Professor schedules seminar on Jewish holiday

York Professor David Noble, who is fighting what he calls a discriminatory practice before the Ontario Human Rights Commission, held a three-hour seminar on the second day that classes were cancelled for Rosh Hashanah, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 2. It said about 15 of his 30 students attended, including at least one Jewish student.

"As a Jew, I’m concerned about anti-Semitism," said Noble. "And this practice (of cancelling classes), which is discriminatory because it privileges Jews, fosters resentment among the 95 per cent of the student body that is not Jewish. That resentment can become anti-Semitism, and the practice has to end."

York’s Chief Marketing Officer Richard Fisher noted that faculty members are free to meet with students on a day when classes are not scheduled; it’s just that students can’t be compelled to attend and it does not count as a formal class.

York has said it adopted the practice in 1974 at a student’s request, as a way to respect religious freedom for those whose holidays are not enshrined by law, as are the Christian holidays of Christmas and Good Friday.

But York’s student body – like the Canadian population – has become increasingly diverse, with one estimate pegging its 51,000-student enrolment as almost 6 per cent Jewish, almost 5 per cent Muslim, almost 35 per cent Catholic, 22 per cent Protestant, almost 4 per cent Hindu, 2 per cent Buddhist and 2 per cent Sikh, the Star said.

York has a religious accommodation policy that allows students who wish to observe certain religious holidays to make arrangements with their professors. Too, York’s senate committee on curriculum and academic standards has recommended the University no longer cancel classes on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur starting in the fall of 2009, to make room in the calendar for a new fall "reading week."

Osgoode prof comments on Tory plans to change Young Offender Law

Stephen Harper’s proposal to impose harsher sentences on teenaged criminals, and to allow their names to be published, raises a stark question: Would it be constitutional?, wrote Maclean’s magazine online Sept. 25

“In light of [last May’s Supreme Court] decision, some of the proposals the Conservatives have brought forward – including life sentences for teenaged murderers, as well as identifying those charged – are likely constitutionally dead on arrival,” said James Stribopoulos, a criminal law professor in York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “I think the Conservatives are well advised, which leaves one with the impression that this is pure politics.”

Award-winning Osgoode prof talks about changes in legal education

While some lawyers would grudgingly admit the legal profession is averse to change and innovation, law professors would say the situation is even more dire in law schools, wrote National, the magazine of the Canadian Bar Association in its 2008 Law Student issue.

Some law schools are already ahead of the curve in their instructional philosophy, curriculum, and delivery, like York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “Pedagogy has taken big strides since the days when the philosophy of education was to stuff somebody’s head with information and that person would regurgitate it,” says Osgoode Professor Shin Imai. “There have been huge changes since I attended law school about 30 years ago. The significant changes have been around technology.”

Today, law classrooms are powered with high-tech AV equipment, connections for laptops, and Internet access. Osgoode is also now webcasting continuing legal education classes and special lectures through Mediasite, which is similar to TiVo. Students watch lectures on-demand, with the ability to pause and rewind. “Technology has gone beyond PowerPoint slides,” Imai says. “I use AV equipment to show short video clips to illustrate a point.”

Imai brings a clinical perspective into his classroom, so that students are active participants. At the beginning of each class, he provides discussion questions and problems based on readings from the course materials and a novel chosen for that semester. “It was important for me to break that traditional method of teaching. You have to realize that shoving information into people’s head is not teaching. I use the problem-solving approach, which relies on trying to look at real-life problems and involving students as actual actors in understanding and articulating the problem.”

Imai was honoured last year with an award from Osgoode, his second at the school, for his innovative teaching methods. In their nomination, students noted that Imai engages students not only in discussions about law, but also in exercises intended to develop practical and ethical modes of reasoning.

Economic turmoil puts families in the soup

When the stock market sank on Monday, one shining product surged upward – Campbell’s Soup, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 2. The smart money, it seems, is riding on food that price-conscious consumers will buy during tough economic times. Marketing professor Alan Middleton of the Schulich School of Business at York University predicts shepherd’s pie will also fare well, saying, “People will look for cheap comfort foods.”

Although Canada is in nowhere near the shaky economic situation of our US neighbours, Middleton says jittery nerves nonetheless may cause people to rein in spending. Since we can’t avoid buying food, we’ll be more cost-conscious with an eye to the food that makes us feel good, he says. Like high-fat ice cream, foods that hearkens to childhood. “It’s all out of our control. So, the tendency is to go to when times were simpler and things were working better.”

  • With the optimistic tagline “The future is friendly” sharing space with meerkats against a clutter-free white backdrop, Telus’ customer-focused advertising continues to win over Canadian consumers, wrote Strategy magazine Oct. 1.

Industry watcher Alan Middleton, director of York’s Schulich Executive Education Centre, says that Telus has achieved continuity with its image, while keeping it fresh with an irreverent approach and various spokescritters. “It grabs onto the consumer, making a connection and having the patience to stick to its core,” he says.

Creating marcom leaders

The new Masters Certificate in Brand Communications offered at York’s Schulich Executive Education Centre (SEEC) – a result of a partnership between the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA) and Schulich – will launch in January, wrote Strategy magazine Oct. 1.

With a goal to help agency leaders stay ahead of the game, the program’s curriculum (developed by ICA) will have three pillars – brand communications mastery, innovation leadership, and thinking and creating – to provide skills on how to put ideas into action.

The program is open to senior-level agency personnel, regardless of discipline, with over 10 years’ experience in marketing communications. Academic and industry leaders, including Professor Alan Middleton, SEEC executive director, will teach the 15-session course.

Worried retailers get an early jump on Christmas

Anxious retailers are rolling out price discounts and other promotions, after getting Christmas stock in front of shoppers as early as late September, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 2 in a story about the retail industry’s response to the financial crisis in the US.

Nervous shoppers like Nicole Aggelonitis of Ajax, Ont., are ready to take the bite. She has vowed to start her holiday shopping right away rather than leave everything to the last minute, as she did last year. “I have a better chance of finding a good sale now rather than waiting,” said the 18-year-old York University student who has a part-time job in retailing and is feeling jittery about the weakening economy.

Consort concert features York instructor’s Chinese court trio

Two ensembles join the Toronto Consort to provide ethnic authenticity, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 2 in a story about the Toronto Consort: including a Chinese court trio led by Wendy Wen Zhao on pipa (lute) an instructor in York’s World Music Program in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Each ensemble will perform separately, but there will be a couple of common pieces, including a song with lyrics in ancient Mandarin. “It is a language that even Chinese people have trouble pronouncing,” says Zhao, an internationally respected master who teaches pipa at the Royal Conservatory of Music and York. She has drawn her pieces from a compilation known as the shen-chi mi-p’u. “Shen-chi means secret. Mi is private and p’u means notation,” Zhao explains.

Event supports local chemo service

The only all-women’s trail-riding event in Canada, the Northumberland Trail Riders’ annual Meg’s Ride in support of the Northumberland Hills Hospital chemotherapy clinic, returns for the fifth year on Oct. 4, wrote the Cobourg Daily Star Oct. 2.

This event will bring women together to celebrate life, and to discover and share the joy and confidence building of off-road motorcycling. And this year, a team from York University will be there to take data on how this sport affects the women as a fitness exercise.

Portrait of the artist as a young family

“When you look at a portrait of somebody,” says Toronto photographer and York fine arts alumnus Rafael Goldchain (MFA ‘00), “you’re actually looking at a portrait of more than one person,” wrote the National Post Oct. 2.

“In our early years, we’re not really interested in our families very much. We take them for granted,” says Goldchain, 54, who teaches at Sheridan College. “Family is a base from which to spring forward. We don’t look back. At least most of us don’t.”

On air

  • Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the market’s reaction to the rejection of a bailout package for the finance industry by the US House of Representatives, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Morning” Sept. 30.