Schulich management professors critique SARS report

We commend the SARS Commission for taking the 2003 SARS crisis as an opportunity to recommend sweeping changes in Ontario’s health-care system and to draw lessons that will hopefully minimize the recurrence of such tragic events, wrote York Professors Moshe Farjoun and Brenda Zimmerman, in the Globe and Mail Jan. 12. However, our expertise in other high-risk organizations such as NASA, and in health-care management, leads us to view some aspects of the report with caution. Particularly, we feel the commission did not give due attention to the management and organizational causes of the disaster and, more specifically, to their respective remedies.

The report does diagnose weak hospital practices as part of the problem, but the recommendations are almost exclusively directed at government: "The government must fix it." It makes sense to have government fix problems that are within its control or sphere of influence, but it is highly unlikely government can "fix" the management of a hospital. This is a local challenge and responsibility.

Moshe Farjoun is a co-editor of Organization at the Limit: Lessons from the Columbia Disaster and a professor of policy & strategy at York’s Schulich School of Business. Brenda Zimmerman is a professor of policy & strategy and director of the Health Industry Management Program at Schulich.

Judge almost ditched law school for journalism

York alumnus and Superior Court Justice Alex Pazaratz (LLB ‘77) confesses he began his career in law most reluctantly, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Jan. 12. Pazaratz, 54, who became a judge yesterday in the Family Court Branch, noted the irony of his swearing-in ceremony being held at the John Sopinka Courthouse, which for nearly 60 years was Hamilton’s main post office.

In late August 1974, when Pazaratz was a summer intern at The Hamilton Spectator, he found himself in a car with his future wife, Lynda Cooper, circling the block around the post office for several hours. The cub reporter was enjoying the police beat and writing about his hometown. He was attracted to the excitement of journalism and more than a little ambivalent about the imminent deadline for sending his application to York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

"We sat in the car. We circled the block. We kept coming back. We did this for hours. We talked. We argued. We cried. I didn’t want to go to law school. Lynda thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Finally, just before midnight, I got out of the car and put the letter in the mail slot – in this building. I could never have dreamed that mailing that letter would lead to this," Pazaratz told his colleagues and dignitaries.

Equality, not multiculturalism

A few York University students exchanged furtive nods when their guest lecturer dismissed diversity training as a waste of time and money, wrote columnist Carol Goar in the Toronto Star Jan. 12. There were outright cheers when Robert Jensen, who teaches journalism at the University of Texas, disparaged multiculturalism. Jensen’s 2005 book, The Heart of Whiteness, Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege, caused quite a stir in his homeland. It also caught the attention of York’s Greg Malszecki, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health. He believes it is critical for students to look at the social factors – race, class, income, gender – that affect an individual’s life chances. So he invited the author to Toronto.

NASA agrees: It’s metric only for future lunar flights

NASA has finally agreed to fly to the moon in metric – a move its own scientists have wanted ever since they mixed up kilometres with miles and crashed an expensive Mars mission, reported CanWest News Jan. 12. "Space engineering is tough enough without continuously having to remember all the conversion factors between various units," said Ben Quine, director of the Space Engineering Program in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. "So it’s good news that they’re joining us, and good news for international collaboration. All of our courses are taught in SI [Systeme International, or metric measure] so it will make it easier for our graduates to get jobs south of the border."

Making the change won’t be easy for the Americans, Quine noted. "Everybody has to be careful with their units when they convert." But he believes it will make calculations easier in the long run. "The foot was based on the size of the foot of one of the kings of England. I can’t remember which one it is now. That’s no way to run a space program, based on the size of a dead king’s foot," Quine quipped.

Lifelong bilingualism can help postpone Alzheimer’s symptoms up to four years

Toronto scientists, including York Professor Ellen Bialystok, psychologist in York’s Faculty of Health, were inspired by language research in children when they uncovered evidence that Alzheimer’s begins affecting bilingual patients an average of four years later than unilingual ones, wrote the National Post Jan. 12. The conclusions should provide added impetus for parents to raise bilingual children, but taking language lessons as an adult probably will not help stave off dementia, say the researchers.

"It’s not the sort of thing that you can go out and make a New Year’s resolution to change your life," said Bialystok, one of the authors of the study. "[But] we’re supposed to celebrate bilingualism, and as Canadians I think this is a very good news story…I think it’s a very important message that language has more than the very obvious benefits. It may even keep you going longer." It was Bialystok’s research on bilingualism in children that provided the impetus for the research.

Cultivating inquiring minds

Cartoon figures are non-existent in a Reggio classroom, wrote the National Post Jan. 12, in a story about the growing grassroots educational movement featured in an exhibit in December and now on at North York’s Columbus Centre. Some classrooms even have plants and resident animals, such as a frog or birds, so students can learn about science first-hand. "You are preparing the environment to offer learning opportunities. Rather than using the mass media’s idea of culture and imposing it on the children, you are inviting the children to create the culture in the classroom," said Carol Anne Wien, professor in York’s Faculty of Education

Justice is a family tradition

In a majestic Sudbury courtroom that has seen its share of poignant moments over the years, none were more poignant as the exchange of a hug Jan. 11 between Superior Court Justice Ian Gordon (LLB ’61) and his son, Robbie (LLB ’85), after the latter was sworn in to replace him on the bench, wrote the Sudbury Star Jan. 12. Following the addresses, the newest judge showed his sense of humour when he conceded that while the 200 or so people packed into the courtroom were anticipating something profound, "I have nothing deep or thought-provoking to say." After graduating from high school in Haileybury, Ont. Robbie Gordon went on to study law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, returning home some 20 years ago to join his father’.

Monkey business is good

Barney’s out. Sho, Mo and the Monkey Bunch is in, wrote the Barrie Examiner Jan. 12. The difference is the parent factor. They like the group as much as their kids. "I think there’s a real need for music for kids that doesn’t talk down to kids; talks to them as smart people that want to laugh and stuff. And I think there’s a need for music parents can listen to without wanting to kill themselves," former York theatre student Shoshana Sperling ("Sho") said. "That’s a big part of it. I get e-mails from parents saying, ‘I just did a 10-hour car ride with our CD and I still like it.’ It was really nice to hear from people that they’d thrown out their Barney CDs, and their kids finally liked music that they liked." Sperling performs comedic monologues and other theatrical work in Toronto and writes for Global Television’s “The Jane Show”.

Similar attack cited at Mexican bar

When sisters Linda and Nancy Leoni heard about the killing of a 19-year-old Woodbridge man in Mexico earlier this week, they were stunned by how similar the story was to an experience they had in the same place last year, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 12. The women – both students at York University – were at the same Acapulco dance club during spring break when one of their friends was beaten, robbed and dumped along the side of the same road where a fatally injured Adam DePrisco was found early Sunday morning, they said.  "The only difference is our friend survived," said Nancy Leoni. Because of the trauma of the brutal beating, their friend does not want his identity revealed, they said, adding he wouldn’t speak about the attack publicly.

Fine Arts professor begins gallery lecture series

Toronto’s KUMF Gallery will host Gerald Needham, professor in the Department of Visual Arts in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, for a series of four Post-Impressionism art lectures starting tonight, wrote the Bloor West Villager Jan. 11. The topic is the transformation of Western art at the end of the 19thcentury by a small group of artists who included Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Seurat and Odilon Redon. The lectures will explore both the achievements in their art and their fascinating ideas with the aid of a rich selection of colour slides.

On air

  • Joe Baker, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, spoke about the impact of exercise on aging, on CBC Radio Jan. 11.
  • Barry Elmes, music professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, joined JAZZ.FM91’s Larry Green Jan. 18 to talk about York’s jazz program and the upcoming series of jazz concerts.