‘It’s poor public policy to force people to retire’, says York prof

Mandatory retirement comes to an end today in Ontario, allowing thousands of Canadians to work beyond the age of 65, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 12. An estimated 4,000 Canadians are expected to take advantage of this new legislation every year.

Even though a majority of Canadians don’t choose to work beyond 65, Thomas Klassen, poltical science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, notes the practice is not an anomaly. “Those who are self-employed often work many years past age 65, including our head of state – the Queen – who is in her 80s, and our last two prime ministers who left office at age 67 and 70,” he says.

Nowadays, it makes sense, considering people live much longer and have fewer health problems, he says. “It is poor public policy to force people to retire, if they are able and willing to contribute to society,” Klassen says. “It is important to allow individuals to decide when to retire based on each person’s unique circumstances.” “As a province and country, we don’t want to force people to work longer, but at the same time we don’t want to force workers to retire,” he says.

With subtle reminders, stereotypes can become self-fulfilling

Researchers, such as Jennifer Steele, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, believe that reminding students about their sex – as a question about co-ed housing would do – subtly activated an association with the sexual stereotype that the arts are feminine, and math is masculine, reported The Washington Post Dec. 11.

The research raises troubling questions for academicians and parents, wrote the Post, not least because the cues we are talking about are so commonplace. Indeed, the research study on the arts-math preferences, conducted by Steele and Nalini Ambady of Tufts University in Boston, proved that cues do not have to involve explicit questions.

In another part of the study they recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, two groups were told to focus on a plus sign on a computer screen. Periodically, they would see flashes on the right or left. What the students did not know is that the flashes displayed a word for less than one-tenth of a second, followed by a string of “X’s.” The word was presented too quickly for the undergraduate women volunteers to be aware of what it said – but it was enough to make a difference at a subliminal level.

When words with feminine associations such as “doll” or “lipstick” or “skirt” were flashed, students were more likely to express a preference for the arts over math compared with those who were flashed the words “hammer,” “suit” or “cigar.” “It is disturbing to think I can show you words outside your awareness and that can influence your preference,” Steele said.

Again, no one is saying such cues turn brilliant students into dullards, but the cues do cause measurable differences in scores, wrote the Post. “Sometimes it is a couple of questions, but when you are talking of acceptance into top universities, one or two questions can make a huge difference,” Steele said.

Highway critic quotes York study on happiness

In a 2005 paper about “sustainable happiness,” Catherine O’Brien, then a postdoctoral fellow at what is now York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, explores the concept of replacing the Gross National Product with a “gross national happiness” index, wrote guest columnist Kathy Baughman McLeod in a column for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, Dec. 10. The study suggests measuring happiness by how many days you walked holding your child’s hand or by the amount of time you spend with your grandparent. When you contemplate the future and projects like State Route 520 or the Alaskan Way Viaduct, consider your health, your wallet and, perhaps most importantly, your happiness.

Going to extremes for his cause

York alumnus Gary Fagan (BA ‘75) stands equipped with mountain boots, poles and the training he has worked at every weekend, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Dec. 12. Fagan and son Derek, 24, have trained for about five hours each Saturday and Sunday on the Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail in preparation for their big climb. The 53-year-old is planning to climb the 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in northeast Tanzania. “They call it a demanding uphill hike,” he says with a smile.

He is in an office of the Canadian Liver Foundation in Toronto, where he is president and chief operating officer. Next month, the Fagans, both Markham residents, will climb the mountain not just for the pure thrill but to raise funds and awareness for liver disease. “This is a huge challenge. I’m just an average guy. I’m not into extreme sports,” he said. So far, he has raised $10,000 for his own part and $55,000 in corporate donations.

Design students sweep prestigious poster competition

Students in the York University/Sheridan Institute Joint Program in Design dominated the Canadian leg of the Design Against Fur poster competition, taking first, second and third places for the second consecutive year, and six of 10 honourable mentions in the student category, reported the North York Mirror Dec. 11. Cash prizes were presented to first-place winner Tara Scarcello ($1,000), second-place winner Mark Pimentel ($500) and third-place winner Buthaina Kazim ($250) for their original poster artwork, which expressed the theme “protect seals.” These Top 3 winners automatically advance to the international competition in Europe, where they will vie for the grand prize.

York alumna lands Breakfast Television gig

The first time it hit Dina Pugliese (BA ‘97), she was with the Rockettes, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Dec. 9. The new Breakfast Television co-host was climbing out of a CityTV car en route to participating in the world’s longest kickline with the famous dancers. “I come out of the car and everyone’s freaking out…and they were screaming for me. My mom was practically crying and I was totally overwhelmed,” she says.

The 32-year-old Woodbridge native had only recently taken over the BT desk from Liza Fromer. For a show that prides itself on making you feel like you’re sharing a morning cuppa joe with friends such as Kevin Frankish and Frankie Flowers, feeling like one of the family let Pugliese know she was doing something right. It’s been a fast climb for the Woodbridge native. Her studies at York University in mass communications and sociology allowed her to participate in a mock news broadcast. It gave her a first glimpse of where she could go next.

Drug testing, education already in force at York

Grassroots organizations are joining the crusade against performance-enhancing drugs, wrote the Newmarket/Aurora Era-Banner Dec. 9. Bill Pangos, a Holland Landing resident and head coach for the York University Lions women’s basketball team, noted that Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) has a strictly enforced protocol that has been in place since the 1980s. Each athlete must sign a waiver form and watch a video on the subject of drug use. “It’s big time in the CIS,” he said. “We could have athletes tested at any time. They (those who administer the random tests) could show up at any time and test an athlete. You’ve got to be ready.

“The CIS has had problems in the past,” Panagos said. “The regulations are strict. The bottom line is that all athletes receive a booklet on the stuff that they’re not allowed to take,” he said. Should any concerns arise, Pangos said assistance is provided through the school’s medical staff and sports therapists.

On air

  • Jennifer Mills, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about women feeling pressure to be beautiful, on Global TV Dec. 11.

  • Juan Carlos Garcia, Hispanic studies professor at York’s Glendon campus, spoke about the death of former Chilean leader General Augusto Pinochet, on CBC Television Dec. 11.

  • Thabit Abdullah, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, participated in a panel discussion about dual citizenship, on TVOntario’s “The Agenda” Dec. 11.