McMurtry named chancellor of York

Former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry (LLB ’58) has been named the new chancellor of Toronto’s York University, the latest honour in a career that has included prominent positions in politics and law, wrote The Globe and Mail March 4. The appointment was approved yesterday evening by the University’s board of governors. McMurtry will be the 12th person to fill the post, and will succeed former Supreme Court justice Peter Cory on May 23.

“Roy McMurtry has helped shape the legal and social framework of Ontario,” said Marshall Cohen, Chair of the York University Board of Governors.

McMurtry’s appointment comes as the country’s third-largest university is striving to increase its offerings in pure and applied science programs and has unveiled an ambitious plan to open a medical school at its campus. York’s new President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, who came to the school last summer from McMaster University in Hamilton, has made the new medical school and a more robust science and engineering faculty central to his plans.

McMurtry has a reputation as a consensus builder on tough issues, acting as the Toronto mayor’s race relations commissioner at one point. He is currently working with Alvin Curling, the former speaker of the Ontario legislature, on a report to the province on the roots of youth violence.

“With its commitment to social justice, its innovative approach to education and the limitless potential of its students, York University has so much to offer this province and this country,” McMurtry said in a statement.

  • He has championed the poor and vulnerable from Ontario’s legal heights, and now Roy McMurtry is entering the Ivory Tower to become chancellor of York University, wrote the Toronto Star and the Hamilton Spectator March 4.

The 75-year-old former politician, judge and diplomat who has been an outspoken activist against poverty will take the ceremonial reins of Canada’s third-largest university May 23, succeeding former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter deCarteret Cory, who is stepping down after four years.

McMurtry says it was York’s focus on social justice roots that helped persuade him to accept the honorary position, adding, “I am delighted and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as chancellor of York University.”

Both sides say it was wrong to cancel York abortion debate

The abortion debate that never happened at York University last week was, by all accounts, a typical campus affair, wrote the National Post March 4. But, as is increasingly common at Canadian universities, one student politician saw potential for offence and brought the whole thing to an abrupt end.

“This debate, over whether or not women should be able to have an abortion, is not acceptable in the Student Centre,” said Kelly Holloway, president of the York University Graduate Students Association and vice-chair of the Student Centre, who convened a meeting of four members of the centre’s executive for a vote, who cancelled the debate, to the dismay of the 50 or so students who showed up.

But Holloway’s claim that abortion should be completely undebatable does not sit well among the students she represents. Michael Payton, a York student of cognitive science and philosophy and a member of the student group Freethinkers, Skeptics and Atheists, who disagrees with the decision, was slated to argue the pro-choice side against Jose Ruba of the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform in Calgary.

Holloway said there is no way to appeal her decision to cancel the debate but every indication is that she now has a fight on her hands, one that threatens to spill beyond the borders of the Student Centre. After the cancellation on Thursday afternoon, Amir Mohareb, the scheduled moderator and president of the York Debating Society, said he went to all levels of student government to try to broker a compromise.

Mohareb was told that the topic itself is “out of line,” and that “debating abortion would be as much of a violation as debating the Holocaust.” He said that he and the other members of the debating society were “wholly unconvinced,” and so he asked for an official, written statement clarifying which topics he is forbidden from debating. He was promised that one would be delivered today.

Class-action suit to test legality of telecom late fees

Nearly a decade after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that late-fee levies must comply with the maximum interest rate allowed by the Criminal Code, phone, cable, wireless and satellite companies may still be imposing improper charges, wrote the National Post March 4.

The way the current 1.5 per cent charge on some bills is calculated results in an effective interest rate of more than 60 per cent if the customer pays the bill within 12 days of the due date, according to Ed Furman, a professor in the Mathematics & Statistics Department of York’s Faculty of Arts, who did the calculations for the National Post. If the charge is 2 per cent, the illegal rate continues for 16 days after the due date.

It would be “very simple” for companies to change their billing practices to charge a daily interest rate late fee, Furman said, so that someone who is a few days overdue pays less than someone a few weeks late.

The battle for Toronto

Toronto’s core business district has become a battleground in which central Canada’s biggest and best-known MBA schools are fighting it out for position, prestige and the opportunity to pick from the cream of this country’s largest market of potential students, wrote the Financial Post Business Magazine March 1.

The roots of today’s battle can be traced back to 1988, when Dezsö J. Horváth, an academic, author and strategy consultant from Sweden, was hired as dean of York University’s business school.

Horváth had plans to shake things up and spent the next year laying the groundwork for what would become Canada’s first international MBA, focused on issues in global trade and competition. York has since become world-famous, branding itself as “Canada’s Global Business School,” and boasting alumni association chapters on every continent except Antarctica. Ever-advancing York set up a downtown satellite location to deliver courses in its part-time and weekend graduate degrees.

The Post also noted that York’s Schulich School of Business has the most internationally diverse MBA student body in North America.

  • Today’s MBA classes aren’t just made up of students headed for careers in private industry, wrote the Post March 1, in a profile of York alumnus Michael Murray (MBA ‘07), who graduated from the MBA in Arts & Media Administration Program in the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Murray, now the popular and world music officer at the Ontario Arts Council in Toronto, thought he might end up designing music software or doing research for the technology in iTunes. But he switched gears and pursued Schulich’s MBA in arts & media administration because he wanted to learn more about the business aspect of the music industry. “Some people take the program as a professional advancement tool. I took it as a learning tool,” he says. “I thought I was going to end up in the music industry, but it turned out to be non-profit arts.”

  • As the MBA degree becomes more common among middle managers, business schools have begun to offer “post-MBA” diplomas that offer increased specialization or advanced management training, wrote the Financial Post Business Magazine March 1. York’s Schulich School of Business and McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management have taken the lead in Canada, both offering post-MBA certificates.

Flaherty, McGuinty stick to their guns in ongoing feud over Ontario economy

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty retaliated Monday in his feud with Ontario over its economic plan by stepping up his attack on Premier Dalton McGuinty and directing the province to slash taxes in its upcoming budget, a move one expert called an “unusual” and “aggressive” stance for a federal minister, wrote The Canadian Press March 3.

The fight isn’t likely to end anytime soon, said Bob Drummond, York political science professor and dean of the Faculty of Arts. “I think it will continue, probably right up to and through an election campaign,” he said. “There’s no prospect for detente. They simply disagree fundamentally on things and it seems unlikely that they’re going to sit down and work out a deal.”

Duncan says Ottawa tardy with payments

Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan says the federal government has left him $80 million short as he prepares a provincial budget for late March, wrote the Toronto Star March 4. The missing money stems from an agreement that now has the federal government collecting provincial income taxes and “they’re not remitting it to us as quickly as they should be,” Duncan said in a luncheon speech yesterday to the Toronto Board of Trade.

Duncan also blamed slow federal funding for holding up the TTC subway extension to York University and beyond. Federal officials say the $697 million will begin flowing once construction begins.

  • Duncan’s comments about subway funding were also reported on 680 News radio March 3.

Anti-poverty activist suggests solution to shortage of affordable housing

I understand that the county has just received a report from “top York University planner” Gerry Daly [a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies], which states there is a housing crisis for low-income and indeed many middle-income people in [Ontario’s Northumberland] County, wrote Richard Shapcott in a letter to local newspaper the Port Hope Evening Guide March 4.

Our municipal governments could, with a stroke of a pen and no public money spent, allow basement apartments and, in the rural areas, allow trailer parks, wrote Shapcott. As today’s politician says – let the private sector solve the problem.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about frequent flyer plans and complaints people have about them, on CBC Radio’s “Sunday Edition” March 2.
  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the legal ramifications of an alleged offer of a $1-million insurance policy to the late MP Chuck Cadman in return for his vote to topple the Liberal minority government, on Ottawa’s CFRA radio March 3.
  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the 2008 Federal budget on the Business News Network Feb. 26.
  • Markus Geisler, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the war on music downloading in a podcast interview for The Globe and Mail Web site, posted Feb. 19.