skilled workers can be had on a temporary basis, this is not an approach that is in the interest of Canadians as a whole, the group concluded. This is an approach that harms the health of workers, undermines families and reduces our capacity to act as a society. It is not a course we should support or expect from an agency largely funded by the taxpayer.

Gadgets help students survive

Portability is key for students such as Brian Gair of Port Dover, said the Simcoe Reformer in a Sept. 2 story about gadgetry students employ. Gair, 23, is a graduate music student at York University. “I do a lot of work in the lab at school, but you can’t stay in there forever so you need to take your work home and finish it,” he says. Instead of using a laptop or burning his large digital music files onto several CDs, Gair purchased a 512-megabyte portable USB drive, or JumpDrive as it’s sometimes called, for around $60. A JumpDrive is a device you insert into a computer’s USB port, then drag and drop files onto it. Once the files have transferred, you take the JumpDrive out and plug it into your own computer. Gair notes that an MP3 player with a lot of space – such as an iPod – can also be used this way “like a portable hard drive.”