The age-range challenge, and other stories

In its Further Education supplement Nov. 17, the Toronto Star interviewed York administrators about the challenges of teaching students ranging from parent-coddled teens to mature grandparents, highlighted York’s pioneering emergency management certification program and questioned York’s science dean about the “nerd” factor.

  • In a story about the growing age range of college and university students, the Star reported that not all mature students are middle-aged or switching careers. York defines “mature” students as anyone 21 and older who has been out of school for at least two years. That may seem unusual, but the age difference between 17 and 21 is huge, said Frank Cappadocia, director of student community and leadership development at York. “The 21-year-olds do feel old,” he said. “The late teens are very formative years; a lot of growing up takes place in those few years.”
  • In the same story about the growing age range of students, the Star said university directors expressed concern that students don’t appear to have developed critical thinking skills or independence – thanks to overbearing parents. “When these young students are presented with a problem, they typically call in their parents to resolve matters,” said Cappadocia. “We’ve had some difficult exchanges,” agreed Sylvia Schippke, York’s assistant vice-president of student community development. “For example, some parents insist that the grades should go to them. ‘We’re paying for their education,’ they reason.” Schippke said today’s parents have become accustomed to shepherding their children through life, and are not always ready to relinquish control. “These overly concerned parents are robbing their children of some valuable life skills,” noted Cappadocia.
  • On the disappearing breed of young women entering engineering, especially computer and software engineering and computer science: “There is a geek image associated with computer engineering,” said Gillian Wu, dean of the faculty of science and engineering at York. “Nor are young women excited by the possibilities offered by a career in IT.” The decline in women pursuing IT-related degrees is highly noticeable, said Wu. Further complicating the situation may be a combination of the way women approach problem-solving, and a lack of role models who are successful women in engineering or IT. “Women are team players,” says Wu. “They perceive engineering and computer science as a solitary profession. It goes against how they see themselves working in future.”
  • York has joined Brandon University in creating a two-year certification program, designed to turn out men and women with the training and professional standing to prepare, prevent, respond and mitigate the effects of natural, man-made and technological disasters. “Hurricane Katrina brought the world’s attention to the pressing need for professionally trained emergency managers,” says David Etkin, co-ordinator of the York program. “That was a situation where our people could have made a difference.” York was the first to put one in place, although seven community colleges are now offering one- and two-year courses, some starting in January.

Wait times key to saving medicare, says law dean

The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the June 2005 Chaoulli case, in which the court ruled that Quebec’s prohibition on the purchase of private health insurance was unconstitutional, has produced tremendous controversy and confusion, wrote Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in a Toronto Star opinion piece Nov. 17. “What this demonstrates is that, far from mandating a system of private health insurance, Chaoulli presents governments with a clear policy choice,” he argued. “Governments are entitled to maintain the single-payor public system, without any scope for private insurance, provided that they are prepared to make a binding commitment on timely delivery of medically necessary care. In fact, a group of senators led by Michael Kirby [represented by Monahan] provided the court with evidence on one possible model, a ‘health-care guarantee’, that would establish maximum wait times for certain key procedures and services. Private insurance only becomes inevitable if governments refuse to make a commitment on timeliness. But if that happens, the responsibility will be that of governments rather than the courts.” 

What Pepler thinks of Ontario’s plan to fight bullying in schools

York psychology Professor Debra Pepler, an internationally renowned expert on bullying and a member of the Safe Schools team, says Ontario’s plan to combat bullying in schools is a good first step in addressing the behaviour, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 17 in a story picked up by Canadian Press. But, she added, “It’s not just a school problem, and I think as we move forward, we need to think about how to change attitudes much more broadly.”

Pepler remained in the media spotlight as coverage continued of her anti-bullying workshops and most recent study earlier this week.

  • She advised parents to take an active interest in their children’s daily activities and to watch out for signs of bullying, such as a fear of going to school and lowered self-esteem, reported the Woodstock Sentinel Review Nov. 17.
  • Her study, revealing that more than one-third of teenagers occasionally harass their peers in a sexual way, was cited in a Kingston Whig-Standard editorial Nov. 17.
  • She was interviewed on Ontario’s plan to combat bullying, in an item aired on CBC and CBC Newsworld’s “Canada Now”.

Be more competitive, prof tells companies

Companies aren’t doing enough to be competitive, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 17 in a story about looming labour shortages. Bernie Wolf, an economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, said it is “disquieting that more is not being done to generate new products.” One way to be more competitive is to improve your product, Wolf said. “And to do that you need to innovate.”

Stepping up to the plate

Marcel Desautels, a little-known retired executive from the credit reference industry, has emerged as Canada’s champion business school benefactor, giving his name and a multimillion-dollar donation to McGill University’s management faculty, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 17. Sources said McGill would announced that its commerce faculty will become the Marcel Desautels school of business, joining other Canadian management faculties that bear the names of big donors. His gifts add up to more than $50 million, estimated the Globe. That’s well ahead of Seymour Schulich, who has given more than $20-million to York, and William Sauder, the forestry entrepreneur who gave $20-million to the University of British Columbia.

On air

  • Annie Bunting, social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, has been looking over new legislation to curb religious courts and discussed its scope and impact, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” Nov. 16.