‘Part-time’ label misleading in strike coverage

In your coverage of the York University strike, your paper continuously uses the label "part-time" to describe those who are on strike, wrote Patrick LeGay in a letter to the Toronto Star Nov. 15. This label is misleading.

CUPE 3903 represents teaching assistants and graduate assistants. These workers are required to be full-time graduate students and are not allowed to hold any other employment. The reference to 10 hours of work a week in their contract is not hours of total work, it is a protection. These assistants are only allowed to be required, by the professors they work for, to work for an average of 10 hours a week so that they can spend the rest of their time doing the research required of them by the University.

The compensation received is not just for their teaching but also to support their research. There are other workers on campus who teach about 10 hours a week and are required to research full time as well: professors. If the student workers are part time, then so are the professors.

  • Loveleen Kang, vice-president operations, York Federation of Students, and students Lyndon Koopmans and Matthew Miller, all spoke about the strike by CUPE 3903 on CP24-TV Nov. 16.

Student charged after threat on Facebook site

A third-year York University student has been charged after a post "in relation to the ongoing strike" was made on Facebook, wrote the Toronto Star and the North York Mirror Nov. 15, citing police sources. Danny Esmaili, 21, of Thornhill, is charged with threatening death.

  • Toronto Police said they can’t tie the death threat and a threat to damage the University to the ongoing strike of 3,330 CUPE members at the school, wrote The Toronto Sun Nov. 15.
  • The incident was also reported on CBC Radio Nov. 14

Autorickshaw transports musical fusion

When Canadian jazz/Indian-fusion band autorickshaw performed in Bangalore nearly two years ago, they were on a heavy metal showcase lineup featuring the music of Rush and Iron Maiden, wrote BC’s Vernon Morning Star Nov. 13. "It was really bizarre," said autorickshaw lead singer and York grad Suba Sankaran (BFA Spec. Hons. ’97, MFA ’02), a Toronto-raised musician with Indian roots. Electric guitars were pushed aside so band co-founder Ed Hanley could bring out his tabla, an Indian classical percussion instrument.

The audience, made up of South India’s rock-loving youth, was taken aback by autorickshaw, a western group that fuses funk with classical and contemporary Indian music.

"They’re getting away from traditional music and we brought it back to them in a package they understand," said Sankaran, who started studying classical Indian music with her father [Trichy Sankaran, professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts], a master drummer, when she was a child; and went on to study jazz at York University.

Non-celebrating York student still a fan of Christmas

According to a York University student in the crowd at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, you’re never too old to believe in Santa, wrote The Toronto Sun Nov. 17. "I don’t even celebrate Christmas but I’ve always been a fan of the holiday season ever since I saw the movie Elf," said Jillian Newman, 21, holding a cardboard sign that read: "Merry Elfin’ Christmas."

Doing your duty to help songbirds

Although most migratory songbirds have left our area for the winter, an expert to speak in Owen Sound later this month is urging people not to let them slip out of mind while they are out of sight, wrote the Owen Sound Sun Times Nov. 15.

Bridget Stutchbury, a professor in York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology, will talk primarily about her award-winning book, Silence of the Songbirds, at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre on Nov. 22. In it, she identifies threats to migratory birds and things people can do to help them, including when the birds are in their wintering grounds.

"One of the focuses of my book is to get people to think of these songbirds as birds of two worlds," she said in a recent interview. "I try to get the audience to think about what these birds are doing while they are not here and get an appreciation for the miracle of migration and how amazing these birds are, but also the sad part of the story, that they are disappearing, and talk about tropical deforestation and pesticides," Stutchbury said.

Stutchbury’s area of expertise is habitat loss, so she was shocked when she researched how pesticides are used in Latin America. She came away from the experience determined never to buy produce from that area. "A lot of these foods are grown with chemicals we would never accept in our own countries, and yet we are eating the food. It doesn’t make sense," Stutchbury said. "People don’t often think about it, because they don’t know, but the type of coffee you drink can help our songbirds when they’re far away."

"I really feel optimistic that 20 years from now when my kids are my age, or almost my age, they will look back on this dinosaur era, shaking their heads and saying ‘can you believe what they used to do?’"

Stutchbury’s appearance is part of the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory’s fifth annual fundraising banquet scheduled for Nov. 22.

E-mail ‘doesn’t cut it’ when asking for references

The right place to look for a reference letter is among soon-to-be former instructors, wrote The Edmonton Sun Nov. 16 in a story on job-hunting for students about to graduate. Having picked out the instructor most likely to remember you and, you hope, give you a good reference, what next? Cathy Boyd-Withers, a learning skills counsellor in York University’s Counselling & Development Centre, suggests some common sense courtesy. A student who wants a reference needs to be considerate, says Boyd-Withers, so asking by e-mail doesn’t cut it. A phone call will do, she says, but a personal visit is preferable; and offer the prof some reminders about who you are and which courses you took.

Does Greenspan owe us all an apology?

In a recent appearance before the US Congress, Alan Greenspan admitted being "partially wrong" in his belief the debt practice of "derivatives" (whose value was derived from something else) required no regulation, wrote columnist Linda Diebel in the Toronto Star Nov. 17. However, progressive Canadian economists – always critical of the neo-liberal belief in government non-involvement in the economy – worry the lesson has not been learned in Canada.

"We still have an unrepentant neo-liberal government in Canada," says Greg Albo, a political economist in York University’s Faculty of Arts. He refers to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s focus on tax cuts and small subsidies to the private sector rather than the "massive spending" on public infrastructure, including the transport sector, many economists believe are necessary.

City program ’empowered’ family

York student Dayo Mlendough can’t find the words to express how her life has changed, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 17 in an article about Investing in Families, a little-known pilot project in the Jane-Finch community that changed her life and that of her four kids.

The program has served about 400 families. And now the city plans on slowly rolling it out to 12 other priority neighbourhoods.

And now, after upgrading classes, Mlendough is on her way to her goal of becoming a social worker. She started her first year of class at York University this fall. "I never thought in my life that I, Dayo, would be in university," said Mlendough, as a huge smile broke out across her face.

Former graduate student is behind Jordan Village development

Aspiring to the ranks of such picturesque gems as Niagara-on-the-Lake, the town attracted 10 buyers to the Residences at Jordan Village in the first week, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 15 in a story about a housing development along the famed wine route of the Niagara Peninsula. Not bad for a burgh that lay comatose about 30 years ago.

Salvation came in the form of Len Pennachetti who abandoned a PhD at York University to buy the old Jordan Wines site. He and his family turned around not just the winery, now called Cave Spring Cellars, but also added such stalwarts of wine tourism as Inn on the Twenty, plus a host of local buildings he now rents to antique shops, art galleries and cafés.

Trying to explain the price of art

In The $12 Million Stuffed Shark, Don Thompson, an economist, art collector and professor emeritus of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, takes us on a hilarious, bewildering, outrageous – insert-your-own-adjective here – cruise through a murky, fluid world in which millions of dollars are paid for such objects as a medicine cabinet filled with acetaminophen tablets, and in which the quality of a work can be less important to establishing a price than the status of the dealer and auction house, the current owner of the work, the previous owners of the work, the expected future owners of the work, the owners of other works by the same artist, at what point in an auction the work came up for bids, whether a different work by the artist has recently come up for sale, what was hanging next to the work in the gallery – you get the idea, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Nov. 15.

"Dealers and auction house specialists do not claim to be able to identify or define what will become million-dollar contemporary art," Thompson writes. "They say publicly that prices are whatever someone will pay, and privately that art buying at the most expensive end is often a game played by the super rich, with publicity and cultural distinction as the prize."

York grad ‘became’ his lost relatives

Some of Toronto photographer Rafael Goldchain‘s Polish Jewish ancestors emigrated to South America in the 1930s; many others perished in Poland, wrote the National Post Nov. 15 in a review of his book I Am My Family. Lost were most of the portraits of his extended family. Born in Chile, Goldchain moved to Israel as a teenager, then studied in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts (MFA ’00). In I Am My Family, Goldchain has created a fictional family album. More than that, he has produced a work of art that blends fact and fiction, memory, history, performance and imagination.

He interviewed family elders and asked them to send him any old photos they could find. He used the snapshots as a starting point and, after doing genealogical research and studying photographic trends of the early 20th century, brought together clothing, props and makeup. Then he used self-portrait techniques to "become" each of his lost relatives, shooting formal portraits in a style true to the period. Writing in the Vancouver Sun, Karen X. Tulchinsky says, "This project is a profound statement about genocide, lost history, the importance to the psyche of knowing one’s roots and the vital place that art and story hold in the human imagination and the healing process."

Award-winning author knows how to keep a secret

"Everybody has secrets," declares the narrator of Quebec-based York grad Neil Bissoondath‘s latest novel, The Soul of All Great Designs, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Nov. 16 in a review. "I have a secret. Don’t you?" Using precise, descriptive prose, Bissoondath (BA ’77, D.Litt ’99) demonstrates the increasing strain of secrecy on the lives of the narrator and [the character named] Sumintra. He also manages to keep a few secrets of his own, only pulling the rug out from under the reader at the very end of the novel.

Bissoondath, 53, is a native of Trinidad and Tobago and the nephew of Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul. He moved to Canada in 1973 to study French literature at Toronto’s York University. Today he lives in Quebec City, where he teaches creative writing at Université Laval.

Despite some acclaim, Bissoondath remains an underappreciated writer, whose relatively low profile gives little indication of his considerable skill. As The Soul of All Great Designs shows, however, in both life and literature, things are not always what they seem, wrote reviewer Ezra Glinter.

In his house of dance

Getting together with Christopher House (BFA Spec. Hons. ’79) is an interviewer’s dream, wrote Paula Citron in The Globe and Mail Nov. 17. The artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre is always articulate, candid and provocative. Our conversation this time centres on his musings about his 30 years with the company and his new full-length work Dis/(sol/ve)r which premieres tomorrow. And House does not disappoint. He looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of his career with remarkable objectivity.

House was a choreographic wunderkind of dance which is surprising because he came to the art form later than most. House graduated from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts in 1979 with a BFA in dance. He joined TDT (which was founded in 1968) and by 1981 was appointed resident choreographer. The supremely gifted House was the obvious heir apparent to TDT co-founders David Earle, Patricia Beatty and Peter Randazzo, and assumed the artistic directorship in 1994. "I had no idea that my entire professional life would be with one company," he says.

Watching an al-Qaeda suspect costs hundreds of thousands a year

Keeping tabs on suspected al-Qaeda members who have been released into Canadian communities may be costing taxpayers $500,000 to $1 million a year in each case, according to new research, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 17.

A York University PhD sociology student has unearthed many of the controversial "security-certificate" program’s specific costs by digging up the price the government pays for round-the-clock monitoring, including staffing costs, electronic bracelets, cars, gas and overtime. In one case, federal department officials budgeted for six full-time agents to watch one released prisoner, at an annual cost of $868,700.

"It is a make-it-up-as-you-go-along policy and the Canadian cases are rather unique in this regard," said researcher Mike Larsen. "The government has adopted the worst of both worlds: You’ve got individuals subject to certificates in a legal limbo…and you’ve created this ongoing expensive policy with no end in sight." Larsen said the government has never revealed the total cost of its surveillance programs. "It’s interesting to note these costs aren’t made public,” he said. “They aren’t part of the debate."

Performing Arts Centre officially opens

Barrie’s arts community gathered in the downtown core Saturday evening to mark a new beginning, wrote the Barrie Examiner Nov. 17. The Barrie Arts Awards marked the opening event for the new small performing arts centre in the former Scotiabank building on Dunlop Street.

Several actors from Moving Art gave the audience a taste of their upcoming show, and the night wrapped with music from the Omar Gittens Jazz Quartet – four students from Barrie currently studying at York University and Humber College.

Adding colour to the core

When York grad Silvia Ferreri-Saraceni (BFA Spec. Hons. ’85) looked at the wide, drab wall of a Hunter Street building, she didn’t quite see the mural the owners of the building had envisioned, wrote The Peterborough Examiner Nov. 17. "I was asked to take a look at the building and see how it could be beautified," Ferreri-Saraceni said. "My suggestion was why don’t we just hang huge paintings? We’re trying to decorate the wall, and if it were a wall in a house we would hang paintings. "In this case the paintings just happen to be 14 feet by 14 feet and 12 feet by 10 feet."

After a couple years of planning and more than a year of work, Ferreri-Saraceni’s paintings were installed on the exterior wall of the Parkhill on Hunter restaurant recently. Ferreri-Saraceni hopes the giant butterfly framed by graceful red floral designs and the delicate white orchids of the second painting become a signpost in Peterborough’s downtown. "I think they will be quite a landmark. I can see people from out of town getting directions like turn left when you see the giant butterfly," she said with a laugh.

Ferreri-Saraceni hopes the new outdoor work will not only become a downtown landmark, but also launch her second career as an artist. Although she graduated with a fine arts degree from York University decades ago, painting has taken a back seat to the Peterborough business she co-owns with her husband, Joseph Saraceni – Pensieri Shoes.

Goalie played for York hockey Lions

Newly inked netminder Derek Dolson found himself busy early on in his first game with Senior AAA Baltimore Clippers (Major League Hockey), wrote the Port Hope Evening Guide Nov. 17. Recently returned from the Central Hockey League, Dolson was between the pipes for the Oshawa Generals and Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League, and had a brief stint in the East Coast Hockey League before heading to York University (2002-2004). Dolson spent the last few seasons bouncing around minor pro in the Central, United and International leagues before returning home to Ontario.