Political science student chooses the municipal arena

Punjabi Canadians have dominated federal ridings in Brampton for almost a decade. Three of four are currently held by members of that community. So why don’t they seem to care about local politics?, asked the Toronto Star in a feature article Aug. 17. York student  Navdeep Gill is part of a new wave of Punjabi-Canadian political hopefuls who understand the process can’t always begin from the top.

The 23-year-old poltical science student in York’s Faculty of Arts, who is running for Brampton City Council in wards 2 and 6 (all the city and regional ridings are comprised of two wards), says there is a generation gap. “For the first generation, there was such a large focus on immigration and immigrationrelated issues, a federal issue, and that’s what Punjabis were attracted to,” she says. It’s an issue that has served Brampton’s PunjabiCanadian MPs well. Navdeep Bains, Ruby Dhalla and Gurbax Malhi all focused on immigration. “But I grew up here in Brampton. As the community establishes roots, their focus is changing. Local issues – everything from property tax, to traffic, transit and garbage – now affect them just as much as anyone else.”

Retirement rules uneven at schools

It’s midsummer, and York University professor Edelgard Mahant is brushing up fall lectures on the European Union – her special passion, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 17. In Kingston, professor Gary vanLoon is finetuning classes in his field of expertise. Both scholars turned 65 last November, just weeks before Ontario scrapped mandatory retirement. Both love their jobs, both want to keep teaching. But while Queen’s University has let vanLoon stay on teaching with full benefits, the Star said York University has required Mahant to retire against her will and come back to teach a few courses as a parttimer, at less pay.

When Queen’s Park passed a law last December banning mandatory retirement, it gave employers until Dec. 12, 2006 to follow suit, and some campuses – York, McMaster, Ryerson, for example – have continued to force professors to retire if their birthdays fell before July 1. This has left an outraged Mahant no choice but to step down after 15 years on staff.

For the veteran political scientist who has never missed a class since she began teaching in 1969, it means teaching no more than eight courses over the next four years – at less pay, with fewer health benefits, limited access to research, no seat on campus committees and no private office. “This is just galling. It’s profoundly humiliating,” says Mahant, who believes teaching is “something you get better at with age. I’m always thinking of new ways to teach.”

While York officials say they cannot comment because the issue is still on the bargaining table, the York University Faculty Association estimates as many as 30 York profs have had to leave this summer against their will, and is pushing to have them rehired. “We believe that since the government has ended mandatory retirement, it would be preferable for York to end it cleanly and not make some people retire when others will be allowed to stay,” said Professor Arthur Hilliker, president of the York University Faculty Association.

Bright and grumpy?

An ability to be open to new situations may predict intelligence earlier in life, says a new study, but disagreeableness may predict intelligence later in life, reported The Globe and Mail Aug. 17. The research, by graduate student Thomas Baker of York’s Centre for Early Cognition in the Faculty of Health, and Jacqueline Bichsel of Pennsylvania State University, looked at 381 adults aged 19 to 89. In the “cognitively superior” older group, which outperformed both older and younger adults on every ability tested, “agreeableness was found to have a contrary relationship with general knowledge, suggesting that a disagreeable nature may go hand in hand with better vocabulary and knowledge retention in older age,” said Baker.

Kids and courts: A debate worth having

In an editorial about proposed changes to the age of criminal responsibility, The Windsor Star Aug. 17 cited Debra Pepler, professor of clinical psychology in York’s Faculty of Health, and her previously published comments that cognitive development should be considered before making any changes because children under 12 can’t think into the future. “They aren’t able to predict what the consequences of their behaviour will be,” Pepler said.

On the run: student tries to raise money for film

Chris Nash is running around in circles working on his new film, reported the Sault Star (Sault Ste Marie) Aug. 17. The Desbarats native wants to raise $10,000 to finance his next film by running laps for 12 hours Aug. 26 at the YMCA. His goal is to run 100 kilometres. “I’m the only long distance runner in the group and everybody else thinks it’s a little bit crazy,” said the fourthyear film student in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Film student puts the final touches on his latest work

Award-winning local filmmaker Lester Alfonso, a film student in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and known for his autobiographical film Trying to Be Some Kind of Hero and the “Sound + Vision” series, is in the final editing stages of his latest endeavour – a film entitled The Gold Rushes featuring music from North of Summer and Tammy Foreman, reported the Peterborough Examiner Aug. 17. “I had moved to Lake St. Peter, working in commercial film industry,” he said. “I was given the opportunity to stay in this beautiful house up in Lake St. Peter and make a studio there. I worked there for three years and just kept coming down to Peterborough for city amenities and ended up finding likeminded people.”

World champion public speaker taught at York

Campbell River Toastmasters announced that Arabella Benson, one of only three women to win the Toastmaster International’s World Championship of Public Speaking, was coming to conduct a free seminar on giving a winning presentation on any occasion, reported BC’s Campbell River Mirror Aug. 16 . Benson, a director of Masterpiece Corporation Speakers and Trainers Bureau (Toronto), has a master’s degree in speech and psychology. She has taught at three universities: York University and the Universities of Toronto and Hawaii. She continues to teach public speaking at Sheridan College.

Osgoode alumnus cycles past his $50,000 charity goal

Cancer survivor and York alumnus David Visschedyk (LLB ‘04) is on the ride of his life, reported The Oakville Beaver Aug. 16. Born and raised in Oakville and having moved to Toronto about five years ago to attend law school, Visschedyk is cycling across Canada to raise funds for cancer research. As of Saturday, where a reception was held for him at the Hospital for Sick Children, he had completed 4,687 kilometres of his 6,960kilometre crossCanada cycle and raised about $70,000 for The James Fund for Neuroblastoma Research at Sick Kids.

Another of Visschedyk’s dreams is to become a lawyer. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario with the highest grades in his class, Visschedyk enrolled at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and passed his bar exam last year. After lining up employment – he starts articling in September at Stieber Berlach law firm in Toronto – he decided to take a year off to train and cycle across Canada.

On air

  • Trevor Hart, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, continued to receive mention for his research into attitudes about HIV/AIDS in broadcast media coverage of the 16th International AIDS Conference being held in Toronto on Global TV Aug. 16.
  • Debra Pepler, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health and the Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke about government proposals to lower the age of legal responsibility to 10, on CJNI Radio (Halifax) Aug. 16.
  • Fred Fletcher, professor emeritus of political science and mass communications in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about polling methods after the release of poll results on Canadians’ opinions about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stand on Israel, on the CKNW Radio (Vancouver) Aug. 16.
  • Judy Hellman, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about how changes to the government of Cuba due to Fidel Castro’s illness may affect travel to one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” and CBC Radio (Edmonton) Aug. 16.
  • York University was mentioned as the site for special training on new rules for hockey referees from the Greater Toronto Hockey League on CITY-TV Aug. 16.