York makes plans so students won’t lose out

York University, in its third week of a strike by contract faculty and teaching assistants, is floating contingency plans so students don’t lose their academic year, wrote CBC News online Nov. 25. York spokesperson Alex Bilyk said it’s too early to say if reading week or summer break will be affected but added that exam periods could be compressed to help make up missed time. The way courses are graded could also be changed.

Bilyk says department heads are responsible for any changes, but the University will ensure degrees are not diminished. "Each dean is sort of responsible for maintaining the academic integrity of their programs – and this whole remediation process, as it’s called, that requires the oversight of the Senate Executive to ensure that these remediation efforts are approved," said Bilyk.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees said it would meet Monday to develop a new bargaining strategy. But Jen Hassum, one of the workers on the picket line, said that with no talks scheduled, she is preparing for the long haul. "The conversation on the picket line today is [about] buying some boots, and procuring some new mitts and getting prepared [in case] York doesn’t want to be bargaining with us," she said.

York has said binding arbitration is the best way to resolve the strike, wrote the CBC.

  • York University is beginning to look at ways of making up class time lost during a two-week strike by teaching staff, wrote The Toronto Sun Nov. 25. While both the University and the union are waiting for a mediator to set up a date for the next negotiating session, York spokesperson Alex Bilyk said yesterday "all courses will have to be adjusted. It’s to account for lost time but also to maintain academic integrity," he said. This might mean condensing exam schedules or taking away reading week in February.
  • Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, spoke about the strike by members of CUPE Local 3903 on CBC Radio Nov. 24. Student Mike Walker and striking researcher Jen Hassum were also interviewed.
  • Bob Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts, and Christina Rousseau, chair of CUPE 3903, spoke about the strike on CFRB Radio Nov. 24.
  • Tyler Shipley of CUPE 3903 and Korean exchange student Gun Woo Kim spoke about the strike on Global TV Nov. 24.

York, TAs need to get back to table

I can appreciate the dilemma faced by York University teaching assistants, wrote Debbie Taller of Thornhill in a letter to the Toronto Star Nov. 25. But as a mother of two York students, both of whom face serious consequences should the strike continue much longer, I feel that the TAs’ demands are too much. Perhaps rather than increase the pay of the TAs, their workload could be decreased. Let the professors do the marking. In any case, the two sides must return to the bargaining table.

  • Conservative MPP Peter Shurman says that the union’s demand for an 11 per cent increase over two years is "a pretty hefty chunk of change," wrote York teaching assistant Chris Ralph in a letter to the Star Nov. 25. I suppose that depends on your definition of "hefty".

Less than two years ago, MPPs voted themselves a 25 per cent raise, increasing their salaries by $40,000 per year. As a York TA, my salary is $14,000 per year. The University’s offer would raise my salary by about $400 per year – or about 1 per cent of the MPPs’ recent raise. I wish Shurman would pick on someone in his own tax bracket!

Schulich prof suggests steps to retool GM

Fred Lazar, professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, has studied General Motors Corp. in detail over the years, and here is his astute dissection of the corporation’s problems and how to fix them with a minimum of cost to taxpayers, wrote the National Post Nov. 25. GM’s bailout would not be prohibitive, if done properly, with costs shared by all stakeholders.

But Lazar added that Chrysler LLC is a black hole and should go bust. "To bail it out amounts to a needless rescue of Cerberus, the private-equity company that bought it," he said. "There’s nothing much there."

General Motors can and should be turned around. It does well in Latin America and Asia but not in North America or Europe. It does well in certain types of vehicles but not in others. The problem has been that its management doesn’t seem to understand how to grow what’s working and jettison what isn’t because, he said bluntly. "they are pretty dumb."

"GM management must go. General Motors has made between US$20 billion and US$25 billion in profits for the past few years on large SUVs and pickup trucks, but it has lost that much on all its other models," he said. "So why has management continued to produce other models or why hasn’t it figured out how to make money on other models?"

Lazar believes GM needs a broom, not a bailout. Merely injecting cash into managements and boards with lousy track records, and unions that are overpaid won’t do any good. Lazar says GM can be fixed and it’s not rocket science.

He says Canada must be at the table in terms of whatever happens in the car industry or risk being left out.

What went wrong on Wall Street?

What is wrong with the current system of corporate governance?, asked James Gillies, professor emeritus in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the National Post Nov. 25. Recent work indicates that it is board process that most impacts board performance and the factor that most impedes effective board process is "group think", wrote Gillies.

In the past quarter-century, a dramatic change in the thinking about the goals of the corporation took place. Rather than existing to earn profits through the production of goods and services, the principal purpose of publicly traded corporations began to be the maximization within the law of the value of their shares on the stock market. Rewards to the directors and management increasingly were determined not by the quality of a company’s products or services, but by the performance of company shares.

The acceptance of this concept has been catastrophic, particularly for institutions in the financial sector.

However, the ultimate reason for the failure has been the inability of the current corporate governance system to deliver on one of its prime responsibilities – assuring that boards of directors effectively monitor the basic activities of the corporation. Behind that failure is a process of "group think" that encourages passive oversight of managers. Changing the structure of boards won’t change that. What will is a shift in corporate culture that values boards comprising members who resist "group thinking" and see a business for what it must be at its heart of succees – an enterprise that earns profits through the goods and services it generates, not the imagined value of its shares.

The Post noted that Gillies is the founding dean of Schulich and co-author of Inside the Boardroom: How Boards Really Work.

York professor listed among Canada’s top 100 women

Marlene Kadar, professor in the Division of Humanities Division and School of Women’s Studies at York University, was among those honoured in the Women’s Executive Network’s annual list of Canada’s top 100 women, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 25.

Osgoode holds conference on women in IP law

One thing was strikingly obvious to attendees of a recent roundtable made up of members of the legal profession whom IP Osgoode Director Giuseppina D’Agostino, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, referred to as the “power women of IP law,” wrote the Law Times, Nov. 17. Only four men turned up to hear about the issues being faced by women practising in the field. That’s out of an estimated 45 people in attendance at the event, which was organized by IP Osgoode and held at the downtown Toronto office of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

Among those four was Rex Shoyama, visiting professor at Ogoode and assistant director of the recently inaugurated IP Law & Technology Program, who spoke to the Law Times about the importance of being present to learn about the challenges being faced in striking the appropriate balance.

“In many respects, it was kind of an eye-opening experience for me as well, to hear all of these things,” says Shoyama. “And that’s probably one of the things that’s key; first and foremost is just to get men in there to listen to all of this.”

Secondly, says Shoyama, is discovering ways of getting men involved and contributing. He says there are some valuable take-away points to be garnered from these sessions that would help in the struggle towards ensuring diversity in the workplace.

“Even something like just being there to hear these things and get those thoughts going through the mind is pretty key,” says Shoyama.

Osgoode Professor Carys Craig and Virginia Jones, of the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association, both spoke of the additional struggles that came with being in the workforce at such a young age. “I think the reality is, that as a female professor, the perception of competence, of intellect, of authority, doesn’t simply come along with the position that you occupy as it may be assumed to do for a professor who more readily fits the professorial mould,” said Craig, who began teaching at Osgoode at the age of 24, something she was able to accomplish after going through the Scottish system where one enters law school directly after high school. “It has to rather be earned and proved.”

Flatiron mural artist, ‘did a good job’, says former York professor

Art conservator Sandra Lougheed steps like a detective around the giant panels of the Flatiron Building mural, by Calgary artist Derek Besant, which is sprawled at her feet in a warehouse in Stoney Creek, shooting pictures with a digital camera, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 24.

The artistic value of Besant’s installations is subject to debate. Art critic Gerald Needham says Besant’s work is lively and fun. "He’s not doing something which is quite extraordinary, which seizes our imagination in the way that a very great artist does – but I think for animating a large blank wall, he does a very good job," says Needham, an art historian and former professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

York instructor joins battle for Ryerson radio

Fridays may never be the same for York Department of Music instructor Ron Nelson, wrote The Toronto Sun Nov. 24 in a story about a fundraising drive he is organizing in the battle for control of Ryerson’s CKLN Radio. It’s a fact he’s slowly trying to come to terms with. "It’s been a real struggle for me the past few months to wake up every Friday and know that I won’t be hosting my radio program," says Nelson. "I feel incomplete that I’m not broadcasting."

For the past 15 years, Nelson was the co-host of "Reggaemania", with Lisa West, on CKLN. It was a Friday night staple on the community-based radio station 88.1 FM at Ryerson University. Reggaemania was arguably the most popular reggae radio program in Canada.

Nelson was discharged from the radio station last June after he refused to turn over $6,000 in ad revenue from his program that he had collected for the station. Instead of giving it to the station manager, he put the money in trust. "There’s too much confusion right now with who is running CKLN," says Nelson. "I wanted to make sure the money ended up in the hands of the people who should rightfully be running the station."

"Reggaemania" was last broadcast on Friday, June 27. And with York University on strike, he’s not even teaching right now.

Former Osgoode prof is secretary general of Amnesty International Canada

A giant of the human rights movement in Canada will be keynote speaker at a human rights forum here next week, wrote the Kings County Record (Sussex, NB) Nov. 25. Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada and a former professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, will be in Hampton, NB, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, drafted by Hampton’s own John Peters Humphrey.

Neve, who has been an Amnesty member for more than two decades, will receive the Order of Canada later this month in a Dec. 12 ceremony. He practises law in Toronto, primarily in the areas of refugee and immigration law, and taught international human rights and refugee law at Osgoode Hall Law School there. He was affiliated with the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University and served on the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Business schools don’t do real world retailing

Most business schools have yet to zero in on the retail sector, noted Alan Middleton, professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the National Post Nov. 25, in a story about students helping small retailers with marketing research. When they do, there is little doubt that more start-ups will find advice that is too often in short supply and large firms will find trained experts who can better retail their products.

Schulich iMBA student worked in Thailand and India

As business analyst in the international affairs division of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Monica Arora helps the hospital develop partnerships abroad and export its expertise overseas, wrote the National Post Nov. 25. In effect, she is helping grow the market for Sick Kids beyond Canada, largely from her office in Toronto.

"Companies are going international," Arora says. "In my current role, we often host international delegations from all different continents." It is important, she says, to understand "how to deal with people from different areas of the world, where business etiquette varies…."

That is precisely why Arora decided to take an international MBA. As part of her course requirement for the International MBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York University, she spent eight months abroad – four months studying in Thailand and four months working in India for a multinational firm in its corporate social responsibility program.

She credits her international experience as a key selling point. "It’s one of the reasons I was hired for this job. They need somebody who has an understanding of how business works around the world, how diverse our clients can be and how to best position this organization professionally and successfully abroad. Because of what I gained from the IMBA, I was able to bring that to the table."

More enforcement resources should be shifted more to corporate crime, says Beare

York University sociologist Margaret Beare, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Arts, isn’t surprised at convicted con man Brian Penney’s six-year term, wrote columnist Mindelle Jacobs in a story about his case in The Calgary Sun Nov. 25. "People have long written about the difficulty of getting courts…to recognize the actual out-and-out harm of so-called white-collar crime," she says.

Everyone tends to focus on the "bogeyman" of organized crime, with its tentacles in everything from drugs to human trafficking, says Beare, past director of the Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security at York. But some economic crimes are so well planned and executed they constitute organized crime in themselves, she points out.

All the police resources devoted to busting pot grow-ops may be misplaced, suggests Beare. "Where should the law enforcement and prosecutorial resources be put? Some people would argue it needs to be shifted into corporate crime, economic crime – where, in fact, there’s documented massive harm."

He could have said worse

Isn’t it reassuring to learn that Ayman al-Zawahiri, number two at al-Qaeda and mass murderer, was still politically correct enough to refer to president-elect Barack Obama as a "house negro", wrote Terry Heinrichs, professor in Glendon’s political science department , in a letter to the National Post Nov. 25. Of course, he could have used the more standard, "house n—-r", to describe the president-elect, as it was the term most preferred by American blacks to denigrate those other blacks they believed were carrying out Whitey’s agenda. However, according to the English translation provided by al-Qaeda, the Arabic Zawahiri used actually avoids this result. Clearly, this is racial progress of truly global proportions. Now if we could only get Zawahiri to back off on the terrorist attacks.

How does a great manager turn stars into team players?

As one digs into the management role, challenges arise, wrote Jennifer Lau, MBA candidate in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in a blog for the National Post Nov. 25. One that has intrigued me is how to manage the stars – the brightest of the bunch, the ones least likely to want direction. As a good manager, or better yet, a great manager, what is the best strategy? A good friend said to leverage their strength and give stars autonomy as well as meaningful tasks. Once they have independence, they are more likely to cooperate with the team. Easier said than done.