Growth plan vital for universities

It is welcome news that York University, the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa are already putting their heads together to cope with the anticipated crunch, wrote the Toronto Star in an Aug. 13 editorial about projected increases in university enrolment. Given the scope of the impending application surge and Canada’s ever-increasing need for highly educated workers, we cannot afford to leave the post-secondary aspirations of so many young people to chance.

No single institution will be able to absorb that many new students on its own, said the Star. That’s why creative ideas and cooperation between universities, with the backing of the provincial government, are needed. The easiest solution would be to take advantage of existing infrastructure by expanding the universities we already have.

Lots of tennis talent makes up for no Sharapova

Sure, Karl Hale had high hopes of seeing Maria Sharapova help make this week’s Rogers Cup a smashing success and what local tennis fan didn’t? But in the back of his mind, the tournament director for the women’s event, which gets under way today at the Rexall Centre, knew it wasn’t likely to happen, wrote The Toronto Sun Aug. 13.

That’s one reason the striking face of women’s tennis didn’t appear in any advertisements for the tourney, which once again has been stripped of big names by late withdrawals. In reality, though, the world’s No. 2-ranked woman player and healthy fan favourite never made any bold promises she would make it to the York University facility this week.

Most major media, including the CBC, the National Post, The Globe and Mailandthe Toronto Star featured stories on the tournament, noting the location of the Rexall Centre at York’s Keele campus.

  • Defending Rogers Cup champion Ana Ivanovic tuned up for this year’s tournament with a win at the Los Angeles Classic on Sunday wrote CBC News online Aug. 13. The Serbian player will get a bye in the tournament at York this time around, no doubt welcome after the flight from California.
  • With the tournament missing the familiar faces of two-time Canadian Open champion Amelie Mauresmo, world No. 2 Maria Sharapova, and the Williams sisters, the Rogers Cup is hoping that the homegrown talent can give fans something to cheer about, wrote the National Post Aug. 13. "When you have the Canadians qualifying, it’s great," said tournament director Karl Hale. "You don’t want them losing in the first round. You want them winning. So it’s a great start to the tournament."
  • As of Friday, two-time Canadian champion Amelie Mauresmo (acute appendicitis), along with Venus Williams (tendinitis of the knee), Martina Hingis (sore hip and back), Nicole Vaidisova (mononucleosis) and Sania Mirza (personal reasons) had withdrawn from the Rogers Cup, wrote CanWest News Service, Aug. 13.

Schulich’s golden rules

Self-made Canadian billionaire Seymour Schulich distills a lifetime of experience in his new book, Get Smarter™: Life and Business Lessons (Key Porter Books, 304 pages, $29.95), written with financial journalist Derek DeCloet, wrote the National Post in a review Aug. 11 that included this excerpt.

Males grow up in a world where having a chip on their shoulder is a bit of a positive. In a hockey game, if they get slashed, they wait and retaliate in the corners with a butt-end to an opponent’s head or, if the opponent is a blockhead, other tender parts of his body. Women don’t have this chippy, macho edge. The women university presidents I’ve had the privilege to know and work with, Lorna Marsden and Heather Munroe-Blum, are outstanding leaders and human beings who brought out the really important values in human relations: abundant respect and loyalty! This leads us to love.

Train fewer teachers, union says

A motion before the annual meeting of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, held this week in Toronto, says the union needs to press the government to review biannually and adjust the number of students in faculties of education because "we are entering a period of declining enrolment in elementary schools and it is becoming apparent that new graduates will have a long wait before becoming a contract teacher in Ontario."

Paul Axelrod, dean of the Faculty of Education at York, said even in good times, it can take a couple of years for teacher graduates to land full-time jobs, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 13. "The situation has changed," he said. "It’s not terrible, although in certain parts of Ontario it is challenging, especially in the north." In the Greater Toronto Area, an area of greater population growth, there are still positions at elementary and secondary levels. Axelrod also noted there are "enormous opportunities" around the globe for Ontario-trained teachers.

York itself is starting a program for French Immersion teachers this fall at its bilingual Glendon campus, said the Star. York has 300 students in its concurrent education program, where students earn a bachelor’s degree and a teaching degree in five years, and about 750 in its consecutive program for those who already have a degree.

‘Digi schooling’ is growing

Millions of hits on YouTube’s countless how-to videos suggest a growing trend toward online, do-it-yourself, popular education, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 13. Mary Leigh Morbey, associate director of York’s Institute for Research on Learning Technologies, adds that, with some guidance from teachers, using this cutting-edge teaching tool is effective and engages students in a medium that they know best.

If class was still in session, Morbey says her students would have watched and debated CNN’s recent YouTube Democratic presidential debate and the fall-out of Larry King’s Paris Hilton interview on YouTube. Another advantage for online, interactive, 3D environments like YouTube, says Morbey, is that it’s "open source", meaning it’s free and open to everybody.

Wind farms are a blight in Ireland

Regarding the reply of Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, to Jesse Ausubel’s opinion of wind farms being anything but green: Winfield needs to look at the devastation caused by the installation of wind farms in the UK and Ireland, wrote Terry Crofton of Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland, in the Calgary Herald Aug. 13. They really are a blot on the landscape. That, coupled with the negligible amount of electricity they provide makes them a complete waste of time. I agree with Ausubel. The only real green alternative is nuclear.

Priciest condo in tallest tower goes to billionaire York alum

In the battle for one-upmanship in Toronto’s luxury real estate market, York alumnus Alex Shnaider (BA ’92) has revealed a convincing hand, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 11. The enigmatic Toronto billionaire says in an exclusive interview he has decided to keep what has been billed as Canada’s most expensive condominium, valued at up to $20 million, at the Trump International Hotel & Tower for himself.

A work in progress, his mansion in the sky could be as large as 14,000 square feet, and will have, in some areas, soaring 9-metre ceilings. "You can put an observatory up there. It’s a great place to get away from the wife if we ever have a fight," joked Shnaider.

While New York billionaire Donald Trump is the brand, Shnaider, at 39 Canada’s youngest billionaire, is the financial muscle behind the ultra-luxury project in the city’s financial district. Shnaider went to William Lyon Mackenzie CI while helping his parents in the deli. He later studied economics at York University.

A healthy way to spend your summer?

The video-game industry won a minor battle this week when a California judge shot down a state act prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children, ruling that the proposed law was too broad and that, in any case, there was insufficient evidence showing such games have a negative effect on kids, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 11.

But while politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger may be doing their best to propose ways of limiting children’s exposure to games in which torture and murder are commonplace, more and more studies are emerging that show that video games may be the opposite of destructive – that they may, in fact, be downright good for you.

And it’s not just eyesight that seems to improve as players hone their gaming skills. A study published by researchers at York last year showed evidence that video-game players – not unlike bilingual speakers – tend to score higher in various, relatively difficult, mental tests than do non-players. Jennifer Jenson, a specialist in pedagogy and technology in York’s Faculty of Education and the editor of Loading…: The Journal of the Canadian Game Studies Association, points to the research of T.L. Taylor of the IT University of Copenhagen, who has argued that "the virtual/real distinction breaks down in the face of the embodied, lived, everyday realities of being online and participating in an online community."

Couple trades life at top for tree level

Though many condo owners yearn for a penthouse suite, engaged couple James McLennan and Alexandre Brassard, research officer and instructor at York’s Glendon campus, are happy to be on the second floor, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 11. Of course, there’s a practical advantage to living close to the ground, too. When their 31/2-year-old chihuahua, Oscar, needs to go outside, it’s a quick trip downstairs. "When we were in our last place, we were on the top floor in the penthouse," says Brassard. "It was such a pain to take him down 35 floors."

Peridis explains why GE is a factory for CEOs

Described by some as a "breeding ground for senior managers" and a "CEO factory" by others, General Electric Co. has over the years produced some of the world’s most sought-after high-level executives, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 11. But what makes GE a veritable wellspring of executive talent? "There’s no room for No. 2 or No. 3 at GE," said Theo Peridis, a professor of policy at York’s Schulich School of Business. "So those No. 2s and No. 3s, who are very excellent managers, find great opportunities elsewhere."

Using art for healing…and to earn a living

Ahmoo Angeconeb performed a prayer ceremony with a pipe and drum to open his latest exhibition of artwork, Ahmoo’s Prayer, wrote the North Bay Nugget Aug. 11. The Lac Seul First Nation artist and recent recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Senior Artist’s grant gave detailed descriptions of the meanings behind the human being figures and their spirit helpers in his blue and white pencil crayon drawings during June’s opening of the summer-long exhibition at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. Angeconeb studied art in 1976 at York and travelled to London and Paris during 1979-1980 to study art in Europe.

A leap of faith

Last night was a long time in the making for local playwright and York alumnus Paul Ciufo (BA ’94, MA ’97 ), wrote the London Free Press Aug. 11. When the drafts of his play Reverend Jonah hit double digits and the calendar turned to 2006 – marking seven years since Ciufo began writing it – one might have suspected the work would never see the stage. But Ciufo never gave up hope. A year ago this month, Reverend Jonah was given the green light at the Blyth Festival, where it made its world premiere to a sold-out house Friday night with the buzz normally reserved for Hollywood.

Picking up the pieces

The black eye and broken shoulder came from a spill on a scooter but in a strange way, both injuries have added a new dimension to Christina Kingsbury‘s exhibition, called Making Ends Meet, wrote the Guelph Mercury Aug. 11. Her pieces will be hung in the Green Room at the Bookshelf on Monday with an official reception from 7 to 9pm on Aug. 24.

The phrase usually refers to the struggles of balancing a budget or having enough money to cover the bills. It can also be a sewing reference – the piecing together of fabric swatches so there will be enough. For Kingsbury (BFA ’05), who majored in photography and minored in environmental studies at York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, this exhibit is a way to use the ends of other projects. She’s stitching together bits of photographs, ticket stubs, old road maps and such, into a photographic patchwork quilt. And given her injuries and limited mobility, she’s also meeting other people as they pitch in, in quilting-bee style, to help her finish the exhibit on time.

For a pot smoker in pain, no help is on the way

Alison Myrden, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, has been fighting to help medical cannabis gain credibility for nearly 10 years. A few weeks ago, Myrden was denied a summer student – one of five hired to give companionship to MS sufferers – by the Burlington chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. The reason they gave her? The university students could be harmed by the marijuana she continually uses to control the savage pain in her face and help her walk.

Myrden’s lawyer, Alan Young, a law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who has led the charge on medical marijuana approval, said he’s surprised that the MS Society reacted this way, because it "has been quite supportive of marijuana research." Young says "mixed messages" in the legislation cause confusion about marijuana use. "If Alison were able to secure a tablet that had the same products in it, they wouldn’t blink," he says. Since the Conservative government has moved away from decriminalization, they are unlikely to support a strong medical marijuana program, Young points out.