York is the UCLA of northeastern North America, says Shapson

York was compared to other universities in Quebec and the US in an article published in the French-language Le Devoir (Montreal) May 26 to mark the opening of Congress at the Keele campus. The university that this year welcomes delegates to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences styles itself as the innovative university in Toronto. “Our motto is ‘redefine the possible’,” said Stan Shapson, York vice-president research & innovation.

Apart from being the third largest university in Canada, York’s academic programs and its interdisciplinary scientific research methods about the world we live in puts the University in a similar category to the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), Le Devoir said. “That gives you a good idea of where we stand among Ontario universities,” said Shapson. “You could also say we are the equivalent of UCLA – the University of California at Los Angeles. If you consider that the University of Montreal and McGill University are roughly equivalent to Harvard and Stanford, then we are the UCLA of northeastern North America,” Shapson said.

Founded in 1959, York is a young university (like UQAM). And, like its Quebec counterpart, it puts the emphasis on teaching and social research. York does not have a medical school, but has a renowned business school, said Le Devoir.

Likewise, the student population at York compares well with the one at UQAM.  In an effort to provide access to postsecondary education for the largest number of people possible, York has, one finds, a number of students whose parents never attended university or are recent immigrants to Canada. “If you were to walk down the hall of our main building when our numerous student associations put on their displays, you would think you were at the United Nations,” said Shapson. “There is an absolutely fascinating diversity of students.”

The University comprises an equally important contingent of Quebecois students, especially francophones who come to study at Glendon – “a francophone island in a sea of English,” said Shapson, who noted bilingualism represents an important aspect of York. Shapson went on to note York’s reputation for innovation and collaboration in space and health research, citing them as examples of how York is making a difference at both the local and global levels.

Top researchers form prevention network led by York’s Debra Pepler

Some of the world’s top experts on bullying were in Ottawa to lay the foundations of PREVnet, a national bullying prevention strategy, reported the Ottawa Citizen May 27. The network already has 31 Canadian researchers, 24 non-governmental organizations and $1.6 million in federal funding over the next four years, said Debra Pepler, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and the network’s scientific co-director.

Setting a national strategy has already started to get attention, she said. Norway has had one since 1983, and World Health Organization figures show that more children report being bullies or victims in Canada than most European nations. Meanwhile, business studies have shown that grown-up bully bosses are costing the economy in terms of productivity. The network will start to untangle some of the knotty questions about how to prevent bullying. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem, said the Citizen.

Perhaps the problem is so complex because there are different types of bullies. Those who are unskilled may muscle their way to the top, said Pepler. The skilled ones have advanced social perception and have the potential to become successful leaders. There are also are various levels of bullying. About five per cent of girls and 10 per cent of boys are chronic bullies and require more serious interventions.

Former York teacher called an angel advocate for kids

They don’t even know her name, but they know how to find her. Reva Schafer is simply “the lady who can help my child” to hundreds of distraught and sleepless parents who call her in the middle of the night because she’s always there and she always has time to listen, reported the Toronto Sun May 29. It’s purely academic for the 58-year-old retired teacher: “No one has the right to intentionally hurt another person. And there are no experts.”

Schafer is one of the most knowledgeable and effective education activists in the country, passionate and compassionate, selfless and determined to go to bat for the most vulnerable members of society, our children. “They’re our future. How we treat them now is how they’ll treat us in our old age. It’s how they’ll treat our future citizens,” the mother of two says.

Schafer was a special education teacher with four Toronto area school boards for 35 years, said the Sun. She taught special education at the faculties of education at York University and the University of Toronto, and for two years was seconded to the ministry of education. Since retiring in 1998, she’s working harder than ever – with no salary – for the grassroots, parent-driven Toronto Family Network. As its resource parent, she shoulders the stresses of 700 families in crisis with children experiencing difficulties in the education system. Whether kids have been suspended from school or have one of a myriad of communication disorders like autism, she’s there for them. Hundreds of thousands of them within the province who have what she calls “additional” needs, not “special” needs.

Former York president remembers quip to Galbraith

H. Ian Macdonald, former president of York University, wrote about John Kenneth Galbraith, whose obituary appeared on May 1, in The Globe and Mail May 29. At the risk of sounding immodest, said Macdonald, I can report that I may be one of very few to have the last word on J. K. Galbraith. Some years ago, we appeared together on a public panel discussion in Toronto, along with another celebrated but somewhat direct Canadian. Over coffee following the formal event, our colleague turned to Professor Galbraith and asked: “How much did they pay you to appear?” He was nonplussed by the response because he had been paid somewhat less. He then turned to me with the same question, to which I replied: “I did not ask for an honorarium because I was representing York University .” Mr. Galbraith then fixed me with a steely gaze and remarked: “I guess everyone must know his true value.” Quick as a flash, I replied: “Except for those of us who are priceless.” It was the kind of retort I normally think of 24 hours later!

Tribute to York’s Peter Oliver planned for June 8

‘He would just eat books,” said Peter Oliver‘s daughter, Anne Hodgson. “He was always reading, reading, reading,” reported The Globe and Mail, May 29.

And as a professor of legal history at York University and editor-in-chief of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, as well as associate editor of the Ontario Historical Studies series of publications, Oliver had plenty of opportunity to indulge his passion while exercising a major influence on the course of legal historical studies in Canada. “My father worked very hard,” said his son, Kevin Oliver, who remembers him always being available to his three kids (including another son, Tony), no matter how busy he was, “yet he did not see it as work.”

Though he retired from teaching last spring and had recently moved to Stratford with his partner, Sandra Webster, Oliver had planned to continue his work at Osgoode and retire at the same time as his friend and Osgoode alumnus, Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry (LLB ’58), in a couple of years, said the Globe. Oliver was the author of five books, and at the time of his death from esophageal cancer on May 14 at the age of 66, was working on his sixth, a history of the Conservative Party in Ontario. “He was a Liberal federally, but a Conservative provincially and for some reason, he just always wrote about the Conservative Party,” Hodgson said. His other books include an edition of the diaries of Allan Grossman, Ontario’s first Jewish Conservative cabinet minister.

A memorial service will be held at Osgoode Hall at 5:30pm on June 8, featuring tributes from Chief Justice McMurtry and historian and York Professor Emeritus Ramsay Cook. A book of essays in Oliver’s honour, planned since his retirement, is also in the works.

  • A death notice in The Beacon-Herald (Stratford) May 27 also noted the celebration of Oliver’s life on Thursday, June 8, beginning at 5:30pm in the Don Lamont Lecture Hall at Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen St. W. in Toronto. Those attending should enter through the east doors off Nathan Phillips Square . In lieu of flowers, donations to The Osgoode Society to support student research in legal history would be appreciated. For more information please contact Turner & Porter (Yorke Chapel) at 416-767-3153.

York professor among protesters targeting money lender on Danforth

The irony of Money Mart’s location on the Danforth occupying a former bank branch is not lost on York University finance Prof. Chris Robinson, who is demanding a crackdown of Canada ‘s payday lending industry, reported the East York Mirror May 25. “Money Mart is here because that bank left,” Robinson said during a Wednesday afternoon protest outside the lender, which offers small loans and cheque cashing. “Look up and down this street. There aren’t banks here for these people to go to.”

Robinson and ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, are calling on the federal government to regulate the industry to stop it from preying on customers by charging “loanshark” rates. “Technically, (payday lenders) are criminals because they are breaking the Criminal Code. Are they evil people destroying society? No, they’re doing a business they can get away with,” Robinson said.

Robinson acknowledged Money Mart has the lowest rates in the alternative finance sector. In his report on the issue released Wednesday, he said by changing the financial structure, the federal government could make it more attractive and lucrative for banks to offer the small, unsecured loans the payday lenders provide. “If the banks came into this, they could knock every payday lender out of business,” said Robinson, adding his plan would put $194 million back in the pockets of borrowers.

York anthropologist makes heavy metal list

Everybody loves a list, whether it is shameless and completely inane…or oddly practical wrote the Times Colonist (Victoria) May 29 in a top-10 list of reasons to see Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (now available on a two-disc special edition DVD):

9. Death Metal. Sam Dunn (MA ‘01), who has a master’s degree in social anthropology from York University, stages a very balanced discussion about the pros and cons of this theatrical sub-genre. Required viewing for those with pre-conceived notions of heavy metal.

York graduate Matt Dusk is feeling pretty good these days

You might be wondering about the big difference between jazz crooner Matt Dusk’s (BFA ’02) first album Two Shots and his about-to-be- released second effort, Back in Town, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) May 27. Whereas the aforementioned Two Shots contained plenty of melancholy songs because of some personal upheaval Dusk was experiencing at the time, Back in Town has two shots of happy, no shots of sad.

“It’s a total different mindset for me, headspace-wise,” Dusk declared yesterday from Niagara Falls , where he was 24 hours from kicking off a tour with a performance at the Fallsview Casino. “I’m in a really good mood right now in terms of this last year. I kind of had my three years of soaking my sorrows, so I said, ‘Screw it! Let’s go drink and have fun.’ “

A sudden, unexpected split by his girlfriend while he was recording Two Shots and a few tragic deaths in his inner circle had set Dusk on a depressing spiral. It wasn’t until last year that things improved, the big band singer admits. “I was finally over everything.” “Music helped me out,” adds Dusk. “I could only write really bad, depressing stuff and everyone knew that, so they all wrote depressing ballads. “But now it’s on the up-and-up, so I’m really happy.”

Quebec lawyer studied at Osgoode before returning home

By the time she was 18, Alyssa Yufe (LLB ’99) decided it was time to leave Montreal, reported The Gazette (Montreal) May 27 in a story about the challenges of returning. “I wanted to have an independent experience outside the city,” she said, so she chose Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., for her undergraduate degree. This was a point in her life, she admits, when she wanted to branch out, and her taste for the outside world extended to law school. Heading to Toronto, she got her law degree at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. While her new job, doing real-estate transactional law at De Grandpre Chait LLP, is completely different from her work in Toronto, she is thriving. “The work also reminds you what a great city I’ve returned to,” said Yufe, 30.

Osgoode alumnus runs for re-election in Nova Scotia

In a profile of candidates running in the June 13 provincial election in Nova Scotia, The Daily News (Halifax) featured Osgoode alumnus Kevin Deveaux (LLB ‘89) in its May 27 edition. The 39-year-old resident of Cow Bay has been an NDP member of the provincial legislature since 1988.

On air

  • Simon Thon Kuany, a York student whose tuition fees are being sponsored by a student levy, spoke about the importance of the scholarhip program to him on Rogers TV May 27.