Irving Layton was the country’s ‘greatest champion of poetry’

Irving Layton, who died Wednesday at 93, was the grand provocateur of Canadian literature, stated Robert Fulford in a National Post obituary Jan. 5, one of dozens published in newspapers across Canada about the famous poet who taught literature at York from 1969 to 1978. Layton believed that the emotional awakening of humanity was poetry’s task and that his own job was to connect Canada, that dour nation, with the passionate life. He stood for the beauty and necessity of eroticism – a shocking position when he staked it out in the 1950s, though less so when public sexuality suffused the whole culture, suggested Fulford. Layton was always uniquely himself, wildly egotistical, richly talented – and for a time the undisputed king of Canadian poetry in English. He became an English teacher, first at a Jewish parochial high school in Montreal, then at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) University, later at York.

  • Philip Marchand in the Toronto Star wrote that Layton’s long-time friend Leonard Cohen proclaimed him “our greatest champion of poetry” and added “Alzheimer’s could not silence him, and neither will death.” For years Layton was a magnetic presence teaching history and literature at a Jewish high school in Montreal before realizing a life-long ambition in 1969 when he became professor of English at York, noted Marchand.
  • Sandra Martin in The Globe and Mail wrote that Layton was fond of referring to himself in the same breath as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats, but, for all his bombast, he was a grand poet who wrote at least a dozen poems that will keep his name and his reputation alive. A prolific letter-writer, a mentor to generations of younger poets, including Leonard Cohen and Al Purdy, he brought an energy and an excitement to the writing of poetry in Canada beginning in the 1950s.

Dean welcomes restored law reform commission

In his speech to the Opening of the Courts ceremony, Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant announced that the process of updating Ontario’s laws will now be aided by the resurrection of the province’s law reform commission, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 5. Killed by the Conservative government in 1996 after almost three decades in existence, the advisory body will be restarted and include academics, judges, lawyers and possibly members of the public. Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, welcomed the news, saying the commission will add an “independent and credible voice” that can make suggestions to the provincial government for long-term legal reforms, away from the heat of politics.

How bees profit Africa’s poor

Farouk Jiwa jokes that being “one to watch” isn’t necessarily a good thing when you’re a 31-year-old bald, goateed man from East Africa, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 3. But the York graduate’s business brilliance in running East Africa’s largest honey production company – and raising the income of 9,000 small Kenyan farm households by half – certainly deserves kudos from his fellow York alumni, who recently honoured him with the 2005 One-to-Watch Byden Alumni Award. The Nairobi native is an environmentalist – with business acumen. “People, the planet and profits do not have to be mutually exclusive,” says the landed immigrant who earned a master’s of environmental studies from York in 2003 and returned to Canada last year as an agricultural business specialist. Jiwa’s Honey Care Africa could silence critics who think business and third-world development can’t go hand in hand. Launched in 2000 with a $50,000 loan from Danida, the Danish government’s International Development Agency, Jiwa’s social enterprise manufactures wooden beehives and distributes them to small farmers and sell their honey back to Jiwa at a fair-trade price.

Black lawyer alleges racial profiling

A Toronto lawyer who says police targeted him for investigation because he is black, plans to sue the city’s police force for more than $1 million, reported and CBC Radio Jan. 5. Jason Bogle says he was ordered out of his car and questioned by police last week simply because of his skin colour. Bogle, who graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2004, says he was humiliated and suffered damage to his reputation. The incident occurred on Dec. 28 – Bogle’s 26th birthday – at around 11pm as he dropped off his girlfriend at her home, near Eglinton Avenue West and Keele Street. Bogle says he was sitting in his Lexus in a driveway when he was approached by police and ordered out of the vehicle.

 Vote for left to eliminate child poverty, suggests prof

The best predictor of child poverty rates is also the best predictor of jurisdictional commitment to providing its citizens with a modicum of security and well-being: the influence of “left” parties in government, argued Dennis Raphael, a health policy professor at York, in an essay about eliminating Canada’s child poverty published Jan. 3 on the union-sponsored Web site The bottom line is this: if you vote Conservative or Liberal in January, you are voting for child poverty, said Raphael.

 Close tuition gap, law schools ask

Ontario’s top law schools want the province to close the substantial tuition gap now enjoyed by the University of Toronto, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 22. In a strongly worded letter to the provincial government obtained by the Globe, five law school deans urge that the “tremendously uneven” tuition landscape be changed to put their universities on the same footing as the U of T. At the high end of the spectrum, the U of T charges students $16,000 a year. But at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, tuition stands at about $12,000. The University of Western Ontario and Queen’s University charge less than $10,000, while students at the University of Ottawa and the University of Windsor pay $8,500. The deans are making their request at a time when Ontario is reviewing its tuition policy to determine what regulation, if any, will apply once the current two-year freeze is lifted in September.

One semester down, so many lessons to go

“I decided to pursue my MBA to not only learn business fundamentals but also the problem-solving and interpersonal skills touted by business school deans and program-recruitment brochures worldwide,” wrote York student Richard Bloom in his Globe and Mail report Dec. 23 of what he learned after his first semester at York’s Schulich School of Business. “I left a steady job at The Globe and Mail with hopes that my extra education would help me move up the corporate ladder and open more doors in the work force. I have learned concepts and skills that I am certain to use throughout my career – from how to analyze financial statements to the techniques of top negotiators. One of the more intriguing lessons I learned: the importance of learning, and the impact of continuing education programs on not only skills but also corporate culture.”

Swingers’ club ruling could shake up sex industry

Legal acceptance of swingers’ clubs will spur their popularity and could lead to a broader shakeup in the sex industry, people familiar with this week’s Supreme Court decision said, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 22. Some say it could blur the legality of massage parlours and areas of the sex trade. Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said, “I don’t see a big difference between a sex club where you go and have sex for free after paying to get in and a sex club [that] charges a cover fee not directly related to the sex act.”

York wins gold for image campaign

In 2005, York’s Communications Division won a Circle of Excellence grand gold for its reputation campaign, reported Currents, the magazine of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, a professional organization for fund-raising and communications personnel at 175 universities and colleges in the United States and Canada.

In May 2004 York leaders launched the first image campaign to heighten awareness of the differences between York and other Canadian universities. The eight-week campaign targeted potential students and their families. Six different executions of the campaign ran in Canadian university trade publications, regional editions of three major newspapers, and the Report on Business Magazine. Before this effort, “York had no consistent visual identity,” says Richard Fisher, chief marketing & communications officer. “The look meandered from year to year and from unit to unit.” The University also blanketed the St. George subway station with ads. St. George isn’t just any subway station—it’s right in the middle of the University of Toronto, York’s biggest competitor. “We wanted every U of T student to ‘walk through York’,” Fisher says. “U of T was very good-humoured about it. We heard no negative comments, and we did get a lot of media coverage for being so audacious.” In addition to the ads, the University sent a targeted mailing to 4,100 donors, alumni, government officials, high school guidance counselors, and other opinion leaders. Five months after the campaign, York had exceeded its full-time undergraduate and graduate enrolment goals by 105 percent.

Feel like a fraud? Workplace might be to blame

It’s not uncommon for high achievers to sometimes harbour fears of inadequacy, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 24. Some workplaces are so “aggressively competitive” that they make even the most accomplished employees feel unworthy of their success, says Diane Zorn, a faculty development director at York who has conducted research on the debilitating effects of “impostor phenomenon” – the constant fear of being exposed as a fraud despite a solid record of achievement. Academics are particularly vulnerable – universities are far less collegial than they might appear from the outside, she says. But any demanding workplace culture, where high achievers are left on their own to sink or swim, can leave even the best employees feeling insecure. An intensely competitive culture will reinforce any self-doubts a person might have if there is a lack of mentoring and a lack of collaboration, Zorn says.

On air

  • Heather Lotherington, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, talked about how video games can be a learning experience, on “This Morning Live” on CKMI-TV in Montreal Jan. 4. Today’s children learn in 3D and some games can teach problem-solving, science and math, she said. On TVO’s “More to Life” Jan. 4, Lotherington also discussed whether literacy in the 21st century is more than reading and writing, but includes the ability to play video games and create Web pages.