Antidepressants may not do anything at all

A new study in the Public Library of Science Journal found that the effectiveness of antidepressants is no better than a placebo for people who are mildly to moderately depressed, wrote The Toronto Sun March 7.

Antidepressants are prescribed more widely than birth control pills among university students, notes Myriam Mongrain, a professor of psychology who does research on depression in York’s Faculty of Health. “It should be a concern,” she says. “It’s an indication that physicians think that (pills) are the cure-all for (coping) problems…which is not the case.”

Talk therapy, as opposed to antidepressants, can lead to longer-term solutions to emotional problems triggered by stressors like relationship conflicts, says Mongrain. “There’s no magic pill,” she adds. “If people were able to find other ways of coping with life’s challenges…I think it would save us money down the line.”

Student defends stifling abortion debate

Kelly Holloway did not mean to spark a debate on freedom of expression when she helped stifle an abortion debate on campus, wrote the Toronto Star March 7.

“I actually don’t think this is very controversial,” the graduate student at York University said of the decision to cancel a Feb. 28 event that would have shown graphic images of abortion and asked participants whether the procedure should be criminalized.

Holloway said banning discussions of the pros and cons of abortion was never the point. Her beef was with inviting the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), a Calgary-based pro-life group that compares abortion to genocide and pushes to make it illegal. Holloway remembers the display the group brought to the University of Toronto a few years ago when she was an undergraduate bioethics student there and active in the student union.

“They erected huge signs in full colour of fabricated fetuses alongside people dying in the Holocaust and also pictures of people being lynched,” she said. “So we set up a table outside of that display as the student union to encourage students to tell us what their reactions were so we could understand the effect it was having on students. We collected hundreds of statements from students who said they were upset, they were appalled, they were traumatized and they were worried about the fact that the student union hadn’t taken responsibility to actually interfere in the matter.”

She was not about to let that happen again. When the Student Centre executive learned about the event – billed as a debate on abortion rights between Jose Ruba from CCBR and Michael Payton from a student group called Freethinkers, Skeptics and Atheists at York – they held an emergency meeting and voted unanimously to cancel it.

She said the executive supports Charter-protected freedom of expression but felt it had a responsibility to protect students from speech it viewed as discrimination or harassment on its student-funded space. “Just like we would not sanction the use of student space to challenge whether black students should be able to attend university, or whether homosexuality should be illegal, we would not sanction this particular debate over whether or not women should be able to have a choice concerning their own bodies.”

CCBR executive director Stephanie Gray said her organization views its mission as educational rather than political but that the extension of its beliefs sees it advocating for a change in law.

Holloway said the executive would probably come to the same decision if it were a student group taking part instead of CCBR.

  • York student Amir Mohareb, a member of the York Debating Society, and Holloway, spoke about the cancellation of the debate, on CBC Radio’s “Sounds Like Canada” March 6.

New PhD in HR launches at York

York University’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies is launching a new PhD in Human Resources Management (PhD HRM) this fall, further demonstrating the growing credibility of this field in Canada, said Canadian HR Reporter March 10. But the move is also part of a larger effort by schools across the country that have an urgent need for faculty.

“For a lot of occupations, from Statistics Canada to colleges to universities, a PhD is an asset and a lot of the bigger organizations are putting PhDs in HR departments, rather than bringing in consultants,” said Parbudyal Singh, program Chair. “But, for us, the biggest reason was the shortage of faculty, so we’re focused on training teachers and faculty for higher education.”

“There is a global shortage of HR PhDs,” said Ken McBey, director of the graduate program in human resources management (HRM) at York.

“As an evolving area, HR has to have people doing the frontier research. And if you don’t have the PhDs, not only do university programs suffer at the micro level but the field also suffers because we’re not actually doing the research to the same degree that we should be doing to push back and make new discoveries. It’s also a logical extension from a master’s, but nominally it’s because there’s a real crying need for it.”

He said York’s is the only PhD program in Canada that focuses exclusively on HR, instead of being added on to other disciplines, such as industrial relations or organizational behaviour.

York Arctic physicist is road-weary

A four-hour grilling at Canada Customs was just one of the trials and tribulations experienced by York graduate student in physics Jeff Seabrook during a cross-continental adventure that saw him shuttle between Toronto, Northwest Territories and Montana in a frenzied effort to fix a laser used to measure ozone in the Arctic, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press March 7.

In just 12 days, the 32-year-old PhD student travelled 18,280 kilometres on the road and in the air in an effort to salvage a key component of an atmospheric research project aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen.

But in his haste to [travel through Canada from] Montana and back to the ship, Seabrook didn’t completely fill out the paperwork a scientist needs to cross the border with a repaired laser. Canada Customs was not amused. “Going back to Canada, they didn’t like the fact we had work done on the laser, which they said increased its value.”

Seabrook finally arrived back on the boat on March 3, with a working laser in tow, having flown and driven enough kilometres to take him to Antarctica – with a few thousand clicks to spare. “It had to be done, given the amount of money that’s already gone into this research,” he said.

  • Laser Travel: York University physicist Jeff Seabrook travelled halfway around the world in a frenzied effort to fix a $250,000 laser, used to measure ozone in the Arctic, wrote the Calgary Herald March 7 in a column titled “Unique Content That Goes Beyond the Headlines”

Ukrainian orphans visit Toronto

Help Us Help the Children is a project dedicated to improving the lives of the more than 200,000 children living in Ukraine’s orphanages, wrote the Bloor West Villager March 6, in a story about a visit from two beneficiaries with success stories who have graduated from the organization’s scholarship program and gone on to studies here in Canada and in the United States.“One is…here at York University taking her masters in law at Osgoode Hall Law School,” said Emilia Stelmach proudly.

On air

  • Bruce Ryder, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the case of a Brampton man who wanted to be exempt from wearing a helmet while driving a motorcycle because he is a Sikh, on AM640 radio March 6.