Respected researcher and administrator to be York’s next president, says Star

Mamdouh Shoukri, a well-respected engineer, researcher and academic administrator, is poised to become the new president and vice-chancellor of York University, the Toronto Star wrote Feb. 4. The newspaper quoted sources who said the appointment of Shoukri, currently the vice-president of research and international affairs at McMaster University in Hamilton, would be put to a vote of York’s Board of Governors today, Tuesday.

If approved, Shoukri, 59, would succeed Lorna R. Marsden, who is retiring this summer after 10 years at the helm of Canada’s third-largest university, the Star said. He’d become the seventh president since York was founded in 1959. Shoukri, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in his native Egypt before getting his graduate credentials at McMaster, could not be reached for comment by the Star.

Shoukri has a proven track record at McMaster, the newspaper said. In 2004, three years after he assumed his current post as vice-president of research, the school was dubbed Research University of the Year in an annual ranking of institutions’ ability to attract and capitalize on research income done by Research Infosource Inc., a business intelligence firm. He’s also one of 13 members of the Ontario Research and Innovation Council, a blue-ribbon panel of business people and academics appointed by Premier Dalton McGuinty to advise on the best strategy for building more creativity, innovation and prosperity in the province.

Shoukri, a married father of two who is fluent in Arabic, is also on the board of directors of the Ontario Centres of Excellence, which was established to link academic research to the marketplace.

"He’s a tremendous person at all levels – scientist, engineer, educator and person," said Adel Sedra, dean of engineering at the University of Waterloo. Sedra, who, like Shoukri, earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Cairo, said he wasn’t aware his longtime associate was being picked for the post. "That will be a very good appointment for York," he told the Star.

Shoukri, whose research interests focus on thermo-fluid sciences and their applications in the power and process industries, has written or co-authored more than 100 papers for academic journals and symposiums. He completed his PhD in mechanical engineering at McMaster in 1977 and spent seven years in Ontario Hydro’s research division.

  • McMaster University’s vice-president of research and international affairs may be poised to take over the top job at York University, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Feb. 5.  According to a published report, Mamdouh Shoukri, a mechanical engineer and key mover behind McMaster’s multimillion-dollar Innovation Park at the former Camco site, is to become York’s new president.

The 59-year-old helped steer the deal struck between Mac and the City of Hamilton to collaborate on the research park where theories and experiments are expected to become saleable products, industries and businesses, said the Spectator. During Shoukri’s tenure as Mac’s head of research, the school has scored within the top three research universities in Canada as rated by Toronto- based Research Infosource Inc. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineering.

It’s the victims’ lives that turn people off Pickton trial, says Young

"The simplest theory is that the case is just too traumatizing and shocking for people to want to sit through," said Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in dismissing the theory about why people are staying away from the Robert Pickton trial. “I don’t think that is the explanation.” He told Canadian Press Feb. 3 that the apparent lack of interest in the Pickton trial – in terms of members of the public who attend the proceedings – is in stark contrast to the trial in the mid-1990s of sex-killer Paul Bernardo.

Young was a guest on a TV talk show the day the Pickton trial started Jan. 22 and got quite a shock. “I did a talk show the day the Pickton trial started and the first caller, who was cut off in mid-stream by the TV station, started ranting and raving that these people deserve what they got,” he said. “It is a politically incorrect statement to make but I actually believe the majority of Canadians feel that way, that the victims in this case are less worthy than other victims and that is why it’s not as interesting,” said Young, who is the author of Justice Defiled: Perverts, Potheads, Serial Killers and Lawyers.

Copyright fight far from over

When the Supreme Court of Canada decides a case, it can be hard to know who has won, wrote Giuseppina (Pina) D’Agostino, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, about an October Supreme of Canada decision on copyright law in the January/February issue of Masthead Magazine. Commenting on the case of freelance writer Heather Robinson, who successfully sued The Globe and Mail for using her article in an online database, D’Agostino observed that both sides in the dispute claimed victory.

“Saying that authors own online rights and newspapers own CD-ROM rights is practically meaningless because freedom to contract trumps the law…. This decision will therefore have little, if any, impact.” Most publishers have already standardized “all rights” contracts where they own all digital rights, wrote D’Agostino. “Nor does the Court’s decision stop Parliament – the final adjudicator on copyright policy – from enacting laws to address copyright issues,” she wrote, while noting the issue hadn’t ultimately made government priority list. This problem will not go away anytime soon, she said..

Readers are leaders, kids are told

Toronto Police Const. Bassey Osagie (BA ‘99) wants to bring a message to students during Black History Month: They can be anything they want to be, wrote The Toronto Sun Feb. 3. "We want to let the kids know they can be a doctor or an astronaut, no matter what the people on the street tell them," said Osagie, 35. He was at Albion Heights Junior Middle School with officers from 23 Division reading to students as part of an initiative spearheaded by the Black Community Police Consultative Committee. Osagie, originally from Benin City, Nigeria, came to Canada to study in 1990 and graduated from York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

Off to Kandahar to serve the troops

York alumna Jennifer Jones (BFA ’95) has never made a cappuccino, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Feb. 5. She doesn’t even drink coffee. But in a few short days, she’ll be leaving her safe and comfortable St. Catharines apartment to live in a tent and work at Tim Hortons in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Jones, 35, works in the Shaw Festival’s development office, but with her contract job ending, she thought she’d try something really new. Less than a week ago, she learned she’d be leaving Wednesday for six months in Afghanistan. "I think I’m going to really get a view of a different kind of a life," she said. "I don’t have any family in the military or any friends in the military and I think this will really give me a better picture of what it’s like." Jones is not nervous, surrounded by soldiers and inside barbed wire. "I think it’s going to be one of the safest places to be," she said.

Films a thrill for these buffs

Showing documentaries and foreign films does the same for Owen Sound area cinephiles that TVO’s “Saturday Night at The Movies” did for television audiences when it launched in 1974, making available movies they wouldn’t otherwise see, wrote the Owen Sound Sun Times Feb. 5. The comment was made by that show’s former producer, York film & video alumna Risa Shuman (BA ’73), the guest speaker at this year’s Owen Sound’s Reel Festival.

Through her TVO show Film International in 1983, Shuman was the first programmer in North America to broadcast a foreign film with subtitles during commercial prime time. "There are people in Hollywood pouring millions and millions and millions of dollars – the gross of a country – for what? To make the same film over and over and over again," she said. "A film festival thumbs its nose, in a way, at the idea that everybody wants to see that kind of film.” Shuman told the Reel Festival audience she still gets the same thrill that first pointed her to study film as part of York University’s first graduating film class.

Federal MPs ignore McGuinty plea to speak up for Ontario

Ottawa’s new-found interest in the environment has opened the possibility to some backdoor deals that would assist Ontario under green camouflage, wrote Ian Urquhart in his column for the Toronto Star Feb. 5. For example, Ontario is pursuing federal subsidies for the extension of the subway to York University, for construction of an east-west transmission grid (to carry clean hydroelectric power from east and west to this province), and for new nuclear plants. All three measures can be rightly portrayed as helping to limit Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. The first would get cars off the road, while the other two would enable Ontario to phase out its coal- fired electricity plants.

There are signs of movement on all these files. Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, for example, has been talking to Flaherty about the subway extension. And last week Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan met his federal counterpart, Gary Lunn, to discuss both the east-west grid and nuclear power.

Memorial for gun victim inspires community

Toronto’s black community needs to pull together to give youth hope and dreams and help end gun violence, those who gathered at a memorial to honour slain York student Chantel Dunn were told, wrote The Toronto Sun Feb. 4. They were also told Toronto Police and the rest of the city need to do their part. The call to action came from community leaders who addressed 400 mourners at the Praise Cathedral Worship Centre in Mississauga.

Dunn family friend Jackie Nugent announced the creation of two scholarship funds in Chantel’s name, one that will assist students at Loyola Catholic High School and another for students at York University. Dunn attended both institutions.

  • The memorial service was also mentioned on several Toronto radio and television stations Feb. 3 and the Toronto Star also published a photograph of the event on Feb. 4.

Consumers have yet to embrace environment issue, says Joshi

Polls now show the environment has surpassed healthcare as the top priority of Canadians, so you would think that that concern would translate into personal behaviour. Well, think again, said CBC radio host Kathleen Petty on "The House" Feb. 3. I spoke with Ashwin Joshi, a professor of marketing with York University’s Schulich School of Business. He says he has yet to see evidence that Canadians are thinking about the environment when they pull out their wallets.

"Just this week," Joshi told Petty, "The Globe and Mail published a survey done by Maritz, and it’s a survey of 38,000 Canadians – 38,500 Canadians – and it’s about purchasing a new car. So there’s 26 attributes of a new car, and being environmentally friendly ranks 23rd out of 26th. We apparently, based on the survey, value, oh, carpeting in our cars, colour in our car, much more than we do whether or not it’s environmentally friendly, so when the rubber hits the road, certainly when it comes to the purchase of cars, you’re not really seeing too much traction in terms of being environmentally friendly, so, you know, I’d be hard-pressed to say that consumers have embraced the environmental project, if you will, in any meaningful way in their buying behaviours."

Unequal opportunity

Allan C. Hutchinson, professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, wrote a review of Walter Benn Michaels’ book The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality, for The Globe and Mail Feb. 3. This small book should come with a warning: "Liberals beware; this book is likely to be dangerous for your intellectual health and self-esteem." US literary theorist Walter Benn Michaels gores a herd of sacred cows; it is an academic massacre, a blood-letting of massive proportions. Michaels condemns liberals, both right and left, for gullibility and complicity in buying into the diversity myth and failing to take seriously the deprivations of poverty.

Art history’s winners left lasting impression

Art history, like history in general, is written by the winners, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 3. That is why we know a great deal about the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, the Fauves and the Cubists, those daring 19th- and early-20th century culture heroes, while the fussy Academic painters who had been their detractors and adversaries are forgotten. Ross King (PhD ’92) is interested in the losers, their blindness, rigidity and self-interest. He has recounted the culture wars of 19th-century France in The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, in which Meissonier and Manet are the chief antagonists. The Judgment of Paris, just out in paperback became a surprise bestseller and is currently short listed for a Charles Taylor Prize for literary non- fiction.

York tutor is running for NDP in Markham

NDP candidate and York graduate student Janice Hagan (BA ‘86) is hoping that Markham voters decide neither of her opponents in the Feb. 8 byelection has the right answers, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 3. "I’m counting on Markham giving me a chance and seeing what I can do," says Hagan, 42, who also thinks the VIVA bus system and local hospital need expansion. The English tutor and York University student has tried to win in Markham in the last three federal and last two provincial elections.

Prominent lawyer suspended after admitting to affair

A senior partner at the Ottawa branch of the national law firm Borden Ladner Gervais has been suspended from practising for 60 days after admitting to a 2 1/2-year affair with a client, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 4. George Hunter (LLB ’72), 59, former treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada and an alumnus of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, acknowledged Friday that his intimate relationship with a woman – known only as XY – who had hired him to resolve a custody dispute with her ex-husband, resulted in a conflict of interest. At the disciplinary hearing on Friday, Hunter agreed and apologized. "My conduct has profoundly hurt those closest to me – my partners, my friends and, most importantly, my family," he said. "I’m very sorry."

Reverend charged in child pornography case

A Toronto reverend is charged after police seized a collection of child pornography involving kids as young as 5, reported The Toronto Sun Feb. 3. Frederick Patrick Dunleavy (BA ’89), 65, is charged with possessing child pornography. Dunleavy, a native of Brockville, was ordained as a reverend in 1989 by the Old Roman Catholic Church, which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The Web site for the Old Roman Catholic Church in Ontario said Dunleavy received religion at York University and the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s College.