Strike will mean York course changes

All courses at York University – full-year or half-year – will have to be adjusted in some way now that the strike by teaching and research staff has lasted 14 days, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 20, citing a statement by the University.

Under York’s Senate policy, any disruption of classes that lasts 14 days means all classes will require "remediation, adjustments and/or modification", which a University spokesperson said could mean anything from shortened exam periods to changes in the number of assignments required for a course.

The strike by Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903 began Nov. 6, prompting York to cancel classes for its 50,000 students.

"Any changes to courses will be based on the principles of academic integrity, fairness to students and timely information – no one will say there’s suddenly an exam tomorrow when class resumes," said Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations. "But there is ongoing discussion between the Faculty deans and the vice-president academic & provost about how these courses will be adjusted, and it very much depends on the length of time classes are cancelled."

All half-courses were affected after seven days of the strike by 3,340 teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract faculty.

No talks are slated between the union and the University.

"This uncertainty is killing everyone," said kinesiology major Catherine Divaris, who helped organize a rally against the strike this week. "The Senate policy also allows the University to cancel courses altogether if the strike goes ‘to a point where no feasible remedy consistent with academic integrity is available’ – oh my goodness, all my money would be lost," said Divaris, who is taking four courses and has applied to law school next year. "I paid $800 to apply to law school, which would be wasted if I don’t get my degree this year," she said. "This is a big deal."

Union chair Christina Rousseau said yesterday the negotiating team is working on another "framework" proposal it hopes to present to the University soon. "We really hope we can put an end to this soon so classes can resume without too many more days missing."

  • Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman has asked Premier Dalton McGuinty to “shake this government into action” and end the two-week-old strike by teaching assistants and contract faculty at York University, wrote Nov. 20.

Shurman, who attended a student-led rally to protest the strike Monday, made his statement in the Ontario Legislature this week demanding Queen’s Park pass back-to-work legislation.

“It’s about time that this government took a stand and supported the students who are bearing the brunt of this strike,” the Progressive Conservative MPP said. He stressed the academic year for 50,000 students could be at risk. Classes at Canada’s third-largest university have been suspended since the work stoppage began Nov. 6.

Shurman called the union’s demands “out of touch” with the current economic climate. “At a time when we’ve lost more than 200,000 jobs, while Ontarians are going without pay and businesses are closing their doors, an 11 per cent raise over two years is an unreasonable and irresponsible demand,” said Sherman.

Visiting professor to lead special service at Noor Centre

Jews and Muslims will visit each other’s places of worship and break bread together, wrote the Toronto Star in an opinion piece Nov. 20 about a program of twinning synagogues and mosques to promote understanding

For example, the Noor Centre and Emanu-El – both led by women, Samira Kanji and Rabbi Debra Landsberg – will open their doors to the public as they host each other:

At Noor, for the 1pm prayer tomorrow (led by Timothy Gianotti, visiting professor in York’s Division of Humanities, Faculty of Arts, and Noor Fellow at York); at the synagogue, for the Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat, which opens the Sabbath, and also the Saturday Sabbath service; and back at Noor on Sunday, for a breakfast discussion, 9.30am.

Green bin reaches for the sky

Toronto has rolled out its green bin program for composting organic waste in highrise buildings – part of the city’s scramble to divert 70 per cent of waste from the dump by the end of 2010, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 20. Mayor David Miller kicked off the drive to add composting to the routine in highrise condo and apartment buildings yesterday at a Doris Avenue condominium near North York Civic Centre.

Why that particular building? The answer could be summed up in a few words: York Professor Emerita Anne-Marie Ambert, president of the condo corporation. Ambert had been pushing for waste diversion in the building even before the city picked it as one of 30 across the city to participate in a pilot recycling program.

Ambert says buildings similar to hers pay upward of $30,000 a year in garbage fees; she estimates that her building may pay only about $14,000 because of its aggressive diversion. That’s a saving of about $50 a unit.

About 75 per cent of the units happily participate in diversion, said Ambert, a retired professor of sociology at York University. She knows exactly who diverts and who doesn’t: "The fickle ones are young males – in their teenage years, and their 20s and their 30s," she said. "I guess it’s not cool for them…especially with organic waste. You never see them carrying a little bag. Women and people above 40 are much more conscientious."

Kelly Jefferson’s father is a modest piano master

The Jefferson name has become highly familiar in Canadian jazz circles, wrote the Leader-Post (Regina) Nov. 20 in a story about pianist Ken Jefferson, father of Brent and Kelly Jefferson who are both prominent jazz musicians. Kelly, a tenor saxophonist, teaches in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Earlier this year, Kelly was nominated for saxophonist-of-the-year at the National Jazz Awards. "They’re way ahead of me, I tell you that," a modest father says. "When they come home, they just slay me."

  • Tenor saxophone player Kelly Jefferson is not so well known here, but I hope that changes, wrote the Brantford Expositor Nov. 20 in a review of a performance by the band playing with singer Emilie-Claire Barlow. He has a huge reputation in Toronto and beyond, plays in several groups routinely and has twice been nominated for a National Jazz Award. He teaches in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and his supporting lines and solos were the very model for any student. This superbly cohesive quartet just returned from a trip to Japan.

Ontario pension report by Arthurs awaited amid uncertainty

The province is expected to release a report on pension regulation this morning from a commission headed by former York University president Harry Arthurs, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 20. The report was commissioned two years ago and completed this summer, prior to the market turmoil that has significantly reduced the value of assets held by pension funds.

This has left pension industry observers wondering whether the long-awaited report will be outdated even as it is released. "The world has certainly changed since Arthurs was appointed, and there are a number of short-term things we have to look at as well, outside of the Arthurs report," Duncan said.

On air

  • Hugh Shewell, associate dean in Atkinson’s School of Social Work, took part in a panel discussion about Canada’s welfare program on APTN-TV Nov. 19.