Kenyan is studying at York thanks to student levy

What a difference three cents makes, reported the Toronto Sun April 19. Last year Simon Thon Kuany was living in a mud hut in a refugee camp fighting for water and scraps of food in a Kenyan desert. Now, thanks to a fund that York University students built by kicking in 3 cents per course, the 23-year-old Sudan native is studying chemistry at the Downsview campus. It’s the fifth year in a row that students from developing countries have come to the school through the program sponsored by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC).

Kuany was not sure how Canadians would look at him. “I’m surprised at how well I’ve been received,” he said. “I felt at home soon after I came. Canadian people are very open, they discuss anything you ask of them,” the soft-spoken undergrad said. “Here I can speak what I have in mind…and sleep in peace.” It’s a stark contrast from his childhood in Sudan “There were no basic human rights. Children were in the crossfire,” Kuany said. The WUSC recruited Kuany from the refugee camp after seeing how well he did in high school. He’s not sure how, but he knows that he wants to help people in Sudan. “My part of the country has been in war for almost 50 years. I have not forgotten my people and the suffering they’re going through.”

CEOs should think of whistle-blowers as friends, not foes

Senior executives in Canada should encourage whistle-blowers – employees who are prepared to stick out their necks when they spot a wrong – because they just might help executives save their necks from prosecution and civil action, reported the National Post April 19. “I think we do need to see more actual examples of people who blow the whistle and are protected by their company,” said Mark Schwartz, professor in York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies. “Firms still focussed on the bottom line continue to abuse and punish their whistle-blowers even if they claim to protect them.”

There is the obligation, on the part of the whistle-blower, to report the matter internally before running to the media, wrote the Post. They should only go outside the company if there is the chance they will be severely punished and the matter not acted on. In turn, whistle-blowers should be able to expect they will be treated with respect and protected. “[They need to know] they will be protected from harassment if they do blow the whistle,” said Schwartz. “It’s not just a question of putting it on paper. You need to have managers that are constantly reminding employees about all of this right up to the CEO. There are examples of some CEOs saying, ‘if you see a problem you should actually feel comfortable contacting me’. Warren Buffett did that right after the whole Salomon Brothers incident, sent out a memo to all employees and gave everyone his home phone number.”

There is also enormous pressure on a company’s board of directors (of particular concern to Canadian companies trading on US markets) because of Sarbanes-Oxley to stay completely informed about what is occurring at their company, either through a channel a whistle-blower can use to contact them directly or at least making sure the CEO keeps them fully aware. “I would put the elementary obligation on the independent member of the board,” Schwartz said. “He or she is the final gatekeeper and when someone like Sherron Watkins blows the whistle to Ken Lay, he should have presented it to the board of directors and he didn’t.”

Former Osgoode dean named chair of Hollinger

Hollinger, the holding company once led by Conrad M. Black, has named Stanley M. Beck as its chairman, reported Canadian Press April 19. Beck, an authority on governance and corporate law, once headed the Ontario Securities Commission and is a former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto.

Osgoode alumna makes a move

We hear Osgoode Hall Law School alumna Wendy Gross (LLB ‘84), a technology type, informed her partners at Torys last week that she’s leaving to join McCarthy Tetrault, wrote National Post legal columnist Sandra Rubin April 19. George Takach, co-head of McCarthy’s tech practice group, taught Gross computer law at Osgoode Hall Law School. (Don’t ask. We’re told he became an adjunct professor at 14.) They also know one another socially. They’ve played tennis. They attend the same conferences and have undoubtedly been part of the same group headed out for drinks afterwards. There’s little doubt the talk turned to work, their partners, their platforms. You know how this kind of thing happens.

Globe reviewer critiques York prof’s film

The wry, engaging story of one adolescent’s tempestuous coming of age in rural Nova Scotia, Whole New Thing also serves as a cautionary tale about the perils of home schooling, wrote reviewer Jason Anderson in The Globe and Mail April 19. Rich with ideas and nuanced characters, the script by writer-director Amnon Buchbinder is as skilled and intelligent as one could expect from a man who wrote a book called The Way of the Screenwriter (he also teaches the subject at York University’s Department of Film & Video). Yet with all the slow-building tension created by the numerous subplots – and the many lustful Hidden Cameras songs on the soundtrack – the climactic scenes feel more timid than they could be.

Like such recent films as Michael Cuesta’s L.I.E., Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl and Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, Whole New Thing is energized by the clash between amorphous adolescent sexuality and the more mercenary imperatives of adulthood. Yet Buchbinder shuts down that avenue of exploration when matters become too unsettling. While he’s to be commended for incorporating so many provocative elements in what’s essentially a light-hearted family drama, the result doesn’t entirely satisfy. However, the performances should make it easy for audiences to enjoy the lead character’s difficult but overdue foray into public education.

Universities here join in massive experiment

A consortium that includes York University and is led by Simon Fraser University is playing a key role in what is being billed as the biggest science experiment in history, reported the Vancouver Sun April 19. Central to Canada’s participation in the project is the Atlas Data Centre to be housed at TRIUMF, a national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics established in Vancouver that is owned and operated by a consortium of Canadian universities. The data centre will be among 10 Tier-1 facilities that will be analyzing and storing data generated by what’s called the Atlas project being carried out at the CERN labs in Switzerland. The project is a particle physics experiment unprecedented in size and scope.

The Atlas detector, an instrument that measures the after-effects of those collisions, will provide physicists with information to study nature at its most fundamental level, according to project participants. As well as being a science experiment of unprecedented proportions, the project is creating the biggest computing grid for large-scale computing that has ever been built. Other members of the Canadian university consortium besides SFU are the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, Carleton University, McGill University, Universite de Montreal, the University of Toronto and the University of Victoria. Installation at the Tier-1 centre is scheduled to begin this summer, with full-scale testing slated for the early fall.

The Prime Minister who would be president

Much has been made about the new style of Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, wrote Arthur Haberman, York professor emeritus, in an opinion piece for the the Toronto Star April 19. He is different from several immediate predecessors in how he conducts himself and how he relates to his cabinet and Parliament. The clue to his behaviour may be that Harper really wishes that he were president of Canada. Harper takes the US presidency as his model, where the president is both head of government and head of state, and has a power and deference unknown and inappropriate to parliamentary governments. The difference with ordinary parliamentary cabinets is that, say, under Brian Mulroney or Jean Chrétien, the prime minister was first among equals. Now they, and we, were quickly informed, the PM is first, and the rest of the cabinet is possibly second. 

Lawn-mowing accidents on the rise, projectile injuries most common: study

Lawn-mowing accidents are likely more common than one might think and perhaps even on the rise, reported Canadian Press April 19 in a story about a team of American researchers who studied nearly 10 years of statistics. “I would not say that lawn-mower injuries are the biggest issue in injury in Canada. They’re not. But if they’re preventable, why not prevent them?” asked Alison Macpherson, an injury researcher and professor in York University’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science.

Toronto could become global leader in sustainability says Hopkins

Toronto can become a global leader in sustainable living by building a United Nations centre for teaching the subject, says York Professor Charles Hopkins and other supporters of a United Nations University project announced last summer, reported the Scarborough Mirror April 18. Toronto and six other regions outside North America were named “pioneers” of a global network the UNU plans to organize in the UN’s Decade for Education for Sustainable Development, 2005 to 2014.

The centre’s goal is citizens who are better informed and more knowledgeable consumers, said Hopkins, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education and UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education, who is helping to establish centres in different parts of the world. “That’s the experiment that UNU is trying to do. The UN believes the world’s cities and regions will play a crucial role in teaching sustainability by improving the quality of education,” said Hopkins, adding the project covers not just the environment but how we relate to each other and can keep creating good jobs. “These are issues that we want young and older people to think about.”

On air

  • Michael Gilbert, professor in York’s Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts, spoke about his cross-dressing on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” program April 18.
  • Anaya Mukherjee-Reed, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the need for international aid aimed at long-term projects on CBC radio (Moncton) April 19.
  • Thabit Abdullah, professor in York’s Department of History, Faculty of Arts, took part in a panel discussion about the war in Iraq on CTS-TV’s “Michael Coren Live” April 18.
  • Dr. Gabriel Leung’s guest lecture at York University about the inevitability of a flu pandemic was reported on OMNI-TV April 18.