Jewish holidays policy affirmed

A York University Senate committee has recommended the school continue its long-standing practice of cancelling classes on Jewish holidays, despite some professors’ concerns it violates the school’s governing law, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 21. York’s Senate will receive a report Thursday from its committee on curriculum and academic standards that concludes it would be disruptive to hold classes on Jewish holidays on a campus where an estimated one in 10 students is Jewish.

However history Professor David Noble, who is Jewish, says he intends to teach on the three days in October usually cancelled for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, despite York’s policy, because York is a secular, public university. It was Noble’s complaint last year that prompted the Senate to seek a report on the 30-year-old practice of cancelling classes each October. Noble says the practice violates a section of the York University Act of 1965, which states no “religious observances…be imposed” upon any member of the University community.

York spokesperson Nancy White disagreed with Noble’s interpretation, reported the Star. “This section was intended to protect members of the University from being forced to comply with another religion as a condition of employment. But no one is making anyone go to any religious service,” White said. She said suspending classes for all on Jewish holidays is a practical solution because of the number of Jewish students who would miss classes.

Canadian Jewish News quoted Chris Morley, a spokesperson for Premier Dalton McGuinty, who said cancelling classes on holidays “is a decision the University has the authority to make,” adding that “it seems the York policy is reasonable.” White told CJN that the Senate and administration reviewed the policy about 10 years ago and decided to continue with it. “In no way does this practice undermine the York Act. ”

Prof. Martin Lockshin, an observant Jew who teaches humanities in York’s Faculty of Arts and is a member of the University’s Senate, told CJN that although the school has taken Noble’s complaint very seriously, he would be surprised if the practice changed. He said the University is entitled to make rules about when classes are held. He added that the holiday policy follows a general York principle of respecting religious diversity, but more importantly, it avoids problems that would be created when many students and faculty can’t attend class.

York addresses gap in emergency training

Managing a disaster of any kind is a serious business, but until recently, education and training for such an eventuality in Canada was a bit thin, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 21. The situation has changed in the last couple of years. This month York University’s new certificate program in emergency management began. Dave Etkin, a meteorologist by training and coordinator of the program, says, “There wasn’t any local training people could take, [although] there were in-house training programs people could take. So there were some meetings to encourage people to build a program, and York decided it looked like an opportunity and jumped right on it.”

The program at York has 17 students enrolled, and is split between younger university students and older men and women who’ve been in the emergency planning business and want a qualification that recognizes their skills and experience. Etkin says in the past those people interested in emergency management have tended to come from front line occupations such as the police, the military and fire and paramedic departments. However, York and other schools are trying to broaden their horizons. Etkin says the University is teaching the certificate courses from a wider sociological perspective.

Katrina could scuttle salary hikes

A survey released by Hay Group Ltd. found that Canadian employers are planning to reward their staff with pay raises up to 3.8 per cent in 2006, reported the National Post Sept. 21. In spite of these encouraging figures, some experts warn Canadians to curb their optimism. Bernie Wolf, director of the International MBA program at York’s Schulich School of Business, says the forecasts may not be as reliable as they were before Hurricane Katrina drove oil and gas prices to an all time high. “Even though the effects of Katrina will be relatively short-lived, oil prices have just not come down as much as expected,” Wolf said. “These prices are considerably raising the inflation rate.”

Judge says no jail for pedophile

A judge told a sentencing hearing Tuesday he is leaning towards a conditional sentence for a York professor convicted of possessing child pornography, reported Canadian Press in a story printed in the Peterborough Examiner Sept. 21. David Armborst, a tenured professor of German in York’s Faculty of Arts, has suffered because of the public exposure of his crime, Justice Colin Westman said. Westman suggested jail is not needed for Armborst, 63, a diagnosed pedophile who is receiving treatment. The Waterloo man should be given a chance to rehabilitate himself, the judge said. “He’s going through a crushing defeat,” Westman said. Court heard Armborst has been ostracized by neighbours and shunned by professional colleagues. Armborst pleaded guilty to the possession charge in June. He collected more than 21,000 images of child pornography through a Web site called The Dark Feeling between May and July 2003.

On air

  • As former right-hand man David Radler pleaded guilty to mail fraud Tuesday, “the noose is tightening around Conrad Black’s neck,” Richard Leblanc, a professor in Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies, told “Global News” Sept. 20. Leblanc also commented Tuesday on “CTV National News” about speculation that Black’s legal team may try to pin any blame for corporate fraud on Radler: “I mean Conrad Black is brilliant and holds himself out as being brilliant and some would say arrogantly brilliant. The case is going to be made: How could you not know that this was happening?” Leblanc’s comments were aired across Canada on affiliated stations.
  • Preparations are underway for Davis Cup tennis matches Sept. 23-25 at the Rexall Centre at York University, reported Global TV Sept. 20.
  • Paul Delaney, a senior lecturer in astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, discussed NASA’s ambitious new mission to the moon and Canadian robotics used in space, on TVO’s “Studio 2” Sept. 20.
  • The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board is partnering with the provincial government and York University to improve literacy and numeracy skills at the Grade 4 to 6 level, reported CKDR-AM “News” in Dryden, Ont., Sept. 16.