Why do Maclean’s school rankings rankle?

Maclean’s magazine is insisting it will publish its university rankings Nov. 2 as planned – even without the cooperation of nearly one-third of the 47 universities involved – and vows to become more interactive and more detailed, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 19. It says it will also launch a new rating of graduate schools next spring. Still, criticism grows. “It’s going to be a Frankenstein survey without the universities’ co-operation; a mishmash of information all lumped together,” warned Richard Fisher, chief marketing & communications officer at York University, which pulled out of the Maclean’s rankings Aug. 16.

Some cite opposition to Maclean’s system of averaging down volumes of data on class size, per-student funding and entrance marks to a single number. It’s suggested the last straw was Maclean’s provocative new tone under publisher Ken Whyte, who launched a controversial new student-ranking edition this summer over the protests of several schools. At least 16 Canadian universities, including York, have said they won’t provide information to Maclean’s this year for rankings, reported the Star.

Space shuttle Atlantis crew set record for longest in training

Thirty years ago York alumnus Steve MacLean (BSc ’77, PhD ’83, D.Sc ’93) was on the Canadian National Gymnastics team trying to make the Olympics, an experience that served him well as an astronaut about to perform his first spacewalk, reported Canadian Press Aug. 19. “It’s similar in the sense of the discipline that’s required, the attention to details that’s required to be an athlete or a spacewalking astronaut,” he said. MacLean earned a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in physics from York University in Toronto. He will become the first Canadian to operate the space station’s Canadian-built robotic arm and be only the second Canadian to go on a spacewalk. “I feel privileged at operating the robotic arm,” he said. “I was around all those guys who helped work on it.”

Every step up income ladder means better health

A new study, published in the current New England Journal of Medicine, found that Americans ages 55 to 84 who are wealthier have an easier time walking, carrying, reaching, lifting objects and climbing stairs than those with less money, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 21. “We’ve known for a long time that people at the low end of the socio-economic spectrum do much more poorly health-wise than people at the higher end,” explains senior author Dr. Jack Guralnik, chief of the NIA Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry. He was surprised to find, however, that differences in functioning were reported even at the uppermost incremental levels of income.

But Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, in the Faculty of Health, explains, “It reflects a lifetime of lived experience. And each step in income represents a difference in lived experience. These effects are independent of health care and they are evident in Canada as well.” What surprises Raphael most about the US study, said the Star, is the analysis by income. “Income is consistently downplayed or ignored,” he says. “Americans would agree that nobody should be at a disadvantage because of colour or cultural origins. But if you talk about inequalities related to income, then it opens up questions about how great are income differences and should it be a cause for concern.”

Magalas helps Canada earn baseball bronze

It may not have been the medal they were hoping for but the Canadian women’s baseball team came home from the Women’s World Cup of Baseball knowing that on any given day, they could very well be the best in the world, reported the Burlington Post Aug 20. York alumna Samantha Magalas (BA ‘05) helped Canada claim the bronze medal at the women’s world championship in Chinese Taipei earlier this month. Canada finished the round-robin tied for second but the tie-breaker for the medals came down to runs allowed per inning and Canada was narrowly edged by Japan – missing the silver by a single run. “It was sad to see it decided like that,” said Magalas, who now works as a baseball instructor in Oakville.

TTC must try to keep jobs here in Ontario

A rising chorus of complaints at Toronto city council over the proposed purchase of more than 230 subway cars from Bombardier threatens to decouple hundreds of Ontario jobs from Toronto’s economic locomotive. That should not happen, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 20 in an editorial. But Councillor David Soknacki, chair of Toronto’s budget committee, wants discussions with Bombardier suspended in favour of a call for bids from subway car firms around the world. He and other councillors claim subway cars could be supplied much more cheaply by looking abroad. The provincial government heavily supports the TTC. The March 23 budget included $670 million toward extending the Spadina line to York University and into Vaughan. It would be hard to explain to Ontario taxpayers how Toronto thinks it is all right to take Ontario tax dollars for the subway, while turning its back on Ontario workers.

Diamond industry faces corruption risks, says Beare

Canada’s burgeoning diamond industry is sparkling, but experts warn the lucrative business is also a magnet for organized crime, reported The Ottawa Sun Aug. 20. Prime Minister Stephen Harper travelled to the Far North last week to open a diamond mine in Nunavut, touting the economic and employment merits of the profitable business. Yet the booming industry remains largely unregulated, making it ripe for organized criminals to exploit it along the chain from mine to market. Margaret Beare, former director of York University’s Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime, believes the biggest risks facing the industry lie in financial fraud and stock-market manipulation.

Students need many ways to develop skills

Nine years ago I did my teaching degree at York University, wrote Sue Hersey (BEd. ‘97), a Grade 6 teacher at Guelph’s Priory Park Public School, in a letter to the Guelph Mercury Aug. 19. We focused on integrating the arts into all the subjects as a way to enhance students’ problem-solving skills and respect their multiple intelligences. York recognized the importance of having teachers with arts backgrounds in the elementary classroom. Although our provincial government is working hard to revise and correct the educational deficits of the past, elementary teachers must still battle an instructional timetable that only allows 33 minutes a week for each of the arts. In secondary schools, timetabling does not allow students to take more than one arts subject at a time.

This is definitely to the detriment of many students when you consider all the careers you listed that require art education. As a Grade 6 teacher with both math and visual arts qualifications, wrote Hersey, I can say that problem-solving skills, development and critical thinking are paramount in both areas. Students need as many ways as possible to develop these extremely important life skills.

Shadows on the job

At Canadian Tire Financial Services, staff had their shadows following them through the work day, reported the Welland Tribune Aug. 19. Children age 12 and older of employees spent Friday morning participating in the 13th annual Shadow Day. It gave them an opportunity to learn about what their parents do all day. Beth Duffus, daughter of employee David Duffus, also received a scholarship. She graduated from Welland Centennial Secondary School and will attend York University. She will major in theatre with the hopes of one day pursuing a career in acting and politics.

John Tory tries to be himself

The trick, York alumnus John Tory (LLB ‘78) explained in the National Post Aug. 19, is not to pretend to be something you’re not. “I was quite apprehensive about going into the Legislature,” he recalled of his first day as leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, which he began with no prior experience as an MPP. “So I went to a number of people from different parties, and asked them for advice. The one consistent message that came through more than any other: Just be yourself.” That is sound advice. The only problem is that, nearly two years after he was elected to replace Ernie Eves at the helm of the provincial Tories, it’s still not entirely clear whether being himself is conducive to opposition politics. The story noted that Tory is a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Student will pursue her art studies at York

Sarnia’s Gallery in the Grove awarded a $1,000 scholarship to local artist Selena Lee, reported the Sarnia Observer Aug. 19. A graduate of St. Patrick’s High School in that city, Lee will be attending York University where she plans to earn her bachelor of fine arts degree. While she hasn’t decided exactly which arts avenue she hopes to pursue, Lee said she’ll ponder her choices, and hopefully “find something to centre on”.