Harris Research Initiative at York noted in Time cover story

One of the best known of alternative treatments for autism was developed by child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan, [a member of the York University-led Council of Human Development] who spent 15 years studying infant development at the National Institute of Mental Health, reported Time magazine in a cover story in its US and Canadian editions May 7. His method, called DIR (developmental, individual-difference, relationship based), has as its premise the idea that an exchange of emotional signals, initially between mother and infant, form the basis for learning in childhood.

While Greenspan has published impressive long-term results, his critics say there’s an absence of controlled, randomized studies. He is responding with a series of studies just getting under way at York University [at the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative, led by Stuart Shanker, professor of philosophy and psychology in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies]. Among them is work that should help illuminate choices for struggling parents: imaging studies that will compare the brains of DIR kids with those treated with ABA, Time said.

Arrest illustrates Iranian regime’s brutality, says Rahnema

There’s a cruel irony in the arrest and detention in Tehran of Canadian-Iranian scholar Ramin Jahanbegloo, friend and fellow academic Saeed Rahnema said in a story published in The Globe and Mail May 6. “I was critical of him for being too soft on the regime,” Rahnema, a York political scientist and Iranian exile, said. “I had arguments with him about illusions he had about the possibility of reform of the regime…He believed in gradual change and reform.” Now, the politically moderate Jahanbegloo, who used to teach at the University of Toronto, is being held on suspicions of espionage and violating Iranian security measures. “Those accusations are totally ridiculous,” said Rahnema, who said his friend’s arrest shows the “brutality” of the Iranian regime.

Jahanbegloo was arrested more than a week ago and his detention became known to Canadian officials when he failed to arrive at an international conference in Brussels. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said May 4 that his department is trying to provide Jahanbegloo with consular help. Jahanbegloo was initially held at the infamous Evin prison in Tehran, but some news reports said that he has been transferred to a hospital. There has been speculation that Jahanbegloo may have been arrested because in a Spanish newspaper article he contested Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad’s claim that the Holocaust never took place and he quoted a number of Iranian intellectuals critical of the regime’s shakedown of its opponents. “It’s not clear at all why he was arrested. Nobody really knows why they have singled him out,” Rahnema said.

Nor is it known which Iranian security or intelligence agency is directing the case, Rahnema said. “So, it’s very hard to anticipate what’s going to happen. Let’s hope with the pressure of the Canadian government we won’t have a situation like that of Zahra Kazemi,” he said, referring to the Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who was slain in Evin prison in 2003. Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance rejected speculation that Jahanbegloo was arrested for any of his recent writings. Rahnema said that, politically, Jahanbegloo has never done anything against the Islamic regime and was a voice of moderation.

Sports and clubs add to the York experience

The way Mike Broderick sees it, there are two types of post-secondary students: the 9-to-5ers who scurry from class to class and then scurry back home; and the open-minded ones who engage themselves by getting involved in extracurricular activities, reported the Toronto Sun May 7. It’s this latter group, says Broderick, intramural and sport clubs officer at York University, that will not only have a better time at school, but will reap lasting rewards that will positively affect their social lives and careers. “I’ve met students who’ve said they hated their university experience, that there’s nothing to do here. I ask them what they do, and they say that they go to class and go home. They haven’t done anything!” said Broderick. “You have to find a place to fit in, you have to find a way to make it enjoyable so that you get the most out of your experience.”

“The recreational clubs are appealing because they’re very relaxed. They set their own rules and people can show up and participate whenever they feel like it,” Broderick said. Intramural sports attract about 5,000 participants each year – and are appealing to those with more competitive bents. Each of the York’s nine colleges features its own set of leagues that play against each other throughout the year.

Boot Camp teaches lesson in managing change

Issues of change management can be most difficult for executives in the high-technology field, where employee loyalty to certain tools and ways of thinking can be very strong, reported The Globe and Mail May 8. But CEOs in virtually all industries must find ways to steer in new directions without alienating the work force.  In their book Strategic Organizational Change, Ellen Auster, professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, consultant Krista Wylie and York PhD student Michael Valente stress the need to consider two sides of organizational change: practicalities, and the importance of creativity and spontaneity. While executives should have a well-thought-out plan for implementing a new idea, complete with hard numbers, they should also encourage employees to become personally involved, offering their own suggestions, thus helping build a passion for change sustainable over time.

Poverty’s last bastion: Single mothers

The trick is to make single parenthood unattractive to those on the outside looking in, while ensuring that children already in single-parent families are not unduly punished, reported the National Post May 8. York University sociologist Anne-Marie Ambert discusses a variety of possible ways to reverse the trend of single-parent families in a Vanier Institute on the Family report released this past March. She considers but discards the idea of parental licensing in favour of mandatory parenting courses for children as young as 12. She laments that adoption has fallen out of favour and thinks we should encourage males to be better parents. Finally, Ambert notes somewhat sadly that society itself has made this all too acceptable. “The moral stigma attached to the ‘unwed mother’ is largely a thing of the past,” she wrote.

AIDS activist gives advice on volunteering at Atkinson

Community activist David Peck is waving his magic wand to help battle AIDS in Cambodia, reported the Toronto Sun May 8. After spending time in the war-torn southeast Asian country, the Oakville electrician and award-winning magician realized people here know little and care less about the plight of adults and children over there. Peck amuses students of all ages as an advocate for volunteerism and mentoring at York University, where he sits on two advisory boards and often gives inspiring, funny, magically enhanced presentations. “David embodies community. There’s a gentleness about him. He’s thoughtful and knows the importance of giving back,” said Carole Umana, director of student & alumni relations at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

York economics professor is helping to rescue Wexford’s urban space

On a recent, unseasonably warm afternoon, Poletto and Lazier, along with Rafael Gomez, a York University professor of economics, met at the Wexford Restaurant, a decades-old landmark along a typically bleak strip of Lawrence Avenue East in the Wexford area of Scarborough, reported the Toronto Star May 7, in an article on mural projects for Toronto’s orphaned urban spaces. After a brief refreshment stop, said the Star writer, we did what almost nobody in Wexford does, we walked.

We walked across the expanse of tarmac that surrounds the restaurant and its connected strip mall, like an island in a sea. We were the castaways, drifting east along Lawrence, surveying the zone that would soon become the site of more orphan-spaces dreaming. Gomez, a Wexford resident helping to guide the Wexford Orphan Spaces project, led us to an old spur line that stretches north from Lawrence behind a 19th-century church that has had the suburbs creep up and surround it.

Canada should act on Darfur crisis, says York student

Our world community disappoints me beyond belief, wrote York student Heather Campbell, in a letter to the National Post May 6. What has happened that has made us all forget Rwanda? After the atrocities that occurred there, Western countries swore that would never happen again. Yet here we are, back in the same position with Sudan, which has become the humanitarian issue of the 21st century.

Our own government is doing little to prevent the genocide in Sudan, wrote Campbell. I have been calling Parliament for many days now, and only one concerned senator, Jim Munson, has heard my plea. Our new prime minister will not take my calls. But my voice, and others like mine, need to be heard. Let’s not sit idly by while more and more die each day.

Conference at York looks at disability rights

Ever since Christopher Columbus, we’ve been convinced this planet is round, said a writer for the Toronto Star May 6. So how come people on the margins still fall off the radar? Delegates from around the world will be wrestling with it at York University this month. The two-day Canadian Disability Studies Association conference, taking place May 27 and 28, is part of a meeting of academic societies sponsored by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences Association. Participants will include activists, academics and psychiatric survivors. They’ll be learning from each other, problem-solving and generally chewing the fat.

Lucy Costa, a student in the Faculty of Arts and co-founder of the Mad Students Society, a post-secondary group formed around issues facing students who have experienced the psychiatric system, will talk about shaping curricula and creating bridges for younger mad students. “Despite mainstream cultural discussions and highly funded ad campaigns on the need to obliterate the stigma of mental illness, organizational policies perpetuate systemic discrimination,” Costa said. “For example, the policies of postsecondary institutions limit the ability of faculty to safely disclose their own similar experiences to their students, thereby leaving students with an absence of people in positions of authority to whom they can turn for support.”

Granatstein blasts political/media hypocrisy

Of all the verbigeration inundating the media concerning “the great Canadian flag and funeral flap,” the most erudite essay written on the subject comes, as one might expect, from Jack Granatstein, reported the St. Thomas Times-Journal May 6. That much of the offending verbiage is pure garbage is succinctly pointed out by Granatstein, York University professor emeritus and widely recognized as Canada’s foremost military historian and author. [Granatstein’s essay appeared in the April 29 issue of The London Free Press.]

Film student helped make festival entry on vandalism in Kenora

About a year ago Grade 12 students in Beaver Brae’s drama class worked together on a film project funded by the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (MTYP) to create more awareness about vandalism in the community, reported the Kenora Daily Miner & News May 6. The students chose to feature vandalism in their documentary because it’s a topical issue in Kenora. York student Dan Burgelis was part of the class and was back from university on the summer break. He enjoyed film before they created this project and has since been a part-time student in the Film & Video Program in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

“The experience that you got from [making the film] was good,” he said. It wasn’t the spring board that got him into thinking about film as a career but he said it helped give him a better idea of what a working crew goes through. The students spent some long days filming going late into the night at some points, he said. Working like this for a week made for some long days, but it was worth it said Burgelis. Over his year in university he’s had the opportunity to film and likes it a lot. He is returning in the fall to continue his education.

Theatre graduate learns to ‘smoke up’ in local production

York graduate Candy Pryce (BFA ‘86) wouldn’t have made much of a hippie, reported the Barrie Examiner May 6. She’s no marijuana-smoking flower child, which is probably a good thing for her husband and their two pre-teen children. But it did present her with a bit of a problem when researching the role of her very prim, proper and square character Jenny, who, as it turns out, is married to a pot-smoking hippie in Company, currently playing at South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown.

The scene where Jenny tries marijuana for the first time is, according to insiders, one of the funniest moments in the play. “It’s just so fun to do, we cracked up,” said Pryce, who surveyed the cast for ideas to best represent the results of a first attempt at smoking pot. Not knowing how didn’t hold her back – “you don’t have to plan a murder to play Lady Macbeth,” she joked. Pryce, who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre performance from York University, and went the professional route for a few years, likens the play’s co-author Stephen Sondheim to the Shakespeare of musical theatre because of the script’s multiple layers of meaning.

Marriage for McAdams? Hold your horses, guys, it’s a movie

York theatre alumna Rachel McAdams (BFA ‘01) has put an end to all the Internet and tabloid rumours, reported the St. Thomas Times-Journal May 5. There will be a wedding this summer…or, at least, a marriage. In an interview with the Times-Journal, the St. Thomas native revealed her highly-anticipated next project would be Marriage, Ira Sachs’ follow-up to Forty Shades of Blue, his 2005 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury prize-winning film, . “It’s a murder romance,” said McAdams. “A guy decides to kill his wife. It’s with Chris Cooper and I play the other woman.”

According to McAdams, an actor has yet to sign on for the role of the wife. The 29-year old star of the holiday dramedy The Family Stone, released this week on DVD, praised her Oscar-winning co-star and her gifted director. “I think he (Cooper) is one of the better actors working and Ira Sachs is a great director,” said McAdams. Cooper won the 2002 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Adaptation. Marriage is set to begin filming in July “somewhere in Canada,” says McAdams.

On air

  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about last week’s Supreme Court ruling on a private host’s liability for guest drunkenness, on the CBC and several other radio stations across the country, May 5.
  • Darci Anderson, a York doctoral student in social and political thought, spoke about a planned talk at the University of Regina on contemporary indigenous pop music, on CBC Radio (Saskatchewan), May 5.
  • Friday’s Science Olympics, organized by York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, was featured on CBC-TV’s Canada Now May 5.
  • Nandita Sharma, professor in York’s Atkinson School of Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, spoke about government targeting of certain groups of people at the Canada-US border, on TVO’s “StudioTwo” program May 5.