No December classes unless there is a quick end to strike

York University says if the strike by teaching assistants is not over by Monday, classes will not be held for the rest of December, reported CBC News online Dec. 11.

The teaching assistants have been on strike since Nov. 6, and the University’s Senate says it will be impossible to reschedule classes before the holidays unless the labour dispute ends by Dec. 15.

"Unless a ratified settlement results in an end to the disruption by Dec. 15, there will not be sufficient time to issue a notice of resumption and to conduct even a limited number of make-up classes for courses that have been suspended," said the University in a news release posted on its Web site.

Students have been out of class for more than four weeks, and York and the union representing teaching assistants have no negotiations scheduled.

  • I am one of the undergraduate students who supported the strike by contract teaching staff at York University when it began Nov. 6, wrote Innocent Madawoa in a guest column for The Toronto Sun Dec. 11. However, a month has now passed and the strike’s end is nowhere in sight. In fact, both sides are so far apart the mediator sees no point in bringing them back to the negotiating table.

I just don’t buy that. I think there is some kind of conspiracy to drag this beyond Christmas and into the new year. Surely York administrators know they might have to up their offer and the strikers know, too, they will be required to climb down a little. So, why not get on with it already? In fairness to the University, they released an updated offer on Monday. Where is CUPE 3903’s response?

Suspension of classes essentially means suspension of other aspects of our lives. Some students will now lose summer jobs because they will be attending remediation classes and writing exams when students from other colleges will be working. What about this year’s graduates? The time for them to prepare for life out of university is now.

It is time negotiators start thinking about their 50,000 undergraduate victims. Think about what we are losing, in terms of time and other unforeseens.

  • Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, spoke about the strike on Citytv Dec. 10. 

York president warns of cash crunch

As if York University didn’t have enough problems with the teaching strike that has cancelled classes for five weeks as of today, the president has warned the global economic crisis threatens to curb York’s ability to hire new staff, meet operating expenses and provide financial aid to students in need, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 11.

In a written statement yesterday to York staff and students, President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri said the University has seen a 19 per cent drop this fall – a loss of $55 million – in the value of its endowment fund, which helps fund York’s operating budget, scholarships and bursaries for students, and the salary and benefits of professors whose positions have been created through endowed gifts.

"We knew we were into bad times six to eight months ago," said York spokesperson Alex Bilyk, "but those numbers have really hit us now, especially the endowment fund, and the financial picture is certainly fairly dim right now.”

Rules go out the window in automaker bailout

Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York, spoke about financial aid packages for Canada’s automakers on CTV News Dec. 10. “In this case we’re confronted by a real emergency, and the rules then go out the window,” said Wolf. “I think you need to do something different here. We are in a real crisis.”

  • Sam Gindin, Packer Visitor in Social Justice in York’s Faculty of Arts, also spoke about the debate over supporting the North American auto industry, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Dec. 10.

Court still prohibits marijuana possession

The prohibition against simple possession of marijuana has been upheld by an Ontario Superior Court judge, in a closely watched case that stemmed from the prosecution of Clifford Long, who was arrested by Toronto police with $40 worth of cannabis, wrote the National Post Dec. 11.

Justice Eva Frank overturned a decision by a lower court judge last year that found there was no valid restriction against possession of cannabis because of flaws with the country’s medical marijuana regulations. The lower court decision led to confusion about prosecuting simple possession cases in Ontario, said the federal government in its arguments before Judge Frank earlier this year.

Alan Young, a criminal law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and one of the lawyers in the Federal Court case, suggested that the ruling by Judge Frank should be appealed.

There are significant problems with the current medical marijuana distribution scheme, which is why only 20 per cent of medical users access their cannabis from the federal government, noted Young.

Judge Frank stated that the Charter of Rights does not impose a "positive obligation" on the state, only restrictions on its ability to deprive individuals of certain rights.

"That has never been the suggestion" by medical marijuana advocates, said Young. The "ongoing waltz" of court cases in this area is to try to reduce restrictions on producing marijuana for medical users, instead of obtaining it from the government, he stated.

Children’s accidents target of UN report

UN health experts are urging all governments to take steps to drastically reduce the number of millions of children who are killed or injured every year in preventable accidents, wrote The Toronto Sun Dec. 11 in a story about a joint report by the World Health Organization and UNICEF co-written by Alison Macpherson, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health.

"This is a wake-up call to governments, parents and children themselves to play a role in coordinating concerted efforts. There is no quick fix and it requires a multi-sectoral approach in combination with education, legislation, awareness and environmental modifications," Macpherson said.

She said non-governmental agencies, academics and industry can work together to develop an action plan to make a substantial impact in bringing down the incidence of child injuries and deaths.

"The WHO has recognized that unintentional injuries are a huge public health problem…and we can take actions to reduce these injuries by doing things we already know such as wearing a bike helmet, using child car seats and making sure four-sided fencing occurs around the pool," Macpherson said.

Macpherson said the report also shows unintentional injuries are also linked to poverty, so the poorer the country, the higher the death rate.

Diving into the dating pool

It’s been almost two decades since I’ve thought about dating, wrote Schulich grad Steve Tissenbaum (MBA ’82) in The Globe and Mail Dec. 11 in a personal reflection on separation and his decision to get a tattoo of a shark.

After teaching school in my 20s, I studied business at the Schulich School of Business at York University. There I was introduced to scuba diving, which has taken me to exotic places around the world. My love for the adventure of the sea eventually brought me into direct contact with sharks. The shark is territorial, and this attribute defined my relationship with my wife. In spite of the true love we shared, I behaved like a shark. My possessive nature formed an unhealthy basis for a lasting relationship.

In wearing this badge, this tattoo on my shoulder, I hope to remember the territorial behaviour that defined my 40s and not repeat it.

Former Atkinson dean retires from BC’s UFV

It’s a big secret, but the public will know at 3pm tomorrow who will be the new president & vice-chancellor for the University of the Fraser Valley, wrote BC’s Abbotsford News Dec. 8. The new president succeeds retiring President Skip Bassford on or around July 1, 2009.

Bassford has been president at UFV since July 1, 1998. He has overseen its significant growth as the University College of the Fraser Valley and its development towards becoming a regional university. From 1992 to 1997, Bassford was dean of Atkinson College at York University in Toronto.