Student federation praises York’s freeze on graduate school tuition

In a surprise move Tuesday, York University announced it will voluntarily continue to freeze tuition until 2008 in many of its 43 graduate programs, serving more than 5,000 students. The move does not include Osgoode Hall law fees or most business school tuition, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 28. Vice-President Academic Sheila Embleton said in a statement that the University is “concerned about accessibility to graduate programs and wants to continue to recruit and retain excellent graduate students.” Jesse Greener of the Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario, hailed York’s move and said he hopes Queen’s Park will realize that higher fees really do affect which students enrol in university programs. “It’s important to have financial aid but there isn’t enough to help the broad swath of middle-class students.”

Learning is just a click away

Every student in Patrick Monahan‘s first-year public law class has a remote shot at a good grade. That’s because the dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School is among a growing number of professors experimenting with a new teaching tool designed to click with their technology-savvy students, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 28. The story was also featured in Metro’s Workology column. Teachers can pose questions, give tests and conduct impromptu polls by giving students a personal response system, commonly known as a “clicker”, a hand-held keypad similar to a TV remote.

Only a handful of professors at York, U of T and Ryerson are experimenting with clickers as a way of making lectures more engaging and encouraging class attendance and preparatory reading, but other academics are watching with interest. Monahan is convinced clickers are more than a gimmick. “If I ask a question in a class of 70 students, only one person at a time can answer. The thing about these clickers is that it allows everyone simultaneously to participate and one of the things we are promoting is that active learning is more beneficial than passive learning. It encourages students to assimilate the information better,” he said, although he doesn’t discount the fun clickers can add to a class.

Last year, Monahan’s students used clickers anonymously. This year, the clickers have been programmed with students’ identification numbers so they can earn up to five per cent of their grade by correctly answering questions. Most of the time you’ve got to do your reading before class to get the answers right, said law student Jon Aiello. Teachers like Monahan say clickers give them an instant read on how well their students are absorbing the material and, when necessary, they can go back and review the information.

Technology means students increasingly access academia from outside the walls of the ivory tower using Web casts and online summaries, so it’s only natural that professors would harness similar tools to lure them back to lecture halls, said Mario Therrien, director of information technology services at Osgoode. “Some faculty see this is as a way of taking back a classroom. They can use it to take attendance. They can structure the class where it’s highly interactive. The students are really getting engaged,” he said.

Clickers that work on infrared or radio frequency technology are relatively cheap. For the price of two computers, about $5,000, you can buy 100 clickers, related software and three receivers, said Therrien. Most universities rent the individual keypads to students through the campus bookstore. With the majority of students carrying laptops to class, surfing and chatting online are irresistible temptations if the lecture gets dull, said law student Ian Hu, who participated in Monahan’s clicker pilot last year. “If you just listen to the professor’s lecture you lose concentration after 10 or 15 minutes, but the clicker is a fun interlude. When it comes to drifting it’s good to have the clicker to wake you up,” he said.

Workers bring culture to their cubicle

As more employees express their ethnicity in their clothing, and more companies recognize their diverse work forces, such dress still raises issues about acceptance in the workplace, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 28. Wearing different clothing can make you stand out in a positive way, inviting curiosity, conversation and understanding, said Monica Belcourt, director of York’s Graduate Program in Human Resources. Employers are always looking for organizational fits, and if you wear something different, you may also send unconscious signals that you don’t understand the culture of the organization, Belcourt added. For Belcourt, it is smart business to encourage ethnic wear. “Often [companies] use the line that they want their employees to look like the face of their customers. Now, if a customer comes to a bank wearing a sari, wouldn’t they be more comfortable with an agent wearing a sari rather than an agent in a pinstripe suit and high heels?” Star power carries weight, Belcourt said. “If you are a highly productive employee with a unique set of skills, you can wear what you want. Organizations are very conscious of keeping superstars.”

Prof invited to eye city budget

A Toronto councillor has enlisted the help of a university professor and representatives from business and a taxpayers’ group to try to score budget savings and service efficiencies, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 28. Councillor Norm Kelly said he was trying to “get outside the City Hall box” in bringing together the informal group that will act as an alternative to the city’s budget committee. A handful of councillors joined Tuesday’s inaugural meeting of the group, which includes Richard Irving, a management professor at York’s Schulich School of Business; Tasha Kheiriddin, of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation; and Manny Sousa, of the Scarborough Chamber of Commerce.

Ads: the wallpaper of teen lives

Just how attractive are 13-year-olds to marketers? Enough so to spend big money to find out what they like and what they’ll buy, reported the Hamilton Spectator Sept. 28. “What’s happened in the last decade is marketers recognize that tweens, as early as seven or eight, or in California even four, have money and spend it without their parents,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business who once led the J. Walter Thompson ad agency in Japan. The average Canadian teen has about $40 a week in disposable income. This is also an age that is often too young to understand the influence advertising is having on them. Middleton says 13-year-olds are less able than adults to delay gratification. They have more instant, visceral reactions to brands.

City offers $9.5M for stadium at Ex

The City of Toronto is willing to spend $9.5 million of its own money to get a new soccer stadium at Exhibition Place, the Toronto Star reported Sept. 28. In a move that could alter plans to have the stadium built in Downsview, Toronto Mayor David Miller sent a letter Tuesday to federal MPs outlining the city’s financial commitment, deputy mayor Joe Pantalone said in a telephone interview. The stadium saga has been going on for years, with proposals falling through for buildings at both the University of Toronto and York University. This latest development might not end the controversy, but Pantalone said it’s the first time the city has promised money for the project. The Canadian Soccer Association said earlier this month it had chosen Downsview Park for the 20,000-seat stadium, which is being built as part of Canada’s commitment to host the 2007 FIFA world youth championships.

An evening of Beauty and the AIDS beat

In her Sept. 28 column Motions, National Post writer Sandra Rubin talked about how Patricia Olasker, a corporate practitioner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg and the co-chair of AIDSbeat, is tenacious in recruiting co-judges for the annual battle of the Bay Street law firm bands. Rubin lists judges she has recruited in the past, including Dale Lastman (LLB ‘82) of Goodmans and Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “Not strictly beautiful people per se, but rather highly accomplished people. People one would be pleased to appear beside in public. This year, for the 10th anniversary, who does she get to be a fellow judge? Natalie Glebova, Miss Universe. We’d be lying if we told you the notion of standing on stage in front of 1,500 people beside the most beautiful woman in the world wasn’t the teeniest bit daunting,” wrote Rubin.

On air

  • Couples who live together have a greater rate of breaking up than those who are married, according to Anne-Marie Ambert, sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, reported CBC Radio’s “Morning Program” Sept. 27.
  • In the wake of devastating American hurricanes, CBC’s “Radio Noon” in Montreal asked David Etkin, coordinator of the Emergency Management Program at York University, on Sept. 27 how prepared Quebec is in the event of a natural disaster. He said earthquakes, floods and ice storms are all a risk.
  • Public consultations will be held on the extension of the Spadina subway line to York University, reported “The Stafford Show” and “640 News” on Toronto’s CFMJ-AM Sept. 27.