Biologist alum speaks about animal pleasures, including sex

York alumnus Jonathan Balcombe (BSc ’83) has been billed an animal sexpert – at least for tonight, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 21. "I didn’t know that’s how they spun it," he says with a chuckle, referring to his Toronto talk sponsored by the animal protection charity Zoocheck Canada.

While the PhD-toting ethologist (a person who studies animal behaviour) has written a book on all aspects of animal pleasure, from the joys of touch to the delights of eating, that doesn’t mean he spends his time watching animals get it on.

Rather, Balcombe, a senior research scientist at the Washington, DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wants to use his knowledge of behaviour to make the world a better place for animals. "I’m a qualified voice for animals," he says. The Toronto native, with an undergraduate biology degree from York University says knowing how animals – from elephants to fish – experience pleasure is important if we are to give them the best quality of life.

Queen’s appoints York grad as its diversity adviser

Queen’s University, which has been criticized for its "culture of whiteness," has appointed a special high-level diversity adviser, wrote the Kingston Whig-Standard Nov. 21. Principal Karen Hitchcock has announced the two-year renewable appointment of York alumnus Barrington Walker (BA ‘93), a history professor at Queen’s, to advise university administration on ways to make the campus more diverse and address prejudice and racism.

Walker, who specializes in black Canadian history and who is completing a book on how blacks have been historically treated by Ontario’s justice system, said yesterday his role was not to address individual complaints the way the university’s human rights office already does but to make broad recommendations on school practices and policies.

“I see my role as complementing the work of the human rights office,” said Walker. “I see it as formulating policy that will make the campus a more welcoming place and to address curricular issues.”

Giving art a solid framework

Alexandra Montgomery (MBA ’87) doesn’t get a chance to put brush to canvas these days. Instead, her passion for the arts finds an outlet in a very different medium: the business world, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 21.

As executive director of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Montgomery, 46, has applied her business skills to transforming the museum from a niche, private collection with a modest profile into a world-recognized specialty museum and cultural destination for a vastly expanded audience.

Now she is being honoured among women who have shaped Canadian thinking and culture in the arenas of Arts and Communications by the Toronto-based Women’s Executive Network in its annual list of the top 100 most powerful women in Canada.

Her involvement with the Gardiner began with a summer job working as a clerk in the shop of the newly opened museum. When Montgomery went on to do an MBA in Arts Administration at York University’s Schulich School of Business, she interned in the Gardiner’s administrative offices.

After graduating, she worked in communications, marketing and fundraising, largely in non-profit arts organizations in Toronto, including the Canadian Opera Company. She returned to the Gardiner as director of development and communications in 1999, then advanced to become interim director and finally executive director in 2000, when the job of curator became a separate position under her. "I am not an academic, curator or educator," she says. "I see myself as an entrepreneur."

Filming wraps up on tanning black comedy

A York University student’s movie about tanning addiction is finally done, despite a backlash from the tanning industry that kiboshed previous plans, wrote the Brantford Expositor Nov. 21. City native Sarah Evans was to film scenes for Baked, a black comedy about a woman with a fictional tanning disorder, in Brantford. However, those plans were cancelled after a news story about the movie sparked complaints from tanning businesses, including a national organization overseeing the industry.

The cancellation left the 21-year-old York University filmmaker scrambling. But she was able to find new locations in town and wrapped the short movie early Tuesday. Evans won’t reveal where she shot in Brantford. "A nice, kind person let me film there," she said. "It was very last minute, but we got it done and everybody’s happy. That’s all that matters now."

The movie is part of her final course requirements for York’s bachelor of fine arts degree in film & video production. Editing should be complete by April and then different cuts will be made before the final product is evaluated. Evans also plans to enter Baked in film festivals.

Youth drug use survey was administered by York’s ISR

Crack and crystal meth use among Ontario high-school students is on the decline, according to a new survey that suggests teens in the province who use illicit drugs may be finding them in their household medicine cabinet, wrote Canadian Press Nov. 21.

Those statistics are contained in the latest iteration of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, which for the past 30 years has been polling Ontario teenagers on drug use at two-year intervals. The survey is a project of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. A total of 6,323 students in Grades 7 through 12 filled in the 2007 survey, which is administered by the Institute for Social Research at York University for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

On air

  • Debra Pepler, professor in York’s Lamarsh Centre for Research on Violence & Conflict Resolution, spoke about cyber bullying on CTV NewsNet, Nov. 20.
  • Paul Delaney, professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, took part in a panel discussion about understanding science, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Nov. 20.