Inquiring minds: McLaughlin talks tackle diverse subjects

Starting today and continuing until Jan. 25, York’s McLaughlin College will present the next instalment in its highly popular series of informal lunchtime talks. The subjects covered this month include a discussion of research ethics with York psychology Professor David Wiesenthal; the need for Downsview Park; an overview of the Ontario Citizens Assembly; and the advantages of mountain climbing. Also on the schedule is McLaughlin’s annual celebration of Scottish poet Robbie Burns.

All talks, unless otherwise specified, take place in the McLaughlin Senior Common Room, 140 McLaughlin College, at noon.

Today, York psychology Professor David Wiesenthal (right) launches the series with his presentation, titled "The Tri-Council Research Ethics Code: Problems and Solutions". The talk will take place from 2:30 to 4pm. Wiesenthal will discuss a policy statement issued by three government-sponsored research councils that provide research funding to university professors (known as the Tri-Council). The Tri-Council issued a policy statement several years ago to regulate and ensure ethical research practice in Canada. The code applies to all faculty and students who conduct research involving human participants. The code employs a "one size fits all" approach, which has resulted in a number of practical and bureaucratic problems. Issues have arisen with regard to aboriginal research, sponsorship, academic freedom, safety, and monitoring of non-funded student and faculty research. In his talk, Wiesenthal will suggest recommendations for revision of the code that will be considered by the Tri-Council later this year. Wiesenthal is the vice-chair of the York Human Participants Review Committee and is an expert on research ethics. This session is co-sponsored by the York Centre for Practical Ethics.

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, Tony Genco (right) (BA ’88), CEO of Downsview Park in North York, will present an engaging presentation, titled "So, Just Where is that Downsview Park anyway?" Much has been expressed about the potential of the transformation of the Downsview Park lands, located just south and east of York University. A former military base, there is an effort underway to transform the park into a unique urban recreational facility for the enjoyment of future generations. Genco, a Fellow of McLaughlin College and president & CEO of the federal crown corporation responsible for Parc Downsview Park Inc., will answer questions about Downsview Park and will explore both the nature of the delays and the new challenges facing the corporation as it moves to its next level of growth and inspiration for urban development and renewal in the 21st century.

George Thomson (right), Chair of the Ontario Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, will discuss the progress in this exercise in democratic renewal. Thomson will present his talk on Thursday, Jan. 18. One citizen has been chosen at random by the Government of Ontario from each of the province’s 103 constituencies to take part in the Ontario Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform. The group has been meeting regularly at York University to consider whether Ontario needs a different kind of voting system. Might Ontario adopt a new system for the 2011 provincial election? If the assembly recommends change, the change will go to referendum at the time of the October 2007 provincial election. Over his 30-year career, Thomson has made significant contributions to public policy and citizen engagement as a lawyer, educator, judge and deputy minister. He was a family court judge in Kingston, Ont., and has spent many years working on issues affecting children and families. He also chaired a committee that reviewed Ontario’s social assistance system. Most recently, Thomson headed the organization that educates Canada’s judges and served as a deputy minister in Ontario’s provincial government and in the federal government.

McLaughin Master Ian Greene (right), professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts, together with Jerry Ginsburg, professor of history and a Fellow of McLaughlin College, will present a talk on Wednesday, Jan. 24, on the impact of mountain climbing on the development of the mind. Both being avid mountain climbers, they will present slides and movies of climbing exploits and relate these to their academic careers. For example, Greene met the late Chief Justice Bora Laskin through a climbing connection (this led to his study of law and politics), and he also learned much about Canada’s Group of Seven artists through his mountain connections. Nearly killed in a climbing accident, Greene will explain why he didn’t give up the hobby.

The month of January wraps up with McLaughlin’s annual Robbie Burns Night which will take place on Thursday, Jan. 25, at 7pm, in the McLaughlin Senior Common Room. The evening promises plenty of great poetry, good Scotch whiskey, the piping in of the Haggis, dancing and traditional music.

For the lunchtime talks, a light lunch is served at noon and the talks usually begin at about 12:15pm, followed by a question-and-answer session. Each talk usually finishes shortly after 1pm. All are very informal. Students who attend four lunch talks during the fall-winter term will receive a Certificate of Participation.

For information on subsequent lunch talk schedules, visit the McLaughlin College Web site.