Proposal to house Ontario archives at York gets boost from subway talk

A proposal to house the province’s $400-million archives collection at York University is being given a boost by planned subway development, reported the Toronto Star March 14. According to the paper, sources say one of the selling points for the York University site is that it would increase the ridership on the planned $1.5-billion extension of the Spadina subway line. Thousands of people visit the archives every year and officials hope the new building will become a destination of choice for researchers and others interested in Ontario’s heritage. The 90,000-square-foot facility, expected to be completed early in 2009, will boast public reading rooms, conservation labs, archival processing areas and administrative offices. No price tag for the new building has yet been made public but government officials privately say it should be in the $25 million to $50 million range.

The Star has reported that Finance Minister Dwight Duncan is expected to announce in the March 23 budget that the province will help fund the 6.2-kilometre extension of the Spadina line from Downsview station through the York campus and ending at Steeles Avenue inside the Vaughan border. That extension is seen as key to York’s chances of winning the archives project over three competitors. The other competitors are the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Union Pearson Group Inc., and Woodcliffe Corporation and Westdale Constructions Co. Ltd. The deadline for proposals is May 1.

York is calling for proposals to develop a 1.6-acre site on the University’s Keele campus, said the Star. Its call for proposals suggests the site has been shortlisted for the archives and that the site “is adjacent to the proposed subway stop for the Spadina subway extension to York region.” Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips insisted no decision has been made on the archives. “The selection will be on the basis of who of those four have the best long-term plan for the archives,” Phillips said in an interview. “This is now home for them for the next 100 years, I suspect. It’s a big long-term decision.”

Controversy has swirled for years around the search to find a new storage facility for the millions of historical documents, some of which date to the 17th century. Included in the collection are about 200 watercolours painted by Elizabeth Simcoe, wife of John Graves Simcoe, Upper Canada’s first lieutenant governor.

EMBA profs must be first-class

Every time York business Professor Theo Peridis steps in front of a class, he knows both his and his university’s reputation are at stake, reported the Toronto Star March 14. Students are paying $85,000 to be in the Executive MBA Program and not only do they expect laptop computers, gourmet meals and school trips to Asia or Europe, they also demand phenomenal professors. It’s the last point that causes nervousness for Peridis, a merger and acquisition professor in the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program, offered jointly by York and Northwestern University. “I can’t be unprepared or not know something,” he says. Peridis takes two hours to prepare for every one hour he teaches in the program, more than he spends for other courses. “I’ll lose all credibility [if I’m not prepared]. The students pay lots of money and expect the best.”

An executive MBA professor should build on skills students already have or are learning in the program, says York alumnus Ron Leith, business unit executive at IBM Canada. Those skills should make a better manager more able to run a company than before, he says. As a graduate from the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA Program in 2005, Leith found successful professors engaged students in discussion, imparted knowledge beyond that found in textbooks, and managed class dynamics.

With all of the expectations of EMBA students, why do business schools jump at the chance to cater to their demands? Cash could be a big reason. At the Kellogg-Schulich program, for example, a class of 40 generates more than $3 million in fees. Course director André deCarufel said irate students are not shy about going to his office to express disappointment. He shares the feedback with professors so they can adjust their teaching. “Professors are devastated” when they get negative feedback, says deCarufel, because it’s a signal they’ve failed in the presence of executives. The ideal EMBA professor, deCarufel says, would be a Nobel Prize winner who is a brilliant performer and can manage a classroom where students won’t accept what the instructor is telling them until a credible explanation is offered. Small wonder the professors lose sleep.

  • The National Post published a special section on executive MBA programs March 14 with several stories that included details about the Schulich School of Business at York.

In a story about fees, the Post noted Canadian business schools are reporting that corporations are backing away from paying the freight for EMBA programs. The cost can be steep, ranging from $40,425 at Internet-based Athabasca University in St. Albert, Alta., to $95,000 next year at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto. At Schulich, André deCarufel, executive director of the Kellogg-Schulich EMBA Program, says 47 per cent of his students paid the full $90,000 this year, compared with 45 per cent last year and 38 per cent in 2003. “Up to five years ago, almost all our students were supported by their employers.” To help shoulder the strain, Schulich, like all Canadian business schools, has struck a deal with a bank. The Royal Bank of Canada offers lines of credit to EMBA students with no interest charged until they are finished. Students also get a tax credit for tuition and can recover up to 40 per cent. One side effect deCarufel has noticed is the ages of applicants are rising. “Face it, counting both tuition and time, this is an enormous commitment, especially when you consider most of the people who apply have spouses and young families.”

Faced with rising tuition costs and a steady demand for executives to enhance their credentials, the Post also noted that Canadian universities are looking for constructive alternatives to make an MBA affordable to candidates and their companies. Introductory EMBA programs have taken off at several leading business schools including York University’s Schulich School of Business. The paper also reported that niche MBA programs are popping up in growing numbers and noted that Schulich offers a full- or part-time MBA aimed at developing effective leaders for non-profit or public organizations.

Double cohort, double stress

Being in a group that she never volunteered to join has been nothing but a series of stressful challenges for 20-year-old Lindsay Amyot, reported the Toronto Star March 14. The third-year psychology student at York University is one of the 76,000 Ontario high school students who entered the province’s universities as part of the double cohort in 2003. “First I felt stress and anxiety that I wasn’t going to get into any university anywhere,” she says. “Then when I got here I had to take math, first-year calculus with students who had an extra year of high school math than me. I had to work a lot harder to achieve the same marks. But I did okay.”

Amyot’s latest stress is competing with all the other double cohort students in her program to find an adviser for her senior year thesis. “The next year, fourth year, is already starting to feel overwhelming because of the competition.” She says the competition doesn’t end there. She’s already pondering what the job market will be like when so many double cohort students across the province graduate at the same time. “I haven’t decided exactly what I’m going to do but, whether you want to continue on with graduate school or go into the workforce, we still realize how much tougher it’s going to be for us.” But she credits York for doing everything it could to accommodate the double cohort group and maintains a positive attitude about the predicament she and her classmates are in. “I’ve felt a huge sense of accomplishment every step of the way – when I got into university, after my first year. I guess there’s a higher standard for us if we want to get the good positions and jobs we want.”

The view from Windsor on subways and Toronto’s finances

When Windsor-St. Clair MPP Dwight Duncan delivers his first budget as finance minister next week, Toronto officials are expecting a financial bailout for their cash-strapped municipality, said The Windsor Star in an editorial March 14. That aid – which would enable the city to address a $415-million budgetary shortfall and hold a potential six per cent property tax increase to three per cent – would be over and above any money earmarked for the extension of Toronto’s subway line to York University. No one knows for certain that the province will chip in for the $1.5-billion subway extension that will cater to voters in Toronto and surrounding regions. While the merits of a subway line are at least debatable, there’s no reasonable argument for rewarding Toronto’s municipal politicians for failing to take a harder look at their finances, said the Star.

York student answers the government’s call for consultation on energy

The Kingston Whig-Standard March 14 featured people who spoke out boldly on energy issues a few weeks ago at a public consultation meeting in Kingston, including Kathy Raddon, a graduate student in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “If we go the nuclear route, conservation will never happen,” Raddon said. “There is now a window of opportunity. Government should bring organizations like the Sierra Club, the Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and others in as they formulate energy strategies.”

On air

  • Wesley Cragg, George R. Gardiner Professor of Business Ethics at the Schulich School of Business, and Chair and president of Transparency International Canada Inc., spoke about the federal ethics commissioner’s investigation of the David Emerson case on CKNW-AM (Vancouver).
  • Michael Mandel, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke on CBC Radio in Vancouver March 13 about the international tribunal that had been trying former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosovic until his death March 11.