First-generation students pave their own path

York University arts graduate and first-generation student, Rachael Dankiw, 23, said she and her parents always knew she’d go to university, wrote the Toronto Star online Jan. 3. But because they didn’t have any experience in the process, Dankiw’s parents weren’t involved in the stressful application process or the academic challenges she faced.

According to York’s Vice-President Students Robert Tiffin, about half of York students are first-generation. "The best thing students can do is get involved at school and take advantage of the programs we offer from writing services to leadership and clubs," he said.

Cushnie agreed. "Don’t let yourself shy away from school because you think you can’t pay for it or you’re not going to be good at it. Just talk to people – classmates, profs – find out what services there are to help you. You just have to take that first step."

Sculptors use digital techniques in York experimental lab

A rotting apple, a pine cone and a horse skull hardly spring to mind when one contemplates fine art; same response to that trio with regard to cutting-edge technology, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 4. But for York fine arts student Kristie MacDonald these diverse objects – and many others – are centre-stage in a unique research project combining traditional sculpture methods with 21st century computer applications.

Working with Brandon Vickerd, a visual arts professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, MacDonald, 22, first scans a wide range of physical objects into three-dimensional computer images. Those virtual designs are then transmitted from the computer to sculpting workstations where they can be produced roughly in a host of materials such as wood, metal, wax and resin.

With nearly $600,000 in grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the provincial government and York, Vickerd, a sculptor, is studying the convergence of the digital and physical in art. A focal point of the work is creating a digital sculpture laboratory, where the images he and MacDonald scan can be posted online and downloaded free for artistic and other uses.

Working on the computer before sculpting materials, Vickerd said artists can "minimize the environmental footprint" of their work. "It’s not like it’s a shortcut in the creative process," Vickerd said. "It’s increasing the understanding of that process but making it more productive and less wasteful."

Jewish studies are alive and well, says York professor

In “Jewish Studies’ Growing Pains” (The Jewish Week, New York, Dec. 28), Carolyn Slutsky paints a picture of a frustrated Jewish studies professorate, marginal to their universities, with teaching positions almost entirely dependent upon Jewish donors who “drive” a particular agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth, wrote Professor Sara Horowitz, director of Jewish studies in York’s Faculty of Education, in a letter to the editor in the same publication.

Jewish studies is a robust and growing field, with a vast range of creative and important scholarship, said Horowitz. A century ago, American universities studied Jewish texts as a means to learn about the roots of Christianity. But for decades now, the study of Jewish texts, history and culture has flourished well beyond that narrow perspective. Today, liberal arts colleges and universities have recognized the need for Jewish studies in order to teach about Western civilization and cultural diversity. The field attracts both Jewish and non-Jewish students, drawn to courses for myriad reasons.

Teen’s stabbing puts lawmakers ‘on collision course’ with judges

The stabbing death of a 14-year-old girl in Toronto this week, and the subsequent murder charges against two teenage acquaintances, opens a year in which Canada’s youth justice law will come under intense legal and political scrutiny, wrote CanWest News Service Jan. 4.The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to announce a decision on whether two clauses of the Youth Criminal Justice Act violate the Constitution.

If the country’s highest court strikes down the sentencing clauses, as many legal scholars expect it will, there could be a showdown between the court and the government on the subject of youth crime – a tricky political issue in what may become an election year.

"As we wait for the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case, Canada’s judiciary set on a collision course with the legislative branch of government," says York student Rishi Hargovan, writing recently on The, an on-line Supreme Court discussion forum hosted by York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Osgoode group’s complaint is ‘cant’, says CBC’s Rex Murphy

Time was when human rights was a truly large and noble idea, said CBC-TV commentator Rex Murphy on a segment aired nationally Jan. 3. What I do not associate with this deep and noble concept is getting ticked off by something you read in a magazine or, for that matter, here on television, and then scampering off to a handful… well, three, of Canada’s proliferate human rights commissions seeking to score off the magazine. That’s what four students and graduates at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School – the very definition of the marginalized – under the banner of the Canadian Islamic Congress have done after reading an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s "America Alone" in Maclean’s (October 2006).

The complainants read the article as "flagrantly Islamophobic." Maclean’s magazine! Well, we all know what a hotbed of radical bigotry and vile prejudice Maclean’s magazine has been! Go away. For what seems like a century, Maclean’s was no more offensive – that’s the cant term of choice these days – than a down comforter on a cold day.

And if Mark Steyn’s article offended them, so what? Not every article in every magazine or newspaper is meant to be a valentine card addressed to every reader’s self-esteem. Maclean’s published a bushel of letters following the article’s appearance. Some praised it. Others scorned it. That’s freedom of speech. That’s democracy. That’s the messy business we call the exchange of ideas and opinions.

Playboy remakes itself as a lifestyle empire

In mid-September, Playboy opened its largest retail store ever, on London’s Oxford Street, wrote Maclean’s in its Jan. 14 edition. To those who think of this as a company built on naked pictures of buxom beauties, the current business model will be almost unrecognizable. The brand, once aimed at 18- to 35-year-old guys, is now focused heavily on selling to soccer moms and college girls. That’s what happens, says Robert Kozinets, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, when “your $15 earrings are making you a lot more money than advertising.”

Kozinets, however, accuses Playboy of being too often stuck in the past and a follower in nearly everything they’ve done recently, including their casino and social-networking efforts. And he asks, "how wholesome do they want to get? At this point, taking a couple of risks might not be such a bad thing. Seamy kind of sells." Kozinets says high-end erotic adult-entertainment clubs, appealing to females as much as males, may be a good market for Playboy, to spice things up a bit.

York prof says drug companies should do more research and less marketing

Pharmaceutical companies spend substantially more money marketing their products than they do on research to develop new drugs, according to a detailed analysis of the industry, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 4.

For many years, drug firms have tried to foster an image of themselves as being "research-driven, innovative and life-saving," say the authors of the study, Joel Lexchin of York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, and graduate student Marc-André Gagnon of the University of Quebec. But, they add, critics contend that the industry’s activities are really shaped by "market-driven profiteering."

What’s more, a lot of the research is devoted to developing new medications that aren’t much different than the existing drugs on the market. Lexchin added that if the industry was making real breakthroughs, the companies would not have to rely so much on marketing gimmicks. The newer drugs, he said, would sell themselves. "The companies should be spending more on R&D and less on promotion."

  • Lexchin also spoke about the study on numerous Canadian radio stations and CBC-TV Jan. 3. Gagnon spoke about the study on Canadian French-language radio stations.

Former Glendon principal is mentioned as possible Carleton president

A university source outside Carleton said that Roseann Runte, president of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is in the running for the vacant post of president at Carleton University, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 4. Runte previously held positions as principal of York’s Glendon College and head of Victoria University in the University of Toronto. She was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2002.

Hockey skills provided ticket to see world

David Wrigley , whose name will be added to the Orillia Hockey Wall of Fame on Saturday in the 1990s player category, says he has remained in touch with some of his old Terrier teammates, including Jason Pinizzotto, who was playing in Europe after four years at York University, wrote the Orillia Packet and Times Jan. 4.