York professor releases report on systemic racism at Queen’s

Queen’s University must address problems of systemic racism and discrimination that are hurting its reputation among minority groups, says a newly released report written by a retired York professor, reported The Kingston Whig-Standard March 31. Dubbed the Henry Report, after its author, York professor emerita Frances Henry, it was presented yesterday to the Queen’s senate – five years after work on it began. And while there was a focus on the experiences of visible minority and Aboriginal faculty, there was also mention of the role students play in the discriminatory campus culture.

Queen’s first looked at the issue of systemic racism in the institution in 1991 in something called the PAC Report. The report spurred the university to create the human rights office on campus and an employment equity policy. However, as the committee noted, “there has been little progress in addressing issues of climate over the past 15 years.” Five years ago this month, then-vice principal academic Suzanne Fortier asked the equity committee to do a follow-up analysis to the PAC Report after six faculty members left Queen’s alleging they had experienced racism. Over two years, the committee drafted and administered a survey to faculty and then released the results to Henry, an expert on the subject of racism. Henry handed her findings over to the committee in April 2004. Since then, Joy Mighty, chair of the senate’s equity committee, has been working on a response with recommendations to go with the report. She said she was confident that the report’s recommendations would be taken seriously.

Former York student, now UPEI professor, decides to cross the picket line

As a lecturer in the religious studies department at the University of Prince Edward Island, I would like to express my opinion on the strike at UPEI, wrote York graduate Jonathan von Kodar (BA ‘99 Atkinson) in The Guardian (Charlottetown) March 31. When the call to strike was announced, I must admit I was rather surprised. I watched as colleagues went into “strike mode” and began the mobilization process. There was a party atmosphere in the halls. None of my colleagues have been through a strike before. I have experienced five. In each case, a certain innocence was lost forever and a degree of alienation set in.

I did not choose a teaching career to be popular or to follow the masses. I am first and foremost a teacher with an unwavering commitment to students who wish to learn. I have a responsibility to my students, especially to those who are graduating this year and require their transcripts on time. I thought long and hard about my decision. In the end, I chose to remain at the job. Of course, I run the risk of being slighted by colleagues – the same colleagues who made fun of George Bush’s ultimatum, “You’re either with us, or against us.” I suppose they will somehow justify this sentiment.

According to The Guardian, Professor von Kodar of Charlottetown joined the faculty at UPEI in July 2005. He was a student at York University, Toronto, Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. and Laval University in Quebec City. At these universities he experienced five strikes.

From the classroom to the boardroom

Talk about learning by doing, wrote York student Richard Bloom March 31, in his ongoing series of reports for The Globe and Mail on life as an MBA student at the Schulich School of Business. I’ve spent the past year studying governance, audit committee roles and other things about corporate boards. But understanding their real ins and outs is something that can’t truly be taught at business school. The way to really find out: join a board. However, getting onto a corporate board is tough. Corporations need experienced directors who bring solid strategic, industry and organizations skills to the table to effectively satisfy the needs of the shareholders. But there is another place to gain those crucial director skills: in the not-for-profit sector. “All of you should really try to get on a board, especially a charity. It’s an invaluable experience,” one of my professors advised. It was the second time in as many months that a professor had encouraged my class to get involved in an organization at the director level.

Removing worker protections will cause further French discord, says Laxer

Compared with most countries, it is relatively difficult to fire workers in France, reported The Edmonton Journal March 31. The republic, under a conservative government, has until now generally resisted the trend, at least on the labour side. Exactly, say critics, who point to France’s sluggish economy, compared with exponential growth in say, the US, Britain and Canada. Cut the strictures and the market will take care of things. York University economist James Laxer, who spends a lot of time in France and has published widely on the subject, takes a different view. True, he says, a revitalized economy is the ultimate answer to eliminating youth unemployment and underemployment. But removing employee protections will only cause further social discord, and isn’t likely to do much for growth.

“It sounds arcane. But a much more fruitful approach would be to push for changes in European Union monetary policy. Unlike Britain and the US, the EU countries (that use the euro) haven’t been saddled with massive current-account deficits, which have helped fuel growth in the States. But there is a downside to that EU policy and the cost of integration, a common currency and the rest have been profound. There are huge problems in France, where racism is truly frightening,” said Laxer. “It’s not paradise, although it remains a very liveable place. And you have to admire a western nation where salaried wage earners and students still mobilize in the millions when pushed and can materially affect government policy. I’ll bet [Premier] de Villepin backs down, at least to some degree.”

Provincial budget and a subway to York are good for homeowners

The Greater Toronto Home Builders’ Association has consistently said that the province’s growth plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on if the municipalities can’t afford the infrastructure required to facilitate managed growth, said a columnist in The Toronto Sun Homes section March 31. Last week’s provincial budget took a step in the right direction with a healthy allocation of new money for infrastructure, focused heavily on the GTA (Stephen Harper take note). The major infrastructure investments include $670 million to extend the TTC subway to the Vaughan Corporate Centre via York University, $95 million to Brampton for express transit service and $65 million to Mississauga for extension of its Transitway. Why is this infrastructure investment relevant to homebuyers? Well, since the growth plan dictates far more intense development within the existing urban, as well as newly developing areas, if we don’t enhance our transportation capacity, gridlock will get far worse, not better, completely undermining quality of life in the GTA.

On air

  • Carl James, professor in York’s Faculty of Education and recipient of a 2006 New Pioneers Award, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” March 30.
  • Anne-Marie Ambert, sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, was interviewed on CBC Radio’s “Canada Now” program March 30 in an item on inexpensive activities for families at spring break time.