York students present petition for strike settlement

York University’s student government submitted a petition Tuesday with more than 4,000 signatures to both the administration and the union representing contract faculty, teaching assistants and graduate assistants, in hopes of ending the two-month-old strike, wrote insidetoronto.com Jan. 6.

“The students are frustrated,” said Hamid Osman, president of the York Federation of Students (YFS), asking both sides to think of students first as they negotiate with each other at the bargaining table.

Osman hoped the YFS petition will apply pressure on both the union and the administration to reach a tentative agreement before the consequences get worse for many students like himself looking for jobs after the school year is over. “I was planning to enter the workforce in May 2009,” said Osman, who is afraid of what his job prospects will be if the semester is extended to make up for lost class time. “Now I’m not sure if those jobs will be available.”

But not all students were on board with the actions by their student government. “It’s too little, too late,” said Lyndon Koopmans, who is a member of a group called YorkNotHostage.com, consisting of 3,800 undergraduate and graduate students, that has stated the labour dispute should be resolved through binding arbitration – a position that isn’t supported by the union. The first-year student didn’t sign the petition because he said that YFS has sided with the union without consulting the student body.

“Hundreds of students are saying the York Federation of Students shouldn’t be taking sides. They’ve alienated thousands of students,” said Koopmans, adding YFS should be representing the interest of all students, which is to end the strike as soon as possible. “We have thousands of signatures in support of binding arbitration.”

Meanwhile, the negotiations between the union and administration continued Tuesday since talks resumed this past weekend. Tyler Shipley, CUPE 3903 spokesperson, expressed optimism that they’re making progress in the negotiations without getting into details. “I think it’s fair to say that both sides are willing to negotiate,” said Shipley, expecting bargaining to continue until a deal is reached. “I think we’re really encouraged.”

  • In York’s administration building, 20 students and striking teaching assistants remain camped outside the office of York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, hoping he will meet with them to host a forum about the strike, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 7. Shoukri has not met with these protesters.

“It angers me that I can talk to union leaders any time but the York administration hasn’t been in the public eye – they just send out a lot of press releases,” said fourth-year student Victoria Barnett, one of the students camped out along with members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903.

“The University president should be transparent; his salary is partly paid by tuition,” said York Federation of Students President Hamid Osman. Shoukri’s salary is about $325,000 a year. Osman said students are frustrated by the strike that began Nov. 6.

His group met with Shoukri early in the strike, when the president expressed faith in the University’s negotiating team to reach a deal. But with the strike dragging on, students fear their year “will be inadequate, academically,” Osman said; “and that’s why we signed the petition and why students want to talk to the president.”

Bilyk said Shoukri invited students’ questions after Senate meetings in November and December, “but to just show up outside his office and demand a meeting is a very different matter.” 

  • Ben Bowen just wants to go back to school, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Jan. 7. The 32-year-old Hamilton native started classes at York University in September as a mature student. He had been working full time for years but decided to pursue his passion for music.

“I never really treated my day job as a career,” he said. “It was really boring to me, and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.” Bowen quit his job and decided to complete the final year of the music degree he began at York in 1997.

Now, 10 weeks into the strike that has shut 50,000 undergraduates out of class, Bowen’s worried about his academic future. “At first, I was really highly motivated to do well. When you’re younger, you don’t take your education as seriously,” he said. “But without an end to the strike in sight, it’s been really difficult to keep motivated.”

Bowen, who lives with his wife, Jen, and his two-year-old daughter, Abby, was the primary breadwinner in his family before he went back to school. If the strike continues and he loses the academic year, he’s not sure if he’ll be able to afford to stay at York. “I don’t really want to think about that,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do in that situation.”

Laura Skinner, who commuted to York from her Hamilton home, said she’s worried about catching up once the strike ends. “We’re going to have to cram everything into a smaller amount of time, which is a little scary,” said the third-year professional writing student. “You’ve kind of lost that momentum, especially when you have to get back into it really, really quickly.”

Bowen said the stress of the strike has also taken a toll on his health. He contracted strep throat and said he’s been living in a state of “forced inertia”. “At first, I was pretty angry, but it’s been about two months now,” he said. “It’s hard to be angry for that long. I’m just kind of desperate at this point.”

  • Hamid Osman, president of the York Federation of Students, spoke about the strike by CUPE Local 3903 on Global TV, CBC Radio Toronto’s “Metro Morning”, CFRB and 680News Radio Jan. 6.
  • Tyler Shipley, spokesperson for CUPE 3903, spoke about the strike on 680News Jan. 6. Shipley and Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, both spoke on CityTV’s “Breakfast Television” Jan. 6.

Hockey team to remember York student Sanderson

Don Sanderson will forever be remembered by the Whitby Dunlops, wrote DurhamRegion.com Jan. 6. The 21-year-old defenceman, who died last week after spending three weeks in a coma due to a head injury sustained during a fight in a game against the Brantford Blast on Dec. 12, will have his No. 40 jersey retired by the Dunlops before their next game on Jan. 17.

The ceremony will be held at 6:30pm, delaying the start of that night’s game against Brantford and will last 20 minutes or so, according to Dunlops president Steve Cardwell.

At the Monday funeral, hundreds of people packed into the church, leaving standing room only, to pay their respects to Sanderson, who was remembered as a great son, friend and teammate. The Dunlops filled a handful of rows with players past and present sporting their red, yellow and black sweaters. The Belleville girls team also attended the service, all wearing their jerseys.

After the service, Don’s father Mike and mother Dahna stood outside of the church, hands locked, and conveyed an emotional heartfelt message to parents everywhere in the wake of losing their son, who was a huge Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Cowboys fan.

“Donald was my best friend,” commented his father Mike. “He was my hero and we shared every moment of every day together in one way or another. Again, as parents we’ve always said everybody hug your children, let your children hug you and always have time to spend with them.”

  • York student Don Sanderson was remembered Monday as a great friend and teammate, one who would do anything for anybody, wrote DurhamRegion.com Jan. 5.

Hundreds of people gathered at Immaculate Conception Church in Port Perry for Sanderson’s funeral, four days after the Whitby Dunlops defenceman died from a head injury sustained during a fight in a Major League Hockey game against the Brantford Blast on Dec. 12.

Online tributes for Sanderson, a student at York University, have been pouring in through Facebook. A group created when Sanderson first suffered the injury, entitled Prayers for Don Sanderson, had nearly 2,500 members by Monday afternoon and almost 400 posts of thoughts and condolences.

  • The veneration of toughness is a recurrent theme, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 7 in a story about the history of hockey violence that cited early-20th-century court references to the value of fighting. A 1995 York University study involving minor-hockey players found, among other things, that “increased levels of violence [especially fist fights], more than playing or skating skills were seen to lead to greater perception of competence by both teammates and coaches.”

Nor is the tragic death of rookie Whitby Dunlops defenceman Don Sanderson, who succumbed last week to injuries suffered in a fight on Dec. 12, unprecedented in hockey annals, wrote the Globe prefacing a reference to a 1905 incident and subsequent court case where a player was acquitted of murder.

Ongoing struggle over a place to call ‘home’

What rides deeper than bloodshed and property rights is the spite these two groups have displayed towards each other, wrote Amy Chung in an opinion piece for The Toronto Sun Jan. 7.

“The education on both sides are biased, no doubt,” said York University Professor Saeed Rahnema, who teaches a course on war and peace in the Middle East in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “Jewish students learn, in a sense, all the rights are for Israelis and Palestinians have no rights. Many Palestinians are also teaching in their schools anti-Israeli sentiments. It’s mutual,” explains Rahnema.

Crusader targets campaign finances

Intimidation, accusations of dishonesty and notices of slander and defamation aren’t normally encountered in academia, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 7. But dealing with these pressures is all in a day’s work for Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts, who’s made a name for himself challenging corporate donations to candidates in municipal election campaigns.

“It’s a dangerous occupation,” the 54-year-old says, laughing on the phone from his home in Sunderland, south of Lake Simcoe. “You do get nasty letters.”

As one of the few political scientists in Canada studying municipal election financing (he knows of two), MacDermid has made it his mission to lobby for reforms in parts of the Municipal Elections Act he feels give some voters more influence than others.

On Monday, Toronto’s executive committee agreed to draft a bylaw banning corporate and union campaign donations after MacDermid argued a ban would bring more transparency. MacDermid doesn’t think corporate donations allow politicians to be “bought”, but argues such gifts unfairly give firms’ owners more influence than regular citizens.

What drives MacDermid? A “desire to enhance the quality of democracy and the notion that our system should be free of undue influence, that the wealthy should not wield more power than is justified.”

Victim statements not making impact on Alberta judges

“Victim impact statements have given victims a voice,” York University Professor Alan Young said in The Edmonton Journal Jan. 4. “The question is whether that voice is being heard.”

Victim impact statements have always been controversial, wrote the Journal. The Criminal Code requires judges to consider the statements at sentencing, but doesn’t say what weight they should get.

Advocates say impact statements remind judges that a real person was affected by the crime. Judges are capable of applying the law objectively, they say, and the statements can be used to help determine a just punishment.

“Advocates say that to make an offender accountable, the offender should be punished in accordance with the amount of suffering he caused,” Young said.

Critics, meanwhile, say the modern criminal justice system wasn’t designed to heal victims’ suffering. In Canada, crimes are prosecuted by government lawyers because crime is considered a wrong against society as a whole.

Young says critics believe a just sentence is based upon the nature of the offence and the facts of the case. “The real million-dollar question is this,” he said. “Is (a victim impact statement) done to placate the emotional trauma of the victim, or does it have a role to play in sentencing itself?”

York music prof’s duo performs in Sudbury

The Erosonic duo, consisting of baritone saxophonist David Mott, professor in York’s Department, of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, and accordionist Joseph Petric, are the featured artists in the next concert of Sudbury’s 5- Penny New Music Concerts series, wrote The Sudbury Star Jan. 7. The duo plays the Cambrian College amphitheatre Jan. 14 at 8pm.

Nearly all the pieces on the program were written by Mott, a highly regarded composer and improviser. He is also known for his extended virtuoso techniques on the baritone saxophone, including circular breathing and multi-phonics.

 Argos narrow coach search to three

Toronto Argonauts co-owner David Cynamon says his team’s months-long search for a new head coach has narrowed to three leading candidates but he cautioned that a hiring is still not expected until early next month because one or more may “still be active within the NFL schedule,” wrote Canwest News Service Jan. 6.

More than a dozen names have been tied to the Argos since Don Matthews resigned his post on Oct. 31, but Cynamon said only one received a contract offer. Mike Benevides, the defensive coordinator with the BC Lions, turned down a verbal offer despite meeting twice with Toronto management.

Earlier this week, Benevides, a former business student at York University in Toronto, announced he would remain in Vancouver with head coach and general manager Wally Buono. “He came to Toronto twice,” said Cynamon, also a former York student. “A Toronto boy. And at the 11th hour, Wally obviously got the last message into him and he stuck around there.”

The man who built Toronto

The man behind Downtown Markham is Rudy Bratty (LLB ’57), wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 26 in a story about real estate values there. He’s the prolific developer who, over the past 50 years, has turned his father’s small building operation into a real estate empire worth over $1 billion (Bratty’s personal fortune has been pegged at around $750 million). He’s also the man largely responsible for transforming thousands of acres of farmland around Toronto, including much of Markham and one massive, 4,600-acre tract in Mississauga, into curvy streets packed with mass-produced, single-family homes. All told, tens of thousands of people live in Bratty’s developments.

Bratty would have been content to keep on building. “But my dad insisted I go to school,” he says. So, in 1950, Bratty enrolled in the arts program at the University of Toronto, then went on to Osgoode Law School, paying his way – and then some – as a builder over the summers. When he graduated in 1957, he and a lawyer friend, Emilio Gambin, set up their own firm in Toronto. “I’ll bring in the work,” Bratty told his partner, “and you do it.”

Their timing was perfect. Instead of having to hunt down clients, the local community of Italian builders flooded the young firm with more work than it could handle. “We got the next generation,” Bratty says. “They were looking for young, Italian lawyers to represent them. And we were fortunate to know many of them through the families. They grew like crazy, and we grew like crazy. And I was always involved, through advice or through participation of some sort, in real estate.”

A radical plan for the corporation – ditch the owner mythology

Franklin Roosevelt came to office in the face of economic problems as serious as those now confronting president-elect Barack Obama, wrote James Gillies, professor emeritus in York’s Schulich School of Business in a column for the National Post Dec. 23. While the stock market crash occurred in 1929, it was not until 1932 that the ramifications of that disaster were fully realized and, then as now, much of the blame for the debacle was placed squarely on the shoulders of the corporate community.

Three-quarters of a century later, as a new president is about to take office in the United States, the economy is in serious trouble. Already, in an effort to avoid a meltdown of the financial system, the outgoing administration has introduced the most invasive legislation ever experienced in the US financial sector – instead of depending on regulation to resolve the current problems it has directly and widely invested in the financial system.

Whether such a dramatic approach – partially socializing banking – is the most appropriate way to resolve the current problems time will tell, but one thing is certain, wrote Gillies: When the new president is sworn into office in January, he will be faced with the task of reforming the corporate governance system in the United States. To succeed, Obama should consider all options – even one as far-reaching as abolishing voting rights for common shares.

Companies can learn from students

In today’s economic downturn, many businesses have yet to discover a hidden resource – graduate students, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 20. They’re full of fresh, up-to-date ideas and they work for less – at least when they start. In fact, late last month, 50 GTA businesses gathered at the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham to find out more.

Markham ’s synergy centre essentially acts as the matchmaker between companies and graduate students at York University and Ryerson University but relies on third- party help to complete the setups. York works with Accelerate Ontario. To date, the centre has produced more than 100 matches.

Innovation Centre names new manager

The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre has announced the appointment of Tim Harmar as business development manager, wrote The Sault Star Jan. 7. He is currently pursuing a master of laws degree with specialization in banking and financial services law at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.

Wife of York grad student wins two dream roles at Stratford

Chilina Kennedy will be headlining in two Stratford productions as Maria in West Side Story and Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum this season, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 4. Kennedy’s life is looking unusually charmed these days and, in fact, she’ll be spending the summer subletting the Stratford home of another icon of hers, Louise Pitre. She’ll be accompanied by her husband, Fenner Stewart, who’s working on a PhD in corporate governance at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and their Portuguese water dog, Molly.

An ‘extraordinary’ teacher

In 2009, Dennis Keshinro plans to turn his media-literacy program for youth in the Jane-Finch area, which has been training students to produce shows for York University’s CHRY campus radio, into a full-fledged radio station, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 4 in a story about the high school teacher. He hopes to begin broadcasting over the Internet this month. He’s also exploring the possibility of starting an Internet TV station.

Think about retirement planning in a new way

Retirement thought leaders, such as York University’s Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business, and Manulife Investments, believe if you’re retired or are close to retirement, you need to think of retirement planning in a new way, wrote The Edmonton Sun Jan. 4. Instead of building your nest egg, you need to switch gears and focus on product allocation to help ensure you have 20 or 30 years of retirement income.

Former York student heads for the Sundance festival

When the Hollywood big shots line up to receive their inevitable swag bags full of goodies at the Sundance Film Festival this month, inside they will find a little present from Toronto filmmakers Ben Goldenberg, a former York student, and Jason Gossbee, courtesy of YouTube, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 7.

Each bag will contain a DVD copy of White Collar Criminals, the five-minute short film written and directed by Goldenberg and Gossbee that took second prize in YouTube’s Project: Direct competition. Today, they’re booking tickets for Park City, Utah, and getting ready to hobnob with celebrities at Sundance, all thanks to a film that was written in three hours, assembled in three days and cost only $200 to produce.

“I’ve never had more than 200 people watch a film that I’ve made,” Goldenberg, 26, said. “Then we had 150,000 people watch our movie in a week. It’s pretty crazy.”

Osgoode grad met the Queen as mayor of Kingston

Osgoode grad George Speal, 76, (LLB ’58) always said he was blessed, wrote The Kingston Whig-Standard Dec. 30 in an obituary. He served one term as mayor of Kingston in the 1970s, and may have been the luckiest one Kingston ever had.

His term started on a high note, with a visit from the Queen in 1973, and closed on an even higher one when the 1976 Olympic sailing events were held here, at the brand new Portsmouth Olympic Harbour that was built during his term.

He attended Kingston Collegiate and went on to study at Queen’s University and Osgoode Hall Law School before returning to Kingston to practise law. He was given the Queen’s Counsel honour in 1971.

Osgoode grad once skied in his kilt

Donald John MacLennan, QC (BARR ’57) graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1957, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 6 in an obituary. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel on Jan. 1, 1970. A formidable opponent in court, especially if there was a jury, Don won many trials over his 40-year legal career.

Throughout his life Don dressed with inimitable style, skiing in his kilt, wearing shorts to the dentist in winter, sporting sandals in his Osgoode Hall Law School 50th reunion photo.

On air

  • Kyle Killian, psychology professor in York’s School of Nursing and a scholar at the Centre for Refugee Studies at York (CRS), spoke about refugees in Canada, the work CRS is doing with various community organizations and its Certificate Program in Refugee and Forced Migration Issues, on Sun TV’s "Canoe Live" Jan. 6.
  • Peter Victor, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about sustainable economics on BNN-TV’s “Squeezeplay” Jan. 6.
  • York grad Avi Benlolo (BA ’94 Hons. MA ’97), president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Toronto, spoke about a call by the Canadian Union of Public Employees for a ban on Israeli academics, on CANOE-TV Jan. 6.