Shoukri sees opportunities in challenge of enrolment boom

Thousands of high-school graduates – enough to fill another York or about two Ryersons – won’t be able to get into a Toronto university unless something is done to head off the impending space crunch over the next two decades, educators warn. If estimates are correct, between 40,000 and 75,000 places will be needed in the city, a demand that will be felt by the time today’s Grade 7 students are ready for university, wrote The Globe and Mail July 30.

York University’s new president and vice-chancellor, Mamdouh Shoukri, makes a direct link between the coming enrolment demand and York’s desire to beef up science and engineering and add a medical program.

"We have been working on some very specific proposals to address the aspirations of York University and the needs of the province," he said in a recent interview. "There are incredible opportunities hidden in big challenges. So when I look at York’s aspirations and I look at the challenges, the intersection is obvious."

York alumnus is ‘minister of magic’

The timing couldn’t be any better, wrote the Toronto Star July 28. With the conclusion of J.K. Rowling’s epic series on the adventures of Hogwarts’ young wizards still fresh in everyone’s mind – don’t worry, no spoilers here – Toronto will play host to the world’s largest Harry Potter conference starting Thursday.

"We’re not going to get another opportunity like this. We’re the first conference right after the book, the first conference to discuss it from beginning to end," says Vishaya Naidoo (BA ’07), the conference’s executive chair, a.k.a. minister of magic.

Naidoo, an Aurora resident and recent York University graduate, says this year’s event has special meaning since it’s the 10th anniversary of Rowling’s first Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the conclusion of the magical adventures.

NASA shaken by reports of sabotage, drunkenness

Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, is a regular guest on CTV’s Canada AM. He spoke about recent incidents at NASA with host Seamus O’Regan on July 27.

O’Regan: A bizarre astronaut love triangle, new reports of drunken astronauts launching into space, and now, less than two weeks before the space shuttle Endeavor is set to launch, NASA says it has discovered sabotaged equipment headed to the International Space Station. What’s going on?

Delaney: Well, sabotage is a little bit of a harsh word, I think. I mean, sabotage suggests somebody was planning something conspiratorially, that they were being careful, and that there really could have been severe danger. Whoever this person was cut some cables going to a computer that was going to look at some sensors on board the International Space Station, and did a really crummy job of it. I think there’s probably more behind this…. Did he not get his raise last week? The word sabotage just seems a little harsh…. I mean, this is really a storm in a teacup I think.

O’Regan: Now, let’s now talk about astronaut behaviour.

Delaney: That might not be such a storm in a teacup. That could be a real storm. Let’s wait and see what comes out in this report today. You know, some of the things that are leaking out could be a bit troubling. I mean, if astronauts are taking a little bit more than that farewell sip the night before, maybe there is an issue here.

But, let’s face it, when we all go on vacation, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I think we all have a little bit to drink the night before. If that’s what we’re talking about, maybe it’s not so bad.

An inexcusable smear on lawyers

In principle, the only recourse for a defamed group is to answer a libel and defend their reputation in the court of public opinion, wrote James Morton, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in the National Post July 30. That is what I am doing here in response to a recklessly erroneous attack on lawyers in the Aug. 6 issue of Maclean’s magazine.

Under a full-page cover declaring that "Lawyers Are Rats," the magazine published an interview with Philip Slayton, author of the recently released book, Lawyers Gone Bad: Money, Sex and Madness in Canada’s Legal Profession. Like that book, the magazine interview collectively portrays lawyers as unethical, corrupt, sexually predatory crooks.

The title on the cover of Maclean’s is especially objectionable: The connection of lawyers to rats brings to mind the opening scene from Der ewige Jude ("The Eternal Jew"), the grotesque 1940 Nazi anti-Jewish film showing a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling Polish street.

The number of slurs, half-truths and outright false statements contained within the Maclean’s article is shocking. To take one example, the article says, "What can get you disbarred in Alberta won’t have much effect on you at all in, say, Nova Scotia." Well, I personally have acted on discipline matters in Ontario. And I can report that a lawyer who has been disbarred, or even merely disciplined, in Ontario will find it virtually impossible to join the bar of another province.

Morton teaches evidence at Osgoode and is president of the Ontario Bar Association, the Post noted, adding, he is proud to be a lawyer.

De-rail Spadina subway

Extending the Spadina subway line to York University and on up to the Vaughan Corporate Centre will only dig our province and city a deeper tunnel to nowhere, wrote editor Rob Granatstein in The Toronto Sun July 29. It’s time to put the brakes on this project. York University is an excellent destination, but even with 1,650 buses a day and 40,000 daily trips to and from the campus, the TTC already says it will turn back many of its trains rather than send them all up to York and beyond if the $2.1-billion subway is built.

The bigger problem is there is essentially no reason to stop the trains in the 5 km between Downsview station and York University, wrote Granatstein. Density is not going to be built up to fill that area, especially with the fuel farm nearby. This may sound like small-town thinking, but let’s do something incrementally. Start with the $40-million bus-only lanes set for construction and see how it goes for a while. Let’s use some of that $1.2 billion in subway money to get five-times as much new transit by building light-rail lines instead.

Report written by York pair is critical of RCMP

A widely cited report by former Supreme Court Justice and York Chancellor Peter Cory and OsgoodeProfessor Marilyn Pilkington was critical of the Mounties’ securities crime enforcement, wrote the National Post July 28, in an article about the trial of former Bre-X Minerals geologist John Felderhoff. The authors argued that more than $100 million has been pumped into RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Teams across the country, but that police are hampered by a lack of sophisticated knowledge of the capital markets and that penalties for white-collar crime are inadequate. The pair called, among other things, for more civilian experts to help the teams keep investigations on track – and treat commercial crime as a priority.

York student helps recruit players for an Israeli baseball league

When Josh Matlow got a call from his childhood friend, York student Dan Drori, asking him to join a professional baseball team in Israel, he was dumfounded, wrote the National Post July 28. "My first impression was, ‘Is this a joke?’ " he recalls. "Baseball in Israel is like hockey in Ethiopia. They just don’t go together." Matlow is just one of several Jewish-Canadian baseball players Drori asked to play ball in Israel.

A Berger joint to sing about

Like many young couples, Toronto singer/musician and York alumnus Carl Berger (BFA ’99) and wife Heidi sought parental guidance when they were looking to buy their first home, wrote the Toronto Star July 28 in its New Homes section. But the advice they received came with a special advantage unavailable to most first-time house hunters: Heidi’s dad, Sam Chaim, is a Re/Max real estate agent. "It was great to have my father-in-law look for a house," says Berger. "He was asking all the right questions and giving us an unbiased opinion.

Play’s reassuring message helps young patients, says York instructor

Ami Rokach, an instructor in York’s Psychology Department, Faculty of Health, has studied the impact of A Fairy Tale on Furry Tails, a comedy musical about being different by Dr. Gideon Koren, – pediatrician, scientist and director of the Motherisk program at the Hospital for Sick Children, wrote the Toronto Star July 28. Rokach says children who are sick and in hospital "are often perceived by their peers to be disadvantaged, weakened and dependent. Tails counters this by helping young patients realize their potential, he says. It also transforms the hospital into a place where "good people try to create fun for hospitalized children." In 1994, the US Association of Paediatric Hospitals gave the play its award for innovation in pediatric care.

Effects of corporate outsourcing are growing, says Tucker

Advocacy and labour groups have long warned that years of inattention to an increasingly unregulated workforce — where, according to Statistics Canada, one in three jobs is temporary, part-time, contractual or independent due to a decade of corporate outsourcing — would yield an underclass of workers unprotected by minimum government standards and exploited by illegal, unethical or unscrupulous employers, wrote the Toronto Star July 28 in an article about a questionable franchise operation. "We’ve moved into this increasingly competitive environment where more and more ingenuity goes into finding out ways of operating businesses without incurring responsibility for people," said Eric Tucker, an expert in labour and employment law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Wedding planning course proves popular

While some brides-to-be have taken a Humber College course on wedding planning, wrote Canadian Press July 28, most students – to date, a few men, but mainly women in their 20s and early 30s – appear to be taking it because they enjoy party planning and weddings and think they would one day enjoy going into business, says instructor Melissa Samborski, a former York student. "We’re trying to give them a good understanding of what goes on behind the scenes," says Samborski, 28, who began working in the banquet hall of a private golf club 10 years ago and now runs One Fine Day Event Planning & Design.

Schulich alumna loves her pan

Pan Fantasy steel-band leader Wendy Jones and treasurer Marylene Altenor have been working behind the scenes for more than 20 years with young musicians to take pan music worldwide, wrote The Toronto Sun July 29. Today, members of the band, who make music by beating steel drums, are practising for Thursday’s Pan Alive 10th anniversary competition at Lamport Stadium. Pan player and York alumnus Joy Lapps (IBBA ’07), who is renowned for her stirring rendition of the national anthem, says there is some work available playing in the steel band after Caribana. "I love the instrument and want to do more with it," says Lapps, a graduate of York’s Schulich School of Business.

Why the courts swing left

Remember last winter’s phoney scandal over appointments the Conservative government had made to Canada’s judicial advisory committees, asked the National Post July 30. For those still convinced that the Tories were and are attempting to bias an otherwise inscrutable judiciary, a soon-to-be-released study in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal should disabuse you of that myth.

Although the full paper will not be out until next month, the authors – Osgoode Professor James Stribopoulos and University of Alberta Professor Moin Yahya – have already released a precis of their findings, wrote the Post. The pair found a "statistically significant variation in the voting of judges depending on the party of their appointment." Liberal-appointed judges tended to make liberal decisions; Conservative-appointed judges more conservative ones.

Professors Stribopoulos and Yahya also found that judges’ gender had a statistically significant outcome on the kinds of decisions they made, female judges being more liberal than their male counterparts.

Consumers falling for big-biz hostile takeover

Irena Knezevic, a researcher and graduate student at York University, published a paper earlier this year that argues organic agriculture has been lost in the corporate shuffle, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press July 28. In fact, far from the holistic production system, localized marketing and nutritionally focused philosophy that formed the foundation of organic agriculture, it is becoming another commodity system featuring highly processed, heavily packaged and mass-marketed junk foods – albeit produced in the absence of pesticides, artificial fertilizers, genetically modified crops or antibiotics.