Teen sexual bullying more common than parents believe

Jennifer Connolly, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts who has done extensive research in the field of harassment, agrees that sexual misbehaviour by students is far more common than parents believe, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 19. A five-year study conducted by Connolly and several colleagues found that by the time they graduate from high school, up to 80 per cent of students experience some form of sexual harassment, ranging from sexual innuendo to unwanted touching. (The survey did not include questions about sexual assaults.) Although few cases approach the severity of the allegations made at James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School where 16 students were recently charged, Connolly says countless students are routinely subjected to sexual bullying. “Kids don’t have an easy time of it,” she says. “Adults would be shocked by some of the things that happen.”

Debra Pepler, a York psychology professor and an expert on bullying, told the Globe that children are growing up in a highly sexualized culture assessment. “When I walk down a high-school corridor, I hear things I didn’t hear when I was in school. There’s a lot of sexual aggression. People say, ‘This is normal now. You’re just old-fashioned.’ It really concerns me that this could be considered the new norm.” Situations like the one alleged at Cardinal McGuigan school, Pepler says, are the result of a process of “moral disengagement” that allows perpetrators to dehumanize their victims. “They’ve grown up surrounded by media that feed them violence. They have porn on their iPods. They have been given all these twisted scripts for how humans should behave. It changes them.”

Scarborough subway merits consideration, says Star

Sides are being drawn in a Toronto subway war pitting east against west, began a Toronto Star editorial Nov. 20. Scarborough’s city councillors, some local Members of Parliament and the Ontario Legislature, as well as hundreds of local residents, are coalescing behind a campaign to replace the aging Scarborough Rapid Transit line with a subway. That puts them on a collision course with proponents of subway growth out to York University. The obvious solution would be to proceed with both subway expansions. Realistically, though, it is extremely unlikely the city could embark on two such projects, given the multi-billion-dollar cost of building just a single line. Toronto should eventually choose one subway project and press hard for it. And it mustn’t be hemmed in by past decisions and an existing preference for service to York University. Instead, it should clinically select the project that would do the most good for the city at large. Scarborough has not yet shown it deserves top priority. But its advocates have made a case that the issue of subway expansion deserves to be opened, updated and analyzed again.

York scientists will interpret Mars data

The Phoenix lander – scheduled for an August 2007 launch – is the latest in a string of exploration missions to the Red Planet. Its goal is to seek out signs of water on Mars using a highly sophisticated set of research tools, four of which were manufactured by Brampton-based MDA Robotics, reported the Brampton Guardian Nov. 18. The Phoenix will collect data for 90 Martian days (92.5 earth days), transmitting it back to Earth through limited satellite availability. “This information will be processed by the scientists,” said MDA Phoenix project manager Andy Kerr, noting York University professors will do much of the analysis with Peter Smith of the University of Arizona in the lead.

In related coverage, space scientist Peter Taylor, of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, discussed the mini-meteorological station built in Brampton and designed by York professors that will be part of the Phoenix mission in 2007, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” Nov. 18.

One magic step closer to transmuting matter

By all rights, William van Wijngaarden should be striding through his laboratory wearing a medieval alchemist’s robe, jet black and festooned with silver and gold symbols of the zodiac. Very long robes, because the physics professor from York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering is somewhere around seven feet tall, although he claims not to know his own height, began a Toronto Star science feature Nov. 20 about how he and postdoctoral researcher Baolong Lu created Canada’s first “Einstein blob” in October 2003. Wijngaarden is happy to volunteer that his research into one of Albert Einstein’s most revolutionary ideas has echoes of the transmutation of matter those very alchemists sought (and which formed the basis of the first Harry Potter book).

Lego’s legal team included former law dean

In an account of toymaker Lego’s unsuccessful Supreme Court of Canada fight against Mega Bloks Inc. of Montreal, the Ottawa Citizen described the lawyers in the trademark-law dispute. Lego took to the courts three years ago with an all-star legal team from Toronto’s renowned intellectual-property lawyers Bereskin & Parr, supplemented by two other private-sector ringers: Peter Hogg, the federal government’s lead lawyer in the same-sex marriage case, and Catherine Beagan Flood, a young hotshot who represents the House of Commons in Adscam matters. Hogg, a venerated former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, wrote the standard text on Canadian constitutional law. Lego was not fooling around.

How much do companies need to make anyway?

From the organization that shamed big companies into promoting more women to the top comes a new and heretical thought: Just how much money do corporations really need to make? In the go-go world of globalization, where time zones and technological advances make it possible to work 24/7, it’s a question companies need to ask themselves, Susan Black, president of Catalyst Canada, told the Toronto Star in a Nov. 20 story. How hard can they keep pushing their employees without sacrificing something? “I think the stereotype image of the ‘road warrior,’ the man who sacrifices family to get to the top, is a product of a certain era. At some level, it works. The harder people work, the less it costs, the more the company makes. The dirty little question no-one wants to answer is, ‘How much money does a corporation need to make?'” says Black, who earned a doctorate in administration from York in 2000. It’s just one of the provocative questions Catalyst has been asking since the US-based non-profit foundation opened an office in Canada five years ago.

How visible minorities can close the job gap

A huge gap continues to exist between the ideal of diversity and the reality faced by visible minorities and immigrants hoping to rise to positions of power in Canadian workplaces, a conference of business students heard, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 19. The conference, organized by York’s Schulich School of Business, was held because “the gap is very real,” explained Rekha Karambayya, a professor of organizational behaviour at Schulich who trained in India. Statistics Canada figures show progress in minority hiring, but don’t really paint a clear picture of the limitations that visible minorities face in trying to rise into positions of authority, she said. “People can be highly visible in the workplace but seemingly not noticed when the time comes for a promotion,” Karambayya said. “If we are too polite to talk about this, we will never address it.”

Tales from the kitchen

A trio of amateur cooks deserves hearty cheers, concluded Christine Sismondo, a humanities lecturer at York, in a Toronto Star book review Nov. 20. It’s hard even to remember that Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential was once a novel approach to our cultural exploration of food, which at least temporarily displaced the food-on-film era characterized by Like Water for Chocolate, Big Night, Babette’s Feast and, our personal fave, Tampopo. We seem to have grown quite used to the culinary memoir genre, noted the author of the recently released Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History. This fall, Doug Psaltis and Susur Lee, among others, are joining the ranks. But what about those who haven’t been to the CIA? (That’s the Culinary Institute of America), asks Sismondo and launches into a review of Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia, Nazneen Sheikh’s Tea and Pomegranates and Pam Freir’s Laughing With My Mouth Full.

York student wins community scholarship

Andre Thomas knows he’s a role model – and he’s okay with that, reported The Toronto Sun Nov. 20. The 17-year-old York University chemistry student was awarded one of 16 scholarships at the Jamaican Canadian Association. “You have to work hard and you have to represent something good for the community,” Thomson said. “I have a lot. I’ve been supported by a lot of people. I have to give back.” Thomas said he hopes to stay in Toronto to work as a pharmacist after graduation. He said he plans to put his $750 toward textbooks and tuition.

The IPO of Deborah Coyne

To the people who know Deborah Coyne – her friends from high school, her co-workers and her family – she is a fresh-faced, perennially cheery, bundle of energy, with way too much to say in too little time. To the rest of the country, she’s the mystery woman who had a baby with Trudeau, the woman TV viewers strained to catch a glimpse of at his funeral, reported the National Post Nov. 19. Coyne has only given one other personal interview in her lifetime, but now that she’s entering public life – she’s seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Toronto-Danforth, currently held by NDP leader Jack Layton – she’s agreed to talk. She graduated with first class honours from Queen’s University in 1976 in economics and history, and was awarded the Gold Medal at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, where she graduated first in her class in 1979. She has a master’s in international law from Oxford.

Avery out, Johnson in

Jeff Johnson (BA ’02) prepares for every game as if he is going to start – and the York University product was to get that chance in the biggest game of his career. The Argos decided to keep high-profile starting tailback John Avery on the injured list with a wonky hamstring, giving Johnson a chance to start in Sunday’s East Division final against the Montreal Alouettes at the Rogers Centre, reported the Toronto Sun Nov. 19 in news carried by major newspapers around the GTA. Johnson starred for the Argos in the final three regular-season games, starting the last two when Sean Millington suffered a ruptured achilles midway in the previous game. “You just have to be a professional and get ready to go and know what you’re doing and get ready to execute,” he said. The Hamilton Spectator noted that Johnson had carried the rock just 21 times this season for 170 yards and no scores and posed more of a threat as a pass receiver out of the backfield. In that role, Johnson was virtually unstoppable against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats three weeks ago. The Toronto Star said the powerfully built 28-year-old York graduate has been a more-than-adequate substitute for Avery.

Black’s citizenship quest faces hurdles

Conrad Black, who renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2001, faces hurdles in his bid for permanent resident status in Canada now that the US government has charged him with fraud and may seek to extradite him, reported the National Post Nov. 19. Alan Young, a criminal defence lawyer and professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, says it can take three to five years for an extradition case to wind its way through the Canadian legal system.

Don’t put words in Bush’s mouth

“Sheldon Alberts writes that President George Bush ‘picked Veterans’ Day to brand criticism of the war by political opponents as irresponsible.’ This is both false and misleading,” wrote Terry Heinrichs, Chair of political science in York’s Glendon Faculty, in a letter to the National Post published Nov. 19.Indeed, in the very speech that is cited, Bush made a point of saying that his opponents had every right to object to the war as well as criticize his handling of it. What he called ‘irresponsible’ was the rewriting of history involved in their contention that he lied and misled them about WMDs when, at the time, every important Democrat was exposed to and believed the exact same intelligence as he, and most, if not all of them, supported his decision to remove Saddam Hussein.”

On air

  • The Japanese space agency has sent a spacecraft to make a rendezvous with an asteroid, reported “CTV National News” and its CTV Edmonton affiliate Nov. 19. Scientists say what they learn from the groundbreaking experiment could help catastrophes here on earth. But York astronomer Paul Delaney said in an on-air interview: “The snag is that at the moment, if we saw an object that was going to be aimed at us over the next five to 10 years, there really is nothing we can do about it.”