Web-based search tool helps schools stem tide of plagiarism

The Internet may have made it easier for today’s students to cheat but educators blame several factors for the increasing rate of plagiarism, reported the Toronto Star March 30. One reason may be that there is more pressure on today’s students to succeed in school, so they are more inclined to take the easy way out. That’s a view shared by Vivienne Monty, senior librarian at York’s Leslie Frost Library, Glendon. “I think that the competition these kids are facing is huge,” she says. “In order to get there, they get this tremendous amount of pressure on them. And, frankly, I have even seen parents encouraging them to do it. I have seen parents actually come in here and do their kid’s essays.” But Monty has also noticed a marked decline in research skills among secondary and post-secondary students.

“We are not giving them the basics with which to do research, so when they come to writing a paper, they don’t know how,” says Monty, who interrupted our interview to explain to a third-year university student how to locate a book on the shelves. But as students are turning to the Internet for help with their research, educators are turning to Web-based programs to catch the cheaters. “Plagiarism is now a very dangerous game to play,” says York’s Xavier de Vanssay, professor in the Department of Economics at Glendon. “It is a double-edged sword – it is easy for them and it is easy for the professor.”

York students join young feminists on a mission

Feminism is not dead, reported the Toronto Star March 30 – it goes to university and wears buttons like “My short skirt and everything under it is Mine!” The bold young faces – and bodies, for that matter – of the women’s rights movement marched into Queen’s Park with plenty of short skirts, long hair and cocky flair, to push politicians to make women’s studies part of the high-school curriculum.To Olivia Scobie, a second-year student in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies who attended the meeting in support of the cause, there’s another benefit to teaching women’s studies in high school. “If we’re going to change society, you’ve got to get ’em while they’re young. And high school gets the most people at the youngest age.” Education Minister Gerard Kennedy said he is open to the idea and said it should be one of the early items to be considered by the government’s new curriculum council.

World sees first total solar eclipse in years

Day turned to night for millions of people lucky enough to witness a complete solar eclipse on Wednesday, reported CTV News March 29. The last total eclipse occurred in November 2003. They are rare because they require the tilted orbits of the sun, moon and earth to line up exactly so that the moon obscures the sun completely. But this one was especially unique because its path travelled from Brazil all the way to Mongolia – meaning that it cut across the very populated areas of Africa and Eastern Europe, said Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. “These are wonderful events that millions of people flock to around the world,” Delaney told CTV Newsnet. “You have to be a little cautious, take some reasonable precautions, but to be outside during a solar eclipse is a wonderful experience.”

While it is true that staring at an eclipse without proper protection can hurt your eyes, Delaney stresses that it is no different than any other day of the year. “You’ve got to be careful when you look at the sun at any time. Today is no different. The solar eclipse itself doesn’t generate any more unusual a phenomenon,” Delaney said. Although people in Canada wouldn’t be able enjoy the eclipse, Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan would be able to. “They will see a significant fraction of the sun be occulted by the moon. It will be an interesting experience but it will not completely turn dark where they are,” Delaney said.

Tories’ daycare stipend ‘nothing’, says York professor and parent

Advocates for the homeless, child care and a greener Canada are kicking off what is likely to be a battle royal with the federal Conservatives, reported the Toronto Star March 30. In Toronto, a coalition of daycare groups sought to keep the pressure on Harper not to scrap the previous Liberal government’s $5 billion daycare deal with Ontario and other provinces. The $1,200 a year that the Conservatives promised for each child under 6 won’t help much, said one mother of a 15-month-old boy, who pays $1,100 monthly for his daycare five days a week. “It’s nothing,” said Lesley Wood, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, who was on a waiting list for over a year before finally getting a spot last week.

Improving our justice system

In a letter to the editor of The Leader-Post (Regina) March 30, a writer noted a talk by Brian Slattery, Aboriginal rights scholar at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Slattery set out the current state of judicially recognized rights as they relate to Aboriginal governance. On the one hand, he described Canadian courts as committed to recognizing that the meaning of both our historical commitments and constitutional guarantees is that Aboriginal communities are entitled to the capacity to preserve their integrity and promote their social development. On the other hand, he noted the courts’ caution over over-stating self-government rights. Canadian courts, like Canadian politics, are committed to finding routes to social well-being – and see the ability to pursue this project as a constitutional promise – but are not sure just how this translates into reforming government.

Why bury the subway to York?, asks reader

Why do we have to have a subway from Downsview Station to York University and Steeles Avenue?, asked Mitch Klinger of Thornhill in a letter to the Toronto Sun March 30. Many cities throughout the world have transportation lines above ground, like Las Vegas, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and, closer to home, Cleveland. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to build a Monorail/Skytrain type-system above ground than digging a giant hole?

Moosehead appoints Schulich alumnus as president

Of all the prevailing challenges facing the country’s beer industry executives, discount breweries in Ontario and their impact on the sector’s bottom line are the most significant, reported the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal (St. John) March 30. That’s the view of York alumnus Steven M. Poirier (MBA ‘84), who will become president of Moosehead Breweries on Monday. “The biggest challenge that our company is going to be facing in the near future is the decline of profitability in the industry throughout Canada and particularly in the Ontario beer market,” said Poirier, a 51-year-old Montreal native who becomes just the second president in the 139-year history of the company not from the Oland family. Porier has been with Moosehead since 1997, most recently as executive vice-president. “It is really had a depressing impact on the profitability of the whole industry. That certainly is our biggest challenge going forward.”

The discount issue is one of many challenging facing Poirier, a savvy marketing expert, who spent significant time in senior management positions with companies ranging from Bacardi Rums to McCain Foods before landing a senior marketing and sales management position with Moosehead. “It is a good move for everybody,” said Derek Oland, Moosehead’s executive chairman. “We have to continue to get more and more competitive with more and better marketing and promotion programs. We have to push our brands more and our people have to work harder to increase our volume and share – that is what Steve is good at.”

On air

  • Debra Pepler, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and the Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” program March 29 about the new anti-bullying program launched by York and Queen’s.