The burden of duty

It took only two days to find the seven men and five women to be members of the jury that will determine Robert (Willie) Pickton’s fate, despite the fact that his trial will last for as long as a year, wrote CanWest News Jan. 29. That astounds Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "I don’t understand it," he confesses. "If I was called for this, I would show up in a dress. I wouldn’t want to take a year out of my life for this."

The Pickton jurors will get a miserly $20 a day for the first 10 days of the trial, $60 a day for the 11th to 49th day and $100 a day for the 50th and subsequent days. Expenses aren’t covered. “The one thing everyone agrees with is the current amount is insulting,” says Young. “People are losing significant resources by sitting on a jury.”

Osgoode alumna is Toronto’s nearest thing to an art cop

"Canada is a fantastic place to steal art," says York graduate Bonnie Czegledi (LLB ‘82) in the Globe and Mail, Jan. 27, "because no one is paying attention." Czegledi is unique in the visual-arts community: A lawyer and artist whose chambers also double as an art gallery, she is an enthusiastic supporter of contemporary artists – but she is not afraid to offer scathing criticism of a local art trade she views as a haven for thieves and obsessive collectors. "Local police don’t have a checklist on what to do when a gallery is robbed," Czegledi says. "I do."

At York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, she specialized in cultural heritage so she could "live a life amongst the pretty paintings," she says. But she soon discovered an underbelly to the art world and a police force unprepared. In Toronto, Czegledi says, there are no police trained in art investigations. "The Toronto police force doesn’t have much knowledge but they do have a willingness to learn," she said.

Funding for obesity research centre questioned

An expert on health policy at York says consumers should be wary since a global drug company that stands to earn billions of dollars with a new weight-loss miracle pill is the sole source of funding for the Centre for Obesity Research and Education, wrote the Kingston Whig-Standard Jan. 27. "It’s going to be part of the campaign that they’re using to drive the sales of this product," said Dr. Joel Lexchin, an emergency physician and associate Chair of York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health.

The researcher who founded the centre disputes the criticism, saying there is no direct link with drug company Sanofi-aventis, which pledged roughly $400,000 to start it up, said the Whig-Standard. "But the bottom line is that they’re in the business to make money," said Lexchin. "Sanofi and all the other drug companies are not in the business of giving away money." It’s estimated that Sanofi-aventis could reap more than $5 billion annually from sales in the US alone of its new drug.

Graduate schools brace for bulge

The largest wave of university students in Ontario history will compete all over again for jobs and graduate school, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 29. And while it’s not just about the double cohort – demand for graduate programs across Canada is rising steadily in an economy that demands more and more credentials – it will deliver a sharp kick to the trend this fall. York University has nine new master’s programs in areas such as social work and nursing, and seven new doctoral programs. Universities also are working to find space for the extra grad students. York is renovating an old dining hall this spring to make room for more labs and will turn an old ice rink into research space within the next two years.

Business schools lose ground on FT list

Canadian business schools have lost ground in this year’s Financial Times rankings of global MBA academies, wrote the Globe and Mail Jan. 29. One major loser in the global Top 100 survey is York University’s Schulich School of Business, which tumbles to 49th spot over all from 18th last year. Although the FT survey carries a lot of weight, its measurement criteria always come in for harsh criticism, particularly when rankings diverge widely from those of other sources, said the Globe.

Female academics face lower wages, study says

Despite making some significant gains in recent decades, women are still struggling to crack the glass ceiling that hangs above the halls of Canadian academia, recent statistics indicate, wrote the Globe and Mail and the London Free Press Jan. 29 in a story about a study co-authored by Penni Stewart, anthropology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, that was also featured in Canadian Press reports last week.

Choosing an executor is no trivial matter

Barbara Benoliel is a mediator of estate disputes and teaches a course in family business succession at York’s Schulich School of Business, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 28 in an article on choosing executors. "Here’s a mistake I see over and over again," she says, "designating one of your children to be the trustee or executor and letting them decide what, if anything, their siblings receive and when. Who wants a sibling making decisions about your money? "Making one of the children responsible, even if he or she is the most qualified and talented, will build up resentment and stress in their future relationship."

A Canadian edge, but wildly diverse

York alumna Suba Sankaran (BFA ’97, MFA ’02) is calling from her father’s place in Chennai, India, where her band autorickshaw is staying, wrote The Province (Vancouver) Jan. 28. The Juno-nominated Toronto "world music" ensemble is on its first tour of India. “The reception (in India) has been fantastic," says Sankaran. "We did three shows here, a few workshops and performances and then travelled six hours to Bangalore to play a big rock show called Freedom Jam. "The rest of the bands on the bill were all doing heavy metal, so it was an interesting fit."

The daughter of South Indian mrdangam drum master Trichy Sankaran, who teaches in York’s Department of Music, she grew up deeply immersed in both the music of the Asian subcontinent and whatever the Toronto youth were bugging out to at clubs and on the radio. "My father is a purist at heart and a traditionalist, but he has also always been willing to work in fusion projects. It’s interesting to me that I’ve taken that direction as well, but from the Indian traditions and from my jazz studies at York, I’ve learned that this is the only way for me to put the pieces of the musical puzzle together."

Fine arts alumna performs at BC’s Theatre North West

She has portrayed stage icons such as Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion and Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, wrote the Prince George Citizen Jan. 29. Next month, Toronto’s Tara Rosling (BFA ‘93) will add to an impressive film/theatre resume when she steps onto the stage as Laura in the Glass Menagerie, the Tennessee Williams classic, which kicks off the second half of the Theatre North West season. Rosling was born in Seattle but raised in BC, mostly in Vancouver. She moved to Toronto in 1988 to study fine arts and drama in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She has since had starring and supporting roles in numerous movies and television shows. Rosling has twice been nominated at the Dora theatre awards in Toronto.

Why the ethanol king loves driving his SUV

Osgoode alumnus Ken Field (LLB ’68) has had a truly charmed career, wrote the Globe and Mail Jan. 29. The 63-year-old Toronto investor got out of Bramalea Ltd. before the development company crashed and burned in the early 1990s. Field took a flier on ethanol, a hitherto obscure gasoline additive made by fermenting sugar from corn or other plants into grain alcohol. As demonstrated by US President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address last week, ethanol is now a big chip in the global energy game. Field is chairman and majority owner of GreenField Ethanol, Canada’s leading ethanol manufacturer, as well as a major supplier of commercial alcohol.  

Fine Arts alum operates Teatron Theatre

During the 26 years he lived in Kingston, former York student Ari Weisberg was never involved in a local theatre production, wrote the Kingston Whig-Standard Jan. 27. He’s making up for lost time now, having started his own theatre company in Toronto since 2002. Teatron Theatre presents works with Jewish themes, and its latest production, Last Night At Ballyhoo, is coming to Kingston as a fundraiser for the local Jewish Community Council., Weisberg, a native Israeli, fell in love in 2000 and moved to Toronto to get married and continue studying drama, this time at York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Two years after that, he was running his own theatre company with a two-play-a-year season.

School trustee’s proposed code of ethics idea sent for review

Halton District School Board Trustee Peggy Russell proposed using the services of ethicist Susan Dimock, philosophy professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, to work with trustees and senior administrators on an ethical code that would be used as a framework for all decision- making at the board, wrote the Milton Canadian Champion Jan. 26. However, a 6-5 vote sent the idea to the policy bylaw and governance committee for further review.

On air

  • Daniel Drache, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the compensation package for wrongly accused Maher Arar, on Toronto’s 680 News radio and stations in Sudbury and Moncton, NB, on Jan. 26.

  • Omni News’ South Asian program featured artists who are helping the South Asian Studies program in York’s Faculty of Arts, on Jan. 26.

  • Bobby Noble, professor in York’s School of Women’s Studies, spoke about discrimination against transgendered people in a story that highlighted York grad Susan Gapka, on CTV News Jan. 28.