Senate committee proposal on Jewish holidays under discussion, says Embleton

Win or lose, the  high-profile case opposing York University’s 30-year-old practice of cancelling all classes for Jewish high holidays, launched in 2006 by history Professor David Noble, already has prompted others to review such concessions to Jewish students, wrote the Toronto Star July 11 in a story about how universities are accommodating increased diversity on campus.

York University’s own Senate committee on curriculum and academic standards has recommended scrapping the Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah cancellations – not on ethical grounds but to make room in the calendar for a new fall “reading week,” said Vice-President Academic Sheila Embleton, adding York would not end its practice of cancelling classes on religious holidays without a full debate by the Senate when it reviews the committee proposal in September.

While Noble says he believes the committee proposed the change because of his fight, Embleton says it is a move sparked by the growing popularity of fall “reading weeks” after Thanksgiving – the U of T will adopt one in 2009 – to help new students adjust to university.

In a sidebar on campus religious options, the Star noted that York offers a prayer room in its Scott Religious Centre, runs a kosher cafeteria in Winters College, and York cafeterias offer some halal options.

Soaring food prices may vindicate Malthus

It may be time to bring Thomas Malthus back from the dead – intellectually speaking, wrote Sally F. Zerker, York professor emerita of political science, in the National Post July 11. Believe it or not, the 18th-century thinker has a lot to say to us about problems that are here and now: population increase and the food needed to deal with it.

Malthus saw the 18th-century phenomenon of continuous population increase as a threat to human civilization. Until now, technological improvements have caused food supply to increase along with population growth – something Malthus admittedly did not foresee. But as demand bumps up against supply, the green revolution may be over.

At current inflated prices, we can expect outright starvation in the poorer regions of the world. Soaring food prices represent a calamity for these people, which explains why food riots have broken out across the globe. A significant factor straining the food supply is the entry into the market of large middle-class populations in China and India – people who want to live (and eat) like North Americans and Europeans.

In other words, the world seems to have avoided Malthus’ dismal outcome only because the vast majority of humanity did not eat well. That global social division between rich and poor is undergoing a shift, and it is one that has the potential for unleashing a massive humanitarian crisis. Malthus may yet be vindicated.

Riders on the GO: many switch as gas soars

A report being tabled this morning at GO Transit’s monthly meeting indicates ridership numbers are up seven per cent on the year, wrote The Toronto Sun July 11. GO has targeted expansion to areas with increased demand for commuter services, which have seen rapid growth in riders.

The recently opened train service to Barrie has seen a 21 per cent increase in ridership and the seven-year-old Bus Rapid Transit system, which runs between Oakville and York University along Hwys. 403 and 407, now has 2.2 million riders a year.

New dance camp promises intensity

Having just completed her fine arts degree with honours in dance at York University, instructor Celine Monforton wanted to start an intense summer dance program in her hometown of North Bay, wrote the North Bay Nugget July 11. “I’m trying to promote the healthy side of dancing to get kids out there and moving this summer,” she said.

Soccer champ heads for York in September

Maple Ridge soccer player and future York student Kelsey Desjarlais qualified for the National Soccer Championships on July 6 after winning the provincial final with her U-18 Metro club team, the Burnaby Titans, wrote BC’s Maple Ridge News July 8. In September, Desjarlais will play for the Lions women’s varsity soccer team at York University.

Former York student goes from Esks fan to Argos owner

David Cynamon’s perfect attendance record is still intact, wrote The Edmonton Sun July 11. The co-owner of the Toronto Argos has attended every single game involving his club and the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium since he bought the team in the fall of 2003.

Born in Edmonton, Cynamon stayed here until he was 17 – attending Ross Shepherd High School before leaving for York University. Although he now calls Toronto home, the memories of cheering for the Eskimos are still very vivid for the 44-year-old business tycoon. “Growing up in Edmonton, I not only was probably the biggest Edmonton Eskimos fan in the city but I was also such a fan that I would go and line up before games and try to get hired as a hot dog vendor to sell hot dogs up and down stadium seats so I could be there in the stadium every game,” said Cynamon.