We can learn from the discomfort of others, says law professor

“The whole cartoon debacle, which lamentably appears to be not fully spent, reminds me of another moment when the atmosphere was electrified with a similar climate of devastation, anguish, animosity, and suspicion,” wrote Susan Drummond, a comparative law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in a Globe and Mail op-ed piece Feb. 11. Shortly after the twin towers of the World Trade Centre fell, she was teaching a comparative law course and “an interesting thing happened, not unlike the current debate about the relationship between the values of the secular and religious worlds.” A devout Muslim student and Lubovitch Jewish student together complained about the insensitivity of reproducing an image of the Koran and a page from the Talmud in her teaching materials. Students agreed to hand back the photocopied pages of the Talmud.

“The exchange left me uneasy and unsettled about what had just taken place, and I remain so to this day. Osgoode is a secular institution, resting upon centuries of the same cherished traditions that infuse the value of freedom of speech,” wrote Drummond. “Comparative law begins from the premise that she who understands one legal tradition understands none, or to quote script from a sculpture on the campus of York, a fish only recognizes water when it discovers air. Taking into account that the study of law touches upon values that also embody different senses of injustice, I urged my students that year not to simply understand unfamiliar texts and traditions from the vantage of a cold and purportedly neutral detachment, but to follow another of Simone Weil’s admonitions: to understand the self from the point of view of the other’s affliction.”

Drummond was also the centre of another story:

  • The Globe and Mail recalled Feb. 11 that she and Harry Gefen were caught up in a battle with Rogers Communications after her cellphone number was stolen and used to make hundreds of calls to terrorist hot spots. For most customers, the elimination of a $14,000 bill, a personal apology from the president and a cheque for $5,000 would probably be enough to wipe the slate clean. But she and Gefen, reported the Globe, are still waiting for CEO Ted Rogers to come to tea, as promised. After months of research into the legal issues surrounding her dispute with Rogers, Drummond is convinced that Canadian cellphone customers are severely handicapped in their dealings with companies. She believes that she won her battle only because of media interest. A Rogers spokesperson cited scheduling difficulties.

Chantel Dunn’s murder inspires fundraising drive for centre

Church and business leaders in the Jane-Finch area have banded together in a bid to prevent youths from joining gangs following the brutal slaying of York student Chantel Dunn, reported The Toronto Sun Feb. 12. Residents kicked off a “Toonie drive” to raise funds for a training centre for youth. The 19-year-old university student and aspiring lawyer died Feb. 6 after being shot outside the Northwood Community Centre as she picked up her boyfriend, Shane Morrison, 21. Two men are sought for murder. The Sun said a funeral for Dunn is planned for Feb. 18.

Granatstein calls for more reserves

Canada needs to more than double its strength of military reserves to deal with disasters, terrorism and to prepare for future conflicts, a leading historian told a military studies conference Friday, reported the Windsor Star Feb. 11. Jack Granatstein, distinguished research professor of history emeritus at York, told more than 100 at the Windsor military studies conference that the new Conservative government needs to deliver on their election promises. Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to expand the military by 13,000 in the regular forces and by 10,000 in the reserves. “The country needs to hold Harper to that promise,” said Granatstein. “There are far too many reservists on full-time service.”

Order of Canada appointment for Sidney native Marsden

Sidney native Lorna Marsden, the president of York University, is among the 56 new appointments to the Order of Canada announced this week by Gov.-Gen. Michaëlle Jean, reported Peninsula News Review on Vancouver Island Feb. 10. Marsden, who is also vice-chancellor of York, has had a long and illustrious career in education. Her career has taken her a long way from her humble beginnings in Sidney, a Vancouver Island town where she was born as Lorna Bosher at the now defunct Resthaven Hospital. She attended Sidney and Mount Newton schools and graduated from North Saanich high school before briefly attending the University of Victoria. “She’s quite an interesting person to have as a younger sister,” said her sister Avis Rasmussen of Oak Bay, a Victoria suburb.

‘World can be yours,’ black students told

Aim high, think big and most importantly keep your options open, an inspirational speaker told local black high school students Friday, reported The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Feb. 11. Michelle Hughes of Toronto was the keynote speaker at a day-long conference organized by the Wilfrid Laurier University’s Association of Black Students. “I want you to think big. The world can be yours. It is a game and you only get one chance to play,’’ the 39-year-old employment counselor and professional speaker told a group of 70 students. She quit school when she was 17. She later returned and graduated from York with a BA in psychology in 1998 and was the first black female student president.

Theatre grad heads Neptune school

Like a hurricane wind, Samatha Wilson blew into Nova Scotia last fall after a 12-year absence, got married, got a new job, went back to Toronto and packed up her belongings and moved to Halifax, reported Cape Breton Post Feb. 11. “I’m very excited about being back here. This job is certainly the perfect blend of everything I love,” says the recently minted director of the Neptune Theatre School. Wilson, who grew up in Sydney River, earned a masters degree in fine arts in 2003 from York where she also lectured in theatre.

McAdams performs in Vagina Monologues

Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter is the beneficiary of a celebrity-studded production of The Vagina Monologues featuring York 2001 theatre grad Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Wedding Crashers), Shirley Douglas and musician Melissa Auf Der Maur on Feb. 25 at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 12.

Cake cutting; What’s up with that?

Cake cutting, also known as fair division, is about figuring out how to divide a resource so that each recipient feels they’ve received a fair portion based on their needs and desires, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 12. The cake-cutting problem was first presented by Polish academics in the 1940s. Since then, mathematicians and computer scientists have attempted to one-up each other with more efficient algorithms. At a University of Toronto seminar, Jeff Edmonds, a computer scientist in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, presented an algorithm he developed with Kirk Pruhs of the University of Pittsburgh. They showed that by identifying the recipient’s desires in a randomized manner, they can solve a problem in fewer operations.

Bodychecking study fans debate

A study of injuries due to bodychecking in minor hockey by York University and the Hospital for Sick Children continued to reverberate on sports pages Feb. 12. It was cited in stories in the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald debating the issue and in an anti-bodychecking letter in the Ottawa Citizen.

On air

  • Top executives are rarely prepared for politics but David Emerson should have expected the backlash for switching to the Tory party, said Bernie Wolf, director of the International MBA Program at York’s Schulich School of Business, reported CJMJ-FM “News” in Ottawa Feb. 10.
  • Most of author Gabrielle Roy’s archives are in the National Library in Ottawa but some are at York, said the author of a new book on the correspondence between Roy and Margaret Laurence, on CBC Radio’s “C`est La Vie” Feb. 10.