Let economic growth cater to need, not want

No doubt conventional economists will grumble that really big cuts in consumption will damage the economy, wrote Cameron Smith in the Toronto Star’s Ideas section Feb. 2. They believe that the gross national product must grow every year if society is to flourish. However, there are alternatives being voiced, and among them is a study published last summer in Ecological Economics, by Peter Victor, an economist and professor of environmental studies at York University, and Gideon Rosenbluth, professor emeritus in economics at the University of British Columbia. They say, "In developed countries, growth has become uneconomic in the sense that it detracts more from well-being than it adds." It has not, and never will, solve problems of unemployment and poverty, they say, and it will continue to drive society into the fast-gathering storm.  

In the West, where societies have already achieved a very high material standard of living, they say the focus should not be on growth, but on full employment, eliminating poverty, and protecting the environment. Trickle-down economics has been unable to eliminate poverty, they say, and "should be replaced with programs that redistribute income directly." In addition, they say consumption should be focused less on acquiring private goods, and more on improving public life – with expenditures aimed at services, restoring and enhancing the environment, and refurbishing and expanding infrastructure. Theirs is a prescription for low, possibly even no growth, but also for a comfortable standard of living.  

This, they say, could provide more room for lesser developed nations to grow economically. The result would be an increased standard of living, and that, as history has repeatedly shown, is the most effective way to reduce birth rates and push down population growth.

What makes an Africentric school?

What might an Africentric school feature? asked Toronto Star columnist Royson James Feb. 2 following the Toronto District School Board’s decision last week to start one. Camille Williams-Taylor is a TDSB principal on secondment to York University’s Faculty of Education. She won’t even consider the question of whether she might be interested in leading such a school because there so much is unknown about its philosophy and makeup. But this is how she might run such a school:

Have high expectations for academic and social performance (etiquette, community responsibility, good behaviour and social graces). No matter how the kids come to school, "they would look pristine by the end of the day."

"We’d have lunches around a circular table, establish the ritual of breaking bread together, which is a very Africentric thing."

Older children would look after younger children, including reading to them.

Stress leadership and community responsibility – so that they would be visiting "old Mrs. So and So" every Thursday afternoon and writing about the experience in their journal for language arts.

In essence, the Africentric school becomes a surrogate parent for kids who don’t have the kind of parental support that most students have. And the school would be buttressed by members of the black community who would provide mentorship and support.

Give them shelter

After years of shivering in the wind and snow, York University students who catch the bus on Steeles Avenue were finally able to take shelter during Friday’s blizzard, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 2. Our Jan. 23 story explained how a transit shelter at a TTC bus stop that’s heavily used by York students and staff on Steeles Avenue at Founders Road was removed after it was damaged in an accident several years ago. It was never replaced.

David Law, supervisor at York’s Institute for Social Research, asked for help in getting a new one, which seemed reasonable since the surrounding area is as wide open and windswept as anywhere in Toronto. Within a day of our story, a replacement shelter had been installed, prompting Law to tell us that, "it’s one of the old ones with no seats, but it offers some protection and we are grateful for it. More people are using the stop now that there’s a shelter." When we went to check on it, we found that Astral Media, which provides the shelters to the city, had also installed a bench.

Architect designed York building to be sustainable and beautiful

An architect who was ahead of the curve in thinking how sustainable design can be integrated in elegant architectural solutions, Adrian DiCastri brought his love of music and culture along with his analytical skills to the art and practice of his profession, a Globe and Mail obituary began Feb. 2. In the mid 1990s, his firm went after the contract for the Computer Science & Engineering Building at York University. DiCastri, fascinated by the idea of creating sustainable buildings, was superb at forging connections and put together a collaboration that included Vancouver architect Peter Busby, a noted green designer. "That building is really a reflection of Peter Busby and his West Coast thinking and Adrian DiCastri and his practical, plain thinking and his understanding of the complexity of York University and where it could go," said architect Peter Clewes.

The building, which has operable windows, uses "passive strategies" to maximize natural light and ventilation and decrease the need for air-conditioning. It won several awards, including the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Governor-General’s Medal in Architecture. Clewes said it demonstrates that "it is not only the spaces within buildings that are important, but the spaces they create outside of themselves." A complex and seminal building in DiCastri’s career, it speaks to how he was beginning to think about collaboration with others and about the practicalities of creating buildings that are both sustainable and yet beautiful to live and work in. "That was a turning point for him."

MBAs without borders

In an increasingly global economy, what better passport to a promising international business career than a dual US-Canadian MBA? asked the Toronto Star Feb. 2 in a special supplement on MBA programs. Cross-border MBA programs like York’s 18-month Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program and the Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA are geared toward seasoned executives, many of whom want the multicultural experience available through a Canadian school, coupled with the cache of a world-renowned ivy league US institution.

In 2006, Schulich also paired with Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management in Beijing to offer the two-year GSA-Schulich International MBA dual degree. "We would be one of the most globally oriented schools," says Dezsö Horváth, who has been dean of the Schulich School of Business since 1988. "Immigration is also adding to globalization. People are going back to their country (of origin) to work."

Horvath says the joint programs allow students interested in an international business career to develop a global network of contacts; achieve direct international experience; benefit from knowledge transfers between nations and continents; as well as keep highly specialized programs viable and sustainable by drawing students from a worldwide market. The international draw of all the MBA programs is clear, with students and faculty from about 80 countries, speaking some dozens of different languages, says Horvath. He notes that 73 per cent of Schulich’s full-time MBA students hold at least two passports.

Also featured in the Star supplement:

  • David Frederickson has spent his career working for Hewlett-Packard in Toronto, but he’s hoping that his degree from the Kellogg Schulich Executive MBA program at York University will be his springboard to Europe or Asia. "These days, all organizations are so much more global in scope. You really need a good understanding of how they do business in different places," Frederickson said. The 42-year-old vice-president will complete his 18-month program at the end of June. The Financial Times recently ranked York’s Kellogg Schulich as the top EMBA program in Canada and 17th in the world. "It’s a truism that everyone has gone global," said Andre deCarufel, director of the Schulich program. "Some might be aspiring to an international career. For others it could be that they’re working in a company that is headquartered in the US. Some may be planning to go abroad. Some may stay with Canadian companies but face competition from the U.S. or China."
  • A list of suggestions about how to get the most out of group work included: Plan your time wisely. Things often take a lot longer to do when you’re working in a group because you need to discuss the assignment with four or five people, said Matthew Cohen, a second-year International MBA student at Schulich. And get out of your comfort zone. In MBA programs it’s easy for students to focus primarily on their strengths, Cohen says. For example, if you’ve got an accounting background it’s tempting to offer to do the spreadsheets for a case study. Instead, take on the marketing role and help someone else with the spreadsheets.
  • A photo showed Schulich MBA students Alexis Morgan, Ian Howard, Cohen and Simon MacMahon, who were awarded $10,000 for their group project to reduce poverty in the developing world.

There’s perfectly healthy; then there’s perfectionism

A little old-fashioned fastidiousness isn’t necessarily unhealthy behaviour, say new cognitive studies of adults by psychology Prof. Gordon Flett of York’s Faculty of Health, and Patricia DiBartolo of Smith College in Maine, reported the Hamilton Spectator Feb. 4.

Take note of subtle differences:

Perfectly healthy: You want your pantry shelves to be organized. Perfectly unhealthy: You want every room and closet to always be in order.

Perfectly healthy: When you make a mistake at work, you accept it as inevitable – and learn from it. Perfectly unhealthy: Missing a deadline drives you to tears and leads you to believe you’ll never be promoted.

Perfectly healthy: You try hard to exercise five times a week, but sleep and family time always take priority. Perfectly unhealthy: You work out every day – even if it means always being exhausted and never seeing your husband.

Maria contestants include York music student

At the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, the halls were alive with the sound of music on Jan. 25 as some 600 women waited to audition for a spot on the eight-part TV series “How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?” reported the National Post Feb. 2. Like the successful British show on which it’s modelled, the series will follow the progress of about 50 performers as they attend "Maria school." Viewers will vote, Idol-style, to select the single lucky woman who will play Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music at the Princess of Wales Theatre, beginning in October.

All day, dozens of would-be Marias cluttered the lobby and backstage area, chatting, giggling and occasionally trilling an arpeggio. It was clear that this was no ragtag mob of talentless showboats; almost all had significant training and experience. "This is no American Idol stuff," said Nicole Stellino, 21, a student in York University’s Music Department who also trains with noted mezzo-soprano and York Prof. Catherine Robbins.

Tea one on after hours in Chinatown

No one is entirely sure who the first Chinese restaurateur was along Spadina to serve after-hours beer in a teapot, wrote the National Post Feb. 2. No one knows who christened this "cold tea." According to Craig Heron, author of Booze: A Distilled History and a Canadian history professor at York University, Chinatown has a proud tradition of staying outside Ontario’s liquor laws. "Everyday at lunch a friend of mine’s father and his workmates used to have lunch on Spadina at the Bagel, where the owner kept a bottle of whisky behind the counter for the guys," Heron says. "We’re talking about the 1940s and ’50s, and that’s the kind of practice that existed in a lot of neighbourhoods. These places tend not to attract a lot of police attention. The owners certainly don’t want to make too much fuss."

Manitoba inquiry staff includes York law student

Winnipeg lawyer and York law student Vincent Clifford is associate commission counsel in a public examination into the investigation of the February 2005 death of Crystal Taman, reported the Winnipeg Free Press Feb. 3. Taman was sitting in her small car when she was struck from behind by a pickup truck operated by Derek Harvey-Zenk, a Winnipeg police officer at the time, who had spent the night partying with fellow officers. The Taman inquiry was to begin Monday with commissioner Roger Salhany reviewing several applications for standing. Clifford is a senior associate in the law firm of Edelson and Associates and also acts as counsel in provincial regulatory proceedings and Coroner’s inquests. He is currently completing his master’s degree at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, specializing in criminal law.

Innocence projects work slowly

In a Feb. 3 story about the University of British Columbia’s first Innocence Project, The Vancouver Sun reported that the first "innocence project" was born in New York in 1992. Since then, about 60 post-conviction review projects have started around the globe. The review work is painstakingly slow. Students go through anywhere from three to 20 boxes of documents for each claim. York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, which started an innocence project in 1997, has only uncovered two wrongly decided cases in a decade.

A business descended from fur traders

He’s a lawyer and former investment banker who uses words like "logistics" and "capability" – the antithesis of the unwashed 18th century fur trader. But York law grad Edward Kennedy (LLB ’84) is the managerial descendent of the hard men who built the North West Co. and conducted a violent trading war with Hudson’s Bay Co. before their merger in 1821, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 4. Today’s North West Co., now spun off from HBC, operates northern stores in Canada and Alaska, but Kennedy, 48, finds himself in such unlikely outposts as Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Film student sets bar high at Cornwall arts festival

Last weekend, the second annual Aultsville Winter Filmfest hit the big screen at Galaxy Cinemas, wrote the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder Feb. 4. This three-day extravaganza not only featured some of the hottest movies going, but also gave valuable exposure to local up-and-coming student filmmakers. During last year’s premiere festival, Vince Pilon, still a high school student, unveiled his own short, The Mirror, to tremendous acclaim. This year, Pilon was back again – his standard setting the bar even higher – as he’s now a first-year student in York University’s film production studies.

On air

  • Sarah Flicker, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, conducted a sex survey of 1,200 young people that found they want information from school but think the curriculum is dry and rigid, reported CBC Radio news Feb. 4.
  • Mark Kamstra, a finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed his study that found that seasonal affective disorder affects markets during the winter months, on Business News Network’s “Squeezeplay” Feb. 1.
  • Gilary Massa, vice-president equity for the York Federation of Students, talked about the identity of today’s young Muslim woman, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Feb. 1.