Best place to learn to become a filmmaker: York

Toronto’s NOW Magazine declared York and the Department of Film in the Faculty of Fine Arts the “Best place to learn to become a filmmaker” in its annual “Best of Toronto” feature Oct. 25. NOW said: Once better suited to a Cronenberg dystopia than a seat of higher learning, the York campus has lately become the most concentrated source of expert film knowledge in Canada. Since hiring filmmakers like Philip Hoffman, Ali Kazimi, Amnon Buchbinder and Laurence Green, scholars Janine Marchessault and Michael Zryd, and accomplished switch-hitters like Brenda Longfellow, Lynne Fernie and John Greyson, they’ve got theory and practice covered better than anybody.

In the same package, NOW also named Nina Levitt, an artist and professor in York’s Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, as Toronto’s “Best Multimedia Artist”.  Levitt balances traditional and new photographic techniques with video in ways that show her smarts and ingenuity, NOW said. Her work appeared in the brilliant anthology The Passionate Camera: Photography And Bodies Of Desire and she was instrumental in facilitating Gallery TPW’s recent move to new digs in Toronto. And she has a ton of upcoming shows, including Thin Air, loosely based on the experiences of two Jewish women who worked for British intelligence in Europe during the Second World War, at Toronto’s Koffler Gallery Jan. 11 to Feb. 25. Don’t miss it.

Slowing growth forecast could kick-start subway to York

Ontario plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to “fast-track” new infrastructure projects to lessen the blow of a slowing economy, which could kick-start the York University subway extension, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 27. “Slower economic growth has real impact on real people and the communities they live in. Our responsibility is to take steps that will mitigate that impact,” Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said. “We are going to fast-track a number of infrastructure projects to generate immediate economic activity and job creation,” said Sorbara.

In delivering his fall economic outlook and fiscal review to the Legislature, the finance minister struck a cautionary tone. “There’s slower growth in the U.S. economy – that’s Ontario’s largest trading partner. A slowdown there has an immediate impact here,” said Sorbara.

Juries have the right to refuse to convict

A rarely used legal tactic – known as jury nullification – has succeeded from time to time in cases where jurors sympathized with the plight of an accused person who was being prosecuted under a controversial law, reported The Globe and Mail Oct. 27 in two stories about the overturned conviction of a Calgary man with permission to use medical marijuana who found guilty of trafficking. Those who favour it believe that jury nullification is a vital safeguard against oppressive laws and unjust prosecutions. “It is a topic that courts don’t like talking about,” said Alan Young, a law professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

The Supreme Court stressed that a jury cannot be openly urged to ignore a law or the evidence in a case – they must arrive at that decision on their own. Judge Morris Fish said that jury nullification should be seen not as a right, but as “the power to do so when their consciences permit of no other course.” Young said the Krieger ruling is a major relief. “I’m happy about the ruling because, over the past 10 years, we have seen more and more cases where courts are questioning the importance of juries.”

“This case had the potential to create dramatic changes by taking away the constitutional right juries have to change the law,” Young said. “The Court has said that you can do what conscience tells you do to in order to reach a verdict – but that we can’t actually tell you to do it. You have to figure out what your conscience tells you. I’m happy about the ruling because, over the past ten years, we have seen more and more case where courts are questioning the importance of juries.”

Horvath guides Schulich School of Business to top ranking 

When Dezsö Horváth took over the Schulich School of Business, located on York’s Keele campus in a nondescript suburb of Toronto, the cross-town rival to the University of Toronto’s Joseph L. Rotman School of Management was labelled “the factory” – for its bland appearance and its reputation for churning out graduates, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 27 in a sidebar to an in-depth feature on Rotman Dean Roger Martin. But in the past 18 years, Horváth has positioned Schulich as a thoroughly modern institution. He moved the school into a striking new $110-million building, with the funding support of his lead benefactor, gold magnate Seymour Schulich. He has buffed the curriculum, building a strong international business component, as well as strengthening its focus on teaching social responsibility and ethics. And he has developed networks of partner schools in Latin America, Asia and the United States.

At first glance, Horváth is the anti-Martin, the antithesis to the U.S.-trained former management consultant, said the Globe. At 63, the Schulich dean is a career academic and Euro-intellectual. While some academic critics still sneer at Horváth’s pretensions to business-school supremacy, no one denies his ambition and drive. He has given the feisty, suburban Schulich a profile that, for the first time, rivals its snootier downtown rival. The proof is in the numbers: Horváth guided his faculty to No. 18 in the widely followed Financial Times rankings of global MBA schools for 2006, six spots ahead of Rotman.

Arthurs Report expected to urge labour standards update

A veteran labour mediator on Monday is expected to recommend reform of 40-year-old federal minimum labour standards that were designed for long-term nine-to-five workers and don’t protect the growing army of self-employed, contract, temporary and other modern workers, reported CanWest News Service Oct. 27. A report by Harry Arthurs, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who led a two-year review of Part III of the Canada Labour Code, is also expected to contain proposals to tighten the labour law compliance system and address the fashionable issue of stress from “work-life” balance.

The code covers some 15,000 employers and about 10 per cent of the Canadian workforce employed in federally regulated industries such as banking, communication, telecommunication, air transport and trucking. Reforms, if adopted, may spill over to the provinces, which have jurisdiction over the rest of the country’s 16 million workers. A former president of York and former dean of Osgoode, Arthurs was appointed to conduct the review by former Liberal labour minister Joe Fontana. He now will report to his Conservative successor, Jean-Pierre Blackburn.

More workers – an estimated one in three – are temporary or contract workers, part-timers or self-employed who often fall through the cracks of labour rights and protections. Critics hoped Arthurs would address the situation where an employee is laid off and rehired on contract or their job is filled by a contract worker.

Go, fight, win – but choose your mates carefully

Teamwork. It’s a crucial part of any MBA program, wrote Richard Bloom, in the latest column his ongoing series on life as a student at York’s Schulich School of Business published in The Globe and Mail Oct. 27. And learning how to effectively deal with teams – from co-ordinating schedules to debating the best format for a presentation to divvying up the workload – has been one of my most challenging MBA experiences so far.

Two new city councillors have youth on their side

Two of the newest faces on Saskatoon city council are also two of its youngest. Darren Hill and Charlie Clark (MES ‘02) were elected to city council in Wards 1 and 6, respectively, reported The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) Oct. 27. Clark, 32, is the youngest councillor. Clark said he doesn’t see any challenges arising as a result of his relatively young age. In fact, he said he sees his age as an opportunity to get more young people involved and interested in civic matters and the role of government in general. “I’m hoping to get to know the other councillors and (find out) how the process works and learn where I can be most effective,” he said.

Clark, who has a master’s of environmental studies from York University, agreed more needs to be done to make sure the city focuses on “green and people-centred development.” He said making sure all neighbourhoods, especially those in the core, have access to an adequate grocery store is crucial to cutting down on the need to drive to a mall or big-box store. “There’s a lot of people living in downtown without cars (and) they’re finding it difficult to get what they need,” Clark said. “It’s almost a human rights issue.”

Comedian met troupe laugh mates at York

Mike (Nug) Nahrgang (BA ‘97) attended York to study English but came out an actor, wrote The London Free Press Oct. 27 in a profile of the comedian who was performing at a festival held in that city. While there, he met the other members of his sketch troupe, the Minnesota Wrecking Crew: John Catucci (BA ‘96), Josh Glover (BA ‘99) and Chatham’s Ron Sparks (BFA ‘02). He’s been in countless TV commercials and in such films as The Tuxedo, Cube: Zero and Men With Brooms. Currently, he can be seen on YTV’s “Monster Warriors” as Kreeger, the video rental guy, as well as impersonating Mike Holmes in a Nescafé commercial. Nahrgang and Minnesota Wrecking Crew are four-time nominees and two-time winners of the Canadian Comedy Award for best sketch troupe. “Also, many nights of debauchery at the old Ridout Tavern. I love my black tap mystery draught beer.”

Grad running for Oakville council was a class president 

Margaret Mercer (BA ‘93), 49, an organizational and communication consultant, described her political experience in The Oakville Beaver, Oct. 25: This is my first run at public office, she said. However, I was elected president of my undergraduate class at York University about 20 years ago.

On air

  • Martin Shadwick, political science professor in York’s Centre for International & Security Studies, spoke about increasing public dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush’s policy in Iraq, on CKNW radio (Vancouver) Oct. 26.

  • Andrea O’Reilly, professor in York’s Atkinson School of Arts & Letters and president of the York-based Association for Research on Mothering, spoke about the association’s 10th annual conference being in Toronto, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” program Oct. 26