Commuter student calls York professor’s downloadable course ‘awesome’

It’s the latest in distance and online learning, reported The Toronto Sun and its sister 24 Hours’ Vancouver edition Sept. 26. Students plugged into their Apple iPods, listening intently to what’s presumed to be the latest chart topper, may actually be listening to the beat of a new drum – a podcast university course. Laurie Foley, 27, uses an hourlong subway commute from Mississauga to York’s Glendon campus to listen to her philosophy lectures on her iPod.

Diane Zorn, a lecturer in the School of Arts & Letters in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, is the second lecturer in Canada to offer video lectures via Apple iPods, after a Carleton University professor. “The online course is important to me because I spend so much time working…that to be able to work at home is really great for me. So far it’s been awesome,” said Foley, a fulltime student and parttime receptionist.

Zorn and Foley say online chat forums make up for the lack of a classroom setting and social interaction with fellow students. Zorn also set up a message room exclusively for students, with the invitation, “Professor never enters here.” “In the past, the way online courses were designed, students felt isolated and didn’t have the experience of community learning. The way online courses are designed now, that’s not the case,” said Zorn, who also spoke about her course on SUN-TV Sept. 25.

College or university? The boundaries blur

Some colleges offer courses for the first two years of a university degree, and then the student takes the remainder at a university, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 26 in a story about a blurring of the lines between university and college programs. A student takes all the degree courses at a college but the degree is issued by a university partner, wrote the Globe. A college and its partner universities offer joint delivery of programs. An example is Seneca at York, a permanent college on the York University campus in Toronto. Some models offer both diploma and degree.

Not every collegeuniversity collaboration has worked according to plan, however. At Seneca College, Canada’s largest with more than 100,000 students, president Rick Miner discovered that many of his students who were seeking a degree didn’t want to go away to university, even after taking the first two years of degree courses at the Torontobased college. Seneca has university partners across the country and worldwide, but York University remains a popular choice among students.

Professor sues York for $10 million

It’s not quite David and Goliath, but Professor David Noble keeps slinging shots at his bosses at York University – and the latest one carries a $10-million price tag, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 26. The outspoken history professor is seeking $10 million in damages from York for a press release he says discriminated against him and tried to muzzle comments he made about its fundraising foundation.

Angry that his claims were being called bigoted, Noble filed a grievance seeking an apology and $10 million in damages for defamation. The fight has now gone before labour arbitrator Russell Goodfellow, who suddenly adjourned the hearing over concerns about how to protect witnesses from hearing each other’s testimony while still permitting coverage of the proceedings.

  • A York University professor who wrote a leaflet alleging the York University Foundation is “biased by the influence of proIsrael lobbyists, activists and fundraising agencies” told an arbitration hearing yesterday he did so because a student was being treated unfairly, reported the National Post Sept. 26. Professor David Noble, who is Jewish, filed a grievance against the university – the topic of yesterday’s hearing – alleging defamation, the violation of his academic freedom and the infringement of his freedom of speech.

The suspect union secret ballot

Labour lawyer David Doorey, a professor in the School of Administrative Studies at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, wrote a letter to the National Post Sept. 26, commenting on a column by Susan Martinuk (Unions Must Practice What They Preach, Financial Post, Sept. 20). Doorey wrote: It’s often difficult to know when newspaper columnists write about labour laws and democracy in the union organizing process whether they truly believe that a secret ballot vote of employees is always more “democratic” than a count of union membership cards, or whether they are really just cloaking their personal preference for fewer unions in the glow of democracy discourse. Are they pushing an antiunion agenda, or are they just ignorant about the way things work in the real world? My guess is that it is often a little of both.

Martinuk asserts firstly that essential services in Canada are “overunionized”, said Doorey. That’s an odd assertion. The right to join a union is protected by our Charter of Rights of Freedoms and is considered a fundamental and core human right in all of the key international human rights instruments to which Canada is party (including ILO Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Our charter also protects her freedom to argue that Canada should not protect the fundamental human rights of its citizens. But then Martinuk rehashes the old neoliberal argument that “the secret ballot vote” is the only democratic way to test whether employees wish union representation. The alternative approach of establishing majority support based on union membership cards signed by employees, which was the norm in Canada until the mid1990s and remains the process in several Canadian jurisdictions, she described as “blatantly antidemocratic.”

Group fights to free those believed wrongfully convicted

A feature recounting the case of Gary Staples, who was convicted of murdering taxi driver Gerrard Burke in 1969 and then acquitted, but not exonerated, 22 months later, was published in the Hamilton Spectator Sept. 26. The newspaper noted it had run a story a few years ago saying Staples’ case seeking exoneration had been adopted by the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. Burke’s sons read it and were furious. They’d grown up believing their father’s killer got off on a technicality. The grown siblings began doing their own sleuthing. Soon they too began to believe in Staples’ innocence.

In 2000, at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Bob and Darrin Burke were introduced to the man who went to jail for their father’s murder, the Spectator said. The three men formed an alliance. They reexamined the old police file. What they and a law student found was the police had deliberately buried a witness statement from a man who had seen three or four people running from the crime scene. That plus Staples’ alibi – that he was miles away having work done on his car – was convincing. At a news conference held in downtown Hamilton on Dec. 5, 2002 — the anniversary of Burke’s death — Staples received a formal apology from the Hamilton police for his wrongful conviction and a settlement for a $6-million lawsuit.