York University faces possible strike

 York University is gearing up to avoid a possible strike next week as administrators enter negotiations today with temporary faculty and teaching assistants, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 30.

 "We’re telling students to be patient," Faculty of Arts Dean Robert Drummond, spokesperson for the University’s negotiating team, said last night, adding talks will continue through the weekend to next Tuesday.

If a strike occurs classes for the 50,000 students will be suspended, Drummond said, but the term "will be made up. It will be inconvenient for people, but it will be possible for them to complete their year."

Drummond said the union’s demand of a more than 30 per cent wage increase over two years is "unrealistic". "The University is facing the same tough economy as everyone else. But the union members would obviously say they’re facing tough economic times and need money."

But Graham Potts, Canadian Union of Public Employees negotiator for the 3,250 part-time staff – 1,600 graduate students who work as teaching assistants, 750 graduate students who work as research assistants and 900 contract faculty – said the issues are better job security and benefits.

The workers, members of CUPE local 3903, were in a legal strike position Nov. 2, following an 86 per cent strike vote earlier this month. The union postponed the strike deadline until next Thursday, Nov. 6, "in hopes the University might finally come back with an offer we can work with," Potts said.

  • More than 50,000 students at York University appear headed for an unplanned break after faculty staff voted to walk off the job over pay, wrote The Toronto Sun, Oct. 30. University officials yesterday called CUPE Local 3903’s demand for wage increases in excess of 30 per cent over two years "unrealistic and unaffordable."   

York’s chancellor offers lessons on how to make a Tory minority work

Prime Minister Stephen Harper cited a dysfunctional minority Parliament as the major reason for calling the last federal election. Now, voters have returned him to power with another minority government, wrote York Chancellor Roy McMurtry in the Toronto Star Oct. 30.

After the bad blood of the last Parliament and the economic troubles weighing on the minds of voters who have little patience for personality clashes, how can all party leaders make federal politics more productive and effective?

I have some personal experience with minority government, having been attorney general in Ontario premier Bill Davis’ two largely successful minority governments between 1975 and 1981, and I believe the Harper government can learn from the history of the Davis minorities here in Ontario.

It really has no alternative. The federal government is now into its third consecutive minority Parliament, and faces the likelihood it will continue for a lengthy period of time.

Cooperation, civility and collegiality, where possible, should become the new culture of Parliament. As my late mother used to say, "You can disagree without being disagreeable."

Community activist, librarian honoured with park dedication

Rita Cox, an iconic community activist, librarian and renowned storyteller who was awarded an honorary doctorate by York University in 1993, has left her mark on the community and recently the City of Toronto honoured that and ensured her legacy by dedicating a park in her name, wrote Insidetoronto.com Oct. 29.

"Parkdale is a wonderful place," Cox said at the dedication. "I can’t think of a better place to have reached my professional potential." She is known as a master storyteller who has performed across North America, in Europe, Brazil and the Caribbean. She has reached people from the stage, on the radio and on television.

Making the right kind of music

Former Salmon Arm resident and one of Canada’s most distinctive jazz performers, Richard Underhill has been awarded the Roy Thomson Hall Award of Recognition by the Toronto Arts Council Foundation, wrote BC’s Salmon Arm Observer Oct. 28.

"I’m really humbled to receive the Roy Thompson Hall Award of Recogition from the Toronto Arts Council Foundation," Underhill said. "This award is particularly meaningful as it recognizes my work in the diverse musical communities that make up Toronto."

The Salmon Arm native went to Toronto in 1982 to attend York University. "At York, I was exposed to a wide range of musical cultural traditions from around the world while learning to play the jazz music that I love so much," he says. "As a result of this early training, I have enjoyed a rich musical career and feel lucky to have been able to participate in the cultural growth of this great city."

Director stages The Fire Raisers at York

The production Heather Davies is directing as part of her master’s degree in directing in the Department of Theatre in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts has been on her list of top 50 favourite plays in the last five years, wrote Insidetoronto.com Oct. 29. The Fire Raisers, which opens Theatre @ York’s 2008-2009 season, is Swiss playwright Max Frisch’s bitingly black comedy about humanity’s complicity in its own calamities. "It’s challenging in that it’s a morally relevant story," said the Dufferin and St. Clair resident, on a break from rehearsals last week. "It’s about what we do when we’re confronted with a difficult situation and how we ought to behave and how we actually behave."

Davies was already an established director having worked extensively in England including two-and-a-half years with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), before enrolling at York. "I was always under pressure to get it right. There was no opportunity to fail without consequences. I wanted to expand and experiment in an environment where that would be encouraged," Davies said as to why she decided to step back from a successful career to go to school. "All my training was on the job." Having worked abroad for years Davies wanted to return home and contribute to the Canadian theatre landscape, to network in Toronto.

Go figure York’s football team, says Sports Illustrated

471-32: Aggregate score of York University‘s eight losses this season; the Lions finished the year winless and set Canadian collegiate football records for most points allowed and fewest scored in a season, wrote Sports Illustrated in its Oct. 21 Go Figure column.

On air

  • Perry Sadorsky, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the Canadian dollar on Toronto’s AM640 Radio Oct. 29.